Wine World

Pop the cork on sparkling wines


There’s never an occasion not to drink bubbles, in my opinion. Part of my rationalization is the glasses — whether flutes or tulips, or the retro coupe, they’re all fun and feel special. Then, throw in that sound of the popping cork, and it just spells celebrate, whether it’s the end of the week (or day, I don’t judge), or a special occasion, or time of year, all are worthy of celebrating. Besides, we all need to celebrate something in today’s world, right?

And here’s another reason to choose sparkling — it’s easier on our livers. “With the production of wine, there are natural mold toxins left behind after filtration. These toxins can affect liver detoxification and cause imbalances in healthy gut bacteria. Of all wines, champagne has the lowest level of mold toxins,” writes naturopathic doctor Thalia Farshchian (The Healthful Life, August 2015).

So here are some suggestions for holiday bubbles; most support our local wine-growing regions, which have suffered tragic fires the last two years. And while some are available at your favorite local wine purveyor, I encourage you to visit the festively decorated tasting rooms to sip, enjoy, and purchase. The Wine Country is open for business.

Schug Carneros Rouge De Noirs 2016

Schug is well known for its Pinot Noirs, and this cuvee of 100 percent sparkling Pinot Noir is a lovely expression of the varietal — dry and delicate — and best served with savory food. Its dark color results from a three-day cold soak of juice and skins together followed by a cold fermentation in steel tanks of the juice only, then followed by a secondary bottle fermentation.

Fun fact: Founder Walter Schug grew up in Germany on a winery managed by his father, who would sometimes sell his Pinot to a local sparkling wine producer to produce “Spätburgunder Sekt,” sparkling Pinot Noir.

Gloria Ferrer Carneros Demi-Sec Reserve Cuvee 2015

While I would normally shy away from a semi-sweet wine of any kind, these bubbles are even more food friendly than most, complementing savory and spicy foods to desserts. Perfectly balanced and made from 100 percent Carneros Chardonnay, this sparkling is crisp with a creamy finish, which will not only balance the spiciness of foods, but also complement rich, creamy desserts, particularly those with lemon, or a tray of soft, gooey cheeses.

Fun fact: Gloria Ferrer was the first sparkling wine house in Sonoma’s Carneros region and the first to plant Champagne clones there.

Jacuzzi Sonoma Coast Sparkling Brut Rosé 2018

Made from fruit sourced from the winery’s vineyards in Sonoma’s Carneros and Petaluma Gap AVAs, this blend of Italian varietals Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, and Barbera has watermelon, berry, and other fruit notes and is a deep pink in color. The cool climate of the vineyards allows for a long growing season and produces wines with balanced acidity and fruit. It’s widely held that sparkling rosé goes with any food, so this would be a sure bet for holiday gatherings, and its on-trend color a lovely accent to any table.

Fun fact: The Jacuzzi brothers emigrated from Italy in 1907 and manufactured water well pumps at their eponymous factory in Berkeley, and would go on to manufacture the well-known Jacuzzi hot tubs.

Scharffenberger Mendocino County Brut Excellence NV

I’ve mentioned previously Scharffenberger’s Cremant, (Wine World, October 2018) available only at the charming Mendocino County tasting room on Highway 121. I decided at that visit on the Cremant with its restrained bubbles because it was more unusual compared to this widely distributed Brut, but in all honestly, the Brut was and is my favorite. Perhaps no surprise, given it undergoes a full malolactic fermentation, which results in a full-bodied, creamy wine, what I tend to call “yeasty,” but if that sounds weird, then think “freshly baked bread and pastry.” Plus, it’s made mostly from Chardonnay (60 percent) and Pinot Noir (40 percent), my two favorite varietals.

Fun fact: Sharffenberger Cellars was founded by John Scharffenberger, who along with Robert Steinberg also founded Scharffen Berger Chocolate in 1997.

Nicholas Feuillatte Réserve Exclusive Brut Champagne, NV

Winner of several international silver medals and one gold, plus a 91/100 Wine Spectator rating, this Champagne is a blend of Pinot Noir, Meunier (40 percent each), and Chardonnay (20 percent) sourced from France’s Champagne region. Its pear and apricot notes and a clean and refreshing palate make it a versatile bubbly for pairing with foods, from smoked salmon, to marinated chicken to sautéed prawns.

Fun fact: This champagne house has a tasting lounge at Cirque du Soleil’s production of Amaluna, currently running through Jan. 12.

Whether you choose a sparkling from this list or celebrate with others, best wishes for a happy and safe holiday season. Cheers!

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