Weekend Wine

Countdown to the Holidays: American Sparkling Wines

Back in the Reagan era, the folks at Spanish Cava-maker Freixenet made a gamble on creating a premium sparkling wine from Sonoma, California.

Since they were intent on making sparkling wine that would cost 3-5 times as much as their corporate cash cow (the flat-black bottled Cordon Negro), they were either extraordinarily brave, remarkably reckless, or suddenly endowed with the ability to clearly see the future. Or perhaps all three.

Gloria Ferrer, the person (Photo Courtesy of the Winery)

Their new wine would be called Gloria Ferrer, a tribute to the wife of owner José Ferrer. From the beginning, you could tell that the family had big plans for their American outpost. Still, I have to admit being surprised to find a bottle of their Blanc de Blanc (the French term meaning white of white, but designating that the wine is made solely from Chardonnay) running a breathtaking $50 a bottle. That is right in the sweet spot inhabited by some of my favorite Champagnes like Charles Heidsieck’s Brut Réserve and Louis Roederer Champagne Brut Premier. What would make a person want to leave these Champagnes behind, or even to choose the Blanc de Blanc over Gloria Ferrer’s Sonoma County Brut which is just $19 a bottle?

Photo Courtesy of the Winery

I have the answer: The Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Blanc is fantastic wine, no matter the price. We served it at a party last night and everyone was amazed at the fineness of the bubbles and its perfect balance of tart acidity with just enough sweetness. It really makes you want to spend time thinking about what makes this wine so seductive. As befits a wine with Spanish roots, it was a perfect accompaniment to aged Manchego cheese and a couple of obscure French sheep’s milk cheeses. You can still get stellar American sparkling wines for under $15 a bottle (Gruet and Chateau Ste, Michelle to name two), but this isn’t a wine to compare to inexpensive brands. Instead, it can stand tall among some personal favorites like Ruinart’s Blanc de Blanc or G.H. Mumm’s Maison Mumm Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Brut. Those of you who prefer seafood for your holiday dining will especially love what this Gloria Ferrer wine can do to honor your table.

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