November 1, 2006
Getting a Jump on the Season of Bubbles

Thank you, Kathe McDonald and your dozen accomplices. You did the heavy lifting so we could reap the benefits. Of course, your hard work wasn't all that hard, given that it amounted to blind tasting 24 sparkling wines. But your timing is great, the results coming on the eve of the year-end holiday season, when most sparkling wine is sold and consumed.

McDonald, a fulltime health educator and part-time wine educator, arranged the tasting as part of a class she taught over the weekend. To judge by her class outline, the session was thoughtfully structured, with the chosen wines first rate and the accompanying foods just the kind of stuff you'd expect at a holiday soiree - smoked salmon, savory shortbread, shellfish, caviar. The 24 sparkling wines were broken into three flights, based principally on price. A winner was chosen for each flight. All the wines were purchased locally except for an entry from New Zealand.

Here are the results by flight (prices are what McDonald paid at such local outlets as Beverages & More, Valley Wine Shop and Costco, as well as the online wine merchant K&L):

Flight 1: Almost too close to call, with the Piper Heidsieck non-vintage Brut from Champagne ($26) narrowly edging the Domaine Chandon non-vintage Brut from California ($13).

Flight 2: The clear favorite was the Roederer Estate non-vintage Brut from Mendocino County's Anderson Valley ($39 for a magnum), though the J non-vintage Brut Rose from the Russian River Valley ($26) and the Comte Audoin de Dampierre non-vintage Brut from Champagne ($15, though it regularly sells for $29) had their partisans.

Flight 3: The easy winner was the Moet Chandon 1992 Cuvee Dom Perignon Brut from Champagne ($100), upsetting the highly regarded Krug non-vintage Grand Cuvee Brut, also from Champagne ($160).

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