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More-than-reasonable reds for more-than-reasonable prices

Usually I remember when, where, and by whom I was introduced to a particular wine.

In fact, I can’t recall an instance in which that hasn’t happened.

Until now.

I’d had a bottle of 2007 Open Merlot, a VQA Canadian product, on my wine rack for several months. I thought it might have been one I’d picked up at a Liquor Mart clear-out sale. But I checked the MLCC website, and the Open was still listed. Then I wondered if I’d been gifted with it. But I couldn’t figure out who it might have been from. THEN I thought, "Aha — I bet I tried it and liked it at the Winnipeg Wine Festival in May." That sounded vaguely familiar. It felt good. It felt right.

But I couldn’t find my notes from the wine festival, so I couldn’t double check. However, that’s where I THINK I found it. So that’s the story I’m going with. A Winnipeg Wine Fest discovery. Sure. That’s it.

All of which, I suppose, is completely irrelevant, except I usually like to credit those who bring something new to my attention, especially if it’s a wine I really enjoy. And with the Open for $13.52, that was certainly the case — that I enjoyed it, I mean.

I’d been searching for a new-to-me Merlot for awhile, because I really like Merlot with pork. And I was extra-delighted that the Open is a VQA Canadian product from the Okanagan. While this wine is not full-bodied, it certainly IS full-flavoured.

"Oh wow!" I said when I first tasted it, or at least when I first tasted it at home. Gutsy, full of red fruit and black pepper, it’s a little edgy to start with. But once it’s paired with food, that roughness goes away.

If you prefer to sip wine and have it be somewhat smooth without food, and if you have them — and more on these yet AGAIN in weeks to come — use the Eisch Breathable (oh, whoops, sorry! We’re not allowed — nor is the company allowed — to call the Eisch glasses "breathable" any longer, because technically, glass can’t breathe. So now I think they’re called Eisch ‘Senses’ glasses. Sheesh. But I digress. Perhaps that should be Di-gress. Which is, in fact, a further digression. But I digress. Again.) glasses with the Open Merlot. They soften this wine brilliantly — just the required amount — and are well worth the investment of about $31 a stem. Locally, you can get them at The Little Shoppe and Zeke’s Quality Jewellers. Worth every penny, in my opinion.

Once I (re)discovered the Open Merlot, I picked up about four bottles of the 2007 vintage, since it’s what I’d really liked. But that was all I could find in town — the 2008 vintage is what remains on Liquor Mart shelves now. And before my cache of 2007s was gone, I compared the ’07 to the ’08. There was no question the ’07 was better, but the ’08 was pretty decent as well. Give it a year, and it should be up to ’07 snuff! Or you could always try the ’08 in Eisch glasses.

Moving on: Michel Torino’s Don David line from Argentina was introduced to me by a friend who goes by the moniker "Mr. Malbec." He’s a big Malbec fan who’s forever trying to get me to like Malbec, which I generally don’t. But he did introduce me to Finca Los Primos Malbec, another Argentinian product, which I grudgingly had to admit I liked. Really liked. Especially for $10.95 a bottle. It was a bit edgy, sure, but it certainly had plenty of depth, and boasted a lot of black fruit, with some fennel on the finish. Great for the price. And again, even better sipped from an Eisch glass.

Anyway, he brought a bottle of the 2010 Don David Tannat Reserve to my house when he was graciously renovating our downstairs bathroom. A big fan of really dry reds, Mr. Malbec was quite smitten by the Tannat, a grape varietal I’d not tried before. Again (and you’ve no idea how much it pains me to admit he was right — again), I really enjoyed the Don David Tannat.

"WOW!!" I exclaimed when I sniffed the more-than-generous glass Monsieur Malbec poured for me. "Holy aroma, Batman!" This wine was chock-full of big black fruit — black currant, black cherry, probably some plum and a hint of oak. And the taste followed suit. Really dry, really ballsy I liked it so much I went out and bought three bottles of it the next day.

Part of my enamourment, too, came from the pairing suggestion he offered.

"Do you have any sharp cheddar cheese?" he asked. "And some olives and pickles?"

I did. And while I didn’t indulge in the pickles (which he pronounced should, once opened, only be kept for a week, and consequently, mine, to his taste, were stale), I freaked out — in a good way — when I tried the Don David Tannat with the cheddar cheese and the fabulous Althea Greek Olives, which are green olives stuffed with cream cheese and feta-style parmesan. (The latter was a gift from friends who have the most AMAZING taste in food and in wine.) The combination of the tangy, salty olives and their tooth-resistant texture, and the soft consistency of the piquant cheese was great in and of itself. But throw the wine into the mixture and Kowabunga, Dudes! I was in love all over again.

I think I exclaimed every time I took at bite and a sip, and that went on for a long time. And the Don David Tannat also paired very well later with a fatty New York striploin steak.

So. Not as many dry reds as I was hoping to squeeze into this particular installment of Vine Lines. But I’ll have a few more to suggest in the coming weeks. In the meantime, raise a glass to friends — and strangers, for that matter — who introduce you to great wines. I’m going to do so as soon as I hit the last period on this column.

There! Done! Now where’s my corkscrew.

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 1, 2012

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You're right, Tannat is where it's at!

Are you sure its only $10.95?

You know some of us drink wine in the States and don't think anything here is reasonably priced. But it's for a worthy cause I suppose, ie. finance the government.

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Usually I remember when, where, and by whom I was introduced to a particular wine.

In fact, I can’t recall an instance in which that hasn’t happened.

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Usually I remember when, where, and by whom I was introduced to a particular wine.

In fact, I can’t recall an instance in which that hasn’t happened.

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