Warm up to winter with California wine, Panama Red Rum, and Polish Wodka vodka

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There are plenty of new wines in town for the holidays, including some interesting Californians. 

Here’s one of them now: Carnivor Cabernet Sauvignon, by way of E & J Gallo. At least, that’s what the return address says. Yes, it’s spelled without an E on the end, but the intent is clear: a good name for a bright purple, fruity, solid meat wine. It’s 13.9 percent alcohol and costs $17.99 here in B.C.

This is a big and bold Cab made from ripe Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from Lodi, with rich, intense fruit developed in 2011. It pours with a deep inky colour. It has dark layers of rich fruit showing notes of espresso, toasted oak, and chocolate—that’s the winery talking—with a plush, velvety finish. A little splash of Merlot was blended in to add some finesse to the Cab.

You’ll want to serve it with steak or rib roast. The Keg ought to have it—it’s the consummate beef wine. There’s a little Christmas bonus for you if you buy it right now, for holiday entertaining. It’s a dollar off—$16.99—until December 28. In the new year, it goes back up to $17.99.

This one is new from Naramata’s Therapy Vineyards: Fizzio Therapy Rouge 2010 Sparkling Wine. It’s practically a bubbly Meritage—45 percent Merlot, 39 percent Syrah, 10 percent Cab Sauv, four percent Cab Franc, and two percent white, namely Viognier.

But you’ll probably have to go to the winery to get it: while it’s a reasonable $22.99 per bottle, they only made 58 cases of it. There may well be some more of last year’s release: the white Fizzio Therapy. Bet most of your friends haven’t had a red bubble, especially not one from B.C.

Some winery notes: “Deep garnet purple coloured, with aromas of earth, warm blackberries and black cherries, with a whiff of leather…medium-bodied and frothy, with medium bubbles of good persistence, medium chewy tannins—minimum sweetness balances with soft acidity, finishing with lingering chocolate and licorice notes.”

There’s a new rum from Panama in town, in time for seasonal entertaining. It’s called Panama Red Rum, and it’s described as “full-bodied with a hint of sweetness and a smooth exciting finish”. It’s all that and more—it’s overproof.

Panama Red is a blend of rums up to five years old, made from molasses derived from sugar cane in the Las Cabres region of Panama. It’s aged in select American bourbon barrels and has already won several gold medals in Europe. 

Look for this $40 bottle in select private and B.C. LDB stores.

If you’ve got $16 jingling in your jeans, I recommend this Chilean beauty with a holiday meal—Undurraga Sibaris Reserva Especial 2012 Carménère, whose neck tag says it’s “B.C.’s top-selling Chilean Carménère”. (If that’s the case, how come I’ve never heard of it before?) It sure tastes good—a lovely red dinner wine, deep and rich; a glorious Carménère, almost equal to B.C.’s Black Hills version. And for the price, fabulous! Perfect for smoked meats or grills.

Wódka is Polish for "vodka", and if you want to get into a fight, debate the provenance of the clear spirit with a Pole and a Russian. It’s also the name of a new vodka just arrived on the shelves, but it’s not in all LDB stores. It’s a relic from Poland’s Communist era, triple-distilled, clean and astringent, and neutral, as good vodka should be. Perfect for caesars and other cocktails, especially at the price of $24.99. 

I mean, why spend $40 for something to mix with Tabasco and horseradish when this one will do the job beautifully for nearly half that? Stock up for New Year’s drinks.

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