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.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Casa Relvas Excels in Alentajo

 Alentejo---Portugal's Vast Region 

Alentejo stretches from northern granite hills to southern plains to cliffside beaches in the southwest. The landscape is populated by vineyards, cork, oak olive and eucalyptus trees. Here one finds agriculture a major part of the economy where cattle, horses, pigs, sheep predominate. The hot summers and cool  winters signify a Mediterranean climate with some Atlantic influence though due to varied topography temperatures may vary.  It does get cold enough to snow in Alentejo but infrequently.                 

 Casa Relvas

Casa Relvas is the general umbrella which all the Relvas businesses are included the initial thrust was with Herdade Sao Miguel and later  Herdade da Pimenta. Casa Relvas is a family affair with Alexandre Senior at the head followed by his two sons Alexandre Jr. and Antonio. Both sons are well versed in the vine with educational degrees from Bordeaux. 

 Herdade Sao Miguel

I have had the pleasure of visiting Alentejo sveral times  and twice was the guest of Alexandre Relvas at his Herdade Sao Miguel.  Sao Miguel has an expansive region of Olive and Cork groves along with many vines..  Here began Alexandre's Sr.'s mission with the vine!                                                               In 1997/98 he planted 98 hectares (244 acres) of cork trees and some 35 hectares (86 acres) of domestic vines along with olive groves in 2016. The result of his "project" has resulted in a highly successful venture of over 300 hectares (742 acres) of olive groves and  350 Hectares (865 acres) of vine in several areas. Grape Varieties: Trincadeira, Aragonez, Alicante Bouschet, Touriga Nacional. 


Herdade da Pimenta

Herdade da Pimenta has been part of the Relvas business since 2001 with a first harvest in 2007. It's its location is also the headquarters of Casa  Relvas and housed within an ultra modern building that has received many accolades for its design and technology from around the world.                                        The Herdade itself consists of 150 hectares (371 acres). of vines.                                                                Grape Varieties::  Trincadeira, Alicante Bouschet, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca (Red) and Arinto, Viognier, Antao Vaz    

Note: Due to demand of its wine and other products, other vineyards are rented and managed by the team members. 

Alexandre Relvas Jr. .                                                                                                                                  I met  young Alex on my first visit to Portugal's Alentejo and stayed at Sa o Miguel for several days. I found the young man who was barely in his teens to be extremely inquisitive with an insatiable desire to learn. On my subsequent trips I made sure I visited Sao Miguel. Alex certainly was his father's son as his knowledge, responsibility and capable talent proved to have grown by leaps and bounds. No father could be prouder served. Alex has turned into a passionate wine maker  and capable director.

Nuno Franco                                                                                                                                                Nuno was the very first member of the team Sao Miguel that I met. It was in Toronto at an agency  called Hobbs & Co. Margaret Hobbs had invited me to meet an up and coming winemaker/consultant from Portugal and wanted me to taste his wine. Little did I know that I was on the verge of a great adventure which albeit started some years later but set in motion that day.                                                  Nuno is one of the gentlest and politest persons winemaker or not, that I have ever met. His gentle nature overpowers one as he describes his wines and reveals his amazing talent for making one of this planet's superb wine.                                                                                                                                      The last time I saw him was at the Pimenta Winery where we tasted some of its fine wine. On this occasion I did myself a big favour and just listened to Nuno do his magic. That was in 2012 and the time has come to meet again.

Wines at the LCBO 

Herdade Sao Miguel 2017         Vintages #17515 

Grape: Touriga Nacional    Region: Alentejo         93/100 points                 $21.95                                   Colour: Red, clear    Nose: Black Cherry, plum and blackberry with nuances of anise, chocolate          Palate: Full, Sumptuous with superb long finish. Good now but so much better in one or two years       Note: Stock almost out so check store listings. New supply coming for December.

