With so much delicious B.C. wine out there, and new wineries springing up almost every day, it’s hard to know where to start drinking… until now
Welcome to the festive edition of B.C. wine 101! Here you’ll find everything you need to fill your glass throughout the holiday season. For the first time, we blind tasted dozens of wines with a crack team of industry professionals to bring you the ultimate, crowd-pleasing picks of bubbles, red and white turkey wines, and delicious dessert wines. All that plus expert advice, a winemaker interview and some fun gift suggestions (spoiler: it’s wine).
Have a fantastic time over the holidays, and don’t forget to treat your designated driver!
1. Ten sparkling wines to pop your cork
klenovaFrom CO2-infused frizzante-style and Charmat Method bubbles to wines made in the traditional Champagne method, here are 10 of each guaranteed to please over the holidays...
- Thornhaven Infusion Frizzante 2017, $20: A great easy drinking fruity bubble. A fun soda-pop sweetie for drinking anytime.
- Unsworth Rosé Charme D’Isle, $25: Zippy and delicious with a beautiful blush colour. Perfect as an apéritif wine.
- Mission Hill Exhilaration Brut, $30: The first bubbles from Mission Hill. More savoury than fruity. This is a mineral-y palate cleanser. Bet it’s perfect with oysters!
- Cedar Creek Home Block Sparkling Brut $24.99: Brand new and this was one of the favourites of the night. It's floral, bright and delicious! Aromatic and refreshing, a true crowd-pleaser. Christmas morning wine!
- Stoneboat Bubble Boat, $18.90: Nose like a traditional-method bubble. Fruity, dry and refreshing with tasty minerality.
- Blue Grouse Paula Sparkling 2014, $31: Rich, complex, yummy, crisp and yummy. Loved this.
- Sperling Blanc de Blanc Nature 2013, $50: Crisp lemony with a savoury, herbal finish. Honey and apricots with a fresh saltiness.
- Blue Mountain Gold Label Brut, $27.90: Exactly what I want for Christmas! Light, easy with crisp Granny Smith freshness.
- Gray Monk Odyssey, $25.99: Fruity, frothy and complex with a beautiful nose.
- Fitz Brut 2015, $32.99: Refreshing! Hits the spot.
2. Wine clubs: the gift that keeps on giving
Did you know that many of B.C.s most celebrated wines sell out each year before most of us even get the chance to taste them? You can’t find them in wine stores and often they sell out at the cellar door before summer wine touring even starts. But there’s an easy way to make sure you get to try these special wines—join a wine club! Far more flexible than you think (nope, you won’t be locked into an endless contract!), offering deals, free tastings and tours, member benefits galore and access to exclusive wines no one else can buy, here are my picks which, hint hint, make perfect holiday gifts.
Moon Curser Vineyards ‘Highly Suspicious’ club offers total flexibility with which wines you receive. You need to commit to two cases a year (24 bottles). In return, you get free shipping, 15 percent off all wines in excess of your 24 bottles, exclusive tours and tastings, priority access to limited releases (such as their Tannat 2014), library releases and winery events.
Intersection Winery has a couple of clubs, but its Crossing Club, with just a six-bottle annual obligation is a great starter wine club for newbies. You get 10 percent credit from each purchase, free tasting and a tour, a free class at the Vinstitute wine school, and exclusive access to limited run wines such as their amarone-style Appassimento (so limited you can only get one bottle a year!)
TH Wines By Hand club offers shipments every two months which cost $149.99 for four bottles with free shipping. You can skip shipments if you give notice. Perks include: free shipping on any additional orders placed online and a personal tour and tasting with Tyler Harlton at the winery. Deliveries include a recipe from a local chef, handcrafted treats, such as cookies or dried fruit, and exclusive access to the members-only wine made each vintage, which Tyler tells me for this coming year will be Malbec, a wild ferment Roussanne and a Pinot Noir rosé.
Okanagan Crush Pad asks club members to commit to two cases a year, picking whichever wines they want from Haywire and Narrative’s portfolio, with 20 percent off additional wines. Members also get advance notice on events, special end-of-lot offers, exclusive wines, discounts on all wines and spirits in their portfolio, new updates, tasting notes, food-pairing suggestions, plus a free VIP tasting for up to six people.
Bella usually sells out of its incredible bubbles each year (pretty much before almost anyone else in the Valley). There are five tiers of their wine club starting with a $190 entry level Pétillant membership (three bottles twice a year) and rising to a $650 Grand Cuvée membership ($701 value for the 18 bottles). Membership also gives a 15 percent discount on additional wine purchases, first access to library and limited-edition wines, first access to Bella events, and complimentary wine tasting.
Synchromesh also usually sells out fast; their club ships one case (12 bottles) each year in May. Just pick from a white, red or mixed pack to score their killer Riesling, Pinot Noir and Cab Franc. The Riesling pack starts at $316.38 (value $372), members also received 15 percent off additional wines.
Can’t commit to just one winery? Try the BC VQA club, which focuses on winning wines from the Okanagan Wine Festival competitions. Each collection includes detailed tasting notes, award information, food-pairing suggestions and cellaring recommendations. Prices start with their mixed half case of reds and whites from $150 plus shipping. Wines are sent out each spring and fall.
