Friends, Portlanders, lend me your ears: I beseech you that when the very moment of this year's final denouement ticks down from 10, you will have in your hand something more delicious than a mere pisser of Cook's. You can do better than the Safeway-shelf Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label. And, please, leave the Trader Joe's Sparkling Chuck for a less momentous occasion.
Instead, here are 17 bottles of bubbles you might consider for your New Year's Eve toast, each ready for purchase at a bottle shop near you, arranged from agreeably priced to splurgingly celebratory. The year 2016 has sucked quite enough, thank you—let's not spoil its last, dying breath by drinking shitty wine.
Elio Perrone Moscato d'Asti
Available at World Foods ($13)
This is light, pure, delicious and fruity sparkling wine from a family of racecar drivers in Asti, in northwest Italy. It's not some sugar-sweet, uber-processed prosecco; the Perrone family's Moscato is pleasing, elegant even, without being fussy or expensive. This is real wine for the cost of a pack of Manhattan Marlboros.
Celler La Salada Pet Nat Tinc Set
Available at E&R Wine Shop ($17.99)
Bottle-fermented Spanish sparkling wine from Toni Carbo, this is catnip for natural-wine geeks, poured happily at many a cool cave from Brooklyn to Barcelona. With no added sulfur, it's real living wine from the Spanish grapes xarello and parellada. It tastes like green apples and peaches, and is classy enough for midnight, party enough for the pre-funk.
Available at Pastaworks ($19)
This is lovely, bone-dry sparkling chardonnay from New Mexico, of all places. With its French-sounding name and Champagne-mimic profile, Gruet is a smart house pour on many a discerning wine list. If you're a geek, you might try blind-tasting it with much more expensive blanc de blancs Champagne. If you're a normie, just buy it and drink it—this is a perfectly poised, smartly affordable New Year's Eve clink.
LOCAL FARMHOUSE BUBBLES
Gamine Pet Nat of Grenache
Available at Division Wines ($30)
I'm a big fan of the wines coming out now from Gamine, the new project from Division Winemaking and Southeast Wine Collective co-founder Kate Norris. In 2015, her Grenache Pet Nat was a revelation of Technicolor golden bubbles, slightly off-dry and punchy—real light-switch wine for people unfamiliar with Oregon bottled bubblers. In 2016, her Gamine Pet Nat is a bit more grown-up and sophisticated—it's still party wine, but it's a classy party. Think imported sparkling lemonade and raisin bread.
Swick Verdelho Pet Nat
Available at Park Avenue Fine Wines ($23)
This is a dynamite new wine from Joe Swick of Swick Wines, whose no-sulfur pinot noir has been featured on good natural-wine lists across the country. This bottle-fermented sparkling wine is made from verdelho, a Portuguese white grape that's being grown in Washington state. It's a deeply acidic, almost salty white wine that wants to be paired with food—karaage fried chicken or Japanese pickles—but wouldn't be out of place at midnight.
Johan Pinot Noir Pet Nat
Available at World Market ($22)
Dan Rinke helped spark the pet-nat revolution in Oregon with this utterly distinctive, bottle-fermented sparkling wine. Not quite a rosé, it's almost copper in color, running deep with flavors of white chocolate, strawberry cream soda, and apple skins. This is an expression of Oregon pinot noir unlike any other.
GOOD CHAMPAGNE FOR UNDER $40
Eric Rodez Cuvée des Crayeres (375 ml)
Available at Liner & Elsen ($30)
There is no shame in drinking alone with a wine as good as this. Eric Rodez (pronounced roh-DAY) makes beautiful Champagne in the village of Ambonnay, where he is mayor. Rodez is a ninth-generation winemaker, and was gracious enough to make a small bottle of his Cuvée des Crayeres—a classically creamy, elegant, finesse wine that could only come from Champagne.
Aubry Brut Premier
Available at Vinopolis ($36)
A silky, mineral-driven bottle of bubbles, it's produced by a family that has been making wine since the 17th century. Aubry wines are known for using ancient Champagne grape varieties like arbanne, petit meslier and fromenteau alongside the traditional pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier. This is a pure expression of Champagne.
