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.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Umbria Translates "Lungarotti"

A Meeting Of Ancient and Modern

The Italian province of Umbria derives its name from the Umbri tribe that settled the region around the Sixth Century B.C. It's history is a cornucopia of battles and invasions between warring tribes such as the Etruscans, Samnites, Carthagians, Romans, Osgoths, Byzentines, Lombards, The Papacy, French and the Piedmontese. It seems many had a hand in forming this unique part of Central Italy before it became part of the Kingdom of Italy and finally, Italy. Umbria's very soil is made up of sediments from an ancient lake that forms an excellent growing medium for crops which include grape vines.

Another writer, states that Umbria may have a relation to the Italian word "ombra" which means shadow---in this case can be attributed, topographically to the very hills that suround the region and politically by that of the nearby region of Tuscany, famous for its scenery, culture, food and wine! But this is no more! This area, steeped in medieval tradition is being rejeuvenated as that of a modern and dynamic commercial, industrial and tourist centre while still keeping its artistic and culinery focus.

The Talents Of Geography

The hilly region of Umbria is surrounded by other regions/provinces. Tuscany (West) is the most famous with the lesser famous but also well known wine area of Marche (East) and Lazio (South) makes up the last political boundary. The Appenines form a natural border between the Marches and Umbria while three river tributaries (Chiascio, Topino, Nera) flow south, into the Tiber River.

Umbria is a very unspoiled and scenic area which has long been settled and thus many natural aspects altered. Many towns have significance not only for their beauty but also for the their being familiar wine names. For example Orvieto, Torgiano and Montefalco as well as historical places such as Assisi, Perugia and Gubio all have a connection with the arts, history and wine!

Lungarotti Rules
Torgiano is about 8 kilometres from Perugia and about 16 from Assisi. It belongs to a whole slew of medieval towns many of which date back to ancient times. In this atmosphere, Doctor Giorio Lugarotti founded his winery in 1962-----an act that changed the fortunes and life for the town and region.
In the 250 hectares just outside of Torigiano, he planted vines of red varietals along the hillsides (Sangiovese, Canaiolo, Merlot, Cabernet, Montepulciano, Pinot Nero and Syrah) with top level wines high on the hillsides with white varieties (Trebbiano, Grechetto, Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio) more towards the lover levels where it is cooler.
At Turrita, a small village withing Montefalco he planted 20 hectares of vines consisting of Sagrantino ( Check out previous blog article "Italian Wine Flows Sagrantino" November 8 2008) Sangiovese and Merlot!
The "Other Side" Of Lugarotti!
In 1974 Lungarotti founded the Wine Museum in Torgiano where some 5000 years of agricultural history are covered. In 1987, a Foundation for the promotion of wine,olive and oil which later resulted in the Olive and Oil Museum (2000) became a reality! The cultural impact has resulted in the building of hotels, spas and vineyard tourist homes that are now enjoyed by many. The dream of Lugarotti has not only come through but has flourished.
The Wines Of Lungarotti!
Chiara Lungarotti was in Toronto to promote and do a tutored tasting of eight of the Lungarotti wines to members of the Wine Writers Circle Of Canada. The youthful and attractive Chiara is the CEO of Lungarotti who along with her sister Teresa Severini (the winemaker) and her mother Maria Grazia (cultural aspects), form a dynamic representation of what women can do in the wine industry.
Tasting Notes: White
Breza Consignment Only: $14.95 Grechetto, Chardonny, Pinot Grigio
Very pale lemon yellow in colour. The wine has floral notes with citrus spice on the nose. On the palate. It is light, citrus/apple followed by refreshing acidity.
Food and Uses:
Easy sipping especially for summer. A great wine for fish soup, even chowder. I would also like it with grilled sea bass, trout and like food.

Pinot Grigio L.C.B.O #9018 $13.95 Pinot Grigio
Brilliant yellow in colour. Again this wine has a floral nose. The bouquet in some ways reminded me of the grassy qualities of Sauvignon Blanc. I also noted some manderin citrus qualities on both the nose and palate. A pleasant dry white wine that makes for easy sipping.
Food and Uses:
Another wine that would accompany fish soups, chowders and grilled fish such as salmon. One could add mild meats such as ham or chicken.

Torre di Giano Not Available Estimated Price $19.95 Trebbiano, Grechetto
Pale yellow/green in colour. Lemon citrus with hint of floral and melon on the nose. Lemon citrus on the palate with some hints of apple and melon. Pleasant almond acid finish.
Food and Uses:
Great on its own. The choice of dishes is wider than the above two. Risoto with truffles, pasta, shrimp and/or lobster. Surf 'n Turf.

