It started with the pét-nat. I had tasted and loved the 2016 vintage from Cima Collina. It was fresh, berry smacking, yogurty. It had that desirable pét-nat rosé profile, the version craved by all of us seeking summer. THE expression of stars and light. Served chilled, it is a beverage so ethereal that you *may* forget it is for the adults and accidentally offer it to children. A good rosé pét-nat seems like any other fruity, carbonated refreshment to grab with a to-go deli sandwich. Like a kombucha. Yet, most children and many grown ups will not prefer such. It has a sour taste. Some of us love it. Some cannot get down with the rawness of the sparkling drink. I categorize myself in the former, finding pét-nat most delightful.
A Peek Behind the Curtain.
As a resident of Monterey County, California I was most excited about the Cima Collina pét-nat as I did not know of any other local winery attempting it, much less bringing it to market. I enjoyed it immensely last spring/summer along with the still rosé releases and accepted the fact that it would eventually, sell out. It did. Then the 2017’s came out! I was fortunate to connect with Anette Hoff, winemaker at Cima Collina, a well known Monterey County winery with a Carmel Vally tasting room. Cima Collina translates to top of the hill, or hilltop, as their estate vineyard in Carmel is called. She invited me to the facility in Marina, CA, where all of their wine is processed and where they are constructing a new and additional tasting room. The mission however was primarily to sample the 2017 Cima Collina rosé pét-nat. And so we did.
And Pét-nat is...?
Joy. Pét-nat emanates fermentation. An effusive style of wine that expresses its making so dynamically that it bubbles. Pét-nat is shorthand for pétillant naturel, a rather ancient method of making sparkling wine. So historic, in fact it is also referred to as the méthode ancestrale or ancestral method. Quite simply meaning the wine is bottled before the primary fermentation is finished. This is done without any dosage or addition of secondary yeasts or sugars. The time-honored technique predates that of champagne and the other iterations of sparkling that deploy the traditional methods. There is an ease in the making of pét-nat which is expressed in the final product. That ease also translates to drinking it. You may find yourself gulping it by the glass full.
The 2017 Cima Collina rosé pét-nat is lovely. A ballerina pink and as such pirouettes across the palate, landing arabesques so lightly, you barely detect the chemical reaction. It takes you to a happy, relaxed place. The 2017 Cima Collina Pét-nat is 95% Pinot Noir, mostly from the estate Hilltop Ranch in Carmel. The remaining 5% is late harvest Pinot Gris, giving it a dash of sweetness, like seasoning for your favorite dish.
The 2017 is their third vintage of pét-nat, in what began as an experiment. Annette has an exploratory approach to winemaking and Cima Collina has given her the opportunity as head winemaker to do just that. She likes to play around with different techniques, styles and varietals. She joined the winery in the 90’s and has since made a lot more than Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the flagship varietals of our region. Cima Collina has a strong Pinot Noir game and also offers Syrah, Tempranillo, a still Grenache rosé and a Grenache Blanc. And more to come. In addition to the estate Hilltop Ranch, they work with growers that they know well and have confidence in the quality of the fruit they source. For the Pét-nat, the grapes were harvested and brought in at 21 brix, which refers to the sugar content of the fruit. They are whole cluster fermented for several weeks, then chilled way down for solids to form and extract. Then they let it settle out. A Pét-nat is born.
A Marina Tasting Room.
On our visit, Anette also showed us where the new Marina tasting room will be. For locals, it is in the same stretch of the industrial park on Paul Davis Drive, where the Urban Wine Row commences on the first Saturday of each month. The Cima Collina tasting room, scheduled to be open this summer, will be a community space, meant for gathering and enjoying great wine. This local is looking forward to having such an option. Their Carmel Valley tasting room will continue to operate.
Final wine thoughts.
As we wrapped up our visit, I asked Anette what she likes to drink….?
Maybe the Pét-nat is a gateway? Such different styles. And yet those bubbles are the alluring through line. Carbonation feels so good.
Her thoughts on pairing the Pét-nat: hors d’oeveres, cheese, oysters, seafood, regional cuisine and maybe something unexpected like paella. Though we all agreed that the Pét-nat need not be paired with food. It is quaffable (read: chugable) on its own.
anything she wanted to add about the Pét-nat..?
It is a reminder that wine can be fun. It is a reflection of life.