After more than a month of grey skies and rain, the sun finally made a re-appearance over my lake.

Still, it feels like it is too late for summer, with the first trees turning yellow, the underbrush taking on reddish hues, and falling leaves starting to mass on my road.

I am trying to find the silver lining in this missed (or so it feels) summer. The only good news, I tell myself, is that my taste for robust red wines seems to heighten with cold evenings and longer nights.

A friend of mine noted my subtle hint to my editor in a recent article, and kindly shared several bottles of the wine he represents that have recently been added to the Yukon Liquor Corp inventory.

I admit that I did give some thought to journalistic integrity in accepting the opportunity to taste them, but fortunately my report contained here does not present me with a conflict, as I found both the wines interesting, and worth recommending for your consideration.

In all honesty, in 30-plus years of tasting and drinking wines, I think there are only three that I have tasted that were so bad as to be undrinkable.

Even the home-made wine that I attempted a decade ago, while barely drinkable, did serve well as a marinade for steaks, and to flavour sauces, so it at least had some virtue.

I am happy to report that though my criteria for wine satisfaction may be relatively low, both wines I write about this week well clear the hurdle, and one soars over it!

The two wines were both Malbecs from the famed Mendoza region of Argentina, where my Dad spent several months last winter and came back raving about it.

In the US, where he lives, Argentinian and Chilean wines are still emerging tastes for many wine drinkers. Interestingly, the wines of both countries wines seem far more established in terms of reputation and awareness in Canada.

Perhaps this is because our higher wine prices have sharpened out instincts for searching out better than average wines at lower price points. As a wine merchant seven years ago, I remember getting in and selling cases of Argentinian wines that sold at $3-4 US per bottle.

The labels were simple, and even at that price it was a bit of a challenge to sell them. Here in the Yukon, South American wines are well established, and to my mind, first-rate values to try.

I stopped by a fellow wine drinker’s home last Friday evening to celebrate her acquisition of a cute new puppy. The weather being cool and fall-like, I decided to take a modestly priced 2010 Finca Flichman Malbec Roble (a real deal at $11.75) and, to contrast, a 2009 vintage 1884 Reservado Malbec from Bodegas Escorihuela ($18.75).

The Finca Flichman is one of a lineup of newer additions to the YLC list, that also includes a Syrah and a Cabernet Sauvignon, both of which I’ll report on in coming weeks, and all of which are priced very reasonably at under $12.00.

The Flichman smelled and tasted a little “tight” when I first pulled the cork – i.e. not much of a bouquet, and initially only a modest amount of flavour. My friend and I both felt it was a little “one note”, or fairly plain and simple.

As well, I detected a certain flavour that until now I had associated with U-Brew wines (I think it’s the sulphide). But one of the delights of wine is how the interaction with air as it “breathes,” as well as tasting it with food, can completely change the impression of the wine.

My friend had pulled out some creamy brie cheese. I had brought my favourite cheese standby for red wine, aged parmigiano.

It was amazing how they worked with the Flichman Malbec; both immediately enhanced the taste of the wine. The robust Malbec quickly overwhelmed the brie, but worked very well with the stronger and saltier parmigiano.

The experience of the Flichman Malbec was also enhanced by letting it breathe… the earlier U-Brew character burned off and the wine became more complex, with some oak and hints of leather and organics.

My friend, who had just returned from Herschel Island, said the organic notes reminded her of the rich, loamy scent that she smelled emanating from the melting permafrost, which I think was a truly northern wine description.

We joked about wines with a hint of defrosting mastodon, and speculated on which wine might accompany such a culinary treat.

The 1884 Reservado Malbec was a treat from the moment the cork was pulled!

Aged eight months in 50 percent American and 50 percent French oak barrels, this very tasty wine punches way above its price class.

Notes of dark cherry and leather were immediately noticeable. As the wine breathed, interacting with the air over the course of an hour or so, the bouquet grew richer, and tobacco notes also became evident.

It worked terrifically with the parmigiano, but completely overwhelmed the poor brie cheese. I’ll certainly be buying more of this wine. At $18.75, it’s very accessible.

It was fascinating what a difference letting the Flichman breathe for half an hour, and then what spending seven dollars more for a Reserve Malbec made, in terms jumping up the wine experience ladder.

I’d recommend the Flichman as a very good value for moderately-priced wine, but let it breathe half an hour.

And opening the 1884 Reservdo to compare it to is an exciting wine tasting experience.

Cheers!