Ask Chuck

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Location: Whitby, Ontario, Canada

Born in Malta but in Canada since age 5. Has written three books and presently does several columns about wine and food for various magazines.

Monday, November 28, 2022

Romania Shows Off Its Great Wine

 Romania
Romania, being part of the European Union makes it a very accessible country to visit.  Romania  offers phenomenal scenery, super friendly people and generally, reasonable costs. The scenery is outstanding with its Carpathian Mountains, historic medieval villages and lush forests.
Another thing about Romania is its wine. Strong efforts to upgrade the wine quality have more than succeeded with excellent wines made from international grape varieties as well as superb ones made from indigenous ones. Exciting also are the imaginative and artistic labels that adorn the nicely shaped bottles that house the wine. 
While I have yet to visit personally (hopefully in June of  2023), my contacts there have provided me with some interesting wine to taste and, ironically, all are available via the LCBO/SAQ of Ontario and Quebec respectively.  
I was recently introduced to an outstanding winemaker with a clear vision of where he wants to take Romanian wine and how. Paul Fulea produced his first wine in 2015 on land that was already under vine (started in 1976) but needed his alteration. He renamed his winery "Crama Histria.  The winery covers an area of over 200 Hectares.
Paul still has plans to replenish more of his vineyard as time goes by. I recently was introduced to him via Sommelier Zoltan Szabo  and immediately felt a kinship.. 
Dobrogea (or Dobruja)
The hilly Dobrogea area close to the Black Sea moderated by it! The area seems ideal for viticulture as is mentioned by Zoltan:
"Merlot planted in '76 on sandy clay at Crama Histria in picturesque Dobruja....pretty special vineyard here with North-South inclination, sitting on a plateau just above (and East of) the Black Sea...with wonderful air/wind drainage, and the impressive diurnal shift (the difference between during the day and night temperatures) maintaining/providing natural acidities... drought is an issue, giving low crop but much higher quality,...  natural yeasts/low intervention going on at this winery."

The Wine
The winery produces a number of wines made from both international and indigenous grapes. (White)
Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Muscat Ottonel, Traminer, Fateasca Regala (Red) Fateasca Neagra, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot.   
Paul sent me a sample of three bottles via his agent in Quebec--"Maison Nobleza: maisonnobleza@gmail.com".


White
Crama Histria Riesling  2021 Dobrogea    Maison Nobleza      $24.40         88/100 points
Colour: Straw yellow, clear
Nose: Prominent citrus, fruit tree blossom, peach, orange peel
Palate: Light to almost medium body, strong citrus with influence of stone fruit, puckering acidity is tempered by a slight creamy endeavour. Nutty finish with lasting acid refresher.
Comments:  I would prefer this wine with food. The vintage date is not apparent though on website!
Pairing:  Shellfish, Fish (especially oily fish such as baked salmon, sardines), octopus, calamari, light meats such as chicken, cold cuts and vegan dishes such as grilled veggies.  
   
Red 
Crama Histria Negru De Histria  Dobrogea       Maison Nobleza     $26.10    90/100 points
Colour: Intense red/purple hues 
Nose: Black currants, blackberry, clove, vanilla wood
Palate: Prunes, full bodied, lovely soft mouth feel, forward tannins, well balanced with long finish.   
Comments: Lovely wine from the first sip. Vintage date not found on this bottle but agent says it is 2017. 
Pairing: Lamb, roast beef, Osso Buco, grilled beef, aged cheese 

Crama Histria Nikolaos Cab Sauv  2018  Dobrogea  LCBO# 27575   $42.95  95/100 points   
Colour: Deep dark red
Nose: Black berry, cassis, plum, wet forest floor, nuances of chocolate, black cherry and polished leather.
Palate: Full bodied, round and well integrated with soft tannin and a finish that never stops. 
Pairing:  Venison, Fillet Mignon, Roast Turkey with gravy, Roast Sirloin
Comments:   Only available at Ottawa LCBO, a truly amazing wine made with wild yeasts and babied throughout the process. Cabernet name does not appear on label but vintage is 2018. This wine is worth every penny.  Can be ordered through Maison Nobleza  (maisonnobleza@gmail.com)
             
 

   











        





Thursday, November 24, 2022

These California Wines Have Quality PLUS Great Value!

