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Pop! Goes the Bottle: Your Temecula Valley Sparkling Wine Guide To Ring in the New Year

Thursday, December 23rd, 2021

Cheers to 2022!

Is there anything better than the sound of a bottle of sparkling wine popping during the holidays? Or any time, really? While we’re big believers in popping a bottle of bubbly any time that feels right, whether ‘tis the season’ or not, there is something particularly special about uncorking some fizz as we get ready to close out 2021… and fully prepare ourselves for what 2022 holds. Gulp.  

Fortunately, Temecula Valley is home to some truly exceptional sparkling wines made from traditional sparkling wine grapes like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, as well as some totally unique varieties like Shiraz and Pinotage. Before we dig into some of our favorite selections for the holidays and ringing in the new year, we thought it might be helpful to review some of the most common types of sparkling wines and how those delicate bubbles make it into our glass.

Méthode Traditionnelle

Also known as traditional method, or “Méthode Champenoise” – named for the region for this type of wine – this is the most painstaking, time-consuming way to produce bubbles. 

The winemaker produces a still, dry wine with high acidity, bottles it, and then adds a mixture of more yeast and sugar to each bottle, sealing it up with a crown cap. The yeast begins to ferment the sugar again, increasing the alcohol level slightly and releasing carbon dioxide. Since the CO2 has nowhere to go, it goes back into the wine in what is called the “secondary fermentation,” giving the wine its sparkles.

What makes wines produced in this way so special is the time it spends on its “lees” – the little yeast cells that die and float to the bottom during the secondary fermentation. Some wines spend a small amount of time on them, while others age for years, giving traditional method sparkling wines greater complexity, as well as those unmistakable and delicious toasty, brioche-like aromas, and allowing the wine to age for a long time.

After the specified aging period, the neck of the bottle is submerged in an ice bath which freezes the lees sediments in the neck of the bottle. When the crown cap is removed, the frozen sediment then pops out. Finally, the dosage – the winery’s signature mix of wine and, in some cases, sugar – is added to top the bottles up and determine their sweetness level, and the bottles are corked and caged and ready for our New Year’s celebrations.

Tank Method

Also known as Charmat method or Cuvée Close, these wines go through a similar, but far simpler process than the traditional method of production. Essentially the base wine stays in a large tank, to which a mix of sugar and yeast is added. The tank is sealed so that the secondary fermentation occurs on a much larger scale rather than in individual bottles. The wines are then filtered, the dosage is added, and they are bottled for consumption.

Generally speaking, these wines are intended for more immediate consumption. They are simple and fruit-driven, and absolutely perfect for an everyday sipper or an apéritif before the big holiday meal.  

Asti Method

This method is used to produce the sweet, low alcohol sparkling wines like Moscato d’Asti found in Northern Italy. The aromatic Moscato grapes are pressed and the unfermented juice is chilled until the winemaker is ready to make the batch so the wine is as fresh as possible when it is released.

When it’s time, the must is warmed so that fermentation can begin. At first, the tank isn’t sealed, so the CO2 can escape. Partway through this alcoholic fermentation, the tank is sealed up to trap the carbonation. This whole process is cut short by chilling the wine once again so that some of the sugars remain in the wine, leaving it sweet and slightly sparkling. The wine is then filtered and bottled and ready for consumption.

There are of course other ways of producing sparkling wines, such as the transfer method (similar to the traditional method, but taking place on a large scale in tank), the “Ancestral Method” (used to make the funky, all-natural “pet-nat” that is the darling of many somms and wine geeks), and the simple method of just injecting carbonation to a still wine (new use for your SodaStream, anyone?). However, the methods we have outlined are the most common, and the ones you are most likely to find on your table this season.

A Few of Our favorite Temecula Valley Sparklers:

Here are a few to try as you close out this year and toast new beginnings and the promise of a fresh new year in Temecula Valley and beyond.

Carter Estate Winery 2015 Cuvée Prestige, $75 – Gorgeously complex with layers of baked apple, pear, and lemon curd, rounded out with rich notes of brioche and toasted hazelnut, and lifted by bright acidity. This is definitely a special occasion sparkler, produced in the traditional method with nearly six years on the lees.

Thornton Winery Brut NV, $54 – Produced in the traditional method from a blend of classic Champagne grapes Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, this is a crisp, clean sparkler with juicy apple, pear, and tropical aromas, and a toasty, creamy finish.

Bottaia 2020 Rosé Spumante, $45 – Strawberry, crushed raspberry, melon, and lime zest burst from the glass with this baby-pink-hued sparkling rosé. Produced from a mind-bending blend of Italian grapes Fiano, Pecorino, and Montepulciano, this is not only a fantastic, party-pleasing holiday party bubbly, but also a delicious sipper year-round.  

South Coast Winery Ruby Cuvée Sparkling Syrah NV, $24 – Few wines are more festive than this crimson-colored red sparkling wine, bursting with juicy, red berry fruit. Break into that box of holiday chocolates that your neighbor dropped off, and sip this alongside them for the perfect, indulgent treat.

