Monday, June 1, 2015

Blackhawk Limousine | Introduction to SoCal Champagne

Southern California Champagne? Really? Yes.
Blackhawk Limousine has become an industry leader in limo wine tours.  Why? Our great knowledge and commitment to service.  Our limo wine tours are the best in Santa Barbara, Santa Ynez, & Malibu. We are also proud to offer the top rated services within Camarillo limo service, Oxnard limo service, Santa Barbara limo service, Ventura limo services.So many of our clients come for the great wines of the regions, but what about the Champagne?

It is no secret that the climates of the Russian River Valley and Carneros of Northern California produce the most famous and most consumed California Champagne. In later years, however, this trend has been shifting and also Southern California produces some great sparkling wines. One of our wine connoisseur's favorites, NV Saddlerock Sparkling Brut, is actually from Malibu Family Wines in the Malibu Canyon, which is a frequently visited wine-tasting area for so many of our customers. All our vehicles are also equipped with a complimentary full-bar, including spirits, sodas, vodka, whiskey, and a bottle of our own California-made Champagne from the Greater Los Angeles area. First of all you may wonder, are there anything such as a California Champagne? Especially among the French, there are few that think it is legally, morally, or legitimately OK to apply the term Champagne to sparkling wines that came from outside of the Champagne regions of France. But even how strange the name “French Napa Valley Wine” sounds, it is indeed an accepted term. The vital thing here is U.S. Law Code TITLE 26, subtitle E, CHAPTER 51, Subchapter F, PART III, § 5388. In short, this law allows for semi-generic designation of wines that do not originate from the Champagne Region, as long as the original region is added to the label-name. In other words, it is OK to use the terms “California Champagne” or “Californian Champagne”, as the label name also includes where it was made. Further more, sparkling wines of California are most always produced in the Méthode Champenoise style, which produces Champagne fairly similar to those Champagnes made in Europe.

Sunstone Winery in the Santa Ynez Valley
Click to enlarge ]
California Champagne is mostly made by wine producers in cooler climates, and the California-made sparkling wine differs in taste based on where the grapes are grown. Some California Champagne grapes are grown in the bottom of valleys, some on the top of the mountain, as well as the level of wind- and fog exposure the vineyard experiences, are all factors that differ the tastes of Californian sparkling wines. The most common grapes for California Champagne are chardonnay and pinot noir, while the most popular designation is brut, which is a dry-style that is most likely a blend. As mentioned, bruts are especially popular in California. Brut is a term used to describe the most sparkling and the most dry varieties of sparkling wines. Several of the most popular California Champagnes are brut, for instance the Mayo Family Winery 2009 Brut Sparkling, Caraccioli Cellars 2007 Brut Rosé, and our wine connoisseur's personal favorite, NV Saddlerock Sparkling Brut. Malibu Family Wine’s “Saddlerock Sparkling Brut” uses the traditional French method of Champagne-production. It has fresh aromas of pears and green apples, and is gold in color. Bubbles with crisp acidity on the palate, and ending with hints of toasted brioche. The Saddlerock Ranch on Mulholland Drive in the Malibu Canyons began more than three centuries back and was locally known as El Malibu up until the 1930’s. Today, this area is owned by the Semler Family, which has been cooperating with Blackhawk Limo for decades and is one of our highly trusted wine-tasting venues close to home here in Santa Barbara-, Ventura-, and Los Angeles Counties.

In this article, our wine connoisseur will elaborate on the process of how California Champagne or Californian sparkling wine is made. First of all, a sparkling wine is a type of wine that contains carbon dioxide bubbles. Carbon dioxide gas is a natural byproduct of fermentation, and wine-makers therefore decide to trap it in the wine. Just about every nation (and U.S. states) that produce wine, also makes sparkling wine. Keep in mind that this article describes the process of producing California sparkling wine, and does not apply for other regions such as Spain, where Spanish sparkling wine, known locally as cava, use totally different grapes than those used in California, particularly because of climate differences. Having said that, the most common grapes found in California champagne are pinot noir and chardonnay, and to a lesser extent, pinot meunier and pinot blanc. Most all of Californian champagne-wines are made of blends of both chardonnay and pinot noir, with a few exceptions. For instance, a blanc de blancs champagne is made solely of Chardonnay wine grapes, which makes it the lightest of all California Champagnes. A blanc de noirs Champagne is made exclusively from the dark-skinned pinot noir wine grapes, which makes it a heavier and fuller body. Somewhere in the middle of the two is where we would find rosé sparkling wine, or a pink California Champagne, which is made by adding an amount of red wine to the white blend.

