Bordeaux Bubbles? #Winophiles

Crémant de Bordeaux Amelia Brut Rose and Calvet Blanc

Bordeaux… You think rich red wines, Cabernet or Merlot based. Or perhaps you think of Sauternes, those luscious sweet wines from southwest Bordeaux. But when you think of Bordeaux, do you think of bubbles? Probably not.

It’s not easy to find crémant de Bordeaux in the US. I checked local wine shops, to no avail and then searched online. After going through 8 sites, I found 3 crémant de Bordeaux wines on one of the larger sites. I snapped up 2 bottles and noticed when I went back to jot down the details on the wines, that I had purchased the last bottle they had available of one of these wines. (Okay…I did find one by the glass at a local restaurant. More on that later.)

So why am I talking about them, if they are so hard to find? Well, like with anything, supply is often dictated by demand. So let’s increase the demand. Go ask for a crémant de Bordeaux! Let’s get a few more available in the marketplace!

These are delicious sparkling wines made in the traditional method that are a fraction of the price of Champagne!

Crémant

The word “crémant” means “creamy” and refers to the fine bubbles in these wines. (Notice that fine stream of bubbles coming up from the bottom of this glass).

There are some rules for using the term “Crémant”. (Crémants.com)

  • must be within the protected designation of origin (PDO)
  • grapes must be picked by hand
  • they must age for at least 12 months
  • they are made in the méthod traditionelle (Traditional/Classic Method)
  • limit of 100 liters for 150 kilos of grapes pressed
  • maximum sulfur dioxide content not over 150mg/l
  • sugar content is less than 50g/l

Crémant de Bordeaux is one of eight french Crémants.

These are classified by region and include:

  1. Crémant de Loire
  2. Crémant d’Alsace
  3. Crémant de Bourgogne
  4. Crémant de Die
  5. Crémant de Limoux
  6. Crémant de Jura
  7. Crémant de Savoie
  8. Crémant de Bordeaux

***Side note….there is also Crémant de Luxembourg, which is from Luxembourg outside of France. It’s the only place outside of France where the term “crémant” can legally be used. (Wine Folly – All about Crémant Wine)

Crémant de Bordeaux

While sparkling wines have been made in Bordeaux since the 1800’s, the appellation was not official until 1990! While production has been typically pretty low, it’s currently increasing, especially the rosé. Two of the 3 wines I found were rosé. This is probably to be expected in this region. Crémant de Bordeaux is actually one of the largest appellations in France in regards to geographical area with more than 500 different vineyards. (Bordeaux-Magazine-US/The-Ultimate-Guide-to-Cremant-de-Bordeaux)

Vignoble de Bordeaux
Vignoble de Bordeaux

As of 2018 crémant de Bordeaux was selling 6.4 million bottles each year. The overall Bordeaux AOC encompasses 111,400 hectares, 910 of these hectares are designated for Crémant. Most of these wines are sold on the French market, with just 20% headed to export markets. (Crémants.com)

Grape varieties for crémant de Bordeaux

So the other great thing about crémant is that you get to taste sparkling wine from varieties other than the Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier of Champagne. These wines are made from the grapes of the region and for Bordeaux that means…

Red grape varieties for crémant de Bordeaux rosé

  • Merlot
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Malbec
  • Petit Verdot
  • Carménère

White grape varieties for crémant de Bordeaux Blanc

  • Savignon Blanc
  • Sémillon
  • Muscadelle

Primarily, as expected, with rosé you see Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon used for these wine with smaller amounts of the other grapes sometimes. Typically these are Cabernet Sauvignon dominant. For the white sparklings, again, the primary white grapes of the region and they are Sémillon dominant. Keep in mind that rosé just indicates skin contact for color, I had a white crémant that had Cabernet Franc as part of the blend. It was not allowed extended skin contact so it imparted no color to the wine.

On to the Wines

Amelia Brut Rosé

Remember when I mentioned that I found a crémant de bordeaux by the glass locally? Well this was the one. I had already ordered the wines online, when a friend and I had dinner at True Food Kitchen. They offer 3 sparkling wines on their menu and one was the Amelia Brut Rosé. The bartender was kind enough to let me do a bottle shot.

