Champagne and Bubbles in Napa
I wanted to get this blog post out weeks ago, but then I had the genius idea to move my website from Wordpress to Squarespace. It turned out to be a bit of work (not to bore you) but well worth it in the long run. I hope you like the new design even though I am still working on some bugs. Wordpress was just giving me a lot of headaches! Now on to some fun reading. Who’s thirsty?
Ever since an article went viral on research that drinking three glasses of champagne a day to prevent dementia, I’ve just gone with it. Turns out the study was complete nonsense (read more here), but it sure is fun, and that article, like any good virus, just keeps popping up on my feed! Regardless, I firmly believe any good night with friends should start with a glass or two of champagne, or perhaps a champagne cocktail .The French 75 is lovely and easy to assemble- but drinker beware, its deceivingly strong.
Champagne always sets the perfect tone for the evening. Sometimes the problem is stopping - moving onto something else, since it really is so delicious! When hosting a dinner party, we try to have just a few bottles chilled and easily within reach- the rest are hidden away, or there is the real danger that we will all happily sip bubbles the rest of the evening, to our overall detriment.
I am often asked by visiting friends, to put together a full day of wine tasting, and I almost always start the morning with a champagne stop, then progress from there to interesting whites and pinots and finally onto some heavy cabs after lunch. Here are some champagne experiences in Napa that are each special in their own way and would be a great start to the day. Here are a few that I recommend. (I will keep updating as I sample more sparkling in Napa!)
Until they added the new sunroom addition, Domaine Carneros wasn’t really one of my preferred spots. The chateau itself was dark and practically windowless (I guess that is the nature of an authentic chateau) and the small terrace outside had a lovely view but the metal chairs weren’t very comfortable. Now however, not only is Domaine Carneros on my radar, but I would recommend this as a MUST if you are looking for a beautiful view with bubbles, on both sunny and rainy days. I actually gasped when we were led into this beautiful sunroom - that is floor to ceiling windows. It was a rainy day but we were placed in front of a fire, and the views completely dominate the experience. Perched on a hill, you cannot see the cars just below on highway 12, and you almost feel like you are sitting on a cloud or floating in a glass bubble, with just vineyards and sky as far as the eye can see.
On my most recent visit, on the occasion of Galentine’s Day (that’s a thing now!), my friend and I reserved the “Art of Sparkling Wine Pairing” which pairs four chef prepared bites with four of the house sparking wines for $85. It requires a 48 hour advance reservation and is only offered M-F at 11am. The bites had an Asian theme, and as we made our way from left to right our wine educator explained what we were eating and gave us some tasting points on the vintage he was pouring, including the sugar content of each bottle! It was nice to have something to nibble on, especially since these are generous pours. If you opt for this experience you definitely want to have a designated driver or Uber to take full advantage of the generous pours. If I were to go back (which I most certainly will), I would probably just order the sparking wine sampler, which is 2 oz. pours of four vintages for $35 and then maybe order the Sparkling Wine Cheese Plate or Smoked Salmon Plate. Reservations are essential. I am also hoping to try the 90 minute “Art of Sparkling Wine Tour” at some point, which I will be sure to tell you about here! (Let me know if you want to join me!) Our favorite was Le Reve (also their most popular and best selling), and we each bought two bottles as hostess gifts. Link: Domaine Carneros
Davies by Schramsberg
I highly recommend the “Bubbles and Brunch” at Davies! This is a 5 star experience in the Grayson building, a new tasting room in St. Helena. It may be confusing as it is under the name of Davies Vineyards, but this is the family that has owned Schramsberg in Calistoga (see more on Schramsberg below) since 1965. The caviar brunch experience is 90 minutes long and pairs SIX of the Schramsberg sparkling wines with various brunch delicacies, like a quiche, smoked salmon and a dessert, but the highlight is your very own portion of Black River Oscietra Royale caviar. It is amazing and I ate every single ball of it. The cost of this experience is $130 (only $80 for Wine Club members!) but it is totally worth it. You walk away full (but not too full), and very happy. The four of us were in a private room that we shared with another couple and we had a wonderful time getting to know them over the course of the experience. Champagne works wonders to cement new and old friendships. This experience is both intimate and relaxed but elegant at the same time. Link: Davies Vineyards
If you are looking for something a bit more casual, you can make a spontaneous stop at Mumm. Reservations are not required but on the weekends it can get really busy and you may experience a wait. The last pouring is at 5:45pm which means you can make this a last stop of the day, maybe in time for the golden hour. The vibe here is young and laid back, with beautiful views. The experience is best when the outside patio is open but the salon has expansive views. The tasting is only $25-$35 depending on the flight you choose. Try the Santana series, which is the limited series branded bubbles collab with Carlos Santana. A portion of the proceeds go to the Milagro Foundation. The little gift shop sells individual sized bottles, which are nice to have around if your’e planning to binge watch Game of Thrones by yourself…I’m just sayin, that could be fun! Link: Mumm
Every local’s favorite…Schramsberg is a must if you love champagne and the tour guides are always fun and knowledgeable. As you make your way through the dark caves, the tour guides bring the stories to life, including the funny story of the huge carved wooden barrel, and how the Blanc de Blanc came to be served at the White House! The Schramsberg property and caves were brought back to life when the Davies family purchased the property and began making sparkling wine using the authentic champagnoise method, complete with riddling and pounding of the bottles. If you are lucky you might even see them pounding the bottles on your tour! We did and it was incredible to watch and hear. We were members of this club for a while, and only recently stopped but I kind of am tempted to join again. I hate not having a bottle of Schramsberg on hand! Link: Schramsberg