#Vinopanion #Wine Bits & Pieces: Holiday 2017 Edition

The winter sun, it burns!

The end of 2017 is nigh…that means really good reasons to drink #wine and, in particular, bubbles! And while the Lady and I are lovers and club members of our very local Domaine Chandon sparkling wines, we do have quite a tasty spot for Spanish Cava.  #Cava is the most renown sparkling wine from Spain and an actual DO (or appellation) in the Spanish Denominación de Origen system. Freixenet is one of the most common producers and always a solid daily buy, but we’ve tasted through a ton of good Cava over the years.

Vivino

Another sparkling wine region that has been smokin’ hot the last few years has been Prosecco from Italy.  It has both DOC and DOCG appellations for its finer wines and has been really making a splash in the US market for the last 3 years.  I’m a Featured User for Vivino, and they’ve even put together a list of the 20 most scanned Prosecco wines of 2017 on their app, from thousands of users:

  1. La Marca Prosecco – 3.8 Stars
  2. Casa Vinicola Zonin Prosecco – 3.5 Stars
  3. Valdo Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore Marca Oro – 3.6 Stars
  4. Carpenè Malvolti Prosecco Superiore Conegliano Valdobbiadene Extra Dry – 3.7 Stars
  5. La Gioiosa et Amorosa Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore – 3.6 Stars
  6. Ruffino Prosecco – – 3.7 Stars
  7. Mionetto Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore – 3.6 Stars
  8. Mionetto Prosecco Treviso Prestige Collection Brut – 3.6 Stars
  9. Gancia Prosecco – 3.5 Stars
  10. Mionetto Prosecco Treviso Brut – 3.6 Stars
  11. Allini Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Extra Dry – 3.5 Stars
  12. Mionetto Prosecco Treviso Prestige Collection Extra Dry – 3.6 Stars
  13. Martini (Martini & Rossi) Prosecco – 3.5 Stars
  14. Cavit Lunetta Prosecco – 3.5 Stars
  15. Cantine Maschio Prosecco Treviso Extra Dry – 3.5 Stars
  16. Vini Santa Margherita Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore – 3.7 Stars
  17. La Gioiosa et Amorosa Prosecco Treviso – 3.5 Stars
  18. Nino Franco Spumanti Rustico – 3.8 Stars
  19. Plaza Centro Prosecco Treviso – 3.4 Stars
  20. Cantine Riondo Prosecco Spago Nero – 3.8 Stars

2016 Bervini 1955 Millesimato Prosecco DOC Extra Dry2016 Bervini 1955 Millesimato Prosecco DOC Extra DryThe Lady and I enjoyed a Prosecco on Christmas with her family and the 2016 Bervini 1955 Millesimato Prosecco DOC Extra Dry rather delighted the whole family with its mix of super tasty & zippy yellow apple and peach, alongside some nice yeasty and good floral notes. The wine is imported by Wine Trees USA and was a sample from Balzac Communications.

Hagafen CellarsAnother holiday favorite around the world are kosher wines, of course.  While Kosher wine has gotten a bad rap over the millennia, there are quite a few amazing wines produced in California, as well as around the world, that also happen to be kosher. As Jay Buchsbaum, Executive VP Marketing and Director of Wine Education at Royal Wine Corp states:

To be considered kosher, Sabbath observant Jews must supervise and sometimes handle the entire winemaking process, from the time the grapes are crushed until the wine is bottled. Any ingredients used, including yeasts and fining agents*, must be kosher.

Local favorite wineries in our valley of Napa include Hagafen Cellars, just down the road from Yountville on Silverado Trail. I’ve biked past it while training for my triathlons dozens of times…it’s a beautiful estate and producer of many great, tasty wines!

Short Pours:

  • Hello Penny Bar!
    Photo courtesy of Hello Penny Bar.

    Live in SoCal and need a bar for your party? The very cute, Hello Penny Bar will do just that, complete in a mobile and restored, 1946 vintage trailer.  Sweet!

  • Wines ‘Til Sold Out completed an incredible charity drive for #NapaFire and #SonomaFire victims, raising a total of $17,500 from WTSO members, equally matched by the wine flash sale retailer.  Bravo!
  • USGS geophysicists have recently completed a LIDAR study of Napa Valley vineyards that “suggests that earthquake-related deformation just below the Earth’s surface can be quite different from how it is expressed at the surface,” following the 2014 Napa Valley earthquake.
  • PG&E‘s Wine Industry Efficiency Solutions (WIES) program, in conjunction with its partner wineries, has “saved its customers more than 3.3 million kilowatt hours of electricity and 150,000 therms of natural gas – enough energy to power 246 average homes for one year. The average annual energy cost savings totaled $559,000 per year.”
  • The 33rd annual Winesong 2017 charity event on the Mendocino coast on September 8th & 9th in Fort Bragg was again a huge success, raising more than $700,000 for the Mendocino Coast District Hospital.

