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, June 28, 2020

In Memoriam: Robert Charles Byers: December 4th 1935 to June 30th 2009

Blog Special: My Brother Bob: In Memoriam

The following blog is in honour of my brother who passed away while I was filming in Portugal. I will leave this memorial on my blog site for one week in order for interested parties to read it.

Robert Charles Byers: December 4th 1935 to June 30th 2009

My earliest recollection of my brother goes back to when I was about three or four years of age. I remember accompanying him to various places but the most vivid was one evening near our then home in Zabbar, Malta. It was carnival time and I recollect a costume that I wore with a cape. My brother was dressed like a Roman soldier and had a toy sword. He took me out celebrating and waved the sword around so devilishly that a young girl who saw us approach went screaming into the alley way that I figure was near her home.
I also remember him trying to teach me about fire crackers. He and a friend lit one and gave it to me forgetting to tell me to throw the darn thing and it blew up in my hand somewhat stinging my fingers. We then went out into a nearby field to collect the left over blasting caps used during those days.
The relationship with my brother remained quite the same as both of us aged. It seemed like I was a perpetual "tag along" since he took me everywhere. If it wasn't a ride "side saddle" on the handlebars of his bike, it was on a date with one of his girl friends. I think that I single hand idly ruined his love life!
As he got older the rides on the bike turned into going to the show or to a cottage or just for a ride to a beach. No matter what we did and where we went, we had fun-----actually it was more than fun, it was a relationship which knew no conflict. We never had a fight or a bad word. Not that Bob didn't have a temper. He seldom used it (lucky for all!!!). He was mild mannered, soft spoken and kind. His long marathon singing sessions (many of which took place in the bath room) were legendary to the family and possibly to the neighbours who heard. And of course, there was this relationship with Elvis. Bob loved Elvis---his songs and his persona! He actually imitated Elvis's singing very well.
Our relationship was not of the "putting up because we're related" type that one would imagine brotherly relationships to be. While family was important, it wasn't the fact that we were brothers that kept us "together". We genuinely like each other. We were different yet similar. We shared our interest in travel, gardening and wine but approached things in a completely different way. That's what was important and made us grow towards rather than away from each other.
The sharing of our experiences whether it was a trip, a plant or a glass of wine became a focal point of discussion. The fact that the other was "around" made life just a bit more interesting. We didn't have to see each other to feel each other's presence. Sometimes weeks would pass before we "connected".
When Bob first contracted Esophageal Cancer, we found that the roles we had become accustomed were reversed. Bob became more anxious for awhile and needed to get out of the house. The operation he had to remove the tumors was "successful" but he needed time to recuperate.
He started going with me on trips to wineries etc. This time it was he who was the tag along and I who did the entertaining. It was fun and I began to look forward to his companyduring these trips. We used our time in the car as major discussion sessions where we could air concerns, discuss politics or just our gardening catch up. It was great. Bob would also fill me in on his plans, trips and tasks. It happened about once per month unless he had gardening to do.
Then came the fateful day that Bob learned of his "recent" terminal illness. To say he was not frightened would be a lie but I saw a stength in him that echoed way past his anxiety. He fought a struggle that was almost super human. Where I would have given up, he fought on. He fought the great fight---inspiring all around him!
There are many things that will bother me about Bob not being around. The main one will be that I will never be able to share my experiences with him again---at least not in this life. I will not see that smiling face or watch him as he, in his shorts (and nothing much else) wheels his plants to the various plots in his garden. The other thing that bothers me is the massive vulnerability I feel. Death is so permanent. It can and eventually will affect me and all those around me. Fragile life can end in an instant.
Bob's death gives rise to a need for answers. We want to blame someone or something for the seeming lack of justice of it all. But we are left with the one fact that we already know! Bob is gone and there are no real reasons why. Maybe we should seek to understand the questions posed rather than to know the answers.
We must have faith that the purpose and reason are out there. In some way it may have been in my final goodbye to him.
"Bob, I just want you to know that you were the best brother that any could have! I've always wanted to be like you and love you! I will always cherish our time together and hope that other brothers have the great relationship we had. You have been an inspiration to me and will always be part of me! We will meet each other again! Good bye and I love you!"If there is a God in Heaven I know that my brother is with him now where he continues to tend his garden and watch over us! I raise a glass to my brother------until next time, Bob!
About a year after his passing I had a dream! My dreams tend to be vivid and usually have a beginning and an ending. This was no different. What made this unusual was that it concerned my brother.
In the dream I was at home down in the basement! I heard a knock and went to answer the door. I was astonished to see Bob. He was dressed in his favourite suit and tie. He looked much like the Bob I knew years before. He looked so young.
"Just thought I'd drop by and see how things are," he said. As we both went up the stairs I asked if he was happy and if things are okay? He smiled and said; "They are just fine!"
My remark was strange to say the least. "Bob, you are dead, right?" He smiled as he said yes in a matter of fact way!
"I just wanted to let you know things are okay!"
I woke up and remembered vividly the whole dream. Or---was it a dream?! Only time will tell!

