Top Wine Picks! A Trio of Hearty Reds

There’s a chill in the air and you’re looking to have a cozy night in with a wine that’ll warm you up. These three are big, bold and brooding, will-totally-stain-your-teeth selections, because sometimes that’s exactly what’ll hit the spot. A good decanting is recommended for all three, along with something meaty on your plate.

  1. Upper Bench Winery 2012 Merlot – Okanagan Valley, BC, $30

While Merlots around the world are often dismissed as being one dimensional and characterized as having simple, round berry fruit and not much more – wines made from the grape here in the Okanagan aren’t generally painted with the same brush. Our northern proximity and short (but very hot) growing season allows for good natural acidity, permitting solid structure while phenolic ripeness levels offer a good smattering of tannin giving a little backbone. Black cherry, blueberry compote and clove flavours are abundant in this delicious Naramata wonder, with 18 months of French oak providing a good frame.

  1. Road 13 Vineyards 2012 Honest John’s Red – Okanagan Valley, BC, $20

This atypical mix of Merlot, Pinot Noir and Syrah with an extra splash each of Gamay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Viognier, will transport you to the winery’s South Okanagan home after your first sip. The wine’s quite juicy and quaffable with cherries, red plums, blackberries, a little dusting of cocoa and a sprig or two of wild sage, not to mention quite the bargain at only 20 bucks. A crowd-pleaser that’s a good bet to always have on-hand.

  1. Painted Rock 2012 Estate Grown Syrah – Okanagan Valley, BC, $40

A perennial favourite that has acquired quite the shelf of trophies over time, Painted Rock’s Syrah has the power and fruit concentration of a New World Shiraz, yet errs more towards the flavour profile of an Old World Syrah. A powerhouse that carries brambly berry fruit, mocha character, some cardamom and a good lashing of pepper, it’s built up nice and sturdy via 18 months in both French and American oak. Further swirls and sips unleash distinct notes of fresh-carved roast beef, which frankly, would also make an ideal pairing.


Kurtis Kolt is a Vancouver-based wine consultant, writer, competition judge and enthusiast. Track him down at, or on Twitter and Instagram @KurtisKolt.

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