Wines & Vines

November 2018 Equipment, Supplies & Services Issue

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72 WINES&VINES November 2018 WINEMAKING W hile many in the wine trade consider Cham- pagne the "king of wines and wine of kings," more consumers increasingly regard sparkling wine as its equally regal offspring. Astute Champagne houses long ago foresaw the future of stateside sparkling wine, with notables such as Taittinger Champagne (Domaine Carneros), Moët & Chandon (Do- maine Chandon), G.H. Mumm (Mumm Napa) and Louis Roederer (Roederer Estate) investing in California vine- yards and wineries in the 1970s and 1980s. Domestic wineries also joined the noble fizz fray. While Ohio lays claim as the first state to see successful American sparkling wine production in the 1800s, California grabbed international attention in the 1970s. Today, U.S. bubble makers abound from Oregon to New Jersey. This report analyzes six classic and non-traditional sparkling wine producers: three in California, two in Ore- gon, and one in New Jersey. All winemakers interviewed for this feature follow the méthode champenoise process of sparkling wine production. Unlike Champagne, which must follow strict production guidelines for everything from planting to pressing and aging, American sparkling wine production allows for greater latitude. A tale of terroir Champagne views terroir in terms of villages and regions, rather than the Burgundian concept based upon specific lieux-dits (named sites) or climats. The art of the blend trumps individual vineyard expressions. The United States embraces both approaches, according to winemaker inclina- tion. But some wine regions lend themselves to sparkling wine production better than others. Many view California's Anderson Valley as America's grande dame of sparkling wine production. Consulting winemaker and sparkling wine specialist Tex Sawyer said the valley is on the 39th parallel, the same as Spain, but enjoys a significant coastal influence. "This results in grapes with the same pH and total acids as Champagne due to the cool temperatures, but fully ripe grapes at harvest with po- tential alcohols of 11% due to the long, sunlit days," Sawyer said. "Pretty spectacular situation, in our opinion." Scharffenberger Cellars, founded in 1981, ranks among the first American Anderson Valley sparkling winemakers, and the winery is now owned by Maisons Marques & Domaines. "We feel that Mendocino County is an unmatched appellation for sparkling wine. Sunny, yet cool. Due to our proximity to the Pacific Ocean and a narrow valley where cool air settles, we have a large diurnal temperature shift, at times up to 50° F," said winemaker Jeffrey Jindra. "This helps retain the natu- ral acidity required for premium sparkling wine, while also providing plenty of sun for good fruit flavor." The Carneros AVA, which spans parts of Napa and So- noma counties, shares equal stature in the making of sparkling wine, attracting the likes of the Spanish company Codorníu Raventós Group. The family opened Codorníu Napa in 1991, later rechristening it Artesa Vineyards & Winery where Ana Diogo-Draper is the director of winemak- ing. The sprawling 350-acre estate includes 200 acres of intricately planted blocks designed to match varieties, clones, rootstocks and trellis systems to appropriate soils, topography, sun and wind exposures. Farther south, the mountainous, sea-breeze-buffeted Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey Peninsula find favor, too. Barry Jackson left a lengthy winemaking career at Paul Masson to found Equinox in Santa Cruz, Calif., in 1989. Jackson produces his own sparkling wine and consults for 17 area bubbly producers, too. Another burgeoning sparkling wine region is the Wil- lamette Valley of Oregon, where Rollin Soles and Brian Croser founded Argyle Winery in 1987, the first winery in the area dedicated to sparkling wine production. Today, Oregon boasts more than 88 sparkling wine producers, and hosts an bi-annual symposium on sparkling wine at Cheme- keta Community College Northwest Wine Studies Center in Salem, Ore. In 2018, the conference's keynote speaker was Champagne expert Peter Liem, who is the author of "Champagne: The Essential Guide to the Wines, Producers and Terroirs of the Iconic Region." Many credit Andrew Davies of Radiant Sparkling Wine Company as the catalyst for Oregon's current sparkling wine revolution. Davies' company provides the special- ized equipment and technical savvy for small producers lacking the infrastructure to launch their own in-house sparkling program. R. Stuart & Co. of McMinnville, Ore., is one such suc- cessful in-house small producer, which also uses Radiant's services when needed. The winery started sparkling produc- tion in the late 1990s. "Our partner Frank Blair approached me in 1999 to start a pilot project for sparkling wine," said winemaker Rob Stuart, who told Blair he was out of his mind to think they could do it profitably, "but we both believed that Oregon, specifically the Willamette Valley, was the place that one could make not Champagne per se, but something as complex, very uniquely Oregon, and with Domestic Sparkling Wine Finds Its Identity Winemakers on both coasts of the U.S. describe their processes in producing méthode champenoise wine By L. M. Archer

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