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Bubbly time for holiday guests

With the relatives en route for the holidays, it's a good idea to get some excursions in play. One of the most impressive "day-cations" can be built around sparkling wine. The sparklers produced in Wine Country rival French champagne and these striking houses of bubbly are right in our backyard.

Most will serve a flight of sparklers with some tasty pairings. Be sure to put your diet on hold; restraint is next to impossible where sparklers are concerned.

When you're on your way to sating your palate with as much decadence as possible, why not engage your guests in some sparkling trivia? Here's one simple question: What's in a bubble? Here's your response: A tiny bubble is nothing more than a pocket of gas contained by a thin film of liquid. The bubble is comprised of carbon dioxide, trapped inside each bottle during a unique second fermentation. Coke, in contrast, has bigger bubbles thanks to a machine called a carbonator which injects it with carbon dioxide. When it comes to sparklers, everyone agrees the one with the best pedigree is the pinpoint, persistent bead.

Sonoma County options include:

<CF103>Iron Horse Vineyards,</CF> 9786 Ross Station Road, Sebastopol, 887-1507, ironhorsevineyards.com Tip: On Fridays at 10 a.m., winemaker, David Munksgard, gives a personal tour. Reservations needed.

<CF103>Korbel Champagne Cellars</CF>, 13250 River Road, Guerneville, 824-7000, korbel.com. Tasting tip: Check out the delicatessen and the tasting room while you drink in the history. This year the winery is celebrating its 130th anniversary.

<CF103>Gloria Ferrer Winery</CF>, 23555 Hwy Carneros Highway (121), Sonoma, 996-7256, gloriaferrer.com. Tip: The VA de VI is a slightly sweeter style style at Gloria Ferrer, a blend of pinot noir and chardonnay with a hint of muscat.

<CF103>J Vineyards & Winery</CF>, 11447 Old Redwood Highway, Healdsburg, 431-5430, jwine.com Tip: The Bubble Room offers a three-course decadent wine and food tasting.


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