Changing what we drink with the season is a great way to experience the broad array of wines and spirits available. Warm weather often inspires a thirst for beverages that are light and refreshing, which opens the door to fresh and fruity styles of wines and classic summery cocktails such as gin and tonics, Moscow Mules and Pimm’s Cups.
Last week’s burst of unseasonably warm temperatures found me visiting different parts of the wine cellar and exploring various bottles in the drinks cabinet. It also inspired a search for new and existing releases to help pave the way for the sunny days ahead.
This week’s recommendations include a trio of red wines ideally suited for the dinner table as well as three whites that prove to be enjoyable with or without a meal. There’s a new limited-edition gin from Scotland’s Hendrick’s distillery that showcases an attractively spicy profile that really impressed, while the popular rhubarb and ginger gin from Whitley Neill offers a sweeter, more liqueur-like character that could be an interesting element in mixed drinks. Finally, two newly released rosé wines from Canadian wineries suggest a tasty way to welcome warmer spring days.
Domaine Queylus Droite 2018 (Canada), $39.95
While Niagara’s Queylus focuses much of its efforts on chardonnay and pinot noir, there’s also a small portfolio of nicely structured reds made from estate-grown merlot and cabernet franc grapes. Droite pays tribute to the right-bank wines of Bordeaux with its merlot and cabernet franc blend. This is a dry and expressive wine, with really nice texture and length. It’s medium-bodied, with appealing fruit and spice notes from start to finish. Drink now to 2029. Available direct through queylus.com.
Escorihuela Gascon 1884 Estate Malbec 2019 (Argentina), $17.99
The 1884 on the label refers to the year this Mendoza winery was established. Now owned by the Catena family, it relies on estate vineyards in Agrelo, Lujan de Cuyo and grapes from local growers to produce its range of widely exported wines. The 2019 vintage is starting to turn up on shelves in western provinces, offering the generous and complex expression of malbec that’s the house style. Its ripe and fruity character make it a solid barbecue red. Drink now to 2024. Available in British Columbia at the above price, various prices in Alberta.
Hendrick’s Lunar Gin (Great Britain), $59.95
A limited-edition release from Hendrick’s, Lunar offers an attractively fragrant and mellow style of gin with a peppery edge. Made to be warming and fuller-bodied in style, this offers enticing lemongrass, juniper and rosewater notes. This flavourful spirit would work effectively in a wide variety of cocktails or simply served over ice. Available in Ontario.
Laurent Miquel Nord Sud Viognier 2019 (France), $15.95
It’s nice to see this bright and expressive viognier from the south of France back on shelves at LCBO outlets. Made from a single vineyard block with a north-south orientation, hence the name, this nicely balanced dry white wine plays to the fragrant grape variety’s strengths with attractive spice and floral notes, without becoming too rich or unctuous. Drink now to 2023. Available in Ontario.
Marqués de Cáceres Reserva 2015 (Spain), $24.95
This is a serious red wine from Rioja, with significant oak influence on the nose and palate. The Marqués de Câceres house style is bold, flavourful and nicely structured, with a ripe core of cherry fruit that carries through to a drying finish. Best enjoyed with a meal. Drink now to 2025. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta, $29.99 in Manitoba, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, $23.10 in Quebec.
O’Rourke’s Peak Cellars Fieldling Block 26 Field Blend 2019 (Canada), $24
This invigorating white blend is a nice introduction to O’Rourke’s Peak, a new winery that’s attracting attention to the Lake Country region of the Okanagan Valley. Produced from the Carr’s Landing Vineyard, this is a blend of pinot gris, riesling and gewurztraminer grapes that were harvested at the same time and co-fermented. The result is a zesty combination of floral and fruit as well as sweet and sour notes that make this really refreshing. The style works as an aperitif or with a wide assortment of dishes. Drink now to 2023. Available in British Columbia at the above price or direct through orourkespeakcellars.com.
Rosehall Run Petite Pixie Rosé Spritzer (Canada), $3.95/355 mL can
Rosehall Run in Prince Edward County has turned its popular Pixie sparkling rosé into a ready to drink spritzer in a can, with 5.5 per cent alcohol. It offers a mix of refreshing peach, berry and citrus flavours that are enjoyable any time, but especially appetizing during the spring and summer months. Drink now. Available direct through rosehallrun.com.
Sandhill Cellars Rosé 2020 (Canada), $19.99
Produced in a crowd-pleasing off-dry style with a mix of merlot and gamay grapes from estate vineyards, Sandhill’s rosé offers attractive fragrance and rich cherry and berry flavours. It’s ripe and flavourful with freshness to balance. Drink now to 2022. Available in British Columbia at the above price, $20 direct from sandhillwines.ca, various prices in Alberta, $20.99 in Saskatchewan.
Umani Ronchi Centovie Colli Aprutini Pecorino 2017 (Italy), $24.95
Bright citrus and melon combine nicely with nutty and popcorn notes in this organic pecorino from Abruzzo. Aging in barrel and concrete adds richness to the texture and extends the length of this fuller-bodied white wine. Drink now to 2023. Available in Ontario.
Whitley Neill Rhubarb & Ginger Gin (Great Britain), $44.80
This mellow and flavourful spirit works more like a liqueur than a gin, with bold rhubarb preserves, baked apple and ginger notes. Its sweeter character makes for an interesting cocktail component, say, adding a splash to conventional gin and tonic or enjoyed served over ice with some tonic or soda water. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta, $54.99 in Saskatchewan, $44.99 in Manitoba.
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