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Wine to me is passion. It's family and friends. It's warmth of heart and generosity of spirit. Wine is art. It's culture. It's the essence of civilization and the art of living. - Robert Mondavi

Craving Spanish Cava? Visit Gloria Ferrer right in Carneros, Sonoma.

Saturday, February 18, 2012
A recent visit to Gloria Ferrer Winery sent me on a trip down memory lane. Back in college, I spent a half a year studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain. I still relive many fond memories from my time there including my first trip to a working sparkling winery, where a girlfriend and I purchased tickets to a cave tour and tasting and I had the opportunity to personally bottle a sparkling wine. We subsequently went on a group trip to the palatial and notorious Spanish sparkling winery, Freixenet, which solidified my affinity for cava - the name given to Spanish sparkling wine produced in the Methode Champenoise. Fast forward ten years - as my husband and I pulled up to Gloria Ferrer winery building in the Carneros region of Sonoma, my husband and I marveled at the flags flapping in the wind - one of them seemed to be the Spanish! The thought passed as we marveled at the beautiful property; located just 40 miles northwest of San Francisco, the sign is visible from the road, but you must drive in a ways through beautiful sweeping vineyards. The winery’s Vista Terrace overlooks breathtaking estate vineyards and the terrace provides the perfect place to enjoy a glass of sparkling wine and Spanish snacks offered at the deli.

I noticed right off the bat that this sparkling winery had a different style than any other I’d visited. They pour by the 6 oz glass instead of offering tasting flights of 4 or more wines with the notion that folks should truly take the time to enjoy a full glass of wine to really get to know it’s character. Typically, I’d love to kick back and enjoy a tasting in this Eurpoean way, but since I was writing an article on sparkling wine pairing andneeded to sample the full portfolio, they were kind enough to pour me a flight, which we enjoyed with trademark oily Spanish marcona almonds. During my tasting, I learned that Gloria Ferrer winery is actually founded by the the same family that runs Freixenet in Spain, which I visited so many years ago! This curiosity led me to do further research at home about how the winery originated and its affiliation with Freixinet.

As it turns out, Gloria Ferrer Vineyards was the fulfillment of a longtime dream for José Ferrer, whose father, Pedro Ferrer Bosch, first came to the United States in the mid 1930s with the idea of making sparkling wine in North America. Pedro and his wife were already well-established sparkling wine producers in Spain. Their marriage had united two prominent Catalan wine families who together founded Freixenet, producing their first cava in 1915, and eventually becoming the world’s largest producer of méthode champenoise sparkling wine. Unfortunately, Pedro’s journey to the US was cut short when he was sent back to Spain by the start of the Spanish Civil War, which took his life and he never got to establish his winery. However, his son José Ferrer, never forgot Pedro’s wish to forge sparkling wine in the US and in 1982, José, Gloria and their two sons, visited Sonoma Carneros, and found a home for Gloria Caves & Vineyards. The Winery was named for Gloria, who was the firstto visit Carneros on vacation, and deeming it as beautiful and similar to Catalonia, Spain, wrote her husband a letter describing the beauty of the land and the idea to start a winery in Carneros. Today, the award-winning wines of Gloria Ferrer represent the culmination of a family dream that began more than 70 years ago.

In 1986, Gloria Ferrer became the first sparkling wine house in California’s Sonoma Carneros region, and today it still embodies Spanish winegrowing history, time-honored tradition, and centuries-old sustainable practices, making exceptional sparkling wines that pair beautifully with food. The Ferrer family has assembled a strong winegrowing team with an eye toward longevity, and the vineyard crew shares almost a quarter century of vintage knowledge. All of the fruit for Gloria Ferrer’s varietal wines and a portion of the fruit their sparkling wines is cultivated on two Sonoma Carneros estate properties. The Pinot Noir is planted in the rocky, volcanic soils on the estate’s highest ridges while the Chardonnay is planted in the clay-rich soils on the lower sections of the estate. Diverse growing conditions within the two vineyard properties allow Gloria Ferrer to plant vineyards with particular wines in mind. The consistent release of water on the well-drained valley floor eliminates vine stress which is an ideal condition for sparkling wines.

What I loved about visiting Gloria Ferrer was the personalized experience they strive to create for each guest. Unlike some wineries that want you to taste as many of their wines in as short a time as possible, Gloria Ferrer really encourages you to find a cozy location, order a glass or two of wine and some delicious basque snacks (sold at the winery tasting room) and enjoy the whole experience without rushing, or overwhelming your palate. You won’t find guests crowded around the tasting bar, pounding back taste after taste. Instead, people order their wines from the bar, and servers then take the glasses of wine to wherever you’re ensconced either at an indoor table in front of the cozy fireplace or outdoors on the sundrenched terrace. The sparkling wines themselves are excellent and pair beautifully with food. I visited Gloria Ferrer directly after a trip to Iron Horse Winery, and the key difference I tasted between their sparkling wines was that Gloria’s were warmer, maltier and had more sweetness than Iron Horse, whose wines had a lot more minerality than warm baked fruit flavors. My favorites were the Carneros Cuvee and the Sonoma Brut Late Release but you can’t go wrong with any of the sparkling wines from this winery.

My tasting notes below:

2007 Brut Rose: $42 per bottle - 95% Pinot Noir, 5% Chardonnay
This blushing rose is slightly sweet with bright pink hints of rose petals and strawberries and ripe blood orange. Great to pair with spicy cuisine like Thai or Indian and can also hold up well to Chicken, sushi or crab.

Va de Vi - $22 per bottle - 89% Pinot Noir, 8% Chardonnay, 3% Muscat
Classic cava-style sparkling wine with luscious flavors of warm, ripe baked apple and pear with a long, vanilla finish. This wine is one of the few sparkling wines that is sweet enough from the Muscat to pear well with a fruit based dessert.

2004 Royal Cuvee: $32 per bottle - 67% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay
A delightful medley of bright apple, cherry, strawberry and hints of citrus fruits. Slightly drier than the Va da Vi.

2000 Carneros Cuvee: $50 per bottle - 55% Pinot, 45% Chardonnay
This delicious beautifully aged cuvee bursts with warm caramel apple flavors, buttered bread, and baked pear.

Sonoma Brut Late Release: $25 per bottle - 87% Pinot Noir, 13% Chardonnay
This sparkling wine has more than 5 years of age allowing it to develop mature flavors of hazelnut, baked apple and honey with a honeysuckle floral nose. This wine has warm yeasty flavors but enough acidity to pair well with creamy cheese, shellfish and roasted fowl.

Blanc de Noirs: $20 per bottle - 92% Pinot Noir, 8% Chardonnay
This creamy wine has ripe red flavors of wild strawberry and black cherry with sweet vanilla notes. A perfect pairing for main course dishes like pork, quail and foie gras.

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