It has been one tough year on all fronts for most of us on the West Coast.

We all know it couldn’t have been much worse for our piece of paradise with these horrendous fires and I’m so sorry for the fire victims. And, there is never enough rainfall.

The giant oak alongside my Pismo Beach backyard, comprised of three huge trunks, lost the back-side trunk, which simply broke away. That’s nothing compared to the worst of Santa Barbara and Ventura.

We had some health problems in the family that we were lucky to have survived.

So I am grateful for the new year believing it can only be a much better one for most of us.

Which means I am going to be finding some mighty fine bubblies to share with my beloved hubby, Dan Hardesty, to celebrate New Year’s Eve and New Year Day 2018.

Unlike people who immediately celebrate a major life event by buying Dom Perignon, one of the most expensive French Champagnes in the world, we don't. So I’m constantly searching for affordable bubblies that make me feel like I am drinking Champagne. Fortunately, most of our locally produced bubblies are excellent choices.

Since I can’t afford Dom Perignon or Dom Ruinart, Dan and I once had the latter while visiting the French winery for an amazing Champagne tasting experience, both brands are priced in the U.S. from $130 to over $300 for a 750 ml (normal-sized) bottle. I’m happy to tell you there are some excellent French Champagnes available locally that are under $50 retail. Better yet, there are several excellent local sparkling wines that are also under $50 a bottle.

During the last month, I’ve been asking experts at local wine shops which of their bubblies are the most popular. Foremost, people are looking for good value wines (as I expected), yet there are just as many people looking for pricey bubblies, which I assume is strictly to impress their guests.

Let me point out, people with little experience in drinking bubblies don’t know the names of pricey French brands. In fact, whether you paid $12 or $50, and they couldn’t tell the difference, and they typically prefer the sweet bubblies. That’s why I’m here to help you. I buy sparkling wines year-round, and always keep one chilled, ready to pop the cork. You never know when you might need to celebrate a special event.

If it’s a very special occasion, I raise the bar and buy a better brand. Among my favorites is Champagne Piper-Heidsieck, which you can find for $45 at California Fresh, El Rancho Market and BevMo! It’s quite versatile and dry, enjoyable on its own or with seafood, oysters or brunch.

Another top favorite is Roederer Estate, from Mendocino County, which is always on sale this time of year for $17.99 at Costco. At BevMo!, it’s regularly $28.99, but now on sale for $21.99. It never lasts long at either store.

Finally, when someone asks me for the best deal in delicious sparkling wine, I send them to Trader Joe’s. No one can beat the $12.99 price for Gloria Ferrer Brut, a Sonoma County produced sparkling wine that they carry year-round.

You can have a lot more fun by visiting our best tasting rooms in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, where you can taste first, then buy.

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I always recommend Laetitia, off Highway 101 in the Arroyo Grande Valley, where you can visit and taste wines today and New Year's Day from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

While every wine is top quality, they make six sparkling wines alone (not counting the other top Burgundian and Rhone varieties they produce). My favorite bubbly is always the brut rosé, but do take time to taste them all to find your own faves. Prices for sparkling wines range from $28 to $40, with special holiday packs of several bottles at discounted prices. Get details at www.laetitiawine.com.

Another favorite is Riverbench Vineyard and Winery in the Santa Maria Valley, which offers four bubblies, ranging from $42 to $48. Another top producer, they're open today from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. The Cork Jumper Demi Sec sparkling wine is slightly sweeter than the other three, which are dry. If you have guests who are sweet wine lovers, I suggest buying a dry bubbly and the slightly sweet wine. Learn more at www. riverbench .com.

Another favorite is Flying Goat Cellars in Lompoc. Their sparkling wines, labeled “Goat Bubbles,” are outstanding and range in price from $38 to $60. There are five different styles, which aren’t always all open for tasting, but you can easily find a favorite depending on your preference for rosé, vineyard designated or slightly sweet bubbly. They're open today from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

We are so fortunate to have such great local producers making very special sparkling wines that are sure to make your New Year’s Eve and New Year's Day celebrations unforgettable.

Cheers, and best wishes to all of you for 2018!

Kathy Marcks Hardesty can be reached at Kathy@centralcoastcritic.com.

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