Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Report from ... The Writers Riesling Tasting at Vineland ... August 20, 2012

To read the article of this tasting refer to the November 1, 2012 newsletter (#192: In Praise of Older Wines – The Vineland Experience) ... here are the pictures of our day in the vineyard ...

The line up of wines including a 1989, 1995 and 2004
Looking back thru labels of Riesling (part 1)

Looking back thru labels of Riesling (part 2)

Brian Schmidt addresses the assembled masses (Joe Cool aka. Brian is end of table center)

Joe, I mean Brian, talks Riesling

All smiles for the camera

A look across the vineyard to the winery

Here we are smack dab in the midst of St. Urban vineyard

A look out at the vines from the restaurant

It was a beauty of a summer here in Ontario

Riesling friendly lunch starter


Poached peach for dessert

Along with the cheese platter

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Report from ... Rosewood Estates Comes to the Big City - October 23, 2012

Rosewood Estates came to the big city for a wine and food pairing event at The Chef's House ... of the 10 wines they poured I had tried all but two ... I have since posted the reviews of the two new wines:   2010 Merlot Reserve and 2010 Pinot Noir Reserve (both Natural Ferment wines) on the OntarioWineReview website.  I thought I'd take this opportunity highlight some of the wines and the wonderful foods that were presented.

Amuse Bouche: Chicken Tikka with Mango Chutney served with 2011 Harvest Gold ... which turned out to be a decent pairing showing the versatility of honey wine.

Tasting Plate #1:  White Fish Ceviche served with three whites, two Rieslings and a Semillon ... as much as I am a fan of Natalie Spykowskiy's Semillon, the 2011 Mima's Block Riesling really stood out here.

Tasting Plate #2:  Crispy Fried Mushroom Arancini served with a pair of Pinots, the 2009 and the 2010 Natural Ferment versions ... it's a tough call here cause both wines have such great flavour but in a different way due to the vintages. 

Tasting Plate #3: Braised Lamb Shank Tortellini with a triptych of reds from 2010 - Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Reserve Merlot ... I still find myself wowed by the soft and supple nature of the straight on $22 2010 Merlot.

Tasting Plate #4:  Thunder Oak Aged Gouda in a pool of honeycomb and a glass of Mead Royale (coming to the LCBO this November) ... the cheese is amazing ... if you have never had Thunder Oak Gouda, find some, taste some, enjoy some.

Other Pictures from the event ...
Natalie shows off her good side

The chef's of the house organize and plate the dishes

with a little honey on the side ... Rosewood honey can now be found at Chapter's locations.

Report from ... Visit to Casa Toscana in Grimsby - October 20, 2012

What an incredible experience, definitely not something I expected to find in the little town of Grimsby, Ontario; Toronto sure, but not in this little hamlet in the Niagara region.  Allow me to back up a minute and let me to explain what exactly I am talking about an give you some background as to why I am so impressed.

A number of years ago I found myself in downtown Toronto at an Italian Trade Commission event tasting a variety of Italian foods and drinks, including a booth that allowed you to taste through a number of olive oils, it was the first time I realized that not all olive oils are the same.  From that day on whenever the subject of olive oil came up I were refer back to this impromptu tasting and tell people that there is a difference in olive oils like there are differences in wines and if ever you get a chance to do an olive oil tasting to do it (I’ll be honest, the topic doesn’t come up that often and if it does it is usually with my wife).

Entering the Shop
Fast forward a few years and I find myself in Italy (Veneto) tasting Amarones, Ripassos and Valpolicellas ... at each winery fresh bread, meats, olives and olive oil find their way to the table - at some of these places the olive oil is just to die for, like I mean they're all good but some are like nothing you have tried in your life.  It is at times like this that I spend a few extra minutes in an attempt to persuade the proprietor to sell me a bottle of their homemade private-stock olive oil to take home to my wife, who, as a foodie, would consider these special treats, and to try and make my point about the difference in olive oil flavours.  On my last trip I was able to bring three bottles homes and she has been using them sparingly because they're "not like that bottled stuff you get at No Frills" - we use these olive oils like some people use their "guest towels".

