When it comes to fine, locally made sparkling wine, we’ve got an embarrassment of riches in the Bay Area. Ever since the Davies started Schramsberg in Calistoga, and the Sterlings founded Iron Horse in Sebastopol, the Bay Area has been a fertile place for family-made, French-style fizz. (Just to keep things straight: Champagne comes from one region in France. Everything else is sparkling wine, fizz, or bubbly.)
Now, there are even more wineries doing bubbly, making a sparkling wine or two that deserve to be discovered. Some are made with ancient winemaking techniques like pétillant naturel, or they’re based on unusual grapes, or no grapes at all. This year, if you’re looking for something a little different to bring in the New Year or just treat yo’self, here’s a list of some of our favorite under-the-radar Bay Area bubbly.
Tank Garage Winery 2020 Pleasure Trip Pét-Nat Sparkling Wine
Winemaker Bertus van Zyl is a master at taking unexpected grapes and turning them into deliciously quaffable wines. For sparkling wines, his go-to method is pét nat, an old style of making sparkling wine by adding sweet grape juice and yeast to the bottle, capping it off, and crossing your fingers. This time, he’s worked his magic with the Italian grape barbera to make a bright and fruity wine with notes of pear, strawberry, and Sweet-Tart candies. The wines are always changing at Tank, which is part of the fun, so move quickly if you want to try this one. About $40.
Tank Garage Winery, 1020 Foothill Blvd., Calistoga, www.tankgaragewinery.com, (707) 942-8265.
NV Sparkling Rosé
Lloyd Davis, a New York financier turned winery owner, never planned to be in the wine business. But when he had to rescue his firm’s investment in a struggling Sonoma County winery, he was seduced. Davis admits he’d never liked sparkling rosé, and bet his winemaker Ron Goss that he’d double his salary if the wine was a success. Goss earned himself a hefty bonus with his Corner 103 NV Sparkling Rosé, which blends the classic grapes of chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier. It’s crisp, with lots of strawberry, and raspberry notes, a hint of toast and a long finish. About $45.
Corner 103, 103 W. Napa St., Sonoma, www.corner103.com, (707)931-6141.
Carboniste Octopus Sparkling Wine
Working at Schramsberg Winery, Carboniste co-founder Dan Person learned the art of blending California fruit into a French-inspired sparkling wine. His goal with Carboniste is to showcase the sunshine that makes California wines what they are. Our favorite is the Sea Urchin, a brut pinot noir bursting with dry red fruit — though it’s currently sold out. Their flagship sparkling is the Octopus, made from aromatic albariño grapes sourced from Andrus Island in the Sacramento River. About $28.
Carboniste, 3 Executive Way, Napa (production address only), carboniste.com, (707) 536-8451.
Bodkin Wines Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc
Chris Christensen, a Midwestern guy who fell in love with winemaking and Sonoma life, is a pioneer in making sparkling sauvignon blanc. It’s all the pretty parts of sauvignon blanc, offering focused flavors of lemon, guava, and tropical fruits plus frothy bubbles. While the winery is sold out of the 750 ml bottles, the Wine Down SF and Vintage Berkeley have the sparkling sauvignon blanc 250 ml cans. Plus, his canned wine collaboration with Maker Wine Company is the exact same fizz.
Bodkin Wines, Sebastopol, www.bodkinwines.com.
Aonair NV Blanc de Noir
Tucked away on the back side of St. Helena near Lake Hennessey, Aonair boasts incredible views and bold reds. They make just four barrels of their sparkling wine that features red grapes only. Most blanc de noirs wines have just a hint of color, but Aonair’s green bottle hides a gorgeously pink wine (they call it rose gold) brimming with golden apple, plum, and berry aromas plus persistent bubbles. The gold wax drizzled over the cork makes it even more memorable. About $60.
Aonair, 647 Greenfield Road, St. Helena, www.aonairwine.com, (707) 738-8352.
