Champagne has been used for celebration for centuries. For a lot of that time people didn’t really understand why there were bubbles in their wine, and a lot of wine makers considered it a fault. Many times the pressure in the bottle would be too great and they would explode before they could be consumed! We definitely approach making these wines differently now. The bubbles present in champagne and champagne style wines are simply the result of a second fermentation of a bottle of wine, and although there are many ways to achieve this style, this is the traditional method.
No matter what the science behind bubbles, sparkling wines have been used to celebrate special occasions for a very long time. Associated with luxury, the wines were a status symbol used by nobility at fancy parties and balls. Nowadays we might not consider them a status symbol, but they do represent something bigger than just what they are. They represent a joyous occasion, something a little bit extra. While they are drank throughout the year by millions of people, a popular occasion sparkling wines are used for is New Years Eve.
There is just something about popping that cork and watching the foam try and pour over. New years eve is the perfect time to pick up a bottle of bubbles, and you don’t even have to look very far. We have some phenomenal sparkling wines coming out of Oregon and Washington, although we commonly call them “Brut” wines. To be called a true “Champagne”, the wine must be made in Champagne, France in the traditional style. Many wineries use similar production styles here, and places all of over the world showcase some incredible examples of this type of production.
Right here in Eugene we have two local brut producers. If you have ever gone to Florence via Highway 126 you might’ve seen a sign for Domaine Meriwether. If you haven’t had a chance to stop in yet, you must. They are a local winery that produces their brut by “Methode Champenoise” – that is by the traditional second fermentation in the bottle. This method creates very high quality bubbles. These do run over our $20 budget, but they are more than worth it. I highly recommend the Meritwether Brut Rosé Cuvée 2001 ($45) or the Meriwether NV Discovery Cuvée ($24). These wines are a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay that is locally sourced and aged for an upwards of 10 years. They can be found at most local retailers as well.
Capitello is another fantastic local producer. They have a tasting room right on 5th street and feature many different varietals. Make sure and try their Sauvignon Blancs, one from New Zealand and one from the Willamette Valley. Both of them are made by the same winemaker but the results very delicious but different. They also produce some amazing brut. Made in the traditional style, they are made with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. There are flavors of crisp apples and pears, a light dry finish. It is truly a joy to drink and would pair well with light appetizers or drinks great on it’s own.
Moving up north, there are quite a few options of brut style wines to choose from. Sokol Blosser is right off of highway 99 and makes many different varietals (including some killer Pinots!). Their second label, Evolution, has some awesome frugal options; including Evolution Sparkling Wine. Light bodied, fruit forward, and crisp this sparkling wine is thoroughly enjoyable. A little over our budget at $22 per bottle, this would be a great choice for any celebration (or anytime really!).
Argyle is not just a pattern anymore; it is a winery located in Dundee that specializes in sparkling wines! My favorite is the 2011 Vintage Brut. That year was the coldest year for grape growing since 1954, and this wine is an interesting reflection of that. Full of crisp acidity and ripe plum flavors, this wine is definitely an excellent choice for this new years celebration. Check out their tasting room next time you head up to highway 99, it is located in Dundee and a fun place to stop and try some delicious bubbles.
During my exploration of wines from the Pacific Northwest, I’ve encountered so many delicious wines that come from not only Oregon but from Washington as well. Many of these places are just a short drive away! Chateau Ste. Michelle is located in Woodinville, Washington – a great location for finding wineries that are producing some amazing wines. They produce on a very large scale and distribute all over the country. They have a second label simply called Michelle that produces exclusively brut wines. These wines are an excellent bargain, most of which are sold for less than $15 a bottle. I highly recommend trying the Michelle Brut Rosé or the Michelle Brut, both of which are well under our frugal budget. Available at most retailers, these wines will really give you a bang for your buck.
Treveri is a winery located in Wapato, Washington (near Yakima). They produce exclusively sparkling wines. This is an interesting winery because they make sparkling wines that are a little out of the ordinary like ones made with Riesling and Syrah. Most of their selections are under our $20 budget, and are a steal. Since opening in 2010 they have had a goal of putting Washington on the map for sparkling wines and they really stand out. The Treveri Cellars Sparkling Syrah Brut ($19) and the drier Treveri Cellars Extra-Brut “Blanc de Blanc” ($14) would be my recommendations. They would be a great addition to any party or celebration.
There are so many options for sparkling wines and bruts out there that it can be very hard to decide which one to pick! The nice thing is there are options for every price range, and you can keep it really local by buying some from Eugene or venture a little up north and have something a bit different. By purchasing a bottle of delicious bubbly you are participating in an almost ancient tradition of using these phenomenal wines for celebration. I may add that they are totally great for normal occasions as well – sparkling wines pair perfectly with so many different foods ranging from oysters to popcorn.
It can be incredibly easy to just pick up the cheapest bottle of Cook’s or Andre brut but keeping it local can be super affordable and extra delicious as well. Whatever bubbly you decide to go with, make sure to give a cheer to this past year and to the new one as well. We are onto new adventures, which is exactly what sparkling wines represent. Cheers!