Blog Courtesy of Winemaker Elise Nerlove of Elkhorn Peak Cellars
Known as “hipster bubbles” by wine lovers, Pét Nat (short for Pétillant Naturel, which means “naturally sparkling” in French) is a winemaking method that predates Champagne, and has been enjoyed by the French for centuries.
How is Pét Nat different from Champagne?
Champagne starts with finished wine, to which a measured amount of sugar and yeast is added, forcing the wine into a secondary fermentation. When you open a Pét Nat, on the other hand, you’re drinking something unforced, with about half the pressure of Champagne. The grapes go from vine to bottle very quickly, which means most of the wine work happens naturally in the bottle. The wine goes through a single fermentation. Pét Nat winemakers have to trust their fruit and their process, because there is little opportunity for intervention.
This is an unfiltered, unsulfured natural wine. A hazy appearance is part of the magic.
What’s the best way to enjoy this wine?
Its refreshing and spontaneous style is just the thing for summer. Pét Nats are intended to drink young; enjoy now while the wine is young and vibrant. Before consumption, chill the bottle overnight in the fridge or upright in an ice bucket for at least 30 minutes. The cold will keep the sediment at the bottom of the bottle; a useful tip for drinkers of any naturally hazy wine!
Why did we decide to produce a Pét Nat?
Elise’s love of sparkling wine began during her time working at local sparkling wine houses Domaine Carneros and Gloria Ferrer. She knew one day she’d bring sparkling wine to Elkhorn Peak, and in 2018 her sparkling winemaking adventure started.
As a new winemaker, Elise embarked on an experimental sparkling wine project in her garage. The first batch of “garage Pét Nat” was made with the 2018 vintage, and was served at her wedding in June 2019. The guests loved this homemade bubbly and convinced Elise to make a commercial batch for the Elkhorn Peak label.
The inaugural commercial vintage, 2019 Pét Nat sold out in 35 days through the elkhornpeak.com website.
The Pinot Noir grapes for the 2020 Elkhorn Peak Pét Nat are sourced from the family ranch in south Napa Valley. Elise helps her Dad, Ken, farm the wine grapes at Elkhorn Peak Cellars, and he’s been farming at this site for almost 40 years.
What’s the story behind the label?
Growing up Elise has always known her Dad to do two things: Grow grapes and collect/restore antique pinball and slot machines. When it came to creating a label for this new wine project, Elise was inspired by pinball art from her Dad’s collection. And this piece, from the pinball game “Time Tunnel” seemed infinitely appropriate to dress a wine with 2020 energy. There is a small nod to the defining object of 2020 on this label…see if you can spot it.