Our first sparkling wines were launched in 2001 under the Celebrate label. Those early releases were made from Müller-Thurgau and Pinot Gris. The collection has since expanded to include Pinot Noir, Grüner Veltliner, Carmine, and rosé. As the program grows, we highlight how this series of sparkling wines differs from the vast majority of bubbly available on the market today:
The Kramer estate vineyard.
Celebrate Rosé of Pinot Noir
Piquette is a refreshing vinous drink with lower alcohol; fizzy and tart, with pure effervescence and natural fruit flavors, it’s the perfect alternative for a balanced lifestyle.
This spring, Kramer Vineyards launches Piquette, a nearly forgotten old-world beverage made from grape pressings and water. Known for its innovative sparkling wine program with offerings including sparkling Grüner Veltliner, Kramer saw an opportunity to offer something different.
Piquette might be as old as wine itself. The earliest stories are of Iora, an ancient Greek or Roman drink made from wine grape pressings that were rehydrated, pressed, fermented, and diluted further. Another story is that French vineyard workers were served a version of Piquette at lunch, so as not to interfere with their afternoon productivity.
“I saw a creative challenge in capturing so many trends with Piquette. It is the intersection of rosé, sparkling, low sugar, lower alcohol, single serving packaging—and it’s adjacent to the cider, craft beer, and hard seltzer categories.” said second generation winemaker, Kim Kramer.
Kramer was inspired to revive this beverage of the farm hand during the harvest of 2019. To make the Piquette, Kramer upcycled the pressings of their Müller-Thurgau grapes. The skins and pulp were reserved and rehydrated with well water, allowing the release of sugars and flavors. After steeping for four days, the grapes were pressed again, along with marc from a red ferment, giving the liquid a rosy glow. The must fermented in stainless, and was bottled November 2019, finishing fermentation under a crown cap to create the gentle sparkle. Fermented dry with just 7.5% alcohol, this crisp, easy-to-drink refresher pairs well with just about every sunny occasion.
Kramer Vineyards Piquette will be released on March 19, 2020.
Kramer Vineyards is a family owned and operated winery, now in its second generation. For 36 years, they have been growing grapes at their sustainably farmed vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. Kramer specializes in producing cool climate white, red, and sparkling wines at their property in Gaston, 30 miles west of Portland.
Made from rehydrated grape pressings, Piquette is a lower-alcohol beverage full of fizz and fruit. We read about this nearly forgotten beverage of the ancient farm worker during harvest and decided to give it a try with Müller-Thurgau. Grape solids usually go to the compost pile after pressing, but there’s still sugar and flavor in those skins and pulp that can be extracted after a few days of steeping in water and pressed again. We were delighted to find this humble drink to be tart and citrusy, with a gentle sparkle on the palate. The finished alcohol is 7.5%, perfect for a sunny midday refresher.
Bottled in single-serving 12-ounce longnecks and sharable 750 mL sparkling formats, the Piquette will be released on the first day of spring, March 19.
Also known as méthode ancestrale, this is the oldest method of sparkling production, in which the wine is bottled before primary fermentation is complete, finishing in the bottle. The active yeast consumes the residual sugar from the grapes, generating pressure, resulting in a gentle fizz with loads of yellow fruit flavors. Typically, the wine is not disgorged, and will have a cloudy appearance from the spent yeast in the bottle.
We released a small 20-case lot of Pinot Gris made in this style over the summer, and it sold out quickly. Between the strong response in the tasting room and our desire to grow in our knowledge of sparkling wines, we have increased production this year. Look for the 2019 Pétillant-Naturel Pinot Gris this spring.
We’ve been bottling standalone clones of Pinot Noir since the 2014 vintage (click here for more explanation). In 2017, we expanded the collection to include five clones: Pommard, Wädenswil, 115, 667, and 777. These are wines we make for ourselves, to learn more about clonal selection and expression, and we’ve been pleasantly surprised that these wines have gained a following over the last few years. We’ll be releasing the elegant 2017s throughout the spring and summer and will host a comparative tasting on April 25 & 26 (reservations recommended).
