TGIF Bubbly; J Cuvée 20 Brut

My wife and I usually make it a point to drink sparkling wine on a weekly basis.  It’s typically Friday night…thus “T.G.I.F. Bubbly”  It’s a celebration of sort, to the end of the work week. And hey we love bubbly…so why wait for a special occasion? This week’s selection is the J Vineyards and Winery J Cuvée 20 Brut.

The Winery

J Vineyards and Winery is an independently owned winery located in Healdsburg, California.  It was founded in 1986 by Founder and President, Judy Jordan.

The winery focuses primarily on sparkling wines (Brut and Brut Rosé) , as well as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris produced from estate grapes mostly farmed within the Russian River Valley appellation in Sonoma County.

J Vineyards and Winery is a state-of-the-art facility that
houses, in essence, two wineries under one roof—
J sparkling wine and J varietal wines.

It’s been a number of years since I’ve visited, and the last time I did, we opted for a flight of sparkling wine.  I’m going to have to check out their still wines, which I’ve heard nothing but good thing about. The winery itself is a great place to visit.  It’s got a cool vibe, and some fun options for tasting.

In addition to aforementioned wines, J also produces Viognier, Pinot Meunier, and Pinotage still wines, along with two dessert wines.

The Wine

The J Cuvée 20 Brut is J Vineyard and Winery’s signature wine.  The cuvée was created to celebrate J’s 20th anniversary.

The grapes for this cuvée (blend) were hand harvested into small quarter-ton bins and whole cluster pressed in J’s special Coquard press.  Juice from each lot is fermented separately, and the lots remain separate until blending.

After secondary fermentation in the bottle, the wine is aged an average of two years in the cellar.

Cuvee20Product220x680

J Cuvée 20 Brut NV. Image courtesy of J Vineyards and Winery

At it’s $28 price point, it competes with some entry-level Champagne, and it stands up to the competition quite well. Thank you!

My tasting notes follow:

Pale golden-yellow color with an explosive mousse and yeasty, lemon, honeysuckle aromas. On the palate, it’s between light and medium-bodied with a soft mousse, and apple, lemon, and a bit of pear and ginger flavors with a mineral undertone. Medium-long, clean finish.

Rating:  A- 

Pair with:  Sparkling wines are excellent foods wines (not just a sipper for celebrations).  Pair this with triple creme cheeses, oysters, and shellfish dishes, Chicken Pot Pie, Fish and Chips or Ham and Manchego Cheese Sandwich with Tomato Jam.

The Wine Geek Stuff:

  • Alcohol: 12.5% alcohol.
  • Closure: Cork
  • Where it’s from: > Sonoma County>Russian River Valley
  • Grape varieties: 54% Chardonnay, 44% Pinot Noir, 2% Pinot Meunier
  • Production method: Methode Champenoise
  • Dosage: Brut
  • Retail: $28
  • Drink: Now

Sample purchased for review

Ratings Key:
(A+) – 98-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 94-97/Outstanding
(A-) – 90-93/Excellent
(B+) – 86-89/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff!  Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers!

This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Blog.com. Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.

T.G.I.F. Champagne And The Like…NV Kirkland Signature Champagne Brut De Bruyne

I was in Costco, and saw they had a “Kirkland” branded Champagne for $19.99.  That’s the lowest price I’ve seen on the real stuff from France, and Costco has a good track record for wines in my book,  so I decided to pick up a bottle.

This Champagne is made by Manuel Janisson of Champagne Janisson & Fil  in the village of Verzenay, which is designated a Grand Cru village, located in the Cote de Sezanne region.  This wine is comparable to a second label Champagne,  meaning it’s a less expensive wine made from grapes, or wine not considered worthy of the winery’s primary label.  For example, in this case Champagne Janisson & Fil which used very few of their Grand Cru (their best vineyard), or Premier Cru ( second best vineyards) for this wine.  The grapes are sourced from other vineyards.  This is a common practice at wineries, so no heartburn for me there.  Frankly, that’s why it can be sold for $20.

NV Kirkland Signature Champagne Brut De Bruyne – Janisson

Where it’s from: FranceChampagneCote de SézanneChampagne

The grape(s) Chardonnay (45%), Pinot Noir (40%), Pinot Meunier (5%)

Production method: Traditional Method 

Alcohol: 12%

Dosage: Brut

Aging: 20 months on lees

Retail: $19.99

My tasting notes follow:

Light golden-yellow straw color with lots of tiny, but dispersed bubbles, accompanied by toasty yeast, stone fruit and citrus aromas. On the palate, it’s pleasantly creamy, but simple with tart stone fruit and cherry flavors.

