Doing lots of hosting these days? Not sure what to serve? Try pouring bubby with your meal. I'm a huge fan of sparkling wine and look for pretty much any reason to open some. And this time of year there are plenty of reasons.
When it comes to bubbles, most folks think of champagne cocktails or New Year's toasts -- and not much else. But one of the best things about bubbly (aside from the bubbles themselves) is how versatile it is! Did you know you can pair bubbly with just about any meal? Yup. And did you know there are fabulous bubblies being made right here in the 613? Double yup. Meet Hinterland Wine Company!
Hinterland is a small-scale and small-batch winery in Hillier, Prince Edward County, that only produces sparkling wines. That's right: all bubbly all the time. Natrually, I think they're pretty swell.
I grew up just north of Prince Edward County and even after I moved away in 2000, I took great pride in watching my old stomping grounds develop into one of the best wine regions in the province. The Hinterland crew planted their first grapes in 2005, and they opened their doors to the public in 2010. I've been smitten ever since.
My hubby and I get back to the County several times a year, and every time we do we squeeze in a stop at Hinterland: the wines are just that good and the folks are just that charming -- hi Vicki and Jonas! Plus they have hens. And one year they had kittens. And they have cats on staff. And if that wasn't enough to convince you how amazing these people are, if you've dropped by the winery for a tasting you've noticed they donate 100% of the tasting fee to the Terry Fox Foundation. Like I said, these are great folks.
So let's talk about their wines. First up: pink bubbles!
ANCESTRAL 2015 MÉTHODE ANCESTRALE BY HINTERLAND WINE COMPANY, $25
Ancestral is a bright pink bubbly that's fruity and off-dry, which means it's not too tart and not too sweet. This is the Goldilocks of sparkling wine. It's made from Gamay grapes, giving it a light body and notes of strawberry, cranberry, and cherry. It's also low alcohol at just 8%, so this is a sparkler you can serve throughout an evening, or heck, even for a festive brunch.
If you decide to go the brunch route, try serving Ancestral with homemade aebelskivers, which are little Danish pancakes you can stuff with jam, nutella, pretty much anything you want. Here's a solid recipe for these Danish treats. The first batch can be a bit tricky but you'll thank me later.
And if you're hosting an evening meal, serve it with canapés, cheese, fish, pâte. You name it. Baked brie with cranberry? Perfect. Because this wine is low in alcohol, it's a perfect choice for before the meal or throughout the evening, because you don't want your guests ending up under the table. Or on the table for that matter.
FYI, Vicki at Hinterland calls Ancestral "the babymaker" so don't say I didn't warn you. This wine has a certain, uh, reputation, among her pals and customers.
WHITECAP 2014 MÉTHODE CHARMAT BY HINTERLAND WINE COMPANY, $22
I adore Whitecap. It was the first wine I tried at Hinterland years ago, and I go back for it time and time again. I dare you to find a higher quality sparkling for $22. It's that good.
Whitecap is named after the waves of Lake Ontario located just a stone's throw from the winery, and it mostly relies on Riesling grapes (one of my faves). It's fresh on the palette with notes of peach and tropical fruit, and maybe a bit of green apple too. Sniff it before you take a sip, it's gorgeous. And once you do take a sip you'll notice it's just a teensy bit tart and balanced with a little creaminess.
If you're a fan of prosecco (Italian bubbly), you'll like Whitecap since it's made using the same method called Charmat (secondary fermentation in a large stainless steel tank). You'll want to try Charmat method bubbly if you usually find French sparklings and champanges chalky or overly dry, because this approrach to makin' bubbles produces lighter-bodied wines that are more approachable.
Serve this one with creamy cheeses (since the light acidity will balance the fat), or try it with shrimp, scallops, or hors d'oerves. It's perfect all on its own for your New Year's toast too!
LES ÉTOILES 2012 MÉTHODE TRADITIONELLE BY HINTERLAND WINE COMPANY, $39
Oh Les Étoiles, where do I even begin with you? This is my go-to bubby for anniversaries, special dinners, date nights, and other big occassions. Pull this one out to serve at Friendsmas dinner and your pals will know you love 'em.
This wine is made with 50% Pinot Noir grapes and 50% Chardonnay grapes, giving it great balance and complex flavours. Think apple, pear, a bit of apricot, some chestnut, and a hint of bread (like the smell of a bakery almost). Les Étoiles leans drier than Hinterland's other offerings (more like a French sparkling), and it's fresh and crisp with lots of little bubbles.
So what to serve it with? This is quite a sophisticated bubbly so don't hesitate to pair it with a main course. It's phenomenal with fish, lobster, crab, chicken, turkey (perfect for this time of year!), and even pork. Making a vegetarian dish? No problem, serve it with a creamy pasta (pile on the parmesan!) and Les Étoiles will cut the fat nicely.
I have two bottles of the 2012 vintage cellaring right now, and it's all I can do to resist cracking them open. This wine is SO GOOD right now and it's going to be mind boggling with another few years in the cellar. But I don't have that kind of willpower. So cheers!
Where can you pick up these 613 bubblies? Even if you're not headed to The County any time soon, you can get your hands on some Hinterland. Hop on over to their online shop, drop a few bottles into your cart, and off you go! They deliver to Ottawa regularly and when I've ordered from Hinterland in the past, my bubbly arrived the same week. Want to do some gift shopping? Their online shop offers all currently available wines, wine stoppers in case you can't quite finish those bubbles (LOL!), pretty gift bags, and Hinterland t-shirts for both kids and grown-ups.
Go get yourself some 613 bubbly and serve it for brunch with friends, for Christmas dinner with the fam, or to ring in the new year with your buddies. Santé!
And now I'll leave you with those adorable Hinterland kittens. Because #crazycatlady.