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.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

New Wine On The Horizon

Cave Poulet et Fils Clairette de Die: Tradition  Vercheny, France  $19.95  93/100 points
Colour: white sparkling, fine bubbles, light yellow 
Nose: floral, honeysuckle, mineral, yeast
Palate: Lychee, touch of sweetness, light body, lovely mouth feel, refreshing light acidity.
Comments: Great as an aperitif but excellent with fried chicken, cold cuts. The wine is cold fermented very slowly with a second fermentation in the bottle via residual sugar. No added dosage after wine has sediment removed! Also good with sweet tarts. Made from Muscat Blanc and Clairette Blanche!
LCBO # 460758
Bodegas Alceno Romeo Verdejo 2021  Jumilla S/E Spain   $13.45   94/100 points
Colour:  pale straw with greenish tinge
Nose: fresh, citrus lemon, orange peel, floral blossom, herbal
Palate: light to medium, nice balance, pleasant bitter finish with some herbal
Comments: From a winery that started in 1870, now owned by the Bastida Family. The Verdejo grape produced entirely in Spain is not familiar to many tasters. It makes a great aperitif due to its acidity and bitterness. Try it with salads, light meats, oily fish, Definitely can be used with many spices and fatty vegetables such as avocados and potatoes as well as variety of cheeses. 
LCBO:# 32105    
Naturalis Organic Sauvignon Blanc 2022  South Australia   $16.95   93/100 points 
Colour: white, clear with a slight greenish hue
Nose: gooseberry, lychee, herbal grass, passion fruit, citrus
Palate: light, refreshing, with a white berry, crisp finish
Comments: From a serious wine company. Wine comes from a Certified Organic Vineyard. Absolutely no synthetic pesticides, fungicides, fertilizers are used. Grapes picked at dawn to maintain coolness. 
Excellent wine with seafood, salads, light dishes or as an aperitif. (From Angove)
LCBO #32833  
Rapaura Springs Sauvignon Blanc 2022  Marlborough, NZ     $19.95       95/100 points
Colour: White with greenish hue
Nose: powerful citrus, mandarin, passion fruit, herbal nose
Palate: dry, light to medium body, nice acidity with a superb and long lasting citrus peel finish
Comments: One great taste experience from the "get go"! The wine just keeps on giving and giving on the palate even after several minutes. While I would drink this wine alone, why cheat myself by omitting a food match. Definitely made for a nice meal such as:  seafood or clam chowder, chicken with cream sauce, shell fish, salmon based salads. At the above price, get a case and enjoy!
LCBO # 465880
Cave des Vignerons de Buxy, Bourgogne "Buissonier" Pinot Noir  2020  $22.95  93/100 points
Colour: Red
Nose: cherry, red fruit, earth, smoke and burning leaves, some herbal spice
Palate: medium to full body. dry, well balanced, soft tannin, anise on the finish
Comments: Good price/quality ration and inexpensive for a Burgundy. From a co-operative in the Cote Chalonnaise just south of the Cote d'Or. The wine is well made and a good buy for Burgundy lovers. Would pair nicely with the following: Veal, duck, beef stew, Beef Bourgogne, Grilled Salmon!
LCBO #11901
The Larrikin Cabernet Shiraz   McLaren Vale 2020          $22.95   94/100 points
Colour: Inky red
Nose: black fruit, earth, smoke, dried forest leaves, coffee, cocoa and floral notes
Palate: pepper and herbal spice, full body, well balanced, soft tannin, long anise finish
Comments: for the above price, one could not do any better. A wine that will develop more complexity as time goes on. The wine comes from the Black Sheep Vineyard in McLaren Vale which has a high reputation of producing top, long lived wine. This is no exception and for that price, I would suggest buying at least six bottles and watching them develop over the next several years. 
LCBO: TBA (for more information contact the "Case for Wine Agency" Pickering --416-482-0241)
Caves du Chateau des Loges     Beaujolais-Villages  (Perreon) 2022  92/100 points
Colour: Cherry red
Nose: Some plum but lots of red fruit such as raspberry and strawberry, earth, 
Palate: Medium bodied, lovely mouth feel, smooth with nice acid touch. Long finish
Purchased in 1960 by A group of winemakers that transformed the property into a very high standard of biodiversity and sustainability. The present vintage is highly regarded for this wine.
Pairs well with a variety of pasta dishes, veal cutlets, pork and grilled meat.
I was very pleasantly surprised by this wine made from 100% Gamay since it tasted more like a Burgundy. Excellent value in the United States. 
LCBO: TBA (for more information contact the "Case for Wine Agency" Pickering ----416-482-0241)    


Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Excellent Wine Need Not -Be Pricey: Here Are Six Examples!

