Red wines to warm you up these last few winter days
We in Ontario almost, almost, thought it was over. The weather was warming. The snow was melting. The days were getting longer. Some hearty types were even seen (at least by me) wearing shorts. Then blammo! Yes. Blammo! Old Man Winter hits us again. (As I believe in gender equality, I also believe that Mother Nature – age indeterminate – was also complicit in this “little joke.”) Snow, rain, slush, cats, dogs…we got it all (except for maybe the last bits).
Fine, OMW and MN can have their fun. We remain undaunted, united and strong because we have red wine! The kryptonite to all things cold and nasty, red wine will fortify you, harden your resolve to battle through the icy elements, and lead you, unscathed, to warmer, sunnier climes. Or at least make your dinner more enjoyable.
A few good ones have passed my palate as of late that are worth discovering yourself. To wit:
Siduri Wines Santa Lucia Highland Pinot Noir 2017 and Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2017
Siduri Wines (named after the Babylonian goddess of wine) specialize in cool-climate, American west coast Pinot Noirs, sourcing fruit from vineyards from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, down to California’s Santa Barbara County. If these two wines I recently tasted are any indication, the company seems to have a good handle on what it’s doing. Both are extremely well-crafted, complex and seamlessly integrated. The SLH just barely got the nod from me over the RRV, but this is really splitting hairs. Both wines show classic Pinot Noir aromas, with shades of black raspberry, cedar, and mild spice aromas in the SLH, where the RRV leans more towards black cherry, tobacco leaf, and new leather. Where the SLH carries a tad more weight, the RRV is imbued with a silky, almost oily, viscous texture. You really can’t lose either way.
Black Sage Vineyard Shiraz 2016
From the South Okanagan’s Black Sage Bench sub-region comes a Shiraz that nicely manages to keep one foot in the fruit-forward, rich, blackberry/vanilla/coca-laced Aussie Shiraz mould, while keeping the other – or at least a few toes – in elegant, white pepper/mineral-scented Northern Rhone garb. Full-bodied, velvety, dense and chewy in the mouth, it sports layers of black fruit, vanilla and mocha, with some classic cracked pepper on the finish.
Culmina R&D Red Blend 2016
Not far from Black Sage Bench – in fact only six kilometres from it – lies the Golden Mile Bench sub-region, where fruit for this red blend is sourced. Merlot-dominated but enhanced by the usual suspects (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot), it offers up the expected black fruit nuances (dark plum, bramble, etc.) but with distinctive flinty/smoky/meaty/wet slate and mint suggestions. Nicely balanced between blackberry, flinty mineral and savoury/herbal elements, there’s enough backbone and grip to suggest a few more years in the cellar won’t hurt.
Culmina Hypothesis 2014
Fruit (predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon, with Merlot and Cabernet Franc) from the Arise Bench vineyard is fermented, blended, and aged in a combo of new (30 percent) and older oak. The result is a deeply-coloured red wine, with an intense, forward nose that bursts with juicy, toasty, wet slate and cassis/black cherry nuances. Lots going on flavour-wise, including suggestions of blackcurrant, dark chocolate, coffee, smoke and a bare hint of menthol. Well-structured enough to enjoy now (with a bit of air to soften it a bit), I feel a few additional years in the cellar will result in an even more enjoyable experience.
Spoken Barrel #42 Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
A Cab from Washington’s Columbia Valley that also includes a smattering of Syrah and Merlot in the blend for good measure (and added complexity). Fruit is sourced from prime Horse Heaven Hills, Yakima Valley and Wahluke Slope vineyards. The upshot is a fairly bold red, with forward aromatic notes of black berry, dark plum, chocolate/cherry, and toasty oak notes. Rich and supple in texture, it nonetheless has enough of a balanced tannin/acid backbone to avoid any suggestion of flabbiness. Cassis lingers on the long finish, with a hint of sweet vanilla/oak.
Toscolo Chianti Classico DOCG 2016
It seems almost inevitable these days that Old World wines are tagged as being either “old style” or “new style,” with “new style” typically suggesting the extent to which the Old World style mimics that of New World wines. Or not. Whatever. In any case, this Chianti combines some Old World rusticity (dried herbs, black olive, mild earthiness, and black olive aromas and flavours) with New World polish (ripe black cherry fruit, hints of vanilla custard from oak ageing, a generally supple mouthfeel and generally “easy to enjoy” style). In other words, it’s a pretty versatile red that will pair nicely with traditional dishes, good friends, or both.