Malivoire Gamay vs Cru Beaujolais

Malivoire Gamay vs Cru Beaujolais

This time of year brings thoughts of Vendage and the grape harvest in Beaujolais in the Burgundian vineyards of France. While the celebration of Beaujolais Nouveau has lost its’ lustre as a marketing juggernaut it still remains the most famous celebration of grape picking and early fermentation in the world.

The grape in question is Gamay and in Burgundy the top Beaujolais are represented by 10 “Crus” “or designated wine growing regions. Each one has a distinctive character based on its’s terroir and the skills and stylistic intentions of the winemakers.

The Niagara wine region in Ontario in its own young grape growing history has always cultivated the grapes of Burgundy: Chardonnay, Aligote, Pinot Noir and Gamay.

I thought it would be interesting to compare a locally grown Gamay from our wine list with the best: A Cru Beaujolais. In this case I chose as our candidates for a blind tasting comparison a Gamay from Malivoire in Niagara and a Cru Beaujolais- a Brouilly from the “King of Beaujolais” winemaker Georges Dubouef.

I drafted my Saturday night serving crew for the tasting.

I chose a Brouilly as my Beaujolais example because it is somewhere in the middle of the 10 Crus in terms of body, power and flavour.

The typical flavour profile of a Cru Beaujolais is this:

Light to medium bodied, fragrant, nose of cranberries, raspberries, and violets with a touch of that unmistakeable Burgundian earthy nose.

Well in terms of preferences the taste contest turned out to be a tie.

My preference was actually the Brouilly-a bit denser, and darker but the mere fact that a Niagara Gamay held its’ own against a Beaujolais Cru is worth noting.

Also the bottle of Malivoire was 3 dollars cheaper ($15.00) than the Brouilly .

Do not be afraid to chill your Gamay or Beaujolais for 20 minutes to bring out the flavours.

Follow this link for more information about Cru Beaujolais.

Xarello Heretat mont rubi

Xarello Heretat mont rubi

I try a couple of Vintages products every week.

How do I choose?-Well like everyone else I can be a sucker for a provocative wine label.-I am a minimalist by nature so the look of this bottle reeled me in….A plain white label embossed with one word “WHITE”.

Flipped it around for the back label description and I was hooked-

From Spain near Barcelona this wine is a rare bottling of a single Spanish grape variety Xarello-a grape that is the major player in the blend used to make Spanish sparkling wines (Cava). The other two most common grapes in the blend are Viura and Parellada.

Sort of like the headliner of the show allowing part of his or her backing band to step out of the shadows to riff out a solo. It works!

Grown on sandy soils near the Mediterranean it is fermented in stainless steel tanks and aged on its lees. There are mineral aromas of wet stones and citrus, green apples and herbs.

This wine is the perfect match for Tapas and grilled seafood-firm fleshed fish, lobster, shrimp or octopus.

Xarello Heretat mont rubi

12.5% alcohol

LCBO # 488742


Revelation in a Glass-Marsanne Kew Vineyards

Revelation in a Glass-Marsanne Kew Vineyards

Revelation in a Glass-Marsanne Kew Vineyards

Marsanne is one of the grapes along with Roussanne and Viognier that is part of the blend that makes up the great white wines of the Southern Rhone.

I previously posted that my go-to house white at home is a version of this blend made by Guigal. At a celebratory restaurant dinner for my son Sam’s 23rd birthday a few weeks back I could not resist the temptation of trying a wine that you not only rarely see on a wine list and never offered by the glass. What made the temptation even more irresistible was that the wine was made in Niagara!

The only other solo Marsanne I had tasted was from Australia (Very different growing conditions) Long story short-the wine did not disappoint.

Flavours of white peach, spiced pear, rich with nutty honey overtones.

By the way -The restaurant in Toronto near China Town …

Great food Brilliant little Wine list-Reasonable prices

Later that evening I found that the process of researching the story of the creation of that wine was equal to my pleasurable quaffing experience.

The wine from Kew Vineyards was made by Phillip Dowell-a migrant winemaker from Australia who started his Canadian career at Inniskillin and has been the winemaker at Angel’s Gate since 2007. (Should have known) it would take a transplanted Aussie to have the moxie to try growing Marsanne in the cool climate terroir of Niagara.

Next day to cap it off I found exactly one bottle left at the LCBO beside the St Lawrence Market across the street from my parent’s condo.

A serendipitous wine adventure came full circle!

Scott’s School of Wine - First Edition-The Mellecey Group

Scott’s School of Wine - First Edition-The Mellecey Group

Many thanks to Cyndi and Fred Grossman who made our inaugural Wine Tasting evening such a huge success. Their wines were all stunning, the food terrific and their commentary brilliant.

