As hard as it is to believe, 2020 is nearly finished. A year defined by a deadly pandemic and political and social discord, it’s safe to assume that few will be looking back on the year with nostalgia. And while 2021 is not guaranteed to be easier, the arrival of vaccinations for COVID-19 gives a reason for some hope.
So as the year draws to an end, some celebrations are in order. And what better way to celebrate than with sparkling wine, specifically that from our own exemplary wine-growing state? To that end, we’ve talked to a number of Portland wine experts to get their favorite examples for sparkling local wines, from the big names to the small producers.
Amanda Cannon, co-owner and wine director of Normandie
“Argyle is kind of the OG sparkling producer of the Willamette Valley, and their availability is pretty widespread so it’s a great go-to if you don’t have time to hunt some of these other wines down... With that said, I am totally into the sparkling wines coming from Landmass. The winemaker, Melaney Schmidt, is outrageously talented and passionate about sparkling wines. At Normandie we rock her little pet-nat bottle, a sparkling rose of tempranillo from the Eola Amity Hills. It’s fresh and playful, with notes of apple, strawberry pop rocks, and dusty earth. It comes in a 500-milliliter, so there’s never a worry I won’t be able to finish a bottle myself. Melaney has more ‘serious’ sparkling wines as well... I recently had her sparkling blanc de noir and it sure brings on the holiday cheer, [with] notes of ripe pineapple, pie spices, and candied lemon peel.
“Finally, Soter’s Mineral Springs Brut Rose—also known as Soter Pop—is a common celebratory bubbles in my home. It’s a great wine to hold up to any dish you pair it with, but honestly, this wine is so good it doesn’t last that long. It has notes of crushed berries, lemon zest, and a little toasted nut on the finish. Soter’s bubbles is a little more on the pricey side — it starts a $65 and is pretty limited in production — so not always easy to find.”
Wei-En Tan, owner of Stem Wine Bar:
“Troon Pet tanNat 2019, Roco RMS Brut 2015, and JK Carriere Blanc de Noir 2011. I picked these three because they highlight the diversity of Oregon sparkling winemaking, and also because they are delicious.
“Troon is on one end of the spectrum: a pet-nat of 100-percent tannat, cleverly called pet-tanNat. All natural, certified Demeter biodynamic, lower alcohol, experimental and creative, yet made with such care and skill. Lovely zesty and refreshing notes, bone-dry but with a very slight creaminess on the palate from the natural yeast if you let it linger.
“Roco from Rollin Soles, a traditional champenoise blend and method, [is] still refreshing with high acidity, but tempered by vanilla creaminess. This is a bad description, but it’s like eating a (not sweet) apple pie and washing it down with egg nog.
“JK Carriere’s high-elevation Eola Amity 100-percent pinot noir is kind of an in-between of the two, a blanc de noir that is whole cluster-pressed, neutral barrel-fermented, and made in the methode champenoise tradition. A very serious wine, and I was surprised (and sad) [by] how quickly I finished it — smell and taste converging in a symphonic burst of tanginess and flavor, and so smooth down the hatch it should be criminal.”
Kelsey Glasser, co-owner and wine director of Arden
“I love Flaneur, Extra Brut as a dead ringer for true Champagne. It’s rich and creamy, with tons of brioche and a little toasted almond, but the fact that it’s extra brut means it doesn’t feel heavy at all. Beautiful acidity keeps it light.
“Mellen Meyer has become a bit of a standard-bearer for me in terms of quality local sparkling. Their production is tiny, but they manage to produce multiple different bubbles that are very different in style but whose quality is equally wonderful. I especially love the Chehalem Mountain Riesling for something that is different: highly aromatic with peach, green apple and jasmine. And they have various price points for different budgets.
“Project M Sparkling Rose is a great newcomer on the scene. [The] sparkling rose isn’t Traditional Method but its quality-to-price-ratio makes it a great option. It’s ethereal and pretty—rosebuds and wild strawberries and grapefruit. Would make a great party wine (if those were allowed anymore!). Definitely puts you in the celebratory mood.”
Ron Acierto, creator of Bar Muselet and Pinoy Noir Wine Events
“When I first tasted Jason Lett’s Eyrie Vineyards Spark at a wine event a few years ago... my prayers from the wine angels were answered. This wine is beautifully made. The current release is a blend: Pinot noir, chasselas and pinot blanc. Retailing at $25 to $30, stock up because it is limited in production and [for] the next vintage, we all have to wait until it’s ready.
“If you love Champagne and the classic methode champenoise style, you have some veteran and brand-new players to choose from. Argyle is the original house of Oregon bubbles and a never-to-be missed stop when touring wine country. If you want to splurge a little bit, look for some of their older vintage blanc de blancs (my personal favorites) or, when you’re visiting of their tasting house, ask about the extended tirage. At minimum, these bubbles are aged for 7 years.
“Rollin Michael Soles, one of the founders of Argyle, has a new venture, ROCO Winery, with his partner and spouse Corby Stonebreaker-Soles. ROCO makes two of my favorite sparklers from the valley, RMS Brut and Brut Rose. They won’t break the bank and and are worth every sip. Both of these wines were produced with the utmost precision and clarity, in the style of the old French Champagne houses.
“Forced carbonation wines can be looked down upon by some. There is nothing wrong with them. If you have an affinity for sparkling wines, cava or prosecco, the angels will dance in your glass... Cyler Varnum at Varnum bottled several wines in 375-milliliter format. He calls these “porch style” sparkling wines: Muller Thurgau, Porch-secco, Pink and Party. Its smaller bottles are brilliant for afternoon cocktails and for starting off your evening.
“Bobby Rowett’s focus at Mellen Meyer is now mostly on sparkling. You might have seen... his most recent project, The Vinearchy. This affordable bright wine has great acidity and fine mousse. Pick up a six-pack on your local wine market, you can mix it up with your favorite afternoon cocktails or, when it’s safe for you to host Sunday brunch, a perfect pairing for your favorite style of mimosa.”