It’s a misnomer and illegal for a winery in this country to label its sparkling wine “Champagne.”
Only sparkling wine produced from the Champagne region of France is allowed to carry that name, and some of the bottles that emerge from northeast of Paris are among the most prized on the planet. Think Dom Pérignon, Cristal and Krug.
Fortunately, you don’t need big bucks to enjoy sparkling wine in the Pacific Northwest. And bubbles shouldn’t be limited to weddings, New Year’s Eve and special occasions, because these often are the quintessential food-pairing wines. The quality and price point of many – particularly those from the likes of Michelle Sparkling Wines and Treveri Cellars in Washington state – should make sparklers a staple at the dining table.
The combination of bright acidity, low alcohol, minimal tannins and cheerful effervescence brings refreshment with each sip. And sparkling wine producers want the profiles for their bottlings to remain consistent year after year, so vintage is not important. When you find a style and sweetness level that tickles you, don’t worry that it will change.
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So any time seafood or a trip to the farmers market is involved, think of pulling those sparkling wine flutes from the cabinet.
Struggling to know which wine to take to that dinner party? Bring some bubbles, and look for something to celebrate each day.
Michelle Sparkling Wines NV Brut, Columbia Valley, $13: Spokane native Paula Eakin produces this blend of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot gris in methode champenoise, the same procedures used in Champagne. Dusty apple, lime juice and fresh caramel corn aromas lead to fruit-driven bubbles that bring hints of Bartlett pear, Granny Smith apple and sweet Key lime. This recently was voted the Best American Wine at the International Wines for Oysters Competition in Washington, D.C.
Drink Washington State Winery NV Sparkling Riesling, Yakima Valley, $19: Certified sommelier Brad Binko left South Carolina to learn winemaking at Walla Walla Community College. His bottling of sparkling Riesling offers bright aromas of apple, cardamom and clove backed by bubbles that bring orange and lime.
Treveri Cellars Sparkling Syrah Brut, Yakima Valley, $20: The father-son team of Juergen and Christian Grieb works with small vineyards throughout Yakima Valley, and this beautiful purple sparkler requires more effort and time (two years) than any in their lineup. There’s an abundance of marionberries, raspberries and blueberries with a touch of yeastiness and dab of sweetness. Enjoy with lamb, beef, chocolate or salmon rubbed with sweet Indian spices
Coiled Wines, 2015 Rizza, Snake River Valley, $28: Boise bubble maven Leslie Preston pursues Riesling with a passion. This scintillating sparkler brings classic aromas and matching flavors of lime, kiwi and starfruit with grapefruit acidity and a slaty finish. Enjoy with cheeses, crackers and appetizers.
Westport Winery 2014 Going Coastal Sparkling Gewürztraminer, Yakima Valley, $28: Dana Roberts makes wine for his family just eight miles from the Pacific Ocean, yet these grapes come from historic Red Willow Vineyard. It carries classic gewürztraminer aromas of grapefruit, lychee, pink lady apple and clove. Flavors of sweet apple, rose water and orange zest strike a balance with the sweetness, allowing for pairings with green salads, Dungeness crab, Indian curries and a drumstick.
Argyle Winery 2012 Artisan Series Brut Rosé, Willamette Valley, $50: Nate Klostermann learned at the side of Rollin Soles, the Northwest’s most skilled sparkling wine producer, and this splendid pink is a classic blend of pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay given just enough skin contact to create a light peach wardrobe. Aromas of dried strawberry, watermelon and fresh-baked bread lead to flavors of red currant and cherry with sweet herbs and dried strawberry.
Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine. Learn more about wine at greatnorthwestwine.com.