 Points In Relation To Quality/Price 
The 100 point system is an easy one to understand. A wine that scores in the 90's would be deemed better than one that scores in the 80's.  However one item that comes into the equation is "Price".  Would a $200 bottle of wine out class a $12 wine in a tasting of "expert analysts"?  Chances are yes! However, a  neophyte tasting a young Mouton or Petrus might not appreciate it as much as a $12 bottle of  Cabernet-Shiraz from Australia. Points can determine the discernable complexity of a wine but not always the "appreciativeness" of it. When I find a wine that I think that the general public would enjoy and afford, the points go up.
So a $1000 (714 Euro) Mouton Rothschild could score a 98/100 for its 2020 vintage due to its greatness and potential but a simple $12.00 Cabernet-Shiraz in my opinion could score a 94/100 for its immediate appreciative value based on price. Would Mouton be a greater wine---most likely! But---I would gladly buy the Cabernet-Shiraz for its price and immediate value. No brainer!
The following wines are extremely fine both in price and quality.


The Cape Chenin Blanc 2022  Western Cape    South Africa   $16.95        93/100 points 
Colour: Clear, light yellow    
Nose: floral blossom, pear, pineapple, citrus, straw
Palate: light to medium body, integrated, well balanced acidity, super mouth feel, fresh finish
Pairing: light meat, veggie burgers, aperitif, fish
Comments: nice price/quality ratio, party wine, pleasing

Le Colonne Vermentino 2021       Tuscany          Italy          $16.95    94/100 points
Colour: clear, light straw 
Nose: citrus predominates, mango, apple blossom, banana, herbal grass
Palate: medium body, pleasant acidity, nutty finish
Pairing: finger food such as chicken fingers, cold cuts, vegan food, fried calamari, shell fish
Comments: A very versatile white that can be used for many occasions/events. 

LatteMiele Pecorino   2021       Abruzzo      Italy              $13.95       95/100 points
Colour: clear, light yellow
Nose: :fruit, floral, orange peel, citrus, pebble
Palate:  citrus lemon, medium body, great mouth feel, pleasant acid finish
Pairing:  pasta with cream sauce, pasta with mushroom sauce, sea food marinara
Comments: A wine with character and individuality at a great price. 


Naturalis Shiraz: 2021         South Australia                  $16.95        94/100 points
Colour: dark purple
Nose: dark fruit, (black cherry, blackberry, plum) cinnamon, currant, spice
Palate: medium-full body, velvet smooth mouth feel, pepper spice, anise, long finish
Pairing: roast beef, venison, oxtail, black forest ham
Comments: An organic wine which value far outweighs the price. Keeps evolving in the glass! Good for at least 5 to 7 years aging. Produced by the Angove Family, this totally certified organic wine is also certified vegan. The "Bee" on the label indicates the winery's commitment to the production of wine in association with nature.

The Cape Cab 2020         Western Cape South Africa  $16.95     94/100 points
Colour: dark red
Nose: plum, black cherry, raspberry, currant, cassis, mint, some vanilla wood, chocolate, earth
Palate: medium body, fruity, nice tannin structure, anise on a long finish
Pairing: a food wine for Roast Beef, Grilled Steak, Osso Buco
Comments: ready now but possible age for 5 years plus.

OGGI Sangiovese 2021         Puglia     Italy                 $11.50        96/100 points
Colour: medium red, clear      
Nose: red cherry, strawberry, herbal extract
Palate: medium body, pleasant tannin, fresh acidity, clean cherry finish
Pairing: nice on own but a great grilled food wine with foods such as steak, salmon, veal, chicken, pasta with tomato or even carbonara sauce, burgers, cold cuts.
Comments: enough cannot be said for quality/price ratio of this wine. This wine is a true buy and definitely "A consumer's  daily wine!"



Monday, November 28, 2022

Romania Shows Off Its Great Wine

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:".

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.  
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  (



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. 


(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 (  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 ( 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 ( ($17.85).