Herdade da Pimenta 2018           Vintages# 445114           91/100  points           $19.95                           Grape:  Alicante Bouschet, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon    Colour: Dark Red, clear  Nose:  Dark Fruit, chocolate, anise  Palate: Round, firm and full with pleasant but prominent tannin and a finish of concentration.  Note: Wine is showing good now but will benefit from at least another year of aging. Will continue to develop for several years after. Great price for this level of wine. This wine has a strong blend of the first three grapes listed and has the additional international grapes for added flavour blend. The 2019 will just have the initial three in the blend.

Both  wines are available through Noble Estates   (905) 943-7272    3000 Steeles Ave East Suite 203

Markham , ON L3R 4T9    

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Sunday, May 23, 2021

Viva Portugal!

 Portugal's Diverse Viticulture

Portugal is smaller in size than many other countries. For example; The Canadian province of Ontario is 12 times its size and France is 6 times larger. However what Portugal lacks in size it makes up for in its demographic, geographic and culinary diversity. 

Stretching north to south----its outer edge shores follow along the Atlantic Ocean in the West, Mediterranean Sea in the South and Spain in the North and East. The Tagus River separates the northern from the southern  parts of Portugal and also acts as a divide between the mountainous and hilly north from the rolling and sandy plains of the south.  

Portugal's geography is quite variable thus, its wine regions are equally so. 


Situated in the South of Portugal is a wine region known for its Mediterranean Climate, beautiful beaches and almost endless sunlight (3000 hrs). The Serra de Monchique mountains that run between Alentejo and Algarve block the hot, dry winds from Alentejo and allows the moderating effects of both the Atlantic to the West and Mediterranean to the South. 

Sand, clay, limestone and schist make up the soil.

Traditional grape varieties range from  White Grapes: Siria (Roupeiro), Malvasia, Arinto and Monteudo (table grape) to Red Grapes: Periquita (Castelao), Tinta Negra. However a host of international grapes have become common. These include Trincadeira, Alvarinho, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Syrah, Tempranillo (Aragones) and Touriga Nacional..  


Some of my best Portuguese  memories stem from my visits to the Alentejo region.  Alentejo is a large viticultural that covers  roughly one third the size of Portugal. The climate is Mediterranean with hot summers and mild winters where summer temperatures can climb high into the 40's Celsius. 

Topography varies from sandy plains and hilly areas to mountains near Spain. Soils are varied from granite and marble to schist to limestone and clay.  

Once again there are a group of traditional grape varieties. White Grapes: are headed  by the Antao Vaz which is grown mainly in Alentejo and is followed by Arinto and Roupeiro (Siria) . There are alao number of native white blending grapes used such Diagalves, Manteúdo, Perrum and Rabo de Ovelha. A point of interest is that he Perrum has been genetically linked to the Mission Grape of California..

Among the Red Grapes: Aragonez (Tempranillo) seems to be the predominant variety planted in this area, Alfrocheiro, Castelao (Periquita) and  Trincadeira follow suit.   International grapes such as Alicante Bouschet, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon are successfully being produced to make fine wine.  My favourite by far is the Syrah by Herdade Sao Miguel.followed by those of Esporao.

Alentejo is very popular in Portugal and highly regarded as a go to for quaffing wine and serious long term wine. 


Until not too long ago, the wine region of Lisboa was known as Estremadura but was renamed "Lisboa" to avoid confusion with the Spanish wine region of Extremadura as well as to associate the name of the wine region with the Portuguese capital city of Lisbon. 

The wineries of Lisboa feature many relics of ancient times such as Etruscan water ways and Roman ruins.  

Lisboa stretches south to north (just west of the city of Lisbon) along the .Atlantic coastline to Bairrada.  While Lisboa produces the most wine of any region from a wide variety of grapes both domestic and international, the coastal area is subject to a great deal of wind which affects the ripening of grapes. Hills and mountains inland do provide some escape and make viticulture a whole heap easier. There are 9 regional subdivisions  most important being Alenquer, Aruda, Bucelas and to a point Obidos which makes great sparkling wines. Other regions either make little wine or are resigned to making brandy or low alcohol whites.

Soil composition is mainly sand or Limestone in the north.

