12 wines of pre-Christ­mas

Shop ahead of time for Christ­mas and avoid the rush Dec. 24

Grand Magazine - - HOLIDAY ISSUE - MICHAEL PINKUS

The sea­son of hol­i­day par­ties and get-to­geth­ers is right around the cor­ner so now is the time to jump on wine “finds” for gift giv­ing and to pad your stash. I usu­ally fo­cus on cham­pagnes (and other bub­bly) and ports (and other sweet wines) when giv­ing Christ­mas wine ad­vice, but this year I’m look­ing at great finds you can buy now and store away till you need them later in the sea­son.

Your base­ment or a cool cup­board will do just fine as a stor­age lo­ca­tion – just make sure you don’t bury them, never to be found again.

First, let’s be clear on what I mean by “finds.” On­tario isn’t the best place in the world to make a “wine find,” not when you com­pare it with our neigh­bours in the United States. There, you can walk into a gro­cery store or spe­cialty shop and find bot­tles well un­der $10 a bot­tle; they also have two-for-one spe­cials and of­fer size­able dis­counts for multi-pur­chases, etc.

In On­tario, a bot­tle goes on sale for a dol­lar or two off and we are sup­posed to get su­per-ex­cited – and we usu­ally do. That’s be­cause we are con­di­tioned that way. It’s also be­cause the LCBO has some­thing called floor pric­ing, mean­ing a bot­tle can’t be sold for less than a cer­tain price, which is be­tween $7 and $8.

As we drift closer and closer to De­cem­ber, the LCBO prices (es­pe­cially in the Vin­tages sec­tion) creep up and up and up be­cause they know you’ll be buy­ing more.

I’m not ad­vis­ing you to cheap-out this hol­i­day sea­son, I’m ad­vis­ing you to buy wines that over-de­liver on their value-toprice ra­tio.

Here are 12 wines of pre-Christ­mas you can pick up now that will make your friends think you spent a lot and will make you feel great be­cause you didn’t. Kim Craw­ford 2016 Chardon­nay – New Zealand ($19.95 – #991950)

No sur­prise that there are plenty of re­ally good Chardon­nays out there, but why not go off the beaten path of On­tario or Bur­gundy and land in a place like New Zealand, where most peo­ple think of Sau­vi­gnon Blanc. Craw­ford’s ver­sion is juicy and yummy with some oak and vanilla notes along with melon and ap­ple; it’s a great “be­gin the evening” wine. Rat­ing: Four stars Bollini 2016 Pinot Gri­gio – Italy ($17.95 – #951319)

To me, Pinot Gris (Gri­gio) is as bor­ing as it is pop­u­lar – I’m not sure why. But in this bot­tle of Bollini I found some­thing in­ter­est­ing I could ac­tu­ally sit and sip on: fresh and light but with def­i­nite notes of lemon pulp and zest that help keep you com­ing back for an­other sip. Rat­ing: Three and a half stars Trius 2015 Red – On­tario ($22.95 – #303800)

A blend of Caber­net Franc, Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon and Mer­lot – aged in a 60/40 mix of French and Amer­i­can; six months apart and six months to­gether. It has a rich mouth-feel, smoky mid-palate and spicy

fin­ish. You’ll also find vanilla, black cherry, white pep­per and co­coa in­ter­laced with well-bal­anced acid­ity. Rat­ing: Four and a half stars J. Lohr 2014 Los Osos Mer­lot – Cal­i­for­nia ($23.95 – #27516)

This is the Cal­i­for­nia Mer­lot you ex­pect it to be; juicy, fruit-for­ward and su­per smooth, it’s just what the doc­tor or­dered: blue­berry rules the roosts with more juicy dark and red fruits mix­ing it up. It’s silky, sup­ple and de­li­cious. Un­com­pli­cated never tasted so good. Rat­ing: Four stars Kaiken 2015 Mal­bec, Re­serve Espe­cial – Ar­gentina ($15.95 – #58339)

Ar­gentina is known for mak­ing Mal­bec these days, but I defy you to find a bet­ter value in an ev­ery­day drink­ing Mal­bec: choco­late, rasp­berry, smooth and sub­tle, easy drink­ing. A real plea­sure. Rat­ing: Four stars Montes 2014 Al­pha Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon – Chile ($20 – #322586)

Ever since Montes went the dry-farm­ing route with this wine, they im­proved the depth of flavour im­mensely. Dry farm­ing just means they don’t ir­ri­gate, which means they are stress­ing the vines to make bet­ter, more con­cen­trated fruit, and it re­ally shows in the wine. Lots of big, black fruits such as black­berry and black cherry mix it up with mint and mocha lead­ing to a spiced fin­ished that over-de­liv­ers at this price point. Rat­ing: Four stars Ki­likanoon 2015 Killer­man’s Run Shi­raz – Aus­tralia ($19.95 – #925453)

Ki­likanoon is one of those fun-to-say win­ery names that makes great wines up and down its lineup. The Killer­man’s Run Shi­raz might seem ba­sic with its vanilla, black­berry, plum and black cherry notes, but it’s the lay­er­ing of these flavours that keep pop­ping up sip af­ter sip that makes it such a won­der­ful wine. Rat­ing: Four stars Do­maines Per­rin 2014 Re­serve – France ($16.95 – #363457)

Fans of Rhone Val­ley reds know they’re in for a treat when a good one comes along. It’s the mul­ti­ple va­ri­eties of grapes that makes it so in­ter­est­ing, they act as sea­son­ing in a stew. This Per­rin ver­sion is dom­i­nated by red fruits and fin­ishes with

del­i­cate spices. Rat­ing: Four stars Anti­nori 2015 Pèp­poli Chi­anti Clas­sico –

Italy ($19.95 – #606541) The Anti­nori name should turn heads at the ta­ble; they are one of the most well­known Ital­ian wine houses and they make wine all over the coun­try, but Chi­anti is a spe­cialty of theirs and this Clas­sico is by far one of their best in a while: black fruit kicks things off a la cas­sis and black cherry then smoke and spice helps to bring it all to­gether. Great com­plex­ity and bal­ance. Rat­ing: Four stars Monte An­tico – Italy ($15.95 – #69377) A Tus­can blend of San­giovese, Mer­lot and Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon, known as a Su­per Tus­can in some cir­cles. They usu­ally de­liver big tan­nins and flavours, but this one de­liv­ers su­per-smooth­ness with blue and black fruit, vanilla and sub­tle smok­i­ness; not typ­i­cal but very en­joy­able. Rat­ing: Three and a half stars Tor­res 2012 Gran Cor­nas Reserva Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon – Spain ($19.95 – #36483)

Tor­res is like the god­fa­ther of Span­ish wine and this Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon is the sec­ond wine of its big gun known as Mas La Plana – sweet dark choco­late, cof­fee bean and black cherry, plus there’s a de­light­ful spiced fin­ish. It’s a plea­sure to drink and evolves in the glass over the course of an evening. Buy a bunch and age it five-plus years, and you won’t be dis­ap­pointed. Rat­ing: Four stars Cave Spring Blanc de Blancs Brut Sparkling – On­tario ($29.95 – #213983) Let’s close the list with a beau­ti­ful bot­tle of bub­bly that just might fool your cham­pagne-lov­ing friends. This one is made from 100 per cent Chardon­nay (hence the Blanc de Blancs – white of white). It has those toasty, bis­cuit notes we all know and love plus there’s some baked ap­ple and a creamy tex­ture in the mouth that helps to add greater depth and com­plex­ity. Rat­ing: Four stars out of five

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