Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Report from ... A Pictorial Look at The Days of Wine & Chocolate 2013 - February 2013

Our first stop - The Ice House ... a beautiful snowy day
The vineyard in their winter slumber made for a great backdrop
Ice House: Fruit enrobed in dark chocolate laced with ginger - they poured Icewine Slushie over it and soggied the food

Riverview: Chocolate Chilli Brownie (a tad dry)
Inniskillin: Chocolate Peanut Butter Ball (just serve me a Reese and get it over with)
Marynissen: Triple Chocolate Fudge Brownie (best brownie of the event)
Rief's Welcomes Us (popcorn doesn't photograph well)
Peller: Candied Bacon and Chocolate Toffee (good)
Pillitteri: Chocolate Caramel Indulgence Cupcake (3rd Place)
Pondview: Banana Chocolate Tart Drizzled with Caramel (1st Place)

Small Talk (formerly Stonechurch): Milk Chocolate Hazelnut Tart (too much tart)
Hillebrand: Caramel Chocolate Pop Crunch (their complete pairing, bubbly makes everything better - 5th Place)
Southbrook: "ChocoLoco Chicken Mole" (tasted better then it looked - needed more seasoning - it was the only savory dish on the tour)
Coyote's Run: White Chocolate Dipped Lemon Shortbread Cookie (4th Place)
Between the Lines: White Chocolate Macadamia Mousse (2nd Place)
Ravine: Chocolate Pecan Tart (again too much tart)
Niagara College: Creme Brulee Mousse (too thick a chocolate in the base cup)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Report from ... Zenato Retrospective – November 15, 2012

Today we met with Alberto Zenato, a 3rd generation winemaker form Italy and the man behind the Zenato brand of wines.  Today’s tasting centered around the company’s 20th Anniversary of their trademarked wine “Ripassa” – truth be known, Ripassa is the same wine as the famous Ripasso – the re-passed method invented by Masi in 1964 – but Zenato trademarked the name Ripassa as a marketing tool.

Since the 1960’s Zenato has been focused at making wine in the Lake Garda region of Veneto (just west of Venice).  In the 90’s they challenged themselves to create their own Amarone from their 30 hectares in Veneto and 40 hectares in Lugana – their  motto was “quality without compromise” and it is the banner they continue to fly when talking about all their wines.

‘Ripassa’ came into being in 1992 – and during this 20th Anniversary tour they wanted to try a number of their wines with the media to show how they age … today we tried 9 from the past 20 years: 1993 / 1995 / 1997 / 1998 / 2001 / 2004 / 2006 / 2008 / 2009 … Interesting to note the original blend of grapes was Corvina (85%), Rondinella (10%) and Sangiovese (5%) up to the 2001 wine – after which the Sangiovese was replaced with Oseletta.  Alberto explained that not many of these retrospectives take place just due to the limited quantity of wine they have on hand. 

Alberto calls himself a self-taught winemaker, as his father was before him:  “You never finish your studies of winemaking, it’s an ongoing process with new stuff every year.” 

Alberto took over full-time winemaking duties in 2008 after the passing of his father … the 2009 vintage is the first solo effort by Alberto. 

Of the nice wines tastes here were my top 4:

The 2004 …
The best of the bunch, this 2004 is finally arriving at where you expect your ripasso to eventually go – so expressive and full of rich primary and secondary flavours and aromas: cherry, chocolate, plum; very pretty with good tannins and minerality present along with some dried fruit, licorice, black currant, and vanilla nuances with splashes of balsamic … thick, rich, juicy – delicious.

The 2009 … (currently available $24.95)
This was a warm vintage and marks the first wine that Alberto is credited as the solo winemaker.  Nose of cherry, plum, vanilla and licorice with flavours that incorporate plenty of the good stuff like chocolate and spice, black cherry, and floral notes along with a mineral tightness, but it does also have a robust fruit core – this is a softer version of ripasso, it definitely shows its feminine side.

The 2008 …
Here’s one with lots of aging potential, nicely spiced with good acidity, tartness of sour cherry with the hint of rich red cherries along with a nice backing of wood and some mocha on the finish.

The 1995 …
Another warm vintage wine.  The nose is cherry liqueur, crème de cassis, cedar, vanilla, with dried berries and anise.  Flavours show mocha, cherry, vanilla still holds nice acidity along with anise seed and has a firm tannin grip – very drinkable, even 17 years later.  Really shows the ageability of these wines.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Report from … Reif Icewine Dinner – January 26, 2013

Grand Victorian Mansion home of the Reif Icewine Dinner
A delightful dinner held at the Grand Victorian Mansion, which is directly next door to Reif Winery.  Food by Robin Howe. Wines by Roberto Didomenico.  Sadly Klaus Reif was under the weather so he did not attend, but winemaker Rob filled in very nicely.

