I've been drinking California sparkling wine for 20 years and for about half that I've been reviewing them for Wine Spectator. Across the board they've never been better. The industry has settled into a comfortable middle age. The top producers have refined a signature tête de cuvée, or flagship wine, and at the same time have not sacrificed value.
Middle age doesn't make for snazzy headlines but it does mean that consumers have a good selection of bubbly across every price point this holiday season. Wine Spectator subscribers can read my complete annual report on American sparkling wine in the Dec. 31 issue but here are some of the highlights. I've broken the wines into three groups: good values, rosés and the cream of the crop.
Overdeliver isn't officially a word, but I can't think of a better way to describe a wine that's truly a great value. It overdelivers on quality relative to price, whether the bottle is $10 or 100 bucks.
Those are the sort of wines I try to write about in this blog as often as I can, and whenever I do, readers in their comments regularly champion one label: Columbia Crest. The Washington state winery has a devoted fan base for a reason. It's that rare winery that overdelivers across the board.
This is the time of year for strategic wine buying. With holiday parties and gift lists, Christmas dinner and New Year's Eve, you can either be willy-nilly and buy as you go or have a plan.
I'm as willy-nilly as the next consumer when it comes to buying wine, but in December I stock up. A well-chosen case of wine bought early in the month avoids hassles during the chaotic holiday season.
Selecting the case is the challenge, and half the fun. Here are some of the wines I'd put in my case, but remember this isn't a greatest hits of wine for a ideal Christmas Day. (I'll be dipping into my cellar all month long, of course.)
It's a selection of excellent bottles that will be handy to share with others, and have relatively good availability around the country. You'll find a complete list below, with links to our original reviews.