Oh, this is good. This is the sort of good that put NZ Pinot Noir on the map. This is the sort of good that you find yourself dreaming about when you hear how hard Pinot Noir is to make. This is the sort of well-priced, hauntingly delicious, medium-bodied cherries-and-clay Pinot Noir that you wake up in the night and think about, wishing you'd bought yet another bottle. Or a case. Pair with crispy roasted duck and (of course) duck-fat potatoes. And this price...another reason to fall in love. About $20.
Waterkloof 2015 Circle of Life red blend
(Stellenbosch, South Africa)
I told a friend I wasn't a big fan of South African wines: too much 1970s rubbery Band-Aid notes, too much burned-rubber Pinotage.
He told me to try this one. In fact, he insisted, and then he bought it for me.
I took it home and, I admit, I was skeptical.
But I really liked it. A blend of 73 per cent Syrah, 16 per cent Merlot and 11 per cent Petit Verdot, this Waterkloof red blend is medium-full-bodied, with with notes of white pepper, wet stones, strawberries and pomegranate. Restrained and almost secretive, it would have been wickedly delicious with roast lamb.
I'm not totally convinced to retry all the other South African wines I've had in the past...but I will definitely look for more from this estate and I'd buy this one again in a heartbeat. It's also biodynamically and organically produced, so all you natural wine fans can get excited, too. About $28.
Haywire 2018 Pinot Noir
(Okanagan Valley, British Columbia)
Fermented with wild yeasts and aged in concrete, this Haywire Pinot Noir is simply an outstanding example of Canadian Pinot Noir. Ripe red cherry fruit notes and flavours, a hint of earthiness and a finish that just goes on and on. Like the Sacred Hill, above, it'd pair beautifully with duck, but it would also do beautifully with lamb, wild BC salmon or even just a plain-jane roast chicken. About $27.
Yalumba 2017 Barossa Shiraz
(Barossa Valley, South Australia, Australia)
The story behind Yalumba Family Winemakers is long and fascinating. Samuel Smith was 35 years old when he packed up his family and moved from Dorset, England to Angaston, South Australia. They arrived at Christmas and, a short time later, Smith found work as a gardener. By 1849, he had planted his first vineyards and, in less than a decade, he was the chief player in the local wine scene.
And, well, 170 years later, that influence has only gotten bigger. Smith is long gone, of course, but Yalumba is still a major place on the global wine scene.
This Shiraz is big, full-bodied and bold, with all those hefty, savoury, jammy dark fruit and spice notes you'd expect. Great just as a big red to sip on a cold night by itself, or pair with a chunk of hard cheese and charcuterie, game meats or with a sausage pasta.
And while you drink it, spare a thought—and a prayer—for this big, beautiful country and its people, as they deal with Australia's horrific wildfires. About $25.
Hester Creek 2016 Terra Unica
(Okanagan Valley, British Columbia)
Turns out you have to be a member of the Hester Creek Estate Winery wine club to purchase this big, beautiful Cab-Syrah blend. That's a pretty good reason to join, I'd say. A blend of two-third Cabernet Sauvignon and one-third Syrah, this deep ruby red shows the best of both: the blackcurrant and mocha of the Cab, and the white pepper and savoury notes of the Syrah. Pair with meat, of course, but if you're vegetarian, try it with a wedge of hard cheese. Beautiful now, it should also age nicely in the cellar for a few more years. About $28.