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.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

These Spanish Wines Are Truly Unique

 All wines have a history with some going back eons. Spain has always been a leader in the making of unique wines and the two wineries being described here today are no difference. They come to us with a colourful history and of course, delicious wines.

Reserva de la Tierra "Curious" White Wine  100% Sauvignon Blanc      $13.95     92/100 points

Region: Castilla-La Mancha

Colour: Pale yellow, clear and bright. 

Nose: Ripe white fruit such as peach, apricot, citrus, herbal straw 

Palate: Light body, citrus lemon, refreshing acidity with lasting clean finish. Charming. 

Notes: The seeds of Reserva de la Tierra were planted 70 years ago in Argentina by the parents of Felipe Gimenez, emigrants from Spain decided to put their wine knowledge to use and produce vineyards in Spain. This wine comes from Castilla-La Mancha region (Remember "Man of La Mancha"?) in the heart of Spain.. Its wines are known as Vino de la Tierra and have a quality of indication rating just below the Denominaciones de Origen Protegidas category (DOP).  The IGP rating or Indicaciones Geografikas Protegidas is used throughout this region. .The name "Curious" comes from the young winemaker called Maria who had a passion for making wines and very curious as to making innovative wine that was different. 

Food:  Tilapia, prosciutto, light meat and light salads or on its own on a warm summer's eve!     

Ana de Heras Cordon      100% Viura grapes       $19.95                                           93/100 points

Region: Rioja

Colour: Golden, bright and clear

Nose: Pear, peach, apricot with touch of citrus

Palate: Medium body, silky smooth,  with fresh citrus finish.

Notes: The winery goes back to the 19th Century with  a pause in production during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930's. In 1995 new winery and cellars were built. The Viura grape is also called Macabeo picked young wine made from .the grapes have a citrus taste but wine from grapes picked older tend to taste oaky. Viura is mostly associated with Spain's Rioja wine region.  

Food:  Shellfish, oily fish such as salmon, mushroom rice, stuffed egg plant or on its own.   

These wines are available through "The Case For Wine" 416-482-0241 in Pickering, ON. 



Thursday, February 25, 2021

A Cold, Hard and Isolated Winter Demands Some Excellent and Inexpensive Wine Treats!


As if the "on again; off again; on again lockdown" isn't enough the weather is cold---damn cold! Masks are the "in thing" of the day and God Forbid if you forget to put yours on!!! Television for the most part is boring and in repeats and most of the newscasts focus on one thing----COVID! For awhile there was a brief focus on the Impeachment of President Trump but that was a bit anticlimactic since while it was talked to death about----everyone knew what the result would be!!!! Now we are back to numbers and switching channels or streaming movies---most which I do not like! So what is there but to turn to an old stand by: Wine and Spirits.

Some New and Something Old and Something New Again!


OGGI Organic Pinot Grigio   Region: Veneto, Italy       $13.95    92/100 points

Colour: Clear, straw colour

Nose: Notes of apple, peach, pear and touch of citrus

Palate: Silky mouthfeel, light to medium body with sharp pleasant acidity on finish

Pairing: Great as an aperitif, chicken salad, fish and super with steamed mussels. This wine has been tried twice and score has improved.




Corto di Passo    Grape type: Nero D’Avola   Region: Sicily   $14.95   92/100 points

Colour: Red, clear

Nose: Ripe black cherry, black berry, black currant and plum. Hints of cooking spices

Palate: Medium Body with soft tannin and anise. Finish is long and pleasant.

Pairing: Spare ribs, steak roast beef and beef stew

Comments: Grapes are allowed to dry on the vine. Before harvest half the grapes are picked and allowed to dry in the sun. They are then macerated for 12 days and fermented for 15 days in stainless steel tanks.  14% alcohol.

 Casal Farento Cimare Rosso Piceno Grape: Montepulciano, Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon.  Region: Marches, Italy.    $16.95              93/100 points

Colour: Dark Red, clear

Nose: Vanilla, dark fruit (black berry, black cherry, black raspberry), floral rose

Palate: Young, initially austere but softens to a full bodied and well-balanced wine with lively tannin. Will become more elegant with another year or so in bottle. Good Value.

Pairing: Mushroom Risotto, Pork Roast, Beef Stew

Comments: Aged for 8 months in small oak barre3ls and 5 months in bottle. 13.5 % alcohol.


Gran Passione Prosecco   Region: Veneto   Grape: Glera  $15.95   91/100 Points

Colour: Bright Pale yellow, effervescence with tiny bubbles, clear

Nose:  Granny Smith, pear, honeydew melon with a hint of citrus

Palate: Fresh, light bodies with bracing acidity that leaves a fresh, clean finish.

