A Wine Lover of Substance

A Man of Substance

A Man of Substance

The world lost a very special man this week. Someone with a passion for life, a passion for music and a passion for wine.

Patrick Vetter was a brilliant musician. He played the sexiest instrument of all, the saxophone, for the likes of Tony Bennett, Celine Dion, Aretha Franklin and too many more to mention.

Celine and Patrick

Her Heart Will Go On

In me, he ignited my love of wine that continues to this day.

I remember his first recommendation: Villa Caffagio – a Chianti. I can’t remember the year, but it was delicious and $21.95 a bottle – a fortune compared to the basket-hugging Ruffinos, Black Tower or the $8 a gallon Gamay that my father kept under the kitchen bench for easy access. “Buy a case,” Patrick said.

I did and it was the start of my love affair with Italian wines.

Patrick taught me how to savour wine. Much the way he savoured life. He brought out those little scent bottles to teach me how to recognize the aromas in wine. And like authentic wine people, he always loved to share. Patrick’s wife Helen is my best friend, and whenever I was invited over for dinner (Patrick was also an incredible cook. Helen a master at take-out) he would make an incredible meal and be sure to pull out a special bottle for us to sample. He introduced me to Zenato Valpolicella Ripassa Superiore- one of my favourite wines to this day.

His generosity to his friends and family knew no bounds. Patrick even let me sing with his live band at his 50th birthday party. Those of you who know how badly I sing, will know just how generous that actually was.

Soul Mates

Soul Mates

Helen was the great love of his life. His muse. His best friend. They were soul mates.  He used to tease her that if she didn’t make him laugh once a day, he might have to replace her.  They kept each other laughing  for 26 years….. and kept us laughing too.  Patrick could hold court at a dinner party leaving us all in stitches, his comedic timing spot on.

But last Thursday, for the first time in his life,  his timing was off. Way off.  He passed away suddenly. Far too soon. Far too young. Leaving us with a big hole in our hearts.

I will remember him with love and feel blessed that he was part of my life, for at least a little while.

Grazie, my friend. I hope somewhere you are sipping the Super Tuscan that you so well deserve.  You are  loved by many and will be missed by all.

Patrick Vetter 1957-2015

 

Fine February Wine Picks

august 19-2014 152

Thrilled about New Italians

I know it’s going to be a good weekend when the message from VINTAGES in my inbox says Hot New Italians (okay I may be using a little poetic license – but that’s how I internalized this week’s theme…Only in Italy: 11 Native Grapes).

My brother in wine, Rob, who curses and blesses me for turning him from a beer guy to a wine lover, went shopping for “a” bottle…or 5.

Some of our worthy picks this weekend:

BIg Beauty

BIg Beauty

Beni di Batasiolo Riserva Barolo 2006  – One of my favourite words in the Italian language – this Barolo it was more than worthy.  It could last for 10 years or more. We decanted for about an hour. Sight, Sniff and Savour all got top scores.  It was a slow sipper because we wanted the goodness to last as long as possible $39.95

 

 

A Price-friendly Wine from Piedmont

A Price-friendly Wine from Piedmont

Marenco Suri Dogliani 2011 - just a few kilometres from Barolo in Italy’s Piedmont region, it is a whole lot friendlier to your wallet.  I really enjoyed this wine. It is a well-balanced medium- bodied wine that I would gladly have with a plate of charcuterie or some Italian meatballs.  $17.95

 

 

Salcheto Vino Nobile de Montepulciano  2011 $29.95 – Love this wine. A sommelier once told me that a wine often tastes 20% if you have been to the winery. I agree if you like the wine. A great experience will keep that winery in your heart and on your shopping list forever. But it can work in reserve too.  I have been to a few that, in my opinion, were way overrated  and in those cases, I rarely give them a second chance. Salcheto was the former. I have been there a number of times and each time was better than the last…and each visit our wine order was bigger than the last. One of the most environmentally- conscious wineries in Europe. If you are going to be in the Montepulciano area – don’t miss it.

Enjoy and let us know if there is an Italian at your table worth sharing.

 

 

The Longest Month of the Year

Climbing Mount Abstinence

Climbing Mount Abstinence

February is here..finally.  It’s been a long dry January – and I really mean dry.

