Thursday, January 20, 2011


Thornton Cuvee de Frontignan

While all my wine world pals seemed to be filling the Twitter timeline to the “fail whale” point about which Champagne’s cork they’d be popping on New Year’s Eve, I was chilling a bottle of California sparkling wine.  From Temecula.

Two summers ago, Denise and I visited Thornton Winery and picked up a bottle of their Cuvée de Frontignan.  We both loved the taste, and it was at a sale price well below $20.  We thought we’d ring in 2010 with it, but a rush of bubbly over that holiday season pushed it into the crowd, and there it waited patiently for the year to pass.

This Temecula sparkler is made from Muscat grapes in the Méthode Champenoise.  It reminds me of Asti Spumante - all the celebratory bubbles of Champagne, just lighter and fruitier.  It has an alcohol content of 12.5% abv, so we could enjoy several flutes without becoming tipsy.

We had secured some of our favorite snacks from Whole Foods Market - Denise calls them Lovely Little Things - and the Cuvée paired quite well with the wide variety of crackers, cheese, olives, grains and rice-based salads. 

The Cuvée de Frontignan has medium-fine bubbles that form a sparkling white froth about a half-inch thick.  The nose is full of fruit growing up against a wall of minerals.  It’s yeasty and spicy on the palate, with fruity flavors tasting so very fresh.  The creamy mouthfeel leads to peaches which linger on the finish.

The bottle lasted three days for us, and on the second day it took on a much earthier and more substantial tone without sacrificing too many bubbles.

Don Reha, Thornton’s winemaker at the time this Cuvée was bottled, has moved on to  R.Merlo Estate Vineyards.  He had been with Thornton since 2003.  David Vergari is now Thornton’s winemaker.  He interned at Napa’s Sonoma-Cutrer and the Hess Collection after studying Enology and Viticulture at UC Davis.  Working abroad for a bit, Vergari now returns home to California, although somewhat south of his native Sonoma County.

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