Fourth of July may be over but the sparkles don’t have to end.
Cali Coast Wine Country has the perfect excuse to celebrate anytime with a local map of sparkling wine producers. The printable map, which can be found at www.CaliCoastWineCountry.com, is broken down in two different regions to explore: Santa Barbara County and San Luis Obispo County.
“There are so many types of bubbly to try along the Central Coast that I had to divide the map into two counties,” explains Liz Dodder, creator of Cali Coast Wine Country and the sparkling wine maps. “The map includes bubbly producers that sell sparkling wine by the glass or bottle as well as those offering tasting flights.”
Santa Barbara County’s sparkling wine map lists approximately 55 producers and San Luis Obispo County has around 35. Many of these wineries send their wine to be racked and riddled in the Sonoma area at custom sparkling wine facilities such as Rack and Riddle.
California sparkling wine can’t be called Champagne since it is not made in the Champagne region of France but it can be made using the same technique: méthode traditionnelle also known as méthode classique. This designation, which was formerly known as méthode champenoise, begins with a secondary fermentation in the bottle after tirage, the addition of yeast, yeast nutrients and sugar. The next step can be done by hand or machine. The bottles are placed in a rack facing downwards at an angle to move the lees (yeast precipitate) into the neck. This is done over the course of six to 10 weeks by rotating the bottle by 1/8 to 1/4 of a turn and marking the position with chalk. Each bottle is turned approximately 25 times. When a yeast plug has been created in the neck, the bottle necks are cooled so the contents are frozen.
I’ve actually had the pleasure of doing this next step and it is a lot of fun. You take the bottle and hold it upright in order to remove the temporary closure. I remember holding it at an angle because the yeast plug comes shooting out and you want to avoid getting hit in the face or injuring others. It’s very satisfying. We then filled up the bottles with enough of the wine to replace what we disgorged and corked each bottle with a Champagne cork and cage.
Some of the local producers that make their sparkling wine in-house include Cebada Canyon, Loubud, Riverbench Vineyards, Solminer, Flying Goat Cellars, and one of Buttonwood Winery’s sparkling wines.
Other producers import sparkling wines from other countries. According to Dodder, both Moretti and Mosby import Prosecco from Italy; a very cost-friendly sparkling white wine from the Veneto and Fruili Venezia Giulia regions of Italy. Prosecco sales are on the rise with an increase of 36 percent expected over the next five years according to Wine Enthusiast magazine. It accounts for 20 percent of all sparkling wine sales world-wide.
I asked Liz why she wanted to put in all of this effort to make a free map for consumers: “Sparkling wine is my favorite of all wine styles. Every time I heard of one I would write it down and keep a running list. By the time I got to twenty producers I thought, ‘I need to share this.’ I figured other people would want to know.”
It took Liz several years to gather the information and actually designing the map took several more months before its launch in 2015. It has since been redesigned with streets added so consumers can easily navigate to their desired location. Printed maps can be found at Santa Barbara Vintners’ office at 597 Ave of the Flags #102 in Buellton, California or by visiting www.CaliCoastWineCountry.com.