Ask Chuck

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.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

 Italian Trade Commission Tasting
Roy Thompson Hall
Almost a perfect venue for exhibiting and tasting wine is the fabulous Roy Thompson Hall. Just minutes from Union Station, anyone need not worry about the hazards of transport and/or parking attending events at this magnificent building.
As usual the exhibit hall was filled with exhibits and exhibitors---so much so that I had to very choosy about which exhibits to visit. 
I decided to pick several at random and stick to them considering I had a time constraint as well a desire to not to overload my tasting buds.
Cascina Gilli
Castelnuovo Don Bosco
Formerly called Castelnuovo d'Asti and now named in honour of Saint Don Bosco, a Catholic priest who cared for troubled youth and delinquents, is a commune within the region of Piedmont in Northern Italy.
Cascina Gilli is located not far from Turin (Torino) which is Piedmont's capital!
The winery began its life with the company started by Gionni Vergano in 1983 with the intent centred on developing the typical indigenous grapes of the area.   
The vines are located in three vineyards on blue-grey clay like soil (white soil) within Asti (Montferato Astigiano Hills) province: Bricco Gilli, Cornareto, Schierano.
The vineyards exist from about 300 to 440 metres in height and facing South, South West and South East!
Gianni concentrated on a very rare, local indigenous grape variety called "Freisa ferma" with a first harvest in 1985 and later moved on to  Malvasia.  He now has widened his scope to various indigenous Italian varieties.
Present varieties are Freisa, Malvasia, Nebbiolo, Bonarda, Barbera., Notturno,  Chardonnay 
Wines Tasted    
Cascina Gilli Chardonnay  Piemonte DOC                                                        89/100 points
Colour: White, straw, greenish tinge, clear, vibrant
Nose: Citrus, apple, peach, mango, spice, floral notes of apple blossom 
Palate: Medium body plus, touch of bee honey sweetness, refreshing acidity
Comments: Nice aperitif wine, excellent with seafood, Sushi, cold cuts and smoked salmon
A nice classy white for slow sipping also.
Cascina Gilli Le More   Barbara D'Asti DOCG                                                91/100 points
Colour: Ruby Red, clear
Nose: Blackberry wild cherry, blueberry, violet and grass nuances
Palate: Medium plus body, integrated balance between sugar and acidity, Concentrated juicy flavour on finish /100
Comments: Stainless steel aging promotes the fresh flavours of this wine. Can be used for fine beef, pork dishes but also great with roasted vegetables.  
Cascina Gilli Arvele'Freisa d'Asti Superiore  DOC                                          94/100 points
Colour: Dark red, clear
Nose: Ripe wild cherry, bumble berry, ripe raspberry/blackberry, coffee, smoke, old leaves, vanilla spice
Palate: Medium to full bodied, dry, velvet smoothness, well balanced/integrated, nice length with refined acidity
Comments:  My favourite of the group! Very impressed with this wine. The length is very long and filled with class. I would imagine this wine with venison, lamb or pasta with lamb/beef dressing.
The grapes are quite ripe when picked and are carefully selected by hand from the very best vineyard area.
Cascina Gilli Malvasia di Castelnuovo Don Bosco DOC                                88/100 points
Colour: Ruby red, clear
Nose:   Fizz, Strawberry, raspberry, sweet melon, floral, spice
Palate: Sweet, Light to Medium body, fresh acidity,  very pleasant finish
Comments: Nice, aromatic dessert wine that does not over power with sweetness. Suggest chocolate mousse, ice cream and cream cakes. Good on its own , Low alcohol! 
Gilli Vino Roseto Spumante Extra Dry                                                            89/100 points 
Colour: Pink, clear 
Nose:: Strawberry, raspberry, honey, vegetal notes
Palate:  Medium Plus body, strong strawberry flavour, sweet with refreshing effervescence; Nice clean finish. 
Comments: Aperitif, oriental food such as Chinese, Thai as well as other spicy foods. hors d'oeuvres.
a pleasant patio wine!  
General Comments About Cascina Gilli
I tried just five Gilli wines while at the Italian Trade tasting and was impressed by the quality and what seemed to be the passion put into the making of these wines. Gianni Vergnano's son, winemaker Paolo who introduced the wines to me, seems to share the inventive passion and knowledge that impressed me. I think that this is a future winery to watch and will be interested in seeing/tasting the wines in the future! 
As I mentioned before, at a large trade tasting one must be selective in how many booths are visited. The one above was certainly the best of show.
If one is interested in finding out more about these wines contact :the following:

Katherine Mellin, Principal & Certified Sommelier
Apparition Wines & Spirits630 Queen St E, Unit #411Toronto, OntarioM4M 1G3 (416) 557 5145Skype: katherinemellinInstagram: @apparitionwines

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Exciting Wine At Recent Tasting

