Published December 7, 2017 By Mark DeWolf
You can now find Romeo Gin on NSLC retail shelves. Romeo Gin is part of a new generation of premium craft Canadian gin that are changing the landscape, and the shelf set, of the spirit category of liquor retailers across the country. Romeo Gin’s listing at the NSLC follows the successful launch of other Quebec and Nova Scotia based craft gins in Nova Scotia such as Quebec’s Ungava, Arisaig’s Steinhart and Lunenburg’s Ironworks Distillery.
While Romeo Gin isn’t the first Canadian craft gin to get a listing at the NSLC, it also isn’t a newbie to the craft spirit category. The energy behind the brand is Nicolas Duvernois, who first, and very successfully, entered the craft spirit market in 2009 with Pur Vodka. At the time, the Canadian craft spirits industry was a lonely space. Pierre Guevremont and Lynne MacKay were just launching Ironworks Distillery on Nova Scotia’s South Shore, joining stalwart local single malt whisky producer Glenora as Nova Scotia’s craft spirit flagbearers. In Quebec, Duvernois’s Pur Vodka was the first new spirit to be made in the province in nearly 50 years.
The idea to start a vodka business came to Duvernois as he was failing in another. After graduating from the University of Montreal with a degree in Political Science, Duvernois decided to open a French bistro in Montreal with a couple friends. He describes the experience in the same breathe as “catastrophic” and “the best mistake of my life.” As his restaurant was failing his eyes were opened up to the popularity of artisanal products and clear spirits.
“At the time, I was witnessing both the success of craft brewers in Quebec but also the rising popularity of vodka. No one was making craft spirits in Quebec. So I had the crazy idea to launch Quebec made vodka.”
The then, nearly broke, 25 year old entrepreneur spent the next 4 years working night shifts as a janitor at a hospital in Montreal to raise the capital to launch his vodka business. He credits his then girlfriend, now wife, Karolyne for inspiring him to keep working towards his goal. Duvernois says “when you believe in something you don’t quit.”
4 years later Duvernois made his first batch and was promptly rejected by the SAQ (Quebec’s version of the NSLC) who noted he did not have the experience nor the marketing dollars to compete in their stores. Admittedly at the time Duvernois says “I had no money to market it and didn’t even have enough money to pay my rent. “ When the only retailer in your home province rejects your brand it’s a good sign in the vodka business your days are numbered. That is, until one Tuesday early in December 2009. While Duvernous was walking his dog, he received a call that would change his life. His vodka was named Best Vodka in the World by the World Vodka Masters in London. The SAQ called back to say they would list the vodka. He’s now won the title 5 times and a total of 57 international medals.
The latest project is Romeo’s Gin. The gin has been nothing short of a phenomena in Quebec. In is less than 2 years it is already outselling the vodka and has migrated out of Quebec to premium retailers in London and Paris, including concept stores Colettte and Galerie Lafayette, and now Nova Scotia. Despite the international acclaim Nova Scotia is the first province outside of Quebec to launch Romeo Gin. As far as the success, Duvernois says “Romeo has a cool factor. In a category where everyone clings to old school approaches, it’s fresh.” In addition to its unique blend of cucumber, dill, lavender, almond, lemon and juniper – inspired by the flavours of a bowl of soup his wife enjoyed at a Montreal bistro – the brand has a strong commitment to the arts. On each bottle an image created by a Montreal street artist is showcased and a percentage of the sales are donated to support local artists.
As for the name, it was inspired by one of Duvernois’ other great loves. No… it’s not named after his wife or one of his two children. Romeo is the name of his dog whom Duvernois describes “as a bit of superstar here in Quebec. I do a lot of interviews for magazine and television. A lot of people ask to take picture with me and him, and sometimes it’s just the dog.”
The Ingredients: Seasoned with a unique blend of juniper, cucumber, almond, dill, lavender and lemon.
The Liquid: A really refreshing style with subtle juniper and present, but not overpowering, cucumber notes. This is a great value premium gin that delivers character without being too garish with its seasoning.
