All posts by thewomenofwine

 Chianti is Calling

sangiovese1I love Chianti. I love everything about it. The region. The grapes. The aromas. And oh yes, the flavours. The incredible flavours. The reflection of the ruby red colour is truly a thing of beauty.

Chianti is the heart of Tuscany and Sangiovese, its star grape, is the soul. Eight million cases of Chianti  are produced each year.  The characteristic aromas of cherry, raspberry, plum, leather and tobacco can be heavenly.

I must admit, if I were forced to have but one grape varietal in my wine rack, it would be Sangiovese (but I would still cry over the others).

Some recent favourites:

Villa Cafaggio Chianti Classico Riserva 2009
Villa Cafaggio Chianti Classico Riserva 2009

Villa Cafaggio Chianti Classico Riserva 2009

I am starting out with the splurge this time because this time was so good, so smooth, so utterly perfect – I could have closed my eyes and been in Italy. It was the first bottle I opened after I returned home from Maine, and it made me miss the beach a little less. This is wine-making at its best. 100% Sangiovese grapes and scored an impressive 92 by Mr. Robert Parker’s peeps. $35.00 SAQ

 

 

Volpaia Chianti Classico 2010

Volpaia Chianti Classico 2010
Volpaia Chianti Classico 2010

The medium-bodied fruity wine also got a great nod from those with more refined palates than mine. I loved it. The cherry notes have a fruity finish. It is perfect Friday night wine to start your weekend. In fact, I plan to pick up another bottle this weekend. $24.95 LCBO

 

 

 

tenuta di treccianoTenuta de Trecciano Colli Senesi 2011

A respectable Chianti at the right price. It is a medium-bodied fruity wine for everyday sipping. Grown in the hills around Siena, you will recognize raspberry and currants. A nice easy drinking wine. $15.95 LCBO

Favourite Chiantis

If you have ever wondered what the difference is between a Chianti, Chianti Classico, or a Chianti Classico Riserva, here you go:

Chianti  – a minimum 75% Sangiovese grape and 25%  blend of other grapes that can come from anywhere in the Chianti region.

Chianti Classico – the largest of the seven sub-regions of Chianti. The percentage of Sangiovese jumps to at least 80%.. The minimum alcohol level is 12% with at least 7 months aging in oak.

Chianti Classico Riserva – same grape requirement as the Classico, but a Riserva must be at least 12.5% alcohol and aged 27 months.

Chianti Superiore DOCG – is produced with stricter guidelines than most Chiantis. The grapes can come from anywhere in the region except the Chianti Classico sub-zone and must be aged for a minimum of 9 months.

And then there is the..

The highly lauded and appreciated Brunello di Montacino, this King of Sangiovese could  technically bear the Chianti name as it is produced from a clone called Sangiovese Grosso. But it chose to Go Your Own Way, just  like the Fleetwood Mac song says..

And of course the wine often referred to as Baby Brunello, the Vino Nobile de Montepulciano of the Prungolo Gentile grape. Smooth, powerful and more affordable – it is one of my favourites.

Let us know if you have a Chianti favourite. I could spend years testing and tasting and never get tired of the adventure.

A Quarter Century of Fine Food and Wine

Walking  into Centro, you are greeted by a vision of beauty: a wall of wine.  Not just any wall and not just any wine. It’s a collection, carefully selected to create  a wine menu that includes  familiar favourites, bottles worthy of a major splurge, and affordable gems that will leave you wanting more.

 

That’s why when Tina and I were invited to visit the cellar, we jumped at it. And who would know more about the intricacies of those gems than owner Armando Mano. He started in 1990 busing tables. One year later he was promoted Wine Bar manager, and within a few years was managing the entire restaurant.

I have often mentioned in these pages that true wine people  are a generous sort.  The only thing better than discovering a new wine, is sharing it with people who  will appreciate it. Armando is one of those people.

As  soon as he heard we were women of wine, he insisted  we try one of his favourites – Moschioni 2006 from Friuli region of north-eastern Italy. Oh my. This wine is mysterious, and doesn’t give everything away at once. It reveals slowly. The wine made me think of a Venetian Ball:  elegant, opulent, velvety with the clear suggestion that the best is yet to come. And we just got started.

