The story behind British Columbia’s Bella Wines starts out innocently enough. Jay Drysdale was working in restaurant kitchens, and in hopes of further understanding the complex relationship between food and wine, attained his International Sommelier Guild certification in 2003. Climbing his personal vinous ladder, next came running a restaurant’s 100 per cent BC wine program in Oliver, then a gig with the BC Wine Institute as their VQA wine store liason. Come 2012, he’d gotten his hands even dirtier by completing the Enology program at Washington State University.
Completing what in hindsight was a self-fulfilling prophecy, all of this work led to him working with Summerland’s Okanagan Crush Pad, a local high-profile custom crush facility, under the mentorship of winemaker Michael Bartier to create Bella Wines, a brand solely focused on traditional-method sparkling wines.
Ambitious as always, after a couple critically-acclaimed releases, Drysdale purchased a four-acre property in Naramata in 2013, where he’s planted Chardonnay and Gamay grapes so he can steer his production towards estate fruit.
In the meantime, the premium Chardonnay and Gamay grapes he sources from around the Okanagan are transformed into ‘Grower’s Champagne’-style sparklings; crisp, refreshing and expressive of each wine’s unique terroir.
He’s so confident in each bottling’s expressiveness that he currently has two sparkling Gamays on offer, both made via the same method with only each wine’s provenance separating them. The Westbank version, from the cooler lakeside area in the north is a touch more crisp and flinty with rhubarb and alpine strawberry notes, where the Oliver Gamay that’s literally grown in an arid, desert climate is ever-so-slightly richer with cranberry and strawberry shortcake notes.
Get a couple friends together, pop ‘em both open and see the difference for yourself!
Kurtis Kolt is a Vancouver-based wine consultant, writer, competition judge and enthusiast. He’s not half as fancy/boring as that sounds. He Tweets and Instagrams @KurtisKolt.