Let’s set the record straight: sparkling wine should not be exclusively reserved for special occasions, New Year’s Eve, mimosas or date night. Sparkling wine can be as “everyday” as your favorite $10 bottle of Grigio. And thanks to the surge in local bottlings of sparklers in recent years, you can get you PNW bubb on more now than ever before.
Boiling it down to the basics, sparkling wine is pretty much made with one of two techniques: a secondary fermentation in bottle to naturally create bubbles or with added (aka forced) carbonation. In Sip‘s 2016 summer issue, writer Pete Szymczak explains that secondary fermentation, aka méthode Champenoise here:
Wines made in the “traditional method” (aka méthode Champenoise) — not to be confused with the bulk (aka Charmat, forced carbonation) method — cost more to make, but taste better, subjectively speaking.
Traditionally, bubbly starts out as “base wine,” a tart, acidic juice. To this base winemakers add a dosage of sugar and yeast that is calculated to produce fermentation in the bottle. As the yeast in the bottle eats the sugar, carbon dioxide is forced into the wine, creating the bubbles.
Next, the young sparkling wine is left to age on its lees. The individual wine bottles are periodically turned, or “riddled,” and angled upward, a process which gently moves the sediment toward the neck of the bottle. The final wine’s flavor and character is developed during this stage.— Pete Szymczak, Sip Magazine, Summer 2016
So there’s methode Champenoise and there’s the forced or added carbonation method of Charmat, and then there’s a little something in between. Exhibit A: pétillant naturel, aka pét-nat. Fermentation is artificially stopped, leaving a bit of residual sugar in the base wine, which is then bottled and sealed with a crown cap, allowing the leftover yeast to eat up that remaining sugar. This secondary fermentation creates the CO2 bubbles.
Traditional or modern in methods, here are a number of Northwest-made bubbles — with price ranges for every occasion — to add to your next Instacart order.
Kramer Vineyards 2019 Pinot Gris Pétillant Naturel
Grown on Kramer‘s estate vineyard in Oregon’s Yamhill-Carlton AVA, Pinot Gris grapes are fermented in stainless steel tanks then bottled with a tiny bit of sugar left to get those resulting bubbles. Flaxen and hazy like an unfiltered Spanish cider, a bounty of tiny bubbles pop around tropical aromas, with honeysuckle, key lime rind and peach. Similar notes follow onto the creamy, round palate, finishing in a snap of pint, almond and pear.
Gran Moraine NV Brut Rosé
Also from the Yamhill-Carlton AVA, Gran Moraine (part of the Jackson Family Wines‘ Oregon collection) bottles this small-lot wine of sparkling Pinot Noir and releases it once annually. Aromatics run the show in the clean and crisp bubbler, with rose petal, just-ripe strawberry, brioche and pear notes transferring to the palate. Orange and tropical fruits meld with sharp acidity that makes this a match-made for triple cream cheese.
Cor Cellars AGO Sparkling
A pet project for Luke Bradford at Cor Cellars in Lyle, Washington, the AGO (as in, “before the present time”) line zeroes in on Columbia Gorge-grown, high-elevation varietals (think Italy’s Tocai Friulano and, of course, Pinot Noir). This off-dry bubbler is one of two sparkling wines in the line (in addition to a rosé of Pinot Noir), made with forced carbonation and full of fresh vigor. Varieties unidentified but, nonetheless, there are baking spices, tropical fruit and a touch of hibiscus in the zesty wine. Order Indian curry, stat.
Lundeen Wines 2016 Méthode Champenoise Muscat Cuvée Patricia
Named for his mama, third-generation grape grower Michael Lundeen pays homage to her in this sparkling wine — a small production of just two barrels, to boot. While Lundeen Wines focuses on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir on the estate site, Muscat is the featured variety in this delicate, floral and feminine sip. Get your mind out of the sweet gutter, this Muscat is far from its Italian Moscato counterparts with its off-dry complexity and minerality.
Hard Row to Hoe Vineyards 2018 Au Naturel Pét-Nat Rosé
Unfined, unfiltered and naturally fermented, this sparkler from the Lake Chelan winery is also vibrant, fresh and (BONUS) only 11% ABV. The blend is 70% Pinot Noir with the remaining being Cabernet Franc — a unique coupling to say the least — the results are bright with strawberry (Pinot) and herbs (Franc). Almond bread, vanilla and a basket of red summer berries round out the palate with a lick of refreshing acidity in the finish.
Foundry Vineyards 2019 Albariño Pét Nat
The latest from this Walla Walla Valley winery (which also has a Seattle outpost in Pioneer Square), the aptly named Pét Project showcases half a dozen pét-nat wines, including this single-varietal Albariño. Sealed with a crown cap and sold in a 500-milliliter bottle, this wine features fruit from the Soluna Vineyard in the Columbia Gorge. Naturally fermented, it is also left unfiltered, unfined and without any added sulfur. Wild strawberries spike the spiced and herbal nose, while apple, citrus rind and a slight nuttiness round out the palate.