February can be the cruellest month, with grey, cold and miserable weather making for seemingly endless bitter days. While some may be the type to tug on a toque and gleefully head snow-ward to ski, skate or snowshoe their way to satisfaction, you’ll find me hibernating at home.
With the fireplace channel crackling in the background, there’s time to cook up hearty dishes to help combat the cold weather blues. It’s also a great time to sip on comforting red wines such as these warm and fuzzy styles.
Of course, there’s nothing saying rich whites, frothy bubblies or berry-flavoured rosés wouldn’t be enjoyable. By all means, opt for whatever you prefer. But this selection of cabernets, malbecs and other reds are what I’m really loving this month.
Bodega Catena Zapata Lunlunta Old Vines Appellation Malbec 2017 (Argentina)
The family-owned Catena winery has long been one of the leading producers in Argentina, with a strong portfolio of stylish and serious red and white wines on offer at a variety of prices. The classic Catena range is always solid, but it’s nice to see small lot wines such as this hyper-regional expression of Mendoza malbec coming into Canadian markets. The Lunlunta region is a small district within the Maipu appellation, where sandy soils and old vines – the vineyard that provided these grapes was planted in 1930 – make for richly concentrated red wines. The 2017 is a fine wine with tremendous intensity and balance, with structure to develop nicely in the cellar if you’re so inclined. Drink now to 2025. Available in Ontario.
Bodega Luigi Bosca Finca La Linda Malbec 2018 (Argentina)
One of the seven proprietary estates in Mendoza owned by the Arizu family, which founded Bodega Luigi Bosca in 1901, Finca La Linda lends its name a range of fresh and fruity wines, including this juicy and medium-bodied malbec made with grapes from 30-year-old vines. This is a dry and flavourful red, with smooth texture and soft tannins that make it easy to appreciate. Drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price, $18.98 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta.
Ca’del Sette Vini 1848 Sorio Appassionante 2016 (Italy)
This red from the Veneto region is a fruity blend of merlot and cabernet sauvignon that offers a lot of sweet blackberry fruit – with an emphasis on sweet. The name is a play on the term appassimento, which sees ripe grape clusters dried for a period of time before fermentation to concentrate the sugars and add more complexity. The ripeness of those grapes often results in powerful amarone style red wines with alcohol levels hovering around the 15-per-cent range. Made in a lighter style, with a declared 13-per-cent alcohol level, this contains an obvious amount of fruity sweetness that many may find charming. Available in Ontario.
Hester Creek Estate Winery Character Red 2018 (Canada)
This red wine from the cool and challenging 2018 vintage is a good introduction to Hester Creek, the caretakers of some of the oldest vineyards planted on the Okanagan Valley’s Golden Mile Bench. A blend of estate-grown, old-vine merlot, malbec, syrah and petit verdot, this complex red offers a fragrant mix of savoury spice and fruit flavours enhanced by vanilla notes from barrel aging. Drink now. Available direct through hestercreek.com.
J. Bookwalter Readers Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 (United States)
Cabernet from some of Washington State’s oldest vineyards is used to great effect for this ripe and rewarding red wine. A blend of cabernet sauvignon and syrah matured for a two-year period in French oak barrels and larger format puncheon to gain added complexity, this offers refined structure and character. Drink now to 2026. Available in Ontario.
KWV Cathedral Cellar Shiraz 2017 (South Africa)
Cathedral Cellar is a premium brand for one of South Africa’s largest wine producers. This shiraz is one of the label’s most consistently enjoyable releases, offering a pleasing mix of juicy fruit, peppery spice and dark chocolate flavours. The drying finish suggests this would be best enjoyed with food. Drink now to 2023. Available in Ontario at the above price. The 2015 vintage is available in Quebec for $19.
Shingleback Red Knot Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 (Australia)
Hailing from the McLaren Vale wine region in South Australia, this enjoyable full-bodied cabernet sauvignon boasts bright and juicy fruit flavours that are easy to appreciate. This is nice and ripe, without losing focus or freshness. Nicely balanced and ready to drink. The wine’s structure and intensity suggest this has the stuffing to age, but why wait? Drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta and $19.95 in Nova Scotia.
Tinto Negro Limestone Block Malbec 2015 (Argentina)
The name Limestone Block refers to the rocky soils where these grapes are grown in Tunuyan region of the Uco Valley. A small addition of cabernet franc adds some herbal fragrance notes to a generous and full-bodied red with a soft and silky texture. Drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price, $29.98 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $25.99 in Nova Scotia.
Township 7 Vineyards & Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 (Canada)
There’s classic cabernet sauvignon character in this fragrant and focused red wine that’s refreshingly dry and nicely dialled in. Textbook tobacco and graphite aromas add interest to the mix of red fruit and toasted oak notes, making for a wine that promises to develop nicely over the next four to six years. Available direct through township7.com
Victoria Park Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 (Australia)
This newcomer to the Australian shelves at the LCBO stood out at a recent tasting. Victoria Park won’t bowl you over with its character or complexity. But it’s a simple and effective medium-bodied red with cedar, spice and blackberry notes that convey classic cabernet character. Drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta, $17.21 in Nova Scotia.
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