20 under $20 in British Columbia (November)
Monthly Picks from our West Coast Critic Team
No matter where we are in this vast vinous world (Similkameen, Vancouver, Chile, Australia…) we always have our ears finely tuned to value wines. Yes – we love to taste all wines, but we tire of the reserve, grand reserve, super premium reserve, icon extra reserve and every other uber, super, ultra premium tier wines – all with a price to match. When I talk to my colleagues about what they’re excited about, and what they’re drinking at home, it’s often under $20, and it’s a great find that doesn’t dent the bank account. That is what this column is about, and what we’re out there roving around and finding for you.
Though I’m writing this en route to spring in Chile, I’ve just left wind, rain and cold, so my mind is tuned to wines that will warm from the inside out.
A bargain red for all you year-round grilling fanatics is La Posta Tinto Red Blend 2013 and fun easy-sipping-style made from malbec, bonarda and syrah.
Syrah also dominates the Matchbook Dunnigan Hills Syrah 2011 from Yolo County in California. Here, a splash of cabernet sauvignon ups the smoky chocolate notes and results in a solid mid-week red.
If your tastes veer more European, try the fresh Tommasi Merlot Le Prunée 2012 from Veneto, Italy with your grilled meats or mushroom dishes.
Graham Beck The Game Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 is ready to crack with your cheeseburger or beef dip, the smoked earth and cassis notes working with the freshness in this Western Cape rustic red.
And when you’re craving creamy pasta or warming clam chowder, pour a glass of the bread and orchard fruit-full Tinhorn Creek Chardonnay 2013 to match.
It’s time to lay in some wines for a crowd… trust me, November will evaporate and you’ll find the entertaining season arrives before you know it. Here are a few of my favourite bargains to stock up on this month.
Wyndham Estate Bin 222 Chardonnay 2013 has a spark of acidity that works well with a variety of dishes from seafood through poultry, and it’s always a smart idea to have a solid, well made chardonnay in the house.
Another great wine to stock up on is a varietally-sound, drinkable and affordable pinot noir – not an easy thing to find. Robert Mondavi Private Selection Pinot Noir 2012 covers all bases and impresses with its gorgeous pinot fragrance.
With hearty beef or lamb braises to warm you from the inside out, a tankard of Montgras Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2013 from Colchagua, Chile will work well, with its currant, black plum and light smokiness.
If you are looking for a more savoury, Spanish red for your lamb, the Grandes Vinos y Vinedos Monasterio de las Vinas Reserva 2006 from Carinena, Spain is an exceptional value, with a chewy/silky blend of garnacha, tempranillo and carinena from vines aging 35-45 years offering up complexity and amazing value.
And if you really need a sunny lift? Stock up on Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontes 2013. A salty note adds interest to this dry, citrusy high-altitude Salta aromatic white.
Rhys Pender MW
This month I have been enjoying a lot of soft, rich, cuddly red wines. The Rhône, southern France and southern Italy are always good bets plus I have thrown in a new Bulgarian listing and one Similkameen grown red to the list this month. These all over deliver for under $20 and should be enjoyed with some hearty food, ideally standing around an open fire in the chilly fall air.
The Château Millegrand 2012 from Minervois is the perfect soft, warming style and great with anything grilled and meaty.
Another similarly styled southern French value buy is the 2012 Pierre Henri Morel Signargues Côtes du Rhône. Both have plenty of fruit but also lots of savoury notes to add complexity and interest.
Southern Italy also makes some very soft yet savoury reds perfect for around the fireplace. The 2013 Verso Rosso from Salento IGT is a good buy at $19.99.
Bulgarian wine practically disappeared from BC shelves over the last decade but there may be signs of a comeback. The 2011 Lovico Gamza is a delicious, light, juicy and fresh savoury red for just $13. Maybe there will be some Mavrud and Melnik coming to follow in Gamza’s footsteps?
Closer to home is the 2012 Sandhill Vanessa Vineyard Cabernet-Merlot. This is nice and ripe but shows some of the Similkameen minerality underneath its toasty oak.
I’m writing this column, as I often do, at an airport, waiting for a flight. I’ve just spent a couple of weeks visiting wine regions in Australia and struck by the innovation and energy coming out of this vast country. Forget about critter labels and commodity wine – the new Australia is focused on regionality and freshness above all – and there are great values to be found.
With my vote for one of the most value-for-money wines on our market is the Tahbilk Marsanne 2010. An absolute steal for under $20, Tahbilk’s ties to the rare French-born Marsanne grape stretches back to the 1860’s when the first grapes were recorded. Though those initial plantings are no longer around, the Estate still produces Marsanne from 1927 plantings – some of the oldest in the world!
Did you know that Oxford Landing is a place, not a brand? I have proof, drinking this bright and sunny Oxford Landing Pinot Grigio overlooking riverfront Oxford Landing, in the sleepily scenic Riverland region in South Australia.
Credited, rightfully so, with saving viognier from extinction, the Yalumba Y Series Viognier remains a consistent staple and benchmark for this exotic, apricot spiced grape. Partner with your Thai or Vietnamese dishes for pairing perfections.
If you’re grilling up a quick weekday steak to ward off the chill, De Bortoli Family Selection Petite Sirah 2011 would be a great choice. Uncomplicated sweet plum, dark cassis over a polished, cool finish will match up to your easy midweek dinner plans.
DeBorts, as they’re casually called, have just recently released a new line of wines into Canada. The La Boheme line is a higher tier wine, in smaller production and focus on region. La Boheme Pinot Gris & Friends 2013 is from grapes sourced in the cooler upper Yarra Valley, highlighting the tart lemon, anise and pear skin character of pinot gris, alongside aromatic friends gewürztraminer and Riesling.
Watch for the BC WineAlign crew’s monthly Critics’ Picks, as well Anthony’s Final Blend and DJ’s overview of wine judges mentoring judges. Later this month, I will kick off a series taking a closer, detailed look at Australia’s regionality and John Szabo, Bill Zacharkiw and I write a joint piece about our travels through Portugal – Bill, John and Treve’s Excellent Portuguese Adventure. You can check out John’s terrific introduction to the diversity of Portugal here.
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