Earlier this week I had the virgin experience of tasting an Oregon sparkling wine (BTW--it's only called Champagne if it's from Champagne, France otherwise it's sparkling, prosecco, cremant...you get the gist). I won't judge all Oregon sparklings by this experience, but if I did...let's just say that this is not something I'd likely repeat. I love sparkling, so I was just a touch saddened by this less-than-stellar experience.
The Wine: Argyle Sparkling Wine
Grape: They actually list the percentage on the bottle, which is unusual -- 85% Pinot Noir, 15% Chardonnay
Price: $28.00 in Atlanta
Where It's From: Oregon, specifically the Willamette Valley, home to most of the quality producers in the state.
Normal Description: In the wine world, this wine is closest to what is known as a Blanc de Noirs, or literally, a "White of Blacks" because it's a white wine made primarily from a dark skinned grape (Pinot Noir). In Champagne, the home of all things yummy and sparkling, the Blanc de Noirs tend to be more costly, prestigious, and full-bodied, so that's what I expected from Argyle.
I sip sparkling pretty often because I think it's lame and ridiculous that people only have it on special occasions. And contrary to popular belief, like any other wine of quality, it's ok to lay down a bottle of sparkling for a few years to develop the tastes and aromas of the wine. Theoretically it should mature and create lots of flavors that are complex, different, and pretty awesome. So with all that said, I approached this wine with some excitement.
At first glance things seemed in line with expectation. The wine was brass colored, with nice, small bubbles (smaller bubbles=better wine quality) and kind of intense in color, which led me to think it would be complicated and interesting. The sniff test -- smelled like golden raisins, dried apple rings, and a strong whiff of yeast and baked bread. That's a pretty complex nose, and was about what I expected for the age of the wine, since dried smells and bready aromatics usually develop with age.
Sadly, the palate let me down. I did like that it was pleasantly effervescent without being too bubbly, but I found it really grape-y, which is not something that I like in a wine. It delivered in spades on the nose -- it had dried apple rings with some pear and even jasmine and agave nectar flavors (I only know that because I tried agave in my coffee at Trader Joe's, BTW). But that super-yeasty quality was not so great for me -- it overpowered my tongue and had a paint-like quality to it. Also, although it's labeled Brut (which is very dry), it seemed to be more like off-dry, with a little sugary character. This would have been ok, but I was not expecting it so I was underwhelmed on the finish.
Got snap or is it crap?: I may be plebian and just hate aged sparklers, but I think I prefer my bubbly to be fresher, more effervescent, and less heavy than I found the Argyle to be. If you like an aged, heavy white, this could be your new favorite sparkler. If not, spend the extra $14 and get yourself some non-vintage Champagne from the motherland.