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A First Course in Wine: From Grape to Glass. Copyright 2013; Race Point Publishers, NY. 224 pages. Forward by Mario Batali.

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Wines for a Jack$on (under $20) – Domaine Carneros, Carneros Sparkling Wine Ultra Brut 2008, California

The winemaking zones of the world are pretty straight forward.  Within a larger appellation, there are smaller zones, and even smaller sub-zones.  This makes navigating the wine world and memorizing certain plots of the world rather feasible.  Every now and then there’s a hiccup, such as our current study of wines for a jack$on.  Carneros is an appellation in northern California – part of which is shared by Napa and Sonoma counties.  Los Carneros, the official name of the zone, is located at the southern end of both valleys (see picture).  Despite its southern location, it’s actually cooler in most parts of Los Carneros than it is in other parts of the valleys further north.  This is due to the weather patters and wind patterns of northern California.  Cooler temps are ideal for sparkling wines because the natural grape acids are a bit higher in the grapes, which translate to crisp, fresh, and lively sparkling wines.

Domaine Carneros is one of the premier sparkling wine estates in the US.  Founded in 1987, it’s relatively a newcomer to the world of wine, but don’t let date of founding fool  you.  The historic Champagne house, Taittinger, is the company behind the label, and employs generations of experience of sparkling wine production.

The 2008 Domaine Carneros Sparkling Wine offers up ripe aromas and flavors of apples, pears, and herbs.  The effervescence is very delicate and soft, allowing the fruit and herbaceous-ness of the wine to come through on the palate.  A blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, it’s a lighter and crisp style of sparkling wine than most may be used to.  At just under a jackson, it’s quite a steal.  Most vintage-labeled sparkling wines, especially from Champagne, usually carry with them a hefty price tag, but California’s sparkling wine industry is just getting started, and these wines are quite a steal.  Enjoy this wine as an aperitif or with lighter first courses and fish entrees.

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