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Bubbly that won&'t break your budget

But there is hope for cash-strapped connoisseurs who crave a taste of decadence. There are plenty of sparkers in the $20-range that are — as one retailer put it — definitely drinking above their price point. This retailer was right on the money. I tasted more than 20 sparklers from most of the reputable bubbly producers on the West Coast and found many quality bottlings in the $20 range.

Our wine of the week winner, scoring 4.5 stars, is the Gloria Ferrer NV Sonoma Brut for $20, a remarkable value because it's complex and layered, rich yet crisp. Runner-ups, rating 4 stars, include Roederer Estate NV Anderson Valley Brut; Domaine Carneros, 2006 Carneros Brut; Domaine Ste Michelle NV Washington, Blanc de Blancs; and Piper Sonoma NV Sonoma County Brut. Check out the lineup in the wine grid above for an even bigger selection, with others rating 3.5 stars.

Retailers say the powerhouse bubblies driving traffic this year are the top sparkling wine houses that have offerings for $20 and under, such as Roederer, Gloria Ferrer, Domaine Carneros and J.

Is there a way to gauge the economy by the commerce of sparklers? Nothing that would satisfy Wall Street, but retailers say they are seeing signs with more corporate gifts and more company parties compared to last year. They say things are looking up, although most consumers are still price-point conscious. For this reason we've expanded our wine grid to give you even more budget sparklers that drink well. This is Wine Country, after all, where we uncork good cheer.


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