Wine Tasting Dinner: Sparkling Wine



By Kori ~ November 26th, 2008.

This time of year with the holidays rapidly approaching, my “wine” attention tends to focus on bubbly. I absolutely love sparkling wine but do not drink it often enough. However this time of year, I make sure to celebrate with friends and family and enjoy some sparkling wine. With that in mind, it was easy for us to choose the theme for this month’s wine tasting dinner. We selected six sparkling wines to blind taste to help us, and hopefully you as well, choose an excellent sparkling wine to enjoy as an aperitif before Thanksgiving dinner, to take to the in-laws on Christmas, or to pop on New Year’s Eve.

We had a wide range of bubbly in this tasting—three from the United States (one each from Oregon, California, and New Mexico), one from France, one from Italy, and one from Spain. The most surprising thing to us was that they finished in that order in the group consensus rankings; the three U.S. sparkling wines finished 1-2-3, and the one true Champagne finished 4th. The top three wines also received a QPR rating of 5 bangs for your buck. All three (Argyle Extended Tirage, Domaine Carneros, and Gruet) are excellent wines and excellent buys. And even the Freixenet that finished in sixth place is a QPR 5; while not as good as the top three in terms of quality, it is nevertheless a great value in the under $10 price point.

All of these sparkling wines paired nicely with Mom’s dinner menu which included butternut squash soup with curry, mixed green salad, pistachio-encrusted chicken breasts with a cream gravy, risotto, sautéed mixed vegetables, and sorbet for dessert.

If you haven’t had one of the top three sparklers listed below, I encourage you to pick up a bottle to enjoy this holiday season. And if you don’t see your favorite sparkling wine on this list, let us know in the comments as we’d like to try it.

From 1st to last in the group consensus rankings:

1997 Argyle Extended Tirage Brut (Willamette Valley, Oregon): Small, very fast beads. The nose is a bit tight at first. Pear, apple, and hints of nuts come through on the palate. Very crisp and fresh for an 11 year old sparkler.
Quality: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Pete’s Wine Shop (Seattle), $45; Available elsewhere, $37 to $48

2004 Domaine Carneros [Taittinger] Brut (Carneros, California): Aromas of melon and vanilla lead to flavors of apple and a bit of spice. Very crisp and refreshing.
Quality: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: MadWine (Seattle), $21; Available elsewhere, $18 to $29

NV Gruet Brut (New Mexico): Distinct aromas of citrus, especially grapefruit, come through on the nose. Smells a lot like a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Hints of butter and vanilla mingle with the citrus on the palate. Crisp acidity.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)

QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Pete’s Wine Shop (Seattle), $13; Available elsewhere, $11 to $15

NV Pol Roger Reserve Brut (Champagne, France)
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 3 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Pete’s Wine Shop (Seattle), $42; Available elsewhere, $28 to $63

NV Bellavista Cuvee Brut (Franciacorta, Italy)
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 2 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Pete’s Wine Shop (Seattle), $40; Available elsewhere, $29 to $50

NV Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut Cava (Cataluna, Spain)
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Pete’s Wine Shop (Seattle), $9; Available elsewhere, $7 to $8


Filed under: American Wine, California Wine, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, French Wine, Italian Wine, New Mexico Wine, Oregon Wine, Spanish Wine, Sparkling Wine, Wine Tasting Dinners, Wines Over $25, Wines Under $10, Wines Under $15, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25

Reader's Comments

  1. dhonig | November 26th, 2008 at 8:00 am

    Have you joined The 89 Project yet? (http://89project.blogspot.com) If so, I hope you will crosspost this, since several of the wines reviewed above received 89 ratings:

    Gruet Brut NV · Wine Enthusiast 89 Points, Top 50 Value Wine (2002) · Wine Report 89 Points (2002) · Beverage Tasting Institute 89 Points (2004)

    DOMAINE CARNEROS BRUT CARNEROS 2004 – 89 WS

    Pol Roger Reserve Brut NV (89 points) WS

    Also, The 89 Project, in concert with Twitter Taste Live, is holding its first contest. The prize is free wine. How cool is that?

  2. Travels With Wine | January 30th, 2009 at 10:59 pm

    [...] Argyle is one of the most well-respected wineries in Oregon and one of our favorites as well. Their 1997 Argyle Extended Tirage Brut recently won our Wine Peeps’ Sparkling Wine tasting dinner. Of all the Pinot Noirs that we tasted on this trip, the 2006 Argyle Reserve Pinot Noir represents [...]