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BUBBLE IT YOURSELF
So the bubbles have gone to your head, and you want your own Cuvée Luxury? If you have enough grapes or wine, Hopland's Rack & Riddle can do it—but deals in minimums of 500 gallons. If you have a reseller's license, you can purchase as few as 132 cases of shiners.
But if you just need a few cases because you're throwing a big party, wedding, sending out holiday gifts to business clients, or you just like stealing away to your "cellar" to produce wines with labels that read, "from the cellar of J. R. Puffinpride" for dinner guests, there's Windsor Vineyards. Founded in the way-back by Sonoma County icon Rodney Strong, Windsor Vineyards still offers personalized labels on North Coast appellation bottles of sparkling wine or a set of darling little single-serving, 187-milliliter party favor bottles. (Windsor Vineyards, tasting room at 308-B Center St., Healdsburg. 800.289.9463.)
But no. Your head is lousy with bubbles. Mad with mousse. You're a fermentation warrior and you're going to do it yourself. It can be done, but first, get some advice. "We help people make champagne all the time," says the Beverage People's Nancy Vineyard.
The first thing you need to do is make a low alcohol wine, about 19 percent. Then dose it with sugar so that it creates carbonation in the bottle. Unlike homebrewing beer, however, sparkling wine requires two to three times the amount of sugar. "We recommend a little lower pressure than commercially used—for safety and because it will be enough carbonation," says Vineyard.
An innovative solution for a riddling rack came from a Beverage People customer—standard milk crates with wooden dowels fit through the slots to create a grid in which the bottles can rest, sort of a miniature version of Rack & Riddle's wire crates. The store sells many of the rest of the supplies needed—a large bottle capper, plastic plugs called bidules for disgorging—but you may wish to head to the hardware store of the more important items: goggles for eye protection. Watch where you point that bottle! (The Beverage People, 1845 Piner Road, ste. D, Santa Rosa. 707.544.2520.)