Generally speaking the main White Grapes of Lisboa are : Arinto, Fernao Pires, Malvasia,Seara-Nova,and Vital. Red Grapes are: Alicante Bouschet,, Aragonez (Tempranillo), Castelao (Periquita)), Tinta Miuda, Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, and Trincadeira..International grapes such as Chardonnay (White) and Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon (Red) are also used.  


Between Lisboa and Alentejo is the Tejo Region.  Tejo is historically significant since many Roman relics abound----some in the very vineyards/wineries that its fine wine is produced.  This area was, until recently, called Ribatejo  However, as a tribute to the namesake of this area -----the river Tagus-----the name was changed to Tejo with one exception, that being, labels for the generalized basic regional wine (VR) have the Tejo designation while the higher (DOC) label designation has the Ribatejo name on the label. 

To the north one finds clay, limestone and schist while in the south the soils are sandy and poor. Alluvial soils along the Tagus allow for good drainage. 

Grape types include  White Grapes: Fernão Pires,  Arinto, Alvarinho and Verdelho   Red Grapes: Touriga Nacional, Trincadeira, Castelao, Aragones and Alfrocheiro.  

Setubal Peninsula

Situated directly south of Lisbon and across the river Tagus, this wine region was once known as Terras do Sado due to the Sado river flowing just south of it. The topography is basically flat land though a small southern chain of mountains known as Serra da Arrabida cuts across the south. With the exception of the limestone and clay in the hills, the soil is basically sandy. Wine grown in the Arrabida hills is mainly sweet and succulent---made from Muscat of Alexandria grapes. The wine is fortified and comes under the Setubal DOC quality control while another DOC, Palmela seems to be particularly good at red grapes such as Castelao. Both DOC areas do grow various other vines vines such as Setubal ----White Grapes:  Antão Vaz, Arinto, Fernão Pires, Malvasia Fina, Roupeiro Branco and Verdelho    Red Grapes: Aragonez, Bastardo,  Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Trincadeira and, Moscatel Roxo

Palmela: --------White Grapes: Alvarinho, Loureiro, Pinot Blanc, Rabo de Ovelha, Roupeiro Branco, Sauvignon, Semillon,and Verdelho, Red Grapes: Alicante Bouschet, Bastardo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Syrah, Tannat, Tinta Miúda, Tinto Cão, Touriga Nacional and Trincadeira.. I am sure that there is intermingling of various types of grapes in both DOC regions.


Bairrada is situated between the Dao Region and the Atlantic Ocean. The clay/limestone and sandy soils along with ample rainfall and a Mediterranean climate make Bairrada a haven for many grape varieties but one sticks out above all. The Curia region within Bairrada is a lush oasis which has been known for its "thermal waters" since Roman times. It is here that I associate this region with one man. It is here that Mr.Luis Pato makes his fine wines and has become known as "Mr. Bairrada" and "Mr. Baga "for the grape he loves so much! Luiis is a living legend.  His family have been producing wine at Quinta do Ribeirinho since the 18th Century. . Mr. Pato exclusively has Portuguese grapes in his 65 hectare winery. The varieties he has re BagaTouriga Nacional, Maria GomesBicalCercealSercialinho and Arinto. I found that this region is highly underrated when compared to other regions but when wines such as Baga are well made, they challenge any in the World!


In the North Eastern part of Portugal about one hundred miles inland of the Atlantic Ocean and just south of the Douro Area lies the Region of Dao. While demarcated as a wine region in 1908, sale of wine by growers was restricted to co-operatives which, while advantageous as a sure sale, negated any incentive to developing both a terroir based wine and private ownership pride. During the last few years and especially since the European Union came into existence there has been a major shift to private ownership and a strong move towards local, terroir driven wine.  

The wines of Dao now more than ever reflect the unique sub-regions each with its own added micro climates. Due to this emphasis similar grape varieties can differ from concentrated, bold wines to soft elegant ones; from wines of floral and herbal characteristics to those of power and earth. Much does depend on the winemaker's style but the terroir will dictate how far he could go.
Sandy soils consisting of Granite seem to dominate in Dao with Schist outcroppings in some areas. Granite is igneous, crust rock which is reflective of the surrounding mountains in Dao. Schist is a metamorphosed rock which used to be layered sedimentary deposits of either organic substances or other rocks. Sand soil formed mostly by weathering covers the deposits. 
Vines grown on granite soils produce light, elegant wines while vines grown on schist and slate can be denser and have a higher concentration with less acidity. The soils for the most part are well drained.  

