When we pop corks and fill holiday flutes, the bubbly bottle is typically the big “C” made over in Champagne, France. But locally minded drinkers don’t need to wait for their ship to come in, so to speak, or settle for subpar sparkle, either. The Empire State produces some esteemed effervescent elixirs.
“The Finger Lakes region is ideal for sparkling,” says Juliette Pope, wine director for Gramercy Tavern. “Its cold climate is perfect for highacid whites and therefore for sparkling wines, which call for high-acid wine as their base. And Long Island produces some excellent sparkling wines.”
Here are a few of our favorites to prove Pope’s point, and wean you off Champagne, if not for good, at least for one excellent Eve. Lenz. Eric Frye might be best known for kicking Bordeaux butt with his gorgeous merlots, but the winemaker has a way with minerally sparkling cuvee that’s undeniably elegant and utterly irresistible. The latest release is the 2004 ($30), which is 100 percent pinot noir made in the traditional method. For a real treat, see if you can get your hands on the ’96 (around $50), which had about 30 percent chardonnay in the blend and is taking on some gorgeous nuttiness.
Sparkling Pointe. New York’s only all-sparkling, all-the-time winery opened in 2008, and Gilles Martin (who also makes a lovely, dry chardonnay sparkling for Sherwood Vineyards) is proving that Long Island is a great place to get your bubbly on. At $30 a bottle, the 2006 Brut, with its toasty nose and notes of apple and pear, is the perfect aperitif or hors d’oeuvre mingler.
Croteaux. Croteaux’s Cuvee Sparkle offers notes of citrus and rose petals to tickle your nose. Croteaux is committed to producing only rose wines (or, as they like to say, “rose on purpose!” made from their beloved merlot grapes, and this fun, easygoing sipper is made in the Charmat method: That all-important second fermentation—which brings on the bubbles—happens in a tank, not in the bottle. That makes this wine easy on the pocket at $24 a pop.
Château Renaissance. Based in Hammondsport up in the Finger Lakes region, France native Patrice DeMay comes from a long line of winemakers in the Loire Valley. Stateside, he channels his family’s 400-year effervescent history into five excellent sparklers made in the traditional method, sold at the Union Square Greenmarket on Wednesdays. For $19 a bottle, you can’t go wrong with his super dry Naturel. Wölffer Estates. The second release of Roman Roth’s Noblesse Oblige ($40) sparkling, barely pink rose, an almost-even split between pinot noir and chardonnay, has a delicate nose of peach, roses and orange zest that’s wonderfully refreshing—rich and creamy, but with a nice, dry finish—and begs you to find a raw bar, pronto.
After any of these, you just might make it your New Year’s resolution to drink more local wine.