Pairing: Sushi, seafood salad, shell fish, pork souvlaki (minus the Tzatziki)

Comments: Great value and good quality per price ratio.  

 Divici Prosecco    Grape: Glera    Region: Veneto   $17.95            91/100 points

Colour: Pale yellow, fine effervescence, clear

Nose:  Citrus with accents of pear, green apple, peach with some floral rose.

Palate: Light bodied, refreshing acidity with citrus lime on the aftertaste

Pairings: Aperitif, Smoked Salmon, Tuna steaks, Pork Roast.  

Comments: A very reasonable wine when once considers quality/price ration. The wine is 100 percent Glera grape. This wine is also 100 percent organic.  


Thursday, December 3, 2020

The Little Winery That Could-------------and Did!

The Beginning
Patrick Del-Gatto and his wife Heidi were tired of the 9 to 5 "rat race" and though earning a good living in the City of Oshawa, Ontario, Canada, they decided to break with the present and look forward to an exciting but also demanding future in Cape Vessey located within the Community of Waupoos  in the eastern part of Prince Edward County. 
The grocery store manager had a dream of following in his fore-fathers' footsteps His great grand father hailed from the Southern Italian village of Santa Croce not far from Naples and was the village winemaker. Patrick, an avid and talented gardener, wanted to follow his family tradition.  
The fourth generation winemaker wanted more for his family in the way of providing  "our children with a safer environment for them to grow up in and the opportunity to work for ourselves---"! He and his wife Heidi decided to take "a leap of faith" and follow their dreams.
They decided to quit their jobs, sell their home and move!
While Patrick deeply researched the various wine regions in Canada before making any decisions, it was his father who "nailed" the final spot. 
The pair took a trip up to Prince Edward County to investigate possible investments. They came upon a 74 acre spot which immediately caught the senior Del-Gatto's eye. The time of year was mid winter and in spite of the cold and the snow, he noticed that one spot of land still had green plants---some with flowers blooming. This microclimate plot became Del-Gatto Estates Winery with a purchase in 2001. Patrick moved there in 2002 and the family was complete with his parents moving there in 2003!
The beginning was not easy! Capital was a problem and the work was hard. Various personal hardships came like a "slap in the face" with the passing of his father, inclement weather that destroyed vines  and illness that befell Heidi. On another note, some of Del-Gatto's wine names came from some of these hardships. 
Patrick recalled his St. Croix grape variety being an early ripening one always seemed to be picked during hail storms. Of course the name of the wine: "Hailstorm" !     
 Another recollection was both more serious and dramatic! Patrick was driving his tractor in the middle of his vineyard after hearing of Heidi's illness.  The tractor stopped dead ---one more stroke of bad luck! He thought to himself---"Oh God what next!" Just then, literally thousands of Dragonflies emerged and flew around him and the vineyard! It seemed miraculous and taking this as a sign, he moved forward. He called the resultant white wine "Dragonfly!"
These days Heidi is well! His vines are producing excellent grapes and his experimentation has proved ---no pun intended---fruitful. Patrick has succeeded in growing both hybrid and vinifera grapes and specialized as only Patrick could, in producing a wine made from South African Pinotage (Cinsault/Pinot Noir cross) called Odyssey! His inventiveness is still moving ahead with new surprises yet to come!
As mentioned previously, Patrick produces some fine vinifera wines but specializes in hybrid varieties. His attentiveness to both vine and wine results in both red and white wines that can be enjoyed now but would benefit from a bit to a long period of aging.
Here are some of the wines tasted recently. They are available on line or at the winery! 
White Wine:
Riesling 2019
Nose: Apricot, peach, apple and citrus on nose. Fresh mineral.
Palate: Similar to the one below with nice balance between acid and sugar. The freshness continues toward a fruity and fresh finish. 
90/100 points.  
Vidal 2019
Nose: Floral bouquet with apple/pear and honey.
Palate: Medium dry, citrus, nut with pleasant acidity. Easy finish. 94/100  
Notes: Double Gold in 2020 All Canadian Wine Championships and Bronze in All Variety Category. 
Red Wine:
Giacomo's Select Baco  2019 
Nose: Somewhat closed though some fruit can be noted such a plum, blackberry and cherry. 
Palate: Full, normally acidic for a young wine but shows promise. Powerful and muscular. Strong tannins. 
Notes:  Very young and stubborn. Can be tasted now with strong meat such as game. However this wine shows amazing promise for developing into a smashing wine with great depth. Cellar for several years and your patience will be rewarded with one super wine.
90 points/100        
Frontenac Noir 2019
Nose:  Floral bouquet leading to black fruit on the nose with background of vanilla wood. 
Palate:  Medium to full body, dark fruit with wood flavours, long finish. 
Notes: Young at this time and will improve once acidity tones down a bit. Capable of some fine results 
89/100 points
Marquette 2019
Nose: Plum, black berry, black raspberry and cherry. Some smoke in background.
Palate: Full bodied, pepper on palate with nice balance of acidity and sugar. Dry! 
Notes: As above, the wine is young and capable of much improvement as it ages. Nice now but better as time goes by.
89/100 points
Petite Pearl 2019
Nose: Black cherry, raspberry, pepper with background of smoke on nose. 
Palate:  Full body, forward tannin and multilevel development on tongue. Long finish. Nice wine.
Notes: Great grilled meat and possibly game wine. Will improve as time goes by. Try in two to seven years. 
92/100 points  
Quattro 2017
Nose: Ripe cherry, black currant, black berry and smoke on nose
Palate: Medium to full bodied, well balanced with black fruit and jam. Nice pleasant finish. Easy going wine.
Notes: Blend of  Baco Noir, Chambourcin and Marechal Foch 
88/100 points
Odyssey Pinotage 2019
Nose: Mult-level wine as it develops in glass. Initial red fruit such as strawberry and cherry gives way to dark fruit such as black cherry and raspberry. Wine keeps evolving to tobacco, plum and chocolate before aromas of burnt leaves take over. Magnificent!
Palate: Full bodied, integrated and well balanced. Pepper on the tongue introduces a number of spice tones. Long lasting finish.
Notes: This wine can be said to define the genius that is Del-Gatto and can be accompanied by a large grouping of dishes such as New Orleans Shrimp, Blackened Duck or the best Filet Mignon. Traditional Turkey and Game are also in the running.
95/100 points 
Bela Luna 2019
Nose: Bread, apple, pear, citrus, fresh fruit and floral
Palate: Light bodied, refreshing fizz, fruity and pleasant refreshing acidity.
Notes: A well made, easy going sparkling for any celebration. Also fine with salads and first courses.
90/100 points


