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Weekend Wine Into February

As we turn the corner and begin the midwinter slide to Spring, in Northern Ontario we are keen to celebrate winter rather than bemoan the chill. In both Sault Ste. Marie and Barrie, the annual carnivals begin next Saturday, February 6. Check out Vin's picks for the best tastes of winter carnival, where ever you may be.

As we turn the corner and begin the midwinter slide to Spring, in Northern Ontario we are keen to celebrate winter rather than bemoan the chill.

In both Sault Ste. Marie and Barrie, the annual carnivals begin next Saturday, February 6.

With Bon Soo, the official wines this year are provided by Naked Grape –a Chardonnay, a Pinot Grigio, and a Shiraz

They are available, of course, throughout Ontario, but will be served at two events, Passport to Unity on Sunday the 14th, and the Snow Ball on Saturday, February 13, which is being held in support of Arch, Algoma’s community Hospice.  

(For more information on Bon Soo, visit

When Naked Grape wines first appeared in Ontario, I was under-impressed, but that was years ago with a different management.

Now, I am happy to say, that while they are fairly inexpensive, they are quite decent – simple and un-oaked, but clean and very palatable. 

The wines are all just $9.95, though through this weekend, the Pinot Grigio is $8.95. They all have a pleasing depth to them, and the flavours are moderate – a bit of apple and citrus on the chardonnay, and much more citrus with the Pinot Grigio. 

The PG has a very long, lemony streak on the finish, which is quite noticeable, but refreshing and in balance.

The Shiraz comes across much more like a French wine than an Australian – it again has decent weight, modest dark fruit, and a soft, velvet tannic buzz at the end.

All of these would be good choices as banquet or everyday wines, and they will make you happy at the price.

The next Vintages release, February 6, has many good wines to tempt us, but there are also some from the last release that merit our attention.

From Portugal, we are seeing more and more very sound and decently priced red wines. Barão de Vilar Proeza 2012,  $13.95, underwent malolactic fermentation, which softens the impression of the wine as it changes malic acid (think apple) to lactic acid(as in milk), and then had 6 months in used French oak before bottling – again a softer effect, less aggressive than new oak. 

Dark fruit and spice come across smoothly.

The Symington Family for generations has made some of the greatest Ports, and it includes in its portfolio, Graham’s, Dow, and Warre among others; however, it has also been devoting attention to producing some lovely table wines from native Portuguese grapes such as Touriga Franca, Tinto Roriz, etc.

Syminton Altano 2013, $12.95, is fresh-tasting, simple, and youthful with modest fruit flavours –given time to open up, it develops some depth, too. 

The Vale do Bomfim, 2013, $16.95, apparently got its start as the Symington family house wine, and is made from the vineyards on the Dow property.

It has good character with a medium to full body, and good texture with the flavours persisting on the finish. 

The Altano is found in all our areas, the Bomfim everywhere but Timmins, and the Barão just in Barry and the Sault.

February 6 Vintages Release

South Africa, like Portugal, can often provide solid and inexpensive wines.

It is featured in this release.

One white,Avondale Jonty’s Ducks Pekin White 2014, $14.95 is promising.

It is a blend of grapes commonly associated with France, including Chenin Blanc, Roussane and Viognier among others. 

An organic wine, it offers bright and intense orchard fruit such as peach and apple, along with good citrus flavours. 

It has good density as well.

Not to be overlooked on the regular list is Fairview’s Goats do Roam White, $11.95.

I don’t anticipate too much variation from year to year, and the 2013 recently garnered a ”best value” designation from the Wine Spectator, which commented on the fresh “fennel, green apple and green almond notes [and] the floral –edged finish”.

With the reds, check by Monday February 1 to see if your store is receiving these, as it varies from city to city.

You can try to place a customer order if you wish.

The Cathedral Cellar line is very solid, and the 2013 Pinotage, $16.95 will be pleasurable. 

Pinotage is a South African hybrid, a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault rarely found elsewhere. 

Expect some cocoa and spice notes and dark berry fruit.

Nederburg Manor House Shiraz 2013, $16.95, is given 4 of 5 stars by, which describes it as “rich and luscious with flavour galore” – lots of dark fruit with a “balanced lingering finish.”  (Saultites will need to order this one in.)

Other Whites

From France, look for Gérard Bertrand Réserve Spéciale Viognier 2014, $14.95, an aromatic wine with a creamy palate along with some tropical fruit and citrus notes.

Some detect a touch of bitterness on the finish, but it may be matter of taste.

Joseph Cattin Riesling 2014, $14.95, earned a Wine Enthusiast 90 and a gold medal at the 2015 Concours International de Lyon with “lots of refreshment and…racy core”. – It will be bone dry and a bit tart.

Zenato has long been a valued producer in the Veneto, and its 2014 Pinot Grigio, $15.95, consistently is seen to provide orchard fruit (pear) melon, and lemon with a good acidic edge.

Other Reds

Susana Balbo is one of the most reliable winemakers in Argentina, and her Crios Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, $14.95, is from one of the best vintages in the Mendoza region in recent years.  It is balanced and forward with dark berry and plum –easy drinking and satisfying.

Australia’s Sister’s Run has been winning a lot of friends recently, and its Calvary Hill Shiraz 2013, $15.95, should reinforce that trend.  Sam Kim, a New Zealand writer, commented on its .power as well as a refined mouthfeel., calling it “richly fruited and generously textured.”

There are many wines from the south of France featured on the release, so check with the product consultant for suggestions.

Among those that appeal to me is Domaine Puig-Parahy Cuvée Georges 2011, $17.95. identified some rather odd flavours such as shrimp, iodine and Swiss chard of all things, - and all good, apparently- It goes on to praise “a juicy, vivacious, mouth-watering and remarkably mineral palate”. The score? 91!

Stokely Creek Lodge Wine Tasting, February 13 – 6 wines will be poured, each distinctly different the one from the other, and dinner will follow, for $60 including tax. 

The Lodge is located about 30 minutes north of the Sault at Goulais River. Call 705-649-3421 to reserve.  You can visit their website at  Stokely is one North America’s top cross country skiing destinations, and the snowshoeing is great, too.