If you love champagne, a trip to California wine country should send you into realms of wine and food ecstasy. You’ll want to visit the prime champagne growing areas: The Russian River and Carneros, which straddles Napa and Sonoma County.
Technically, there are only a few California wineries allowed to use the word “champagne” when describing their bubbly. A group of European vintners went semi-nuts, proclaimed the appellation theirs, and that was that. The CA wineries that may use the word champagne are those whose families have been producing champagne in France for centuries, and often use some of the same root stock. CA champagnes are called sparkling wine or champagne-style wines, but a rose by any other name.
Both the Russian River Valley and Carneros have cooler climates than the rest of California wine country. Carneros is misty from the sea, and the Russian River is a micro-climate of Sonoma County made moist by the forests, redwoods, and the River rolling to the ocean. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes love morning mist, and most champagne-style wines are a combo of these two.
From one end of the spectrum to the other, look for a blanc de blancs champagne if you prefer the lightest, most delicate champagne. This is made only from chardonnay grapes. A blanc de noirs is still a white wine, but it’s made from the darker skin grapes, usually pinot noir, so it has a fuller body.
You may prefer the blanc de blancs during hot summer days, and the blanc de noirs for your holiday table.
Rosé, a wine of the past, is quickly gaining in popularity. When rosé wine is fermented to create a champagne-style wine you have pink champagne, conjuring up images of Marilyn Monroe or suave French men drinking champagne from a lady’s 4” silk stiletto pump. Pink champagne and rosé are both made by adding a bit of red wine to a mostly white blend.
Drink California champagne and voilà! It’s celebration time!