It was a cool crisp morning here in Northern California, when I got up entirely too early for a Saturday. After my first 10 cups of coffee, I was somewhat alive, so I packed myself up in to my trusty German wine mobile, and headed up to the Silverado Trail for a 10am breakfast tour of Mumm Napa Valley.
As fate would have it, the roads were clear (mostly) of traffic, save a few particularly slow tourists, and I got to Napa in record time. As we gathered at the gates of Mumm, eagerly hoping they would open the door, the fog just started to back off the valley and we could see the winter vineyards layed out before us.
Finally, at last! The doors openeed and our assorted posse of bloggers was greeted by the Mumm assistant Winemaker Tammy Lotz and self appointed cruise directory Mitch Davis with a morning glass of Deveaux Ranch.
But first, who was Monsieur Deveaux? Mumm Napa was started as a joint venture between G.H. Mumm, the French Champagne House, and Seagram & Sons. As luck would have it, it has changed hands, and now is owned by the same parent company (Pernod Ricard) as G.H. Mumm, so there is a sense of continuity and quality that carries through.
Guy (that’s Gee by the way, not Guy as in Guy Smiley) founded the Napa operation, and he was convinced that the Silverado Trail location would be a perfect balance of foggy, cool nights and hot long days; these conditions are idea for sparkling wine’s dance of acid and ripe fruit. Having a location in the New World also allows Mumm Napa to play beyond the constraints of the rather strict Champagne region bylaws – adding Pinot Gris to the blend for example, and to play with the best wines from the best regions.
So, here we are, on a chilly Saturday morning, glass of rather delectable 2006 Deveaux Ranch in our hands. This sparkler is a perfect representation of Mumm Napa, since it blends 58% Pinot Noir, 28% Chardonnay, 9% Pinot Meunier and 5% Pinot Gris, something that you might see in a Cremant, but never in a Champagne. This is a perfect start to the day with green apple, pear, and tropical flavors with a crisp acidity. For something different, you should RUN out and grab this wine. Yes, you’ll need to go to the winery, but who doesn’t want to sit on the terrace and sip bubbles? ‘Nuff said. This is a winery exclusive wine, but it’s worth a trip. It’s what I opened on New Year’s Day and it was simply stunning – well worth the $36.
As we meandered through the production facility, we stopped to try our hands at blending the 2011 Chard & Pinot, to create the different blends that Mumm creates. While they were still base wines, you can easily see how the high acid and low sugar content in the base wine creates a beautiful acid in the finished sparkler. I wouldn’t recommend drinking them however, as still wines, if you value the enamel on your teeth. I liken this exercise to tasting 70 New Zealand sav blancs in an afternoon; after a while your tongue is furry!
Winding our way through a rotating art gallery, next we were served the 2008 Pinot Meunier. While this is a common varietal in Champagne, it is often difficult to find in a domestic sparkler. This delightful wine is only crafted in exceptional vintages and evokes classic Champagne to me, with yeasty toast, and warm bread. This wine is aged 29 months sur lie, which really develop the flavor. If you are looking for something different, check it out! I love a 100% Petite Meunier, and this is a classic offering. Go for it! $36
As we gazed at Ansel Adams as well as rotating local artists, we worked our way back to the tasting salon, we were greeted by no less than 8 samples of sparkling wine. Whoo! Now this is what I call a Saturday! Winemaker Ludo Dervin, himself from Champagne entertained us with a pyramid of bubbles. Starting with the least expensive, but in no way inferior, wines of Brut Prestige, Brut Rose, and Cuvee M, we worked up to the Blanc de Blanc and Brut Reserve before the top of the line DVX. But, we were also surprised with a special bottling of the Santana Brut, a special join effort with the musician and, another treat, the Brut Reserve Rose.
While I enjoy the more commonplace offerings (aka found everywhere) of the Brut Prestige, Brut Rose, and Cuvee M, I have to admit they are somewhat boring to my spoiled taste buds. That said, at approximately $15 a bottle here in CA you really can’t beat that price.
More interesting to me were the Blanc de Blanc (made entirely of Chardonnay grapes) and the Brut Reserve for their clean, crisp flavor profile and toasty back notes.
Finally, at the top of the food chain, we tasted the DVX. The DVX isn’t made every year, and the first vintage was 1990. I used to love this wine, but it wasn’t really hitting the spot for me on this particular day. I remember when I was a young wineaux and a member of the club here at Mumm that this was my favorite, but it was either the weather or the flavor profile that just wans’t working for me today.
Finally, back to taste the Santana. This one of a kind wine was first created in 1999 as a partnership with the musician and Mumm Napa, with the proceeds going to the Milagro Foundation. Right! Drinking for charity is always something on my agenda! Made with with a pinch more dosage than the Brut Reserve, this wine had wonderful stone fruit, brioche and green apple flavors that I just adored. It’s a splurge, but well worth it in my opinion at $45.
The Brut Reserve Rosé, which is 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay, is also a special wine made with 5% of the Pinot Noir being a super ripe Carneros component that is blended back in to the base wine. The result is that you get crisp bright red fruit, but ti’s much drier than the Brut Rosé. This is a wallet friendly $22 and should absolutely be examined, for…research purposes.
And remember, you can add fizz to a oaky buttery chard, but you’ld have a disgusting fruit punch! (Thanks to Ludo for this slightly parapharased quote to protect the innocent). Making sparkling wine is an art form. You can truly screw it up or you can make magic.
I’ve come to find that I really enjoy a drier style of sparlking these days. Over the years, as my knowledge has increased, my taste has changed. A fairly natural progression, I moved from sweet whites and roses to much drier and, I suppose, Austere sytle. That said, all of these wines are delicious, and you really should teaste them for yourslef. If you appreciate a slightly sweeter or fruity edge, try the Brut Prestige, Rose, and Cuvee M. These are alle excellent values and should be tasted at your own pace.
Thanks to the team at Mumm for entertaining us! You can discover Mumm Napa for yourselves on the Silverado Trail. They are open from 10am every day of the week, with the first tour (no tasting), or the Tour & Tastings starting at 11. If you prefer, you can relax in one of two tasting areas as well, overlooking the valley just below.