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J Vineyards Cuvée 20 Sparkling Wine NV

Sparkling wine is the wine of celebration and romance. Everything about sparkling wine makes it special — the shape of the bottle, the decorative foil, the sound it makes when opened and the steady stream of tiny bubbles rising in the center of the glass, not to mention decades of brilliant marketing by the Champagne industry.

Countless movies and TV shows reinforce the symbolism of sparkling wine. Opening a bottle kicks off the celebration or begins the seduction. It marks the transition between “I do” and the wedding reception. Sparkling wine underscores formality and elegance at fancy dress parties. An empty bottle laying on its side in a hotel room almost guarantees that the next shots will be of rumpled sheets and lingerie on the floor.

Good bubbly is more than just a symbol though, more than a trigger for us to be festive. It is good wine. It is versatile wine. Sparkling wine is appealing as an aperitif, delightful with hors d’oeuvres, awesome with oysters and marvelous throughout a meal. We should allow ourselves the “luxury” of sparkling wine more often. Decent Champagne may be too expensive, but there are good bottles of California sparkling wine available at very reasonable prices.

J Vineyards Cuvée 20 is pale gold in the glass with a plethora of small bubbles that rise quickly through the center of the wine. The attractive nose features lemon, bruised apple, honey, baking spice and fresh dough. The palate is “extra dry” with a pleasant but slightly coarse mousse. Flavors include green and red apples, apple skin, pear, and baking spice (cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg). The finish is generous and clean.

If you’re looking to enjoy good sparkling wine without busting your budget, J Vineyards Cuvée 20 is a great option. It has enough fruit to be easily approachable but the complexity brought by aging on the yeast keeps it interesting. It is not as dry as might be ideal for a traditional aperitif, but that will make it a better alternative to cocktails for some people. The slight sweetness definitely ensures harmony with food, though it is not nearly sweet enough to go with desserts. Serve it cold. The J Vineyards Cuvée 20 is an excellent value, espeically if you can find it for less than $20 as I did. Drink now through 2012. Recommended.

J-RRVCuvee20NVBrutJ Vineyards Cuvée 20 Sparkling Wine NV (non-vintage)
Rating: Recommended

Drink: Now through 2012
Retail Price: $22.00
Winemaker: George Bursick
Blend: 48% Chardonnay, 48% Pinot Noir, 2% Pinot Meunier
Origin: Russian River Valley

Aging: 25% of the cuvée is oak-aged. The blended wine is aged in bottle on its lees for 3 years after secondary fermentation. It ages an additional 6 months in bottle after disgorging and dosage.

Alcohol: 12.5%
Sweetness: Extra Dry, 1.5% (15 g/l) residual sugar [The maximum allowable sugar content for “Brut” Champagne was dropped from 1.5% to 1.2% by the European Economic Community in July, 2009. That doesn’t necessarily impact American wines that won’t be exported to Europe, but I will use the EC standards for Champagne here for consistency and ease of comparison.]

Closure: Cork
Production: 22,800 cases

This wine was purchased for review at Safeway.

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This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2011 NorCal Wine. Photo courtesy of J Vineyards. All rights reserved.