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by Fred McMillin
for April 10, 2000

 

Out Damn Bubble


Prologue

Handley Cellars  
If one ferments 100 pounds of sugar, the products are about 51 pounds of ethyl alcohol and 49 pounds of bubbles!

If the bubbles escape from the fermenting liquid, the result is a Still (non-sparkling) wine.

However, if the carbon dioxide bubbles are retained in the liquid (the gas actually dissolves in the liquid), then the wine is called sparkling. More gas will dissolve in the liquid as the pressure is increased and the temperature of the wine is reduced.

Do most wine enthusiasts prefer a Chardonnay with or without the bubbles in it?


The Test

To get an idea, we selected two $25 Chardonnays, one with and one without bubbles. The 17 tasters rated one 12% higher than its rival. The winner was not the still but the bubbly. Let's see who made it.

1973—At the university she was studying art. But the school was University of California—Davis. Now, we all know that with arguably the world's greatest viticulture faculty, that university can be hazardous to your major. Sure enough. A couple of years later she was graduated, not in Inca art, but in wine science. 1982—By now Milla Handley has worked for master winemakers Richard Arrowood and Jed Steele. She has married Rex McClelland. The garage underneath their home in Mendocino County's Anderson Valley becomes the bonded Handley Cellars.


First Wines

Milla's first wine was a 1982 Chardonnay...it merely picked up a GOLD at a major tasting (Orange County Fair). 1985—Milla is also making sparklers from the traditional combination of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. However, this year the Chardonnay was different. I have an old memo from Milla that says, "For Chardonnay grapes to develop enough character to stand alone, without the balance of Pinot Noir, we have to have the right growing conditions. This year the grapes showed superior intensity and comlexity." Voila! Milla's first 100% Chardonnay Blanc de Blancs (white wine from white grapes).

Conditions were right again three years later—1988. And certainly in 1994..that's today's wine.


Our Fizz of the Day

1994 Handley Cellars Blanc de Blancs
Anderson Valley Mendocino County
Milla's Comments—"No crushing to minimize extraction of tannins from the skins; a cool summer extended time on vine before harvesting; Inobacter fermenter strain selected to increase creaminess."
Critic's Comments—J. Laube, "Handley sparklers are worth seeking out." Norm Roby, "Handley's most exciting wines are their spark1ers." Overall, Robert Parker's opinion: "Handley continues to turn out impressive wines at reasonable prices."
Rating—HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for friends of fizz
Contact—Ellen Springwater, (707) 895-3876, FAX (707) 895-2603
Food Affinity—Serve with Caribbean Crab Dip, suggested by the winery. It is delicious.
Price—$25


Postscript

You recall we compared the 100% Chardonnay 1994 sparkler with a still Chardonnay. Was the still Chardonnay the 1994 Handley? Hardly. That one sold out soon after it was released. But if your budget permits, make such a comparison...Handley Chard, still vs sparkler.

 
About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

 
 


This page created April 2000

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