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, November 1, 2020

Zenato celebrates 60 years of Fine Wine Making

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

Monday, October 19, 2020

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

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

                                Cambridge Wine and Food Society: Wine Person of the Year

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

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

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


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

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

Producer and then appointed as a Corporate Manager.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Including wine and food in particular! 

Congratulations Sheila for a job so well done! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 31, 2020

These Wines Deserve A Place In Your Cellar!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Wednesday, July 22, 2020

The Smiles Are On This Wine

If ever a wine was made with a younger and/or more technical demographic in mind it is the next group of wines that I will be introducing you to. SMILEY Wines from the regions of Gascony and Bordeaux, France is the product of the Chateau de l'Orangerie located in Saint Felix de Foncaude within Entre-Deux-Mers. Chateau owners, the Icard family, and the family of SMILEY brand (smiling face) trade mark owner Franklin Loufrani got together to add the very familiar smiling face to bottles of wine.
Loufrani registered the trade mark in 1972 and the Smiley Company has gone on to be a multi-million dollar company with trademarks all over the globe in many countries. The collaboration of both companies has culminated in the phrase on the Smiley Wines/Chateau-Orangerie website.
"Smiley Wines: A Glassful of Happiness"!

Smiley Chardonnay    100 % Chardonnay               $16.95                      94/100 points
SMILEY Wines - Chardonnay
Colour: Clear, brilliant, straw coloured
Nose: Citrus-apple, vanilla, nuts, tropical fruit
Palate: Medium body, smooth and luscious, citrus, well balanced with nice acidity
Comments: A truly nice Chardonnay wine that certainly pleases via quality/price ratio . Grilled veggies or nice on its own. 

Smiley Sauvignon Blanc      100% Sauvignon Blanc        $16.95                92/100 points

SMILEY Wines - Sauvignon Blanc

Colour: Very pale yellow ---almost no colour. No debris, very clear
Nose: Herbal, gooseberry, white fruit, floral
Palate: Light body, round with nice mouthfeel, well balanced
Comments: Nice wine with good price/quality ratio Seafood! 

Smiley Cabernet Sauvignon   100% Cabernet Sauvignon       $16.95        93/100 Points
SMILEY Wines - Cabernet-Sauvignon
Colour: Dark red, clear and no debris
Nose: Dark fruit, cassis, mint, red fruit as it evolves, spice
Palate: Full bodied, California sweetness (11.5 grams sugar), elegant and warm. Great finish! 
Comments: Definitely a good barbeque choice with burgers, steak or other grilled fare!

Smiley Merlot          100% Merlot                     $16.95                           93/100 points

SMILEY Wines - Merlot

Colour: Dark red, clear with no debris
Nose: Red and dark fruit, vanilla spice, smoke
Palate: Med/dry, full body, elegant with nice velvet mouthfeel, supple with sweet finish
Comments: Taste covers wide range of foods. I would have it with Romano or Parmigiano cheese, or with Portuguese Tapas or even a Mediterranean mixed platter of fish, ham, pastrami etc.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

New Wines Represent Fine Quality/Price Ratio

Several New wines have come my way and represent fine value. I have included the name of each country and its producer/wine importer 

Basileus Shiraz
Country: Australia
Vintage: 2018
Region: Barossa Valley
Grape Variety: Shiraz                    $21.95                      94.5/100 points
Colour: Very Dark Red, clear with no particles
Nose: Ripe dark fruit such as blue berry and black berry, refined vanilla spice, pepper notes with meat flavours such as bacon and spiced beef.
Palate: Full bodied with big tannin structure, muscular yet has elegance.   
Comments: A truly nice food wine that will complement meat dishes and game. The price is reasonable. Barossa with its very old vines produces some true benchmark wine.  
Wine Company: Angove Family Winemakers
Wine Importer: The Case For Wine 
Dalva Branco Douro 2018         $12.95                        93 points/100
Country: Portugal
Region: Douro
Grape Variety:            Viosinho, Malvasia Fina, Codega
Colour: Light yellow, brilliant and clear
Nose: Floral, mango, passion fruit, banana, citrus
Palate: Light bodied, pleasant and lingering with ripe fruit/light refreshing acid finish.
Comments: Interesting light wine that would be a super aperitif. Great for seafood.
Wine Agency: The Case for Wine
Producer: C. da Silva not to be confused with Casa Silva of Chile.

Dalva  Tinto Douro 2016     $12.95                             92/100 points
Country:  Portugal  
Region: Douro
Grape Variety:    Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinto Roriz (Tempranillo)
Nose: Ripe red berries, pepper spice, fig, vanilla wood
Palate: Full bodied with good balance/integration with nice lasting finish
Comments: Capable for aging at least three more years if not more. The wine is capable of complementing meat dishes and stews. Nice price/quality ratio.  
Wine Agency: The Case For Wine
Producer: C. da Silva (not to be confused with Casa Silva of Chile)

