By Rick VanSickle
You could say it was written in the stars that an extensive program of traditionally made sparkling wines would emerge from B.C.’s Township 7 Vineyards and Winery.
After all, when winemaker Mary McDermott, below, was hired away from Niagara to craft wine at Township 7 in 2014, she brought with her extensive experience running Canada’s largest bubbly program at Trius in Niagara-on-the-Lake as well as other sparkling wine programs at various Niagara wineries. “I got a taste for sparkling wines,” McDermott said during a Zoom tasting recently. And Township 7 general manager Mike Raffin, agreed. “We knew Mary had a big passion for sparkling wines,” he said via Zoom, and it wasn’t long after she was hired that the groundwork was laid for a standalone sparkling wine program in 2015 that wouldn’t show its full potential until 2021.
Township 7 has created and released a standalone brand called Seven Stars (technically spelled with the lower case s, as seven stars), with four different traditionally made sparklers to go with the already revealed (and previously reviewed) Seven Stars Vega 2018 (the Equinox was previously released under the Township 7 label but is now part of the Seven Star portfolio).
There are a total of five bubbles in the celestial portfolio, with plans for a seven in total. “We’ve gone all in,” said Raffin. “There was always a thought to making sparkling wines.”
Each sparkling wine in the portfolio is unique, highlighting either the varietal characteristics or style depending upon the wine. It begins with the fun, fruity Seven Stars Rigel 2019, made from 100% Riesling, and moves to the Polaris, a blanc de blanc (100% Chardonnay), then the Equinox, a 100% Pinot Noir with 30 months on lees, and culminates with the Sirius, a 2015 Chardonnay/Pinot Noir blend with 60 months on the lees.
The Siruis is unique in that the grapes are 100% from the estate’s south Langley vineyard. The Langley micro climate offers a unique terroir within B.C. Planted over 20 years ago, the property is located only 3 km from the Canada/U.S. Border at 49° latitude, the same as Champagne, France.
Making sparkling wine isn’t new for Township 7; it was among the first in B.C. to create a Méthode Champenoise wine with the inaugural Seven Stars 1999, according to Tim Pawsy on his excellent Hired Belly blog. But the winery has certainly served notice that it wants to create one of the most exciting sparkling programs in B.C., which just might include its own bubble house (for now, the technical work for the sparkling wines is crafted at another winery), and planting more grapes such as Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir.
Here is what I liked during a Zoom tasting with McDermott and Raffin:
Seven Stars Rigel 2019 ($33, 89 points) — Rigel is named for the 7th brightest and one of the youngest stars in the night sky. Like all the wines in the sparkling portfolio, it’s made in the traditional Méthode Champenoise style with the wine undergoing a secondary fermentation or prise de mousse, where the sparkle is captured in the bottle. This inaugural vintage is made from Riesling from the Fool’s Gold vineyard in North Oliver. The Western sloping vineyard is comprised of sandy clay loam soil, with abundant rocks and gravel, providing excellent drainage. En tirage was for 12 months prior to disgorging and adding the dosage. This fun and fruity sparkler pours a frothy mousse before calming down to a steady bead and reveals a nose of pure lime and peach with subtle leesy/biscuit notes, nectarine and a touch of petrol. It has light effervescence on the palate but bright citrus fruit, apples, pear and subtle sweetness with plenty of zippy acidity to keep it balanced and fresh through the finish.
Seven Stars Polaris 2018 ($36, 91 points) — It’s named in honour of the North Star so prominent and bright, which has guided ships at sea for centuries. It’s a blanc de blanc brut made from 100% unoaked Chardonnay sourced from the south Okanagan Valley. The wine was left en tirage for a minimum of 18 months and after riddling, it was disgorged and a proprietary dosage (6 g/l) was added. It shows a steady and elegant bead in the glass with a nose of biscuit, pear, green apple, lemon toast, subtle brioche notes and autolytic notes. On the palate, look for flavours of apple skin, baked bread and lemon tart with a creamy texture and a pristine, fresh finish.
Seven Stars Equinox 2017 ($52, 93 points) — This single vineyard sparkling brut rosé is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes sourced from long time organic and biodynamic growers, Sperling Vineyards. One of the longest grape growers in the Okanagan, their site was first planted to grapes in 1925. The wine was left en tirage for 30 months with a small dosage. It pours a pale salmon colour with a lively bubble in the glass. The nose shows a complex array of brambly raspberries, field strawberries, rhubarb and quince notes with toasty biscuit and cream. It’s elegant and fine on the palate with a soft mousse and a creamy texture and then a mélange of red berries, subtle savoury notes, melba toast with underlying leesy notes and a long, finessed finish. A delight!
Seven Stars Sirius 2015 ($80, 94 points) — Named in honour of the brightest star in the evening sky, Sirius is the top sparkling wine in the Seven Stars collection. The Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes are 100% from the estate’s south Langley vineyard and were harvested, pressed and fermented together. The wine was left en tirage for a minimum of 60 months and a dosage (4 g/l) was added for complexity and depth of flavour. It shows a lovely golden hue in the glass with a lively mousse and aromas of fresh baked bread, apple pie, lemon chiffon, creamy notes, pear, brioche and complex autolytic notes. It’s quite fresh and zippy on the palate with firm, elegant bubbles, a creamy texture and flavours of ripe apple, pear and lemon, a touch of flint, brioche, tingling acidity and finessed on the finish.
Seven Stars Vega 2018 ($33, 90 points) — This is the inaugural vintage of this traditionally made sparkler from 100% Viognier, sourced from the Fool’s Gold Vineyard in Oliver. It shows a vigorous mousse in the glass with lovely notes of pear, bright apple, citrus, lemon cream, grapefruit and toasty/yeasty undertones. It’s generous on the palate with a healthy bubble and revealing a fleshier, rounder profile with peach, apricot, apple, pear and toasty/creamy notes that lead to lively finish.