“(Low Alcohol) Pinot of the month

The San Andreas Fault Estate Pinot Noir is the flagship wine from Hirsch, and the wine that represents the summation of our complex vineyard.  It is named for the fault-line which marks the meeting of the North American and Pacific tectonic plates, snaking its way up the California coast and passing less than a mile from Hirsch. The proximity to the fault is responsible for the geologic and topographical complexity of our soils. This vintage allows you the opportunity to experience how our site expressed itself in 2014.

Hirsch 2014 Pinot Noir “San Andreas” Estate, Sonoma Coast
Retail 70.00 – GGWC 66.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6
Use code HIRSCH during checkout

OK to mix & match with Hirsch Chardonnay

The Hirsch 2014 Pinot offers up a gorgeous ruby color and bright aromas of black and blue  stone fruit permeated with a touch of figs, minerals, and flowery perfumy notes.  The wine is medium to full in body, yet extremely elegant and mouth coating with pure Pinot Noir flavors, great vibrancy and a touch of “Hirsch’ Sonoma Coast” acidity. The wine lingers for a good 20 seconds on the finish.   Alcohol 12.7%

Galloni, 95 Points: “The 2014 Pinot Noir San Andreas Fault draws on fruit across the entire ranch. Silky and aromatic, with understated depth, the 2014 will give readers a good idea of the personality of both the vintage and this site. Bright red stone fruit and delicate yet incisive tannins give the wine its shape and overall feel. This is a relatively easygoing style for Hirsch.”

Click here or on the links above to order!

Think PINK! It’s good for the body!

Rose WineMost people assume Rosé (or Pink wine) is sweet, white-zinfandel, cheap, ersatz wine. 
WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!

When I first got into the wine industry a few decades ago, rosé was anything but cool. White Zinfandel from California made the public think that all rosé was sweet, and unfortunately, imports such as Royal Lancers from Portugal and wines such as Sutter Home White Zin confirmed this notion.  Today, however, rosé is the second fastest growing segment of the wine market – the United States is the second largest rosé consuming country in the world, following France of course! It accounts for nearly 10% of all wine made worldwide. You’ll find rosé at high-end restaurants and … at Golden Gate Wine Cellars. In fact, this coming Saturday, we will be sampling a few surprisingly delicious Rosé wines in our tasting room. If you are going to be in the bay area on the 24th, be sure to join us!

Today, many well-known and lesser known wineries are producing high-quality “Pink” wine!

Here are a few suggestions:


You can mix and match for FREE SHIPPING on 12 or more. Just enter the code PINK at checkout.

Click here or on the links above to order!

15 Real Facts about Wine & Health

15 Real Facts about Wine & Health

Though both are now wine writers, Dr. Michael Apstein and Dr. Ian D’Agata met while working in a Boston hospital as gastroenterologists. (That’s the kind of doctor who puts a camera up your butthole.) Earlier this month, they held a seminar in Canada on wine and health that was candid and wide-ranging.
Some of what was said is already well-known: wine has some heart-protecting benefits, but drinking too much is bad for you. Other points were less obvious, so I’ll list them in bullet points below.

I’m glad to write this for Palate Press, because if I tried to publish it in a newspaper I would have to waste everyone’s time with long, boring disclaimers. Instead, here’s just one: I’m not a doctor. (But they are.)

Clean Livering

  • Perhaps the most interesting observation: Taking a week or a month off from drinking wine is not particularly beneficial.”This idea of doing a cleanse or having a dry January is utter nonsense,” Apstein asserts. “Those that think they need a dry January might be drinking too much the rest of the year.”

    The liver creates enzymes to metabolize alcohol and “has the capacity to create more enzymes,” he clarifies. “Consistent moderate drinking is better. That’s why that first glass hits like a ton of bricks after a cold, or a few days of not drinking. The workers in the liver, the little guys who make the enzymes, they have taken the day off. They’ve thought, ‘Why should we keep making more enzymes?’”

  • Acetaminophen (aka Tylenol) should never be taken while drinking wine. “People who drink have a higher risk of getting liver disease from Tylenol,” Apstein reports.

