Carneros-based Gloria Ferrer is a Pinot Noir specialist, and its relatively full-bodied NV Brut is made from 91% Pinot Noir, and 9% Chardonnay (to add brightness and raciness). It offers delicate pear and floral aromas highlighted by notes of toasted almond. On the palate, lively citrus, toast and apple flavors are overlaid with a fine and persistent effervescence.
Established in 1757, the Reims-based house of Henri Abelé is the third oldest Champagne house, with a distinguished 250-year history. Abelé's NV Brut is clearly of Grand Marque quality, but sells for $5-$10 less than comparable cuvées. Grapes come exclusively from top crus in the Côte des Blancs and the Montagne de Reims, under longstanding contracts maintained by Maison Abelé over many years. The house matures its wines for a minimum of three years, well-above the Champagne AOC minimum of 15 months, a key to its mellow, subtle palate impression. A beautiful pale gold color, with a fine, creamy mousse, this Champagne opens with floral/apple Chardonnay notes, which interlace delicately with notes of Pinot Noir on the palate. Nuances of white flowers, mineral, and delicate stone fruit rise toward the finish, giving this brut cuvée elegant shape and dimension, along with impressive depth.
Founded in 1843 by Joseph Krug, Krug is among most prestigious of all the Grands Marques. Although it makes two vintage-dated micro-cuvées (Clos du Mesnil, 100% Chardonnay; Clos D'Ambonnay, a Blancs de Noirs), Grande Cuvee, which is a multi-vintage blend, is clearly its flagship wine. Made only with wines from the greatest years, it includes no less than 50% of reserve wines from as many as 10 different vintages. In truth, it really doesn't get much better than this.
This brisk, lively sparkler is a great lower priced alternative to Champagne. Made from first-run Pinot Auxerrois and Pinot Blanc grown on clay-chalky soil, it features fresh notes of citrus and white flowers and a brisk, creamy aftertaste. Its balanced medium-body matches well with food, making it a prime choice for all holiday entertaining, either as an apéritif or to accompany entrées.
Made from 100% Pinot Noir, this sparkler delivers an unbeatable combination of refreshing strawberry and cranberry fruit, tremendous balance and a creamy, easygoing drinkability. A perfect pairing for all holiday meals, this luminously salmon-pink Rosé matches the festive holiday mood.
Although relatively simple compared to Valdo and Zenato, Mionettooffers crowd-pleasing notes of fresh lime, ginger, and yellow apple. Its soft finish makes it highly suitable for sipping by itself as an aperitif. However, I also found it matched well with cut fruit and light hors d'oeuvres.