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WINE BANTER - By John Haggard - June 2016


Sparkling Sonoma

by John Haggard

Sparkling Sonoma

Sparkling wines aren’t just for anniversaries and weddings, they can be enjoyed any time of the year. Whether you’re a purist or you prefer a splash of orange or fresh peach juice in your sparkling wine Sonoma has a wide range of sparkling wine houses to choose from and an abundance of flavors.

Sparkling wines are typically produced of chardonnay and pinot noir varietals though you will find sparkling wines from many more: there are even sparkling syrahs, gewürztraminers and French colombard to name but a few. 

Iron Horse ( is located in Russian River’s Green Valley appellation and boasts exquisite views. Iron Horse produces a large selection of sparkling wines and for those persons who may not imbibe in sparkling wines they also offer an excellent selection of still wines. I love their classic Vintage Brut, and their Wedding Cuvee is perhaps the wine most of us are familiar with. There also produced an exquisite 2012 Rainbow Cuvee which is a blend of both chardonnay and pinot noir and is a very limited production run. 

J Vineyards & Winery ( also offers a variety of still and sparkling wines. The J Vintage Brut provides exceptionally racey acidities and is a superb pairing for seafood and especially oysters on the half-shell. The J Brut also provides green apple flavors and hints of red berries. My favorite oyster pairing with this sparkling wine is Dungeness Bay and Malpeque oysters. 

One my favorite sparklings from Gloria Ferrer ( is the Blanc de Blancs – I especially like the distinctive green apple flavor in this wine and the versatility for pairing with cheese whether it be goatsmilk or cowsmilk, preferably with a little age. Another of my favorites from Gloria Ferrer is their Blanc de Noirs, with hints of citrus and red berry and cherry. I’ve even paired this with duck breast with fresh cherries and sherry cream sauce – it was superb. The bright acidity helped cut through the fattiness of the duck breast – a perfect pairing. These two are my preferred among so many great sparklings that are available at Gloria Ferrer.

From Korbel (, the “natural” is the wine we’re most accustomed to seeing and an exceptional value, however, my favorite can be found at the winery: the Korbel Chardonnay Sparkling Wine. There is a very slight sweetness to this chardonnay with meyer lemon and green apple.

There are a few wineries known for their still wine production, however, they also have very small runs of wines that are not commonly produced into sparkling wines such as Harvest Moon’s Sparkling Dry Gewurztraminer (, Woodenhead’s Sparkling French Colombard ( and Moshin’s Sparkling Blanc de Noirs made primarily from a pinot noir varietal with 5% chardonnay, only 68 cases produced ( These are all wines that can be found at the wineries.

Sonoma County Father’s Day Sparkling Events:

Korbel Father’s Day Oyster and Champagne Pairing – Sunday, Jun 19, 11pm – 4pm. The perfect Father’s Day pairing: Oysters and Korbel Champagne! Bring Dad to Korbel on his Special Day to honor him and have some fun! Nellie’s Oysters fresh from Tomales Bay, available for purchase while supplies last. Oysters will be paired with Korbel Natural’ California Champagne Special discounts available in the Wine Shop Complimentary tours throughout the day. No charge except for oysters purchased. (

Gloria Ferrer: Father’s Day Bubs, Suds & BBQ – Sunday, June 19, 12pm – 2pm Bubs, Suds, and BBQ! Let dad take a break from the grill this year and enjoy a relaxing day under our grapevine covered arbor. Soak in the views of our vineyards and valley as you enjoy delicious slow cooked BBQ, cold beer, and Gloria’s award winning wines & sparkling wines. Listen to live acoustics provided by The No Buenos and make this a Father’s Day to remember! Our BBQ buffet includes chicken, tri-tip, ribs, beans, potato salad, mixed green salad, dinner rolls, and of course dessert! $75 (


John Haggard is owner of Sophie’s Cellars, Sonoma Wine Tasting in Duncans Mills, California. Sophie’s Cellars is open Thu, Sat, Sun and Mon: 11am – 5pm, Fri:  11am-7pm (Local’s Night, Friday, 4-7pm, and you don’t have to be a local to join us).