Along The Napa Sparkling Wine Trail – Mumm Napa

Mumm Napa is one of five sparkling wine producers in the Napa Valley and Carneros, that aside from Mumm, includes Gloria Ferrer, Domaine Carneros, Chandon,  and Schramsberg.  The five compose the Sparkling Wine Trail.  Each has its own charm, and they all have wonderful sparkling wines.  I’ve previously visited Gloria Ferrer (wonderful Chateau in beautiful Carneros), Chandon (world-class restaurant Etoile on site), and Schramsberg (the best cave tour!).  In the case of Mumm, it is known for having one of the best tours (click here for a virtual tour) and their Fine Art Photography Gallery.  I didn’t get a chance to take a tour because they were booked, but I did get a chance to taste their wonderful sparkling wines.

Mumm Napa is a joint venture between G.H. Mumm & Cie, of France, and Joseph E Seagram & Sons.  G.H. Mumm & Cie was founded in 1827, ironically by the von Mumms, German winemakers who trace their ancestry back to medieval times. The Napa location was founded by in 1979 by Guy Deveaux, who passed away in 1995.  Mumm produces an upscale line of “DVX” sparkling wines in his honor.  In addition to a diverse lineup of sparkling wines, they also produce Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay still wines.

Flight of Mumm White and Red Sparklers Overlooking Their Beautiful Vineyards

I highly recommend making a stop along the sparkling wine trail when you’re in Napa. Not only will you taste world-class sparklers, each takes pride in offering great still wines too!

My tasting notes follow:

  • 2006 Mumm Napa DVX Rosé – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Pretty light salmon color with tiny pin point bubbles, and bread dough, tangerine, and red fruit aromas. On the palate, creamy mousse with cherry, citrus, vanilla flavors, and a medium finish. 50% Chard/50% Pinot Noir. Four years on lees. (89 pts.)
  • 2005 Mumm Napa DVX – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Light yellow straw color with brioche, floral aromas. On the palate medium-bodied, and balanced with fuji apples, vanilla, and a hint of spice flavors. Long finish. 5 years on lees. (89 pts.)
  • 2003 Mumm Napa DVX – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Very light golden-yellow straw color with fresh bread dough, slight floral, and ginger aromas. On the palate, elegant, medium-bodied, balanced with pear and citrus flavors, and zippy acidity. Medium finish. Aged 6 years on lees. (92 pts.)
  • N.V. Mumm Napa Pinot Noir Cuvée M Red – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Deep ruby color with persistent stream of tiny bubbles, and sweet bread and red fruit aromas. On the palate relatively creamy mousse, and a creamy mouthfeel with red plum, spice flavor. Sec, slightly sweet style with short medium finish. 96% Pinot Noir/4% Syrah. 12.5% ABV. (87 pts.)
  • N.V. Mumm Napa Pinot Noir Sparkling – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Carmine with stream of tiny pin point bubbles, and fresh bread dough, cherry aromas. On the palate dry brut style, medium-bodied, with enough tannins to make it interesting, with ripe plum and cherry flavors, and a medium finish. 100% Pinot Noir. I really enjoyed this one. I’m looking forward to having for Thanksgiving! (89 pts.)

Wine Words Demystified – Terroir

I’m introducing a new feature – Wine Words Demystified.  You know the deal, the more some folks learn about a topic, the more shortcuts/slang/acronyms/initials can be tossed around.  I’m here to help you understand those sometimes mysterious words and phrases.

My first word is terroir (to hear pronunciation click here).

According to Karen MacNeil’s The Wine Bible:

French term for the sum entity and effect (no single word exists in English) of a vineyard’s soil, slope, orientation to the sun, and elevation, plus every nuance of climate, rainfall, wine velocity, frequency of fog, cumulative hours of sunshine, average high temperatures, average low temperatures, and so on. Each vineyard is said to have its own. “

In other words – the combination of geography, geology, and climate that gives a vineyard or specific geographical region its uniqueness.

What’s The Difference Between Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio?

A bunch of Pinot gris grapes.

A bunch of Pinot gris grapes - Image via Wikipedia

I was having scallops for lunch the other day, and was in the mood for something other than Chardonnay, or Sauvignon Blanc.  I looked at the wine list and decided on the, Bottega Vinaia  Pinot Gris Trentino.  It was a very good wine – Nice tropical, apple aromas, medium bodied with a tropical/apple/vanilla flavors.

