Category: On the Road with the Grape Guy
(October 2022) ... The Italian winery FontanaFredda rolled into Toronto with its concept of “Barolo Week”; a week to promote Barolo wine (made from the Nebbiolo grape and found in Piedmont); an event they established in 2016 to advocate for this prestigious wine and promote its possibilities of by the glass pours at restaurants. The restaurant we found ourselves at was Eataly, a 42 store franchise that promotes all things Italy; especially food and wine. The shop is loaded with every kind of food-stuff from Italy you can imagine, plus wine, even in Toronto – kudos to them for embracing the bottle shop concept. This store is also surrounded by, at my count, at least three in-house restaurants. Today's lunch was shared plates to pair with the six wines poured.
FontanaFredda is a winery that dates back to 1858 and has royal blood backing, the first owner was the King of Italy. Barolo wines, or the concept of Barolo wines, were created in the 1830s, and in the 1870s is when the real commercial production of the wine begins with the first wines entering the US market in 1878. The history of these wines goes back some 60 years here in Ontario, with the first FontanaFredda wine hitting the LCBO shelves in 1962 (a 1958 vintage). FontanaFredda is a 110-hectare vineyard that's surrounds the winery.
As previously mentioned, six wines were poured for tasting, three from the current 2018 vintage; plus some back vintage: 2016, 1996 and 2010.
2018 Serralunga Organic
The first time the Serralunga designation appears on the label is in 1988. According to Alberto Frea, export manager, who led us on the tasting, 2018 was a FontanaFredda kinda vintage with a rainy June, then a more regular growing season and harvest: "This creates a more approachable wine," he says. Cranberry, leather, balsamic and coffee bean greet the nose; the palate seems a little fuller, but with good acidity, along with some sour cherry and subtle spice. (*** ½+)
2018 Barolo Proprieta in FontanaFredda
Ripe cherry, black, raspberry and mocha, are all available to the olfactories, but the predominant thing here is red fruit. The palate brings with it spiced-cherry, peppered-strawberry, good acidity and a lovely length of finish. (****+)
2018 Barolo Vigna La Rosa
The vineyard is named after a woman that the king's son was truly in love with and became his second wife after his first "passed away". There's a slight hint of VA here, but it does blow off, revealing plenty of cherry and cranberry. The palate is smooth and supple with nice acidity on the finish; neither the acidity nor the tannins are too aggressive, with the acidity showing up on the second sip and the tannins on the 3rd. There's a nice long finish here as well. (****)
Older Vintages …
2016 Barolo Vigna La Rosa
The nose far outweighs the palate here: sweet cherry, mocha and strawberry – while the palate proves to be too aggressive; still very young.
1996 Barolo Vigna La Rosa
Coffee, mocha and leather dominate with very little in the way of fruit showing, even in a dried or fruit leathery state.
2010 Barolo Riserva
Outstandingly sippable wine that has lots going for it. Approachable now and ready for primetime; it's also amazingly food friendly: plenty of mocha, cherry and spice on the nose and palate; body is well preserved, still has good acid balance and a lovely freshness while the tannins have a way of hanging on without getting in the way. If you have any, drink up or at least try one now. You will not be disappointed. Best wine of the tasting.
Category: On the Road with the Grape Guy
(September 20220) … Billed as the “inaugural family flagship release”, the event was held at Alo Salon Private Dining in the Yorkville area of Toronto. This was to be an evening of unveiling the "flagship" wines of Wakefield (aka: the top tier). Now Wakefield has been to Toronto many times, and usually we are hosted by Justin Taylor, but tonight we get Master of Wine, Neil Hadley, who walks us through and talks to us about the wines we are about to drink / taste.
The first half of the evening is filled with the wines from the St. Andrews lineup: Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. The story goes that the St. Andrews vineyard was a next door piece of land to the Taylor’s, and they would look over the fence at that beautiful terra rossa soil and dreamed of planting vines there one day. By the mid-1999s they got their wish, and soon the vines were in the ground. The mantra of the time was: "Good is good, but how do we get better?" And the St. Andrews’ vineyard set them on the road to do just that.
The walk around wine:
2022 St. Andrews Riesling (Clare Valley)
Pure, dry and mineral driven with notes of lime, pith and zest with good acidity at its core. Crisp, clean, a lovely sipper. (*** ½+)
The Dish: Madai, Cucumber, Dill, Creme Fraiche
The Wine: 2019 St. Andrews Chardonnay
The Note: St. Andrew's vineyard lies North of the Taylor family's plot of land, and this most coveted piece of land has finally produced that Chardonnay of Burgundian quality that the Taylors have always sought. A Dijon clone aged in Louis Latour barrels. There's a spiciness here that battles it out with yellow plum, apricot and orange peel. It has a rich creamy texture and as the wine opens there's a boxing match between the fruit and the spice ... It's really very lovely. (****)
The Dish: East Coast Lobster and Paragord Truffle
The Wine 1.0: 2018 St. Andrews Shiraz
The Note: Silky meets spicy here as peppery meets dark fruit with the addition of mocha, spiced-blackberry, dried-cassis and even a hint of floral. (****)
The Wine 2.0: 2018 St. Andrews Cabernet Sauvignon
The Note: Complex Cab that has a lovely array of chocolate and mocha with dark fruit silkiness across the tongue. There's a delicacy of spice, good acidity and a nice length that doles out raspberries on the finish. (****+)
The Dish: Duck, Yellow Plum, Chanterelle Mushroom
We are told before the tasting of the next two wines that they are "unashamedly big wines".
The Wine 1.0: 2015 The Pioneer Shiraz
The Note: 75% new oak, both American and French barrels ... big wine? Yes, but with a surprising freshness and delicacy; pepper rears up, but helps to carry the dried-raspberry across the palate and a lovely mocha note on the finish. (****)
The Wine 2.0: 2015 The Visionary Cabernet Sauvignon
The Note: 50% in new French for only 12 months, then a barrel selection process takes place and those chosen for this cuvee lay down for another 12 months. The Cab is unexpectedly complex from nose to palate. Camphor, herbal, menthol and garrigue – proved to be a really cool whiff to take in for the nose. When it fully opens those notes transfer to the palate; then adds in some dark fruit and leather that carries all the way to the finish. (****+)
The Dish: Rack of Lamb, Baby Spinach, Sunchoke
The Wine: 2015 The Legacy
The Note: This is a Bordeaux blend, and comes across as a hedonistic wine. I am told by Neil Hadley, "It is the absolute right of any winemaker to charge whatever he wants for a bottle of wine," and I would agree with that statement. I can't argue with that. This wine has an interesting character of spiced and dried fruit. It certainly requires time in the cellar. And is one of "those" wines where the winery is reaching for the stratosphere of the wine pricing world ($1000 CDN). I wish the best to them, but considering I know the price, it was truly difficult for me to be objective about this one. Let's just say it needs time in the cellar to really blossom, and if you plan is to buy and lie, it will not disappoint you in five-plus years or later.
I would like to end this article with another quote from Neil Hadley:
"no wine is any better then it is going to be, then when it is 15 years old."
I think the meaning is self-explanatory, but the question is at 15 years of age has a wine peaked or is it dead, but it will never amount to anything better than what it is at that 15-year mark. This is as open for discussion amongst yourselves and if you care to send me an email or hit me up on social media, I would love to hear your thoughts.