The Verdict: 90 Points
Published By Mark DeWolf
The Spanish wine category is growing but until recently one its major players has been mostly left off the shelves. There was a time when Torres Sangre de Toro – which translates to son of the bull, a nickname of Bacchus, the god of wine – was a go-to wine on restaurant wine lists across the province. The bull behind the brand’s growth was Miguel Torres, a dominant figure in the Spanish wine industry in the 1970s and 80s that led a modern revolution in Spanish winemaking when he introduced French winemaking techniques and better vineyard management systems to a country that at the time was languishing in antiquated methods.
Yet despite the ferocity of its leader its’ Sangre de Toro brand, in our market at least, lost the fight for consumers in the face of competition from big brands emerging out of Australia, Chile, Argentina and the US. This once prominent brand, recognizable by the little plastic bull attached to the bottle, rather un-bullishly faded off NSLC shelves with nary a snort.
Torres Sangre de Toro is back, or at least in limited quantities through the NSLC’s OTO (One Time Only) program. The program can be a sort of testing ground for wines to see if they have the consumer demand to move into their general listing program. Single bottles often get lost on shelves as they generally lack the visible presence to stand out in a crowded category such as Spain. To the NSLC’s credit they’ve also given an OTO listing to Sangre de Toro’s white accompaniment, a light, fresh, albeit somewhat unremarkable Verdejo from Rueda (86 Points, Select NSLC, $15.99).
The other offerings showcase Torres’ outward expansion to other classic Spanish regions. I tasted a number of wines with their Canadian brand ambassador Caroline LeBlanc and local agent, Heather Marshall of Vins Phillippe Dandurand. The Sangre de Toro red and white are accompanied by a Tempranillo based wine from Ribera del Duero named Celeste (87 Points), a stylish and modern Rioja known as Altos Ibericos (89 points) that’s bright red packaging and polished flavours should have broad appeal and a dense, flavoured packed Priorat labelled as Salmos (91 Points) that should win favour from an upmarket crowd looking for an impactful wine, from this off the beaten track but much celebrated growing region.
2015 Torres Sangre de Toro, Select NSLC, $15.99
The Grapes: A lightly oaked blend of Garnacha (Grenache) and Cariñena (Carignan) from Catalunya, a fairly broad region in northeastern Spain. The wine was fermented in stainless steel and barrel-aged in a combination of French and American oak for only 6 months.
The Juice: A deliciously easy to drink red blend with all the red berry jammy fruit flavours you would expect from a Garnacha rich blend. Moderate to low acidity contributes to its drinkability. This is a modern red that thankfully doesn’t veer down the confected, manipulated path that is uber-popular these days. I drink this wine and imagine the Spanish sun. In a price category dominated by homogeneity, this is a great little everyday wine that delivers a little bit of regional personality and great value.
Verdict: 87 Points
2013 Torres Gran Coronas Cabernet Reserva, Select NSLC, $24.50
The Grapes: Grapes were grown in the Penedes appellation. The wine was fermented in stainless steel, and then aged for 12 months in French oak (30% new).
The Juice: A solid expression of Cabernet Sauvignon – although there is some Tempranillo also in the mix – as it delivers focused blackberry, anise, mild pepper and herbal tones. There’s an appropriate amount of grip in the background, giving this wine structure but not so much to move it into a need to cellar category. Undoubtedly this wine benefits from having a famous big brother in its Mas Las Plana Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon. Often these second wines benefit from the attention and care placed on the first label, as they get similar respect, albeit using slightly less concentrated grapes and less new oak. I’ve always considered this one of my favourite value priced Cabernet Sauvignon based wines.
Verdict: 90 Points
Published By Mark DeWolf
I imagine some forty odd years ago Roger Dial – the father of the Nova Scotia wine industry – had a dream of the Annapolis Valley awash in vineyards and tasting rooms. It may have taken a few decades longer than anticipated, but that vision seems to be finally coming to fruition.
