Weekend Wine Picks

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A dinner party surrounded by friends, old and new, is a cause for celebration. It’s an excuse to share some wine (ok – lots of wine) with lively conversation, and since everyone brings a bottle (or two) it is the chance to try some wines you never tried before.

 

 

Here are a few suggestions for your weekend of wine.

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San Leonino Governo All’Uso 2013  A Medium-bodied wine that is  easy to drink and at the right price.  Itt packs a punch at 14.5% alcohol.   Spaghetti and meatballs or veal parmigiana would be a good match for  this wine. $19.95

IMG_0804Il Molino di Grace Chianti Classico 2011   From the heart of the Chianti region, this is is a classic Chianti that showcases the Sangiovese grape, the star of any Tuscan vineyard. This offering from Il Molino di Grace or Thw Windmills of Grace is earthy and delicious grabbing 90 points from Wine Spectator for good reason.$18.95

 

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Convento San Francisco 2005  One of the signs Bacchus, the God of Wine is looking out for you is when you come across a solitary bottle in the Vintages section. It’s no guarantee, but it often means word got out and this is a wine to try? And that’s exactly the case, This full-bodied wine from Ribera del Duero is 90% Tempranillo grape and 10 % Merlot. The result, rich, smooth with elegance. Loved it! $24.95

 

The Splurge of the Week:

IMG_0807Le Clos Jordanne Claystone Terrace 2012

This cool climate Chardonnay was the hit of the evening. Full-bodied wiith honey, citrus and green apple notes. Le Clos Jordanne Clayton Terrace 2012 is  a stunning wine that made me want to hide it from the quaffing guests (I didn’t – but, I admit, I THOUGHT about it). I didn’t just LOVE it, it made me want to visit the winery. Such amazing and award-winning wines produced right in our backyard!

Enjoy your weekend of wine!

Family Ties

IMG_0734The wine was perfect, the champagne superb. This gathering was as much about family as it was about the wine. It had all the hallmarks of a big family event bursting at the seams. The extended table was set for members who have come from all over Europe for this little get together, the inside jokes, the teasing, the nudging, the respect for elders. And some of the best wines in the world. This is what wine dreams are made of.

The event – a luncheon with the PFV, Primum Familae Vini –  the first families of wine of Europe.images

These names represent the treasures tucked away in the finest wine collections: Antinori, Perrin, Torres, Mouton Rothschild, Drouhin. They are also accessible to all wine drinkers.

The PFV was established in 1992. Its 11 members share a commitment to excellence. Each member is a  family-run operations.  The legendary Robert Mondavi was the 12th, until he sold to the Constellation group.  Membership is by invitation only. Together they share the passion and the challenges, and when they get together, it feels like you have been invited to Sunday dinner.

An Ocean of Delights

An Ocean of Delights

Bottle SASSICAIA 2007 (750ML)

Sassicaia 2007

 

I had the pleasure of sitting beside Priscilla Incisa della Rocchetta,. Her family produces Sassicaia, the queen of the Super Tuscans. She talked about the birth of the brand. Her grandfather Mario, a lover of Bordeaux wines,  in the 40s defied tradition and experimented by planting Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in Tuscany’s Bolgheri region.

Those of you who have tried wines from Bolgheri DOC will know that you can rarely go wrong with anything from that region. If you haven’t, buy a bottle tonight!

 

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Nicolo Incisa della Rocchetta & his groundbreaking father Mario Incisa della Rocchetta

“People thought my grandfather was mad,” said Priscilla. But the quality of the wine, which came as no  surprise to her grandfather, led her father to believe there was an opportunity here.
With the help of his cousin, Piero Antinori – of the Italian wine dynasty, Nicolo Incisa della Rocchetta began to sell his wine commercially. Sadly, her grandfather died in 1983 before knowing the extent of the success of Sassicaia. Tenuta San Guido also produces Guidalberto  ($52.95) and  Le Difese ($31.95) – wines typically available at the LCBO.
Priscilla said without her grandfather’s vision, Sassicaia would not be the grand wine it is today.  “It is a great legacy” she told the small group gathered to hear the stories of the great families of wine, and even better to taste their finest offerings. At Christmas, they send each other one bottle of their finest.

