2016 Caraccioli Cellars, Sparkling Brut Rosé, Escolle Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
Tasted out of magnum(s) at the Santa Lucia Highlands Sun, Wind & Wine event, this 2016 Brut Rosé vintage sparkling wine by Caraccioli very much impressed, eclipsing previous releases with more depth and intensity on display, but with all the pleasure and luxuriousness you’d ever want from a true Champagne style bubbly. The total Caraccioli collection has really seen a step up with the selection of Pinots, Chards and Gamay all being fabulous bottles, joining in on the fun with the two main sparkling wines that are some of the best in California and are true grower producer offerings. Since making a slash with their no compromise Methode Champenoise almost a decade ago now, this label and vineyard has become one of the most acclaimed in the region and these latest releases are very rewarding treats, especially this exceptional Brut Rosé with its energy, mineral driven core and elegant complexity making utterly delicious. Delicately pale salmon/pink in the glass and with tiny effervescent bubbles this vintage Brut Rosé is very inviting and rewarding on the dry and crisp palate with a classic steely Champagne profile of lemony citrus, tart peach, quince and faint strawberry fruits, along with a subtle yeasty doughy brioche, hazelnut, wet stone, a light rose water essence and clove spice. Even with the long lees aging, creamy mouse and mature flavors the 2016 remains impeccably vital and fresh, making me think it will age well and it goes great with a wide range of cuisine, from briny oysters, caviar and or more substantial dishes. I most recently tried Caraccioli’s Gamay and Passtoutgrain (Gamay/Pinot blend), of which I thoroughly enjoyed and reviewed here at grapelive.com, and not long ago I celebrated with their regular Brut Cuvée, so it was notable that this Brut Rosé surpassed my expectations and I highly recommend chasing it down too. Thanks to Scott Caraccioli for sharing this and his very limited Passtoutgrain with me and graciously explaining in detail the wines and his excitement with some future vineyard developments, that includes a new clone of Cru Beaujolais Gamay Noir.

The Escolle Vineyard, planted in 2008, mainly to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, as mentioned in my prior reviews, has a dizzying number of blocks and clones, with more caming online, including more Gamay, which is showing some real promise here. Located in the cool northern corner of the AVA , Escolle is set on decomposed granite based sandy loams with cold wind always blowing down off the Monterey Bay, all making for a long growing season and helping keep vibrant acidity in the grapes, that is the life’s blood of serious Sparkling wines. With the help of the late Michel Salgues, who had worked for Champagne house Louis Roderer for most of his career, including the last nineteen at Roederer Estate in Anderson Valley, where he was the founding winemaker, Scott Caraccioli quickly gained a solid reputation for his grower producer style bubbly and is now considered one of the best producers in California of Champagne method sparkling wines, which follow a very traditional regime from the vines to the bottle, with early picks to long lees aging on these elegant and lively wines. Scott first does a light pressing of the cool and fresh juice in small lots, with the winery noted that they do 120 gallons (well below what the law in Champagne mandates: 150-180gl.) at a time. The Cuvée and Rosé see no skin contact and mostly gets some stainless, though some of the lots are fermented in barrique, with all of the primary fermentations being spontaneous, done with ambient yeasts. The Caraccioli Brut Rosé undergoes the same processes and initial blend of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir, as their Brut Cuvée. The difference in the Rosé is that Scott hand picks of a barrel of Pinot Noir still wine to blend into the final Rosé to give this bottling its delicate pink hue. To enhance complexity and depth the young wine is barreled down-post fermentation for a few months, taking as Caraccioli explains, a little rest before blending, though in a few years there is some stainless aged juice. The Caraccioli bubbly sees a long élevage, as mentioned, with a full four years on the lees, and then they are held back after disgorgement, under cork, for about two more years before release, making for serious and desirable stuff indeed!
($57 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

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