How are the sparkling wines made at Riverbench?

We make all Riverbench sparkling wines in the Méthode Champenoise, sometimes called the Traditional Method. This technique, which mimics how all champagnes are made, involves a two-step fermentation.

First, we make a still base wine from our estate grown Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier. We pick sparkling wine grapes early in the harvest season to maintain bright acidity and keep sugar levels low. The rest of this first phase parallels our still wine production, including sorting, crushing, fermenting and barrel aging. When the wine is bottled, we add a small amount of yeast and sugar to induce a secondary fermentation, this time inside the bottle. Riddling, the act of slowly turning the bottles to stir the yeast into the wine, is performed by hand or machine for many months. This process adds delicate, light bubble structure and heightened flavor complexity. After the wine is disgorged and the yeast removed, we top off each bottle with dry or sweet wine, depending on the profile we are looking for. Lastly, the final cork and cage are affixed and voila! -- a Riverbench sparkling wine is born. 

Although this method is far more time consuming and labor intensive than others, it is worth the extra effort. The Méthode Champenoise produces layered and structured sparkling wines that are full of yeasty character, creamy in texture, and can age for decades. At Riverbench, we pride ourselves in producing a classic sparkling wine portfolio that expresses hallmarks of old-world winemaking while maintaining a sense of our Santa Maria Valley terroir. 

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