The sound of an oversized cork exiting a bottle of Champagne or sparkling wine harmonizes perfectly with as many lyrics from “Auld Lang Syne” as you can remember. So that’s what we’re going to focus on in this post. Far be it for me to tell someone what to drink when ringing in the new year, but I’m going to anyway.
To conduct a little New Year’s Eve research, we held a tasting here focused on three unique offerings from each of the two different companies represented. (The bubbles were kindly donated by the respective companies, but our opinions are entirely our own.)
Iron Horse Vineyards — I’ve had a few of their different offerings over the years. Having enjoyed them greatly, I made it a point to visit the winery on a recent trip down to Sonoma County. It’s definitely off the beaten path. Heed their multiple advisories and “Go slow!” up their one-way gravel road (you’ll get a kick out of it when you see it, or at least I did). Once you get up there, you’ll quickly realize it was well worth the trip.
Fat Cork — They’re a Seattle-based “grower” Champagne importer, meaning that every wine they carry and sell is exclusive to them. They are a passionate bunch, bringing in some insanely delicious hand-crafted Champagne directly from the families that grow the grapes. You can lose hours on their website. It’s packed with great information, tips and bottles, and they even offer club memberships tailored exactly to your tastes.
Our tasting panel did not know which wines they were drinking until afterwards. They gave each one an overall letter grade and wrote down their thoughts, compiled below.
Pop pink bubbles and you’ve got a party! The oldest bottling in the tasting showed a lively berry freshness, winning over one taster in particular, taking her top spot. This bottling consists of 63% Pinot Noir and 37% Chadonnay.
Overall Grade: B-
– Would totally take this to a party full of rosé lovers
– Pink with hints of orange
– Pleasant bitterness similar to a cranberry cocktail
– Scents of blood orange, lime and apple
Upon opening, this bottle seemed a bit muted. But with air, the Chardonnay- dominant blend (80% with 20% Pinot Noir) really opened up and started to sing with absolutely classic notes of true Champagne.
Overall Grade: A-
– Pale yellow/gold, almost mead-esque, in appearance
– A rich bread smell, like brioche or even French toast
– Vanilla and yeast
– Clean and precise acid with light minerality (sea shells)
A blend composed of 74% Pinot Noir and 26% Chadonnay, this bottle of sparkling wine just nabbed the #10 spot on Wine Enthusiast’s “Top 100 Wines of 2014.” Not surprising after just a few tastes…
Overall Grade: A-
– There’s a tinge of red in the glass making it appear rose-gold
– Big fruit aroma coming from the glass. Is that peach?
– Richness on the tongue with the fullest body so far, yet still dry, complex and herbaceous
– Interesting with several different layers of flavor
Pure class. It’s just that simple, and yet so complex. A truly special cuvee that topped all but one of our tasters’ lists. This bottling blends 63% Chardonnay and 37% Pinot Noir. The price may keep this from being a daily drinker, but a special occasion wine for sure.
Overall Grade: A+
– Bright, buttery lemon in appearance
– Kaboom! (goes the yeast)
– Now this smells serious. I need to sit up straight in my chair
– Wonderfully tart making my mouth water
– Beautiful! Yummy! Fantastic! Love it!
Though still technically a dry wine, this easily wins the richness battle. Full and round, the Russian Cuvee (made up of 74%Pinot Noir and 26% Chardonnay) makes a perfect toasting wine to be had on its own, or poured alongside a slightly sweet dessert.
Overall Grade: C+
– Pale yellow with a very slight haze
– Smells a bit like candy and clove
– Bubbles explode on the tongue
– Definitely the sweetest of the lineup
– Flavors of sweet pastry and kiwi
Enjoyed by all, but quite different than all of the others tasted. This is likely due to the 10% Pinot Meunier red wine used (alongside 60% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir) to provide color and structure.
Overall Grade: B
– Pretty pink/salmon color with fewer bubbles than the others
– Overtly pleasing smell full of cherry blossoms, citrus and watermelon
– Hints of cranberry with tannins coming into play on the back end
– Despite the fruit-forward smell, this becomes much more “grown up” after a couple sips
– I imagine this would be great on a hot day.
After a brilliant tasting like this, it’s all but mandatory to show off the carnage…
Whether you’re looking to celebrate a birthday, anniversary, holiday (like New Year’s Eve), or just the end of any given Tuesday, nothing does it quite like a bottle of bubbly wine.
Any ideas as to what you’ll be popping when the ball drops? Don’t know yet? Let me tell you, going with any one of these bottles will not disappoint. Cheers!