Luca talks oils, balsamic and cheese
But now here we are on a Saturday morning in downtown Grimsby, Ontario (16A Main Street West) in a little shop called Casa Toscana with Luca Vitali as our host (he is also owner and partner of the shop).  Casa Toscana imports (in bulk) three styles of olive oil made in Tuscany by Luca's brother from his own trees, his mother's trees and their neighbour's trees.  And half an hour with Luca I can definitely tell you that not all olive oils are made the same.  We taste thru these oils as Luca explains why they are so different (it has to do with the time of harvest) each one tasting just as good or better than the next - depending on your palate (we end up preferring the two more flavourful – fruity and peppery). 

The three kinds of olive oil
Then he proceeds to give us a balsamic vinegar lesson and tasting - something else they import in bulk directly from Tuscany.  As we dip the fresh bread into the different kinds of balsamic (4 in total) Luca explains the difference between mass-produced balsamic (addition of sugar and caramel) and real, authentic balsamic from Tuscany (all grapes, 100%, and lots of time in wooden casks) ... I'm not going to steal Luca's show here because to learn you've gotta to visit.  We tried 1 year old, 3 year old, 5 year old and 9 year old balsamics - each batch got thicker, richer and more flavourful as we went.  Our preference here was the three year old, which kept its acidity and robust flavour the best ... but we also opted for a balsamic glaze for those dishes that needed that little bit extra.

Three kinds of pure balsamic
But the Tuscan show and tell did not end there ... Luca also imports Tuscan cheeses including Pecorino and real Buffalo Mozzarella, which should have my mother jumping up and down with glee cause she can't stop talking about how great that cheese is since her trip to Italy 5+ years ago, and how she can't seem to find a good one in Toronto.  We taste thru a few cheeses like a 2 month old Pecorino, one aged in hay and a first grade Parmesan - plain and then a piece with a dollop of balsamic glaze on-top (this was the coup to gras that made us want to buy a bottle) ... everything just made us want more, or better yet, to go to Tuscany – and if that’s your fancy Luca and his partners have planned excursions to their home twice a year for small groups.

Drooling over the cheese
Luca tells us of his plans to expand the shop, just a little - to give customers more elbow room and an even more in-depth downtown-Grimsby-based Tuscan-experience; this would include a few tables where you could sit and taste cheese, oil, balsamic and Luca's brother's award winning wines straight from Tuscany (that brother is a one man industry).  But these plans are a year or two in the future, but are definitely something to look forward to; especially that chance to taste some of those wines, which has been rated in the top 100 in all of Italy.

For now it truly is a great experience to taste what makes Tuscany one of the world's great Mecca's for food ... I'm not going to lie and tell you it's a cheap visit - you'll definitely walk out with an arm load of goods to take home - but dinners and special occasions will be so much more the better when you use these special ingredients.  Now if you'll excuse me, I see a Margherita pizza with fresh basil (from our garden), Buffalo Mozzarella with a drizzle of balsamic and a little Caprese salad on the size waiting for me on the dining room table ... which can only mean it's time for lunch.  As Luca said to my wife as we left, "Ciao Bella hope to see you again" – we’ll be back and I recommend you go too.

Casa Toscana
16a Main Street West, Grimsby, Ontario

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Report from ... B&W Wines Australian Trade Event - October 16, 2012

Yes, yes - elegance and balance are very important in a wine, but sometimes you just want a high-alcohol, sexy, supple wine that you could drink till you pass out.  Hello Australia.  As much as they try to talk to us about diversity of terroir and regionality, in the end it’s all about those jammy, juicy, chewy beasts that make us all go mmm.  And so today, as B & W Wines welcomed Aussie producers to town out came my inner big wine slut, and I made the trek to Toronto to taste through the Aussie-side of their portfolio, here's a list of the wines I discovered (most wines are either available thru private order or consignment) ...

Three-and-a-half star wines (*** 1/2) ...
First Drop 2011 Bella Coppia Adelaide Hills Arneis ($26.95 - private) - crisp and citrusy.
Jansz NV Premium Cuvee ($24.95 - consignment) - fresh, clean and crisp.
Twelftree Wines 2011 Rose Single Vineyard Grenache ($26.95 - consignment) - nice dry finish.

Three-and-a-half plus star wines (*** 1/2+) ...
Lucky Country 2011 Shiraz ($16.80 - #145276) - raspberry, cherry and black pepper.
Mollydooker 2011 The Violinist Verdelho ($29.95 - consignment) - lime pith.
Mollydooker 2010 Gigglepot Cabernet ($64.95 - consignment) - white pepper and raspberry.
Oxford 2011 Merlot ($14.95 - consignment) - blueberry and spice.
Paxton 2009 Paxton Jones Block Shiraz ($32.95 - #149914) - nice punch of strawberry.
Pirramimma Wines 2010 White Label Tannat ($25.95 - private) - leather, red fruit and spice.
Two Hands Wines 2011 Sexy Beast Cabernet Sauvignon ($29.95 - consignment) - raspberry-mocha.

