2014 Washington Wine Awards: Best Sparkling Wine

Expect bubbles galore in this light, pink sparkler from Woodinville powerhouse Domaine Ste. Michelle

With more than a dozen sparkling wine producers in the state, this open submission category was exciting to taste. Bubbly isn’t easy to make, especially méthode champenoise, the traditional French way of first making a dry wine and then bottling it with more yeast and sugar to create bubbles in the bottle (stopped with a crown cap), then opened, adjusted in the bottle for sweetness (extra brut, brut, demi-sec, etc.) and corked again. Wine made this way can only be called Champagne if it comes from the Champagne region of France, but in the U.S., “méthode champenoise” or “méthode traditionelle” may be added to the wine’s label to show its winemaking heritage. Washington sparkling wines capitalize on the higher acidity possible in cooler vineyards in the state, allowing these wines to develop lovely ripe fruit and retain crisp brightness. From traditionally used Chardonnay (100 percent is labeled Blanc de Blanc) to Pinot Noir and the little-used Pinot Meunier (labeled Blanc de Noir), there is a range of lovely bubblies from Washington. Read more from our 2014 Washington Wine Awards here.

Winner: Michelle (by Domaine Ste. Michelle) NV Brut Rosé, Méthode Champenoise, Columbia Valley, $13
This light, pink sparkling wine from the Woodinville powerhouse Domaine Ste. Michelle won the hearts of our judges, who noted its “clean, elegant, bright fruit” and fresh style. Made in the traditional méthode champenoise to create complex flavor and fine “mousse,” the wine is 93 percent Columbia Valley Pinot Noir and 7 percent Pinot Meunier, a blending grape used in the Champagne region. It has fresh raspberry and strawberry on the nose, lemony brightness on the palate and a soft finish. Delightful with light cheeses, salads, fish and for holidays.