 Winedom Never Has A Problem Impressing Me!
They just keep coming and coming! If I live to be over a hundred years (which I won't) in age, I will never taste all that there is in the world of wine. That is unless some idiot wanting to protect the public good manages to rekindle the "alcohol is bad for you" scenario. They've tried that once and look how that turned out! However that is another story for another blog. 
I recently tasted a number of wines which blew my socks off. They were top notch but there are many great wines around. What got me was the price ---which nowadays is very important due to the high price of almost everything!
Frankland Estate Rocky Gully Shiraz  2019 Frankland River, Australia    $17.95     93/100 points
Vintages #33371
Colour:  Red, clear
Nose: Plum, cherry, currant, strawberry with pepper spice 
Palate: Dry, medium body,  easy drinking, nice sugar/acid balance , smooth tannin, enjoyable lasting finish.
Comment: Definitely a wine for fowl such as turkey, duck or even wild game fowl. Think Christmas!
This is a family operation with owned by Barrie Smith and Jodi Cullen. Barrie has a great deal vineyard/farming/production experience who has great respect for the land and who minimizes any impact on the ecology of the land. Barrie and Jodi's children live and work on the estate also..  
Gran Passione Rosso  2022 IGT  Merlot/Corvina  Veneto, Italy $17.95   vintages:  94/100 points 
Vintages #410704
Colour: Red-very clear
Nose: Ripe red and dark fruit, vanilla wood, licorice, chocolate spice
Palate: Full bodied, soft pleasant tannin, nice balance/structure, long finish
Comment: Lovely wine! A blend of Corvina and Merlot, this wine is made from vines whose berries are left  on the vine for an extended period of time. The result is a concentrated wine with a lovely softness and a resultant ten grams of sugar per litre on completion. The wine does have a beautiful sweet fruit on the palate which makes it very approachable. A great wine for those who love rabbit,  grilled Portuguese chicken or some wild turkey!   
Doudet-Naudin Pinot Noir 2020  Vin de France  Burgundy/Languedoc  $18.05   93/100 points
LCBO #31055
Colour: Red
Nose: Ripe cherry, strawberry, raspberry
Palate: Medium body, well balanced, approachable tannin, pleasant sweet fruit finish. 
Comment: Excellent price/quality ration. Company is from Burgundy but this Vin de France wine developed on Languedoc soil. (Aude Valley).  Company founded in Burgundy in 1849.  Try with Chicken Stew, Porchetta, meat pie, Beef Stroganoff. 
Les Cotilles Pinot Noir 2021   Vin de France Southern France $19.40  95/100 points
LCBO. #583088
Colour: Red
Nose: Black cherry, raspberry, blackberry, coffee, earth,  smoke
Palate: Full Bodied, smooth tannin structure, balanced, nice concentrated finish
Comment: My score reasons the appeal of this particular wine to me. I loved the concentration, expressive fruit and very reasonable price. Some may argue the score but in this case, my taste buds stand by it! Have it with duck, wild turkey, game fowl. Made by Roux Pere et Fils!  
Zensa Primitivo 2021 IGP Puglia (Salento), Italy  $15.95                      94/100 points
LCBO #31803
Colour: Dark Red
Nose: Ripe Dark cherry, blackberry, vanilla wood spice, nuances of chocolate, fig
Palate: full body, soft tannin, integrated and balanced, wild berry flavours and pleasant sweet finish. 
Comments: Wine has concentrated flavours of sweet fruit yet can be described as dry even with 14 grams of sugar per litre. It is a delicious wine that can be used as a "way to end the day" wine relaxing on an easy chair or as a food wine paired with porcini pasta, lamb, beef or beef stew. Wine is organic.
Zensa Nero d'Avola Appassimento 2021  DOC Sicily, Italy   $15.95                   94/100 points 
LCBO #31801  
Colour:  Dark red
Nose: Dark fruit, smoke, forest floor, earthy chocolate, blueberry, blackberry, vanilla wood, spice
Palate; Full bodied, powerful, wild berry flavours, dark chocolate and sweet nuances on the finish.
Comments: Expressive and well made! Owned by Orion Wines, this company carries a large number of brands which are reasonably priced and high in quality. Like its predecessor, Zensa Nero d'Avola is an organic certified wine. In fact, the name Zensa comes from the Italian "Sensa" meaning "without"! This basically means that no artificial methods and chemicals are used on the vines or grapes and the wine made is totally organic. The grapes are partially dehydrated before fermentation to increase the concentration and flavour. This wine would be excellent with  beef or lamb stew, roast beef, and grilled steak. One can also have it alone or while puffing on a cigar!
Chateau L'Esparrou Prestige 2021 AOP Cotes de Roussillon,  France $17.95  94/100 points
Vintages# 31691 
Colour: Dark Red
Nose: Dark and red fruit, coffee, vanilla, pepper spice, earth 
Palate: Full Body, sweet mouth feel, red fruit, balanced with a pleasant spice finish 
Comment: A very nice priced wine with generous fruit that would complement the Thanksgiving or Christmas Turkey or Ham!  

