The winter that never ends. White out conditions, snow squalls, wind advisory and chill warnings. Everything just feels heavy. The OPP’s request? Just stay home, Ontario. Prepare for the worst, hunker down and warm the belly with full-bodied wines, strong mocker, beer and hearty winter meals. The weather will step aside in April. Until then, satiate yourself.
Here are six strength fortifying libations to ride the final wave of winter’s brutal conditions.
Innis & Gunn Irish Whiskey Finish, Scotland, United Kingdom (279349, $3.25)
Stout matured over American Oak Heartwood and infused with Irish Whiskey. A Cimmerian entry in hue and hunger peels back to a curious lightness of being. The wood tends to an Arabian mocha aroma, the whiskey to molasses and gingerbread baking spice. The 7.4 per cent alcohol is integrated though an incendiary smoky magic weighs in to toast biscuits and braise a beefy pot au feu. “The Smoky Life is practiced everywhere,” in the I & G. A beer of good charm, smooth, silky, singing in melodic grace and with confidence. 90 Tasted March 2014 @InnisandGun
The grapes: Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer and Chardonnay Musqué
The history: Niagara winery founded in 1998. Chablis native Jean-Pierre Colas joined 13th Street as winemaker in 2009. Co-owners of the winery, the Whitty family has been farming fruit in Niagara for well over 100 years
The lowdown: Much of the fruit comes from the estate’s Creek Shores appellation vineyards, sedimentary, well-drained lighter soils on a landscape highly dissected by its many streams.
The food match: Fish Tacos
JP’s who’s who bottle of white grapes, a mad scientist’s blend, the flask filled with Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer and Chardonnay Musque. A re-release and much improved with a year’s extra weight, its “got your body right now.” Fortified by a carapace of grape spirits and purposeful in a white meritage sense of community, plus citrus, pith and a far-reaching, right correct absinthian length. You better you bet. 88 Tasted October 2013 @13thStreetWines
The grape: Pinot Noir
The history: From Marlborough on the western side of the Waihopai Valley. The name is both the indigenous Maori word for “pathway” and Latin for “altar”
The lowdown: “With rugged mountains on either side and two icy rivers cutting through, it’s a pretty extreme place. The very definition of raw, cool climate conditions.”
The food match: Potato Frittata with Feta and Green Onions
Immediate impressions are of a user-friendly Pinot Noir in conceit of black cherry, chocolate and blueberry spice. These are surface notes quickly displaced by an adventurous senses of living on the edge. The wine dips into a brine and lithic earth saturated by glacial melt. This is a different sort of Marlborough Pinot that speaks a modern english, if too young to be understood. “I’ve seen some changes but it’s getting better all the time.” Will try the Ara again in a year or two and likely say I melt with you. 89 Tasted February 2014 @AraWine_UK
The grape: Chardonnay
The history: Planeta first made this wine 20 years ago in 1994. It has become “the image illustrating the changes taking place in Sicilian wines.”
The lowdown: From Ulmo (calcareous with sections of deep vegetable matter) and Maroccoli (medium clay soil rich in limestone) vineyards in the area of Sambuca di Sicilia. Powerful Chardonnay.
The food match: Taco Night
Wantonly lavish, heavy and tropically delicious. If ever there were a red wine substitute this is the one for the wishful thinker. Tasting this Sicilian is like liquid breathing sweet and salty, drawn butter. It’s a glass of dessert Chardonnay, dichotomous and oxymoronic in congealed warmth like cold-stabilized, oxygen-rich, perfluorocarbon. The tropical warmth is a combination of honey and lemon-glade, like Savennières with an unexpected aged Jura, oxidized, herbal angle. There can be no arguing the complexity of this Sicilian dream. Extreme humidity, with a bitter middle streak and ground nut flavours. 90 Tasted March 2014 @Noble_Estates @PlanetaWinery
The grape: Pinot Noir
The history: Thomas Bachelder, flying winemaker, architect of the Bachelder Project, of trois terroirs, in Niagara, Oregon and Burgundy
The lowdown: “Burgundy is my favourite place to make wine,” admits Thomas Bachelder. “The large négociant control all (44) 1er cru vineyards so there are not a lot of small growers working with Beaune fruit.” Enter terroirman.
The food match: Roast Chicken, Potatoes, Swiss Chard
Is so floral, mineral, intense and hypnotic it might be dubbed the Serpent Charmer. Iron and wine indeed, the iron of Nuits, the perfume of Beaune. This provocative bottling represents the third year of production, is conspicuous in Anis de Flavigny and an underlying gate. If montagnes is the harming one, this is the charming one. These are all from the same barrels, so what really affects the wines the most? Land and hand. 93 Tasted November 2013 @Bachelder_wines
The grape: Sangiovese Grosso
The history: The family has been in the wine business since Giovanni di Piero Antinori joined the Florentine Guild of Vintners in 1385. The Antinori estate is responsible for some of Tuscany’s most famous wines; Solaia, Tignanello and Guado al Tasso.
The lowdown: As stalwart a Brunello as any, Pian Delle Vigne is not immune to critical conjecture. Applying kudos to any big house in this polarizing vintage will raise an eyebrow or two. Why not Antinori?
The food match: Herb Crusted Pork Tenderloin
Goes at it older, bolder, tried and truer than had recently been the case, especially in 2007. Leather, cherries, seeping tea and peppery, earthy, funky dates. Purity of fruit, obviousness in Sangiovese Grosso aromatics and it is only when you taste that you are dealt with the full effect of its power and girth. Quite viscous on the palate, tough, gritty chain of tannin and qualified, felicitous bitters on a very long finish. Best Pian delle Vigne in some time, at least back to 2001. 93 Tasted November 2013 @AntinoriFamily
Good to go!