2015 Caraccioli Cellars, Sparkling Brut Rosé, Escolle Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
It is the season, a perfect time to celebrate the end of harvest and the blessings of the year gone by, and Caraccioli’s fabulous Brut Rosé is about as good as you can get to do so, with their 2015 vintage offering loads of pleasure and personality with a lush array of classic flavors and a fine noble energetic mousse with a beading of small bubbles that feel creamy, but still vigorous, making this a special treat. The farming at the Caraccioli’s Escolle Vineyard, named after the historic local legend Honoré Escolle, one of Carmel’s founding fathers, who was very influential in many ways too the region, is impeccable and quality of fruit, especially Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, is quite exceptional making it, along with likes of Garys’, Rosella’s, Tondre, Pisoni, Soberanes to name a few, a top site in the Santa Lucia Highlands. This limited Brut Rosé displays a revolving palate of citrus, stone fruits and a hint of strawberry with rich leesy brioche, hazelnut and stony mineral tones with supple mouth feel and a faint floral dimension, it is an impressive sparkler that can be sipped joyously all on its own, but can also hold up to a variety of cuisine choices from appetizers to main courses. Scott Caraccioli’s latest set of sparkling efforts are well worth chasing down, especially this 2015 Brut Rosé, which is my favorite and one that I am planning to drink a bit of in the coming weeks. I am glad I checked into the Caraccioli tasting lounge in Carmel by the Sea, where I got a chance to sample this wine and catch up with Scott, who was extremely excited by the just picked vintage of grapes, which could be a epic year, and he also told me that he was happy with his new blocks of Gamay, making me thrilled with the idea of true Cru Beaujolais style wines coming out of Santa Lucia Highlands. The Escolle Vineyard, whether from Caraccioli Cellars or another winery, is an almost a guarantee of quality in the bottle, in particular I love the crystalline purity in the Chardonnay from this vineyard and the perfumed and darkly hued Pinot Noir.

The Caraccioli family started planting the 124 acre Escolle Vineyard in 2008, while they sourced grapes to make their early wines, waiting patiently until the estate vineyard, planted mainly to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with a dizzying number of blocks and clones, came online. Located in the cool northern corner of the AVA , set on decomposed granite based sandy loams with cold wind always blowing down off the Monterey Bay, all making it a place that provides a long growing season and keeps vibrant acidity in the grapes that is the life’s blood of serious Sparkling wines, which is the main focus of the winery. 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.
($57 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

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