Wine Talk

Snooth User: John Andrews

Roederer Estate Visit

Posted by John Andrews, Apr 11, 2010.

Champagne is a wonderful place that makes wonderful wine.  Champagne has been treasured by the Czars of Russia, the Kings of England and nobility throughout Europe.  However, the big problem with Champagne is that the region is restricted.  It literally takes an act of the government to make more available.  While this has happened recently many of the big Champagne houses took matters into their own hands many decades ago.  Many of them started investing in land outside of France.  One of those is Louis Roederer. 

In the late 70’s, as much of the world was taking notice of California, the Roederer Estate decided to that they needed to as well.  While most of the focus was on Napa Valley Roederer decided to take a more on unconventional path and look outside of Napa.  Roederer selected a 580 acre site in Anderson Valley about 125 miles north of San Francisco and about 80 miles from the town of Napa.  Roederer had discovered the Champagne region of California.  The site is on the northern slopes of Anderson Valley and is planted with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  No Pinot Menuier is used at all.  From this site Roederer Estate has been producing sparkling wine for the past 22 years.  

Roederer Estate brings 200 years of knowledge of Champagne production to Anderson Valley.  While the Roederer  House has taken on a true wine conglomerate feel, owning a number of wine labels around the world, Roederer Estate has more of a, Grower Champagne House, than a large international producer.  The current wine maker at Roederer Estate, Arnaud Weyrich, continues the Louis Roederer tradition in California.  Weyrich is a French man with a connection with Louis Roederer from the time of his graduation. 

As with all Champagne houses, Roederer Estate produces a non-vintage blend and a prestige vintage blend.  The first non-vintage bottling was released in 1988 and the first prestige blend, L’Ermitage, was released in 1993, the 1998 vintage.  The Roederer Estate keeps many of the wines from each vintage as reserve wines for future non-vintage blends.   The non-vintage blend is released yearly and, as the norm in Champagne, is a mix of the current vintage and reserve wines.  However, unlike in Champagne where a prestige bottling is only done in the most favorable years, Roederer Estate can produce a prestige bottling every here from its Anderson Valley estate.   The L’Ermitage is available as a brut and a rose.  The blend of the L’Emitage wines is determined by a blending team of four, which includes wine makers from the French property as well, with a combined 130 years of champagne product experience.  Unlike the major Champagne houses in France, Roederer Estate does make a number of still wines from their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. 

It is good to know I am in good company with my love of Champagne.  While I am a big fan of Domaine Carneros (Tattinger) and Schramsburg, I have to admit my favorite California sparkling wine is from Roederer Estate.  It is not an easy place to get to and it does take some time to get to.  It seems that every time I go to visit there it is wet and grey.  It reminds me of France in the winter, a bit cool and damp.  It just seems right to me.  The day I visited with my friends it was a very quiet day in the tasting room and we were able to take our time and taste through a large number of wines.  My tasting notes for what we sampled below.

·         Brut NV $23 (3.5/5) – Very much the Roederer house style.  Typical baked bread, yeast and dough aromas.  Nice bright, tart flavors with green apple and dough.

·         Brut NV Magnum $45 (4/5) – Surprising how much difference a magnum can make.  Like the standard NV but with a richer, creamier texture.  Still hast the baked bread and green apple components.

·         Brut NV Rose $27 (3.5/5) – Salmon in color and what you expect from a rose sparkling.  Strawberry and melon on the nose.  Sharp and crisp with great acid.

·         2000 L’Ermitage $45 (4.5/5) – Awesome vintage sparkling wine done in the classic Champagne style.  Rich and creamy with nice toastyness.  As I like to say yumtastic.   Unlike some champagne the acidity is completely in balance with the rest of the wine.  Want to see how this wine will age.

·         Extra Dry $22 (3.5/5) – A small production sparkling wine only available at the winery.  Not quite a demi-sec but close.  It has a creamy texture with some sweet notes.  A touch of honey not what I was expecting.

·         2007 Chardonnay $18 (3/5) – A bit of VA in the nose with hints of banana and caramel.  Creamy style chardonnay with light acid.  Good balance but not exactly my style.

·         2006 Pinot Noir $22 (3/5) – Classic pinot noir aromas of rose petals with hints of vanilla and spice.  Definitely picked early as there is good acid.  Tannin does show but is balanced.

As I had mentioned earlier Roederer Estate is my favorite sparkling wine in California.  While it can be a bit of a challenge to find it, it is well worth it and even more disappointing that you can’t order the wines directly from the winery via their website as their website is somewhat limited.  However, you should be able to call for purchase and you’ll have availability to some older vintages and number of large formats. 

Contact Info:

Roederer Estate (

4501 Highway 128 
Philo, CA 95466 
(707) 895-2288

E: Sharon Sullivan at


Reply by dmcker, Apr 11, 2010.

