In Santa Barbara County, the only place to taste a flight of sparkling wine every day is Riverbench Winery‘s tasting room in downtown Santa Barbara, or at the winery in Santa Maria Valley on Foxen Canyon Road. They make 8 different sparklers in the traditional Champagne method!
Méthode Champenoise is how sparkling wine is made in the Champagne region of France, also called méthode traditionnelle or classique. This is the highest-quality and most labor-intensive way to make sparkling wine. It involves bottling the still wine with additions of sugar and yeast after a first fermentation, ensuring a second fermentation happens in the bottle, trapping the bubbles inside. It then goes through aging (and periodic turning of the bottles to force the lees to the neck of the bottle), until it’s ready for dégorgement (to get these lees out) and dosage (to finish the wine).
Riverbench winery is located right near the Sisquoc River in Santa Maria valley, a spot known as the Santa Maria Bench. This is where the first Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes were planted in the area in 1973. For years, many renowned wineries in Santa Barbara County purchased the fruit from these vineyards, and in 2006, the winery began creating their own estate wines.
They began an additional focus on sparkling wine in 2008, and release their first (and the county’s first sustainable) bubbly with the 2008 Cork Jumper Blanc de Blancs. Then in 2015, they planted Champagne’s third great grape variety: Pinot Meunier. This grape is traditionally used as a blending grape, but Riverbench became the first and only winery offering sparkling Pinot Meunier in 2019.
Read about their 8 sparkling wines in their own words:
- 2018 Riverbench Extra Brut Sparkling Wine – With a hint of sweetness, this wine remains fresh, vibrant, and fun to drink.
- 2018 Riverbench Blanc de Blancs Sparkling Wine – Soft and lush, yet bright and fresh, this traditionally made sparkler is a beauty.
- 2017 Riverbench Blanc de Noirs Sparkling Wine – Deep, complex, and suitable for special occasions.
- 2018 Riverbench Brut Rosé Sparkling Wine – Fun, fresh, and fruity define this pretty blush sparkling wine made entirely of Pinot Noir.
- 2018 Riverbench Cork Jumper Cuvée Sparkling Wine – A unique and delicious blend of the three main grapes used in Champagne, France: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier.
- 2017 Riverbench Pinot Meunier Sparkling Wine – Santa Barbara County’s only sparkling Pinot Meunier exhibits a stunning palate of berry, caraway, and a touch of yeast.
- 2014 Riverbench Reserve Blanc de Blancs Sparkling Wine – An extended tirage and extra time in barrel make this the most oxidized sparkling in our lineup, with hints of toasted hazelnut and marzipan.
- 2017 Riverbench Demi Sec Sparkling Wine – This sparkling wine is anything but sweet, and boasts integrated flavors of baked apple and vanilla ice cream.
From their Santa Maria-focused Chardonnay and Pinot Noir program to their certified sustainable farming practices, the quality here is really high. Perfect for Burgundy (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) lovers.
See more! There are over 75 sparkling wine producers in Santa Barbara County.