This Merlot will make you look like a wine boss. Yes, Merlot
When it’s on you to choose the wine, and you want to really look like a wine boss, here’s what you do. You skip the big-ticket bottles such as Amarone and Napa Cabernet, which are tried and true but a bit “been there done that.” You bypass the biggest brands such as Meomi and Apothic, which have mass appeal but often lack elegance and finesse. And you beeline for any of these five wine styles.
2016 Rosehall Run JCR Estate Chardonnay, VQA Prince Edward County, ON (Available at the winery)
Ontario is crafting some exciting, expressive, and beautifully balanced bottles of Chardonnay these days. But you need know where to look. So position yourself as a wine boss and pour this intense and seamless Chardonnay with toasty oak and apple scents and cool-taut flavours of taffy apple, hazelnut, crème brûlée and toast. And the salty-flinty finish lends gravitas to every sip. Definitely a top drop and just gorgeous with pasta in a cream sauce, pan-seared scallops or roasted poultry.
2017 Ogier Cotes du Ventoux Rosé, Rhone, France (LCBO 134916 $14.75 in stores and online)
First came the White Zinfandel craze of the ’80s. Then about 10 years ago, higher-end (and higher-priced) rosés from the south of France, such as Whispering Angel, swept in and soared to popularity. Now dry, subtle rosé is considered a very chic drink, appreciated for its restraint, complexity and gastronomic versatility. A fine example at a terrific price is this gentle expression of Grenache and Syrah that tastes shiny-cool with hovering flavours of ruby grapefruit, apricot and strawberry — all understated and symphonic. It works with all sorts of foods including but not limited to charcuterie, seafood and Brazil nuts. Forget #roseallday; the new hashtag is #roseallyear.
Top-Notch Merlot (yes, Merlot)
2015 Black Sage Vineyard Merlot, VQA Okanagan, BC (Vintages 593053 $28.95 in stores only)
Merlot is a much-maligned wine style that is regaining respect. And serving a top-notch bottle says you know it for the serious juice it can be. Such is the case with this bottle being released in Vintages October 13, which stands tall as a bold, expressive, and firm tasting wine. Its dark chocolate, espresso and black cherry nose barrels through to an explosive entry with a dark berry centre that shifts to reveal allusions of smoky bacon, mocha, iron and a good crank of black peppercorn. This powerful, full-bodied Merlot will impress those who like big reds. Pairs very well with juicy beef burgers piled high with sharp cheddar cheese and bacon.
Washington State Cabernet Sauvignon
2016 Columbia Crest H3 Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington (Vintages Essential 210047 $17.95 till Oct. 14, reg. $19.95, in stores and online)
Everyone loves a great glass of Napa Cabernet. It’s lush, complex, long; it’s food-friendly but can be sipped solo; and when it’s good, it’s nearly beyond reproach. But Napa Cabs are usually expensive and rarely undervalued. Position yourself squarely in the know with a Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington State’s Horse Heaven Hills — a region that produces wines of similar opulence for less. This bottle is a fine example with its saturated swirl of super-ripe black cherries dunked in dark chocolate layered with cassis, red meat, black licorice and earth. A dry, serious and brooding expression of Cabernet that’s excellent with roasted meats.
Osborne Santa Maria Cream Sherry, Spain (LCBO 31120 $14, available in stores and online)
Last but not least, nothing makes you look like a wine boss like serving Sherry. It’s one of the most undervalued wine styles on the market. And Osborne is a name to trust. Sample the charms of Sherry with this sweet Oloroso style — called “cream sherry” — that shines a beautiful mahogany hue with amber inflections. It brims with aromas and flavours of warm toffee, spiced praline, orange marmalade, cherry pound cake, almond paste, dried figs and dates — much complexity for the money. Serve it on the rocks with a nibble of blue cheese or handful of Marcona almonds — ideally by a wood-burning fire.
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 .