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their versatility with food, because of their palate cleansing quality (think scrubbing bubbles;-).  This one will work both as an aperitif, and with lighter main course dishes without heavy sauces.  I bet this would be great with salty treats such as Ranch flavored potato chips, or side dish like mac and cheese,  or fish tacos.

Recommendation:  This is a good sparkling wine, that had some of the characteristics unique to Champagne such as a creamy mousse, and a nice pin-prick sized bubbles, but I found it lacked complexity.  The challenge for me is that I can think of several Cavas, American Sparklers, Crémants, etc. that are priced similarly, or below that I’ve enjoyed more.  This won’t be a repeat purchase for me.

T.G.I.F. Champagne And The Like…Piper Sonoma Brut

This week’s sparkler is from Piper Sonoma.  I’m not sure why I haven’t tried this wine before, but it’s the only Northern California sparkling wine producer whose bubbly I’ve not had the pleasure of trying.

Piper Sonoma was founded in 1980 by the Piper-Heidseick Champagne house.  This brand seems to be lagging behind other California sparking wine houses established by French Champagne houses like Chandon, Mumm,  Taittinger and Roederer.  It’s exchanged hands a few times.  Last year it,  along with Piper-Heidsieck and Charles Heidsieck brands from the Champagne region of France, was sold by  Rémy Cointreau to the Société Européenne de Participations Industrielles, or EPI.  Prior to that, Rémy Cointreau USA sold the winery to J Vineyards & Winery in 1997 and continued to make wine under contract there until 2007.  Then the brand was sold to Rack & Riddle Custom Wine Services in Hopland, followed by Rémy brand Bearboat.

This cuvée is a typical blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier that includes 20-25% reserve wines. Between 75-80% of the fruit is from Sonoma with the balance being from Dry Creek, and Carneros.

Piper Sonoma Brut

Where it’s from: California>Sonoma Valley

The grape(s) Chardonnay (60%), Pinot Noir (15%),  and Pinot Meunier (25%)

Production method: Traditional Method 

Alcohol: 13.5

Dosage: Brut

Aging: 18 months on less

 Retail: $18 (I purchased on sale for $12 – it’s frequently on sale at my local Safeway)

My tasting notes follow:

Light yellow straw color with lots of tiny bubbles with toasty biscuit, apple, and hints of floral and citrus aromas. On the palate, it’s between light, medium-bodied, and crisp with a surprisingly creamy mousse and green apple, vanilla, anise and mineral flavors. Medium finish. – 86pts

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their versatility with food, because of their palate cleansing quality (think scrubbing bubbles;-). This one would be wonderful as an aperitif ,  and with first courses, such lobster rolls, crab cakes, or deviled eggs or salads.

Recommendation: This is a very good sparkler.  I see it as a step up from many of the Korbel sparklers, but sold at a price point just below comparable entry-level sparklers from Mumm, Chandon, Gloria Ferrer, etc.  It’s a “tweener” that offers good value at the sale price of $11.99.

Cheers!

T.G.I.F. Champagne And The Like….Mumm Napa Brut Prestige

This week’s bubbly is from Mumm Napa, 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.

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.  If you visit Mumm Napa they offer three seated tasting experiences (click here for more details), rather than the typical standing tasting at a bar.  The seated tasting experience, which is more typical when you visit one of the sparkling wine houses, is one of the things I appreciate about going wine-tasting at a sparkling wine house.

This is an interesting wine in that the fruit is sourced from 50 vineyards, and 80 vineyard blocks throughout Napa Valley.  .

Mumm Napa Brut Prestige

Where it’s from: California>Napa Valley

The grape(s) Pinot Noir (51%), Chardonnay (46%), Pinot Meunier (2%), and Pinot Gris (1%)

Production method: Traditional Method 

Alcohol: 12.5

Dosage: Brut

Aging: 18 months on less; 3 months bottle aging

 Retail: $22 (I purchased on sale for $17 – it’s frequently on sale)

My tasting notes follow:

Light golden tinged straw color with biscuit, sweet citrus, red fruit and subtle floral aromas. In the glass it displays lots of tiny bubbles. On the palate it is medium-bodied with fairly creamy mousse and cherry, vanilla, and citrus flavors. Medium finish. – 88pts

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their versatility with food, because of their palate cleansing quality (think scrubbing bubbles;-). This one would be wonderful as an aperitif , but it has enough body to continue drinking into the main course.  I’d bring this along on summer picnic in a heartbeat as it would pair nicely with picnic fare.  It would also be wonderful with a seafood pasta salad.

