Eight great red wines for the holidays

Wines for the holidays

As we start to gear up for the holidays, entertaining and gift-giving may be on your mind. And what a better way to celebrate this time of year then with a bottle of fine wine. To help you decide, Castanet 's wine columnist, Shelley Boettcher, has put together four suggestion lists featuring some of the best reds, whites, sparkling and sweet wines she has tasted this year. Today, and for the next four Sundays, we present her four lists of holiday worthy wines.

If you’re a wine lover, you know there’s something special about a fine bottle during the holidays.

Whether you’re searching for a last-minute gift or for wines for big feasts and entertaining, I have ideas—eight, in fact.

Here, for you, are eight great reds I tasted earlier this year. They’ll make good additions to festive gatherings or quality gifts for wine-loving friends and family.

Wine: Time Family of Wines, 2020 Chronos Merlot

Winery: Time Family of Wines

Why drink it? Some wines just taste like Okanagan at harvest. Medium-full-bodied and capable of aging, this Merlot has all those brambly, warm flavours and aromas you’d expect: blackberry, ripe cherries, cinnamon and vanilla hints. It should age beautifully, too. If you can, buy an extra bottle or two for the cellar.

Pair with: Thanksgiving turkey, short ribs, lamb or Mediterranean-style grilled veg dishes (ratatouille, perhaps?)

Price: About $30

Wine: Noble Ridge 2020 Reserve Meritage

Winery: Noble Ridge Vineyard & Winery

Why drink it? A blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and just a hint of Malbec, this balanced full-bodied red has notes of blackberry, blackcurrant, raspberry and cooked strawberries, plus hints of spice and vanilla, thanks to 14 months in French and American oak.

Meritage, incidentally, refers to the fact the wine is a blend made from the “noble” red grapes found in the Bordeaux region of France; the word Meritage refers to the winemaking style but doesn’t infringe on the French region’s legally protected designation.

Pair with: Lamb, steak, prime rib, hard cheeses, beef stews.

Price: $43

Wine: Moon Curser Vineyards 2021 Syrah

Winery: Moon Curser Vineyards

Why drink it: Syrah grows so well in the Okanagan, and Moon Curser makes an excellent wine with it. Well-balanced, savoury and bold, it has flavours of blackcurrant, dark chocolate and blueberry, with notes of cinnamon and vanilla on the nose.

Pair with: Spicy sausages, spicy red pasta sauces (arrabbiata or puttanesca, perhaps), lamb or charcuterie.

Price: $33 for 750 mL, $80 for a magnum

Wine: Haywire 2021 Gamay

Secrest Mountain Vineyard, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

Winery: Haywire

Why drink it? The 2021 Gamay is made with wild yeasts plus all organic and estate-grown fruit from Secrest Mountain Vineyard near Oliver. With well-balanced cherry, sage and peppery flavours, this very pretty wine is medium-light-bodied with a medium garnet colour and a medium-long finish.

Pair with: Roast turkey or chicken, pan-seared duck breast, salmon or a mushroom pasta or risotto.

Price: $32

Wine: The Hatch 2020 Portmanteau of Merit and Heritage

Winery: The Hatch

Why drink it: This is essentially a Meritage — a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cab Franc — but without being called one because, well, trademarks and things. It’s medium-full-bodied and well-balanced, with plummy, jammy, cocoa, spicy, smoky aromas and flavours.

Pair with: Pork tenderloin, says the winery team. I’d add lamb shanks, steak or grilled red peppers and mushrooms to the list.

Price: $31

Wine: Road 13 Vineyards 2020 “John Oliver” Malbec

Winery: Road 13 Vineyards

Why drink it? Dark purple-red in colour, this Malbec has plenty of heft and jammy dark fruit flavours: plums, raspberries, a hint of pomegranate juice. Hand-harvested and sorted, it ferments for a month on skins before pressing and is aged 18 months in French oak.

Pair with: Prime rib or ribeye on the grill, of course, and a platter of grilled Mediterranean-style vegetables (red peppers, zucchini and eggplant) with olive oil and oregano.

Price: $80

Wine: Hester Creek 2021 Character Red

Winery: Hester Creek Estate Winery

Why drink it? Hester Creek’s perennially popular Character Red is one of those bottles that pairs with all kinds of dishes and, best, pleases pretty much every red wine lover. A blend of Merlot (from an old Italian clone), Syrah, Petit Verdot and Malbec, it touches all the red bases: juicy, spicy, savoury, with a medium-long finish. Keep a few bottles on hand for impromptu holiday gatherings or last-minute gifts. The 2022 vintage is on the verge of being released, so watch for it, too.

Pair with: Burgers, pizza, steak, hard cheeses such as Parmigiano Reggiano or aged cheddar.

Price: $23

Wine: Tightrope Winery 2020 Cabernet Franc

Winery: Tightrope Winery

Why drink it? Eye-catching branding aside, this Cab Franc is a medium-bodied, classy red with notes of raspberry, white pepper, leather and strawberry. A crowd-pleaser, it is very versatile and will pair well with myriad foods and occasions.

The grapes are handpicked from the winery’s Thomas Vineyard on the beautiful Naramata Bench, and the wine spends 12 months in oak before bottling.

Pair with: Lamb burgers, beef tenderloin, grilled eggplant and zucchini seasoned with garlic and herbs.

Price: $35

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About the Author

As a kid, Shelley Boettcher often found herself in the back seat of a pick-up, exploring the back roads of the Okanagan Valley with her parents. They’d occasionally leave her and her brother in the car while they stopped at mysterious addresses to buy wine. They would emerge, clearly happy, as they stuck a box or a few bottles in the vehicle. Then they would continue on their journey.

But it wasn’t until a trip to Spain in 2000 that Shelley herself fell in love with wine. She came home from the holiday and promptly told her editor she wanted to become a wine writer.

And she did. 

An award-winning food and wine writer and editor, Shelley holds her master’s degree in journalism and her advanced WSET certification, as well as her level 2 International Sommelier Guild certification. A wine columnist for the Calgary Herald, she spent a decade as CBC Radio’s national syndicated wine columnist and she has written three books about wine, including two that were Canadian bestsellers. Her byline has appeared in magazines and newspapers around the world, including the New York Times, The Guardian, The Globe and Mail and Postmedia newspapers across Canada. 

Shelley has travelled throughout many of the world’s wine regions and countries, including Niagara, Oregon, Washington, California, France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Australia, Germany, Argentina and the Republic of Georgia. A few years ago, she even tracked down and visited a winery in Denmark. 

Shelley has also served as a professional wine judge regionally and internationally, including the Okanagan Wine Festivals, Vinitaly and the Chianti Classico Consortium. For more than a decade, she has been a restaurant wine list judge for the Vancouver International Wine Festival, too. She still teases her parents for sparking her love for wine, especially BC wine.

And her favourite? Whatever she's drinking at the moment.

You can follow Shelley on Instagram @shelleyboettcher or Twitter at @shelley_wine. 

If you have a BC wine you’d like to suggest, email Shelley at [email protected] with the name of the wine and a short note about why you enjoyed it.