It is funny to note that on the printed menu three of the five wine selections were off by one year – only two of the wines were listed correctly:  2010 Chardonnay Reserve and 2011 Vidal Icewine – as it turned out they were the best of the lot.  As for the dinner itself, it was held in a cozy side room which seated 24 comfortable – the whole room lighted by candle, not a single light bulb was lit (see more pics of the room below – it truly was stunning).  The dinner was created by Robin Howe, who I am told is the Reif chef of choice – and you can taste why, his food was spot-on delicious. 

Not a bulb in sight

First Course …
The Dish:  East Coast Lobster bisque garnished with a lobster claw a top an icewine butter glazed seared sea scallop, smoked prosciutto crisp and brioche croutons
The Wine: 2010 Sauvignon Blanc (a touch on the fat side due to the year) 

Second Course …
The Dish:  Honey roasted pear under locally frown “Victory Organics” hothouse micro-greens in an icewine vinaigrette with a crisp cheese tuile and rosemary spiked pecans
The Wine:  2010 Chardonnay Reserve – click wine name for full review

Main Course …
The Dish:  “Sterling Silver” filet mignon with a Devil’s Rock blue cheese and icewine caramelized shallot crust
The Wine:  2007 First Growth Cabernet-Merlot (getting better and smoothing out beautifully while still showing great fruit concentration – can keep ageing 5+ years)

Couldn't stop myself from digging in before taking the shot
Dessert …
The Dish:  “Lemon floating meringue island” on a pool of icewine sweetened custard with fresh raspberries accompanied by a crisp citrus pumpkin seed laced tuile cookie
The Wine:  2011 Vidal Icewine - click wine name for full review

A few more shots of the evenings decor - and the chef ...

Hors D'oeuvres: crostini with icewine-fig and blue cheese

Hors D'oeuvres: shrimp with Thai basil and pancetta, in icewine-chili glaze
Various table views - I don't think even the pictures capture it all
The rows of glasses
Looking down fro the other end

It's amazing the room didn't go up in flames will all that fire - but it was beautiful
Chef Robin Howe takes a bow after the evening - and he deserved it

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Report from … Australia Day Dinner – January 24, 2013

For Australia Day (January 26, 2013) two Australia-inspired chefs, John Placko (by birth) and Luke Hayes-Alexander (By extensive traveling) put on a special 8 course dinner series (3 nights: Jan. 24-26) to shine a light on the food/cuisine of Australia paired with a number of Aussie wines.  Described by John as an “Epicurean Walkabout” here’s how the evening went:

Opening wine was a pleasant Jacob’s Creek Sparkling Chardonnay / Pinot Noir – nice up front fruit
Course 1: Beet It
“Beet in textures, goat cheese, hazelnut powder”
Wine: Served with a lackluster Sauvignon Blanc

Course 2: Coffee & Biscuit
“Warm coffee with biscuit broth, garnishes”
Wine: No specific wine for this course

Course 3:  Queensland Revisited
“Barramundi, cauliflower with dill, horseradish jelly, frozen pickled cucumber”
Wine:  Pewsey Vale Riesling – nice pear, green apple, candied lemon peel (*** ½+)

Course 4:  Blinman
“Lamb, beets, lemon myrtle, brown butter, wattle seed”
Wine: Ringbolt 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon – raspberry, smoky, white pepper, strawberry and chalky; complex and flavourful (****+)

Course 5: Red Centre
“Kangaroo, pepperberry, vegemite, akudjura, Buderim ginger, potato with macadamia, wild hibiscus gel, onion fluid gel”
Wine:  A Shiraz/Viognier that added nothing to the meal

Course 6:  Sydney
“Aussie meat pie in two course; traditional and modern”
Wine: A simple Cabernet Sauvignon

Course 7:  Pavlova, deconstructed
“Mudgee honey meringue and wafers, mango cured and ice cream pearls, freeze-dried banana, carbonated strawberries, passion fruit fluid gel, berry powder”

Course 8:  The Blue Mountains
“Orange, Granny Smith apple, eucalyptus olida, chocolate, jasmine, musk”
Wine:  There were surprisingly no dessert wines served, which is too bad because Australia makes some brilliant ones.

Coup-de-Gras:  The Tim Tam Slam 

A hot beverage, a popular biscuit and a lot of fun.

These biscuits have been part of Australian culture since their launch in 1964 and are consumed at a rate of 400 million per year.

Other Pictures from the Evening ...

The Table is Set - 40 people in the room total
The wines of the evening
Chefs preparing the apps and for the evening ahead
App 1
App 2
Say hello to the chefs: Luke (left) and John (right)
This hard little pill on the plate ... just add water to it ...
And voila, it puffed up ... it ultimately unrolled to be a napkin