The female-led team comprised of three sisters Sharon Cohn, Rebecca Faust, and Cynthia Faust are at the helm of Breathless Winery in Healdsburg, CA. The winery’s mantra is about celebration, which is why they believe in the breathless moments of life. While they have a variety of tasting and small group event options, the most unique offering is the sabrage experience for groups up to 10 people. Guests are brought together to learn the fine, historic art of sabering that has a connection to Napoleon and the French Revolution. As the story goes, during Napoleon’s victorious battles, soldiers would ride on horseback through villages and towns with bottles of champagne to mark their victory. Without the ability to use their hands, they would strike the bottle with their sabers to pop the cork. Groups can learn the history of the experience along with the “how-to” led by a private instructor. After the instruction, they are left to enjoy the bottle along with optional charcuterie and cheese plate options and additional pairings.
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Forbes Magazine: Is California Sparkling Wine’s Pandemic-Induced Roller Coaster Ride Ending On A High In 2021?
The Future of California Sparkling Wine
So what is the future of California Sparkling wine? Will sales continue to grow, or will they flatten? Competition from Champagne and Prosecco is fierce, especially since both of these regions have large marketing associations that frequently reach out to wine buyers and consumers with compelling ads to purchase their wines.
The California sparkling wine industry, however, does not have a marketing association to represent its producers. In the past, this was because there were not that many bubble houses. But according to CaliforniaChampagne.com, there are now around 150 sparkling wine producers in California.
The state also ships far more wine in the US compared to its competitors. According to a recent report by market research firm, Gomberg-Frederickson, California sparkling houses shipped an average of 11.8 million 9L cases per year, from 2016 to 2020. During the same period, Italy shipped an average of 8.5 million imported cases (primarily of Prosecco) to the US, while France only shipped an average of 3.5 million cases.
However, some producers are very positive about the future of California bubbles, and expect to see continued growth in the category, due to new trends and changes in consumer behavior. Joy Sterling, CEO of Iron Horse Vineyards in Sonoma County says: “The future of California bubbly is very bright. It is encouraging that more and more people are coming to see bubbly as a wine to be enjoyed on any and every occasion.”
Penny Gadd-Coster, Executive Director of Winemaking at Rack & Riddle, and head winemaker for the much touted Breathless Wines brand, reports, “I believe the future looks good for sparkling as people are looking for lower alcohol wines which sparkling inherently is.”
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Owned and operated by three sisters, the winery was named in honor of their late mother, Martha, and for all the breathless moments she created.
Under the warm spring sun, Breathless Wines becomes an oasis in Healdsburg for regality. Any troubles are melted away with an array of sparkling champagne choices placed outside as the drapes miming an isolated royal tent guard against the May breeze. The noble ambience peaks once the saber is introduced.
Sabrage is the art of opening a wine bottle with one sweep of the blade against the bottle, popping the cork off in dramatic fashion. It’s one of the many grandiose ideas Breathless brings to wine tasting.
Owned and operated by three sisters, the winery was named in honor of their late mother, Martha, and for all the breathless moments she created. “Our mother was a very inspirational woman who never took a breath for granted,” says Sharon Cohn, one of the three sisters. “How she lived every day is pretty amazing. We thought we could create something that would represent that.”
“My sister Rebecca kept saying, ‘Come on, let’s do a label, let’s do a label.’ We started thinking about it in 2010, and she kept pushing and pushing, ‘We got to do this,’ ” says Cohn. Sharon had a business at the time, a massage parlor called Massage Envy. But once she sold her stake at the parlor, all three sisters jumped into the world of wine together. The third sister, Cynthia, was working for business development at Rack & Riddle Wine Services at the time, where she met Penny Gadd-Coster.
Gadd-Coster, the winemaker for Breathless Wines, began her renegade career with Jordan Winery before working with Rack & Riddle and Breathless. “Once I got the opportunity to start making wines for Rack & Riddle, I was able to bring my own style from some of my mentoring,” says Gadd-Coster. “Then I took another step with Breathless Wines, where I was able to craft these wines in a style that I believed fit what we are trying to do.”
Gadd-Coster had to combat a male-dominated wine industry while she mastered methode champenoise. Of the 4,200 wineries in California, just 14% are led by a female winemaker in 2020 according to Lucia Albino Gilbert, Ph.D., and John Carl Gilbert, Ph.D. in a study for Santa Clara University. And what better winery to do so at then Breathless, a company run by three women. Gadd-Coster’s call to action is to bring bubbles to all, and the women-centered team of Breathless is bringing her goals to life.
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