Monday, July 24, 2023

 Should I OR Should I Not?  
Aging Wine
Believe it or not, there has been a controversy about letting wine age. Many believe that aside from the major (and very expensive) domains most wines do not or should not be aged any further. I had one friend whose opinion I respected loved his wine "young"--- including major wine chateaux! He basically believed in drinking wine that had all the vitality and power of  "youth".  One cannot argue with personal taste and in fact, many wines are consumed well after their prime! 
However, my "take" on this subject is that wine----especially a powerhouse, full of tannin and fruit among many descriptors should be enjoyed at various stages of existence. Many a youthful wine can be quite hard on the palate with time to soften. The other point is that many a wine does take on different evolutions as it develops through time. A Latour can be even harsh and tough in its youth only to mold with one's tongue---wrapping itself like velvet as it ages.
Certain foods also have an amenity for a particular style of grape. Turkey or Duck but would taste superb with a young pinot noir but would go better with an older Bordeaux.
I have aged a number of "minor" wines and found them, while great when young, to develop nicely as they age. This does not mean that every wine needs aging or that aged wine is better. It just means that for those who want to see how some wine develop, putting a bottle or two away may reek surprises.
Raiding My Cellar 
Cellar contains a host of red and white wines that go as far back as the 1960's and 1970's. For example, My German wines go back to 1971 while my Burgundies go back to 1969. Every so often I raid my Bordeaux section. Last night was such an event. I chose a 1989 Chateau Latour Martillac.
Latour-Martillac: History      
Anyone who knows me realizes that tasting is just one aspect of wine that I enjoy. I love the science behind wine. History is what attracted me to it! Geography is what solidified it and of course People is what rounded it out. Chateau Latour Martillac is steeped in history---going back to the 12 Century as a small fortress. The fortress was destroyed in the French Revolution but left a Tower from which the chateau gets its name. 
Charles the Second of Montesquieu acquired the land, located just five kilometres from the town of Leognan, via his marriage in 1715. He later added the land to his estate called Chateau de la Brede.
The land was later acquired by lawyer Monsieur Charropin in 1853. Merchant Edouard Kressman began distribution of the wine in 1871 and took charge of the vines by 1884. 
The estate came under the ownership of a Pierre Langlois until 1929 when Alfred Kressman, son of Edouard, purchased the chateau and later gave it the name of Chateau Latour-Martillac! The property has been in Kressman hands ever since.
 Many vines were planted by the senior Kressman in and around 1884.  Through various purchases the vineyards were extended to now hold about 42 hectares which comes out as 100 acres. The breakdown is about 80% red to 20% white grapes. 
Chateau Latour-Martillac 1989  Pessac-Leognan (Graves)  93.5/100 points 
Grape Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon 60%, Merlot 35%, Petit Verdot 5%
Colour: Red
Nose: Floral, Tobacco, Red Fruit, Earth, Mushroom, Hint of Chocolate, 
Palate: Medium Body,  Dry, Berry Fruit, Smooth finish, Pleasant
Pairing: Roast Turkey, Roast Beef, Pork Loin, Duck
Comments: Classified in the 1953 Graves Classification. High reputation for aging ability and from an area that has produced some highly reputed wines such as Chateau Haut Brion  and Chateau Pape Clement. 
When To Open That Special Bottle 
I guess that this whole exercise has been to discuss the fact that ageing a wine to see how it evolves is not a bad thing. In the ideal world, one can obtain at least six bottles of a certain bottle of wine and have one every so often. In that case, tasting the wine initially as a young interest item  is not a bat idea. 
However, if only one bottle is available and the obtaining of a second one is out of the question, one is left with the temptation to either drink the wine to enjoy it as a young wine or give it time to further develop. What does one do.        
I was given a superb Bodegas Benegas Lynch 2019 which probably is drinking well now but I know that it will develop well over the next two years. Unfortunately there, is no other available to experiment with a la ageing!  Hmmm! I will keep you posted. 


Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Good Wine Just Keeps on Coming

 Tuscany, Spain, Chile, Argentina Quality Coming Up!
It is getting harder and harder to affix a mark on any wine these days since the quality of wine passing this writer seems to be getting increasingly better. The difference between wine quality is becoming so nebulous-----especially when wine makers are becoming so skilled at their trade and----we can't leave out technology and passion. It is becoming harder to judge.
Castello del Trebbio   Chianti Superiore 2021 DOCG, Tuscany            95/100  $18.95
Colour: Red
Nose: Red Fruit (Cherry, Currants, Raspberry), floral blossom notes, vanilla spice, anise
Palate: Medium body, very elegant, forward tannin with evolving anise finish
Comments: A superior product from a small (46 Hectare) winery. I was puzzled at the style of oak used and for a while suspected two types of oak but on researching the product I found that my quandary was that Slovenian Oak was used in conjunction with stainless steel (six months each) after the initial fermentation in stainless steel tanks using indigenous (wild) yeasts. Vineyard practices natural, organic, biodynamic agriculture. Owners Anna Baj Macario/Sefano Casadei are in a partnership with Cline in California. Wine is nicely integrated. Excellent purchase.  13 % alcohol
Grapes: Sangiovese (85%), Colorino (10%) and Ciliegiolo (5%)
Pairing: Risotto, Roasts, Antipasti, Aged Hard Cheese.

Magus Crianza 2020 "6 Meses",  Extremadura  Ribera del Guadiana    93/100**   $14.95
Colour: Dark Red
Nose: Dark Fruit (ripe blackberry, black cherry, mulberry), bubble gum, strawberry jam, pepper spice
Palate: Medium to full body, dry, accessible tannin, licorice and pleasant finish.
Comment: A good wine for all purpose meal. The 6 Meses means lightly passed over 6 month old barrels ( French and American Oak) which produces wine that can be consumed younger and casually. 14 % alcohol.
Grapes: 100% Tempranillo
Pairing: cold cuts, beef, lamb and pasta   
**: Rating based on price and easy accessibility of wine. Great unpretentious addition for everyday!  

Upcoming: Benegas Lynch and Corazon del Indio!

Thursday, July 6, 2023

Part Two: Wineries To Watch For In 2023

 Part Two of my wineries to watch for list includes more wineries from Argentina, Brazil, Romania and Portugal with additional wineries from the United States!

Virginia, USA
Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains are so beautiful that I had to include more than one picture to capture the sheer loveliness of this region. Two wineries that impressed me so very much are Ankida Ridge and historic Barboursville.    

        Christine Wells Vrooman with Winemaker Son, Nathan

Ankida Ridge Vineyards and Winery  (Amherst County, Blue Ridge Mountains Va.) 
The caption on its home page reads "where Heaven and Earth join" and when I pass on, Ankida Ridge located on Chestnut Ridge, Virginia, would be my choice of Heaven! Purchased in 1999 by Dennis and Christine Vrooman, this stunning property with a backdrop that requires three pictures to do it justice, is only equaled by its great wine and altitude (1800 feet)! Their son Nathan is the talented winemaker! 
The superb six acre vineyard produces some of the finest Pinots that I have ever tasted. Chardonnay, Gamay are also grown on the property. Ankida produces a great "Pinot Noir Vintage Reserve", "Blanc de Noir" (Pinot Noir) and "Blanc de Blanc" (Chardonnay) sparkling wine as well!  
Ankida wine is made by natural methods with the least amount of intervention. It is no surprise that Ankida Ridge Wine expresses the best that this lovey terroir has to offer.  My only complaint is that this wine is not available in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. 
Barboursville (Winery Road, Barboursville, Virginia) 

                  Barboursville Winemaker Luis Paschina

                                         Barboursville Winery

Politician James Barbour (1775-1842) held many posts within the young United States including that of Virginia Governor. He encouraged and over saw the development of sustainable agriculture on the property. His friend, Thomas Jefferson, designed him a mansion which was built in 1814. The mansion tragically burned down on Christmas Day 1864 but its ruins, along with the Barbour family cemetery,  remains on the winery property.
In 1976, Italian Gianni Zonin of Veneto winery fame, purchased the property with the intent of founding a vineyard, The rest is history with Barboursville being recognized as an outstanding winery making fine wine such as a Bordeaux style(Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot), Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Barbara, Viognier, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio,  Sauvignon Blanc, Moscato Ottonel and Vidal. Winemaker Luis Paschina has been with the winery since 1990 and continues to produce superb wine that reflects the Zonin commitment to excellence!   
 Bodegas .
Bodegas Benegas (Mendoza)
                                                  Bodegas Benegas
                              Picking The Grapes
Outstanding quality of this winery goes back over 100 years and has its original cellars from 1901! The history of the Benegas family goes far further and included the signing of an 1820 independence peace treaty at its farm as well as having many of the family members involved in important political posts. Family patriarch Don Tiburico scoured wine regions for vine cuttings---giving many to any who wanted to grow vines. He founded El Trapiche winery in 1883 but sold it in 1970. 
Frederico Benegas Lynch was born in 1951 and after spending a number of years working in the El Trapiche vineyards and tasting wines with his father, came under the influence Trapiche winemaker Angel Mendoza. He then decided to make wines under the Benegas name.
He repurchased the family vineyard 'Finca Libertad", purchased a 19th century winery and added the Benegas name over all! Top wine consultant Michel Rolland and famed Napa winemaker Paul Hobbs were contracted. 
He enlisted the assistance of top French wine consultant Michel Rolland and Napa winemaker Paul Hobbs. The grapes are carefully cultivated and selected during Harvest.  Fermentation and Maceration are strictly controlled!
The wines from Benegas vineyards, Finca Libertad and Finca Incerrada,  are exceptional and highly rated by wine critics and in my opinion can only become highly in demand.
With vine ages from 70 to 128 years and from heights of 850 to 2800 metres the quality can only be very high. Presently the Malbec Single Vineyard is available in Ontario.
Portugal (Estremoz, Alentejo Wine Region)
Howard's Folly 

