Far from a cool-kid wine, Black Tower's red blend still delivers

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      A case of wine samples arrived at my office the other day, a small handful of German wines.

      Now, I’m a bit of a Riesling nut, so it was maybe three or four seconds between spotting the box and tearing into the thing. With visions of citrus-laden, mineral-driven wines that the package potentially contained, I cannot tell you the speed with which my heart sank when I pulled out the first bottle: Black Tower Dornfelder Pinot Noir 2016.

      This must be a joke, yeah? I mean, Black Tower’s one of those wines only mentioned when you’re looking for a laugh.

      “Hey, thanks for having us over for dinner. We brought wine for everyone; hope you like Black Tower!”

      I mean, what’s next? Someone trying their luck by sending me a bottle of Mateus Rosé?

      It is notoriously cheap and crazily accessible, usually on the bottom shelves of many a liquor store—and I can’t even recall the last time I’d tried Black Tower’s ubiquitous red. Certainly, it was many, many years ago, when I didn’t know much about wine. In my mind, I was imagining the wine would be awfully sweet—confected, even.

      Well, it couldn’t hurt to give it a whirl, could it?

      Knowing it was a lighter style of wine, I threw it in the fridge for a quick 10 to 15 minutes, as that’s the touch of chill I like to have on lighter reds like Gamays and Pinot Noirs.

      Into the glass it went; I gave it a quick spin and then a hearty slurp.

      Um… It was good.

      Is that possible? Maybe I was bracing for the worst, and when it wasn’t the worst, I mistakenly thought it was pretty good?

      Nope. Further sips confirmed it was indeed tasty. Violets and baking spices filled the aromatics, while the palate carried some gentle red plums, blackberries, dark cherries, and a fine dusting of cocoa. The acid made for lively juiciness, and the affable, lengthy finish was quite dry.

      I honestly felt the wine was so fresh, expressive, and kinda geeky that they could slap on a quirky label with a crude cartoon on it, charge twice the price, and all the cool millennial natural-wine-focused wine nerds out there would flock to it.

      In fact, I casually blind-tasted a couple local sommeliers on the wine, and although no one was blown away by it, the wine was received as a fresh and honest drop, definitely worthy of attention. Unveiling it after garnering these opinions was, obviously, a hoot.

      So, it’s not a cool-kid wine—far from it. But for a light and tasty $12.99 old-school bottle (that happens to be $1 off at B.C. Liquor Stores until November 24), does it deliver?

      Hell, yeah!

      It was one of those times I was happy to be put in my place, and it was a good reminder that there’s no need to be that highfalutin wine guy full of assumptions and harbouring dismissive tendencies.

      This story would likely end here were it not for a wine dropped off to my office mere hours ago as I wrote this.

      No word of a lie, it was a single bottle in a nondescript box: Sogrape’s Mateus “The Original Rosé” (Portugal; $9.99, B.C. Liquor Stores).

      Hey, I don’t know if my thoughts and folly were somehow being recorded, but the stars obviously aligned so that I was on the receiving end of yet another old-school wine that gets joked about on occasion.

      The reason the wine was being dropped to local media was a package redesign for this famously fizzy pink wine that dates back to 1942. The iconic round, hip-flask shape is intact; the label is just a little brighter and clean. Baga, Rufete, Tinta Barroca, and Touriga Franca are the four red varieties composing the blend, pressed and fermented in stainless steel to retain freshness. Cream soda and strawberries are distinct on the nose, with cranberry juice, fresh raspberries, Rainier cherries, tarragon, and thyme cruising along the palate.

      It finishes off-dry, but by no means too sweet. A fun, enjoyable wine. My instincts for food pairings go everywhere from spicy Thai curries to Buffalo chicken wings to kettle-cooked jalapeño-flavour potato chips.

      I can imagine it easily handling the roast turkey that’s prone to hit the table this time of year, or served as an apéritif alongside salty, deep-fried hors d’oeuvres.

      Also, 10 bucks. That’s amazing! And at 11 percent alcohol, you won’t find yourself exhausted after a glass or two, or three.

      So, here we are.

      I guess it’s true what they say. Although fashions may come and go, the classics never go out of style.