Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Taking a swing at life's curveballs

2014 is time to give sake, South Africa and that special bottle a chance

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I had initally planned to run my drinks-related resolutions a couple of weeks ago, but sometimes life throws you a curveball or two. First off, there was no column in the first weekend of 2014, as the paper ran its annual Power 30 feature and year-end obituaries in the 49.8 section.

I had planned to pull everything together for Jan. 11. As I was planning on my resolutions together for last weekend's column, curveball No. 2 came across my plate: my appointment to take over the books section at the Free Press from the now-retired Morley Walker. As such, I've been up to my eyeballs in book reviews everything else Morley somehow tackled effortlessly.

In short: I'm behind on pretty much everything, including getting this column in to my handsome, charming editor. So since we're a bit after the fact now, here are a few quick drinks-related resolutions I'm making for 2014...

 

Try something from every province. While I think I've tipped back some sort of drink from each of Canada's provinces, my goal is to do it in a specific time frame — over the course of a month, let's say — and report back with my findings.

While I'll focus on stuff you can actually buy in Manitoba stores, I may throw in a couple options from elsewhere, depending on shipping options and availability.

 

Give sake another chance. Free Press reporter-at-large/passionate foodie Bartley Kives and I got into a semi-heated discussion about wine versus sake, and which pairs better with food in general.

I'll be honest — I'm not the biggest fan of the stuff. But I want to give sake a fair shake, so I'm going to try again, despite the fact Manitoba's sake selection isn't great. Any/all advice/pointers welcome.

 

Try more South African wines. In the past I've quietly dismissed South African wines for being either too herbal (whites) or too tarry and smoky (reds).

Again, I think this has to do with the calibre of South African wines we get in our country. Every wine-lover/writer I know who has visited South Africa comes back raving about their wines, noting much of what we see on shelves in our country hasn't been representative of the overall quality.

That's changing. More South African wines are making their way to both Manitoba Liquor Marts and private wine stores, and what I've tasted seems to be shaking old prejudices.

 

Open my birth-year bottle. OK, I'm not sure I can keep this one. A couple years ago I bought a bottle of 1975 Château Mouton-Rothschild at the Winnipeg Wine Festival's gala dinner, for a sum too painful to mention in print.

And while I'm itching to try the stuff, I'm also terrified to open the bottle. A celebratory event would seem to be cause to pop the cork, and my new role at the Free Press certainly qualifies.

But both the bottle and I turn 40 next year, so chances are I might hold off for another 18 months -- by which time the stuff could be extremely expensive vinegar.

 

Mount Rozier 2011 Myrtle Grove Cabernet Sauvignon (Stellenbosch, South Africa -- $13.62, Liquor Marts and beyond)

While not as deep in colour as I expected, the Myrtle Grove has plenty of intensity. Cassis, cherry and raspberry aromas are out-front of lighter menthol and smoky notes on the nose. What this medium-bodied red lacks in density it makes up for in flavour, with loads of big dark berry notes and hints of black pepper and earth -- and just a puff of smoke. Try with fajitas or other Mexican fare. 3/5

 

Kim Crawford 2013 Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough, New Zealand -- $19.99, Liquor Marts and beyond)

Ripe grapefruit, lime and gooseberry notes on the nose bring some grassiness as well, without succumbing to herbal/cat pee notes found in some New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. It's a crisp, light-bodied, dry white, with juicy green apple and grapefruit notes on the zippy palate. Bright acidity make this a well-structured, food-friendly white (think salads, Greek fare and/or fish and chips) that consistently outpaces many of its peers in this price range. 4/5

 

Armas de Guerra 2012 Godello (Bierzo, Spain -- around $17, private wine stores)

Coming from Bierzo in the northwest province of Leon in Spain, I tried the $12-ish entry-level red from this winery in late November. Made from the indigenous Godello grape, this mid-range entry brings plenty of complexity on the nose, showing red apple skin, chalky minerality, a dollop of honey and some ripe-pear aromas. It's medium-bodied, fairly viscous white, with plenty of red apple and pear flavours as well as peach, lemon and a touch of honey (without any accompanying sweetness). Try with paella or grilled seafood. 3.5/5

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 18, 2014 D14

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Updated on Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 9:12 AM CST: Tweaks formatting.

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