Hard to Stomach

  • Aspirin is also not an ideal painkiller for drinkers. “Like wine, aspirin in the right quantities is beneficial,” continues Apstein. “In the wrong quantities, it put my kids through college, because it burns the stomach lining.” (His daughter is a writer for Sports Illustrated, so sports fans can thank aspirin.)
  • Sparkling wine makes people drunk faster than still wine because, according to D’Agata, “carbonation is an accelerator of stomach emptying. Keeping alcohol in the stomach longer allows it to be broken down more and absorbed less, thus limiting the rise in blood alcohol. That’s why it’s good to eat while drinking. It slows down the emptying of the stomach.”
  • Wine is close to the pH of stomach acid, which helps digestion. It also, however, makes heartburn worse.
  • Moderate drinking may be a good idea, but there is no way to universally define what that actually means. “Women have a different stomach enzyme,” notes D’Agata, “or these enzymes are blocked by estrogen, so they have a harder time breaking down alcohol than men.” In addition, Apstein adds, 50% of Asians lack the enzyme to break down acid aldeyhde, a key component of alcohol.

Headroom

  • Hangover remedies don’t work, regardless of whether they’re taken before or after drinking. To avoid a hangover, “drink a liter of water before going to bed,” D’Agata advises. “And probably a little sugar too.”
  • Sorry, but they don’t know what causes red wine headaches. “The Bordelais, who barely acknowledge the existence of white wine, say that’s what gives headaches,” recalls Apstein. “The Champenois say it’s still wine. In Burgundy, they say no wine gives headaches. There’s clearly a cultural overlay. Some think it’s histamines and try to treat it with beta blockers. But most people who get headaches stop drinking wine.”

Alternative Facts on Sulfites

  • Some people – about 1% of Americans, according to the FDA – have a genuine allergic reaction to sulfites, with symptoms like potentially dangerous asthmatic reactions and hives. For the other 99% of us, sulfites are not only not a problem, they keep the wine tasting good. To this, panel moderator Tony Aspler jokes that “the back label should say guaranteed to contain sulfites.”

    “Sulfites are an overblown worry,” adds Apstein. “The gorilla in the bottle is alcohol. It’s not the sulfites. It’s not any additive. It’s the alcohol.”

    He continues, via email, that there’s no obvious reason a low-sulfite wine would have greater health benefits for people not allergic to sulfites than one with higher concentrations.

  • Along those lines, D’Agata states that most natural wines smell like bruised apples. “If acetylaldehyde molecules don’t bind with sulfur, we get free acetylaldehyde,” he offers. “People talk about natural wines showing terroir. They all smell like bruised apples, and that comes from acetylaldehyde. That’s not terroir.”

Women’s Health

  • On wine and pregnancy, there isn’t good news for women. The fetus is most sensitive in the first three months, D’Agata cautions, adding that “it’s probably safe to say it’s best not to drink any alcohol in the first trimester.” The problem is, of course, that many women don’t immediately realize they’re pregnant.

    As for later in pregnancy, Apstein contributes, “we know that a woman who drinks a pint of vodka a day will deliver a severely deformed child. If she drinks a teaspoon of wine a day, however, does that increase the risk of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome? We don’t know. We don’t have data, and there’s never going to be a study on pregnant women.”

  • While I’m delivering women bad news, here’s more. “Some studies show that alcohol is beneficial for some forms of cancer,” points out D’Agata. “But not breast cancer. Breast cancer is a bad issue. For the most part, if there’s history in the family, it’s probably best to abstain from alcohol.” He later follows up by email, saying there is one study implying that drinking with a family history of breast cancer may be OK.

Bloodwork

  • Breathalyzer tests measure alcohol absorbed from the mouth, even without swallowing the wine, according to Apstein. So even compulsive spitters should beware driving after big wine tastings.
  • There is good news for diabetics. “Peak blood sugar concentration is 30% lower after a meal that includes a glass of wine,” D’Agata reports. “That lower blood sugar is at the core of why wine is good for you.”

    Apstein adds that “most of the advice on drinking for diabetics assumes they’re not going to be eating. With dry wines, you should be able to calculate the calories. A 750 ml bottle of 12.5% alcohol wine is about 500 calories. It’s not all that much.”

