It is pretty easy to get into a rut when it comes to wine. Most of it isn’t cheap, and if you don’t like it, you don’t have much recourse to change it. So while it can be tempting to just buy the same tired bottle of the same tried and true malbec, American blend, or New Zealand sauvignon blanc, half of the joy of enjoying wine is finding a new bottle and really liking it.
I was recently staring at a large assortment of wine scattered around my desk and said two things. First, “damn, I have too much wine around my desk,” and second, “there are some real oddballs here, too.”
During the process of ordering all the wines, I found a few oddballs that didn’t fit neatly into other categories or articles in progress. And so, here are some slightly off-the-beaten path wines that are sure to shake you out of a rut by either by making you try something totally new, or even a well-known grape or region making something a little different. Enjoy!
Chayee Bourras 2011 Bonarda Reserva, Mendoza, Argentina
Bonarda is a grape that generates a lot of confusion — no matter where it comes from. Safe to tell you is that there are several countries planting it under several different names which may, or may not, be the same grape as the others. Argentinean bonarda seems to be the most common for our market and is relatively common. This example is rife with black fruits, black liquorice and a little spice. Flavours are consistent highlighting that black all-sorts liquorice flavour and very mellow tannins. Very interesting, and one of the best bonardas I’ve had the chance to enjoy. Brilliant. About $35 CSPC +764954
Salton Paradoxo 2011 Cabernet Sauvigon, Campanha Gaucha, Brazil
OK, the grape isn’t that far out, but the country should be. Brazil isn’t the biggest wine producer in South American, but they drink a lot of beer, and for wine, they drink a lot of moscato — quite a bit is produced right in the country due to some difficult taxes for importing wine. It’s a large country so they do have several up-and-coming areas of wine production and a few make it to our shores. Not showing tons of cabernet sauvignon varietal character on the nose, the aromas are earthy, smoky, with muted cassis and cherry fruits-lacking that bell pepper or herb note we often see in cab. Flavours are a pretty well-balanced with good fruit and fairly mellow tannins. Grows on you with each sip. Should work with roasts, tenderloins, or full flavoured, spicy stews. About $20 CSPC +758470
Foradori 2012 Teroldego, Dolomites, Italy
A highly unusual grape — this was the first I’ve seen as well. A grape that might have been in the wrong place in the wrong time, it should probably be planted from France to California — though as yet, seems to only be grown by a handful of producers in northern Italy. Slightly charred, smoky aromas with tight berry fruits leaning towards crushed raspberry. Flavour-wise, it’s full of slightly rustic charms and enough fruit to please the less-adventurous. This is biodynamically-farmed and the producer has a legendary reputation for excellent wines. Fully authentic, it would sing with a duck, boar, or even some lamb. Around $35 CSPC +611269
Great Northern Vineyards 2013 Zinfandel, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
The Okanagan isn’t that far off the path, but Canadian zinfandel is still a bit of a rarity. Only a handful of producers I’ve come across are working with zinfandel. Zinfandel seems to have found its forever home in California, but it still has to shake some of the floozy reputation it got during the white zin craze. Great Northern Vineyards is a Similkameen Valley-based project connected somewhat to the Kettle Valley Winery on the Naramata Bench. A near-monster that should be kept away from open flame (16 per cent alcohol), there is some great varietal character along with some blueberry notes (a real plus) and jamminess, but a lot of resinous, woody aromas too. Maybe a little too intense, the flavours should be fine for some, but I imagine the winemaking team chanting “More! …More! …More!” as the fermentation progressed and lightning crossed the sky. Retailing for about $24-26 CSPC +767984
Cedrus 2014 Malbec, France
This is the tiniest of baby steps off the beaten path. I hate to break it to you but Malbec does come from other places than just Argentina — in fact France has long had it as a component of the Bordeaux blend though rarely as a stand-alonegrape (outside of Cahors). This one hails from a small little vin de pays region or IGP called Comte Tolosan in the south of France. A fun, vibrant, and rich nose emanates from the glass with abundant fruits including a little strawberry dessert topping, herb and blueberry tart. Plenty of tannins on the palate with fruits showing lots of enthusiasm. Not a wine you’d mistake for costing $100, but would kick some serious ass at your next barbecue. $18 CSPC +775732
The Grinder 2013 Pinotage, Western Cape, South Africa
Right off the bat, I have to be honest, I don’t really like pinotage. A cross of pinot noir and cinsault, it is typically found in South Africa — about as far away as you get for a wine from the Canadian market. Pinotage is well-known for a smoky character that Oz Clarke would describe as toasted marshmallow, but at its worst, I think the smell is old rubber boots or a tire fire. The Grinder gives you a hint as to its flavour profile as they were so kind to put an old fashioned coffee grinder on the label, but get your nose in there and you’ll find some smoke, roasted basil, let’s be generous — a marshmallow that toasted beyond light brown, plum and assorted fruits. Palate is pretty tight and I think more aromas make it into the mouth, but in a slightly different order. Would work with burgers, maybe some lamb chops, or ribs. Yeah, ribs would work very well here. About $16 CSPC 747257