  • Amelia Crémant de Bordeaux Brut Rosé
  • Coupe of Amelia Crémant de Bordeaux

Winemaker notes

  • 85% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc
  • 12.5% abv
  • fermented over 3 weeks in cool temperatures
  • aged sur lie 2 months before bottling
  • rested another 18 months en tirage
  • SRP $23.99

They served this in a coupe and the bubbles were really hard to see, but the wine did feel effervescent on my tongue. When we served this at home, I noticed the same thing. It is aromatic with red and black fruit notes.

Calvet Crémant de Bordeaux Brut 2016

Calvet Crémant de Bordeaux
Calvet Crémant de Bordeaux

Winemaker notes

  • 70% Sémillon, 30% Cabernet Franc
  • fermented at low temps
  • 2nd fermentation 9 months
  • 11.5% abv
  • $16.99 SRP

Made by Calvet

The grapes for this particular wine hail from the Entré-Deux-Mers region of Bordeaux. Entré-Deux-Mers means, “between two seas” which indicates it’s location between the Garonne & Dordogne rivers in the central part of Bordeaux. (You can see this on the map above.)

Sémillon is the main grape used in the sweet white wines of Sauternes. It’s also one of the major varieties from the Hunter Valley in Australia, where we were able to taste quite a few dry sémillons. This variety ages very well developing nutty flavors.

Pairings

Suggested pairings for the Amelia rosé included “flavorful cheeses, fresh seafood or meats, like duck, chicken and pork, with flavorful, fruit-based sauces”. The Calvet…well, it was tougher to find information, but I found mention of serving it on it’s own or with dessert.

Crémant de Bordeaux snack pairing with berries and cheese crisps.
Crémant de Bordeaux snack pairing with berries and cheese crisps.

After a small snack of raspberries, black berries and cheese crisps, I settled on surf and turf for dinner! We did a simple salad with crab and then bacon wrapped filets that I topped with a berry sauce. (Blackberries, raspberries, rosemary, sage, red wine, salt, pepper and worcestershire sauce). We finished off the meal pairing with apple turnovers. (Yellow fruit? That’s all I could come up with).

Crémant de Bordeaux pairings, crab salad and bacon wrapped filet with berry sauce
Crémant de Bordeaux pairings, crab salad and bacon wrapped filet with berry sauce

The Calvet went well with the crab salad, the Amelia Brut Rosé was heaven with the steak. The berry notes pulled to the front with the berry sauce and the fat in the bacon was balance beautifully by the acid in the wine. You know, bubbles, they are just really wonderful. They are joyful and they clean your palate making each bite as delicious as the first. I was sad when my steak was gone.

Calvet Crémant de Bordeaux with apple turnovers
Calvet Crémant de Bordeaux with apple turnovers

The Calvet went beautifully with the dessert, nicely playing off the sweet softness of the apples.

More on crémant de Bordeaux

While I was only able to find these two crémants, I do have a friend in Bordeaux who wrote a piece on one of the larger producers in the region. Les Cordeliers where they have been producing sparkling wines for over 120 years. It’s well worth the read and has some stunning photos.

Jennifer has tons of great insider information on the Bordeaux Region that you can find on her site Bordeaux Travel Guide.

The French #Winophiles

Of course the reason we are discussing crémant de Bordeaux is because it is the French #Winophiles topic for March! (Thanks Guys for an excuse to drink Crémant!) You can join us on Saturday March 21st at 8 am PST on Twitter, following #Winophiles to join the conversation and hear about all the Crémants we all tasted! Then for more info…check out all the pieces below!

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.

