Ready to pop the bubbles as New Year approaches

Ready to pop the bubbles as New Year approaches
A trio of sparkling wines from Stone Hill Winery are ready for any celebration. [Dave Faries]
Dave Faries

We’ve all been waiting to say goodbye to 2020 since, like, March. So there’s a pent up eagerness to dust off the flutes, reach for a sparkling wine and celebrate the year’s demise.

Of course, there’s the problem of which one to choose.

Wine can be paired to mood, setting or what’s on the plate. There’s the formal tone of vintage Champagne with its fine beading and delicate minerality. Or there are playful wines – a smiling Rosé, for instance – and those in between.

Stone Hill Winery in Hermann has three on offer, all prepared using the painstaking Methode Champenoise. Which brings up another issue. Sparkling wine comes with its own vocabulary – in this case bottle fermentation, aging en tirage (on the yeast) and disgorgement (the messy process of removing said yeast from the bottle).

But Methode Champenoise lends body to each wine that is both delicate and pronounced. Their Brut Rosé dances on the palate, ebullient from start to finish yet with a hint of consternation lurking as the party ebbs. It starts gently on the nose, with aromas of fresh raspberry and sel gris. A sip brings bright fruit without the sweetness – just a charming blush of cherry and red berries. As it develops, however, a notion of earthiness and split oak drifts in to balance the fruit.

This is elegance at its most relaxed, a sparkling wine comfortable on the couch but easily dressed for a night out. It is a blend of two sturdy grapes. Vidal blanc gives it a crisp, cheerful aspect, Chambourcin brings some of its deeper flavors to the party.

Stone Hill’s Blanc de Blancs is a Brut made largely from Vidal, with a little Chardonel – again hardy hybrid grapes. The bouquet is lean and promising, with wisps of tropical fruit, baking bread and vanilla tinted oak. It’s a more contemplative wine, revealing itself in pages – fresh and bright at first, crisp and effervescent throughout, it whispers faintly of the tropics through notes of lychee, of hearth and home through hints of toasted bread and of autumn walks with a note like fallen leaves.

This is a wine for sipping.

The winery sweetens things up a bit with their Demi Sec. It’s not cloying like an Extra Dry (which in the dictionary used by makers of sparkling wine means “sweet”). The wine instead is rich and silky – honeysuckle in bloom, fresh cut peaches glazed in honey – with a soaring note of citrus.
A cuveé of Valvin Muscat and Traminette, it’s sweetness is coiled in fruit. The finish is reserved.

So that problem of which wine to choose? It’s not such a bad one to have.


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