Tasting Notes: Red

Fiamme 2007 Not Available Estimated Price $14.95 Sangiovese, Merlot
Young and lively this wine is designed for easy quick drinking with fine food. On the nose it shows strawberry and cherry nuances with a similar taste of field berries, cherry and raspberry on the the palate. It has a very fresh and lively finish with some fine acidity.
Food and Uses:
Definitely a pizza wine. I would love to try it with grilled salmon and light pizza dishes or something like veal. Of course it is an no brainer for yer average barbecue treat!

Rubesco 2005 L.C.B.O. #41947 $13.95 Sangiovese, Canaiolo
Dark RubyRed/Violet in colour. On the nose, this wine has pleasant smoke, raspberry/cherry, sweet spice. On the palate, there is a pleasant combination of wood (vanilla), red fruit berry flavours with a full mouth feel and forward tannins. The finish is long and persistant.
Food and Uses:
Pasta or rice, red meat and barbecues of all types. This a highly adaptable wine for many foods.

Giubilante 2005 Not Available Estimated Price $24.95 Sangiovese, Merlot, Syrah
Dark Red almost Violet in colour. On the nose it is jammy, with cherry, tobacco and liquorice/anise. On the palate there is much red fruit (raspberry, cherry predominate) and forward tannins giving a very pleasant mouthfeel. The finish has a pleasant anise touch to it.
Food and Uses
Pork chops, Lamb chops, steak, roast beef (medium), makeral. Also good with stews.

Rubesco Riserva 2003 L.C.B.O. #108787 $49.95 Sangiovese, Canaiolo
Deep Ruby Red/Violet in colour. On the nose, violets, black fruit with pepper and leather notes. On the palate, black fruit, vanilla, pepper, coffee and tobacco. Anice and savoury spice on the finish. NIce supple tannins. The tannins are so pleasant that it would be easy to forget that this wine is very ageable.
Food and Uses:
Osso Bucco, Pork Loin, Ribs, Roast Beef (rare) and even Venison. A truly nice wine!

San Giorgio 2003 Unavailable $59.95 Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Canaiolo
Purple in Colour. Pepper, Barnyard, Vanilla Wood and Cedar with some smoke on the nose. On the palate Black fruit, tobacco, coffee, chocolate, mint and herbs. Incredible power and difficult to hold in mouth without wanting to swallow. Great finish of cassis, anise and mint. Lovely wine.
Food and Uses:
Game (Venison, Moose, Duck), Very rare roast beef, filet mignon and New York Steak with heaps of mushrooms.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Creekside Winery Progresses Onward