Ballard Canyon, Santa Barbara’s newest AVA

Windmill on Saarloos & Son's Windmill Ranch Vineyard

Ballard Canyon is the newest of the AVA’s in Santa Barbara County, established in October of 2013.  This relatively small AVA encompassing only 7,800 acres sits at the center of the Santa Ynez Valley with Los Olivos to the North East and Solvang to the South. It produces Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Roussanne, Sangiovese, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah and Viognier.  Syrah accounts for almost half of the planting.

ballard canyon ava

ballard canyon ava

Ballard Canyon runs North-South, which protects it from the winds coming through the transverse valley than runs through the Santa Ynez Valley.  Happy Canyon is thought of as the warmest part of the region with daytime temperatures of 102, but it also drops to 48 overnight.  Ballard canyons highs are a little lower, but their nighttime lows are also a little higher, this allows the  grapes to stay warmer over night and warm up more quickly in the morning.

There are 18 Vintners and growers in the Canyon and 6 wineries:  Larner, Stolpman, Rusack, Saarloos & Sons, Jonata & Beckmen.

The first vines were planted in this area in 1974 at the Ballard Canyon Winery.  Today this property is Rusack Vineyards.  The 17 acre estate was replanted in 2003 with varieties of grape that would capture the character of Ballard Canyon.  It is now planted in Sangiovese and Syrah primarily with bits of Savignon Blanc, Semillon and Petite Sirah.  Everything is farmed in small lots.

The Rusack’s bought this property in 1995 and in 2013 hired Steven Gerbac to be their winemaker. In addition to their Ballard Canyon property, the Rusack’s have a newly planted vineyard on Santa Catalina Island (but that story is for another day).

The winery is set back in on the property and you follow the winding drive through the old oaks to their tasting room. They have a lovely redwood deck on the front of the tasting room with tables and great vineyard views.  It is shaded by the oaks so it makes the perfect spot for a picnic.

Larner is on the southern end of Ballard Canyon.  When Michael and Christine Larner purchased the land in 1997 it was nothing but sage and chaparral with Texas Longhorns on the property.  Now the 34 acres of vineyard include 23 acres of Syrah, 6 acres of Grenache and smaller plots of Viognier, Malvasia Blanca and Mourvedre. For a number of years they sold fruit to wineries, but in 2009 they began making their own.

Michael Larner is also the instigator behind the Ballad Canyon AVA.  In 2010 the vintners in Ballad Canyon gathered to coordinate an event on Syrah.  Michael got them together again after the event and recruited Wes Hagen  of Clos Pepe to help them develop plans for creating the AVA.

You can visit the Larner Tasting room is located in Los Olivos.  They hope eventually to have a beautiful tasting room on their property in the old Ballard General Store.  (again, another story for another day)

Tom Beckmen purchased a 365 acre hillside property in 1996 that is now Beckmen Vineyards.  With elevations of up to 1250 feet, this property would become the Purisima Mountain Vineyard. Tom & his son Steve farm this property and  they are certified biodynamic. They vineyard is planted with seven clones of Syrah that fill 18 blocks, five clones of Grenache that fill 8 blocks and smaller plantings  of Counoise, Grenache Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rousanne, Marsanne, Mourvedre and Sauvignon Blanc. The soils here are clay and clay loam with a limestone subsoil, which while typical of the soil in Rhone, is a rarity in California.

Their tasting room is at the winery and is south of Los Olivos.  Take a picnic and enjoy the views from one of the three gazebos at the duck pond after your tasting!

Stolpman was founded in 1990 by Tom & Marilyn Stolpman.  This vineyard in the limestone hills was turning out fruit for cult wines like Sine Qua Non & Ojai Vineyards, until in 1997 they started producing their own wines.  Their winemaker Sashi Moorman (who also works with Sandhi & Evening Land) joined them in 2001 and works closely with the Vineyard Manager Ruben Solorzano.  They have experimented with high density plantings and dry farming.  They produce Syrah, Roussane, Sangiovese, Sauvignon Blanc with limited plantings of Grenache, Viognier, Petite Sirah and Chardonnay which they mostly use for blending.  Today Tom’s son Peter manages the vineyards and winery.

