Len Panaggio | Newport Daily News
Sadly, my column missed Mother’s Day so hopefully everyone celebrated with those that have possibly the most difficult and at the same time most rewarding job there is, that being motherhood. I trust the wine selections for the day were commensurate with the job. My choice would have been a sparkling wine and there are many choices available. So, why else should we celebrate?
We are moving into graduation season and it is happening, maybe not like in the past, but still happening. We are getting closer to summer, things are happening. The big reason to celebrate is that our hospitality and small businesses will be able to operate close to pre-pandemic levels, both inside and out. Basically, 100% capacity indoors, with 3-foot spacing, no Plexiglas at the bars and standees allowed at the bar. That is certainly a reason to celebrate. As the covid data continues to be favorable in our state and the general population is getting vaccinated, we are free to be “normal” again. So, a sparkling wine would be in order and most people think Champagne, and why not, it is the benchmark for most sparkling wines. But I would like to offer up a sparkling wine made in California by a Champagne producer, that being Champagne Louis Roederer.
The company purchased land in 1982 in the Anderson Valley which is in Mendocino County, north of Sonoma. It is a very cool climate, much like Champagne, which is the first ingredient to making a great sparkling wine. The wineries don’t want the grapes to ripen much so as to preserve the acidity levels of the resulting wine which makes for excellent sparkling wines. Vineyards were planted in 1984 and the first release was in 1988, Roederer Estate MV Brut cuvée. Roederer likes to use MV instead of Non-Vintage, or N/V which means multi-vintage, which is what Champagne houses do to create their house style wines, a blend so that the wines are basically the same every year.
Anderson Valley is suitable for growing pinot noir, chardonnay, Riesling and gewürztraminer, all cool-climate grapes. Roederer Estate only uses pinot noir and chardonnay though to make their wines, which are two out of the three grapes used in Champagne, the third being pinot meunier. Roederer Estate uses many types of sustainable farming practices such as organic farming and in some vineyards practice the ultimate form of farming, biodynamic farming. They act as very responsible stewards of the land using as much of their waste as possible to recycle. This winery checks a lot of boxes and is one of the reasons I suggest this sparkling wine to many friends. And the best part about it is the price. You won’t go into sticker shock purchasing this high quality wine.
Starting with the brut, you will probably pay around $35 a bottle followed by their brut rosé which should run around $40 a bottle. When you drink these you will surely think you are drinking Champagne as these wines are as close to Champagne as it gets, but without the price. They also make a vintage dated sparkling wine, Roederer Estate L’Ermitage Brut, which is their tête de cuvee (basically, their best wine), again for the money is an extraordinary example of what a first-class Champagne house can do outside of Champagne. This will run you about $75 a bottle, again for the money, a lot of great wine. Lastly, they make a Roederer Estate L’Ermiitage Brut Rosé which is mind-boggling. As you may know from reading these articles, I am a big fan of sparkling rosé wines and with still rosés really coming into their own, the demand for rosé of sparkling wine has jumped as well. This wine will be around $89 and certainly well worth it.
So, why celebrate with sparkling wines you ask? Basically, because of the carbonation the alcohol gets into your system faster and voila, happiness breaks out! But, more importantly, the versatility of sparkling wines with food is simply amazing. And it is sort of like a wine made for our food that we are famous for, that being seafood in all its forms. It also pairs well with foods you probably never thought of. A classic pairing is truffled popcorn, on the couch, watching Netflix. And a popular food item lately is fried chicken and the sparkling wine loves to pair up with that dish. The acidity cuts through the fattiness of the chicken and with a rosé, the flavors seem to pop. Another popular food, especially as we move into cookout season is smoked ribs. More and more people are smoking at home especially since the lockdowns as we are all looking for new hobbies. Again, a rosé will be a great match with the meat falling off the bones. Clearly, because of the inherent properties of sparkling wines, pairing up with our abundant supply of oysters and clams is a no-brainer. But, it works nicely with finfish, especially the oily ones – salmon, swordfish and tuna. And, probably our most craved shellfish, lobster, in all its forms is another great match. Cream sauce, perfect. Macaroni and cheese, and better yet, truffled lobster mac ‘n cheese. So, as you can see, it is an all-occasion wine, not just graduations and weddings. As an aside, nowadays, most of the major Champagne houses are recommending using a Chablis glass rather than a flute to allow the wine’s bouquet to be appreciated.
The mystique associated with sparkling wine needs to lessen, as a wine it has a place throughout the entire meal and should be treated as such. It is not just for celebrations!
I gave my PSA announcement already, restaurants are all but back, concerts are being held, weddings will be happening, so pop open a bottle of Roederer Estate Sparkling wine, sit back, relax and enjoy what is about to unfold-summer in all its glory!!!!
But, above all, be safe, we all know the drill, the virus is still out there!
Len Panaggio is a wine consultant and former corporate beverage director for Newport Harbor Corp. Send feedback and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Wine Press runs each month in The Daily News and online at newportri.com.