Not just for Special Occasions

July 13, 2011 at 12:00 PM

sumac_ridge_champagne_bottles.jpg

Kelowna is a destination for so many over the summer, and a friend of mine has had a steady stream of visitors for the past three weeks.  Last week, it was a reunion for him and three of his school mates.  The four guys made the most of their time together, and surprisingly, even visited a winery or two in what little daylight hours they saw.  At one point, the group was poking fun at one of the guys, Dave, for drinking a ‘bottle of bubbly’ each day.  The account of their friend and his daily ritual was humourous.  I get it though.  He was on vacation, surrounded by good friends and definitely feeling in the prime of his life.  Everything is best enjoyed in moderation, and a 'bottle of bubbly' may be a bit much, but why don't we enjoy sparkling wines on more occasions than the special occasions?  The price of the local sparkling wines is not daunting and can be paired well with a range of dishes.  Wouldn't it be fun to have 'bubbles' with dinner on a Tuesday night?

Madame_Bollinger.jpg

When I worked for a wine import company, we hosted a ‘Champagne Luncheon’ as an opportunity for the winery principal from Perrier-Jouet to meet his clients in Whistler.  This was a number of years ago, but it had a massive impact on me, as I saw the champagne in all its complexity and gracefulness take us through a luncheon of oysters, salads and even desert!  After experiencing such an afternoon of decadence,  I laughed to myself when I came across the quote from Madame Lily Bollinger:

 "I drink it when I'm happy and when I'm sad.
Sometimes I drink it when I'm alone.
When I have company I consider it obligatory.
I trifle with it if I'm not hungry and I drink it when I am.
Otherwise I never touch it, unless I'm thirsty."

For Madame Bollinger, champagne was not a wine to be saved for a special occasion, but a wine for any occasion.  However, the LDB has only 9 bottles of the Bollinger Grand Annee at $134.90 and 145 bottles of the Special Cuvee at $74.91 in the province of BC.  The limited quantity and price point of champagne restricts me to enjoying it on only the most special of occasions...my birthday!!!  Champagne is sparkling wine, but not all sparkling wines are champagne.  Most of the sparkling wines produced locally use the same method ( Methode Champenoise) as in France. 

 sumac_ridge_stellersjay.jpg

Our company also represented Sumac Ridge Estate Winery at the time. Their Steller’s Jay was my go-to wine for taking to a dinner party.  It a great way to start off dinner parties, and it made us feel slightly more special on our nights off from work.  The Steller's Jay was also a popular ‘by the glass’ pour for the restaurants in Whistler, as it has the toastiness of champagnes, but also the fresh and lively fruitiness of our local wines.  Around $25 a bottle it is a far more affordable sparkling wine option for any occasion.  Summerhill Pyramid Winery is probably the most widely recognized as a sparkling wine producer.  A couple of years ago I attended a winemaker’s dinner at Summerhill, and standing at the base of the pyramid, I watched Eric von Krosigk ‘saber’ a bottle of the Cipes Brut with the base of a wine glass!  It was an amazing feat, and the wine tasted so much more thrilling after fearing for his safety!  Several other producers of sparkling wines are Gray Monk Estate Winery, See Ya Later Ranch, and Township 7.  Some seriously delicious sparkling wines have come from Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars, but can be hard to find outside the winery in Okanagan Falls. Metro Liquor in Kelowna has been an exclusive dealer locally for Blue Mountain, but keep in mind the quantities and selection may be limited. 

I know it took me a few times to get comfortable opening a bottle of sparkling wine.  The sommelier at the restaurant in Whistler helped me out immensely with these few pointers:

  • Remove the foil, but leave the cage on after loosening the base as it will provide grip
  • Make sure your hand stays over the cork once the cage has been loosened so no accidents occur
  • Twist the BOTTLE not the cork
  • In a restaurant setting, I would leave a napkin draped over the top of the bottle...just in case!!!

Also, make sure the whole bottle is chilled evenly...even the neck.  If all this seems too much, there are the frizzante wines that both 8th Generation Vineyards (Integrity and Confidence)  and The View  (Distraction Frizzante) have produced and released for us to enjoy over the summer.  These wines are enclosed with a bottle cap, and requiring no more effort than chilling them.  The frizzante wines are produced from a partial secondary fermentation, and tend not to be as dry as the sparkling wines produced in the methode champenoise.  So if you are just getting into 'bubbly' wine, these are great wines to start with.

Oysters and caviar do not have to be on the menu for you to pair sparkling wine with dinner.  The last food and wine pairing seminar Mathew Morazain and I hosted for UBCOCS focused on tapas.  Mathew wanted to do tradtional tapas dishes such as spanish omelette, marinated olives and spicy fish skewers.  We laughed about the challenge I had for the wine pairings as there were so many strong flavours and textures of the foods that could cause me grief.  That seminar we decided to explore the textural effect of sparkling wines and food pairings.  I presented a still table wine and a sparkling wine counterpart for each tapas dish Mathew presented.  Some of the highlights were the Gray Monk Odyssey Brut with the spanish omelette, the St. Hubertus Frizzante Rose with the mixture of marinated olives, and the sparkling shiraz from Australia with the lamb empanadas. 

Dave is back home now, and I hope it isn't until his next trip to Kelowna that he opens a 'bottle of bubbly'.  He could really impress a date by ordering sparkling wine to go with their sushi dinner!

 

Sunday_in_Oliver_042_3.jpgBarb is fascinated by the rapid growth in the wine industry since she arrived in the Okanagan Valley, and is curious to see how we define ourselves as a wine producing region.  She loves skiing, learned to surf in Chile and literally dances to her own beat.  She is currently seeking a role in the wine industry as a winemaker, and lives for the moment when those first grapes arrive at the cellar door.  Contact Barb through email at barb@okwineries.com with your comments or questions.





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