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Sparkling Wine Guide

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Korbel Organic Brut

Save $3 - $12.99

Made with Organically Grown Grapes is created in the classic Korbel style, crisp, delicate and bright. We always strive to present the pure flavors of the grape in all of our champagnes.


Schramsberg Reserve Sparkling 2005

Save $20 - $95.00

Schramsberg's very special J. Schram bottlings inevitably make their ways to the head of the class every year, and this newest effort is nothing less than an absolute tour de force.



Sparkling Wine

Sparkling wines produced in the United States can be made in both the méthode champenoise and the charmat method. Lower cost sparklers, such as André, Cook's, and Tott's, often employ the latter method with more premium sparkling wines utilizing the former. The history of producing quality sparkling wine in California can be traced to the Sonoma Valley where, in 1892, the Korbel brothers (emigrated from Bohemia in 1852) began producing sparkling wine according to the méthode champenoise. The first wines produced were made from Riesling, Muscatel, Traminer and Chasselas grapes. Partly aided by the foreign influence, the overall quality of Californian sparklers increased with the introduction of the more traditional sparkling wine grapes of Chardonnay, Pinot noir, Pinot Meunier and Pinot blanc into the production. US AVA requirements and wine laws do not regulate the sugar levels and sweetness of wine though most producers tend to follow European standards with Brut wine having less than 1.5% sugar up to Doux having more than 5%. As the sparkling wine industry in California grew, foreign investments from some of the Champagne region's most noted Champagne houses came to set up wineries in the area. These include Moët et Chandon's Domaine Chandon, Louis Roederer's Roederer Estate, and Taittinger's Domaine Carneros.

While many top American sparkling wine producers utilize the traditional methods of production, there are distinct differences in their wine making techniques that have a considerable effect on the taste of the wines. In Champagne, the cuvée blend will rarely have less than 30 wines and sometimes as many as 60 that are taken from grapes spanning 4–6 years of different vintages. In California, cuvees are typically derived from around 20 wines taken from 1 to 2 years worth of vintages. Champagne laws require that the wine spend a minimum of 15 months on the lees for non-vintage and minimum 3 years for vintage Champagne. It is not uncommon for a premium Champagne to age for 7 years or more prior to release. In the US, there are no minimum requirements, and aging length can vary from 8 months to 6 years. Another distinct difference, particularly in Californian sparkling wines, is the favorable Californian climate which allows a vintage wine to be produced nearly every year.

Current US regulations ban the use of the term "Champagne" on any wines not produced in Champagne except if the label was in use before 2006. No new labels including the term "Champagne" will be approved by the US Government for wines produced outside of the Champagne region of France after 2006. Those "grandfathered labels" can only use the term on a wine label if there appears next to that name the appellation of "the actual place of origin".

The growth of the Finger Lakes wine industry in New York State and the success of Riesling wines from the region has resulted in an increasing number of producers such as Swedish Hill Vineyards making méthode champenoise sparkling wines from primarily or 100% Riesling. Finger Lakes producers such as Glenora and Casa Larga are also producing méthode champenoise sparkling wine from other grapes such as the traditional Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

A recently developed, popular category of sparkling wine is sparkling ice wine, first created accidentally in 1988, by Canadian wine writer, Konrad Ejbich, in his home cellar.


Domaine Carneros Brut 2010

Save - $26.99

Vintage dated each year, the Domaine Carneros Brut Cuvée represents the best of Carneros pinot noir and chardonnay made into a classic sparkling wine.


Iron Horse Russian Cuvee 2009

Save $4 - $35.99

A perfect sipping wine, ideally paired with briny hors d'oeuvres such as smoked salmon on potato cakes, fresh oysters with mignonette or shrimp remoulade.


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