Mixed double wine picks for luscious evenings

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This week, we sample more mixed doubles; this time the arrangement is by varietal, type, or label.

J. P. Chenet Reserve Chardonnay 2011 ($12.99)
First, the white. Is this an oxymoron I see before me—a cheap French Chardonnay? Indeed it is: light, easy to drink, and radically different from some of the big Chards we know and love. The back label suggests “acacia flowers and pineapple”—got it. Lovely for the summer, whenever that gets here.

J. P. Chenet Reserve Pinot Noir 2011 ($12.99)
A delicious treat. The wine is redolent with cherry juice and comes crashing on the teeth with fruit—lots of it. The easy 12.5 percent alcohol makes it a solo gulper, or a midweek dinner companion.

Stoneboat Pinot Noir 2010 ($25)
This smells, then tastes, terrific: luscious and juicy, substantial and full, very rich, very un-French (more Carneros than Burgundy). We loved it with white Cheddar pierogies and smoked Ukrainian sausage, sour cream, mustard and sauerkraut, lettuce and coleslaw. Dark, inky colour, huge aromas, and a silky finish; no edges, just mellowness.

Kim Crawford Marlborough Pinot Noir 2011 ($21.99)
One more just ’cause it’s at hand. Despite its higher alcohol, this is much lighter in colour and more fragrant, with lilacs off the nose and, as the label says, “a combo of dark cherry and strawberry” with just a hint of smoke and oak. Well balanced and very fruity, with a long and soft finish. For tuna or salmon, poultry, and especially lamb, Pinot Noir with lamb being one of my perennial favourite dinner pairings. Lovely classic New Zealand Pinot Noir.

Pascual Toso Malbec 2011 ($13.99)
Widely available as an LDB general listing, one of the many (50-something?) examples of Argentina’s proudest red-wine export, from a venerable Argentine house: “a rustic, sincere, medium-bodied wine”. Its sincerity notwithstanding, it’s a rich and robust red with coffee and violets and blackberry for the nose, spice and smoke for the tongue, rich and hearty in the finish. Just the thing for richly sauced pasta and rare red meat.

Chateau Labrande Malbec 2009 (Cahors) ($19.95)
One of the “black wines” of Cahors, Malbec is known as Auxerrois by the locals. This one is—typically—tarry and substantial, very ripe and rich, with massive fruit. Not for the faint of heart—or palate! A good price for this excellent example of the big Cahors wines.

Quails’ Gate Late Harvest Optima 2011 (375 millilitres, $29.99)
While I do love icewine, I generally prefer the subtlety of the late-harvest styles. This is one of the best I’ve tasted. The nose is quite shy, but then the palate gets a major hit of candied apricot, and the finish lasts for eons. An ideal dinner finale with cheese or fruit desserts. Serve lightly chilled in small glasses and be prepared for requests for refills.

Clos du Soleil Saturn 2011 (375 millilitres, $28.90; total production 56 cases)
A steal among world-class botrytized dessert wines. This bottled bit of Similkameen magic is the local riff on traditional sweet wines of Bordeaux, meaning it goes perfectly with foie gras if you do that sort of thing, blue cheese, and rich, sweet desserts. It’s cheaper—and who’s to say it isn’t better? Intense aromas carry through to rich, deep flavours. A surprise is the relatively high alcohol (14.5 percent), but the body and sweetness carry it well. Wonderful stuff.

Forbidden Fruit Pomme Desiree Iced Apple Dessert Wine 2010 (375 millilitres, $29.95)
Six different apple varieties go into the blend; if you like apples, you’ll love this treatment, a “unique process of cryoextraction”. “Pairs perfectly with cheesecake, Black Forest Cake, appies and apple-cinnamon pie,” say the producers. Huge fruit; very rich and deep. Complex aromas and multilayered flavours. Serve cool, but not too cold.

Forbidden Fruit Crushed Innocence White Peach Dessert Wine 2011 (375 millilitres, $21.95)
Winner of a silver medal at the All-Canadian Wine Championships, this is essence of peach in a glass: totally outstanding fruit, unique flavour, a very rich and peachy taste, and a lingering finish, all achieved by a “gentle crush of delicate fruit”—white-fleshed peaches. For fruit salads, desserts, light cheeses, or just on its own as dessert. Again, serve it cool but not cold. 

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