                     David Baverstock Winemaker 

                                Pedro Furriel Winemaker
A superb region for wine is the Alentejo Region of Portugal. Howard's Folly is new on the scene but has an outstanding winemaker who has carved a name for himself worldwide! Businessman Howard Bilton and esteemed winemaker David Baverstock, Australian who is noted for his avant-garde wines and many accolades from such people as the President of Portugal founded the above winery in 2002.
Bilton has a love for Portugal and its wine----especially the Alentejo Region. He became a driving force with the idea of creating a winery that exhibited not only the love of Alentejo wine but also as a contributor to the Art Community. Along with vineyard manager, Christina Francisquinho and winemaker Pedro Furriel, they are producing first rate wine that are being sought for all over the globe!
While I have not tasted Howard's Folly wine yet, top critics give the varietal and blended wines top marks. The likes of Jancis Robinson and Robert Parker have consistently give excellent scores to Folly wine!  
Vincola Suzin ( Sao Jaoquim, Santa Catarina)
                          Everson Suzin Winemaker/Owner
High up (1200 metres) in the little village, temperatures reach a daytime high of 28 degrees centigrade but fall to a low of 5 degrees during the night. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Montepulciano, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Rebo, Pinto Noir and Sauvignon Blanc are grown in small batches thus enabling differentiated treatment of each variety and a concentration on quality products. Using the latest ecological techniques eliminates the use of herbicides and vineyard defensives. The result is exceptional wine. My favourite has always been Suzin Pinot Noir which is cultivated with tender loving hands. 
Suzin products are not available in Canada at the moment.
Romania has come out of its "wine shell" and is making first rate wine capable of competing with the world's best. A new "guard" has taken over with the latest in vineyard management and wine making. Add to that Romania's deep historical significance in and superb scenery and you have a top winner. Top sommeliers like Zoltan Szabo and Ioana Madalina Danila assist up and coming winemakers in producing great wine! 
Crama Histria (Dobrogea)
               Paul Fulea Winemaker/Owner
Crema Histria enjoys sunny days, rich terroir and healing breezes all of which grow healthy grapes which make great wine. However, this is just part of the story since the making of fine wine depends also on the skill of the winemaker.
Paul Fulea produced his first wine in 2015 on land that was already under vine since 1976 but needed his alteration. He renamed his winery "Crama Histria" which now covers some 200 hectares.
The winery produces wine from both international and indigenous grapes such as the (White) Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Muscat, Ottonel, Traminer, Fateaca Regela and (Red) Fateasca Neagra, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
His red 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon "Nikolaos" has already won international acclaim with a score of 94/100 points at the Decanter World Wine Awards in 2021! 
(Agent is Maison Nobleza in Montreal)    

Sunday, June 4, 2023

Wineris To Watch For In 2023

 During the last several years I've tasted a large number of exceptional wines. Here are the ones that have consistently pleased me and continue to increase in esteem! Sadly, a number will not be easily accessible to Ontario consumers. I have indicated possible distributors such as the SAQ ( Société des alcools du Québec) or winery direct! Countries are in alphabetical order.
Bodega Weinert (Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza) 
                                           Iduna Weinert
I first came upon Bodega Weinert in 1978 and immediately fell in love with the wine that showed amazing complexity and quality. Through the years the wine has never failed to impress me whether it it the Carrascal brand, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon or Bordeaux Blend. Iduna Weinert is the very capable (and lovely) owner. Winemaker Hubert Weber continues to make superb, age worthy wine, time and again. (Case For Wine Agency, Pickering, Ontario. 
Pizzato Vincola (Vale dos Vinhedos, Bento Goncalves)
Gregarious and passionate, Flavio Pizzato is descended from Italian immigrants what came to Brazil in the late 1800's. Flavio founded his winery in 1999 and has transferred his passion on to his wine--making rich Cabernet, superb Chardonnay and outstanding Merlot. His Concentus blend of Merlot, Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon has long been a favourite. (SAQ, Quebec)
Eastern Townships
The best kept secret in the world for both scenery and wine is the area known as Quebec's Eastern Townships located between the St. Lawrence Lowlands and the American Border. In fact, from some of the higher elevations can be seen the Appalachian Mountains of Vermont. Two wineries make my watch list for 2023! 
Cep d'Argent (Magog)

