Unwined: Cheers to the Holidays
A selection of wines to make your holidays merry.
In the world of wine, it’s normally difficult to write a “best of” list because of how quickly wines come and go off the shelves of your favourite winery or vintages section. So this is your “best of” for the past few months—wines can only be great if they’re readily available for you to impress your friends for the holidays. When I write Unwined I do my best to make sure the wines are widely available, but there are a couple of wines I am going to mention that are only available at the winery where they are made. You have one week until Christmas, which is plenty of time to make the trek to Niagara to pick up that perfect bottle of wine.
This wine is the key to impressing the wine lover in your life with the prefect Christmas gift. Skip the trinkets, corkscrews, gadgets, doohickeys, corkscrews, wine glasses, plastic decanter thingy, corkscrews (I really hate corkscrews as gifts) and just go straight for a good bottle.
2012 Stratus Red – Vintages 131037 – $44.20 – ****1/2
This wine is basically a Bordeaux blend with a few specialties tossed into the mix (29 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, 26 per cent Cabernet Franc, 26 per cent Merlot, 13 per cent Petit Verdot, three per cent Malbec, three per cent Tannat). You don’t have to be a serious wine lover or know anything about Tannat to love this wine. The great thing about the Stratus Red is that you don’t need to store it in the cellar for a long time to enjoy it—just open the bottle 30 to 60 minutes before serving and set it aside. If you can wait that long you will be rewarded with a delicious fruit-driven wine with currant, dark plum, blackberry, and raspberry, with nice smokey and cocoa notes. The tannin on this wine is velvet smooth on your palate already. If you have patience beyond 60 minutes you can pick this wine up to age for five to 15 years.
2012 Stratus White – Vintages 660704 – $44.20 – *****
For a non-conventional blend of white grapes this wine is special. Seamlessly crafted with vanilla and toasty oak on the nose layered over peach, pear, and apple, with hints of spice, this is as close to perfection as I have tasted this year. The flavours match the nose, with a finish so long I can only describe it as epic. Your mouth will be filled with tropical flavours like passion fruit and pineapple mingling in with the orchard fruit you find on the nose. I have tasted this wine several times over the year, and it keeps improving and should continue to for the next few years. No need to let this breathe when you open it right now though, chill in the fridge for a half an hour and enjoy.
2010 Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin – Vintages 626325 – $44.95 – ****1/2
This wine is exceptional. The nose is pencil shaving, with just small notes of dark fruit poking through. If you give this wine enough time in your glass you will have blackberry, currant, and blueberry that finally reveal themselves. The tannin is still very firm, so you will want to age this wine for another eight to 15 years. This wine is as close to Bordeaux as you will find in Canada while still remaining distinctly Canadian. This wine will need some time to either age or breathe before enjoying. You will require the patience of opening this bottle and setting it aside for two hours before serving it, or aging it on a wine rack or cellar for five years before visiting it. This is as snobby as I like to get with my wine and something that would make a great gift to someone who is starting to get serious about their wines.
2012 Trius Showcase Red Shale Cabernet Franc – Winery Only – (1249 Niagara Stone Road, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON) – $45.20 – *****
This wine is everything that is right about Cabernet Franc in Ontario. You will need to decant this wine. It’s still so young that you should leave it open for at least an hour before serving. When this wine starts to open up—and you will notice when it opens up—you will find layers of plum, black currant, woodsmoke, cedar, and licorice on the nose, and flavours of black plum, black currant, blackberry, and mocha. The tannin is very firm but will soften with age. The concentration from the fruit and balanced acidity will allow this wine to age beautifully for 10 to 18 years.
2014 Vineland Estates St Urban Riesling – Vintages 38117 – $19.95 – ****1/2
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get a top-shelf bottle of wine. Even at $20 this is tasty wine and one of the best rieslings in the province. This wine will age gracefully, and at this price there is no reason you can’t buy two. In fact, a person could easily hang onto one of these bottles for 20 years if they had the patience. But let’s face it: Why would you want to wait? Unlike a fine Bordeaux from the glass case at the back of the store, there is nothing wrong with enjoying this wine immediately. It’s off-dry but balanced with great palate-cleansing acidity. Flavours of apples, peach, and a nice mineral note on the finish help round out this lovely wine.
2012 2027 Cellars Wismer Vineyard Foxcroft Block Chardonnay – Vintages 421362 – $30.00 – ****1/2
I last mentioned this wine for Thanksgiving so I’m surprised there are some bottles left in the city. So if you’re reading this you should try to get to the LCBO before me. There is so much going on in the glass, with soft vanilla, roasted pineapple, and very ripe peach flavours. Put this wine in the fridge for 30 minutes before opening to enjoy it at its finest. This is a perfect example of great chardonnay from a warm vintage in Ontario.
2012 16 Mile Civility Chardonnay – Winery Only – (3555 Eleventh Street, St. Catharines, ON) – $24.95 – ****1/2
The warmth of the 2012 summer really comes through in this chardonnay. There are loads of peach, pear, and apple in this wine, and it really stands on top of beautiful layers of butterscotch and vanilla with nice subtle baking spice on the finish. This is a gorgeous follow-up to the 2011 vintage, and offers a little more complexity to the wine. This perfectly balanced wine is great right now, but should ideally age for a few years.
2012 Southbrook Poetica Red – Winery Only – (581 Niagara Stone Road, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON) – $54.95 – ****1/2
This Bordeaux is distinctly Canadian and doesn’t stick to the traditional recipe. A blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and petit verdot, the nose pulls you right into the glass with tons of strawberry and slight peppery notes mingled in there. With blackberry, raspberry, currant, plum and dark cherry, this is the definition of a complex wine. As is the theme with all of these red wines if you decide to open this now make sure you set it aside for an hour or two before drinking. This will age gracefully for 10 to 15 years.
2012 Southbrook Poetica Chardonnay – Winery Only – (581 Niagara Stone Rd, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON) – $49.95 – ****1/2
You can open this wine without pretentiousness or snobbery. There is no need to let this wine breathe. The nose is apple and peach with nice baking spice notes. The best part about chardonnay over the holidays is it almost smells and tastes like gingerbread has been mixed right into the wine. The acidity on this wine is perfectly balanced and keeps your palate refreshed just enough that you’re begging for the next sip. The finish on this wine will leave you craving more gingerbread.