T.G.I.F. Bubbly – German Gilabert Penedès Brut Nature Rosat

This week’s sparkler, German Gilabert Penedes Brut Nature Rosat, is a Rosé Cava from Spain.  It’s an interesting blend of Trepat and Garnacha (Grenache), which are both dark-skinned grapes used to produce red wine.  Most Rosé sparkling wines are made using either light-skinned grapes such as Chardonnay, or a combination of light and dark-skinned grapes.

This wine is a special project custom-made for Jose Pastor, an importer of Spanish wines who lives in the Bay Area.   Pastor is passionate about “Lively wines from the coolest corners of Spain“.  He is passionate about terroir-driven, small-lot wines produced from organically grown fruit that is well priced.

For the uninitiated, here’s a quick 411 on Cava..

Unlike Champagne, Cava isn’t from a particular region in Spain, rather it’s a term used for Spanish sparklers made in the traditional method (known as Méthode Champenoise) used in France.  While there various regions in Spain that make Cava,  about 95% of the production  comes from the traditional home of Cava, the Penedes region in Catalunya (a.k.a. Catalonia)  The basic rules for making wines that may be called Cava are:

  • Must be made in the traditional method.
  • Must age on lees in the bottle in which it will be sold for a minimum of 9 months, 18 months for Reservas and 24 months for Gran Reservas.
  • All the grapes used must be white grapes – the 3 most common being Macabeo (a.k.a. Viura), Parellada (pronounced pa-re-yada), and Xarel.lo (pronounced cha-rel-low) – unless you are making a Rose, in which case certain red grapes (Trepat, and Garnacha as with this wine) are permitted

NV Vinos de Terrunos German Gilabert Penedès Brut Nature Rosat


German Gilabert Penedès Brut Nature Rosat

My tasting notes follow:

Crimson red color with a frothy mousse showing tiny dispersed bubbles with yeast and red fruit aromas. On the palate, it’s dry owing to zero dosage (no added sugar) with fresh cherry, raspberry, and a hint of mineral flavors. Aged ten months on the lees. Super Value at $12!  Highly Recommended – I’ll be buying this one again!

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their versatility with food, because of their palate cleansing quality (think scrubbing bubbles;-). I think this one was pleasant as a sipper, but it’s very food friendly.  It has enough  body to pair with Paella, spicy Chinese, Thai, and pizza.

Where it’s from: SpainCatalunyaPenedès

The grape(s) Trepat, and Garnacha (Grenache).

Production method: Traditional Method 

Alcohol: 11.5.%

Dosage: Brut Zéro/Brut Nature (0-3 grams of sugar per liter)

Retail: $12

Serve At: 43°-50° F

 

T.G.I.F. Champagne And The LIke…NV Poema Brut Cava

This week’s sparkler is a Cava from Spain.  I picked this up a BevMo for $9.99 (It was priced at $10.99 pre-BevMo club discount )

Poema is a small producer (when you consider the likes of Codorníu, Freixenet, and Segura Viudas), that is in Korbrand’s portfolio.  They own 20% of the vineyard sources.  The rest are under long-term contract with various growers.  In addition to this Cava, Poema also produces Extra-Dry and Rosado (Rosé) Cava.

For the uninitiated, here’s a quick 411 on Cava..

Unlike Champagne, Cava isn’t from a particular region in Spain, rather it’s a term used for Spanish sparklers made in the traditional method (known as Méthode Champenoise) used in France.  While there are some other regions in Spain that also make Cava,  about 95% of the production  comes from the traditional home of Cava, the Penedes region in Catalunya (a.k.a. Catalonia)  The basic rules for making wines that may be called Cava are:

  • Must be made in the traditional method.
  • Must age on lees in the bottle in which it will be sold for a minimum of 9 months, 18 months for Reservas and 24 months for Gran Reservas.
  • All the grapes used must be white grapes – the 3 most common being Macabeo (a.k.a. Viura), Parellada (pronounced pa-re-yada), and Xarel.lo (pronounced cha-rel-low) – unless you are making a Rose, in which case certain red grapes are permitted

NV Poema Brut

Where it’s from: SpainCatalunyaCava

The grape(s) Xarello, Macabeo and Parellada.

