Pop the cork: Local sparkling wines

Sparkling wines from Northern California


French champagne? Pah. Here’s a toast to sparkling wines from right here in Northern California. From robust bruts to elegant demi-secs, Wine Country’s got a bevy of bubblers to fill your flutes. And not just for New Year’s. These wines have legs that will impress well into next April.

Think pink with rose sparklers from J Winery, Domaine Chandon and Iron Horse. Brief contact with grape skins gives these wines a blush of color. Aromas of lilac, cherry, honeysuckle, raspberry tickle the nose, but don’t expect a fruit bomb–these sips are among the driest. J Brut Rose ($35), Etoile Rose ($50), Iron Horse Brut Rose ($50).

Founded by Wine Country’s chocolate king, Anderson Valley’s Scharffenberger CellarsBrut Non-vintage makes big, sassy sparkling wines heavy on the pinot noir, but light on the pocketbook. Rich with flavors of vanilla, cream and caramel, this Sonoma Coast brut has serious sex appeal. Who knows decadence better than a chocolatier, after all? Scharffenberger , $19. Ripe with pear, Gloria Ferrer’s Sonoma Brut ($15.99) is another value-priced wine that’s worth a toast.

If you’re willing to splurge a little, Iron Horse’s top bubbly is the $147 Joy! Aged 10-15 years, is refined and elegant, and offered only in awe-inducing magnums. It’s also what George W. and Co. will be drinking this New Year’s. (But don’t hold that against it.) Schramsberg’s 2001 Reserve, $90, is from one of the oldest sparkling houses in California. Hailing from the famed Carneros, Le Reve Blanc de Blancs ($85) is a long-time favorite from Domaine Carneros (owned by French champagne house, Taittinger). Its chardonnay lineage brings notes of lemon, pear and flower to this light sparkler.

Impressive on a budget: Mumm Napa Valley’s high-scoring DVX ($55) isn’t cheap, but its delicate prickle of bubbles, toast and fig aromas and bright balance of acid make it a luxurious value.

End the night with a sweet treat, Schramsberg’s Cremant Demi-Sec ($37.50) that blends notes of spice, ginger, and pear with plenty of bubbles.
From dry (meaning very little sugar) to demi-sec (rather sweet); here are the styles of sparkling wine you’ll find most often.

Sparkling Wine 101: What’s in a name?
Brut Natural: Really, really, really dry

Extra Brut: A super-dry sparkling wine with almost no residual sugar

Brut: The most common designation, these bubblers primarily rely on natural sugars from the grapes and tend to be fairly dry.

Extra Dry: Not exactly what it seems, this has more sugar than brut

Sec: Sweeter yet

Demi-Sec: Usually a dessert sparkling wine, you can definitely taste the sweetness

Doux: Get out the toothbrush, this is a sugar bomb