Christmas is coming, but what gifts to give the wine lover in your life? Fortunately, Wine Journeys ideas that we are happy to share…
Reference Books – The best wine reference book is the THE OXFORD COMPANION TO WINE edited by the Jancis Robinson, a brilliant wine writer from the UK. It is voluminous, in its 4th edition, and can answer most any question you have about wine. You can purchase the hardcover version from Indigo online for $75.
Books for Fun – For a great read, with the bonus that it will help you understand wine better, we recommend Ottawa based wine expert Natalie MacLean’s book, UNQUENCHABLE: A TIPSY QUEST FOR THE WORLD’S BEST BARGAIN WINES. Once again, you’ll have to purchase it online. Indigo has it for $19.95 as a paperback.
Preservative Systems – When the unfinished bottle needs to be kept in peak condition for later, consider one of the CoravinTM systems. They’re available from Amazon and other online retailers ranging from $130 to $655 depending on the model. The basic $130 version has received some good reviews.
Decanters – There are a wide range available from inexpensive glass versions to the most extravagant, ornate crystal creations that you could imagine. It would be best to check with your local kitchen supply store, kitchen area in your department store, or online to see what’s available. Prices range from around $15 to stratospheric.
Corkscrews – These devices are useful to any wine aficionado. Our favourite is the waiter’s friend – it has a small knife end to cut the capsule and a helical screw end that has a double lever to remove corks easily. They can be found in retail outlets like kitchen stores or online. Cost ranges from $4 for a utilitarian version to over $500 for a luxe one.
Wines – If you know what your wine enthusiast longs for to fill their glass, check out the LCBO, winery, or wine distributor to find it. Costs run from $ to awe inspiring. Check out this month’s wine reviews for some ideas.
As usual, my ratings are based on a 5 star system developed by Michael Broadbent: 5 stars: Outstanding; 4 stars: Very good; 3 stars: Good; 2 stars: Moderately good; 1 star: Not very good, but not bad; No stars: Poor.
Sonoma-Cutrer Russian River Ranches Chardonnay 2019 ★★★½+ $27.95 (Vintages)
A rich, buttery expression of Chardonnay from the Russian River Valley (a cooler region of Sonoma) that has been barrel aged without too much new oak. The result is a dry wine with good acidity and lemon meringue creaminess mixed with rich yellow apple and spice, nicely supported by vanilla. It’s full bodied and will complement your turkey dinner if you like a rich, butter infused stuffing.
Peninsula Ridge Inox Chardonnay 2020 ★★★½+ $15.95 (LCBO)
The Inox in this Niagara Chardonnay’s name refers to the fact that it is aged in stainless steel with no use of oak. It’s dry, yet it represents a leaner, juicy, medium bodied style than its aforementioned California cousin. A little creaminess still shows that is not derived from oak, but from aging on the lees. Pure cool climate fruit shines here with notes of pear, lemon, green apple, and spice with a beautiful seam of mineral. It will cut through the richness of your Christmas feast to make each bite more enjoyable.
Holland Marsh Winery Ephemere Pinot Grigio Vidal 2018 ★★★½ $16.00 (Winery, online)
This winery is a short drive down Highway 400 and has award winners like this one that won Bronze in the All Canadian Wine Championships. It’s a simply pleasurable medium bodied white blend that’s dry with suggestions of lemon and apple. The winery recommends pairing with smoked salmon or chicken breast salad.
Chapoutier Belleruche Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc 2020 ★★★½+ $16.95 (LCBO)
Chapoutier is one of the Rhone’s most reliable wineries. Here they produce a typical Southern Rhone style white that’s dry and fuller bodied, made with mostly with Grenache Blanc along with some Bourbelenc and Clairette. Abundant ripe stone fruits, pear, lemon, yellow apple, spice, and minerals make for a very agreeable wine. Try it with seafood or aged cheese like a Comte.
Hess Select Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ★★★★ $24.95 (Vintages)
Easily found in the over $30 range, excellent quality California Cabernet is always more challenging to find at lower prices. This one delivers that excellent quality experience at a price in the mid $20s. It’s deeply coloured, full bodied, delicious, and dry with intense black fruits, especially cassis, along with shades of cigar box, vanilla, nutmeg spice, spearmint, and black currant leaf. The tannins are high, but ripe and approachable. Serve it with fare like steak or an entrée with meaty mushrooms such as Portobello or Porcini.
Penfold’s Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet 2019 ★★★½ $19.95 (Vintages)
My first experience with this typical Australian blend was back in the 1990s and I have not tasted it in a number of years. It still exemplifies why this blend works well with its full bodied, intense dark fruits wrapped in oak spice and vanilla. The tannins are high, but not at all aggressive. If you are looking for a crowd pleaser to pour at your Christmas gathering, pick up a few bottles. Bigger flavoured foods like red meats will bring out its best.
Holland Marsh Winery Select Cabernet Baco 2018 ★★★★ $23.00 (Winery, online)
A red mostly made with Cabernet Sauvignon with 25% Baco Noir blended in to soften the edges and it’s another award winner – Double Gold at the All Canadian Wine Championships. It produces a very approachable wine with smooth tannins, black cherry, and plum along with tobacco and spice. The winery recommends you serve it with prime rib, Portobello mushroom, or aged cheese.
Megalomaniac Sonofabitch Pinot Noir 2018 ★★★½+ $27.95 (Vintages)
Aside from having an amusing name (mind you they do call Pinot the heartbreak grape), this is a nice expression of Niagara Pinot that’s medium bodied with a fine intensity of flavour and aroma. In your glass, you’ll find pleasant fresh and dried red fruits, spice, and vanilla with a little earthiness sneaking in at the end. It’s dry, delectable, and very good. Pair it up with dishes like cassoulet or falafel since they have that complementary earthy character as well.