The sparkling grape harvest is under way in Sonoma wine country, and of course that means it’s time for harvest parties.
Saturday was the Flavors of Fall Festival at Korbel Winery in Guerneville, which is the largest sparkling wine producer in the United States. The history of the winery dates back more than 100 years when three brothers from Bohemia started a farm in Guernville. They found that nothing grew that well, except for wine grapes. They made their first vintage of sparkling wine in 1882, using grapes that were readily available locally and the same fermentation method as used in Champagne region of France.
If you’ve never been to Korbel, you’ll find it’s a very picturesque property that spreads out among majestic redwood trees. The garden tour takes guests behind a ornate wrought iron gate that’s usually locked and into pathways lined with creeping hydrangea, heirloom roses, elderberry, dahlias, anemone and a variety of other exotic plants. The garden is also a magnet for butterflies; deep sapphire blue swallowtails flitted about. One of the most impressive sights are the ancient redwoods, some of which are more than 1,000 years old.
The winery also offers a range of sparkling wines that can’t be found easily in the market. Since I was signing copies of The Bubbly Bar in the tasting room, I had time to taste some wine. My favorites were the 100% Chardonnay sparkling wine which was dry at just 1.0 dosage, creamy on the palate and full of golden apple and citrus flavors. I was also really impressed with the refreshing Sparkling Riesling made from fruit sourced in Mendocino County. It’s pleasantly off-dry at 3.6 percent sugar with a notes of stone fruit, slatey minerality and good acid structure.
I woke up Sunday to another sunny and hot day in west Sonoma county and the harvest party at Iron Horse Vineyards for members of the Corral Club. We walked up a pathway lined with hand-painted wine bottles holding zinnias from the Sterlings’ garden. Lunch started with duck egg omelets, local sausage and creamy golden cheese with I am the Ocean Reserve. We walked through the tomato, squash and pumpkin patches and hiked up the hill to the tasting room overlooking Green Valley while others line danced. Then the feast began lunch with grilled local lamb, spicy turkey tacos and a jumble of tomatoes along with a reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.
We started the party with the Tiziano, a wine country cocktail made with fresh pressed grape juice and sparkling wine. If you decide to try this delicious and simple cocktail, juice your own grapes or buy some high-quality bottled grape juice like the Vignette Wine Country Sodas. Here’s the Tiziano recipe:
15 to 20 red grapes for 3 ounces fresh-pressed red grape juice, plus 2 extra grapes
3 to 4 ounces brut sparkling wine
One red grape, for garnish
One green grape, for garnish
Puree grapes in a blender. Strain puree through a sieve into a champagne flute. Discard grape pulp. Top with Prosecco. Garnish with the red and green grape threaded onÂ a long bamboo skewer.
Variation: This cocktail takes on a whole different hue and flavor when made with green grapes or an aromatic variety like the Muscat.