              The Brothers Scieur, Francois and Jean Paul!
Located by the shores of the Magog River, this was my initial introduction to the wines of Quebec. The brainchild of Denis Drouhin, it is now owned by two sixth generation champagne makers, Francois and Jean-Paul Scieur who learned the art from their parents in Etoges, Champagne. Using their wine making knowledge they produced phenomenal sparkling wine and "still" wine  from French Hybrid grapes. Their Marechal-Foch is excellent and traditional method sparkling wine is to die for! (SAQ) 
Vinoble de L'Orpailleur (Dunham) 
French winemaker, Herve Durand bought a unique property in Dunham, Quebec in 1981. He was joined by French viticulturist, Charles-Henri De Coussergues, entertainer/organizer, Frank Furtado and media consultant/legal/contractual specialist, Pierre Rodrique as co-owners of a winery that has become a major player in the province by not only fine vinifera style wine but also accommodating the needs of the business community and operating a superb restaurant. In 2022, the winery celebrated 40 years of making fine wine. Try some of the Cabernet Francs or Chardonnay but make sure you try other blends also!  (SAQ)  
British Columbia
Orofino Winery (Similkameen Valley)

                         Orofino owner Virginia Weber
If there is one Canadian winery that epitomizes excellence, it is the Orofino Winery in British Columbia's Similkameen Valley. I first "discovered" Orofino when I was writing my book "Rendezvous for Dinner" and was so very impressed with it. I had the pleasure of further experiencing Orofino's wines when, in 2009, I tasted its wines when filming the wine show, "Adventures in Wine Country". Presently, I have been enjoying the Red Bridge blend as well as the reds Syrah and Zinfandel. These wines never disappoint. Owners John and Virginia Weber are proud and passionate wine makers and their wines can only grow in reputation. Presently these wines are not available in Ontario so contact winery direct in British Columbia for information.
Tawse Winery  (Vineland
            Tawse Vineyard in Vineland (Niagara)
Non intervention, passion, organic, healthy vines are part of the philosophy for the great award winning wines made at Tawse. Moray Tawse loved Burgundian Pinot Noir and Chardonnay so he purchased six acres of land in Vineland and in 2005 opened a "state-of-the-art" winery complete with geo-thermal filter and a wetlands bio filter. The rest is history! The 115 acre winery produces some exceptional wine---much of which is available at the LCBO or direct from the winery on Cherry Avenue in Vineland.

Ziraldo Estate Winery (Niagara-on-the-Lake)


             Dr. Donald Ziraldo at Ziraldo Estates

The awards, honours and accolades pertaining to icon of Canadian and International wine and Order of Canada inductee, Donald Ziraldo, would fill several books. Suffice to say that after co-founding the first winery (Inniskillin) to be issued a winery license since 1929 and establishing what was to become the first boutique winery in Canada, he became known as the ambassador of Canadian wine.  In 2006 he founded the Ziraldo Estate Winery making first class Ice-wine as well as having established Ziraldo Prosecco in Valdobiadenne, Italy. (Soon to be available at LCBO) With other Ziraldo projects expectations are high that this is not the end! Donald Ziraldo possesses Honourary Doctors of Law Degrees from both Guelph and Brock Universities! To be watched! 


Dao Region

The Dao wine region was one of the most under-rated wine regions whose time has now come to pass! It makes magnificent wines ---many for long aging. With vines over one hundred years of age and a tradition that goes back centuries Dao offers many styles of wine that please many tastes. The movement here is in the cultivation of local varieties--many of which were endangered. Natural wines with little manipulation and/or interference is becoming the rule and a number of strong minded winemakers 

defy the odds and establishment to make some majestic wine.  Surrounded my mountains and close to the ocean influences, This area is showing what human ingenuity, patience and working with nature can produce!

                                           Joao Tavares de Pina
Quinta da Boavista/Joao Tavares de Pina Wines (Penalva do Castelo)    

Quinta da Boavista under the direction of Joao Tavares de Pina has produced some of the finest wines in Portugal. The organically maintained vineyards that lie sheltered by nearby Granite Mountains alon with the Nearby Atlantic Ocean, are fortunate enough to have mild winters and moderate summers. Here, the deepgranite/clay and schist soils produce superb grapes such as Jaen, Touriga Nacional and Pinheira (also known as Rufete).

Joao makes sure his land has a rich biodiversity. Along with the natural forests of oak and eucalyptus, he has clover, grasses, lavender, wild flowers and chamomile.  

Joao strives to make wines of great intensity and expression. He practices old world methods which are the basis of his method of non interference in the production of his wine. He does not even till the soil for fear of affecting the biodiversity.

Joao believes in a strong ecosystem where nature takes its course. His wines reflect this natural trend. He would be first to tell you that in spite of the "natural wine craze", he has been following that path before the phrase was ever thought of. 

