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All That Sparkles Isn't Necessarily French, Volume II
By Rich Cook
Dec 14, 2022
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Another year has flown by, and thankfully some actual flying was involved in 2022, which allowed the never-ending quest for great bubbly to enter a few new territories.  As I said in December 2021’s Volume 1, I have nothing against Champagne, Cremant de Bourgogne, or other fizz from France – I just like to reach further to find something new, unique, and worth sharing.  This year’s list reaches from my home state of California’s offerings to Germany to New York to South Africa to Sardinia to Virginia to Chile (whew!) and includes a wide range of pricing, varietal composition, and style.  I’ll list some favorites alphabetically by macro region here.  Let’s jump in….


Fresh Vine (California) Brut Rosé Wine NV ($23):  This brand is slotting itself as low sugar (1 gram) low carb (3.8) and low calorie (94) per five ounce serving, so it may be in a different spot on your local store shelves.  For those that frequent that section, this is a nice find as it doesn’t come off “light” or thin like so many such products can.  It’s a nice mix of strawberry, cherry, and citrus with a dash of herb character.  Well done!  Contains 92% Chardonnay and 8% Pinot Noir.  89

Laetitia, Arroyo Grande Valley (Central Coast, California) Brut Rosé NV ($25):
This non-vintage offering is new for the brand since the recent buyout of the winery by Vintage Wine Estates, who have thankfully brought this somewhat under the radar sparkling producer to a wider audience.  It’s just what you want in a Brut Rosé, with strawberry and citrus riding crisp acidity through a zippy finish that begs another sip.  Solid!  91

Lightpost Winery, San Luis Obispo County (California) Blanc de Blancs “Jules de Brut” 2019 ($42):  Winemaker Christian Roguenant sources Spanish Springs Vineyard (a favorite of his and of mine) for this Chardonnay-based sparkler, and as you might expect, it is quite French in style, with a very dry style carrying brioche, apple, and lemon that ride a fine mousse through a cleansing finish.  Beautiful bubbly!  93

Piper Sonoma, Sonoma County (California) Brut Reserve NV ($25):  From its founding by the Marquis d’Aulan family in 1980 to being part of the Folio Wine Co.  today, This label has always represented good value as it does in this Brut Reserve.  Apple, pineapple and pear notes present themselves in zesty fashion, finishing long with a pleasant brioche note coming forward.  This is often available at a significant discount – browse those aisles!  Contains 92% Chardonnay and 8% Pinot Noir.  91

Roederer Estate, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Brut NV ($28):  I’d be remiss not to mention this bottling here, though I’ve mentioned it repeatedly in the past (see Volume I) – it continues to sit at the top of a short list of domestic non-vintage offerings – ‘nuff said!  Except that if you can find it in magnum, don’t hesitate to buy.  92

Tackitt Family Vineyards (Paso Robles, California) Sparkling Gewurztraminer “Domaine de Blanc” 2021 ($45):  Leon Tackitt has been quietly working on perfecting small production sparkling wines of unexpected varieties for a while now, and with this bottle I’d say he’s well on his way.  This is certainly on a par with the offerings from California Gewurztraminer king Navarro Vineyards, delivering solid Gewurz character in dry style, with a fine mousse and a persistent finish that will have you wishing you had a few more bottles.  92


Dos Almas, Casablanca Valley (Chile) Brut NV ($12):  Italy’s Famiglia Zonin of Prosecco fame brings us this lively sparkler of Chardonnay and a dash of Moscatel.  It’s made like most Prosecco in the Charmat method which generally keeps freshness in focus.  Here, lime & grapefruit take the lead, and a soft toasty note pops up in the finish.  A good value.  88


Gebrüder Simon, Mosel (Germany) Riesling Brut Sekt 2019 ($35):  
My favorite recent find is this beautiful Riesling, sourced from the Urziger Würzgarten and Erdener Treppchen vineyards on the steep slopes of the Mosel.  It shows Riesling’s fresh tropical side in pleasantly dry style, with a fine mousse and an extended finish of apple, papaya and stone minerality.  It might have you wondering why Chardonnay and Pinot Noir took over the world of sparkling wine.  93