Teach ‘Em Young

  • Both doctors think we should teach kids how to drink. (Note: They don’t like that wording, but I do, because alcohol education in this country usually equals abstinence education. So, How To Drink 101.)

    “There are a lot of activities that are pleasurable and potentially dangerous, like alcohol. Like driving. Like sex,” Apstein opines. “We have driver’s education. We have sex education. We need drinking education. This country is crazy. You can’t drink anything until age 21 and then you can drink as much as you want. We need alcohol education.”

    “We could do something at the school level and get them early and promote a healthy way to drink wine,” concludes D’Agata.

So there you have it, 15 facts about wine and health that you may not have known before! If you’d like some more great facts about wine and wine tasting, I’d be happy to help out! Give us a call at 415-337-4083 or email to frank@GoldenGateWineCellars.com and I’ll be glad to assist!

Wine Diva + Video Game Producer = AMAZING NAPA WINES


The team of Heidi Barrett (Wine Diva a.k.a Queen of the Valley) and famed viticulturist David Abreu are the axile driving CapCom owner Kenzo Tsujimoto’s Napa Valley winery.  The vineyard was planted in 1998, and the first release (2005 vintage) was in 2008.  Since then “Kenzo” has become an household name for top-notch, high-end Napa Valley wines.

The new wines:

2016 Kenzo Estate Sauvignon Blanc “Asatsuyu” Napa Valley 
Retail 95.00 – GGWC 89.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6
Use code KENZO during checkout

OK to mix & match with other Kenzo wines


Translated as “Morning Dew”, Asatsuyu is the only Sauvignon Blanc made by Heidi Barrett and the only white wine from Kenzo Estate. Wonderful citrus aromatics de‑ne the 2016 asatsuyu’s characteristics. Intertwined with notes of vanilla and guava nectar and peach preserves, Asatsuyu is an aromatic marvel that greets you long before the first swirl. Complementing this aromatic anomaly is a broad and sumptuous palate, framed by a lingering mouth-watering acidity. Drink now and drink chilled.

2013 Kenzo Estate Cabernet Sauvignon “Ai” Napa Valley 
Retail 310.00 – GGWC 299.99
FREE SHIPPING on 2
Use code KENZO during checkout

OK to mix & match with other Kenzo wines


James Suckling 97 Points:  “Aromas of tobacco and black currants. Full in body, pinpoint fruit and tannins that melt into the wine.  Dense yet agile.  Goes on for minutes.  Superb, classic structure showing immaculate finesse and style.  Better in a few years, but hard no to drink now!”

Heidi Barrett: “Ai represents the color indigo in the Japanese language and has been used in the ancient art of textile dyeing for thousands of years throughout Japan. Derived from plant material, indigo is an elusive commodity, just as the wine that bears its name, the 2013 Ai. Sweet notes of cinnamon, dried apricot and orange zest describe this sizzling aromatic puzzle. While savory spices like white pepper, sage and thyme lead you to a dark and austere palate of soft tannins. Like the Indigo artist who carefully applies his craft, the 2013 Ai is constructed with the gentlest touch from our talented winemaking team. Enjoy now and for many years to come.”

Click here or on the links above to order!

95+ Rated – Below the Radar Cabernet


With passion and a commitment to hard work Linda Butler along with winemaker Gerhard Reisacher launched Delectus Winery in 1995. Delectus is a small family-owned winery that handcrafts luxury red wines from select vineyards throughout Napa Valley and Knights Valley.

Delectus 2013 “Boulder Falls” Cabernet Sauvignon, Knight’s Valley
Retail 110.00 – GGWC 104.99
FREE SHIPPING on 4
Use code DELECTUS during checkout


The bold and dense 2013 Boulder Falls is classic Delectus, with an opulent, very densely-woven structure. Sweet oak, ultra-ripe black cherry and raspberry add complexity and depth to this herculean effort. This wine will undoubtedly be capable of 20+ years of time in the bottle. This vintage was sourced from a rocky hillside vineyard perched above the fogline in Knights Valley. There the terroir is conducive to making inky, concentrated wines of great distinction. That is the essence of Delectus

Robert Parker 95+ Points: “The 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Boulder Falls is another painfully extracted, rich, full-bodied wine with enormous extract, massive body and richness in a wine seemingly built for 30 or more years of cellaring. Impatient connoisseurs and consumers not willing to defer gratification should steer far clear of this blockbuster, which really requires a decade of cellaring. Kudos to Delectus for making wines that ultimately will prove the magnificent aging potential of what they’re doing in Knights Valley.”

