I love the holidays. The crisp winter air, the music, the family, the food, and the best part - the bubbly. Not that you have to wait for a special occasion to break out the Champagne (I certainly don't!) - but the holidays seem to bring out a certain desire for something a little more festive than your usual red and white, don't you think? I took it upon myself to do a little research on some of the sparkling wines we produce right here in Northern California, and ended up on a whirlwind tour of Napa and Sonoma wineries. Here are my findings:
Domaine Carneros (Napa) - 2003 La Reve Blanc de Blancs : Indeed, a "dreamy" sparkler that is wonderful as a standalone wine, or paired with seafood.
Mumm Napa (Napa) - 2001 DVX: A highly rated wine in Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast, this sparkling wine has the tiniest of bubbles and a rich palate. I tried a number of DVX wines at the tasting room, and liked them all!
Iron Horse Vineyards (Sonoma County) - 2006 Wedding Cuvee: Made mostly from Pinot Noir (my favorite grape!), I love this peachy-hued bubbly because of the hints of sweet strawberry and the lovely vanilla notes. The property at Iron Horse is really something - if you're lucky enough to be able to visit, you should absolutely do it.
J Vineyards & Winery (Sonoma County) - NV J Cuvee 20: For $20, this is a steal. Crisp flavors of green apple and citrus, it's zesty and fresh - a very affordable sparkling that's great with food. Also, their NV J Brut Rose is pretty nice - floral with hints of vanilla, a more feminine bubbly that is nicely balanced.
And that's just Northern California!
I can't, in good conscience, post an entry about sparkling wine without also mentioning my favorite French sparkling wines (Salon and Dom Perignon are no-brainers, so I'll mention a few others instead):
NV Billecart-Salmon - Brut Rose (France): A lovely pale salmon color, this is a beautiful champagne is enjoyed by so many of the professional reviewers - AND wine newbies alike! A total winner, at any time of year.
NV Ayala - Brut Zero (France): I had the opportunity to try this champagne at a company tasting, and realized that there are actually a few dry champagnes that I like. This particular wine, with no dosage, is crisp but not too harsh, with a slight creaminess.
NV Krug Grand Cuvee (France): One of my personal favorites, even above the ubiquitous Cristal. Always delicious, and completely worth every penny.
2000 Vilmart et Cie Brut Blanc de Blancs Gastronome Premier Cru (France): Harder to find than NV Krug, and less expensive, but I really love their champagne. Another favorite of mine from Vilmart et Cie is their NV Vilmart et Cie Brut Cuvee Rubis (I'm a sucker for pink, what can I say?) Both of these wines were part of the Wine & Spirits Top 100 list this year!
NV Lucien Albrecht Cremant d'Alsace Brut Rose (France): Lastly - this bubbly is not "champagne", but it is pink and French and a total crowd pleaser. (My girlfriends and I should really buy stock in this wine, that's how much we like it.) At less than $20 per bottle, it's fantastic and perfect for drinking any time the urge strikes.
Now go out and get thee a bottle of something sparkly - just in time for New Year's. Bonne Annee!!