You Need to Try the Sparkling Wine from Canada’s Okanagan Valley
Here are 7 Okanagan sparkling wines that give Champagne a run for its money.
Nestled in the heart of British Columbia's achingly beautiful Okanagan Valley are some of the best sparkling wine producers you have yet to discover. This up-and-coming region first leapt into the sparkling wine game back in the 1980s, but it's only in recent years that the Okanagan Valley has distinguished itself as a center for world-class bubbly.
Up on the 50th parallel, the Okanagan Valley dances along the extreme outskirts of where quality wine can be made. It’s cold up there, but unique microclimates combined with long, sunny days offer pockets of warmth where grapes reach that elusive balance between bright, mouthwatering acidity and fruit flavors.
Vineyards dot the terraces which border Okanagan Lake and its smaller counterparts. Its gently lapping waters run deep, acting as a moderating influence in the region. Winters here are milder, the cold snaps less severe. The climate lends itself to sustainable viticulture, and organic winemaking flourishes in the Okanagan Valley.
So it's no surprise that cool-climate varietals excel here. The usual suspects populate vineyards—your Chardonnay and Pinots Noir and Meunier, executed with finesse. Yet it's the local stars like Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Zweigelt used by the region's talented winemakers that capture the imagination and tantalize the taste buds.
The soils are something else, too. The Mosel has its famed blue slate. Coonawarra has terra rossa. Okanagan and its subregions are more like a patchwork quilt. Fertile silt and sand are layered over granite and gravel. It's not unusual for a vineyard to boast several different types of soil. This diversity breeds wonderfully mineral-driven wines. Local winemakers love to show off the complexities of their single vineyard wines, or better still, the individual blocks within a vineyard.
As far as winemaking goes, extended lees aging is common in the Okanagan Valley, so if you're partial to cellaring your sparkling wine, these are excellent candidates.
And just saying, they're killer with the local salmon.
NV Summerhill Pyramid Cipes Brut ($28)
A gorgeous blend of Riesling, Chardonnay, and Pinot Blanc, this organic sparkler opens with Granny Smith, yellow apples, pear, and lime. Crisp acidity is mellowed out by a creamy texture, giving way to a long finish. Summerhill leads the pack with several sparkling wines in its lineup, including a few with extended aging.
NV Blue Mountain Gold Label Brut ($28)
Part Pinot, part Chardonnay, rounded out with a dash of Pinot Gris. Loads of lemon, apple, and chalk with all the toasty richness you'd expect after spending two months sur lie.
NV Steller's Jay Sparkling Rosé ($27)
If you've never sampled sparkling Gamay, this wine is here to correct that travesty. Lovely notes of stone fruit, clementine, red grapefruit, and strawberries and cream. This one falls into the off-dry camp, making it a brilliant contender for spicy dishes. Thai and Indian curries rank high on the list.
2018 Mission Hill Winery Exhilarat!on Brut Rosé ($35)
Pinot dominates this elegant, sustainably-farmed rosé. Pretty white peach notes lead into watermelon, and a blast of fresh summer berries. Long, bright finish. Excellent paired with charcuterie and a balmy afternoon.
2017 Township 7 Winery Seven Stars “Polaris” Brut ($36)
If classic Champagne is your thing, it's time you get acquainted with Polaris. This blanc de blancs is made exclusively from Chardonnay. Yellow apple, citrus, tropical fruits, a touch of peach, and ample brioche on the palate. One to cellar, although it's so rich and delicious, no one would blame you for popping it open at the first opportunity.
2017 Gray Monk Odyssey White Brut ($26)
Riesling, Pinot Blanc, and Chardonnay Musque star in Gray Monk's Odyssey White Brut. The latter grape is an aromatic clone of the classic Burgundian variety, and it makes its presence known in this heady sparkling. Lime, quince, stone fruits, honeysuckle, with just a hint of nuttiness.
NV Bella Wines King Chardonnay Brut ($40)
A mix of the '17 and '18 vintages, this sparkling is full of vibrant citrus, crisp green apple, and ample minerality underscored by searing acidity. Bella Wines also does some wickedly good rosé bubbles based on Gamay, including some fantastic single clone pét-nat. I recommend checking out the 2019 Mariani Vineyards Clone 509.