Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Two fine sparklings for your holiday fare

By Jessica Yadegaran
Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007 at 11:35 am in Uncategorized.

If you’re starting to think bubbles for the holidays, let me suggest two sparkling wines from Healdsburg’s J Vineyards. They’re different in style and will thus satisfy any roomful of guests — and their affinity for California or French bubbles.

As for me, I used to prefer the fun, fruity, easy style of California sparkling wines (think flavored Calistoga) but am definitely going to the other side. I still like that style from time to time, but I now crave complexity, baked croissants and more time on the yeast.

Many American producers, like J and Domain Chandon, are answering the call for me by offering a range in their portfolios, sort of a colors of the sparkling rainbow, if you will. (Will you? That sounded a bit flowery). Anyway, I attended a J Vineyards winemaker’s dinner at Jardiniere last night, and tasted their current releases with small plates that dazzled the senses.

You’ll have to check back for insider details, like winemaker George Bursick’s stories about the French and his mad-scientist penchant for yeast fermentations from the 1930s, but I can tell you two of these sparklings are fabulous, affordable and you should have them at your parties this season. Here goes:

J Cuvee 20 Brut NV: At $32, this is a sophisticated display of the best of cool-climate, Russian River Valley fruit-forward sparkling. The aromas are quite lemony and give way to apples and grapefruit on the palate, and maybe a touch of nuts. The acidity held up nicely to an array of appetizers, including ahi tuna tartare. The wine’s a great way to start the night.

1999 J Vintage Brut: This is totally where I’m at in my sparkling evolution — creamy yet crisp, three quarters of the way between California and Champagne. At $50, it’s an excellent example of what six years of aging in the bottle will do to Russian River fruit. The nose is all toasted almonds and baked brioche and spices but the palate is awash in apples and pears and citrus fruits. We sipped this number with a cauliflower panna cotta!! It was probably one of the best examples of using texture in a pairing that I’ve ever experienced — it was like I was spreading the creaminess of the panna cotta on the bread in the glass. You know what I mean?

Stay tuned: I promise to dish soon on 2005 and 2006 barrel samples we tried of J Vineyards Pinot Noir. They won’t be released until May, but I have two words for you: Noony’s Vineyard! Yowza.

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