Alexa K. Apallas on May 3, 2017 0 Comments A bit of bubbly possesses the magical ability to turn even mundane events into a celebration. The pop of the cork, the fizz of the mousse, and the sparkle of the tiny bubbles floating upward in a flute all combine to add a dash of pizzazz to whatever you’ve got planned—even if it’s as low-key as Netflix and chill. And if you turn your day of wine tasting into a day of sparkling wine tasting, you’ll create some truly special memories. All you have to do is follow the itinerary outlined below. But first, let’s take a look at the difference between Champagne and sparkling wine. Is It Champagne or Sparkling Wine? The only sparkling wine that can truly be called Champagne comes from the Champagne region in France. That’s where you’ll find big-name producers, like Bollinger, Krug, Louis Roederer, Moet et Chandon, and Veuve Cliquot. Cristal, name-checked by countless rap and hip-hop artists, is made by Roderer. Dom Perignon, a well-known Champagne made by Moet et Chandon, is named for the Benedictine monk who is referred to as the “Father of Champagne.” He’s rumored to have said, “Come quickly, I am tasting the stars!” when he first tried wine that had gone through a secondary, in-bottle fermentation, thus becoming what we now know as Champagne. But in fact, this secondary fermentation was something that Dom Perignon tried to avoid because it often caused the wine bottles to explode. He did, however, make many improvements to the quality of the still wines that the Champagne region was known for until its sparkling wines became popular during the mid-1700s. Today, when most people hear “Champagne,” they think bubbles. And the Champagne region protects that designation fiercely by enforcing strict quality standards. Champagne production is a carefully controlled process. Only seven grape varietals may be used: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Petit Meslier, and Arbane. Of these, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay are used most often. Champagne rules also specify that the grapes must be handpicked and hand-pressed, and the secondary fermentation must take place in the bottle. Here’s how the secondary fermentation process works: First, the wine is fermented in the barrel, just like any other still wine. Then, it’s transferred to bottles for tirage, where yeast, nutrients, and sugar are added. All these ingredients interact to form Champagne’s trademark bubbles. Then, the spent yeast, or lees, is encouraged to move toward the neck of the bottle through a process called riddling. The wine bottles are placed on a riddling board and turned just a tiny amount each day. Once the wine has aged to perfection sur lie, or on the lees, and the riddling process is complete, the lees is disgorged—along with a little bit of Champagne. The missing wine is refilled, and sometimes a bit of sugar, known as dosage, is added. Then the cork, the cage, and the foil wrap are added. The foil wrap around the neck of a Champagne bottle was originally used to hide the wine lost during disgorgement, but the Champagne (or sparkling wine) you buy now won’t have that fault. Of course, sparkling wine is produced in many other regions. Spain has cava, Italy has prosecco, non-Champagne regions of France have crémant, and Napa has sparkling wine. If you love Champagne but can’t always afford to splurge, look for sparkling wine with the méthode traditionnelle designation — it means the wine has been made according to the same time-honored processes used for true Champagne. Your Itinerary for Napa Valley Sparkling Wine Napa is home to four well-known sparkling wine producers: Domaine Carneros, Domaine Chandon, Mumm, and Schramsberg. With some careful planning—and reservations made well in advance—you can visit all of them. 10:00 AM — Enjoy the Elegance of Domaine Carneros The Taittinger family of France’s Champagne region founded Domaine Carneros back in 1987. Its impressive chateau offers sweeping vineyard views and a lovely patio where you can sit and enjoy tastes of sparkling (and still) wines. But let’s be honest—you’re there for the sparkling. I’m partial to the Brut Rosé, but if you like your bubbles bone-dry, be sure to upgrade to the Grande Tasting so you can try the Ultra Brut. You can nibble on a cheese plate or indulge in a little caviar if you need a mid-morning snack to go with your sparkling. Details: Address: 1240 Duhig Rd, Napa, CA 94559 Booking: Reservations are