Serious Sunny Bubbles: Cruse Tradition
There have been many (many) offers in my inbox for zoom tastings with winemakers. I have only jumped at one, and boy did I jump! This summer, Michael Cruse offered a "dosage trial" blind tasting, and if you're a geek for sparkling wine, you know just how cool and rare an opportunity that is.
In the world of non-vintage traditional method sparkling wines, a signature style is something to consider, especially if "brand identity" is important. The big houses of Champagne want their label to consistently reflect a clear style, yet the region's weather is far from consistent, and different vintages can yield wildly divergent wines. Blending is key, and most Champagne producers keep large stocks, giving them many options when crafting current releases. The final control for a blend is dosage, a small amount of sweet wine added to a bottle just as it is finished. This last step impacts aromas, flavors, texture and length; dosage is not just a sweetener.
To participate in a dosage trial with Michael Cruse, widely considered a master of traditional method sparkling wine, was an opportunity I could not pass up! Needless to say, it was a ton of fun. The samples were all delicious, but most tasters (including myself) agreed that Michael made the right choice by going with a zero-dosage wine for his final product. The wines with dosage were fascinating, and each had their virtues, but the unadulterated wine had a purity of fruity and floral notes that made it the most compelling. The zero-dosage wine also made for a more pure representation of the fruit that comes from sunny California. Champagne very often needs a little sugar in the blend to keep things friendly. California fruit is riper and sweeter to begin with, and it seems reasonable to assume that no sugar would be needed to make a balanced wine. We're not saying Champagne can't make balanced zero-dosage wines with incredible ripe fruit flavors (we have Cedric Bouchard, please try some asap), but such a style might just come a little more naturally in California.
A blend of 54% Pinot Noir and 46% Chardonnay from top-notch vineyards (Alder Springs, Rorick, Keefer Ranch and Charles Heintz), raised in a mix of stainless steel tanks and oak barrels, with no SO2 added during elevage, Michael only made 721 cases of his 2017 Cruse Tradition. If you're into fine bubbly wine, you have to try it. In stock now. Supplies are limited. See my tasting note below.
Aromas of citrus oil and pith, fresh cooling herbs, white flowers, crunchy green pears, fresh peaches, a little cream and hazelnuts. Bracing attack, it enlivens and electrifies the palate. Chalky and grippy, with a fascinating interplay of rich texture and zippy cleansing acidity. Very dry and mineral. The finish is long and complex, with toasty pastry notes to buffer the intense tart fruit. This will be worth following for at least 5 more years.
Cruse Tradition 2017 - $55