When Lightfoot & Wolfville opened recently it represented another seminal moment in the history of Nova Scotia wine. There have been other high profile winery openings. Roger Dial’s original Grand Pré, the first farm winery in Nova Scotia, proved making wine from Nova Scotia grown grapes was possible. Hanspeter Stutz’s Domaine de Grand Pré brought the industry out of stagnation and immediately raised the bar of quality when it opened in 1999. Benjamin Bridge shone a large light on the potential for the highest level of quality wine production and when Pete Luckett opened his eponymous winery he brought a commercial level of wine tourism akin to much large wine regions to Nova Scotia. But no winery to date, has attempted to achieve the levels of wine tourism, dedication to the land and utmost attention to the liquid in the bottle like Lightfoot & Wolfville has. Others have certainly achieved one or two of those elements, but none all three.
Given the massive popularity of Nova Scotia wines in the province Nova Scotia wine has finally made its mark in Nova Scotia, but it has taken Benjamin Bridge to pry open the doors to national and international critical interest, and Lightfoot & Wolfville could be what’s needed to transform peaked interest into broader recognition.
The visions didn’t begin so big. Says co-owner Mike Lightfoot “well, when we (Lightfoot is co-owned and operated by his wife Jocelyn) started we were kind of interested in the thought of growing grapes for Benjamin Bridge. At the time I thought we might make a couple dozen barrels of Chardonnay at some time but we didn’t have this vision.” That vision grew substantially over time. In 2008, Lightfoot was told by Benjamin Bridge’s consultant Peter Gamble to grow a couple acres of Chardonnay. As Mike says “so we planted 5 acres and now we have close to forty acres of vines.”
That vision now includes one of the most spectacular estates in the country, let alone Nova Scotia. While there is little grandiose about Lightfoot & Wolfville there is an organic grandeur to the immense barn-like structure that houses the winery’s subterranean aging cellars – which is capable of hosting special events, such as weddings, social gatherings and corporate events – along with a tasting room and a large outdoor space which includes a wood fired pizza oven, seating area and a marquee tent capable of holding over 300 guests. The patio menu is small featuring items such as wood-fired pizza, salads and a well-constructed charcuterie board but should expand in offering and dimension once their new chef Geoff Hopgood sets up permanent residence in the province. Until then they be will be offering monthly themed chef’s menu style dinner events. Hopgood is a Nova Scotia native who achieved acclaim for his Maritime inspired Hopgood Foodliner restaurant in Toronto.
The winery has been about 5 years in the making and even though the original design was changed, according to Jocelyn “the rural Nova Scotia barn concept has always been part of the vision. We always knew we wanted to be very approachable. It was very important to us that we didn’t come off as anything other than fit organically within of our landscape.” Organic is a key word to use when describing Lightfoot & Wolfville. The winery’s vineyards which include the estate vineyard and a gorgeous property in nearby Avonport that boasts a near perfect southwest slope that seemingly flows into the meeting point of the Gaspereau River and Minas Basin are farmed using organic and biodynamic principles. The winery is the first and only winery with Demeter biodynamic certification in the province. Fittingly, a local boy, Josh Horton, who grew up just steps away from the Avonport vineyard is in charge of transforming the grapes into wine.
In addition to a large airy tasting room, complete with a long tasting bar, exposed beam ceilings the winery boasts an incredibly a well-trained and informative staff. Not surprising, giving the wealth of wine knowledge packed into the fresh faces behind the operation. In addition to winemaker Horton, Jocelyn is a graduate of the CAPS Sommelier program and Mike’s daughter, Rachel, who from what I could tell on my recent visit, is involved in multiple aspects of the operation, is a graduate of the Grape & Wine Technology program at Brock University.