Creekside Revisited
I remember some years ago when Creekside Winery came into existence. I visited the winery in 1998/9 and met then winemaker Marcus Ansems. Given a tour of the then winery as well as areas of what it was to become left me saying to myself, "If this all happens, then it will become a major contender not only on the "Bench" but also the Niagara Peninsula as a whole. If I can recollect well enough, it was the Sauvignon Blanc and other whites that impressed me the most about this new kid on the block.
Years have gone by and things have happened since that initial visit. Marcus now heads the "Hemispheres Wine Guild" in St. Catherine's and two fellow Aussies (What is it about these Aussies----they're everywhere---the movies now wineries. What next?) Craig Mcdonald and Rob Power have a firm hold on the Reins! These "Wine Makers Of The Year 2008" at the Ontario Wine Awards" have done remarkable things with the production.
Broken Press
Before I go on, I'd like to tell all of you a story! A several years ago, I think it was 2004, the twosome was pressing some Viognier grapes when their press broke. They didn't exactly know what to do with them so they decided to add them to fermenting Syrah grapes and called the resulting wine, very aptly, "Broken Press". In tasting this wine, I was an immediate convert and have that inital taste of and power, roundness, spice/chocolate taste with just the right amounts of oak has remained with me to this day.
St. Lawerence Centre For The Arts
Hobbs and Company wine representative, Johnaton Hostick invited me to visit the Creekside display at the "St. Lawerence Centre For The Arts" and a fine display it was. Of course what I had in mind was "Broken Press Syrah" and that is exactly what I was thinking of when I walked in with dad Dan Hostick in tow! However, I found out that Broken Press as great as it was, had some serious, serious competition and that Creekside had grown a great deal since my initial tasting.
The first wine I tried was a red 2007 Shiraz which typical of the year was big, round, spicy and deliciously forward but with excellent tannins that forcasted several years development. Both red and white Laura (named after Creekside owner Laura McCain-Jensen) were excellent. The 2006 Laura red consisted mainly of Cabernet Sauvignon (39%), Cab Franc (28%), Merlot (27%) and Malbec (6%) showed great fruit and good structure with enough strength to last for four to seven years depending on storage. The 2007 Laura white consisted of a rather unique blend of Sauvignon Blanc (38%), Chardonnay (27%), Pinot Gris (18%), Viognier (7%), Muscat (5%) and Riesling (5%). The tropical fruit/floral/herbal nose was also evident on the palate with citrus, leechy fruit, lemon and vanilla. I was very impressed with the wines I tried but my biggest treat was yet to come!
Estate Reserve 2005!
The first wine I tried was the 2006 Broken Press Shiraz. That's what I came for and that's what I wanted to try! The 2006 was leaner than what I remember the 2004 being but it was still elegant with the depth to keep it improving over the next several years. The practice of adding Viognier (3%) to the Shiraz (97%) has been kept and contributes to the light floral nuance that one gets when the wine has stood for a few minutes and one get over the power of the Shiraz.
My true surprise came when I tasted the Creekside Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon Reserves.
The 2005 Merlot Reserve (100%) was deep coloured with a mouthfeel that made it very hard to hold in the mouth without swallowing. The wine nose was still somewhat closed but allowing the scent of plums and blackberry to come out. On the palate were currant blackberry/blueberry and plum flavours with some pepper and oak toast. There seemed to be a bit of anise on the finish.
The 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon was just as big with a nose that will open up in the near future but allows black fruit, herbal nots and some vanilla/oak . The mouthfeel is large and full with black cherry, plum, Eucalyptus and sweet wood on the palate. A truly nice wine. Both the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon Reserves have long aging capablity and I look forward to trying them in five years time and possibly at the twelve year margin.
Ice, Ice Baby!!!
The final wines I tried were a Select Late Harvest Pinot Gris with sweet pear, peach, citrus mandarin flavours and remarkable Riesling Icewine that had a tremendous balance to it with toffee, citrus orange and oak hints. Tasted with chocolate coated Strawberries, the Pinot Gris was quite good. The Icewine was remarkable again as it was tasted with cheesecake/white chocolate pastry.
When it comes to a tasting, there are times that I think twice before taking the time to travel some 75 kilometres both ways to my home. In this case, the effort was exceptionally rewarding.
Congrats to Creekside and their agents Hobbs & Co.

Friday, February 6, 2009

January Was Slow But February Has Flown Out The Gate!!

It Started With Sommelier
If this was a horserace the month of January 2009 is well behind February as far as wine events are concerned. My article about sommeliers (aptly called "Sommelier") with five top sommeliers (Zoltan Szabo, Corey Ladouceur, Lindsay Groves, April Kilpatrick and Daniel Giosu) took some time to write since after finishing the first draft two days before my deadline, I decided I did not like it and redid the whole thing. I must also thank John Szabo MS (no relation to Zoltan) for his advice and suggestions. John as many of you may know, is the only Master Sommelier in Canada.

Fortunately for me, I did not have many events other than the Wine Writers' Circle Dinner to go to so I could concentate on "Sommeliers". One thing, I must learn how to use my camera. Poor Corey Ladouceur, Sommelier for The Granite Club, spent part of a morning babysitting me at 'The Club' while I took pictures of him. It was sort of embarassing though. I came prepared with my new 12.5 Mega Pix Cannon only to find that my 8 GB memory card was missing. Corey came to the rescue with an 8 MGP camera ----and we got some nice shots but to no avail since the shots were only of a 1.5 MGB size and I needed (according to my editor) at least a 2 MGB resolution. Now since the only bites I understand are those of the "mosquito" genra this does not compute with me. Fortunately there was one super great picture submitted by Lindsay Groves (which is hot!) that was good enough to use.

February Events!

The first event I went to was the launch of the 2003 Osoyoos Larose. Now please don't tell me that this was yet just another launch! First of all, I regard Osoyoos Larose at the same level as that magnificent wine Le Clos Jordanne (though I always will question why the masquiline "Le" is used with the femine spelling of "Jordanne")---both of which are putting Canada on the International Wine Map and I personally regard each as a bargain when it comes to price. Equal wines anywhere are at least in the $150 dollar per bottle range (and I'm being conservative).

The event featuring a vertical tasting of wines from 2004 through 2007 Osoyoos Larose, (as well as barrel tastings of the singular varietal components of the 2008 Larose) once again was handled exceptionally by wine maker Pascal Madevon and Technical Project Manager and Consultant Alain Sutre (I committed a "faux pas' when saying good bye to Mr. Antoine Merlaut of Group Taillan who is Osoyoos Larose's co-founder along with Vincor Canada) when saying good bye! I was thinking about Mr. Sutre and instead of saying Mr. Merlaut, I said, "Mr. Sutre"----life goes on!)..

