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, September 21, 2008

Canada AM Meets Jackson Triggs/Inniskillin

Last Thursday, September 18th was indeed an early rising day for yours truly. There was something important in the air and this guy was going to be there, though the bed was OH! So welcoming! I forced myself out of the covers that held me so close to their warmth and trudged over to the shower. It was three am and I had gone to bed at one! I needed to be at the Jackson-Triggs winery at 6:30 am so I could be on hand to watch the Canada AM crew in person that morn. By 4 am I was on my way to pickup actor (Zero Hour, HBO) Paul Coombs and we were off to Niagara by 4:15. The 407 was a delight to drive that morning. The air pleasantly frosty and very clear. It was going to be a great day!
The drive went fast as it usually does when you have good company. By 6:15 we were at the winery and were greeted by National Hospitality Director, Del Rollo. Del was his usual charming and capable self. Since I knew that Canada AM's theme for that week was "Canada's Wineries----Their Growing Success/Influence In The World Of Wine!" I made sure that I had my most recent article in "East Of The City Magazine" with me to show him. My article described the "Changing Face Of Canadian Wines" and featured "Six New Wineries That Were Leading The Way To International Greatness"! In it, I described several newer wineries that were making an impact---one or two of which had been featured on Canada AM that week. I figured that it was a timely piece.
Jennifer Cowan of Jackson Triggs was there to greet us also and directed us to the much needed coffee lounge where the guests were assembling. We sat, coffee in hand in the main J-T foyer and looked at the mass of people getting the show on the move.
A number of people came up to greet us. Jackon Triggs Winemaker Marco Piccoli---a truly amazing man----came forward and discussed this year's vintage with me. Bruce Nicholson, award winning winemaker for Inniskillin was there as was Inniskillin's Debi Pratt. When Debi is around, the Sun seems to shine even when it is cloudy. Today, it happened to be sunny.
I watched as the ensemble cast came together along with the group of guests being seated around Paul and me. Finally, just before the show, Del came up and introduced several obviously important guests one of whom was wine writer David Lawrason. David went on to appear on Canada AM to discuss how well Canadian wine was doing. As we know, Canada's wine is doing very well indeed!
Wineries such as Inniskillin and Jackson Triggs have led the way in producing magnificent wines. It is well known that one of my favourite wines is the Proprietors' Grand Reserve Meritage followed closely by the Grand Reserve Merlot and Chardonnay. Inniskillin's Pinot Noir and Icewine are also top on my list of greats. It is commendable that winemakers such as Marco and Bruce are on hand to lead Canada into its next great venture in winemaking. Now, others are taking up the banner. Le Clos Jordanne in Niagara and Osoyoos Larose in B.C. are doing for red wine what Inniskillin Icewine and Jackson Triggs Chardonnay have done for white. With winemakers (really they are artists) such as Thomas Bachelder of Le Clos Jordanne and Pascal Madevon of Osoyoos Larose, the future looks great!
On the J-T AM show Seamus O'Regan proved as usual that he was one of the best hosts in Daytime Television on either side of the border. What really impressed me was weather and sports anchor, Jeff Hutcheson! This guy is smooth and brilliant----a pros pro who makes any appearance on television look easy and those of us who are hosts (I've done several) know that it is far from easy! My hat goes out to Jeff and it was a true pleasure meeting him. I made sure that he had a copy of my article so at least he would know that there were others who felt great about Canada's wine industry! He was gracious as usual!
Another person who impressed me beyond words was Maximilian Riedel, 11th generation of the magnificent glass company family. His appearance and presentation was class incarnate and as with most great persons, he was gracious with his time and information. Maximilian gave a scientific and historic account of his glassware along with etiquette information of how to serve wine as well as how to toast by clinking glasses.
After the program finished, Paul and I were invited by Debi Pratt to attend a commemorative event at Inniskillin featuring Mr. Riedel and the Riedel contribution (a table made from floor planks from the original and historic Riedel factory) to a similarly named room at Inniskillin. Here, I realized why I loved the whole subject of wine so very much. It is one that is continually is providing new information.
Maximilian discussed the making of lead crystal glasses and how special health methods have to be used to ensure the good health of the workers. I was intrigued by the fact that milk was used by workers as a way of eluding lead poisoning. It seems that when milk is consumed it absorbs the lead and thus keeps it from entering the blood stream. Alan Jackson, co-founder of Jackson Triggs and a chemist, provided me with a chemist's explanation (apparently he surmises it is the Lactic Acid that reacts with the lead). Whatever the explanation it was something that I learned that day and appreciate it.
The day ended with a toast to Mr. Riedel inventor of the "O" glass among other specialty wine glasses. It was with Inniskillin Rielsing Icewine 2007 in a Riedel Icewine glass----what else!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

