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13 Top California Bubblies for the Holidays

The Golden State offers quality and value for your seasonal celebration
Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Dec 17, 2014 10:30am ET

I'm not sure whether I drink more sparkling wine in the summer or winter, and then there's spring and fall to consider. It's a tough call. Either way, I have more excuses this time of year, which is always a plus.

Champagne is an addiction of mine, but I also love California bubbly. They're different beasts, and I don't mind comparing them, but what's the point? I've reviewed California sparklers for Wine Spectator for more than a decade, and consumed them for a lot longer than that.

The top sparkling wines from the Golden State are rich with bright California fruit, but layer it with lively acidity. Consumers will also find great value. Look for my complete American sparkling wine report next summer, but for now, here are the California bubblies that impressed me most in 2014.

Top California Sparklers

Domaine Carneros Le Reve Blanc de Blancs 2007 ($99)
Deliciously austere, with pinpoint focus and brioche and apple notes

Domaine Chandon Brut Sonoma-Napa Counties Étoile NV ($40)
A bold bubbly with classic aromas of apple and ginger and rich, structured flavors.

Gloria Ferrer Brut Blanc de Blancs Carneros Late Disgorged 2010 (91 points, $40)
A sleek and elegant sparkler, with lively notes of baked pear and mineral.

Iron Horse Brut Green Valley of Russian River Valley Classic Vintage 2009 ($40)
A festive wine that's also perfectly focused and complex.

J Brut Russian River Valley Vintage 2008 ($50)
Crisp and sleek, with lively lemon, almond and mineral notes.

Mumm Napa DVX Napa Valley 2007 (92, $60)
Rich yet beautifully focused, with complex flavors of baked pear and brioche.

Roederer Estate Brut Anderson Valley L'Ermitage 2006 (93, $41)
Graceful and sophisticated, with delicate brioche and apple notes.

Schramsberg J. Schram North Coast 2006 (93, $110)
Luscious and richly structured, with bold notes of Meyer lemon, baked pear and almond.

California Sparkling Wine Values

Gloria Ferrer Brut Sonoma County Sonoma NV (90, $22)
A festive sparkler with flavors of raspberry and baked apple.

Korbel Brut California Made with organically grown grapes NV ($17)
Crisp and lively, with easygoing tropical fruit flavors.

Laetitia Brut Arroyo Grande Valley Cuvée NV (89, $25)
Sleek and easy to sip, with apple, citrus and spice flavors.

Mumm Napa Brut Napa Valley Prestige NV (91, $22)
Packs in a lot of complexity for the price apple, fresh ginger and spice notes.

Roederer Estate Brut Anderson Valley NV (90, $24)
Floral, raspberry and apple pie aromas lead to crisp lemon and anise flavors.

What were your favorite sparkling wines of 2014?

Mark Lyon
Sonoma, California —  December 17, 2014 12:55pm ET
I've had the Roederer Brut and Rose recently and can attest to their excellence! Even though splurging is fun on Champagne, I consider Roederer, Gloria Ferrer, and Domaine Carneros Brut to be great, everyday drinking sparklers. California Sparklers, in my opinion does not compete well in the below $15/bottle. So, we gravitate towards Cava at those price points. I also tell folks that sparklers can be enjoyed with food during non-festive days. Finally, I do believe they hold up longer in the fridge than other wines when you put that Champagne stopper on them.
Daniel Sherer
Windsor, CA, USA —  December 17, 2014 1:07pm ET
Hands down...my favorite go-to California Sparkling, for many years, has been J Cuvee 20. Love the cream and lemon. France = V. Clicquot Rose, wild strawberries and cherries. Italy = Collabrigo Prosecco, pears and apples. France (outside of Champagne) = Langlois Cremant de Loire Blanc Brut, elegant with grapefruit notes. Spain = Segura Viudas Reserve Heredad, yeast with citrus.
Love them all, any day of the week, month, year!
Quek Li Fei
Singapore —  December 18, 2014 7:07pm ET
Tim, Season's Greeting! Timely & helpful list of California Bubblies. Would you know how the top bottles age? I have some J Schram from vintages earlier than the 2006 which you included in your list of Top California Sparkler and have enjoyed them after a few years(sometimes up to 5o or more years). Thank you.
Tim Fish
Sonoma County —  December 18, 2014 7:58pm ET
Quek Li Fei

Excellent question. Generally, once sparkling wine is released, it is meant to be consumed within a few years. The best wines are aged additionally on the lees in the bottle at the winery and released as a late-disgorged bottling.
Joe Astukewicz
Sturbridge, MA, USA —  December 20, 2014 7:20pm ET
Don't forget New Mexico's Gruet winery. Methode Champenoise, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, under $15 per bottle!

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