6 Stellar Holiday Sparkling Wines

In the late 1970s and early '80s, when the large wine producers of Champagne and Spain's cava region were looking for room to increase production as well as expand markets, many of them chose to develop in Northern California.

Two notable vineyards were Spain's Freixenet and France's Mumm. About 30 years ago, Freixenet set up shop in the Sonoma side of the Carneros region under the name of "Gloria Ferrer." A couple of years later, Mumm started making wine as "Mumm Napa" along the Silverado Trail east of Oakville. In the years since, both have established reputations for very good wines, generally at great prices. Fans of Gloria Ferrer should be aware that there was a label change this August — keep an eye out for the understated, gold-trimmed new label.

Just in time for the holidays, check out this list of wines from both houses:

NV Gloria Ferrer Carneros blanc de blancs ($20). Full, with lots of bubbles, featuring crisp apple flavors and a hint of lemon in the finish. Some minerality with good balance — a wine that demands food.

NV Gloria Ferrer Carneros "Va de Vi" ($20). The moscato craze is now creeping into California sparkling wines, here as a small spike to the traditional pinot noir and chardonnay. It's off-dry, or a touch sweet, with lots of cherry and red raspberry fruitiness and hints of toasty coconut.

NV Gloria Ferrer Carneros blanc de noirs ($18). Quite flavorful with elements of cherry, apple and grapefruit — rounded and full, but in good balance.

NV Mumm Napa brut prestige ($18). Pleasant, clean, but not a lot of complexity. This wine has ripe apple flavors and some underlying minerality.

NV Mumm Napa "Cuvee M" ($20). Another slightly sweet sparkler with some moscato added, imbuing this wine with flavors of pear, peaches, and some coconut. It paired beautifully with dessert — a shortbread with salt caramel gelato.

2006 Mumm Napa DVX ($60). Pricey, but definitely worth it —my Pick of the Litter. It is rich and intense, yet still elegant and long on the palate with great minerality and tart apple fruit.