Jose Michel & Fils Brut Pinot Meunier
Available at Vinopolis ($39)
Pinot meunier is typically the little sibling grape in Champagne's holy troika, but it has pride of place in this bottling from Jose Michel, a small winemaking house working 11 hectares in the village of Moussy. I absolutely love pinot meunier-driven Champagne for how expressive, fruit-forward and memorable it can be, and Jose Michel makes some of the best.
Available at Vinopolis ($37)
Frederic Savart is a one-man band, farming just 4 hectares of pinot noir and chardonnay vines in clay soil in the village of Ecueil. Savart uses no herbicides or pesticides, and in the glass the wine is a study of contradictions—zippy acidity leading to a creamy mousse. He makes only a few thousand cases a year, and it probably should cost twice as much.
A LITTLE MORE…
Available at E&R Wine Shop ($56)
This is one of my favorite wines on this list. The Tarlant family has been making wine in Champagne since the 17th century, and was one of the first estates to refuse to sell grapes to large blending houses. This bottling comes with zero added sugars (hence the name), and is so pleasingly dry and delicious, with notes of mandarin orange, lilac and wax. If you're negatively impacted by wines with a high sugar content, Tarlant Zero will be most agreeable.
Analemma Blanc de Noir
Available at E&R Wine Shop ($60)
Big-time wine writers like Jon Bonné have raved about this Oregon wine, made by Analemma from its dry-farmed Atavus vineyard in the Columbia Gorge. For the same money, you could buy a killer bottle of Champagne. But if drinking local is your raison d'être, this is probably the best Champagne-style sparkling wine being made in the Pacific Northwest. It tastes like green strawberries and clean seltzer.
Bereche Vallée de la Marne Rive Gauche
Available at Vinopolis ($69)
This pinot meunier Champagne is from the revered winemaking duo of Raphaël and Vincent Bérêche in the village of Port à Binson. If I could pour you only one grower Champagne—that is, Champagne made by the grape growers, not by large blending houses—it might be this bottle, so singular is its expression of terroir and intent. Think beautiful apple skin, peach cream and wet stone.
A bottle-art collaboration with the Pacific Northwest College of Art has turned out some of the coolest labels I've seen in Oregon this year. Argyle has been doing its thing in Dundee since 1987, and consistently produces some of the state's most delicious, accessible sparkling wines. Lean minerality and a flavorful Chinese five spice/black licorice note are this wine's calling card. Buying this gift set helps support Argyle's ongoing scholarship with PNCA.
SPLASH OUT, YOU HAD A GOOD YEAR
2011 Benoit Marguet Le Parc
Available at E&R Wine Shop ($111)
This is as close to "natural wine" as you'll find in Champagne. Benoit Marguet has transformed his family's domaine in the past decade from conventional mechanized farming to biodynamic horse-plowed vineyards, and today is making some of the most thoughtful, delicious wines in all of Champagne. Le Parc is a single-vineyard blanc de blancs from land near the village of Ambonnay, which is known for its pinot noir. The 2011 vintage was notoriously tough for many Champagne makers, but Marguet achieved a triumph. In the glass, the wine has focus, presence and speaks to the chalky minerality of the soil in this part of France, made entirely with native yeasts, a rarity in Champagne. A casual drinker will enjoy this wine, but if you're even a little bit into this stuff, Marguet's story is irresistible, and buying his wines means supporting one of the true shining lights of artisanal winemaking in Champagne.
Jacques Selosse Initial Blanc de Blancs
Available at Ambonnay Cellar ($225)
Anselme Selosse is a living legend, credited with sparking today's new wave of grower Champagne makers. He has farmed without chemicals since 1980, making site-specific Champagne with minimal use of sulfur dioxide or added sugars to stabilize his wines. Initial is his entry-level blanc de blancs Champagne (made from chardonnay), priced at more than $200 a bottle (you'll pay three times that at a restaurant). I've tried this wine exactly once, on a special occasion, and it was an exercise in duality. As hyped as these wines are, the drinking experience is actually subtle, mature and understated. I remember not being blown away in the moment, but as I sit here, years later, I can remember exactly how the wine tasted—crystalline, effortlessly lively, with long-lasting flavors of Meyer lemon and French bread.
2004 Salon Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs (1.5 liters)
Available at Vinopolis ($989)
Surely you will need help drinking all of this rare, beautiful Champagne. Call me.