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Raise a glass of sparkling wine from the 209
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Delicato tasting room manager Richard Foote pours a glass of the popular toasting bubbly, Almond Flavored California Sparkling Wine at the Manteca winery. - photo by GLENN KAHL

What New Year’s Eve celebration is complete unless it has the traditional midnight toast of either champagne or sparkling wine?

From the Manteca and Ripon wineries to those in the Lodi wine country, consumers have many labels to choose from in their search for the best in aroma and taste.

Ron McManis, owner of McManis Winery, said he leans toward Domain Chandon in the California Sparkling Wine market.  McManis remarked that just about any California wine is a good bet for quality.

McManis has been a California wine producer since 1998. The family winery is located on River Road, northeast of the Ripon community.

Manteca’s Delicato Family Vineyards has kept tasting room manager Richard Foote  busy this week.He’s been rolling out cases of sparkling wine on a hand cart to customers’ vehicles for the upcoming New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Foote said the almond variety of the California Sparkling Wine is a favorite with Central Valley consumers. It is among the 102 wine varieties shelved behind the Delicato tasting room counters at the Frontage Road winery by the Highway 99 and French Camp Road interchange north of Manteca.  Foote added that two new favorites recently added to the Delicato list include “delicately bubbled” Sequin Moscato and Pinot Grigio selling at $12.99.

Camron King, director of the Lodi Winegrape Commission, said that one of the beauties of Lodi is that they have a broad diversity among more than 80 wineries in the district – half of which have tasting rooms within short drives from the visitors’ center.

“We carry extra dry, peach, raspberry varieties at $10.99.  The almond flavored is the most popular having been the best seller for the last 12 years at the visitors center on Turner Road, smack dab in the middle between I-5 and Highway 99,” King said.

“We have everything from the bubbly to zins and cabernets – everything to put across your pallet,” King added.

He said a visit to the wine commission’s visitors center “is a great way” for consumers to begin their Lodi experience. It is located on the front of the Wine and Roses property.  King noted that while a couple hundred folks visited his tasting center over the holidays, some 30,000 have visited throughout the year.

In a search for the bubbly for New Years Eve, a stop at the Dancing Fox Winery and Bakery on School Street in Lodi could be a welcome experience where the bread pudding is to die for, according to its customers.

One Manteca resident, who reported having visited the Dancing Fox at the request of visiting relatives from North Carolina, said she couldn’t wait to return.

“I typically do the wine tasting and buy a couple of bottles.  The family owners and operators are such nice people.  And they make fantastic wines.  Current favorites are the RumpelstiltZin, Red Zorro and Petit Syrah.  This weekend I had the pleasure of enjoying a sampling of baked desserts.  Between all of us at the table we had a German chocolate torte, carrot cake, sticky bun and lemon poppy seed muffin – all were delectable.”

Another quipped, “Don’t even get me started on the bread pudding. Mmm.”

While the Dancing Fox is open throughout the week, weekend hours are on Saturday from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m. and on Sunday from 9 until 3.

While California Sparkling Wines have replaced much of the champagne choices, there is a basis for the alternative selection. Champagne is made only in the Champagne region of northeastern France – different from all other sparkling wines in the world for three reasons.

It can only be labeled as Champagne if it is made in that region of France and made only from Pinot Noir, Minot Meunier or Chardonnay grapes grown in that region.  And thirdly the champagne has to have derived its bubbles by going through the formation process twice – once in the barrels and then in the bottles.

Before wine had bubbles or produced in any color but red, Champagne was the wine used in religious ceremonies such as at the completion of the gothic cathedral in Reims.  Thusly, the capital of the Champagne region became a center for royal masses and coronations.

Legend has it that monks a dozen centuries ago has problems with their wines fermenting in the bottles, with corks being blown out of their bottles and other bottles exploding from the building pressures of fermentation.

The grapes were harvested early and the barrels became too cold curing winter months to ferment the juices.  Even though the peak of fermentation had not been reached the weaker wines had to be bottled at the demand of the king.

The cold winter had halted the fermentation only to continue its process in the warmer spring months – the resulting bubbles filled the bottles to a bursting point.  The religious brothers were said to be frustrated by the bubbles and began blending different types of grapes in a blending process that produced the first white wine ever.  It, too, continued to ferment after it was bottled.

Those bubbles were considered to be a serious defect as bottles were popping in a series of explosions throughout the abbey wine cellar.  The shape of the bottles had to be changed but the pressure blew out the hemp stoppers when cork from Spain solved the problem.

209 staff reporter