Pop’s for Champagne bartender Ana Wano toasts managing partner Ian Smoke. Photo by Angela Gagnon

After a dark year void of celebration, things look a bit brighter.

“We all work in healthcare and can’t wait to have a glass of champagne to celebrate together,” said Emily Haglage, a physical therapist eager to toast with her girlfriends.

Kathryn Alvera, proprietor of Marchesa restaurant, 535 N. Wells St., has been selling champagne to “thirsty Chicagoans” for years and is eager to welcome guests into her restaurant and subterranean Champagne Cave.

“We are so excited to be opening up again, and we’re smiling behind our masks,” she said.

Wine director Michael Seward, who has been behind the bar at Pop’s for Champagne, 601 N. State St., for more than 23 years, said people tend to see champagne strictly as a celebratory symbol, but it’s actually very versatile and pairs well with any food for any occasion.

“Right now people are getting together for the first time in a while, and there’s never been a better time to enjoy a bottle of champagne,” Seward said.

Though champagne has a reputation for sporting a hefty price tag, there’s a lot of really good sparkling wine at all price points, according to Alvera. So popping a cork to celebrate that birthday, graduation or anniversary doesn’t have to break the bank.

“Champagne is mysterious and expensive, and the world of wine is very vast,” said Seward, who recommends finding a proper wine shop or sommelier for advice.

Speaking to someone who curated the list will know the history of the vineyards and the current growing conditions that can impact the year’s wine production.

Alvera suggests exploring grower or boutique champagne houses that aren’t widely produced, but have their own unique style and offer great value.

“Every artisan product has hundreds of years of history, and there’s a fascinating story behind each house,” Alvera said. “So choosing a bottle this way means you can find what you like, buy in your budget and taste a bit of history.”

“At Pop’s, we really pride ourselves on a well-rounded list with a lot of items and we can help you out,” Seward added.

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