I tasted through many years this year through Trade tastings with agents and BC VQA wineries, the Vancouver International Wine Festival, visits to wineries, and personal purchases. I rate all the wines I taste from 1 to 5 stars. Fortunately, the quality of many wines is quite good, giving them at least a 3 out of 5-star rating. At the end of the year, I like to compile all my 5-star and 4.5-5 star wines and present them to you in one place so you can purchase some wines over the holiday season and to store some for next year.
Here are my 40 top-rated white and sparkling wines for 2018. My 5-star red wines will be featured in another article. I grouped the wines into logical categories, like Champagne or BC White wines to make it easier for you to scan the list of wines. Enjoy these wines and the holidays.
BC Sparkling Wines
Haywire Winery Vintage Bub 2013, BC – One quality BC sparkling wine you may want to consider offering to taste is Haywire Wineries Vintage Bub 2013 ($34.90). This Champenoise-style sparkling wine is bottle aged 5 years and is made with a blend of organically grown Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. No dosage was added after disgorgement. This wine has a deeper golden straw colour. A medium intensity nose showing citrus, nuttiness, pears and some toast. This one is dry with a creamy, lighter mouthfeel. I really enjoyed the small creamy bubbles from the wine. The wine has higher acidity and flavour intensity. I taste crisp ripe apples and baked pears, nuttiness and a touch of toastiness. The flavours of the apples and pears had a deep intensity. The wine had a medium plus length, finishing with mouth-watering acidity, along with the continuation of the fruit flavours and nuttiness. A very excellent sparkling wine for the holidays. You can buy it online at Haywire and probably at many wine shops around Vancouver, such as Liberty, Marquis Wine Cellars, and Everything Wine. – There is a lot to enjoy in this sparkling wine; Small, creamy bubbles, deep apple and pear flavours, and nice toasty nuttiness.
Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards Blanc de Blancs NV, BC ($42.50) – 100% Chardonnay for this sparkler. It spends 36 months on the lees before disgorgement. It has a nice ripe stone fruit nose with more on the palate. You also get a crisp apple flavour. Medium body with higher acidity and a small, biting bubble. Apples on the finish. –
Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars Gold Label Brut, NV – Blue Mountain are well-known for their sparkling wines and this one is top quality. Nice aromatic stone fruit aromas. Dryish, with small creamy bubble. Crisp apple to start followed by citrus flavours. Medium plus acidity. Quality! –
Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars Chardonnay 2016– Quite a toasty nose on this wine. Medium plus body, but quite smooth; medium minus acidity. Rich butterscotch and tropical fruit flavours. The toastiness on the palate is not overdone. –
Poplar Grove Winery Blanc de Noirs 2016 ($22.49+) – A rosé wine made with 55% Malbec, 25% Syrah, 10% Merlot, and 10% Cabernet Franc. Quite a few different grapes go into this wine. It’s pale orangey red. Very aromatic with aromas of tea leaves and stone fruits. Smooth and off-dry. Tea leaves, dried leaves, oranges, and stone fruit flavours. –
Bella Sparkling Rosé – I did not notice a year on the bottle, but I assume 2017. This wine they call Trad-Nat, which to me is a blend of traditional bottle ferment, such as is used for Champagne, together with Pétillant Naturel. Not quite sure how the two work together, but the result is excellent. My favourite wine of the tasting. This rosé wine is made from the Gamay Noir grape. Rich nose, with apples, apple skin and cider. Slightly off-dry with tiny creamy bubble. Flavours of red currants and cider. If you have ever tried a top quality Lambrusco, this sparkling wine reminds me of it. Recommended.
