Throw some winemakers together for New Year's Eve and you know you're going to have a nice tasting.
Up for sampling were: 2009 Phoenix Ranch Cinsault Lodi Bechthold Vineyard ($19), 2008 Jeremy Wine Company Sangiovese Amador County ($24), 2007 R & B Cellars Swingsville Zinfandel Lodi LDL Vineyard ($10, but $7.98 at Food-4-Less), 2006 Ripken Vineyards Late Harvest Viognier Lodi ($20), 2008 Bare Ranch by Michael-David Lodi Sparkling Wine ($35), along with two 2008's from Six Hands Winery in Walnut Grove; their Carignane Lodi Cusumano Ranch ($13) and Prestige California Red Table Wine ($15).
The sweet and balanced Ripken Late Harvest Viognier with a long finish full of maple, caramel and butterscotch was no-brainer excellent with homemade Pecan Pie.
The best pairing of the night for me, however, went to the new Bare Ranch matched up with stuffed Gougères, which are French puff pastries made with cheese-containing batter about the size of a golf ball. These featured bacon - a sure-fire hit.
The majority of the sparkling blend is Chardonnay grown by Michael-David Winery at their historic Bare Ranch property at Davis and Woodbridge Roads. The town of Hopland is on the back label because the wine becomes bubbly at Rack & Riddle, a winery specially-equipped to make high-quality sparkling wine.
The 2008 Bare Ranch has the distinction of probably being the first 99 cases of sparkling Lodi wine to be made using the traditional French Methode Champenoise.
In contrast to carrying out all fermentations in big tanks using the bulk method, as most sparkling Lodi wine is made, in the traditional method still wine is blended and bottled with a soda pop cap after a tirage sugar syrup and fresh yeast are added.
The yeast eat the sugar and fill the wine with carbon dioxide under pressure that will become the bubbles we all enjoy.
I detected floral aromas and loads of green apple with fresh bread baking in the background for the Bare Ranch, made in a just slightly off-dry Brut style.