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.

Sunday, March 24, 2024

This Winery Was Once An Aussie Church!

 Seaview, McLaren Vale
First settled in 1836, shortly after the colony of South Australia was proclaimed, the sub-region of  Seaview attracted many settlers. The church that was built in the 1860's played an important part in the lives of the settlers and their daily lives! 
In addition to its religious responsibilities, the church served as a community centre for sports and dances as well as serving as the local school. It quickly became a landmark.
In 1965 owing to both progress and the increased ability to travel faster to other cities,  it ceased being involved and eventually abandoned!  
New Horizons 
Enter Professor Tom Nelson who, in 1971, purchased the property for his wife's horses but later planted vines in 1972. The property was later purchased and invested in by the Gerrard Family in the 1980's. 
Pam Dunsford who, in the early 1970's,, entered a non traditional role as a winemaker.  Pam earned degrees in Bio-Chemistry and Horticulture and went on to obtain a Masters at U of Davis in California among many other notable achievements.  Since then, Pam has become an icon of winemaking in Australia.
Due to her influence and also a new direction in viticulture, the region has become a leader in sustainable and creative wine practices and environmental issues. Pam retired from Chapel Hill in 2006 after 19 vintages and was the recipient of the Maurice O'Shea Award for her contributions to the Australian Wine Industry. One very amazing person who I understand, is continually venturing into interesting careers such as anthropology!
McLaren Vale
McLaren Vale is located in the Province of South Australia and just south of the Adelaide. It sports a Mediterranean climate. It sports a large soil variety -----all soils are "free draining" meaning that they do not hold water for long periods thus making it an advantage to growing vines. Since there are a wide number of soil types ---all good for wine----a diverse group of viticultural species can be grown.   
Chapel Hill Winery
Chapel Hill is a leader in sustainable agricultural (viticultural) farming which includes both modern and established methods of regenerative agriculture, organic viticulture, soil health, carbon sequestration, lowering green gas emissions, solar energy, recycling and waste reduction. While it specializes in Shiraz varieties, the winery produces a range of red and white grape varieties including Cabernet Sauvignon,  Chardonnay, Shiraz and Semillon. One of its most famous wines is Chapel Hill: The Parsons Shiraz. 
Chapel Hill The Parsons Shiraz 2022  McLaren Vale                          $19.95    94/100 points
Colour: Dark red
Nose: Black Cherry/blackberry, plum notes, floral violet, vivid spices (Paprika, cloves, pepper, cassia), pepper, hint of chocolate, fig.
Palate:  Full bodied, very dry, forward tannin, pleasant lengthy finish with anise on the after.
Food: Filet Mignon with mushroom/truffle sauce a must. Possible pork sirloin, roast turkey and venison.
Comments: An exceptional wine at the price. Chapel Hill is now owned by the Woolworth company!    My score was based on a price/quality ratio. making it an excellent purchase that will improve for at least the next four or five years if you can wait that long to drink it.       

Friday, February 9, 2024

This Wine Keeps Getting Better

 Some wineries are not satisfied with just a great score. They have a need to do better! This is so for the wine below.

OGGI Pinot Grigio 2023    Veneto                                      $10:95       94/100 points
Colour: White, clear with very light yellow colour
Nose: Citrus, passion fruit, lychee, honey with some orange blossom nuance
Palate: Dry, light body, fresh, balanced sugar/acidity with citrus/almond finish
Food Matches: Aperitif, seafood, pork roast, cod cuts 
Comments: Second time that this wine was tasted. Last score was 90 points however the wine has undergone a process change with different grapes from other area of the property. The result is a difference from a very resourceful and well made wine to an excellent, exceptional wine of high quality. The resulting points are based on the quality per price ration.    

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Potpurri Tasting Shows Produces Nice Wines

 I am always amazed by new "discoveries" when it comes to wine. When I think that nothing can impress me,  I am wowed by the quality of an "new" wine that blows me away.
Lapilli Greco Di Tufo DOCG 2022  Campania, Italy                              $23.95        94/100 points  
Colour: Deep straw, brilliant, clear
Nose: Citrus lemon, Lychee fruit, Stone fruit, some vanilla nuances, mineral and sulfur!
Palate: Medium plus to Full body, nice  nice acidity, pebbles, nuts, citrus/lemon and some fruit sweetness on the finish.
Comments: Interesting wine from volcanic/clay soil at heights of 400 to 500 metres. Made from the  Greco di Tufo grape which is a clone of the Greco Bianco.  Some believe it is one and the same grape and refer to it as Greco Bianco. Tufo is also a village in Campania. Tasted twice
Food Pairings: Fish, sea food, salads, aperitif, hors d'oeuvres. 

Terres Secretes "Les Preludes' AOP Macon Rouge 2022 Burgundy     $19.95        93/100 points
Colour: Red, clear
Nose: Ripe red fruit with some dark fruit evolvement, pomegranate, blossom flora notes, smoke, earth
Palate: Medium body, soft tannin, dry, persistent length with noticeable but pleasant acidity 
Comments: Formerly called "Cave de Prisse-Sologny-Verze". In 2007 changed its name to "Vignerons de Terres Secretes". The wine if made from Gamay grapes. Pleasant wine capable of developing over a three or four year period but fine now. Good choice for Beef or veal stew, cold cuts, burgers! A great go to wine for the price!

Fumu Rosso Terre Sicilliane IGT 2021   Sicily, Italy                              $17.95        95/100 points
Colour: Ruby Red
Nose: Black cherry, raspberry, bumble berry mix, smoke, earth floor, wood spice, pepper
Palate: Full bodied, pleasant medium tannin, touch of fruit sweetness, very well balanced, lingering
Comment:  Exceptional wine for the price. A quality Merlot,  Syrah, Cabernet/blend with loads of flavour and a promise of future development. Volcanic soil. Great beef, lamb, game wine! 
Tasted Twice
A great choice for roast beef dinner, steak, salmon    

Crux Corte  2022             Argentina Mendoza                                        $17.95        96/100 points 
Colour: Ruby Red
Nose: Black Fruit, pepper, anise, herbal spice, smoke, vanilla wood, spice mix
Palate: Full bodied, velvet tannin, balanced, pleasant acidity, long and persistent finish
Comments: Another dynamic wine that has an exceptional price/quality ration. As far as I can find out, the wine is a blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Syrah, 10% Merlot and 10% Tempranillo. The wine is well made with much manual rather than machine handling. This would suffice as a great game . wine as well as roast turkey, wild fowl, Ossobuco. Definitely my wine for a great price/quality ratio purchase! Tasted Twice

Tordelcolle Rosso  DOC Reserva 2018          Molise, Italy                    $14.95        93/100 points 
Colour:  Red, clear   
Nose: Cherry blossom, floral notes, vanilla spice, plum, cherry, pomegranate,
Palate: Medium plus, pepper spice, well balanced with long finish
Comments:  From south-central Italy. Price says it all. Nice price for every day wine. Pleasing.

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!