What is California sparkling wine?

Green bottles at Roederer's California outpost

A very varied collection of some of the best. Above, remuage examined at Roederer.

Students of wine, especially those of us who take exams, are very concerned with ‘benchmark wines’. A wine that is so representative of its category that you can taste it and immediately tell where it’s from and what it is. I have heard people name Catena Malbec as Argentina’s benchmark Malbec. López de Heredia is used over and over by examiners to illustrate what an outstanding example of Rioja is supposed to taste like. Cloudy Bay New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Silver Oak Napa Cabernet, Roederer Champagne...