Wine & Spirits

TASTING NOTES: David Lawrason’s favourite summer picnic wines

By David Lawrason

When you pack the picnic hamper, save room in the cooler bag for a bottle or two of wine. The new generation of screw-cap wines is perfect for the outdoors — easily chillable and resealable, as well as wasp- and ant-proof. Here are 10 whites, pinks, and reds selected for their unabashed easy-drinking charm, yet well-defined grape and regional character.


Pierre Sparr 2009 Gewürztraminer
$16.50 • Alsace, France • 90 points
This has a pure, powerful, and focused gewürz nose with the fruit somewhere between lychee and barely underripe apricot, along with classic musk perfume and peppery spice. It’s full-bodied, fairly thick, creamy, and rich, with good acid cut and warmth on the finish. Pair it with Asian — especially curried — dishes and ripe, stronger, runny cheese. LCBO 373373.

Tawse 2009 Sketches of Niagara Riesling
$17.95 • Ontario • 90 points
Most Ontario 2009 rieslings are fragrant and racy — ideal thirst beaters on a summer day. This riesling shows ripe, laser-focused pear-apple, floral, honey, and fresh clover aromas. Very zesty, elegant, and dynamic on the palate with the fruit hanging in through the lemony acidity. This lower alcohol (10 percent) style is a great fit for summer drinking. Vintages 89029.

Little Yering 2009 Chardonnay
$14.95 • Yarra Valley, Australia • 89 points
This is a very stylish, elegant, and quiet chardonnay. It refrains from being overly oaky/spicy like so many Aussie peers at the price. Expect a fine, if not hugely powerful, nose of peach-pineapple, butter, and nicely inlaid spiciness. It’s medium-weight, very smooth, and warm, with a lemony finish. Ideal with grilled shrimp and poultry dishes. LCBO 145318.

Big House 2009 White
$11 • California • 87 points
This delightful blend was conceived by iconoclast Randall Grahm, who has been eschewing California’s cabernet/chardonnay domination for years. A choir of eight different grape varieties — led by the floral overtones of muscat — combines in a delicious unoaked summer sipper chock full of tropical yellow fruits (pineapple, banana, star anise) with a touch of sweetness. Ideal with cold crab/lobster salads, fruit salads, and cheese. LCBO 173286.


Southbrook 2010 Connect Rosé
$18.95 • Niagara Peninsula • 88 points
This rosé is made 100 percent from cabernet franc grown in organically certified vineyards. The nose shows classic cab franc redcurrant/pomegranate aromas with roasted red pepper and dried herbs. It’s mid-weight and nicely smooth, yet fresh and piquant with lovely tart redcurrant bitterness on the finish. Delicious. Serve chilled with more savoury meats, pasta salads, and goat cheese. Vintages 250910.

Chivite 2010 Gran Feudo
$11.95 • Navarra, Spain • 87 points
The northern province of Navarra (where the bulls are run in Pamplona) is famous for its rosé. This has a bright nose of candied cherry/strawberry fruit with garnacha’s peppery nuances. It’s mid-weight, fresh, and fruity, yet dry, with a quenching, bitter cran-cherry and grapefruit finish. Serve chilled, but not stone cold, with all your cold plates and summer salads. LCBO 165845.


D’Arenberg 2009 The Stump Jump Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre
$14.05 • South Australia • 89 points
For a richer red, this is one of the smoothest and liveliest Aussie wines on the shelf. Look for a savoury nose of sour plum jam, pepper, menthol, lavender, and tobacco. Try it with grilled lamb, duck, and rare red meats. Chill lightly. LCBO 173294.

Barwick 2009 White Label Pinot Noir
$13.95 • Pemberton, Australia • 88 points
The Pemberton region deep in Australia’s cool southwest is worth watching for pinot. This is a great little buy with lifted cran-cherry fruit, evergreen, wood smoke, and clove. It sits a bit hot on the palate but has loads of grippy sour cherry and dusty evergreen flavour. Chill just a bit and serve with spicy meat and poultry dishes. LCBO 215194.

Castillo de Monseran 2010 Garnacha
$8.95 • Carinena, Spain • 88 points
British ex-pat Hugh Ryman is reinventing garnacha from old vines growing in small, high-altitude appellations of north-central Spain. This unoaked, exuberantly fruity red sports flavours remarkably like hot raspberry/blueberry pie. It’s almost a wine smoothie, with some sweetness and soft tannin and nicely contained alcohol (only 12.5 percent). Chill lightly and pour liberally with burgers, ribs, and wings. LCBO 73395.

Flat Rock 2009 Pinot Noir
$19.95 • Niagara Peninsula • 87 points
This pinot noir has a very fragrant nose of sour cherry framed by wood smoke and spice and some leafy notes. It is light-to-medium-bodied, quite supple, and with fine tannin. Delicious fruit vibrancy. Ideal with cold meats, cold chicken, and pasta salads. Vintages 1545.