Summer Sipping & Sizzling : Red Wines of Niagara & Grilled Steak

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We Canadians love to cottage, grill and sip away our short summers and nothing says summer like perfectly charred, melt-in-your-mouth, juicy chunk of steak on a balmy summer evening and a glass of rich red to splash it down with.

A perfect time to dig up some big reds out of your cellar. The smoky flavours in these big reds imparted by barrel aging work wonders with the charring on the meat.

Picking the wine may seem daunting, but with a few easy tips it becomes part of the fun.  If staying local, there are plenty of fantastic choices right here in out own back yard. There are a few of my favourites:

Trius Red 2014, VQA, Niagara Peninsula

Trius Red 2013This iconic Niagara red blend comes in a cool commemorative bottle in a celebration of its 25th vintage. Vinified with 55% Cabernet Franc, 25% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes following 12 months of oak barrel aging. Full in body with grippy tannins. Lovely depth of aromas and flavours with layers of ripe dark fruit, mocha and smoke, leading to a long, lingering cedar-toned finish. A given as a pairing with summer BBQ, from grilled steaks to juicy lamb and pork chops. Drink now through 2024. Tasted June 2016/91 points.


Cave Spring La PennaCave Spring Cellars La Penna 2011, Niagara, Ontario

From steep limestone cliffs at the Cave Spring Niagara Vineyard comes this full-bodied, intense 100% Cabernet Franc. Vinified in a traditional Veronese appassimento method were portion of the grapes were air-dried for several weeks to naturally concentrate the flavours within and once pressed their juices enrich the final blend. It displays great complexity and refinement with a ton of dark fruit, cassis, ripe black cherries and plums with smoky overtones. Smooth tannins, plenty of weight and well balanced acidity, closes in a lingering cedar-box-tinged finish. Fantastic with roasts and grilled steak. Tasted April 2016/92 points.


HOP Cab MerlotHenry of Pelham Winery Speck Family Reserve Cabernet Merlot 2012 

Crafted with a hand-picked blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot grapes grown in the Niagara’s Short Hills Bench vineyards. Deep and rich with layers of big, dark fruit; ripe black cherries and blackberries on the palate, cedary overtones and a long, lingering vanilla and smoke-tinged finish. Beautifully integrated oak and firm tannins with great structure and refinement, this wine will improve with up to a decade of cellaring. A fine choice for a slowly roasted leg of lamb. VINTAGES # 616433, $ 50.00


Peller Estate Gamay NoirPeller Estates Private Reserve Gamay Noir 2013, VQA, Niagara, Ontario

A hidden gem from Peller Estates and the winner of the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in Ontario Wines, this well-crafted, elegant Gamay Noir is bursting with aromas and flavours of ripe black cherries and blackberries, a touch of black pepper and soft, well integrated tannins. Medium in body, dry and fruit-forward, closes in a long, lingering earthy-toned finish. Perfect for food matching from soft cheeses to pasta dishes and summer BBQ’s. Delicious! VINTAGES#: 444745, $ 19.95


Stratus Cab FrancStratus Cabernet Franc 2010, VQA Niagara Peninsula

An elegant Niagara Cab’ Franc from one of Ontario’s best vintages. Crafted with great finesse and refinement by a French-born winemaker J-L Groux. Full-bodied, well balanced with fresh acidity, it reveals layers of ripe black cherry, raspberry and cassis. Pronounced notes of baking spice with cedary overtones and a touch of minerality. Closes in a long, lingering, polished finish. Solid backbone of firm tannins with great aging ability. Perfect with grilled meats at the summer BBQ.


If choosing to explore the rest of the wine world,  you can reach for those big Napa Cab’s and big bold red Bordeaux blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. With a bit more tannin structure and acidity, they are a perfect choice. Earthy & rich Argentinean Malbec is another fantastic choice, a classic pairing you will never go wrong with.

The most wallet-friendly option is probably in the aisles of Chile. Pick a bottle of their Carménère bursting with smoky ripe red cherry notes also makes a great match. Spanish Tempranillo, with its earthy aromas and flavours is another great choice. Whatever ends up in your glass, have fun, explore and have a blast doing it this summer season!!


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