Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine
by Charles Olken
It seems that California makers of the bubbly take a step forward each and every year, and this newest crop of sparkling wines is no exception. When you add in the double incentives of equivalent Champagnes costing twice as much and being less fresh in the bargain and top that with the likelihood that you can find most of the non-vintaged Bruts, Blanc de Noirs and even Rosés at discounts during the Holiday Season, there is every reason to pay attention to this category. Perhaps the single most influential step in this scenario of increasing success is the move by several makers to cooler and cooler area grapes with longer hang times and higher natural acidities. But it is the areas of Blanc de Noirs and Rosé that California producers have their greatest natural advantage. If the idea of adding a bit of red wine to your top bubblies is to increase both richness and latter palate solidity, then California Pinot Noir with its tendencies to be fuller and richer than its peers in France has a big leg up. The success of lightly and moderately pink wines in this year’s tastings made that group the stars of the show (pun intended).