Stolpman's Little Red Cottage tasting room in Los Olivos

Stolpman’s Little Red Cottage tasting room in Los Olivos

You can find their tasting room in Los Olivos on Alamo Pintado, in their little red cottage.  The cottage has fables. One says it was moved here from Arroyo Grande in the early 1900’s. Another claims it was built from scrap lumber from an old military barracks.  Regardless the Stolpman’s have filled it with a great staff and designed a Tuscan inspired bar. Plus they have a picnic area under the persimmon tree out front.  In the summer they even have a farm stand with local produce.

Jonata (pronounced Ho-na-ta, which is the Chumash word for “live oak”)has an 84 acre vineyard with sandy soil planted in Syrah, Sangiovese, and Sauvignon Blanc.

When they originally bought the property the French vineyard expert they brought in found only 5 acres of land on the 600 acre property that he felt were suitable to growing grapes.  Matt Dees joined them in 2004 as their winemaker and Ruben Solorzano is their vineyard manager.

Here there is extreme detail in the growing.  Each shoot and cluster is individually manicured.   Lots are separately pulled from each distinct part of the vineyard and put into different barrels or tanks before blending.  Well known French wine expert Michel Rolland comes in to check aging potential before bottling.  As a result of all of this extra attention and the fact that if a vintage doesn’t live up to their standards, they simply won’t produce a wine from it, these bottles can run up to $125 per bottle. Their 2010 La Sangre  de Jonata Syrah was given 97 points by Wine Advocate.

A little back story.  This winery is owned by Stanley Kroenke, a real estate developer who owns the Dever Nuggets and the Colorado Avalanche.  He is also one of the leaders of the consortium that purchased Screaming Eagle.

Wines here are only sold through the mailing list. http://jonata.com

Windmill on Saarloos & Son's Windmill Ranch Vineyard

Windmill on Saarloos & Son’s Windmill Ranch Vineyard

Last but not least I will mention Saarloos & Sons.  Their Windmill Ranch Vineyard lies within this AVA.

Saarloos & Sons is a family business that is 4 generations in the making.  Each of their releases is unique and is never duplicated.  Their goal is to capture the year in a bottle and bring you a high quality wine that they name in honor of a family member.  They have a 250 year plan, thinking not just for the next generation but for the next 50.  Their goal is “Honoring + Preparing”  and their wines are heartfelt and unique.  Their winemaker and resident chronicler is Keith Saarloos.  Check out the blog for amazing vineyard videos and for philosophic posts on life, family and farming (amongst other things).

And head to their tasting room in Los Olivos.  If you are lucky, Brad will be there and will fill your glass and your spirit as he passionately talks about the wines and his family that made them.

And…have to mention, if you are there on the weekend, try the cupcake pairings!

Saarloos & Sons

Saarloos & Sons tasting room in Los Olivos

Over the upcoming Vintners Spring Weekend you will be able to taste many of these wines at the Grand Tasting on Saturday April 12th.  In addition, Steve Beckmen will be leading a Vineyard Hike with with wine at the Purisima Mountain Vineyard on Friday Spril 11th.  Larner will be pouring wines at the Barrel Toasting Seminar and Tasting at the Buellton Bodegas on Friday evening. Also Friday evening Beckmen and Larner will be pouring at the 90+ Wine & Dine event at the Fess Parker Doubletree Resort in Santa Barbara.  Beckmen will also be pouring on Sunday at the Farm-to-Table Picnic at the Fess Parker Ranch.

2013 Spring Vintners' Festival at the Mission Santa Ines

2013 Spring Vintners’ Festival at the Mission Santa Ines

Visit http://www.sbvintnersweekend.com  for all the Spring Weekend Events or http://www.sbcountywines.com for anything you want to know about the Santa Barbara County vineyards or wineries.

Wilson Creek, so much more than Almond champagne

Wilson Creek Sign Art in Oil

I will admit to a bit of snobbery.  I really had no desire to go to Wilson Creek in Temecula. I mean you find bottles of their Almond champagne in Long’s Drug Stores (well you did when they were around).  I figured how could they be creating wine I would like to drink?  Well… there is a lot more to them then the Almond champagne.

Wilson Creek is located at the far east end of Rancho California Road and it is rare that you will get there and find the parking lot not full.  While the grounds are huge and beautiful, a favorite for weddings and the buildings and event center large and impressive, this is still a family affair at heart.

