Wines to enjoy right now

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      If you like luscious sweet wine but don’t want to shell out the exorbitant price of icewine, this one’s for you: Harper’s Trail Late Harvest Riesling 2012; the 375-millilitre bottle costs $20 at the enterprising winery in Kamloops and select private or VQA stores.

      I prefer late-harvest to icewine generally; it’s still nice and sweet but not quite so cloying. It shouldn’t be served too cold—just with a little chill on it. Like icewine, it’s generally light in alcohol, in this case only 10 percent. This one is fresh and fruity, with beautiful acidity, clean and rich without being heavy, still light and refreshing. You can drink the whole little bottle by yourself after dinner—as I did!

      The winery suggests it as an accompaniment to pear tarte Tatin, crème brûlée, or peach desserts like cobbler or slices in sparkling wine. Certain creamy cheeses would like it too.

      Well worth hunting for.

      Anybody here remember Chianti? Pizza wine, right? What a lot of people don’t know is that Chianti isn’t just a type of wine, it’s a wine-growing region in Italy—and so is Chianti Classico. The other day, I sat the panel down to some new vintages, which were met with universal approval. (Most of the tasters were quick to admit they hadn’t had Chianti for years, there being so many other wines on the market these days.)

      Today, we’ll taste Ruffino Chianti 2012, the old standby that’s been at the B.C. LDB for decades. It costs more than it used to—what doesn’t? Now it’s $15.99 instead of under $10. We’ll take a look at the Reserve Ducale another time, and one of these days I’ll tell you about my worst winetasting ever: 250 Sangio­veses in two days in Chicago for the American Restaurant Association.

      The Ruffino is brisk and bright—the apotheosis of Sangiovese, which is the principal grape in Chianti—deep and ruby red, very fruity, and perfect, still, for pizza and pasta of all kinds, as well as cheeses like provolone, Parmesan, even Tiger Blue.

      Chilean Pinot Noir is an affordable treat, especially the one called Cono Sur. It’s light, delicious, and costs only $11.49.

      Now there’s a new Cono Sur Pinot Noir in town: the Single Vineyard Block 21 Viento Mar 2011 ($19.99). Viento mar means “ocean wind”, and this is one of the tastiest PNs you’ve ever had, so says my palate. It’s an OTB in the LDB, which stands for one-time buy, meaning they only brought in a few cases. So once it’s gone, it’s gone, and there ain’t no more.

      My suggestion is buy one of each, the “regular” and its classy cousin, and see if the latter is worth the extra $8.50. I think it is—it’s a fabulous, beautiful PN with rich fruit and a slight coffee aftertaste in the finish, but still light and fragrant. Try the regular for everyday sipping with grilled ham-and-cheese sandwiches, and the Viento Mar for Sunday’s roast chicken.

      I like the mission statement on the back label of this new Chilean line: “Terra Andina wines are meant to be enjoyed, not collected.” Terra Andina Sauvignon Blanc 2012 ($15.99) certainly is—fresh, I mean. And citrus-y soft, without the nasty cut-grass edge that informs many of the New Zealand versions. More back-label speak: “For fish and seafood, take-out food, a dinner party or just hanging out with friends—whichever comes first.” There’s also a Malbec and a sparkling Muscato, each $15.99.