65 Wine Recommendations from 2015
Reds, whites, sherry, lambrusco, Canadian, Australian — these are all the bottles we suggested in our 2015 wine column.
Talamonti 2010 Tre Saggi Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Abruzzo, Italy
An excellent bottle of Montepulciano at an excellent price, with big plum and black cherry fruits, a tart edge and some mid-weight tannins. It’s good to drink on its own, but should really shine with bigger red-meat dishes — perhaps one served with a saskatoon berry reduction. $16.
Santadi 2011 Carignano del Sulcis “Grotta Rossa,” Sardinia, Italy
One of the best wines I’ve had from Sardinia, it’s packed to the roof with black cherries. It’s also got plum, cedar and graphite flavours along with mid-weight tannins balancing what could otherwise have been excessive fruits. I paired it with a roast, but it could easily handle meaty, tomato-based sauces. $18.
Collevecchio 2009 Offida Pecorino, Abruzzo, Italy
A somewhat unusual grape typically found in Marche and Abruzzo, the nose is bright and floral, with spice and tropical fruit notes. Crisp and dry, with lifted apple fruits and touches of honey, it’s perfect for seafood or dishes with creamy sauces. $38.
Gelso Nero 2012 Nero di Troia, Puglia, Italy
Full-flavoured with sour cherries, blueberry, cola and a pleasing dusky/earthy character, this well-priced bottle has big fruits with prominent tannins and a long, earthy finish, with bitter coffee flavours. I’d pair it with lamb or beef and maybe something with mushrooms. $24.
Cascina Adelaide 2013 Dolcetto di Diano d’Alba, Piedmont, Italy
Lush and perhaps a little forward, this dolcetto is generous with its blackberry fruits along with licorice and the right amount of tannin to keep it serious, and seriously good. Pair with charcuterie or top-quality cheese. $25.
Montresor 2011 Valpolicella Ripasso Capitel della Crosara, Veneto, Italy
Ripasso is made by essentially steeping the wine in the dried grapes left over from making amarone. This ripasso is full-flavoured with intense spices, plum and black cherry, without being too easygoing. Very drinkable on its own or as a pairing with game or hard cheese. $20.
Valdez 2012 El Diablo Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River Valley, California
About half of this wine was barrel fermented, adding a subtle vanilla tone to crisp lime and apple fruits, melon and a slightly honeyed finish. Very tasty and should shine with poultry or flaky seafood. $39.
Greywacke 2011 Wild Ferment Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand
Quite dark for sauvignon blanc, the wild ferment refers to the use of “wild” rather than inoculated yeasts, which can sometimes lead to unpredictable results. Yeasty on the nose, with hefty lemon notes, ginger, biscuit, yellow apple and lemon grass, the palate is consistent but rich and with a long, textured finish. Unique and delicious. $43.
Miguel Torres 2013 Santa Digna Sauvignon Blanc, Curico, Chile
Fully “Fair Trade” certified, this great buy has citrus and herb, recognizable grassy notes and a touch of mineral aroma. Very clean and consistent on the palate, it’s a nice example of sauvignon blanc from another part of the world. $15.
Domaine Fouassier 2013 Les Romains Sancerre, Loire, France
Expect beautiful and expressive fruits with lemon, tart apple, a bit of grapefruit and a slightly honeyed finish. It’s a wonderful reminder of what sauvignon blanc can taste like from another part of the world. $29.
Greywacke 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand
Packed with melon and citrus, this shows undercurrents of dill, jalapeno, grass and bell pepper. Palate-wise, it has wonderful acidity and a long, juicy finish with a subtle layer of sour apple. $30.
Joseph Mellot 2013 “Le Tronsec” Pouilly Fumé, Loire, France
This is a captivating glass of wine with sleek mineral, lemon rind and crushed apples, as well as those bright, grassy notes you want in a sauvignon blanc. A dignified wine, perfect for oysters, shellfish or even stronger cheeses. $34.
Calliope 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, British Columbia
From the Wyse Family of Burrowing Owl fame comes the Calliope label. The sauvignon blanc shines with fresh melon, a touch of lime juice and a little bit of passion fruit and gooseberry with just the right amount of acidity. Very pretty juice. $22.
Township 7 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, Okanagan Valley, B.C.
Citrus rather than melon carries the day here, in a sauvignon blanc that is tropical over herbal or grassy. It might be the six per cent muscat co-fermented with the sauvignon blanc, but either way it happened, and it’s good. Pair with white fish or creamy sauces. $20.
Peter Yealands 2014 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand
Fresh-cut grass, lemon, melons and gooseberries lead the nose, while bright grassy notes dominate the palate. Look for fresh herbal flavours, more melon notes and a bit of that capsicum zing. Big, but very refreshing. $19.
