Thursday, December 29, 2011



People say Champagne should not be reserved for special occasions, that we should drink it all the time.  I'd be alright with that, if it weren't for the fact that I like the variety of the wine world and I often have only one glass a day.  I usually go for a still wine, given the limitations.  

Sparkling wine corks don't pop as often as they should at our place, but that's my choice and I'll live with it.

It was especially nice, considering my wanting Champagne ways, to be invited to The Tasting Panel Magazine's tasting event featuring about three dozen sparkling rosé wines from France and California.  The event was held during the afternoon of December 15, 2011 at Waterloo & City in Culver City, CA.

The elegance of sparkling rosé is undeniable.  The variance in color, taste and aroma is quite noticeable when given the opportunity to sample so many side-by-side.  Those in attendance were buzzing about their favorites.  Much of the talk I overheard centered around the most expensive examples being poured, naturally.  Even among wine trade and media types - maybe especially among them - it's a rare treat to sample a $300 bottle Champagne.

There were, however, plenty of much more affordable bottles on display with as much presence on the palate as the top-shelf stuff.  I did hear quite a few comments on some of the mid-range wines, and I imagine a few mental notes were being made for the next time a sparkler would be purchased.

The wines started in the $14 range and went up from there.  I'm listing here the ones I found to be well above expectations, and I've noted the ones I thought were exceptional sparklers.

Here are the bubbles that really tickled my fancy:

Palmes d'OrScharffenberger Cellars  
NV Brut Rosé, Mendocino County ($23)
A nose of earthy fruit and tasting of minerals and orange peel, this was possibly the best value in the room.  Great finish.
Exceptional.  Best value.

Roederer Estate
NV Brut Rosé, Anderson Valley ($27)
It's earthy and spicy, with a hint of tartness.

NV Mirabelle Brut Rosé, North Coast ($27)
Flinty and yeasty on the nose with a raspberry and citrus palate.

Domaine Carneros  
NV Cuveé de la Pompadour Brut Rosé, Napa Valley ($35)
Aromas of smoke and toast lead to beautiful cherry and mineral flavors.

Frank Family  
NV Blanc de Noirs, Napa Valley ($43)
A light golden tint with an earthy nose and fabulous almond notes in the flavor profile.

2008 Brut Rosé, Dundee Hills ($50)
Muted wild cherry aromas with a really dark fruit expression.  Creamy, with a hint of coffee.  Heavy on the Meunier.

Heidsieck and Co.  
NV Monopole Rose Top Brut Rosé ($50)
Pink salmon color with a tangy taste of strawberry and tons of fizz. 

NV Brut Rosé Sauvage ($55)
Almost red, this beauty tastes of toast and cherries.

NV Brut Rosé ($55)
Hardly any color at all, it's extremely bubbly with the smell and taste of nutty apples.

Moët & Chandon 
NV Brut Rosé Imperial ($59)
Deep salmon color, with a lovely, dry, strawberry/apple flavor.

G.H. Mumm
NV Brut Rosé ($75)
Salmon-colored, with a funky nose and earthy berries on the palate.

NV Brut Rosé ($90)
Very pink salmon hue, with red berries and a splash of citrus.

NV Brut Rosé ($99)
Just a "pinkish hue" with a yeasty nose and nutty, tropical flavors.

NV Brut Rosé ($100)
Light salmon in color, the nose is an earthy strawberry/banana while the palate shows tart lemon balanced with a sweet note.

Nicolas Feuillate  
2003 Cuveé Palmes d'Or Brut Rosé ($200)
Very deep pink with a striking nose and palate of smoke and cherries.  An explosive palate in an "alligator skin" bottle.  
Exceptional.  My favorite.

Brut Rosé ($299)
Very light pink, it tastes of earthy peaches.  Quite dry with an excellent finish.

2004 Belle Epoque Brut Rosé ($300)
More orange than pink, the toasty nose leads to a taste of nuts and sweet apples.

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