From dry to sweet, and affordable to less so, here are some of the best bubbles in the U.S.

By Brian Freedman
November 20, 2019
Courtesy of Gran Moraine

American sparkling wine is finally starting to get the respect it’s deserved for a long time. Schramsberg, under the ownership of the visionary Davies family since 1965, has been producing some of the best sparklers in America for over half a century. Oregon is coming on strong, with a fantastic sparkling-wine culture. Gruet, in New Mexico, proves year after year that exciting, delicious bubbles don’t have to cost a fortune. The End of Nowhere, in Amador County, California, is a newer producer that’s finding a growing audience and well-deserved success with their foot-tread, single-vineyard “Uncorked!,” a dry sparkling Zinfandel that is in many ways representative of the brave direction that American sparkling wine is heading.

All this means that narrowing down any list of standouts is a difficult process. But these 12 bottles represent a good range of what’s on the market, produced in an array of styles from classic to pét-nat, and at price points that stretch from around $20 to over $100. They’re listed alphabetically, encompass wines from bone dry to a little bit sweet, and are all worth the effort to track down.

Courtesy of Cartograph Wines

2013 Cartograph Brut Rosé Leonardo Julio Vineyard, Russian River Valley ($68)

Fresh and biscuity on the nose, but mainly driven by cherries and fresh strawberries. Mouthwatering flavors of nectarines, Mandarin oranges, and ginger root are vibrant and fresh.

2012 Domaine Carneros Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs Carneros ($115)

Aromas of pistachio biscotti and lemon clotted cream precede a palate that’s by turns generous and linear, with flavors of lemon marmalade, hard persimmons, apricots, and fresh-baked pie crust, all with a subtle seam of nuttiness that’s balanced out by a hovering sense of honeysuckle and lemon blossom.

Domaine Chandon

NV Domaine Chandon étoile Brut Carneros ($50)

Persistent laser-point bubbles propel this lovely sparkler, flashing along with flavors of preserved lemons, oranges, spice, almond, ginger root, and gunflint minerality.

LA Exposures Photography

2015 Fess Parker Fesstivity Blanc de Noirs Sta. Rita Hills ($49)

Nectarines and other stone fruits jump from the glass and are joined by mineral, forest floor, and a touch of flowers, all preceding a palate lively with wild strawberries, cherries, mushrooms, and mineral. Seems to be a slightly sweeter style for a brut, but it comes off as appropriately ripe, not overdone, and it grows more savory through the finish.

Tubay Yabut Photography

2014 Frank Family Vineyards Blanc de Blancs Carneros Napa Valley ($55)

Rich and nutty whiffs of roasted cacao nibs and coffee beans dance with freshly dug mushrooms. On the palate, this is rich and muscular, propulsive and generous with nectarines, apricots, and yellow apples, the finish sweeping in with nicely balanced acidity.

Freixenet Mionetto USA

NV Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut Sonoma Valley ($22)

Baked and mashed apples with a lift of brioche on the nose, turning to a palate of sweet fruit and zippy acidity, shimmering with yellow apple fritters, a bit of spun lemon sugar, and lemons. Excellent value for the money.

NV Gran Moraine Brut Rosé Yamhill-Carlton, Willamette Valley ($50)

White-blossomed flowers, hawthorne, and hard apples energize the subtle nose here. The palate shows propulsive energy: This is not a rosé of lush generosity but rather of structure and linearity. Lots of orange-leaning fresh citrus, and the savory, slate-like minerality of the nose sweeps back in on the finish.

NV J Vineyards Cuvée 20 Brut Russian River Valley ($38)

A beautiful nose of lemon pie, brioche, and citrus pith are lifted by a hint of flowers. The first sip reveals a broad, generous wine, with ripe pineapples, mangos, and candied ginger. There’s an unexpected touch of white tea on the finish.

Scharffenberger Cellars

NV Scharffenberger Brut Rosé Excellence ($23)

Toasty and almost smoky on the nose, with an autumnal whiff of fallen leaves in the background. The concentrated palate is lively with hard-stone-fruit acidity and flavors of nectarines, cherries, rhubarb conserve, and toast.

Schramsberg Vineyards

2009 Schramsberg J. Schram Brut North Coast ($121)

Rich and layered aromas of apple fritters and pralines precede a palate with all the complexity of a high-end vintage Champagne. It’s lacy with pinpoint bubbles that carry lemon and orange marmalade, lemongrass, pralines, honey tuilles, a hint of fennel, and oyster shells on the finish, a hovering sense of flowers whispering in the background. Elegant and precise, yet notably generous.

Copper Cane Wines & Provisions

NV Steorra Brut Russian River Valley ($23)

There’s an unexpectedly glycerine texture to the apples, pears, lemons, sweet spice, and graham crackers. This sings alongside spicy fried chicken.

Kirsten Kaiser

2017 William Chris Vineyards Pétillant Naturel Rosé Texas ($25)

Aromas of strawberry leather and compressed watermelon are friendly and not over-the-top: There’s an appealing sense of balance to this standout pét-nat. The palate, however, is bracingly dry and cut through with flavors of watermelon pith, kumquats, Chinese bitter melons, and a palate-cleansing burst of acidity on the finish. Each sip makes you thirsty for another one.

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