Dosage is a finishing syrup added to most champagnes and sparkling wines after the second fermentation in the bottle. Adding very small amounts of sugar can help to balance high acid wines, emphasize fruit, and improve texture. For one of the best explanations on this subject, see A Seasoning for Champagne, by Peter Liem.
In the cellar, the first introduction to our sparkling wines is often a few months after it's been bottled, to see how the second fizz-creating fermentation is coming along. Tasting a sparkling wine for the first time in this raw state, dry, and dancing on cells of suspended yeast, is always a thrill.
Once the fermentation is complete, we begin to assess the necessity of dosage, and prepare a range of wines with sugar levels up to 10 grams per liter. In our history of making sparkling wines, the dosage levels have ranged from 3 to 8 grams per liter. However, these preferences aren't always clear cut, and we often have a fondness for the crisp, tart, and very dry wines without dosage as well.
The low to zero dosage movement is a relatively recent trend, and more commonly found among grower-producers than big sparkling houses. While we certainly identify with the grower model, our interest in the style is rooted the idea that with a great fruit source, followed by good fermentation and cellar practices, that perhaps the best course of action is to take none, and let the wine speak for itself.
Vintage describes the year of the grape harvest, and in the US, wines with a vintage year on the label indicate that 95% of the grapes were from that year. By contrast, nonvintage wines are blends of wines from grapes that were harvested from two or more years. Seventy to eighty percent of Champagne is nonvintage, with blending specialists carefully combining dozens, sometimes hundreds, of base wines together to reflect a house style, the signature of the producer. Vintage wines are rarer, and it is common for a sparkling house to produce vintage wines in years that are deemed to be of superior quality.
Our goals with the sparkling wines are different than that of many large sparkling houses. The two nonvintage wines we produce are estate grown, and therefore have site expression. The composition of the nonvintage wines are as follows:
So, while these nonvintage wines are wines of place, the 2015 vintage Brut is a wine of both place and time. 2015 was warm and early, with higher than average yields. The fruit was remarkably balanced however, with excellent structure. What distinguishes this vintage for the Brut especially is the amount of Pinot Meunier in the blend, 22 percent, up from just 15 percent in 2014. We are still learning what the Pinot Meunier contributes to the wine, but one of the early observations is the enhanced midpalate presence and fruity aromas. The fruit for this wine is sourced from blocks dedicated to our sparkling program, and the blend is determined by the yields at harvest.
With base wines of different vintages, blends, and dosage, these wines seem quite different. But, how does this translate in the glass? Early observations are that the nonvintage wines boast a finer, more delicate mousse, with pronounced yeastiness and an increased emphasis on tree fruit flavors. By contrast, the vintage wines are incredibly fresh and light, with a fine, yet plentiful bead, showing much more minerality and citrus notes. The tone and texture of these young wines will change as they evolve in the bottle, and it is always exciting to track their progress.
Although most of vintage 2017 has been warm and dry, the season had a bit of a delayed start. We had budbreak in late April, about two weeks behind average for our site. April showers continued well into May, so when the sun finally came out, the canopy filled in quickly. The vineyard reached 50% bloom on June 24. This is a significant milestone, as harvest for the Pinot Noir will occur about 110 days from that stage, around October 12. Once summer weather arrived in mid-June, we racked up the growing degree days, catching up with 2016 by August. The next growth stage, 50% Veraison, occurred on August 28, supporting our estimate of an October 12 harvest date.
Grapes for sparkling wines are harvested a bit earlier to capture the naturally higher acidity. For these wines, we are looking for sugar levels in the 18-20 Brix range, compared to 21-24 Brix for the table wines. The photo above is from our first round of sampling and testing the sparkling varieties for ripeness on September 6.
Our sparkling harvest began on September 15, with the Pinot Meunier (the image to the right is of the Pinot Meunier harvest) and the Muscat. The Chardonnay and Pinot Noir were picked on September 17, followed by Pinot Blanc on September 24. We also received fruit from vineyards in Banks, Dundee, Gaston and Yamhill.
Traditional sparkling enthusiasts can look forward to Brut, Blanc de Noirs, Blanc de Blancs, and Brut Rosé from this vintage, and some zero dosage bottlings of these cuvees. For the Celebrate collection, those grapes are still hanging on the vine…