Bubbles Fest 2015- either it happened, or I died and went to heaven yesterday. The former is more likely. Plus, I have photos and I do think I am still alive as I type this.
So, remember that article from Palate Press that was published in January, declaring that a Sparkling Wine Movement was underway in the Willamette Valley and the Pacific Northwest in general? Well, yesterday about 150 of us got to experience just a drop in the bucket of what’s going on with Sparkling Wine here in the Valley. And it was pretty darn phenomenal.
Here’s an interesting interjection; I’ve already accepted that this is going to be a long post, so I want to briefly touch on why *now* seems to be the time for Sparkling here. In fact, its kind of a two word answer: Andrew Davis. Andrew, former winemaker at Argyle, created a mobile sparkling wine production company in 2013. Let that sink in for a sec. Of course I’ve never seen this equipment, but I remember the first time I heard the concept, I instantly pictured it as some sort of ice cream truck, except for Sparkling Wine. Which, needless to say, made me very giddy. I somehow doubt that it does resemble an ice cream truck… but while we’re on the subject… will someone buy an old ice cream truck and fashion it into something that can drive around and sell bubbly? Surely you don’t need anything fancy like a permit or a license to pull that off, right?
I kid. The question is, why did this niche need filling? Why didn’t wineries jump at the chance to make sparkling before the creation of the mobile unit? Well, I’ll be brief- but here’s two reasons: time and money. Sparkling wine production (champenoise method) is labor intensive, requires its own bottling equipment ($$), and takes a lot longer to make than still wine. As in, years longer. Its not entirely feasible for a small winery to sit on a product for 2-4 years before they sell any of it. And that’s after the hassle of getting it made! Its a labor of love. In any case, I give a major hat tip to Andrew for dreaming up the idea, and I truly think its an absolute game-changer. So game on.
I can’t even talk about how gorgeous it was yesterday. The wine Gods truly smiled on this event, especially considering sun was forecasted ALL WEEK, but never really appeared in full force until yesterday.
Lets dive in! There’s a lotta bubbles to talk about today. In no particular order..
The Airlie Joie de Vie (retail $30) was the first bubbly I tasted. Not a winery I was terribly familiar with before yesterday, but by the end of the afternoon, I looked back and realized that this one was one of my favorites. Made from 50-50 Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, this 2010 vintage brut was clear and concise with light hints of yeast and ultra-fine bubbles. I found this one and the Argyle Blanc de Blancs to be the two that reminisced the most of a French Champagne. Speaking of the Argyle…
Another 2010 vintage Brut, this Blanc de Blancs from Argyle (retail $50) was as sleek, steely and pure as ever. This is the second time I’ve had the Blanc de Blanc from Argyle, and I’m a big fan of their Rosé bubbly as well. Argyle will always remain etched in my mind as one of the staples of Oregon Sparkling wine. At about 1000 cases made, this one doesn’t see much availability outside the tasting room. The fruit is all Chardonnay, all sourced from the Dundee Hill’s Knudsen Vineyard. 2010 was a fairly cold, low-yielding vintage- perfect for Sparkling production. This wine is an elegant treat. There’s no arguing with it. 92 Points, Wine Spectator.
Our fabulous hosts at Anne Amie also had something up their sleeve: winemaker Thomas Houseman’s first-ever Sparkling Wine, the 2011 Marilyn Brut Rosé (retail $45).
Anne Amie was wonderfully represented back in South Carolina, and I pretty much love everything they do. Last year’s Amrita white was one of our best-selling wines of the Summer. When I heard a Sparkling was to be born, my excitement was tangible. Beautifully packaged, this guy really hits the nail on the head. Its elegant and round, full of beautiful red fruit, tangy citrus, light spice and a lush mouthfeel. It closes with all that gorgeous acid that 2011 is known for. They should be proud of this wine, it’s freakin’ killer. Just talking about it now makes me want to open the bottle I purchased. Hmmm…
Next? Some funsies from Kramer Vineyards, the 2014 Celebrate Rosé of Pinot Noir and 2014 Grüner Veltliner (both $24).
Kramer has a tasting room that’s walking distance to my house, so I think I’ve now had almost all of their sparklers. The Celebrate series wines are made in tank method as opposed to champenoise. Because this process doesn’t take as long, they’re very competitively priced. There was a lot of buzz over the Grüner Brut yesterday, and it didn’t disappoint. I love the willingness to try all different grapes in this series. The Rosé of Pinot was pretty charming and fruity- I can’t imagine that “the masses” wouldn’t just eat this one up. The Grüner was sharp and deftly balanced. I really like what Kimberly has goin’ on with her sparklers.
Division Wines brought their pretty little guy, whose package I still just can’t resist…
I love the spirit of the Crémant de Portland (retail $26), and the aromatics on this wine are hard to beat; yesterday the Chenin was really out to play. I want to say that this wine might be temporarily sold out until the next disgorgement, but don’t get mad at me if that’s wrong. This was sort of a “wet” day after all…
Another fun find is the Raptor Ridge Harbinger Vineyard Pinot Noir Brut Rosé (retail $63). This is Raptor Ridge’s first ever sparkling wine, but probably not the last. From a small site in the Chehalem Mountains that takes its sweet time ripening, 2011 provided a good opportunity to turn these guys into bubbles (are you sensing a trend here?). Just about 50 cases were made, and it has a beautiful, pale salmony pink color. Dry, with light stone fruit, strawberry, soft citrus and a really nice biscuity undertone. It pleased me greatly. Do make an effort to track one of these down at the tasting room, it will probably sell out lightening fast.
R. Stuart’s Rosé d’Or (retail $35) has recently wound its way into my heart. Its made in a fairly rich style, purposefully with less actual bubbles than most. On the nose, I’m reminded of a spice cake, followed by lots of black cherry and strawberry. Not heavy or weighty, but definitely has its own mind.
Next we have the two sex-machines: J.K. Carriere 2011 Blanc de Noir (retail $75) and Soter Mineral Springs 2010 Brut Rosé (retail $65). Oh sorry, have you never referred to sparkling wine as a sex-machine? Well I do. Sexy, sexy juice, both of these.
This is J.K. Carriere’s first sparkling, and back in December I remember the winemaker saying it almost killed him. I’m really glad it didn’t kill him, because I’d like more where this comes from. Color- gorgeous pale pink. Texture- light and pristine. Finish- lifted and high-toned. A winner. And what is there that needs to be said about the beloved “Soter Pop”? Its the bomb. 2010 was a great year for Soter Pop, too.
Roots Wine Company was another new one for me- they had two bubblies out yesterday, the Cuvée Theo Melon de Bourgogne, NV (retail $30) and the Cuvée Theo Rosé of Pinot, NV (retail $35).
These two were fun- the Melon was fresh and lively, with a very nice salinity on the finish. The Rosé was clean and brisk. I give props to anyone who makes Sparking Wine out of Melon de Bourgogne.
I will leave you with the Sokol Blosser Sparkling Rosé of Pinot, NV (retail $60). This one was a little understated, in a calm cool and collected fashion. Definitely an easy-drinker; soft yet crisp, with delicate notes of strawberry, apricot and a hint of lees.
So what should you learn from all my ramblings? 1.) Sparkling wine is my favorite and 2.) if it isn’t also your favorite, I don’t like you. Kidding! Kidding. But there’s a whole world of Sparkling Wine down here in this Valley just waiting to be discovered. By you. Or else I’ll drink it all first.
Many thanks to Anne Amie for a great event! I’m already looking forward to next year!