Tasting Highlights bring the best wines from our editors’ most recent tastings to WineSpectator.com members.
The holidays are a few months away, but the bubbly houses of California are already releasing new wines in anticipation. This week’s selection stands out for a couple of reasons: First, all the wines are vintage sparklers, and more importantly, many are the tête de cuvées—or the top sparkling wines—from their producers.
Two wineries, Domaine Carneros and Iron Horse, have particularly good showings this week, followed by a host of other quality versions. Of special note is the Richard G. Peterson Brut Rosé Napa Valley 2004. Peterson is something of an icon in California winemaking, and this wine is a collaboration with his daughter, Heidi Peterson Barrett, and John Schwartz, her business partner in the Amuse Bouche winery.
These being among the best sparkling wines in California, many of them are expensive and not always easy to find, but they remain well worth the price and effort.
DOMAINE CARNEROS Brut Carneros Estate 2009 Score: 92 | $32
Offering laserlike sleekness and impeccable balance, this is light on its feet and surprisingly complex, with aromas of baked Asian pear and cinnamon leading to crisp flavors of Meyer lemon, raspberry and mineral. Bone-dry finish. Drink now. 1,500 cases made. —T.F.
DOMAINE CARNEROS Brut Rosé Carneros Le Rêve 2007 Score: 92 | $110
Elegant, with fragrant aromas of rose petal and raspberry, showing sleekly focused red apple, graham cracker and spice flavors that finish on a crisp, mineral note. Drink now. 500 cases made. —T.F.
IRON HORSE Brut Green Valley of Russian River Valley Classic Vintage 2008 Score: 92 | $38
A sleek and impeccably focused bubbly that combines the rich aromas of yeast roll and apple with layered, vibrant lemon zest, mineral and spiced almond flavors, offering a crisp, laserlike finish. Drink now through 2014. 2,300 cases made. —T.F.
RICHARD G. PETERSON Brut Rosé Napa Valley 2004 Score: 92 | $175
Makes a bold statement, with floral strawberry and almond brioche aromas, offering full-bodied yet balanced citrus, graham cracker and cinnamon flavors. Drink now. 242 cases made. —T.F.
SCHRAMSBERG Reserve North Coast 2005 Score: 92 | $110
A rich yet refined and focused style, with bold cinnamon, apple, raspberry and hazelnut aromas that open to opulent tropical fruit and spicy candied ginger flavors, finishing with crisp acidity. Drink now through 2015. 2,023 cases made. —T.F.
IRON HORSE Blanc de Blancs Green Valley of Russian River Valley Ocean Reserve 2008 Score: 91 | $45
Balances crisp minerality with undertones of rich maturity, featuring aromas of fresh brioche, ginger and Meyer lemon that lead to layered flavors of baked apple and cinnamon. Drink now. 516 cases made. —T.F.
IRON HORSE Brut Green Valley of Russian River Valley X 2008 Score: 91 | $50
Bone-dry but intensely flavored, with aromas of tangerine and almond torte that lead to complex and zesty flavors of citrus, apple and spicy yeast. Drink now through 2015. 500 cases made. —T.F.
IRON HORSE Russian Cuvée Green Valley of Russian River Valley 2008 Score: 91 | $40
A bold and rich style, offering baked pear and lemon zest aromas, with ripe, succulent raspberry, cinnamon and ginger flavors, finishing on a spicy note. Drink now through 2014. 800 cases made. —T.F.
MUMM NAPA Devaux Ranch Napa Valley 2008 Score: 91 | $38
Refined and focused, with floral lemon curd aromas and sleekly layered lime, green apple and creamy vanilla flavors, finishing with crisp minerality. Drink now. 1,500 cases made. —T.F.
DOMAINE CHANDON Brut Carneros Vintage 2007 Score: 90 | $45
Offers pinpoint focus and acidity, with floral lemon and almond torte aromas and vibrantly crisp mineral and ginger flavors. Drink now. 1,120 cases made. —T.F.