Sparkling wine blogger Maria Hunt launched "The Bubbly Girl" in 2007 after a lifelong love affair with bubbly (she had her first sip at age 7). In 2009, Hunt followed it up with her first book, "The Bubbly Bar: Champagne and Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion" (Clarkson Potter). Today, when she's not on assignment for Forbes Travel Guide or developing cocktail recipes, Hunt, of Oakland, uncovers exciting regions for sparkling wines. Read more at www.thebubblygirl.com.
First encounter: "I feel like I keep having aha moments. That's what's so great about wine. For me, this has been the year of breakout bubbles. I've had sparkling wine from places I'd never imagined, like Illinois. The Illinois Sparkling wine company is in the middle of a cornfield and makes clean, beautiful sparkling wines.
"I also had amazing sparkling wines on my recent travels to Brazil's southern wine region, Serra Gaucha. ... There are no beaches but mountains, perfect conditions for cool-climate grapes. My favorite is Cave Geisse, but you can't find it in the states yet. Casa Valduga should be easier to find here."
Latest discovery: "I am loving Mary Elke Pinot Brut from Anderson Valley. I keep seeing it on wine lists I admire. I've seen it at Box and Bells and State Bird Provisions. It's more chardonnay than pinot noir and has that apple flavor that is so distinctive of Anderson Valley. Plus, it's only $20."
Tuesday night pairing: "I'd have fresh Dungeness crab out of the shell with an easy Vietnamese dipping sauce that I make by mixing lime juice, brown sugar, cilantro stems, chili paste and fresh garlic cloves with a splash of fish sauce. Add some fried chips made out of one new potato, and a half-bottle of Roederer Estate Brut, and that's my Tuesday night."
-- Jessica Yadegaran