Father's Day Buyers' Guide

Picnicking on Father’s Day: Load Up The Wagons!

By John Szabo, MS with notes from David Lawrason, Michael Godel, and Megha Jandhyala

This Sunday, June 18, marks Father’s Day in Canada, a day to celebrate not only one’s biological father, but also father figures and paternal bonds, and the place of fathers in society. The modern version of the holiday was originally an American invention, widely attributed to Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, Washington, who got the idea while listening to a sermon on Mother’s Day in 1909 and encouraged the launch of Father’s Day in 1910. Her mother had died in childbirth and she and her siblings were raised by her father.

Other traditions go back much further, such as in catholic European countries where celebrations for fathers were observed as early as March 19, 1508, and linked to the Feast of St. Joseph. Back then, Father’s Day was much more (western) religious in nature, but today fathers are celebrated in more than 100 countries worldwide with highly diverse cultures, traditions, religions and languages. And there’s of course a much more decidedly commercial angle to the holiday. In many countries like Canada, but not all, Father’s Day is celebrated on the third Sunday of June, and the day is often marked by family gatherings, frequently around food, along with some form of card (Hallmark?) and/or gift—things you think dad might appreciate, like a necktie, a hat, an apron with “World’s Best Dad” emblazoned on it, socks and boxer shorts (you can never have too many), power tools, or in my case, booze.

This year, Father’s Day also conveniently happens to fall on International Picnic Day (always on June 18) a form of dining that I particularly relish. So, as a father myself—note to family—I’m going to suggest combining these two holidays, as they inadvertently do in Germany, for example, where Father’s Day is commonly celebrated by loading wagons with beer and heading off into the woods.

Beer and picnics certainly go hand in hand, but more in line with WineAlign’s field of expertise, we share instead some currently available picnic-worthy wines that dads will enjoy now—and which would be perfectly at home around a backyard barbecue, a balcony picnic, a dockside meal, or really anywhere al fresco—as well as some wines well-suited for more long-term cellaring and “serious” dining on Father’s Days to come. Wagons are optional, but not recommended for a saucy picnic.

How to Dine and Sip Al Fresco

There’s something very visceral about eating outside, very connective to the natural world. I love the feeling of sitting on the edge of a soft blanket with bare feet in the grass, a light breeze rustling leaves, the blanket laid with a generous spread of comforting foods. It could be traditional picnic fare like cold roasted chicken, charcuterie, cheese, smoked fish, pâté, crudités and crusty sourdough bread, or something else. Options are limited only by availability and preferences. A raft of sushi, a Middle eastern slew of salads, vegetables and falafels, cold fried rice, West Indian roti? Why not.

When it comes to wine selections, I’d suggest reserving your most prized wines for another time. Unless you’re obsessive like me, you’ll likely be sipping out of a plastic cup (when forced, I prefer stemless acrylic goblets, something like these), not the ideal vessels to showcase fine wine. And then there’s nature to contend with: delicate, complex and nuanced wine aromatics get carried away on breezes, and struggle for attention with sweet grass and wildflowers, woodsmoke and sun cream, gas powered lawnmowers and jet skis, and myriad other outdoor fine wine hazards. Opt instead for more punchy, boisterous, fruity wines that can handle a little toning down, and won’t distract you overly from communing with nature and sharing a moment that’s more about family and friendship than connoisseurship. One thing you mustn’t forget, however, is the cooler with ice, or the wine chiller. All bottles, even (especially) reds, will taste better and more refreshing if served cool, especially on a hot, sunny day. A nearby cold creek or lake can also serve the purpose.

Is it Legal?

By-laws vary across Canada, and from municipality to municipality. In Montreal, for example, residents have long been able to consume alcohol in public parks. But I should mention that in Toronto it’s currently illegal to consume alcohol in a public park, with fines up to $300. Yet according to CTV, the city issued a sum total of zero tickets for drinking in parks last year—I don’t imagine there’s much post-Covid appetite for fining people who are respectfully and responsibly having a tipple in the park. And promisingly, Toronto city council also approved a motion in early May that will pave the way for the launch of a pilot program permitting responsible alcohol consumption in public parks that could take effect as early as July. Check the by-laws in your municipality before loading up the wagon and heading to the woods for a boozy picnic.

Wishing a safe and happy day to all the fathers and father figures out there.