Château St. Jean 2012 Fumé Blanc, Sonoma County, California
Slightly creamy in the mouth, the wine is balanced, zingy and versatile. Look for apples and lemon/lime fruits with only a touch of oak noticeable, with a mild honey vanilla finish. Pair with seafood from halibut to salmon, or even goat cheese. $19.
Isabel Estate 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand
This is perfectly identifiable as a New Zealand example, with cut grass, gooseberry, bell pepper, olive, capsicum and citrus through and through. In the mouth, it’s layered and complex with great acidity, and will work very nicely with richer seafood dishes. $29.
With a little extra “oomph” to this fino, you are still going to get bready aromas, a clean nuttiness and a bit of a citrus kick, as well. Perfect for sashimi, olives, seafood or light, salty snacks of all types. $20.
Fernando de Castilla Antique Palo Cortado
This draws a fine balance of an amontillado and oloroso style of wine with nut and smoky characters, a salty/citric tang and plenty of intensity. Pair with hard, Spanish-style cheese. $68.
Lustau Capataz Andrés Deluxe Cream Sherry
Look for plenty of sweetness in this sherry, one of the better cream sherries out there that’s well-balanced by acidity, along with dried fruits and nutty characters. Serve with lighter (not too sweet) desserts or, as they recommend, on the rocks with an orange slice. $22.
Fernando de Castilla Classic Fino
A stunning glass of fino perfect for the novice or wine-lover. Pale in the glass, with fresh almond aromas, a little yeastiness and a touch of saltiness. Serve well-chilled and enjoy with some fresh almonds or olives. $29.
González Byass Croft Original Fine Pale Cream Sherry
For the sweet tooth, look for slightly dried apple fruits, with a mild almond nuttiness and even a little spiciness toward the finish. Well-chilled, a nice after-dinner tipple or pair with marzipan or meringue-topped desserts. $16.
Lustau Don Nuño Oloroso
Quite dark in the glass compared to many other sherries, the Don Nuño is intense and nutty with walnut aromas and flavours along with dark chocolate, spice and a pleasing smoky note. Pair with game or red meat or even stews. $22.
Painted Rock 2012 Red Icon
It’s all about the blend. This is one of the great reds coming out of the Okanagan these days. A Bordeaux blend without the cabernet sauvignon, it has dark berry fruits, savoury herbs, mocha and much more. It’s big enough for the cellar, or open now and decant twice. $70.
Le Vieux Pin 2012 “Cuvée Violette” Syrah
A favourite syrah from the Okanagan. Meaty and smoky with intense floral characters of lilac and violets. Plenty of spice and tannins to go around, but a sure hit at your next barbecue. It can age, but it's showing perfectly right now. $40.
Laughing Stock 2012 Portfolio
One of the great red blends coming out of the Okanagan, this Bordeaux blend is based around merlot, giving it power and, yet, a little finesse. The 2012 shows a little more muscle than several previous vintages, but one thing is for sure — there is some real beauty inside. Look for intense fruits, spice and some weighty tannins. Can cellar easily for 10-plus years. $50.
Culmina 2014 Grüner Veltliner
As far as I know, the only grüner being produced in Canada, and who would have thought that the Okanagan would be a good place for this typically Austrian white grape? Crisp citrus characters with cracked pepper spice that grüner fans love. Landing in Alberta in late May — it should be about $29 on most retail shelves.
Poplar Grove 2009 The Legacy
Merlot really is the flagship red grape of the Okanagan, and it is the perfect cornerstone to Poplar Grove’s “The Legacy.” Aged almost four years prior to release, every detail for this bottle is perfect. Firm tannins with cassis, cherries and cedar, with earth and spice, vanilla bean and a nice long finish. No rush to drink this one, it can easily go 10 more years. $55.
Tantalus 2011 Old Vines Riesling
One of the great rieslings of the world, the Old Vines is a little less austere than it was in earlier vintages, but any riesling lover should love the intense acidity, bracing mineral characters and some wonderful citrus fruits. A cellar dweller, it can be enjoyed now but will thrive after a few years in the cellar. $46.
Lini 910 “Lambrusca” Lambrusco Rosso
A serious lambrusco that should be tried at least once by any Italian wine lover. Pure, ripe fruits of blackberry and raspberry with decidedly floral tones, with a touch of underbrush. Quite dry, it shows a little tannin, which goes well with the refreshing and palate-cleansing bubbles. Enjoy anytime you need a red wine that is just a little different. $20.
Lini 910 “In Correggio” Lambrusco Rosato
This rosé is copper-pink in the glass and much drier and leaner than some of the others here. Fruits have a decidedly cherry cast, with cranberry and dried flowers rounding it out. The finish lasts a little longer, while the flavours get me thinking about pairing with pork loin, herb-roasted chicken or, well, just lunch. $24.