 
Trinchero Family Estate Wines
Trinchero Family Estate Wines is a NAPA wine producer with a large number of wine brands made by various successful wine makers. Two of these wine brands have proved excellent in both price and quality.  
Three Thieves 
From select vineyards in California under the guidance of three individuals who decided to make wine according to their own drum beat. The result was magnificent wine that is made with grapes from select vineyards that brings excellent price quality ratio. The "Thieves", Joel Gott, Charles Bieler and Roger Scommegna have a lot to be proud of. 

Three Thieves Pinot Noir   Central Coast California  LCBO #10424  $17.95  88/100 points
Grape: 76% Pinot Noir,  18% Syrah, 6% Petite Verdot
Colour: Red
Nose:  Floral, plum, black cherry, some mushroom, with light vanilla wood
Palate: Dry, medium to full Body, smooth tannins,  dark fruit. pleasant persistent finish
Comment: Excellent quality/price ratio and definitely worth purchasing for that special meal. I truly liked this wine and it comes at a price that can make it a frequent visitor in your household! French/American Oak.
Pairing: Turkey, pork/ham dishes, would be great with Mushroom Swiss Burger!  

Joel Gott
Joel Gott is fast becoming a demand winemaker and legend in California. His persistence in making quality wines his own way has paid off with some great value wine that is equal in quality to wine that is much higher in price. 
 
Joel Gott 815 Cabernet Sauvignon 2019  California   Vintages # 444059  $24.95    89/100 points
Grape: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from select California Vineyards.
Colour: Red
Nose: Dark fruit, herbal flavours, vanilla wood, chocolate nuances with anise
Palate: Full body, savory fruit, smooth tannins and balanced acidity. long pleasant finish
Comments: At $24.95 an excellent choice. It is $25.60 at the SAQ in Quebec and cost about $20 American in the U.S.A.  There is a 375 ml bottle at $14.95 (Vintages #20717) in some stores. New French Oak. 
Pairings: Moroccan Lamb, Slow cooked Roast Beef and Lamb Burgers. Also terrific with Steak on a Kaiser and Chopped Steak Burger. Even good with a medium rare Porter House of Filet Mignon.  
 


  

Thursday, September 29, 2022

The Search For An Answer Cannot Provide The Closure To The Question! Patrick Del-Gatto (May 22, 1963-September 15, 2022)

 He came from a traditional heritage of wine making! In his veins flowed the blood of  generations of vignaioli who worked the land, grew the vines,  wiped the sweat, kicked the dirt, picked the grapes and made the wine. Patrick Del-Gatto inherited the love of the vine, in all its manners, that was handed down from from father to son for four generations going back to the time of his great grandfather who was the winemaker in the village of Croce some 75 kilometres from Naples, Italy!
This ingrained feeling of "the earth" never left Patrick Del-Gatto even though his family settled far away from the peaceful village that they came from to the City of Oshawa, Ontario, Canada. Deep down Patrick knew that he wanted to get his hands in some soil and kick dirt with his boots. This yearning took him to Prince Edward County where he was determined to risk all and bring back the family tradition.
He and his father took several trips to potential sites and as luck would have it, during early winter they came upon as site which made the older Del-Gatto's eyes open wide. 
In a widespread area of dead vegetation they came upon a parcel of land that still had flowers and green grass. This was the land and Del-Gatto Estates began!
Patrick and I met about  six years ago at the winery. It was a long trip and Del-Gatto was the last of group being visited. I was ready to call it a day but Roy Maeder who was driving encouraged me to go on since we only had six kilometres to go. I relented and the rest was fate taking its turn.
Patrick came out to greet us with an infectious smile that outshone the bright shining day.  Challenging his smile was the enthusiastic shine of his eyes as he introduced us to his winery, showed us his wine and explained what he was doing and where he wanted to go with this. 
It wasn't an easy road to undertake. There were many potholes, some very serious, that made the journey very difficult. Everything from the passing of his beloved father, family health problems and equipment breakdown added to the usual problems of weather, pests and government interference. Patrick and his wife Heidi carried on. 
Whether attempting to grow and make wine out of vinifera species not supposed to grow in the region to the trying out of new hybrids from  Minnesota to the production of figs from his beloved fig tree, Patrick did it all with the same enthusiasm that he greeted his friends. Among the many things that he did was the successful production of his prized wine "Odyssey Pinotage".
He became enamoured with the South African Grape and was positive he could produce it here in the microclimate of Prince Edward County's beautiful North Marysburgh! He went at it with his usual gusto and it was no surprise that he did it! I am proud to have almost every vintage in my cellar. 
Patrick was a man who cared. He cared about his family. He cared about his friends. He cared about his land. He cared about his vines. He just cared about life.
I have never met a man like him who I was drawn to without the opportunity to spend much time with. We weren't buddies in the buddy sense of the word. The man was bigger than life and filled a room with his aura every time he entered it. 
I was fortunate to have him attend the International Wine Festival held yearly at the City of Oshawa's  McLaughlin Art Gallery! It was no surprise that he outshone the other wineries present. People saw and felt what I saw and felt on that first day and every time he and I met. They saw charm, honesty, integrity, intelligence and above all love. I will miss him! We all will miss him!
There is a saying that an oriental instructor once taught me:
"Love cannot be measured until the hour of passing. 
Trust comes from within one! 
Is not to trust but to rely on someone we know nothing about?
 Every ending has a new beginning. 
Seek not to know the answers but to understand the questions!"
Patrick we will meet again and maybe you can help me understand those questions!

