Bought your gift for Male Stereotype Day yet?
My father, mercifully, is not now and has never been a golfer. Nothing against the sport on my part; its purity, precision and silent tension can be riveting. But rough calculations on the margins of my free golf-store flyer indicate I've saved roughly $800,000 by not gifting dad with magic putters, carbon-steel wedges, adjustable-sole-plate graphite drivers and laser GPS rangefinders over the years.
Just as mercifully, dad has never been "handy," sparing my wallet from the pain of Home Depot's power-tools section.
A book and a bottle - that's all he ever wanted or expected. Cheap ones, too. The novel absolutely has to be paperback unless it's a new title and only available in hardcover. The bottle, usually grappa, often costs less than the paperback because dad, like many Venetians raised on moonshine, pretty much subscribes to the theory that grappa's price is inversely proportional to quality. Yes, I'm a lucky son.
It's a fair assumption, I think, that grappa is not the preference of most non-Italian fathers. Fancy wine, whisky and beer hold sway here. If you choose to go with whisky or beer, make sure it's special. If wine is his thing, you'll probably want to go with something big and red, either for a cellar or for a juicy T-bone this summer. Tomorrow is not an occasion for dainty pinot grigio or rose. I'm stereotyping, of course. But it's Father's Day.
Ladera Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (California)
SCORE: 92 PRICE: $79.95
The cherry-like flavour of this Howell Mountain red is so pronounced it paradoxically put me in mind of a cherry-flavoured gum blast. But this is no candy wine. A minty note supplies intriguing complexity, and there are fine-grained tannins and a good dollop of acidity to keep things lively on the lengthy finish. Cellar it for up to 10 more years.
Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant 2006 (California)
SCORE: 91 PRICE: $39.95
Randall Grahm, the court jester of California wine, favours irreverent names while paying serious homage to European styles. Le Cigare Volant, modeled after the red blends of France's Châteauneuf-du-Pape district, plays off an absurd 1950s decree prohibiting flying "cigars" (essentially saucers or UFOs) from landing in the vineyards. A mix of mainly syrah, grenache and cinsault, this beauty could easily pass for a fine Châteauneuf. Complex and brimming with berries, anise and smoked-meat flavours, it's succulent and earthy. Easily worth the price.
Clarendon Hills Liandra Mourvedre 2007 (Australia)
SCORE: 91 PRICE: $54.95
Big and round, with a smooth core of blueberry and dark chocolate, this mourvedre offers up a floral essence. An intriguingly offbeat offering from a land far better known for jammy shiraz.
Castello di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2007 (Italy)
SCORE: 90 PRICE: $22.95
Big cherry, chocolate and mineral flavours play on a teeter totter of dry tannins and mouthwatering acidity. This represents great value in a Chianti riserva. It could improve with five years in the cellar.
Kilkanoon Revelation Shiraz 2008 (Australia)
SCORE: 90 PRICE: $24.95
Smooth as a billiard ball after a Brazilian waxing, it offers up prune, plum and chocolate flavours before a dusting of black pepper heats things up on the spicy finish.
Neagles Rock Mr. Duncan Shiraz Cabernet 2009 (Australia)
SCORE: 90 PRICE: $19.95
Shiraz by way of the candy store, with jube-like cherry flavour that eventually gets serious with juicy acid and spice.
Vitalonga Terra di Confine 2006 (Italy)
SCORE: 90 PRICE: $22.95
From the Umbria region, this is a blend of 80-per-cent montepulciano with 20-per-cent merlot, dry and dusty with considerable tannins, dark fruit, chocolate and coffee flavours. Decant it now or age it for up to five more years.
De Borba Adegaborba Reserva 2006 (Portugal)
SCORE: 87 PRICE: $19.95
Made mainly from the local, dark-hued trincadeira grape (also known as tinta amarela) with cabernet sauvignon and alicante bouschet, this is ripe to the point of being slightly raisin-like, but it gets lift from crisp acidity and fine-grained tannins. A good one for barbecued ribs.
Elijah Craig 12 Years Old Bourbon (Kentucky)
SCORE: 94 PRICE: $39.95
Here's the seminal brand credited with kicking off the small-batch bourbon movement. It's robust and silky, with notes of vanilla, nutmeg and smoke. The sweet core finds balance in the spicy finish. Great corn "likker." Available in limited quantities in Ontario.
Tree Brewing Hop Head India Pale Ale (British Columbia)
SCORE: 91 PRICE: $12.10/6-pack
The fine Kelowna-based craft brewery delivers a West Coast IPA with a classic punch of hoppy bitterness. Brilliant-amber in colour, it's bone dry, with a malty-fruity core and fine effervescence. Available in the West. It's a beer that could put a few more hairs on dad's chest.