A good friend of mine, who has often been my partner in wine, makes  a point of abstaining for the month, giving her liver a chance to recover after the holiday.

How hard could climbing Mt. Abstinence  be?

Especially after my husband, my brother and two great friends said goodbye to 2014 with some outstanding dinner companions named Barolo, Brunello, Amarone, Chateauneuf-du-Pape and more…14 to be exact,  including a special bottle I was saving from Mission Hill that mistakenly became Bottle #12.

Yes, my liver could use a vacation, too.

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The Day After or As One Hungover Friend Put It, “Happy *** New Year”

Suddenly I seemed to become a magnet for every announcement for the latest wines to hit the store. Smart buys! Spectacular Spanish wines. Sigh!

But it was clear sailing… until Friday.

While every day is worthy a good glass of wine, when it comes to Fridays, it should almost be compulsory.  On that first Friday of Abstinence – 5 PM came with no stop at the liquor store on the way home, no perusing the shelves looking for that special bottle or arriving home with a bottle decanting ready to pour while my husband  and I  dissect the week and celebrate the start of the weekend.

OK, I decided  just one bottle wouldn’t be the end of the world  – that’s still half as much as we would normally drink on a Friday. And one more on Saturday. But I survived Sunday.  I believe in celebrating small victories.

A Worthy Brunello

A Worthy Brunello

It pretty much went the same for the whole month. What I did learn, when you are only drinking two bottles a week – you make sure they are really great ones like this Brunello.

You also sip slowly and savour because in two and a half glasses, the bottle’s empty.

 

 

An Irish friend of mine said he and his friends  would also take “the pledge” (to avoid alcohol) once a year. But they had the right idea. They picked February, the shortest month.

Cheers!

Don’t Quote Me

IMG_1634-3Most of my Facebook friends not only know I love wine but many of them are wine lovers as well.  At least once a week I get a quote that seems to speak directly to me, so I wondered just how many there were. From the historical and famous to the ones that make us laugh out loud, I found hundreds of quotes that seem to fill the glass where we often find life’s meaning.

Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance. -Benjamin Franklin

Men are like wine – some turn to vinegar, but the best improve with age. -Pope John XXIII

I cook with wine; sometimes I even add it to the food. -W. C. Fields

Wine to me is passion. It’s family and friends. It’s warmth of heart and generosity of spirit. Wine is art. It’s culture. It’s the essence of civilization and the art of living. -Robert Mondavi

Wine is the most healthful and most hygienic of beverages. -Louis Pasteur

Nat-cork-screw wine-pairing-in-the-stone-age images

 

It’s funny how true some of these quotes ring, so if you’ve found one you love make sure to share it with all your friends. Because next to wine, laughter is the best medicine.

The Art of Charcuterie

august 19-2014 118When my daughters were little, there was no better way to get them to eat than creating a little visual masterpiece of manageable bites. A little bit of this, a little bit of that, splayed out just tempting them to sample.

As they grew older, their taste buds grew more adventurous. Star-shaped mild cheddar morphed into triple cream Brie or Aged Pecorino. Squares of sliced ham replaced by locally-cured porchetta and salamis.

Little did they know they were charcuterie lovers in-training. A few weeks ago I asked Mia what she wanted for her birthday dinner. “One spectacular plate, please.”

august 19-2014 120Charcuterie dates back to 15th century France. Originally it was a method used to preserve meats before refrigeration.  The name comes from “char” or flesh and “cuit” which means to cook. And while hundred of years ago it was a necessity, today it has become an art form.

Charcut in Calgary,  and Toronto neighbourhood favourites F’Amelia and Black Hoof  specialize in the art of charcuterie.  A recent trip to Kelowna. where the local food movement is not just embraced, it is expected,  raises the charcuterie bar.


Owner of Salted Brick Chef Jason Leizert  smokes and cures all his meat  The curing room is at the back of the restaurant for all to see, That day he was preparing venison and cranberry sausage.

The open concept lets hungry customers watch Chef Jason prepare their platters and answer questions at the same time. The platter was perfect and the sandwiches sublime. Downed with a glass of Sumac Ridge Red.

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It’s hard to resist those tasty little nibbles: the artisanal  cheeses, the home-cured meats and the creative condiments you would never taste at home – all shared with a glass or flight of wine.

