Ring in 2012 with these bubbly vintages

We are almost there, the dreaded 2012. We survived 1984 and Y2K so with a little luck, which means that Earth-shattering asteroid will miss us and we’ll make it past Dec. 21, 2012.

You know, the end of the world.

Just in case though, let’s go out in style with bubbles galore.

Shall we spend our last dimes on vintage Champagne? I could think of worse ways to go. I’d have a hard time deciding between ’02 Bollinger ($100), ’01 Vilmart & Cie Coeur de Cuvee Brut ($125), ’99 Saint Charmant Brut Blanc de Blancs ($90) and ’00 Ayala Blanc de Blancs ($85). The first two are richer with Bollinger being especially yeasty and Vilmart on the toasty side. Ayala is the most elegant and Saint Charmant the creamiest.

I’d be happy to settle for nonvintage Champagne. For five years running, the full-bodied Besserat de Bellefon Cuvee des Moines, NV ($50) has been tops on my list. If you’re looking for high-toned aromatics, try Gonet Médeville Brut Tradition 1er Cru, NV ($50), a medium-bodied wine with floral, apricot and mineral components. For something austere, Pierre Gimmonet et Fils 1er Cuis Brut, NV ($50) is your guy with its tart green apple, apple skin, oyster shell and mineral-laden qualities.

Rosé Champagne is extra festive. I have to give another prop to Gonet Médeville for its Rosé Extra Brut, NV ($60), which has equal proportions of subtle berry fruit and minerals. Champagne Thienot Rosé ($70) is pleasantly fruit-driven and at the other end is Champagne L. Aubry, Brut Rosé, NV ($60), a yeastier wine with a pastry doughlike nose.

For less than $40, you cannot go wrong with Pierre Moncuit Hugues de Coulmet Blanc de Blancs ($39) or Monthuys Pere & Fils Brut Reserve, NV ($33).

Outside of Champagne, tasty bubbly can be found for quite a bit less money. My new favorite Cava is Mercat Cava Brut Nature ($18), an austere, superminerally treat from Spain, though I am equally enamored with Bodegas Raventós i Blanc, ’08 Cava Rosado ‘de Nit’ ($24), a fragrant gem. Moving to that other Iberian country, the ’09 Luis Pato Bruto Espumante Branco ($19) from Beiras in Portugal always makes me smile with its floral aroma and stone-fruit flavor.

Going back to France, the ’08 J. Laurens Brut Blanquette de Limoux from the Languedoc is piquant, delicate and sublime. Skipping over to Germany, Fitz-Ritter Riesling Sekt Extra Brut Trocken, NV ($18) keeps getting better and better with its melange of tart stone and tropical fruits.

On the domestic front, ’08 Schramsberg Brut Rose ($35) tickles me pink. Not to be outdone, ’06 Iron Horse Classic Vintage Classic Vintage Brut ($30) has a searing meyer lemon flavor that has an endorphin-producing tanginess. Not least, a shout goes out to the ’00 Gloria Ferrer Carneros Cuvee ($50), an immensely yeasty bottle that explodes with flavor on the palate.

While there are many other worthy sparkling wines, these 20 are the most memorable of 2011. Assuming the Apocalypse is not upon us over the next 12 months, I look forward to trying and sharing many more with you next year. Happy holidays.

Pamela S. Busch is the owner of Skrewcap.com, founder of CAV Wine Bar and a Bay Area wine consultant. Please submit your questions to Pamela@Skrewcap.com.

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