Surrounded by mountains, Dao is protected from the cold, winds and rain. The fact that Dao is a high mountainous region means that the night time temperatures tend to be cool thus allowing for slow ripening and good acidity making the wines elegant and capable of age. Many of the vines are over a century old and thus produce fine wine of concentration. As in Bairrada, Dao is underrated and capable of challenging the best anywhere. This allows for Dao to be very reasonable in price at local stores. Here one of the stars of Dao is the White grape Encruzado which makes excellent quaffing wines as well as top notch dinner wine. Other White Grapes: Bical, Cercial, Verdelho, Rabo de Ovelha and Malvasia Fina. I also noticed some wineries using Fernao Pires.  Red Grapes: Include, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo, Aragones), Alfrocheiro Preto, Jaen, with some Bastardo and Baga!     

Vinho Verde

Green is what you expect from the descriptive "Green Wine" that is used for this area. Green however, does not refer to the wine as much as the lush, green area that lies between the Douro and Minho rivers. Wine has been made in this lovely region from the times of Ancient Rome and has continued to be an influence in the world. As a matter of fact, when people mention Portuguese wine, after Port, Vinho Verde seems to be the name that crops up most! 

Vinho Verde wines are known for their freshness and fine acidity. This is owed partially to the cool and wet climate. Because of this the vines are low trained on wires to give the grapes more exposure to the Sun. Prior to this the vines were grown in the form of Pergolas which really did not give them a chance to ripen. 

The flavour and style of the wine produced here depends on the grape used. The White Grapes   include the Loureiro---floral wines; Trajadura---flinty/steel; Arinto----mineral; Avesso----creamy and Alvarinho---soft and fragrant. Red Grape Vinhao tends to be dark and acidy. In general the main wines from Vinho Verde tend to be white, light, aromatic with a slight fizz on the palate. While grapes are a main attraction, there are some historic wineries in this region. When in this region some years ago I was fortunate to visit a couple of these grand estates.

 Quinta Da Aveleda Quinta da Aveleda has been in the same family since the 11th Century. The estate has a unique garden with many interesting sites. Some of these sites are called "Follies" which are named for buildings and additions made by various members of the family through the years. There are gates, houses, ponds, statues, goat houses and even a window from the home of Henry the Navigator(Prince Henry) in the very large and spacious garden. The house is very large and also a historic piece. We had supper there and also tasted some of the fines wines of Aveleda with cheese that is made on the farm. Since my visit there have been further acquisitions by the family in charge.  .

Casa de Sezim The original building dates back to the 14th Century. The oldest part of it was built in 1390 and goes back in ownership to a companion of the then King of Portugal. The decor is quite impressive and of course all the rooms and gardens which adorn the estate have a story which involves brushes with antiquity. The whole area wreaks history. One thing that I didn't count on while  staying  at the Quinta was an evening of some special phantom noises that was said to come from the spirit world!

Keeping in mind that there are 9 subdivisions the Vinho Verde Region, there are many such places to tantalize the historical mind and these two should give you an idea of the wealth of history that exists in Vinho Verde and, in fact, all of Portugal!


Bordering Douro and Dao to the north and south respectively is the mountainous region of Tavora-Varosa. I haven't visited this area but from what I can research. The soil  is of granite/schist composition in a continental climate. That in addition to a high land allows the grapes to retain acidity which is beneficial to the making of Sparkling wine. Malvasia Fina, Cerceal (Sercial, Cercial), Fernao Pires, Gouveio  and Bical are the White Grapes while Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinto Roriz (Tempranillo) and Tinto Barroca are the major Red Grapes! Due to the potential for making fine sparkling wine, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir have been planted in the region.


A similar area to the above with high continental climate and similar oils and vines.