#NapaFire: Devastation & Community

The Judge breathes safely during the #NapaFire. #Yountville
The Judge breathes safely during the #NapaFire. #Yountville

The week of October 8th, 2017 was the most bizarre week of my entire life to this point.  The fires that struck the NorCal counties of Napa, Sonoma, Lake, Mendocino and Solano wreaked an incredible amount of devastation, yet as many disasters have shown around the world, it also taught the Lady and myself a beautiful lesson about community. While the #NapaFire flames destroyed much of our beautiful eastern and western hillsides in Napa along with homes, wineries, businesses and farms, it did not destroy the love that binds our Valley together, despite danger and distress.

Smoky sunset over The French Laundry Garden & Mayacamas. #Napafire
Smoky sunset over The French Laundry Garden & Mayacamas. #Napafire

We first sighted the #AtlasFire a little after midnight.  We were celebrating our move with brand new neighbors who happened to have a third story window facing east.  We all saw the flames coming over the Vacas Mountains, but I assured everyone that I had seen many fires during my life in the Valley and never had seen much destruction, much less see it make it down to the valley floor…this was obviously wildly optimistic about the final outcome. The Lady and woke up the next morning with the sun…with no power, cell phone service, internet (not that we had it anyway due to the move) or landline service, we had no idea how badly the fires had already spread.  They were fanned by up to hurricane-level winds (clocked at 55 to 80 mph down the mountain ridges).  Powerlines and transformers were quickly toppled, possible sparking the original fires, but definitely spreading those fires extremely quickly, at times faster than a human can run.  We became worried once we saw the thick, smoky air outside and could not use any powered device or phone at our new home.

Air Support filling up with water at Yount Mill Rd & 29. #Napafire
Air Support filling up with water at Yount Mill Rd & 29. #Napafire

What followed was over a week of incredibly anxious and yet hazy stretches of time where we spent our days and nights pinning down fire updates by our own eye, and updating our friends & family by SM.  We were briefly evacuated in our new home of Yountville, my parents were evacuated for ~3 days from their home in southwest Napa (Browns Valley), while our family HQ was at my sister and brother in-law’s home near my alma mater, Vintage High School.  Our cousins’ home SW of Fountaingrove in Santa Rosa survived with minimal damage, though not all of their neighbors were quite as fortunate.  All in all, we ended up being quite safe and very lucky as a family…the flames came about ~1.5mi at their closest, but were seemingly always threatening one home or another, all dependent upon the winds.  The first, second, third, fifteenth responders that poured their entire, danger-wrought lives into saving people, animals and homes were brilliant and we will never be able to thank them enough for their hardest work and sacrifices.  They came from all over the world in fact, Australia had a corp of firefighters fighting the #TubbsFire, as did Mexico and Canada.

It is in this spirit of support that the Lady and I quickly came to know our new community of Yountville in a very warm and loving light.  Our new neighbors were constantly asking if they could help us move, as the flames and smoke would allow. Bardessono Hotel and Spa was one of the only businesses that stayed open all week, supported by their own generator and with cell and internet service the whole time.  They graciously gave free coffee, power, internet and local news on tv to all locals and emergency personnel. Ranch Market Too stayed open by candlelight to provide goods for sale for locals. Bouchon Bakery provided free coffee and pastries to anyone in town. R+D Kitchen, also on a generator along with neighbor Kelly’s Filling Station & Wine Shop also stayed open and acted as a central hub to exchange news. Lastly, Pancha’s of Yountville, as always, was HQ for locals to gather, blow of stress and steam and find out the latest information from those of us that work for the city and county. Pancha’s, Bardessono, Kelly’s and all of these businesses kept our little village in a tight embrace and worked hard to take care of all of us, as they could.  We can’t thank them enough during that first crazy week.

#Yountville is open! #Napa #wine #food #art
#Yountville is open! #Napa #wine #food #art

And it’s here in Yountville that I think I will finish…feeling so fortunate to be a part of a community of quirky, yes, but loving and fully supportive neighbors; blessed with wine, food, art and fun. Come support the valleys, virtually all of us are open, despite incorrect news reports that abound.  You will find grateful independent business owners and industry workers, happy to serve you during what is typically the highest season of the year.  If you would like to donate more directly, please click on the link below to be taken to the Napa Valley Community Foundation’s Fire Donation site. These funds go *directly* to those in need in Napa County.  Thank you and I hope that all of you are safe and happy, around the world, as your read this post.