The group spend three days together once a year. Asked how long does it take to recover, Thomas Perrin of Famille Perrin laughed. Another inside joke.

Each time they meet, they debate inviting one more member. But getting 11 strong personalities to agree takes time. “It must be the right fit with the entire group,” said Priscilla.

Joseph Drouhin Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2012

Joseph Drouhin Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos 2012

 

“The walls and the wines have stories to tell,” said  Laurent Drouhin, whose family founded the winery in 1890.   He chose a to showcase a crisp and delicious Chablis – the afternoon just kept getting better.

And behind each story – a wine dynasty – like Vega Sicilia that began selling wine to the Spain’s royal family in 1876 or Miguel Torres – whose family winery was established in 1870 . I have been drinking (and recommending) his wines for years. Torres paid tribute to the group. “We are all of us a real family,” he said between signing autographs.

 

Pablo Alvarez of Vega-Sicilia

Pablo Alvarez of Vega Sicilia

Miguel Torres

Miguel Torres

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But the purpose of the PFV is more than public relations. At their annual meeting, which rotates among members – they share best practices, help each other develop new markets, create new memories. and then there’s the wine.

 

Champagne Pol Roger Churchill 2002

Champagne Pol Roger Churchill 2002

I started off with a glass (or two) of Pol Roger Champagne – I would have happily sipped this all day. But then I would have missed my journey into Red Wine Heaven.

 

 

 

Vega-Sicilia Unico 2004

Vega-Sicilia Unico 2004

Mouton Rothschild 2005

Beaucastel 2005

Chateau Beaucastel Rouge 2005

 

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Solaia 2007, Antinori

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All the wines served were simply  spectacular. My two personal favourites: Solaia and Sassicaia.  And while guests sampled from of the finest wines of Europe, the event was really was the vines that bind.

“It’s all about the family” said Allegra Antinori.

Family and tradition, a perfect pairing.

 

 

Wines for the Weekend

A weekend when the weather was spectacular and the wine even better.

Here are a few suggestions if you are looking for some great new additions.

Topping the list:

FullSizeRenderCASTANO SOLANERA VINAS VIEJAS 2012 –  This suggestion came from wine writer Eric Schneider who has made some great recommendations to date. Sadly, they often are gone by the time I get to the LCBO so this time I took no chances. I headed directly to the store after work on Friday only to find out the mass release was only coming on Saturday. So I was at my local LCBO when it opened at 9:30 and picked up a case. This better be good, I thought. And it was. The Spanish blend is 70% Monastrell, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Garnacha.  It’s a big wine, perfect for a barbecue. According to Eric, is it best between 2015 and 2018 – but it will never last that long in our house.  I am actually regretting not getting a few extra at $16.95. Don’t wait.

FullSizeRenderWIRRA WIRRA CHURCH BLOCK CABERNET/MERLOT/SHIRAZ 2012 – Also in the big bold section of the wine rack. I saddled up to the tasting bar at the LCBO after I couldn’t get my hands on the above-mentioned Solanera and tested a few. This one was terrific. It comes from McLaren Vale – which is one of my favourite sources for Australian Wines. Lots of dark fruit, a touch of vanilla, and spicy finish. My OTC – official tasting companion’s love for wines with “an attack down the middle” would be pleased. $19.95

FullSizeRenderSPLUGE-WORTHY: STRATUS CABERNET FRANC 2010

I must admit Cabernet Franc is not a go to wine for me. Most often, I find it best in a blend, but on it’s own a little rough around the edges. This wine is worthy of a solo. It brings out the best of the varietal. It will not disappoint. $38.20

 

 

A perfect way to spend last weekend, and wishing you some wine adventures coming up. Let me know if you come across a gem.