Check Out More On Our Santa Ynez Valley Wine-Tours Here!
The most important key in the champagne-producing process is to bottle the wine while it’s still fermenting so the yeast will continue on its work and generate alcohol and the gas that creates the bubbles, fizz, carbon dioxide. This fizziness was first discovered by accident when the cold winters in Champagne, France stopped barrel fermenting in its tracks before the wine ever was bottled. As soon as the wine was bottled and weather had warmed up, fermentation started again, but this time inside of the bottle, where the carbon dioxide ended up trapped. As the pressure built up the corks iconically “popped off” and was consumed quickly by people assuming the bottle nearly exploded from the immense pressure in the bottle. British merchants taking delivers of French barrels of wine were the first to ever experience with the peculiar phenomenon enjoying exploding wine. In the late 18th century, Britain was home to a top-modern glass blowing industry, so they were able to produce bottles thick enough to contain the champagne, whiteout the fear of the bottle blowing up because of the immense pressure collected inside.

The largest challenge facing the early champagne developers were to remove the sediments of dead yeast and other sediments left from the fermentation-process from the bottle. The solution came with the méthode champenoise in 1805; a method which is still largely unchanged in SoCal’s modern day Southern California Champagne. The bottles of half-fermented champagne were stored neck-down in larger racks and were traditionally turned on an exact time schedule over several months to get the undesired sediments to work its way down to the cork itself. This process is referred to as riddling. In contemporary times, this process is more and more done by electronic-controlled machines. After the riddling-process, we get to the disgorging-process. Here, the sediments are all carefully removed from the wine. In the contemporary automated version, the bottle neck is frozen, the cork then removed, and the compressed gas shoots the frozen plug of muck out of the bottle. At last is the dosing-process, when the wine bottle is topped off with wine and (in some places) also sugar before being recorked and allowed to continue fermenting. It is a relatively expensive and very precise process, which is also the reason why champagne has the stereotype of only being reserved for big celebrations or high-end consumers.

Some quick facts on California Champagne
Malibu Family Wines in the Malibu Canyons.

  • Champagne is not solely for celebrations and special events. Despite eighty percent of the sparkling wine sale in America takes place between the months of November and January. Our wine connoisseur makes sure it is a style of wine that can be enjoyed at any time of year and also can match very well with certain types of food. Our wine-specialist suggests: “Try a great California Champagne as any aperitif or at the beginning of the meal. It also pairs great with a light appetizer or a sweet dessert as well.”
  • Californian Champagne differs from all other sparkling wines as wine-producers in the State of California can not add any sugar to its wine. Luckily, the warm Southern California weather found in for instance the Malibu Canyons, Santa Barbara and the Santa Ynez- and Santa Maria Valleys, is warm enough and the sun strong enough that ripening grapes to a good sweetness is not often a problem at all in SoCal. Very little at all can be added to California wine during fermentation as well, with the exception of clarifying agents and yeast.
  • Better wine glasses lead to better champagne and bubbles. Fluters – tall and slender champagne glasses –help keep the wine sparkling longer and more “powerful”. The best flute has a small etching at the bottom of the flute that helps the bubbles rising from the bottom of the flute-wine glass. And do not worry, all our limousines are equipped with state-of-the-art champagne glasses and California Champagne.
  • California Champagne gets you tipsy quickly. Carbonation in champagne makes the valve more relaxed; the valve is the area between your stomach and a small intestine, which is where the alcohol is absorbed by the blood quickly. So while a heavy red wine stays in the stomach longer, sparkling wine enters the small intestine more quickly and goes to your head faster, which leads to a light tipsiness that comes and leaves faster.
  • Champagne-producing is a high-pressure process. The pressure inside of a sparkling wine bottle made by the dissolved carbon dioxide gas, is about ninety pounds per square inch, or about 3 times the pressure found in your car tires. This is also why the glass bottles of California Champagne is so solid, thick and heavy, and the champagne cork is able to shoot such a far distance.
  • Remember that all champagnes aren't the same(!) The more expensive the sparkling wine is, generally speaking, the tinier the bobbles and creamier it feels in the mouth. The finest California champagnes barely taste fizzy, while the cheaper supermarket sparkling wines feel like fizzy water or even soda if you're unlucky.

ow that we taught you a bit, contact or call us to book your limo wine tour! We are leaders in Santa Barbara Wine Tours, Santa Ynez Wine Tours, & Malibu Wine Tours.  Choose a Sedan, SUV, stretch limousine, hummer limousine, or party bus.  Pick your vehicle and the decide what region you would like to take your wine tour. There are so many wineries to choose from and our Santa Barbara limo wine tour specialists can help you decide.   Is it a simple Santa Barbara Wine Tasting you want? A visit to Santa Ynez Wineries?  Many of our clients prefer just hanging around the Los Olivos wineries, as there are so many tasting rooms in one small area.  The same could also be said for Solvang Wine Tasting rooms, where all the wine-tasting venues are located on the same small road. Santa Barbara Wine Tour options are a nice way to celebrate any occasion, so request a quote online or call today to reserve your wine tour limo!