Toasting in Royal Surroundings
Fill your flute at these wineries specializing in inviting sparkling wines; all offer tastings in fit-for-a-king surroundings. But all these bubbles may come with a price: most tours charge a fee for tastes of their celebrated vintages, and require reservations in advance, even from members of the ruling class (check websites for details).
SAN FRANCISCO BAY REGION
Domaine Carneros (Napa)
Perhaps a bit of truffled whitefish with your bubbly? This elegant, resort-like winery lets you relax and enjoy table service on a broad terrace overlooking the undeniably romantic Napa Valley. Wines, matched with caviar, artisan cheeses, and other delectable treats, may be tasted in flights, by the glass, or by the bottle.
Domaine Chandon (Yountville)
So swanky that your guide is a called a “tour ambassador,” this winery includes lush public gardens, a variety of tours, artwork on the grounds and in inviting gallery spaces, and Michelin-starred Étoile restaurant, a crown jewel in the Napa Valley.
Mumm Napa (Rutherford)
As if tiny bubbles weren’t enough to make you smile, this serenely beautiful estate also lets you revel in stunning photography in a terra cotta tiled gallery space. Works include original images from the private collection of Ansel Adams’ grandson.
Sparkling wines produced by this celebrated house are so amazing they get their own names, like exquisite Querencia, a brut rosé produced solely from chardonnay and pinot noir grapes grown in the Napa Valley’s Carneros region. Tours include a visit to Schramsberg’s 120-year-old wine caves.
NORTH COAST REGION
Gloria Ferrer (Sonoma)
Experience a heady blend of Spanish architecture and California wine-country elegance in this noble champagne house. Sip a glass of something sparkly from the winery’s terrace, overlooking vineyards and olive groves (the estate’s own olive oil is sold exclusively in the tasting room).
Iron Horse (Sonoma)
Stocked in the cellars of the White House, the sparkling wines of this impressive label have a noble history. Learn about it on low-key tours, then kick back at the winery’s outdoor tasting room and enjoy the impossibly idyllic setting, including lush grape vines, organic gardens, handsome oak and olive trees, and a regal view of Mt. St. Helens.
J Vineyards (Healdsburg)
Hip, sexy, fun, this winery is all about delivering style with its sparklers. Drop in for a tasting at the sleek J Signature Bar (dubbed the “best winery tasting room in the West” by editors at Sunset Magazine, or relax with perfectly paired foods at the upscale and exclusive J Bubble Lounge.
Much as a rumpled oyster reveals a pearl inside, so it goes with this intriguingly rustic and relaxed winery. Nestled in Mendocino's rolling hills and surrounded by vineyards, Roederer Estate has ranch-style tasting room that’s barely visible from the roadway—a conscious step by the winemakers to let the surrounding beauty and stellar sparkling wines be the center of attention, rather than splashy architecture. It works.
Scharffenberger Cellars (Philo)
Sipping champagne and admiring beautiful art make a natural pairing, and so it goes at this intimate winery on the edge of the lyrically beautiful Anderson Valley. Here, you can sample exceptional sparkling wines in a tasting room that doubles as a gallery showcasing talented local artists. The hideaway includes beautifully tended gardens open to all.
Thornton Winery (Temecula)
Here’s wine-tasting on a regal scale, with jazz concerts, gardens with sweeping vistas, sit-down tastings with food pairings, and an award-winning restaurant called Champagne Café. It’s one of the splashiest wine-tasting experiences in this growing wine region, worth toasting with one of Thornton’s signature offerings, sparkling wine flavored with a hint of almond.