As the mercury edges upwards our meals edge outwards, and before we know it we’re cooking and eating everything out on the deck. Dude, it’s crazy out there. Never mind the squeals of the kids from adjacent yards or the yips of jealous dogs, the average patio is a chowder of sniffs and smells. Lawn cuttings, sunscreen, chlorine from the pool, even your own BBQ is smoking more than a stop/slow-sign holder on a roadwork site.
You need great wines to go with dinner, but subtly nuanced study pieces need not apply. Only bold, intensely focused red wines can cut through the nose-quiche of scents on your deck, and it just so happens that I have a few in mind...
Scala Dei Cartoixa 2015, Priorat, Spain. The Baseball Bat from Priorat. The Burning Flame from Eastern Spain. The Blast-a-Zone-a near Barcelona. No matter what it rhymes with, Priorat is HUGE, and this deck-capsizing blend of Garnacha, Carignan and Cabernet Sauvignon grown on stark sunburnt slopes is no exception. Named after and grown next to the Escaladei monastery from the 12th century (Escaladei = Ladder To God), this juice from the historic Cartoixa vineyard is dark as night but tastes like evening sun. Violets and licorice precede the fruitsplosion of dark berries and plums, a buttery, lush mouthfeel and a long spicy finish that qualifies as an aftershock. Enough concentration to cellar this for a decade, but we won’t. 97 points Decanter, 3 6-packs available, $59.99 +tax
Zuccardi Concreto Malbec 2017, Uco Valley, Argentina. Jumping in with both feet to the growing Mendoza movement of capturing high-altitude Malbec with the lens of Italy rather than California, the Zuccardi family aims for elegance (and nails it - see the points) with Concreto, using whole-cluster fermentation and concrete aging (hence the name). Stony red fruits are the star of this electric race car, with dried herbs and flowers underwriting the track, and blackberries and cassis waiting at the finish line. Zippier than most zippers. We may have found the Song of the Summer. 96 points James Suckling, 94 points Robert Parker, #10, Wine Enthusiast Top 100 of 2018, 6 6-packs available, $46.98 +tax
Orofino Petit Verdot 2014, Similkameen Valley, B.C. Previously mentioned on these pages, but I sold out and now I got more so this is a victory lap of sorts. I am soooo not supposed to have this, seeing as the Weber family only makes 3 barrels, but I got the new guy when I called in and he didn’t know I couldn’t have it so I took everything they had. Simply one of my very favourite BC reds, a beast of a wine with just enough fruit-weight to match the leathery tannins, with blackberry, tar and lavender surrounding the mouth of the cave. A true statement of how Similkameen stands apart from Okanagan, and totally worth that new guy getting fired. 3 cases available, $45.98 +tax
Shaw + Smith Shiraz 2015, Adelaide Hills, Australia. Cousins Martin Shaw and (Master of Wine) Michael Hill Smith specialize in two things: making exquisite wines from cool(ish) Australian climes, and using the initials M.S.. This Shiraz from the high(ish)-altitude Balhannah vineyard in Adelaide Hills shows their grasp of balance perfectly, the invariably intense fruit concentration is commensurate to the elegant acid that defines the finish. Drinking Shaw + Smith is having one’s cake whilst eating it: you get to enjoy the generous blast radius of a fruit bomb without experiencing the impulse to spread it on toast. Blackberries and cherries with mint and rocks, freaking delicious. 97 points James Haliday, 96 points James Suckling, 3 6-packs available, $56.98 +tax
If stocks hold, I’ll be pouring the Priorat and the Malbec this Saturday in the River District Vintage Room at 3pm. If not, I’ll be pouring the new Apothic blend: Apothic Crunchy (no).
Until next time, Happy Drinking!