Full disclosure, I’ve been doing some work with these folks, but think there’s a lot to offer here for people who don’t want to commit to just one winery. Great Estates Okanagan represents eight winery brands, including Black Sage Vineyards, Nk’Mip and See Ya Later Ranch. Options start at two bottles a month for $50 and rise to a VIP package for a two-case-a-year commitment. Benefits include 15 percent off winery restaurants, a 15 percent discount at Spirit Ridge Resort & Spa, invites to exclusive members-only events, and complimentary wine tours and tastings.
Love the wines of the Naramata Bench? Their Best of the Bench wine club ships a mixed case of Naramata Bench wines twice a year, offering limited production wines, invitations to Naramata Bench events in Naramata and Vancouver and deals on wine.
3. Ten ultimate turkey wines
HalfpointOh, what to bring to the table when it comes to the most important meal of the year? We taste-tested dozens of turkey-loving wines and have reds and whites that are surefire crowd-pleasers. In no particular order…
- 50th Parallel Gewurtraminer 2017, $19.90: Classic turkey wine. A floral, drinkable sip for all.
- Deep Roots Parentage 2016, $22: This wine has mass appeal! Don’t write it off because it’s on the sweet side, it has great acidity.
- Thornhaven Gewurtraminer 2016, $18.03: Great acidity with a tropical-gooseberry nose.
- Stoneboat Pinot Gris 2017, $19.90: Floral, pretty with well-balanced acidity.
- Gray Monk Gewurtraminer 2016, $15.99: Wonderful with turkey. Well-balanced and crisp.
- Cedar Creek Platinum Block 2 Pinot Noir 2014, $60.99: Approachable, fruity and great for pairing with festive meals.
- Lunessence Crescendo, 2016, $29.99: Tasty and savoury! Rich black fruit with a nice balance.
- Roche ‘Tradition’ Pinot Noir 2015, $34.90: Such a crowd-pleaser! Great fruit, light body.
- Fort Berens Pinot Noir 2016, $24.99: Friendly and approachable, super fruit-forward. A great middle-of-the-table wine.
4. Expert wine tips for Christmas
Sparkling wine is a great thing to have around for the holidays. And it isn’t just for celebrations. It is actually one of the best food-pairing wines and can pair well with a surprising number of foods from salads to roast chicken. Try the Blue Mountain Blanc de Blancs and Noble Ridge The One for a couple of complex, traditional method wines that are good from canapés to seafood and white meats. I also love a good Aperol Spritz and something like the Evolve Frizzante is perfect in place of Prosecco and a nice fruity holiday breakfast bubbly.
Having plenty of value wines on hand for those spur-of-the-moment gatherings that won’t break the bank is also essential over the holidays: Quails’ Gate rosé or River Stone Malbec rosé will go with everything. Sperling Old Vine Pinots is a new blend of Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc that is a great crisp, refreshing all-rounder. Bartier Bros Cabernet Franc is a lovely example of this grape in B.C. and won’t break the bank at $26.
To pair with cheese, try La Frenz Liqueur Muscat with blue or strong cheese or any off-dry, fruity white with medium cheeses.
For Christmas lunch, take a bottle of Le Vieux Pin Cuvée Violette Syrah and blow them away!
5. Our five fave dessert wines
Wine of British ColumbiaSure, plenty of folks claim to hate sweeter dessert-style wines, but meet five which will make 'em think again. We taste-tested these with cheese and also chocolate and they pair perfectly with both.
- Summerhill Ehrenfelser Icewine, $95: Intense strawberry and peach nose. Yummy with cheese. Just beautiful.
- Quails Gate Totally Botrytis Affected Optima 2017, $28.99: Gorgeous colour, nice acidity, hoppy nose. Not too sweet, so great for those who want a more savoury take.
- Stoneboat Verglas Icewine 2015, $36.90: Silky apricots and honey. So festive!
- Sperling Vidal Icewine 2015, $55: Delicious! Gorgeous colour, great acidity. A winner!
- Mission Hill Riesling Icewine 2015, $56.99: This is what Icewine is all about! Okanagan in a glass.
6. Meet the Maker, Grant Biggs, winemaker at Kitsch Wines
What’s your go-to fireside wine?
When I'm getting my cuddle on next to a fire, I want to drink something that will warm my core as much as the flames warm my skin. Big pretty reds like the 2015 Le Vieux Pin Equinoxe and the 2015 Echo Bay Synoptic pair with fireside sessions.
What will you be drinking on Christmas morning?
When I'm sitting down to tear the wrapping paper off this year's haul of new socks, I like to crush a couple of bottles of bubbles. The Ancestral Method Gamay from Bella and the Blanc de Noir from Tantalus are definitely bottles worthy of celebrating the luxury of warm feet.
What’s the perfect pairing with turkey?
After spending hours in the kitchen preparing a perfectly brined and oven-roasted turkey, I like to enjoy all the wine—after all, I earned it! This year, I'll be drinking the 2017 Spearhead Pinot Noir Cuveé and the 2016 Meyer Family Vineyard Micro Cuveé Chardonnay. They're both elegant wines, worthy and up to the task of accompanying the most important meal of the year.
What’s your seasonal hangover tip?
Get outside, preferably in the snow, and enjoy that crisp, refreshing winter air. Snowshoeing, skating, skiing and snowboarding are great hangover cures, but if you're anything like me, sitting in a hot tub with Synchromesh Riesling does the trick too.
What should we be drinking from Kitsch over the season?
If you're looking for the gift that keeps on giving, I'd recommend our 2017 Kitsch Wines Maria's Block Riesling. It's very crushable right now, but also makes a great gift for all the wine lovers in your life because it has at least a decade of cellar ability for those who want to taste its evolution.