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Winemaker Michael Clark at Clos du Soleil, a small artisan winery and estate vineyard on the Upper Bench of the South Similkameen Valley, B.C.

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A sincere love of the red and white wines of Bordeaux proved to be the inspiration for one of British Columbia’s most exciting wineries, Clos du Soleil. While estate vineyards were established in the Similkameen Valley in 2007, the original parcel has since been joined by other vineyards purchased over the years. The most recent acquisition is the Whispered Secret Vineyard near Keremeos, whose sauvignon blanc grapes have long been an important part of the winery’s flagship white wine, Capella.

Whispered Secret Vineyard near Keremeos is the source of some of the highest quality grapes going into the winery's flagship white wine, Capella.

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Clos du Soleil opened in 2008 with the release of 200 cases of wine produced in 2006, including the debut vintage of Capella. Michael Clark, a former investment banker who serves as managing partner and winemaker, joined in 2012. (Another name attached to the winery has been in the news a lot lately for completely unrelated reasons: British Columbia’s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and her former husband, Spencer Massie, founded the winery with three other couples.)

As exciting as the winery’s red blends are, the whites always capture my attention. Based on the serious and structured white wines from the Graves region of Bordeaux, Cappella captures the sun-soaked nature that inspired the winery’s name – Vineyard of the Sun – but also the precision and polish that comes from judicious blending of the two grape varieties and barrel components. There’s richness to the wine, but also elegance and refreshment that make it intense and nicely integrated.

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Winery mountain at the Clos du Soleil.

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Wine lovers in Ontario have an opportunity to pick up some of the 2017 vintage at LCBO stores and online, while the winery and private wine stores in Alberta and British Columbia are featuring the newly released 2018 vintage. Both of these wines count among the recommendations this week, along with some good-value South African bottles, a benchmark sauvignon blanc from one of New Zealand’s best-known producers and a range of rich and refined reds to enjoy now or later.

Bartier Bros. Merlot Cerqueira Vineyard 2018 (Canada)

rating out of 100

90

PRICE: $22.99

This expressive and enjoyable red wine comes from the winery’s own vineyard on the Black Sage Bench in the Okanagan. Made in a bright and fruity style, this is vibrant with some savoury and earthy complexity. It’s flavourful enough to enjoy on its own, but would be best enjoyed with a meal. Drink now to 2028. Available in British Columbia at the above price, direct through bartierbros.com; various prices in Alberta.

Boschendal The Pavillion Chenin Blanc 2019 (South Africa)

rating out of 100

90

PRICE: $11.95

As the world’s leading producers of chenin blanc, South African wineries have the ability to bring refreshingly dry white wines such as this to the market at terrific prices. The mix of citrus and tropical fruit flavours make for a crowd-pleasing style, while the balance and texture keep things from being too cloying or oily. The style works equally well as an aperitif or with a meal. Drink now to 2022. Available at the above price in Ontario; $10.65 in Quebec.

Boschendal The Pavillion Shiraz Cabernet 2018 (South Africa)

rating out of 100

88

PRICE: $11.95

This dry, medium-bodied red wine is a blend of mostly shiraz with some cabernet sauvignon to provide more structure and intensity. The result is a red with attractive spicy and savoury complexity that adds interest to a core of dark fruit flavours. This is nicely balanced and ready to drink. Drink now to 2023. Available at the above price in Ontario; $14.99 in New Brunswick.

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Clos du Soleil Capella 2017 (Canada)

rating out of 100

91

PRICE: $31.95

Produced with sauvignon blanc and sémillon grown in the Similkameen and Okanagan valley, Capella is the top-of-the-line white from Clos du Soleil, a winery that excels at producing stylish red and white wines from Bordeaux grape varieties. A blend of barrel and tank fermented lots, this engaging white is made in a vibrant, rich and refreshing style. The 2017 is the current release in Ontario, while the equally enjoyable 2018 vintage is available at the winery. Drink now to 2027. Available at the above price in Ontario. The 2018 vintage is $24.90, available direct through closdusoleil.ca; various prices elsewhere in British Columbia and Alberta.

Groth Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 (United States)

rating out of 100

93

PRICE: $119.25

A blend of mostly cabernet sauvignon with merlot and petit verdot from estate vineyards and local growers, this is a terrific expression of the power and purity of Oakville cabernet. Look for ripe dark fruit mixed with complex spice and savoury notes that carry through to a long-lasting finish. While this is really enjoyable in its youth, it has the stuffing to age. Drink now to 2035. Available in Ontario.

Rocca delle Macìe Riserva di Fizzano Gran Selezione Chianti Classico 2015 (Italy)

rating out of 100

91

PRICE: $35.95

This juicy and complex red wine comes from the Fizzano vineyard in the heart of the Chianti Classico region. A blend of mostly sangiovese with the native colorino grape variety, this shows the riper house style that’s common to Rocca delle Macìe, with dried fruit aromas and flavours adding to the savoury complexity. Drink now to 2025. Available in Ontario at the above price; various prices in Alberta; $36.25 in Quebec.

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Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia 2017 (Italy)

rating out of 100

95

PRICE: $249.95

Despite the hot and harsh conditions that marked the growing season, the 2017 vintage of Sassicaia offers remarkable freshness and restraint. It’s not the robust and flavourful style of red wine one might expect given the soaring summer temperatures, and it’s a different breed than Sassicaia’s 2016 vintage, which was instantly enjoyable and one of last year’s most sought after wines. A blend of cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc from vineyards that are so highly prized they encompass their own appellation of origin in Italy’s winemaking laws, this is a wine that needs time to show its character. Drink 2024 to 2034. Available in Ontario at the above price; $212.49 in Saskatchewan; $279.98 in Newfoundland.

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2019 (New Zealand)

rating out of 100

90

PRICE: $21.95

The family-owned Villa Maria winery continues to impress with well-made and appealing wines across a range of price points. This sauvignon blanc represents a step up from the traditional label, offering more concentration and purity in the glass. The aromas and flavours suggest a vibrant mix of citrus and tropical fruit with green pea and herbal notes. Classic Marlborough sauvignon blanc character shines through. Drink now to 2023. Vegan friendly. Available at the above price in Ontario; various prices in Alberta; $24.99 in Saskatchewan; $22.99 in Manitoba; $21.99 in New Brunswick.

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