Monday, June 22, 2020

Viva Espana Part 2

Part 2 continues the enormous value that Spain has to offer with its wines. Who does absolutely phenomenal wines at that quality/price ratio? Pricey wines need to be good but wines at the lower price level can be a risk. Spain seems to have taken the risk out of trying wine!

Red Continued:


Valeta Tempranillo               100% Tempranillo                        $12.95     93/100 points
Colour:: Dark Ruby, clear
Nose: Floral Lavender, coffee, vanilla wood, wild cherry, raspberry and a hint of chocolate
Palate: Round, full bodied, rich, intense with black fruit, anise (licorice), oak and vanilla on the finish.
Comments: From  Granada, this wine is a super wine for meat entrees or a hearty stew. 

Alceo - Tempranillo <span>(750ml)</span> <span>(750ml)</span>

Alceo Tempranillo        100% Tempranillo                         $12.95      94/100 points
Colour: Ruby red
Nose:    Blackberry, plum, black cherry, leather, vanilla oak
Palate: Full bodied, sweet, easy sipping tannin, oak on the finish and nice length!
Comments: Points based on price/quality ratio. From La Mancha. Hand picked and indigenous yeast used in the making. Aged in American and French oak.
Escondido Tempranillo 2015, Do Ribera Del Duero Bottle

Escondido Tempranillo  100% Tempranillo                   $16.95          94/100 points
Colour: Ruby Red
Nose: Red and black fruit at different levels of air exposure. Vanilla oak, Chocolate and coffee.
Palate: Black fruit mainly blackberry, pepper spice, Full bodied with good tannin structure. Nice length.
Comments: At LCBO Vintages 132597. From Ribera del Duero. 8 months in oak.

Casajus Vendima Seleccionada      100%Tempranillo    $28.95         93/100 Points
Colour: Ruby Red/Purple
Nose: Mix of red and black fruit as the wine develops in glass. Mushroom, anise, vanilla, pepper spice and nice minerality.
Palate: Full body with velvety tannin and good structure. Intense flavours of blackberry, plum with anise/licorice on the uptake. Long finish.
Comments: Aged 6 months in French oak. From Tinta Fina Tempranillo vines that are 80 years old.

2009 Bodegas J A Calvo Casajus "Antiguos Vinedos" Ribera del Duero ...
 Casajus Antiguos Vinedos     100% Tempranillo       $39.95             91/100
Colour: Ruby Red/Purple
Nose: Black Fruit predominately Blackberries but with nuances of black cherry and plum, toast, vanilla wood, pepper, licorice/fig, mineral notes.
Palate: Full bodied, well balanced with red and black fruit though cherry predominates with nuances of raspberry, black berry. vanilla and long finish with licorice/fig.
Comments: From Tinta Fina Tempranillo, 80 year old vines and aged in American and French Oak for 18 months.      

