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All That Sparkles

Caitlin Harrington | December 16, 2016 | Story Wine and Spirits National

“Funky.” “Cloudy.” “Umami.” These descriptors may sound better suited to bone broth than sparkling wine. But a growing variety of sparklers are defying expectations and getting more adventurous, thanks in part to the ascendance of small grower-producers and lower-cost pét-nats (which get their fizz from letting the initial fermentation finish in the bottle). Here, a few experts gush over their favorite bubbles du jour.

Expert: Sally Kim, beverage director, Delfina Restaurant Group
Her bubbly: NV Domaine Villet, Crémant du Jura Rosé, France
Kim can’t get enough of this sparkling rosé, which is made in small batches in France’s Arbois region. Notes of red berry fruits like cherry, strawberry, and cranberry—along with rose petal, flint, and wood—shine through this pretty, mineral-driven wine. “It finishes dry,” Kim adds, “and it’s got crazy acidity, which is awesome.” Drink it solo, she advises, or alongside pasta dishes or barbecue, the way she first tried it. $22 at the Punchdown, 1737 Broadway, Oakland, 510-788-7877

Expert: Ceri Smith, owner, Biondivino Wine Boutique; wine director, Tosca Cafe
Her Bubbly: NV Podere il Saliceto Bi Fri Frizzante, Italy
Smith has noticed a resurgence of sparkling wines from Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region. “People are going away from the classic proseccos and into the col fondos [Italian for ‘with sediment’],” she says, and they’re discovering that “all bubblies aren’t pretty and bright.” This sauvignon blanc and trebbiano blend, Smith notes, is “almost like drinking crisp, fresh, delicious mineral water.” And best of all, she adds, “it goes with everything.” $22 per bottle at Biondivino Wine Boutique, 1415 Green St., 415-673-2320

Expert: Josiah Baldivino, co-owner, Bay Grape
His Bubbly: Michael Cruse’s 2011 Ultramarine Blanc de Blancs, California
Cruse’s Ultramarine blanc de blancs from Charles Heintz Vineyards drew rave reviews from our experts, including the typically hype-averse Baldivino. “After trying it,” he says, “I was like, ‘Holy shit.’” He praises the blanc de blancs’s minerality and doughy, citrusy, and green-apple notes; Cruse’s insistence on doing everything by hand, he says, translates into a “freaking amazing” bottle. $65 per bottle at Bay Grape, 376 Grand Ave., Oakland, 510-686-3615

Expert: Angel Davis, co-owner, Fig & Thistle
Her Bubbly: Arizona Desert Mesquite, Heidrun Meadery, California
Davis is a fan of the sparkling mead from Point Reyes’s Heidrun Meadery. “It’s got a little more weight to it than traditional sparkling wines,” she says. Davis recommends the Arizona Desert Mesquite with Thanksgiving-style food. “They make it just like champagne, so all the sugars are gone, but there’s still some honey quality to it without being sweet,” she explains. “And the aromatics are crazy.” $30 per bottle at

Expert: Paul Einbund, owner-sommelier, the Morris
His Bubbly: NV Solter Riesling Brut Sekt, Germany
Einbund is “in love” with this brut sekt from Germany, where the cool climate yields some superb sparkling wines. “Typically when we think of riesling, we think it’s going to be sweeter or fruitier,” he says. “While this has a different character than other sparkling wines, it’s drier than dry.” Einbund adds that it pairs particularly well with holiday mainstays like stuffings, sweet roasts, and hams. Thinking about it, he says, “I’m making myself excited for the holiday season.” $27 per bottle at

Originally published in the December issue of
San Francisco

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