Click here or on the links above to order!

Happy Father’s Day!

A Father means so many things…
An understanding heart,
A source of strength and of support
Right from the very start.
A constant readiness to help
In a kind and thoughtful way.
With encouragement and forgiveness
No matter what comes your way.
A special generosity and always affection, too
A Father means so many things.

Happy Father’s Day!

California Wine Country visits New York City!

Today we are in New York celebrating our 12th Anniversary at the NY City Fire Museum.  For those in the area, we had a few cancellations, so contact me ASAP to get those last minute tickets.  30 Winery owners/winemakers will be pouring over 75+ wines today from 5:30 – 9:00 PM.

If you cannot make it – here is the list of wines we are pouring. They are all in stock and ready to ship!
 

WINERY

VINTAGE

VARIETAL

VINEYARD/APP.

RETAIL

GGWC

Argot

2014

Chardonnay

Estate

$65.00

$59.99

Argot

2014

Pinot Noir

Estate

$75.00

$69.99

Argot

2013

Syrah

Estate

$75.00

$69.99

Atrea

2013

Old Soul Red

Estate

$30.00

$26.99

Attune

2016

Rose of Pinot Noir

Estate

$30.00

$26.99

Attune

2015

Chardonnay

Sonoma Coast

$45.00

$39.99

Attune

2014

Pinot Noir

Estate

$53.00

$49.99

B. Kosuge

2014

Pinot Noir

The Shop

$40.00

$35.99

Bella

2014

Zinfandel

Lily Hill

$50.00

$46.99

Bench

2014

Proprietary Red

Circa 1964 / Napa

$100.00

$92.99

Boheme

2014

Chardonnay

Taylor Ridge

$48.00

$44.99

Boheme

2013

Pinot Noir

Stuller

$55.00

$49.99

Bridesmaid

2014

Proprietary Red

Napa

$55.00

$49.99

Carte Blanche

2013

Proprietary Red

Napa

$135.00

$129.99

Cattleya

2015

Chardonnay

Russian River Valley

$55.00

$51.99

Coho

2014

Pinot Noir

Stanly Ranch

$50.00

$44.99

Coho

2013

Headwaters

Napa

$55.00

$49.99

Coho

2013

Merlot

Michael Black

$56.00

$51.99

Coho

2013

Cabernet

Napa

$65.00

$61.99

Coho

2012

Proprietary Red

C2 – Napa

$80.00

$74.99

Desparada

2016

Sauvingon Blanc

$28.00

$24.99

Dragonette

2015

Sauvignon Blanc

Santa Barbara

$33.00

$29.99

Dragonette

2014

Pinot Noir

Santa Barbara

$48.00

$44.99

Dumol

2015

Chardonnay

Russian River Valley

$65.00

$61.99

Dumol

2015

Pinot Noir

Russian River Valley

$75.00

$71.99

Dumol

2015

Syrah

Russian River Valley

$65.00

$61.99

Familiar Air

2014

Cabernet

Napa

$90.00

$84.99

Herman Story

2013

Grenache

On the Road

$53.00

$49.99

Herman Story

2015

Syrah

Nuts & Bolts

$53.00

$49.99

Hudson

2014

Chardonnay

Estate

$70.00

$64.99

Inherit The Sheep

2013

Cabernet

750 ml

$85.00

$79.99

Inherit The Sheep

2013

Cabernet

MAGNUM

$200.00

$184.99

Inherit The Sheep

2014

Cabernet

750 ml

$85.00

$79.99

Lieu Dit

2015

Rose of Pinot Noir

Santa Ynez

$26.00

$21.99

Lieu Dit

2015

Sauvignon Blanc

Santa Barbara

$28.00

$22.99

Lieu Dit

2015

Cabernet Franc

Santa Ynez

$33.00

$27.99

MC4

2014

Cabernet

Estate

$75.00

$69.99

MilAnge

2015

Pinot Noir

Santa Rita Hills

$85.00

$79.99

MilAnge

2016

Rose of Pinot Noir

Central Coast

$30.00

$26.99

MilAnge

2014

Syrah

Santa Barbara

$80.00

$74.99

O’Dwyer

2013

Cabenet

Clare Valley

$75.00

$69.99

