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Vine Lines: Bubbly can make the ordinary extraordinary

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We used Jake.

We didn’t abuse Jake. But we did use him.

My friend, Jill, and I, for five weeks in a row, took full advantage of all that Jake had to offer. And this sounds completely dreadful when I read what I’ve written, but it’s absolutely true.

Jill and I had to endure what I would term a Cumbersome, Awful Experience, and leaning on Jake was the only way we could cope. He was our best friend, and he got us through.

I’d forgotten how important Jake was to me during that terrible ordeal, because it happened years ago. But recently, he and I had a chance to get together again, thanks to my mom.

OK. This is starting to sound way too creepy. So enough with the theatrics. But as I said, this really happened. However, I need to clarify that what Jill and I affectionately referred to — still do — as ‘Jake’ is actually Jacob’s Creek Sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noir Brut from Australia.

Mom bought it — thanks to a recommendation from friendly Brenda at the Tenth and Vic Liquor Mart — for the celebratory dinner she hosted following a concert I sang recently. My momma knows how much I like bubbly — it’s just so very festive, and nothing marks an occasion like it.

And when I tasted Jake again, I was thrilled. I don’t know why I stopped buying it. I love to try new wines of all sorts, and I guess I just moved on to other great sparklers I discovered — more on those in a minute — and forgot about poor old Jake.

But the revisiting of this bubbly reminded me how lovely it is, especially for $13.99 a bottle. And while I usually save the bubbly column for the Saturday that precedes New Year’s Eve, this year I figured what the heck! Let’s do a double hit! Some people probably like bubbly for Christmas too — I know I do. As I said, it’s festive, it’s celebratory, and it just, for reasons I can’t explain, elevates any get-together.

Jake is a great option. The price is right and it’s dependable, delightful and delicious. But some others I’ve tried recently are also terrific. So here are a couple for folks who want to mix it up a bit, or who are doing a lot of hosting or party-going in the upcoming weeks.

I actually had an episode similar to Jake’s revisiting a few weeks prior to his and my joyous reunion, so you’d think I’d have a learned a lesson. Now, with two such events having happened in such close proximity, I believe it’s finally registered — I should, by all means, go out and discover new wines. But I mustn’t leave behind the tried and true. What’s that saying — there’s no friend like an old friend? Something like that. So I’m going to try my darndest to remember the old friends even while I’m searching for new ones.

Anyway, I had once really enjoyed, but had simply forgotten about, the Valdivieso Extra Brut from Chile. I sipped it, after years away from it, at a dinner party hosted by friends. And it was terrific! Again! Still! There was a tinge of earthy herbaceousness right off the hop, which was interesting, but that quickly gave way to a doughy, yeasty taste that was SO reminiscent of Champagne. I was really impressed, especially for $13.95 a bottle.

And the last of this week’s wines is one I hadn’t had before. Jill feted me with it on my birthday back in September, and we both thought it was really tasty. The Open Sociable Sparkling 2010 from the Okanagan has aromas of apple, a pinch of citrus and a hint of flowers. The apple and faint citrus continue on the palate, and the finish is toasted almond. I got the toastiness, but not the almond until I read it on the back label, and then, of course, it was readily evident.

When we had our first sniff, Jill and I looked at each other and pulled the faces we always do when we’re pleasantly surprised by something. We semi-frowned, then drew our heads back in sort of a goose-necked "Wha…?" move, and eagerly moved in for a sip. Then our eyebrows shot up, almost in unison, and we looked at each other quizzically, as if to check. In these situations, our body language always says, "Do you like this?" Again, almost at the same time, we both said, "Whoa! This is really good!"

We’ve both bought more of the Open Sociable Sparkling since, and at $16.99, I humbly suggest you consider doing the same. With all three of these wines, in fact. They’re all worthy. (As an aside, if you’re a Merlot fan, the Open Merlot is pretty tasty, too, especially for $12.49 a bottle. It’s great with pork.)

For a final tip about making your bubbly the best it can be, I suggest chilling it in cold water with a fair bit of ice thrown in. It can be in the sink, in an ice bucket, or a vinyl tchill ba — whatever works best for your purposes. Jeff Wolfe, assistant manager of the Tenth and Victoria Liquor Mart, put me on to this trick a few years back. I have no idea why it works one would think there’s no way moisture can get through the bottle — but he suggested this method because, he said, a moist cooling instead of a dry one (regular fridges are usually dry) somehow leads to a nicer end product — beautifully chilled bubbly (or any white or rosé , for that matter).

I noticed most of the wine reps use this method at the Winnipeg and Westman Wine Festivals, and I have no idea why, but the ones that are moist-chilled simply taste better than the dry-chilled ones. Case closed.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy whichever bubbly you choose to celebrate with. Whether it’s just you and your significant other, a small, intimate gathering, or a big bash, nothing beats bubbly to make the ordinary extraordinary.

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 15, 2012

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We used Jake.

We didn’t abuse Jake. But we did use him.

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We used Jake.

We didn’t abuse Jake. But we did use him.

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