finding perfect bubbly for the holidays – review and a bonus gift

I am so excited to bring you Sips in the City’s first custom cocktail!

And, since that is such a special occasion, we have crafted it out of a beautiful sparkling wine with a sommelier, no less.

And, and…. if you are the ‘try it before you buy it’ type, you’ll be excited to know that it’s available for purchase this holiday season at one of our local restaurants!

See? So excited! Let’s get to it.


Haywire’s The Bub and Evolve’s Pink Effervesence

I really wanted to come up with a way that you can purchase sparkling wine for your holiday parties and celebrations and get the most out of your purchase. If you are like me, you want to use up the whole bottle and you want your guests to have a great time helping you drink it.

Sparkling wine is such a treat. I love toasting and marking special occasions.  I also love being creative and surprising people. So, we asked for a little help to come up with a way to get two drinks for the price of one when you buy your bubbles this year.

Meet Brain Henderson. He’s the bartender at Storms on the River in Kamloops. Hi, Brian!


Brian is a member of Liquid Chef, the U.S. Sommelier Association and Confriere du Sabre d’Or. Yes, he’s holding a sword. More on that later. We asked Brian to help us taste two sparkling wines, at two different price points, this week and then help us come up with a cocktail that you can make with your remaining wine after you toast. Boy, did we pick the right guy for the job.

On to the bubbles!

The first wine we tried was from  Evolve Cellars. We sampled their lovely Pink Effervesence. This sparkler is made of predominantly Pinot Blanc with a splash of Merlot. This wine had nice body. It had great weight in your mouth and followed through with lots of fruity finish. It’s very peachy and isn’t too dry. It’s a gorgeous wine. Beautiful colour and flavour and very worth the price. This is the perfect sparkling wine for your Christmas party with friends. It would also be great at an office afternoon potluck on your last day before Christmas. Or, is your book club, school PAC or Mom’s group having a Christmas get-together to celebrate how awesome you are? This twinkly treat would be perfect for those occasions, too. And at under $20 a bottle, you can afford to amaze your friends with your good taste this season! Of the two we tried, this was my favourite and Brian’s too.

Note the bubbles in the next picture and you tell me if the glass you choose is important to your wine experience? You need to buy yourself some champagne flutes, buddy. Class it up.


The next wine we tried was from Haywire Wines. Their 2014 The Bub is a step up, coming in at $29.90 a bottle. Now we are dealing with a champagne style wine, crafted in the traditional method. This type of wine goes through a second fermentation in the bottle which creates more pressure and tinier bubbles. The process is more intense and the price reflects the craftsmanship. This is a considerably different wine than the first.


This is a wine-drinker’s champagne. It is drier, more complex and had beautiful balance. It was earthy and clean. It has a minerality that is very distinct and would pair wonderfully with the types of warm appetizers that you see commonly at holiday par-tays. Crafted from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes grown in the Okanagan, it’s a true reflection of the quality of clean, crisp, world-class wine that we can produce in BC. This was Kevin’s favourite of the two. He leans towards the drier, heavier wines normally so I am not surprised. This is the perfect Christmas Eve wine. It’s perfect for in front of the fire, with the Christmas tree twinkling beside you. Having your relatives over? Making a big announcement (boys, buy her a ring already)? Do you know you have a wine snob on your guest list? This is your wine.

Now, let’s have some fun! You can do a lot with a bottle of sparkling wine, my friends! In an hour, Brian came up with five, FIVE, amazing cocktails with these two wines. Here we go….

First, some wine porn…

We had a lot of fun! I asked Brian to meet a couple of requirements when I asked him to start thinking of what we could create;

  • The drink needed to be more martini and less sangria
  • It needed to stay true to the flavour and the feel of the wine. Don’t weigh down the bubbles!
  • It could not be too sweet
  • It should feel like holiday treat!

And with that info, we got to work! Brian had made a raspberry puree with a hint of simple syrup. He had some oranges and lemons on hand, and he had made some infused ice cubes as well. Plus, he had another little surprise cooked up.

Our first martini consisted of a small amount of sweetened raspberry puree with our pink bubbly. He then rimmed the glass with orange juice and garnished the drink with an orange thumbnail. The result? A light, only mildly sweet, sparkling drink that started off tart from the orange and finished with the beautiful wine flavour we were hoping for. Easy, classic and perfect!

Our second drink was a bit fancier. We pulled out the big guns… the whip cream dispenser!


But, that’s no simple whip cream you are seeing. That is whipped egg whites infused with simple syrup and elder flower liqueur. Oh Em Gee. So we started with the same base and added this beautiful top. I would lightly rim the glass with orange sugar as well. Since it’s not sweet underneath, you won’t lose the flavours in the drink. It is a beautiful cocktail.

Number three was also made with our pink potion. This once was simple and classy but had some serious flare. Like, fire flare!


This one was really just our pretty sparkling wine with an orange thumbnail added. But he lit the orange on fire first! The result was that our drink smelled like warm, cinnamon oranges but tasted like our peachy wine. This was a delight!

And the fourth was just as fun! Using a white bubbly this time, Brian added some infused ice cubes that he had prepared in advance. We tried a basil and lemon sparkling martini and a cucumber and pineapple one, too!

These are lovely Christmas day drinks. Light and crisp and perfect for sipping after your breakfast and before your big dinner. They would also be great for your holiday parties. You can make them with a sweeter wine as well for a different experience all together.

So, which one came out on top to become the Sips in the City Cocktail at Storms this holiday?

