Recently, while chatting with friend Allison Slute - a whip smart wine pro with a penchant for Cab Franc (follow her here) - the topic of what wines to have on hand for specific occasions came up. A poll on Instagram revealed that several hundred others also wanted to know what bottles are best stocked for events like entertaining in laws, hosting theme parties, or wine conversion therapy, whereby skeptical friends are convinced to try something different, only to head home with newfound, broadened horizons.
Read on for some of the wines I've been enjoying lately, and their accompanying, best case scenarios.
For the snobby friend who thinks Canadian wine sucks
2018 Somenos Pinot Gris
I don't think I've encountered more haters of Canadian wine than...Canadians. Common phrases I hear religiously:
"I don't like wine from the Okanagan."
"What options can you show me for big reds?"
"I hate Pinot Gris."
Should you have anyone in your life who writes Canadian wine off as subpar, this is the bottle to convince them with. Pinot Gris may not seem like the variety to reach for considering the stigma it carries, known mostly for unmemorable, watered down porch plonk favoured by the likes of the RHONY.
Winemaker Brent Rowland approaches this Gris similarly to high end Chardonnay, resulting in incredible energy, density and salinity.
For the haters out there - Averill Creek has graciously provided a discount code to use so you too can become a PG aficionado.
Use code "GRIS4ME" for 10% off
*valid until May 6. Minimum 6 bottle purchase*
For meeting your best friend's new partner
Okanagan Falls, BC
2019 "Orienteering in the Underworld" Syrah
I met Costa Gavaris, winemaker and co-owner of Rigour and Whimsy with wife Jody Gavaris, in the spring of 2018. Costa and Jody had just embarked on their foray into winemaking, making a tiny amount of skin contact Pinot Blanc barreling them into immediate popularity among natural wine enthusiasts.
The inspiration behind this wine is acclaimed psychoanalyst Carl Jung: "Orienteering in the Underworld is about finding the courage to accept our Shadows. Here is us trying our best at making wine from Syrah. It means a lot to us. It was sometimes scary, but we are very happy we managed to find the courage to try."
I use analogies often in describing wine, relating the many similarities to humans - some wines are complex, others simple, with most falling somewhere in between. Delicate situations like the meeting of a loved one's new partner can be intimidating and vulnerable - shouldn't the wine poured mimic those emotions?
Purchase the wine here.
For the 70s themed costume party aplenty with dirty martinis and edibles
Naramata Bench, BC
Dated skepticism plagues the category of cider - large in part due to hazy memories circa 2001, replete with faux snake skin pants, purple eye shadow and 2 liter bottles of Grower's, resulting in a hangover for the ages, rendering most off the stuff indefinitely.
Sisters-in-law Kaleigh Jorgensen and Annelise Simonsen are redefining the category, treating their cidery similarly to a natural winery - hands off, organically farmed, nothing added and nothing taken away.
100% Red Delicious apples were fermented outside in the cold for 9 months producing very light bubbles with a light, sweet caramel finish. Think of Nigella Lawson exclaiming ‘more-ish’. A gorgeous amber, cloudy lava lamp vibe leads into plush texture.
With a low ABV of 6.3%, this is a perfect option for wild parties where pacing is a necessity.
Purchase here, and use discount code "ilovecider10" for 10% off. Available May 5.
For performing conversion therapy on red wine haters
2020 PTG, Pinot Noir (47%), Gamay Noir (38%) and Blaüfrankisch (15%)
A phrase I hear regularly when conducting tastings is, "I hate red wine". In most cases, the aforementioned party tasted one red wine they didn't like, and then naturally, cast off all red wine thereafter.
If your goal is to keep your world small, binary, and relatively boring, by all means, continue to engage in generalizations. It gives the illusion of safety, under the guise of knowledge.
The beauty of what I do is that I don't give my guests a choice - when you hire me to do a tasting, you're going to be drinking what I give you. You're essentially forced into tasting what I tell you to - and majority of the time, the naysayers depart loving what they arrived thinking they hated.
Such is the case for the non-serious, glou glou, juice bomb that is the PTG. Winemaker Ryan Corrigan describes it as, "not changing the world, but pretty crushable."
Order 4 bottles via their website to receive 10% off and free shipping (Ontario only)
*prior to publishing the PTG sold out - I would suggest trying the Flora as an alternative*
For arguing with your in laws about politics....again
2018 Black Label Pinot Noir
A Classically made Pinot, fermented using native yeasts and aged in a mix of 1-4 year old French oak. It’s a blend of fruit from across Niagara that proprietors, the Neudorf family, dub “fruit from friends”. It’s drinking so well right now - dark cherry, clove and a dance of lightness and richness - incredible value at $25.
It's a great mid-week wine when you want a splurge worthy bottle without the price tag. Or, when you’re in a heated family debate. (It seems to work for the Neudorf's)
Sign up to their mailing list to receive the invite to their annual cellar door opening - a once a year opportunity to purchase direct from the family.
Click here to find out where to purchase locally in Ontario.
For park picnics that turn into 2am kitchen dance parties
2020 "Haze" 31% Semillon, 27% Sauvignon Blanc, 25% Viognier, 17% Muscat
New from the team at plot is a bangin' 7 day skin contact blend, described as "Bright, dry, and hazy with notes of young, crunchy peach and green apple skin - this blend is like taking a sunny walk through a lemongrass field while sipping a gooseberry margarita."
A project dreamed up by graphic designer Adam Kereliuk (who has also designed past labels for Echo Bay) and winemaker Kevin Rossion, have been pushing the envelope with their "nomadic" winemaking approach, sourcing fruit from all over the Okanagan Valley.
Taking on a low intervention ethos has produced wines lower in alcohol, with higher acid, and supple texture. These are the types of wines that pair effortlessly with friends, picnics, blankets and sunshine - days that end on a city balcony at sunrise, as you sip Fernet, the only booze left after an impromptu rager.
Purchase Haze here, and use discount code "maydaze" for 10% 6 items or more - good for use until June 1.
For showing the magic of food and wine pairing (mortadella, obviously)
Fraser Valley, BC
2020 La Crescent
When I hear grand, sweeping generalizations like, "there's only one thing we should be doing with hybrids, and that's ripping them all up", I innately fall into a process of deduction, pondering as to why a belief of such astounding ignorance would be held.
It's common that the bros of Wine Berserkers (and other elitist circles in the wine industry) share this mentality. In all fairness - why would they want to drink someone else's experiment when the bulk of these people have access to some of the best wines in the world?
While hybrids have a long way to go, they're carving out an entirely new category not only in Canada, but in various regions the world over, producing some magical results.
Delight wine neophytes and professionals alike with this slightly effervescent, playful and intoxicatingly aromatic expression of La Crescent from Whispering Horse in the Fraser Valley.
Plus, who doesn't want to drink a wine that pairs effortlessly with mortadella?