Bubbly deserves better than four measly weeks a year, I've always said. Americans gorge themselves on sparkling wine in December, but sip it a lot less during the other 11 months. How did it come to that? It's all about New Year's Eve—I get that—but bubbly is not just about celebration, it's the best wine for casual summer drinking, too.
That's one reason Wine Spectator's annual American sparkling wine report is being moved to mid-year. It's a drink for every season.
Now that I've been reviewing California sparkling wine for Wine Spectator for the past decade, I can say the wines have never been better, whether it is the luxury "tête de cuvées" or the value wines the Golden State has long been known for.
Look for reviews of some of my favorite California bubblies in the Dec. 31 issue. Meanwhile, here is a selection of the top wines. WineSpectactor.com subscribers can read more detailed reviews by clicking on the links.
Mumm Napa DVX Napa Valley 2005 (94 points, $65)
Rich and deep with finesse to spare.
Brut Carneros Ultra 2008 (93, $39)
Delicate and complex with razor-sharp acidity.
Domaine Chandon Étoile Tête de Cuvée Napa-Sonoma Counties
2003 (93, $100)
Sleek and structured, with an appealing maturity.
Gloria Ferrer Anniversary Cuvée Carneros 2008 (93, $40)
Rich and opulent but well-focused.
Iron Horse Wedding Cuvée Green Valley of Russian River
Valley 2009 (93, $40)
Fresh and festive, this bubbly is built for a party.
Roederer Estate Brut Anderson Valley L'Ermitage 2004 (93,
Impeccably focused and elegant, with layers of complexity that open slowly.
Schramsberg Rosé North Coast J. Schram 2005 (93, $140)
Bold aromas and layered flavors finish with a vibrantly crisp note.
Those are special-occasion wines, for the most part, but who doesn't deserve the best every once in a while? That said, California continues to offer great value. For inexpensive sparkling wines to share with friends and family, it's hard to beat some of the latest releases by Korbel, many of which sell for $14 and less.
J Cuvée 20 Russian River Valley NV (90, $28)
Korbel Brut California NV (87, $14)