Christmas may be all about the cookies, but New Year's is all about champagne. And this year, connoisseurs of bubbly have even more reason to clink glasses, as the real-deal, regionally specific stuff is experiencing something of a moment across the U.S.
More and more restaurants and bars are putting a focus on grower-producer champagnes (bottlings from the folks who grow the grapes themselves) and small-batch offerings, which translates to more choices, more accessibility, and better prices than ever before. Now's the time to toast the season and firm up your 2016 resolutions—which should obviously include drinking more champagne. Kick off the commitment at any of these 12 excellent programs from coast to coast.
If 1760 wine director Gianpaolo Paterlini had to pick one kind of wine to drink for the rest of his life, it would be champagne. "Champagne should be enjoyed everyday," he says, not just in celebratory context. He's translated this passion into an epic list of bubbles, primarily showcasing grower-producer vintages (insiders get their fill on Mondays, when pours are 20% off). Equally exciting is his semi-secret, off-menu reserve champagne list that's only given to the true bubbly lovers (and you, when you ask for it).
French brasserie Absinthe has officially entered the old guard of stylish San Francisco restaurants, thanks to their California-fied brasserie fare and gorgeous, Belle Epoque-style bar. Add their champagne selection to the long list of reasons to go—you can't go wrong with wine director Ian Becker's hand-picked catalog of hard-to-find grower-producers. Bonus: there are plenty of half bottles available for nights (or days) when you're looking to keep it light (or, try even more champagne).
The only thing better than an epic champagne selection is one that's expertly paired with stunning French pastries and desserts. For that, there's Portland's Pix Patisserie. Owner and wine director Cheryl Wakerhauser has a collection of over 350 bottles of champagne, and a level of obsessive dedication that has earned her the title of World's Best Champagne List two years running. Did we mention that you can enjoy her incredible list with macarons, eclairs, and chocolates?
One of our favorite champagne bars in the country, Ambonnay is exclusively about the bubbles, with a massive list of by the glass selections (along with tons of bottles, of course). Look up their calendar of events—they cater to champagne lovers and novices alike, and span from a magnut-centric New Year's Eve party to prestige tastings of rare vintages.
A restaurant dedicated to pizza and champagne? Brilliant. Marta has everything we love, largely thanks to wine director Jack Mason's genius idea to make champagne accessible, affordable, and delicious. His goal: to convince you to drink bubbles with your thin-crusted, wood-fired pizza pies as readily as you would a bottle of Italian red.
Pearl & Ash
Pearl & Ash's wine list features five tightly packed pages of champagne goodness, with grower-producers galore and a wide range of price points. This, and their seriously stylish digs, would be enough to earn them a spot on our list, but it gets better. Wine director and champagne lover Patrick Cappiello has been known to saber bottles of champagne during service… while perched on the bar.
Similar to their New York City location in Union Square, Charlotte's Corkbuzz is all about making wine accessible, enjoyable, and fun. These rules apply readily to champagne, where wine director Laura Maniec has put together a list showcasing, in her words, "one of the most versatile wines in the world." Take her up on her food pairing skills any day of the week—or head in on Saturdays and Sundays for half-priced bottle specials. Our advice? Start with brunch and stay through the day.
Brindille's champagne list may look small, but the thought and care behind it makes it one of our favorites. By keeping a tight inventory, sommelier Chad Ellegood can switch things up more often, showcasing the best bottles available at any time of the year. What's more, it's one of the few lists in the country to organize champagne by specific sub-region.
Reading the wine list at Sepia is part education, part memoir, thanks to sharp insights and a huge amount of passion from wine director Arthur Hon. With champagne, he wastes no time expressing his excitement for smaller grower-producers, which make up the bulk of his lengthy, thoughtful list. We also like his less traditional practice of serving bubbles in larger wine glasses verses flutes, to showcase their aroma and texture.
Sommelier Gordana Kostovski has designed a bible of a wine list at Volver—it has 1,500 bottles of old and new world wines, so you'd be forgiven for getting distracted on your quest for bubbles. But her champagne selection is where things get personal. Here, Kostovski has carefully selected her very favorite vintages, meant to pair with the restaurant's modernist Spanish fare.
If you take beverage director Taylor Parson's advice, you'll be starting your meal at L.A.'s Republique with a glass of champagne. "It's a huge part of our cellar; we love it so much!" That cellar has a whopping 2,000 wines and champagnes, with a carefully curated list of 60-65 chosen each day based on the market-driven menu and the advice of their sommelier team. The champagne picks are ample (there were 18 on a recent menu), but don't be shy to ask for something off-menu if you have a specific craving.
Pappas Bros. Steakhouse
An old-school steakhouse doesn't tend to scream champagne. But Pappas Bros. Steakhouse in Houston defies expectations with a serious, extensive list of champagnes. They're available by the glass, half bottle, and bottle, providing plenty of opportunity to find your perfect champagne-steak pairing.