36 Wine Recommendations from 2016

Bottles under $20 and biodynamic wines as well as wines from Spain, Chablis and Ontario were all on our list of favourites from our 2016 wine column.

Biodynamic wines


Bonterra 2009 The McNab, Mendocino County, Calif.

Based around merlot, petite sirah, cabernet sauvignon and a smattering of malbec, year after year, it’s about exuberant fruits, chocolatey cocoa-ness and well-integrated tannins. Drinking well now, it keeps very well in the cellar for up to 10 years or so. $33.


Summerhill 2014 Organic Dry Riesling, Okanagan Valley, B.C.

This well-known organic producer in the Okanagan has been certified as biodynamic since 2012. Its crisp riesling is quite dry, but not bone-dry, with plenty of green apple, rock candy and mineral tones. Tasty and very quaffable. $24. 


Dominio de Punctum 2014 Rosado, Spain

Based around grenache, this cool little rosé shows peaches and strawberry fruits with plenty of juiciness and jelly character. Quite dry, there is a drop of sweetness that pumps up the “have a second glass” factor. $20.


Paxton 2011 AAA Shiraz Grenache, McLaren Vale, Australia

With a focus on minimalist winemaking and biodynamic farming that treats the farm as a living, integrated unit, the folks at Paxton seem to have figured it out. The shiraz grenache is about pure, berry-fruit expression with easy tannins and juicy, cocoa-like finish. Enjoy with beef, of course! About $24.


Littorai 2012 Savoy Vineyard Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley, Calif.

Simply put, a beautiful glass of pinot: plums, cherries, herb and vegetable leaf, along with a distinctly strawberry tone. I’d drink this sleek, seductive and layered wine on its own any day or with the finest beef or pork dish I can find. Delicious. $60.


Domaine de l’Echevin 2012 Saint Maurice, Côtes du Rhône Village, France

Adrien Fabre is a true believer in biodynamics, preferring to call his wines “natural wines.” He even rebuilt his cellar to match up with the magnetic nodes underlying the vineyard. Rich and toasty on the nose, with black fruits, licorice and deep, violet aromas, the palate is every bit as good with an earthy, smoky finish. $23. 


Ontario wines


Back 10 Cellars 2013 The Big Leap Cabernet Franc, Lincoln Lakeshore

A relatively new producer here with a riesling on shelves, too. The cabernet franc has great depth of fruit with a tart cherry finish that brackets the high-toned acids, assorted savoury spices and milder tannins. Ready to drink now, it would really rock with some pork chops or a pulled pork sandwich. $37.


Closson Chase Vineyard 2013 Chardonnay, Prince Edward County

A fine bottle worth seeking out and cellaring, though it’s excellent now, too. Showcasing layered, complex flavourings without hiding behind oak (which you’ll barely notice, by the way), there are still lots of creamy, citrusy flavours to fill your glass. $30. 


Coyote’s Run 2012 Five Mile White, Niagara Peninsula

An off-dry blend of riesling, pinot gris and gewürztraminer, this wine is a little more about quaffing over discussing, but its easy-going, tasty juice is perfect for casual entertaining or for sipping on the deck while the sun goes down. $17.


Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Brut NV, Niagara Peninsula

Henry of Pelham is well known here for several wines such as its baco noir or Sibling Rivalry wines, but the sparkling wines take the cake. Based around chardonnay and pinot noir and made in the traditional method, it sings with toasted brioche and lemon zest notes, and wonderful minerality. $45.


Norman Hardie 2013 Niagara Chardonnay, Niagara Peninsula

Though Hardie is perhaps best known for his Prince Edward County wines, he’s making some stunners with Niagara fruit, as well. A very, very enjoyable glass of wine, the chardonnay boasts all the flavours you want if you like very restrained oak and plenty of minerality. $39.


Stratus 2012 Red, Niagara-on-the-Lake

A cabernet-based Bordeaux-style red, the 2012 saw almost two years in oak before release. Flavour-wise, it’s big, red, sexy and full of rich cassis and black cherry fruits — not to mention some serious spice and smooth tannins. $43. 


