Not that you need one, but the holidays are an excellent reason to bust out the bubbly. And why bring the 17th bottle of a certain yellow-labeled champagne when you could toast with a bottle of Santa Barbara fizz instead?
Considering that Santa Barbara boasts a cool climate and a reputation for outstanding pinot noir and chardonnay — the classic champagne building blocks — it shouldn’t be surprising that our homegrown sparkling wines are quite fantastic. More than 30 vintners currently bottle a bubbly, so it’s no longer hard to find one that suits your menu, palate, and budget. But expect to pay upward of $30 per bottle for decent stuff.
The majority are using the “Méthode Champenoise,” the time- and energy-consuming process used in France to yield complex wines. But there’s some unconventional grapes in play, as well: Blair Fox’s Foxy Bubbles is all grenache, and Solminer sells a sparkling syrah, too. Don’t fret, though, if traditional champagne is more your speed — you’ll happily discover that most winemakers here are making their bubbles with you in mind.
Flying Goat Goat Bubbles Santa Barbara Brut Cuvée: Norm Yost’s sparkling résumé goes back 15 years, but this is his first blended cuvée of chardonnay from the Santa Maria Valley and pinot noir from Sta. Rita Hills. This stunner boasts notes of fresh white peaches and strawberries, a creamy mouthfeel, and a clean finish. $42
Palmina Sparkling Barbera: Lambrusco, with its high acid, bright fruit, rustic tannins, and earthy layers of spice, pairs well with rich holiday foods. Though this is not Lambrusco in name or substance, the sparkling barbera borrows its spirit without question, proving bright, frothy, fun, and great for heavier fare. $32
2011 Riverbench Cork Jumper Blancs de Noir: This barely rosé sparkler made from 100 percent pinot noir is a knockout, showing a gorgeous coppery hue. On the nose, notes of blood orange and rose petals are laced with a minerally funk. It’s bright, juicy, and stony on the palate with notes of strawberries and pear on the finish. $45
Alma Rosa Blancs de Blanc de Blancs: Racy acidity, tangy minerality, a lingering floral perfume, and notes of citrus and stone fruits on the palate make for an elegant and feminine style sparkler that calls to mind the best of Champagne. $60
2011 Sea Smoke Sea Spray Blanc de Noirs: At this price point you could get a very good bottle of champagne, but this is worth the splurge. Fresh and lively with notes of red currant and strawberries on the nose, Sea Spray is luscious and racy at the same time with a clean and lingering finish. $90
2013 Fess Parker Fesstivity Brut Rosé: This 100 percent pinot is dangerously gulpable. Notes of cherries mingle with a touch of vanilla on the nose for a wine that’s refreshingly lithe with acidity yet infused with classic Sta. Rita Hills fruit. $40 —Caroline Helper
Bunch o’ Bubbly
Sparkling fans have two upcoming options to try a bunch of bubbly, including the real deal from Champagne, France. Both tastings, in fact, will include sips of 2004 Dom Pérignon.
Renegade Wines’ Annual Champagne Tasting: Seven wines with appetizers. $50, limited to 40 people, reservations suggested. Thu., Dec. 3, 5-7pm, (805) 568-1961, 417 Santa Barbara St.
Wine + Beer’s 2nd Annual Champagne Tasting: About 15 wines, with caviar, oysters, and more. $85, reservations required. Sat., Dec. 12, 6-9pm, (805) 770-7702, S.B. Public Market, 38 W. Victoria St., sbpublicmarket.com