A day or two of anomalous warm temperatures aside, the dead of winter engulfs and conjoins 35 million Canadians in communal countenance. A weekend invite or beckoning may extract and cull us out of our homes to tempt fate for a visit, to dinner, or to the bar. Many will fill their time by travelling to hockey tournament towns. It’s those mid-week winter nights at this time of year where social activity dwindles, grinds to the proverbial halt and hibernation takes over.
Thankfully there is no shortage of food and wine events to help whiten the winter blues. Niagara’s 18th annual Ice Wine Festival just called it a wrap. Ottawa’s Winterlude is set to begin this weekend in the nation’s capital, as is the Brrrr! Winter Music Festival in Toronto, complete with the promise of Smoked Tacos. The Vancouver International Wine Festival begins next month. You can check out Ontario’s food and wine culinary calendar at Ontario Culinary Festivals and Events. Both Toronto (Winterliscious) and Vancouver (Dine Out Vancouver) have their own culinary event schedules and prix fixe dinner possibilities.
But it’s the middle of the week and you’re at home. You’re tired and not feeling particularly social. You want a glass of wine but you don’t want to open anything expensive. Some may call them daily drinkers, others refer to them as cellar defenders. Here are three more than affordable current release wines, a sparkler, a white and a red for those Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday winter nights.
The grape: Riesling
The history: From Germany’s Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, inexpensive Riesling specialist Ernst Loosen
The lowdown: Loosen has always placed an emphasis on terroir over technology. This sparkler echoes the unbeatable value of the still, “Dr. L.” Riesling
The food match: Smoked Salmon Potato Blini, creme fraiche, caviar
Loosen Bros. Dr. L. Sparkling Riesling (296095, $13.95, B.C. 158501, $17.99) flaunts a Canada Dry attitude void of an alchemic or synthetic overtone that plagues so many a cheap sparkler. Citrus, notably lime, meets honey in atmosphere and replays in appetency. Not necessarily exciting but flattering and offers so much more than the average $15-20 fizz. 88 @drloosenwines
The grapes: Colombard, Sauvignon Blanc and Gros Manseng
The history: From Côtes de Gascogne in southwest France
The lowdown: Ninety per cent of the estate’s production is white wine, out of the Bas Armagnac appellation
The food match: Poached Shrimp Salad, avocado, grapefruit, golden beet, mache, cilantro, tarragon oil
Domaine De Ménard Cuvee Marine 2011 (310201, $14.95) is a lean, mean, light, dry, aromatic, expressive and inexpensive fighting machine. Tarragon, pear, gros sel and orange blossom offer a glimpse into Gascony’s douceur de vie. Brebis buoyed by limestone and clay but also honeyed by a touch of Gros Manseng, this balanced Colombard and friends is a terrific Sauvignon Blanc substitute. Ménard has earned its stripes as an example to abide by. 89
The grapes: Grenache, Carignan and Mourvedre
The history: A negociant project out of the Costières de Nîmes from Michel Gassier of Château de Nages and oenologist Phillipe Cambie
The lowdown: I tasted through the portfolio in February 2012, minus this best G (70%), C (20%) and M (10%) value
The food match: Smoked Beef Tacos
Les Halos De Jupiter 2010 (309153, $14.95) is massively structured and modern for the appellation, packing a punch of black fruit into this stratospheric, southern French earth meets gas monster red. Bright, tight celestial hugging, Jupiter meets the moon conjunction junction. A Grenache-based beauty to allow you to “finally get the chance to dance along the light of day.” Get aboard this train. Very serious and straightforward juice for $15. 89 @MichelGassier @philippecambie
Good to go!