When choosing a bubbly, don't discount our California vintners—the Golden State turns out some perfectly golden sparklers.
Ca' Momi, "Ca' Secco" NV (California), $18
While much of California looks to Champagne for its sparkling inspiration, Ca' Momi turns to Italy. Made in the same production method as Prosecco, Ca' Secco gets it bubbles from a secondary fermentation process in pressurized stainless steel tanks. The result is an utterly delightful warm-weather wine, made from a peculiar blend of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, riesling, gewürztraminer, and muscat.
Domaine Carneros, "Le Rêve" Blanc de Blancs 2007 (Carneros, California), $105
Owned in part by the celebrated Champange house Taittinger, Domaine Carneros has achieved much acclaim in its own right as a California sparkling institution. Like Taittinger, their flagship cuvée is a blanc de blancs, meaning it's one hundred percent chardonnay. Le Rêve, French for “the dream," lives up to its title. Delicate bubbles converge to create an expansive, pillowy texture. This is California sparkling at its finest.
Frank Family Vineyards, “Rouge" NV (Napa Valley, California) $45
Pinot noir is a common ingredient in many of the world's best bubbly, but most often it's treated like a white wine, removing the grape skins before they pigment the juice. Frank Family does the opposite, producing a fully red pinot noir. The resulting sparkler is a frothy concoction that tastes of cherry compote and strawberry jam. It's a great option for those looking for a refreshing sparkler with the body of a light red wine.
Iron Horse, "Russian Cuvée" 2010 (Green Valley of Russian River Valley, California) $42
This aptly named wine from Iron Horse not only comes from Green Valley, a sub-appellation of the larger Russian River Valley, but was also served to Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in the famous summit that ended the Cold War 30 years ago. About two-thirds pinot noir, Russian Cuvée remains a White House favorite. Rich and gratifying, this sparkler tastes like an old school pastry shop, conjuring flavors of apple strudel and morning buns.
J Vineyards, Brut Rosé NV (Russian River Valley, California) $38
Using grapes from their estate in the Russian River Valley, J Vineyards' Brut Rosé offers incredible freshness. With notes of rose water and acacia blossoms, wild strawberries and minerals, the bubbles bring forth a rush of flavor, and then dissipate to a clean, crisp finish. It's the perfect summer wine to enjoy with cold foods like gazpacho or beet salad.
Roederer Estate, Brut Rosé NV (Anderson Valley, California) $28
Mendocino's Anderson Valley has gained a lot of traction as a hot bed for quality pinot noir. But, the region also yields exceptional sparkling wines at affordable prices. Roederer Estate is a venture of Champagne house Louis Roederer, creator of the much lauded, and highly expensive Champagne Cristal. Roederer Estate's Brut Rosé costs a small fraction of the price, while demonstrating remarkable precision and complexity.
Scharffenberger, Brut Excellence NV (Mendocino County, California) $18
A sister winery to Roederer Estate, Scharffenberger's wines also come at a fabulous bargain. They tend to be rounder and creamier than their Roederer Estate counterparts. With tastes of apple pie, marzipan and ginger, Scharffenberger's Brut Excellence is no exception. Fun fact: the winery was founded by the same man (John Scharffenberger) behind the local Scharffen Berger Chocolate.
Schramsberg, “J. Schram" 2006 (California) $120
Schramsberg's namesake, the German immigrant Jacob Schram, was one of the early pioneers of the California wine industry. While the winery he established in 1862 was initially devoted to still wine production, today Schramsberg offers some of the top California sparklers on the market. They dedicate their crowning achievement to their founder. With flavors of yellow apple, lemon tart and brioche, J. Schram is richly satisfying with tremendous ageing potential.