Bold red wines for last-minute gifting


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It’s not just about the big day two and a half weeks from now. Maybe this is the weekend you’ve been invited to the first big holiday get together of the season, or perhaps tomorrow night you’re heading out to a Hanukkah party. Or looking ahead, it’s one week from now and you need more than a decent bottle of vino for that special someone, a friend, cousin, boss, co-worker, or that guy who helped you make all that money this year.

The good wines are out there and ready for the taking. Blink and they’ll be gone. LCBO holiday sales in 2011 totaled $620 million, representing 14 per cent of last year’s total business. Last December, the average LCBO customer spent $47 compared to $38 at other times in the year. December 22 and 23 were the busiest selling days for the LCBO last year, with sales of $41 million and $53 million respectively. This year, the LCBO expects December 21 and 22 to be the busiest shopping days.

The detractors might say that tasting through this release was the “worst red wine day of my life,” but I beg to differ. My advice is simple. Do not procrastinate. Here are six terrific wines that are sure to put a smile on a wine lover’s face.

Bold red wines for last-minute gifting

The grapes: Syrah and Grenache

The history: Ace outfit from Languedoc in the Midi Region

The lowdown: Intrigue is in the air anytime a wine carries the name of the mountain commune Pic Saint Loup

The food match: Blood Orange Cornish Game Hens

Domaine Clavel Bonne Pioche Pic Saint Loup 2010 (297986, $19.95) is a most sunny and warmer modern expression, addictive and trend setting like bacon. Indicates mountain rocky outcrops and an untamed, southern French je ne sais quoi beastly feeling.  Something is definitely right about this Clavel. How can you not be seduced?  90

The grapes: Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot

The history: A Château Léoville-Poyferré project with Michel Rolland as consultant

The lowdown: Delivers the hedonistic goods as well as any $50+ red blend from Argentina

The food match: Beef Rib Chop, chimichurri sauce

Cuvelier Los Andes Colección 2009 (144014, $21.95) broods dark and stormy as ever. This 60% Malbec-based, ode to St. Julien, ne0-Bordeaux blend is a fleshy, voluptuous, full choco-bodied beauty. The tannins do some chewing so give it some air. Trenchant dark chocolate as dessert.  90

The grapes: Cabernet and Malbec

The history: Fruit sourced from the Sheoaks and St. Clare vineyards

The lowdown: Classic Clare Valley combo, reminiscent of the legend that is Leasingham’s Bin 56

The food match: Irish Stew, waxy potatoes, heirloom carrots

Tim Adams Cabernet/Malbec 2006 (295535, $26.95) uses its age for rustic purpose. Goes raisin, prune and fig, full-on dried fruit attack. Has evolved with ease, efficiently and with pastoral grace.  89

The grape: Sangiovese

The history: Historic property south of Panzano in an amphitheater shaped valley known as “Conca d’Oro”

The lowdown: Were I to spend my money on one non-riserva Chianti Classico each year, this would be the one

The food match: Chianina Beef Ragu, porcini mushroom

Fontodi Chianti Classico 2009 (933317, $29.95) defines the scent of a Chianti. Rocks of calcar-clay, schist soil, red earth, salumi and porcini. Also fresh, balanced and bursting of ripe, cherry fruit. First class.  90

The grape: Pinot Noir

The history: From Niagara’s Vinemount Ridge, this is the wine’s first vintage

The lowdown: The Laidlaw may be winemaker Paul Pender’s most gorgeous but this Quarry Pinot is instantly cerebral

The food match: Stone Road Grille’s Confit Duck

Tawse Quarry Road Pinot Noir 2009 (307686, $34.95) is no folk-weighted wine. Paul Pender has an instant solid rock hit on his hands and Mary paint the town red if it isn’t a Burgundian hymn. Earth, mushroom, mineral and just a hint of new oak vanilla, raspberry and root beer. Won’t peter out either so ignore the refrain and do head down to the quarry. 90

The Splurge

The grape: Cabernet Sauvignon

The history: Emerging superstar out of the Alexander Valley

The lowdown: Who isn’t looking to gift an under $50, exceptional California Cab?

The food match: Wappo Cassoulet, classic french beans with duck confit, sausage & lamb ragout

Stonestreet Monument Ridge Cabernet Sauvigon 2007 (285098, $49.95) rounds out a trifecta of the winery’s superb Ontario releases in 2012, at three very disparate price points. Exiguous stewed note is trumped by graphite, sweet vanilla Quercus, black cherry, Cassis and tobacco. Volcanic eruption of rocky red, Toyon Bush Berry Place flavours. Bet the Wappo would have liked this one.  92

Good to go!

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