 

Armando and über chef Symon Abad took us on a journey of perfect pairings. From the initial palate-cleansing glass of Prosecco, (which is so right on so many levels), to the 2011 Babich Sauvignon Blanc which  accompanied the most delicate buffalo mozzarella and heirloom tomatoes.

Symon followed with a pan-seared scallop on a bed of squid ink pasta which came with a crisp lively white Adriatico from the cellar of Lidia Bastianich, chef, author and host of Lidia’s Italy in America.

 

I  was not going to let go of my Moschioni which, in my view, would pair perfectly with anything – but in this case – my rabbit roulade stuffed with spinach and mushroom with polenta puree and  peas– which may well have been the best combination I have ever tasted.

It almost upstaged the lobster ravioli which paired spectacularly with a Chardonnay from Pearl Morrisette Winery on Twenty Mile Bench. Did I mention the shaved truffles? Beyond delicious.

 

Armando has a story for every wine. A visit to the Bastianich winery in north-eastern Italy where he bumps into Lidia herself, touring the Antinori estates  throughout Tuscany where the family has been making wine for 27 generations, and entertaining the greatest wine makers of the world in his restaurant.

He believes there are four elements to a  perfect dining experience, it is all about the food, the wine, the service and  most important, the company. Though he will pass on the fusion movement,  thank you.  “Fusion causes confusion. I want to know what wine to order with my food,” he says.

His favourite  wine book:  Windows on the World Complete Wine Course by Kevin Zraly

His signature dish: Brown Butter Crab Risotto, so long as someone cleans up while he cooks.

His favourite wine: Mouton Rothschild (it is breaking my heart that it is not Italian)

His  favourite Canadian wine, Pearl Morisette from the Bench which he praised for  sparing no expense to get it right.

This is a man who knows about getting it right, and he makes  sure the people who work for him share the same philosophy.

Armando is proud of how Toronto has become a city known  for its food. With more than eight thousand restaurants in the GTA, Armando marvels at how quickly the industry  developed here. “I travel a lot and when I come home, I feel this massive sense of pride at how far we have come.”

 

2012 marks Centro’s 25th year, a remarkable achievement when restaurants come and go faster than the sales of Fifty Shades of Grey.  And the impact of that success extends far beyond its own kitchens and into some of the other best restaurants in Toronto. The list of Centro’s alumni is enough to make gastronomers sigh and the casting agents of Top Chef weep. Chefs Like Marc Thuet (Thuet Fine Foods), David Lee (Nota Bene),Frank Parhizgar (Frank’s Kitchen), and Michael Bonacini (Oliver and Bonacini). Now Symon Abad (shown above) is king of the kitchen.

To honor its inauguration into the quarter century club, Centro’s alumni are participating in a series of evenings creating a special menu for the anniversary.

It will mean a treat for regulars, more stories to tell for Armando and a perfect launch point for the next 25 years that will keep people coming back, again and again.

Never Too Old To Learn Something New

No matter how old I am, or the fact my children are long past the days of report cards, September will always be back to school time for me. A couple of years ago, I decided to further my wine education. I had been to a couple of wineries in Italy and California. I certainly had sampled many wines. And I watched Sideways and Bottleshock – I figured I knew a fair bit –  so I convinced my partner in wine Tina to take a course at George Brown College.

HOLY GRAPES!!!

Soooo many study notes

The first thing I learned was I know absolutely nothing! My first six weeks of notes upon notes upon notes – confirmed it. I admit, I am a bit of a control freak. And facing week after week of “What do you smell?”

Deep breath. Pause. Second Deep Breath……um…red wine?  No, I did not smell “Smores”.

I would break into a sweat when called upon to analyze a wine. I envied those who knew all the answers.  Why exactly did I put myself through this classroom torture?

Because ever so slowly, it started to make sense. I became a study fiend. I traded in my novels for the textbook. I memorized the wine regions out loud before going to sleep. I studied my index cards on the treadmill to the entertainment of others at the gym.

I survived and even passed Wines One. The next semester signed up for Wines Two – which is similar but goes into more depth and like anything, helped to find a semi-permanent spot on the rapidly-running-out-of-space-on-the-hard-drive that is my brain.

