As promised in Monday’s post, today begins my month long tribute to the wines of the Central Coast. The week that I spent there introduced me to some amazing wines across seemingly limitless brands, varietals, and price points. I figured the only way that I could even come close to talking about my discoveries was to devote an entire month to just these wines. I’ll still find a way to incorporate my Temecula Tuesday articles into this month, but every post I’ll be releasing will have some connection to a wine or winery of the Central Coast. It certainly was fun finding these wines, and I hope it’ll be just as fun talking about them, so let’s get started.
What better way to kick off the beginning of something exciting than with a couple bottles of bubbly? Today we’re popping the cork on Laetitia Vineyard & Winery, and their méthode Champenoise sparkling wines.
I’ve wanted to talk about sparkling wines on the site for some time now, and the variety and consistent quality of Laetitia’s wines give me an excellent platform to do so. There is a lot of terminology that is associated with buying sparkling wines, and these selections are great choices in demystifying the whole classification process. Today we’re going to be talking about a Blanc de Blancs, a Blanc de Noirs, and a vintage Brut Cuvee.
But before we get started, I should probably clarify what I meant when I said “méthode Champenoise” sparkling wines. This term refers to the process used to give these wines their signature bubbles. It is the way that the sparkling wines of Champagne (the region in France) are produced, and is commonly referred to as the “traditional method.” The process involves a second fermentation in the bottle that creates bubbles in the wine. Following the original fermentation which converted the grape juice sugars into alcohol, the wine is bottled with a dose of yeast and some additional sugar. The yeast acts on the sugar, converting it into more alcohol and carbon dioxide. Because the wine is in a sealed environment, the carbon dioxide cannot escape into the atmosphere as it normally would, forcing it into solution, and creating a sparkling wine. The bottle is then turned upside-down to bring the yeast to neck of the bottle, which is then frozen and opened, sending the remaining impurities from the yeast out of the bottle, which is then quickly resealed with a cork.
Wine #1: Laetitia 2006 Arroyo Grande Valley Brut de Blancs
Our first wine is Laetitia’s take on a traditional Blanc de Blancs. Literally meaning “white from whites,” this is a style of white wine made only from light skinned white wine varietals. In Champagne the only grape used for these wines is Chardonnay, but the wine we’re about to explore adds some Pinot Blanc to the mix.
Tart tones of peach and pear dominate the nose. There is a pleasant yeastiness as well that sort of reminds me of water crackers, and tones of white flowers and leaves open up with a spin in the glass.
This wine is very nicely balanced, with a firm crispness playing off of soft white peach tones and delicate floral essences. There’s a mixture of gold and green apple, and a spritzy lemony quality. Fresh, fun, and full of zip, this wine has an easy going quality to it that makes it very appealing. Solid for the price point and…
Worth Trying. 86 points.
Wine #2: Laetitia 2006 Arroyo Grande Valley Brut de Noirs
Our next wine could be seen as the opposite of the first. Made in the Blanc de Noirs, or “white of blacks,” style, this wine is 100% Pinot Noir. Strange as it may sound, producing white wine from red grapes is a very common practice in Champagne. In fact two of the three grapes (Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) used in the region’s wines are red (the white varietal, as previously mentioned, is Chardonnay). By crushing the grapes lightly and then immediately removing the juice from contact with the skins, the winemaker can create a wine that is practically clear, although some may still show the very faintest cast of pink or copper color.
The nose on this wine is just what I expect from a Blanc de Noirs. It’s nutty and buttery, with a deep chocolate undertone running through it. There is some minerality that hints at sea stone, and a spin in the glass brings out some crisp pear and apple tones.
It’s delicately refined, with a ripeness that gives the illusion of the faintest sweetness at the very first sip, even though the wine is actually dry. It’s both crisp and round at the same time, with limestone minerals giving backbone to some very pleasant butter, cream, and chocolate tones. Rosebush and the faintest hint of cucumber appear toward the end and last into a very refreshing finish. This is an elegant wine, and there are some many stages and layers of complexity that subtly mingle throughout it that it takes a few sips to fully understand. Pretty impressive and easily…
Worth Trying. 90 points.
Wine #3: Laetitia 2005 Arroyo Grande Valley Brut Coquard
Our final wine is styled after a classic vintage Brut Cuvee (essentially a special blend). Made up of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, this is a great example of the middle ground between our first two wines.
Yeasty tones and coffee beans introduce the aroma, followed by mixed floral tones and a hint of exotic wood. There are some green apples and Asian pears that give it freshness, and some firm mineral tones as well.
This wine immediately comes across as being very clean. There is a clear mineral water component, and it almost has hints of tonic mixed with crushed seashells or river rocks. It’s actually quite impressive, with a faint leafy quality, some lemon pith, and a faint coffee bean flavor around the edges. This is a clearly Old World styled wine, and it’s very dry and crisp, while still remaining big and mouth filling. It’s quite an impressive, interesting wine, and probably an amazing accompaniment to oysters on the half shell.
Worth Trying. 89 points.
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The Grapevine: What’s your experience with Californian sparkling wine?