The Somm Journal

Dec 2015-Jan 2016

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Page 68 of 124

68 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } DECEMBER/JANUARY 2015/2016 { sparklers } IN JUNE OF THIS YEAR, I MOVED FROM a bustling neighborhood in L.A. to the sleepy, serene town of Novato, California, just north of San Francisco in Marin County. Coinciding with my move was a request from the Consorzio per la Tutela del Franciaorta: If they were to provide samples from some of their top produc - ers, along with maps and gorgeous coffee table books that profile producers of the Consorzio, what could I do with all that? Without delay, I welcomed the request and seized the opportunity to invite some of the Bay Area's top sommeliers to taste with me and to discuss the merits of these DOCG wines from Northern Italy. With help from Cara Patricia, the new Northern California Imports Manager for Domaine Select Wine & Spirits, we rounded up a great tasting team and all met at the Napa Valley Wine Academy in downtown Napa. We were joined by Christian Oggenfuss, co-founder and Chief Education Officer of the academy, and Geralyn Brostrom, co-founder of Italian Wine Central and the Italian Wine Professional courses, who had just returned from a trip to Franciacorta. While conversations delved deep into the merits of each wine tasted, the collec - tive takeaway was that these Chardonnay-, Franciacorta Revolution SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA SOMMS AND EDUCATORS EXPLORE THE MERITS OF A REGION COMING INTO ITS OWN by Jonathan Cristaldi Workers harvesting Chardonnay in Franciacorta. Bay Area somms at the tasting (standing, left to right): Jonathan Cristaldi, Deputy Editor, THE TASTING PANEL & The SOMM Journal; Davis Smith, Sommelier, Acquerello, San Francisco; Christian Oggenfuss, Chief Education Officer, Napa Valley Wine Academy; Matt Montrose, Sommelier, Atelier Crenn, San Francisco; Ryan Stetins, Restaurant General Manager, Hotel Wine Buyer, The Ritz-Carlton and Parallel 37, San Francisco; Beth Cash, Wine Club Directress, Acme Fine Wines. St. Helena, CA; Nicolas Cadavid, Sommelier, PRESS Restaurant, St. Helena; Geralyn Brostrom, Co-Founder, Italian Wine Central; seated (left to right): Cara Patricia, Northern California Imports Manager for Domaine Select Wine & Spirits; Amanda McCrossin, Sommelier PRESS Restaurant, St. Helena. PHOTO: JONATHAN CRISTALDI Pinot Bianco– and Pinot Nero–based wines from Franciacorta are more pleasing than exciting. For buyers however, the value is, as Patricia stated, "astounding," echoing the general consensus. Most enjoyed the ripe - ness and generosity of the wines, noting that the trend in Champagne, it seems, is to pro- duce wines that are getting "drier and drier, with bracing acidity," but that Franciacorta wines are more approachable—particularly at the price point. Everything we sampled was within an SRP range of $20–$47, which puts the lower-end spectrum at an ideal range for BTG programs. Stylistically, there's a great deal of varia - tion, though Oggenfuss pointed out that, "Chardonnay is the signature grape, made in the satèn style [typically 100% Chardonnay, aged for a minimum of 24 months, vintage or non-vintage] and seems to show the most consistency in terms of style and quality that Franciacorta has to offer." Brostrom suggested that the stylistic differences could be the result of longstanding "cultural divides" and added that, "In 1961, when they started to make sparkling wine in the bottle for export, there were only 11 producers; today there are over 100 producers, and around 200 members of the Consorzio," suggesting that the rapid growth has contributed to the varying degree of styles. Because American palates err on the sweeter side—and because just about every wine sampled had a kind of con - fectionary element in the nose, a sweet candied-fruit aspect—all agreed that these wines should be quite pleasing to many consumers. All in all, the reasons to consider including Franciacorta in your program are clear : They are approachable, typically have much less bracing acidity than wines from Champagne and ultimately offer tremendous value.

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