Buyer’s Guide Father’s Day 2023: Wines to Load in the Wagon for Al Fresco Dining

Ken Forrester Sparklehorse Sparkling Chenin Blanc 2019

Ken Forrester Sparklehorse Sparkling Chenin Blanc 2019, Stellenbosch, South Africa  
$32.95, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits Inc. (Online and Flagship Exclusive)
John Szabo – Bubbles and picnics go hand in hand, and this traditional-method chenin blanc from Ken Forrester delivers a suitable range of complex, yeasty-autolysis aromatics thanks to 28 months on the lees, more than intense enough to stand up to the perils of the great outdoors. The palate is dry, taut and fresh, calling for a ceviche or perhaps a creamy cheese to start.
Michael Godel – There is a lovely little bit of feathery-gingered oxidation here that is a hallmark of complex Cap Classique. Toast dads everywhere with this chenin blanc.
Megha Jandhyala – Nothing says “celebration” quite as universally as sparkling wine and this traditional-method bubbly from South Africa is an excellent addition to any Father’s Day get-together. Made with old vine chenin blanc, it is complex and concentrated, striking a wonderful balance between richness and freshness.

Alta-Yarí Gran Torrontés 2021

Alta-Yarí Gran Torrontés 2021, Gualtallary, Valle de Uco, Mendoza Argentina  
$27.95, Glencairn (Online and Flagship Exclusive)
John Szabo – Aromatic whites are a picnic favorite, and few varieties are more intense than Argentina’s torrontés, a native grape with muscat parantage. And in this case, there’s an extra degree of complexity from wood ageing; I love the creamy white fleshed orchard fruit and sweet herb flavours, the impeccable balance, and the excellent length. This is surely among the most complete and complex, accomplished whites from Argentina that I’ve recently come across —your cold-roasted chicken or lobster-roll wine.
David Lawrason – I am a father too, and I would be thrilled to receive a bottle or three of this modestly priced, riveting white. What a great nose! So lifted, pure and distinctively torrontés with its penetrating sappy/mint/juniper greenness, tropical kiwi/guava fruit, lemon wax and almost peppery spice. It is medium weight, fairly warm yet bone dry with a slightly waxy texture. The length is outstanding. And it’s in a dark bottle so some might mistake it for red.
Megha Jandhyala – This high-altitude, wood-aged torrontés is sure to pique interest and start conversations at your Father’s Day celebrations. It is nuanced, fragrant, and flavourful, with an appealingly rich, rounded, almost satin silk-like texture.

Winzer Krems Ried Kremser Wachtberg Reserve Grüner Veltliner 2021

Winzer Krems Ried Kremser Wachtberg Reserve Grüner Veltliner 2021, Kremstal, Austria      
$29.95, Dionysus Wines & Spirits Ltd. (Online and Flagship Exclusive)
Michael Godel – With the Reserve designation, the alcohol will always rise—and so this feels a touch boozy, like a spirit and a dry mixer, with botanical, herbal, green pepper and a hyperbole of white pepper notes. Quite a punch and pungent single-vineyard example.

Cave Spring CSV Riesling 2019

Cave Spring CSV Riesling 2019, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario
$31.95, Cave Spring Cellars
Megha Jandhyala – If you are seeking a local wine to celebrate someone special in your life this Father’s Day, this Ontario riesling, made with fruit from 50-year-old vines, is an excellent choice—especially if you are serving spice-infused cuisine. It is vibrant, subtly saline, and essentially dry (with only 8g/L of residual sugar), brimming over with notes of fleshy orchard, stone, and citrus fruit. It should pair wonderfully with a broad range of South Asian cuisine.

Springs Road Shiraz 2017

Springs Road Shiraz 2017, Kangaroo Island, South Australia 
$32.95, Airen Imports (Online and Flagship Exclusive)      
John Szabo – A shiraz with genuine depth, freshness, balance and concentration. This vineyard on Kangaroo Island in South Australia, planted in 1994, delivers an appealing amalgam of cooler and warmer regional character. Peppery and spicy, but also deeply, darkly fruity, with integrated wood influence and impressive complexity, ready for the spiced-rubbed, grilled flank steak sliced and served at picnic temperature.
David Lawrason – If Dad is a barbie king and loves his Aussie shiraz with the grill, he will really appreciate this hop over to Kangaroo Island off the coast of Adelaide—the wine delivers a seam of cooler clime acidity and elegance. The aromas are classic ripe mulberry/blueberry with fresh herbs/moss, toasty almost charred oak and peppery spice. All are well proportioned. It is full bodied, juicy yet fairly dense with firm tannin.

