Happy February! The Month of Love – and a little ‘love’ can go a long way right now! Let’s face it, Toronto: never-ending pandemic enforced shutdowns, and stay-at-home slumbers continue to plague our vibrant city. And how are we making it through these unforgettable times? By showing ourselves some love with really good food, and even better boutique wine, of course! And we buy local.
Too many Zoom calls, and several distanced-driveway-hellos later; the province can finally celebrate the arrival of private specialty wine shops in Ontario! And they’re here to stay. (Hallelujah!) Something to celebrate in 2021? You bet! Celebrate love at home with a curated list of private wine agencies, and specialty wine shops offering gourmet takeaway foods to lift your spirits, and help beat those February blahs!
Pass the Champagne, S’il Vous Plait: Organic, biodynamic Grand-Cru & Grower-Champagne
Let’s get to the good stuff first! Valentines Day is coming – and you should love yourself with some organic bubbly. Whether you’re a Blanc de Blancs freak, or Blanc de Noirs geek – Group Soleil’s boutique Champagne selection offers a number of boutique Champagnes (in limited quantities) to say ‘I love you’, and ‘I love me, too’ with!
R.H. Coutier | Grande Cru N/V Brut
Region: Ambonnay, Mongtagne de Reims, A.O.C, Champagne, France
Grapes: 70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay
Rich, round, complex with red fruits, earth, toast, and minerals from its chalky clay soils – this organic grower Champagne is a thing of beauty. Serve as an aperitif, or with a succulent creamy seafood pasta, or chicken dishes that involve a mushroom cream sauce or garlicky pesto.
Can’t decide if you’re in the mood for more Blancs de Blancs, or Blanc de Noirs? Biodynamic, organic, grower Champagne Uylsse Collin makes two stellar versions of each, if you can get your hands on one (or both!)
Uylsse Collin “Les Pierrière” Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs, 2016 base
Region: Congy, Côteaux du Petit Morin, A.O.C, Champagne, France
Grape: 100% Chardonnay
Juicy red apples, toast, lemon meringue pie, almandine, white grapefruit with pure minerals on the nose and palate. And the pairing possibilities are endless! Raw seafood towers, lightly breaded and deep fried fresh calamari would work beautifully. Or how about decadent terrines, and with apple compotes, and creamy soft cheeses are all suitable matches. Stellar with both mild cow and even goat cheeses for some extra tang to go with that extra dry brut!
Buy local: Uylsse Collin “Les Maillons” Extra Brut Blanc de Noirs, 2015 base
Region: Congy, Côteaux du Petit Morin, A.O.C, Champagne, France
Grape: 100% Pinot Noir
Red delicious apples, Bosc pears, stone fruits, strawberries and minerals – you name it, this biodynamic Champagne’s got it! Enjoy a little toastiness from the oak influence once it opens up a bit in the glass. (If you can keep it in there long enough.) Consider it the perfect charcuterie wine to refresh your palate in between mouthfuls. Suitable for salmon dishes, lobster, crab, and scallops doused in butter, too.
Check out Group Soleil’s full selection of consignment wines here. If you can’t find what you’re looking for in a pinch, contact the direct to find out the nearest licensed establishment that may carry their wines, and the one you are looking for. Stock may be limited, however – plenty of new inventory is on the way! If you don’t find exactly what you’re looking for, contact the agency direct for alternative recommendations from their extensive portfolio.
Velvety Valentines Day Reds: That’s Amore!
Go big – or go BAROLO! While Northern Italy’s Piedmont region may not produce velvety Napa Valley textures, their decadent, Nebbiolo-based juice should make sweet, sweet love to the perfect slow-cooked Veal or Lamb Osso Bucco. Nebbiolo is a powerful, thick-skinned and native Italian red grape that assertives its structural components very well – firm gripping tannins, matched with astringent mouth-puckering acidity.
Its bright, intensely floral and red fruit-driven notes should tenderize juicy red meat that ultimately wants to fall off the bone, and into your mouth. Be careful though – the 14.5% abv is unassuming, and creeps up on you! (You might find yourself drunk with love at the heel of a bottle.) Decant a minimum of 2 hours prior to consumption.
Wine House Imports is a Toronto-based consignment agency that exclusively carries wines that are not available to the LCBO – including a scrumptious list of merit-worthy Barolos you should absolutely add to your cellar collection.
This one in particular (which received a 97-point score from Robert Parker) comes with a pretty wooden box should you decide to order a 6-pack. You can drink one now, and lie the others down since Nebbiolos are known for long-term aging potential.
Wine House Imports: Massolino ‘Vigna Rionda Riserva’ 2014 Barolo
Region: Serralunga, D’Alba, D.O.C.G, Piemonte, Italy
Expect intense, elegant and seductive floral notes in the early years of consumption, while aged characteristics show “goudron” (or tar-minerally) as time goes by. If you decide to open a bottle now, think full bodied, dry – with rose petals, wild red berries, blood orange with spice and iron-reminiscent of minerally nuances from the calcareous and marlstone soils. A wine as delicate as it is powerful with its muscle and refined flavours.
Sweet Nothings, Just Because: Sherry, Baby!
If you’re a die-hard Sherry fan – look no further! Archive Wine Bar has a wonderful sherry selection to enjoy as an aperitif with snacks like roast nuts and dried fruit mix, terrines, charcuteries and even some hard aged salty cheeses. Amontillados, Finos, Olorosos, and Manzanillas sherries are all lovely, dry styles that work very well as a little extra treat throughout the week or as a weekend palate pleaser.
Buy local: Be open to recommendations
But don’t stop there! Try Palo Cortados, and golden amber, rich-as-honey, sweet-as-nectar Pedro Ximinez cream style sherries for luxurious after dinner sips. Enjoy on their own, or with desserts: as in butter tarts, date squares, pecan pies and dried other fruit based desserts!
Cream and Amontillado sherries love salted nuts, and good quality dark chocolate – showcasing decadence with a lovely contrast. These sherries are versatile, unique, and perfect for special occasions (or just-because.) These are not your Grandma’s sherries!
Keep in mind, it’s been a shuffle for many establishments this past fiscal year; inventory may be a juggle. Be open to recommendations if your first choices aren’t available. So support businesses and buy local. Don’t be shy to call up your favourite wine bar and ask ‘what’s not on the list’. You don’t ask? You don’t get!