Recommendation: Recommended.  This is one of my “go to” California sparklers in part because I prefer a bubbly where the Pinot Noir, rather than Chardonnay flavors dominate, in part because it’s frequently on sale!

Cheers!

T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like….Cazanove Brut Rose Champagne

This week’s bubbly is a Rosé Champagne produced by Champagne Charles de Cazanove.  It’s a brand with which I was not familiar until I did a post on their Brut Premier Cru Champagne a couple of weeks ago.  They have a rich history.  The house was founded in 1811 by Charles Gabriel de Cazanove.  However it was his son Charles Nicolas de Cazanove that contributed most to the growth of the brand.  They are the #2 selling brand in France behind Nicolas Feuillate.  They offer a full rangeof Champagne.  This bottling is one of five in their entry-level “Tradition Père & Fil” range. Sometimes a wine make a first impression then fades as you spend more time with it.  Sometimes, the last sip is the same as the first in terms of how you feel about it.  And sometime a wine grows on you with each sip.  This was one of those wines for me.  I enjoyed it more with each sip.

Charles de Cazanove Brut Rosé

NV Charles de Cazanove Champagne Brut Rosé

Where it’s from: FranceChampagne

The grape(s) Pinot Noir (75%); Pinot Meunier (15%); Chardonnay (10%)

Production method: Méthode Champenoise; Aged about 3 years on lees

Alcohol: 12% Retail: $35 

My tasting notes follow:

Pink with an orange hue color with a steady bead of pin-prick bubbles and fruity candied cherry and subtle yeast aromas. Medium bodied with a soft mousse, good balance and cherry, mandarin orange, and a hint of baking spice  flavors. Medium finish. 75% Pinot Noir, 15% Meunier and 10% Chardonnay - 90pts

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their versatility with food, because of their palate cleansing quality (think scrubbing bubbles;-). This one would make a very good aperitif, especially with mixed charcuterie.  Believe it or not, I had this with Jerk-Spiced Baby Back Ribs from B Side BBQ, and it was a very good match!  Since it’s medium-bodied it will fare well with a variety of dishes.

I really enjoyed this.  It was outstanding! You could easily spend a lot more on a Rosé Champagne.  This is a very good value at $35.  I highly recommend!  If you’re looking for an impressive bottle of Rosé Champagne that won’t break the bank for a hostess/host gift, or (dare I say it) an excellent V-Day Champagne, check this one out! (Click here to find this wine)

T.G.I.F. Champagne And The Like…NV Nicolas Feuillatte “Blue Label” Brut Champagne

Have you ever wondered what’s the best-selling brand of Champagne in France?  Sure, all the big names in Champagne are there, but I’m thinking the average middle-class French consumer doesn’t have the coin for Moet and Mumm on a regular basis.   The answer is the maker of this week’s bubbly, Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte.  Feuillatte hit my radar on the on the strength of favorable staff reviews at my favorite wine retailer K&L Wines Merchants.

Last year Feuillatte celebrated their 35th anniversary. That makes them a baby when compared to  brands such Moet & Chandon,or Veuve Clicquot, which are 200+ years old.  Not only is Feuillatte the best selling brand of Champagne in France, it is also the number three brand in world-wide sales behind Moet and Veuve Clicquot.

Surely some of their meteoric rise is due to savvy marketing, like their “One Fo(u)r Fun” mini bottles of Champagne with a wrist strap, or their iPhone App with a  virtual toast where the user can pop a bottle of Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte and pour it in to a friend’s virtual flute, but make no mistake, they source high-quality fruit for their Champagne. Additionally, Feuillatte has been making quarter bottles of Champagne since 1990, and today is the market leader in the segment.

This week’s Champagne a.k.a. Brut Resèrve Particulière  is their entry level offering.  In addition to this Champagne they offer six other in the “Essentials” line, four “Gourmet” Champagnes, and the aforementioned One Fo(u)r Fun mini bottles.

NV Nicolas Feuillatte “Blue Label” Brut Champagne

Where it from: FranceChampagne

The grape(s)  40%Pinot Noir, 40% Pinot Meunier, 20% Chardonnay

Residual Sugar – Unknown

$25 – Retail , 12% a.b.v.

Production method: Méthode Champenoise;  Aged just under 3 years on lees

My tasting notes follow:

Pale gold color with brioche, spice, and dried fruit aromas. On the palate it is creamy, and light-medium bodied with apple, and pear flavors with a hint of honey. Medium finish

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their versatility with food, because of their palate cleansing quality (think scrubbing bubbles;-). This was very nice as an aperitif, and just as nice with food.  Pair with fish tacos, light pasta dishes, or just for fun popcorn!

