Depending on your inclination or location, this roundup of drink recommendations could serve as last-minute gift suggestions for Valentine’s Day, selections for the Family Day long weekend or preparation for a dinner at home to mark the first anniversary of the COVID-19 lockdown. The impulse behind these picks was to suggest a broad assortment of the new and the noteworthy products, including two non-alcoholic offerings and the debut of a stunning expression of viognier from the Okanagan.
The disruption of COVID-19 has inspired an uptick in online shopping with e-commerce finally becoming a major consideration for liquor boards and agents, not just an afterthought. More drinkers are turning to the internet to buy beer, wine and spirits than ever before, which has caused many businesses to refresh their websites. One such overhaul saw Phillipe Dandurand’s fine wine division, Galleon, spiff up its online offerings to customers, which includes the exceptional opportunity to order rare vintage Armagnacs direct from the family-owned Jean Cavé distillery in southwestern France. The company has secured inventory from 95 different vintages produced between 1888 and 2009. Here’s an opportunity to source a complex and unique brandy from a significant year or special event as a meaningful gift or memento. It’s an opportunity to taste history or, at least, direct your attention away from current events for some armchair travels.
Bottega Gold Brut Prosecco, $27.95
Bottega Gold’s decorative bottle has made this enjoyable expression of prosecco stand out on liquor store shelves since 2000. Produced from the glera grape grown in the premium Valdobbiadene region, this continues to be made in a balanced and flavourful style. The mix of peach, citrus and floral notes make this easy to appreciate on its own or with a meal. Drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price, $31.99 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $29.99 in Manitoba, $26.95 in Quebec, $68.99/1.5L in New Brunswick, $33.99 in Nova Scotia, $35.39 in Prince Edward Island.
Dairy Distillery Vodkow, $33.85
Produced in Almonte, Ont., Vodkow is made using milk permeate from 3,500 dairy farms in Ontario – basically the byproduct left behind after the fats and proteins are taken out to make yogurt, cheese and ice cream – as the base ingredient for its triple distilled vodka. There’s no lactose or sugar in the finished product, which is smooth and viscous with a lingering finish. Its origin story makes it a natural ingredient for a white Russian. The distillery’s website offers its version of a Tom Kowllins, with muddled cucumber slices and jalapeno combined with pineapple juice, grapefruit cordial and soda that has captured my imagination. Available in Ontario at the above price or direct, dairydistillery.com, various prices in Alberta, $35.99 in Nova Scotia, $35.95 in Newfoundland.
Jean Cavé vintage Armagnacs, various prices
The fine wine and spirits arm of Philippe Dandurand, Galleon is taking orders for an extensive collection of Jean Cavé vintage Armagnacs, spanning from 1888 to 2009. Now in its fourth-generation, the family-owned distillery in heart of Gascony prides itself on an inventory of old vintages dating back to its founding in 1883. A selection of 95 vintages is part of the online offer, with prices ranging from $149 per bottle of the youngest brandy from 2009 to $12,200 for a 700 ml bottle of the 1888 vintage. Orders are expected to be delivered in three months. Available to residents in Ontario and Quebec, direct from galleonwines.ca.
Mas Buscados Tempranillo Petit Verdot 2019, $16.99
Made from bush vine vineyards in the La Mancha region of southern Spain, this tempranillo blend is juicy, spicy and easy to appreciate. The mix of concentrated dark fruit and spice flavours make for a solid everyday red that is nicely integrated and enjoyable. Drink now to 2022. Available at private stores in British Columbia at the above price, various prices in Alberta, $18.99 in Nova Scotia, or $16.99 in Ontario, ordered direct through nobleestates.com, minimum order of six bottles.
Narrative Viognier 2018, $22.90
This is the first viognier to be produced as part of the Narrative portfolio, one of the brands produced by Okanagan Crush Pad in Summerland. Fermentation in concrete tanks helps contribute to the texture and weight of a wine that’s clearly marked with grape variety’s exotic personality. Pronounced tropical and citrus fruit mix with ginger and spice notes in this rich and full-bodied white. An impressive debut. Available in British Columbia at that above price or direct through okanagancrushpad.com.
Peroni Libera Alcohol Free, $8.50 4x330 ml
The popular Italian beer recently launched its no-alcohol version in Canada, with a new listing at LCBO outlets. The lighter style and crisp citrusy character of Peroni lends itself well to the zero-alcohol format. The mildly hoppy notes add to the refreshing food-friendly style of the brew. Available in Ontario.
Simi Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, $26.95
A rich and flavourful red from Sonoma County, this cabernet gains complexity and character from small additions of merlot, cabernet franc and other grape varieties. The core of fruit is concentrated and jammy in nature, with attractive oak derived spice and floral notes that carry through to the lingering finish. Drink now to 2025. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta.
Sobrii Distilled Non-Alcoholic Spirit 0-Gin, $35
Distilled in batches in Stratford, Ont., Sobrii 0-Gin is produced in a proprietary process that sees the various botanicals infused in a highly rectified spirit before the alcohol is removed prior to bottling. The mix of aromatic botanicals includes the usual gin markers, such as juniper berries, coriander and star anise, as well as locally grown ginseng. The finished product boasts having no calories, no sugar and no artificial flavour. Its herbal taste works well in one of the brands suggested recipes, the Pink Gin Highball, which combines 60 ml of Sobrii with five dashes of Angostura bitters and lemon tonic water. Available at the above price in specialty shops across Canada or direct from sobrii.ca.
Yalumba Y Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, $15.95
This serious, bright and inviting expression of cabernet from South Australia is a new listing at the LCBO. It’s made in a dry and full-bodied style, with nice complexity and ripe fruit on the nose and palate. It’s unmistakably cabernet, with stuffing to age. Drink now to 2026. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta.
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