Scouting for the tastiest sparklers $36 and up: Wine writer Peg Melnik had a blind tasting this week of high-end California sparklers. With the holidays upon us, we searched out the most outstanding sparklers to uncork. Our wine-of-the-week winner is the Schramsberg, 2009 North Coast Brut Rosé at $43.
TOP PICK: Schramsberg
Schramsberg, 2009 North Coast Brut Rosé, 12.8 percent alcohol, $43. ****
An irresistible sparkler with a price that makes it a bit more accessible than many high-end sparklers. It's buoyed with crisp acidity and it has a broad reach of flavors. Yeasty, with notes of raspberry, strawberry, a hint of mango and graham cracker. Nice minerality. Bravo. (The winery is rolling its 2010 onto the market, but you should be able to find both.)
Others impressive sparklers:
Le Reve, 2006 Carneros Blanc de Blancs, 12 percent, $99. **** A complex sparkler that has quite a range of flavors — brioche, pear, honeysuckle and fig. Refreshing mousse. Long finish. Elegant, and definitely worth the splurge.
Iron Horse Wedding Cuvee, 2009 Green Valley, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, 13.5 percent, $40. **** An impressive sparkler with bright acidity and a nice mousse. It's rich and it has a creamy, round texture and good minerality. A smart buy.
J Cuvee, XB Extra Brut, Russian River Valley, 12.5 percent, $40. **** This a lovely sparkler with irresistible flavors of crème brulee, citrus and a hint of almond. Bright acidity. Crisp finish.
Etoile, NV North Coast Brut, 13 percent, $40.*** 1/2 A rich bubbly with appealing flavors of baked apple, nutty caramel and ginger. Creamy and rich, yes, but balanced. Lingering finish.
DVX, 2006 Napa Valley Sparkling Wine by Mumm Napa, 12.5 percent, $60. **** A focused sparkler with crisp acidity and striking flavors. Notes of apple, pear and brioche. Nice mousse. Nicely done.