Summer is still the season of reds

By Shannon Burrows
Argyle Wines Listowel
Owner/founder, On The Couch wine-tasting parties
June 8, 2019

I’m pleasantly surprised at the number of red wine orders that keep ‘pouring’ in, even on this cusp of summertime.
Traditionally, many wine enthusiasts forego their red tendencies in favour of a white or fruit wine to sip in the warmer weather.
This year, Argyle’s wine lovers are bucking the trend. We’re making as many or more red wines now than any other time of the year.
I appreciate the change, however. I’ve been thinking about discussing warm-weather reds, so this is the perfect opportunity. These are wines that, while still dry, match the seasonal change and won’t leave you with that heavy, weighed-down feeling.
The Niagara Baco Noir (RJS Cru International, five-week), is smoky, meaty barbecue in a glass. I’ve suggested it to both Baco-lovers and those-who-have-never-heard-of it alike (given what I know about their tastes, of course) and so far I’m batting 1,000. The Hightail Niagara Merlot (RJS Winery Series, six week) is another; I’ve never loved (or even liked) Merlot until I tried this one. It’s a medium-minus bodied dry red, the complementing tannins are inconspicuously smooth, the fruit delicious and in-your-face, the oak a flutter of subtle vanilla. I love the Hightail not only because it’s lovely on its own or with food, but also because its structure doesn’t fall to pieces in your mouth the moment you take a sip, like some Merlots.
The Italian Old Vine Zinfandel (RJS Winery Series, six week) is a terrific companion to barbecued foods and easy fare like pizza. Quick (but super important) recap: Zinfandel is a dry red available in light, medium or full-bodied styles. White Zinfandel is the slightly sweeter, rosé style.
The list does go on, so please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with your questions about warm-weather reds. I’ve taken the liberty of conducting exhaustive research on your behalf on the subject.
You’re welcome.
The red I’d really like to discuss is Pinot Noir. We haven’t yet talked much about Pinot Noir in Second Glass, and I’m proud of my restraint. If Sauvignon Blanc is my all-time, can’t-be-beat, love-of-my-life favourite white, Pinot Noir is my counterpart for red.
Pinot Noir (not to be confused with Pinot Grigio, Baco Noir, etc.) is known as the heartbreak grape because of its finicky preferences for growing conditions. Consider it a Goldilocks of grapes; it wants things just right. Not too hot, too cold, too humid, too extreme one way or another in any of the ridiculous number of variables producers deal with in any given season.
But when it’s just right . . . Lordy almighty. Pinot Noir is a delicious wine which can exhibit a fascinating range of expressions depending on where it’s grown and the winemaking method used to get it into bottles. Do some comparisons. I expect you, like Goldilocks, will find one that’s just right. It can’t be everyone’s favourite, but I don’t believe I’ve yet to meet anyone who genuinely dislikes the variety. My only caution is some regions do over-oak their Pinot Noirs, masking and weighing down that delicate, fruit-and-earth character. If the first (or fifth!) one you try tastes like a tree, don’t give up. If you wish to try a Pinot Noir with Argyle, rest assured: I believe in oaking as a complement; we do not over-oak our wines, and can add extra or less depending on your personal preference.
The other super awesome thing about Pinot Noir is its versatility. Since it exhibits decent acidity, it’s very food friendly. It’s an excellent fallback if you’re confused on what to choose for a dinner party. There’s the chance that its sometimes-lighter body can be overpowered by heavy foods, but it does go well with so much that even if it’s not a match made in heaven, it won’t likely blow up in your face, either.
The other, other super awesome thing about Pinot Noir is it can be a key stepping stone on your wine appreciation journey. As mentioned, it’s good on its own or with food, it’s (hopefully) not too oaky, not too tannic, not too-in-your-face overpowering and not too heavy on the palate or in your gut. It’s the red wine that can breach that white/rosé chasm; I’ve had great success recommending Pinot Noir to folks who are looking to make their first foray into red wine.
The other, other, other (I promise this is the last one) super awesome thing about Pinot Noir is it’s available in all qualities and price points. From a very easy-drinking and light four-week kit (RJS Grand Cru Pinot Noir) up through a five-week (RJS Cru International Pinot Noir from British Columbia), a six-week (RJS Cru Select California Pinot Noir) to the En Primeur Winery Series (RJS Australian Pinot Noir), there’s a delightful Pinot Noir to meet every taste and budget. Depending on your preference, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend a single one. They all hail from world renowned Pinot Noir vineyards and reflect those various regions.

Weekly Wine Review

So let’s talk about this glorious Pinot with food, shall we?
This Pinot Noir (RJS En Primeur Winery Series, Australia, six to eight week) has notes of cherry, cranberry and slight vanilla. This dry red is fruity, earthy, herbal and what a Pinot Noir should be, in my humble opinion. Pinot Noir also bridges the gap between white and red meats. That’s what makes it a sommelier’s sweetheart. It can go with fish, chicken, pork, and red meat and more thanks to its versatility.
First, I tried it with the lime-spice steak from our Argyle plaza neighbours, McIntosh Butcher Shop.
You definitely get the citrus and spice, and a pleasant marriage of the two. Both carry along the other as they take turns headlining the flavour show. Normally, I would have selected a bigger red. But, seeing as this steak is marinated in a spicy, acidic coating, I played off the acidity, and fruit vs. spice for a delicious and natural pairing. The low-tannin, medium-plus acidic wine was not overpowered by the steak, but did not shy away, either. This was a tasteful balance of characteristics mingling jovially, playing off of each other’s high points to become a little better versions of themselves.

Next up, Pinot Noir and smoked pork chops (also from McIntosh. Yes, we’re a little bit obsessed.)
We tried this wine with smoked poked chops, cooked on the barbecue with nothing more than a flutter of salt and pepper and a sprinkling of Montreal steak spice. If you love MSP, and I do, I would caution you to be conservative. Chris enjoyed it so much he was prying the meat off the bone, but I felt I overdid it. I use MSS from everything from meat to omelettes, and balance is key. A delicate dusting would have suited just fine, and allowed more natural smoked pork flavour to shine without the extra accoutrements. Despite my heavy-handedness, it was still a good match thanks to Pinot Noir’s versatility. Most of us eat smoked chops year round, and this pairing can be easily thrown together for a quick dinner or for company any time of year. This pairing can be your go-to time and time again, and your effortless pairing will delight and impress your guests.

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Thanks for joining me for a Second Glass.
See you next week!

Argyle Wines Listowel is located at 155 Argyle Ave. in Listowel. Hours of operation are 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. After hours available by appointment. Follow Argyle on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and contact us at 519-418-6000 or argylewineslistowel@gmail.com. Proudly named 2018 Food & Drink Business of the Year by the North Perth Chamber of Commerce Business Achievement Awards.