     – Ward Kadel@drXeNo#Vinopanion

Mumm Napa Wine Blogger Brunch

Bubbly is a beautiful thing.  Sparkling wine has always been considered a wine of celebration; its intriguing bubbles rising up to toss forth a froth of scented effervescence, enlivening spirits at any accompanying event.  For me however, bubbly, bubbly, and more bubbly is the way that I prefer to shimmy through life.  My lady Elizabeth Fontaine, the beguiling star behind the brightness of my life, would only agree, with a most sensible of nods.  Bubbles are her vinous companion, and at times, her artistic muse.  We go through stretches where there is a bottle of bubbly to accompany each day…the other nice thing about sparkling wine is its low percent alcohol. 😉

And so it was with great fervor that we responded with a resounding YES to an invitation to attend a wine blogger luncheon last December at the renowned Mumm Napa (Twitter, Facebook, WineLog) estate in the Napa Valley, courtesy of Brand Action Team and Thea Dwelle of Luscious Lushes (Twitter, Facebook). As an interesting aside, Spoontonic Lounge (Twitter, Facebook) in Walnut Creek, one of our favorite haunts, has carried the Mumm Napa Napa Valley Brut Prestige for a little over a year.  As a number of us adopted the bubbly as our signature drink, the tasty value non-vintage cuvée spread like wildfire and proprietor Jeffrey Sun has proceeded to clear through a good amount each month.

Beth and I arrived early at the Estate, up on Silverado Trail in the Rutherford AVA.  While we’d had some poor weather earlier in the week, the sun had burst out that winter morning and was almost painfully exhilarating, sparkling through the moisture on the sleeping vines.  We greeted Thea whom arrived a few minutes after ourselves and marveled at the number of people that were lining up to visit the popular winery, prior to its 10am opening.

We entered the winery once the large wooden doors were opened, revealing the courtyard in the center of the property.  There we were greeted by Assistant Winemaker, Tamra Lotz and Mitch Davis. Mitch with his tall, clean looks and high energy, probably immediately brightened the mornings of many of the ladies in attendance.  Tamra Lotz, a fellow Vintage High alumnus and classmate, is the easy-going, highly engaging sort that you’d want to lead you on a tasty tour of her winemaking facilities.

We were also greeted with my favorite sparkling wine of the day, the fantastic 2006 Mumm Napa Napa Valley Devaux Ranch Brut. Made with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and their signature inclusion of Pinot Gris, this sparkler forced me to give it a QPRWK and AwesomeWK wine badges, yet it only clocks in at $36.  That is a phenomenal price for a wine that features this much complexity.  The fruit was sourced from their Devaux Ranch vineyard in Carneros, named for their founding winemaker, Guy Devaux.  I’d summarize my tasting notes on this wine, but I think that it deserves the full breakdown of its deliciousness:

Color: A mix of yellow gold and brighter canary highlights, a very fine bead and frothy mousse.
Nose: Fantastic, with a complex fruit mixture of drier citrus, more rounder tropical fruit and yellow apple. Cream and light brioche is here as well, along with a zing of minerality.
Palate: Also awesome, this shows that same complex mixture of fruit from the nose, along with a beautiful round and yet very vibrant and creamy palate, with that same fine bead. Dustier toast comes in as well, finishing alternating clean citrus and creamier brioche. Extremely good and actually underpriced: AwesomeWK, QPRWK.

With the Devaux Ranch in our hands, we headed off into the winery for a tour of their facilities.  Mumm Napa was founded in 1983, by M. Devaux for the G.H. Mumm Champagne house, based in Reims, France.  The winery is a well-deserved and huge destination in the Napa Valley, with its regular tours, flight tastings, permanent Ansel Adams photography collection, and rotating  photography exhibitions.  While we were there, Media Ant and Mutineer Magazine‘s own Ashley Teplin was showing many of her photos of local food and wine artisans.  It’s no wonder that they host over 130,000 visitors each year!

Tamra took us through the entire winemaking facilities that bright morning, starting with the tank room, where much of the current 2011 vintage wines were undergoing cold storage.  This process allows (harmless) tartrate crystals to precipitate out, naturally leftover in the finished wine from the brightly acidic grapes that go into sparkling and most white wines.  Most of the tanks were caked with frost, their glycol jackets at slightly freezing temperatures in order to get the wine cold enough for full stabilization.  Following the crushpad tour, we had a short blending demonstration, which clearly showed the how each of the varietal wines mentioned earlier can contribute to the wine.  Chardonnay for mouthfeel and pitted fruits, Pinot Noir for cherry fruits and further depth, Pinot Meunier for more darker fruit notes and earthiness and finally, Pinot Gris for more tropical fruits and floral notes.