Production method: Traditional Method 

Alcohol: 11.5.%

Dosage: Brut (0-15 grams of sugar per liter)

Retail: $10

My tasting notes follow:

Light golden-yellow straw color with surprisingly persistent bead of tiny bubbles, and toasty apple aromas. On the palate it’s light-bodied with fairly creamy mousse, approaches off-dry and displays easy apple/pear flavors. Short finish – 85pts

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their versatility with food, because of their palate cleansing quality (think scrubbing bubbles;-). I think this one would be pleasant as a sipper, but it’s also good with food.  This would also make be a great bubbly for a picnic, or with other light summertime fare.

Recommendation:  This is a good Cava that represents a solid value in Cava, but the field is crowded.  It’s worth a try…but not a re-purchase for me.

T.G.I.F. Champagne And The Like…NV Domaine Carneros Cuvée de la Pompadour Brut Rosé

Domaine Carneros was founded in 1987 by Champagne Taittinger of France in partnership with Kobrand Corporation. It is located in the heart of Carneros in Napa Valley, along with Gloria Ferrer. The Carneros terroir is ideally suited to producing Chardonnay,and Pinot Noir, typically the backbone of both Champagne, and California Sparkling wine. Domaine Carneros sources 95% of their fruit from organic estate vineyards, and all of their wines are labeled with the Carneros appellation.  Eileen Crane is the winery’s first and only sparkling winemaker.

Domaine Carneros is housed in a beautiful Chateau that was built in 1988. The building was inspired by historic Chateau de la Marquetterie in Champagne France, which is the estate home of the Taittinger family.

For my vegan friends, to my knowledge, Domaine Carneros is the only sparkling wine producer in the U.S. that makes vegan-friendly wines. And their entire 350 acre estate is all certified organic. 

From Domaine Carneros…

The Domaine Carneros Brut Rosé Cuvée de la Pompadour, celebrates the life and times of Madame de Pompadour (the great courtesan and mistress of Louis XV) who is credited with introducing Champagne to the court and was an influential tastemaker in the matters of art, architecture and philosophy–famous for her comment, “Champagne is the only wine a woman can drink and remain beautiful.”

NV Domaine Carneros Cuvée de la Pompadour Brut Rosé

Where it’s from: California>Napa Valley>Carneros

The grape(s) Pinot Noir (58%), and Chardonnay (42%)

Production method: Traditional Method 

Alcohol: 12.%

Dosage: Brut

Retail: $36

My tasting notes follow:

Pretty pink-orange color aromas of wild strawberries, sweet yeast, and a slight floral note with a persistent bead of tiny bubbles. On the palate, it’s displays a creamy mousse, is medium-bodied and fruity, yet dry with fresh wild strawberry, cherry, and a bit of citrus peel flavors.  Medium long finish – 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 be wonderful as an aperitif , and also with appetizers and lighter fare such as watermelon-goat cheese bits, cheeses like Brie, or Fontina, or try with a  Nicoise or Cobb salad.  It would make a great wine to bring along on a picnic!

Highly recommended! Would purchase again!

Cheers!

T.G.I.F. Champagne And The Like…N.V. Biltmore Estate Blanc de Blanc Brut

This week’s sparkler is from Biltmore Estate based in North Carolina – a state that’s not top-of-mine when it comes to wine!  If that name sounds familiar, it may be because it’s part of the Biltmore Company which runs the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C.  The estate features the largest privately owned home (175,000 sq. ft and 250 rooms!) in the U.S.  It’s a national historic landmark, and property includes 75 acres of formal gardens, a winery and the Inn on Biltmore Estate.  It was built by George Washington Vanderbilt II, a member of the Vanderbilt family, between 1889 and 1895.  Today, the Biltmore Company is run by thee great-grandson of George Washington Vanderbilt II, William A.V. Cecil II.

The Biltmore winery is housed in what was formerly a dairy barn. The first vineyards at Biltmore were established in 1971. Today, according to their website, Biltmore is…

The most visited winery in the United States isn’t located in Napa Valley. It’s at Biltmore in the mountains of North Carolina, where approximately 1 million visitors stop by to sample award-winning estate wines each year

These days Biltmore is looking to expand outside of North Carolina, having recently partnered with Young’s Market, an Orange-based spirits and wines distributor, to distribute its wines in California commencing this month, Arizona next month, and the Pacific Northwest later this year.  They are hoping to have distribution in all 50 states by 2014.

