Winter Wine Warmers

Here are some full-bodied heavy-hitters to snuggle up to, whether it’s après ski, dinner-party time or just relaxing with a great novel.

By Natalie Maclean

Dom Pérignon Luminous Rosé Champagne 2005, Champagne AC, France(LCBO #429365, $356.95): This benchmark Champagne is now showing its age in a good way, with toastier and nuttier aromas versus fresh fruit. It’s still lively and kicking strong, though. Pair with gracious drawing rooms and long gowns. Oysters and caviar wouldn’t hurt, either.

Food pairings:Thai coconut shrimp, pasta with cheese-based sauce.
Alcohol: 12.5%. Sweetness: Extra dry. 750 ml. Drink: Now–2022. Score: 96/100.

Louis Roederer Brut Champagne 2012, Champagne AC,
France (LCBO 981027, $102.95): This is an elegant,
steely, citrusy Champagne with a mineral core. It needs a little unwind time, but is a beautifully crafted Champagne. Give it a year or two in the cellar.

Food pairings: Grilled chicken sandwiches, fried chicken, shellfish hotpot.
Alcohol: 12% Sweetness: Extra dry.750 ml. Drink: Now–2022. Score: 95/100.

Bollinger Special Cuvée Brut Champagne, Champagne AC, France (LCBO #384529, $84.95): A robust and complex Champagne from one of the region’s top producers. Bollinger always delivers and this special cuvée is no exception. Aromas of freshly baked bread, lemon zest and toasted almond.

Food pairings: Alaskan king crab, white turkey meat, lamb stew.
Alcohol: 12.5%. Sweetness: Dry. 750 ml. Drink: Now–2021. Score: 93/100.

The Chocolate Block 2016, SwartlandWO, South Africa (LCBO #135996, $79.95): From the Boekenhoutskloof winery, this is the magnum size of the full-bodied The Chocolate Block 2016: A savoury, delicious red wine blendof Syrah with Grenache, Cabernet
Sauvignon, Cinsault and Viognier. This is the second vintage of The Chocolate Block, which is always easy to enjoy and a crowd-pleaser with its savoury olive tapenade and ripe black- and blueberry flavours.

Food pairings: Meaty chilli, game meats, hard cheese. Alcohol: 14%. Sweetness: Dry. 1,500 ml. Drink: Now–2025. Score: 92/100.

Beringer Private Reserve Chardonnay 2016, Napa Valley, California, USA(LCBO #26682, $64.95): Produced by winemaker Mark Beringer, this is a dry, medium-plus-bodied classic Napa Valley, organic Chardonnay. So gorgeous, with layers of ripe peach, pear, lemon curd, vanilla and smoky, toasty oak flavours on the palate.

Food pairings: Roast duck, rabbit fricassee, turkey burgers. Alcohol:
14.7%. Sweetness: Extra dry. 750 ml. Drink: Now–2023. Score: 91/100.

Castello della Sala Cervaro della Sala 2016, Umbria IGT, Italy (LCBO #512376, $68.95): A stunningly rich, full-bodied and luscious Italian white wine made from Chardonnay and native Grechetto grapes. This winery’s name is an homage to the Monaldeschi della Cervara family, who owned the Castello della Sala estate in the 16th century. The wine is produced by Marchesi Antinori and was first made in 1985. Its creaminess comes from being one of the first Italian white wines to undergo malolactic fermentation. The wine is aged in oak barriques. Aromas of golden apple, baked bread and
butter.

Food pairings: Fried panfish, fish tacos, grilled chicken. Alcohol: 13.0%. Sweetness: Extra dry. 750 ml. Drink: Now–2021. Score:95/100.

Ridge Geyserville 2016, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, California, USA (LCBO #723072, $74.95): A medium-plus-bodied red blend of 73% Zinfandel, 17% Carignane, 7% Petite Sirah and 3% Alicante Bouschet sourced from California’s Alexander Valley. Lots of fresh, sweet red cherries on the nose, with layers of dark berries,
plums, cake spice and cracked pepper on the palate.

Food pairings: Barbecued meats, venison steak, bison burgers. Alcohol: 14.5%. Sweetness: Extra dry. 750 ml. Drink: Now–2025. Score: 92/100.

Shafer Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay 2015, Carneros, Napa Valley, California, USA (LCBO #45583, $84.95): This dry and full-bodied Chardonnay is pure gold in the glass, with white florals, ripe pear, honey and caramel flavours on the palate. Since the 1980s, Shafer Red Shoulder Ranch has cultivated Chardonnay in Napa Valley’s cool climate region of Carneros, within sight of the northernmost reach of San Francisco Bay. The winemaker has teamed up with red-shouldered hawks and other birds of prey to conduct sustainable gopher pest control in the vineyard. Impressive and expressive from start to finish.

Food pairings: Crab cakes, Cornish hen, pan-fried cod with lemon butter sauce. Alcohol: 14.9%. Sweetness: Extra dry. 750 ml. Drink: Now–2023.Score: 94/100.

Caymus Zinfandel 2016, Napa Valley, California, USA (LCBO #718759, $59.95): Produced by Charles Wagner Senior, Caymus is renowned for its Cabernet Sauvignons—but California’s heritage Zinfandel grapes have a special place in Wagner’s heart, and it shows on this big, bold Californian Zinfandel. Aromas of ripe purple plum and spice open up to ripe jammy fruit, savoury herbs, cedar brush and spicy flavours on the palate.

Food pairings: Venison stew, venison sausage with wild mushroom sauce, spicy spatchcock partridge. Alcohol: 14.8%. Sweetness: Dry. 750 ml. Drink: Now–2023. Score: 90/100.

Joseph Phelps Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Napa Valley, California, USA (LCBO #189795, $118.95): Joseph Phelps 2015 is a dry red blend of 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot and the rest Petit Verdot. There’s great acidity for food on this full-bodied red, with ripe blackcurrant, dark plum, anise and toasty flavours (from its oak ageing). Enjoy now and for the next several years.

Food pairings: Grilled Portobello mushroom burgers, lamb bolognese, grilled New York striploin, hard cheese. Alcohol: 14.0%. Sweetness: Extra dry. 750 ml. Drink: Now–2025. Score: 91/100.

Natalie MacLean is the editor of Ontario’s largest wine review site and mobile apps at nataliemaclean.com.

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