Check out our experience with sparkling wine in Sonoma Valley!
Mornings in the Sonoma Valley can be magical, especially when the surrounding mountains slip into view as the warm sun chases the morning fog away. Add sipping a little fantastic sparkling wine while sitting on a terrace overlooking the beautiful Sonoma Valley with the mustard flowers blooming and you know your day is definitely starting off right! This is exactly where we found ourselves the other day when we enjoyed spending a morning at Gloria Ferrer Caves and Vineyard, the premier sparkling winemaker in the Sonoma Valley!
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Rolling up to the iron gates of Gloria Ferrer Vineyard is the first clue that you are going someplace special, as the gates open to a scenic vista of the vineyard set against verdant green mountains that make up the western edge of the Sonoma Valley. A winding road weaves its way through the immaculately tended vines and olive trees up to the buildings that houses the tasting room set on the mountain side overlooking the Sonoma Valley all while looking like something out of a post card! It makes a great first impression, and one can see why the Ferrer family fell in love with this location when they were searching for property back in the 1980s to start a winery!
The Ferrer family has a long history of wine making, with roots all the way back to 17th century Spain and their fine tradition of making Cava and other fine wines under their family winery name Freixenet. The Ferrer family had long thought about opening a winery in the United States and in the 1930’s Pedro Ferrer made his way to the US to try his hand at opening a winery. Unfortunately the economics weren’t right (a little thing called the Great Depression got in the way) and Pedro returned to Spain where he was caught up in the Spanish Civil war and was killed. Pedro’s wife took up the mantle and ran the family winery, establishing a strong history of women having great importance in the Ferrer family wineries!
In the late 1970’s Pedro’s son, Jose and his wife Gloria, visited the west coast of the United States and took a drive up California’s Highway 101 and soon found themselves in a little place known as Sonoma. Like many others that we have met in our travels, Jose and Gloria fell in love with the Sonoma Valley and with extensive experience in the wine business recognized that the area knows as the Valley of the Moon would be ideal for a vineyard.
In 1982, Jose and Gloria again visited Sonoma, but this time with the intention of fulfilling his father’s dream of a winery in the United States. Searching the valley, they found a nice plot of land that was serving as a cattle ranch at the foot of the spine of mountains that separates Sonoma Valley from the Petaluma Gap and the valleys to the west. Recognizing the gently rolling hills would be ideal for growing grapes and for building the underground caves that were the best way to store and age wine, Jose purchased the property and the transformation from cattle ranch to vineyard was soon underway, with Jose naming the vineyard after his wife and muse, Gloria!
With their family history of sparkling wine, it was only natural that Gloria Ferrer Vineyard would make sparkling wine, and in 1986 the vineyard opened its doors as Carneros’ first sparkling wine house. Initially they made their sparkling wines with Pinot Noir, which results in some lovely crisp sparkling wines, but wanted to keep pushing the art of sparkling wine, so visited France and came back with clones of chardonnay and pinot noir grapes from the Champagne region and planted them in the Carneros area.
Gloria Ferrer Vineyards became known as innovators in the grape growing business by studying new clones and constantly striving to improve the quality of the vines and grapes that are grown on their estates! When visiting the vineyards, you might hear the term clones thrown around by folks when talking about the vines that grow the grapes. What is a clone? A clone is basically a cutting off of a mature vine that is either grafted onto a root stock or planted directly into the ground.
Unlike a normal vine which has the genetic material of two vines, the clone is a direct copy of the original plant. Wine makers can select specific characteristics (like specific flavor, disease resistance, or ability to grow in challenging conditions) from vines growing in the fields and grow more vines that perform well in the fields and help limit the changes that occur when grape vines mutate when normal reproduction occurs.
Gloria Ferrer Vineyards’ cloning program allows their award winning winemakers to carefully select vines that produce incredible grapes that fit the Carneros region and coax out amazing flavors that reveal themselves in your glass. Combining their careful selection of vines with their commitment to using time-honored méthode traditionelle winemaking techniques has given head winemaker Bob Iantosca and vineyard manager Mike Crumly the ability to create award winning wines! In fact Gloria Ferrer vineyards has produced more than 500 gold medal winning wines!
Speaking of those wines, wow were they good! We started out the day sipping on a glass of their 2006 Carneros Cuvee, a special blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay that is only made during select vintage years when the winemakers deem the harvest to be of exceptional quality! Sipping on this glass, we could see why this blend is considered special, the wine crisp and slightly tart, with a wonderful note of floral and citrus that was refreshing and delightful to sip on as we walked the grounds with our hosts learning about all that makes Gloria Ferrer Vineyards a special place!
We also had the chance to sample two of Gloria Ferrer’s non-vintage sparkling wines, the Sonoma Brut and Blanc de Noirs. This pair of sparking wines was fun to get to compare as they are both made of a similar blend of grapes, but treated slightly different in the wine making process to create two totally different but equally delicious sparkling wines! Made primarily of hand harvested Pinot Noir grapes with a small percentage of Chardonnay mixed in, these two sparkling wines are favorites of folks who are fans of great bubbly!
The Sonoma Brut might be the most famous of Gloria Ferrer Vineyard’s sparkling wines, a classic sparkling wine made in the classic Méthode Champenoise style that is especially effervescent! Made mostly from Pinot Noir grapes with a small percentage of Chardonnay grapes blended in, the Sonoma Brut has a rich aromatic flavor that is full of floral, apple and pears.And while some sparkling wines can be overly sweet, the Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut has a pleasant acidity that keeps it very refreshing on the palate!
Like the Sonoma Brut, the Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noirs is made with a majority of Pinot Noir grapes with eight percent Chardonnay grapes blended in, but this variety the juice is allowed to stay in contact with the skins for 24 hours and then blended with a little vin gris to add a creamy blush character to the wine. The contact also adds a hint of berry and stone fruit to the Blanc de Noirs which is delightful when combined with the really lively bubbles that makes this sparkling wine feel especially luxurious!
The final wine we had the chance to sample while sitting on the terrace was the 2010 Anniversary Cuvee, a limited edition sparkling wine that was created solely to celebrate life! Made in the méthode traditionelle style of a blend of 67% Pinot Noir and 33% Chardonnay, the wine is made up from 14 different lots of wine all harvested in 2010 and then allowed to mature in the bottle for over five years. Only the juice from the first pressing is used to make up this wine, which makes for a more delicate and nuanced wine that feels especially elegant.
Both of us really loved this sparkling wine (full disclosure, this is the bottle that came home with us, so we are kinda partial to this!) and definitely can see this sparkling wine finding its way to our table for special occasions (or if we are really being honest, celebrating any little old occasion cause it really is that good!)
We loved our trip to Gloria Ferrer and can’t wait to visit again soon! After all, bubbles this good make life glorious!
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