2020 Monte Rio Cellars, Skull Piquette, Sparkling White Wine, California.
The salty and fizzy white Skull Piquette from Monte Rio Cellars is bright and citrusy sparkling wine that is highly quaffable and low in natural alcohol, making it a fun and no pretense Summer refresher with tangy flavors and with a bone dry crispness on the lighter framed palate. Cidery earthy elements, an unfiltered gold/yellow hue and some chopped almonds yeasty notes lead the way with a frothy mousse in the glass make this bubbly interesting along with its tart and dusty dry peach, lemon/lime, quince and pear fruit. These Piquettes, all the rage now, are as Patrick Cappiello, the winemaker/owner of Monte Rio Cellars, says, made as a result of water being added to the pre-fermenting grape must. Adding that it is steeped for two days before it’s put into stainless steel barrels, with some unfermented grape juice added to assist an indigenous yeast fermentation. Then after primary is done, the wine is rested for five months in the steel barrels before another little bit of unfermented juice is added on the day of bottling to start second fermentation in bottle. The Monte Rio Piquettes have zero sulfur added and the finished alcohol is just 7% natural alcohol, making them lively, and as mentioned above, very refreshing and surprisingly dry. These are cheap and cheerful bubbly that are not trying to be Champagne, more like Lambrusco in a way, but they are uniquely Californian in wild combination of grapes used to make them.

This Monte Rio Cellars Piquette is an interesting new California interpretation of an ancient method style sparkling wine, which for a lack of a better explanation I will call Pet-Nat 2.0 or a Glou-Glou Fizz. Patrick Cappiello, the famous Sommelier behind Monte Rio Cellars, a small micro craft winery in Sonoma County that makes wines in partnership with Pax Mahle, the famous Syrah producer, explains that Piquette was started many decades ago by vineyard and winery workers in France who discovered that by taking the grape must out of the press and adding water, they could start a second fermentation, which results in a fresh, low alcohol, slightly sparkling wine. Cappiello adds, that over the past few years these style of wines have seen a big resurgence here in the United States and this 2020 vintage is his second harvest making them, of which he did two distinct versions. This white one being made from Vermentino, Chardonnay and Melon de Bourgogne grapes in must form and his reddish/pink version, which I already reviewed was crafted using an interesting combination of Gamay, Trousseau Noir and Trousseau Gris. I enjoyed this Piquette with cold chicken salad, its best to drink this with simple foods and it begs for outdoor dinning and sunny weather. The Monte Rio Cellars wines are notably raw and natural in style and are throwbacks to an earlier era of California table wines, their lineup includes Zins and other old California grapes, including the Mission grape, they are all easy drinking and great values.
($23 Est.) 88 Points, grapelive

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