New Wine Picks Make This An Interesting Month

Every agency must think that its wine is simply the best! This is a must if you are honestly going to do business with the general public---advising them, along the way, that their money is better spent on your products or at least the products that you represent.
I get sent many sample products through the course of one year. Those that I like, I will write about and if really impressed, will shout out at the top of the tallest building. If I'm not, I simply do not write about it. Negatives are usually very subjective so who am I to down rate a wine that has been sent to me in good faith. I leave that ultimately to the consumer. Here are some of my best picks that I have tasted over the last couple of weeks.
Shouting From The Roof Tops!
2007 Ontario Wine Vintage
The best season that Niagara (and Ontario) ever had. I have tasted many wines including powerful reds from Jackson Triggs, Delaine Vineyard and Inniskillin. Other vineyards such as Reif, Pillitteri, Maleta, Stonechurch, Peninsula Ridge, Cave Spring Cellars, Clos Jordanne, Malevoire, Kacaba and Crown Bench, are reporting magnificent wines.
In Prince Edward County, Norman Hardie, Longdog, Waupoos, By Cadsey's Cairns, Dellgato Estates, Black Prince, The Grange and Huff are all experiencing great wines also.
While I have not tasted Lake Erie North Shore/Pelee Island, I can be quite sure is saying more of the same.
A truly a magnificent vintage and one for red (and white) wine lovers to keep eyes out for. The best wines will live for years.
Luigi Bosca Malbec Reserve 2005 (LCBO #79293)
Darren Siddorn of Pacific Wines and Spirits emailed me this wine which scored a 91 (Wine Enthusiast Magazine). You would assume that it would be in the $25 to $30 range! Wrong!!! $15.00 Canadian is all that you pay for a wine that is high in concentration (14% Alcohol) and exceptionally classy. Soft, yet with the tannins to age many years it is dark red with pepper, spice, cherry, raspberry on the nose and coffee, blackberry, chocolate on the palate. A pleasure to drink and a great match with game, steak, beef. I did some research and on some U.S. websites the wine is on "Sale" at $17.99 down from $22.00.
Bargain----some stores (LCBO's are out so head for the nearest).
Yelling From The Top Steps
Francis Ford Coppola Pinot Grigio 2006 (LCBO #56424)
Craig de Bois of Lifford Agencies came over with a winner in my books! I'm not a great Pinot Grigio fan but this wine at $15.30 amazed me with its fruit and roundness in its body. Maybe its the Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay blended in to add complexity. I enjoyed every sip!
Black Anvil Cabernet 2006 (LCBO #45575)
Also from Lifford, this wine gives great power at bargain prices. $12.70 gets you loads of black cherry, blackberry, plum and pepper. Definitely for meat eaters but will suffice (and is inexpensive enough) to have with pizza dishes.
Leaping Horse Merlot 2005 (LCBO #613265)
Leaping Horse is one of my choices when someone asks me for an excellent yet inexpensive wine to drink either by itself or with food. The wine is an adapter to almost any meal. Being 80% Merlot helps but the Cab Franc and Syrah blended into the fold certainly add a great deal to make it an immediately pleasing wine. $12.25 gives you plum and blackberry up front and in your face. Burgers, Beef, Stews!