A “plate” among friends.

My daughters are now 25 and 29, and there is still nothing that makes them feel more like home….except maybe a nap on the couch.

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home

 

Weekend Wine Picks

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Oct 14 2014 251There were so many things to give thanks for this week. Surrounded by family and friends, watching my 84-year old mother arm wrestle any one who dared to challenge her. My wonderful nieces and nephews exploring the city. My lovely daughter dancing the night away in the kitchen with guests from 8-84. And of course, toasting the whole night with some terrific wine picks that I highly recommend.

ripasso 2012Giuseppe Campagnolo Valpolicella Ripasso 2012 Corvina Blend $16.95 Medium bodied and fruity.  This was perfect to serve before, during, and after our turkey dinner.   13.5% In the Vintages section, but going fast.

 

 

peoples pinotThe People’s Pinot Noir Central Otago, New Zealand 2011 $16.95  I was looking for a Pinot Noir to serve with turkey and this one caught my eye. Admittedly this time it was the label that stood out – often a detractor in my mind – but I do like Kiwi wines and this light bodied pick with cherry and raspberry notes turned out to be a crowd pleaser.   gran feudo 2007

Julian Chivite Gran Feudo Reserva 2007  Blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon is only $16.95  This was my favourite of the bunch. If you are looking for an affordable red – this one is worth sampling.

 

A little trip around the world in wine  made for great Thanksgiving feasting. Just in time for this week at the LCBO, where Vintages is  celebrating my favourites – great Italians. Time for some sampling in the tasting room this weekend. Salute!

The Day My Music Died

My Trusty iPod Classic

My Trusty iPod Classic

I went to see Gone Girl at AMC Beaches earlier this month, and someone walked away with the soundtrack of my life.

Most material things mean nothing to me. . Yes, there is that bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape to be opened in  4 years, that is being lovingly protected.  Family pictures of course, and the odd piece of jewelry that is special because of who or where it came from, but overall, they are just things.

My iPod was special. It was given to me as a  birthday present by the wonderful people I work with who know me well enough to know there was no better gift.  It has travelled everywhere with me. From Whitehorse to San Francisco, Kelowna to Maine. Each playlist lovingly developed over the decade since my sister  gave me my first incarnation that held 1200 tunes.  My Classic held space for 12,000 tunes including the songs that were playing when I tasted bottles of wine that rocked my world. Sitting on a terrazzo looking out at the Italian countryside sipping a glass or three. Dancing with my hubbie to Harvest Moon. Laughing my face off with friends.

SInce then there have been a few desktops loaded with iTunes, but on my Classic, the songs remained the same.

Until now.

And while in the global scheme of things, it is utterly inconsequential,  tonight these wines  are  my toast to my little iPod that served me well.

Even though some of those treasured playlists died with the hard drive on a former computer, I know I will get them back eventually on a newer speedier model. Apple moved on from the  iPod Classic that only played music. It wasn’t fast enough, multi-functional enough –  but that’s exactly why we got along so well.

My music and me.

So  I needed some good wine to wash away my music melancholy, wines from Washington State.

Charles Smith cabernet Sauvignon

Charles Smith cabernet Sauvignon

 

Chateau Smith Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2012  This was one of the featured wines in the Vintages catalogue. At $23.95, it was worth the price. If you haven’t explored Columbia Valley wines, they are definitely worth some attention, especially now that more of them are turning up in Vintages.

 

 

Powerful Washington Blend

Powerful Washington Blend

 

 

Horsepower

Proprietary Red Blend Horse Heaven Hills 2009 43% Syrah, 35% Barbera, 9% Petit Verdot, 9% Malbec, 4% Mourvedre. Plums, cherries, full bodied – absolutely lovely. I also loved H3 which is what led me to pick up this bottle, and  I am definitely going back for more. $21.95 at the LCBO.

 

I hope the person who walked away with my iPod in its battered brown faux leather case enjoys the Road to Sicily playlist  that chronicles the music of my life with my husband Steve. Or Mormor’s birthday playlist – my 84-year old mother’s favourite songs (including Patricia the Stripper). And have a look at the pix from the most amazing trip to Italy five years ago with my dearest friends before you delete all.

It’s just a thing. But it was a thing that meant a lot.