Constellation’s Eugene Mlynczyk MW suggests cool wines for a hot summer.

Kim Crawford Anthony Walkenhorst

Kim Crawford winemaker Anthony Walkenhorst tastes his work.

Not long ago, I returned from an excellent visit to Austria, on the occasion of that cool climate nation’s bi-annual wine trade fair, Vie Vinum. While I don’t have any Austrian wines in my own portfolio, you might look to fellow Good Food Fighter Bernard Stramwasser’s Le Sommelier agency for a fine selection of wines from the region: Austrian wines are truly distinctive.

Entourage SparklingMuch inspired by Austria’s cool climate, and now with the heat of summer ratcheting up both in Vienna and Ontario, it’s definitely time for some crisp, delightful wine picks of my own. For this piece, I’ll stray away from our local Niagara region with one exception: the Jackson-Triggs Entourage Grand Reserve Brut 2011 sparkling wine. This much-awarded beauty is shaped by the subtle hand of winemaker Marco Piccoli, a native of Fruili (via Geisenheim and Argentina, among other places). He’s been guiding Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate for a full decade now. A classic Chardonnay and Pinot Noir blend, Entourage is aged more than two years on its lees, in the traditional bottle-fermented method, and features lovely lemon, white citrus and bready tones. Zesty and refreshing as a starter wine, Entourage could also segue nicely into lighter main courses (go on, give it a try, good quality dry sparkling wines are extremely versatile, and deserve much more than relegation to only to a “cheers!” function). Available at Vintages now for just $24.95, about half the price of competing Champagnes from France. Navigate to the LCBO website for a glowing 5 Star review from Rod Phillips.

Kim Crawford SBAnd now for the main event: New Zealand and the wines of Kim Crawford. The top-selling white wine at Vintages is Kim Crawford Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc with the 2015 vintage drinking superbly right now. We deconstructed this fab vintage at a recent series of LCBO staff tastings, where tank samples from a cross-section of Marlborough sub-regions were presented separately, then reshaped into our own “fantasy” blend versions. This confirmed to pretty much everyone that single vineyard (or single source) wines are not necessarily superior to blended, multi-sourced wines. In this case, the whole was greater than the sum of its parts.

Let’s move on from here (but only after grabbing several bottles of this wine, always available at Vintages for $19.95), to a couple other key Kim Crawford wines, all admirably suited to summer and available now in limited quantities.

pansy roseMy sister is often in Wasaga Beach, a real summer party town on Georgian Bay. To my only slight surprise, she said the recent great weather has lured her from her usual red wine preference, and expanded her experimentation with rosé wines. My sister’s best new choice is Kim Crawford Pansy Rose 2015. Sourced from the gravel-rich soils of Hawkes Bay on New Zealand’s North Island, and made mostly from Merlot, this pale pink, juicy wine showcases strawberry, melon and floral flavours on a dry frame with a refreshing bite of acid. Direct and fresh, this rosé is available for the summer, only at selected Vintages stores at $17.95. Insider’s tip: a second parcel of Kim Crawford Rose is launching in a new bottle and look for August 6th on shelf, though some cases have already trickled out in advance. Sharpen your palates for this one!

Wild Grace ChardonnayNext up: let’s imagine a casual backyard get together with a fuller-bodied white wine ideally matched to cedar-planked salmon off the grill, or with skewers of lightly spice-dusted prawns. Here our match is the Kim Crawford Small Parcels Wild Grace Chardonnay 2013, also hailing from Hawkes Bay. Wild fermented, hence the name (and not named after my colleague Grace, who might think otherwise!), the Wild Grace Chardonnay tends towards being fuller bodied, with plenty of integrated oak notes of vanilla pod and hazelnut. Refreshingly cut by a seam of lime-citrus acidity, this wine showcases the quality and complexity possible with New Zealand Chardonnay.

My final “Summer with Kim” picks segue into the main course. Consider a more substantial dish from the backyard grill. Here we have two excellent choices:Small Parcels Merlot the a brand new Meritage-inspired blend, the Kim Crawford Small Parcels Corner 50 Merlot Cabernet 2013 and a return of the full-bodied, black cherry-scented Kim Crawford Small Parcels Rise and Shine Pinot Noir 2013 from Central Otago.

In multiple tastings over the past couple months, the Corner 50 Merlot Cabernet has been making me think more and more of St. Emilion, with its open, rich, wild plum notes and a relatively soft texture. It is one of my favourite under $30 reds of the year thus far. As for the Rise and Shine Pinot Noir, I feel it captures the essence of New Zealand’s only continental climate region, with powerful fruit resulting from tons of daytime sunlight (what other kind is there?), and bright floral touches from distinctly cool nights. Overall, these are two wines from the two islands of New Zealand which illustrate divergent styles with a North and South perspective.

Rise and Shine Pinot NoirWhat ties all these Kim Crawford wines together is their common cool climate sensibility, focused on balance, medium weight and plenty of structure alongside fresh forward fruit. Think of our own Olympic athletes and perhaps you’ve imagined the way these wines are built: sleek, poised, confident and cool. In the end, for the purpose of celebrating this summer in Ontario, don’t just conjure images of these wines, but instead assemble an ample supply and host your own perfect Kim Crawford backyard party.


-Eugene Mlynczyk MW

Kim Crawford Wines is a part of Constellation Brands, a Good Food Fighter. Please support the businesses and organizations that support Good Food Revolution.