Once a year I host a sparkling wine tasting at my house and each person attending, including myself, must bring a bottle to the party. Half the fun of attending a wine tasting is making one’s wine selection, whether it be from a wine shop or tasting room. But Healdsburg is short on sparkling wine producers, and since I’ve been self-limited to my bike these days, I had to choose something nearby.
As I pulled my bike out of the garage, I noticed a bigger problem—a nearly flat tire. I didn’t even have a patch kit to fix it. Since it appeared to be a slow leak, I decided to take a chance, and after pumping up my tire, headed toward town. On the way, I remembered Toad Hollow Winery has a couple sparking wines and their tasting room is right off the square.
At my first stop—Spoke Folk Bike Shop—I purchased a tire patch kit, then rode the few blocks to Toad Hollow tasting room, parking against a tree. Standing away from my bike, I thought the view would make a good sketch, and standing as far back as possible on the sidewalk without stepping into the street, I began to draw. Soon after I finished blocking in the larger shapes, Jim Costa, the tasting room manager, came out to offer me a chair.
After adding watercolor to finish the sketch, I entered the tasting room, where a small group stood at the bar, and a young couple looked through shelves of merchandise at the back wall. Checking the day’s tasting menu, I learned luck was with me–I’d get to taste two sparkling wines.
The first was NV Amplexus Brut, a French wine produced in the Crémant style. This wine is made from a blend of Chardonnay, Mauzac, and Chenin Blanc grapes. I found it pleasing, with notes of peach and lemon balancing on toasty aromas of yeast.
The second wine, NV Risque, tasted fruitier than the Amplexus and reminded me of apple cider, pears, and honey. A medium sweet wine, it’s made entirely from the Mauzac grape using the Méthode Ancestrale, an unusual technique that predates the Méthode Champagne. It also has less carbonation and alcohol than the Amplexus. I enjoyed both wines, but since my preference leans towards dryer, or brut sparkling wines, I purchased a bottle of Amplexus for the party.
Slipping the wine into my backpack, I noticed my tire was underinflated, so I sped home. As I pulled up at my house, my back tire was now flattening against the pavement. I sighed with relief at having made it home, my tire intact, and with a good bottle of sparkling wine in hand.