" I make wine that I like to drink!"  This is his motto!

In addition to his classic wine, he has planted many endangered and almost extinct indigenous vines. Joao is a rebel! He follows the beat of his own drum and, quite frankly, it looks good on him! It is those like him that progress to show the world how great wine can be made. More should do it! (SAQ)  

Quinta dos Roques (Abrunhosa do Mato)

                                                Quinta dos Roques
In the early 1980's the decision was made to move ahead with plans of revamping a Quinta whose wine was, until then used for private consumption. Luis Lourenco upgraded his winery's vineyards and added grape varieties, mechanization and new methods of viticulture to old practices. The 35 hectares of vines now include 75% red varieties such as Touriga Nacional, Jaen,  Tinto Cao, Tinta  Roriz and Alfrocheiro, The remaining 25%  are white with such grapes as Encruzado, Malvasia Fina, Bical,  Cerceal and Gouveio (Verdelho).

Presently, production is delivered to 15 countries including Canada, Japan and the United States.  The wines are spectacular in their concentration and elegance. The Alfrocheiro is my favourite but each single variety and blend makes this  Quinta one to seek out. (SAQ)

In my next blog, I will discuss several other wineries that need to be seriously watched in 2023! Stay tuned for Part Two of Wineries to Watch For In 2023! 




Saturday, May 6, 2023

Tasting The Old and Discovering The New: Some Fabulous Wines!

 The Old! The New! The Classic!

The Old!
A couple of weeks ago I decided to raid my cellar and treat myself to some of my older vintages. I decided to go back to two of the great vintages which were part and parcel to three consecutively super vintages from Bordeaux. The 1988 and 1989 along with 1990 were highly regarded as some of the best vintages ever.

Chateau Kirwan 1988      Margaux   3ieme cru    85/100 points  
I chose the 1988 Chateau Kirwan, a third growth from the commune of Margaux. The '88 is from a great year though not as the following two years. It still had the "Margaux" properties of elegance, feminine and softness while exhibiting red fruit, vanilla wood, smoke both on the nose and palate! It still had life in it with evidence of soft tannin and a crisp, spicy finish.  It definitely was a wine that was fully mature and elderly but still kicking.
Comments: The chateau goes back to the early 18th Century and was known to Thomas Jefferson. It was named after Mark Kirwan an Irishman who obtained the property by marriage. He built the chateau in the latter half of the 18th Century. The property has been owned by Schroder and Schyler since 1925.
The wine has gained a better reputation in recent years. The combination of excellent location, gravel soil and blend of  45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc and 10% Petit Verdot give it a good length of life. I enjoyed it and enjoyed drinking history.  
Pairing: Roast Beef, pork or Chicken. Easy on the sauce. 

Chateau Latour-Martillac 1989 Pessac-Leognan (formerly Graves)     88/100 points (Red)
This chateau has a great deal of ancient history which goes back to the 12th Century though the ancient tower is all that remains. The property has been in the Kressmann Family since the late 19th Century with the planting of grapes in 1884.  Some of these grapes (White Semillon) are now  140 years old.
The chateau has plantings of 60% Sauvignon Blanc and 40% Semillon. Martillac red wines have plantings of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot  and 5% Petite Verdot   
Comments: Martillac-Latour 1989 would be described by may critics as fully mature and, due to its age, in danger of drying up but I found quite the opposite. I found it still vibrant and complex with red fruit, cigar smoke, wet leaves, earth on the nose and soft, medium bodied, elegant on the finish. I actually preferred it to the Kirwan.
There is no question that like the Kirwan, Martillac is showing its age but it is doing so gracefully. I have no intent on guzzling my remaining bottles. 
Martillac-Latour initially started with white grape vine plantings. The red vines are planted on gravelly soil on the plateau while the white vines are planted on  clay/limestone soil next to the Garonne River. 
Pairing: The red Martillac would be a great accompaniment with beef, lamb, duck and chicken while the white would be great with sea food, veal, pork and cheese. As with Kirwan, I would suggest easy on various sauces!

The New

Bodegas Benegas (Mendoza) Malbec       Vintages:547331                                     94.5/100 
Outstanding for quality, this winery goes back over 100 years and has its original cellars from 1901. The history of the Benegas family goes far further and included the signing of an 1820 independence peace treaty at its farm as well as having many of the family members involved in important political posts. 
Family patriarch, Don Tiburico  searched wine regions for vine cuttings and encouraged any who wanted to grow vines. He founded El Trapiche Winery in 1883 but sold it in 1970.Frederico Benegas Lynch was born in 1951 and after spending a number of years working in the Trapiche vineyards and tasting wines with his father, came under the influence of Trapiche's winemaker, Angel Mendoza. 
He repurchased the family vineyard "Finca Libertad" and purchased a 19th Century winery----adding the Benegas name 
He repurchased the family vineyard “Finca Libertad”, purchased a 19th century winery and added the Benegas name.
He enlisted wine consultant Michel Rolland and Napa winemaker, Paul Hobbs. 
The wine comes from Benegas owned vineyards, Finca Libertad ad Finca Incerrada with vine age ranging from 70 to 128 years. The grapes are carefully cultivated and selected and Fermentation are strictly controlled.  Vineyard heights range from 850 to 2800 
Comments: Excellent concentration. Chewable plum, cedar, red and black fruit with floral violet background. Pleasant tannin on a medium to full body. Long finish.   
Well made and reasonably priced. 
The Classic

