Beyond their ephemeral beauty, bubbles act as vehicles for much of the scent, taste, sound, and tactile pleasure of sparkling wine. In fact, bubbles have a delightful way of delivering molecular details directly to our senses, while keeping the palate feeling refreshed. Their buoyant delicacy inspires conviviality while making the simplest meal sublime. French fries and Blanc de Blancs, anyone? Many sparkling wines are made from still wines that are fermented twice—once in tank or barrel and again in bottle. As yeasts consume sugar during the wine’s secondary fermentation, they release carbon dioxide, which is trapped within the bottle. Some of the trapped gas escapes when you pop the cork. The rest finds itself in your glass, where it comingles with impurities on the glass wall and ascends to the surface as a mini molecular care package. And that’s what makes bubbles miraculous. These tiny translucent spheres reveal a multitude of secrets when they burst at the surface, helping to convey the story of a wine’s origin. Carbon dioxide bubbles magnify flavors by lifting primary compounds—especially fruity esters—and releasing them at the wine’s surface. In fact, winemakers explain that effervescence amplifies the expression of site in sparkling wines, making it easier to taste the essence of the vineyard. An opportunity to taste terroir at its purest? Now that’s the perfect reason to explore the West’s sparkling wine trails.
n abundance of unique tasting experiences, historic vineyards, and prestigious sparkling wine houses make the Napa Valley perfect for a bubble-centric tasting tour. In fact, opportunities to “taste the stars” appear around every corner. If elegant wines with delicious precision are what you’re looking for, Mumm Napa is an ideal starting point. Taste some of the valley’s finest sparklers while taking in panoramic vineyard views from the Oak Terrace or enjoying the estate’s fine art photography gallery. Just up the road, Schramsberg Vineyards ferments 25% of its wines in oak barrels to produce a richer, more luscious style. Literati love that author Robert Lewis Stevenson tasted here in 1880 on his honeymoon. We love tipping a glass in the 125-year old wine caves. Great sparkling wines are all about the blend, or cuvée, according to Gloria Ferrer Wines. At the sprawling Sonoma estate, guests can sample blends that integrate kaleidoscopic flavors, fine bubbles, and luscious textures in luminous liquid. Did someone say, “private cabana”? Besides producing sparkling wines that dazzle, Domaine Chandon offers the opulence of an intimate fête with your squad in a variety of alfresco tasting experiences, from indulgent brunches to wine pairing picnics. Spoiler alert: It’s bubble heaven. The chateau is iconic—a wine country landmark—but at Domaine Carneros, grace and sophistication define more than the architecture. The wines are exquisite. Plan ahead to savor crisp, complex sparkling wines paired with caviar, artisan cheeses, and charcuterie in the chateau’s elegant salon or on the terrace.
ABOVE: Guests enjoy a glass of sparkling wine on the terrace at Gloria Ferrer Wines; OPPOSITE TOP: The stunning vineyard views from Domaine Chandon; OPPOSITE BOTTOM: Visitors at Mumm Napa can wander the estate’s art gallery
Gloria Ferrer photogrpahy, Mumm Napa
Napa & Sonoma