The other reason the torture is worth it – you get to try an incredible number of wines – between 8-12 wines  each class.  It is such great exposure to the world of wine with classmates who are either enrolled because they work in the industry, or like me, they simply loved to drink wine.

Our teacher Serge Jancic, took it one step further in Wines Two….the term paper. I had not tackled one of those for 30 years. Before Google. OMG, another reason to love Google. While I stressed about the assignment, I ended up loving it. I made so many discoveries  – from amazing wines, regions, writers, columnists etc.

At the end of the day, it is a lot of fun. And it worked a completely different part of the brain than my day job. I met great people who love wine as much as I do. And while my wine knowledge is still ever so limited, it has sparked my curiosity to learn more  –  and isn’t that the real gift  of education?

So it being September and all, I am heading back to class again – this time to study New World Wines – but this time, (being that occasional Control Freak) – I am starting to read up now so this time I might be one of the smart asses with the odd right answer!

Stay tuned.

Wednesday Wine Picks from the WOW

Light and refreshing, with some lovely warm weather still in store for us a nice a chilled Rosé matches with almost any dish. Here’s one I think you might all enjoy.

Triomphe a Triumph

Triomphe Cabernet Franc Rose 2011 gets a vigorous nod this week. I bought a couple of bottles when I took the @iyellow wine tour last month and stopped at Southbrook, a  gorgeous winery in the Niagara region. Neither my husband or I are big Rosé drinkers, but I must admit, this one was really good. Not too sweet, red berry flavours made it  a great choice for a glass with lunch Ono this lovely weekend.

$19.95 Vintages LCBO #279117
But of course just at we head into fall, the weather is often unsettled.  Lots of rain and cooler temps, perfect for curling up with a good book and a glass of Shiraz.
A Shiraz with Legs

Fifth Leg Old Dog New Tricks Shiraz

This medium-bodied red from Devil’s Lair Winery in Western Australia is cherry and spine and everything nice. I have had their their Shiraz, Merlot, Cab before and it one a blind tasting among friends even up against some much pricier options. Definitely worth a try especially at is price.
 $15.95 LCBO #281345

Charming, Charismatic and Simply Delicious

“Wolfie” and I

Recently I had a chance to once again meet one of my favourite men of wine, the ever charming Wolfgang Blass.  Over the past decade I’ve met him several times when he’s visited Canada and each time I’ve walked away enchanted by this lovely man.

For those of you who’ve enjoyed Wolf Blass wines over the years and hadn’t thought much about the name, there really is a Wolfgang “Wolfie” Blass.  Now 78 years old and an ambassador to this amazing brand he released his first Grey label wine in 1967 and in 2003 Wolf Blass became Australia’s #1 wine brand (by volume & value).

Bronze, silver and gold medals, he’s won them all.  Probably too many to count both in Australia and internationally, but a known Wolf fact states his greatest achievement as winning three consecutive Jimmy Watson Trophies, the most prestigious and sought after wine award in Australia.

The Wolf Blass Visitor Centre

The Eaglehawk symbol seen on the bottles today was first released in 1987 and there’s a beautiful sculpture of the Eaglehawk at the amazing Wolf Blass visitor center in Nuriootpa, South Australia.  Should you ever get the chance to get there not only can you walk around and explore the centre but you’ll have a chance to blend it like Blass or sign up for other wine tasting experiences.

Well known for his love of women and race horses his German/Australian accent instantly captivates you and makes you smile.  Always elegant he’s recognisable by his dapper attire which always includes his iconic bow tie.  He’s said the bow tie added charisma when he was wearing overalls and rubber boots in the winery, and besides a long tie always seemed to get in the way during wine tastings.  Not only is he a great brand ambassador for the wine but he’s also a terrific ambassador for Australia and just like his bow tie, he often brings along a small stuffed “Joey” (kangaroo) carrying an Australian flag.  Today the Wolf Blass brand is owned by Treasury Wine Estates a global wine company, but Wolfgang remains a vital part of the wine industry and besides being a statesman for the brand itself he still plays an active role on many Australian wine industry bodies.

0When I met him a few years back he autographed a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon for me which sits in my cellar.  Not wanting to open it, I decided to enjoy the bottle of Yellow Label I’m holding in the photo.  And with my very first sip I remembered why I not only enjoyed his company but also his wine.