Beira Interior

This is a region in evolution. Mountainous, continental in climate with  mainly granite and some schist soils. The harsh weather results in very hot summers and very cold winters. The white wine  tends to be aromatic and light in body while the red wine is complex with high spice and fruit. The predominant White Grapes are Arinto, Fonte Cal, Malvasia, Rabo de Ovelha e Siria with the Red Grapes being, Bastardo, Marufo, Tinto Roriz, Rufete and Touriga Nacional. Wine production is taken seriously here and the result will be surprisingly challenging wines.   


The Azores are a group or 9 volcanic islands---four of which, Pico, Sao Miguel and Terceira and Graciosa have vineyards.  They are situated in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean some 1400 km from Portugal, 2000 km from Canada and 1500 km from Morocco. The climate is mild and wet. The soil is dark and very fertile volcanic. 

These islands may have been discovered by seafarers under the command of Prince Henry the Navigator. There are several theories of their discovery ranging from seeking shelter from a storm to being shipwrecked on one of the islands but regardless, the islands were claimed for Portugal and served initially to allow sheep to roam and develop as a food source for passing ships.  

A World Heritage Site, Pico is by far the most famous of the wine islands. It has a unique method of viticulture whereby stone walls are erected and protect the planted vines from salt spray carried by the wind and the weather itself. Like the rest of the Azores, the soil is volcanic in origin ----in fact the process is still going on with some cities such as Furnas, in Sao Miguel, in the centre of a  volcanic crater which still shows much activity.

Wine grape varieties reflect the Portuguese and Eastern European influences with White Grapes: Terrantez, Arinto, Verdelho, Boal and Fernao Pires. International varieties such as Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer and Riesling are also present. Red Grapes: include Tempranillo (Aragones), Saborinho (Molar, Negra Mole, Tinta de Madeira etc.) as well as International varieties such as Syrah, Merlot, Sirah and Cabernet.      

If in Sao Miguel lookup Quinta da Jardinete and if in Pico visit the Azores Wine Company and Cooperativa Vitivinicola da Ilha do Pico where making of that superior Terras do Lava red, white and rose occurs! 

 Douro  Wine Region

Douro wine making history goes back to the Roman era  if not earlier. This region is located some kilometres upstream from Oporto. Its main product has been the production of Port owing to the fact that ever since the mid 17th Century, fortified Port wine has been shipped via Oporto to England. In 1756, this region became so important to the economy of Portugal that the Douro Region was demarcated by a royal charter for the making of Port wine. Douro is a World Heritage Site!

Also known as Alto Douro, this region is sheltered from the Atlantic influences by mountain ranges. The climate is continental with hot, dry summers and cold winters. It has three subdivisions:Baixo Corgo, Cima Corgo and Douro Superior. While Douro Superior is expanding, Cima Corgo is known for its quality wine. 

Soil is basically schist/shale with some granite. 

While known for its Port companies, Douro non fortified grapes now have a strong following and can compete with the World's best. 

Grape Varieties 

Red Grapes: Bastardo, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo and/or Aragones), Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional. White Grapes: Gouveio, Malvasia Fina, Rabigato, Viosinho, Moscatel Galego and Donzelinho.   


