April 17, 2021

Uncorked: Sparkling wine a perfect pick for Valentine’s Day

Shane Moore knew exactly how he would spend his wine budget.

The winemaker at Oregon’s Gran Moraine had long been into Champagne and sparkling wines, so he quickly splurged on the best sparkling wines he could find on an elaborate, company-funded research project.

After Moore had worked for Gran Moraine’s parent company, Jackson Family Wines, for three years, and at Gran Moraine as its first winemaker for a year, it was time to put his research to the test. He’d “asked for forgiveness and not permission,” and added a sparkling wine to the Gran Moraine lineup.

“There’s something so exciting about sparkling wine,” Moore said. “It’s such a sensory experience, not only the sound, but the bubbles. If you think about it, in the not too distant past, carbonation was such a novelty – and that’s built into our psyche as well. Then it’s just the deliciousness of sparkling wine. It’s an experience like nothing else. It’s kind of hedonistic but, not really, because it’s subtle at the same time. It pairs well with sweets, confectionery, seafood and buttery popcorn.”

Which makes the Gran Moraine Brut Rose ($50) a versatile wine for Valentine’s Day. It has a pretty, light pink color, festive bubbles and subtle cherry, Meyer lemon and apricot flavors, and is the first wine or wine-inspired gift that could take the place of roses on Feb. 14.

Because he has freedom in the vineyard and in the cellar, Moore can dial in his vision for the wine. His knowledge is still growing when it comes to properly farming the site, and he prefers to harvest the fruit that will go into sparkling wine as much as two weeks earlier than its counterparts. The result is a wine higher in acid, which keeps the flavors crisp and fresh tasting.

“We can plant whatever we want, we don’t have cropping rules like Champagne,” Moore said. “We can do whatever we want. I find it makes things more fun and liberating in many ways. All we had to do is get the right amount of acidity, bubbles and the perfect kiss of residual sugar in dosage. The brain does not perceive it, but when it’s not there, it’s lacking.”

Even though there’s more work and math involved to get the atmosphere and pressure just right, Moore still isn’t done. He adds 3% of still pinot noir to the wine from blocks that have small berries with high color and low tannin. The result is a romantically colored pink sparkling wine.

On the opposite end of the sparking wine spectrum is Sosie A Moment of Weakness ($35), a sparkling syrah that is a deep-colored purple. It’s got a little funk when opened that quickly blows off to reveal bold, brooding flavors of blackberry compote, baking chocolate and a meaty, iron-like note with a weighty richness.

From South Africa’s first producer of sparkling wine, the Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Brut 2018 ($35) doesn’t have the pink or red color, but it is made in the traditional method. Simonsig started its Cap Classique program in 1971, and this wine has a sunny collection of tree fruit flavors; pear, apple and peach dominate on a crisp sparkling wine.

If the recent weather holds and it’s a cold night, the Very Dark Red 2018 ($24.99) is a hearty petite sirah and petite verdot. Loaded with black fruit and vanilla flavors, VDR has a big, round mouthfeel and tannins to match. It easily could be paired with chocolates or a steak.

• James Nokes has been tasting, touring and collecting in the wine world for several years. Email him at jamesnokes25@yahoo.com.