Recommended small-producer champagnes and sparkling wines
Prices are approximate. Check Winesearcher.com to verify availability, or ask a favorite wine store to order through a distributor.
José Michel et Fils Brut Special Club 2002
Champagne, France, $62
This wine shows amazing finesse, with an appealing honey flavor though it's not sweet. After tasting several sparkling wines, I kept getting pulled back to this bottle.
Wine Traditions: available in the District at Cork Market; on the list at Cork Wine Bar. Available in Virginia at Arrowine in Arlington.
Legras & Haas Cuvee Prestige Grand Cru Vielles Vignes
Champagne, France, $90
It's a definite splurge, but this wine is beguiling. Initially deceptive, it develops complexity with every sip. It features appealing aromas of autumn and winter; I thought of freshly cut pumpkin (the smell you get when carving a jack-o'-lantern), though my wife thought I was nuts.
Murray-Sikes Selection/Nice Legs: on the list in the District at BlackSalt, Cedar. Available in Maryland at Cork & Fork in Bethesda; on the list at Grapeseed in Bethesda. Exclusive Wine Imports: available in Virginia at Arrowine in Arlington, Ashburn Wine Shop, the Butcher's Block and Rick's Wine & Gourmet in Alexandria, Maison du Vin in Great Falls, Wine Seller in Herndon.
Guy Charlemagne Grand Cru Reserve Blanc de Blancs Brut
Champagne, France, $51
From Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, an area of Champagne known for sublime all-chardonnay fizz, comes this big, bold sparkler with lots of bready yeast and toast flavors.
William-Harrison: available in the District at Connecticut Avenue Wine & Liquor, MacArthur Beverages, Magruder's, Paul's of Chevy Chase, Whole Foods Market Glover Park. Available in Virginia at Cecile's Wine Cellar in McLean, Whole Foods Market Reston, Wine Seller in Herndon; on the list at L'Auberge Chez François.
Jean Vesselle Brut Reserve
Champagne, France, $43
Rich and fat, with lots of toast; with food, it comes into focus. Very stylish wine.