Oak Mountain Winery Brut Sparkling, Temecula Valley, $27 – This is such a fun sparkling wine to sip with a spread of New Year’s Eve appetizers, and while getting ready to count down to midnight. Made from the offbeat Rhône Valley grape Roussanne, it’s got plenty of fresh fruit on the palate, with bright, mouthwatering acidity, and a clean, easy-drinking finish.

Happy New Year from Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country! See you in 2022!

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Four Must-Have Temecula Valley Wines for Your Thanksgiving Dinner Table

Friday, November 5th, 2021

Thanksgiving Cheer

Holiday meals are so full of different, often competing, flavors that it can be tough to find just the right wines to pair. So why not select a few unique options and let your guests mix and match with each course? To that end, we have compiled a quick guide to four foolproof wines from Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country to sip alongside your Thanksgiving spread this season.

BUBBLES

No party is complete without some festive sparkling wine! And, it’s actually one of the easiest wine to pair with food because it goes with just about everything. From your welcome toast over hors d’oeuvres, to a spread of appetizers, to a versatile pairing for your main course, sparkling wines cleanse the palate, and compliment a wide range of flavors, so they are a must-pour for any occasion.

Temecula Valley also makes a ton of really great sparkling wines! From light and easy sweeter styles, to offbeat fizz made from non-traditional grapes, to complex vintage classic method sparklers, there is something to suit ever palate. You could even pair each course with a totally different style of sparkling wine for a unique food and wine experience.

A few to try:

Oak Mountain Winery Sparkling Pinotage, Temecula Valley, $34

Bottaia Rosé Spumante, Temecula Valley, $45

Carter Estate Blanc de Blanc, Temecula Valley, $41

VIOGNIER

Viognier is a white grape known primarily for its role in white wines from the Rhône Valley, in particular the appellation of Condrieu on the right bank of the Northern Rhône. It has been said to be “the hedonist’s white grape variety,” because of its exceptional body, perfume, and richness, making it perfect for a late Fall or early Winter dinner.

Temecula Valley viognier presents all of the classic markers of the grape – a heady aroma of stone fruit like apricot and peach, floral notes of honeysuckle and apple blossom, and a touch of amber musk. It’s also got a rich, slightly oily texture that coats the palate, and makes it an ideal pairing for some of the more complex flavors of the holiday table.

A few to try:

Leoness Cellars Cellar Series Viognier, Temecula Valley, $29

Falkner Winery Viognier, Temecula Valley, $40

Monte de Oro Viognier, Temecula Valley, $23

MONTEPULCIANO

Not to be confused with the region of Montepulciano in Tuscany, the Montepulciano grape is one of Italy’s most widely planted. Primarily associated with the region of Abruzzo in Central Italy, wines made from the Montepulciano grape can be medium-bodied and food-friendly – a style largely intended for wines meant to be enjoyed regularly at the family dinner table.

However, in Temecula Valley – as with some producers in Italy – winemakers are experimenting with a much more serious style of Montepulciano. These wines are full bodied with dark, ripe fruit, notes of forest floor, chocolate, and spice, a medium tannin structure, and a refreshing backbone of acidity to balance the richness of the fruit. Pair these wines with the full spectrum of Thanksgiving flavors, from turkey, to duck, to roast beef, to earthy vegetarian dishes, and everything in between.

A few to try:

Robert Renzoni Vineyards Montepulciano, Temecula Valley, $49

Fazeli Cellars Montepulciano, Temecula Valley, $50

Cougar Estate Cask Montepulciano, Temecula Valley, $50

SHERRY-STYLE WINES

It wouldn’t be a holiday meal without a little something sweet to end with. Sherry – the famous Spanish fortified wine – is produced in a number of styles, from the light and dry fino and manzanilla sherries to the nutty and oxidized amontillado and oloroso sherries, to the sweet and popular cream sherries, to the rich, luscious PX sherries. The sweeter styles are a perfect after-dinner drink, sipped on their own, or with a helping of holiday dessert or a cheese course.

True Sherry wines must come from grapes grown and produced exclusively in the Jerez region of Spain. However the term “Sherry-style” may refer to wines made using similar production methods. Temecula Valley makes wines in this same way. These wines are fortified with a neutral spirit and typically aged oxidatively – that is, with exposure to oxygen – resulting in a browning of the wine, and nutty, toasted aromas.

One such Sherry-style wine is made with Pedro Ximénez grapes which are dried like raisins, fortified, and aged completely oxidatively, yielding a wine that is as dark as coffee, with rich caramel and dried fruit notes. In Spain, these are known as PX Sherries, and they are among the sweetest wines in the world. Pour this over vanilla ice cream or sip it alongside your holiday pecan pie for a totally decadent treat.

A few to try:

Raúl Ramirez Bodegas y Viñedos Bandido, $45

Mount Palomar Winery Solera Cream Sherry, Temecula Valley, $29

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