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Wine column: Let's go to Uruguay, New Zealand, Italy and California

Occasionally, I cheat on the Okanagan.

What that means is I sometimes sneakily forgo local wine in favour of an international vintage.

My wife, Kerry, is an accomplice in all this.

As such, the two of us have discovered a half dozen bottles from other countries this summer that we've since worked into our regular wine drinking roster.

Let's start with the 2020 Garzon Cabernet de Corte ($21) from Uruguay because it is the most obscure of the bunch.

We didn't even know wine was made in Uruguay.

In fact, we weren't even sure where Uruguay is.

A quick Google search revealed it's a small country in South America, sandwiched between Brazil and Argentina on the Atlantic coast.

It's fascinating to try a wine we'd never heard of from a country we've never heard of.

And, we were pleasantly surprised.

The Cabernet de Corte, a red blend featuring the South American grape, Tannat, with a splash of Cabernet Franc, is smooth and delicious with a plum-red currant-and-spice profile.

It's what we reached for when steaks came off the barbecue.

</who>Check out this line up of international deliciousness. From left, Garzon Cabernet de Corte 2020 ($21) from Uruguay, Matua 2021 Sauvignon Blanc ($16) from New Zealand, Mionetto Prosecco ($19.50) from Italy, Rodney Strong 2021 Chardonnay ($22.50), Louis Latour 2020 Pinot Noir ($41) from France and 7 Deadly Zins Old Vine Zinfandel ($25.50) from California.

The cleverly named 7 Deadly Zins Old Vine Zinfandel ($25.50) from California, with a strawberry jam-and-leather profile, was also a steak-pairing go-to.

The other red in this group is the 2020 Louis Latour Pinot Noir ($41) from France.

It's light and elegant with aromas and flavours of raspberry, cherry and fresh earth and was an inspired match for salmon baked with sun-dried tomatoes.

Sticking with California, but this time white, is the Rodney Strong 2019 Chardonnay.

Cali Chards tend to be heavily oaked, but this one isn't so the apple, lemon and vanilla aromas and flavours are able to shine through.

It's the Chard you serve with roast chicken.

Chicken in a different guise -- mildly spiced tikka masala -- was the perfect pairing for the 2021 Matua Sauvignon Blanc ($16) from New Zealand.

The Matua is quintessential Kiwi Sauv Blanc with a gooseberry-and-passion fruit profile backed by fresh herbaceousness.

Not all wine has to be served with food.

That's why you would have found us on the deck (when there weren't smoky skies) having glasses of Mionetto Prosecco ($19.50) from Italy for happy hour.

The Mionetto is the perfect sparkling to sip to enjoy a peach-and-honey profile with abundant bubbles while you discuss what wine you'll drink with dinner.

Of course, sparkling is also food-friendly, think pizza or fish and chips.

</who>From left, the Stoli Vodka ($28.50) used in the martini and the classic lime margarita containing Tromba Tequila ($55).

Vodka and tequila

Uh-oh, now, as a wine columnist, I'm going to tell you I occasionally cheat on wine.

What that means is when it's time for a cocktail, the hard liquor comes out.

Most recently that's been a brand you've likely heard of -- Stoli Vodka ($28.50) -- and one you probably haven't heard of -- Tromba Tequila Blanco ($55).

The Stoli is made of Russian wheat and rye, but distilled in Latvia, so it's considered a product of Latvia.

We used it to make one of the most simple, yet elegant, cocktails -- a martini with five parts vodka and one part vermouth mixed with ice and strained into a stainless-steel glass with a V-shaped bowl and garnished with a lemon twist.

Stoli Vodka, with it's clean and crisp profile of minerality, fruit peel and marshmallow frosting, is versatile enough to star in a wide range of other cocktails, from two-ingredient vodka soda, vodka tonic and screwdriver to multi-ingredient Moscow mule, Bloody Mary, cosmopolitan, white and black Russians, Harvey wallbanger and sex on the beach.

Tromba Tequila is named after the life-giving rains in the famed tequila-producing region of Jalisco in Mexico.

Since tequila is synonymous with ubiquitous margarita, we fired up the blender with ice, lime juice, simple syrup, Triple Sec and some Tromba.

The Tromba has aromas and flavours of caramelized agave (the plant used to make tequila), sweet lime, and mint, which are perfect is a wide range of other cocktails from a simple tequila soda or tequila tonic to a tequila sunrise, Bloody Maria, Mexican mule, El Diablo and paloma.

Steve MacNaull is a NowMedia Group reporter, Okanagan wine lover and Canadian Wine Scholar. Reach him at [email protected]. His wine column appears every Friday afternoon in this space.

Send your comments, news tips, typos, letter to the editor, photos and videos to [email protected].

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