Bubbles & Jamón with California Style: Artesa Sparkling Wines and Charcuterie from Encina Farms

Sparkling wine paired with jamón and other charcuterie takes me back to tapas bar-hopping in Barcelona. Grab a taste of this and bite of that and wash it all down with a glass of Cava! In the fall, I had the chance to participate in a virtual tasting that allowed me to relive those delicious memories without the plane fare. In this case, the bubbles and the jamón both have Spanish roots but were produced here in California. The tasting featured sparkling wines from Artesa winery, which is owned by one of Spain’s oldest Cava-producing families, paired with charcuterie from Encina Farms, which is raising one of Spain’s most celebrated breeds of pigs in California. 

Note: The wines and charcuterie in this post were provided as media samples for participation in the webinar. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

Artesa Vineyards and Winery

Image borrowed from Artesa Vineyards and Winery.

Raventós Codorníu is the oldest winemaking family in Spain, with roots dating back to 1551. They’re best known for their Cava, but they have projects all around Spain and several around the world.  In 1991, they brought their 17 generations of winemaking expertise to California and opened Codorníu Napa to produce sparkling wine. The project evolved to include still wines and became Artesa in 1998, taking its name from the Catalan word for “handcrafted.”

The Artesa Estate Vineyard encompasses 150-acres over steep vineyards straddling Los Carneros and Mount Veeder AVAs, with a variety of soils and slopes. Thanks to the proximity to San Pablo Bay, the vineyards generally experience cool, maritime climate conditions. This climate is perfect for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which take the lion’s share of the plantings (about 80 acres), although there are a few other grapes planted as well. The vineyards are farmed sustainably and certified under Napa Green and Fish Friendly Farming.

The winemaking team is led by Ana Diogo-Draper, Director of Winemaking. They harvest and ferment the different lots separately, then blend them together when composing the final blend. Ana favors low intervention methods in the cellar, including wild fermentations. She and her team are constantly experimenting with the blends and methods in order to be constantly evolving to make better wine with each vintage. 

We’ll get to the wines tasted in just a minute. 

Encina Farms

Image borrowed from Encina Farms.

If you’ve been to Spain or are a fan of their cured meats, then you probably know about their famous Iberico pics. Encina Farms is raising them here in California. The key to the best Iberico ham is their diet of acorns, or “bellotas,” which gives the meat its rich flavor and texture. California has plenty of oak trees that produce the acorns, and they saw an opportunity. Moreover, the trees inspired the name of the company –– Encina means Oak Tree in Spanish.

They now have 650+ acres in the Coyote Valley near Middletown, including over 100 acres of certified organic pastures and over 550 acres of oak forests, on which they raise Iberico pigs exclusively – they’re the first producer to do so. They farm sustainably, using regenerative practices with no hormones or antibiotics while mixing in traditional Spanish methods. As is traditional, the pigs are finished on a diet of acorns, which they forage themselves from the oak trees, to ensure the flavor.

You can find large cuts via their website, smaller quantities via Good Eggs, and you’ll also find them at farmer’s markets in the Bay Area, as well as at Artesa. 

The Tasting

The tasting featured a lineup of three sparkling wines paired with a selection of three cured meats.

Grand Reserve Brut Barrica NV with Castro y Gonzalez Jamón

Blend: 75% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay | ABV: 11.5% |  Price: $65 

Winemaking: 100% of this lot was fermented in 10-year-old Chardonnay barrels, all French oak. The wine rested en tirage for 3 years. Additional details here.

BTS Notes: According to Ana, the goal here was to make a wine that’s rich but with lots of acidity. 

Tasting Notes: Fresh lemon and flowers, a little smoke on the nose, which increases as the wine warms. Yellow cherries, brioche (more as it warms), a touch of stone, salt, and cream. There were some oxidative elements as well that added a bit of nuttiness. 

