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 10 of my favorite sparklers!
1. Laetitia – 7 different sparkling wines!
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.
2. Flying Goat – Goat Bubbles
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.
3. 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.
4. Sea Smoke – Sea Spray
Sea Smoke is renowned for their Pinot Noir… and I mean in a major cultish way. With that reputation for cool climate Pinot Noir, we’re lucky they also make a sparkling wine, called Sea Spray.
This sparkling wine is the most expensive on my 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!)
5. Palmina – Sparkling Barbera
Palmina Winery makes some of the best Italian wines outside of Italy, but it’s located in the Lompoc Wine Ghetto in Santa Barbara wine country. Winemaker Steve Clifton also makes much of the wine you might be enjoying under other labels including many restaurants.
Right now, enjoy Palmina’s Sparkling Barbera – that’s right, a red sparkling wine. More from the Robb Report:
“Steve Clifton, the prominent Santa Barbara County winemaker, focuses on Italian grape varieties and Italian-style wines, particularly those of Northern Italy. For the Palmina Sparkling Barbera, the Barbera grapes are grown in the cool-climate north county and Clifton’s aim is to make “the perfect pizza wine,” with lots of fruit and low tannin, and just enough bubbles to enhance the aromatics and add some edge. In other words, Lambrusco. The result has a magenta color, juicy and slightly bitter flavors, and, yes, a natural affinity for pizza.”
Palmina’s previous sparkling release was Lumina – made from the dark, tannic Nebbiolo grape and makes a surprisingly elegant sparkling rosé with lots of flavor and structure. They have also made a sparkling Malvasia Bianca (more aromatic and floral).
These are perfect for the Italian wine lover!
6. Derby – Brut Rosé
Derby Wine Estates in Paso Robles makes a variety of interesting, refreshing varietal wines and blends, in a super-interesting building. 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 in downtown Paso Robles, 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.
7. Kessler-Haak – Brut & Brut Rosé
A winery born out of the love of wine, Kessler-Haak started as a backyard operation for Dan Kessler. 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 opened a tasting room in the Lompoc Wine Ghetto 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.
8. Biddle Ranch Vineyard – Non-Vintage Sparkling Wine
Right near the entrance to Edna Valley in San Luis Obispo Wine Country, Biddle Ranch Vineyard sits on 17 acres of grapes and a minimalist tasting room fashioned from a vintage barn. It’s surrounded French-style gardens: olive trees, lavender, oak trees and grapevines. And now they have released their non-vintage sparkling wine, made entirely from Chardonnay grown in Edna Valley, and bottled in August 2018.
This wine could easily be called a Blanc de Blancs: the classic Champagne style made only from white wine grapes in the Champagne region of France. This wine should satisfy any Champagne lover with its yeasty notes, flavors of tart green apple, fine bubbles, and crisp, elegant finish. It’s clean, with just a hint of almond, and absolutely delicious.
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.