From The Press: Sonoma County’s signature grape varieties are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Those also happen to be two of the predominant grape varieties grown in Champagne, so it makes perfect sense that this coastal region should produce traditional-method sparkling wine.
Sensing the promise of California viticulture, many Champagne companies descended on Napa County in the mid-20th century to try their hand at American sparkling wine. Sonoma didn’t get quite as big of an influx, but there is a European sparkling-wine presence here nonetheless: The Champagne house Piper Heidsieck founded Piper Sonoma in 1980, and in 1986 the Spanish cava company Freixenet arrived on the Sonoma side of Los Carneros to launch Gloria Ferrer.
The county’s two other dominant bubbly houses — Iron Horse and J Vineyards — are all-American, and date back to the 1970s and ’80s, respectively. While J sold to Gallo in 2015, Iron Horse remains owned by the family that founded it. A handful of other notable Sonoma County-based bubbly brands — Ultramarine, Under the Wire, En Tirage — do not operate tasting rooms.
But plenty of other Sonoma wineries dabble in sparkling wine production, with delicious results. After all, the preponderance of two of Champagne’s favorite grapes, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, make the prospect nearly irresistible for a winemaker. –Esther Mobley
Here are a few of my favorites:
Gloria Ferrer: The Carneros outpost of Spanish wine company Freixenet, a historic producer of cava, this picturesque winery offers a diverse lineup of bubbly options. Bonus: It’s one of the most accessible wineries in Sonoma from San Francisco.
Iron Horse: Driving to Iron Horse’s out-of-the-way Green Valley oasis is well worth the detour, especially if you come on a day when they’re serving Tomales Bay oysters. The lineup of sparkling wines here ranges from soft and sweet-tasting to bracing and crisp.
J: Founded by Judy Jordan — whose brother John owns Alexander Valley’s Jordan Winery — this Russian River Valley tasting room has a casual tasting bar as well as formal, special-occasion food and wine pairings.
What about the cycling?
More from The Press: It’s no surprise that Sonoma County is beloved by both wine enthusiasts and cyclists, since many of the factors that make the area a wine center also make for outstanding bicycling. Sonoma County officially has 18 designated American Viticultural Areas, each with unique climate, landscape and topography. This varied geography means a single bike ride can start in a cool redwood forest, climb to sunny mountain ridges and end in an oak-studded river valley, all before dinner. County efforts to preserve the economically crucial winegrowing regions from urban sprawl keep the roads quiet and scenic enough to keep cyclists happy as well. Lastly, Sonoma’s mild winters and sunny summers keep both vines and bicyclists comfortable year-round.
Of three suggested rides, I recommend this one from The Press:
Intermediate tour through Dry Creek Valley
Dry Creek Valley west of Healdsburg is one of Sonoma’s most famous biking spots, so you’ll have plenty of two-wheeled company. Before starting your route from downtown Healdsburg, take a small walk around some of the tasting rooms. Then, head north out of town from the main plaza. Vineyards soon line the road. Many wineries offer tastings, but one of the most famous is Francis Ford Coppola, which in addition to tasting flights of some of its 60 wines, offers food, a film gallery, and a store for all things Coppola. After a few more miles of pedaling, you’ll reach tiny and charming Geyserville. Choose from filling, inexpensive tacos at the Geyserville Market and Deli or pizza at Diavola. A personal favorite is the Diavola pizza with roasted red peppers, arugula and meatballs.
Let us not forget:
NATIONAL BUBBLY DAY
Pour a glass of sparkling sunshine to celebrate National Bubbly Day every first Saturday in June!
Bubbly, or sparkling wine, reflects the excitement associated with memorable events. Effervescent bubbles combine with the appealing flavors and aromas ranging from citrus, apple and pear to toasted fruit, spices and nuts. Whether paired with a full meal or light appetizers, these wines satisfy the requirement for an unforgettable celebration.
Different areas of the world create their own special brand of bubbly according to strict methods and select grapes which produce a sparkling wine unique to each region.
I think I will do a splurge and have a bottle of Le Reve from Domaine Carneros!!!