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 the sparkling edition of my samples tasting, because, well, it’s that time of year isn’t it. While I don’t taste wines by seasonal schedule in any way shape or form, people have been asking for sparkling wine recommendations, so it was a good reminder to taste through the sparkling wines that have been piling up.
I’ve got a mix of bubblies from California and France this week, starting with a couple of Champagnes from Henriot, a very reliable producer in Reims. Their Blanc de Blancs bottling was quite tasty, and while not the highest scoring wine this week, one that I very much wanted to drink an entire glass of.
Closer to home Kathryn Kennedy winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains has been making tiny batches of sparkling wine in the traditional method and aging them on the lees for a long time. Their current release is merely their 2004 edition, the 27th year they’ve been making such wines. It’s got all the things you want from an extended tirage bottling, namely rich yeasty saline goodness.
Domaine Carneros also offered a few options this week, with their Ultra Brut and their rosé wines being the most compelling.
And finally, Schramsberg continued to live up to its reputation as one of California’s finest, with their Blanc de Noirs offering pitch-perfect balance and deliciousness from the get-go. With a few years, this vintage will be spectacular.
All these and more below. Enjoy.
2011 Domaine Carneros “Le Reve Blanc de Blancs” Chardonnay, Carneros, Sonoma, California
Pale greenish gold in color with medium-fine bubbles, this wine smells of white flowers and crushed nuts. In the mouth, a soft mousse delivers flavors of green apple and white flowers, tinged with a bit of saline and toasted sourdough flavors. Good acidity and length. 12% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $110. click to buy.
2013 Domaine Carneros “Ultra Brut” Champagne Blend, Carneros, Sonoma, California
Light gold in the glass with medium-fine bubbles, this wine smells of green apple and wet chalkboard. In the mouth, green apple, wet chalkboard, saline and cucumber flavors have a wonderful sharp edge to them thanks to zingy acidity. Notes of citrus pith and green apple linger in the finish. 12% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $44. click to buy.
NV Domaine Carneros “Cuvee de la Pompadour Brut Rosé” Champagne Blend, Carneros, Sonoma, California
A pale salmon color with medium-fine bubbles, this wine smells of strawberry jam and hibiscus. In the mouth, a voluminous mousse conveys flavors of strawberry, raspberry and watermelon rind across the palate with hints of citrus peel lingering in the finish. A tiny hint of sweetness, along with the excellent acidity makes the mouth water. 12% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $35. click to buy.
2004 Kathryn Kennedy “Cuvee Twenty-Seven” Champagne Blend, Santa Cruz Mountains, California
A rich medium gold in the glass with fine bubbles, this wine smells of toasted sesame, baked apples and oak. In the mouth, a soft mousse delivers flavors of baked apples, roasted nuts, toasted bread and candied citrus rind. A saline character along with excellent acidity makes for a mouthwatering finish scented with citrus and baked apples. 12.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $50. click to buy.
2012 Sea Smoke “Sea Spray” Sparkling Wine (Pinot Noir), Sta. Rita Hills, Santa Barbara, California
Medium gold with a hint of copper and medium fine bubbles, this wine smells of wet leaves and mashed berries. In the mouth, a voluminous mousse delivers flavors of burnt orange peels, dried apples and cherry, mixed with a touch of dried flowers and oak. Burnt citrus peel and a bitter woody note linger in the finish. Good acidity. 12% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $100. click to buy.
2014 Schramsberg “Blanc De Blancs” Chardonnay, North Coast, California
Pale gold in the glass with fine bubbles and a hint of green, this wine smells of Asian pears, white flowers, and apples. In the mouth, a velvety mousse delivers flavors of white flowers, apples, and citrus pith tinged with a hint of saline across the palate. Very good acidity and a perfect balance. Mouthwatering. 12.8% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $30. click to buy.
NV Forget-Brimont “Brut Premier Cru” Champagne Blend, Champagne, France
Pale gold in the glass with medium fine bubbles, this wine smells of golden apples, custard, and lemon pith. In the mouth, citrusy lemon pith and apple flavors have a soft, velvety mousse texture and crisp brightness thanks to excellent acidity. The wine finishes clean and with the snap of fresh Fuji apples. 12% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $45. click to buy.
2013 Schramsberg “Blanc de Noirs” Champagne Blend, North Coast, California
Bright gold in the glass with a hint of copper hue and fine bubbles, this wine smells of citrus peel and cherries. In the mouth, a velvety mousse delivers bright orange peel, cherry and berry flavors that mix with a hint of sea air and rosehips. Nicely balanced with a SweetTart finish. Delicious. 12.7% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $39. click to buy.
NV Henriot “Blanc de Blancs” Chardonnay, Champagne, France
Light gold in the glass, with medium fine bubbles, this wine smells of green apples, pears, and wet chalkboard. In the mouth, a plush mousse lifts salty flavors of brioche, lemon, grapefruit and golden delicious apples across the palate. Great acidity and length, with just the right amount of toasty brioche note on the finish. 12% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $52. click to buy.