It's the bubbly season, which is itself a cause for celebration. We can feel blessed, too, that there are so many options these days for excellent sparkling wines at every conceivable price point, which was not the case outside big cities just a couple of decades ago.
We have many favorites, from the bargain-priced Spanish cava Cristalino to the New Mexico stunner Gruet Brut to the elegant Veuve Cliquot Yellow Label from Champagne. One of California's best is Piper Sonoma Brut from Sonoma County, which is widely available in the $15 to $20 range. We most recently paid $13.50 on sale at a big box store.
Let's start with the label, which is classic in its simplicity and will lend grace to any festive ice bucket even before the cork is popped. In the flute its lively and persistent bubbles tickle the nose with a yeasty, toasty fizz. Its color in the glass is platinum.
Once the occasion's toast has been proposed this brut sparkler's bubbles swarm the tongue with mouth-filling citrus, especially lemon and a hint of orange, tempered by the subtle bite of bitters and a whiff of vanilla. The mouthfeel is rich even though the overall effect is light and lively.
Sparkling wine is the perfect aperitif at any season, of course, but the Piper Sonoma has the body to be an excellent complement to food, too. With what would we pair it? Why, anything our little hearts desire.
By Colette and John Bancroft. She is the Times' book editor, and he is a freelance writer specializing in food, wine and travel.