Diemersdal Reserve Pinotage 2021, Durbanville, South Africa
$36.95, PV Wines (Online and Flagship Exclusive)
John Szabo – Shockingly good pinotage here, attractively clean and fruity, creamy and round, a perfectly hedonistic wine to enjoy outdoors. I like the plumpness and wide, general appeal, the mocha-coffee-chocolate flavours, not a deeply complex or intellectual wine, but certainly widely appealing and a fine canvas for, say, some short ribs or spicy chicken wings, finger-licking good.
David Lawrason – If the Old Man is a self-proclaimed open-minded wine adventurer who draws the line at South African pinotage, poke his prejudice with this dandy from Diemersdal. It is one of the deeper, richer pinotage I have encountered, with quite ripe fruit, deep colour and some wood influence. Normally this grape—a crossing of pinot noir and cinsault—produces paler, lighter wines. This edition is medium-full bodied with smooth texture, notably fresh, firm acidity and moderate tannin.
Michael Godel – Incredible aromatics, so be prepared to have your olfactory and gustatory senses blown. Must-taste varietal reality is just this, in pinotage, unwavering, exotic and really fine.

Buyer’s Guide Father’s Day 2023: Wines to Gift to that Paternal Figure

Château Mont-Redon Châteauneuf-Du-Pape 2019

Château Mont-Redon Châteauneuf-Du-Pape 2019, Rhône Valley, France         
$61.95, FWM Canada
David Lawrason – If Pops is into fine French wine, show him you got his back with this brilliant Châteauneuf—maybe even multiple bottles he will enjoy now and on Father’s Days to come. It is a very fine, rich and energized Châteauneuf that should please throughout the decade. The nose shows lifted red plum, strawberry fruit, peppery spice, fresh herbs and a touch of earthiness. The length is excellent.

Alejandro Fernández Dehesa La Granja 2016

Alejandro Fernández Dehesa La Granja 2016, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y León, Spain
$23.95, Trialto Wine Group Ltd.
David Lawrason – It’s not really a summer wine, but I bet Dad would love this late in the evening, sitting on the dock or around the embers. It is a soothing, complex and fairly rich classically styled 100-percent tempranillo aged two years in barrel and further in bottle. The nose shows a generous, well measured savoury dried herbs/fennel, caraway, leather and dried fruit. It is smooth, warm and quite rich with some heat.

Haywire Pinot Noir 2020

Haywire Pinot Noir 2020, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
$34.95, Le Sommelier Inc. (Online and Flagship Exclusive)
Michael Godel – Optimum ripeness delivers an exquisite pinot noir, with some acetic notes playing off the fruit sweetness. In balance, a great wine for a dad who loves high-character pinot noir.

Barón De Ley Gran Reserva 2015

Barón De Ley Gran Reserva 2015, Rioja, Spain
$34.95, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits Inc.   
Megha Jandhyala -An aged Rioja might not be the most obvious choice when thinking of wines to buy in summer, but if you are looking for a Father’s Day gift for someone who appreciates maturing, cultivated wines, this gran reserva is an excellent choice. It is classically styled and richly perfumed, with resonant notes of wood, ripe and desiccated fruit, old leather, and dried herbs. Refined, nuanced, and beautifully integrated, it is ready to enjoy now but can also be cellared for 4–5 years. 

Tenuta San Guido Le Difese 2020, Castagneto Carducci

Tenuta San Guido Le Difese 2020, Castagneto Carducci, Toscana, Italy
$43.95, Sylvestre Wine & Spirits         
Megha Jandhyala – The Le Difese would make for a special Father’s Day gift for someone who is a fan of supertuscans or simply enjoys compelling, well-made red blends. Made by renowned producer Tenuta San Guido (of Sassicaia fame), the 2020 vintage is sangiovese-led, with captivating, supple fruit, delicate herbs and spice, and a silken, refined texture. Though approachable now, it can be cellared for 4–5 years.

That’s all for this report. See you around the next bottle.

John Szabo, MS

Use these quick links for access to all of our Top Picks in the New Release. Non-Premium members can select from all release dates 30 days prior.

Szabo’s Smart Buys
Lawrason’s Take
Michael’s Mix
Sara’s Selections
Megha’s Picks

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