Walking down the hall back to the tasting room, we encountered…BOB: their large and incredibly efficient robot that handles the bottling and handling of the wines, before they are transferred to the riddling room.  Making sparkling wine is much more manually intensive than other wines.  First you must make the still wine, filter it, and then it is time for the second dose of sugar and yeast that goes in to provide the bubbles.  It is literally a second fermentation in the bottle, for the high end Traditional Method, or “méthode traditionnelle,” as it is called around the world in the French language.  Following that, there is months to years of riddling, or the process by which the eventually spent yeast and their debris is shaken down into the neck of the bottle 1-2x per day, until it is ready to be removed for final bottling, called disgorgement.  The final act is to top off the now sparkling bottle with a syrupy mixture of still wine and sugar, called the dosage, that tops up the wine and creates the proper house balance between acidity and sweetness for that particular label.

Whew!  After all of that info, we were a bit thirsty.  We moved on into a more private area of the main tasting lounge, where Winemaker Ludovic Dervin greeted us with the warmest of smiles coming from his strong, but kindly-featured face and barrel-strength body.  Starting with a brief bio, he then began to walk us through the wines and touching upon the 2011 vintage, one which he described as “really a growers year, [with] a lot of work in the vineyard.”

Starting with the aforementioned Brut Prestige, we then traveled through almost their entire line, in the order listed below.  All of the value wines, up through the Cuvée M, all featured very bright fruit flavors and a ton of crispness in style, with a hint of cream underlying everything.  As we got into their higher end wines, I found two more that entered into my favorites.  The Mumm Napa Napa Valley DVX 2003 featured a ton of complexity, with its brioche and more Old World complexity, still brightened by great acidity and the finest of bubbles.  Additionally, the Mumm Napa Napa Valley Brut Reserve Rosé NV showed off super-crisp red and citrus fruit, alongside a great zing of cherry and minerality.  In all, both Beth and I felt that their line included sparkling wines for any palate.  Ludovic’s engaging personality and delight to answer any question made the tasting all the more entertaining and educational.

Beth’s and my own thanks go out to Brand Action Team, Thea, Tamra, Ludovic, and everyone else at Mumm Napa for the wonderful day tasting their wines and learning about their sparkling winemaking process.

You can find all of the wines listed below from that bright day at Mumm Napa (Twitter, Facebook, WineLog) in December.  They are all tagged with “MummN2011Brunch“, so that you can list them in your own WineLog.  All of the photos can be found on my Flickr in their own set and also on the Vinopanion Facebook page, in their own set. Cheers!

Mumm Napa (Twitter, Facebook, WineLog):

 Mumm Napa Napa Valley Devaux Ranch Brut 2006

Color: A mix of yellow gold and brighter canary highlights, a very fine bead and frothy mousse.

Nose: Fantastic, with a complex fruit mixture of drier citrus, more rounder tropical fruit and yellow apple.  Cream and light brioche is here as well, along with a zing of minerality.

Palate: Also awesome, this shows that same complex mixture of fruit from the nose, along with a beautiful round and yet very vibrant and creamy palate, with that same fine bead.  Dustier toast comes in as well, finishing alternating clean citrus and creamier brioche.  Extremely good and actually underpriced: AwesomeWK, QPRWK.

Mumm Napa Napa Valley Sparkling Pinot Meunier 2008

Mumm Napa Napa Valley Brut Prestige NV

Mumm Napa Napa Valley Brut Rosé NV

Mumm Napa Napa Valley Cuvée M NV

Mumm Napa Napa Valley Blanc de Blancs 2007

Mumm Napa Napa Valley Brut Reserve NV

 Mumm Napa Napa Valley DVX 2003

Color: Medium to finer bead, deeper canary yellow.

Nose: Brioche, bread, earth, dried lemon and yellow apple, all with good intensity.

Palate: Weightier, very yeasty and savory, drier apricot, peach and very dry lemon bar.  Good acid, savory and even showing some slight tannin: OldWorldWK.

 Mumm Napa Napa Valley Brut Reserve Rosé NV

Color: Beautiful strawberry pink, very fine and very robust bead.

Nose: Crisp red fruit underlaid with a nice earthiness and line of minerality.

Palate: Very vibrant feel and zesty acidity, then some weight and rounder fruit comes in, finishing with a citrus and mineral finish: OldWorldWK.

Mumm Napa Napa Valley Santana Brut NV

Mumm Napa Napa Valley Brut Prestige Extended Tirage Selection NV

Mumm Napa Napa Valley Sparkling Pinot Noir NV

 

All wines on WineLog.net from Mumm Napa:

[winelist query=”Mumm%2BNapa” num=”100″]

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