I have a lot of wine hanging out on various wine racks around my home, all of them waiting for the perfect meal or a special occasion with friends. Sometimes I ask Kole to pick out a bottle to go with dinner, knowing full well I have something specific in mind that I will not share with him – and spend a lot of time yelling, “Not that wine! I’m saving it!”

Here’s the thing. We’ve been in isolation now for 60 days. Sixty days. No one is coming over for a fancy dinner or a backyard beers for the foreseeable future, and at some point during our lengthy time in social isolation, I started getting into my better bottles, including a 2016 Cabernet Franc from Tawse Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake. I went searching for more of that elusive bottle on their website, and while I couldn’t find any more of that particular blend, I did end up ordering 6 bottles of the 2016 Grower’s Blend Cabernet Franc for home delivery. 6 bottles will set you back $106.15, and Tawse is currently offering free shipping on orders over $100.

It feels like a million years ago, but if you can remember life in the Before, you might remember the summer of 2016. It was the perfect summer – hot, dry, sunny, with cool nights in August and September. The perfect amount of rain for wine. It is definitely my favourite vintage for most Ontario wines, and I try to seek it out. The white wines from that year are dwindling in supply, but red wines that saw some barrel contact are perfect right now, and Cabernet Franc is a great expression of the Niagara Peninsula’s terroir.

The 2016 Grower’s Blend Cabernet Franc weighs in at 13.5% ABV, and spent 16 months in contact with French Oak. A more delicate grape than its offspring, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc often finds itself blended with other varietals found in the Bordeaux region, including Merlot. In Ontario, it holds its own weight just fine and is often sold as a single varietal wine. I got through my 6 bottles with incredible speed during the last month of social distancing, so I put in an order over the weekend for another case of 6.

Appearance: Dark ruby colour, watery rim.

Aroma: Raspberry, cherry and vanilla, along with a toasted tobacco note. Ripe tomatoes, red peppers and black pepper on the nose.

Palate: Light dusty tannins. Dark cherry, ripe strawberries and blueberries on the palate, with a note of cigar box.

Acidity: A medium-plus acidity that is pleasant and pairs well with food.

Body: Medium body, perfect for a Tuesday night in quarantine.

Aftertaste: Sour cherry aftertaste.

Suggested food pairings: I’ve served it with homemade pizza with a sourdough crust a few times, since I’m making that at least once a week lately. The herbaceous notes would also work really well with a rosemary and garlic dressed roasted chicken – another dish I’m making roughly once a week these days.

Overall: The delivery pricepoint of $17.69 a bottle on a case of 6 is very attractive – if you are buying individual bottles from Tawse, it retails for $29.15 a bottle. The LCBO is still selling the 2015 vintage of this wine for $28.95 a bottle (in stores only). I was clearly pleased with the value for this wine in combination with the taste, so I ordered 6 more bottles. Worth it for your Tuesday night quarantini date in front of the TV.

Shawna O'Flaherty

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