BC Bubbles for NYE (and days beyond)

For much of the year, the sparkling wine shelf in our local liquor stores receives barely more than a cursory glance. During the holidays we’re expected to sidle up to 750ml of bubbly with ease and select the right fit for our evening of extravagance and decadence. No pressure, right?

Many of us have wine anxiety even when the stakes are lower and there’s less glitter involved. If it’s not a world we spend much time in, standing in front of an endless row of stylish labels with words like cava or methode traditionelle can easily make us feel overwhelmed.

Let’s simplify the playing field: when selecting a sparkling wine this year, choose one from BC. We have talented folks crafting delightful bubbles in our own backyard. Let’s celebrate with them.

Bella Ancentral 2014

Traditional Method (champagne-style)

Made in the method of sparklers from Champagne, these bubbles tend to be full-bodied with varying degree of dryness. Our BC winemakers can use different grapes than what’s permitted to make champagne in France (chardonnay, pinot noir, pinot meunier).

Bella Wines 2013 Sparkling Blanc de Blancs, Oliver West Side bone-dry (residual sugar: <3g/l), BC, $23.90

Arguably the first bubble house in the province (only producing sparkling wines), Bella is a study of place. Using chardonnay (for white) and gamay (for rosé), winemaker Jay Drysdale focuses on a single vineyard at a time. Best enjoyed with serious bubble lovers, and food – plenty of food.

Gray Monk 2012 Odyssey White Brut dry-fruity (residual sugar: 7.8g/l), BC/AB/+, $24.99 and up

The Heiss family established their winery in 1972, making them a cornerstone of our young industry. A blend of pinot blanc, chardonnay, and riesling, this brut is lovely combination of citrus and fruity notes that directs your palate toward sweet without oodles of sugar. Best enjoyed before a meal or with light appetizers.

Summerhill Cipes Brut NV off-dry (residual sugar: 11.2g/l), BC/AB/+, $26.95 and up

Any list of BC sparklers wouldn’t be complete without something from the folks who built a pyramid. A blend of riesling and chardonnay (with some pinot blanc), this wine is an example of winemaker Eric von Krosigk’s love for the bubble and sense of adventure. Versatile enough to enjoy before, during, or after a meal.

Sumac Ridge Stellar’s Jay 2008 off-dry (residual sugar: 11g/l), BC/AB/+, $24.99 and up

A staple in any BC bubbly lineup, Stellar’s Jay has a recognizable label and is a go-to choice for many. This blend of pinot noir, chardonnay, and pinot blanc is readily available outside of BC and within the province. Bright fruit gives a perception of sweet, but the medium body provides good weight. Easy sipping on its own, or with festive fare.

Prosecco/Frizzante/Charmat

Ranging from dry, to off-dry, to sweet. Without getting too technical and speaking largely in generalities, here’s a breakdown: prosecco is most often a dry sparkling wine (originally from Italy); frizzante is a generic term that refers to a lightly sparkling wine with less bubbles than traditional sparklers; charmat style wines get their fizz while in larger pressurized containers.

Orofino 2013 Muscato Frizzante dry/off-dry, BC, $25

This wine was crafted out of necessity: winery owners John and Virginia wanted something special to greet guests with at their annual 1.6 Mile Dinner. It’s a great welcome-to-the-party beverage, an ideal match for foods with a little heat, and can be sipped with ease well into the evening.

Stoneboat Vineyards Piano Brut NV dry/off-dry (residual sugar: 9.5g/l), BC/AB, $24.90+

The only wine in BC produced with charmat tanks (specially pressurized to add carbonation once the wine goes through fermentation), the prosecco-inspired Piano is made from pinot blanc and muller thurgau. If someone could bottle summer, this would be it. Think back to days spent lakeside with the sun on your face and laughter in the air.

Cheers,

~ Jeannette

S and R 05

lessons in masonry: Dubh Glas Distillery

That’s right: I visited a distillery and learned something about masonry.

Making a living as a writer isn’t a good fit for those who crave the stability of a regular paycheque or certainty of retirement. However, it has some gloriously awesome days – like today, when I visited soon-to-open Dubh Glas Distillery on assignment for EAT Magazine (article coming soon). While I did taste two excellent examples of whisky (nothing yet available from Dubh Glas), I was surprised to find myself happily slathering mortar on a rock.

