Category Archives: Sparkling Wine

Sparkling Wine, oui, Champagne, non

Stellars Jay Sparkling Wine


I feel like I’m generally alone amongst my peers in my general indifference to Champagne. It’s not that I don’t love it—I do—it’s just that for the $65 a bottle of Lanson Black Label set me back I’d get a red wine that I’d probably enjoy more. And don’t get met started on the $250+ for a bottle of the amazingly excellent Krug Grand Cuvee. But that doesn’t mean I skip the bubbles—I just keep it local. People often gripe about OK wine prices but a bottle of Stellar’s Jay (left) is $27—and for me Veuve Cliquot is not 3 times better, but it is 3 times pricier. Ditto the new Entourage Sparkling Chardonnay from Jackson Triggs. Its elegant lightness is evocative of Taitinger’s Comte de Champagne, but it costs $30 not $175.  And unlike really cheap bubbles that are either injected with gas or bottled under pressure (like most prosecco) these wines go through the painstaking (and expensive) method classique which is the same as the big boys. Don’t get me wrong—I do see the magic in a bottle of Bollinger RD but it’s a time (rarely) a place (hopefully someone else’s house) wine for me. These two are everyday drinkers

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McWatters Collection Chardonnay 2011

McWatters Chardonnay

McWatters Collection Chardonnay 2011
BC, $30

One sip of this wine and I’m instantly transported back to the early 1990s. I’m working at the Wine Cellar in Edmonton and owner Hank Gillespie is opening a bottle of Sonoma-Cutrer Les Pierres, a prototypical Californian Chardonnay—oaky, buttery, pineapple-y. I loved it, but in the years since, legions of cheap wines from all corners of vindom knocked the style off—using rafts of oak chips to mask flaws in mass-produced plonk, the result being that the terms “oaky” or “buttery” in a Chardonnay became synonymous with plonk. So imagine my surprise when I opened this new offering from local wine legend Harry McWatters, and found that he’s not hopping on the oak-bad, stainless steel-good bandwagon, but instead has crafted a chard that’s opulent, rich and not afraid to say it tastes like “buttered toast” in its tasting note.

Best Wines for Thanksgiving Dinner

Summerhill Cipes Ariel 1998
BC, $85
Whoa, whoa, whoa: $85 clams for a bottle of BC sparkling wine? Bear with of us for sec. For starters, it’s 14 years old—try and track down some Champagne with this sort of age and it’s second mortgage time. The age gives that wonderfully toasty, nutty flavor profile (with some bread-y and dried apple) that only age brings to bubbles. The bottle is a bit of a hot mess design-wise, but it’s distinct.

Archery Summit Premier Cuvee Pinot Noir 2009
Oregon, $65
The great thing about Oregon Pinot (no, it’s not the price) is how many different expressions there are in a relatively small area. While a lot of producers want to talk about their “Burgundian” style, I find I’m often drawn to those who try to blend the finesse of Burgundy with some of the power of Sonoma for a distinctly Oregonian Pinot. Of these, my new fave is Archery Summit, whose “entry-level”Premier Cuvee is available here and is dynamite. It has 14.5% alcohol, which might put off some steadfast Francophiles, but it has such a nice backbone of acidity that it has no flab at all. It does have a beautiful perfumed nose of flowers and dry bark, and nice hit of complex raspberry and cherry in the mouth. Expensive but a lock for a nice dinner.

Mission Hill Perpetua Chardonnay 2009
Okanagan, $40
Everyone seems to be crowing about his or her pure “un-oaked” Chardonnay, that it actually seems like an edgy choice to go the White Burgundy route and find a Chardonnay with a nice amount of oak. This is Mission Hill’s top white bottling, it comes in an fairly impressive bottle and even at $40, it’s not massively more expensive than a lot of wineries’ “normal” Chardonnays. You get all those classic modifiers: peachy, pineappley, buttery, a little vanilla, but none are overbearing, and some subtle citrus balances them. Very nice (if you can’t find Perpetua, Foxtrot’s 2010 Chardonnay is also of a like, albeit more expensive, mind).

Road 13 Vineyards Sparkling Chenin Blanc 2008

Road 13 Vineyards Sparkling Chenin Blanc 2008
BC, $35

Road 13 has been such a solid performer for the past few years that when I heard they were adding a sparkling wine to their portfolio, I was fairly confident that it would be good. Surprisingly, instead of taking the safe route of making a classic bottling with a blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay, they took a serious flier and made it with the slightly sweeter, far less austere Chenin Blanc—and in so doing have created Loire-style sparkling wine remniscent of a floating bushel of green apples and ripe pears. And they’ve topped it with a no-nonsense beer cap to show that, bubbles or not, they’re still keeping it real.