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I’ve been having something of an unnerving experience of late. Receiving unsolicited wine samples from all over the world is a regular ‘hazard’ of my wine-writing life. A majority, as you might expect, are California wines, more often than not from producers of whom I know or have heard. Opening a box to find wines from an unknown California producer is always a treat, especially when the wines are worth writing about. Recently, however, I’ve been opening the constant barrage of boxes to discover an increasing number of bottles of unknown-to-me California sparkling wine. While many are not spectacular, most are competently made wines which, out of sheer numbers, suggest that California may have entered a new era of sparkling winemaking.
Benjamin Wilson likely produced the first sparkling wine in California in 1856 from his vineyards outside of Los Angeles, followed by the Sainsevain brothers in 1857 and 1858. But …