Domestic Selection: Midnight Cuvee, 1988. Van Der Kamp

Martin Van der Kamp, a native of the North Coast wine country, was a home winemaker there for many years. In his youth he had done a stint as an employee at Napa’s famous Schramsberg Champagne Cellars. Bitten by the bug, he took several trips to some of the top Champagne houses in France. It was through these visits that he formed the conviction that complexity in sparkling wines is best achieved by combining Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from many small vineyards. In 1981, with the encouragement and guidance of master oenologist Andre Tchelist­cheff, he founded Van der Kamp Champagne Cellars.

If you think that a Champagne maker (and you’ll forgive the aw­ful pun) ought to be a real “bub­bly” kind of guy, the creator of this brand will not disappoint you. Martin has a very “up” personality, and an optimistic attitude. Over the years, he conducted an informal poll of wine drinkers who declined sparkling wines. He found that their unanimous reason was: “It gives me a headache!” The symp­toms of an allergic reaction to sul­fites were too classic to ignore. The CO2 gas in sparkling wine acts as a natural preservative, so each year Van der Kamp simply re­duced the amount of sulfites added to each “Cuvee” (blend). Since 1985, no sulfites have been added to any Van der Kamp sparkling wines. Therefore, aside from the trace amounts naturally produced during fermentation, there are none. By laboratory report our se­lection has a scant 16ppm.

Per the true Methode Champe­noise of France, fermentation was made to occur in the bottle itself. This sparkler contains juice from 83% Pinot Noir and 17% Char­donnay grapes, classic champagne ingredients, as centuries of pro­duction in France have proven. The former gives the wine its col­or, aromas, flavors and texture. The latter adds grace, complexity and aging potential.

The wine offers a lovely, pearl-pink color and delicate pinpoint carbonation. It has aromas and fla­vors reminiscent of berries and peach cobbler, plus a rich, creamy texture that finishes cleanly dry. A classic Brut Rose.

Serve it well-chilled with hors d’oeuvres, cavi­ar, mousse of smoked salmon, a chocolate decadence with raspber­ry sauce, or at the stroke of mid­night, with close friends.

Cellaring Notes: Enjoy this wine now and throughout 1992.

Reviewed by Larry Tepper

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