Winter Warmers

These robust wines will keep you warm by the fireside après-ski

By Natalie MacLean

Vilmart et Cie Grande Réserve 1er Cru Champagne, Champagne A.C., France. (LCBO: 65110, $92.95). Vilmart et Cie Grande Réserve Premier Cru Champagne is a rich, toasty, full-bodied bubble with a vibrant, seductive mousse of Asian pear, soft orange citrus, toasted almond, nectarine, lime zest, ginger and anise flavours with a kiss of spice on the palate. Disgorged October 2019. So easy to chill and enjoy anytime! Food pairings: Smoked fish, fried chicken, chips and dip, quiche, brunch fare, egg dishes, grilled chicken, caviar on toast. Alcohol: 12.5%. Sweetness: Dry. 750 ml. Drink: 2020–2025. Score: 92/100.  

Mer Soleil Reserve Chardonnay 2020, Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County, California, United States. (LCBO: 958975, $29.95). A gorgeous, luxurious Californian Chardonnay with aromas of butterscotch, toffee, golden apple and peach. Full-bodied with a long finish. I first had this wine at the California Grill restaurant at Disney, and it is as magical now as that memory is to me. Pair with grilled or roasted chicken. Food pairings: Turkey burgers, smoked king crab legs, chicken breast, cheese, pork loin topped with pineapple. Alcohol: 14%.Sweetness: Extra Dry. 750 ml. Drink: 2021–2024. Score: 92/100.

Laurent-Perrier Metal Jacket Petals Edition Brut Cuvée Rosé Champagne, Champagne A.C., France. (LCBO: 33965, $129.95). From Laurent-Perrier, Petals Edition non-vintage rosé Champagne is so elegant in its metal jacket of pretty rose petals and is as much a delight to look at as it is to drink. Lovely on the nose with fresh red berry, strawberry, bright raspberry with a creamy mousse and a long lemon zesty finish. Food pairings: Shrimp cocktail, veggies and dip, creamy cheeses, seacuterie. Alcohol: 12%. Sweetness: Dry. 750 ml. Drink: 2023–2028. Score: 92/100.

Luce 2020, Tuscany I.G.T., Italy (LCBO: 747030, $36.95). Produced by Luce della Vita, Luce 2020 is a Super Tuscan red wine blend of 75% Merlot and 25% Sangiovese, rich and full-bodied with blueberry, blackberry, black olives, savoury herbs concentrated on the palate and wrapped up in bright acidity. Tannins are structured and firm on this powerful Tuscan and it would benefit from some time in cellar. Drink after 2026. Food pairings: Bean-based dishes, lamb chops, chateaubriand, cheddar cheeses. Alcohol: 13.5%. Sweetness: Dry. 750 ml. Drink: 2023–2028. Score: 93/100. 

Xavier Vignon Anonyme Châteauneuf-Du-Pape 2019, Rhône A.P., France. (LCBO: 393421, $72.95). From the Châteauneuf-Du-Pape wine region, Xavier Vignon Cuvée Anonyme 2019 is the flagship red for this winery; a blend of 60% Grenache, 15% Mourvèdre, 10% Syrah with the balance in a possible mix of 13 permitted grape varieties. Grapes were partially destemmed and elevage was in demi-muids and tank. Rich on the nose and palate with liquid dark cherry, raspberry, violets, pepper spice and subtle fine herbs layered and subtle on the palate. Very elegant and very nicely done. Drink or hold to 2033. Food pairings: Roast leg of lamb, veal porterhouse, venison tenderloin. Alcohol: 14.5%. Sweetness: Extra Dry. 750 ml. Drink: 2023–2033. Score: 98/100.

Cakebread Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2022, North Coast, California, United States. (LCBO: 707224, $54.95). Cakebread Cellars 2022 Sauvignon Blanc is a crisp, dry and zesty SB from North Coast, California. Fresh with fine dried herbs, dried pineapple, tropical fruit with long briny mineral finish and so zesty on the palate. The wine was fermented in a combination of stainless-steel tank, clay vessels and French oak barrels. Food pairings: Fresh steamed crab legs, fish tacos, calamari. Alcohol: 14%. Sweetness: Extra Dry. 750 ml. Drink: 2023–2024. Score: 90/100. 

André Goichot Pouilly-Fuissé 2021, Burgundy A.C., France. (LCBO: 32959, $49.95). André Goichot Premier Cru 2021 Pouilly-Fuissé is a bright and generous Chardonnay, zesty with fresh-cut green apple, toasty nut and citrus zesty flavours rich and racy on the palate. A beautiful and elegant premier cru from a well known and respected producer. Chill and enjoy it with creamy seafood dishes. Food pairings: Steamed mussels, shellfish hotpot, oysters on the half shell. Alcohol: 13.5%. Sweetness: Extra Dry. 750 ml. Drink: 2023–2027. Score: 90/100.

Tyrrell’s Semillon 2022, Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia. (LCBO: 632034, $27.95). From Hunter Valley, New South Wales wine region, Tyrrell’s 2022 Semillon is dry, medium-bodied and zesty with fresh pear, star fruit and fine herb flavours lean and sleek on the palate with a lingering minerally finish. Comes in at 11% abv! Drink or hold to 2030. Food pairings: Pan-fried panfish, salads, fish tacos. Alcohol: 10.6%. Sweetness: Extra Dry. 750 ml. Drink: 2023–2030. Score: 90/100. 

Hester Creek Estate Winery The Judge 2017, Golden Mile Bench, Okanagan Valley, BC V.Q.A., Canada. (Order directly from the winery, $49.99). A spectacular BC blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. Notes of black fruit, smoke, bacon and dried herbs. Food pairings: Slow roasted leg of lamb and morel mushrooms jus. Alcohol: 14.6%. Sweetness: Dry. 750 ml. Drink: 2020–2028. Score: 93/100. 

Benziger Pinot Noir 2020, Monterey County, California, United States. (LCBO: 30822 , $27.95). Benziger 2020 Pinot Noir is produced from grapes sourced from high-altitude vineyards. The wine is dry, medium-bodied and fresh with bright red berry, earthy mushroom and baking spice flavours silky on the palate. Tannins are velvety. Food pairings: Lamb chops from the grill, veal cutlets, mushroom risotto. Alcohol: 14%. Sweetness: Dry. 750 ml. Drink: 2023–2026. Score: 91/100. 

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