They produce a variety of wines from their 94 acres of estate vineyards, including Chardonnay, Riesling, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.  In addition to their vineyards in North Carolina, their portfolio includes wines from California –  a Russian River Pinot Noir, Napa Valley Chardonnay and Syrah, an Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, and a red blend from Sonoma County. On the sparkling front, in addition to this wine they also produce four other sparklers. This wine is made from Sonoma County Chardonnay grapes.

N.V. Biltmore Estate Blanc de Blanc

Where it’s from: USA>California>Sonoma County

The grape(s) Chardonnay

Production method: Traditional Method 

Alcohol: 12.5%

Dosage: Brut

 Retail: $25

Media Sample

My tasting notes follow:

Pale yellow straw color with plenty of pinprick bubbles, that dissipated somewhat quickly. The nose offers biscuit dough, green apple and lemon peel aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied with a moderately creamy mousse and  apple, pear and hints of hazelnut and lemon flavors. Short finish – 86pts

Pair with: The beauty of sparkling wines is their versatility with food, because of their palate cleansing quality (think scrubbing bubbles;-). While this wine is labeled as Brut, it was closer to Extra-Dry for me (as are many sparklers labeled “Brut”).  This would be good both as an aperitif, and owing to its touch of sweetness, slightly spice foods.

Recommendation:  While this is a very good sparkling wine, I wouldn’t purchase at the $25 SRP.  There is simply too much competition, I believe, that offers better value.


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…2007 Domaine Carneros Ultra Brut

Domaine Carneros was founded in 1987 by Champagne Taittinger of France in partnership with Kobrand Corporation. It is located in the heart of Carneros in Napa Valley, along with Gloria Ferrer. The Carneros terroir is ideally suited to producing Chardonnay,and Pinot Noir, typically the backbone of both Champagne, and California Sparkling wine. Domaine Carneros sources 95% of their fruit from organic estate vineyards, and all of their wines are labeled with the Carneros appellation.  Eileen Crane is the winery’s first and only sparkling winemaker.

Domaine Carneros is housed in a beautiful Chateau that was built in 1988. The building was inspired by historic Chateau de la Marquetterie in Champagne France, which is the estate home of the Taittinger family.

According to Domaine Carneros:

Ultra Brut is considered a specialty style, very little is produced either nationally or internationally. It is a more contemplative wine and most often appeals to the true sparkling wine aficionado…It is very dry It enlivens and refreshes the palate, stimulating the appetite for the pleasures of the meal ahead.

2007 Domaine Carneros Ultra Brut

2007 Domaine Carneros Ultra Brut

Where it’s from: California>Napa Valley>Carneros

The grape(s) Pinot Noir (60%), and Chardonnay (40%)

Production method: Traditional Method 

Alcohol: 12.95%

Dosage: 0.5%

 Retail: $39

My tasting notes follow:

Very light straw color with persistent tiny bead of bubbles and toasty stone fruit aromas. On the palate, very dry, approaching medium-bodied with a creamy mousse and pear, and citrus peel flavors. Medium-long finish. – 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 be wonderful as an aperitif , and with shellfish, smoked fish, or raw oysters.  I had it with raw oysters and it was an outstanding pairing!

Recommendation: Recommended.

Cheers!

T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like…NV Conte di Santa Chiara Prosecco

It’s Prosecco for my weekly bubbly tasting this week.  I picked this up on a whim from K&L Wine Merchants.  The price was certainly right at $8.99, and it had quite a few favorable staff reviews. And I’ve had good success with wines from K&L  that had at least 5 favorable staff reviews.  Here’s one of the reviews from the K&L Wine Blog:

“This is the perfect party Prosecco! I poured this at one of our local events. It was a hit! I kept the price to myself until they tried it. Every single person was shocked that something so good could be so affordable!! Bring some to your next party and watch it disappear.”

