June 12: I’m baaaack!

Faithful Readers,

I know many of you have missed my weekly tasting notes. My intent was to blog sporadically, yet frequently, however, work demands, coupled with the rigors of WSET 2 have made it nearly impossible for me to act on my best intentions. But you, Faithful Readers, are never far from my mind, and I felt moved to write on this lovely (but windy) Sunday evening. With the patio-and-barbecue season upon us, I cannot let you stumble aimlessly through the aisles of the LCBO, purchasing overly confected rosés, and those excessively herbaceous Sauvignon Blancs that make me scrunch my nose.

This week, I offer you notes on five wines I recently tasted (three at my WSET class), and my suggestions around what I’d serve them with. I hope that there’s something for everyone, particularly as one considers stocking up in advance of the quickly approaching long weekend. No corks this week as everything listed immediately below would be something I’d buy without reservation.

J. Lohr, Riverstone, Chardonnay (Vintages #: 258699, $19.95)
Clear, medium, lemon, with a medium-intensity, tropical fruit nose. Prominent flavours of banana, honey, cantaloupe, and citrus are delightfully complimented by a slight vanilla-coconut undernote. This wine is dry, but those of you who prefer the offs to mediums won’t really notice, as the taste of papaya, brioche, mango, and honeysuckle mask it. The LCBO admits that this Chard is “super-popular,” but that doesn’t mean you should snub it. I think chilled to the right temperature, this would be incredible alongside fish tacos, grilled garlic shrimp skewers, pineapple chicken, or any fruit-chutney-topped white fish.

Gundlach Bundchau Estate Pinot Noir 2012 (Vintages #: 397513, $49.00)
OK, I know, you’re reeling from the sticker shock, but for anyone who avoids red Burgundy-style Pinots (like me) for their sometimes off-putting flavours of equine stable, this Sonoma Coast/Sonoma County Pinot is incredible! Aromas of cherry, red licorice, tinned tomato juice, strawberry, tart cherry, vanilla, and seared meat mingle in an astonishingly awesome way. On the palate, the wine is dry, and fruity, with medium tannins and medium acidity. Full-bodied and complex, I picked up plums, cassis, sultanas, peppercorns, tobacco, stewed plums, dates, and mint. The long finish makes this a wine that seems a bit too fancy for barbecue fare, but if you’re upping your game (pun intended) with venison or lamb burgers, I bet this would be a nice match.

Philippe de Rothschild Sauv Blanc Pays d’Oc (LCBO #: 407536, $12.o5)
To make up for the above recommendation, I’m offering up a sale selection. This crisp, fruity white from the south of France is a remarkable pocketbook-friendly find. Pronounced on the nose, aromas of peach, cut grass, bell pepper, lime zest, and honey all hint at the perfect summer patio sipper. Translating to the palate, the high-acid, medium-bodied, dry white is minerally, with a mild herbaceousness that includes green bell pepper, fresh cut grass, and fennel fronds. A respectable finish for something at this price point would make this a great pairing with fresh mesculn, and even a loaded-veggie cold pasta salad. Definitely buy this one up!

Villa Maria Private Bin Rosé 2015 (Vintages #: 234377, $17.95)
What is summer without a pink wine? The Villa Maria is a solid choice (and maybe a little too easily quaffable). Ripe red strawberries, tart raspberries, and bright citrus tickle the nose and the palate. This isn’t an especially complex wine, but the high acidity, and weightier body seem to elevate it, and make it a less-cerebral drinking experience than some of the Provençal pinks I’ve recently tried. Seafood, fish, antipasto – I think this could easily be drunk with a number of fresh, light summer dishes. (Embarrassingly, a girlfriend and I downed this over pizza and a kale caesar salad, but hey, it was a girl’s night in, and all bets are off!)

Guardian Reserva Red Blend 2014 (LCBO#: 392787, $7.95)
You can’t accuse me of not offering a price point for all! This Chilean blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc is a surprise. The purple-ruby wine has a pleasant intensity of aroma on the nose: seared meat, red licorice, cloves, anise, and underripe strawberry are all present. On the palate, the wine is fuller bodied (though not quite full), with medium tannins, and medium acidity. Flavours of cherries, cocoa, bitter coffee, mint, green olives, and smoky-wood are a surprise. This is your grilled steak or chuck burger wine — cheap, cheerful, and tastes above its price point (but don’t think that it’s a substitute for that Sonoma Pinot!).