Spanish wines


Borsao 2011 Berola, Campo de Borja, Aragon, Spain

A grenache dominated with one-fifth syrah, this glass is toasty with tight black cherry, leather upholstery and cigar-box notes. Weighty fruits seamlessly integrate into the earth and tannin structure. It would be a shame to have it with anything other than a steak. $22.


Bujonis NV Cava Brut Reserva, Catalonia, Spain

Made from the traditional cava grapes along with a pinch of chardonnay, the nose is subtle, with melon rind, lemon and a hint of apple peel. On the palate, a little sweetness (about eight grams) brings a little body and some balance to those crisp acids. Bring on the scallops! $19.


Can Blau 2013, Montsant, Spain 

A blend of mazuelo, grenache (called garnacha in Spain) and syrah, this is the sort of thing that works any night of the week. Big fruits and tannins in an “international” sort of style, with an earthy, black-licorice finish. A barbecue star is born. $25.


Pago Aylés “E” 2012 Tempranillo, Spain

The pago system can be a little confusing, but the wine doesn’t have to be. Orange peel, cherries, spice and smoke dominate the aromas, along with a few savoury characteristics. Not too heavy on the palate, the tannins are chocolaty and the fruits pure. I’m craving more pork, perhaps some charcuterie. $15.


Tinto Iturria 2010, Toro, Spain

Xavier Iturria established this winery in 2009 and quickly earned some fame for his wines. Using Tinto de Toro (tempranillo) and 10 per cent of garnacha, the nose here is the epitome of cherry fruit and spicebox. Bright, fruit driven and balanced, this would sing with pork or some barbecue. $23.


Unculin 2014 Tinto, Bierzo, Spain

Hailing from Bierzo in northwest Spain, this bottle is made from the mencia variety. Quite dark and plummy, with blueberry jam and a fairly intense vegetable-and-pepper character, its tight tannins should really work with beef — think steaks or something braised. $25.




Domaine Gérard Tremblay 2014 “Vielle Vignes” Chablis, France

Coming from older vines, which generally are known for producing less, but higher-quality fruit, this Chablis shows all those things wine geeks love about Chablis — intense fruits, capital “M” mineral character, balance and no oak. It’s drinking perfectly right now so break out the seafood, or simply enjoy on the deck on a Sunday afternoon. $26.


Joseph Drouhin 2012 Montmains Premier Cru Chablis, France

Oh, hello there sexy! Lemon juice, fresh sliced pears and green apple aromas with mild saltiness and mineral on the nose and a stylish, razor-sharp acidity. If wine were a person, this is the sort that you can’t look away from, even after being elbowed by your spouse. Twice. $60 (also available in 375ml bottles for $30).


Chablis Domaine de Vaudon 2014 Chablis, France

Pretty impressive juice resides in this bottle. It has bright and lifted citrus and mineral aromas and flavours, with steely acidity and a hint of seashells on the finish. Made in 100 per cent stainless steel tanks, it’s a beautiful bottle of what can be described as pure chardonnay. $32.


Louis Jadot 2014 Chablis, France

Pale straw colour with golden tones, look for softer tropical fruits with almond, apple-core and mineral aromas. Flavour wise, it’s slightly creamy with a taut acidity balancing the fruits and flintiness. Should absolutely rock with scallops, creamy pastas or goat cheese. $34.


William Fèvre 2014 Chablis, France

A nearly textbook example of mineral aromas in wine — cut granite, flint and the smell of rain just fallen on a hot sidewalk (not to worry, lemon and apple fruits are there, too). Fruits are a little less prominent on the palate, but, overall, a slick and well-dressed Chablis with a hint of lemonade on the finish. $34.


Louis Moreau 2014 Petit Chablis, France

This is well-balanced and simply a great-tasting chardonnay. Completely oak-free in its wine-making and aging, its flavours of tropical fruits, apple peel and citrus, along with a crisp zing of acidity, work very well on the palate. $25. 


