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Crozes-Hermitage is the sometimes chunky country cousin next door to the fabled Hermitage appellation in the northern Rhône. Its wines are almost entirely Syrah, but unlike its neighbour it grows on flat rather than sloping land. Cave de Tain is a first-rate co-op, its 2003, from a scorchingly hot year, only just ready for drinking. Almost black with purple glints, it tastes of black cherry and black figs with black licorice and black pepper to finish. Very powerful but with great finesse. Serve with something simple like braised beef.
$26.99 | specialty listing and private wine storesCedarCreek contends with Quails’ Gate for the title of best Pinot Noir in the Okanagan. The Estate Select is its second-tier Pinot, but in many ways that’s a good thing. Less of a showstopper than the estate’s $40 Platinum Pinot, this wine still scores with its compelling fruit, all sweet silky strawberry and black cherry, followed by a seductive spice-box earthiness that makes it a natural with good straightforward cooking. Beautiful with cedar-grilled Chinook salmon, it also takes well to a duck breast marinated in olive oil and thyme.
John Simes made his name and Mission Hill’s reputation when he won the best Chardonnay in the world more than a decade ago. The 2006 Perpetua just might be better. From a single vineyard, scrupulously hand-picked and babied all the way to the bottle, it’s more Burgundy than California, with alluring orange-blossom notes giving way to peach and nectarine fruit and a long toasty-nutty finish. Its superb finesse makes it a wine to show off to European friends who still find it hard to believe that B.C. makes great wine.
Ornellaia is one of the great super-Tuscan estates, Le Volte its entry-level wine (despite its fairly hefty Canadian price). An everyday version of its benchmark Ornellaia, Le Volte is roughly half Sangiovese with 35 percent Merlot and the rest Cab Sauvignon. The 2007 has a lot going for it: lovely red berry fruit without remotely entering jam territory, terrific structure, and beautiful balance. It comes into its own with a meal—grilled lamb with salsa verde perhaps, or even something as simple as pasta with fresh tomato sauce.
$35 for a bottle of wine to go with sausages seems a bit steep, but Camille Seghesio’s delicious Zinfandel, served at a sausage-making workshop with John van der Lieck of Oyama Sausage in the summer of 2009, convincingly demonstrated the sizzle in both the sausage and the wine. It’s a perennial award winner, with lovely juicy plum and blueberry fruit, a jammy but solid structure, and a smoky spice finish.