Friday, October 05, 2007

Tasting Room: Anderson Valley Sparklers

Last month a few friends and I drove through the old redwoods on Highway 128 in Mendocino County, and visited two tasting rooms that specialized in sparkling wine. It was a beautiful day, and we had a terrific time with our hosts at the wineries. (image from Roederer Estate)

It was also an educational day, because at Roederer Estate we were able to taste two sparkling multi-vintage wines bottled at the same time in two different formats: 750mls and magnums. Just a few days ago, Dr. Vino reported that a student asked whether the size of the bottle effected the wine inside. He wrote to Terry Thiese, the well-known importer of champagne, to see what he thought--and the answer was yes, it does make a difference! As you will see from the notes below, that was certainly our experience, too.

Enjoy, and here's hoping that you have something to celebrate soon that will cause you to bring out some bubbly. I've arranged them from excellent QPR to poor QPR, rather than alphabetically.

M.V. Roederer Estate Brut (750ml from $15-$26; magnums from $39) Tasted in 750 ml and magnum bottles on same day. The 750ml bottle was very lively in the mouth, with aromas and flavors of yellow delicious apples, hazelnut, and toast. As with all Roederer sparklers we tasted, it had a creamy mousse and a fine bead. The magnum tasted very different due to longer time on the lees according to our tasting room staff, and the larger bottle size. It was much creamier and toastier, a very rich version of the brut in the smaller bottle with all the same flavor notes magnified and deepened. Excellent QPR, no matter what the size. But if you can get your hands on the magnum, it is a super wine, at a super price.

M.V. Roederer Estate Extra Dry($22) I really liked this wine with its soft character. Aromas of brown sugar preceded a mouthful of toffee apple. Typical Roederer delicacy of bead and a nicely creamy mousse. Unquestionably very good QPR.

1997 Roederer Estate L'Ermitage Brut (750ml around $42; contact winery for more information, magnums available for around $89) Tasted in the magnum format. Just lovely--perhaps the best domestic sparkler I've ever had. Hay, apple, lemon, biscuit and mineral aromas and flavors. Super complexity with a tiny bead, creamy mousse, and a long lingering finish. Not cheap, but very French in style and substance. Undeniably pricey, but I felt like it was worth it. Very good QPR.

2000 Roederer Estate L'Ermitage Brut ($36-$40) A terrific sparkler made with complexity and finesse. Aromas of hay lead to a palate of creamy lemon, mineral and apple. Very nicely balanced, with small bead and creamy mousse. Pricey, but it delivers. I preferred the 1997, however. Very good QPR.

M.V. Scharffenberger Crémant (around $20) I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of this wine. Yeasty nose with peach and citrus notes gives way to a dry, peachy palate. Would be very good with food. Good QPR.

M.V. Scharffenberger "Extra Dry" ($20) A little more weight and complexity than the Brut, with 1% more residual sugar and the same blend (60% pinot, 40% chardonnay fruit). This would be a super appetizer or toasting wine, that would stand up well to sipping and having with a variety of foods. Not sweet by any means, so this is not a dessert wine. Good QPR

M.V. Scharffenberger Brut ($13-$22) Decent domestic sparkler, and worth the money if you want something simple and can get it for around $15—but I wouldn’t pay more than that for it. Aromas are more attractive than the palate, with red fruit and citrus. Vanilla cream notes enter into the flavors and I felt washed it out a bit. Short finish. Good QPR.

M.V. Roederer Estate Brut Rosé ($21-$30) 60% Pinot and 40% chard make up this very pale salmon wine--so pale it is almost transclucent. Muted and delicate flavors of citrus and toast. I felt like there was something missing here, and had I spent more than $20 on this I would have been disappointed. Poor QPR.


Anonymous said...

Yay, posting on Roederer Estate sparklies! I've always loved this house, and I'm prompted now to pick up a bottle of bubbly this weekend. Thanks for the refresher!

RougeAndBlanc said...

Dr Deb,
Thanks for the tasting notes. Good info on CA bubblies. From now on when I buy wine to lay down, I shall pick up both 750 & magnums for future comparisons.

Dr. Debs said...

Welcome back Wine Scamp, and hi rougeandblanc. I was SO impressed by those Roederer bottlings, Wine Scamp, so see if you can get your hands on one. And rougeandblanc, honestly, if I'd been tasting the 750 and magnum nv sparkler blind I would have bet every cent I had that they were different wines or from completely different bottling years. So it's a great comparison to have and a magnum of Roederer for $39 is not a bad deal at all. New Year's?

Sonadora said...

We absolutely love Roederer. One of our many stops on our first trip out that way. We particularly love the 1999 L'Ermitage Brut, I'm sorry they didn't have any at your tasting, I think it blew all the rest out of the water. I wish I could get my hands on more!

Dr. Debs said...

Sonadora: apparently those bottles will get re-released, so it's worth calling the winery to ask if they can ship to you. They told us that the wines are periodically tasted and if the winemaker feels that they are drinking well, a portion are released for a short while while the rest are kept for a few more years, etc. If the 1997 L'Hermitage was drinkable this summer, I'm guessing the 1999 should be available soon, if it's not already.

Anonymous said...

Great round up. I recently had the chance to vacation in CA and we hit both these wineries as well. So besides basking in my memories, I really enjoyed how you broke down your tastings and your tasting notes. Hit the nail on the head. For me my visit was the 1st chance I had to taste in 2 different size bottles and it was amazing to me the difference.

Thanks for the round up and the consistently good content!