There are a lot of Champagne chauvinists out there. It's not that I can't relate. I don't use a saber to open a bottle of great Champagne; I use one to fend off challengers for the last glass. Yes, some Champagne is that good and without peer.
And yet there are many wine lovers who are still convinced that value is the only saving grace of California sparkling wine. If you're going to spend more than $20 or $25, look elsewhere, they say.
Chances are that 90 percent of the people who say that have never done a blind tasting comparing Champagne and California bubbly. (Gasp!) It has been 36 years since California went toe to toe with Bordeaux and Burgundy in a blind setting in Paris, but Champagne remains the last bastion.
I've been involved with numerous blind tastings that mix Champagne and California sparkling wine over the years, and the results are always surprising. Sommeliers who think Champagne is the Holy Grail are surprised how well the top California sparkling wines show.
I'm not naive. I'm not arguing that California bubbly is the equal of Champagne, but I'm convinced that the top California sparklers are far better than the snobs believe. But if they're so certain, they should test themselves with brown bags.
Just consider the wines listed below. They're among the top wines from each of California's leading sparkling wine houses. They're not Champagne. They're not Spanish cava or Italian Prosecco, either. But they are outstanding wines by any measure: complex, crisp, rich and uniquely, proudly Californian.
A full list of the more than 100 West Coast sparkling wines we've tasted in the past year ia available for free.
Listed alphabetically below are some of the best sparkling wines I've tasted this year. Try them blind with Champagne. I dare ya.
Domaine Carneros Blanc de Blancs Carneros Le Rêve 2006 (91 points, $95)
Mumm Napa DVX Napa Valley 2004 (94 points, $65)
Schramsberg Reserve North Coast 2004 (93, $115)