Cook’s California Champagne Brut – 187ml bottle 4 pack

First off, let’s just address the French elephant in the room. Cook’s isn’t really champagne. That honorific is reserved for sparkling wines made in the Champagne region of France. But as time goes ever forward, many non-Champagne sparklers have adopted a twist on the name. Hence we’ve got “California Champagne” here. That helps get dollars out of the pockets of folks who are looking for champagne-like substances but know nothing about how to pick a sparkling wine beyond Bae Likes Champers. And I don’t blame those folks; as a descriptive it makes things easier. 

And yeah, Cook’s is known for being…shall we say on the lower end of the wine spectrum. “The stuff you open when everyone’s tits-up at 2am long after the New Year’s toast with the good stuff” comes to mind. (I’ve done this myself once or twice. Okay, more like a whole lotta times.) But if I’m being honest? The very first time I had champagne I was lucky enough to taste a 1990 Dom Perignon, courtesy of my friend’s hubby. She and I thought it tasted horrible, and cut it with Sprite after the first few sips. We were trash. But we knew what we liked, and that didn’t include wine that tasted like newly soaked yeast. It wasn’t our jam. (Note: as we’d decanted that bottle in the mid-90s, perhaps it would have gotten much richer/deeper after a few more years…but I still hold that we,and our tastebuds at the time,  were trash.)

That said, I’ve developed a palate for the fizzy stuff over the years, and I now enjoy a suitably yeasty bottle much more than the super sweet moscato that seems to be all the rage of late. What can I say; I like pairing sweets and rich nibbles with the drier stuff because it helps cut said sweet and richness. Cook’s minis definitely help with that, though as it’s a cheaper brand there’s not the rush of yeast and fresh air that “klassier” bottles give up. And I’m okay with that. 

Why? Because Cook’s is enough. Just dry enough. With hints of fruity goodness that goes well with the way I like to drink my champers – with a few bits of mango, cherries or berries tossed in. Holds up exceedingly well even after a humongous ice cube has plopped in and melted. (What? I like my champagne extremely chilled. And I’m still trash.) Sure, the purists will scoff, but it’s a lovely bottle to crack open on a Taco Tuesday when you’re feeling a bit Treat Yo Self. The fizz is loud and proud, and cuts through any overabundance of flavor/fat/sugar that may hide in your nibbles of choice. It’s not seltzer fizz, but damn if this pour doesn’t cleanse the tongue nicely after a mouthful of popcorn. Yep, popcorn. Because these minis are tailor-made for sneaking into theaters. What? Like I’m the only one. Okay fine; it’s perfect for Netflix binges as well, because they’re proportioned nicely. And of course it’s great with brunch. In fact, I’m betting that fancy bottomless mimosa buffet you just hit mixed orange juice with this stuff. And it was so tasty, you never suspected. Surprise!

Each mini holds about two flutes of bubbly, one for mains, and one for afters. They’re also great for picnics, camping trips – they fit nicely into camp chair beverage holders – and if you just want to be silly and stick a straw into a bottle and go for it. As this Brut is more Extra Dry (translation; a bit sweeter than the usual Brut, though with a nice clean finish after the whiff of fruit) it pair well with just about anything. Heck, I’m thinking it’d be a great tailgating bubble with a bowl of chili. Just soak the label off if you want to get your snooty friend in on the action. She won’t know what hit her ‘til the nachos are gone. Boom; another bargain shopper is born. Ain’t no shame in this discount game y’all. No shame at all. 


Denise Kitashima Dutton has been a reviewer since 2003, and hopes to get the hang of things any moment now. She believes that bluegrass is not hell in music form, and that beer is better when it’s a nitro pour. Besides GMR, you can find her at Atomic Fangirl,, or at that end seat at the bar, multi-tasking with her Kindle.