Loosen Bros. (Germany) Riesling Sekt “Dr. L” NV ($16):  Here’s a nice, off-dry bubbly with bright Riesling characteristics of flowers, lemon and stone fruit.  All these elements are evident from start to finish, and the taut acid profile keeps the sweet character on the fresh side.  I really enjoyed this with a spicy Moroccan couscous dish, with both wine and food elevated a notch.  90


Fox Run Vineyards, Finger Lakes (New York) Blanc de Blancs 2017 ($35):  Here’s a classy Blanc de Blancs that’s long on crisp apple character from its 100% estate grown Chardonnay.  A fine mouse, lively acidity and a long, apple driven finish with hints of toast and citrus make for a great all-purpose style bubbly.  If you’re a fan of the Roederer Estate non-vintage Brut, you’ll adore this.  Very impressive!  93

Ravines, Finger Lakes (New York) Sparkling Riesling 2018 ($30):  The fruit for this wine came in with botrytis from the Argetsinger Vineyard, and the resulting wine is an experiment…that worked out.  Though botrytised, the grapes were picked at 19 brix (read tart) with total acidity in the 9s (think racy), which led to the idea of a sparkler.  It’s unexpectedly dry, and it carries bright citrus and honey aromas and flavors without the sweetness you might expect.  It was disgorged in 2022 after 3 years in bottle.  It’s very interesting and quite delightful.  91


Sella & Mosca, Alghero Torbato Spumante Brut Metodo Classico DOC (Sardinia) “Oscari” 2018 ($20):  No – I’d never heard of this grape variety either.  Torbato is thought to have arrived in the northwest corner of Sardinia from Catalonia.  It’s a large berry, large cluster variety, and in this wine, it offers notes of acacia flowers, orange and an attractive note of bitters.  It’s as unique as its name and origin suggest, and it’s worth seeking out.  90


Graham Beck, W.O. Western Cape (South Africa) Brut NV ($20):  This is one of the consistently solid values in the wine world, so when I find it, I usually snap up a bottle or two.  It’s made in a zesty style, with forward tart citrus fruit and green apple balanced with stony minerality.  As a fan of lime, I really appreciate the fresh lime character push in the finish.  If you’ve been wanting to try something from South Africa, this is a fine starter.  Contains 51% Chardonnay and 49% Pinot Noir.  91

Simonsig, W.O. Western Cape (South Africa) Brut “Kaapse Vonkel” 2020 ($20):  A very dry sparkler that spent extra time on the yeast prior to disgorgement, lending a nice toasty character to the mix of apple, pear and lemon.  The racy acidity and toasty finish make this a great foil for baked appetizers.  Contains 51% Chardonnay, 47% Pinot Noir and 2% Pinot Meunier.  92


Trump, Monticello (Virginia) Blanc de Blancs 2017 ($30):  This wine finished at the top of a blind tasting of sixteen sparklers, garnering the most first place votes from combined tasting groups in which I was involved.  It’s textbook Blanc de Blancs, with an old-world styled creamy texture and finish push that serve to enhance the apple, pear, dough and stony flavors.  Winemaker Jonathan Wheeler stayed on after the sale of what was the Kluge Winery, and I bet new ownership is glad that he did.  This is a great value.  93

I hope one or more of these bottles finds its way to your holiday celebrations – particularly if your gathering includes those who are always up for something new.  Though I’m signing off for the moment here, watch for more sparklers in our reviews section over the next two weeks on the chance that, like me, you can never have enough bubbles.  Here’s to a fizzy send-off of 2022, and a 2023 worthy of continued celebration.  Cheers!         

More wine columns:    Rich Cook
More wine review:       Wine Reviews