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Buon Bubbles

Some wineries are hopping on the Prosecco train

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Glass of Prosecco? You're not likely to be offered Champagne at a local winery, but Prosecco is popping up all over.

Wine tasters at Kenwood's VJB Estate may start with a pour of Prosecco Extra Dry ($28) imported from Italy's Valdobbiadene district before sampling VJB's own Italian varietals. In Healdsburg, Fritz Underground Winery has imported Prosecco for three years, and although they're making a Russian River Valley sparkling wine for their 35th anniversary, they're sticking with Prosecco in the long run. And now the heavies in Napa are getting involved. If this isn't a trend, it's more than a one-off.

Villa Giustiniani Prosecco Extra Dry ($27) Fritz imports this wine from the Order of Malta, a 900-year-old outfit that turned their swords to grape shears along the way, explains winery owner Clayton Fritz, and now organize humanitarian relief efforts around the world. A pale, platinum blonde hue, the wine shows a subdued bead of tiny bubbles. There's something tropical in the aroma, with faint hints of pear and green grape, and the freshness of sliced jicama. Fritz says he likes it because it's a dryer style of Prosecco. "A lot of the sweeter styles have garnered attention," he says, "this is more on the refined side." It seems more full-bodied than the others. Available at Station 1870 wine bar in Santa Rosa.

Ménage à Trois Prosecco ($14.99) More of a menagerie than just trois, this Napa producer added Prosecco to the lineup in October. Sold in the tasting room and in stores, it simmers attractively in the glass with plumes of very fine bubbles. Faint notes of marzipan, maybe powdered sugar, pear and honeydew melon rind, too, are just background to the sea-foam sensation that fills the palate. I can see the utility of starting with this wine on a dinner date—it's pleasantly innocuous, not showy, but has enough fresh, sparkly charm to lubricate a session of yackety gab.

Korbel California Brut ($10.99) Which one is not like the others? Prosecco gets its sparkle in a tank, resulting in a fresher, less yeasty note to the wine. Indeed, the Korbel, an inexpensive but solid blend of Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, French Colombard and Pinot Noir that's made in the traditional méthode champenoise, shows just the faintest hint of apricot scone, giving itself away amid the Proseccos, made by the Charmat process from the Italian Glera grape.

Avissi Prosecco ($14.99) The biggest bubbles, but the least aromatic. All that effervescence subsides, leaving a steely sparkling wine on the dryish side. On the plus side, it's available in some stores in a fancy bag with bow tie as a holiday promotion.

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