Bella Chardonnay Ancestral Method 2017 – A sparkling wine made with the Ancestral Method aka Pétillant Naturel. Light apple nose. Dry with a higher acidity level. Some creamy bubbles. Stone fruit flavours, but also you get some chalkiness and salty minerality in this wine. Wonderful. –
Champagne and Other Old World Sparkling Wines
Champagne Lallier Rosé NV, France ($65.69) – This rosé wine is a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. It is pale orange in colour. Strawberries, oak and lees on the nose. Medium body with a light acidic prickle and creamy bubbles. Lees and red fruits with salty minerality and nutty finish. –
Champagne Taittinger Brut Reserve N/V ($67.99++) – This is their largest volume production sparkling wine and as such I was told is the hardest to make as you have to have consistency year to year. You develop a “house style” and then need to keep to that style as this is what people will expect each year when they buy this wine. They purchase grapes from 35 different villages in order to produce this wine. In Champagne, the minimum required time on lees before disgorgement and sale of the wines is 15 months. This wine stays on the lees for 3 years. It is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier and all the wine undergoes malolactic fermentation (to soften the malic acid in the wine to softer lactic acid). This wine is a medium, bright pear skin colour in the glass. Nice ripe pears, apples, bruised apple and lees on the nose. It has tiny, fine, creamy bubble. Dry, medium minus body, and medium acidity with the flavour of crisp yellow apple followed by a floral note. I also picked up on some salty minerality on the finish. –
Gustave Lorentz Cremant d’Alsace Brut, NV, France ($28.99) – a sparkling wine from Alsace. Made from Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir grapes. This wine has a nice biscuity, citrus and bruised apple nose. Red apples jump out on touching your palate, together with red cherries. Creamy medium bubble. off=dry but balanced with high acidity. Wonderful. –
Champagne Vollereaux Rosé de Saignee Brut, NV, Pierry, France – Light intensity aromas of cherries and roses. Dry with medium acidity and tiny bubble. Floral and red fruit nose. Complex. –
Champagne Vollereaux Blanc de Blancs Brut, NV, Pierry, France – Toasty apple nose. Dry with high acidity. Mineral, crisp apple and citrus on the palate. My favourite wine of the event!
Champagne Vollereaux Brut Reserve, NV, Pierry, France – Nice ripe apple aroma. Medium body, with a small biting bubble that transforms into a creamy mouthfeel later. Toast, apples and citrus along with minerality on the palate. Very good. –
G.D. Vajra NS della Neve Rosé, Vino Spumante di Qualita NV, Barolo, Italy – Light strawberry aroma in the glass. Off-dry, medium bodied with flavours of tart red fruit and a mineral edge. Angular. A small bubble that is almost creamy. A refreshing wine. –
BC White Wines
Culmina Family Estate Winery Dilemma 2015, BC ($34.00) – Pale lemon colour. Apples and hazelnuts aromas. Medium body, round, with flavours of sweet spices, roasted apples, and hazelnuts. Mineral. Silky with medium acidity and thicker mouthfeel. –
Bench 1775 Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2017 ($25.90) – Clear, bright lemon colour. It has a lively nose, with a mix of asparagus, jalapeno pepper, citrus, and a hint of floral; light peach in the background. With decanting there was more lime and grapefruit, and pine needles aromas, and less asparagus and jalapeno pepper. It is dry with salty minerality first catching my attention. Round with a light acidic prickle on the tongue. Green fruit, bramble leaf, grapefruit and grapefruit rind flavours, along with a touch of peach and honey later on. With decanting, there was also some pear flavour I also picked up on. Medium plus length, finishing with mouth-watering acidity, and flavours of grapefruit plus rind, then apples and apple pit on the very finish. Not an overpowering Sauv Blanc like you can get from New Zealand. This wine is more restrained; acidity and fruit in harmony. A really good wine. – A tasty, restrained Sauvignon Blanc with a nice mix of asparagus and jalapeno pepper, and citrus fruit flavours.
MacIntyre Heritage Reserve Astra Chardonnay 2014, BC – Nice smooth, butterscotch nose. Fuller body, smooth with medium acidity. Apples, spice and a touch of butterscotch on the palate. Nice. –
Summerhill Pyramid Winery Cipes Blanc de Blanc 2012 – A top bubble. This wine has apples and floral notes on the nose. Higher acidity with a small, semi-creamy bubble. A mix of apples, citrus and flint on the palate. Quality. –
Culmina Unicus 2017 (~$27) – Unicus is Latin for “unprecedented” or “only” and this I believe was the only Grüner Veltliner wine produced in BC at the time. There are now 3 wineries producing Grüner. The grapes for this wine come from Margaret’s Bench. This is the 3rd vintage of this wine for Culmina, but I think they really figured out how to treat this grape to its best advantage. The grapes are fermented in 3 different ways: 18% in concrete amphora, 25% in concrete egg, and 57% in stainless steel.
