Mumm has, for nearly 200 years, been one of the premiere vintners of Champagne in France; their wines celebrate victories, launch ships, and add elegance to any special occasion.
Just as you could not call a Californian wine a "Burgundy", it is improper to call sparkling wines that come from anywhere but the Champagne region of France by the name "Champagne", per standards of the Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée. This is a legally protected right as part of the Treaty of Madrid (1891), the Treaty of Versailles (1919) and more recently, through European Union laws. You will find sparkling wines from other regions of the world called names such as Cava, spumante, Cap Classique, DOCG Asti, Sekt, and Crémant, among others; generally finding "méthode traditionnelle" on a label designates a sparkling wine.
In the U.S., such wines are simply called "sparkling wines". Mumm opened their vineyards here in 1986 - designated Mumm Cuvée Napa to distinguish their products from the original Mumm in France. Over the past 20 years, Mumm has done the same in California that they did in Europe: produce an outstanding product that leads its competitors for quality.
The first Mumm vineyards in the U.S., located in the Los Carneros district, have something very much in common with their French counterparts: the lime in the soil helps create depth and richness in the grapes' flavor. Mumm now sources their grapes from four Napa regions: Carneros, Yountville, Rutherford, and Oakville; and traditionally uses three varietals - Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier.
Complimentary public tours are available daily, on the hour, from 10am to 3pm, or you can make an appointment for a private tour and tasting for groups of 10 or more, for a fee. The tour encompasses the vineyards as well as the winery, and takes 45 minutes.
Mumm has not simply created a tasting room where you belly up to the bar like most other wineries. A Mumm tasting - like the special occasions when you would open a bottle - are an experience.
From the parking lot, you walk down a short path into the wine shop on your right. If you’re here for a tasting, ignore all the wine and glasses on display and instead walk through the shop and to your left, where you can take a seat at any open table you like, either outdoors in the sun, or in the air-conditioned interior. Enjoy the magnificent views westwards towards the Mayacamas range; I love coming here late in the afternoon when the crowds are generally quiet to enjoy some sparkling wine as the day slips towards sunset.
You have the choice of either single glasses of Mumm, or you can have a comparative tasting; prices range from $5-$20. I selected a "Magnum" tasting; the menu claimed that magnums are "creamier, softer, and more complex than regular sized bottles". (Champagne/sparkling wines come in eight sizes - quarter, half, full ['regular'], magnum, Jeroboam, Methuselah, Salmanazar, and Balthazar; magnums reputedly have the best flavor.)
I was served two full glasses of sparkling wine; one was their signature Brut Prestige, the other their blush-colored Blanc de Noirs. They sparkled in the California sunshine: bright, bubbly, with condensation slowly swirling around the outside of the glass in the warmth of the afternoon. The wines are served with a card next to them which shows the label, so that if you like the wine, you know what label to look for. They were both delicious, but I must admit to preferring my sparkling wines "blonde", so I liked the Brut Prestige better. The Brut Prestige was so smooth and tasty, I could have easily whiled away a sizeable part of my afternoon enjoying the scenery, the wine, the weather.
The only flaw that I think there is in the magnum tasting is that the regular-sized bottle is not offered to taste side by side with the magnum; after all, it is in the comparison that one best notices the differences.
Mumm's environment invites you to linger over your glasses and savor the wine. And savor you shall, for their wines are outstanding. You can even feel free to take your wine and take a walk around the garden area or to explore their photography galleries. When I was last there, they were hosting an Ansel Adams review. If you are there in the spring, you will see the photography from the Napa Valley Mustard Festival "Mumm Napa Photo Finish" contest.
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Notes: Their wine shop has a variety of interesting glassware and wine-related items, but mainly focuses on their wines, in all sizes, and in particular showcases their smaller production wines, such as their award-winning DVX, their sparkling Pinot Meunier, and their Cuvée M, which are only available via the tasting room or online order.
Open daily 10am-5pm. 8445 Silverado Trail, Rutherford, CA 94573
Phone: (800) MUM-NAPA or (707) 967-7700
For the budget-mined, note that their website has coupons available for discounts on tastings: www.mummnapa.com