Column: Versatile whites and reds for the final summer weekend

With the last weekend before autumn arrives, it’s time to reveal three wines that are versatile, delicious, and affordable. And this trio is perfect for saying goodbye to the summer of 2020.

Back when B.C. was making mediocre wines from inferior varieties of grapes, Helmut Becker, a German wine expert from the Geisenheim Institute visited our province. His advice was to grow grapes that do well in Germany and Alsace. This makes perfect sense because we are on the same northern latitude as those locales that make quality wines.

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This led to a replanting of grapes in B.C. vineyards with Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Gris. 30 years later, Pinot Gris is one of the most successful white varieties in our province! And one of the tastiest Pinot Gris is the 2018 Spierhead ($21.59 at VQA stores, private stores, and the winery).

The winery is located on the benchlands of South East Kelowna. Winemaker Grant Stanley grows mainly Pinot Noir with some Chardonnay and Riesling on the estate’s vineyards, but the Pinot Gris originates from the Golden Retreat Vineyard in Summerland .

Although the wine is almost colourless, its aroma is packed with tree fruit, minerals, and a pinch of spice from a kiss of oak aging. On the palate there is delicious ripe pear and apples along with minerals and lively acid to balance the fruit. After all that, there is a delicious citrus finish. Easy to sip and extremely versatile with food: Asian shrimp risotto, Caesar Salad, or roast chicken are a few possibilities.

Switching to New Zealand, the Villa Maria 2019 Sauvignon Blanc ($15.99 on sale; $3 off until Oct. 3) is another versatile fruity white. New Zealand’s early winemaking efforts were similar to B.C.’s. The Kiwis planted inferior varieties of grapes that produced mediocre wine at best. It wasn’t until they ripped out their old vines and planted vinifera grapes like Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay and Riesling that made the wine world pay attention to them.

Today Sauvignon Blanc is the flagship wine of New Zealand. The Villa Maria SB is grown in the most prestigious wine region, Marlborough on the South Island. There is the characteristic gooseberry and guava nose and a lively fruity flavour of gooseberry, peach, and grapefruit. Wonderful with curried mussels, oysters or smoked salmon. And it’s probably the best bargain white on the shelves. Available at all three government stores in Richmond.

Another very affordable wine, this time a red, is the C.C. Jentsch Cellars 2016 The Chase ($18.99 at Save-On Ironwood.)  Jentsch is a family owned winery located in the South Okanagan and The Chase is a blend of the five classic Bordeaux varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. The Jentschs have been farming in the Okanagan since 1929 so they have deep roots in The Valley!

All of the grapes that go into this wine originate from their 63-acre property in the Golden Mile Bench between Oliver and Osoyoos. With a dark red colour, the Chase displays scents of dried red and black fruit, licorice, and forest floor. On the palate there’s flavours of plums, blackberries, black cherries, and raspberries. It’s four years old so its smooth with ripe tannins and medium bodied.  For a Bordeaux style BC red, the price is a bargain, especially for an aged red.

As the bottle label boasts, “The Chase is so darn food friendly it matches nicely with a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich, a mushroom casserole, pizza, grilled meats and good company.”

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