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Sparkling September

For years, I would joke with the other parents at the school drop-off about bringing a bottle of sparkling wine to celebrate the first day of school. I always envisioned that I would shake the bottle like a Formula One driver, spraying myself and the other parents in victory for surviving yet another summer.

Considering the kids are now going back to school full time, for the first time in a year and a half, I shall be imbibing a glass or two instead of wasting precious bubbles. Quite a few delicious domestic sparkling wines have been crossing my path lately, all made in the traditional Champagne Method; they offer an intriguing alternative to Champagne. The Champagne Method means that it undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle in which it will be sold and then rests on its lees for a certain period of time resulting in wines of complexity and seemingly endless bubbles. France may be the spiritual home of the Champagne Method, but California, Oregon, and even Washington have been making excellent sparkling wines for decades.

A wealth of wineries producing world-class sparkling wines come from northern California. Often, the grapes are harvested at night to preserve the natural acidity but will still show the richer fruit style that comes from grapes grown in the New World. The first producer of note, Schramsberg, hails from Diamond Mountain in Napa Valley and was founded in 1965. In fact, these wines have graced more State Dinners at the White House than any other sparkling wine. Other producers to look for are J Winery (their Brut Rose is stellar), Roederer Estate (owned by Champagne Roederer), Domaine Carneros (co-owned by Taittinger), and Iron Horse.

Oregon has been quietly producing sparkling wine and it makes sense due to their proximity to high-quality Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Argyle (especially with their Extended Tirage) and Soter have been gracing the wine lists of the finest restaurants of the Pacific Northwest for many years. The climate is closer to that of Champagne, if compared to California, and produces sparkling wines of elegance and vibrancy. Lytle-Barnett is an exciting recent addition, offering bottlings with extended lees aging and vintage bottling. ROCO, from the founder of Argyle, is another to seek out.

Washington, with its distinctive geology, offers equally unique sparkling wines. Treveri, a sparkling-only winery, produces over ten different types of sparkling wine – it’s not unusual to find their traditional method wines on sommelier-driven wine lists in the state. Yakima Valley, the Ancient Lakes, and the Columbia Gorge offer growing regions that allow wines of complexity, tension, and terroir expression to be made. Syncline has been also making serious and age-worthy sparkling wines for a few years now - even a traditional method sparkling Grüner Veltliner from the Columbia Gorge at the famed Underwood Mountain vineyard.

The beautiy of exploring traditional method sparkling wines from outside of Champagne is to taste the terroir and often, the curiosity of the winemaker. I lift a glass and cheers to that!

Please let Mariano know if he can source any of the wines for you!

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