by Michael Pinkus
THE HOLIDAYS are coming … The holidays are here … The holidays are gone. Feels the same every year, it all goes by so fast. This year I want you to enjoy your family and your friends, because it’s been a pretty tough year to say the least.
The folks at LUXE asked me to put together my annual list of drinks to enjoy over the holidays. In the past, I’ve given you lists of red and white wines, sparkling wines, maybe even a few dessert wines along the way (although there never seems to be enough of those); but this year I’ve added another wrinkle to my annual list. But first my philosophy behind the addition: at holiday time, I think the wine flows too freely and goes down too fast, not really allowing us to linger with friends and family—so this year I’ve added the ultimate in something to linger over to my list of libations: whisky, scotch and bourbon (one of each), plus a couple of sweeties that will demand you to linger longer.
So, without further ado, head out to your local LCBO or wherever you’re buying your bottles these days, gather together with the ones you love, give them a big hug, pour a glass or two, light the fire and let’s linger a little bit longer together this year. Cheers.
LUIGI BOSCA 2018 MALBEC VERDE FIELD BLEND FINCA LOS NOBLES
$59.95, Argentina; LCBO 20328
This is one of those wines that really grows on you… the more you sip the more you’re going to love it. It also develops over the course of a few hours into something “wow.” Starts out smooth, supple and subtle, it has a little of a lot, but not too much of anything: dark fruit, pepper, mocha, charcoal, floral with a blueberry-esque finish reminiscent of dark chocolate covered wild blueberries. And, it lingers an extra-long time. Give it five years in the cellar before drinking or, if drinking now, decant.
M CHAPOUTIER 2019 BELLERUCHE COTES DU RHONE
$16.70, France; LCBO 17779
For an under $20 bottle this delivers on so many levels. Dark fruit and floral notes hit the nose, then repeat on the palate, while adding in white pepper, mocha, black cherry, blackberry and a layered finish that shows nice depth and age-ability, but it’s also worth drinking right now.
WAKEFIELD 2019 JARAMAN SHIRAZ
$24.95, Australia; LCBO 377036
This is one of those tasty wines that just keeps getting better the more you sip it. Plenty of plum, blackberry, cassis and white pepper upfront on the nose which then repeats full-force on the palate, plus it’s super-juicy. The more you sip the more the pepper begins to materialize on the palate, and while the fruit stays constant and concentrated that pepper note balances the fruit along with some silky tannins. The finish is also long and luxurious.
PEARCE PRUDHOMME 2020 CINSAULT / SYRAH
$19.95, South Africa; Nicolas Pearce Wines
This wine is from two Canadian gents who got together to create wines from their favourite regions—one
is an agent, the other a sommelier (sounds like the start of a sitcom). This offering is from South Africa. Here they’ve created a pseudo-Rhone Valley blend of cinsault and syrah: black and red currants, red berries and black pepper all play a role with the addition of black plum and mocha. Nice texture, mouthfeel and tannin structure. Easily sip-able or paired with a simple dinner.
CAVE SPRING CELLARS NV BLANC DE BLANCS
$29.95, Ontario; LCBO 213983
This wine spends about three years in the bottle on lees, and always has killer acidity with green apple, lemon, lime, touches of pear and a great mineral hit on the finish. You really can’t go wrong with this one. It’s a winner year after year.
NYARAI CELLARS 2020 FOLKLORE SPARKLING
$22.95, Ontario; online nyaraicellars.ca
Steve Byfield—winemaker and owner—of this virtual winery, has another winner with his second sparkling wine. This fruit-forward number is pretty with notes of pear and floral, plus it has a biscotti/yeasty/minerality character. There’s a pleasant hit of sweetness on the mid-palate, but all is forgotten come the finish when it turns dry. Simple and satisfying.
ANTHONIJ RUPERT 2013 L’ORMARINS BLANC DE BLANCS
$24.95, South Africa; LCBO 15681
This 100 per cent chardonnay sparkling wine from South Africa is a delight for the senses, especially for those who dig on sparkling wine with a little age on it. Twenty per cent of the wine is barrel-fermented, then it’s bottled for its secondary fermentation, which takes four years. It then rests a further eight months under cork. The results are a bubble with a richness in the mouth and notes of biscuit and baked apple plus a subtle creamy vanilla finish—all backed with a delightful acid punch. A sparkling wine-lovers delight at a very good price.
ALVEAR 2017 PEDRO XIMENEZ DE ANADA
$24.95 ($375mL), Spain; LCBO 499152
This grape is usually used in sweet sherries, this time it’s a straight-on dessert wine: thick and mouth-filling but with great balancing acidity. Notes of toffee, candied pecans, floral, grilled peaches and so much more. Almost chewy in the mouth—this is one really tasty dessert all on its own.
HENRY OF PELHAM 2010 CUVEE CATHARINE CENTENARY BLANC DE BLANC
$124.95, Ontario; winery
This special bottling is 100 per cent estate chardonnay (20 per cent barrel fermented) that’s spent 100 months on lees in bottle. That’s eight and one-third years in bottle alone. The results are a beautifully-aged chardonnay with bubbles galore plus aromas of sour dough, bread crust and oyster shells. On the palate lots of green apple flavours join salty-minerality, subtle oak and good acidity. This is a real “banger,” as the kids say.
CABOT TRAIL MAPLE CREAM
$30.95, Quebec; LCBO 462424
This is one of those cream liqueurs that will have you wanting more—but not too much more— because while it’s sweet and totally delectable, it might just cause sugar shock. Look, imagine if Werther’s candy, maple sugar and butter tarts had a liquid baby: it’s delicious, tasty and may be a nice addition to your morning coffee or a bedtime treat.
HIGH RIVER CANADIAN WHISKY
$32.95, Ontario; LCBO 481366
On the bottle there’s a notation about this being “recipe number 9108” and bottled in Kentucky —yet it’s a Canadian whisky—go figure. That does not stop it from being smooth and silky with notes of vanilla, caramel, and spice plus a lovely richness across the tongue. This one’s a “no mixin’ just sippin’” kind of whisky.
1792 SINGLE BARREL KENTUCKY STRAIGHT BOURBON WHISKY
$61.55, Kentucky; LCBO 17799
This hard-to-get-your-hands-on bourbon is named after the date Kentucky joined the union we now call the United States. Toffee, smoke, vanilla, and white peach pit all make an appearance with a lasting finish and a smooth burn on the throat. It’s pretty, peachy and floral—it also goes down real easy.
THE GLENLIVET CARIBBEAN RESERVE SINGLE MALT SCOTCH
$59.80, Scotland; LCBO 21309
Say what you want, but I still have not found “my Scotch” …until now. Silky smooth—probably because of the rum barrel addition the whisky sat in—with vanilla, golden delicious apple, tropical fruit, including guava, mango skin and passionfruit. These are just some crazy notes to find in Scotch and are quite unexpected, but quite welcome. I think you’re going to like it.
JAMESON BLACK BARREL
$49.95, Ireland; LCBO 292615
After my Irish whiskey adventure LUXE published online this past summer, you knew one would show up on my Christmas list: clean and smooth with notes of vanilla, peach and tropical fruits. It fills the mouth with flavour and forgoes the burn for a nice, well-rounded woodsy finish.