August 02, 2006

Domaine Chandon Etoile Brut Sparkling (about $29)

Domaine Chandon has always been ahead of the curve. It was the first sparkling-wine house founded by a Champagne company, Moët et Chandon, back when great California sparkling was an oxymoron. It was the first Napa winery to open a high-class restaurant (it's where French chef Philippe Jeanty, now of Bistro Jeanty in Yountville, got his start in America).

Now it's the first winery in the U.S. to seal sparkling wines with a crown cap - the sort used for beer. Blasphemy?

Hardly: Champagnes are typically sealed with crown caps while they are aging in the cellar; cork replaces the caps before the wines go to market. Caps are cheaper and more reliable than cork, which can be infected by TCA, the nasty bacterium that makes a wine taste like cardboard. And they don't require wrangling with a metal capsule covering a metal cage covering a cork that's ready to fly out of the bottle as soon as you let go. Now that's something to toast to.

This review first appeared in the Denver Post.

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