O’Dwyer

2014

Shiraz

Clare Valley

$75.00

$69.99

Paloma

2013

Merlot

Estate

$65.00

$59.99

Paul Lato

2015

Chardonnay

Souvenir

$85.00

$79.99

Paul Lato

2015

Pinot Noir

Seabiscuit

$90.00

$84.99

Perfect Season

2014

Cabernet

Estate

$140.00

$134.99

Pied-a-Terre

2013

Cabernet

Sonoma

$33.00

$29.99

Pillsbury

2015

Chardonnay

Estate

$35.00

$31.99

Pillsbury

2014

Proprietary Red

Diva

$42.00

$37.99

Pillsbury

2014

Shiraz

Guns & Kisses

$75.00

$71.99

Post Parade

2014

Cabernet

Stretch Drive

$70.00

$67.99

Post Parade

2014

Cabernet

Napa Valley

$95.00

$92.99

Purlieu

2014

Cabernet

Napa Valley

$100.00

$94.99

QTR

2014

Cabernet

Estate, Napa

$130.00

$124.99

Rocca

2014

Vespera, Cab Blend

Estate, Napa

$55.00

$49.99

Rousseau

2015

Chardonnay

Constance

$30.00

$25.99

Rousseau

2013

Merlot

Pépé

$54.00

$49.99

Rousseau

2013

Tannat

The Musketeer

$65.00

$59.99

Rousseau

2014

Cabernet

Le Roi Soleil

$90.00

$84.99

Sans Liege

2013

GSM

The Offering

$33.00

$29.99

Sans Liege

2015

White Rhone

Cotes du Coast

$28.00

$24.99

Sans Liege - GROUNDWORK

2015

Grenache Blanc

Paso Robles

$22.00

$18.99

Sans Liege - GROUNDWORK

2014

Grenache

Central Coast

$25.00

$22.99

Saracina

2014

Malbec

Mendocino

$33.00

$29.99

Seabiscuit

2014

Chardonnay

Mendocino

$25.00

$22.50

Shared Notes

2015

Sauvignon Blanc

Russian River

$70.00

$64.99

Shibumi Knoll

2014

Chardonnay

Russian River

$95.00

$89.99

Solitude

2014

Chardonnay

Sangiacomo

$33.00

$29.99

Tether

2014

Cabernet

Napa Valley

$55.00

$49.99

Vermillion

2014

Proprietary Red

California

$38.00

$34.99

Wenzlau

2014

Chardonnay

Estate

$55.00

$49.99

Wenzlau

2013

Pinot Noir

Mt. Carmel

$55.00

$49.99

Wenzlau

2013

Pinot Noir

Estate

$62.00

$54.99

Yount Ridge

2015

Sauvignon Blanc

Napa Valley

$44.00

$39.99

Yount Ridge

2014

Cabernet

Oakville

$100.00

$94.99


Click here or on the links above to order!

A “MIGHTY” WHITE – JUST IN TIME FOR SUMMER

The Paderewski Vineyard is 67 acres of undulating, steep, limestone rich hillsides within 350 rural, spring-fed acres in Paso Robles.  In the early 1900’s, this vineyard was cherished and farmed by world-renowned pianist, polish diplomat, and vintner, Ignacy Jan Paderewski.  Fast forward a century, and this property stood forgotten and fallow.  In 2004 Epoch became the steward of this amazing piece of property.
EPOCH 2015 White Rhone Blend, Paso Robles
Retail 40.00 – GGWC 37.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6 or more
Use code EPOCH15 during checkout

Winemaker Notes: She’s a white wine, but she is mighty and built to last.  Like opening Pandora’s box, uncorking this wine is a wild ride of explosive favors – white peaches, citrus blossoms, ginger, lemon oil, crème fraîche, dried straw and custard.  Grenache Blanc and Viognier fermented and lees-aged in concrete deliver abundant freshness and rocky minerality.  The third sibling, Roussanne, returns to the DNA and lengthens out the palate, gifting age-worthiness and a honeyed viscosity.  The 2015 Epoch White will wow you now and for several years to come.  Age her – we dare you!