Cleto Chiarli “Premium” Vecchia Modena
A sparkling wine the colour of freshly juiced strawberries and — what do you know? — it smells like strawberries, too! Great fruits that make you want to be outside enjoying the fresh air. On the palate, it’s rare to get a sparkling wine that has this much fruit presence, with abundant strawberry and Fiji apples over a crisp, refreshing finish. The next time you are playing croquet or bocce, pick up some of this. $24.
Cleto Chiarli “Brut de Noir” Rosé
More of a full-on sparkling wine than most lambruscos, this rosé is a pretty cotton-candy pink in the glass. Soft, candied fruits show on the nose, with wonderful toasty and delicate fruit flavours through and through. It’s a heck of a bargain for sparkling wine fans. Enjoy anytime you want a nice bottle of rosé. $21.
Chiarli “Gala” Grasparossa de Castelvetro Amabile
Lambrusco for the sweet tooth, it’s packing around 50 grams of sugar per litre — plenty for red wine, but far less than many alternatives. Fruits are fresh raspberries with softer spice notes and an earthiness not unlike that of wicker. Easy, casual wine perfect for pasta, homemade pizza or pastrami sandwiches. $12.
The classic that started the craze, and it’s still a perfectly refreshing wine. Smells a bit like a fresh ferment in a winery, with blackberry jam being made in the background. The bubbles are soft and the sweetness very pleasant. Maybe don’t serve it if the Queen comes for dinner, but, on a hot summer’s day, I’d choose this over a soft drink. Enjoy with charcuterie or lighter fare. $12.
Mouton Noir v12 Horseshoes and Handgrenades, United States
Non-vintage and a blend of syrah from Oregon, with merlot and cabernet sauvignon from Washington state, this is certainly a non-conventional wine. Cherries and chocolate on the nose with spice and a touch of smoked meat, the palate is full, with generous fruits and easy tannins. Like any good wine, it makes you hungry. Fire up the smoker or enjoy with deli-style meaty sandwiches. $22.
Gramercy Cellars 2012 Lower East, Columbia Valley, Washington State
Celebrating the Rhône varieties of grenache, syrah and mourvèdre, look for a good old-fashioned fruit throwdown of strawberry, raspberry and cherries duking it out, with white pepper, tar and black liquorice cheering on the action from the sidelines. Well-balanced on the palate and perfect for drinking on its own or with grilled pork chops or braised meats. $35.
Dobbes Wine by Joe 2013 Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Bright, lifted tropical fruits fly out of the glass with plenty of ripe apple fruits and a touch of peach and apricot. Rather than talk about it, I’d suggest just picking up a bottle (or two) for the next time you cook halibut at home or do up some nice grilled chicken (with the skin on). $21.
Patricia Green Cellars 2011 Pinot Noir, Oregon
From near-legendary winemaker Patricia Green comes a captivating pinot. Dried cherries and mild white pepper spices with plum and tea leaf lead the nose, while on the palate it’s expressive, balanced and classically pinot noir. Brighter acids should match salmon, duck or anything, really. $31.
Shea Wine Cellars 2011 Estate Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon
It’s a deep, brooding, serious pinot noir in this bottle, with plum and black cherry fruits and smoke, tar and earthy spice aromas. In the mouth, heavier tannins than most pinots come through, but it’s impeccably balanced and one of the great new-world pinots. Drink or keep — keeping will pay off. $55.
Stone Cap 2012 Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, Washington State
This is a beautifully curvy chardonnay with softer-fleshed tropical fruits, floral tones and maybe a little coconut. Even though it’s from WA, it has me thinking of a beach vacation. Medium-bodied on the palate with a long, creamy finish. Drink up. $17.
Mollydooker 2013 Blue Eyed Boy Shiraz, McLaren Vale, South Australia
Blueberry jam and raspberry sorbet aromas with heady alcohols and a brambly fruit undertone give way to a similar palate experience with a cocoa finish and some earthy tannins to boot. At 16.5 per cent alcohol, you might wonder what happened to the rest of the afternoon. $50.
Kangarilla Road 2011 The Devil’s Whiskers Shiraz, McLaren Vale, South Australia
This one’s a treat — a wild assortment of berry fruits, with the right amount of floral and spicy aromas backed up by firm tannins that sneak up gradually on the finish. Crushed black peppers creep up right at the end. You’ll want this with a well-seasoned prime rib or
New York steak. $45.
Howard Park 2012 Flint Rock Shiraz, Western Australia
A little alcohol heat on the nose with menthol, cherries, plum and spice box. Juicy — but not too juicy — fruits with some firm tannin structure lend good balance in this very agreeable bottle of classically Australian shiraz. About $27.
Peter Lehmann 2009 8 Songs Shiraz, Barossa, South Australia
Peter Lehmann had a strong influence on the wines of the Barossa, so it’s fitting to include it here. The 8 Songs is pretty sleek with pure fruits, flowery aromas and some approachable tannin. Fairly fruit-driven, it’s a seductive little number to enjoy on its own or with a little cheese or chocolate at the end of the night. $40.
