• by Rick Riozza

Bubbly with an American Accent


Happy New Year to all! And thanks for joining in and walking with us through the wonderland of wine during this past year. Experiencing some of the zaniest times in recent political history has fortunately been assuaged by the onslaught of good, tasty, and reasonably priced wine, and hopefully this column brought many of these wines to light.

And so now: Toast-worthy bubblies for your table and celebrations!

With certain fun and irony, I can already envision some of you loyal readers—who simply bleed California wine—rolling your eyes as you expect me to extol ebullient over this French Grand Cru or that Italian Franciacorta, this Prosecco or that Crémant! Well should New Year’s bells ring or what!!

“Making American Bubbly Great Again!” is a ridiculous rant. The Golden State has been making great stuff for a long long while now that are rich with bright California fruit, but layered with lively acidity. Without hesitation, how about these two new sister sparklers just on the scene: The sleek and elegant yet richly complex , 2016 Sterling Vineyards Blanc de Blancs, and, the up-front lush fruit but crisp and lively 2016 Sparkling Rosé!

That’s right folks! Sterling is introducing their first-ever sparkling wines robed in striking gleaming silver and rose gold bottles. These wines just made their debut this fall, in time to grace our holiday tables and festivities. Take note Coachella enthusiasts: it’s sort of a limited release—so after reading this piece, I’d get over to your local wine purveyor stat to secure your sparkling intentions!

We California wine devotees already know Sterling Vineyards, Napa Valley as a landmark that enjoys a rich heritage, including groundbreaking wines, diverse vineyards, a historical winery with stunning architecture, and much more. Their aerial tram is the only one of its kind in Napa Valley, where visitors ride up to the hilltop winery offering breathtaking views of the surrounding hills and valley.

Recently I had the honor to chat with Sterling’s Director of Winemaking, Harry Hansen, about the story and release of the new bubblies. Harry has a stellar résumé; having attended UC Davis obtaining a BS in Genetics and a Master’s in Enology. After graduating, he went on to sparkling wine production over at Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards in Sonoma and then Edna Valley Vineyards in San Luis Obispo. And how many of us have enjoyed the selection of sparklers from Gloria Ferrer through the years—yeah!

Harry also revived Edna’s Reserve Wine program, making some exciting reserve quality Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs utilizing cutting-edge vino technology; and I guess that brings us back around to the sparklers:

While both sparkling wines are available nationwide at around $35, Sterling is also pleased to present a limited-edition gift set, in a black linen gift box and striking seal. The gift set will retail for $75, exclusively at sterlingvineyards.com.

Harry speaks of the 2016 Blanc de Blancs, “which is comprised of 100 percent single vineyard Yountville Napa Valley Chardonnay and produces beautifully concentrated Chardonnay with excellent varietal character. This vintage Blanc de Blancs is a glistening pale straw color in the glass with ribbons of fine bubbles. The aromas of green apple, lemon citrus, pear and lemon cream are distinct. The palate is fresh with fruit-forward flavors, floral notes and a soft, creamy texture; a sophisticated and elegant wine with balanced fruit, structure and acidity.”

As your friendly neighborhood wine steward, I see how popular the blanc de blancs sell: Any French blanc de blancs always goes for $60 and up; high-end California blanc such as from Schramsberg, Domaine Carneros, Iron Horse, Roederer Estate and the like can hover at over $40, thus showing the value quality of the Sterling bubblies that sell for said $35 a bottle.

Harry continues, “The 2016 Sparkling Rosé is a blend of 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir, fermented in stainless steel to maintain freshness, with limited skin contact to give it body and depth. Exhibiting an elegant pale salmon pink color in the glass, this wine boasts fresh aromas of strawberry, cherry blossom, rose petal and crisp apple, leading to a lush palate of upfront fruit flavors, balanced by creamy texture and bright acidity. Enduring effervescence lends to a crisp, clean finish.”

Like it or not, I couldn’t hold off uncorking the bubblies, as I had to sample these babies and review the wines for this readership—I know, woe is me. Of course Harry really hit it on the head as to the sparkler’s flavor profiles, but allow me to add one thing: once I poured these wines in the glass, I simply sat back with amazement on the quality of just the aromas emanating: the autumn citrus orchard fruit nose from the Chardonnay in the blanc de blancs, and, the fragrant cherry blossom and rose petal hits from the Pinot Noir in the rosé causes one to pause and behold the talents of our day’s winemaking artistry and expertise. I could have “nosed” the glass for minutes on end.

The good news for “us” California wine lovers continues: Harry has agreed to take us through some of his other award winning wines—such as the famed 2014 Iridum Cabernet Sauvignon, for another up-coming article. Stay tuned!

A few columns back, I introduced you to some of the wine wise gals that I work with at Total Wine & More in Palm Desert. Ms. Maria, our beloved associate manager who is also an accomplished sommelier, is quick to recommend this season’s deal of the day rosé sparkler: Jacqueline Leonne Brut Rosé which sells for only $14.99!

It’s a non-vintage bubbly produced in New Mexico that looks and tastes très français: Bright steely pink in color with toasty, fruity aromas and flavors of fig-berry tart and lemon scone with a silky, vibrant & green apple finish. A crisp and quenching rosé sparkler versatile for meals and celebrations. C’mon by to say hi and enjoy a taste—Cheers!


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