This summer, my cup, or rather my wine glass, runneth over with incredible wines!
Here’s a quick glance at some of the major “vinelights” from July, August and early September. Listed in order of appearance in my glass.
Burrowing Owl Meritage 2006, South Okanagan
Meritage (rhymes with heritage) is the semi-official term for North American red blends made with traditional Bordeaux varietals. I acquired this bottle with Sean on our BC winery road trip last summer. This deep ruby-purple gem from the Black Sage area of South Okanagan exudes aromas of black and blue fruits, oak, tobacco, mint and coffee. It was lean and powerful, with good depth of fruit, some mouth-cooling mint flavours, fine tannins and a long finish. I would have liked to hang on to it for another year or two, but it was Sean’s birthday wine of choice, and in any case it was still delicious. I made a really nice zucchini and goat’s cheese whole wheat pizza with roasted garlic that night, which was a terrific appetizer. $45 at the winery.
Green Truck Organic Zinfandel 2008, Mendocino County
This organic line extension of the Red Truck wine brand was pretty good for its type: Ripe and plummy with notes of raspberry jam, this was typical mainstream California zinfandel that will match a wide variety of foods. Perfect for hostess gifts and potlucks. I received this as a gift but estimate this to be around $15 – 18.
Palo Alto Reserva 2008 DO Maule Valley, Chile
A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère and Syrah. Deep purple-black in colour, with aromas of black fruits, spice and oak on the nose. A full-bodied, mouthcoating wine with flavours of ripe plum, cassis, oak and baking spice. A bit bold, ripe and intense for me as a summer wine, but perhaps will fare better in winter with stews and roasts. $14
Howling Bluff Pinot Noir 2006, Naramata
This was my birthday wine! Also purchased Summer 2009 during my and Sean’s winery road trip – we actually stayed at Howling Bluff’s bed and breakfast for a couple of nights. I cooked a fantastic meal (see below) to pair specially with this wine, and am pleased to say everything tasted great together. The wine was showing well, although more intense and less earthy than I had remembered. Dark cherry aromas with notes of cocoa, white pepper dust, earth and cool oak on the nose, with similar flavours and oaky tannins on the palate that lingered right on through the finish. A medium-plus-bodied, classic New World Pinot that I think will improve in the bottle for up to 3 – 4 more years. Good thing I still have another bottle! $30 at the winery.
Heirloom tomato salad with escarole and mixed sprouted beans, basic lemon / balsamic / grapeseed oil vinaigrette
Belgian endive topped with Gorgonzola, walnut, Oculus cherry and caramelized shallot marmalade
Mushroom & herb risotto, caramelized shallot marmalade
Montes Classic Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 DO Colchagua Valley, Chile
I see a white cork and I want it painted black...
Check out the blackness of the cork! This was a forgotten bottle that was stored in my parents’ house for a few years until I pulled it out late August for some experimental, adventurous sipping. I don’t have too much experience drinking aged wines from my personal cellar (any bottles of mine that need time are still hidden away for future drinking), so, apart from a Dr. Loosen Urziger Wurtzgarten Riesling Spätlese 2005 that I opened the Mother’s Day before last (heavenly), this is a first for me in terms of reds. The Montes Classic Series is by no means a premium wine (the winery has higher-tier lines including the iconic Purple Angel), so it was also an experiment in tasting cellar potential in a less expensive wine.
Happily, this did not disappoint. What would have been racy acid and strong tannins in the wine’s early days now translated to smooth drinking in the glass, five years later. Elegant flavours of black fruits, cassis, plum, pipe tobacco and chocolate combined with an almost milky texture for a pleasantly subtle example of Cabernet. $15
Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages 2009
There has been so much hype on the 2009 vintage in Beaujolais that I simply had to get this bottle when I saw it on the shelf at my local store. I’m just gaining appreciation for the subtleties of Gamay now – Beaujolais’ trademark red varietal is typically light and fruity, which can often be misunderstood for “unseriousness”. Rather, in the best examples such as Cru Beaujolais, the wine is enhanced by undertones of mineral (of which there is a wide spectrum), earth and floral or herbaceous notes, all of which aren’t overshadowed by harsh tannins that can sometimes get in the way of good wine. Beaujolais are super easy-drinking wines that pair perfectly with light, healthy cooking like we enjoy here on the West Coast.
This Beaujolais-Villages was so fruity and delicious, I’m tempted to trade up and search for 2009s from smaller domaines. Bright purple in colour, the wine offered juicy berry and Kool-Aid aromas with notes of granite and flowers. On the palate, it was a medium-minus-bodied wine with low tannins, refreshing acidity, more of that juicy, almost sweet fruit character and some complex minerality beneath. Enjoy this while you can, because (a) it won’t last long on the shelves, and (b) it’s best served young. Open it as soon as you get it! I like my Beaujolais slightly chilled to maximize on the tasty juiciness. $17
Illuminati Riparosso Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC 2008
Dark, handsome and brooding, just like Ryo Saeba, City Hunter.
The other wine region (or country, really) that I’ve really begun sinking my teeth into is Italy. There are so many unique wines made from innumerable indigenous varieties, all of which just have this amazingly unmistakable Italian character and pair excellently with food. This was just as I had hoped for, rich and long on the palate with silky tannins, deep cherry and other red fruit flavours persisting in the mouth, with notes of pipe tobacco, oak, licorice, tea leaves, spice and this slightly bitter undertone that made you want to keep drinking. I enjoyed this massively with comfy sweats and a Japanese anime DVD, but you could also pair this with a hard cheese like Asiago or Parmigiano Reggiano and charcuterie. $17
Henry Fessy Saint-Amour AOC 2008
Here’s another yummy Beaujolais from one of the ten crus, Saint-Amour, which is up near the top of the cru “strip”. Slightly lighter in body and acidity than the Duboeuf version mentioned above, this showed more complexity with the minerals, flowers and fruit more intertwined, harder to pick out than the Beaujolais-Villages. This would be great with a simple herbed pork tenderloin or grilled chicken dish (skin on, bien sûr!) – my vegetarian pairing was macaroni with mushrooms, spinach and thyme in a tomato sauce, baked au gratin with a whole wheat Cheddar béchamel topping. $25
Macaroni in mushroom, spinach and tomato sauce, baked au gratin with whole wheat Cheddar bechamel.
That’s all I have to report for now – photos and stories from my Summer 2010 trips to the Okanagan coming soon!