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Corner 103, Sonoma: Located in the heart of downtown Sonoma, Corner 103 is the brainchild of Lloyd Davis, a wine enthusiast-turned-winery owner who has developed a tasting room experience that educates guests about how grapes are grown, wine is made, and how to pair it with food. At the start of most tastings, a glass of bubbles is poured - one of Davis' favorite ways to "start the day," he often jokes. Every year, Corner 103 fans await the winter release of Davis' unique sparklers, which in the past have included a rosé blend of pinot noir, syrah and semillon. Reservations recommended, 103 W. Napa St., Sonoma, 707-931-6141, corner103.com. (Photo by Christopher Chung)
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Wine to try: Corner 103 Blanc de Blancs, Carneros ($35): This isn't your typical blanc de blancs, which is usually made of chardonnay. It's made from a varietal you might have never even heard of: vernaccia, an Italian grape that makes tasty white wines and is rarely grown outside of Italy. Sourced from one of the only vineyards growing vernaccia in California, in the Carneros region of Sonoma Valley, this blanc de blancs is rich with aromas and flavors of pears, yellow apples, a touch of almond, and a fabulous acidity that makes you want more. (Photo by Sarah Stierch)
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Schug Winery, Sonoma: Founded in 1980 by Walter Schug, a German-born winemaker who earned his reputation for bold Bordeaux blends in Napa Valley, Schug Winery began producing a sparkling wine in 1987. The wine was produced as a tribute to Schug and his wife Gertrud's lives in Germany, where the small winemaking villages would produce small batch sparklers to celebrate. Today, you can sip sparkling, pinot noir and chardonnay at one of their two locations: the family-owned German-inspired winery or at their newly opened downtown Sonoma tasting room, which is pet friendly and features the artwork of painter Kat Romine. 602 Bonneau Rd. (winery) or 452 1st St. E. (tasting room), Sonoma, 707-939-9363, schugwinery.com.
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Wine to try: Schug 2014 Carneros Rouge de Noirs, Sparkling Pinot ($35): This vintage marks the 30th anniversary of Schug's eye-catching sparkling pinot noir. It's a 100 percent pinot noir, single vineyard designate sparkler that is cranberry red, thanks to the saignée method used: after three days, the juice is bled off from the skins and seeds and ferments on its own. This sparkler has a vibrant, raspberry flavor, is very dry, and would pair great with game meat, duck and roast chicken or turkey dishes.
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Buena Vista Winery, Sonoma: Founded in 1857, Buena Vista Winery was the first commercial winery in California. Their first sparkling wine was made in the méthode champenoise by Arpad Haraszthy, the third son of Buena Vista's eccentric founder, Agoston "the Count" Haraszthy. Arpad's original sparkler was named "Eclipse" and was served at the hottest parties and special events throughout the country. Today, Buena Vista offers another first: they are the first California winery to produce a Champagne - in France. Sip bubbles and explore the winery through a tour, and toast to the heritage of Sonoma winemaking. 18000 Old Winery Rd., Sonoma, 800-926-1266, buenavistawinery.com.
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Wine to try: Buena Vista Winery La Victoire Brut Champagne ($75): Inspired by the lead role that Arpad Haraszthy played in introducing traditionally made sparkling to early California, Buena Vista's La Victoire is a delicate blend of pinot noir (70%) and chardonnay (30%) sourced from Grand Cru vineyards in the Champagne region. This sparkler is bright and wonderfully represents its French origins with notes of kaffir lime and brioche. Pair with fried chicken or caviar, you can't go wrong.
