Monday morning began in the most spectacular way–with a blind tasting of rosé Champagnes. Hosted by Hugh Davies, the vintner at Schramsberg, at Bar American, this Napa sparkling wine estate dared to pit itself against the some of the best known producers of rosé Champagne.
With six sparklings to sample, we sat silently, sipped, scribed notes, and ranked. With not a bad wine in house, the scoring was tough, requiring one to retain the character and traits of all six wines at once. How much weight does one attribute to aromas vs. flavors vs. mouthfeel and mousse? It’s all about individual preference–each taster free to decide what she or he thinks it takes to fill a glass. And after the blind tasting we went on to sample other wines from Schramsberg, including food and wine pairings, but for this post, I’m highlighting the first flight.
Wine A–Perrier-Jouët Rosé 2002–With mousse that foams like a cloud, the Perrier Jouët has aromas of strawberry biscuit. Red fruit acidity rises through yeast, aiding the development of a structure that’s built on bones of minerality.
Wine B–Krug Grand Cuvée Rosé Multi-Vintage–Bright red fruit initiates the structure, lending itself to the wine’s austerity. With subtle minerality on the nose, and a cherry yeastiness, the bubbles are fine, but the mousse is less ambitious than that of the Perrier-Jouët.
Wine C–Louis Roederer Cristal Rosé 2002–Yeasty on the nose, with a whiff of cherry essence. Fruit forward, but soft, with stony minerality that follows on the heels of natural sweetness. The finish is lean and the flavors are divine, but the texture leaves me searching for bubbles rising from the bottom of the glass.
Wine D–J. Schram Rosé 2000–Raspberry, cherry, and minerality–toasted aromas–yet earthy and slightly herbaceous with lovely mousse. The elements are seamlessly integrated and balanced.
Wine E–Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame Rosé 1998–Aromas are too subtle to detect, but I had just come down with a cold and so…my nose was limited. The initial red fruit is quickly toppled by acidity that soars through the roof, leading to a finish that ends on a woodsy note.
Wine F–Dom Perignon Rosé 2000–Yeasty minerality and soft fruit on the nose, the palate is fruit forward and friendly. There’s a stone fruit pit finish and funkiness that draws me in…As Mariko observed, It drinks like a red wine.
Believe it or not, J. Schram Rosé won. I actually ranked this wine #1, because it’s straight forward and the integration resulted in a simplicity that was easy retain. As much as I LOVED the Cristal, it did leave me wanting more bubble bang for my (unpaid) buck.
Second place went to Cristal, and third to Perrier-Jouët. Krug came in fourth, and fifth surprisingly went to Dom Perignon, which was such a shame. The Dom stood out five heads above the rest, and though I voted it #2, I immediately regretted not making it my first choice. Veuve Clicquot came in last, for me and most everyone else in the group.
I regret that my nose wasn’t 100%. I wonder if, and how, my notes and rankings might have changed if I’d participated with a clear and open palate…
Thanks to the folks at Schramsberg for hosting such a fun event!