Wine, Women & Song

In August we were invited to bring our husbands on a wine tour organized by Ange Aiello of iYellow Wine Club.  Even though we’ve been down to Niagara many times who were we to turn down such a lovely invitation.  Having never met Ange and not knowing anything about iYellow Wine Club we weren’t really sure what to expect.  We figured there would be a bunch of couples around our own age and were quite surprised to find most of those on the tour were women around the age of 30.

We had no idea that demographic had such a great interest in wine but soon realised even if they didn’t know anything they wanted to learn and they had a definite interest in FUN.

Ange did an amazing job of making everyone feel welcome and a part of the group.  She was extremely informative about everything to do with wine and the vineyards we were planning to visit, without sounding like a wine snob.  She kept us entertained, had the bus singing along to the music she played and kept everyone well fed with a variety of snacks that included everything from candy, to fruit and baked goods.

Sampling some bubbly at Chateau des Charmes

We visited 3 wineries that day, Southbrook Vineyards, Chateau des Charmes and Vineland Estates even enjoying a delicious lunch at Southbrook.  It seemed everyone enjoyed themselves and the wine tastings with most people returning home with a good selection of Niagara wines.Membership is free and not only does iyellow wine club offer tours, but classes and wine events. They have over 10,000 members and it’s a great way to meet other wine lovers.  Ange has kindly offered a great discount (15%) to any of our readers so we wanted to let you all know about it.

You can now sign up for their Fall Wine Tour lineup taking place in September and October.  On each of the 4 tour dates they’ll be visiting 3 different wineries and along with sipping amazing wines, you’ll be able to witness the harvest in action and take photos of the beautiful fall colours – so these are tours not to be missed.

Here’s a list of the wineries for each date:

Sept 22: Henry of Pelham, Jackson Triggs, Chateau des Charmes
Sept 29: Flat Rock Cellars, Inniskillin, Vineland Estates
Oct 13: Tawse Winery, Pillitteri, Trius Wines @ Hillebrand
Oct 20: Reif Estates, Southbrook Vineyards, Peninsula Ridge

In order to get your 15% discount, log onto the iYellow website (www.iyellowwineclub.com) and access the tickets through the Wine Tours tab. When you have selected your tour date and are ready to purchase your tickets you will be prompted to enter the promo code (women15).

Wednesday Wine Picks

My Favourite Catalogue

I love when the new Vintages magazine comes out – it’s full of promise and possibilities.

Castello di Bossi  C. Berardenga Chianti Classico 2009 was my find for the weekend. I’ll be picking up another bottle this Saturday, and I highly suggest it, if you’re looking for a something big and flavourful.  James Suckling calls this a big juicy red – full bodied with round tannins and gave it a whopping 92 points. It really grabbed me and so did the price, at  $22.95, I  sipped and savoured my way to happiness.

And if you’re looking for a couple of nice whites here’s what I recommend:

Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc 2011from New Zealand, was a great surprise. Super crisp

and lively for a warm afternoon. Very aromatic with lots of citrus and grassy notes. And the price is equally mouth watering at $15.45.

The second has an equally attractive price point. The  O’Leary Unoaked Chardonnay 2011 produced with Brian Schmidt of Vineland Estates. Though not typically impressed by celebrity wine, this one is really good! Crisp, fresh with citrus notes, it is a terrific buy at $14.95. I picked up a bottle when I visited the winery last month, but it goes on sale at the LCBO Sept.16th.

Winemaker Brian Schmidt in the cellar at Vineland Estates
Photo courtesy of Shawn McCormick @uncorkOntario

Final weekend pick will have to involve a gorgeous trip to Niagara on the Lake because it is not available at the LCBO only at the winery? It is the Vineland EstatesPinot Meunier 2011.  I am not all too familiar with this varietal described as the  less  sibling to Pinot Noir. It is light bodied,strawberry aromas and simply delicious at $17.95.

Who Doesn’t Love A Good Mystery?