When I got home I was looking for some information about the wine, and noted it was referred to as Bottega Vinaia Pinot Grigio Trentino on the wine label.  That brings me to the question my wife asked me during lunch…

“What the difference between Pinot Gris, and Pinot Grigio”?

The answer?  There is no difference in terms of the variety of grape.

It’s the not so unusual case of the same grape going by different names.  Pinot Gris, as it is known in France tends to be fuller-bodied style wine with tropical aromas/flavors.  Whereas in Italy, whereas the grape is known as Pinot Grigio is a lighter, crisper style wine with citrus aromas/flavors.

But outside of France, or Italy what wine makers call their wines made with this grape tend to be a stylistic decision.  It’s the same thing with labeling a wine either a Syrah, or a Shiraz when it doesn’t originate in France or Australia.  What you label the wine can set expectations for what’s in the bottle. Ironically, the wine I ordered was from Italy.  Even so, stylistically, since it was a richer wine with a tropical aroma/flavor profile the restaurant choice to refer to the wine as a Pinot Gris.  In this case, I got what I expected – a fuller-bodied wine.

Generally speaking then if you’re looking for a light-bodied wine with a citrus aroma/flavor profile – order a Pinot Grigio.  On the other hand if you looking for a medium/full-bodied wine with a tropical aroma/flavor profile order a Pinot Gris.

T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like…NV Roederer Estate Brut

This week’s sparkler is produced by Roederer Estate, owned by Louis Roederer Champagne, which is renowned for producing the luxury Champagne Cristal.  The California operation is located in Anderson Valley, north of the Napa Valley.  My last visit to Anderson Valley was a few years ago.  I really enjoyed it.  It doesn’t have cachet of Napa, or Sonoma, but the tasting rooms are much more intimate, the locals are friendly, it truly beautiful, and there are some great wines, especially Pinot Noir, Chards, and Alsatian varietals.  I highly recommend a visit.  I’ll be sure to stop in a Roederer my next trip up. Besides various holdings in France, the Roederer group also includes Scharffenberger Cellars, another sparkling wine house in Anderson Valley.

This sparkler was the first produced by Roederer Estate in Anderson Valley in 1988.  All their sparklers are made from Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir sourced from their 580 acre estate vineyards.   Additionally, each cuvée includes some portion of reserve wines which are selected from the best wines each year and aged in French oak casks.   Since the top of the line “L’ Ermitage vintage sparkling wines contain about 4% of these reserve wine, I think it’s a safe assumption this non-vintage cuvee contains less.

NV Roederer Estate Brut

NV Roederer Estate Brut

Region: California>Napa Valley

Variety – 60% Chardonnay, and 40% Pinot Noir

Dosage – 1.2% residual sugar

Production method: Méthode Champenoise;  Aged a minimum of 2 years on lees

Alcohol by volume: 12%

Cost: $18 (on sale) Retail: $25

My tasting notes follow:

Appearance: Light golden straw color with plentiful persistent stream of tiny bubbles

Aromas: Sweet yeast, fresh-cut green apples

Body:  Medium-bodied with soft texture, and zippy acidity

Taste: Between dry and off-dry with sweet green apples, a bit of pear, hazelnut and vanilla

Finish: Short

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their pairing versatility with a variety of foods.  This one would be a very nice aperitif, and also pair with nicely with wide variety of foods.  Pair with Sole Meunier, Fish and Chips, or Sushi/Sashimi. This would make a good sparkler for your Thanksgiving table too!

This is a very good sparkling wine, especially for a non-vintage.  It has a bit of complexity, is very enjoyable, and it’s widely available.  I’ll buy again whenever I find it only sale, which is frequently. I’m looking forward to trying the Rosé!  (89 pts).

“May your glass always be filled with warm memories, and the taste of a life well lived linger on your tongue” – Unknown

#LanguedocDay Virtual Tasting 2011 – A Wonderful Mourvédre, Old Vine Carignan Blend…

I like participating in virtual tastings such as Languedoc Day for a few reasons.  It gives me a chance to see what wines other wine lovers are drinking and enjoying.  I look forward to learning something about either the varietal, or the region being showcased.  And it’s also a chance to virtually meet others on Twitter, G+, or FB, who share my passion for wine.

