In what was meant to be a multi-part series of sparkling wines of the Pacific Northwest, I present to you the first of our one part series reviewing sparkling wines of the northwest. Why one part? A few reasons, actually. One is that not a whole lot of people in the northwest make sparkling wines. They're expensive to produce, require specialized equipment, and take way more time to finish. Beyond that, there's just not as much of a market.
We hit up all of the big players and only heard back from two; Domaine Ste. Michelle from Paterson, Washington and Van Duzer out of Dallas, Oregon. Domaine Ste. Michelle delivered three of their varieties to try and Van Duzer one, so let's get it on.
Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut
This offering is described by Domaine Ste. Michelle as not too dry and not too sweet. Think of it as a utility wine for any occasion. Notes of apple and citrus are listed with a lightly toasted finish.
*Pop* "OH SHIT!"
Our first popping didn't go so well. After the cork shot on top of our kitchen's cabinetry, wine immediately poured over our floor. Turns out we're not as skilled with popping a sparkling wine as we are with popping a traditional cork.
Megan: "Bubbles are extra fun. In your mouth they chill and then they pop. Then they hang out and then it's like BOOM"
Josh: "Smells kind of like a pinot gris. Fizz on the start and a bit of acid on the finish" Doesn't taste cheap
Chris: "Incredibly dry, but nose is incredibly sweet. Surprised by dryness. Disappointed of its dryness because of how deceiving the nose is."
Domaine Ste. Michelle Blanc de Blancs
This wine is the driest of Domaine Ste. Michelle's offerings and is described as having pear and apple aromas, which makes sense since it is 100% chardonnay. We're all big fans of chardonnay, so let's start sipping.
Gordon: "It's sweeter. Both tastes and smells sweeter, and it passes quicker. So far my favorite because it's more complex."
Kathryn: "Does kind of pop on your mouth at first, but then fades quickly. It's like a pop rock. You could get drunk on this at a wedding, Whoohoo!"
Josh: "I smell a little more Chardonnay on that one. Less acidic and doesn't stay on your palate as long. Got some pineapple on the nose."
Rick: "Very one dimensional. Perfect for a wedding."
Alyssa: "Like an explosion of yumminess on your mouth"
Van Duzer Methode Champenoise Oregon Sparkling Wine
Made by true Methode Champenoise process, the 40% Chardonnay, 60% Pinot Noir blend marries aromas and flavors of honeyed pear, apple and toast, carried effortlessly aloft on tiny bubbles. I'm a big fan of pinot-based sparkling wines and absolutely loved the previous chardonnay-based one, so this should be exciting.
Megan: "Get some cinnamon, we'll have some cookies."
Josh: "This is very tight. Relatively dry. I don't think there's any sugar in this. Flavor of grapes actually come out with this. For a more sophisticated palate. Close second favorite."
Gordon: "Holy shit man. Raisins, holy shit I smell raisins. Write that shit down."
Rick: "The most complex of the three so far. Like it much more than the second and marginally more than the first. Dry enough to wine over brut fans."
Chris: "Very brightness, feel an "oooh" and eyebrows go up. A little baked good action in the nose, I could see raisins in the nose"
Domaine Ste. Michelle Blanc de Noirs
This pinot noir-based sparkling wine is billed as having spicy ripe raspberry and strawberry hues. It's classified as medium-dry and is our only 100% red-based sparkling wine for this series.
Kathryn: "Smell doesn't bug me as much as the last one. Reminds me of the second one. Favorite so far."
Gordon: "It's dryer than the last one. This tastes like the second one where the taste goes away quicker. Favorite of the four."
Josh: :Has an off-sweet nose. Favorite.
Rick: "Plum on nose, pomegranate. Favorite of four."
With four very different sparkling wines, the six of us all learned a lot about where each others tastes lie. The Blanc de Blanc and Blanc de Noirs ended up being the two highest rated, at least tells me that this particular group likes medium-dry sparkling wines of one grape varietal. The Van Duzer mixed approach didn't go over as well with some, but at the same time it really won over others. Like all wine, taste is subjective.
A huge thank you goes out to Domaine Ste. Michelle and Van Duzer Vineyards for helping us out with this review. While there certainly aren't as many wineries doing sparkling wine in the Northwest as in California, the wines themselves are phenomenal. Do yourself a favor and pick one up.