Web Exclusives

Sparklers for the Fourth

Anthony Dias Blue

Lots of people set off sparklers for the Fourth of July . . . so why not pop open a few sparkling wines to add to the national festivities. Don't limit your holiday to cheap beer. Declare your independence from backyard tradition with a bottle of all-American sparkling wine.

An excellent place to explore some of the finest, yet most underrated, American sparklers? None other than the Pacific Northwest. Gifted wineries dedicated to painstaking precision and supreme-quality sparkling wines are sprinkled throughout Oregon and Washington, and, believe me, they deserve a closer look

Domaine Ste. Michelle

  With a history extending almost four decades, Domaine Ste. Michelle has certainly made a name for itself in the sparkling wine industry. Winemaker Rick Casqueiro pioneers this high-quality brand, drawing inspiration and knowledge from the generations of Portuguese winemakers who preceded him. With a degree in chemistry, Casqueiro also brings a heightened sense of calculation to the already precise science of winemaking.

Oscar Hableutzel and Julius Fessler of Weibel Champagne Vineyards trained Casqueiro in the nuances of sparkling wine, teaching him the creativity, patience, and knowledge necessary for producing an exceptional product. In 1996, Casqueiro joined the winery's team and has since created new assemblages for Domaine Ste. Michelle's Brut, Blanc de Blancs, Blanc de Noirs and Extra Dry cuvées. 
Blanc de Blancs Sparkling $12
Fresh and juicy with tangy acidity; ripe, fresh and fruity. 87

Brut Sparkling ($12)
Racy fruit and some sweetness; bright, balanced and snappy with good length. 87

Brut Rose Sparkling ($12)

Pale pink; juicy and bright with notes of raspberries and peach; clean, fresh and vibrant. 88

Ste. Chapelle

  With a distinctly Parisian feel, Ste. Chapelle Winery in Southwestern Idaho sits high atop "Winery Hill," overlooking the famed Snake River Valley. Inspired by La Sainte Chapelle in Paris, the 13th-century court chapel built by King Louis IX, Ste. Chapelle is a stunning combination of high cathedral-style windows, vaulted ceilings with wooden beams and a breathtaking stained glass window depicting an apropos vineyard scene.

While the winery was built with the intent to remain small, the burgeoning consumer demand in Idaho and the exceptional quality of Ste. Chappele's wine quickly catapulted the winery beyond small-operation status. Today, Ste. Chapelle produces approximately 155,000 cases of award-winning wine each year. Winemaker Maurine Johnson has been with Ste. Chapelle for more than 20 years, producing full-bodied and memorable sparkling wines.
Brut Sparkling ($8)
Fresh and ripe with crisp, juicy peachy fruit; off-dry, clean and lively with clean, tangy flavors. 88

Treveri Cellars

  Treveri Cellars is a Washington winery, yet with distinct German roots. Owner and winemaker Juergen Grieb hails from the German town of Trier, which lies along the Mosel River, near Luxembourg. It was in this quaint setting that he began to hone his craft and received a degree in winemaking and sparkling winemaking. Grieb moved to the United States in 1983 and has been working in the Washington wine industry ever since. In 2010, he channeled his years of enophilia and expertise into opening Treveri Cellars.

The name Treveri pays homage to Grieb's heritage, referencing his hometown Trier, known as Treveris in Ancient Roman times. Treveri Cellars specializes in handcrafted méthode champenoise sparkling wines, sourcing all grapes from the lower Yakima Valley. Grieb's formal training inspires a more fruit-forward "Sekt" approach to his sparkling wines rather than the yeasty style of French Champagnes. Each bottle is 100% varietal, ensuring crispness and purity with each sip.
Sparkling Riesling ($17)
Sweet and juicy with bright tangy peachy flavors; smooth and charming. 88

Blanc de Blancs Brut Sparkling ($14)

Ripe and rich with sweetness and fresh acidity; broad flavors and rich fruit; long and ripe. 87

Brut Sparkling ($14)

Fresh, juicy and bright with lively acidity and tangy citrus; lively, clean and balanced. 88

Soter Vineyards

  Nestled in the Willamette Valley, Soter Vineyards is one of the establishments that abides by this higher standard. This family-owned operation was founded by Tony and Michelle Soter in 1997 after Tony's long career as consulting winemaker for some of Napa Valley's most venerable growers and winemakers. A 1943 Yamhill County Barn houses part of the winery, which adds a charming intersection of nostalgia and modernity to Soter's atmosphere. Completely refurbished in 2003, the pristine wooden barn is picturesque, set against the stunning backdrop of lush vineyards and stout Douglas firs.

While the winery is quaint, do not assume it to be provincial. Soter Vineyards employs their own mechanized bottling line and does all tirage, disgorgement and bottling of their sparkling wines in house-an impressive feat for a winery of Soter's size.  
Soter's sparkling wines, in particular, are a reflection of the winery's dedication to an excellent consumer-focused product. To prove this goal, the Soters, along with winemaker James Cahill, ensure that everySoter sparkling wine is vintage dated, vineyard designated and disgorgement dated, proclaiming that every consumer has the right to know how long the wine has been aged on the yeast and how long it has been on the cork. Their 2006 Sparkling Brut Rose is bright and elegant with crisp raspberry fruit and tangy acidity. Light pink in color, this impressive sparkler is juicy and has a brisk and racy finish.

2006 Brut Rose Sparkling ($58)
Light pink color; fresh, smooth and crisp with raspberry fruit and tangy acidity; juicy, bright and elegant with a clean, brisk, racy finish. 92

Argyle Winery

  Another sparkling jewel from Oregon is Argyle Winery, established in the early 1980s by Rollin Soles and Brian Croser.  Soles is not only the founder, but also the winemaker at this esteemed establishment. With an emphasis on sustainability and cutting-edge innovation, Argyle wines are at the forefront of Oregon's viticultural revolution. The winery is L.I.V.E. (Low Input Viticulture and Enology) certified, one of the first wineries in Oregon to hold such a distinction.

Argyle is designated as the first Oregonian winery to use Dijon Clone Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for "Grower" sparkling wine. Argyle's méthode champenoise sparklers are all produced from low-yielding vines found on Argyle's hillside slopes.

2001 Brut Sparkling ($60)

Lush and complex with lovely burnished apple and citrus fruit; rich with some nuance of nuts and spice; long, creamy and dense. 92

2009 Brut Rose Sparkling ($50)

Salmon pink color; dense and meaty with ripe raspberry and tangy acidity; fresh, clean and balanced. 88

2007 Brut Sparkling ($27)

Smooth, creamy and juicy with bright apple fruit and tangy acidity; fresh, balanced and lush with great balance and style. 90

THE TASTING PANEL, 6345 Balboa Blvd, Ste. 111, Encino, CA 91316
Content ©2016 THE TASTING PANEL magazine. All rights reserved