What we all love most about Christmas is how it really just takes care of itself. Kidding. We all know that the holidays have the potential to be a stress-fest, especially when the wine fridge isn’t adequately stocked. Here’s a short and sweet list from our Wine Director, Emily Walker, featuring a few local wines that you’d be smart to crack into this holiday season.
1). “Festive Fizz” pack from Bella Wines – Naramata Bench
Bella is BC’s only fully-dedicated sparkling wine house. It’s all they produce, so they’re pretty good at it. Jay and Wendy’s focus is on single-vineyard, traditional method and ancestrale wines made from Chardonnay and Gamay grapes. I’d suggest opting in for one of their “Festive Fizz” party packs while you still can and bust out those pigs in a blanket.
2). Tantalus ‘The Bear’ Chardonnay 2020 – $20 – Kelowna
Here is truly one of the best value Chardonnays you’ll come across locally. With some of the earliest vinifera vines planted in the province, Tantalus is widely recognized as one of the finest producers of Riesling in Canada, but their Chardonnay program is not to be overlooked. This particular bottle is made from grapes from one of their younger vineyards planted in 2013 and shows a bright, vivid, pure expression of the grape with just a kiss of oak that’s more evident in the wine’s textural weight than it is in its flavour. It’s not fussy, but this wine would really appreciate a seafood tower with freshly shucked oysters, crab legs and maybe a few lobster tails if you can be bothered.
3). Monte Creek Ranch Pinot Noir ‘Reserve’ 2019 – $35 – Thompson Valley
I recently visited Kamloops in the Thompson Valley which included a stop at Monte Creek Ranch Winery. This is a region and a winery to watch. Owned by a local family, the winery has over 75 acres of vines planted and the commitment to both quality and sustainability is impressive. The 2019 Pinot Noir is made with a minimal intervention approach and shows both intensity and elegance in the glass. It begs for roasted duck but will settle for a turkey dinner.
4). Echo Bay Vineyard, Cabernet Franc 2018 – $45 – Okanagan Falls
This is a small family farm just north of Okanagan Falls where the Rufiange family live, work and create. The property has been in their family since the late-1960s and together Kelsey (winemaker) and her parents, Kathy and Mark, have transformed it into a self-sustaining wine growing oasis through organic and biodynamic farming and a genuine devotion to quality. Their Cabernet Franc is one of my favourite examples of this grape variety in the Okanagan, showing bright raspberry fruit, bramble and crushed gravel with soft but structured tannins. I’m thinking roasted pork tenderloin.
5). Modest Wines ‘By Jove’, Sangiovese 2019 – $29 – West Kelowna
Modest Wines is a sub-label of Mt. Boucherie Estate Winery, who are venturing to have some fun while making some seriously delicious wine at the same time. Imagine that. The line-up of wines features obscure grape varieties (at least, by BC standards) and cheeky names. But the juice inside is no joke. This is 85% Sangiovese with a dash of a few other more expected Okanagan grape varieties to balance. It’s that perfectly juicy, medium-bodied red, peppered with spice and game notes while keeping things fresh and lifted. Grab your glass and snuggle up right next to the charcuterie board.
6). Esquimalt Wine Company ‘Rosso Vermouth’ – $36.99, Victoria
For those not familiar, vermouth is a fortified and aromatized wine. This BC vermouth is made in the traditional Italian rosso style and if you ask me, they really nailed it. The start of a small-batch soda company in 2015 is what led husband and wife team, Quinn and Michaela, down the path of researching botanicals. This then spun-off into a “feverish love-affair” with vermouth and all things apéritif. To make this rosso, they used uncovered techniques, botanicals and methods from the great, long-forgotten, 19th-century vermouth houses of Italy and North America, while weaving in their own modern approach. The base wine is their traditional Wildflower mead blended with the 2013 Schönburger from Venturi-Schulze Vineyards in the Cowichan Valley, and spirit from Stillhead Distillery in Duncan. They then add 32 different botanicals. This is what I’m drinking either in my Negroni (click here for Naramata Inn’s House Negroni Recipe) or with a splash of soda before or after a meal.