Monday, February 26, 2018

Sisters Shine With Breathless Sparkling Wines

Of the more than 4,000 wineries in California, only 10% have a woman as their lead winemaker. Of those wineries, an even smaller number are owned by women. Here’s one winery that flips the script.

Breathless In California

In the male-dominated world of California wine, Breathless Sparkling Wines shows the industry just what it is missing. Breathless is a family affair, built through the passion and hard work of three sisters, Cynthia Faust, Rebecca Faust and Sharon Cohn. Their winery was inspired by their mother, Martha, who encouraged them to aim high and “never take a breath for granted.” We explored Breathless wines during a recent Wine Studio education program focused on women-owned wineries of Sonoma.

The sisters are aided by “honorary sister” Penny Gadd Coster, who is an expert winemaker with sparkling wine experience at Jordan Vineyards and J Vineyards and Winery. Penny’s talents have earned more than 100 medals and 90+ ratings for wines she created.

The winery opened in 2011 and was nominated as Best New Winery by San Francisco magazine. Visitors also rave about the Healdsburg tasting room, that has a vintage 1920s feel – and is built from recycled shipping containers. It blends Art Deco and Industrial Chic styles.

Méthode Champenoise Sparkling Vino

There are many great sparkling wines around the world and different techniques are used to good result. For us, however, the favorite is the traditional method, the Méthode Champenoise by which Champagne is made in France.

It’s labor intensive and demands constant attention through the time-consuming work. In the process, the wine undergoes a second fermentation in the bottle – which creates 90 to 100 pounds per square inch of pressure inside each bottle. That’s enough to speed a cork across the room at up to 50 miles per hour. It’s also how Breathless makes their wines.

Breaking Out The Bubbles

For our tasting, we sampled two bottles of Breathless bubbly, the Breathless North Coast Brut and the Breathless Blanc de Noirs. To accompany our wines, we enjoyed some nice Swiss fondue.

We had sampled the Brut a few months earlier during the Wine Bloggers Conference in Santa Rosa. It was outstanding then, but the setting was less than optimal. You have 200+ wine bloggers in a room with winemakers traipsing from table to table with five minutes to serve and talk about their wine. This time the setting was more relaxed and we were able to savor these beautiful wines.

I noticed on the Breathless website that when you visit the tasting room, you have the opportunity to saber a bottle – knocking off the top of the bottle with a sword. I’ve done this a number of times and I’ll plan on doing that next time I open Breathless – but this evening I opened in a more traditional way – gently pulling the cork while rotating the bottle.

Both bottles had plentiful foamy mousse when poured. The mousse gave way to a swirl of bubbles.
The Brut is made with traditional Champagne grapes: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and a dash of Pinot Meunier. It is aged for 27 months. It retails for $25 and is also available in a magnum for $79. After sipping the light refreshing sparkler, which has notes of citrus and apples, we’d recommend the magnum. Go big or go home!

Our favorite of the evening was the Blanc de Noir, which has grapes from the North Coast (notably Carneros) and Sonoma. A Blanc de Noirs is a white sparkling wine made with red grapes. In this case, the blend is 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay.

Many sparkling wines are austere, with yeasty or minerally flavor notes. This one has delicious berry notes mingling with citrus and that delightful effervescence. It’s a complex and enjoyable bottle for $30.

These wines left us, well, breathless. The quality is earning top recognition and, we hope, excellent sales. Enjoy a bottle or two, not only for the premium experience, but also to demonstrate your support for women in the wine industry.

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