Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I’m pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.
This week was all about the bubbles.
Let’s start with some smashing good stuff from jolly old England. Yes, folks, you’ve probably heard the buzz, but English Fizz is good stuff, and these bottles from Ridgeview are a perfect example. Each has got its own charms, but the rosé was what really captivated me. I highly recommend trying these out. Unfortunately they’re not that much cheaper than good Champagne, but they are far more than novelties.
As long as we’re in Europe, let’s talk about sparkling Riesling. Not much of it makes its way over the Atlantic, but it can be quite tasty when made well. This Fitz bottling is a decent representation of the form, but at $15 a pop, who’s complaining if it ain’t so complex?
Perhaps as good transition as there is from Europe to California, a bottle of Buena Vista Champagne landed in the samples pile this week. Made in Champagne but labeled and sold by the Buena Vista Winery in Carneros, this wine is yet another product from the empire of the indefatigable Jean-Charles Boisset.
And we’ve got some domestic bubbles as well, from some of the usual suspects. Schramsberg is refined as ever, and J vineyards a solid contender. Lots to love from each.
2013 Ridgeview “Bloomsbury” Sparking Wine, England
Light yellow-gold in the glass with medium-fine bubbles, this wine smells of sea air and brioche. In the mouth, an exceptionally silky mousse mixes lofts flavors of tart sour-apple, grapefruit pith, and a touch of white tea. Lovely salinity and great finish. Excellent acidity and length. A blend of 59% Chardonnay, 27% Pinot Noir, and 14% Pinot Meunier. 12% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $42 click to buy.
2013 Ridgeview “Cavendish” Sparkling Wine, England
Light yellow-gold in color with medium-fine bubbles, this wine smells of buttered sourdough toast and crushed nuts. In the mouth, beautifully soft and voluminous mousse carries flavors of apple, quince, lemon, and citrus pith across the palate. A faint salinity lingers in the long finish. Great acidity and balance. A blend of 40% Pinot Meunier, 34% Chardonnay, and 26% Pinot Noir. 12% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $42 click to buy.
2013 Ridgeview “Fitzrovia” Rosé Sparkling Wine, England
An unusual and surprising dark gold in color with just a hint of dusty rose hue surrounding medium-fine bubbles, this wine smells of marzipan and rosehips. In the mouth, wonderfully rich flavors of dried citrus, dried raspberries, and seawater are borne across the palate with a supple mousse. Gorgeous wet stone minerality and fantastic balance. Notes of bitter orange and salty butterscotch linger in the finish. Outstanding. A blend of 80% Chardonnay, 17% Pinot Noir and 3% Pinot Meunier. 12% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $45 click to buy.
NV Fitz “Extra Trocken Sekt” Sparkling Riesling, Pfalz, Germany
Pale greenish gold in color with largish bubbles, this wine smells of star fruit and a hint of cucumber. In the mouth, notes of cucumber and green apple mix with a little white floral note and just the faintest hint of sweetness. Clean, crisp finish. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $ click to buy.
NV Buena Vista Winery “La Victoire,” Champagne, France
Light gold with medium bubbles in the glass, this wine smells of buttered popcorn, wet stones, and white flowers. In the mouth, flavors of black sesame lemon pith and lemon juice mix with a moderately fine mousse. There’s a slightly bitter note in the finish, with a touch of oak. 12% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $49 click to buy.
NV J Vineyards Sparkling Rose, Sonoma County, California
Pale salmon in the glass with medium fine bubbles, this wine smells of wet chalkboard, rosehips and watermelon rind. In the mouth, lovely flavors of watermelon rind, raspberries and wet chalkboard are crisp, bright and juicy. Coarse mousse. 12.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $33 click to buy.
2014 Schramsberg “Blanc de Blancs” Sparkling Wine, North Coast, California
Light gold in the glass with medium fine bubbles, this wine smells of wet chalkboard and unripe pear. In the mouth, a nice silky mousse lifts flavors of apples and wet chalkboard across the palate. Great acidity and a nice clean finish. 12.7% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $32 click to buy.
2013 Schramsberg “Blanc de Noirs” Sparkling Wine, North Coast, California
Pale gold in the glass with medium fine bubbles, this wine smells of berries, apple, and floral notes. In the mouth, flavors of apple, berries, and wet chalkboard have a nice balance with just a faint hint of sweetness emerging from the foam. Nice finish. Contains 15% Chardonnay. 12.7% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $42 click to buy.
2014 Schramsberg Brut Rosé Sparkling Wine, North Coast, California
Salmon pink in the glass with medium bubbles, this wine smells of berries and watermelon. In the mouth, crisp flavors of apples and berries have a faint sweetness to them. Nice finish. 13% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $42 click to buy.
NV J Vineyards “Cuvee 20” Sparkling Wine, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Light gold in the glass with medium fine bubbles, this wine smells of sweet apple and wet chalkboard. In the mouth flavors of apple, sweet pear, and wet chalkboard are carried on a coarse mousse across the palate. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $25 click to buy.