6 fine wines for those whining about gloomy weather

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      It’s probably not a great sign that I’m already pining for summer, but here we are. Although I can’t conjure up a new season, what I can do is glance toward places enjoying summer right now. New Zealand, Australia, and Argentina, I’m looking your way.


      Craggy Range Te Muna Road Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2016

      (Martinborough, New Zea­land; $30 to $35, private liquor stores)

      From ancient soils laden with clay and gravel comes a Sauvignon Blanc exploding with zippy pink grapefruit, gooseberries, lime leaf, and tarragon. When I first tried this, the sky was dark and the rain was coming down hard. For a few brief moments, it was as if all the clouds disappeared and the sun beamed down on me.

      Granted, that’s not what actually happened, but drinking this wine made it seem like there could be potential for magic. While it’s all shiny and bright, there’s a complexity here. Layers of minerals and wonderful texture come with each and every citrusy sip, providing brilliant charm to the very last drop. Recently spotted at Everything Wine.


      Sacred Hill Reserve Chardonnay 2016

      (Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand; $26.99, B.C. Liquor Stores)

      This is the first in a trio of Sacred Hill wines we’re looking at this week. All three of these wines are brand-new in our market; it’s nice to see an increasing amount of elevated New Zealand fare on local shelves.

      Working with sustainably farmed fruit from both Hawke’s Bay and Marlborough, winemaker Tony Bish was one of the original three founders of the winery in 1986, which means he’s gotten to know the land during the course of 32 vintages. What I admire about this Chardonnay is Bish’s judicious use of French oak. Its toasty character surrounds the wine’s lemon-meringue-pie, peach, and pistachio notes, yet it’s far from being too showy.

      Frankly, if someone told me they don’t like their wines too oaky, I’d tell them they’d love it. At the same time, if someone else said they like their wines with a good lashing of oak, I’d likely tell them they’d like it too! We have here a Goldilocks wine: just right.


      Sacred Hill Helmsman Red Blend 2014

      (Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand; $65.99, B.C. Liquor Stores)

      So, you’re off to a friend’s place for dinner and there’s going to be a couple who are into the nuanced Cabernet Sauvignon–based blends of Bordeaux. There are also a few who lean toward those bigger, fruit-forward Napa Valley Cabernets from California.

      This is a wine destined to please them all, and you’ll get bonus points for being the geek who brought the Hawke’s Bay blend (yet likely paid less than you would have for Napa or Bordeaux). That Cabernet makes up about half of the blend, with a lot of Merlot and a little Cabernet Franc rounding it out. Again, the oak is on point, providing a pedestal for juicy black and red currants, violets, basil, and dark chocolate, combed with light tannins and finishing with a nice lick of spearmint.

      Those few years of age under its belt see everything integrating together well.


      Sacred Hill Deerstalker Syrah 2014

      (Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand; $65.99, B.C. Liquor Stores)

      Decidedly more Rhône Syrah than Barossa Shiraz, what a lovely, graceful ode to the variety. The cardamom swirling out of the glass is intoxicating, and it continues onto the palate, where it is joined by spicy cloves, cinnamon, cocoa, and some juicy, meaty deliciousness. Although it would certainly do well with a steak, I like the idea of serving this guy with roast chicken, where it would almost act as Mexican mole flavours coming to the table.


      Vasse Felix Filius Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

      (Margaret River, Australia; $29.99, B.C. Liquor Stores)

      This West Australian winery is going to have to make room on its ever expanding trophy shelf, as it’s just been named Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s New World winery of the year.

      Although it’s quite the distance and cost to venture all the way around the world to visit, all you have to do is put your nose in a glass of winemaker Virginia Willcock’s Filius Cabernet Sauvignon and you’ll be instantly transported. That fresh, salty sea air!

      Those eucalyptus trees swaying in the breeze! It’s these elements that catapult the wine’s dark berries, roasted red bell pepper, and Provençal herbs to great heights. Well-balanced acid with pitch-perfect oak, tannins, and alcohol makes this a showstopper of a wine at a more than fair price.


      Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec 2015

      (Mendoza, Argentina; $22.49, B.C. Liquor Stores)

      Swaddle yourself in these blackberries, mulberries, and cherries, enjoy the shot of espresso found therein, and keep cozy with its decadence and warmth. Not for the faint of heart or delicate of teeth, this is a monster of a wine—yet it manages to stay balanced, with hearty oak and just enough acid to keep it from cloying.