Number two! The Elder Flower Infusion!! You will be able to purchase this drink at the restaurant and try it out before making it on your own! And you really need to go chat with Brian. He knows so much!! And he has great ideas. He’s been a sommelier for over 25 years. You can’t go wrong if you tell him what you really want. Plus, he’s super nice.

If you are really sweet maybe he will use a sword to open your wine…. I wish I could get the video to upload on here… it was awesome!




the three bottles you need for new years (and why you don’t need champagne)

These are the only bottles you need to buy for your new years party.

1. Sawmill Creek Merlot – this high value (cough, cough *cheap* cough) red is damn near drinkable with anything you serve for dinner. It’s a great sip with appies wine too. And you can serve it to lots of people because it’s like $9.

2. St Hubertus Wine Goddess – this is a great white wine and it’s festive and sends the right message to your lady pals!! It’s another great sipper for appies.

3. Anything that sparkles that is not champagne. So, if you read this blog you clearly don’t work in the wine industry. That is why I share little hints with you that I learned the hard way. This is one of them. Champagne (oh la la sil vous plait) is sparkling wine from a very special little pocket of france. It is called champagne because that is what the French do. They French things up. You don’t need to go looking for a bottle that starts with ‘c’. Just look for a bubbly bottle! These can be found in a designated area of your liquor store and all around the store in different regional sections too. Branch out and don’t be afraid to spend a little dough. A decent bottle, in my opinion, should be about $15-20. If you buy anything cheaper you should just put some pop rocks in tequila. And you deserve what you get out of that!!

Bonus tip – if you don’t typically like champagne, or any dry and white bubble bottle, then use a cheap one to make a sparkly cocktail for midnight. We’ll be making two tonight. The first is champagne jello shots. Search those out in the previous post. The second is a sweet, blue sparkler made with Hypnotic, lime juice and sparkling wine!! Rim the champagne flute with colored sugar first and you have a great new years toaster!!

Enjoy yourselves tonight!! Be safe and be carefree. Resolutions to follow… I find it best to make these hung over so I’ll be finalizing my list in the morning when my toddler is loudly playing beside me. Fun times!!!

Happy new year!

hello – champagne jello shots!!!


This is what I am bringing to the New Year’s Party tomorrow night!! Cheers!!!

wine of the year – runner up

Coming in second means you are just the first loser… really. But, that may be my perfectionism talking.

I love our runner-up of the year!! It’s one of my favorite wines and it makes a great gift. I was supposed to write this post over a week ago and this little thing called Christmas got in the way. But this is a great day to tell you to go buy this wine for sipping tomorrow night! Ready to know the name of this little beaut??

It’s Jacob’s Creek Moscato!!!


sweet without the tang


sheer awesomeness in a bottle

This wine is the fashizzit. You can buy it for anyone. If your uncle only drinks chianti and blood maybe steer clear for him. But everyone else is gonna love it. I won’t go on and on about it here. If you need more info search it on the blog. There is a review on here from the summer.

Did I mention it would be great to sip on with appies tomorrow night!

review – tharapy pink freud 2011

Therapy… for twenty bucks? I’m in!

Or at least I am willing to give it a go. What kind of therapy can you get for $20? It turns out we should have all chipped in and just eaten cookie dough and watched Beaches.

Therapy is a winery in Naramata, BC. This bottle says ‘Produced and Bottled by’ so these are probably grapes that they bought as opposed to grew on their land in their very own soil. You can find them at

They only chat up their 2012 wines on their website and I will admit to you (assume I am whispering here) that we had already had a glass or two before we gave this one a try so I am going on memory here when I describe it to you.

Pink Freud is a blush wine. Blush is made from red skinned grapes but not left too long with the skins so it doesn’t develop all the color a red wine does. Here is a completely unsubstantiated claim. Blush doesn’t get all the flavor either. EVER.

So blush wines are lighter in color and flavor. This one is really light.

All in all Pink Freud is pretty nondescript. It was not too dry, not too sweet. Not to fruity and not to spicy. It had no finish (after taste if you are new to this) and you forgot about it as soon as you drank it.

As far as pairing it with anything we all agreed that if you served it past brunch you were going to be disappointed. The description on the bottle uses the words bold, rich, dark and memorable. ummm…. we need to talk about that. What did you think of your Mother?

Of nine reviewers no one thought this was ‘wine of the night’ and it got a pretty poor 2.7/6. It just didn’t have much going on. I hate to sound harsh but take a pass on this one and try a therapy of another sort.

review – banrock station sparkling shiraz

Banrock Station has a sparkling shiraz. If you are really new to wine you will need to know that shiraz refers to the type of grapes the wine is made from. So a shiraz wine is made of shiraz grapes.This winery is from Australia. They donate to global conservation projects regularly. They claim right on the bottle to have contributed to saving salmon here in Canada. Thumbs up!

Now on to the inside of the bottle.

There were eight of us that tried this wine. The #1 word that we all agreed summed up this wine was CONFUSING! It was very fizzy and quite sweet. It was crisp and clean and a great color. But not one of us could think of a scenario in which to serve this wine.

Too sweet and fizzy for dinner, A bit too sweet just to sip. It was just a little weird. The label hints at berry fruits and plum flavors. I can see that. So maybe it is great with fruit salad. It did have a clean finish and had more staying power than the other sparklers we had that night but not one person went back for more. That is pretty telling.

It cost $15 at the BC liquor store.

Our overall rating was 3/6. Would I buy it again? Nope.

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