Bubbles and More from Elephant Island Orchard Wines
I remember the skepticism I felt when I first encountered the wines of Elephant Island. It must be the kind of skepticism Miranda and Del Halladay have to battle constantly. I was wrong obviously, but it was a prejudice rooted in experience: much of the fruit wine produced is unbalanced, adulterated, cloyingly sweet, and inconsequential. Elephant Island is something special. They have been producing wine from their stunning orchard property on the Naramata Bench since 1999. Their sweet wines make for incredible dessert and cheese pairings, particularly the Crab Apple Wine, rich and luscious but balanced with a tart kick, and the Stellaport, made from Stella cherries and barrel aged in a solera system à la Sherry. Not everything Elephant Island makes is sweet, some of their fruit wines, including pear and cherry labels, are totally dry. Plus, for the last few vintages, they've been vinifying wine wine: a viognier and a blend of cabernet franc and merlot.
The best evidence that Elephant Island is a league above most other fruit wine producers is in the quality and creativity of their sparkling wines. The Little King and Pink Elephant both start from a base of Granny Smith apples that are made sparkling through the "traditional method" where, similar to Champagne, a second fermentation takes place in the bottle. This takes much longer than other methods, integrates subtle flavours and creates fine bubbles. Before being corked, they are each given a dosage—a splash of juice for adding character and a touch of sweetness. The Little King is finished with raspberry and Pink Elephant with cassis.
Pink Elephant has long been a favourite of mine for something fun and delicious to drink as an alternative to sparkling rosé. The fact that it is dry makes it an apt food partner. It packs bright green apple characters with that deep pure berry character of currants. It's a Kir Royale ready to pop and pour!
Jake Skakun is a writer and sommelier from Vancouver, currently living in Toronto. He can be found most days pulling corks and twisting caps at the Black Hoof. He Tweets and Instagrams @jakeskakun.