Visit the Mellecey Group and their wine portfolio at


To start what I regard as hands down the best champagne substitute in the world-Spanish Sparkling made in the traditional champagne method -almonds, melon, citrus with floral notes.

Marques de Plata Cava Brut Nature NV

We paired it with Deep Fried Calamari with Aioli.


Next a rare treat a Rose from Spain’s Basque country.

Inazio Urruzola Txakolina Rose 2015.

Bright fresh aromatic with a salty ocean feel with some spritz at the end.

We paired this lovely Rose with a tomato rubbed toasted pintxo topped with prosciutto (in the spirit of the similarly produced Basque Bayonne Ham)


Another rare treat-a white Rioja!

Valenciso Blanco- (96 points Wine Decanter)

Mainly Viura grapes with a honey caramelized nose and flavours of roasted nuts. It paired perfectly with a smoked chicken pintxo-the subtle oak of the wine matching the mild smokiness of the moist rotisserie chicken.

..........................................................................................................................................................And finally a killer Red Rioja

Such an elegant wine. Lots of powerful berry flavours beautifully balanced with velvety tannins.

Valenciso Rosado-paired with Carne di Porco-thinly sliced roasted pork tenderloin served on a bed of arugula, finished with a brandy and pepper demi-glace.




My House Red

My House Red

When I was at the University of Toronto at Victoria College every fall I took a two week trip to Europe before I started classes.

I worked every summer as a very young head chef at Windermere House in Muskoka 7 days a week for about 5 months straight. One September armed with my First Class Eurail Pass (about 175 dollars) I headed for France. I flew to Nice on the Mediterranean with the intention of working my way back up to Paris. My goal was to taste first hand as many of France’s regional dishes as I could. Bouillabaisse in Marseilles, Cassoulet in Carcassone, Truffles and Foie Gras in the Perigord and the Charcuterie of Lyon.

Arriving in Lyon I headed straight to its famous outdoor market just in time to see Paul Bocuse (arguably the most famous chef in the world at that time) and his entourage cruising through the food stalls like an emperor.

Armed with a letter of introduction from a Lyonnaise trained chef who I worked with in Toronto I made a detour to a small town off the grid called Ampuis. It was there that I was destined to meet a winemaking family who were about to garner world-wide fame as “Kings of the Rhone”. Although I had never met my host before, for three days I was welcomed to sit at his family table and stay as a guest in a spare bedroom in his house. I learned more about the process and precision of making fine wine than I ever had before or have since. My generous and gracious host was Marcel Guigal. He learned his craft from his father Etienne. Marcel’s son Phillippe is now the boss.

And thus My Red House Wine (maybe feeling a bit nostalgic) the red I drink at home with friends is E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone 2013.

LCBO #259721 -19.95

Made from Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre grapes.

Flavours of black olives, plums, raspberries-a wine of elegance and finesse.

(Available at Fellinis by the glass!)



Matching Food and Wine 3 Simple Rules

Matching Food and Wine 3 Simple Rules

There are reams of articles and book meticulously preaching the art of matching food with the right wine. I’ve read most of them but at the end of the day these three simple strategies work for me.

1.Match the wine with the country and the region it came from.

With hundreds of years of tradition-how can you go wrong?

A meaty tomato based pizza?-Sicilian Red…

A fatty grilled Ribeye?-Californian Cabernet or Zinfandel…..

Weiner Schnitzel?-an Austrian Gruner Veltliner or Reisling

Warm Goat’s cheese salad?-a steely Sancerre from the Loire.

2.Determine what the strongest flavour element is in the dish and either Attempt to match it or contrast it.

Whatever the recipe-meat, poultry or fish it is the sauce or marinade that you are actually trying to complement. Big flavours demand big reds

Delicate flavours call for lighter whites

3.For dishes with Spicy and Complex Flavours :

(Thai, Szechuan, Curries etc.) If there is not an accompanying wine culture that is a part of a culinary tradition I say “let it go”- that belies a simple truth- wine isn’t perhaps an appropriate beverage partner for that style of cuisine. Often “off dry” Rieslings, Viognier or Gewurztraminer are the standard wine recommendations to pair with these more exotic flavours. 

But I find that they are a bit of an arranged marriage. 

Try these matches: with Japanese Food - Sake with Serious Curry-Beer- 

or Lassi-(a non-alcoholic yogurt based beverage) (alcohol doesn’t really work with Curries) with Chinese/ Asian dishes-Beer preferably Toboggan.

Barbecue ( Grilled Meat Fish or Chicken) a chilled Beaujolais or Gamay.

McManis Cabernet WTF

McManis Cabernet WTF

It is time to address the Elephant in the room. McManis California Cabernet.