Four star wines (****) ...
First Drop 2009 JR Gantos McLaren Vale Cabernet Sauvignon-Touriga Nacional ($36.95 - consignment) - lots of plum and chocolate.
Henschke 2009 Keyneton Euphonium ($49.95 - consignment) - great fruit and spice.
Mollydooker 2009 Blue Eyed Boy Shiraz ($49.95 - consignment) - tons of chocolate raspberry.
Penley Estate 2008 Hyland Shiraz ($21.95 - consignment) - serious with fruit and mineral.
Pirramimma Wines 2010 Petit Verdot ($26.95 - #986752) - nice and spicy.
Pirramimma Wines 2010 White Label Shiraz Viognier ($25.95 - private) - baked fruit.
Rockford Estate 2006 Basket Press Shiraz ($74.95 - private) - chocolate, licorice, spice.
Two Hands Wines 2011 Brave Faces Shiraz Grenache ($29.95 - vintages 10/2012) - fruit driven.
Yangarra Estate 2007 McLaren Vale Cadenzia GSM ($36.95 - private) - vanilla and raspberries.

Four plus star wines (****+) ...
First Drop 2009 2% Barossa Shiraz ($39.00 - Vintages 02/2013) - with 2% Tempranillo; lovely spicy finish.
Langmeil 2009 Orphan Bank Shiraz ($59.95 - private) - made from 90-140 year old vines.
Mollydooker 2010 Carnival of Love Shiraz ($100.00 - consignment) - complex.
Mollydooker 2009 The Velvet Glove ($211.00 - consignment) - spiced chocolate box.
Penley Estate 2009 Phoenix Cabernet Sauvignon ($23.95 - consignment) - delicate and delicious.
Two Hands Wines 2010 Lily's Garden Shiraz ($62.95 -#683086) - blackberry, plum and chocolate.
Two Hands Wines 2008 Ares Shiraz ($168.00 - private) - big aromas and flavours with a port-like finish.
Twelftree Wines 2011 Greenock Single Vineyard Grenache/Mataro ($46.95 - consignment) - framboise and chocolate.
Yalumba 2006 Octavius ($110.00 - vintages 10/2012) - raspberry and red licorice.
Yangarra Estate 2009 McLaren Vale Shiraz ($34.95 - private) - complex fruit with a spicy-peppery finish.
Yangarra Estate 2006 High Sands McLaren Vale Grenache ($64.95 - private) - lots of chocolate and red berries.

Four-and-a-half star wines (**** 1/2) ...
Langmeil 2009 Valley Floor Shiraz ($24.95 - consignment) - vanilla and rich red fruit.
Mollydooker 2010 Two Left Feet Shiraz, Cab, Merlot ($29.95 - consignment) - juicy, cherry jam with a chocolate finish - quite possibly my favourite of the day.
Pirramimma Wines 2008 Old Bush Vine Grenache ($24.95 - #108068) - lots and lots of black fruit, cassis and chocolate.
Two Hands Wines 2010 Angels Share Shiraz ($28.95 - consignment) - sexy and supple.
Twelftree Wines 2010 Blewitt Springs Single Vineyard Shiraz ($69.95 - consignment) - chocolate, strawberry, raspberry and white pepper.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Report from ... the Stem (Agency) Tasting - October 1, 2012

Lots of Italian wines are the highlight of the Stem tasting, but there are also quite a few great wines from other parts of the world, including a fabulous Pinot Noir from New Zealand and a delightful Shiraz from Australia; plus a multitude of other wonderful wines here’s a look at a number that I tasted, most are available thru Stem Wine Group only:

Three-and-a-Half star wines (*** 1/2) ...
Vinicola Tombacco NV San Tiziano Rosso (Veneto, Italy) - $9.99
Villa a Sesta 2007 Chianti Classico, Riserva (Tuscany, Italy) - $29.99
Arnaldo Caprai 2009 Anima Umbria Rosso (Umbria, Italy) - $15.99
Rockbare 2011 Jackaroo Cabernet Sauvignon (Australia) - $13.99
Woolshed Wines 2011 Chardonnay (Australia) - $14.99
Husic Vineyards 2008 Palm Terrace Cabernet Sauvignon (California, USA) - $67.99

