There's nothing better to set a festive mood than the sound of corks popping and sight of bubbles rising in a glass. While champagne and sparkling wine used to signify a celebration, it's now become a delightful beverage for any occasion, or no occasion at all. Sparkling wines are a fantastic accompaniment to an assortment of foods and as the wines grow in diversity of style, location and production, that versatility gains.

So, what's the difference between Champagne and sparkling wine you may ask? Champagne is a sparkling wine that comes from a specific French wine region with the same name. Only wines from this region can legally be called Champagne. All others are considered sparkling wines, including California versions and other popular types like Italian Prosecco and Spanish Cava.

Monterey County is a natural fit when it comes to creating exceptional "bubbles". Two of Monterey's most abundantly grown wine grape varietals, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, also happen to be the most used in sparkling wines throughout the world. And the world is beginning to notice. Caraccioli Cellars 2006 Brut Rosé was awarded the Best USA Rosé World Champion Winner in the 2014 Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships (out of 650 wines). This is the only global competition in which every judge agrees all the medals awarded.

Other winemakers in the county are also recognizing the popularity and versatility of sparkling wines and beginning to produce their own. Holman Ranch in Carmel Valley is set to release their version in 2017 comprised of their Estate Grown Pinot Noir and Chardonnay blend, creating a stunning pale pink hue. The base wine is currently aging in new French oak barrels and will be bottled sometime in February 2015.

Although Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the most common grapes in sparkling wines, this does not limit the varietals that can be used. Windy Oaks Estate, with a winery in Marina and tasting room in Carmel, is being very creative with its sparkling endeavors and they are working on a sparkling Albarino. The grapes will come from their Cedar Lane Vineyard in Arroyo Seco. The wine is now happily resting in-tank where it will remain until late winter, when then it will begin the roughly year-long process of adding bubbles.

That's quite the turn around, but well worth it. We'll cheers to that!

Above is some information that will help you enjoy your sparkling wine even more.