Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Bubbly in the Napa Valley

While the Napa Valley is best known for Cabernet, some world-class sparkling wine is produced there. Three of the French Champagne producers have long had outposts in Napa. The first was Domaine Chandon, part of the Moet Chandon empire. This was followed by Mumm Napa, a sister winery to GH Mumm and Perrier Jouet in Champagne and part of the Pernod Ricard group, and Domaine Carneros, which was founded by Champagne Taittinger in 1987.

Of the three, my favorite to visit is Domaine Carneros in the Carneros Region of Napa County. Table service is provided on the terrace in front of the Chateau, a wonderful spot to enjoy bubbly on a sunny day. You can also pair cheese, caviar, and other foods with your wine.

Mumm Napa also offers table service on a sunny terrace overlooking the vineyards. They also have a photography gallery with rotating exhibits and photos by Ansel Adams. Mumm does not offer food pairings, but does have a free tour of the winery. Domaine Chandon tends to get crowded. While you can enjoy your wine at a table, you need to take your glass back to the bar when you are ready to move on to the next wine.

Two wineries best known for Cabernet also offer bubbly. Frank Family in St. Helena is one of the last wineries in Napa not to charge a tasting fee. However, that does not mean the wine is not good. Your visit to Frank Family will start with a tasting of their current release sparkling wines, followed by a tasting of their still wines. Frank Family has one of the friendliest tasting rooms in the Valley. Try to avoid Saturdays as they do get crowded. When Cliff Lede bought S. Anderson to open his eponymous winery, he inherited about 10 years' supply of S. Anderson's bubbly. If you visit Cliff Lede within the next year or two, they should still have some S. Anderson sparkling wine available for tasting.

Schramsberg is one of the premier producers of California sparkling wine. The winery is at the far northern end of the Napa Valley, near Calistoga. Your tasting comes with a tour of the winery that includes a visit to caves built by Chinese laborers in the 19th century. Schramsberg is very popular and tastings, which require advance appointments, tend to fill up early on summer weekends. So plan ahead if you want to see this historic property.

If you'd like to take a private Napa tour that focuses on sparkling wine, please call me at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or e-mail me by clicking here.

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