2017 Caraccioli Cellars, Sparkling Brut Rosé, Escolle Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands.
It’s hard not to love the Caraccioli Escolle Vineyard Sparkling wines, especially this divine recent release 2017 Brut Rosé that is absolutely delicious with plenty of verve and tension, showing off an elegant and vibrant mousse, racy citrusy fruit, a touch of strawberry and a joyous yeasty character, making for an admirable minerally dry Champagne style bubbly that is thrilling in the glass. The Caraccioli family started planting the 124 acre Escolle Vineyard, named after the historic local legend Honoré Escolle, 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, which have now came online here, plus some very exciting Gamay too. 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, with wines like this. He 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.

The Caraccioli Champagne style sparkling wines first sees 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 Caraccioli Cuvée and Rosé, as mentioned before, see no skin contact and mostly gets some stainless, though some of the lots are fermented in barriques, with all of the primary fermentation(s) 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. This fresh and steely 2017 vintage Brut Rosé, with its delicate and very subtle pinkish/salmon hue and whiff of rosewater, really is exceptional stuff, with vineyard driven terroir and class, it delivers on its promise and exceeds expectations and should not be overlooked when shopping for grower fizz, it is worth every penny and a very distinctive package for any and or special occasions. I recent years too, I have very much enjoyed the still wines at Caraccioli, with their Hilltop Pinot Noir and the Gamay based wines being particular favorites and cannot wait to what the future brings here.
($57 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive

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