To all Best Winers,
Get ready for the New California Sparkling Wine.
The days of the big Champagne houses trying to do Cali-Dom are over.
This is Ultramarine, and California Sparkling wine will never be the same again.
Honestly, I cannot tell you how much deplorable, lame-a$$ California sparkling wine I’ve had over the years. Outside of the top cuvées from Roederer, Domaine Carneros, Iron Horse and Schrambserg, it’s been a virtual shwagfest. On top of that some of those hits are hilariously expensive.
Michael Cruse’s Ultramarine isn’t cheap. But it’s the Best, and the most distinctive. This is groundbreaking sparkling wine, and you need a few bottles in your life.
This wine has had serious buzz behind even before it was finished. Some of California’s most in-the-know wine minds had already heard about it. He picked up distribution in California and New York before he even disgorged the stuff.
Currently Michael is the hottest commodity as north coast wineries vie for his services to produce their own cutting-edge, genre-defining sparkling wine.
And his first vintage is just now coming to market.
Yes, it’s worth the hype. It’s awesome.
He’s doing the ‘farmer fizz’ thing and sourcing all his Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes from the Charles Heintz Vineyard in Sonoma, a vineyard that Michael chose for its sparkling-friendly farming regimen.
The problem with many California sparklers has been that the French transplant producers have always tried to turn them into something they’re not. They have literally fought the California sunshine, trying to emulate the ripening patterns in Champagne, picking the grapes VERY early in the season to mimic the sugar levels they get in Champagne. The problem was the best vineyards in Champagne, from what I’ve heard, ripen earlier and at lower alcohol levels. This allows producer in Bouzy or Le Mesnil to pick the grapes at 10% alcohol or whatever but have a greater perception of ripeness on the palate.
This is something that California cannot replicate. We have too much sun. Accordingly, producers here have combated this issue by literally being handed apples and making lemonade.
Michael doesn’t fight the sun. He embraces it. He picks the grape at the appropriate ripeness, then does the least he can to let the vineyard express itself.
He presses the juice directly for both his 2010 Blanc de Blancs and Rosé directly to barrel, then bottles five months later after the native yeast primary fermentation with no fining, filtering or cold stabilization. The wine spent 40 months en tirage and was then hand-disgorged bottle by bottle and dosed with a touch of sulfur and 2 g/l dosage for the Blanc de Blancs and 6 g/l for the Rosé.
That’s it. He’s made 150 cases of each wine and it is already sold out, except for what we’re offering.
The 2010 Blanc de Blancs was tasted next to an equally priced bottling from Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, a Grand Cru village in Champagne. I have to say the Ultramarine was more interesting to drink, with greater precision of fruit and some quality yeasty/doughy notes that framed a fabulous green apple core. The wine is complex, not heavy, balanced, but with an entirely different flavor profile than we’ve seen from the Champagne wanna-be’s in California.
The 2010 Rosé was sourced exclusively from 20 year old Pinot Noir vines off the Heintz property. It is redolent with electric cherry fruit and a bounce in its step. It is joyous yet vinous and complex sparkling wine that certainly speaks of a place. I’ve never tasted anything like it. There’s nothing contrived in its presentation and the wine again has remarkable clarity, precision, and drinkability.
Just because the sun shines it doesn’t mean you can’t have vibrancy, character and lift, you just have to be good at what you do.
From what I’ve tasted, Michael Cruse may just be the best.
BTW, if you haven’t scored a few bottles of his miraculously good (and wonderfully priced) Syrah and old vine Valdiguié we were able to secure couple more cases of each after dong a bit of begging. Do not miss these wines!
Kyle Meyer and Tristen Beamon, Proprietors, BestWinesOnline.com