Good job on covering this winery, John. I also like their products very much, including your favorite L'Ermitage but also the others, though in my case I might put them near but not at the very top of the Napa/Sonoma list. See this thread for other candidates. For historical reasons I've had more pleasure with Schramsberg over the years, though maybe a horizontal revisit to all the main players might be a good project for this year or next.

I have found that I like the products of the overseas French houses better from California than from Oz or South America. Hope that brings a comment or two from someone. And I feel these wines we're discussing here are definitely the class of North American sparkling, much better than even a Gruet, much less anything from NY State.... ;-)

So I take it Chandon and Mumm/DVX don't make your list? And there was a typo or two, including this one: "The first non-vintage bottling was released in 1988 and the first prestige blend, L’Ermitage, was released in 1993, the 1998 vintage." Italics are mine, and can we assume you meant '88?

Once again, a great post, and I, for one, am very much appreciative of the work you're putting into your series of winery visits...

Reply by rar8888, Apr 11, 2010.

Thanks John, dmcker isn't the only one that appreciates your great reviews.

Reply by John Andrews, Apr 11, 2010.

Thanks dmcker ... I do have to admit I'm not good at editing my own work and you are right about the vintage.  It was 1988 released in 1993.  Roederer Estate does age their prestige bottling 5 years before release. 

With respect to Chandon and Mumm, my preference would go to Mumm first and then Chandon.  Mumm DVX is very nice.  While I do like a lot of what Schramsburg produces my personal preference is elsewhere. 

Reply by zufrieden, Apr 11, 2010.

John, it is a lot of work to set out this information, and here is another vote (mine,this time) for your continued efforts at regional reporting.

I must confess, however, that I was slightly disappointed in a bottle of the Anderson Valley Roederer Estate (NV) around Yuletide.  This number was brought up to me in Vancouver by my brother-in-law who works as an engineer near Silicon Valley.  It did not compare favorably with regular (French) NV by this same prestigious producer - a personal favorite of mine.  This is not to say that this particular California example was not good or not well-received by the guests.

There was the mark of quality on the product.

Perhaps I will give some of the others on the list a go when next in CA. That should not be too long in the future.

Reply by John Andrews, Apr 11, 2010.

@zufrieden ... I'm sorry to hear that.  Problem with NV Champagnes is you don't always know how long they have been sitting and how they have been stored.  Also, I'm no expert, but do think that bubbly does need a little extra time to 'settle' down after travel.  

I do have to agree though, Louis Roederer Brut NV is pretty damn good.

Reply by zufrieden, Apr 11, 2010.

I have not given up on the California house yet.  It may have been a sub-par bottle, who knows?  

In any case, I will seek out some other examples in the near future. Thanks for the response.

Reply by dmcker, Apr 11, 2010.

And I suppose I should note the alsorans, as in those closer to the booby prize. I occasionally run across reference to Korbel in these threads, but it just plain ain't in even the next lower, much less the same league, compared to those we're talking about here. Single A ball for it, and those mentioned above are Triple A or the Bigs. The best Gruet might make 2A, but usually also 1A....

I have some tasting notes from a relatively massive undertaking at the beginning of the past decade where I and a few friends spent a few decadent weeks tasting freshly released champers from France and California, the same wine  with considerable bottle age after release, and the same wine with lengthier time on the lies before release. The first Roederer Estate was in the mix, as well as Dom. Chandon and Schramsberg, but a lot more from Champagne. When I get back home and time permits, I'll try to dig them up. I've meant to before this, but keep getting caught up in more pressing matters....

Reply by Drunk as a Skunk, Apr 11, 2010.

I've just become a fan of bubbles as well, thanks for the notes HondaJohn.

Reply by cigarman168, Apr 11, 2010.

@Honda : Try to find at the disgorgement date of a NV champagne, more and more winery will state it on the label. If you know the disgorgement date then you can estimate the producction date of the champagne.

Reply by Sully8, Apr 12, 2010.

Actually, the first vintage of L'Ermitage that was released was the 1989.  Thank you for the nice review - we appreciate it!!!


Reply by John Andrews, Apr 12, 2010.

Hey Sully8!  I try to get my facts straight but my memory (and note taking) aren't always accurate.  Thanks for the clarification and I hope I can get up there again soon. 

Reply by StevenBabb, Apr 12, 2010.

great work john! it took a lot of time to put all of this review together, i'm glad to see that people are appreciating it! my fav. is taittingers state side project, dom carneros, for some reason i just LOVE this place!i was a club member with them for a couple years.

a good thing to note too is that great sparkling/champagne houses usualy produce some worth while pinot noir and chardonnays, worth giving a swirl.

john, let me know if you ver want to head up to carneros for some tasting, i've got some passes to artesa, wich coincidently (or not) is right down the street from domaine carneros!

Reply by John Andrews, Apr 12, 2010.

@Steven ... I do very much like Domaine Carneros.  I take people there all the time as it is a great place to visit.  In fact, I often which back and forward between Roederer and DC as my favourite California bubbly.  

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