Christopher Pratt (cpratt) wrote,
Christopher Pratt
cpratt

le wine blog™ - achtung, name change + sparkling wines

For many years, Pacific Echo has been Dan's favorite California sparkling wine. For me, however, it's always been Roederer Estate, in part because I spent my 30th birthday there with Dan, Brian, and Phil surviving an, ahem, rather interesting winery tour [high point: their French winemaker talking about how riddling is technologically stupide; low point: their American tasting room staff seemingly aghast that we weren't about to buy a case of anything], but also in part because, well, their wine is really, really good. [OK, Domaine Carneros is even better, but it's also even more expensive.]

Anyhow, I noticed this evening that Clicquot have sold off the Pacific Echo vineyard and winemaking facilities to Roederer, but not the brand. As a result, the wine will change its name back to Scharffenberger Cellars. Dan, as of, like, next year, I'd stay away from the Pacific Echo unless you can verify it's the old stuff, like that delicious crémant you picked up in Guerneville last month.

Bonus blog stupidity:

M. le Wine Blagueur, äh Blogger's top ten sparkling wines

1. Franck Bonville Brut Millesime Blanc de Blancs Champagne, $26-$30. I have to say it: Respect the French, for their wines are truly the best in the world. Sure, everyone else thinks they can bottle white wine using a modified Coca-Cola fountain et voilá, you have Champagne, but that isn't even remotely true. This one is one of my all time favorites, and it's actually somewhat affordable. Go figure. This has got the full-on biscuity, slightly decaying elegance going on that I love so much.

2. That Champagne they sell in Washington state for like $22 with the yellow label and whose name I can never remember. No, it's not Veuve. Wait... there it is. E. Barnaut. Sadly, there's a lot [and I do mean a lot] of bottle variation, but when it's good, it's really, really good. It runs more acid than most, and is vaguely like stabs of lemon sunlight trying to snap you out of your winter funk.

3. Segura Viudas 'Aria' cava, or for that matter any of their cava, but the pricier the better. This one is about $7 a bottle. Only drawback: bottles are oddly shaped and don't fit in wine boxes very well. Still, about the best you're going to find in this price range. Unlike slightly cheaper cava, this actually has vague hints of dust and earth somewhere in there.

4. Pacific Echo. Should be about $12-$14. Good stuff, better if you can age it for a few years beforehand. Kinda fruity, but not overly so; just well balanced and really eager to please, yet with a biscuity smell to it that screams expensive.

5. Roederer. Same story, but about $16. More austere; it's almost like some Frenchman is saying 'fuck you' quietly in the room. You know, like "oh, you American consumers, you think you want an American wine, well, I am not going to give it to you exactly like you want... no, I will make this kind of acidic and snobby! But, wait, you are paying me so I suppose I will give you some fruit too." In other words, mostly goes the clean, sharp, acidic route but also gives you some comic fruit relief.

6. Domaine Carneros. Again, similar story, but really austere. About $18, you'll want to leave this one alone for a couple of years before drinking it for the maximum about-to-fall-apart-but-still-lovely effect. Younger, it's mostly annoying, but older, it's fantastic.

7. Pelorus. This I've never seen in the USA, but it's one of my favorites. From the people that brought you Cloudy Bay [the New Zealand sauvignon blanc that is about as subtle as Anna Nicole Smith], Pelorus is probably pretty much the same thing as Cloudy Bay... except it's chardonnay, and somehow it actually works. If you can, go with the vintage version, not the NV.

8. Freixenet anything. Again, it's cava, not Champagne, but you knew that already. You can find the Carta Nevada for about $6, and the black bottle for a little bit more. It's not exactly complicated, but really, who cares? As my ex-boss Tyler said, Champagne makes me take my clothes off. If you're drinking to get silly, this is the one for you.

9. Yalumba 'D' sparkling wine. This one is red, and very, very Australian. I had flashbacks for about an hour drinking this... they say there's no such thing as terroir outside of France, but this comes pretty damned close. Fantastic.

10. Cricova red sparkling wine from Moldova. Sure, it's kinda crappy, but oh, the memories. $2 a bottle in Moldova, probably more in Russia.


And to finish off, some other random sparkling wine notes:

New Zealand really should have figured this one out by know, but they're lagging for some reason. There are some good ones - Kim Crawford 'Rory' and Daniel le Brun's new company come to mind - but mostly it's kinda lame. Deutz isn't actually Deutz any more, it's just a marketing label from Montana; Landauer is everywhere but it sometimes works better as a paint remover, especially the rosé.

Chandon really needs to get their shit together. The Argentine one they do is fucking awful, the Californian one is wildly variable, the Spanish one is great but totally obscure, and the French one, well, I don't know because I haven't tasted it in about twenty years.

Mumm Napa seems to have given up on 'real' sparkling wine [read: French style] and are going for the American market; they've got a new label and the marketing materials suggest lots of residual sugar. Sounds scary.

Gloria Ferrer could do better; I don't know what their problem is. V. disappointing.

Maison Deutz is my most sorely missed California sparkling wine. Sadly, Laetitia, the winery that bought their property and equipment, didn't do sparkling wine for years; they started again last year, and, well, it sucks ass. What a shame. [Side note: Robert Parker, who can kiss my indie-punk Stelvin-capped ass, obviously never proofreads his books, as his last one raved about Maison Deutz even though it had disappeared from the market a few years prior to "revision" and publication. What an ass clown.]

If you're ever lucky enough to go to Catalunya, make sure to bring a spare liver. I have never, ever seen such a wide array of sparkling wines, all of which ranged from good to oh my God I can't believe how good this is. I want to go back to Barcelona just to taste the rest of them.

The most expensive wine Dan and I ever bought was a magnum of Cricova sparkling wine from Chisinau, Moldova. It cost $200, which is probably about a year's salary for the average Moldovan. We drank it on December 31, 1999; the empty bottle [actually, it's a lead carafe with gold leaf] is still with us.

The cheapest sparkling wine I ever had was a bottle of New York State carbonated [!] white wine that my Dad ordered at the Hacienda casino in Las Vegas, Nevada on my 21st birthday. We were enjoying a fine Redd Foxx performance. [Oddly enough, my Mom didn't respond when he asked her if maybe she'd "like some head." :)]

Finally, a word to the wise: remember, remove the bottle from the cork. Go slowly, point it away from anything injurable [e.g. your eyeballs], and try not to make a popping noise.
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