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More ideas as the White Christmas tour continues

By Dave Buchanan

The White Christmas 2010 tour continues with some ideas for inexpensive whites and bubblies for your holiday celebrations.

Holidays often are the time to splurge but there's something good to be said about saving money while enjoying the moment.

White wines and sparkling wines often provide the punch in many festive punches and since white wines tend to have less alcohol than red wines, you won't get worn down during a long day of rocking around the Christmas tree.

Best of all, in recent years the selection of affordable and delicious bubblies has grown.

You have to know your audience, of course. Champagne always is a crowd-pleaser but out of place if your guests only want an orange juice Bellini, as cousin Troy did with the Piper-Heidsieck Brut Rosé ($90) at Thanksgiving.

Most of these selections should be available in local stores.

Prosecco is perfect for the holidays and among the leaders in price and availability is Mionetto Prosecco Brut ($11), with crisp green apple highlights typical of well-made Proseccos.

Australia produces affordable bubblies made with the same grape varietals (pinot noir and chardonnay) and production method (methode champenoise) as the French Champagne houses but costing only a fraction of the French wines.

Seaview Brut Sparkling ($8-$9) slips below the radar of many sparkling wine drinkers but offers fresh, complex flavors at a great price.

Seppelt Great Western makes a sparking Shiraz that has nothing in common with the oversweet Cold Duck your parents drank in college. This Shiraz is bone dry and long-lived, with some vintages from the mid-90s still drinking quite well. From $17.

Cava is the Spanish version of sparkling wine, offering exceptional value and plenty of enjoyment.

The Jaume Serra Cristallino Brut (NV, $5) is made in the traditional method (secondary fermentation in the bottle) and while it doesn't have the complexity of much higher-priced Champagnes is a well-balanced sparkling wine at an amazing price.

You don't expect to find fine sparkling wine coming from New Mexico but winemaker Laurent Gruet, whose family has roots in the Champagne region of France, makes a true methode champenoise sparkling at his winery in Albuquerque.

Gruet produces seven different sparkling wines, including the non-vintage Blanc de Noirs, Brut and Rosé, all around $14.

The Grand Valley is producing some terrific white wines, particularly chardonnay, riesling and gewurtztraminer, at affordable prices. Among my favorites this year:

Carlson Vineyards – Riesling, Gewurtztraminer and Dry Gewurtztrminer and the Pinot Grigio (this probably is long sold out), all around $12.50.

Whitewater Hill – 2009 No-Oak Chardonnay ($14); 2009 Riesling ($11); 2008 Barrel Select Chardonnay ($13).

Other faves included Two Rivers Winery, Plum Creek Winery, DeBeque Canyon Winery and the exotic unfiltered Pinot Gris from Leroux Creek Vineyards in Hotchkiss.

Other choices include Hogue Cellars (Columbia Valley, Wash.) which is making terrific rieslings, sauvignon blancs and gerwurtztraminers from the high plains of eastern Washington. Which isn't any surprise if you've ever visited eastern Washing and realize how much it resembles the Grand Valley – high elevation, semi-desert, lots of sun and cool nights, irrigated vines.

All of the Hogue wines above list for around $10 or less. Plus, Hogue uses screwcaps on most its wines, both reds and whites, which I consider a plus-plus when choosing a wine.

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