Here's a red that will bring comfort on a sunny day when you have your first barbecue of the season. It's La Stella 2018 Fortissimo ($31.99) The name is Italian for “loud” and is used in music scores. But it’s not an annoying Fortissimo. It's a charming rich flavourful Fortissimo, which will make you say, “Bella!”
La Stella was founded in 2006 near Osoyoos Lake. The winery was created to “capture our vision of la dolce vita: fine food, wonderful wine, great music, and the good things in life.” Accordingly, many of its wines are named after musical term terms: Leggiero, Vivace, Allegretto, Maestoso, and today’s pick Fortisissimo.
Fortissimo is a Merlot Blend with a little bit of Tuscan chic in it. There’s 57-per-cent Merlot, 18-per-cent Cabernet Sauvignon, 17-per-cent Cabernet Franc, and eight-per-cent Sangiovese -- the grape of Tuscany.
Although relatively young, the wine exudes a generous aroma of violets, red and black fruit, and an earthiness revealing its Okanagan origins. On the palate Fortissimo reveals lots of complexity. Aged in Slovenian and French oak barrels and puncheons, there’s a gently vanilla flavour with cherries, plums, and cassis and a sprinkling of herbs. In addition to the fruit, expect a refreshing acidity and medium tannins.
The Fortissimo is definitely a food wine where protein will soften those tannins. I enjoyed it with rib-eye steak one night, and Tuscan roast pork with garlic and rosemary the following. Deliciosa! Available at President’s Choice Superstore, select private stores, and through La Stella’s website.
When the sun starts shining, say “Olé” to a glass of the organic 2018 Menade Verdejo, “Vurr-day-ho”; ($20.99 until May 1). Verdejos are some of Spain’s finest white wines and usually originate from the small region of Rueda. But our Menade is from Spain’s large Castilla y Leon region in the north-west.
When young, Verdejo is pale yellow and green with aromas and flavours to match, much like a Sauvignon Blanc. Expect lime, quince, grapefruit, plus peach and honeydew with grass and fennel with a long citrus finish. There’s wonderful acidity and minerality to balance this sea of flavours.
Verdejo is sold to be drunk young when its green notes are most prominent. Menade Verdejo is a great food wine and palate cleanser. Enjoy with fish tacos or lime chicken.
To add a final touch of diversity, I recommend the Bartier Brothers (Bartier Bros.) 2020 Rosé ($17.99). Don and Michael are brothers raised in the Okanagan Valley. As young men, they took different career paths. Don became an accountant while Michael became a winemaker.
Eventually, the stage was set for the partnership of Bartier Bros. Winery in Oliver. Between them had a vineyard, business expertise, viticulture experience, an accountant, a winemaker (Michael previously worked at Road 13 Winery), and a respect for their Valley and the desire to represent it well.
Their Bartier Bros. Rosé has a pale orange-pink colour, much like the original rosés from Provence. It’s a blend of 52-per-cent Chardonnay, 42-per-cent Gewurztraminer, and eight-per-cent Merlot. It’s the majority of white wines in the mix, which gives this pink a very charming subdued character. The nose displays gentle red fruit with a dash of spice. The palate reveals cherries, strawberries, and plums with a tart acidity that’s alive like spring. Great to sip on the patio or served with salad nicoise, barbecued salmon, or grilled veggie skewers.
Both the Verdejo and the Rosé are available at government liquor stores and select private outlets. The Rosé is also available at the Bartier Bros. Winery which is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tastings are outside and COVID-19 protocols are in place. Reservations are recommended. They can also be bought online from Bartier Bros' website.
Eric Hanson is a life-long Richmond resident, retired teacher and wine educator. Eric has also taught wine appreciation courses in Richmond and throughout Metro Vancouver for many years. He continues to be a journalistic ambassador for the enchanting world of wine through his weekly column.