The wines themselves are a cornucopia of Vitis vinifera such as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Riesling and hybrid varieties, the latter more often than not used to make blends such as their Tidal Bay. Early limited release offerings of their Ancienne Chardonnay and Pinot Noir drew praise from local and national critics alike. Now the winery boasts a full lineup of selections including TM sparklers, a range of unique vinifera offerings including a fragrant and appealing Scheurebe (Best of Class – White Wine of the Year at the Atlantic Canadian Wine Awards), an edgy age-worthy Riesling that showcases purity of fruit and what local winemakers describe as Nova Scotia’s electrifying acidity, a fresh and fruity rosé, Tidal Bay and collection of other wines. The wine collection as a whole offers purity of flavour without sacrificing structure and age worthiness. Indeed their top end Chardonnays could easily go a decade or more in the cellar and their Riesling maybe more.
The quality of their wines was clearly evident at the recently held Atlantic Canadian Wine Awards. The winery took home the top prize of Winery of the Year, Best of Class – White Wine of the Year (2016 Scheurebe), Best of Class Red Wine (2014 Ancienne Pinot Noir) and Best of Class – Rosé (2015 Lightfoot & Wolfville Vineyards Pinot Rosé) amongst other awards. Of the recognition Jocelyn says “we were blown with, and humbled by the results.”
While awards are always nice, from my discussions with Mike and Jocelyn the ultimate reward is their customers .Jocelyn remarks “we care about the people that enjoy our wines. It’s an honour for our wines to share moments with our customer’s life experiences whether it’s a couple enjoying one of our wines on their 25th anniversary or an event at our property.”
The success of the winery, means stocks are quickly depleting, so be sure to visit the winery, located on the Evangeline Trail between Grand Pré and Wolfville sooner rather than later.
Lightfoot & Wolfville aren’t the only winery making world class wines. Here are three I think would be comfortably placed on any wine list around the world.
2015 L’Acadie Vineyards Vintage Cuvee Rose $30.00 (NSLC, Bishop’s Cellar)
Appearance: pretty light copper, extremely persistent mousse, mineral/crushed rock and lees derived earthy notes on the nose with tree fruit/apricot and unripe red fruit flavours on the palate. It’s dry without being piercing or aggressive. It has a very pleasing balance to it.
2015 Lightfoot & Wolfville Terroir Series Riesling, $18.00 (at the winery, Bishops Cellar)
The Grapes: 100% Annapolis Valley Riesling cool fermented and finish with a dose of süssreserve (sweet unfermented grape juice) to keep acids in check.
The Juice: An incredibly vibrant and lively Riesling with a core of stone and citrus fruit flavours. This wine, like its classic European counterparts, will benefit from cellaring. Cellaring for 5 to 10 years will help bring its fruit to the foreground.
NV Benjamin Bridge Brut Rose, $28.00 (The Port by the NSLC, Bishop’s Cellar)
The grapes: The latest release from Benjamin Bridge is a stunner. A house blend of L’Acadie, Vidal, Seyval, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
The Juice: In addition to its classic lees, mineral and salty notes this sparkling wine boast a really appealing upfront fruit package, blending both tart red fruits, sweet orange and apple flavours. The finish has a little chalky acidity that keeps everything all together.
Published February 9, 2017 By Mark DeWolf
This October I spent a week in the company of a group of intrepid wine enthusiasts in search of gold or perhaps better said, liquid gold. We spent a week in Burgundy’s aptly named Cotes D’Or – the golden slope – home of the world’s most luxurious, golden-hued Chardonnay and ruby Pinot Noir that are amongst the most prized gems of the wine world. In the all-important Asian wine market, Burgundy has wrestled share away from Bordeaux, previously the standard of fine wine, becoming the most in demand wine region. The result has been that Burgundy’s top small estates are rarely available in Canada, let alone Nova Scotia, and the few cases that cross to this side of the Atlantic reach stratospheric prices. If you have a few thousand to spend on a bottle of wine, Quebec’s SAQ (Société des alcools Alcool du Québec) lists a 2010 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Romanée Conti Grand Cru for $2895.00 but if you had hopes of pairing it up with the 2009, priced at $2565.00, put your credit card away. You are out of luck. The 2009 vintage is sold out.