Wine Profile: 71% Catapult and 29% Paderewski Vineyards, Paso Robles .  A blend of 46% Viognier, 40% Grenache Blanc, 14% Roussanne.

Ideal Food Pairing: Oysters on the half shell

Robert Parker 93 Points: ”The 2015 Epoch White is made from mostly Grenache Blanc and Viognier, yet has 14% Roussanne in the blend. Aged five months on lees (a mix of concrete, neutral barrels and 9% new barrels), it offers impressive notes of citrus rind, white flowers and saline-like minerality in its fresh, tight, crisp and downright classy profile. It’s a prime example of how good these Rhone-themed whites from Paso are today. Drink it over the coming 2-3 years.”

Click here or on the links above to order!

Chardonnay of the Month

Perched on a ridge overlooking the Pacific Ocean at Fort Ross, Hirsch Vineyards is the birth ground of great pinot noir and Chardonnay on the extreme Sonoma Coast. David Hirsch founded the vineyard in 1980 to grow fruit and make site-specific wine. From the start all efforts have been on the growing of fruit that makes wines with profound characteristic of the site vintage after vintage.  The (4 acre) Chardonnay vineyard was planted in 1994 with clippings from J. Rochiolli.  Various great wineries (Kistler, Littorai, etc)  have been purchasing this amazing fruit for years. The first Hirsch “Estate” Chardonnay dates back to 2006.

Hirsch 2014 “Estate” Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast
Retail 70.00 – GGWC 66.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6 or more
Use code HIRSCH upon checkout

OK to mix & match with Hirsch Pinot

As with all the wines from Hirsch, the purpose of their Chardonnay is to bring you a profound expression of this unique vineyard site. With less than 4 acres of Chardonnay vines, production is very limited, and 100% of the fruit is now kept for the estate. The ideal growing conditions in 2014 produced gorgeous, aromatic wines. The 2014 Chardonnay is characterized by great acidity and depth of fruit. It is utterly delicious now and may also be cellared for some years.  Alcohol 13.3%

Galloni 94 Points: “The 2014 Chardonnay Estate is gorgeous. Yellow orchard fruit, chamomile, lightly honeyed notes, along with a distinctive phenolic feel, are among the signatures. Apricot, white orchard fruit and a host of soil-inflected notes continue to flesh out over time. Classy, understated and polished to the core, the Hirsch Chardonnay is terrific.”

Click here or on the links above to order!

Why do we neglect sparkling wine?

In a world with greater wine knowledge
than ever, why do we neglect
sparkling wine?

Contributed by Do Bianchi

Earlier this year, a wine director at a super cool, nationally renowned American restaurant told me: “You know, the French [sparkling winemakers] tell you that they only do one dosage. But, actually, they secretly do a bunch of micro-dosages.”

By its very nature and by definition, dosage can only be performed once in the life of a sparkling wine.

Also earlier this year, I spoke to a group of roughly 20 fine dining professionals and asked them their impressions of pas dosé sparkling wines. Not one of them knew what I was talking about.

Considering the role the sparkling wine plays in the fine dining experience and considering the category’s popularity in youthful fine wine culture today, a lacuna like that is helpful to no one — neither server nor guest nor to the restaurateur’s bottomline.

Ever since the dawn of the new era in wine connoisseurship in the U.S. and the rise of the übersommelier in the late 1990s, wine knowledge and awareness have exploded in this country. And more than ever, restaurant professionals have a treasure of media assets available to them in their quest to expand their knowledge.

When it’s common for sommeliers to be able to rattle off every growth in Volnay or every township in upper Piedmont or speak at length about the nuances of Nykteri, why is that knowledge of sparkling wine production has lagged so far behind?

