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California Wine: Bubbles at the Beach

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If you're going to decide to throw the only wine festival dedicated solely to sparkling wine in the United States, you might go even further out and have a "real" mermaid there too. That's what's on the bill for Bubblyfest by the Sea, happening October 24-26 in Pismo Beach. There'll be a cocktail event, seminars, and of course tastings -- one of which will feature a tent with a mermaid waiting for you to pose beside, and then if you hashtag your photos (#bubblyfest) you can even get a print for free (social media just keeps moving, doesn't it?).

"I believe that sparkling wine, while having been a staple in our wine cellars for generations, is currently seeing a vogue resurgence through wine makers, mixologists and popular culture," says Holly Holliday, owner of Create Promotions, and the person who developed the event. "I see wine makers expanding their repertoire and mixologists working with unique base ingredients for cocktails; and because this resurgence is so new, I think I'm the first person to jump on the wave."

It's easy to think of sparkling wine producers in the U.S. hankering after the cachet of Champagne, one of the last bastions of French privilege in the wine world. A weekend like this one will make it clear, with over 40 producers, that the upstart Americans have learned a thing or two. Especially when one of the seminars will feature Steve Clifton, one of the first sparkling wine producers in Santa Barbara County. "Having produced his first vintage of sparkling wine at Brewer-Clifton in 1993, he took a break but came back in 2010 to produce sparkling under the Brewer-Clifton and Palmina labels," Holliday says. "He utilizes non-traditional grapes for his sparkling wines, such as his malvasia, nebbiolo, and barbera. I believe that his seminar will inspire a new legion of sparkling wine fans to look beyond chardonnay and pinot, and that's exciting."

Holliday emphasizes the event should be fun, saying, "It's a festival dedicated to sparkling wine and champagne, but we are not taking it too seriously. We're bringing in elegance while including a man-cave, for woman too of course, complete with Miller High-Life (The Champagne of Beers) and The Libertine (sampling unique wild ales), a fake deer head on the wall, sofas, and flat screen TV for video games." That also helps fight any sense that sparkling wine is too-girly a drink, which always seemed funny given monks were the ones to create it in the first place.

And not to make too fine a transition, but there will also be a sabering demo, so people can learn -- but not practice themselves, as there's no liability form strong enough to allow for that -- the fine art of disgorging corks with the swift slash of a keen blade.

According to Holliday, think of Bubblyfest as something to make up for the World of Pinot Noir Festival moving down the coast to Santa Barbara. "I had been approached by some hoteliers in Pismo Beach asking me to create an event that would be a unique replacement for the loss of that event," Holliday explains. "Since I work often on the road, it's nice to have a festival in my own backyard. Besides, the backdrop is stunning and one that hundreds of thousands of people flock to annually."

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