Sunday, November 1, 2020

Zenato celebrates 60 years of Fine Wine Making

Every time I visit Verona which is located in Veneto I make it a point to visit my dear friends in Lugana nearby! Lugana is a wine region east of Veneto and west of Lombardy in northern Italy. The name has many rumored derivations from local dialect and Latin, all essentially meaning “lake in the woods,” referring to its once heavily wooded landscape and location along Lake Garda.The region is very ancient---going back many centuries--- and its wine was known to many Roman writers such as Virgil and Pliny. It is here that in 1960 the late Sergio Zenato developed his winery. Located in the heart of Lugana, the winery is run by his wife Clara and two children Alberto and Nadia. They expanded Zenato winery into Veneto Valpolicella country in Sant' Ambrogio.di Valpolicella about 15 kilometres northwest of Verona. and 14 kilometres from Lugana (Peschiera del Garda)! The Zenato family has recently won many awards to celebrate their 60th anniversary. Their wines are legendary.Zenato Veneto Rosso (LCBO #208579,$15.00 93/100 points) shows their progressive movement towards using "parziale appassimento" (partially dried grapes) blends in their wine. In this case cabernet sauvignon, merlot and corvina varieties are superbly blended to produce a flavourful, concentrated and aromatic wine that is soft enough to drink on its own yet matches a wide variety of dishes from cheese to roast beef. Zenato Alanera (Vintages #451724,2016 93/100 points) of partialy dried merlot and corvina gets its name from the Ital,an word for "Crow" symbolizing the dark, shiny colour that the Corvina grape gives to the wine. Black fruit dominates along with smoke and herbal nose. The palate is medium to full bodied and finish long lasting. I would have it with game and beef BUT you might also enjoy it with pizza and pasta! Good news is that 360 cases are was released in Vintages on February 22nd 2020! Zenato Valpolicella Superiore Ripassa(Vintages #479766, $27.95, 95/100 points) 2016 What is Ripassa? Ripassa is the brand name derivative of the wine making method called Ripasso. The Valpolicella wine is allowed to "pass over" (hence "Ripasso") the left over the still warm "marc" (left over grape deposits) for a period of 7 to 8 days and a second fermentation begins. The left over wine is richer, more alcoholic and more perfumed than regular Valpolicella.. The wine is then aged in 500 litre casks and barrels for 18 months. Grape varieties used to make this wine are Corvina, Rondinella and Oseleta. Molinara which used to be used is now declassified and other grapes can be used. The wine's dark colour is mostly due to the 85% Corvina usage. Zenato Ripassa is a reasonable facsimile of Amarone but at a reduced price. This wine which exhibits dark fruit, coffee and herbal notes! Full bodied! Definitely a meat wine for game, steak or beef but also good with hard cheese and sausage salami. Zenato Amarone While Barolo is said to be the "King" of Italian wine, Amarone is looked upon as the close contender if not equal! It is Veneto's greatest expression of wine. Zenato actually has three levels of Amarone available in this area: The Zenato Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2017 (Vintages #413179, $49.95 94/100 points)a huge wine even by Amarone standards and a magnificent wine with ripe blackberry, fig, chocolate and dried berries in a full, velvet body; the Sergio Zenato Riserva Amarone della Valpolicella (Vintages #132316, $109) ---a huge wine with an evolving mix of berries, dried fruit, vanilla, plum, cream, limestone and the wine keeps evolving, According to James Suckling "probably the best Amarone ever made" and given a 99/100 score! Another wine that is unavailable and I have not tried is listed as Zenato Archivio