8 B.C. bubblies worth a toast

Bubbles are big business in B.C., with more than 40 wineries producing sparkling wines—from the Okanagan to the Gulf Islands

Bubbles are big business in B.C., with more than 40 wineries producing sparkling wines—from the Okanagan to the Gulf Islands

We all love local here in Vancouver, so why not support one of our wineries over the holidays and drink some beautiful B.C. bubbles instead of the usual cava, prosecco or champagne? I promise: if you’ve never tried B.C. sparkling wines, you’re in for a treat.

I spoke with all-round wine genius, Dave Stansfield, sommelier for Tap & Barrel restaurants and Vancouver Urban Winery to get a handy B.C. sparkling wine 101.

Tantalus Vineyards says: A magnificent pale rose-petal pink in colour, the wine pours with a wonderfully persistent bead and mouth-filling mousse. Aromas of sun-baked red apple, fresh oysters, orchard blossom and cherry almond biscotti lift out of the glass. The palate has a voluptuous mouth feel with raspberry, refreshing gooseberry and lush mandarin topped off with a pink grapefruit flesh finish that carries on and on. We see this sparkling evolving beautifully over the next five to seven years.

David Stansfield says: What’s cool about Tantalus is that it’s a single vineyard sparkling wine, so made from a single block of Pinot Noir. Traditionally, champagne did not celebrate the grower and vineyard, it was all about the house and the name. Hipster sommeliers are really into ‘grower’ champagnes and there is a big movement in champagne to celebrate smaller houses. So you can think about this wine as being all about who grew it, who made it and celebrate that. This is a traditional method wine and it tastes great with food.

Great Estates Okanagan says: Handcrafted in the Okanagan Valley using the traditional French “methode classique.” First produced in 1989 and named after British Columbia’s official bird, Steller’s Jay Brut stays true to its tradition by remaining one of Canada’s preeminent sparkling wines. White peach and golden hues flatter the ripe orchard fruit and citrus blossom aromas in this crisp and complex sparkling wine. Rich flavours of toasted nut and red berries layer the palate, resolving to a soft and creamy floral mousse finish.

David Stansfield says: This is an iconic wine and it’s become a reliable standby. That’s hard-earned, as not many wines have stood the test of time and this is a venerable and iconic B.C. sparkling wine. They hit on something smart and ran with it.

Gray Monk Estate Winery says: Made from a blend of Riesling, Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay Musque grapes, this pale straw-coloured wine provides a lively display of fine bubbles. The aroma is fruity and fresh. On the palate, the wine has a full creamy texture with flavours hinting of citrus fruits and apricots. The finish is crisply refreshing. 

David Stansfield says: Grey Monk are further north, so you’ll get more more acidity which works so well with that traditional method. Grey Monk may be big but they do fly under the radar; they’re not a much-discussed brand but maybe they should be.

Stoneboat Vineyards says: The Grand Piano Brut is produced using the authentic charmat method for natural bubbles. Made from old-vines Pinot Blanc, this stunning sparkler offers up beautiful peach and citrus aromas with bright flavours of white peach, grapefruit  and pineapple.

David Stansfield says: One of the first to use the charmat style to produce a great fruit-forward sparkler with little to none of that biscuit style you get with a traditional method. What’s cool is that this is an estate vineyard from the hotter part in Oliver and they have a rocky, calcum-rich soil which gives lots of mineralty. My favourite is their rosé.

Bella Wines says: Bella exclusively produces single vineyard, single varietal sparkling wines as we believe each vineyard has a different personality that comes through in the grapes produced.  We intentionally do not provide tasting notes as, just like when two people meet, what you pick up from someone’s personality may be different from ours.

David Stansfield says: If I could start a winery, it would be Bella, but they already did it! I love his concept: only make drinkable, serious sparkling wines. Bella is all about terroir—you can buy all single vineyard, all single variety sparkler, one from the east, one from west. You can explore terroir through sparkling wine which is something you usually associate with high-end Burgundy wines. I also dig the utilitarian crown cap, rather than a corkit shows its production and shows it’s handmade. It’s a serious wine in a package which doesn’t seem serious at all.

Okanagan Crush Pad says: Bottle-fermented and aged using Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes grown on cool vineyard sites in Oliver and Summerland. A fresh and lively wine with nice warm bread aromas and a crisp green apple finish, which is a shining example of what the Okanagan does best—crisp, fresh, and delicious. The Bub is proudly made by Okanagan Crush Pad’s sparkling winemaker, Jordan Kubek, who recommends pairing it with soft cheeses, fresh oysters or enjoying it purely on its own. This is a bold, austere bubble; crisp and fresh, with citrus and toasty notes, and a texture of light effervescence.

David Stansfield says: Haywire is a project from Okanagan Crush Pad, a (sort of) new kid on the block in Summerland. They make a bunch of different sparklers in an array of styles. The Bub, a classic traditional method blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, is their first and arguably still their best.

Summerhill Pyramid Winery says: This is a true Okanagan Valley classic, winning gold medals every year since first released in 1992. Made in the traditional method from organic Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc, it has aromas of apple, lime, pear, almonds and grapefruit. On the palate Cipes Brut exhibits crisp acidity, a soft, creamy mousse and a long finish.

David Stansfield says: Cipes (rhymes with pipes) is near and dear to my heart. I started my career working with Summerhill. I think that of all the wines this stands apart. Sure, it’s iconic like the Steller’s Jay, but in a weird rebellious way, like a punk icon rather than a well-dressed one. And I love it for that. There used to be a lot of Riesling in this, and now there’s more Pinot. It’s citrus-y, fruity, made in the traditional method and a cool mix of B.C and tradition.

Okanagan Crush Pad Winery says: This is the first harvest of organically-grown Pinot Noir from the spectacular new 320-acre Garnet Valley Ranch in Summerland, B.C. This Pinot Noir has been crafted into a sparkling wine using the ancient method. It began its fermentation with native yeasts in a concrete tank. Then it was transferred to bottle at 22 grams of residual sugar to finish its transformation. From there, it spent 10 months sur latte before being disgorged mid-August 2016. The results: a beguilingly complex, earthy and raw expression carrying a whimsical levity and brightness.

David Stansfield says: So I lied. There are more ways to make sparkling than three. This is made with the ‘method ancestrale.’ This is the grandfather of all sparkling wine and pre-dates the way champagne is made. You take the grapes, add ambient yeast and then put it in the bottle, cloudy, all the matter and it does its fermentation in the bottle. There’s no secondary fermentation, it’s just the initial one which produces a little less bubble, and a bit of ‘funk’ which soon blows away. This is really exciting when you think abut it; it’s the bubbling bridge to the first sparkling wines enjoyed! JY wanted to use this method to get out of the way and just let the quality of grapes shine. This is just Pinot Noir juice fermented in the bottle with the first grapes from that vineyard.