Be it gulping or sipping, it’s love at first white

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      There were a couple of wonderful whites last weekend—one cost 10 bucks (the sound of cheering echoing ’round the room), the other $30. But this is academic because it’s all sold out, so I’ve just saved you $30 to buy three more bottles of the tenner with.

      That’s one of those delicious Portuguese dinner treats they call vinho verde—yes, green wine. It’s new in town, has a cat on the label, clocks in at barely nine percent alcohol, and wants to be “supercooled”, as they say over at CERN.

      It’s called Gatí£o Vinho Verde. There’s no vintage designation—just gulp it as soon as you get it. It’s pale and slightly spritzy, with a crisp, green-apple smell and taste, and it’s wonderfully refreshing on a warm day. Because I know we’re going to get a few more of those, that’s why! Perfect with a really good fish and chips or fried chicken, and, for the price, a total winner. It goes with anything.

      The heavy hitter is none other than a long-time favourite in this corner: Black Hills Alibi 2007. All gone, I’m afraid, except in certain restaurant cellars, places that called in their allocation as soon as the wine was released a few months ago. Never hurts to ask, because this is one beautiful wine, with glorious sweet-grass aromas and a magnificent mix of bright fruit flavours.

      This is surely one of the best of B.C.’s white blends, as it has been from the beginning. Made from mostly Sauvignon Blanc with about a third Sémillon, it’s simple and brilliant. It may well be the perfect wine for the salmon soufflé that’s periodically produced in my kitchen (oh, not by me; I couldn’t produce a soufflé on a bet), with some fresh lemon-cucumber salad on the side, dressed with just vinegar and water, fresh dill, and sugar.

      One that is still available—albeit only at Liberty Wine Merchants, and even costlier—is a major mouthful: Domaine Emilian Gillet Quintaine Viré-Clessé 2003 ($43.99). When I called Liberty’s head office to try and find a bottle shot, I was told that this was “Ty’s favourite”—Ty being Ty Dawson, who has run the Park Royal store for many years.

      It’s easy to see why: this is soft, mellow, subtle, and stylish—very French, in the Jeanne Moreau manner. Serve it with lovely food: asparagus with Saint André cheese and prosciutto, risotto with tiny fresh shrimp, pasta primavera—even though it’s autunno—steamed fresh halibut with green onion and ginger and black beans, anything involving fresh chanterelles and an abundance of butter. A grand and gorgeous wine for when you want to be especially nice to yourself, and worth forgoing a couple of martinis for.

      Then there were the Three Little Pinks (some people cling desperately to summer, no matter what the temperature!), commencing with Spain’s Marqués de Cáceres Rioja Rosado 2006 ($15.99). If only it could get by with nine percent alcohol instead of 12.5 percent. This is a very dry dinner rosé with a bright, coral-pink colour; a big, bold bouquet; and lots of intense fruit. Could be the ideal wine for chrysanthemum rice and a mountain of fresh garden greens with macadamia nut oil and tarragon vinegar.

      They’re making Canoe North Bluff Pink 2004 ($13.99) from 100 percent zinfandel, and I wonder where that’s grown. I also wonder where this has been hiding for the past four years; we don’t often see a locally made blush wine with four years on it. The fruit is all strawberry-edged, solid and full in the mouth with just a hint of sweetness, which isn’t unwelcome.

      See how it sits with an improvised rogan josh. (I like to use beef, chicken, lima beans, broccoli, mushrooms, hot peppers, potatoes, and almonds.) This is one of the great undiscovered pink wines of the season and the domestic lineup. I’ve no idea where you might find it, but since Canoe is a sub-label of Langley’s Domaine de Chaberton winery, try a call there.

      From the Okanagan comes Rigamarole Rosé 2007 ($15.99), with Alice in Wonderland label art and quirky label commentary. Good, full fruit; no sweetness; a nice acidic bite, but lots of elegance in the finish. I’d stand this up alongside Sumac Ridge and even Joie, cover the labels, and see how it fares—well, I would think. Hale and hearty and uncomplicated. The very thing we’re looking for, for Sunday dinner.

      Just one red this time, but it’s from Laughing Stock, so you know what’s coming, flavourwise and pricewise, roller-coaster markets or not. Blind Trust 2006 costs $29, and I know they’re pouring it over at Diva at the Met, because that’s where I first tasted it.

      Tar-black in the glass with a chocolate-chestnut edge and a fine, long finish, which wants about three more months in the bottle to settle down to a purr. If you’ve got some Dolcelatte Gorgonzola handy, a loaf of no-salt Tuscan bread, sweet butter to really gild the cholesterol, and your MD’s out of town, go ahead—you won’t find a better wine companion anytime soon. No idea what the blend is, but I’m sure they’ve got a patent on it.

      Two sweets and we’re out of here. From Salt Spring Vineyards comes the organic Blackberry Port 2007 ($22.90 for the half bottle). Rich and very berryish, satisfying because it isn’t super-sweet, fruity and quite tart, yet still luscious and rich. It’s fine for berry tarts and fruit cobblers, but also a treat with slow-roasted pork, preferably with crackling. Best bet for finding it would be the winery. When’s the last time you had a little getaway weekend on Salt Spring, anyway?

      Elephant Island’s always-in-demand Stellaport is here again ($27.95 for the half bottle)—only 350 cases were produced, and that’ll all be gone by Christmas, believe me. Are there tastier cherries in the Okanagan than Stellas? These are grown on the winery property, and the wine is made according to the traditional solera method used in making sherry.

      Each year, half of the barrel is released and the juice from the current crop is added back. So the 2008 really represents the ’01, ’02, ’03, ’04, ’05, ’06, and ’07 “vintages”. Its years in oak give it a finish that still hasn’t quit since 2001. For blue and pungent cheeses, and as a stand-alone dessert.

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