Storico Amarone della Valpolicella 2008 (Vintages #10383, $479.), At that price I am sure it not only is superb but a flavour that will last for several weeks!! Zenato Valpolicella Superiore 2017 a blend of Corvina, Rondinella and Corvinone. The wine has black cherry flavours supplemented by currant and vanilla spice with a touch of chocolate. It is an excellent pairing to food such as pasta, pork dishes, cold cuts and fowl. It is strong enough to withstand strong sauces. Excellent value (Vintages #995704, $18.95, 92/100 points. Zenato Lugana San Benedetto The Trebbiano grape reaches its highest form in the Lugana area of Italy. Located on the southern banks of Lake Garda the Lugana area allows Trebbiano to express the mineral rich clay soils that give its wines a floral and fruity nose of white flowers and apricot along with nuances of nuts, citrus orange and white fruit.This wine (Vintages #707158, $19.95 90/100 points)is excellent on its own or with seafood or light meat platters. My congratulations to Zenato for it anniversary and fine wine awards.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Wine Writers' Circle's Sheila Puritt named "Wine Person of the Year" by the Prestigious "Cambridge Food and Wine Society"!

Sheila Swerling-Puritt was presented the "Wine Person of the Year" award by none other than Sandro Bottega of the famed wine company. Her tireless work on behalf of the wine industry  has benefitted so many involved with the wine industry and other unrelated fields. Here is the testament given in her honour just a few days ago!

                                Cambridge Wine and Food Society: Wine Person of the Year

Sheila Swerling-Puritt has maintained an ongoing love affair with wine dating back to university. Her

national and international relationships with the wine, spirits and food industry have included

extensive touring, panel/judging and lectures. She was President of the Wine Writers Circle of Canada


Sheila often said that she has had an amazing journey through life. First serving on a Board that raised funds for the African Students Foundation then spending time in Tanzania doing everything from teaching art, delivering babies, and completing a degree in African Theatre Arts and Literature. Returning to Canada she spent time with First Nations women and in the late 1980s was a volunteer for the home hospice palliative care program for HIV/Aids. Sheila sits on a number of committees and Boards which assist underprivileged children as well as those who are developmentally delayed.

As well she was hired by CBC as a writer/performer then went on to TVOntario as a performer,

Producer and then appointed as a Corporate Manager.

She has written articles for international magazines and websites and lectured at 3 Ontario Colleges

on Public Relations and Advertising, as well as their Sommelier programs .

Ms. Swerling-Puritt was for many years the first Toronto President for the Society of American Wines. Sheila has the distinction of being the first female elected as a National President of a wine society in Canada. In addition, she has been a spokesperson and coordinated public and trade tastings for numerous wineries and governments

For her contributions and dedication, Sheila was made a Fellow of the Ontario Hostelry Institute.

She was given awards by two consecutive Governors of the Commonwealth of Kentucky for her work with the Bourbon industry and also received a Seagram Spirit and Wine Group Award for her work in Mexico and Canada.

On a more personal note, Sheila is mother to 2 successful sons, grandmother to six (2 girls, 4 boys) and

surrogate mother and aunt to dozens who continue to look to her for guidance on a myriad of topics,

Including wine and food in particular! 

Congratulations Sheila for a job so well done! 

