Santa Barbara, CA – Riverbench Winery, located in the Santa Maria Valley appellation, and recognized for their méthode champenoise-style sparkling wines, have developed a vineyard block dedicated to pinot meunier.
About the new plantings, General Manager Laura Booras says, “There are three varieties planted in Champagne for a reason. Pinot Meunier brings added body and depth…a foundational element if you will…to chardonnay and pinot noir in sparkling wines.”
Winemaker Clarrisa Nagy adds, “Interestingly enough, our acidity and brix levels at harvest time are very similar to those in Champagne. The grapes for our sparkling wines are picked at 19 brix and 9 grams of acid…we’re poised to make some site-specific sparkling wines, and pinot meunier will just help us to achieve that goal.”
Asked if they are trying to replicate champagne in California, Nagy and Booras are quick to respond, “Not at all,” they say, nearly talking over each other. “We are keen to find our own expression at our estate vineyard, but we’d be lying if we said we were not inspired by the great women of Champagne, including Lily Bollinger, whose work motivates us daily,” adds Booras.
While Riverbench maintains a tasting room in the Santa Maria Valley appellation of Santa Barbara County, along the Foxen Canyon corridor, their bustling urban tasting room in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone is a popular spot for diners who customarily stop by for a glass of sparkling wine before heading off to dinner. Adds winemaker Nagy, “It’s wonderful to see people enjoy sparkling wine on a more frequent basis…not just on special occasions. It’s a great beverage to pair with so many foods. And, let’s admit it; it’s a celebration in a bottle.”