School’s officially out, the sun is shining, and the smells of campfire and sunscreen are blending midair into a signature seasonal perfume. Summer is for fun: vacations, relaxation, and outdoor adventures. Happiness is not meant to be complicated. In order to keep your mind focused on the important things in life, here’s an easy shopping list of a few new wines we’ve tried recently.
Quails’ Gate Chenin Blanc 2013 ($18.99)
Depending on where they’re grown in the world (their spiritual home is in the Loire Valley in northwestern France) Chenins can range from crisp, dry, and acidic table wines to sweet and luscious dessert wines. Quails’ Gate’s version is offered in a dry style with lip-smacking flavours of pineapple, kiwi, and pink grapefruit. Tried this alongside a bowl of cold soba noodles with peanut-lime marinade and loved it.
Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay 2012 ($18.99)
Some say it’s in Burgundy. Some say California. Somewhere in between exists the perfect Chardonnay. Family-owned for five generations, Wente’s Morning Fog Chardonnay over-delivers for its modest price point. There’s a lot going on here: fruit notes of red apple, caramel, peach, and vanilla, the last coming from partial fermentation in French, American, and European oak. It’s creamy and full-bodied, but with nicely balanced acidity. We had this at the just-opened Fat Badger (1616 Alberni Street) with salmon tartare, crème fraîche, capers, and dill.
Haywire Baby Bub 2012 ($13.90, winery direct)
It’s a girl, it’s a boy, it’s delicious! Summerland’s Haywire winery has released an effortlessly portable 375-millilitre version of their amazing pink bubble, just in time for the beach, the golf cart, camping, hiking… You can see where I’m going here. Made in the traditional method. Raspberry, yeasty, and citrus notes float from the glass. Great texture and bubbles with an elegant and dry finish. No way this wine will last through the summer. Get it while you can, folks.
Nk’Mip Cellars Pinot Blanc 2012 ($15.99)
So many people think that Pinot Blanc is a frontrunner to be B.C.’s signature white grape. I like it too, but it remains that although Pinot Blanc is a “noble grape”, it’s simply not terribly distinctive no matter where in the world it’s grown. Still, the Nk’Mip Pinot Blanc is reliable, pleasant, and easy summer drinking. It’s bright and tropical, with notes of citrus, pear and a touch of mango. I paired it with soft-shell corn tacos topped with cabbage and apple slaw.
Mission Hill Five Vineyards Rose 2013 ($15.99)
We tasted through the rest of the new vintages from Mission Hill’s signature Five Vineyards series in November and the just-released rosé is another well-priced winner. Strawberry, watermelon, and bright-red berry notes make this an easy choice for just about any food pairing.
JP Brun Terres Dorées L’Ancien 2012 ($24.98)
Go, Gamay, go. Jean-Paul Brun is crafting incredible wines from the Gamay grape that will make people reconsider what they think about Beaujolais. L’Ancien 2012 shows aromas of cola, herbs, cloves, cherries, and sweet earth. Medium-bodied, the wine has great acidity and richness with a long finish. Duck confit would work, but so would the pork and duck rillettes from Oyama Sausage in the Granville Island Public Market.
Chateau Labrande Cahors 2010 ($19.95)
Full-bodied but not brooding, the latest Malbec from Château Labrande offers incredible value from the old world. There’s a charming rusticity to this wine that balances the bright black-cherry, forest-floor, and dark-chocolate flavours in the wine. It does want for some food, though—a steak would work, but it doesn’t have to be that heavy. Cheese, olives, and paté would be great as well.
Tommasi Merlot La Prunee 2012 ($19.99)
Merlot is one of my favourite red grapes and the Italians do it just right. This single-vineyard Merlot from the Veneto region in northeastern Italy is nicely complex for 20 bucks. Flavours of mincemeat, cinnamon, blackberry, cardamom, and plum follow through to a plush and mouthwatering finish. Serving grilled Italian sausages with a side of roast fennel? I’ll be right over.
Summerhill Cipes Blanc de Noirs 2008 ($34.90 at the winery direct)
Its Cipes Brut was recently named the Best Sparkling Wine in Canada”at the All Canadian Wine Championships, and, not taking even a moment to rest on its laurels, the winery has released a vintage sparkler that may well be even better. Made from 100 percent organic Pinot Noir grapes, the wine has an upfront nose of rich red berries, soy, ginger, citrus, and fresh-baked bread. The mousse is fine and the finish is long. It’s not totally cheap, but it’s totally worth every penny.