2020 Riedel Austria Winemaker of the Year Awarded to Chilean Eduardo Chadwick

Vina Errazuriz has been one of Chile's top selling wines for many years. It's a grand testament to a job well done as well as to the consistent high quality that is demanded by this winery. My heartfelt congratulations.  

 The Cambridge Food and Wine Society of Canada named Eduardo Chadwick their 2020 Riedel Austria Winemaker of the Year. President of Vina Errazuriz, Eduardo’s wines are considered by international wine writers to be amongst the finest in the world. For years he has been one of the most enthusiastic promoters of Chile’s wine industry.

The Cambridge Food and Wine Society of Canada is an organization co founded in 1998 by Professors Leo Chan and Gian Paolo Michelini.

Past recipients of the Riedel Winemaker of the Year included Robert Mondavi, Lamberto Marchesi de Frescobaldi, Miguel Torres and Anthony von Mandle.

This award was presented to Eduardo by Sheila Swerling Puritt, Wine Writers Circle of Canada.  Riedel Austria sent Eduardo one of their modern engraved decanters. As well the Cambridge Food and Wine Society of Canada awarded their 2020 Grand Prix D’honneur for Best Latin American Wine to Errazuriz for its 2018 Max Cabernet Sauvignon.

Friday, July 31, 2020

These Wines Deserve A Place In Your Cellar!

In my association with a number of wine agencies and wineries I come across some superb wines that deserves mention. Some are available at local outlets but others are not. Yet they all deserve to be recognized.

James Bryant Hill Pinot Noir  100% PN        Central Coast California     $17.00    95/100 pts
Colour: Clear, no debris. Bright red
Nose:  Strawberry, raspberry, some cedar, delicate vanilla notes
Palate: Medium bodied, pleasant mouthfeel, mix of red fruit, soft tannin with refreshing acidity and almost perfect balance.
Comments: Score based strictly on price per quality ratio. A truly nice wine that would complement a variety of meats such as duck, game but also would be a super wine with baked salmon. Loved it at the above price! Agents: The Case for Wine

Toro Centenario     100% Malbec     Mendoza, Argentina     LCBO # 12452  $9.60  88/100 pts  
Colour: Dark red, clear with no debris
Nose: Black cherry, plum with earth, forest floor and burning leaves
Palate: Full bodied, smooth, easy tannin with super mouthfeel. Pleasant finish.
Comments: A super wine based on price! Ready to drink on its own or with grilled meat.
Agents: Unique Wine and Spirits  

Orofino Red Bridge   42% Merlot, 40 % Cab Sauve, 18% Syrah   Similkameen Valley BC,  $21.65  
92/100 pts
Colour: Deep red, clear and no debris
Nose: Black Cherry, plum, hints of chocolate, vanilla and anise
Palate: Full bodied with herbal/forest nuances, smooth and luscious with a finish that never seems to end!
Comments: From a winery that believes in minimal interference and wild yeasts. This is a very pleasing wine that gives and gives. The wine is worth every penny and will improve for another decade! However, it may be hard to wait that long to have with grilled meat, roasts and game!
Direct from Orofino Winery

Orofino Syrah  100% Syrah   Similkameen Valley, BC.  $25.13   93/100 pts
Colour: Garnet, clear with no debris
Nose: Dark fruit, herbal features, savoury, vanilla spice, beef stew, pepper
Palate: Smooth, silky wine with medium plus body, nice forward tannin and red fruit. Balanced with a finish that lasts and lasts. Beautiful wine with a reasonable price and quality.
Direct from Orofino Winery

Errazuriz Aconcagua Alto Cabernet Sauvignon   Chile  Vintages #203364  $21.95  90/100 pts
Colour: Garnet red, clear and no debris
Nose: Ripe dark fruit, tobacco, herbal and vanilla spice with violet notes
Palate: Medium plus, elegant with nice mouthfeel and strong, yet smooth tannin. Great finish.
Comments: From a winery that is almost 150 years old. Wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (88%) with Petit Verdot (7%) and Cab Franc (5%).  Roast Beef, steak and Pork Chops.
Agent: Philippe Dandurand Wines   

Basalto Vinho Tinto  Pico Island, Azores (Portugal)      $15                   83/100 pts
Colour: Brilliant red, clear, no debris
Nose: Floral rose, cherry, red currants
Palate: Light to Medium body, dry with medium tannin and  refreshing acidity
Comments: Nice light summer drinking. Good with variety of foods such as beef and cold cuts but also has the acid base to go with oily fish dishes and some sea food. 
Direct from Azores at Cooperativa Vitvinicola da Ilha do Pico