We have so many amazing sparkling wines right here on the central coast, there’s no need to look further afield for New Year’s Eve bubbles. With about 30 sparkling wine makers in Santa Barbara county and about 20 in San Luis Obispo county, this coastal region in California can really stand up to real Champagne. Below is my list of 12 of my favorite sparklers:
One of the oldest sparkling wines on the central coast, the first-ever release from Brewer-Clifton was actually a Sparkling Wine in 1993. They then stopped making it to focus on Pinot Noir, until 2010 when they decided to bring it back. And we’re so glad they did! This 100% Chardonnay from a Sta. Rita Hills estate vineyard (3-D) drinks much like a classic Blanc de Blancs from the Champagne region of France. It’s perfect for the Champagne snob, who’s also a little geeky about wineries with a small-production focus. But get it quick! They’re almost sold out (it’s for mailing list customers only) and they’re not making more.
Laetitia has a heritage going back to the early 80s, when their wine was produced under Maison Deutz, a Champagne maker in France. Since 1997, Laetitia Vineyards & Winery has been the Grand Dame of sparkling wine on the central coast, now with 7 different bottlings. From their classic Blanc de Blancs and Blanc de Noir styles, as well as a sparkling rosé and more yeasty styles, you’re sure to find something for everyone. These wines can be tasted every day in their tasting room and they also have a Sparkling Wine club. Perfect for anyone who loves bubbles. Laetitia photo by Toki Lee.
Flying Goat Cellars has a long history of quality Pinot Noir, and they’ve been hand-riddling, disgorging and bottling sparkling wine since 2005. Currently, they have a lineup of 5 sparkling wine classics of Goat Bubbles: Rosé (a fruity Pinot Noir), Blanc de Blancs (Chardonnay), Blanc de Noirs (Pinot Noir), Brut Cuveé (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay) and Crémant (a tart fruit Pinot Blanc). These sparklers can be tasted at their Bubbles Bar every weekend in Lompoc. Another small-production winery creating each bottle by hand, with a perfect lineup expressing each style of Champagne. Perfect for the slightly irreverent sparkling wine lover.
4. Riverbench – Cork Jumper
In Santa Barbara county, the only place to taste a flight of sparkling wine every day is Riverbench Winery‘s tasting room in downtown Santa Barbara. They make 3 different sparklers: Blanc de Blancs, Blanc de Noir (a rosé) and a semi-sweet Blanc de Blancs. From their Santa Maria-focused Chardonnay and Pinot Noir program to their certified sustainable farming practices, the quality here is really high. Perfect for Burgundy (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) lovers.
Sea Smoke is renowned for their Pinot Noir in a cultish way. Their sparkling wine is the most expensive on this list, and can also be hard to come by as they sell wines exclusively to their allocation list and some retail. I found a bottle in Santa Barbara, and was charmed when I finally opened it. It has the smallest, finest bubbles and a wonderful yeasty, classic Champagne taste. Perfect for the Champagne snob you need to impress. (Or for a super-special wedding!)
Palmina Winery makes some of the best Italian wines outside of Italy. Winemaker Steve Clifton makes much of the wine you might be enjoying under other labels including many restaurants. Lumina is made from the dark, tannic Nebbiolo grape and makes a surprisingly elegant sparkling rosé with lots of flavor and structure. They also make a sparkling Malvasia Bianca (more aromatic and floral) and a sparkling Barbera (red, fruity bubbles). These are perfect for the Italian wine lover.
Derby Wine Estates in Paso Robles makes a variety of interesting, refreshing varietal wines and blends. The family got their start growing grapes in 1998, gaining the farming knowledge needed to make great wines. 10 years later, they launched their own label. Now located in the historic Almond Growers Association building, they continue to create high-quality wines and a lovely pink sparkling wine made of Pinot Noir. Perfect for the Paso wine lover or pink bubbles lover.
8. Cass – Sparkling Marsanne
Cass Winery makes estate wines from French Rhone grapes in the Paso Robles area, just east of the Templeton gap. The cooling breezes on the west side of Paso are what make the grapes grow in a similar fashion to the Rhone, varietals like Viogner, Marsanne, Rousanne, Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. The sparkling wine is made from Marsanne, with acidity, toast, citrus and melon. Perfect for the Rhone wine lover.
A winery born out of the love of wine, Kessler-Haak started as a backyard operation. Now farming 2.5 acres in the Sta. Rita Hills, Kessler-Haak produces a quality Chardonnay, several Pinot Noirs, a dry Riesling and a Syrah. They also recently opened a tasting room in Lompoc where you can find their Brut (made in Blanc de Blancs style) and Brut Rosé (made in Blanc de Noir style), both paired with a jazz CD. Perfect for the jazz lover or Sta. Rita Hills wine aficionado.
Clavo Cellars specializes in single-varietal, bold wines in Templeton (near Paso Robles) and makes this sparkling wine from Grenache. But it’s surprising for a Grenache: this sparkler is the dryest on this list! Made with no sugar/dosage added, it reminds me of an Extra Brut Champagne. It’s supremely refreshing. Plus, the winery donates $1 of every bottle sold to cancer research. Perfect for those who want to give back and really love extra-dry bubbles.
Mosby Winery focuses on Italian varietals and have an extremely impressive lineup. Most wines are made in Santa Barbara county (just outside of Buellton), but some are made in Italy and shipped over. They have 2 sparkling wines: California bubbles made from Cortese and Italian sparklers made from Erbaluce and Vernaccia. All are delicious, but the Stelline di Cortese is the local one, and it’s a real steal. It’s best wine for the price, and reminds me of a real Prosecco, so I can drink it every day. Perfect for the Prosecco lover.
If you love sweet Champagnes and sparkling wine like Asti, you’ll love Carmody-McKnight‘s Pomegranate Cuvée. Making estate wines in Paso Robles for over 25 years, they make a traditional sparkling cuvée with grapes grown on chalky soil (like in Champagne) and age it in the bottle for up to 10 years. In the meantime, they wanted something bubbly to drink! Pomegranate Cuvée was born, made from the original sparkling cuvée mixed with pomegranate. Soon, a citurs honeysuckle cuvée will be available. Perfect for those who love sweet sparkling wine or dessert wine.