Waving From The Deck
Francis Ford Coppola Rosso Shiraz 2005 (LCBO #57034)
I was puzzled when I first tasted the wine because I did not read the label before I tasted. I kept on saying I taste some Zinfandel but it says Shiraz.
I spoke about this with Craig de Bois who said that in order for a varietal to be labeled as such would require at least 75% of that grape to be used in the blend. I checked with the Francis Ford Coppola website which states that the Rosso & Bianco Shiraz is made from 95% Shiraz and 5% Viognier. Don't know where the Zin came in but maybe my buds were off that day. Regardless, Whatever the taste, it's nice easy drinking with pizza or with bugers at $15:30.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Support The Local Food Economy

Mr. Donald Ziraldo the newly appointed Chairman of the Vineland Research and Assessment Centre in Niagara, calls 'Local Food' the "21st Century term for 'Terroir' ". This makes great sense to me since prior to the 'great age of transportation, supermarkets and quick food' the economy was pretty much locally driven. By local here I mean that all the food products were conceived, planted, raised and harvested within a hundred or so mile area. Very little production came from elsewhere. So basically, local food is an old concept whose time has come again.
If any person was to resurrect the concept, Mr. Ziraldo is certainly the man! His foresight was responsible for bringing Canadian wine to world standards by the introduction of the "Boutique Winery". He surged ahead in the production of vinifera only vineyards. Not satisfied with just that, Mr. Ziraldo made sure the quality of Ontario's (Canada's) wine met with strict regulations by introducing the Vintners Quality Alliance (V.Q.A.) and if that was not enough, Agritourism (or Agrotourism) became one of his passions. So, yes, this fellow would definitely be the one to at least in part, come up with this movement.
I said that this makes sense. If you look at what the French mean by 'wine terroir' the term could be translated to mean complex relationship between geography, climate, geology and soil composition. Add to that the human factors of wine making and local marketing and you have somewhat of an explanation.
One has to keep in mind also that part of the 'terroir' is also what one would be dining along with the wine. Now wider definitive question comes to mind. Should not what is grown or produced alongside the wine (same area, district, appellation etc.) be as important as the wine and thus part of "its" terroir.
We in Canada have been growing grapes for a mere two hundred years (if you want to credit the Jesuits who started the ball rolling). The French, Italians, Germans, Greeks have been specializing in the wine industry for thousands. It hardly seems a problem to imagine that out of these thousands of years, local/district food and wine specialty matches have evolved. If you do not believe this then take a trip to the South of France and try the local wine and food. If they do not seem made for each other, I do not know what would be. The same goes for Greece, Germany, Romania etc.
One need only look to the Niagara Peninsula which was the "Archdeacon" of food and fruit production long before it became famous for wine. Now that wine has achieved its prominence, much is being done to combine the characteristics of the its wine and food-----successfully!
The same can be said for other Ontario wine regions including the newest area Prince Edward County. Here, 'terroir' can be seen in its newest and yet best form as a combination of soils, climates, human interaction, tourism, artists, local food and of course wine! It's still finding its "balance" but it's coming fast!
Ironically, last May, long before I read Mr. Ziraldo's report to the University of Toronto at Hart House (Given on March, 2008), I was approached by Ms. Penny Contreras, Community Developer in the Commissioner of Social Services Office, asked me to do a tasting for the United Way as sort of a fund raiser. It developed into a major dinner gala hosted by local talent, with local government and supplied by Jackson-Triggs wines matched to food donated by the local farm co-operative. The event could have been used as an expression of local terroir.
Supporting Local Food Initiatives makes great sense.
First of all it supports the local economy. By buying local we are becoming more in tune with nature by reducing carbon consumption (fuel). The food is fresher, riper, tastier and healthier. It also aides other industries such as the tourism industry. Land destined to be used as parking lots, malls or buildings now can be used for food production thus keeping the Eco-system healthy. It will give more incentive for farms and responsible land usage.
I remember, when I was about 7 years old, I used to go down Victoria Street to Gordon Street in Whitby. There were farms with cattle and horses there. I have pictures of me feeding the cows grass through the fence. Where there was a barn is a mall. Where there were cows is now a sports complex and where the horses trod is now a parking lot. I would much rather have the "progress" reversed. In a way, the Local Food Initiative may bring some of that back!
For further information concerning this and other similar topics go to the following: and