Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Sparkling Wines of Washington: A Blind Birthday Bubbly Tasting


One of the things that I’ve been wanting to do for quite some time now is a focus on Washington Sparkling Wine (raise your hand if you know why we can’t call it “Champagne” here?). I’ve had several different ones from different wineries and I thought it would be fun to do a little side by side of some of Washington’s finest (and most well-known) Sparkling Wine… blind! What better way to compare than to test our palates to guess the high-end from the low-end? AND, what better occasion to celebrate a birthday than to bust open five bottles of bubby with some girlfriends? As part of my “Birthday Week 2012”, we did just that. And so, “Birthday Bubbles” commenced…

The Contenders (in alphabetical order)

Domaine Ste Michelle Blanc de Blancs – Well of course we had to include the most well-known Sparkling Wine in Washington. This is a Methode Champenoise and is on the drier end of the Domaine Ste Michelle line-up. This has long been a favorite for the frequent mimosas in my life. Since I was determined to cover each end of the spectrum with price for this tasting, this one was a perfect addition.

Hard Row to Hoe (@hardrow) 2010 “Good in Bed” Sparkling – This wine, a Brut Rosé Methode Champenoise, is a blend of 50% Sangiovese and 50% Pinot Noir. I first picked up a bottle of this at Nectar Tasting Room (@drinknectar) back in February without even tasting it. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I judged a wine by its label. I mean, c’mon, “Good in Bed”? Totally worth a try. Tried it and loved it and made sure to grab a bottle when I visited Hard Row at Lake Chelan over Memorial Day Weekend. This one was at a disadvantage (or advantage, whichever way you look at it..) in that it was the only pink bubbly of the bunch. So it stood out… oh well!

Karma Vineyards (@karmavineyards) 2008 Methode Champenoise Sparkling Wine – This is a mix of 65% Smasne Vineyard Chardonnay from Snipes Mountain and 35% Karma Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir from Lake Chelan. I have been a “Sparkle Club” member at Karma for several years now, and I really do enjoy their Sparkling Wine. Touring their facility and learning about the true French method they employ to create this wine was wonderful. I knew this one most definitely had to join the line-up, it’s one of my favorites!

Pacific Rim Winery (@rieslingrules) “White Flowers” Sparkling Riesling – Much like the Hard Row and its pink nature, this too stood out from the group because it was by far the sweetest, being the only Sparkling Riesling of the bunch. Pacific Rim puts out some killer Riesling and this version was no different.

Syncline Winery (@synclinewine) “Scintillation” 2009 Blanc de Blanc – My oh my. I tried this for the first time at Taste Washington 2012 and was immediately smitten with this amazing Sparkling Wine. I made a solemn promise that I would obtain several bottles as soon as it hit the shelves in Seattle, and thanks to McCarthy& Shiering’s awesome staff, I did just that. Since birthdays tend to be special occasions (at least mine is..), it was the perfect opportunity to pop the first bottle of my Syncline bubbly collection for this tasting. What a treat it was…

The Results

I made basic score cards for everyone listing out the wines by number and having them rate it a quick 1 through 5 and then writing some individual words to describe them. Here are some of the descriptors for each:

Domaine Ste Michelle: “white grapefruit”, “floral”, “tart on finish”

Hard Row: “rose petal”, “spice”, “yellow peach”, “tart”, “refreshing”, “crisp”, and my personal favorite “words cannot describe…”.

Karma: “fresh!”, “summer!”, “pear round”, “nice acid finish”, “fruity”, “fizzy”, “golden”, “lemon”, “yogurt”, “citrus taste”

Pacific Rim: “sweet & fancy”, “sweet”, “white peach”, “flowery”, “pear”, “floral”, “peach”, “candlewax”, “tangerine”

Syncline: “oaky”, “sherry”, “savory”, “smooth”, “toast a special event!”, “big chardonnay flavors”, “citrus”, “acid”

It was no surprise that as far as the number scores went, they fell pretty much within where their price points fell. It was very interesting to see how well the Domaine Ste Michelle wine held its own against the higher priced wines, with some people having a hard time distinguishing them apart. This just goes to show you that Washington creates some spectacular wines at every price point! At the end of the day, the Syncline “Scintillation” reigned supreme, edging out the Karma by just 1 point! It was a lot of fun to try these all blindly, especially considering I’d had all but one of them on their own on previous occasions. I definitely want to do some more blind bubbly tasting of Washington Sparkling Wines, since we were only able to graze the surface of the state’s offerings, and there are several that I wasn’t able to get a hold of in time to include. Until next time…

 ("one of these things is not like the other"... yes.. the pink one..)


  1. Have you tried a sparkler from Treveri Cellars?
    No tasting is complete without them.
    Disclaimer: I have no financial/emotional/other interests in the winery.

  2. Actually, the Treveri was one of the ones I couldn't get a hold of in time, I love their wines!

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