   
    

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Three Wines That Will "Knock Your Socks Off"

 Tasting New Wine 
Always a lesson and many times a surprise, tasting new wine that I had not the pleasure of  doing so previously can be so surprising. This week I visited The Case For Wine Agency in Pickering. Three wines awaited me----all from France and all with exceptional quality/price ratios. Trust me, if you happen to get a chance to taste these wines and like them-----make sure you buy more than just a couple since I am sure that once "discovered" they will fly off the shelves. 

Doudet-Naudin      

(Note: Doudet's wine will not be released in Ontario until January 2023 However both of the wines are available via the SAQ if you happen to be in Quebec----Vive La Quebec!!)                                                                                      
Founded in 1849 by Albert Brenot of  Savigny-les-Beaune, this Burgundy Maison is now headed by Christophe Rochet of the Doudet family which purchased it in 1933! Determined to produce wines through valued techniques and practices, Doudet-Naudin has holdings throughout Burgundy and Southern France.
Both the Doudet-Naudin wines that I tasted are of the Vins de France designation and come from the Aude River Valley located between the Pyrenees Mountains and the Mediterranean. The region was once part of the Languedoc-Roussilon which is now under the name of Occitanie.   
The Aude Valley is a superb scenic region that is part of the winding Aude River. It is full of ancient castles and geographic formations. 
Doudet-Naudin Chardonnay    2021                   Price: $17.95      Points: 94/100
Colour: Clear, Lemon-Yellow
Nose: Citrus,  apple, peach, pear,  touch of Butter, vanilla
Plate: Silky smooth mouth feel, stone fruit, light to medium body, pleasant acidity and clean finish.
Pairing: Light meat, pasta with cream sauce, prosciutto, grilled vegetables, salmon, chowder. Excellent on its own!
Comments: Don't let the Vins de France designation fool you. This is a first class wine for the money! It is aged in stainless steel and  15% of final blend is aged in barrel. 
Doudet-Naudin Pinot Noir       2021                     Price: $17.95     Points: 92/100
Colour: Red, Clear
Nose: Cherry, raspberry, blackberry, earth, forest, floor, vanilla wood and floral violet
Palate: Medium body, fresh fruit flavour, pleasant tannin, smooth clean finish.
Pairing: Pork, chicken, light meat
Comments: A good Pinot based on price. Aged in stainless steel tanks with part of the blend being aged in barrel. Well worth the price! 
Chateau Vaugelas   2019      Vintages # 154617      Price:$15.95    Points: 94/100 
This wine comes from the same general area as Doudet-Naudin (Occitanie formerly Languedoc-Roussilon). The winery is in  a historic area in the centre of Corbierres. The vineyards were introduced by the   Greeks in the 2nd Century BC and further developed by the Cistercian Monks. Vineyards rose prominently in the 18th century and this was furthered by the organization of producers was established in 1923 and Corbierres joined the AOC classification in 1985. Chateau Vaugelas is owned by the Vinobles Bonfils!
Grape Blend: Syrah (40%), Grenache (30%), Carignan (27%), Mourvedre (3%)   
Colour: Dark red, clear
Nose: Dark fruit, cherry, blackberry, fig, vanilla, jam and a touch of chocolate
Palate: Medium plus body, fruity, pleasant tannin, integrated acidity and long finish 
Pairing: Red meat (burgers, steak, roast beef, filet mignon), roast turkey, venison 
Comments: Certainly a super wine at this price. It will develop well over the next five to ten years. I was tempted to give this wine a 95 points based on the price but 94 says it all about this super wine. If you haven't got it yet, I would certainly suggest you grab some asap. Once discovered this wine will be gone at that price! 

