Oregon sparkling wine has already earned its share of critical acclaim and yet this scrappy tightly-knit wine region continues to experiment with intriguing riffs on the tradition-infused méthode champenoise style. Winemaker Kim Kramer of Kramer Vineyards declares with vigor that she’ll “sparkle anything,” and she’s not alone in her pioneering thirst for new and unique sparkling expressions.
Argyle Winery Winemaker, Nate Klostermann, notes that sparkling wine production is expanding throughout Oregon’s Willamette Valley. “Our well-drained, high elevation, volcanic soils allow for balanced, elegant structure and pure fruit flavors,” he says, “which develop vibrant, complex aromatics while retaining high natural acidity important for delicious sparkling wines.”
In keeping with Oregon’s often freewheeling winemaking mojo, several producers are getting into the game with bottlings such as the Art Brut Melon de Bourgogne from Root Wine Company or the Sauvignon Blanc Pétillant-Naturel from La Randonée. Kramer, who currently sparkles eight different varietals from the Yamhill-Carlton appellation, explains that Oregon’s “lack of attachment to tradition opens up some exciting possibilities for style, variety, and blends that are unique.”
Sparkling wine is certainly nothing new to the region. Argyle Winery, whose extended tirage bottlings enjoy the highest scores for any sparkling wines made outside of Champagne, started crafting bubbly in Oregon in 1987. Yet, Thomas Houseman, winemaker for Anne Amie Vineyards, remembers when his winery first launched their now-annual sparkling wine event, “The first year we hosted the event it was a one day affair, and we barely had enough producers to fill the room. It is now a two-day event, and we have a waiting list from other wineries to participate.”
Indeed, Oregon is has only begun to uncover its sparkling potential. Consider the playfully zesty Montinore Estate ‘Vivacé’ NV, an unorthodox blend of biodynamically grown gewürztraminer, müller-thurgau, pinot gris, and riesling. Ditto the fun, fresh, and fruity Pike Road 2019 Sparkler Rosé that blends together pinot noir, pinot gris, and a splash of chardonnay and gewürztraminer and then ages it all in a combination of steel and concrete.
Houseman’s Anne Amie Amrita sparkling is inspired by Portuguese Vinho Verde, and comes packed with aromatic white varieties—gewürztraminer, chardonnay musque, and viognier. Explains Houseman, “I wanted to create a sparkling that would pair with all of the things I like to eat—Thai food, Indian food, fish tacos, Mexican street corn—anything with a little chili heat.”
For an otherworldly riesling expression, try Brook’s Extended Tirage Sparkling Riesling (2015). Brooks is a winery that produces more rieslings than any other winery in America—this bubbly, aged 32 months on the lees, boasts a rich yet lively mineral edge and drinks like lemon herb popsicle.
Gran Moraine has garnered critical acclaim for their Gran Moraine Brut Rosé, but winemaker Shane Moore is not resting on any laurels. “We’ve played around with some experimental pét-nats. Our favorite so far has been doing a carbonic fermentation of pinot noir.”
It’s not all puppies and cupcakes, and Kramer notes that much work has yet to be done. “There’s a lot we have yet to work out, from finding the best sites, planting the best clones, and managing those vineyards for sparkling wines specifically.” It’s worth noting the experts in Champagne have been crafting sparkling wine for centuries. Fortunately for bubbly lovers, this means many more vintages of cool, intriguing sparkling wines from Oregon to explore in real time.
Some to Look For
With ten years on the lees, this is one of the most extraordinary vintage sparklings made in America today. $150
Made from a select plot of old-vine pinot gris. $26
A blend of pinot noir, muscat, and müller-thurgau. $20
A fizzy playful riff on a classic Italian varietal. To be released soon.