Cheers

Rome Wine Bars With Love

A Wall of Wine at Il Goccetto

A Wall of Wine

This last, quite spontaneous trip to Rome came with a mission.

I wanted to find the best wine bar in the city.

I did my research, perusing the listicles (that’s a list masquerading as an article) and took plenty of notes. Some I loved.  Some will never see me again. And some I found all by myself.

My favourites:

Il Goccetto:  Day one fresh off the plane – couldn’t waste any time to begin my search. It was  complicated by the fact that almost every Roman establishment has recognized that adding the words “Wine Bar” to  outdoor advertising is a big draw.

Not too far from Piazza Navona – in an area peppered with antique shops and historic apartment buildings, Il Goccetto looks fairly innocuous from the outside. It doesn’t even have a real sign.

The Secret Wine Bar

The Secret Wine Bar

It’s more of a marker for people who know what they are looking for.

Once inside, you know exactly what they are looking for….a wine lover’s paradise. Shelf after shelf is stacked with interesting wines. IMG_0436_2There is a cornucopia of wines by the glass  to try, mostly Italian. We started with a Bolgheri 2012 Argentiera. And note the price, 4 Euros (about $5.30 CDN) for a Nero D’Avola to 12 Euros (about $18 CDN) for a generous glass of top notch Barolo.  Sigh. When was the last time you got a great glass of wine for $5? We met other wine store owners from Rome, wine lovers from Paris and the best part, locals who gradually made their way in with kids, or without – for a glass of wine and conversation. Five stars.Il Goccetto, Via del Banchi Vecchi 14, Rome

 

Mimi e Coco – the names are the equivalent of Laurel and Hardy in Italy.

IMG_0512This is either your favourite place to end the night – or your musical nightmare. Along with a fun selection of wine,  helpful and most upbeat servers Renata and Lorenzo during the day and Sommelier Serafino at night, there is a steady stream of 80’s hits mixed with the odd Italian pop song.

Serafino in Song

Serafino in Song

Serafino even sang along to Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You”. Along with a great voice, he made some terrific recommendations, including a red from Lazio,  a region typically known for whites.

We LOVED the suggestion and the service and would absolutely return for some vintage Barry Manilow along with my wine.

Mimi e Coco, Via del Governo Vecchio 72, Rome

Cul-De-SacCul-De-Sac – Down the street from Mimi e Coco is one serious wine bar. All the big names are here, along with some tasty unknowns.  1400 wines, 30 by the glass. I found this place last year and it was as great as I remember it. Situated in a Piazza, you can watch the world go by as government workers and tourists stroll the street.

 

Cul-de-Sac Suggestions

Cul-de-Sac Suggestions

 

We tried a Ziggurat Montefalco Riserva 2010 from Umbria and a Aldiano Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva from Cantina Tollo – both full-bodied – excellent recommendations. Since we had reached our quota of wines to bring home, we bought two glasses.

Piazza Pasquino 73, Rome (near Piazza Navona)

 

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Cantina Ripagrande – This was a great find this trip. Located far from the crowds in a less-travelled part of the Trastevere district, it is a real haunt for locals who come in with or without Vespas.  What it lacked in varieties by the glass, it made up in atmosphere. A church dominates the square and across the street, a coffee shop where the proprietor drops by  to get himself a drink before heading back for work.

Via San Francesco a Ripa 73, Rome (Trastevere)

This is the world of La Dolce Vita, not Fellini’s masterpiece, but the embracing of life, friends, conversation and of course, vino.  I certainly have much more research to do before producing the definitive guide. I am already making a list for the next visit.

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Wine Picks for Wednesday

Fellini's Rhino from "E La Nave Va"

Fellini’s Rhino from “E La Nave Va” (And the Ship Sails On)

Looking for some picks for a weekend of reds?  Old World meets New World on the list of this week’s suggestions.