Grant Stevely is the force behind Dubh Glas, whose sign I’ve read countless times in anticipation of a distillery opening within a seven minute drive of my house. Living in BC wine country is pretty fabulous, but diversity of beverages is alluring.

Stevely – as he’s known – spent time learning about construction after leaving his former ski resort life and prior to jumping into the distillery world. He also learned a bit about masonry so he’s putting his skills to work on his own building. I’m not the first visitor to affix a rock to the wall and I’m sure I won’t be the last.

Thanks for the lesson, Stevely. I look forward to sipping some cask strength whisky with you soon.

 

Wet the rock and the place it’s to be affixed. Have freshly mixed mortar at the ready.

 

Spread the mortar on the back of the rock, ensuring no air bubbles. Taper-smooth the edges.

 

Give your camera to someone for a rare photograph-the-writer-with-mortar moment.

 

Firmly (but gently) squish the rock onto the wall, so mortar oozes out the sides. When your rock slides, wedge a small chip under it. Voila! You’re done.

f*ck the list: why we love (and loathe) best-ofs

It’s the end of a year, which means the interwebs are chock-full with “best-of” lists: wine, beer, travel, pop culture moments, and <insert random hipster shit here>. Oh joy.

I get that there’s big love for these lists. They help us navigate through an avalanche of consumer options, especially when most of our product research begins with the tippety-tap of fingers on keyboard. A top-whatever guide helped my fella and I select our last car. We got (mostly) what we wanted, too.

In the consumables/experiences world, ‘best-of’ lists are acquiring an air of not-so-humble brags and mutual back-scratchings – I list your product, and you promote me as a reviewer/writer/whatever. It’s icky, but it happens.

With that in mind – and knowing how many freebies float around in the world of reviewing (whether it’s a car to drive for a week, accommodation at a resort, or a bottle of something to taste) – I find I’m becoming increasingly sceptical of ‘best-of’ lists. There are no groups of people roving the world, sampling/trying/testing/whatevering on their own dime. Well, there might be. But I doubt there are many because they’d go broke pretty quickly.

So I say fuck the lists. All of them. And I say this knowing full well that some of my friends write really good lists, fairly, with little if any bias. (we all have bias – it’s knowing how to disclose it that’s important)

Rather than ‘best-of’, let’s call the lists what they are: favourites. Teachers, coaches, and choir instructors all have them. It’s normal to have favourites – partly because they don’t remain static, but also because we have bias. If you have a sibling, your parents likely had a favourite – it changed, depending on who was better behaved or was the first to learn how to mix a rye and Coke just right.

Here are a few of my favourites from 2013, in no particular order. Just because.

Moment of Trust: sheep cull at Covert Farms.

Covert Farms 18

First, Gene’s trust in me to document a sheep cull on his family farm. Second, EAT Magazine’s trust in me to write something palatable about it. This led me to a few more interesting moments on the farm, and is evolving into a larger writing commitment that has yet to fully form. Mostly, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude to be part of this world of good people. (FYI: the farm will be my hideout during the Zombie Apocalypse)

Example of Generosity With An Almost Stranger: Skype chat with Meg Maker. We have yet to meet in person, and when we do it will be epic (and I rarely use that word). I was faced with a challenge, and Meg offered her time and experience to help guide me through it. She’s a brilliant writer and a kind person.

40th Birthday Present I Didn’t Ask For: tickets to see KISS with Allison Markin.

KISS

The KISS army is real – and very dedicated. This guy (centre) worked super hard all concert, giving huge air-fist-pumps like nobody’s business.

So much happened this year – in my little corner and around the world. We grieved for the loss of Nelson Mandela, witnessed a factory collapse and kill thousands in Bangladesh, and we discussed ad nauseam the birth of a royal baby. Spectacular feats and pop culture spectacles replay at different intervals with no apparent logic. 

You know what? I say fuck my list, too. It has no meaning for anyone but me and I know that; maybe it’s of interest to a few of the friends I’ve mentioned here. But ultimately, my best-of/favourites is a list of things that are central to me. It’s not an objective thing at all, and I get ticked off when people writing a list pretend it is.

The lists are inescapable, and many are entertaining – but enter the best-of melee with caution. It’s crazy out there.

~ Jeannette

PS: the idea for this came during an evening of indulging with Wendy and Jay of Bella Wines – and while we didn’t consume any of their bubbles that night, they are delicious and should probably be on a list somewhere (see Wendy – i wasn’t that drunk and did write about this after all)