In my two-year tenure working with the Franciacorta consortium (a partnership that ended in December but that’s another story), I traveled all over the U.S. talking about sparkling wines and sparkling wine production. And frankly, I was blown away by how this category is so rarely mastered by even the best and most successful in the business.

I ascribe the widespread insouciant approach to the fact that sparkling wine is arguably one of the most manipulative expressions of viticulture. Understanding how sparkling wines are made and what makes them unique takes a lot of time and study. It’s one of the most technical forms of winemaking and in many ways, sparkling wine runs counter to our fantasies about the historic natural wine movement. Just consider the sine qua non role of Chaptalization in sparkling wine production. There ain’t anything natural about that! (By the way, sine qua non is not pronounced seh-NAY-kwah-nun, like the wine from California; it’s pronounced SEE-neh kwah nohn).

Before I started working with the Franciacorta consortium, I was as guilty as the next floor sommelier in neglecting my knowledge of how sparkling wines are made and how to taste them properly. But thanks to my work with their bottler association, I had the opportunity to taste with a number of top winemakers and sommeliers and I was also very fortunate to get to taste a lot of above-my-paygrade sparkling wine from France.

The information is out there and easy to access: Jancis Robinson’s online edition of the Oxford Companion to Wine and Tom Stevenson’s introduction to Christie’s World Encyclopedia of Champagne & Sparkling Wine (print only, I believe) were key resources I used in upping my game (and I highly recommend both).

Another key moment for me was when I asked Bellavista winemaker Mattia Vezzola to share his insight into how to taste sparkling wine.
“Does the promise of the nose,” he said, “deliver in the mouth of the wine? That’s one of the hallmarks of great classic-method wine.”

Unfortunately, we tend to taste sparkling too hurriedly and there’s no getting around the fact that tasting (and learning how to taste) classic-method wine takes a lot of time and patience.

Yesterday, I attended an excellent trade tasting of sparkling wines presented by the cellar master of a high-end restaurant. I really liked the presentation: he led the group through a flight of monovarietal expressions of their classic cuvée to illustrate the role that the different varieties play in shaping the style of the house. And I really liked the wines, as well.

The export manager also gave a thoughtful and insightful talk on the history of the appellation and its role and place in the world of fine wine (although I took issue with his etymology of the toponym Champagne, which does comes from the Latin campania, as he noted, but campania does not mean chalk nor is it related in any way to the word chalk, despite the role that chalk plays in the appellation).

He pointed out (rightly) that Champagne owes its historic fortune not to the French but to the British and Russians, who embraced the wines as a core expression of their fine dining culture.

In a lot of ways, I thought to myself, Champagne and sparkling wine in general are the result of a series of Bloomian misunderstandings. And that legacy, no doubt, has contributed to the ways that the wines are still misunderstood today.

Make sure to check out the following great Champagne suggestions, and receive FREE SHIPPING when ordering SIX or more by using code BUBBLY at checkout (mix & match OK)

Our best selling Champagne below $35.00
MONTHUYS CHAMPAGNE NV BRUT, 750ML

Our best selling Rose Champagne
DIEBOLT VALLOIS CHAMPAGNE NV BRUT ROSE

Our best selling Champagne below $45.00
GONET-MEDEVILLE 1ER CRU CUVEE TRADITION

Also check out these other bubbly suggestions:
DUVAL LEROY NV 750 ML CHAMPAGNE
DIEBOLT VALLOIS NV CUVEE PRESTIGE BLANC DE BLANC
STEPHANE COQUILLETTE CARTE D’OR BRUT CHAMPAGNE
BROCARD PIERRE 1ER CUVEE “BLANC DE NOIRS” BRUT CHAMPAGNE, FRANCE
ANDRE ROBERT CHAMPAGNE BRUT “RESERVE” GRAND CRU, BLANC DE BLANCS, LE MESNIL

Sparkling Wines:
ALLIMANT LAUGNER CREMANT ROSE LOIRE VALLEY
CLOS DE LA BRIDERIE CUVEE SILEX

Large Format:
MONTHUYS CHAMPAGNE BRUT NV IN MAGNUM

Click here or on the links above to order!