"Is there anything Howard Soon can’t do?" I asked a pourer of Sandhill wines at the Winnipeg Wine Festival a couple of weeks ago.
I was amazed yet again. The renowned winemaker from the Okanagan’s Sandhill Winery has knocked my socks off in the past with his Chardonnay, which has just the right amount of butter and oak for me (and I like plenty of both). The Sandhill Chard is creamy yet crispy, and has an impressive depth of flavour. It boasts lots of fruit, and has a slightly spicy finish.
So while I was expecting the Chard to be good — and as usual, it was — I didn’t know what I might encounter with Sandhill’s Hidden Terrace Pinot Gris. Admittedly, I’m not exactly a Pinot Gris fan, but I have found a few, including the Kim Crawford Pinot Gris from New Zealand ($19.99) that I don’t mind at all.
But Sandhill’s Pinot Gris, like all of Soon’s other wines, was splendid. I loved it. I even gave it a star in my festival program, which very rarely happens. And to find a Canadian VQA wine that’s truly wonderful and for less than $20 — the Chard and the Pinot Gris are both $17.99 — makes me very happy. If you like Pinot Gris and haven’t tried the Sandhill yet, I can’t urge you strongly enough to do so.
The same goes for Sandhill’s Cabernet Merlot. I insisted that my husband, whose favourite wine — a Cabernet Merlot delisted by MLCC a while back — taste the Sandhill. He did, and after a second sip to confirm what he’d deduced from the first one, he said, "I think I’ve finally found my new Cab Merlot!" I thought he’d feel that way, and I’m glad he’s found one he likes. The bonus here is that I like it, too. I think Howard Soon is a genius, and his creations are proof of that.
I also had three very pleasant surprises when I visited the Trinchero Family Estates booth. I’ve been impressed in the past by the products from this California winery, most notably by The Show Cabernet Sauvignon and The Show Malbec, both of which cost $19.99. And The Show Pinot Noir, for the same price, is equally delightful.
It’s always nice to have a go-to Pinot, and I figure this one is reliable since it’s from a producer with a track record for other good wines. I’ll definitely be buying The Show Pinot as the dinner accompaniment the next time I plan to have salmon or veal.
As well, while I know there are always little gems that are the exception rather than the rule, often less-expensive wines are less good than the costlier ones. But Trinchero’s Charles & Charles Chardonnay and Charles & Charles Cabernet/Syrah were really good — and were $14.99 a bottle. So I can’t recommend these highly enough.
The lady at the booth also suggested another use for the Charles & Charles Cabernet/Syrah, which I’m planning to detail in next week’s column. I know it will disgust some — it did when I wrote about pretty much the same thing a few years ago.
But now I’ve discovered that what seemed like one man’s strange wine concoction has a history, and that what he does — and enjoys — is not at all that unusual. So his wife, who was lovingly and teasingly faux-embarrassed by her husband’s choice of imbibement, can rest easy, and he can feel a bit smug knowing his favourite beverage is, to some degree, a worldwide sensation.
And after that, we move on to sweet wines — and some surprising information about some of the most popular ones on the market today.