My story begins in 2013, when my middle daughter graduated from Cal Berkeley. Both my partner and I purchased a bottle of our favorite méthode champenoise sparkling wine [Champagne] from two different wine shops and brought them with us for the celebration. Popping one, then the other, we soon discovered that both bottles weren’t of the caliber that we’d expected, so given that my partner is a winemaker, we poured them out. Yep, oh yes, it hurt.
I’ve always loved French-style Champagne [although in California, the méthode champenoise style is referred to as sparkling wine], and because in my youth money was tight, we consumed it infrequently. Still, I did, do, have my favorite brand and varietal. There’s nothing like an exquisite bottle of French-style Champagne: layers of lovely aromas, tiny bubbles, and a creamy, velvety mouthfeel on your palate.
I grew up in a vineyard as did my partner, so while I’m comfortable in ‘n around grapes, winemaking was foreign to me, and I confess that I had my preconceived notions. Okay, really, I didn’t appreciate all that goes into that bottle of sparkling wine and figured that anyone could make wine. After we poured out both bottles, I did what I do best, I inserted both feet into my mouth.
While I understand that every vintage is going to be different: varied rainfall [or none now], number of days between 85F – 94F [prime growing temp], and the number of frosts during the winter months that allow those vines to ‘sleep.’ I didn’t grasp the complexities that go into an exceptional bottle of sparkling wine, or any wine. So, I said, “You know, if you were really a good winemaker, you could make a consistently exceptional bottle of Champagne.” “I mean, really, think about it. Beer is made from hops, and yet beer is the same from week to week, month to month, and year to year.”
Challenge issued, although I didn’t know it at the time. We had a lovely celebratory dinner at a local restaurant with several nice bottles of still wine. And life moved on, until 2014, when my partner approached me and told me that he wanted to try to make an exceptional Champagne. Huh?!?
Two of our children were done with college/masters’ degrees, and the third was entrenched at U.C. Davis. We were so close to getting all our debts paid off and, umm, retiring, or at least downsizing. So, I did what my partner always did to me when I came up with some unusual idea and said, “Okay, where’s your plan?” Yeah, like that was going to dissuade him.
He came back to me the next day with a budget and some projections written down on a piece of binder paper [which I still have taped on the wall above our shared desk at home]. In 2014, we harvested our first vintage of Chardonnay from our home ranch and produced a méthode champenoise [French-style Champagne]. In the beginning, we were fortunate to enlist the assistance of a wonderful French winemaker in Lake County, Gerald Ployez.
We spent a lot of time driving up ‘n down the highway to Ployez Winery, tasting, making critical decisions, and waiting for just the right moment. After several years, we gathered family and friends together at our Thanksgiving table to taste the outcome of our initial foray into the world of méthode champenoise sparkling wine. I still remember my first sip of our Serendipity Sparkling Wine. Tiny mesmerizing bubbles, layers of brioche and green apple on the nose, and the taste, exquisite. We had something special.
In the end, I learned that true winemaking is an artform. It is indeed something to be celebrated and every vintage is unique, a testament to Mother Nature, the farmer, and the winemaker. It is truly a collaborative effort.
*Oh, and by the way, that budget that I was presented with in 2014, yep, we blew that budget out of the water during the first nine months of our new business.
We’ve moved on to other vintages, but I was able to hold back one partial cage of our very first vintage—2014. It has remained in a wooden crate on the yeast since that first harvest, and we recently riddled and disgorged it. We’ve only now released this Reserve Tirage Blanc de Blanc to the public and invite you to purchase a bottle of this very special sparkling wine.
There are only 200 bottles, and each one is hand numbered. Once they’re sold, there will be no more of the vintage that started it all. I confess that in my heart, this will always be the best bottle of sparkling wine. It truly is exceptional, and I believe that you’ll agree… sometimes a serendipitous moment presents itself when you least expect it.
A toast to Serendipity!