L Lavender Wine
Making wine from flowers dates back thousands of years. During the Han Dynasty, chrysanthemum wine was prized for its health benefits. Aaliyah Nitoto has always been obsessed with lavender and its clean, spicy, and relaxing scent, so she decided to make wine from 100 percent organic lavender. The wine opens with a soft fruity nose, but it’s brisk and lightly effervescent with zesty citrus peel and slightly bitter lavender notes balanced by powdery florals on the palate. It turns out lavender contains linalool, one of the same terpenes that enables CBD to create full body relaxation. The winery just moved to Livermore and hopes to open for tastings early in 2022, but the wine is available in local stores, and they deliver in the Bay Area. About $23 for a 375ml bottle.
Free Range Flower Winery, 2271 S. Vasco Road, Livermore, www.freerangeflowerwinery.com, (510) 547-7173.
Onward 2019 Sparkling Malvasia Bianca
Winemaker Faith Armstrong Foster is a busy woman: she’s a mother of four and runs two wine brands. For Onward, she specializes in single-vineyard wines that showcase the characteristics one piece of earth can give to a wine. Her pétillant naturel of malvasia bianca, an aromatic italian white grape, comes from Suisun Valley. In the glass, it’s all powdery white flowers, zesty grapefruit, and a hint of stone fruit and nutmeg. About $48 for four 375ml cans.
Onward Wines, Napa, onwardwines.com, (707) 812-1777.
Huzzah! Pétillant Naturel Sparkling Wine
After the pandemic shut down film production, Chenoa Ashton and Will Basanta decided to leave Los Angeles for Sonoma. There were unclaimed grapes in Ashton’s family vineyard, so they launched Ashanta Wines and made their dream of making wine into a reality. Their ever-changing lineup is made in small quantities, so it’s pretty surprising that they still have some of their crisp French colombard sparkler, which rewards you with candied fruit and citrus flavors. The label is a piece of artwork by Basanta’s mother. About $36.
Ashanta Wines, Sebastopol, www.ashantawines.com.
Paula Kornell NV Brut Sparkling Wine
Hanns Kornell was once a household name thanks to the sparkling wine he pioneered in Sonoma with riesling grapes in 1955. His daughter Paula Kornell is carrying on the family winemaking legacy with her eponymous wine brand that includes a blanc de noirs and a California brut. We love the easygoing fresh sunny flavors of the brut, plus the stripes on the foil add some flair to your table. About $20.
Paula Kornell, St Helena (various retailers), www.paulakornell.com, (877) 289-9463.
JCB Caviar NV Crémant de Bourgogne
Jean Charles Boisset, the man behind JCB Winery, is quite well known in the wine world, but the Caviar sparkling wine is his newest wine and just making its debut. This blanc de blancs sparkler made from 85 percent chardonnay and 15 percent aligoté has citrus and buttery toast notes that are ideal with caviar, oysters, or anything from the sea. About $45.
Oakville Wine Merchant, 7856 St. Helena Highway, Oakville, oakvillegrocery.com/wine, (707) 948-6099.
Longevity 2018 Blanc de Blancs
You’ll love the juicy chardonnay fruit and hints of green and golden apples that shine through in this blanc de blancs. Longevity owner Phil Long says a winegrowing family in Lodi approached him about collaborating on a sparkling wine several years ago. At the winery they pair it with chevre topped with honeycomb. About $42.
Longevity Winery, 2271 S. Vasco Road, Livermore, www.longevitywines.com, (925) 443-9463.
Las Jaras 2019 Sparkling Wine
With comedian Eric Wareheim as the frontman, everything that Las Jaras Winery does seems tongue-in-cheek. Exhibit A: Sweet Berry Wine. But behind the silliness and colorful labels, Joel Burt is making some really exciting and delicious wine. Their non-traditional bubbly made from organic, old-vine carignan showcases notes of under ripe apricot, golden pear, roasted hazelnuts and what they describe as “hay in the breeze.” About $42.
Las Jaras Wines, Healdsburg, lasjaraswines.com.