Wirra Wirra 2011 Catapult Shiraz, McLaren Vale, South Australia
Pretty agreeable fruits on the nose with blackberry and blueberry leading the way, but, fear not, there are some serious tannins to balance the fruits. A longish finish should be perfect with pulled pork or drive-thru burgers. $25.
Mollydooker 2013 Carnival of Love, McLaren Vale, South Australia
Rich, moist, loamy aromas with blackberries and a touch of blueberry coupled with some boozy heat. The palate brings the love with palatable fruits accompanying an almost silky texture before these chewy tannins come along. So big, you might want to save this one for dinner. $117.
Domaine Durieu 2013 Châteauneuf-du-Pape cuvee traditionnelle blanc, Rhône, France
Oh, this just hits the spot. Based around roussanne with grenache and clairette, the nose is clean and elegant. Even on the palate there is a certain refinement, with hints of lime, apple and minerals, and a long and textured finish. Pair with white meats if serving for dinner, or with a roaring fire and fuzzy slippers. $49.
Domaine Mur-Mur-Ium 2013 Viognier, Ventoux, France
Close your eyes and have a sniff — you can easily picture a rolling vineyard around you while resting on a beautiful patio. Peaches and nectarines come to the fore with bold mineral character and a long, slightly bitter finish. Roasted chicken, a creamy sauce or a mild curry will work here. $28.
Cave Spring 2013 Estate Riesling, Beamsville Bench, Ontario
We don’t see nearly enough Ontario riesling here in Alberta, but the folks at Cave Springs know how to make one that stands out, and it’s readily available here. Lime fruits and intense mineral tones start things off, while racy acids and a pinch of sweetness on the finish bring you back for another. So good. $24.
Wente Vineyards 2012 Riva Ranch Chardonnay, Arroyo Seco, Monterey, California
Like those chardonnays big and oaky? Here you go! Spicy barrel characters with vanilla bean and fresh buttery notes are balanced by rich fruits, a touch of caramel and a slightly boozy finish. $23.
Patz & Hall 2013 Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, California
Think creamy pear and peach aromas with a bit of spice. Flavours are deep, layered and range from freshly sliced pears and peeled apples with a hint of butter and some zingy acids. A delicious and versatile match against poultry or salmon with a creamy sauce. $44.
Tinhorn Creek 2014 Oldfield Series 2Bench White, Okanagan Valley, B.C.
A blend of semillon, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, viognier and muscat, this is a well-thought-out combination that shows off what is happening with Okanagan whites. A lot of tropical fruits can be found in the glass with a fine balance between fruit and acid. Enjoy while planning your next golf trip to B.C. $27.
Chateau Bois de la Salle 2013 Julienas, Beaujolais, France
A new go-to bottle around my place. This “cru” Beaujolais is packed with raspberry fruits, a little spice and not too much tannin, for a heck of a price. An easy, versatile wine for any day of the week, excellent with pork or braised meats. $22.
M. Lapierre 2013 Morgon, Beaujolais, France
Another one of the crus of Beaujolais, and generally bigger and better suited to cellaring than the others, Mathieu Lapierre is turning heads with exciting, modern bottles. The 2013 is full of softer spices with tight cherry fruits, a bit of red apple skin and a complex palate. Versatile and well-suited to anything from beef to bird. $38.
CedarCreek 2012 Platinum “Block 4” Pinot Noir, Okanagan Valley, B.C.
Good pinot noir goes with almost anything. Plum and cherry fruits with a dusty herb aroma over light spice notes on the nose. Palate-wise, sleek, complex fruits with very understated tannins and food-friendly acidity. Yeah, this will go with the bird. $50.
Monmousseau 2011 Cuvée JM Brut, Loire, France
Great sparkling wine is made around the world. This bottle is made in the traditional method, but from chenin blanc. Look for honey, lemon drop and pear fruits, with a mild toasty quality to the finish. A great buy for around $23, and very tasty with scallops or poultry.
Gran Clos 2006 Priorat, Penedès, Spain
Based around grenache and carignan with a bit of cabernet, this is big, terroir-driven red at its finest. Black fruits and earthiness are barely restrained by chewy tannins, but it’s all in balance and should mature very well over 10-plus years in the cellar. Serve with protein — ideally one that says “moo.” $69.
Gerard Tremblay 2013 Petit Chablis, Chablis, France
Unoaked chardonnay is the way to go for poultry or a finger food sort of event. The wines of Chablis are well known for crisp, almost steely acidity with mineral and lemon and apple fruits. Petit Chablis such as this one is a little riper and juicier — a good match for a little nibble or the big turkey dinner. $23.