Wines for Valentine's Day and beyond

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It’s the post-Christmas season of partying, which includes the just-passed Chinese New Year and Valentine’s Day, and I have some new wines for you.

The first is a special release of Summerland’s Haywire Pinot Noir 2012 ($24.90 at the winery and select specialty stores; only 688 bottles produced). Its red-and-gold label features Chinese text meaning “Good fortune in the Year of the Horse”. It’s fresh, fruity, and super-delicious. Try to find a few bottles if you can; your palate will be rewarded, as this is stylish and elegant Pinot Noir.

Also from Haywire is Pink Bub 2012 ($24.90), speaking of stylish and elegant. it's very limited release of 100 cases; you might consider it for Valentine’s Day celebrating. It’s about equal parts Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. A quote from the winemakers: “This wine bursts with crisp and elegant green-apple with a slight cherry note—a lively expression of Okanagan freshness.” I actually get strawberries, and as for the bursting factor: due to the crown-cap closure, it tends to pop and bubble over. No getting away from that, so have a dishtowel handy. A delicious and deep-fruited bubble.

Pagoda Brand Shaoxing rice wine is a cooking wine that looks and tastes like skimpy sherry. It carries 15 percent alcohol, is eight years old, and costs $14.99. I’m not sure you’ll want to drink it, but it’s essential for making “drunken chicken” or a hearty hot pot.

A couple of newcomers through the Marquis Wine Club are well worth asking for. They came to me without price info, so check with Marquis. The wines are fabulous. Ant Moore Sauvignon Blanc, from New Zealand’s Marlborough region by way of California, is floral and herby. It’s one of the very few New Zealand SBs I can tolerate—not so grassy. The other is a local red blend, Saxon Estate Cranky Old Man 2012, with 14.2 percent alcohol. The blend is organic Merlot and Léon Millot with hints of ripe banana and some vanilla finish. Big fruit and agreeable dryness. This one is for handmade pasta with fresh tomato sauce.

If Chile produced nothing but Pinot Noir, its place in the world’s wine pantheon would be assured. Here’s a new one in town, and it’s sensational—fresh, rich, full-bodied, and luscious: Lomas del Valle Casablanca 2013 (a bargain for $14.99). There’s a note on the label that reads “Coastal Cool Climate Wine”. Beautiful ripe, fresh fruit. It does throw some sediment, so please decant.

As for Three Winds Viognier 2012 ($13.99), it’s a party wine, a reception wine, and an everyday lunch wine—refreshing, full-bodied, the colder the better. This French brand first burst onto our scene, while its representative was visiting Vancouver, with a hearty red (a breathtaking Syrah); now here’s the companion white—a refreshing one that’s delicious and bright.

From a small but interesting Vancouver portfolio called Icon Fine Wine & Spirits come some intriguing new products like this 90-pointer: Azienda Vinicola Giusti Prosecco Brut. Definitely a celebration sparkler. The collection consists of Dry, Extra Dry, and Brut proseccos. They’ve sent us the Brut ($25.99) and it’s a treat: pale and greenish, with fine little bubbles. It’s made from the traditional Glera grape, and according to the press materials, it’s “chic and pretty with notes of yellow apples, acacia flowers, white nectarine and melon with a base of marzipan and bread dough.…It has a creamy weight, with a finish of almond oil and citrus pith.” How much can you pack into one bottle?

Icon also presents a new gin called Yukon Shine AuraGin, a specialty listing that comes in a Trump Tower–like green bottle for just under 50 bucks. Made with 12 carefully chosen botanicals, among them a whole basket of fresh citrus: grapefruit, lemon, and lime. Filtered five times, distilled five times. Less juniper, more herbal flavour. Available in many B.C. liquor stores.

I’ve not had much luck in my glass with the wines of Columbia Crest, but here’s Columbia Crest Grand Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2011 ($19.99, specialty listing): hearty and full, definitely a meat-dinner wine. A rich Cabernet with round, beautiful flavours, it tweaks roasts, chops, and steaks in the most sensuous manner.

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