Swirl ‘n’ Spit
Tasting Room of the Week
Gloria Ferrer Winery
By Heather Irwin
Lowdown: With nearly 400 acres of grapes surrounding it, Gloria Ferrer is a bit of Catalonia in Sonoma. The first sparkling winery in the Carneros, Ferrer’s red tile roof and hacienda architecture harks back to Jose Ferrer’s native Spain, where he and his family, owners of the vast multinational Freixenet wine empire, have continued wine traditions dating from the 13th century.
Mouth value: Decisions, decisions. Unlike most wineries, Ferrer serves up six-ounce glasses for between $4 and $10, rather than two-ounce (or less) samples. Why? The staff say it was just too hard to pair the flights, wash all the glasses, serve them up . . . or something. In any case, why ask why? The good news is that you can taste at the bar or get a hearty flute or two delivered tableside while marveling at the view below. To throw all caution to the wind, shell out the $10 for a glass of the 1995 Carneros Cuvée (or better yet, just buy the whole damn bottle for $50).
Toasty and creamy, there are hints of almond and anise that make this a favorite. The blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay gives the wine a balance of crisp acidity and mellowness. The Sonoma Brut ($18 per bottle) and Blanc de Noirs ($18), which were almost indistinguishable from one another, are primarily made from Pinot Noir grapes and have a lighter, crisper flavor. The 2001 Blanc de Blancs ($24) is 100 percent Chardonnay, giving it a heavier, richer flavor with toasty, yeasty vanilla. How to choose? The staff say that it’s kind of like beer–if you like a pale or amber, you’ll like the lighter Pinot blends; stout lovers will probably like the more beefy Chardonnay blends. The winery also serves up a number of table wines made from the grapes, including a 2000 Pinot Noir, Jose S. Ferrer Selection ($35), that is spicy and smoky with flavors that are an interesting contrast to those made further north along the Russian River.
Don’t miss: Worth the trip are the champagne caves, which can be toured three times a day. No appointments are necessary, but it’s a good idea to call ahead that morning to make sure the staff can accommodate you.
Five-second snob: This one will amaze friends: how many bubbles are there in a glass of Gloria Ferrer sparkling wine? Hey, stop counting. There are, in fact, about 7.3 million, and approximately 40 million in each bottle, depending on the amount of time the wine spent on the yeast. That’s a lot of gas, baby. Ask for the winery’s trivia sheet, which answers the age-old question, how many turns of the wire safety cage does it take to get to the chewy center, er, cork of the champagne bottle?
Spot: Gloria Ferrer, 23555 Carneros Hwy., Sonoma. Open daily, 10am to 5pm. Cave tours at noon, 2pm and 4pm. $4-$10 tasting fee. 707.996.7256.
From the July 28-August 3, 2004 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.