When your wife starts a new job right after New Year's Day and you're looking to start a new wine column (stay tuned for Half-Corked), nothing could be more timely than a couple of bottles of fine sparkling wine. I've never been a big fan of champagne, but I've grown to love a refreshing prosecco or cava. That said, California has some tremendous sparkling wines to offer. Although the Russian River Valley's most famous bubbly-specific wine-maker is probably Korbel, J Vineyards in nearby Healdsburg has been making sparkling varietals since 1986.
J Vineyards has produced a pair of fine blends with its Cuvee 20 and Brut Rosé, both of which combine chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes and pair nicely with chilled seafood. The bottles typically sell for $38 and $45, respectively, but they're now on sale for closer to $30 and $35 at Hi-Time Wine Cellars. Lucky you!
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Available at Hi-Time Wine Cellars, 250 Ogle St., Costa Mesa, (949) 650-8463; www.hitimewine.net.