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Paradise Ridge Winery, Kenwood: Nicknamed "the little red happy shack" by locals, Paradise Ridge Winery's charming tasting room in the quaint village of Kenwood overlooks rolling vineyards and features fine art from local artisans and a large organic garden. The winery's best kept secret is their four sparkling wines, including a rarely seen sparkling shiraz and pinot gris, made from grapes sourced mainly from organic vineyards. Sip a splash of bubbles on the patio, or in the tasting room where landscape paintings by Katherine Paus surround you. 50 percent of proceeds from art sales support local nonprofit Worth our Weight. 8860 Sonoma Hwy, Kenwood, 707-282-9020, prwinery.com. (Courtesy photo)
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Wine to try: Paradise Ridge 2013 Late Disgorge Sparkling Wine, Russian River Valley ($55): Made from chardonnay from the sustainably certified, dry-farmed Bazzano Vineyard in the Russian River Valley, this sparkler has hints of lemon, ginger, kaffir lime, and brioche, and a lovely minerality from the deep rooted soil from the grape's vineyard. Pair it with a spicy shrimp cocktail as an aperitif, or for dessert, with madeleines and cream.
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Benovia Winery, Santa Rosa: The Benovia tasting room is nestled among the sustainably certified Martaella Estate Vineyard, where the winery has been producing highly coveted Russian River Valley chardonnay and pinot noir for years. Benovia introduced their first sparkling wine in late 2017, in response to requests from their club members, called "Benovians." During the 2017 wildfires, cofounders Mary Dewane and Joe Anderson matched up to $100,000 in appointment fees and donations to fire relief funds throughout the area. Benovia offers indoor and patio tastings of their allotted wines at their estate. Appointment only, 707-526-4441, email@example.com, benoviawinery.com. (Courtesy photo)
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Wine to try: Benovia 2012 Blanc de Blancs Sparkling Wine ($50): The first sparkling wine released by Benovia, this estate, sustainably grown blanc de blancs was aged for 5 years before being bottled and released in 2017. For a blanc de blancs, it has a lot of body, which makes it a perfect wine to enjoy with an entree - not only as a pre or post-game beverage. Lovely notes of citrus and cream, stone fruit, and a touch of ginger on the tongue makes it a great inaugural bubble from Benovia. (Courtesy photo)
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Balletto Vineyards, Santa Rosa: A family affair, Balletto is owned and operated by John and Terri Balletto, who were vegetable farmers before delving into fine wine. Today, they produce a great summertime rose as well as sustainably grown chardonnay and pinot noirs. Their laid back, dog and family friendly winery is located just miles outside of Santa Rosa. But, don't let that trick you into think you're in a suburban scene, it's a rural area that will transport you into rural living. Before a tasting, hike a self-guided tour of their sustainable vineyards - don't miss the baseball field nestled amongst the vines, aptly named the "Field of Dreams." 5700 Occidental Rd., Santa Rosa, 707-568-2455, ballettovineyards.com.
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Wine to try: Balletto Vineyards 2013 Sparkling Rosé ($42): Fans of Balletto's rosé of pinot noir will flock to this sparkler, which is 70% pinot noir and 30% chardonnay. It's a lovely light pink salmon shade and tastes of fresh berries, lemon zest, and a bit of watermelon, making it a nice, light choice for easy Sunday sipping at home or oceanside picnics with oysters, a Shrimp Louie salad, and good friends.
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Woodenhead, Santa Rosa: One of the best kept secrets in Sonoma Wine Country, Woodenhead is owned and operated by winemaker Nikolai Stez and his business partner Zina Bower. Inspired by Burgundian wines and winemaking, the winery produces pinot noir, zinfandel, syrah, and sparkling wines. Their adobe tasting room, just outside of the rural community of Forestville, offers million dollar views of rolling vineyards, cool art, and a laid back atmosphere where you can sip their San Francisco Wine Competition-winning sparklers. 5700 River Rd., Santa Rosa, 707-887-2703, woodenheadwine.com.
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Wine to try: Woodenhead 2010 Methode Champenoise Sparkling Wine, Russian River Valley ($42): The 2010 vintage of Woodenhead's "Naturale" sparkling is a unique bottle of bubbles that is drinking ready right as of now. Apple is the theme here, with Granny Smith green apples zipping through the palate and zesty acidic citrus notes. It makes for a perfect aperitif, or as winemaker Nikolai Stez says, "movie and popcorn kind of evenings."
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