“POP!” … opening a bottle of bubbly starts the party—a sound that is heard the world over during New Year’s Eve celebrations. Nobody knows this better than the winemaking team at Horton Vineyards, who go through the process of making those sparkling wines every year.

Making Sparkling Wine in Virginia

While the vineyards outside sleep, the Horton team stays busy inside the winery during the final week of bottling with Shannon and Caitlin Horton at the helm as they degorge sparkling Viognier in preparation for its release.

The traditional Methode Champenoise of making sparkling that Horton follows is a labor-intensive one that has been the practice for hundreds of years in Champagne, France. One of only a few wineries in the region that implements the traditional process, Shannon Horton explains that “…first the sparkling is aged on the lees (or yeast) for months, and as the yeast sediment builds, the winemaker forces the yeast to settle at the neck of the bottle through the riddling process. In order to remove the yeast, it is put in a freezing bath to solidify. We then remove the bottle’s seal which creates an explosion of the wine as sparkling is so known for. It’s a fun and exciting process!”

Once degorged, the wine is inspected then topped off to replace the wine that was lost.

“We…remove the bottle’s seal which creates an explosion of the wine…it’s a fun and exciting process!”

After passing inspection, the bottles are quickly re-corked, cleaned and boxed for labeling on another day.

Wine lovers can expect highly acidic floral notes and a brioche aroma with this sparkling Viognier. Horton recommends pairing it with rich food like lobster tail or even a creamy and rich dessert.

Horton Vineyards’ Sparkling Wines

Elsewhere in the winery, as this year’s sparkling wines are being boxed and stored, other exciting wine projects are being aged. “We have some that have been aging for 10 years now, and we were very excited to introduce our sparkling Tannat, the first of its kind to be released locally!” Shannon adds.

The aged sparkling Viognier was put down in July of 2018 and will be released in 2028. The sparkling Tannat, the particular project of third-generation winemaker Caitlin Horton, was renamed Knots & Shuttles and released as part of her Gears and Lace series. The grapes for this sparkling were allowed to get to full ripeness prior to picking, and the wine has a big tannic finish. Knots & Shuttles is the third sparkling that Horton Vineyards has offered.

Horton Vineyards also produces a sparkling rosé—Erotes. This delightful bubbly rosé starts on the palette with a raspberry sweetness and finishes dry.


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Stored deep in the cellar’s many caves lay more exciting vintages for wine lovers to enjoy in the years to come. Horton Vineyards continues its innovative legacy with passion and grace and promises to keep fulfilling that promise under Caitlin’s enterprising leadership.


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