Caraccioli, “Escolle Vineyard” Brut Cuvée
Caraccioli, “Escolle Vineyard” Brut Cuvée

Caraccioli, “Escolle Vineyard” Brut Cuvée

California, United States 2017 (750mL)
Regular price$63.00
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Caraccioli, “Escolle Vineyard” Brut Cuvée

I’ve got a soft spot for Scott Caraccioli and his team at Caraccioli Cellars because they chose to make their name by taking on perhaps the most powerful wine entity of all time: Champagne. But, just so we’re clear, we’re not offering their Brut Cuvée for sentimental, “let’s support the plucky Californians” reasons. We’re offering it because it is a majestic, age-worthy sparkling wine that any Champagne House would be proud to call its own.


I don’t say this lightly, because boutique Champagne is one of SommSelect’s bread-and-butter categories; very few sparklers from outside Champagne end up featured here. But there was no hesitation whatsoever with this taut, laser-focused 2017. Sourced entirely from the Caraccioli family’s Escolle Vineyard and aged on lees for a whopping four years before disgorgement (we’ll fill you in on all the wine’s impressive stats below), this is not just one of the great Champagne-method sparklers produced in California, but the world. It’s a must-have benchmark for sparkling wine aficionados.


Starting with the 2015 vintage, all the Caraccioli wines have been produced from 100% “estate-grown” fruit from their Escolle Vineyard. Planted in 2008, Escolle covers some 124 acres in soils of clay and sandy loam, with most of the plantings devoted to Pinot Noir (87 acres) and Chardonnay (28 acres). The site, which faces mostly east, nevertheless feels a profound cooling influence from the nearby Monterey Bay; it falls within the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA.


As Caraccioli fans know, they didn’t start out in SLH: They were a Salinas Valley farming family who eventually branched out at the urging of Scott Caraccioli’s father, Gary, who convinced his uncle and brother to join him. Gary and his brother, Phil, grew up watching their Swiss-Italian grandfather make homemade wine from local grapes, and they longed to be part of the local wine culture. The family launched Caraccioli Cellars in 2006 with partner Joe Rawitzer and set their sights on making great sparkling wine; it would have been hard to find someone more qualified than French enologist Michel Salgues, who had originally moved to California in 1985 to take over winemaking at Roederer Estate. Salgues ran Roederer Estate until 2004, after which he became an international consultant. He forged a deep connection with the Caracciolis, and it goes without saying that the wine world lost a giant when he passed away in 2017.


Today’s Brut Cuvée bottling is the estate’s flagship. Comprised of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir from the Escolle Vineyard (SIP-Certified sustainable), the “base” wines are fermented mostly in stainless steel, with about 20% finishing primary fermentation in neutral French oak barrels. Once fermentation is complete, the wines spend two months aging in barrels before the second fermentation in bottles. The finished product rests for four years en tirage (on the spent yeasts) before disgorgement and final bottling. It then spends another year aging “on the cork” before it is released for sale.


This 2017, only just released, is still taut and tingly and full of youthful energy. In the glass, it’s a burnished yellow-gold with a distinct coppery cast, with aromas of green apple, lemon curd, citrus peel, crunchy Anjou pear, crème brulée, toasted almond, and honeysuckle. These rich aromas lead into a crisp, bone-dry, assertively citrusy palate that shows firm structure and a mouth-watering, salted-lemon quality. It is bright, vivid, and has a very long life ahead of it (at least five years, and likely more) should you decide to cellar a few bottles. In the meantime, serve this around 50 degrees in all-purpose white wine glasses or even red wine stems and make sure to pair it with some food—anything from richer appetizers to main-course dishes. It’s a vinous powerhouse that deserves a showcase. Enjoy!

Caraccioli, “Escolle Vineyard” Brut Cuvée
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Drinking

United States

Washington

Columbia Valley

Like many Washington wines, the “Columbia Valley” indication only tells part of the story: Columbia Valley covers a huge swath of Central
Washington, within which are a wide array of smaller AVAs (appellations).

Oregon

Willamette Valley

Oregon’s Willamette Valley has become an elite winegrowing zone in record time. Pioneering vintner David Lett, of The Eyrie Vineyard, planted the first Pinot Noir in the region in 1965, soon to be followed by a cadre of forward-thinking growers who (correctly) saw their wines as America’s answer to French
Burgundies. Today, the Willamette
Valley is indeed compared favorably to Burgundy, Pinot Noir’s spiritual home. And while Pinot Noir accounts for 64% of Oregon’s vineyard plantings, there are cool-climate whites that must not be missed.

California

Santa Barbara

Among the unique features of Santa Barbara County appellations like Ballard Canyon (a sub-zone of the Santa Ynez Valley AVA), is that it has a cool, Pacific-influenced climate juxtaposed with the intense luminosity of a southerly
latitude (the 34th parallel). Ballard Canyon has a more north-south orientation compared to most Santa Barbara AVAs, with soils of sandy
clay/loam and limestone.

California

Paso Robles

Situated at an elevation of 1,600 feet, it is rooted in soils of sandy loam and falls within the Highlands District of the Paso Robles AVA.

New York

North Fork

Wine growers and producers on Long Island’s North Fork have traditionally compared their terroir to that of Bordeaux and have focused on French varieties such as Cabernet Franc and Merlot.

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