An Under-$30 Delicious American Sparkler Returns to Houston

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Houston wine maven and man-about-town Denman Moody loves him some Dr. Frank from the Finger Lakes, New York.

He poured and spoke about the winery's dry Riesling when I met him for the first time a few weeks ago in Austin (where he was presenting his new self-published book -- a memoir-cum-guide to the great wines of the world -- at the Westwood Country Club there).

And last night, when we met for BYOB at La Vista on Fountain View, the first wine to appear from his wine bag (a handsome wicker six-bottle caddy, dressed in fine canvas and leather) was a Dr. Frank 2006 Finger Lakes Sparkling Wine Blanc de Noirs made mostly from Pinot Noir and smaller amounts of Pinot Meunier, two of the classic grapes of Champagne -- "white" wine (blanc) from "black" (red) grapes (noirs).

He likes the wine so much that he now has a hand in bringing it back to Texas, he told me over crab cakes.

"I'm certainly not trying to make money," he said, speaking of the agreement he's reached with Spec's, who will distribute the wine here. "It's that I want to be able to drink the wine."

Clean and bright, it didn't have a lot of depth, but its low alcohol and fresh white and stone fruit flavors were ideal with the rich crab cakes at La Vista (above). At under $30 a bottle, this wine will be a great go-to for those who want to serve domestic sparkling wines for the holidays. And it's a great value for the high quality of the wine, made in one of the few American wine-growing regions, as Denman rightly pointed out, where temperatures are cool enough for acidity-driven expressions of Pinot Noir.

My only beef with the wine is that the label reports that it's made using the méthode champenoise. In other words, it's double-fermented in bottle and then its lees are disgorged after being aged and before being bottled, just like the wines in Champagne, France.

In Europe, it's illegal to write "Champagne" or "méthode champenoise" on a bottle that wasn't produced in Champagne (the appellation and region). Beyond Champagne, European winemakers are allowed to write "traditional method" or "classic method" on the labels of Champagne-style wines. But they can't make any reference to Champagne on the label.

Americans aren't bound by the same restrictions. Here in the States, unscrupulous producers regularly write "Champagne" on their bottle (André, anyone?).

If, say, an Italian producer of sparkling wine were to make reference to Champagne on their label, they would be swiftly fined and convicted of consumer fraud.

Ethical objections aside and all things considered, it's great to see that the wine will be making its way back to Houston, where, when you can't be with the sparkling wine you love, it's always good form to love the sparkling wine you're with.

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