Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Toronto Gourmet Food and Wine Show - Nov. 15, 2007

This year’s Gourmet Show saw a cast of regulars rubbing shoulders with a cast of newcomers and hopefuls. New York had their usual big booth showcasing at least two dozen of their wines; both France and California also had their usual large displays. Chile (the feature country) had a nice exhibit, but the narrow pathways made it hard to circumnavigate between the booths. Agents were spread throughout the show and that means that many countries were also spread throughout the room – so you were likely to bump into y9our favourite country or favourite type of wine anywhere within the room. The LCBO had their selling shop, but there seemed to have less consignment and pre-release bottles this time around.

The Gourmet Show is great for getting all kinds of countries together into one room along with interesting foods (I had a 44th Street roast beef sandwich to die for – best of all its available at the grocery store in the refrigerator section) and paraphernalia sellers (Wine Establishment, Vinoverso, etc.) all there in the hopes of improving your gastronomical pleasures. Myself I was looking for something special, a few things to write about (like that beef sandwich) instead of a shopping list of wines to enter into my lexicon … I’m looking for stuff you can buy now or hopefully soon – something to look forward to once I leave the show and something I can put on my table. Here are a few of my finds:

Argentina is vying to be the new Chile …

Argentina is throwing together interesting blends and single varietals at incredibly good prices – and yet they have achieved enough of a reputation that they can also ask for the big bucks. Graffigna Centenario Cabernet Sauvignon ($14) is really smooth with milk chocolate, cherries, plums and vanilla; the Grand Reserve Malbec ($18 – Vintages July 2008) has chocolate mint, dark fruit and cherries – throw some age on it and it’ll be even better – this was a “wow-wine” for sure. Two other wows from Argentina were from Luigi Bosca, Gala 1 (Malbec – Petit Verdot – Tannat) and Gala 2 (Cabernet Sauvignon, Franc and Merlot) both $40. 1 was opulent with cherries and chocolate throughout … smooth and delicious. 2 was more interesting with its full on tannins and black fruit. Here’s hoping we see these wines in Ontario soon.

Chile is still Chile …

As much as everyone is trying to find the new Chile, no other country can deliver such good wines at great values. Check out the Errazuriz Max reserve line for proof. The Merlot ($18.15 - #16170) is soft, plumy and smooth delivering velvety milk chocolate in the mouth. The Cabernet Sauvignon 9$17.95 - #335174) delivers even more … lush nose of cherry, plum, eucalyptus and plum while providing smoothness and suppleness on the palate with acidity and tannins to spare … 3-5 years and this’ll still be a good wine. Montes also delivers plenty of value; like the 2005 Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon (322586) coming this February (2008) to Vintages for a mere $22.95 … lots of blackberry, cocoa and dark berry fruit – a cellar candidate for 10 years of more. But the real Chilean deal had to be the Montes “Limited Selection” Cabernet (70%) Carmenere (30%) – (#16071) – coming this March (2008) to Vintages for the Are-You-Kidding-Me price of $14.95. A 7-year cellaring recommendation comes on the handout, and I believe it, but that does little to tell you about what the wine is like now. Soft easy drinking with chocolate, plum, black fruit, black cherry and a long smooth finish – what a wonderful wine … and it’s still considered young – the guy pouring it said “in 6 months it’ll be even better” … that’s good, cause in 6 months I’ll be buying it … and so can you.

Good South Africa means Big Bucks …

I’ve touted this winery before and I’ll do it again, David John Bates of B.C. moved to South Africa to form Leopard Frog Vineyards, a small boutique winery that marries old world and new world winemaking styles and techniques. All wines made there are blends, none better then the 2004 Tantra ($43) … made of Franc (44%), Sauv (32%) and Petit Verdot (24%) this wine shows what can be done in South Africa when care is taken to make a great wine. If you get a chance to try it I recommend it highly – it’ll raise the bar by which all South African wines are measured.

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