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exploring wine with tim fish

Great Wines and Great Values for Holiday Bubbly

California offers something for every taste and budget this season
Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Dec 11, 2013 10:00am ET

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.

Top California Sparklers

Mumm Napa DVX Napa Valley 2005 (94 points, $65)
Rich and deep with finesse to spare.

Domaine Carneros 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, $47)
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.

California Sparkling Wine Values

J Cuvée 20 Russian River Valley NV (90, $28)

Korbel Brut California NV (87, $14)

Piper Sonoma Brut Sonoma County Select Cuvée NV (87, $17)

Scharffenberger Brut Mendocino County Excellence NV (90, $20)

Katherine Jester
RIchmond VA —  December 12, 2013 10:11pm ET
Blanc de Blancs are not my first choice and I also don't like Pinot Meunier-heavy cuvees (personally). Right now I have Roland Champion Brut Rose that's only 40% PNoir but its 8gl RS so I find that little extra dosage is perfect compensation for the extra acid. I also like Gatinois Tradition Brut N/V. Its Pinot heavy/6gl RS/ and done on the lees so it has some body to make up for the short sugar. All a little give and take.

For parties I like Mumm M Napa Cuvee Blue Label ($20) and Segura Viudas Aria ($15) which is Methode Champenoise Cava.

I think all of this is under $50 a bottle.
William C Strickler
DC suburbs —  December 16, 2013 2:34pm ET
Tim,
To your point "Bubbly deserves better than four measly weeks a year," I heartily agree. I believe someone posted a response to another similar article a couple years ago that they decided every Friday night would be "bubbly" night. With too much "bubbly" accumulating in our cellar waiting for a special occasion, Dianne and I adopted the "Friday night is bubbly night" a couple years ago - much to our own, and often our friends', delight.

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