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American Sparklers for the 4th of July

Friday - 6/29/2012, 7:06pm  ET

Wine of the Week

Scott Greenberg, wine columnist, the Washington Examiner


Scott Greenberg,

I was recently part of a three-person panel of judges at the 32nd San Francisco wine competition. Since there are 16 panels, you never know what your group will be asked to evaluate. Fortunately, our panel was blessed to begin the second day of judging with an assortment of Brut Rose sparkling wines.

After working our way through the first dozen entries, I commented that there were definitely some "keepers" in that flight. I then made the mistake of wondering out loud if there were any really good domestic sparkling wines.

I literally regretted making the comment before the words had left my mouth. Of course, I know that the good ol' U-S-of-A produces some of the best sparkling wines around, but it was too late and my fellow judges pounced on my faux pas faster than I could retract my statement.

So, I thought with the Fourth of July just around the corner, what better way to make amends for my foolish statement and celebrate the founding of our country than with a few all-American sparklers.

The Non-Vintage Chandon Brut Classic from California is all dressed up for the Fourth of July. Sporting a festive red, white and blue bottle, this sparkler is made in the traditional method, or méthode champenoise as its famous Champagne parent, Moet & Chandon, refers to it. The wine is blended with 10 to 20 percent reserve wines from prior harvests in order to produce a consistent "house" style that exhibits aromas of brioche and nectarine and flavors of apple and pear that leads to a soft, dry finish. $17

While Cristal may be the most well-known wine in the Louis Roederer portfolio in France, the Non-vintage Roederer Estate Brut from Anderson Valley in Sonoma, Calif. is definitely getting a lot of attention here at home. It is made from chardonnay and pinot noir, with small amounts of previously vinified reserve wines blended in for consistency. The nose is full of pear (chardonnay) and red apple scents (pinot noir). Flavors of ripe green apples and nectarines mingle with nuances of pineapple, toasted hazelnuts, and honeysuckle. The finish is long and elegant with hints of ripe pear and vanilla notes. $20

The legendary Champagne house of G.H. Mumm has been making sparkling wine in Napa Valley for over two decades using the same méthode champenoise as their French counterpart. Their Non-vintage Mumm Napa Valley Sparkling Wine Cuvee M was a Double Gold winner at the 2009 San Francisco International Wine Competition and it's easy to see why. Starting with the elegant bouquet of white peach and baked bread on the nose and heading in to the flavors of pear, nectarine and peach on the palate, the wine sparkles and shines. Bright acidity holds up the telltale hints of brioche and vanilla on the crisp finish. $20

I know that I have praised the virtues of the Non-vintage Thibaut-Janisson Blanc de Chardonnay Sparkling Wine from Charlottesville before in this column but it is definitely worth mentioning again. Made by French expats Claude Thibaut and Manuel Janisson, this delicious sparkler is produced exclusively from chardonnay grapes. The wonderfully yeasty nose boasts scents of Gala apple and ripe pear while the tiny, fine bubbles deliver waves of delicious apples, peach and brioche highlights. The finish is balanced, crisp and refreshing. $26

Many people consider Jack and Jamie Davies the founders of the high-end American sparkling wine movement. In 1965, after painstakingly restoring the historic Napa Valley Schramsberg winery in St. Helena, they introduced their Blanc de Blanc sparkler. Today, the Schramberg portfolio includes a variety of sparkling wines, but my favorite is the Non-vintage Schramsberg Brut Rosé. Made from a blend of pinot noir and chardonnay, it displays gorgeous flavors of strawberry and bright cherries on the front of the palate and notes of mango and papaya on the back end, adding delicious depth to the lovely, long finish. $38

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