When we pop corks and fill holiday flutes, the bubbly bottle is typically the big “C” made over in Champagne, France. But locally minded drinkers don’t need to wait for their ship to come in, so to speak, or settle for subpar sparkle, either. The Empire State produces some esteemed effervescent elixirs.
“I’ve found some really good results qualitatively with New York sparkling,” says Patrick Watson, owner of Brooklyn Wine Exchange. “Really consistent good quality from Wölffer, as well as Onabay—the ’06 blanc de blancs is dynamite and only 36 bucks—and Dr. Frank upstate makes a Célèbre Rosé that floored me. I’m finding quality sparkling wines are almost leading the pack from a lot of the [New York] wineries, even in comparison to the still wines.”
Here are a few of our favorites to prove Watson’s point, and wean you off Champagne if not for good, at least for one excellent eve.
Lenz. Eric Frye might be best known for kicking Bordeaux’s butt with his gorgeous merlots, but the winemaker has a way with minerally sparkling cuvée that’s undeniably elegant and utterly irresistible. The latest release is the 2004 ($30), which is 100 percent pinot noir made in the traditional method. For a real treat, see if you can get your hands on the ’96 (around $50), which had about 30 percent chardonnay in the blend and is taking on some gorgeous nuttiness.
Sparkling Pointe. New York’s only all-sparkling, all-the-time winery opened in 2008, and Gilles Martin (who also makes a lovely, dry chardonnay sparkling for Sherwood Vineyards) is proving that Long Island is a great place to get your bubbly on. At $30 a bottle, the 2006 Brut, with its toasty nose and notes of apple and pear, is the perfect aperitif or hors d’oeuvre mingler.
Croteaux. Croteaux’s Cuvée Sparkler offers notes of citrus and rose petals to tickle your nose. Croteaux is committed to producing only rosé wines (or, as they like to say, “rosé on purpose!”) made from their beloved merlot grapes, this fun, easygoing sipper is made in the Charmat method: That all-important second fermentation—which brings on the bubbles—happens in a tank, not in the bottle. That makes this wine easy on the pocket at $24 a pop.
Chateau Renaissance. Based in Hammondsport up in the Finger Lakes region, France native Patrice DeMay comes from a long line of winemakers in the Loire Valley. Stateside, he channels his family’s 400-year effervescent history into five excellent sparklers made in the traditional method, sold at the Union Square Greenmarket on Wednesdays. For $19 a bottle, you can’t go wrong with his super dry Naturel.
Wölffer Estates. The second release of Roman Roth’s Noblesse Oblige ($40) sparkling, barely pink rosé, an almost-even split between pinot noir and char- donnay, has a delicate nose of peach, roses and orange zest that’s wonderfully refreshing—rich and creamy, but with a nice, dry finish—and begs you to find a raw bar, pronto.
After any of these, you just might make it your New Year’s resolution to drink more local wine.