France has continued in its march to produce some fine wine at great prices. One does not need to break the bank to enjoy wine and food. Let's just hope that the fortunes of Europe will swing around to the positive in the next few years concerning climate change. Meanwhile try these wines! 
   

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Enjoying Wines of Summer

 Summer Is Upon Us
Yupper the heat is on and the wines are coming out faster than any "Fast and Furious" movie. 
The following wines have been tasted by me to my delight!

Strewn Lively Riesling   Niagara Peninsula                        88/100 points
Colour:  Golden Straw                                 
Nose: Dominant citrus, apricot/peach, honey, floral blossom notes
Palate: Light to medium body, silky mouth feel, steel, citrus, mid sweet, fine acid finish
Pairing: Great wine on its own but would go amazingly with salads (wine dressing or better still salt/olive oil), smoked salmon, salmon filet, pork and/or prosciutto.
Comments:  Available through    Case-Wine (info@case-wine.com)  or at Winery ($19.95)
Nice all purpose Riesling with class and structure. 

Konzelmann Estate Gewurztraminer Late Harvest Reserve  Niagara Peninsula    90/100 points 
Colour: Golden yellow
Nose: Floral rose, Citrus, lychee nut, banana, ginger spice, mango/melon ripe apricot     
Palate: Medium body, oily smooth mouthful, semi-sweet, tropical flavours, smooth silky finish..
Comments: Can be considered as a dessert wine, spicy Asian, Chinese food, seafood, smoked salmon, as an aperitif. Nice wine with many uses. Available through Case-Wine (info@case-wine.com) or winery ($19.95). 

Hinterbrook Estate Winery Autumn Snow Riesling  2021  NOTL         86/100 points
Colour: White, 
Nose: Effervescence,  granny smith apple lemon citrus, peach, floral hints
Palate: Light body, touch of sweetness, steel/stone pebbles, citrus, crisp acidity, fresh clean finish
Pairings: Chinese/Asian food, seafood, cold cuts 
Comments: The example I tasted had a fair amount of effervescence which was somewhat surprising. On checking with the wine maker she stated that it was due to residual primary fermentation which remained in the bottle due to the minimal and  gentle racking, chilling before bottling and use of agglomerated corks. She also suggested that if the "fizz" would dissipate if wine decanted  Available via winery or through Case-Wine (info@case-wine.com) ($17.85).
    


Thursday, May 26, 2022

Spring Brings In Wine Anticipation

Spring Adventures 
March is not my favourite month. With unstable temperatures and either wet or icy weather plus the constant availability of muddy areas that I inadvertently step on, messing my shoes and then my car etc. March is a month that I want to get through asap. However the bright side of this month is that it is one month closer to warmer weather and green grass and bright sunshine and freedom from snow. 
With that in mind, I began enjoying the better parts of March.
Fun Lunch at Amici 
Durham Region has many fine restaurants but by far, my favourite is Amici Trattoria in Pickering. Under the ownership of Anthony (Tony) Albis and managed by his son Roberto, this establishment has risen to superb heights in the making of fine cuisine of all styles. Roberto, along with his partner Ruben Elmer,  also owns the wine agency called "The Case for Wine" which supplies the restaurant from its superb portfolio.. 

