Sonoma Sparkles with Spanish Style

A brilliant red tile roof draws your attention to the Gloria Ferrer winery, a blend of Spanish style with California Mission design that sits on a gently sloping golden hillside about seven miles south of Sonoma.

A terrace  overlooking the vineyards provides one of the most memorable vistas in the county.

The soul of the place follows the blending theme, as this  winery’s famous sparkling wines are almost always a combination of different grapes, whose total impact is greater than the sum of its parts.

Gloria Ferrer Winery

Gloria Ferrer Winery

Four flags — Spanish, Catalan, California and U.S. — are flown outside Gloria Ferrer every day, giving visitors a hint of the combinations to come as they walk from the parking lot at the rear of the building, climb the steps, cross the wide portico and enter the  tasting room.

The winery combines Spanish hospitality with sophisticated viticulture to produce  a lineup of  sparklers and notable still wines. It’s open daily for tastings.

Visitors this Saturday and Sunday (July 18-19) can help celebrate the winery’s 19th annual  Catalan Festival, highlighting the cuisine and culture of the northeastern region of Spain that is home to Barcelona and the Ferrer family. The festival features authentic music and dancers (flamenco) along with food from regional Spanish restaurants (Sabor of Spain from San Rafael and B-44 Catalan Bistro in San Francisco). Tickets are $45.

Catalan Festival Dancer

Catalan Festival Dancer

On a sun-drenched morning visit, I was guided through a tasting of sparkling and still wines by Cindy Friedman, director of consumer marketing. The quality, across-the-board, was first rate.

Royal Cuvee

Royal Cuvee

When it comes to Champagne-style wine, I really enjoy the creaminess factor. That’s one major selling point for the 2002 Royal Cuvee, a very dry yet creamy  blend of 65 percent pinot noir and 35 percent chardonnay.

This $35 wine spent five and a half years on the yeast before bottling and the benefit of that extended aging produced a fine string of tiny bubbles and a round palate based on apple and baking spice.

My second favorite was the newly released Va de Vi, which means “It’s about the wine!” in Spanish. This $22 bottle is delicious, thanks in part to an unusual addition (dosage) of fruity muscat. It’s less creamy than the Royal Cuvee and its flavors tend more to the peachy part of the fruit spectrum, but the combination is a winner.

Coming in a close third was the 2005 Brut Rose. It’s nearly all pinot (with four percent chardonnay) and the red grape skins are left in the mix after pressing for a brief period of time, giving the wine a lovely pinkish tint. There is not much Brut Rose available outside the winery, but it does pop up from time to time on some restaurant wine lists.

The most complex sparkler was the $50 Carneros Cuvee. The current release, from the 1998 vintage, showcases maturity and a complex interplay of tastes and texture. Tiny bubbles rippled through the pale wine, which smells faintly of lemons. It tastes of citrus (meyer lemon?) and there’s a layer of toastiness that’s interesting . Oh, and that creamy edge doesn’t hurt the taste one bit!

Carneros Cuvee

Carneros Cuvee

On the still wine front, I tried three different pinot noirs, starting with the 2006 Carneros ($28). It has a delightful cherry nose, red fruit flavors and a wisp of smokiness that pushed my button in a good way.

Production of the next two wines is in the hundreds of cases, but they are worth seeking out from the winery, at a restaurant or at some high-end wine shops if you are California pinot lover.

I enjoyed the 2005 Jose S. Ferrer, a $35 reserve wine named after the winery founder, for its vibrant cherry flavors and complex nose that hinted of wood, spice and plums and seemingly went on forever — even after the glass was emptied.

The final wine of the tasting was the Rust Rock Terrace ($50). This single vineyard wine  reminded me more of a restrained red Burgundy with its almost silky, elegant texture.

Gloria Ferrer is part of the Freixenet wine group’s holdings, which includes wineries on four continents — Europe, North and South America and Australia.

Check out this great video on Gloria Ferrer Vineyards shot by KTVU videojournalist Evan Borders!

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