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April 1st, 2015
Ah, Easter: time for family gatherings, a chocolate-egg hunt, deeply flavourful roast lamb or ham, and perhaps reflection on those things that matter most in life, like family, precious friends, good health, and celebratory food. And don’t forget the wine, of course—like these two winners from our 11th annual Wine Awards, which will flatter any Easter feast.
Tantalus Riesling 2013
*available in private wine stores
This game-changing Riesling is one of the most exciting wines being made in the Okanagan Valley. The Tantalus winery was established in 2004, giving new life to one of the oldest vineyards in B.C.—the Pioneer vineyard—which was planted with table grapes in 1927 before noble riesling was tucked into the sloping terroir in 1978. Here, a portion of these concentrated berries joins fruit from younger vineyards. Winemaker Dave Patterson lets the fruit hang until it’s ultra-ripe, then it’s hand-picked and cool-fermented to near dryness at Tantalus’s spectacular LEED-certified winery. Peach and guava twirl around a steely backbone of brain-rinsing acidity, creating an explosion of flavour. Waves of lush fruit propel a dry-ish finish through the richness of an Easter brunch of baked ham, oven-roasted sockeye salmon, or smoky bacon hash.
Bodega Chacra Barda Pinot Noir 2012
*available in private wine stores
Take the Italian wine aristocrat Piero Incisa della Rocchetta (his family gave us the incomparable super-Tuscan Sassicaia), set him loose in Patagonia (where pinot noir vines were planted more than 80 years ago), and what do you get? One of the most thrilling outlier wine estates anywhere. (Yes, anywhere.) Its range is micro: two magnificent pinots made from the oldest vines, and this energetic wine called Barda, from newer plantings. The air is pristine in the southern Argentine desert, where Chacra’s vineyards are farmed according to strict biodynamic practices. The wines are made with no intervention: native ferments in cement vats, no punching down, old oak casks, and plenty of patience, so the wine can relax and settle before gentle bottling with no fining or filtration. In other words, pure, natural wine that expresses the limestone and glacial, gravelly terroir in a profound way. The scents are floral and wild, with plush raspberry flavours, distinct earthiness, and the silky mouthfeel that distinguishes great pinot. Herb-marinated leg of lamb is exactly what Piero would enjoy with this out-of-this-world Patagonian treasure.
March 26th, 2015
These two stylish Italian winners from our 11th annual Wine Awards beautifully accessorize a rainy weekend dinner, and will keep you enjoying la dolce vita until the sunshine returns. They’re both from the northeast of Italy, where the refined local cuisine draws from both land and sea.
Pieropan Soave Classico 2012
One of the best interpretations of the garganega grape, this Soave from Pieropan is universally admired. The 2012 Classico displays flavours of almond blossom, honey, and thyme, and stony aromas. It’s savoury and nutty, amplified by steely lemon acidity balanced by creamy, leesy weight. Fresh and inviting, it ends with a mineral force that comes from the volcanic terroir of the Soave region. Try it with Baccalà Mantecato (a classic Venetian spread of whipped salt cod), risotto with asparagus, or creamy polenta topped with garlicky sautéed prawns.
Monte del Frá Bardolino 2012
Think of Bardolino as a fresher, juicier Valpolicella. The grapes—Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara—are the same in both wines (as well as in Amarone, by the way), and they come from old vineyards near Lake Garda, in the Veneto region of northeast Italy. Boasting aromas and flavours of wild strawberry and red cherry dusted with spice, it’s alive with vigorous acidity and personality. Mild tannins make it a great fish wine, and its adaptability and refreshment quotients are off the charts. Give it a chill and drink as an aperitif like white wine, or pair it with charcuterie, pizza, or wine-braised chicken.
March 19th, 2015
“Rosé 365″—that’s not just my mantra, but something increasingly understood to be true around the world. Pink wines have never, ever been hotter, and we’re now drinking them in every season, not just during summer. Rosé sales and production have been creeping up for a few years, as wine lovers (finally!) cotton on to the extensive variety on our shelves, from dry, ballet-pink Provençal beauties, to watermelon-hued Spanish specimens, to balanced and herbaceous local heroes like Haywire Gamay Noir Rosé 2013 (from the forward-thinking Okanagan Crush Pad), chosen as best of its category in our 11th annual Wine Awards. Juicy and deeply flavourful, you should try it with charcuterie, a Sunday afternoon grilled cheese made with Comté or aged cheddar, or pasta primavera. Your mouth will believe spring has finally arrived—and, in fact, it does exactly that at 3:46 p.m. this Friday.
Haywire Gamay Noir Rosé 2013
Okanagan Crush Pad is at the forefront of wine innovation in B.C., with superstar consultants Alberto Antonini and terroir expert Pedro Parra helping to define new directions. Light, crisp, and bone dry, this rosé combines the juicy berry fruit of gamay and the savoury, herbal aromas of the Okanagan. Seriously structured and ageable, it’s a lovely expression of our unique climate. Its tart finish is perfect for classic pairings like Dungeness crab cakes or succulent pork chops, but also with takeout Shanghai noodles or pork potstickers.
March 12th, 2015
I’m on assignment this week in France, not too far from where the wonderful house of Louis Jadot makes these two winners, each of which would be a perfect meal accompaniment over the rainy but mild weekend ahead.
Maison Louis Jadot Bourgogne Chardonnay Couvent des Jacobins 2012
Chardonnay is the white grape of Burgundy, of which there are diverse styles to be discovered and enjoyed—from steely Chablis in the north; sensitively oaked wines in the glorious Cote d’Or; and peachier, riper styles from the southern area called the Mâcon. This Bourgogne offers a broad, lovely version of chardonnay with fruit from three regions, aged both in oak casks and inert steel tanks for a wine that tastes serious yet approachable. Expect floral notes, plus aromas of ripe apple and stone fruit, and a structured palate displaying nectarine, bright citrus, and vanilla-flan flavours. Emphatic and long in the finish, it’s well made, well priced, and well worth our devoted enjoyment. A lovely aperitif, but certainly substantial enough for grilled fish or a creamy chicken pasta.
Maison Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages Combe aux Jacques 2012
Jadot makes sensational Beaujolais wines from the gamay grape, always with an edge and a dedication to tradition. Some of the grapes in this Beaujolais Village wine (which means the fruit comes from better village sites than basic wines) are from the fine Régnié cru, and the winemaking focuses attention on the jubilant red fruit, a brisk charge of acidity, and mild tannins. Cherry flavours are tinged with the distinct mineral character of the granite terroir that gamay loves best. Dense fruit and appealing freshness make this a perfect wine for pâté or charcuterie.