This is a very good sparkler. I prefer it to the ubiquitous Veuve Clicquot  and it cost $20 less!  I recommend!  89pts   (Click here to find this wine) 

T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like….NV Gruet Brut Blanc de Noirs

This week’s sparkler is produced by Gruet Winery, which is based in New Mexico.  New Mexico isn’t exactly top of wine when it comes to wine, much less sparkling wines, but Gruet’s lineup of non-vintage wines are very compelling as value plays.  They produce vintage, and non-vintage sparkling wine, along with still wines.

Gruet was established by a family who previously made Champagne in France.  While traveling through the Southwest in 1983, they fell in love with New Mexico and decided to produce sparkling wine here in the US.  The vineyards are located in Engle near the town of Truth of Consequence (you gotta love that name!) about 170 south of Albuquerque.  The vineyards, at 4300 feet elevation are some of the highest in the US, and the climate features hot days and cool nights which is conducive to slow ripening that produces grapes with good acidity and fruit.  Additionally, the soil is similar to the soil in Champagne. Together, the climate and soil create a great environment for the three grapes typically make up Champagne and sparkling wine blends – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier.

Their first harvest was 1987, and they released their first sparkling wines in 1989.  In 2008 Gruet sold 100,000 cases of wine, that was distributed in 48 states.

NV Gruet Brut Blanc de Noirs

NV Gruet Brut Blanc de Noirs

Region: USA>New Mexico

Variety – Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier

Residual Sugar – Unknown

$14, 12% a.b.v.

Production method: Méthode Champenoise;

My tasting notes follow:

Appearance: Salmon color with an abundance of dispersed tiny bubbles

Aromas: Apple, red fruit, and brioche aromas.

Body: On the palate approaching medium bodied with a moderately aggressive mousse.

Taste: Pear, with a touch of red fruit, sweet baking spice and nuanced citrus flavors.

Finish: Short

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their versatility with food, because of their palate refreshing quality (think scrubbing bubbles;-). This was delightful as an aperitif and with food.   Try this one with tapas, especially seafood tapas, or maybe grilled seafood such as grilled scallops.

I’ve previously reviewed their NV Sparkling Rosé, and the NV Brut, but this is my favorite from Gruet so far.  That’s probably because I prefer bubby made in the traditional method with a healthy dose (nah…scratch that – dominated by) Pinot Noir.   Very good value at $14. I recommend!  87 pts   (Click here to find this wine)

T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like – N.V. Chandon Blanc de Noirs

This week’s selection is an old favorite, a “go to” sparkler that I’ve enjoyed over the years – Chandon Blanc de Noir.  Blanc de Noirs (a French term literally meaning “white of blacks”) are sparklers made with black, or red-skinned grapes – in this case Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier.

Domaine Chandon was the first French-owned sparkling wine producer in Napa Valley. They were also the first domestic producer to introduce Pinot Meunier into their sparkling wine. The  grapes for this cuveé come primarily from their Carneros property in the Napa Valley.

It’s very common to paint Napa Valley with a broad brush, but the reality is that there are 14 sub-appellations within Napa Valley, each with it’s own micro-climates, soil types, elevations, etc. which make each unique. The Carneros AVA (sub-appellation) lies in both Napa and Sonoma County.  It’s cooler in Carneros than in the other sub-appellations, and grapes like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay thrive there.  Since Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are mainstays in sparklers, there are other sparkling wine producers in the area.  Aside from Domaine Chandon, Domaine Carneros, and Gloria Ferrer also set up shop in Carneros.  Looking to add some sparkle to your wine tasting experience in the Napa area?  Carneros is a great place to start!

NV Chandon Blanc de Noir

NV Chandon Blanc de Noir

Region: USA>California

Variety – Pinot Noir, and  Pinot Meunier

Dosage – Unknown

$13, 13% abv

Production method: Méthode Champenoise;

My tasting notes follow:

Appearance: Golden straw color. with persistent stream of tiny bubbles.

Aromas: Red fruit, and yeast.

Body: Refined mouth feel with a creamy  mousse.  Fruit forward style, approaching off-dry with good balance of fruit and acidity.   

Taste: Raspberry, cherry, and a bit of spice.

Finish: Medium

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their versatility with food. This one is no exception.  It’s enjoyable as an aperitif, and with food.  We enjoyed it with Chicken, and Pork  Salvadoran Tamales, but since it’s mostly Pinot Noir, it should pair well with virtually any foods you would pair with Pinot, including Roast Chicken, or pork. It should also pair well with Asian cuisine, and Southwestern cuisine.