Last week I got an interesting delivery at the office.  It started with an email from the shipping department saying I’d gotten a package from a “No Name Sender”.  Already curious, I quickly opened the box when it arrived at my desk.Inside was another box…a wooden one this time, you know the kind you sometimes get a fancy wine gift in.  The box was rather light to contain a bottle of wine and stamped on the front were the words “The Label Project”, so I wasn’t really sure what it was all about.
The Mystery Box
I’m naturally curious but as a journalist, I’m downright nosey and hate not knowing all the facts.  sI quickly opened the box and laughed out loud when I discovered a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey inside with a letter.Now I’ll admit I’ve read the trilogy because I was curious about all the hype but my fantasy is not to be dominated and tied up in someone’s cellar unless that cellar happened to contain the world’s finest wines that I would be allowed to drink.
Wondering what the book had to do with the wine box I quickly turned to the letter which was actually an invitation to be a part of a global wine adventure called The Label Project.   They sent the book as a reflection on first impressions and just like you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover the letter stated a pretty label is not an indication of how the wine tastes.Sent to 140 bloggers from 12 different countries the invitation consists of a two-week challenge to go beyond the label and uncover the wine inside the bottle.Over the next few weeks we’ll all receive three unique deliveries, each containing; one bottle of “label-less” wine, a sensory clue (smell, taste and sight), facts about the region and tasting note clues to get us guessing.

We each have to work out the grape varietal and region the wine is from and send our answers by email at the end of the two-week period.

So what’s the point of all this cloak and dagger intrigue you ask? Well it looks like a bit of fun detective work while enjoying wine and let me just say this couldn’t get much better for me.

The thing that gets my heart pounding is not an erotic novel but a good old fashion mystery.

Stay tuned for the next chapter after the first wine arrives!

Happy Trails

Mission Hill Winery

Besides wine, travel is our other great passion and our bucket list of places to visit is long.  But sometimes work and the fact the bills need to be paid keeps our adventures closer to home.  Because of this we often live vicariously through our friends who are off roaming the world on their own wine/travel journeys.  Funnily enough most of our friends share our passion so we’ve invited them to send us their stories of wine adventures so we could share them with you.

Recently Dagmar went west to visit family but also hit the wine trails of the Okanagan Valley and here’s what she had to say:

“I recently visited the Okanagan Valley in B.C and some of the spectacular wineries which are bountiful in the region. One of my favourites is Mission Hill Family Estate Winery.  Because I have the benefit of having family in the region I make it a point to visit this winery every time I’m out here.  Mission Hill is nestled between the Coastal Mountains to the west and the Monashee Mountains to the east.  The estate overlooks Lake Okanagan and the lush vineyards and orchards below.

This stunning location is a magnet to food and wine lovers, newlyweds and is a photographers paradise.  The owners are passionate about wine and food, so if you’re interested in enjoying lunch or dinner the stunning dinning terrace overlooking the vineyard offers amazing seasonal fare. In fact the restaurant has been chosen as one of the top five winery restaurants globally by Travel and Leisure Magazine.

After enjoying the scenic gardens and stunning views I ventured inside for some wine tasting. After all isn’t that what it`s all about .

Mission Hill Winery Cellar
They offer daily tours and tastings in elegant salons adorned with chandeliers and vibrant paintings depicting the local art of winemaking. There are underground barrel cellars which also provide stunning backdrops to help educate the not so educated wine drinkers like myself.
And as a side note, the wine shop adjacent to the tasting rooms is spectacular.
If you know nothing about wines you can still lose yourself shopping for anything VINO to fill your home and at least make it look like you know a thing or two about wine.
I finally cozied up to the tasting bar to get down to business and given several options from the five vineyards which produce their vintages. Here were my favourites.
2009 Pinot Blanc.  A dry white wine with a crisp and refreshing ruby grapefruit and pineapple flavour that combine for a fresh clean finish.
2008 Pinot Gris     A drier tasting white wine also with a crisp fruity flavour but without the sweetness.
I walked out with two bottles of each, enough to get me by until at least Thanksgiving.”
Cheers,  Dagmar Ballard, (wine taster adventurer in the making)
We’re so glad Dagmar had a such an amazing wine adventure and we’re hoping to get out to BC ourselves next year. Can’t wait to check out all the new and existing wineries and culinary delights and if you’re considering a trip to BC, Tourism BC is a great resource.  No matter what city or region you’re looking to visit they’ve got information about what to see and do, accommodation and transportation some special offers and discounts that will help make your BC holiday even more special.