The Languedoc (pronounced “long-dock”) is a wine region in southern France.  It is the world’s largest wine-producing region, producing a diverse selection of red, white, rosé, sweet or sparkling wines.  According to Wikipedia…”As recently as 2001, the region produced more wine than the entire United States“.  The 5 best known appellations in the Languedoc include Coteaux du LanguedocCorbières AOCFaugèresMinervois AOC, and Saint-Chinian AOCs.

It’s only relatively recently the Languedoc has been widely recognized by critics and experts as worthy of attention, awards and accolades.  Prior to the last couple of decades, it was mostly known for producing low-quality jug wines.

I’ve enjoyed a few wines from the Languedoc.  Two sparklers – the NV Domaine Jean-Louis Denois Tradition Brut from the Coteaux de Languedoc AOC, and the 2008 Antech Cuvee Eugenie from the Crémant de Limoux AOC that were both very good sparklers, at a very attractive price, that I’d buy again – and a wonderful sweet vins doux naturels fortified wine made from Grenache.  But, I’ve not had a red wine from the region, so I was looking forward to #LanguedocDay to try a red.

My wine of choice for the day?  The 2006 Les Clos Perdus “Mire la Mer” (In View of The Sea).  The wine is produced by a small winery located the village of Peyriac de Mer. The biodynamically farmed fruit is from the Corbières AOC.  According to Los Clos Perdus

 This wine comes from old bush vines naturally grown and hand-picked.  The wild yeast ferment is followed by gentle basket pressing, allowing the wine to develop with minimal intervention, giving an honest expression  of the soil and the year in which it was grown

It’s a blend of 55% Mourvédre, 35% Carignan, planted in 1905, and 10% Grenache. The name Los Clos Perdus means Lost Vineyards.

2006 Les Clos Perdus Corbières Mire La Mer - Photo courtesy of Les Clos Perdus

My tasting notes are below:

Deep nearly opaque violet color with dark fruit, and herbal aromas. On the palate, balanced, medium-bodied with fine grained well integrated tannins, good acidity, and bright, persistent black currant, dark raspberry, mineral and spice flavors. Medium finish. – 89pts

This is definitely a food wine.  Try it with your hearty fall dishes.  It’s a steal for $20.  Will buy more!

T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like…NV Charles Baur Crémant d’Alsace Rosé

This week’s sparkler is from Alsace region of  France.  Alsace is located on France’s eastern border and on the west bank of the upper Rhine adjacent to Germany and Switzerland.  The region definitely has Germanic influences.  It is most well-known for it still white wines including Gewürztraminer, Riesling, and Pinot Blanc.  This sparkler is 100% Pinot Noir which represents about 10% of the regions plantings.

When one thinks of French sparkling wines, of course Champagne is top of mind , but sparkling wine is made in many regions of France, including Alsace,  using the same techniques deployed in Champagne.  When it’s not specifically made in the Champagne region, it’s referred to as Crémant.

The Crémant d’Alsace AOC was established in 1976.  Crémant d’Alsace is the market leader in at-home sales for sparkling wines in France.  The vast majority of the wines are exported to Belgium and Germany.

This wine is first vinified as a dry Rosé, and then undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle. According to the Baur website…“Armand Baur makes one batch a year so this is effectively a vintage sparkling wine, though it is not noted on the label, as vintage sparkling wines are required to age in the cellars for at least 3 yrs before release“. This wine was aged for 2 yrs, thus the non-vintage (“NV”) designation.

NV Charles Baur Cremant d’Alsace Rosé

NV Charles Baur Crémant d’Alsace Rosé

Region: France>Alsace>Crémant d’Alsace

Variety – 100% Pinot Noir

Dosage – Unknown; Brut Style

Production method: Méthode Champenoise;  Aged for 12 months on less

Alcohol by volume: 12%

Cost: $20

My tasting notes follow:

Appearance: Pretty light salmon color with small dispersed bubbles

Aromas: Brioche, and sweet red fruit of strawberries and raspberries

Body:  On the palate a somewhat creamy mousse, between light and medium bodied, dry with zippy acidity.

Taste: Strawberry, raspberry, vanilla and a hint of citrus rind, and mineral flavors

Finish: Short-medium finish

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their pairing versatility with a variety of foods.  This one would be a good aperitif, and also pair with nicely with a variety of foods.  I enjoyed it with a Filipino dish, Chicken Afritada, a tomato-based stew introduced to the Philippines by Spaniards.

This is an elegant, very nice Rosé sparkler.  It’s a very good value for under $20.  I recommend!