Yet despite the unreachable (at least to most wine lovers) prices of its top estates, there is a bucolic, seemingly untouched quality of this region bounded by Dijon in the north and Chalon-sur-Saone, a surprisingly large town that sits on the banks of the Soane River. During the fall season the slopes of the ridge that runs along the Cote D’Or’s western flank is indeed golden, as the vines that occupy almost every available acre of farmland to the west of the A31 highway are a glow with rich amber, red and yellow tones. Burgundy still portrays itself as farmers cum winemakers working amongst rows of vines and around medieval towns that have remained largely unchanged over the last number of centuries. Unlike its Bordeaux rivals, a region dominated by mega corporation wineries making their wines beneath the facades of elegant baroque-style chateau Burgundy remains a fragmented mix of small plots owned by a dizzying array of individuals. The famous Clos de Vougeot, a grand cru vineyard in the northern half of the region, is reported to have more than 80 different owners, some with plots as small as a couple rows of vines.
While Burgundy’s Cotes D’Or has long been delineated, sometimes confusingly so, as its vineyards were painstakingly mapped by Cistercian monks in the middle ages. The Cote D’Or is indeed a patchwork of climat – a French term used to describe an individual plot of land that showcases unique physical characteristics such as soil structure, aspect and climate. Some climat are only a few acres in size. After Burgundy was sold to Kingdom of France, and hold of the church diminished, its’ vineyard lands began to be sold off with the remaining lands auctioned following the French Revolution. An already complex tapestry of vines was now in the hands of a number of growers, further exasperated by the Napoleonic laws of succession which insisted on the subdivision of lands amongst heirs, leading to its current state, with plots of land owned by numerous individuals.
This fragmented nature of Burgundy, led to the rise of the négociants. The négociants are wineries that assemble their wines, often from a collection of smaller domains and vineyards. Some, only source from other, while producers such as Beaune’s Bouchard Pére et Fils notably own much of their own vineyard lands and supplement with grapes from others. For much of the last two centuries, the négociant played a critical role as many individuals simply didn’t have the resource to vinify wines from their small plots. The négociants collected the wines (sometimes as finished wines, sometimes as grapes that they would then vinify them) and bottle them under their own name. So while the region long espoused the virtues of the individual terroir/climat, in reality the quality of any wine laid largely in the hands of the individual or négociant, producing the wine. With the increasing value of Burgundy wines in the last few decades, the dominance of the négociant has diminished as individual domains now have the monetary incentives to craft wines from their own grapes and sometimes supplemented by their neighbours, making them in effect small scale négociants. It’s created more layers to an already complex industry, but has provided the opportunities for small domains to craft truly terroir driven wines and placed greater incentives for their négociant counterparts to produce increasingly fine wines.
While Burgundy’s prices remain high, the wines when well-constructed still remain the pinnacle expressions of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in the wine world.
Jessiaume Santenay Graveniere Premier Cru, The Port, $48.99
The Grapes: Pinot Noir sourced from Santenay, a spa town located in the southern reaches of the Cotes d’Or. Santenay flies under the radar of many Burgundy wine lovers as it isn’t visible from the much travelled D974 motorway which runs alongside the region’s most prestigious wine addresses of the southern section of the Cote D’Or (known as the Cote de Beaune) where villages of Puligny-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet, Meursault, Volnay and Pommard reside.
The Juice: A bright cherry scented red with earthy underpinnings. Taut and clean. It’s a good solid, if a bit expression of Burgundy Pinot Noir.
2011 Bouchard Père et Fils Beaune Marconnets Premier Cru, The Port, $58.99
The Grapes: Bouchard Père et Fils is a historic name in Burgundy with records dating the company to the early 18th century. A couple decades back, the company was known as underperformer but since being acquired in 1995 by Champagne’s Henriot, significant investment in their winery and vineyard holdings has transformed the company into a top négociant, evident in this Pinot Noir made from vineyards on the north side of Beaune.
The Juice: The 2011 vintage represents a delicious mid-weight Pinot Noir with an elegant mix of savoury, herbal, floral and red fruit flavours. A nice tight structure makes this one enjoyable now and for a few years in the future.