Pairing Notes: The jamón had buttery and nutty touches. The wine brought out even more silky texture from the jamón. It cleanses the palate and played off the saltiness of the jamón beautifully. The jamón in turn brought out extra nutty notes from the wine. 

Grand Reserve Brut 2015 with Chorizo

Blend: 51% Chardonnay, 49% Pinot Noir | ABV: 11.5% |  Price: $50

Winemaking: 80% of the blend was fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks, while 20% of the wine was fermented in and racked to neutral French oak barrels for aging. The portion in barrels underwent malolactic fermentation, while the portion in stainless steel did not. The wine rested en tirage for four years before disgorging.

Additional details here.

BTS Notes: The grapes for this wine were grown during a drought year, which yielded really concentrated grape. The wine definitely reflects the vintage and site.

Tasting Notes: Toasty brioche, smoke, crisp gold apples, lemon, a touch of cinnamon, and nutty almond notes on the nose. It’s toasty on the palate, with marzipan and smoke, and a stony minerality comes in on the finish.

Pairing Notes: The chorizo had a delicious smoky flavor from the pimentón (smoked paprika) and pepper used in the recipe. The flavor of the chorizo actually elongates the flavors of the wine and smooths it out, but then the pimentón flavor pops again on the finish. The richness of the wine and chorizo matched really nicely, and the combo brought out the smoke and toasty notes in the wine. 

La Jefa Brut Late Disgorged 2013 with Salchichón

Blend: 52% Pinot Noir, 48% Chardonnay | ABV: 11.5% |  Price: $100

Winemaking: The primary fermentation was completed in a combination of stainless steel (60%) and neutral barrels (40%), for added layers of complexity to the base wine. In April 2014, the wine was placed in bottles along with a proprietary tirage to induce secondary fermentation. The

wine rested en tirage for 7 years and was disgorged in early 2021. Additional details here.

BTS Notes:  Ana noted that this was from her first vintage at Artesa, so it can’t help but be one of her favorites. This vintage also yielded very tiny, concentrated grapes. In the winemaking, she wanted to maintain a tension in the wine that would hold through the long aging process. 

Tasting Notes: Sweet smoked apples and cherries with a squeeze of lemon on the nose along with a bit of toast. On the palate, there was a mix of savory herbal notes along with sweet white peach, but with a crisp, minerally finish with a hint of salinity and a touch of pepper. 

Pairing Notes: The salchichón had lots of peppery and smoky notes. It somehow managed to bring out the fruitier side of the wine, and the peppery notes in the salchichón really popped. The salinity in both the food and the wine really spoke to each other. 

This tasting was such a treat. It was so interesting to see how the charcuterie brought out such different aspects of the wine – but that is exactly the fun of wine pairing! Greg and I both love charcuterie, so when the tasting was over, I added some cheese, bread, salad, and additional goodies to make it a meal. In this batch, I particularly loved the chorizo and the salchichón – they were both incredibly flavorful and had a wonderful, rich, meaty texture

The timing of the tasting couldn’t have been more perfect as well, since it happened to fall the night before our anniversary (of when we got together), so it was a lovely prelude celebration. The next evening, we enjoyed the rest of the bottle La Jefa to toast the actual day, before enjoying our dinner of duck and Barbaresco – I think the wine would’ve also worked beautifully with the main course. Truly, all three of these bubblies had the richness to stand up to weightier food like this, but that is particularly true of La Jefa.

We enjoyed one more night of bubbles the next night as we finished the Grand Reserve Brut with a creamy white bean pasta with butternut squash, chicken, and parmesan. 

By coincidence, not long before we had enjoyed the Artesa Block 92 Estate Vineyard Chardonnay 2018 with lobster bisque topped with lobster chunks. The wine showed a similar balance of richness and vibrancy as the sparkling wines. That too was a fantastic pairing, and I’m sure the bubblies would have made a great as well, but perhaps in particular Grand Reserve Brut Barrica. 

Hopefully, I’m leaving you with a few ideas for Valentine’s Day, since it’s just around the corner . . . 



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