The greatest trick of Halloween used to be the decor transforming overnight from pumpkins and ghouls to Christmas trees and Santas. Now, shops are decked out with North Pole trappings before back-to-school season. It’s a premature activation that would suggest there’s such a thing as the “first-minute” shopper, which seems foreign to an unrepentant procrastinator like me.
If you are looking ahead, this week’s recommendations include bottles that would be great gift suggestions as well as ones to have on hand for entertaining. If your worldview is different, perhaps, like me, you’re ruled by the mantra that nothing motivates like the last second, consider this a round-up of wines to enjoy without needing a sense of occasion.
Arniston Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2023 (South Africa), $14.95
Produced from vineyards in the coastal region of South Africa, this fruity and enjoyable sauvignon blanc shows how well that grape performs in the Cape. Made to Fair Trade standards that govern practices and working conditions in the vineyard and cellar, the style is easy to appreciate, with juicy acidity and a lingering finish that makes this enjoyable as an aperitif or with a meal.
A new listing in Ontario, this dynamic white is a timely reminder of the value for money prospects offered by South African wineries. Drink now to 2025. Available in Ontario.
Arniston Bay Shiraz 2022 (South Africa), $14.95
Calling this shiraz speaks to an audience that embraces ripe and fruity red wines but risks conjuring up the jammy and overly oak styles of wine from the past. Fans of well-made syrah should enjoy this affordable red, which offers appealing dark fruit flavours with fragrant spice and herbal notes that add interest in the glass. Medium-bodied, with a polished texture, this is a dry red that is nicely positioned on the quality for price aspect. Fair Trade. Drink now to 2025. Available in Ontario.
Cambria Katherine’s Vineyard Chardonnay 2021 (United States), $39.95
Produced from an estate in Santa Barbara County, Calif., this chardonnay is made in a rich and refreshing style. Citrus and apple fruit, with honey, floral and stony flavours contribute to the complexity. The full-bodied style is balanced and satisfying, thanks to the underlying lemony character. Drink now to 2029. Available at the above price in Ontario, $37.99 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $42.99 in Manitoba.
Cavaliere D’Oro Riserva Chianti Classico 2018 (Italy), $24.95
Made in a concentrated and refreshing style, this impressive red comes from the Castello di Gabbiano estate in Chianti Classico. It offers ripe cherry and berry fruit flavours with savoury and earthy notes. A blend of sangiovese with merlot grown on the estate, the style is nicely balanced, with serious structure and intensity that suggest this will develop nicely in-bottle. Drink now to 2030. Available at the above price in Ontario, $29.99 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $23.99 in Manitoba.
Closson Chase Vineyards Churchside Pinot Noir 2021 (Canada), $45
Closson Chase helped to attract early attention to the quality wines of Prince Edward County. This appealing and complex pinot noir, with its mix of floral, savoury and berry notes, shows how well those vines are performing two decades later. This is an extremely fragrant example of pinot, with a good intensity, silky texture and lingering finish. The vibrancy and intensity suggest this will develop in the cellar. Drink now to 2030. Vegan. Available at the above price in Ontario or direct, clossonchase.com.
Domaine Les Salices Viognier 2021 (France), $17.95
From François Lurton’s operation in Minervois, in the south of France, this is a terrific expression of the viognier grape, which wines with the fuller body of a chardonnay but with more personality. The flavours present textbook apricot and floral notes, with some yellow apple and nutty notes, which come from a portion of the blend that’s aged in oak. Aromatic grapes such as viognier can sometimes be too much – overly ripe, high in alcohol, lacking refreshment – but this strikes a good balance between alcohol and acidity, body and aroma. Drink now. Available at the above price in Ontario, $15.90 in Quebec.
Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc 2022 (United States), $39.95
The sauvignon blanc grape is gaining momentum in California as consumers embraces its fragrant and flavourful charms. Duckhorn, which has been championing the grape variety since 1982, continues to be one of the Golden State’s benchmark styles. A blend of sauvignon blanc and semillon, made with a mix of stainless steel and French oak barrel fermented lots, this offers a mix of fresh fruit flavours, ranging from grapefruit and lime to melon and pineapple. Drink now. Available at the above price in Ontario, $38.99 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $32.50 in Quebec.
Shafer Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay 2021 (United States), $98.95
Red Shoulder Ranch is an estate-owned vineyard in the Napa Valley portion of Carneros, near San Francisco Bay. The chardonnay it produces is known for its complexity, but now offers appealing freshness as well. This shows the new Napa style that’s sure to impress collectors and connoisseurs. The full-bodied style offers melon, pineapple and honey notes balanced by citrusy acidity. The finish is long and appetizing. Drink now to 2028. Available at the above price in Ontario, various prices in Alberta.
Tesselaarsdal Chardonnay 2022 (South Africa), $48.95
Based in Walker Bay, South Africa, Tesselaarsdal was founded in 2015 by Berene Sauls, an employee of Hamilton Russell Vineyards. This is a single-vineyard chardonnay that was aged in clay amphorae and older oak barrels to contribute to a refreshing and elegant style. The flavours are focused and vibrant, with an appealing mix of grapefruit and stony notes. It’s a remarkable white to enjoy now but promises to mature gracefully. Drink now to 2030. Available in Ontario.