Portugal's Wine Start Journey Started Here! Some years ago I visited this fabulous region.  It was thrilling to be in Oporto or Porto, the city where the Douro met the Atlantic. This was where it started all! Ships carrying their cargo of Port to England. Finding out that the liquid in the barrel improved after being on a ship for so long. The British developed a taste for this precious and founded a number of companies which began making it and shipping it to the island. The rest as they say is history! Speaking of history, Porto was known as Portus/ Cale in the time of Rome and was captured by the Moors in the Eighth Century. It was an important location and was the subject of many occupations through the centuries. Port is also famous for being he birthplace of Prince Henry or Henry the Navigator. According to history books, Port started shipping wine around 1678. The City Port does not just ship wine. It ships many other items such as cork, olive oil, fruits, building materials, cotton, silks and wool. It is a lovely place to visit with its many landmarks and also the many port houses along the Douro river. Port boats can be seen sailing around the river with barrels on board---simulating the trips to the port houses from the vineyard destinations. I could see the names of the houses across the landscape horizon as we looked across the river and also onto our side of the shore. FerreiraWarresSandemanTaylors and more were all prominently featured amidst the buildings and homes that made up the city. I was surprised to see how clean and well kept this port city was. I was also amazed at the effect of floods on the city had during the many years. We visited House of Sandeman and could see the levels that various floods reached during the years the building had been there. In extreme years the floods could get as high as 12 feet above the normal river level. Indicators on the walls of the Sandeman building "notch" the heights reached in various flood years. Flooding is not as much as a problem now due the the location of various dams up the Douro river. The climate of Porto is Mediterranean which means that summers are dry and hot and winters are rainy but mild. The temperature seldom reaches zero CelsiusSandeman! The name Sandeman should be synonymous with "First". Sandeman, was probably the first person to make use of the Coffee Houses that littered London in the late 18th Century as a place to develop a Port Company. This Scotsman from Perth borrowed $300 pounds at Tom's Coffee House to begin the journey that still is going on now. Sandeman was also the first to use a Brand name on a cask using the GSC (George Sandeman & Company) in 1805. Sandeman became also the first company to register a trademark in 1877 and the first to export bottled labelled wines (1880). Advertising was the next. Sandeman was among the first to advertise in 1905 and in the late 1920's Sandeman commissioned an artist, George Massiot Brown, to paint a logo and the silhouette of "The Don" was born. It was the first iconic logo for a wine. In 2002, Sandeman joined the Sogrape Group and the story goes on! Tour I was met with by a lovely and charming young lady, Ligia Marques who gave me a tour of the facilities. The museum was quite interesting with an array of labels, stamps, documents and historical paraphernalia concerning the company. We then went into the Barrel Cellar where casks of port slept. The company library with bottles of Port, some over one hundred years old, were kept. Ligia then arranged a meeting and a tasting with none other than the Chairman of the House of Sandeman---7th Generation Sandeman---George SandemanThe Tasting With George Sandeman The true expression of a person who is great is how gracious and humble he seems. We were very impressed by this persons "down to earth" attitude and easy, gentle manner. His main pleasure and pride is that his company has given so much pleasure to people. He went on to describe several of his ports and match them to various foods such as his Founders' Reserve with cheese or pecan pie On his Sandeman 20 Year Tawney, it is fruit such as peaches or blue cheese. Vintage Ports such as the fabulous 2000 or 2007 would be great with chocolate mousse or sweet fruit such as figs or salty creamy cheese or Stilton. A White Port is also available and is a pale yellow colour and can be served with such foods as cheese, creamy fish soups, white chocolate and fruit. There are various types of Port that are suitable to various tastes and budgets. Sandeman goes well with many foods. Other products such as Sherry, Brandy and Madeira are also produced. The question arises: "If it were not for Oporto and Port, would Portugal be as famous a wine country. I think we know the answer!.


As with the Azore Islands Madeira's "Discovery" was (is) credited to sailors under the command of Prince Henry circa the early 15th Century. Its subtropical, warm and rainy weather especially in winter makes wine making rather difficult due to the onset of disease. Vineyards are small and trellised. They are planted on man made terraces. 

As with many other products, the making of today's Madeira was an accident of coincidence and necessity! In the 17th Century Madeira was a stop-over for ships sailing to other colonies. The ships would pick up wine which was unfortified in the Island however the wine did not last the voyage well. To improve its lasting power, it was fortified with brandy (much like Port). The composition of wine however changed somewhat owing to the heat and movement within the ship. Wine that made a "round trip" thus was quite different in taste than when it started. Customers such as the Dutch East India Company however preferred this taste.

Methods of preparing this wine without the necessary trips were invented (special heating rooms) and the present drink was produced.

Grapes used in special styles and blends are: Sercial, Verdelho, Bual, Malvasia and Tarantez. most common grapes used for making Madeira are Negra Mole and Complexa. 

Word of Warning  

If one wants to drive to any producers or as a tourist make sure you hire a guide and better still one with a car. Driving in Madeira is tough with narrow roads and many bumps. If you drive---be careful!




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!