Inniskillin Montague Single Vineyard Pinot Noir  2018 VQA   Vintages 997393   90/100 points 
Inniskillin will always go down in Canadian Wine History as being the trail blazer that encouraged other boutique wineries to occur. It went through the hardships of going through the paces of developing a standard by which all Ontario and Canadian wineries are measured. Donald Ziraldo and Karl Kaiser took great pain and risk to do what no other wine maker had done before -----the successful growing,  cultivating and vinifying vinifera vines. Wineries throughout this country owe them a debt of gratitude and respect. 
Ziraldo and Kaiser purchased the Montague Vineyard (1982) from another trail blazer, Stan Murdza  who, with great foresight, planted  original vines in 1970. He proved that vinifera could be grown in Ontario. Director of Viticulture Gerald Close is credited with preparing the vineyard, new planting of specific clones and cover crop. 
Award winning winemaker Bruce Nicholson has shown his capable talent in producing a wine that reflects the characteristic of a great Pinot Noir according to the Niagara terroir. The vines had a rough period in 2018 owing to weather that was fickle! 
Winter was cold then warm in February spawning early development and then winter returned in an April cold spell. A warm May and hot summer ensured early development of the grapes---many varieties ripening early. Harvest was a problem with rain and more rain but earlier picking through dry days and careful selection of grapes ensured that the quality was good. In all, most declared a  successful though difficult, schizophrenic vintage. Pinot Noir is a difficult grape enough to deal with but this year must have driven wine makes to distraction!
Comments:  Pinot is suited to cool climate viticulture and the Montague Single Vineyard. In each passing vintage the vines grow older (the oldest going back to '70's)  and the Pinot certainly likes its home. The 2018 shows floral cherry, strawberry, cranberry on nose with a tender ripeness of vanilla and anise. The medium body has pleasant but firm tannin which adds strength to the wine. Pleasant acidity with a nice, long finish. Reviews say that it would be good now though I would love to try it in about another five years.                              
Pairing: Roast turkey, roast beef, pork roast. 

Chateau d'Aurilhac  2011 Haut-Medoc                               85/100 points
 I purchased this wine through  "Wine-On-Line" for several reasons but mainly due to Jancis Robinson's  comments about it, its history and the fact that the wine came directly from the chateau with no third party handling. The fact that great pain is taken to carefully pick and handle the grapes and general care for the vineyard made this wine very attractive. The reasonable price of purchase  ($29.95) didn't hurt either. The winery is owned by Eric Nieuwaal and is in the ha2.5mlet of Saint Seurin de Cadourne on the outskirts of the Commune of Pauillac (Home of Latour, Mouton-Rothschild and Lafite) and also bordering with the Commune of Saint Estephe..  
The vineyard which was planted in 1983, used to be a cattle meadow though vines were grown in the area since the middle ages. Eric planted 11 hectares  with 49% Cabernet Sauvignon, 46%, Merlot, 2.5% Cabernet Franc and  2.5 % Petite Verdot. The vines are 15 to 20 years of age growing in a splendid mixture of gravel and clay! This is certainly a chateau to watch!
Comments: 2011 was a weird vintage in Haut Madoc and much of Bordeaux since Spring turned out to be quite hot with some drought conditions. Summer was cooler with rain in August. Cabernet Sauvignon was having trouble ripening. Intermittent storms caused much in the form of rot and grape dilution due to rain. Weather improved in the fall and vineyards that could wait profited with a warm Autumn. 
At the chateau, careful selection (double grape selection) and scrupulous methodology made the making
of the red wine better. White wine faired better but both red and white wines proved good.
Chateau d' Aurilhac 2011 still has much life in it beyond the stated developing time. The colour is still red with a nose of dark fruit, smoke, earth and  nuances of wood. The palate is medium to full body, with respectful tannin with a dry, slightly acidic finish. A good wine made in a somewhat difficult year.
While some may say that the wine is "over the hill", I would say it is fully mature but will hang on to develop for several more years especially if kept in a good cellar. A Sichel (Chateau Palmer etc.) 
wine brand!
Pairing: Beef, Game, Pork,  Roast Turkey, Duck, Lamb