Frenchie Napoleon

Frenchie Napoleon

Frenchie Cabernet Sauvignon Napoleon 2013, North Coast, USA  I am not a fan of clever labels. All too often, I have found the cuter the labels, the lousier the wine. The exception to this are California and Australian labels. Hence I gave  “Frenchie” a try. And very happy I did. It is rich and smooth, a full-bodied wine with a great nose of cassis, vanilla, and dark fruit with a long finish. Dog lovers planning to visit this winery should know your pets are welcome to stay at their wine-themed kennels. $24.95

IMG_0747Miguel Torres Altos Ibericos Crianza 2012  Miguel Torres is the king of Spanish wine. On a recent stop in Toronto, the legendary winemaker paid tribute to other great winemaking families. Torres’ product line is extensive and a testament to good taste. I found this one at the LCBO for $16.95. It’s 100% Tempranillo and I plan to buy a case before my ex-pat Montreal friends come for dinner – otherwise we end up hitting the good stuff late at night. Never a good plan. Trust me, I know from experience.

Pillar Box

Pillar Box

 

Pillar Box Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Padthaway, South Australia  Clearly my wine choices this weekend were on the big bold side.  This Cabernet Sauvignon responded to both. It was  spicy, smooth and it is winning accolades  around the world, including a 91 from the Wine Enthusiast.  $21.95

Let us know if you give them a try.

Cheers

 

 

 

 

 

Tenuta Valdipiatta: A Wine of Distinction

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Guilio Caporali Among His Vines

Guilio Caporali Among His Vines

 

Giulio Caporali is proud of his grapes, his wines and his daughters, and not necessarily in that order.  He grew up making wine.  His career steered him to the railway industry. In the 70s, Guilio decided to get into the wine business, buying a choice piece of land in southern Tuscany, close to Montepulciano.

Tenuta Valdipiatta is a family-owned winery producing about 100,000 bottles a year. And oh what bottles!  These are award-winning wines that have shared the spotlight with the much-heralded Super Tuscans Sassicaia and Ornellaia.

A Sign of the Times

A Sign of the Times

 

Giulio took us through the stunning grounds. He gave us a primer on the status of the vines and the way they are trained to produce the best grapes.  Everything here is done by hand.  The aging room was dug out of tufa rock. Etruscan relics found on the property are mounted on the walls. And inside the barrels… pure magic.

 

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We started with 100% Pinot Noir, unusual for this area. Critics said it could not be done but Guilio doesn’t really care about going against the grain, or the grape. He follows his own path – something his daughters learned from their father.

Miriam – an economist,  runs the winery and Cinzia, a mechanical engineer  is co-owner of La Locanda di San Francesco, the most romantic & luxurious B & B in Montepulciano with a wine bar where I first sampled Valdipiatta (in fact our group like it so much we cleaned them out of all 12 bottles that night – hey, before you get judgey, there WERE 8 of us.)

A Noble Favourite

A Noble Favourite

Each tasting came with a story of an evolution, a discovery or a philosophy.

 

A Man and his Wines

A Man and his Wines

Guilio on Decanting: 90% is theatre. A good wine, is a good wine. But if I were having friends over I would open the bottle the day before. How would you feel if you were locked up in a bottle for 10 years? You need to stretch.

 

On Super Tuscans: Great marketing strategy.

Barrels of Stories

Barrels of Stories

On Oak Barrels: Russian Oak was the thing until the Revolution and the French saw an opportunity to step in.

Today Valdipiatta uses Slavonian, French and some Russian oak.

I am not sure which I enjoyed most: the wine, which was spectacular or the conversation. Though I know exactly which wine I loved the most. The 2005 Riserva. 100% Sangiovese. So smooth. So spicy. So Savoury – with flavours that live on. When you are only allowed to bring 2 bottles each through Canadian customs, you become rather choosy about what those bottles will be, but the Valdipiatta Riserva has a permanent spot in my heart and my luggage.

Luckily Valdipiatta is available on occasion at the LCBO.

There are dozens of producers of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, but this tasting was one of the best. If you find yourself in the area, I highly recommend it for the wine and for the experience. Go to their web site – www.TenutaValdipiatta.it for a full list of tours and tastings available.