I’ve noticed that I prefer Pinot-Noir dominant sparklers, rather than Chardonnay based sparklers.  What about you? Have you noticed a preference for sparklers made from a certain blend of grapes?

The list price is $22, but I picked up a bottle at Costco for $12.50, and I’ve frequently found it on sale for substantially less.  I recommend! 87 pts

Everything you wanted to know about Champagne (Rick Bakas)

T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like…2009 Luis Pato Baga Espumante Beiras

If it’s Friday, that must mean there’s Champagne and the like to be had!   If you’re new to this series of blog posts, it came to be because my wife suggested we drink “Champagne” at least once a week.  We decided on Fridays so we could bid farewell to the work week and kick off the weekend!

This week’s sparkling wine is a Rosé, the 2009 Luis Pato Baga Espumante Beiras, which I stumbled across while poking around the K&L Wine Merchants website.   I decided to give it a try , and go where no man, or woman has gone before – well at least on Cellar Tracker.  This one was interesting to me on two levels, first I wasn’t aware that sparkling wines were produced in Portugal (where they are known as “Espumante”- click here for a great primer on Portuguese Sparkling Wine), and secondly this sparkler is made from the Baga grape, with which I was completely unfamiliar. Of course, Portugal mostly know for Port, and is up and coming in mostly red and some white wines, and finally “grown folk” may remember Mateus Rose.

Baga is a red grape that produces very tannic wine with high acidity.  While there are red grapes (most notably Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier) used in the production of Champagne and sparkling wines, they are grapes that are not very tannic.

Luis Pato Espumante

2009 Luis Pato Baga Espumante

Region: Portugal; Bairrada

Variety – 100% Baga

Dosage – Unknown

$15, 12% abv

Production method: Méthode Champenoise; S/S fermentation

My tasting notes follow:

Appearance: Light crimson.

Aromas: Yeast, strawberries and spice

Body: Tiny, dispersed bubbles, minimal mousse with course texture that dissipated quickly.  Light bodied, fruity, yet very dry with good acidity. 

Taste: Tart raspberries, red currant and minerals

Finish: Short

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their versatility with food. We enjoyed this with grilled salmon, accompanied by an avocado/tomato salsa my wife put together. It would pair well with non-beef roasted meats,  grilled or roasted seafood, and shellfish.

This was a good sparkling Rosé, that was drier than most.  I didn’t particularly care for it on as an aperitif, but it was definitely better with food. Setting aside the novelty factor, I wouldn’t purchase again. (83pts)

T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like…Gosset “Brut Excellence” Champagne

Well, after 6 weeks of other than Champagne sparklers, this week it’s actually Champagne. Technically, and legally speaking, thanks to a trade agreement the U.S. and France, the bubbly stuff that’s made in the Champagne region of north-central France is Champagne, and everything else is sparkling wine (There are a few exceptions for wineries like Korbel which were grandfathered in) of one sort or another such as Cava (Spain), Prosecco (Italy), or Crémant (French sparkling wine from outside of the Champagne region). We were in a celebratory mood so we splurged a bit this week…thus Champagne!

Gosset is the oldest wine house in Champagne, having been established in 1584 by Pierre Gosset.  For a grand marquee they have a relatively small production of about 50,000 cases.  None of their Champagnes ever go through malolactic fermentation, which results in higher acidity. The Brut Excellence is their entry level cuvée.

Gosset Brut Excellence

Gosset “Brut Excellence” Champagne

Region: France>Champagne

Variety – 36% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir, 19% Pinot Meunier

Dosage – Unknown

$33, 12% abv

Production method: Méthode Champenoise;

My tasting notes follow:

Appearance: Brilliant pale gold, with a persistent bead of tiny bubbles surrounded by a constellation of pinpoint bubbles

Aromas: Fuji apple, brioche, and a bit of licorice

Body: Soft creamy mousse.  Medium-bodied, fruity yet complex.  Balanced with nice acidity. 

Taste: Tart apple and peach at first followed by sweetened lemon zest, and spice on the back end. 

Finish: Medium long finish

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their versatility with food. We enjoyed with typical Champagne fare – sushi, but try this with variety of fish dishes garnished with lemon, or butter based sauces.  Would also work well with braised, or simply grilled poultry, or pork.

I really enjoyed this pinot dominate cuvée.  As I reflect on this Champagne, I keep thinking how much more I enjoyed this, than the ubiquitous Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut.  I enjoyed the taste more, it costs less, and they are of comparable quality.  If you’re looking to splurge a bit for Champagne, I’d recommend this one.  I bought for $33, but it can be found for less. Click here to find.  Next time I want to splurge, I’d buy this one again!

In Vino Veritas!