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Saturday, December 15 , 2018, 8:07 pm | Fair 53º


Laurie Jervis: It’s the Most Wonderful — And Sparkly — Time of the Year

Local wineries put forward their bubbly offerings of sparkling wines in time for New Year's Eve

Sanford Winery has just released its debut Brut Cuvee and other local sparkling wines include the Riverbench Cork Jumper Blanc de Blancs Demi Sec and Kessler-Haak Brut.
Sanford Winery has just released its debut Brut Cuvee and other local sparkling wines include the Riverbench Cork Jumper Blanc de Blancs Demi Sec and Kessler-Haak Brut.  (Laurie Jervis photo)

Once again, we have arrived at the point in the year that Champagne and sparkling wines are center stage and chillin’ in the fridge.

Be they bottles Champagne from France’s region of the same name, cava from Spain, prosecco from Italy or sparkling wines from just about anywhere in the New World, fizzy wines equate celebrations of life and the passage of time, especially over New Year’s.

My friend Liz Dodder Hansen last year produced a guide to bubbly producers in both Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.

Visit her map of Santa Barbara County here

In an effort to keep you, gentle reader, informed about all things wine, I took some time to sample a few sparklers produced in Santa Barbara County. Never fear: It only sounds like work.

Producers in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA are going gangbusters with sparklers, with good portion of the ones I note below from that region.

Alma Rosa Winery released its first-ever sparklers, a brut rosé and a blanc de blancs, earlier this month. Both are 2013 and the brut rosé is a vineyard designate (estate, El Jabali). The brut rosé is $65 and the blanc de blancs $60.

Clarissa Nagy, winemaker at Riverbench Vineyard & Winery in Santa Maria, produces a fleet of sparkling wines. I tried them Dec. 20 at Riverbench’s tasting room in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone. 

I loved the nutty yeastiness of the 2012 Cork Jumper Blanc de Blancs ($40) and brought a bottle to enjoy later. This sparkler is produced from estate chardonnay.

The 2011 Cork Jumper Blanc de Noirs ($45) displayed what I termed “big bones,” or a strong structure, as its 100 percent pinot noir, also estate. 

The newer 2013 Cork Jumper Blanc de Blancs Demi Sec ($38) isn’t technically sweet, although after the two above, it had me fooled with its subtle sweetness. Pair with a dessert and you will see.

Newly released and fourth in the flight was the 2014 Cork Jumper Brut Rosé ($42), a bright, berry-delicious sparkler.

Next in my tasting adventure came a bottle of Sanford Winery’s brand-spanking-new 2013 Brut Cuvee ($65), estate grown from two historic Sanford vineyards, Sanford & Benedict and La Rinconada. This sparkling wine blends three-quarters pinot noir and one-quarter chardonnay. 

I opened the Sanford on Christmas Eve and found it to be a little “quiet,” probably because it’s just a baby. The next afternoon, however, it had opened up to full beauty and stood up to fresh gingerbread cake.

Next up for me was the sparkling wine flight at Flying Goat Cellars in the Lompoc Wine Ghetto. 

Winemaker Norm Yost has produced sparkling wine since 2005, said Kate Griffith, his wife and Flying Goat co-owner.

The 2013 Cremant from Sierra Madre Vineyard (Santa Maria Valley) was “clean and refreshing,” I wrote. It retails for $38 and comprises pinot blanc.

The 2013 Rosé is pinot noir grown in Solomon Hills Vineyard, also in the Santa Maria Valley, and packed one of the best finishes I discovered in my several days of tasting. Retail: $42.

Next up was the 2013 Brut Cuvee, $42, a blend of pinot noir (Rio Vista Vineyard) and chardonnay (Sierra Madre Vineyard). This sparkler has a great “spine” and would pair perfectly with any number of foods, holiday themed or otherwise.

Last in the tasting lineup that day was Flying Goat’s 2012 Blanc de Noirs ($60), with pinot noir sourced from Clos Pepe Vineyards.

Since the latter is now under a majority lease to Napa-based Hall Wines, Yost will source future vintages for this sparkler from Bien Nacido Vineyards, Griffith told me.

The current release, I noted, is “super elegant and refined.” 

From Flying Goat Cellars I ventured straight to Kessler-Haak Wines, also in the Ghetto, and, while I’ve had them many a time before, once again sampled Dan Kessler’s two sparkly beauties, an estate rosé and and brut, both 2012 and $45 each. Kessler-Haak also offers a couple of other bubbly selections, including a reserve of the brut, for $60.

I’ll be opening the KH Brut for my holiday eve Thursday.

Among the many other county-based sparklers awaiting exploration are Tessa Maria’s sparkling vermentino; Palmina Wines’ three sparkling releases; Casa Dumetz’ “Sonja’s Suds;” Sunstone Winery’s blanc de noirs; Solminer’s sparkling syrah (extremely limited production); Blair Fox’s “Foxy Bubbles; and Wandering Dog Wine Bar’s “Bentley’s Bubbles.”

Cheers to you and yours this New Year! Pop open a bottle of bubbly and toast to life.

— Laurie Jervis blogs about wine at www.centralcoastwinepress.com, tweets at @lauriejervis and can be reached via [email protected]. The opinions expressed are her own.

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