Wilson Creek View

Wilson Creek View

Gerry and Rosie Wilson acquired the 20 acre vineyard in 1996 with the simple intent of running a fun family business and making great wine. With the entire family, children and grand children as well as 5 golden retrievers who can be seen often on property, they have succeeded in making this a family affair.

The Lower Garden is open to parties of 10 or less for picnicing. They just ask that you don’t come to camp!  No tents or shade covers, ice chests or animals and no outside alcoholic beverages.

The Creekside Restaurant offers a menu for lunch that can be enjoyed around the grounds.  You place your order at the Concert Stage and it will be delivered to you in the upper garden.  You can enjoy this in the lower garden also, but you will need to pick up your order.  The menu includes a variety of lunch items as well as a full wine list, beer and other beverages.

With their Event Center Wilson Creek stays busy with Corporate Events and private parties.  The Event Center includes 3 spaces that can accommodate 50-300 people each with a dance floor.  In addition they have two stages that can accommodate up to 400 guests.  Really this place can be party central for 6 or 7 large parties at time!

Bill Wilson is the son and owner.  He works with his Mom & Dad, Brother & Sister, Wife, brother in law & sister in law.  (Did I mention that this was a family affair?) Bill’s Mom and Dad can often be seen on the grounds with their two golden retrievers. They have 92 acres and grow 12 varieties on the estate and then source some grapes.  The varieties used in their wines include: Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Muscat, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Barbera, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Mourvedre, Petite Sirah, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Syrah and Zinfandel.  They also . When you listen to Bill you know that you are not dealing with a corporation, this is a joyful family affair.  They incorporated what they loved about the wineries they visited when they created Wilson Creek.  And it’s not just about their winery, they want to promote Temecula and encourage people to come and taste, enjoy and learn.  Listen to the great interview with him at http://www.temeculawines.org/videos/ and see exactly what I mean.

I didn’t think it was possible that Wilson Creek used Methode Champenois for their almond champagne, and I was right. There is no way they could do that and sell it at that price!  What I was surprised by, was that they do use the Charmat method which is fermenting the wine in bulk in stainless steel tanks!  The final method they actually refer to as “cheating” on their site.  In this method CO2 is injected into the wine.  Typically this method causes very large bubble that can cause Huge headaches!  They do not cheat at Wilson Creek.  They do, by the way have a wonderful section of their website on wine education called Wine 101 that Mick Wilson put together with fascinating information on Barrels, Port, Champagne, Wine Varietals and much more.  http://www.wilsoncreekwinery.com/Wine-101/Default.aspx

Wilson Creek Picnic View

Wilson Creek Picnic View

The next time you are in Temecula, drive all the way out Rancho California to Wilson Creek, taste some wine, stroll the grounds and say hello to the Wilson’s.  You will know them by the golden retrievers at their sides!

Part of the Family at Doffo

Doffo Front

I love to research wine country.  Before a trip my planning stages can take more time than the trip itself.  I’m a bit obsessive about this.  Now don’t think that I’m also a control freak.  I tend to also build in multiple options and once we are in wine country I go with the flow.  Well in my research, one of the wineries that I have really wanted to stop by was Doffo. Last year when we were in Temecula they were only open for tastings on weekends, so they were a definite stop on my list this trip.

Doffo Tasting Room in Oil

Doffo Tasting Room in Oil

Doffo is a family owned winery that is almost the last winery as you head east on Rancho California Road in Temecula.  This is a newer winery that was founded in 1997 by Marcelo Doffo.  The family decends from Italians who immigrated to Argentina in the early 1900’s.  Marcelo grew up on his grandfather’s farm in Pampas Argentina.  In the 80’s he traveled to Italy to the northern part of Turin and found his great uncle still making estate wines.  In 1997 he bought the property in Temecula. The logo is an homage to the schoolhouse that used to be on the premises.  If there is one thing Marcelo loves as much as wine it is motocycles.  Be sure to stop by on weekend mornings to get to see the MotoDoffo exhibit in the barrel room.

