Cracklin’ rose’ and a top-notch Scotch

Cracklin’ ros?s and a top-notch Scotch

June 9, 2007

Pick of the week

Peninsula Ridge Beal Vineyard Cabernet Ros? 2006 ($15.15, No. 008581). This rose’ is juicy, crisp and concentrated, with excellent length. It’s beautifully balanced and satisfying.

My favourite song in Grade 5 was Cracklin’ Rosie. Anybody else out there old enough to remember it?

Frankly, I am not embarrassed to admit that I once ranked this Neil Diamond tune at the top of my hit list, and not just because I was a mere 10 years old when it vaulted to No. 1.

I liked it because I had a crush on my teacher.

It happened to be her favourite song, and when it crackled away on the transistor radio, my life never seemed so rosy.

I suppose singing along to it was my way of consummating the relationship, so to speak. Incidentally, my second-favourite song at the time was Maggie May by Rod Stewart, about a boy who has an affair with an older woman. But I digress.

Hearing Cracklin’ Rosie today makes me admire Diamond in a new light (which is to say not just for his ability to make Miss Wilks swoon), because now I’m old enough to understand the title’s conceit.

It wasn’t about a girl named Rosie at all; it was about a cheap Canadian wine, a sweet ros? that becomes a surrogate for the opposite sex. (“Cracklin’ Rosie, you’re a store-bought woman,/ You make me sing like a guitar hummin’…”)

Many people have theorized Diamond based the song on a Canadian native tribe in which the men significantly outnumbered the women.

The guys who couldn’t get an actual date on a Friday night apparently had to make do with a pale substitute.

I can’t confirm the tale’s veracity, but I do like to work in a Canadian angle to this column whenever possible, even an unflattering and possibly apocryphal one.

Ros? has come a long way since then. It even made the cover of Wine Spectator last month, which is saying something for a wine that typically doesn’t cellar well and rarely costs more than $20.

There’s not much of the sweet crackling stuff around any more, but there is plenty of high-end sparkling ros? in the form of pink champagne, plus a whole lot of tasty still stuff that’s perfect for summer imbibing.

I plan to crack open a frosty one on my back deck some time soon while I’m trying to forget that Miss Wilks ended up marrying my Grade 7 gym teacher.

As Rod Stewart once crooned, some guys have all the luck.

The LCBO today is rolling out a bunch of ros?s as part of its Vintages release in Ontario.

The best of the Vintages lot is Jacquart Brut Mosa?que Ros? Champagne ($51.95, product No. 035519). This is complex stuff, brimming with flavours of red berries and fresh-baked bread, enlivened by nuttiness and minerals, carried on a fine, lingering mousse.

On the still side, there’s the robust Ch?teau d’Aqueria Tavel Ros? 2006 from France ($19.95, No. 319368), with a flavour and weight approximating light, red Beaujolais, hinting at cherry and raspberry, resolving into a satisfyingly bitter, dry finish.

The best value of the release has got to be Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Ros? 2006 ($12.95, No. 999821). From a very good South African producer (best known for an excellent sauvignon blanc), it’s a pink wine that should appeal to red-wine lovers, with its big, firm structure and slight tannic grip supporting flavours of juicy strawberry and herbs. It’s suitable for red meat.

From Spain, check out the vibrant, orange-salmon colour on Muga Ros? 2006 ($13.95, No. 603795), tasting of ripe strawberry, with good balancing acidity.

Australia makes some decent ros?s too. Poole’s Rock Firestick Ros? 2006 ($16.95, No. 034306) is medium full-bodied, with a deep, electric-pink hue and a hefty core of berries, a silky texture and crisp finish. It would make a fine match for lots of vegetarian fare.

Not part of the Vintages release but widely available in Ontario stores, as well as at the Niagara winery, is Peninsula Ridge Beal Vineyard Cabernet Ros? 2006 ($15.15, No. 008581). It’s juicy, crisp and concentrated, with excellent length, beautifully balanced and satisfying. Don’t miss.

A standout from the rest of today’s Ontario release is a full-bodied red from the Rh?ne Valley, Domaine du Grapillon d’Or Gigondas “1806” 2004 ($29.95, No. 981787), rich, with notes of blackberry and plum lifted by classic southern Rhone flavours of lavender, licorice and spice. Approachable now, it should age nicely for five to seven years.

On the lighter side and ideal for a summer night, especially with a 15-minute chill in the fridge, is Louis Jadot Moulin-?-Vent Ch?teau des Jacques 2004 ($31.95, No. 700187). This high-end Beaujolais shows a ripe cherry nuance and hints of vanilla and spice, with a crisp finish. It’s a good red for fish.

Grant Burge Cameron Vale Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 from Australia ($21.95, No. 937276) is a good match for grilled steak, rich and deeply coloured, offering up notes of blackberry, earth and mint.

It’s very ripe and starts out almost sweet before detouring into a crisp, dry finish.

Also good for grilled beef is Barossa Valley Estate Moculta Shiraz 2004 ($19.95, No. 536383). Made by the estate famous for the cult red E & E Black Pepper Shiraz, it’s packed with cherry jam, eucalyptus, black pepper and vanilla.

A standout among the whites is Stonier Chardonnay 2004 ($23.95, No. 025353), a luscious Australian with rich pineapple-like fruit, nicely integrated smooth oak and a crisp, lively finish.

Also good: Bouchard Pere & Fils Meursault Le Clous 2004 ($48.95, No. 661322). This medium-bodied white Burgundy is soft, with buttery oak rounding out flavours of apple, pear and citrus.

For Asian fare, especially sushi, try Flat Rock Twisted 2004 ($16.95, No. 001578), a deliciously offbeat white from Niagara, blended from gewurztraminer, riesling and chardonnay.

It’s off-dry, with juicy ripe peach, red apple and lychee notes and balancing acidity.

And if you’re looking for a generous father’s day gift for a Scotch fan, consider Bowmore 16 Years Old Sherry-Matured Islay Single Malt 1990 ($127.95, No. 011254). Bottled last year at a cask strength of 53.8-per-cent alcohol (unlike most Scotches, which are slightly diluted with water before bottling), it oozes with warm smokiness and overtones of dried fruit, vanilla and seaweed. This is a top-notch Scotch.

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