Bring a wine with a story to your next dinner party
2016 Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel, Lodi, California (AB: Various locations; BC: BC Liquor Stores 297929 $17.99; NS: Not available; ON: LCBO 678698 $17.25)
In 2004, the winemakers for this wine journeyed to Lodi, Calif., in search of the famed old vine Zinfandel vineyards that had grown there for over a century. What they found were gnarled vines that produced more ripened red fruit than they had ever seen. The vines inspired them to make the biggest, boldest style of Zinfandel they could, which they’ve doing for about a decade now and can be tasted in this undervalued bottle. Those who appreciate this style of Zinfandel will almost certainly appreciate this wine with its audacious but articulate flavours of crushed blackberries and black cherries edged with black pepper, earth, tobacco, clove, allspice, smoke and oak. With barbecue, this wine is lit.
2016 Ogier Heritages Cotes du Rhone Grenache-Syrah, Cotes du Rhone AC, France (AB: Various locations; BC: BC Liquor Stores 535849 $15.99 till Sept. 1, reg. $17.99; NS: NSLC 1000192 $19.99; ON: LCBO 535849 $15.10)
Ogier has been making wine in the southern Rhone valley since 1859. Today, it’s a huge operation. But it uses economies of scale to make wines that overperform at every price while drawing on its 150 years of winemaking experience. Taste this bottle of depth and elegance to see what I mean. Perfectly ripe and bone dry, it’s a charming expression of the south of France. The perfume calls to mind violets and blackberries then slips gently over the palate seamlessly with lifted flavours of blackberry, violet, dried herbs, and fresh walnut. The fine, talc-like texture on the finish is particularly fetching. Brie, baguette and a bottle of this is the perfect picnic.
2016 Carmen Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, D.O. Maipo, Chile (AB: Various locations; BC: BC Liquor Stores 358309 $19.99; NS: NSLC 1001195 $20.00; ON: LCBO 358309 $17.25)
Vina Carmen was Chile’s first winery, founded in 1850, and it remains one of the country’s most respected producers for crafting outstanding bottles at competitive prices—including this bottle that drinks like a $40 Cabernet and sells for half that. From its warm aromas of super-ripe black cherries to its folded-blanket flavours of macerated black forest fruit imbued with smoked almonds, toast, and vanilla bean, this deep, dark, and dry red is all about pleasure. Gorgeous with grilled, roasted, or pan-seared meats.
2017 Barone Montalto Pinot Grigio, Sicily, Italy (AB: Various locations; BC: BC Liquor Stores 592964 $10.99 till Sept. 1, reg. $11.99; NS: NSLC 1007175 $11.99; ON: LCBO 73148 $9.05 till Aug. 19, reg. $10.05)
The first time I tasted this wine, I was struck by its sheer purity of fruit. I was dining with the winemaker at the time, so I remarked on it. He said that in Sicily, the southernmost tip of Italy, they’re able to tease an impressively ripe character from the fruit without losing Pinot Grigio’s racy restraint and light-bodied appeal — as evident in this bottle. That was a few years ago now, but the wine still impresses me each time I taste it. This vintage suggests lemon sorbet laced delicately with apricot and white flowers. Dry but not bone-dry, this is a very pretty wine that’s easy to enjoy — especially with a handful of roasted cashews.
2010 Monasterio de las Vinas Gran Reserva, Carinena D.O.P., Spain (AB: Various locations; BC: BC Liquor Stores 618355 $18.99; NS: Not available; ON: LCBO 82024 $17.95)
This eight-year-old wine from 40-year-old vines hails from Carinena, an underrated wine region of Spain situated midway between Rioja and Priorat. Carinena has been making wine since the Middle Ages when monasteries controlled production, and this bottle is a tribute to that history. It’s a traditional blend of Garnacha, Tempranilla, Carinena and Mazuela named after an 11th century local monastery—Monasterio de las Vinos. The wine tastes lively and fresh with bright flavours of raspberry underpinned by notes of toasted tobacco, smoked meat, mixed peppercorn and oregano. Will appeal to history buffs and connoisseurs, and particularly works well with paella.
Carolyn Evans Hammond is a Toronto-based wine writer. She is also a London-trained sommelier and two-time bestselling wine book author. Reach her at .