Three-and-a-Half-plus star wines (*** 1/2+) ...
Vinicola Tombacco NV Prosecco 'Serenissima' (Veneto, Italy) - $14.99
Vinicola Tombacco 2010 Ca'del Doge 'Quindicimarzo' Chianti (Tuscany, Italy) - $13.99
Delibori 2010 Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso (Veneto, Italy) - $17.99
Villabella 2011 Lugana, Ca'del Lago (Veneto, Italy) - $17.99
Tenuta Il Palagio 2011 "When We Dance" Chianti (Tuscany, Italy) - $26.99
Fattoria di Magliano 2011 'Sinarra' (Tuscany, Italy) - $21.99
Feudi di San Gregorio 2011 Greco di Tufo (Campania, Italy) - $22.99
Feudi di San Gregorio 2009 Taurasi Aglianico (Campania, Italy) - $39.99
Argiolas 2009 'Perdera' Monica (Sardegna, Italy) - $17.95
Bodegas Darien 2009 Crianza (Rioja, Spain) - $21.99
David Franz 2006 Alexander's Reward Cab/Shiraz (Australia) - $59.99
Andeluna Cellars 2010 Malbec (Argentina) - $15.49
"Silky tannins wih coffee and vanilla notes" (**** 1/2)

Four star wines (****) ...
Baroli 2008 Barbera d'Alba (Piedmont, Italy) - $15.99
Ca'del Baio 2011 Moscato d'Asti (Piedmont, Italy) - 18.99
Braida di Giacomo Bologna 2011 Brachetto d'Acqui (Piedmont, Italy) - $21.99
Matto Wines 2008 Barolo (Piedmont, Italy) - $29.99
Vinicola Tombacco 2010 Ca'Del Doge 'Piantaferro' Primitivo (Puglia, Italy) - $11.99
Feudi di San Gregorio 2007 Serpico Aglianico (Campania, Italy) - $79.99
Feudi di San Gregorio 2010 Primitivo di Manduria (Puglia, Italy) - $18.99
Chateau du Val d'Or 2009 Saint Emilion Grand Cru (Bordeaux, France) - $29.99
Marisco Vineyards 2012 Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand) - $19.99
Michael Sullberg Wines 2010 Merlot (California, USA) - $16.99
Merry Edwards 2010 Sauvignon Blanc (California, USA) - $47.95
Merry Edwards 2009 'Klopp Ranch', RRV Pinot Noir (California, USA) - $89.99
"An absolute beauty" (**** 1/2)

Four-plus star wines (****+) ...
Villabella 2004 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 'Fracastoro' (Veneto, Italy) - $52.99
Villabella 2008 Passito del "Fiordilej" (Veneto, Italy) - $21.99 / 375ml
Zyme 2008 Valpolicella Classico Superiore, Ripasso Method (Vento, Italy) - $36.99
Fattoria di Magliano 2009 'Heba', Morellino di Scansano (Tuscany, Italy) - $21.99
Fattoria di Magliano 2008 'Poggio Bestiale' (Tuscany, Italy) - $45.99
Cantine Belisario 2010 Verdicchio di Matelica, 'Cambrugiano Riserva' (Marche, Italy) - $23.99
David Franz 2006 Benjamin's Promise Shiraz (Australia) - $59.99
Andeluna Cellars 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon (Argentina) - $15.49
Andeluna Cellars 2009 Reserve Malbec (Argentina) - $22.99
Merry Edwards 2009 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir (California, USA) - $51.99
Hart & McGarry Wines 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon (California, USA) - $23.99
"Juicy yet with restraint" (**** 1/2)

Four-and-a-Half star wines (**** 1/2) ...
Zyme 2005 Kairos (Veneto, Italy) - $78.99
Henri Abele NV Brut Champagne, Traditionnel (Champagne, France) - $49.99
Marisco Vineyards 2010 Pinot Noir (New Zealand) - $21.99
Rockbare 2010 Shiraz (Australia) - $22.99

The Beers of Birrificcio Bruton from Tuscany, Italy (all come in 750ml bottles) ...
Birra Bianca ($11.99) - ****+
Birra Bruton ($11.99) - *** 1/2+
Birra Stoner ($11.99) - ****
Birra Lilith ($11.99) - **** 1/2