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Viva Espana!!! Part One

When it comes to wine, there are several countries that seem to be synonymous with this beverage! Spain has produced wine for centuries and continues to be a huge supplier of high quality wine which is usually at a very reasonable price. Here are a few wines tasted last week that exemplifies this greatness.


Cutio Macabeo:     Grape Variety: Macabeo           $11.95         90/100 points.
Colour: White  Ckear and brilliant.
Nose: Apple and stone fruit such as apricot and peach 
Palate: Round, medium body with fruit sweetness and slight bitterness on finish  Rose

Rose Wine:
Reserva de la Tierra Curious Rosé Wine (2019) (S1200) - Tri-Vin ...
Curious Rose Reserva   Grape Variety: Garnacha/Tempranillo      $12.95         90/100 points 
Colour: Redish pink, brilliant and clear
Nose: Strawberry, cherry, melon
Palate: Medium, silky, well balanced with nice refined refreshing acid taste. Long finish.
Comments: Tierra de Castilla region. Nice rose for a selection of light meats/vegan dishes. 

Red Wine:

Tempranillo - Syrah
Loco Barbar:      Grape Variety: Tempanillo/Syrah      $12.95          92/100 points
ColourL Darj red, clear
Nose:  Ripe red fruit with some dark nuances.
Palate: Full bodied, nice tannin with red fruit (cherry, strawberry), vanilla and pepper, Long finish.
Comment: Nice wine for the price and captivating if not over the top label. Pasta, grilled food!
Bodegas Langa Pieza el Coll N.V. | Wine Info
Pieza El Coll :  Grape Variety: Granacha/Carinena/Monastrell  $17.95   92/100  points
Colour: Dark red
Nose: Dark fruit (Cherry, plum), smoke, chocolate, vanilla wood, tar nuances.
Palate: Full, ripe tannin, dark fruit on the swallow, long and pleasant after taste.
Comment: A nice wine and very good price/quality ration. 60 year old vines. Roasts/Cheese
La Legua El Transformador Tempranillo Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
La Legua              Grape Variety: Tempranillo/Cabernet          $18.95        92/100 points                   
Colour: Garnet, clear
Nose:    Red and black fruit,, floral violet 
Palate:  Full bodied, black fruit, huge tannin and long finish
Comments: A rich and intense wine suitable for game and beef dishes.

Alceño Monastrell 12
 Alceno 12 Meses Monastrell:  Grape: Monastrell/Syrah  Vintages #398925  $15,95  93/100 points
Colour: Dark
Nose: Blackberry, plum, black cherry, cassis, coffee, toast, spices,:
Palate: Medium to full bodied, vanilla, big tannin
Comments: Nice wine and made for lamb though game is also in the running..

Alceno Hilanda Jumilla Crianza | Product page | SAQ.COM

Hilanda Monastrell Variety: 100 % Monastrell             $13.95                  93/100 points   
Colour: Typical of Monastrell (Mourvedre) Very Dark red
Nose: Black Cherry, Plum and Black Raspberry, vanilla wood hint of chocolate
Palate: Full, nice velvety mouth feel with good tannin and structure. Lengthy finish.
Comment: Lamb, Game, Roast.

Veleta de Poniente      Variety: Garnacha   $14.95                               91/100 Points

Veleta de Poniente - Bodegas Bastida

Colour: Red, clear
Nose: Black fruit (blue berry, black cherry, plum), vanilla spice.
Palate: Full bodied, strong tannin, jammy black fruit and very powerful finish
Comments: From Spanish La Mancha.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

California Dreamin'

The wines of California seem endless in variety---that, owing to a climate conducive to the growing of the vine! Problems do occur such as droughts, heavy rains, diseases and the ever present fruit fly  but these are problems that countries all over the world experience.
 My ultimate favourite wine is still a Californian from Los Olivos called Fess Parker's Rodney's Vineyard Syrah that maintains an outstanding reputation with this writer. Again, my taste to like what I like!
Here are some recently tasted Californian wines that impressed me.