Woe to the restaurant in London Ontario who dares to omit this beast of a wine from their wine list. So …What’s The Fuss? McManis Cabernet is like a big lollipop. Without getting too carried away with that sucker analogy…as Woody Allen once said (after running away with his adopted daughter) “the heart wants what it wants” and London wants McManis.

Cabernet Sauvignon comes from Bordeaux where it is usually mixed with Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. These grapes are fermented separately and blended after every harvest to create some of the most expensive and brilliant red wines in the world. The wines are taunt, supple, complex and very expensive. Sometimes they take decades to reach their peak. The terroirs (soil and climate) of Bordeaux and California are like night and day.  California has a much warmer climate which produces riper grapes whose bigger sugar counts (brix) produce bigger alcohol levels and more explosive wines. McManis therefore is a prime example of a voluptuous, more fruit driven wine-and therefore a real crowd pleaser- especially to those who have an adolescent palate. At the end of the day though if McManis turns your crank all the more power to you….at least you are drinking and enjoying decent wine. 

We all like to laugh….some like slapstick…some like satire.

Interesting though, these days, many winemakers in Napa are attempting to dial it down and capture the essence and character of Bordeaux Cabernet blends. And there is also a parallel push by many young winemakers in Bordeaux to adopt a more American style. If you would like to experience this attempt at a meeting in the middle try this excellent wine for roughly the same price as 

McManis Cabernet Sauvignon 

Kenwood Cabernet Sauvignon LCBO # 468157

 It is a well-structured fragrant red from Sonoma. Ripe cassis, and black cherry, dark chocolate with a dried fruit finish.




Branu Vermentino di Gallura


Well, this may be the new “it” grape folks”. There has been a buzz about this Mediterranean variety for some time but I have not been successful in finding a sample that lived up to the advance hype until now. Branu comes from Gallura a northern province of Sardinia. Gallura is also renowned for its cork production so you are not going to find a screwcap on these bottles. It is a lovely white on the light side-recalling flavours of pears, peaches, lime, and citrus with a clean mineral finish. This floral white with a hint of roasted almonds is most similar to Sauvignon Blanc and surprisingly tastes a lot like a gin and tonic. In France (where as Steve Martin once said “they have a different word for everything”) Vermentino is called Rolle. Rolle is an important component of many of the best Rose wines in the south of France. Vermentino does not deliver a blockbuster kind of experience but for me the wine tastes like where it comes from-a crisp lively white from close to the sea. And not surprisingly it pairs best with fresh seafood. Vintages at the LCBO # 455246   $21.95.

My House White

My House White

I am often asked what I drink at home.

What’s my value driven everyday sip at the end of a challenging day ?

A Chardonnay…Pinot Grigio…. Riesling -love them all but the bottle I keep coming back to is my beloved French white Cotes du Rhone blend from Guigal. The blend of grapes varies from vintage to vintage but the wine is always an exotic treat. The mainstay grape varieties for white wines from the Rhone are in the mix (Grenache, Marsanne and Roussanne.) But a whopping 65% of the blend comes from Viognier.

(That’s like discovering your jar of “deluxe mixed nuts” purchase contains 65% cashews)

The wine itself tastes like pears, tangerines, apricots and orange blossoms. It finishes though with a crisp extra dry mineral finish.

I would match it with glazed ham, sticky ribs and even a mild chicken curry or Pad Thai.

It’s a Vintages Essential LCBO # 290296. $19.95

It is not dirt cheap but it delivers a unique complex and sophisticated taste experience.

A Spring Gem from the Loire Valley

A Spring Gem from the Loire Valley

If this Blog were to have a Mission Statement (well it does now) it would be to share little wine discoveries past and present. Sometimes when you veer off the beaten path of your wine comfort zone you find a little gem. Safe to say when we think of the classic wine regions of France Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Cotes du Rhone are foremost in our thoughts. But the unofficial Vin de Pays wines that French consumers are drawn to say in the bistros of Paris are more than likely to come from the Loire Valley. Why? Because the Loire is home to some of France’s best well-made value wines red and white. Yes the Loire is renowned for some iconic whites that are on the expensive side such as (Sancerre, Pouilly Fume-made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes and Savenierres made from Chenin Blanc grapes. For the value conscious consumer look for reds from Bourgueil and Chinon-made from Cabernet Franc grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon’s more visceral cousin).

But the bottle that kick started this piece was at terrific little wine from a sub region of a sub region in the Loire called Saumur. It is made from Chenin Blanc grapes and has lovely nuances of quince, chamomile, honey, cream and citrus.

Nice fruit with a crisp dry finish.

It is called Moulins de Turquant about $18.00 in the Vintages section of the LCBO. It’s a real authentic taste of France from an off the beaten path part of France.




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!