Sparkling Possibilities

With the holidays lurking just around the bend, now would be a great time to think about giving the gift of wine. My first thought is sparkling wine, a winner in almost everyone’s eyes.

Don’t wait until the last minute.

You’ll get stuck with leftovers that nobody else wants. And, you may miss out on some bargains in the process, since prices tend to trend up the closer it gets to Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

Try Before You Buy

An event that should be fun, and informative, is the Oct. 23 Champagne tasting sponsored by K&L Wine Merchants in Redwood City, one of the Bay Area’s premier winesellers.

It’s not cheap ($85 for wine tasting and light appetizers) but attendees can sample Champagnes from top-rung producers like Krug, Bolinger and Salon as well as several grower/producers from France who will be on hand to answer questions and discuss their offerings.

For a focused look at one French champagne house’s lineup, check out the Oct. 21 tasting of Henriot wines at Artisan Wine Depot in Mountain View. Tickets are $19 in advance and $24 at the door.

In San Francisco, a champagne bar like the Bubble Lounge gives customers a chance to taste dozens of sparkling wines — imported and domestic — to figure out what pleases your own palate before investing in a bottle, or a case.

A great wine store for champagne shopping and tasting is the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant.

The store’s tasting bar looks out onto the Ferry Plaza concourse, which is a great people-watching spot, especially during the holidays. On Wednesdays, the wine bar features special tastings, including a Dec. 7 champagne and oyster fest.

Homegrown Sparklers

California makes some great sparkling wines in a pretty broad price range. We don’t call them Champagne, because that designation is only for wines from the Champagne region of France, which gets credit for starting the sparkling wine movement centuries ago.

Some brands dominate the California sparkler market.They include Domaine Chandon, Mumm, Roderer Estate, Gloria Ferrer, Domaine Carneros and Schramsberg. Prices run from the low teens to high double digits, mostly based on the quality of the fruit in the bottle and the treatment in the winery.

Try Before You Buy

A trip to wine country to taste the wines at the winery of origin is always fun.

One of the first California wineries I toured was Domaine Chandon in Yountville, and this Napa Valley winery remains a high-quality producer of sparkling wines. It’s also one of the first  French-owned companies (Moet & Chandon is the parent) to establish a California base for sparkling wine production.

Harvest Time

Although most of the 2011 vintage white wine grapes have already been picked, the harvest season for red grapes is in full swing in Napa — and all over wine country — with many wineries scrambling to pick the crop at the height of readiness over the next few weeks.

While the rush of crush is on, wineries still welcome guests so they can see the process take shape and also to offer older vintages for sale.

They’ve got to make room for all that new wine, right?

Here are two interesting wine-tasting events coming up in the next week:

Pinot On the River

The town square in Healdsburg will be hopping with more than 80 wineries pouring wines during the annual Russian River Pinot on the River event on Oct. 23. Advance tickets are available online for $75.

World Series & Wine

Girard Winery in Yountville will be showing the first game of the World Series on the big screen TV at the tasting room. They’ll be pouring reds and whites and serving barbecue to fans on Oct. 19, from 5-9 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance. Look for a taste of the 2007 cabernet sauvignon,which got a 90 rating from Wine Spectator.


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