    District 7 Pinot Noir

District 7 Pinot Noir            Monterey, CA                $19.95              92/100 points
Colour: Clear brilliant garnet red  
Nose: Cherry, raspberry and pomegranate with some subtle oak
Palate: Medium with a sense of strawberry and mocha on the finish. Food wine for sure! 

Cabernet Sauvignon

Blue Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon    Monterey, CA   $18.95        94/100 points
Colour: Dark Red, clear
Nose: Dark Fruit (blackberry, cherry, cassis, plum), vanilla oak, anise spice
Palate: Full bodied with forward fruit and vanilla fruit---long finish  Excellent price/quality ratio! Tasted twice.
Eighty 20 Red Blend, Pareto's Estate
Pareto Estates Red Blend 80/20       Monterey, CA     $17 95     90/100 points
Colour: Vwey Dark Red----Almost Purple!   (This is a unique blend of 30% Petit Sirah, 25% Syrah, 19% Petit Verdot, 13% Cinsault, 11% Merlot and 2% Riesling).
Nose:  Pepper, dark fruit, coffee and some fig
Palate: Full bodied, nice tannin, black berry jam, long finish. Nice wine for the price. 


Sunday, June 7, 2020

South Africa, Burgundy and Prosecco ---------a nice mix of wines!

South Africa
South Africa has the perfect climate for viticulture. Warm with dry cool breezes that hamper vine diseases and a reputation for making excellent wine. In addition there is a tendency to come up with some very interesting names.
Bombinate:  Ruby Red, clear with no particles, brilliant. Shiraz/Grenache blend 
Nose:  Cherry, touch of ripe strawberry, dark fruit such as plum and black raspberry
Palate: Medium to Full, berry flavours with pepper on the finish.
Rating: A nice wine with a nice future. 95/100   $34.00    


Pandiculation: Ruby Red, clear and brilliant Another Shiraz/Grenache blend.
Nose: Intense ripe cherry, pepper, raspberry, some flora notes.   
Palate: Full, round and integrated.  Nicely balanced. Pepper on finish.
Rating: Truly liked this one that comes with a good price $21.95 and a good example of a Rhone style wine.             94/100

Aquiver:  Lemon Yellow White, clear and brilliant
Nose: Clean, fresh citrus, passion fruit, peach and herbal/floral notes
Palate: Medium body, well balanced wine giving a nice round mouthfeel.
Rating: While the major part of this is comprised of Chenin Blanc, the Sauvignon Blanc (10%) is what impressed me and it certainly shows itself.   
At $19.95 a good buy!          93/100

Susurrous: Yellow White with green tinge, brilliant
Nose: Clean and fresh with peach and white fruit. Once again, herbal qualities of Sauvignon Blanc comes through. The Grenache adds its own lemony presence but even with its 10% the Sauvignon does demand its presence. Interesting wine.
Palate: light to Medium with refreshing acidity.   $32.00             92/100    


Monthelie: Ruby Red, clear and brilliant     2016          *(Tasted Previously)
Nose: Pinot Noir all the way with floral notes, tobacco, red fruit
Palate: Medium, with accessible tannin and a bit of refreshing acid on finish
Rating: When I first tasted this wine. I found it a great example of a reasonably priced Burgundy and rated it 91/100. This wine has seemed to improve since. $34.95          95/100

ERA Prosecco White Sparkling, Small Bubbles Vintages  #13835 
Nose: Floral nose with citrus, green apple and pear
Palate: Light and easy with refreshing acidity---somewhat reflective of the Botter Prosecco tasted at an earlier period. Pleasing finish.
Rating: I loved this wine since the price ($17.95) makes a well-crafted wine that does not burn the pocket book.  Great value for summer sipping!   95/100