This piece was inspired by an amusing interchange in the bar last night.

Two ladies were teasing one of my line cooks who was enjoying a glass of white Zinfandel after work. I felt compelled to come to his defence.

And consequently I heard myself giving everyone around the bar an impromptu “Zinfandel lesson.”

Zinfandel up until 1998 was the most widely planted grape variety in California. Zinfandel is a red grape which if you ferment it briefly (2 or 3 days) produces a pink, fruity wine. If the fermentation is short the pigmentation from the skins is minimal and the sugar from the pulp is not totally converted to alcohol. In the past decades Zinfandel vinified to its full potential has become a serious full bodied red –a powerful rival to the grape (Cabernet Sauvignon) that overtook it in overall plantings in the Golden State. Zinfandel is a formidable wine-redolent of blackberries, anise, peppers with a distinctive raisiny finish.

In the late 90’s oenologists at Berkley confirmed what many winemakers had suspected for decades. Zinfandel was actually a clone of a grape variety that originated in “the Boot” of southern Italy (Apulia). Many of California’s pioneering winemakers 

(Gallo, Mondavi, Sebastiani for example) 

were of Italian descent….so the mystery of how “Primitivo” vine stocks from half way around the world ended up beingrenamed Zinfandel and planted in the rolling hills of California was in fact …

No mystery at all.

We carry Beringer white Zinfandel

An esteemed label and a great product. (So there ladies!)

Riesling in Winter


So last week I picked up a bottle of Riesling from Alsace in Northern France.

It was from a good house (Willm)-no relation and it was on special for less than $15.

Riesling is made in a wide gamut of styles –from excruciatingly sweet (Ice Wine) to bone dry (Alsace).In the middle, you will find off-dry fruity incarnations most famously represented by wines made along the Rhine and Moselle rivers in Germany.

Many of us in our university days kicked off our wine drinking history with accessible sweetish wines such as Black Tower and Liebfraumilch

Niagara has some great Rieslings as well. Here at Fellini's we carry a terrific off-dry version from Angel’s Gate. Niagara’s Cave Spring Cellars makes a superb “Alsatian style” version called Dolomite. These wines have a full bodied viscosity similar to a barrel-aged cool climate chardonnay. There is a pear and petrol perfume on the nose which is strangely intoxicating.

Alsatian Riesling pairs nicely with the regions’ most iconic dish-Choucroute Garnie. Over the centuries Alsace was off and on a part of Germany and this dish (composed of various sausages, potatoes and rich juicy cuts of pork on a bed of sauerkraut) has strong German roots. Here’s a delicious shortcut version of how to make it!




Fellini's Wine

It is a sign of the times when an obscure grape variety like Viognier can attract global attention from winemakers and savvy wine drinkers.This esoteric grape is grown in a tiny parcel of vineyards in the Northern Rhone Valley just south of Burgundy. I tasted the two most famous labels from the region during my travels as a young man. I swear I can still recall the intense notes of peaches, mangoes and apricots followed by a distinctive racy minerality.

Viognier’s most famous French labels are Condrieu and Chateau Grillet.These wines were very expensive 40 years ago and remain a pricey purchase to this day- but entirely worth it. ($60.00)Remarkably for an idiosyncratic grape its distinctive flavour profile transfers famously to the terroirs of other countries.

The wine just becomes more voluptuous in warmer growing regions.Californian Viogniers (Calera or Fess Parker) are terrific at $25. Viognier from Australia and Chile offer stellar offerings in the $15 range At Fellinis we offer the Cono Sur Brand from Chile.Viognier like Riesling and Gewurztraminer is an excellent choice to pair with spicy Indian or Chinese Cuisine.