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01.27.10

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Phaedra

Mumm Napa

By James Knight

On permanent loan from Napoleon Bonaparte, Mumm's motto is emblazoned for quiet contemplation even on the wall of the men's room: "In victory, you deserve champagne; in defeat, you need it." Heady stuff, indeed, but a question for the Corsican: What about when it's just complicated? Perhaps Mumm's premium Napa Valley sparkling wine can help us with that, too.

Set on the quieter side of the valley, the manifestly Californian-style fizz factory is all barn and no chateau, and although lacking in dank cave ambiance, a tour provided our group with an robust account of exactly how the bubbles get into the bottle, accompanied by a flute of Brut Rosé. On the way out—surprise!—a photography gallery that includes Ansel Adams prints and rotating exhibits begs the eye to linger. "Changing Earth: A Photographer's Perspective" features striking portraits of landscape and environmental decline, through March 13.

Indoor or patio seating takes the pressure off the elbows—with no bar to wade through crowds to get to, visitors can relax at small tables and choose from single tastes or flights of two flutes apiece. But as I've said before, when you go Napa, go the extra; Mumm Napa opened the Oak Terrace last year for visitors who want to take it to the next level. With seating in plush, red love seats; cheese, fruit and nut plates; special attention; and a choice of Mumm's best library releases, it's a right good rendezvous for romantic duos—or just good friends, alike.

Acquiring more aromatic nuance over time, vintage bubble's tingly tease only gets finer, too. The 2000 DVX Brut ($55) is named in honor of G.H. Mumm's original man in Napa, Guy Deveaux; a haunting aroma of the sea from a shell is enlivened by citrus zip and stone fruit notes. Tart red berry fruit keeps the creamy 2004 DVX Brut Rosé ($65) lively as it lingers comfortably on the palate, while the honey-hued 25th Anniversary Brut Reserve ($80) is richly adorned with toasted nut, baked pear, and again, that memory of the sea.

But to be honest, I was initially called to Mumm out of pure curiosity. The Sparkling Pinot Noir ($30) is a truly blood red and bubbles like a mouthful of still-fermenting wine—minus the sourness, sulfur and yeast—with flavors of grape, red licorice and tart cherry. The Cuvée M Red ($30) is similar but smokier, with cream, leather and a red berry, black cherry character. Verdict on the passionate reds: certainly broadens the sparkling food pairing options. But Mumm's still wines run deep, too. The 2004 Syrah ($60) is especially bright and juicy, a silky, licorice and plum-cherry treat—one of those glassfuls that's supple and alluring with every succeeding sip and that you never want to end.

At this point, our host notes with a laugh that visitors predictably sink ever more comfortably into the furniture—not a bad way to spend a gorgeous sunny day, when the 180-year-old oak tree shades the terrace, but just perfect even as overburdened clouds make their inevitable advance from the horizon to bring the first tears of rain, as tiny as the stream of bubbles rushing upwards and away, to vanish like thousands of too-soon-departed happy moments. Mumm Napa, 8445 Silverado Trail, Napa. Open 10am–5pm daily. Tasting options $6–$20; Oak Terrace, $30. 707.967.7700.


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