Domestic Selection: Blanc de Noirs, Five Star. Sebastiani

Wow! Two superb Sebastiani bargain wines practically back-to-back! (Remember this September’s wonderful “Emilia-label” Cabernet #992A? It’s still available at only $7.29 ea., if you’re new and you missed it!) This winery has man­aged to stay in the same family’s hands despite tumultuous times; Prohibition, The Great Depres­sion, hostile take-overs and what­ever else has come along since Sa­muele Sebastiani founded it in 1904. And, evidently, recent wines have been better than ever.

The succession of owners, from father to son, from Samuele to August to Sam to August’s youngest son, Don (the current owner) spawned much innovation and experimentation. Although a big market success in the big bottle format (i.e., gallons and magnums of Chablis, Burgundy and the like), the family offered with pride very good varietal wines and pro­prietor reserves. But for the Sebas­tianis, pet projects always seemed to revolve around one evasive, un­tamable wench of a grape, the Pi-not Noir.

When, in 1972, August was the first vintner in America to pro­duce a “Nouveau Beaujolais” style of red, he chose to use the Gamay Beaujolais grape. This actually is a Pinot Noir clone. When it came time to release a blush wine, the Sebastianis were the first with a Pinot Noir Blanc, their much imitated “Eye of the Swan”. Continu­ing in their experimentation they also came out with a very dark Pinot, “Tail Feathers” Tres Rouge. They pumped the juice repeatedly over the fermenting grapes to ex­tract maximum pigments.

With this kind of experience under their belts, what could pos­sibly be a more natural progression than to attempt a bottle-fermented Blanc de Noirs from Pinot Noir grapes? After all, this technique and grape type are what comprise the great French Champagnes! Ia the traditional French Methode Champenoise, effervescence is achieved by fermenting the wine right inside the bottle, a tedious, expensive and even dangerous un­dertaking (bottles can explode!). We believe this is Sebastiani’s best Pinot experiment to date.

The wine has a pale pink/copper color with millions of tiny little bubbles. Bouquet of raspber­ries and strawberries. Medium-body. Very crisp and dry. Clean finish.

Serve well-chilled with cold salmon dishes like gravlax or om­lettes or good caviar.

Cellaring Notes: At its peak now, should hold up nicely, through 1992.
Larry Tepper

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