Eight wines worth seeking out from our own back yard and beyond
You always drink Pinot Grigio. Or Cabernet Sauvignon, if you’re inclined to red wines. Or maybe you pick the same bottle, every time you’re in your local wine shop because you know you like it. The label is familiar. You know you can’t go wrong. Still, Alberta has thousands of wines to choose from — more than any other province in Canada. It’s time to break out of your rut and try something new.
Here are eight wines to search out, four from British Columbia plus four international wines from lesser-known grape varietals (well, lesser-known to most Calgarians.) Buy a bottle. Or two. Or all eight. Maybe you’ll find a new favourite.
Four wines close to home:
The perfect balance between fruit and oak, this fine Shiraz is yet another winner from the team at Mission Hill, one of the Okanagan’s largest wineries, and one of the most consistent for quality. Drink this wellpriced red at gatherings both casual and elegant: Sunday roast beef dinner or grilled steak with friends. About $29.
A little lighter and brighter than its cousin, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc is best-known for its role in Bordeaux, France. But it also does well in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, as this fine example from Black Sage Vineyards shows. There’s a hint of green pepper there, but there’s also plenty of spice and dark fruity notes, too. Pair with steak and chimichurri. About $25.
Black Hills is most famous for Nota Bene, a gorgeous but considerably more expensive red blend. A Cellar Hand is a winemaker’s assistant, the person that makes his or her life just a little easier. This crisp, aromatic white wine will make your life a little easier, nicer and more fun. I’m crazy about its peachy-citrus aromas and flavours of crunchy nectarines and grapes. About $20.
Made from 100 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, this pretty pink sipper from Clos du Soleil has a bit more heft than some rosé wines; it’s also richly aromatic, with refreshing notes of strawberries, pomegranate and currants. When you’re in BC this summer, stop in and check out the winery’s lovely new tasting room, which just opened in May 2015. Pair with roast chicken or a fresh baguette and soft cheeses. About $22.
Four wines from distant countries and lesser-known grapes:
This youthful, zingy, bright white wine hails from Spain and is made from Verdejo and Viura grapes, a common combination in Rueda. These grapes aren’t exactly household names in Canada, but fans of crisp Sauvignon Blanc will love it. Pair with prawns fried in butter, scallops or a crisp salad with fresh asparagus tips. About $17.
This wine hails from California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, and for a long time, I thought it was Obsession Symphony — only to find out that the grape is actually called Symphony. A cross between Muscat of Alexandria and Grenache Gris, Symphony was released commercially in the early 1980s. Off-dry and aromatic, with notes of grapefruit, flowers and apples, it will pair with Chinese or Indian takeout or just enjoy it chilled by itself. About $19.
A blend of Grenache Noir and Carignan (Samso) grapes from Spain’s Montsant region, a small C-shaped region located in Northern Spain, near Priorat. Carignan, aka Samso, is an ancient grape that is perhaps best-associated with France, but likely originated in Spain. And this Tocat? Check out that playful label, and enjoy the wine’s complex layers of vanilla, clove, cassis, plum and licorice. About $25.
Handsome Italian soccer star Andrea Barzagli is a partner in this small, well-regarded Sicilian winery. Figlio di Ennenne is a very modern, medium-bodied red made from ancient indigenous Sicilian grapes — Nerello Mascalese and Nocera. (Nocera is always the supporting actor, never the star.) This example features wonderful spice and cherry flavours, plus a charming hint of freshly sharpened pencils. About $23.
— Shelley Boettcher