Cross Border Shopping

Montreal

One of the great pleasures in visiting Montreal is prowling through the SAQ, Quebec’s version of the LCBO. There are many treasures you find in these airy outlets. I usually drop by an outlet closest to my stomping grounds and hightail it to the Selection section, comparable to Vintages. I typically end up with yet another SAQ carry bag because they too have done away with plastic bags. They have a plentiful selection of French wines, for obvious reasons, followed by a respectable array of Italians.

So where do I start? How do I pick the one – who am I kidding – the 6, I usually take home? I head to the regions I know and love. So Tuscany of course, and anything new from southern Italy, which is more  affordable.  It could be a place I have traveled to that has a reputation or a fond memory. Because the sun is shining, I will check out a white or two. From there, I head west to France and  Bordeaux – on the off-chance I  will pick something that will support my dream that all good Bordeauxs do not have to cost a  mortgage payment. I have been lucky with a few from  St-Emilion or Pomerol. Then I venture over to Rhone where, this time, I found a SPECTACULAR wine – that tied for first place of the weekend.

Here are a few of my finds.

Il Bruciato Tenuta Guado Al Tasso Bolgheri 2010

$21.95 SAQ

There are certain producers that make me take a second look. Antinori is one of them. The family has been producing for 27 GENERATIONS, surpassed only by the house of Frescobaldi. Head of the family,  Piero Antinori is considered a visionary in the industry.  I had the pleasure of sampling some wines with the Great One himself which is so worthy of a future entry on its own. This wine is from the Antinori’s Guado al Tasso estate on the Tuscan coast which is home to such greats at Sassicaia and Ornellaia.  This blend of Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah is on the Super Tuscan path without the super Tuscan  price. Ruby colored, full-bodied, with cherry notes, soft spices and a lovely finish. 14% alcohol.

Chateau des Nages Joseph Torres Costieres de Nimes 2009 $21.95 LCBO  $20.95 SAQ

This  Cote de Rhone find started as a recommendation from the remarkable Lily Shatsky. I regard Lily as one of the perks of my job as a journalist. I found her when I was working in Montreal and assigned to find a bagel expert. I looked up an organization called Jewish Support Services for the Elderly. i thought where better to find a bagel expert. Not only did I get a great story, I met an inspirational dynamo.   Incredibly, the wine turned up again the next day at the table of the Certosini’s, dear friends who have long been my partners in wine.  Chateau des Nages proved to be as remarkable  as Lily with the staying power of an old friend. Deep purply red with a blend of 95% Syrah and 5% Mourvedre. Lots of body, spicy, dark fruit – it is delicious enough to make your toes curl with pleasure.

Il Chiuso Castelle di Ama Toscana IGT 2010  $25.55 SAQ

Full disclosure – the first time I visited Tuscany,we rented a place in Gaiole in Chianti,  right in the heart of the famous Chianti region. Since I was having lunch with the same friends I toured Chianti with several years ago, it seemed highly appropriate to choose a wine from the region that held so many happy memories. And I am very pleased to say this  lighter  medium-bodied blend of Sangiovese and  Pinot Noir did not disappoint.

Velenosi di Verdicchio Castelli dei Jesi Classico 2010  $13.30 SAQ

This one totally caught my interest because I will be heading to Le Marche where it is produced,  in a couple of weeks. While it didn’t knock my socks off, it had more body than a Pinot Grigio, and it wasn’t  oaky like many Chardonnays. So even though it may not take home many awards,   it was an absolute pleasure for an afternoon, enjoying-a- glass-with-my-brother-while-we-are-catching-up kind of  wine. It could have been the company, it might have been the weather, or because I had absolutely nothing to do but have a nice chat with someone I don’t see often enough. But it was a wine I would buy again…maybe next time in Le Marche or when  I am discussing life with my brother.

SAQ Publicatoin Cellier

Final word, if you do end up at the SAQ, check out their publication Cellier. It is available in English and is chock full of information. While the LCBO’s fabulous Food and Drink focuses on the food, Cellier is mostly about the wine, and there has not been an issue that I have not devoured cover to cover.

Sante