Forget roses. Celebrate your love with rose sparklers this Valentine’s Day
The mechanics behind making sparkling wine look pink are pretty straightforward: You’ve got to use red grapes, of course — pinot noir, if you’re going to be traditional, though many local winemakers are flirting with grapes like grenache and syrah, too. The longer the red skin makes contact with the juice, the more intense the rosy hue.
But there’s nothing mundane about the sensations conjured by a delicious bubbly rosÄ: the chill on the glass that melts to the warmth of her fingertips, the rush of effervescence that fans the beating of his heart and that pretty pink tint that, if you’ve played your cards right, blushes just as much as she does.
Impressing the one you love on Valentine’s Day is never an easy task, but these five pink Santa Barbara sparklers will help.
Carhartt “Venture” Nat/E Boi Sparkling RosÄ ($30)
If you’re looking for a traditional bubbly, look elsewhere. The same fun, edgy approach that’s made Carhartt one of the hippest wine brands in Santa Barbara spills into this brand-new sparkling wine project. Made using a technique called methode ancestrale, also known as pet-nat, this wine bends a lot of rules. No yeast. No sulphur. And no disgorgement, meaning no solids are removed, resulting in a naturally hazier beverage. “The whole concept of a ‘natural wine’ for me is to produce something with the least intervention possible,” writes winemaker Brooke Carhartt in her February wine club newsletter. She made the wine with her 30-year-old son, Chase, using grenache grown on the family farm by her husband, Mike. Forgoing the cork for a crown cap and showing off tangerine cream aromas and citrusy berry flavors, “it’s just a bottle of fun,” says the elder Mr. Carhartt, “and people are just lapping it up.” It’s an instant hit, too: Fewer than 15 of the 45 cases released just last week remain in Carhartt’s Los Olivos tasting room.
2016 Fess Parker Winery Fesstivity Brut RosÄ ($49)
This release is also brand-new: It was disgorged just last month after almost two years en tirage, which is time that bubbly spends in bottle, in contact with yeast, during its secondary fermentation. “The 2016 vintage, in general, are the best sparkling wines we’ve made under the Fesstivity label,” says winemaker Blair Fox, who produces the sparkling wines following strict traditional methods inside the Fess Parker facility along Foxen Canyon Road. The superlative 2016 bubblies, the young label’s fourth vintage, are the result of continual “fine-tuning in our winemaking process,” he adds, as well as “expert vineyard operations.” Fruit for the all-pinot noir sparkler came from the family’s Parker West vineyard in the Sta. Rita Hills, which was planted by Mr. Fox himself, and a harvest at low sugars led to a wine with bright acidity and zest. Grapefruit aromas, raspberry flavors and a pretty soft pink color make for a lovely sipping experience. Available at The Bubble Shack and Fess Parker tasting rooms in Los Olivos as well as many local wine shops.
2016 Toccata Sparkling Rosato ($35)
This one’s inspired more by prosecco than Champagne, since it comes from Lucas & Lewellen’s sister label with an Italian spin, Toccata. Pinot grigio grown on the brand’s Los Alamos Vineyard, one of its three estate vineyards, is predominant, which gives this bubbly brightness, liveliness and an easy-drinking vibe. Credit a squelch of dolcetto for the rosy color — it leans more crimson than pink — and a splash of malvasia bianca for the floral aromatics. Made by winemaker Megan McGrath Gates, this wine is fizzy, fruity and fun. Find it at the Toccata tasting room in the heart of downtown Solvang.
2016 Riverbench Cork Jumper Blanc de Noirs ($48)
Riverbench launched its sparkling wine program in 2008 with 200 cases. Driven by demand, annual production of various different bubblies is now at 3,500 cases. The Blanc de Noirs is all pinot noir and grown in the estate vineyard nestled in the Santa Maria Valley. The flushed hue is striking. “After we make the base wine, some of the color drops off during fermentation,” says general manager Laura Booras, “so we add a few gallons of still red wine toward the end to get that pretty pink color.” The wine is made to be less bready or yeasty than a traditional Champagne and, rather, in a style that drives acidity and freshness. Discover bright red fruit and rose petal aromas and strawberry flavors with a touch of lime zest. Ms. Booras says it best: “This is a very romantic wine.” Available at the Santa Maria and Funk Zone tasting rooms.
2015 Flying Goat Cellars RosÄ ($42)
If there’s a pioneer in the realm of Santa Barbara sparkling winemaking, it’s Norm Yost. The man behind the Flying Goat label went fizzy 15 years ago and, today, produces no fewer than five sparklers each vintage. The RosÄ is the workhorse, the most popular in the lineup, to the tune of 300 cases a year. The fruit — pinot noir clone 23, a Champagne clone, “with thick skins and big berries,” says the winemaker — comes from Solomon Hills Vineyards in the Santa Maria Valley and produces a lively sipper with berry and watermelon flavors and a dash of spice. Mr. Yost, whose Lompoc Wine Ghetto tasting room features a sparkling wine-exclusive bar, touts the wine’s food friendliness. “I like a good, dry, hard cheese with it, or salmon on the grill, or a white meat like pork tenderloin,” he says. “Its great acidity makes it a great palate cleanser, and its lower alcohol (of 12.5 percent) lets you have an extra glass with less worry.”
Happy Valentine’s Day!
WHERE TO BUY
Carhartt Vineyard, 2939 Grand Ave., Los Olivos; 693-5100
Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard, 6200 Foxen Canyon Road, Los Olivos (688-1545); The Bubble Shack, 2970 Grand Ave., Los Olivos (688-8276)
Toccata, 1665 Copenhagen Drive, Solvang; 686-5506
Riverbench Vineyard & Winery, 6020 Foxen Canyon Road, Santa Maria (937-8340), or its Santa Barbara Tasting Room, 137 Anacapa St. Suite C (324-4100)
Flying Goat Cellars, 1520 E. Chestnut Court, Unit A, Lompoc; 736-9032