We produced our first sparkling wine in 1985—a cuvée of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. We decided to follow the tradition in Champagne where Chardonnay is used for acidity, Pinot Noir for structure and flavor and Pinot Meunier to add fruit and floral aromas. Balancing a sparkling base wine can be challenging as the grapes are harvested at an early maturity with each variety at a different point in development. It wasn't until 1990 that we had enough experience—and courage—to attempt to produce a sparkling wine from Gewürztraminer grapes. When picked early with its light pink skin and tropical-floral nuances, this variety seems to bring acidity, structure and fruit to the base wine all on its own. Summer temperatures in the early, hot 2014 vintage, as compared to the warm 2018 ripening weather, are reflected in the grape's specs. The 2018 was harvested later in the season than the 2014 with slightly higher grape sugars, higher acidity and a lower pH. After tasting the 2018 cuvée pre-disgorging, we decided on a slightly lower dosage than usual, so that the freshness and elegance from the higher acidity receives proper attention.
Placing newly bottled Brut into bins. Sugar and yeast are added to the cuvée which we bottle and seal with a crown cap. The sugar ferments in the bottle creating the effervescence. Two or more years later, the bottles are riddled and disgorged to remove the yeast and then the crown cap is replaced with a cork and wire hood.
The 2014 was disgorged after six years resting on the yeast—the 2018 spent two years—and the richness and toastiness from the extended time sur latte also dictated a smaller dosage, this time 18% less than the first release of the wine in 2017. Both sparklers are delicious and both are only available in limited quantities.
Jim tasting a fermenting wine to determine the aging options.