If you're having family and friends over to your place for a celebration on the 4th of July, why not get things off to a patriotic start with American “poppers” — sparkling wines that are born in the USA?
Increasingly, good to excellent sparkling wines are being made all across the country. Like the American Revolution, let’s begin our review in Massachusetts, where modern-day New England patriots can requisition some surprisingly good sparkling wine from Westport Rivers Winery, which makes its wines in the Champagne style. Have a glass or two, and start asking people what Paul Revere really did on his ride.
New York also has a lot of Revolutionary history and several wineries that make good poppers. One of the best is from Wölffer Estate in the Hamptons, where Roman Roth is cellar master. In Pennsylvania, about an hour west of Independence Hall, Stargazers Winery makes enjoyable small-lot, hand-made sparkling wines, including a very crisp, completely dry brut zero.
Of course, from a production standpoint, the real mother lode of sparkling wines is on the West Coast, especially from the cooler areas north of San Francisco. There, many of the sparkling wineries were established by the traditional Champagne houses of France and cava makers from Spain — a particularly enjoyable form of cultural colonization. Moët & Chandon started the bandwagon with Chandon in 1973, followed by Piper Sonoma, Roederer, Gloria Ferrer, Mumm Napa, Domaine Carneros, and Codorníu.
One of the real jewels of native California sparkling winemaking is Schramsberg Winery in Napa Valley, which is owned by the Davies family and which makes an elegant array of sparklers, most of them vintage dated.
In Oregon, Argyle Winery is a premium producer of bubbly.
But not all American sparkling is made on the two coasts. Almost every state has at least one producer. The best-known, and certainly the best-value, of these wines from the interior is the Gruet line of sparklers made in New Mexico. (Yes, New Mexico.) The Gruet family is from Champagne, but on a visit to the southwest state several years ago thought it would be a good place to grow grapes and make wine. Gruet started in 1984 and now has wine sales in all states.
So this Independence Day, celebrate by popping open a great bottle of American bubbly — just don’t call it Champagne.