 

Montemercurio: On the Wings of Fine Wine

On the Wings of Paradise

On the Wings of Paradise

I am under the Tuscan Sun, the place  where magic happens, where grapes become wine, history becomes a playground, and life truly feels like this was how it was meant to be lived.

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The Grand Piazza of Montepulciano

Montemercurio Winery combines legend and science to create memorable wines.
It is said the grand piazza of Montepulciano was once the site of a temple honouring Mercury, the winged-God of Roman mythology. Mercury was the God of communication, commerce, eloquence (poetry) and travellers (how forward-thinking those Romans were).

Honour Thy Grandfather

Honour Thy Grandfather

 

 

In 2007, when Marco Anselmi decided to create his own brand of wine in the shadow of the hill town of Montepulciano or Mons Mercurio as it was once called, he honoured the legend and he honoured his grandfather Damo who taught him everything about wine.

 

First Place

Poetry in a Bottle

 

Last year at an informal blind tasting of producers of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano at the E Lucevan Le Stelle – a wine bar par excellence in the pretty hill town , Montemercurio came first. It sparked brisk sales, and my interest in getting to know their wines better. Much better.

 

Wine Tasting with Irene

Wine Tasting with Irene

 

Sommelier Irene Lesti was our guide. She drove us to the stunning fields just below Montepulciano, most planted with Sangiovese –  the Tuscan hero grape,  a little Merlot, Canaiolo, Colorino, and Barbera for blending –  along with Malvasia Bianca, Canaiolo Bianco, Trebbiano and Pulcinculo used to produce a kick ass white.

Owner and winemaker Marco Anselmi is a firm believer in traditional methods.  He respects the old ways – from the size of the oak barrels to the regional grapes.

Cementing the Future

Cementing the Future

 

His latest experiment, aging wine in a gigantic cement block as the Romans did 2000 years ago. It’s an idea that’s caught on in the last few years with Crush Pad in the Okanagan and a number of California wineries, including Conundrum and Cliff Lede, doing the same.

 

The Full Montemercurio

The Full Montemercurio

Back at the Cantina, Irene let us sample the entire production line, starting with Caduceo IGT 2012, a white even my husband Steve, a seriously dedicated red wine drinker, appreciated. It was full of all the flavour Pinot Grigio often lacks.

Irene took us on a journey through the Tedicciolo, an IGT Toscana Rosso which softens the 80% Sangiovese with 20% Merlot. “Sangiovese can be a very aggressive grape,” said Irene. “Merlot gives it a little fruit.” Steve, my official tasting companion, loved it….until he tasted the Petaso – a Rosso di Montepulciano that went down so nicely, we had to take one home. With a flavour that is equal parts intense and elegant, this is a great value wine. Snap it up if it comes to the LCBO or SAQ!

Of Gods and Great Wine

Of Gods and Great Wine

Messaggero Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2008 was my favourite. It was big, bold and beautiful – a delicious blend of 95%Sangiovese and 5% Canaiolo. The reason this vintage was special – Marco did not think the selection grapes met the standard for their premium wine, DAMO, so all the grapes meant for DAMO went into the 2008 Messaggero. Essentially a Riserva without the price tag. This was only the second harvest for the winery. The good news is Messagero is coming to the LCBO – so keep an eye out for it.

Finally, DAMO, Montemercurio’s premium wine is a blend of the best grapes of the vineyard. 80% Sangiovese, 20% Canaiolo, Mammolo, Colorino and Barbera. Named after Damo, Marco’s grandfather and inspiration. Irene let us try the 2007 – the first vintage and the 2008, a complex blend that opens with age.

Montemercurio produces 30,000 bottles a year, 80% is exported. Thankfully that means you don’t HAVE to return to Tuscany to try it, HOWEVER  this is where the magic happens so I highly recommend it!

Saluté

Two Glasses Half Full

Two Glasses Half Full