California's Best Sparkling Wine Houses
Golden State Sparklers Give Us Lots to Toast.
by Courtney Cochran
With all the fuss made over Champagne it’s easy to overlook California’s many outstanding sparkling wines. That’s right - our very own Golden State boasts numerous cool coastal microclimates ideally suited to bubbly production, enabling a handful of producers to make world-class sparklers that rival their French counterparts, right here in our own backyard.
Read on for the 411 on some of the state's top bubbly producers, so you can enjoy the spoils of fabulous sparklers, without booking a trans-Atlantic flight..
Founded by venerable Champagne house Taittinger, Domaine Carneros takes its name from the Carneros AVA (American Viticultural Area) it calls home. Cool winds from the nearby San Pablo Bay cool the area considerably at night, creating an ideal climate for growing sparkling wine grapes on the rolling hills that surround the striking winery. Don't miss: the spot's signature cheese and caviar pairing.
The foliage-draped archway that ushers visitors into Domaine Chandon is one of the most breathtaking winery entrances in Napa, and the spot's sparkling wines are equally dramatic. Founded in the early 70s by France's Moët-Hennessey, Chandon was the first California producer to use the traditional "méthode champenoise" for sparkling wine production. Don't miss: Chandon's award-winning four-star restaurant, l'étoile.
Spain's Ferrer family – owners of Cava powerhouse Freixenet - founded Gloria Ferrer in 1991 just south of the town of Sonoma in the rolling hills of Carneros. It's hard to miss the grand mission revival-style winery perched high atop a hill, and visitors who make the winding drive up to the visitor center are rewarded with warm hospitality alongside award-winning sparkling wines. Don't miss: Ferrer’s annual Catalan Festival, a lively celebration of Spanish culture and cuisine.
Tucked away in a remote corner of western Sonoma County, Iron Horse is a small, family-owned operation whose wines made from 100% estate-grown grapes enjoy a stellar reputation on the international dining scene. Founded by the Sterling family in 1980 and now run by the family’s second generation, Iron Horse is a must-see spot on any Sonoma County tour. Don't miss: the winery's charmingly rustic outdoor tasting area.
J Wine Company
Founded in 1986 by Stanford graduate and second-generation vintner Judy Jordan, J Wine Company made a mark early on with its celebrated J Vintage Brut sparkling wine. Situated in the cool Russian River Valley, the forward-thinking operation is known for its outstanding hospitality and innovative wine-and-food pairing exercises. Don't miss: J's new Bubble Room, where library and limited-release sparklers are sampled alongside Tsar Nicoulai Caviar and other gourmet bites.
Previously Maison Deutz, this charming Central Coast operation produces quality sparkling wines in the cool Arroyo Grande Valley AVA just a few miles from the Pacific. The vineyards – initially planted by France's Champagne Deutz in the early 1980s – are predominantly Pinot Noir, which makes translates to rich, fruit-forward sparkling wines. Don't miss: Laetitia's award-winning still wines, particularly the estate-designated Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc.
Dubbed one of the best tasting experiences in America, Mumm Napa goes above and beyond the usual visitor experience, offering guests both indoor and outdoor table service, regular tours and a fine art photo gallery. All this, and Mumm's sparkling wines are consistently excellent, particularly the vintage-dated DVX cuvées, made each year from the best fruit the winery harvests. Don't miss: the surprisingly in-depth, interactive wedding-planning resources on the Mumm website.
Since its first vintage was released in 1988, Mendocino's Roederer Estate has produced sparkling wines recognized as some of the best crafted outside of France. They're made in a style perfected by parent company Champagne Louis Roederer, which blends a portion of oak-aged base wine into each year's blend to create Roederer's signature rich taste. Don't miss: L'Ermitage, Roederer Estate's outstanding vintage-dated cuvée.
Currently owned by Maisons Marques & Domaines, Scharffenberger has undergone a number of changes in the past, most notably a name change to Pacific Echo between 1998 and 2004. With its brand name restored, the Mendocino-based operation continues to produce affordable, fruit-forward cuvées thanks to the use of malolactic fermentation, which lends the wines supple acidity and layered flavors. Don't miss: the tasting room's rotating display of artwork by local artisans. 8501 Hwy 128, Philo, CA 94566 * (707) 895-2957 * scharffenbergercellars.com
Schramsberg holds the esteem of being America's first sparkling wine house: Its first bubbly hit the scene in 1965, decades before the French began setting up sister sparkling operations in the Golden State. Named for Jacob Schram, the German who established the winery and vineyards in 1862, Schramsberg is run today by the Davies family, who source fruit from cool-climate vineyards throughout California. Don't miss: Camp Schramsberg, a 3-day sparkling wine camp held at the winery several times each year.
home : free stuff/discounts : lodging : wineries : destinations : activities : event planning : spas : restaurants : calendar :
weddings : real estate : rss feeds : newsletter : message boards : advertise : site map