What can I say that I haven't said before? The 2005 is an amazing wine that will out pace the 2004 (though the 2004 is no slouch by any means). The 2005 is bigger and more complex to the leaner 2004 which is at this time a bit more integrated compared to its more powerful younger peer evolving as we speak. Each year the wines seem to be better and I know that there will be vaiations. For example, I found the 2004 elegant and lovely to drink, the 2005 as I mentioned has some growing to do but it already has big mouth feel with the flavours to go with it. Once integrated it will evolve far past the 2004. 2006 seems to be "blend" of the two years. I am not sure if it has the same development possiblilities of the 2005 but time will tell. 2007 shows much promise of being another winner with great flavours and the tannins to go with them.
I also had the pleasure of tasting the 2008 component varieties consisting on Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. Each wine could stand on its own as a single varietal. I was especially amazed at the Cabernet Sauvignon! In any region, this wine could stand on its own as being superb. The Osoyoos Larose tradition is to blend two third merlot with about 23 percent cabernet and about 4 percent each of Malbec, Cab Franc and Petite Verdot. Just for fun, I blended my own concoction while at the 2005 Osoyoos tasting
launch increasing the Cabernet to about 35 percent with a 55 percent Merlot, 5 percent Cab Franc, and a 4 percent each of Malbec and about 1 percent Petite Verdot. I liked it but----!
I think that I will leave the blending to those who know what they are doing.
Le Repas
The following lunch produced at the St. Andrews Club was a truly Bordeaux inspired! We were served three wines, the Petales d'Osoyoos (second wine of Larose) again, was a wine that could easily stand up to the wines of any region and priced at $25(B.C.) is a true bargain for wines under $30. The 2004 and 2005 Osoyoos Larose (circa $45) for what you get are practically a give away (even in these economic times). The wines were exceptional with the meal matching the main course of Lamb perfectly. I had the pleasure of sitting with Mr. Sutre, wine writer Michael Vaughan and wine writer Alan McGinty. There were many who attended this fine tasting and meal. Fellow wine writers, Tony Aspler, Konrad Ejbich, Edward Finstein, Bill Munnely, Michael Pinkus, Sheila Swerling-Puritt, Hrayr Berberoglu (not to mention picture Sommelier Lindsay Groves) were there to name a few!


There are those who believe that Canadians wines can't age! Then, there are those who believe in the tooth fairy! The fact is that Canada has produced and will continue to produce wines that age well. I opened up a bottle of 2000 Jackson Triggs Proprietors' Reserve ($11.45) the other night and found it excellent. I did the same with a 1997 Hillebrand Lakeshore Vineyard Chardonnay ($22.) and found it equally excellent. The Osoyoos Larose 2005 will definitely be around and showing well in 2015 and probably in 2020 or better. The one problem that it faces is that with it showing such delicious promise----who would want to wait that long to drink it.

It has the added disadvantage of matching well with a variety of fine foods such as Lamb, beef and game. I plan to get several bottles of the 2004/2005 and match them to some Venison, Moose and Duck. Can hardly wait.

Bruce Nicholson's Commemorative Icewine

To move on to another subject which is that of the 2010 Olympicss, the 2006 Vidal Inniskillin Icewine (Inniskillin is the Official Wine Supplier of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics and Paralympic Winter Games) features the artwork of Gordon Halloran on its label. A portion of the proceeds of each bottle sold will supoport the Canadian Olympic Team and the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The wine itself was produced from grapes picked later on in January 2007, as the weather was somewhat mild. This must be a bit scary---especially since the making of Icewine so depends on the cold (-10 Celcius) and since so little can be made from each vine. Enemies of Icewine productions: rodents, birds, pest, rot etc. all come to play when the weather gets too mild. Keep in mind that these grapes have been hanging around and fully ripe since maybe August through September. Icewine is a risk and a good crop rewards that ones that risk but bad crops and mild weather act as a reality check that the risk is always there. Luckily this Icewine is just great.

With the intese flavours that are common to excellent Icewine: peaches, sweet pear, appricots and a hint of oak, the wine is a must for desserts such as some chocolates, fruit and cheeses. This may be a bit off the wall but I experimented by dipping some blue cheese in white chocolate and then tasting Icewine with it. Y-U-U-M-M-M! For those who like Chocolate and Strawberry dips, -------you must try.

My congratulations go to Inniskillin and Vincor for assisting with the Olympic and Paralympic and am sure that the Canadian Athletes competing all appreciate what they have done!