If you’re an accountant at a winery, you might be inclined to think of the whole of the fourth quarter as sparkling wine’s “Black Friday.” Sales are famously high from before Thanksgiving straight through to New Year’s Day. And while I have a long-standing personal objection to that skew (Doesn’t a Friday night in July deserve a bottle of bubbly as much as one in December?), I’ll have to admit that the nights of December 24 and 31—and in fact every night in between—would be barren without bubbles.
That said, there’s no reason any of those bottles have to be the same ones you drank last year. It’s true that for many years on the West Coast, most great sparkling wines came from a handful of houses—good ones, to be sure (Roederer, Schramsberg, and Iron Horse, just to name a few)—but the choices for domestic festivity-fueling beverages were limited.
That was then, and this is now, as they say. Partly due to a proliferation of custom facilities with the unique equipment required for sparkling-wine production, forays into the expensive traditional Champagne method are more feasible now. And many top-notch still-wine producers—both longstanding and new—have gotten into the game.
So shake things up a little this year and put some new bubbles on your table. Here’s a good place to start. And if you’re still looking for great recommendations, don’t forget we recently rounded up the best wines under $100, the best wines to give as holiday gifts, and even the best steakhouses in America (because you won’t stay home all through the holidays, right?).
Cartograph 2013 Leonardo Julio Vineyard Brut Zero Russian River Valley, Sonoma County
With no dosage added at all (a growing trend in sparklers), this all-Chardonnay bubbly from Cartograph is bracingly dry but lovely. Wildly aromatic, the nose gives up pretty florals over earthy layers of yeastiness, nuttiness, and bruised apples. A gamut of racy citrus on the palate makes this a natural partner for oysters—no squeeze of lemon needed ($68).
Cuvaison 2015 Brut Rosé Los Carneros, Napa Valley
A new bubbly from a trusted still-wine producer, Cuvaison’s Brut Rosé is a red-fruited beauty, with raspberry and strawberry layered with rose petals, toasted nuts, and a kick of orange zest ($50).
Champagne AR Lenoble Jordan Cuvée
Okay, I stretched the premise and sneaked a Champagne in here. But it’s a Brut that’s created in coordination with Sonoma’s iconic Jordan Vineyard & Winery. With 30 percent Grand Cru Chardonnay at its core and four years on the lees, this wine is complex and beautiful, with fresh-baked brioche, delicate florals, and marzipan on the nose giving way to juicy apple and pear and tart, creamy lemon. It’s rich and bright at the same time ($49, and as long as you’re on the winery website, why not pick up an engraved Champagne saber and some caviar produced in conjunction with Tsar Nicoulai?).
Domaine Carneros by Taittinger 2012 Jardin d’Hiver Cuvée Ultra Brut Carneros
The sparkling-wine house is one of the West’s longtime cornerstones, of course. But this is a new wine for Domaine Carneros—in a new (drier) style—named for the winery’s new garden conservatory. There’s beautiful, earthy evidence here of time on the lees, with a nutty, toasty nose under aromas of jasmine. The palate is dry and bracing but rich at the same time, with creamy lemon and minerally complexity ($59).
Pashey 2015 Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs Ribbon Ridge Estate Willamette Valley
The 100 percent Chardonnay in this Pashey offers a transparency into the site, with a fresh ocean salinity. Toasty brioche, bright lemon, and hints of apple blend on the palate ($75, available only in mixed three-packs).
Sokol Blosser 2014 Sparkling Rosé of Pinot Noir Blossom Ridge Eola–Amity Hills, Oregon
Rose petals balance delicate earthiness on the nose of this rosé from Sokol Blosser, with some time on the lees showing. Tart red fruit (raspberry, rhubarb) dominates a lovely, lively palate ($50).
Williams Selyem 2012 Drake Estate Vineyard Blanc de Noirs Russian River Valley, Sonoma County
Pity Williams Selyem made so little of this! The alluring nose itself sells the wine: caramelized nuts, baked bread, fall apples, haunting honeysuckle, and more. Surprisingly rich fruit on the palate runs from berries to cherries, with a refreshingly dry, minerally finish ($75).