NV Conte di Santa Chiara Prosecco

NV Conte di Santa Chiara Prosecco

Where it’s from: Italy

The grape(s) Glera

Production method: Methodo Italiano (Charmat Bulk)

Alcohol: 11% Retail: $9 

My tasting notes follow:

Very light straw color with a good amount of bubbles that persisted longer than most Proseccos with fruity stone fruit and flora aromas. On the palate it’s light bodied, with a surprisingly soft mousse. It’s crisp and dry while maintaining some nice fruit flavors of white peach, nuanced apricot, and apples. Short finish. Great QPR! – 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 make a very good aperitif, or to take along on a picnic!

I enjoyed this. It’s a nice value play.  I’d buy again if it was available.  When I checked at K&L it was wait listed!


T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like…NV Scharffenberger Brut Excellence

This week’s sparkler is from Scharffenberger Cellars.  I don’t know about you, but I was more familiar with the Scharffenberger name through Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker, than Scharffenberger Cellars.   John Scharffenberger founded both.  Scharffenberger Cellars was established in 1981 in Anderson Valley.  It’s been through a few transitions, including being called Pacific Echo from 1998 through July 2004. The name has been restored back to Scharffenberger Cellars under the management of Maisons Marques & Domaines, the U.S. sales and marketing arm for Champagne Louis Roederer and its California winery, Roederer Estate (which also happens to be located in Anderson Valley. They’re about 5 miles apart).  Scharffenberger later, along with Robert Steinberg, established Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker in 1996.

As a mostly irrelevant aside…Scharffen Berger chocolates is one of my all time favorite chocolate makers (I’m giving up chocolate for Lent this year – but I have a Scharffen Berger Limited Edition Bên Tre Dark Chocolate Bar with my name on it waiting for me.  As I write this I’m seriously jonesing for it as I literally count down the hours until Easter – um…but I digress ;-)  Yum…er Um…yes this is a wine blog.  On the bubbly!

NV Scharffenberger Brut Excellence

NV Scharffenberger Brut Excellence

Where it’s from: USA>CaliforniaNorth Coast>Mendocino County

The grape(s) Chardonnay (67%), and Pinot Noir (33%)

Production method: Méthode Traditionelle; Aged about 2 years on lees

Alcohol: 12%

Retail: $19; I purchased for $16 at the Wine Mine 

My tasting notes follow:

Pale yellow-bold color with tiny bead of bubbles that dissipated somewhat quickly, and bread dough, faint apple aromas. On the palate it’s light-medium bodied, with a moderately creamy mousse, and sweet fruity sweet apple, and lemon-lime flavors. Short finish. 

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 an excellent aperitif, but would also be a good match with lighter foods like seafood, or  pasta or risotto dishes, especially those creamy sauces rather than tomato sauce.

This is a very good bubbly, and at $16 is a good value (and may be found for less).  It’s comparable to other entry-level sparklers from Gloria Ferrer, Mumm, and Chandon. It’s a bit more challenging to find, but worth seeking out. I’d buy again, especially if couldn’t find one of the aforementioned sparklers on sale. (Click here to find this wine)

T.G.I.F. Champagne and the like…NV Charles de Cazanove Champagne Brut Premier Cru

This week’s bubbly is a Champagne produced by Champagne Charles de Cazanove.  It’s a brand with which I was not familiar.  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 range of Champagne.  This bottling is one of five in their entry-level “Tradition Père & Fil” range.  This bottling is labeled “Premier Cru”, which is the second tier of Champagne classifications behind Grand Cru.  The classification system in Champagne is based on the what village the vineyards are located in, rather than the vineyard itself, or the estate as in Burgundy, and Bordeaux respectively.  You won’t find much Champagne classified as “Premier Cru” for $35, as such it represents good value price-wise.

NV Charles de Cazanove Champagne Brut Premier Cru

Where it’s from: FranceChampagne

The grape(s) Chardonnay (50%), and Pinot Noir (50%)

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

Alcohol: 12%

Retail: $35 

My tasting notes follow:

Golden yellow color with persistent bead of pin prick bubbles, and fresh bread dough, floral, and fruity aromas. On the palate, it has a soft mousse, is light-bodied with apple, fresh apricot and mineral flavors. Medium finish Pinot Noir (50%), and Chardonnay (50%) - 87pts

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 an excellent aperitif, but would also be a good match with lighter foods like seafood, or  pasta or risotto dishes, especially those creamy sauces rather than tomato sauce.

I really enjoyed this, but at $35, it won’t be a repeat purchase for me. (Click here to find this wine)