This is going to be mostly about Bourbon but I was so impressed with the Crown Royal Black that we will lead off with that!
Crown Royal Black, 750 mL bottle: $34.50, Canada
What do I think: For the longest time I had heard the phrase “once you go black you never go back.” Finally I know what they means. Regular Crown Royal is pretty damn good for any whiskey drinker. Black just raises the bar another notch!
What the Experts say: Matured in charred oak casks and blended at a higher proof to deliver a more concentrated, full bodied flavour; it pours a dark copper and offers aromas of orange peel, bruised apple, vanilla and cinnamon. The palate is creamy with flavours of sweet spice with toffee and dried apple followed by a warming finish.
Currently I have about half a dozen Bourbons that I rotate around…often saving my one last bottle of Blanton’s for that special occasion pre-dinner drink!
Basil Hayden Kentucky Bourbon,750 mL bottle: $54.95, Kentucky, USA
What do I think: They say that this isn’t the basil that you cook with? I strongly disagree, I do enjoy cooking while sipping on some Basil Hayden’s. Lighter than some of the rest but very flavorful with a great finish.
What the Experts say: The recipe for this classic Bourbon dates back to 1796. Amber in colour; on the nose are notes of dried apricot, caramel, custard, green peppercorn and hay; on the palate it is medium-bodied and warming, with flavours of white pepper, burnt sugar, dried white flowers and vanilla that finishes with a lingering herbal spice.
Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, 750 mL bottle: $41.95, Kentucky, USA
What do I think: Originally a COVID purchase and I was attracted to the Buffalo on the bottle. Now I am extremely impressed with the touch to the nose and crisp flavors.
What the Experts say: Clear golden amber color; floral, caramel, vanilla and citrus aromas; rich, elegant caramel and spice flavors; well balanced.
Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey, 750 mL bottle: $49.95, Kentucky, USA
What do I think: Love the small batch Bourbon. Wonderful aroma, unique taste of soft flowing caramel flavours, crisp finish, makes me want to pour some over ice cream.
What the Experts say: Named for the man who discovered the method of making true Bourbon when he stored his wares in barrels that had been charred in a fire. Pouring a golden amber colour it opens with sweet oak, vanilla and caramel aromas; the palate is medium weight with flavours of peach and toffee followed by a long, spicy finish.
Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon, 750 mL bottle: $45.95, Kentucky, USA
What do I think: A little darker and color and a little spicier going in with a nice smooth and lengthy finish.
What the Experts say: Four Roses has been distilled since the 1860’s and is the only Bourbon that combines five proprietary yeasts with two separate mash bills to make ten distinct Bourbons. Deep amber, it greets you with caramel, toasty oak and spice aromas; the palate is smooth with caramel, cloves and smoky notes followed by a soft finish.
One & Done
Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc: $19.95, Marlborough, New Zealand
What do I think: I should probably never drink Savignon Blanc again! At least not from New Zealand. No gooseberries in this one but tasted the same as the others that I have tried recently. Crisp grapefruit juice if that’s your thing. Kind of spoiled an otherwise great fish dinner.
What the Experts say: This sets the benchmark for New Zealand’s intensely flavourful style of Sauvignon Blanc: think gooseberry, pea pods and passion fruit. Vivid and refreshing, it pairs well with steamed clams or mussels with asparagus risotto, or grilled chicken.
Another ONE & DONE
Vicente Gandía El Miracle by Mariscal Garnacha 2017: $17.95, Valencia, Spain
What do I think: It’s a Miracle that this wine has fooled so many along the way. How it made it into Vintages is beyond me. It’s wine, dry and relatively tasteless. Under $10 it might have a home.
What the Experts Say: This Garnacha comes from hand-harvested grapes grown on gobelet-trained 35-year-old vines. It’s crafted in a crowd-pleasing style, with good freshness and balance, notes of cherry, plum, mocha, vanilla and spice, and an underlying suggestion of clove. This will be great with winter stews or roast lamb dinners.
Fumanelli Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2015: $62.95, Corvina Blend, Veneto, Italy
What do I think: Might just be the best Amarone I have ever had. Mushroom and pancetta, OK, but this has “where’s the beef” written all over it! Note the 120-day process – thus the cost. Christmas, although different, is coming – splurge a bit if you can.
What the Experts Say: Made with an eye to history, this Amarone is grown using the classic Veronese pergola system and the fruit is dried on traditional wooden racks for 120 days. Perfumed, almost ethereal aromas of flowers and spice introduce an elegantly structured, substantial wine that’ll stand up to the flavoursome richness of a mushroom-and-pancetta risotto.
Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon 2017: $89.95, California, USA
What do I think: A special treat as a friend brought a coveted bottle from his cellar. 2011 which apparently is still available for $199.00. A multiple of awesomeness from what the experts say!
What the Experts say: Plum, mocha and turned earth highlight the palate of this robust, full-bodied and powerfully broad red wine, tense in firm tannin and a cradling of toasted oak. The acidity helps to balance its heft, leaving a note of lasting freshness on the spicy finish. [Drink now till the mid-’30s.] Score – 92.
Louis M. Martini Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon 2017: $23.95, California, USA
What do I think: You know you have a mouthful of cab with this one – long lingering smooth finish.
What the Experts say: This is a wine that hangs its hat on providing a good-quality Cali Cab at an approachable price point. There’s a lot to value here: generous ripe dark fruit, oak spice, herb and mocha notes, with a fresh feel. Pair this with rib-eye steak.
Rodney Strong Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2016: $32.95, California USA
What do I think: Can’t believe we have yet to feature a Rodney Cab. We had a 2010 and it was spectacular to say the least. Buy a few and hide a couple for a few years you won’t regret it.
What the Experts say: A very intense cabernet sauvignon, still quite youthful with firm tannins and an austere profile. The alcohol is very well balanced and the good quality oak is not overdone. Great focus as well as persistence of flavour. Best: 2022-2026. Score – 91.
Canyon Road Sauvignon Blanc: $9.95, California, USA
What do I think: finally after a number of not so up to par Sauvignon Blanc, a $10 one comes to the rescue. Just what one might expect from SB -plain and simple but refreshing. No gooseberries required.
What the Experts say: Canyon Road uses fruit from central and northern coastal regions of California, and crafts wines that deliver freshness and remarkable value. This food-friendly sauvignon blanc is medium bodied with lifted notes of grapefruit, herbs and quince. Serve at your next gathering with spinach salad, sushi or grilled vegetables.