Jay Wright
On March 10th, I had the pleasure of dining with Mr. Jay Wright, CEO and President of the Arterra Wines Canada, at Amici. Jay took time from his ultra busy life to spend a couple of hours discussing wine, food and pairings at a restaurant that had all. 
Jay told me that he was soon to retire from the above position though he still would have some involvement l with the company. Rightly so! Jay did a first rate job in his association with VinCor, then Constellation and finally with Arterra. His influence on Canadian wine (as well as international) has been second to none and along with Donald Triggs, his contribution to the trade knows no bounds. I was and still am so proud to be associated with him and call him my friend!    
The order of the day was a delicious Fillet of Salmon with vegetables baked to perfection. The first course was my favourite, Fried Calamari. Wines that accompanied the meal were Inniskillin Chardonnay and Inniskillin Pinot Noir, both from the single Montague vineyard. 
The wines were the creation of famed iconic winemaker Bruce Nicholson. Highly renowned for his creations in British Columbia, he made just as big a name for himself in Ontario. One of his other super wines was the Inniskillin Discovery Series Gamay Noir which I had at home the week before.      
Just so you all know, Jay and I did not drink the whole lot of these wines. We had the equivalent of one glass each. It was a super afternoon and hopefully it will happen again!

Inniskillin Chardonnay Montague 2019   Niagara Four Mile Creek  $25.95     89/100 points        Nose: apple pear, citrus spice, vanilla  
Palate: medium body, creamy, pleasant finish
Pairing: seafood, salads, light meats
Comments: A nice wine for sipping or for that warm summer's evening meal with a seafood salad and grilled veggies.
Inniskillin Pinot Noir Montague 2018 Niagara Four Mile Creek $30.95           90/100 points 
Nose: cherry blossom, black fruit, burning leaves and tanned shoe leather
Palate: cranberry, strawberry, medium to full in body, a small touch of chocolate and a spicy finish.
Pairing: Baked Salmon,  Pork loin, roast duck. I would try an older version with choice fillet mignon.    Comments: A reasonable price for this wine.  
Inniskillin Gamay Noir  Discovery Series 2020  Niagara  $19.95                       88/100 points
Nose: Cherry, raspberry, cranberry, floral violet, light vanilla
Palate: Medium body, nice pleasant tannin, pepper spice, pleasant finish
Pairing: Pizza, pork chops, gilled veggies, chicken fingers with poutine! 
Comments: A super wine to open up and do some unpretentious drinking with some pleasant and easy going food. Lovely wine!
Inniskillin Riesling Reserve  2020       Niagara  $21.95*
Could not assess this wine as wife had drank it before I could get to it----must have been great!

For more information on Inniskillin Wine contact www.inniskillin.com

Michael Pinkus
Wine writer, consultant, podcaster and television personality Michael Pinkus has proven time and again that he has an amazing palate. On May 3rd we met at Amici for a gab session. Michael and I met via the Wine Writers' Circle of Canada and share some great friends. Michael had just come back from a visit to Italy namely Tuscany. 
We spoke about our involvement with the magazine "Grapevine" as well as our respective travels (where his outnumbers mine with a wide margin).  Michael has also joined the Circle of Wine Writers in the United Kingdom. If anyone belongs to it, he does! 
Mike and I had a great time enjoying the diverse food at Amici's and enjoyed its house wine called Carpazo Sangiovese Toscana (LCBO # 361022 $15). A nice red wine at a reasonable price. I look forward to hearing more about Michael's  travels and watching him on his Facebook presentations. 

