Some inexpensive domestic bubblies...

SAN DIEGO WINESPECTATOR.COM OFFLINE, 12/8/2012 - Carlsbad, California (12/8/2012)

Mr. & Mrs. Racer117 hosted a wonderful gathering with a theme of inexpensive domestic bubblies. All were tasted and scored blind. Racer117 put the pressure on by including one very cheap bottle -- woe unto whomever scored that one too favorably. The other ringer bottle was a supermarket-quality French champagne -- would it stand out among the less expensive domestics? Scores are my own; rankings are by group vote.
As expected in this price range, all of these sparkling wines had a generic, nondescript champagne character of yeasty bread dough, apple or pear, and perhaps a bit of citrus. None of these wines had much sense of terroir, minerality, complexity or structure that would be expected at a higher price point. Nevertheless, some of these wines were delicious indeed, and depending on personal taste, can be recommended as excellent values.

The last wine, a sweet red still wine, was tasted blind but not included in the voting.
  • NV Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut - USA, California, Sonoma County
    Tasted blind along with seven other sparkling wines ranging from $10-35. Clear light straw color. Vigorous mousse with fine bead. Very attractive notes of fresh croissant, apples and ginger. I thought this was French due to its subtlety and finesse. Outstanding value for $15 -- I prefer it to almost anything under $40. My #1; group's SECOND PLACE (tie). (90 pts.)
  • NV Korbel Brut California Champagne - USA, California
    Tasted blind along with seven other sparkling wines ranging from $10-35. Fizzy, like carbonated soft drink. Notes of pear, apple, bread dough. Group's choice for the LAST PLACE booby prize. Did not receive any votes for first, second, or third place, much to everyone's relief when the label was revealed. (82 pts.)
  • NV Roederer Estate Brut Anderson Valley - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Tasted blind along with seven other sparkling wines ranging from $10-35. Light, innocuous notes of apple, pear, bread dough. (85 pts.)
  • NV Louis Roederer Champagne Brut Premier - France, Champagne
    Tasted blind along with seven other sparkling wines ranging from $10-35. Vigorous mousse with medium bead. Simple notes of bread dough, apple, lemon. This was our group's clear favorite, voted FIRST PLACE. (87 pts.)
  • NV Domaine Chandon Brut - USA, California
    Tasted blind along with seven other sparkling wines ranging from $10-35. I simply wrote "yuk." My vote for last place tonight. (75 pts.)
  • NV Mumm Napa Brut Prestige - USA, California, Napa Valley
    Tasted blind along with seven other sparkling wines ranging from $10-35. Simple notes of bread dough, apple, and lemon-flavored beer. Not good. (80 pts.)
  • NV Gruet Winery Brut - USA, New Mexico
    Tasted blind along with seven other sparkling wines ranging from $10-35. Straightforward but pleasant notes of bread dough, apple, pear, lemon, white grapefruit. My #3; group's SECOND PLACE (tie). (88 pts.)
  • NV Argyle Brut - USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley
    Tasted blind along with seven other sparkling wines ranging from $10-35. 63% chardonnay, 37% pinot noir. Very similar to another excellent non-California domestic sparkler, the Gruet from New Mexico. Nice profile of bread dough, apple, pear, lemon, white grapefruit. My #2, group's THIRD PLACE. (89 pts.)
  • NV Manischewitz Concord Kosher for Passover - USA, New York
    The label on this bottle reads "Kosher, not for Passover." 11% alcohol. Tasted blind; served with Twinkies and chocolate. Light-medium ruby-purple. Smells and tastes like sweetened sangria, or maybe rum punch. One taster spat it out and muttered "I hope it's not expensive." LeChaim and Happy Hanukkah!


We breathed a collective sigh of relief as the bottles were revealed. The most expensive bottle ($35) was our favorite, and the cheapest bottle ($10) was our least favorite. Order prevails; the wine universe is secure ... until the next offline.

Many thanks to our fabulous hosts, Mr. & Mrs. Racer117. Cheers and Happy Holidays!
Posted from CellarTracker
Original Post
Javachip,

Thanks as always for the thorough notes. We finished off a few bottles the next night on a round of single blind (just a few CA sparklers) and Gloria Ferrer was the unanimous winner.

Mr. Skyway, I totally agree as both Iron Horse wines are very good. I wanted to finally put to rest which domestic NV brut has the best bang for your buck. I was surprised by the mediocre showing of Roederer Estate on both nights tastings.
quote:
Mr. Skyway, I totally agree as both Iron Horse wines are very good. I wanted to finally put to rest which domestic NV brut has the best bang for your buck. I was surprised by the mediocre showing of Roederer Estate on both nights tastings.

I have had nothing but great luck lately with the Roederer Estate. I don't buy many of the mentioned above due to the lack of quality compared to the Estate.
quote:
Originally posted by Rothko:
Should the two Second Places (tie) actually be First Places (tie)?


No, the rankings are by group vote, whereas the point scores are my own, thus the discrepancy. All but two tasters gave their first place vote to the Roederer Brut Premier. It was the clear favorite of the group, but I personally only ranked it fourth place.
quote:
Originally posted by Rothko:
Should the two Second Places (tie) actually be First Places (tie)?


No, there was a group First, and two (tied) Seconds, so the "third" should have been bumped down to Fourth, Fourth to Fifth, etc.

Funny, I was just looking at the Domaine Chandon Brut at my local grocery store, on sale for $13.99, which is way cheap for that wine here in Michigan. It actually wasn't half bad the last time I tried it several years ago. Based on your notes, though, I'm glad I passed this time. I tend to stick mainly with Champagne, or sometimes step down to carefully select local cuvees from Michigan, which I find are often just as enjoyable as West Coast US offerings.

I agree with others that Scharfenberger, Iron Horse, and Gloria Ferrer have made some of my favorite California bubblies.
'Twas a fun evening. Many thanks to our host and hostess (for the Twinkies Smile).

That was my first time tasting a Manischewitz and it lived down to it's billing. But the most interesting wine of the night for me was the NV Gruet Winery Brut. I never would have thought to give a wine from New Mexico the time of day. But then I've never previously had a wine from there, so what do I know!
quote:
Originally posted by Pippin:
My favorite domestic is Scharffenberger


Never had this until today. A friend had given us a bottle last week, and we decided it would be a good afternoon beverage.
Rather nice, actually. I was pleasantly surprised, and it was more yeasty than I had expected.
quote:
Originally posted by irwin:
quote:
Originally posted by Pippin:
My favorite domestic is Scharffenberger


Never had this until today. A friend had given us a bottle last week, and we decided it would be a good afternoon beverage.
Rather nice, actually. I was pleasantly surprised, and it was more yeasty than I had expected.


I buy some every year and give them about one year of aging and they markedly improve.
Good tasting notes.

quote:
While I'm not a fan of sparkling wine from American in general at all, I think Gruet makes a very drinkable sparkling for $10-$12.

I prefer their BdN.


Surprise I agree with this. The Gloria Ferrer is dependable and not too sweet.

It's hilarious how much bubbly I sell when I'm working. Mostly because I've tasted lots of bubbly at a range of prices. There is one store that is now terminally out of Gruet BdN because I usually recommend that one in that price range (under $15).

I find many of the domestic sparklers oversweet. My current house bubbly ~$15 is Graham Beck Brut (sometimes the Graham Beck Rose).

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