Go for broke

What makes a great Champagne or sparkling wine?



There are scores of sparkling wines I love to drink. That said, here is a sampling of my favorites, especially if I'm in the mood to splurge. Prices are approximate.

Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs 1996 (Napa Valley), $26.50. Rich, elegant, and supple, with long, creamy brioche and apple pie flavors. Blanc de Blancs means that the wine is made solely from Chardonnay grapes.

Domaine Carneros "Le Rêve" 1993 (Carneros, CA), $50. Le rêve is French for the dream. And this is dreamy ― sleek and dramatic on the one hand, but also beautifully creamy, with caramelized apple flavors.

Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé nonvintage (Champagne), $50. Light-bodied, vibrant, and sassy. Fabulous as an aperitif or with appetizers.

Veuve Clicquot Brut Vintage Reserve 1991 (Champagne), $60. Veuve Clicquot always has impeccable balance. The brioche flavors with hints of ginger and spice are long and refined.

Pol Roger "Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill" 1988 (Champagne), $120. Pol Roger was Winston Churchill's favorite Champagne ― and he reportedly drank prodigious amounts of it. This prestige cuvée, named after the statesman himself, is utterly gorgeous, with irresistible creaminess and zestiness.

Krug Grand Cuvée nonvintage (Champagne), $120. Deep, profound, and complex with nutty, yeasty flavors and marzipan. The classic among full-bodied Champagnes.

SUNSET'S STEAL OF THE MONTH: Domaine Mumm Brut Prestige nonvintage (Napa Valley), $15. Crisp and appley, with a lively frothiness.

Sunset's Wine Club

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