Springtime Wines 
This was the year that so many great wines came to my attention. For example, Carpazo Sangiovese Toscana mentioned above:
Carpazo Sangiovese Toscana  Tuscany  LCBO   #341022         $15           92/100 points
Nose: Ripe dark stone fruit such as prunes, raspberry and blackberry with hints of chocolate
Palate: Medium body, soft tannin and super nice flavourful finish.
Pairing: Pork Souvlaki, Lamb chops, Pizza 
Comments: Worth far more than the $15 price tag. Reasonable enough for every day but also useable for fine dining.  Rating based on price/quality
Mariposa Alegre  Gran Reserva Carmenere    LCBO # 21957      $16.95        92/100 points
Nose: Ripe fruit, vanilla wood, green pepper 
Palate: Medium plus, pleasant tannin, long finish 
Pairing: Grilled meat, burgers, hot dogs
Comments: Excellent price/quality ratio.     
Tasca Regaleali Bianco  Sicily (Palermo) 2021   LCBO: TBD 2023      $16.95     94/100 points
Nose: Peach, sweet apple, boysenberry, citrus
Palate: Ripe fruit, light to medium body, soft silky mouth feel, finish is long with ripe fruit and pleasant unobtrusive sweetness.
Pairing: Pasta with cream sauce, seafood (oysters, smoked salmon, salad).
Comments: Made from a blend of Grecanico, Catarratto, Insolia and Chardonnay. A high quality, low price wine capable of some development (5 years) in a cellar but why wait. At that price enjoy now! Score is based on quality/price ratio.
La Gironda Moscato d'Asti 2021       Vintages  Considerations           $19.95    95/100 points              Nose: Intense floral, peach, apricot, honey 
Palate: Pleasant fizz, light bodied, silky with pleasant mouth feel, sweet, ripe fruit and refreshing finish
Pairing: Great on own but certainly will ad to Hazel nut cake, sweet ripe fruit such as figs or strawberry/raspberry pie, salty cheese, smoked salmon, prosciutto, cream cake!
Comments: This is the perfect summer wine for alone or with guests. The 5 % alcohol makes it that much more enticing keeping alcohol intake to a limit.  
Points based on  quality/price ratio 
Monteci Organic Pinot Grigio 2020    TBR: February, 2023            $18.95     93/100 points
Nose: Floral Blossoms, daisies, pear, peach 
Palate: Soft, elegant and light bodied, fresh fruit finish
Pairing: Grilled Halloumi cheese, White meat, cold cuts, seafood salad and pasta
Comments: When it's hot outside the rule of the day is not to have "heavy" for wine or meals ----especially outside or on the patio. This wine will do the trick and at a very reasonable price,
Point score based on quality/price ratio.


For more information on the "Springtime Wines" discussed here contact: "The Case For Wine" at   www.thecaseforwine.com
 
  



Monday, March 28, 2022

These Wines Are Still Tops In Both Price and Quality

 Re-tasting Wines Can Be Full Of Surprises!

I recently re-tasted several wines that I had enjoyed in the past. I found that even though I had supremely enjoyed these wines in the past, to my amazement, they seemed even better this time around.                    

Gran Passione Prosecco    White Sparkling Wine     $15.95    94/100 points     LCBO #16392   

Region:  Veneto, Italy

Grape:   100 % Glera   

Colour:    Golden yellow,  small bubbles, brilliant and clear

Nose:    Fizz, pear/apple/citrus, floral blossom

Palate: Light, fresh, clean with refreshing finish

Comments: Score based on price/quality ration. One of my "go to" favourites. An excellent summer, patio wine by itself or with antipasto, hors d'oeuvres, light meat.

Blue Canyon  Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2019    $19.95     94/100 points        Vintages #17815

Region: Monterey, California, USA    

Grape: Cabernet Sauvignon

Colour: Dark red

Nose: Ripe, dark fruit , vanilla, pepper spice, leather, chocolate nuances

Palate: Full bodied, forward tannin, balanced, nice acidity on the finish which does not challenge the wine 

Comments: A truly nice cabernet with a boldness that does not go "over the top". Nice muscularity of the lean sort. An athlete rather than a body builder.  The power for burgers but the elegance for fine dining with lamb, beef or venison.  

 Cline Family Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon  $22.95   95/100 points   Vintages #24914

Region: Contra Costa County

Colour: Very dark red

Grape: Cabernet Sauvignon

Nose: Ripe dark berries, plum, vanilla oak, pepper, earth, chocolate

Palate: Balanced, full bodied, bold, ripe berry finish

Comments: Definitely one for game. Will also do well with roast beef, pork roast and grilled meat. Score indicative of price/quality ratio. Why pay more if one can get a quality wine at this price? Get a case and keep three to five years.