Event: Sip some Sparkling Wine at the Spa
Date: Wednesday, November 1, 2006
Location: Mesh Spa, 70 Hudson Street, Hoboken, NJ
Time: 7:00 PM
Our November WV meeting will be a first of its kind as we’ll be gathering at the hottest new spa to hit Hoboken, NJ. Melissa Shea, Director of Mesh Spa, has graciously offered to host a special evening held exclusively for the members of the WV. Not only will our evening be filled with complimentary spa treatments, secret surprises, free products, amazing discounts, and gift bags galore — all WV members that attend the event will receive a complimentary VIP Mesh Spa membership that will allow for discounted spa treatments year round! To compliment this very special evening at the spa, the November wine theme will be California Sparkling wine. (Read on before you become disappointed that it’s not Champagne…)
Well ladies, all that glitters is not gold and all that sparkles is not Champagne. Despite the American penchant for calling all wine with bubbles Champagne, the only kind of sparkling wine that has a right to call itself Champagne is the stuff that comes from the region of the same name in northern France.
Wines can be made to sparkle in all sorts of ways, although adding club soda in the privacy of your kitchen isn’t what I have in mind here. Sparkling wine can be made from any grape in the world, but in most places it’s made from chardonnay, pinot noir, or a mixture of the two. Other popular grapes for sparkling wine include pinot meunier, chenin blanc, riesling, pinot gris, pinot blanc, and shiraz. However, this is information the bottle won’t usually give away. Sometimes the only way to tell what’s in the bottle is by deciphering some foreign words that may or may not be printed on the label. Phrase one is blanc de blancs, which means “white from whites” and indicates a white sparkling wine made entirely from white wine grapes, such as chardonnay. Blanc de noirs, on the other hand, means “white from blacks” and indicates a white sparkling wine made from 100 percent red wine grapes, such as pinot noir and pinot meunier. Noir de noirs, which you’ll rarely see, is a red sparkling wine made from red grapes, and rosť (a/k/a rosato or rosado, depending on the country of origin) indicates a pink wine made from at least some red grapes (food coloring doesn’t count).
Anyway, back to California Sparkling wines. Several French Champagne houses have California sparkling wine operations— and they’re no weak sisters, either. In fact, many think the non-vintage California wines may be as good as or even better than non-vintage French Champagnes. Without a doubt, they are certainly better values at beginning as low as $12!
As California sparkling winemakers learn more about maximizing quality in their wines, they’ve been identifying and narrowing the regions where the best fruit can be grown. And because they’re being more selective, wines from these special regions are reaching new levels of quality.
Over the past decade, it has become apparent that five chief appellations in California produce fruit that makes superior sparkling wines. There’s the Anderson Valley in Mendocino County, Green Valley and Russian River Valley in Sonoma County; the Carneros region that straddles the south end of Sonoma and Napa counties; and some selected areas near the ocean along the state’s Central Coast.
Wines from these special regions have their own unique, regional characteristics, too. The sparkling wines of Mendocino, for example, taste different from the wines of Carneros. In addition to this, there is the house style, different for each winery, that may render those unique fruit flavors in ways that range from light and lively to rich and ponderous.
While finding the perfect climatic region for the vines is probably paramount, the quality of California sparkling wine has been getting better for other reasons, too —a trend especially noticeable in recent releases.
- First, growers and winemakers are selecting the best clones from the dozens and dozens available for chardonnay and pinot noir —the two basic varietals in California sparkling wine —and they’re grafting these clones to the right rootstocks.
- Second, they are identifying those soils and sites within these cool appellations —right down to ridges, hillsides and even certain rows of vines —that yield wines of the very highest quality.
- Third, as each year passes, the vines are a year older, and with vine age comes character.
- And fourth, over the years, the growers and winemakers have been discovering techniques in the vineyard that improve the fruit, as well as in the winery that enhance the wines. All of this is a boon for us consumers, as the best California sparkling wines are getting even better. Our California Sparkling wine theme will be one of unexpected taste, pleasure, and surprise (at least I hope it will be!)
Speaking of taste, Ladies. At our Champagne & Shoes WV event, I believe all but two bottles of Champagne were of the Brut variety. Brut is definitely the most popular and is the type of Sparkling Wine/Champagne that one encounters most in the marketplace. For this event, let’s make an attempt to bring some of the other varieties of Sparkling wine so we get to sample the varying degrees of sweetness for each designation. Please use the chart below as guide:
|Levels of Sweetness||(Dosage Levels)|
|Demi-Sec, Dry||Very sweet|
|Extra Dry||Slight sweetness|
|Brut||No perceptible sweetness|
|Brut Nature||Bone dry|
Wine: Sparkling Wine
Region: California, US
Bottle Price: $25 range
Challenge: DOUBLE CHALLENGE 1) Bring a sparkling wine that is anything but of the BRUT variety. 2) Please, please, please bring your bottle chilled!