Is there a better time than the holiday season to open a bottle of champagne? It’s mandatory at home, and most of the winemakers I know here on the central coast feel the same.
While I can’t afford a lot of French champagnes, there are many great sparkling wines made by local winemakers that are much more affordable. I will share them with you, but first I have to repeat a fabulous story about the great lady Lily Bollinger.
Owner and inspiration of Louis Roederer, she was asked if she drinks her own champagne. Her quote is part of the great history of the Champagne appellation in France, as she replied:
“I drink it when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company, I consider it obligatory. I play with it if I’m not hungry and drink it when I have it. Otherwise, I never touch it, unless I’m thirsty.
My husband Dan and I visited three champagne producers in 1993 for two days at Moet & Chandon, Bollinger and Ruinart. We went to the last two on the last day, but they all gave us unforgettable experiences.
Ruinart’s visit included an epic “gastronomic” experience at the Grand Cerf, halfway between Reims and Epernay. The regional game chef served us dishes like game and wild boar, and much more. This four hour lunch was entirely associated with Ruinart champagnes, and it was mind-boggling how well these great champagnes were paired with so many powerful foods.
My lesson for you is this, forget the old expectations that say white wine with fish and red wine with meat. These magnificent champagnes have made every dish so much better. The same result is possible here. When you visit a cellar that produces sparkling wines that you like, ask them to recommend possible food and wine pairings. You might just be surprised at the pairing suggestions you never considered.
Our traditional sparkling winemakers are all my favorites, from Flying Goat to Laetitia and Riverbench, their many bubble shapes are excellent. Yet even some very small producers (that is, the amount of sparkling wine they produce) offer great choices for your festive table.
I recommend visiting calicoastwinecountry .com for maps leading to all of these artisan brands that produce sparkling wines on the Central Coast.
I’ll start with Flying Goat Cellars, a longtime favorite which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2020. Last December they released a new label, the vintage 2019 Pinot Noir Nielson Vineyard at their wine club.
Winemaker Norm Yost, with a 42-year history in winemaking, specializes in Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Method Champenoise (in the style of Champagne, France) sparkling wines. This makes his tasting room tour a great choice for finding the perfect wines for your holiday dinners and New Year’s Eve parties.
Yost has plenty to choose from, and there are always some of its sparkling wines to taste in the Lompoc tasting room. At this very special time of year, they have great deals until December. This is a great offer and it shows you that they understand the spirit of giving.
You can buy a single bottle of their Goat Bubbles Brut 2015 vintage at 25% off the bottle or 30% off a case purchase. In addition, you can choose two different wines. The 2014 Dierberg Vineyard pinot noir is also available at these good prices. Learn more at flyinggoatcellars.com.
Laetitia in Arroyo Grande, just off Highway 101, blows five really good bubbles. There are two styles that are great value for money as well: the $ 28 Non-Vintage Brut Cuvée and the $ 29 Non-Vintage XD Sparkling.
The former is for those who prefer their sparklers very dry, and the latter is slightly sweet. They describe it as a “kiss of sweetness” their interpretation of a French demi-sec. They recommend it with fruity desserts, but it would also be a great choice for Christmas or New Years brunch.
They are open daily now because the shipment couldn’t get to you in time for the holiday weekend. But the tasting room is easily accessible and they offer a number of excellent fine wine options. Discover them on laetitiawine .com.
For excellent bubbles from one of the best sparkling wine producers in the Santa Maria Valley, a visit to Riverbench is a must. Believe it or not, they produce seven different sparkling wines ranging from a Demi Sec at $ 44 to a reserve blanc de blanc at $ 125 a bottle.
They also feature unusual varieties like the 2017 Sparkling Pinot Meunier. Today, with COVID-19 restrictions still in place, wine tastings at the Foxen Canyon Tasting Room are by appointment only.
The wines are all crafted by the talented Clarissa Nagy, who has worked in the Santa Maria Valley for two decades. Known for her elegant style, her wines have always been good with each vintage. Get to know them by visiting their webpage on Riverbench .com.
If you find that you like most of the wines produced by one of these wineries, or any other, it’s a good idea to join the wine club. The benefits are significant, in terms of discounts on wine purchases, free tasting every time you visit the cellar tasting room, and free shipping or priced at just $ 1. And most have great pickup nights (i.e. their new wine releases) with wine, food, and entertainment.
I wish all of us a happy new year 2022!