Garden Variety Wines: The Best Bottles for Outdoor Dining

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By Rebecca Meïr-Liebman of Chef & Somm

Spring and summer means outdoor parties – casual barbecues to white-glove garden soirées – and there’s a perfect wine for every al fresco occasion.

Flip Flops and Fine Wine – The BBQ

When food is smoky and beefy, you might automatically think of an oaky Cabernet Sauvignon, but let’s not forget how hot and humid it can be, so a nicely chilled, oaky white wine or slightly chilled lighter red – may be just the thing! An oaky white – think Norman Hardie Chardonnay or La Crema Chardonnay will complement smoky, grilled chicken, vegetables, seafood, and even grilled veal. And a lighter red – such as Pinot Noir or Gamay – will seem fuller bodied on the palate because of the smoke, the ambient temperature and the hot food.

Grilled pieces of meat and different vegetables on wooden board

Back 10 Cellars, Start from Scratch Chardonnay, Beamsville, Ontario The best use of Canadian oak I’ve encountered. Fermented with wild yeast at a boutique winery in Beamsville. Its oakiness is well balanced with cool climate acidity in this full bodied wine. You’ll find butterscotch and vanilla on the nose and apricot, orange zest on the palate and a soft cream texture. Buy it directly from the winery $28.

Domaine Queylus, Pinot Noir Reserve 2010, Ontario – One of the best Pinot Noirs in Ontario, made by talented winemaker Thomas Bachelder. Not one of the lightest Pinot Noirs, which makes it perfect even with grilled beef. Rich with mature tannins, this wine is meant to age for six to eight years. I do find that the 2010 vintage shows very well right now, and will be a great treat for your host and the other guests, great choice even for those who are not big fans of Pinot Noir grape. Get directly from the winery. $45

Fancy Hats, White Gloves, and Something Sparkling – The Strawberry Social

This garden party is a blast from a gentler past, where ladies teeter around a putting green lawn in cute sandals and big chapeaus, and men bust out the white linen à la Great Gatsby. A flute of fun and fruity pink bubbles completes the look. Foods served – strawberries and cream, dainty English sandwiches with the crusts cut off – tend to be mild, fruity, fatty, and a little sweet. A beautifully chilled sparkling rosé is the perfect match and antidote to all that sweet creaminess.

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Henry of Pelham, Cuvée Catharine Rosé brut, Henry of Pelham, OntarioA classic, pretty, dry, sparkling rosé made in the traditional method using Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. Nice salmon colour with notes of red fruits, strawberries and cherries. The creamy texture of this wine is delightful; definitely one of the top local sparkling rosés in Canada. LCBO #217505 $29.95

Hinterland, Ancestral Sparkling, Prince Edward County – Made from Gamay Noir grapes in the ancestral method (a risky, difficult-to-control method) of producing sparkling wine, where the primary fermentation is stopped before it is completed, and a second fermentation occurs in the bottle which stops when much of the yeast dies. There is no dosage (the sugar addition) and the dead yeast or lees plug is not disgorged. Historians believe that the first sparkling wine ever made was made in this method by Languedoc monks. This wine reminds me of a good, fruity Belgian beer. Notes of cherry and pomegranate; lightly sparkling, quite fruit forward with balanced acidity. At only 8% alcohol, you can sip it the whole day long. Vintages #426023 $25

Sipping Under the Stars – Dinner al Fresco

An elegant affair; the harvest table is set for course after delicious course – tartare, rare lamb chops, lobster. Chairs are festooned with blooms and bunting; torches flicker in the warm summer breeze, and a battalion of crisply dressed staff see to everything. To this party go big or go home; bring a magnum!

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Veuve Clicquot, Brut Champagne, France – notes of gently baked apple, pear and toasted bread; refined bubbles, with a robust and rich mouth feel. Reasonably priced for a good Champagne and a magnum at that! LCBO #572586 $141.30

Stratus, Red Magnum 2010, NiagaraIf you’ve seen the menu and you know a big red is a good fit, bring this baby along. In my opinion, this Ontario red is as close to a good Californian as it gets. With fine tannins, ripe, dark fruit, and notes of pencil shavings, this Meritage blend from an exceptionally warm vintage is a great value. Buy it directly from the winery. $95


Rebecca L

Rebecca Meïr-Liebman
Sommelier & Consultant

As co-owner of Chef & Somm, the GTA’s only Bespoke Private Dining and Sommelier service, Rebecca has acquired over a decade of experience in some of Canada’s – and the world’s – top dining rooms.

She earned her hospitality, service
and sommelier skills at top restaurants – Canoe, Luma, BLÜ Ristorante and Maple Leafs Sport & Entertainment – but Rebecca is always learning, tasting, and cultivating relationships with winemakers, local and abroad.

Her thirst for wine knowledge is a never-ending quest; Rebecca brings an unquenchable curiosity and authority to any dining experience.



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