This wine has a wonderful, strong apricot aroma together with grapefruit. The wine is high, medium bodied and has high acidity. There are lots of vibrant fruit flavours; grapefruit and passion fruit, along with stone fruits. I also picked up some salty minerality and a light green edge. A bit of pepperiness on the finish. –
Culmina Dilemma 2015 ($34) – It was a dilemma for Culmina when they bought their property as some of the land had old vines, in this case, Chardonnay. But through their analysis of soil and climate, Chardonnay is not the best grape for those vines. So the dilemma. Pull the vines and plant a more appropriate grape, or keep the vines. The eventual answer was pull and replant, but in the meantime, they did produce Chardonnay from the old vines.
This wine is deeper golden in colour with ripe pears and baked apple on the nose. Full body, round with light butterscotch, pears and apple pie flavours, and a toasty lingering finish. You also get a touch of sweet spices on the finish. –
Culmina Decora 2016 ($21) – Decora means “pretty” in Latin. Made from the Riesling grape, one can say that wines from this grape can be quite pretty. This Riesling is made in the German style where some juice is not fermented (suss-reserve) and then is added back to the fermented wine to add back some level of sweetness according to the winemaker’s preference. Culmina has been experimenting with the amount of suss-reserve to add to their wine, and they have determined that less is better.
This wine has a medium intensity nose, with aromas of lime, other citrus, and floral. It is dry, medium body with high acidity, but still has some smoothness. Tart citrus, flint and a hint of orange on the palate, with some chalkiness behind. The wine finishes with a hint of honey. This wine can age nicely. –
Culmina No 004 Stan’s Bench Chardonnay 2016 ($39) – Culmina has a Number Series of wines where they want to explore terroir. These wines may be one of a kind, or could continue in the future. No. 1 was a Riesling, No. 2 a wild fermented Gruner Veltliner, No. 3 a Stan’s Bench Riesling, and now No. 4 is a Stan’s Bench Chardonnay. This Chardonnay is as well fermented with indigenous yeasts, with 40% fermented in stainless steel and 60% in used French oak barrels.
This wine is light lemon coloured, with a green tint. Really ripe apple, and tropical fruit aromas along with some butterscotch. Dry, medium body, angular mouthfeel. Flavours of tropical fruit, sweet spices, butterscotch and some pepperiness. I as well picked up some salty minerality in the background. –
Robin Ridge Winery Chardonnay 2016 – Nice ripe tropical fruit and honey on the nose. More tropical fruit on the palate with toasty oak and sweet spices. Medium plus body, round and butter. Quality. –
Spearhead White Pinot Noir 2017 ($19.29+) – Stone fruit mixed with green fruit aromas in the glass. Very flavourful; herbal, stone fruits, and peach skin. –
Nk’Mip Cellars QwAM QwMT Chardonnay 2016 ($21.99+) – Nice ripe tropical fruit and vanilla oak aromas in the glass. More on the palate. Full body and round with sweet spices, oak, and tropical fruit flavours. Quality. –
Noble Ridge Vineyard & Winery Reserve Chardonnay 2014 – Very light butterscotch nose. Nice flavours of rich tropical fruit, butterscotch and oak. Full-bodied, ripe and round with medium minus acidity. Super. –
Kettle Valley Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2014 – A very nice nose, combining flint, stone fruit, pears and vanilla. Medium plus body, round and soft with a silky feel. Floral, stone fruit and pears on the palate. Excellent. –
Kettle Valley Riesling 2013 – Intriguing nose, with a blend of petrol, floral and honey aromas. Medium plus body and medium acidity; off-dry. Flavours of apple skin, peaches, honey followed by sweet spices. Very good. –
New World White Wines
Ridge Vineyards Ridge Estate Chardonnay 2015, California ($85.99) – Pale lemon with a green tinge. Lots of nutmeg, tropical fruit and vanilla aromas. Medium body, smooth with medium acidity. tropical fruit, cinnamon and nutmeg spice on the palate. A nice harmony between the fruit, spice, and acidity. –
Ken Forrester, The FMC, 2017, WO Stellenbosch – This is the pinnacle, iconic wine for Ken Forrester. The Chenin Blanc grapes for this wine come from a single vineyard that was planted in 1970 as bush vines that are goblet pruned. The grapes are picked over 5-6 different days in order to get the grapes at their best ripeness. Each picking is fermented on its own. Ken tries to avoid malolactic fermentation of any of his barrels of wines, but if he happens, then he rolls with it. After fermentation the different barrels are blended. In some cases, some of the barrels will be sweeter as that wine had a stuck fermentation so it did not ferment dry. This sweeter wine is blended in with the dry wine to fill in the gaps in the wine, and make it rounder.
