Popping the Cork on Oregon Bubbly
When it comes to celebrating with sparkling wine this holiday season, think local first. Here, Portland Champagne expert David Speer shares his take on the state of Oregon bubbles.
Oregon is capable of making outstanding sparkling wines: we have the perfect climate and we grow the right grapes.
Unfortunately, the cost of making bubbly is high and we don’t see very much produced locally. Sparkling wine involves many more steps than still wine, including a second fermentation, extended aging, a more complicated bottling process, and higher taxes on each bottle.
Wineries either have to have a lot of resources or have to be extremely passionate about fizz to bother with all the headaches and expense of making these wines.
When we do get access to local bubbly, it's delicious. A recent trend in Oregon has been to produce sparkling wine in small batches and sell it exclusively at the winery. The next time you're in wine country, you should certainly check out Apolloni Vineyards, Roots Winery, and Elk Cove—where the wine team is still selling their 1999 sparkling!
If you don’t have time to go out to to the valley, here are my picks for Oregon bubbly available around Portland:
J. Albin Blanc des Noirs 2007, $30: John Albin planted his vineyard in 1981, so the fruit going into this 100% pinot noir sparkler is truly top quality. 2007 was a cooler vintage, so the wine is a bit leaner than in years past, but that being said the wine is a joy to drink. With raspberry notes complimented by minerality, a bit of earth, and a pronounced acidity, it's great with a wide variety of foods.
No discussion of Oregon sparkling would be complete with mentioning Argyle, but rather than talk about the basic brut, I prefer the Argyle Blanc de Blancs 2008 ($50). This elegant wine is 100% Chardonnay from the Knudsen vineyard, with plenty of citrus and green apple notes. I highly recommend spending the extra money and upgrading to the Blanc de Blanc over the Brut, it’s worth it, especially for a holiday celebration. Cheers!
A certified sommelier with a passion for education, David Speer has owned and operated Portland’s Red Slate Wine Company since 2008, offering fine wines with a casual flair (read: un-snobby and affordable). In 2011, Speer opened Ambonnay—the first champagne and sparkling wine bar in the Pacific Northwest—in Portland’s Central Eastside. He was also one of the blind tasters from our 2012 list of the 50 Best Oregon Wines.