Like many things in life, I tend to believe that wine quality and price don't always correlate. You can have a terrible sparkling wine and pay a lot (though usually with other intangible benefits like prestige or exclusivity), but that you can also find something that suits your palate at a "drink it often" price.
After having visited a number of sparkling wineries and seen the immense amount of labor involved in making great bubbly, I was beginning to dismiss the idea of finding one that I enjoyed at an everyday price as the delusions of a poor-but-optimistic writer. Then this column took me to Mumm.
Mumm manages to keep the feel of boutique, but offering some of the best values around. Their Brut Prestige, Brut Rosé, and Cuvée M, which make up the bulk of their yearly production and spend 18 months aging en tirage, are nicely balanced and wonderfully priced. Bottles of all three flagship lines can be purchased there in the low $20's, but often priced at places like BevMo for $15 a bottle.
While you will most likely not be visiting Mumm for those wines, the tour, location, and terrace certainly will be.
Like with other sparkling wine tours, the hour-long tour takes you through the winemaking, aging, and bottling facility. The tasting happens progressively with pours of different sparkling wines at each stop along the tour (you get thirsty doing all that walking), ending in the gallery. The exit leads you into one of the most stunning views of the valley, especially in the winter when the sun sets over the Mayacama mountain range.
Having a tasting at the Oak Terrace requires a little bit of planning, as a reservation is required, but it also gives you access to tasting the winery exclusives, like the DVX line. When we stopped by, they were pouring a 2001 that had aged for 11 years, a 2006 Rosé, and 2002 Brut.
The winery is sister to French Champagne house G.H. Mumm, and is a relative newcomer to Napa, having been around only since 1987, but it feels right at home.
Location: 8445 Silverado Trail, Rutherford, open 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Tours: $25 (includes small flute), offered daily at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m, and 3 p.m., includes tasting. No appointment needed.
Tastings: Patio & Tasting Salon ($18-$25, depending on the sparkling flight), the Oak Terrace ($40 for four high end vintage tastes) and is by appointment only
Approximate number of wines in the tasting: Three-four, depending on where you taste (Salon or Oak Terrace)
Price range for sparkling wines: Most in the $22-$55 range, with special bottlings more
Yearly production (in cases): 215,000
Picnic tables/food available: No picnic tables, but the Oak Terrace offers a fantastic cheese plate ($25).
Best for: Groups of six or smaller who want a nice break from taste Napa Cabernets
Don't miss: the free Ansel Adams exhibit in the Private Collection Gallery