Doffo Bottles behind Bar

Doffo Bottles behind Bar

We strolled the grounds a little when we arrived, they have a beautiful covered patio next to the tasting room and the residence.  The tasting room was busy and lively and just the right size.  It had a really warm feeling that is the essence of their motto “Visit us once and you are family forever.”  We did a basic tasting and look forward to going back for a reserve tasting.  All the wines here were beautiful and well balanced.  We tasted their beautiful 2011 Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc as well as the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2010 Petite Verdot.

On the wall behind the tasting bar was a shelf filled with wines in gorgeous bottles.  These are the higher end reserve wines.  The Library reserve Zinfandel and the reserve Syrah both of which go for $150 per bottle. These were made it very small lots.  We also tasted some of their chimichurry sauce and left with a jar.

After our tasting I asked for a map for their self guided walking tour.  This lovely stroll around the property was relaxing and informative and is well worth the time.  The tour takes you out of the tasting room past the residence and patio where some of Marcelo’s motorcycles are on display.  You wind around and see the Doffo windmill some of the beautiful terracing they have done then stroll through the Malbec to the front of the property the original stairs to the old school house and the olive tree on the corner of the property before heading back up to the tasting room.  They also make olive oil and infused chocolates.

This beautiful tiny winery has terrific wines and a great atmosphere.  Next time you find yourself in Temecula be sure to stop by!


DOFFO WINERY, TEMECULA, CA from Crushed Grape Chronicles on Vimeo.

Baily Vineyard and Winery – Wines worth stopping for

Baily Vineyards Sign

We have been to Temecula several times and I have done lots of research on the area and one of the wineries that our radar just kept missing was Baily.  As you drive on Rancho California Road from Temecula it is on the left  just past Europa Village.

Baily Tasting room

Baily Tasting room

The grey stone building is dotted with vines and houses the tasting room as well as Carol’s restaurant.  This is one of Temecula’s oldest wineries and produces all Estate grown wines.

Baily Vineyards lion sculpture

Baily Vineyards lion sculpture

Walking in you notice the sculptures, the angels and gargoyles and then walking into the restaurant are greeted by a big warm fireplace, suits of armor and tapestries.  It’s a little medieval.  They also have a patio outside for al fresco dining, but the fire looked much better to us on this slightly chilly day.  I had a lovely Sangiovese rose with lunch.  They have Dog Day Sundays where they encourage you to bring your well-behaved pooch to enjoy lunch on the patio. They have music as well as a doggie menu!  Decorated for the holidays the tree was up and some of the gargoyles were wearing Santa hats.  They have a small stage in here for music. After lunch by the fire we headed into the tasting room.

I had no expectations here.  I had read brief descriptions on their website and other than that all I knew was that they had been producing wines here for 25 years.  We were welcomed to the tasting room and Bill took care of our tasting. Bill is full of great information on the Temecula Valley and the winery so we chatted it up during our tasting.

The Baily’s bought this property in 1982 and they mostly grow reds.  All the grapes are estate grown and their wines tend to be dry. They produce about 5,000 cases each year.  They do age in small oak barrels typically for 30 months which is a pretty long time.  The wines were smooth and well-balanced without being fruit bombs or being over-oaked. We tasted the 2010 Montage which is 56% Sauvignon Blanc and 44% Semillon.  This medium bodied white wine was rounded on the palate with a nose of lemon and lime and crisp granny smith apple.  This had been used in my pasta sauce at lunch and was very nice.  The Malbec is from newer self rooted vines planted in 2004.  This wine gave you berries with deep flavor and a long finish.  The 2009 Cabernet Franc was long and smooth and very well-balanced.   Lighter than most Cabernet Francs it had a hint of chocolate.  The 2009 Merlot was especially good and with a $20 price tag is a steal. The atmosphere the information and the wines will definitely bring me back here.  We will also try to stop by their other restaurants downtown.  Their son and daughter in law run Baily’s Elegant Dining and the Front Street Bar & Grill in Old Town.

So put Baily on your radar, these are wines worth stopping for.