Name: Domaine La Decelle  Valreas 2017 (Reserve)        $17:00         Vintages #14391                                          94.5/100 Points 
Country: France
Region: Cote du Rhone Villages Valreas
Grape Variety: 50% Grenache and 50% Syrah
Colour: Dark red, clear, no debris 
Nose: Wine is young and somewhat closed but exposure to air evolves into dark fruit such as blackberry, plum, black raspberry with notes of vanilla, pepper spice, burnt leaves/cigar
Palate: Full bodied with excellent mouth feel, silky smooth with elegant tannin structure. Integrated and balanced. Dark and red fruit with a bitter almond finish that persists. Very nice wine
Comments:  From a region where wine making goes back hundreds of years and sparked an interest from the Pope in the 14th Century. It lies in the heart of the Enclaves de Papes (Valreas is only some 49 minutes away from Châteauneuf du Pape and 62 minutes from Avignon). The vines are old and bear concentrated fruit as is evident in this wine.  While lovely to drink now, this wine will certainly improve with three to six years of ageing if one can keep his/her hands off it! An amazing wine at the above price!  
Agency: Marchands des Ameriques
Producer: Frederic Lavau  

Monteci Roveiago Rosso
Country: Italy
Region: Veneto (Verona)
Grape Variety:    Corvina, Rondinella, Merlot                                93/100 points
Colour: Red, clear almost brilliant with no debris
Nose: Ripe red fruit,  floral rose, vegetal nuances
Palate: Medium Body, clean and fresh taste, round with pleasant soft finish.
Comment: Pleasant drinking with pizza, grilled meat and cold cuts.
Agency: The Case For Wine
Producer: Family Monteci
Monteci Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso 2016                          94/100 points 
Country: Italy
Region: Veneto (Valpolicella)
Grape Variety:  Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, Osleleta 
Colour: Dark red, clear and no debris
Nose: Dark fruit, vanilla wood, caramel, licorice, earth, floral violets
Palate: Full bodied, firm tannin, powerful but balanced, long lingering finish
Comments: Stainless steel fermented then 24 months in second hand barriques and 24 months in oak barrels.

 A rich wine with flavour filled stews, game, beef.  Great quality/price ratio. 
Agency: The Case for Wine 
Producer: Family Monteci

Monday, July 6, 2020

Casa Silva Makes Some Fine Wine

Valle de Colchagua
The Colchagua Valley  occupies the southern part of Rapel Valley, running from the Andes in the east to the Coastal Range in the west. Colchagua has a cool Mediterranean Climate  with 592 mm  rainfall, and soils of clay, sand and decomposed granite. 

Casa de Silva Cool Coast Sauvignon Blanc  2020             $19.95                    94 points/100
Colour: Brilliant Lemon Yellow, clear, no debris
Nose: Herbal grass, tropical fruit (pineapple), citrus lemon, straw
Palate: Dry, grape fruit, some citrus peel. Medium body, nice balance and mouthfeel. Pleasant, refreshing finish.
Comments: Clearly a super wine for food such as fish, oysters, shrimp and salads, light meat. Also super for summer sipping.

Casa Silva Reserva Cuvee Colchagua   Chardonnay        $14.95                     93/100 points
Colour: Brilliant golden  lemon, clear and no debris 
Nose: Citrus with some herbal notes, peach, vanilla, smoke
palate: round, mellow, soft with medium body and creamy texture. Vanilla on finish with a nice pucker of acidity.
Comments: Nice sipping wine but also fine with a variety of foods. Comes from hand picked and hand sorted bunches at CS's own estates. 20 % aged for 4 months in French Oak and 80% aged in stainless steel tanks. Power for most meats and ideal for sea food/fowl.

Casa Silva Reserve Cuvee Colchagua Sauvignon Blanc    $14.95                    93/100 points
Colour:  Lemon yellow, clear, brilliant with no debris
Nose; Herbal spice, tropical fruit, yellow berry, vanilla (even though no wood).
Palate: Round  medium bodied, pleasant refreshing mouth feel, Lingering refreshing finish.
Comments: From very old vines, hand picked and sorted. Vanilla on nose may be from being left on lees.

Casa Silva  Gran Terroir de Los Andes Cabernet Sauvignon    $19.95           91/100 points
Colour: Dark red, no debris 
Nose: Mixture of red (initial) and dark fruit. Chocolate, mint, cigar and pepper nuances
Palate: Full bodied, soft in mouth feel, but strong tannin, round and balanced, powerful.
Comments: From the special sections of Los Lingues Vineyards, very old vines. Hand selected and sorted. Malolactic fermentation in French oak.80% aged 12 months in French Oak  and 20% in stainless steel tanks. Can age! Great with game/beef.

Casa Silva Gran Terroir de la Costa Syrah                          $19.95                   93.5/100 points
Colour: Deep red, clear, no debris
Nose: Black cherry, raspberry, chocolate, smoke, pepper spice
Palate: Ripe black fruit, vanilla, caramel, mocha with beautiful tannin and long finish. Full bodied.
Comments: A wine to keep in mind with a firm future ahead of it..Serious stuff. Hand picked and sorted from the Lolol Estate, it is 90% aged in New French oak for 12 months as well as having full Malolactic fermentation in French Oak. 10% of it is stainless steel tanks. At that price-----get a case and put away for at least two years but --------! Food wine exceptional for the best aged meats, game, rabbit etc.

Casa Silva Gran Terroir de Los Andes                             $19.95                      94.5/100 points  
Colour:  Dark red, clear with no debris
Nose: Mixture of red and dark fruit, with "forest floor" nuances, vanilla, burnt leaves
Palate: Full in body, dark fruit (black berry, plum) with soft tannin and round, balance. Long finish
Comments: Los Lingues Estate, Hand picked/sorted. Well made and powerful. 12 months 85% French oak aged and 15% stainless steel  Once again: Malolactic in French oak barrels.  Capable of working with many curried dishes as well as beef, game and fowl.