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Some gutsy reds that won't break the bank

Prior to the columns on the Westman Wine Festival, which ran just a couple of weeks back, it seemed I’d been writing a lot — and I mean a LOT — about white wines. And perhaps that’s understandable, given that the warmer months usually call for a whole lot more white wine than red, at least for those of us who enjoy both white and red equally.

I’m well aware that summer, sadly, is long over, but column-wise, there’s often carryover for a while, since I attempt (I don’t always succeed, but I do try) to write Vine Lines a few weeks ahead so I don’t have to panic over an impending deadline.

And while I still have a few whites left to talk about, I thought it was high time I devoted another column to some reds I discovered over the summertime, ones that will, hopefully, satisfy more than a few palates out there. And pocketbooks should be happy, too, as none of these is of the break-the-bank variety.

As is often the case, the first one came to me out of the blue — a gift from a friend. (Am I lucky or what!) Anyway, it was something I’d never have purchased on my own — it was a grape varietal with which I was unfamiliar (read ‘I’d never heard of it before’) and was Argentinian. Although I like Argentinian wines, I don’t tend to experiment with them the same way I do with, say, California wines, or Australian, or Chilean.

But again, stretching what one believes are the ‘limits,’ for lack of a better word, of one’s palate is what wine-tasting is all about, at least in my opinion. So I was really delighted to receive a bottle of this unusual-to-me wine to try.

It was a 2009 vintage, so I thought at three years aged, this might be something promising. But I wasn’t prepared for my reaction when I sniffed it.

"WOW!!" I said, promptly writing that word down, capital letters and all.

I held the glass of wine at arm’s length, looked at it in amazement, and actually set it down. I couldn’t believe it.

After observing it on the counter for a few seconds, I picked it up again. Another sniff. And my reaction was the same.

"WOW!!" I repeated. "WOW!"

This was a knockout.

Gutsy with dry, chalky tannins, this was one big wine, full of black cherry aromas and flavours, with a touch of anise, black pepper, spice, tobacco, leather, and chocolate. I mean, I was really impressed. Especially when I found out the price.

The Santa Julia Bonarda sells for $13.99 a bottle. It’s worth every penny, and then some.

Since I’d had a Caesar salad before I’d tried the wine, I wanted to make sure the dressed greens hadn’t corrupted my taste and completely skewed my perception of this wine. So I bought another bottle just to be sure.

This time, I had a sip BEFORE I ate supper, and my reaction was pretty much the same. And then, paired with venison stew, the Bonarda again took off like a rocket. Anyone who likes ballsy red wine should give this varietal a go. It’s got a lot to offer.

The other red (well, I’ve got five more to discuss, but only room for one more today, so look for more big reds in next week’s column) was, in a sense, opposite to the to the Santa Julia Bonarda in that, where the Bonarda had some edge, this one was much smoother. I actually like both qualities — edgy wines will sometimes stand up to food better, whereas the smoother ones often make for better sippers. And since I tried the Waterbrook Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington state at a sampling at the Tenth and Victoria Liquor Mart, I was definitely sipping.

But again, just to make sure my first impressions hadn’t misled me, I bought a bottle to take home, and was really happy with the Waterbrook Cab in my own surroundings. Like the Bonarda, this is a dry wine, and while it’s smooth, it’s not wussy. Full and rich with aromas and flavours of black fruit, red currant, spice, black pepper, and just the faintest hint of oak, this is a very nice wine that can certainly be sipped and, despite its softness, also stands up to food pretty well. The price tag is $17.99 for the Waterbrook, but it’s less aggressive nature will likely endear it to lots of folks who like their red wines big and round but without an edge.

As mentioned, next week’s Vine Lines will feature more reds to help keep you warm during the cold winter months ahead.

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition November 17, 2012

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Prior to the columns on the Westman Wine Festival, which ran just a couple of weeks back, it seemed I’d been writing a lot — and I mean a LOT — about white wines. And perhaps that’s understandable, given that the warmer months usually call for a whole lot more white wine than red, at least for those of us who enjoy both white and red equally.

I’m well aware that summer, sadly, is long over, but column-wise, there’s often carryover for a while, since I attempt (I don’t always succeed, but I do try) to write Vine Lines a few weeks ahead so I don’t have to panic over an impending deadline.

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Prior to the columns on the Westman Wine Festival, which ran just a couple of weeks back, it seemed I’d been writing a lot — and I mean a LOT — about white wines. And perhaps that’s understandable, given that the warmer months usually call for a whole lot more white wine than red, at least for those of us who enjoy both white and red equally.

I’m well aware that summer, sadly, is long over, but column-wise, there’s often carryover for a while, since I attempt (I don’t always succeed, but I do try) to write Vine Lines a few weeks ahead so I don’t have to panic over an impending deadline.

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