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Drinking World Wines in Toronto

14 Nov

I continue to be out of the country working on a new Broadway musical, trying Canadian wines when our production schedule allows. Wine selections at the LCBO (basically, the Canadian Liquor Store) are OK by my standards, but not stellar. I managed to find a bottle of Michael David’s Chardonnay from Lodi, here in Toronto of all places…along with many bottles of Zinfandel. That bottle made me very happy with great memories of picking viognier in the MD vineyard this past August, and I drank it and fondly recalled fun adventures with my WBC friends. 

 

Michael David Winery 2015 Chardonnay. 13.5%ABV, $23CAD/bottle from LCBO. Color is pale gold. Nose of green apple, white peach, and hibiscus flower. In the mouth, the fruit profile is a balance of golden delicious apple, honeydew melon and pineapple. Secondary notes of peach, cedar, vanilla, and clay on the medium-short finish. For me, this bottle was a delightful memory of the 2016 harvest in the MD vineyards. While I enjoyed this, I wished the LCBO had stocked the MD Viognier as well.

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This is a shot of me from the viognier harvest in the MD Vineyards.
Photo by Randy Caparoso!

 

 

Working in the entertainment industry often means very long hours and few days off. Since arriving,  I thankfully have managed to get to a couple of nice restaurants in Toronto that feature excellent wine lists that are worthy of sharing!

 

Nearby the Royal Alexandra Theatre at Byblos, the middle eastern fare is warm and inviting. Their lamb shoulder is braised for 12 hours and falls off the bone, succulent and savory, accompanied by a garlic paste, shug (a hot pepper blend) and house-made pickles and turnips, with tasty sides of rice and brussel sprouts. With the help of my trusty iphone (it’s a dark restaurant) I scanned the wine list and found an appropriate comfort wine to match the house specialty.

Chateau Musar “Hochar Père et Fils” 2011, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. This red blend is deep garnet in color with an opulent, floral nose. On the palate, mature black plum, fig, cherry, and the distinct quality of baked fruit is met with notes of earth, leather, mocha, allspice, black pepper and cinnamon. On the dry, lengthy finish there are beautiful flourishes of oak, along with gravel and sandy limestone on the side palate.  It is a heady aroma and velvety mouthfeel, a gorgeous second wine from a brilliant winemaker. I have long been a fan of Chateau Musar, with an ’04 and a few bottles of the 2000 remaining in my cellar, and I was trepidatious at the youthful age of this bottle, but ended up being very pleasantly surprised. I thoroughly enjoyed this blend of 50% cinsault, 30% grenache, 10% carignan, and 10% cabernet sauvignon. 14% ABV, Street price avg $33 USD, (obviously not what I paid in the restaurant.)

 

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Further down King Street is a hidden gem suggested by my co-workers for having a high quality (and somewhat pricey) wine list. Buca is a northern Italian restaurant that is reknowned for savory delights and curing their own meat;  you can see examples of their delicacies hanging in a cooler as you walk down a hallway to the bar and to one of the two dining rooms. We obliged our evening hunger by ordering shared dishes, starting off with olives stuffed with sausage and fried to hot, crisp, and salted savory perfection;  hand-rolled ricotta gnocchi stuffed with taleggio cheese; carpaccio di mango; and a pizza salumi di buca- delightful, mouthwatering bites. Strongly salted meats and powerful, savory flavors beg for a tremendous wine, and the sommelier did not disappoint! A native Italian (whose name I sadly did not understand when I asked), we chatted, I inquired about some of the ‘hidden treasures’ on the wine list, and he came back with his arms full of options,  from which I selected his very last bottle of a reserve Nebbiolo- and I was very glad I did!

Ar.Pe.Pe.’s  2011 Sasella Stella-Retina Valtellina Superior Riserva, Lombardy, Italy. The color is deep ruby while the perfumed nose offers crushed rose petals and lush vegetation. This wine opened up beautifully with a bit of time in the glass to offer mature raspberry, dried cherry, and african violet. Secondary notes of vanilla, wet earth and aged leather on the finish with hints of toasted almonds, sodium, wet stone, and granite. A beautiful soft mouthfeel; feminine expression of aged fruit meets bright acidity and firm tannins. 100% Nebbiolo, 13.5% ABV, Street Price around $52 USD.

 

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The clock is ticking until my return to the USA! I still have two bottles of Canadian red wines I need to review before my time is up here in Canada. Keep an eye out, and enjoy. Life is beautiful and precious, and I hope we all see the beauty every day in our loved ones and the world around us.  -JvB

à votre santé!

 

 

Gabriel Meffre 2009 La Châsse du Pape Côtes-du-Rhône Reserve Rouge

13 Aug

 

I started drinking the Meffre Reserve red wine almost a decade ago when a local wine shop owner showed it to me. “This is one of the best buys I have and it’s delicious,” she said to me quietly, “you should really try it.” Her preference and shop stock was largely Italian wine, and to crack open a wooden case of Meffre Châsse Côtes du Rhône for me in the back of her small store demonstrated her passion for the brand. I bought the bottle, tasted it that evening, and went back for more later that week.

 

Since that time, I’ve watched and tasted as the winemaker has evolved in their approach to wine and marketing. Today in addition to the reserve, they offer other red blends listed as ‘tradition’ and ‘prestige’ which may be listed depending on the year as ‘winemaker’s selection’. Note the interchanging of synthetic corks and screwcaps in the modern bottling, as well as the custom-inscribed bottle. That’s all good for packaging, but how is the wine?

 

In common French style, this is a blend of four grapes:  grenache, syrah, cinsault and mourvèdre. That means to the casual drinker that the wine is a deep red with purple tinges in the glass. It has ripe red fruit and violet on the nose. The palate has red plum, raspberry, and black currants, licorice, with notes vanilla, pepper, limestone, clay, and a touch of oak with a tight finish. It’s fruit forward and spicy, “chewy” is a word often used for younger wines made for drinking now and not aging or cellaring as most Bordeaux wines would be.

 

 

This is a solid and flexible Rhône red that is decidedly Mediterranean in its style and flavors- with the spice of the syrah, it is ideally paired with grilled meats, strong cheeses or other powerful flavors that will complement those spices well, and has performed consistently well over the years as a solid, good daily vine du table that can be kept in your home and served for company at a fancy dinner party or served with burgers on the barbecue

 

The only thing I don’t like about this wine is the number of accent circonflexes (that’s the little roof accent above the a, o or u) you should type when reviewing it for your blog. Yes, I’m kidding…well, only a little. Purchased locally at $12/bottle, available online from $9-14/bottle.

If you are interested, you can see the entire line of the La Chasse brand of wines here.

and winemaker Gabriel Meffre’s site is linked  here.

 

à votre santé!

 

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