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waters on wine

It’s been a while since this column has centred on a holiday or occasion. After two long years where planning ahead was fraught with uncertainly, we’re heading into Mother’s Day on firmer footing. Many families will gather to celebrate in person and in my family, and many others, serving wine is a given.

Something bubbly is likely to be opened as everyone arrives and proceeds to congregate in the kitchen. An expressive and easy-going white, red or rosé will follow – all three simultaneously, if numbers warrant – with appetizers or a meal.

But choosing wine for Mother’s Day or any family gathering is never about finding the right wine – there are too many variables to consider, from the weather to what’s on the menu as well as individual tastes – it’s about finding charming, better yet, tasty, wines with mass appeal. If this is a day about pampering as much as honouring, it also makes sense to serve wines that have been thoughtfully selected. Does mom have a favourite grape variety or wine style? A favourite producer or winemaking region? Shop accordingly.

This week’s recommendations are a short list I pulled together of tasty wines that have impressed during recent tastings. There are more chardonnays than many wine lovers might consider, but I suspect that can be attributed to some solid releases of late.

El Enemigo from Argentina is a winery that wine lovers need to know about. The chardonnay is stunning. I love the classic style of the two Chablis producers and think that Martha Stewart’s entry into the wine industry is a savvy move, especially considering the wine has the tasteful crowd-pleasing style one would expect from the pop culture phenom.

The other bottles offer different moods, depending on what your plans are or who is gathering for Mother’s Day. Mood is as important as food when it comes to selecting wines for a crowd. They range from lighthearted to full-bodied and flavourful but are styles with considerable personality and charm, which makes them ideal for entertaining.

19 Crimes Martha’s Chard 2020 (United States)

SCORE: 88 PRICE: $19.95

The Australian wine brand 19 Crimes continues to expand its California wine portfolio with this ripe and round chardonnay that’s made in partnership by lifestyle guru Martha Stewart. Nice use of oak contributes toasty and sweet flavours into a wine that’s well-integrated and easy drinking in the best sense. It’s ready to drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price, $19.99 in British Columbia and Nova Scotia, various prices in Alberta, $20.49 in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, $17.95 in Quebec.

Bouchard Père & Fils Petit Chablis 2020 (France)

SCORE: 90 PRICE: $28.30

Here’s a pleasing and flavourful chardonnay from vineyards located across a range of sites in Chablis. Its juicy texture shows the balance between fruit and acidity, with classic citrus, peach and floral notes shining through. The freshness and intensity make for a wine that’s enjoyable with or without a meal. Drink now to 2025. Available in Ontario.

Domaine Laroche Saint Martin Chablis 2020 (France)

SCORE: 91 PRICE: $26.40

Named for the patron saint of Chablis, Laroche Saint Martin is a consistent and characterful chardonnay that is showing nicely in the 2020 vintage. This offers attractive green apple and peach fruit with honey and salinity adding interest and balance to this stylish Chablis. Drink now to 2025. Vegan friendly. Available in Ontario at the above price, various price in Alberta, $26.10 in Quebec, $36.79 in Nova Scotia, $34.99 in Prince Edward Island, $34.98 in Newfoundland.

El Enemigo Chardonnay 2019 (Argentina)

SCORE: 93 PRICE: $24.95

El Enemigo has quickly become one of the most dynamic wineries in Argentina, with a range of exceptional red and white wines, often from single vineyards. This expressive chardonnay is made in a rich and refreshing style. The concentrated pear and apple fruit is enhanced by spicy, toasty and stony notes that carry through to a long and rewarding finish. Drink now to 2029. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in British Columbia and Alberta, $37 in Nova Scotia.

Featherstone Sauvignon Blanc 2021 (Canada)

SCORE: 88 PRICE: $17.95

There’s considerable concentration and weight to this Ontario sauvignon blanc thanks to a small portion of the blend that was fermented in old Canadian oak barrels. It adds more texture and complexity to a wine that shows the expected bright acidity and mixture of citrus, peach and tropical fruit aromas and flavours. The lingering finish helps to refresh the palate. Available in Ontario at the above price or $18.15 direct, featherstonewinery.com

Joel Gott Zinfandel 2018 (United States)

SCORE: 90 PRICE: $25.95

Joel Gott has been producing zinfandel in California for more than 20 years so you can expect he has his style of winemaking pretty much dialled-in at this point. Working with vineyards in Amador County, Borden Ranch, Sonoma and Lodi in 2018, Gott has crafted a layered and well-defined red wine with textbook black pepper and dark fruit notes rounded out by vanilla flavours from aging in American and French oak barrels. This is an appealingly fruity, full-bodied and concentrated red with nice structure and grip. It’s a primetime barbecue red. Drink now to 2025. Available in Ontario at the above price, $25.99 in British Columbia ($23.99 until June 4), various prices in Alberta, $29.99 in Saskatchewan.

Speck Bros. Three of Hearts Rosé 2021 (Canada)

SCORE: 90 PRICE: $19.95

The new vintage of the Three of Hearts Rosé shows the delicate fruit, vibrant acidity and generous mouthfeel of a well-made dry rosé. The aromas and flavours call to mind red berries and currants with a juicy acidity that makes for a refreshing and appetizing wine. Drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price and direct from henryofpelham.com.

Quails’ Gate Chasselas Pinot Blanc Pinot Gris 2021 (Canada)

SCORE: 88 PRICE: $19.99

With a blend that’s based on chasselas vineyard planted in 1961, this easy to appreciate wine from Quails’ Gate continues to be the bestselling white wine made in British Columbia. The new vintage plays up a fruit salad flavour profile that reveals citrus, pear and melon notes. It’s a simple and enjoyable white to drink this summer. Available in British Columbia at the above price or direct, quailsgate.com, various prices in Alberta, $22.49 in Saskatchewan, $21.99 in Manitoba, $19.95 in Quebec (2020 vintage), $21.98 in Nova Scotia.

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