required. Reserve online or call 800-716-2788, extension 150 Tasting Fee: flights starting at $30 Visit their website 11:30 AM — Get a Taste of the Good Life at Domaine Chandon Domaine Chandon was founded in 1973 by the French house of Moet et Chandon, and Domaine Chandon wines combine French heritage and irrepressible American spirit. It’s all about embracing the good life, and each weekend, hundreds of people flock to the winery to do just that. Weekdays are just a touch quieter. You can enjoy a quick flight of sparkling wines while standing at the bar in the tasting room, or snag an open spot out on the terrace or the lawn. Chandon offers a menu of cheese plates, salads, and sandwiches if you’d like to have a light bite before heading to your next appointment. Or, if you’re just stopping in for a brief visit before lunch at one of Yountville’s many fine restaurants, you can sample wine by the glass ($9 to $18) or splurge on a sparkling cocktail ($15 to $20). Details: Address: 1 California Dr, Yountville, CA 94599 Drive: Allow approximately 20 minutes to drive from Domaine Carneros. Booking: Walk-ins welcome, but be prepared for crowds. However, reservations are required for groups of 10 or more—call 888.242.6366, extension 2. Tasting Fee: flights starting at $20 Visit their website 1:30 PM — Tour the Caves at Schramsberg Schramsberg’s history dates back to 1862, when German immigrant Jacob Schram settled on Mount Diamond and began planting his vineyards. The gracious Victorian mansion was completed in 1875, and author Robert Louis Stevenson visited in 1880. But in 1912, the winery ceased operations and the property remained vacant until 1965, when Jack and Jamie Davies purchased the property with the intention of making sparkling wine. Domaine Carneros, Domaine Chandon, and Mumm all offer tours of their production facilities, but the Schramsberg cave tour is truly special. You’ll learn about the traditional method of producing sparkling wine and see the riddling racks where workers hand-turn each bottle. The tour ends with tastes of Schramsberg sparkling, of course, and you’ll savor the wines in an atmospheric, candlelit setting. For me, this is one of the most romantic wine tours in Napa. And the sparkling wine is outstanding, as well. Details: Address: 1400 Schramsberg Rd, Calistoga, CA 94515 Drive: Allow approximately 35 minutes to drive from Domaine Chandon, and don’t be late! Your tour starts promptly at 1:30. Booking Reservations required and tour groups are limited to approximately 12 guests. Reserve online or call 707-942-4558. Tasting Fee: $65 Visit their website 4:00 PM — Sink into Relaxation at Mumm Mumm Napa was founded in the late 1970s and can trace its roots back to the GH Mumm Champagne brand in France. Mumm offers lovely views and attentive service—just the right spot to wind down your sparkling good time in Napa. The classic tasting is always a good bet, but sometimes I like to splurge on the DVX tasting. No reservations are necessary in the main tasting salon or on the patio unless you have a group of six or more. On busy weekends, however, you may have to wait for a table. If you want to guarantee your spot, book a reservation on the Oak Terrace. Sit back, relax, and enjoy a flight of limited-production sparkling wines while gazing out over the vineyards. Cap off your visit with a tour of the Fine Arts Gallery, where photographs by Ansel Adams and Wayne Levin are currently on display. And yes, you can sip your sparkling while in the gallery. Details: Address: 8445 Silverado Trail, Napa, CA 94558 Drive: Allow approximately 20 minutes to drive from Schramsberg. Booking Walk-ins welcome in the tasting salon and on the patio. Reservations required for the Oak Terrace. Call 866-783-5826 to reserve. Tasting Fee: $20 to $28 for flights in the tasting salon or on the patio, $50 for the Oak Terrace. Visit their website Congratulations! You’ve packed maximum sparkle into just one day. If you purchased sparkling wine at any of your tasting stops, you can pop open a bottle and re-live the memories whenever you choose. Just be sure you’re storing those bottles properly. Light is the enemy of sparkling wine, and so is heat or any major temperature fluctuation. If you don’t have a cool, dark place in which to store your sparkling, consider investing in a wine refrigerator. And remember, you don’t have to save sparkling wine solely for special occasions. Live it up, and add a little sparkle to a random Thursday. Why not?