Value wines


Château Pesquié 2014 Terrasses Rosé Ventoux, Rhône Valley, France

A great rosé should be celebrated for its versatility with food, but also for purity of fruit. Floral blossoms with strawberry and cherry fruits and a hint of dried herbs. Crisp and quite dry, it’s subtle, tasty and should go with anything from a salad to pork tenderloin. $20.


La Mirada 2014 Cabernet, Sauvignon, California

A well-made, reasonably priced bottle of California cabernet with cherries and tobacco, blackberry and cedar aromas. Some surprisingly good structure is found in the glass, too, with chocolate, berry fruits and smooth tannins. Heck of a bottle for the price. $18.


Miguel Torres 2013 5G Garnacha, Campo de Borja, Spain

A textbook example of a wine that has white-pepper spices, black licorice and raspberry fruits on both the nose and palate. Tannins are on the softer side, but the acids and pure fruit call for pairing with food. May I suggest seared pork chops, deli-style sandwiches or herb-rubbed poultry? $18.


Weingut Thörle 2015 Kabinett Riesling, Rheinhessen, Germany

Great riesling sings to the soul. Deep and expressive with hints of petrol, lemon, almonds and steel, backed by slightly under-ripe apples. Juicy and tropical, there is a welcome dose of sweetness that nails the pleasure points of your brain. A wonderful example of Kabinett riesling. $21.


Xavier Vins 2012 Côtes du Ventoux, Rhône Valley, France

At the southern end of the Rhône Valley lies the Ventoux AOC. Ventoux might be best known as a brutal hill on the Tour de France, but the wines are getting a great reputation. Based around syrah, grenache and mourvèdre, look for firm-ish tannins, berry fruits and lots of spice. A great go-to bottle. $16.


Yalumba 2014 Organic Shiraz, South Australia

Deep and spicy from start to finish, with plummy fruits and a definite character of blackberry jam. Well-balanced in terms of restraining the fruit (for Aussie shiraz) with spiciness, acids and alcohol heat. Should be a really pleasing wine for dinner guests or entertaining in general. $18. 


Red wines


Black Hills 2014 Nota Bene, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

One of the first cult wines of the Okanagan, it has also managed to weather the changing times while preserving its quality and cachet. A more “left bank” Bordeaux-style blend with rich, black and red fruits, spicebox and black licorice. Firm but lovely tannins lend structure to the warming alcohol heat and spicy finish. Drink or keep around till 2025 or longer. $60.


Cultivar 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

Cabernet is king and Napa is its kingdom. Blackberry jam and cedar dominate the nose, with a bit of pipe smoke and leather for good measure. Tannins are rightfully prominent, but with a certain lushness to the fruit that makes for the perfect wine to enjoy while staying in. $36.


Laughing Stock 2013 Portfolio, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia 

Another new “classic” from the Okanagan, this one is styled after a merlot-based Bordeaux blend with slightly smoky fruits and abundant plum and spice. Full-flavoured, lush and chocolaty on the palate, it’s shining right now and perfect for an icy eve. $55.


Montes Alpha 2012 “M” Santa Cruz, Chile

This is one of the great wines coming out of Chile. The 2012 year was slightly warmer than usual, bringing an added ripeness to the fruits and plenty of chocolate, dried berry, spice and tobacco. Mellow tannins are everything they need to be. I tasted it with several back vintages recently, and I can say it’s a wine that ages with grace. $88.


Paul Jaboulet Aîné 2010 “Les Cèdres” Chateauneuf du Pape, France 

The mark of any great wine is nuance. The wines of Chateauneuf du Pape constantly over-deliver and the “Les Cèdres” is packed with subtle dried herb and abundant floral characters. Spicy, flavourful and with a bit of heat, it’s vinous magic. $49.


San Felice 2011 Campogiovanni Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy

Brunello, for those that might not know, is possibly the finest expression of sangiovese out there. Densely arranged layers of earthy and cherry flavours are perfectly proportioned and balanced between acid, fruit, spice and tannin. Stunning now, it will be a cellar all-star for years to come. $60.

[Correction: A previous version of this story included the incorrect photograph for San Felice 2011 Campogiovanni Brunello di Montalcino. The photo has been updated and is now correct.]

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