The wine has a medium, bright pear skin colour. Very nice aromas of marmalade, honey and a hint of sweet spice. Off-dry with a medium minus body, and medium acidity. Ripe pear and apple flavours, along with a touch of sweet spices. It finishes dry with the flavour of pear skin. Thicker mouthfeel. An exceptional wine. –
Grgich Hills Estate Napa Valley Fume Blanc 2015, USA ($55.99) – A nice nose, with aromas of melon, vanilla and stone fruits. Fuller body with thicker mouthfeel and medium acidity. Ripe stone fruit and butterscotch, along with a hint of oak on the palate. Tasty. –
Grgich Hills Estate Napa Valley Chardonnay 2015, USA ($80.99) – This Chardonnay was barrel fermented in French oak and did not undergo any malolactic fermentation. It has a very ripe tropical fruit and butterscotch nose. Full body, thick and round mouthfeel. Mineral. Tropical fruit, vanilla and butterscotch flavours. Longer length. Top quality!
St. Supery Napa Valley Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2017, USA ($34.99) – Nice green fruit and herbal notes on the nose. More on the palate. Crisp acidity but not overdone. Jalapeno pepper flavour later on. Lingering finish. Very good. –
Trefethen Family Vineyards Estate Napa Valley Chardonnay 2016, USA ($47.99) – Nice lemon, pineapple and vanilla aromas in the glass. Medium plus body, very smooth and silky on the palate. Flavours of tropical fruit, vanilla and butterscotch. Nice acidity to balance out the wine. –
New World Sparkling Wines
Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs 2015, USA ($54.99) – a white sparkling wine made with Chardonnay grapes. It has a mix of lees and stonefruits on the nose. Very high acidity, but off-dry. Medium bodied. Crab apples, and some floral. A crisp wine. Medium sized bubble. –
Old World White Wines
Gustave Lorentz Riesling Reserve 2016, France ($25.49) – I am a Riesling fan as some of you may know, and this was an exceptionally fine example. It has a rich, sweet tropical fruit nose, with more on the palate. You also get some stone fruit flavours. Soft and smooth with medium acidity. The flavours vary between tropical fruit and stone fruit in waves. Very nice.
Marques de Murrieta Capellania Blanco 2014, Spain ($42.99) – another white wine from Spain made from the Viura grape. It has a very nice vanilla, oak, and tropical fruit nose, with more on the palate. Fuller body with a thicker mouthfeel. Medium acidity. Sweet spices to complement the tropical fruit flavours. Awesome wine.
Domaine Gerard Tremblay Chablis Grand Cru Vaudesir 2015, Chablis, France – Unfortunately, the nose on this wine was closed at the moment but I picked up a hint of minerality. Silky smooth with a heavier mouthfeel. Roasted apples and light citrus flavours. –
Aveleda Reserva da Familia Alvarinho 2016, Portugal – Ripe peach and grapefruit nose, with more on the palate. Mineral. Dry. –
Barone Ricasoli Torricella Chardonnay di Toscana IGT 2013 – This wine is primarily made from Chardonnay but does have a little bit of Sauvignon Blanc added to it, and is barrel fermented. The wine is a bright, deep lemon colour in the glass. A beautiful nose; intense floral, vanilla, apricot and tropical fruits on the nose. These aromas carry over to flavours on the palate. The wine is dry and soft, with a light mouthfeel. Medium plus acidity. Tart finish, with a hint of oak throughout. Very pretty. I love this wine.
Saget La Perrière M de Mulonniere Anjou Chenin Blanc, 2016, Loire Valley, France – Chenin Blanc is one of the white grapes that I wish more people knew about. It has a nice mouthfeel, typically stone fruit flavours, sometimes honey too. Chenin Blanc is a wine that goes very well with food. This wine has a very light stone fruit plus honey on the nose. It is fuller bodied and off-dry. Tasty peach, honey, almond and minerality on the palate. I noted that the fruit flavour explodes when you first sip it and then gently tapers off. Very good quality! –