2014 Albert Bichot Puligny-Montrachet, The Port, $79.99
The Grapes: Sourced from vineyards within the commune of Puligny-Montrachet in Southern Beaune, a village regarded by many as the source of the world’s finest Chardonnay. Despite being titled simply village wine the density and richness of this wine – along with its price – suggests it hits above its basic appellation. This wine spent 14 to 16 months in oak (15 to 35% new oak).
The Juice: A rich and well-constructed Chardonnay with the telltale signs of the appellation including rich orchard fruit and hazelnut flavours, a round texture accompanied with a cleansing finish. A sublime wine that will age gracefully.
Published September 27, 2016 By Mark DeWolf
Is Spain the new Argentina? Not really. There is definitely, a cyclical nature to the wine industry. Australian Shiraz got usurped by the California Pinot Noir craze which quickly faded as Argentinean Malbec and California Red Blends stole the spotlight. Will Spanish Tempranillo be our next favourite? Possibly. However, it seems more likely that Spain’s current upward trajectory is destined less to be a one-hit wonder, and is rooted in showcasing the diversity of Spanish winemaking, both of its classic grapes and international varieties.
I’m not one to suggest, Spain should become the next bastion of Shiraz and Pinot Grigio. There’s more than enough places making these grapes effectively, but Spanish Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon will draw consumers down the Spanish wine aisle, opening up the doors for exploration of its unique wine regions and local grapes.
Rioja has long been the epicenter of fine wine production in Spain and continues to hold fort as the country’s premium wine economic driver. Thankfully for us consumers the quality of Rioja remains high while its wines remain in the sphere of affordability. Great Crianza and Reserva can be had in the $18 to $25 range. Considering the extended aging period these wines undergo and the high overall quality of the wines, it’s a style I will always happily drop a green note on. While, retailers sometimes have a hard time expanding outside of the tried and true, such as Rioja, or resort to gimmick wines for immediate sale lifts, retailers across Nova Scotia, both private and the NSLC, seem to be embracing the diversity of the Spanish wine industry, which should prove a successful recipe for building a market for Spanish wines rooted in interest and value.
Let’s just hope, as Spanish wines become popular, retailers stick to wines that deliver quality for price. Spain is one of the world’s largest producers of wine, and at any moment many of its bulk wine producers in La Mancha – a region south of Madrid where half of the country’s wines are made, much of it destined to be sold at bargain basement prices at European supermarkets or sent in bladders across the globe as box wine filler – always has the potential to flood the market with cheap wine, if allowed to, that will devalue its quality wine production.
For now, look on the shelves for wines from that seem to be hitting a sweet spot in terms of interest and quality. The $15-$25 price band seems to be where Spain can deliver its most impact with both unique and interesting new styles and classic regional expressions finding a comfortable spot.
Here a couple new Spanish selections available at the NSLC.
Chardonnay may at times seem a bit ubiquitous but there is definitely something comforting about this grape that thrives in so many places, which includes Spain. This wine is an appealing wine with a rich mix of orchard, citrus and tropical fruit flavours.
Some of the best wines come from the places we rarely talk about. Such is the case of many of the wines of Calatayud, a rural rich in head-pruned vineyards full of the local Garnacha grape. While historically the region served up lots of inexpensive and simple Garnacha, a new bunch of winemakers are discovering the riches of the region, which include some very old vine Garnacha, including some high elevation sites. The village of Atea is 1000 meters above sea level and rich inblack schist, the same soil one can find in the Priorat.. This unique terroir and the old vines of Garnacha rooted in it, are the origins of Evodia.
This is a remarkably dense and concentrated wine with lots of blue and black fruit, mineral and floral aromas and flavours. A big wine for its price! It received a 90 point score from Wine Advocate.
Published September 24, 2016 By Mark DeWolf
It’s been a couple years since my last Venetian adventure. While Venice is on almost everyone’s bucket list – it is spectacular, albeit overcrowded – I’ve found as much pleasure discovering the region’s smaller cities such as Vicenza, Bassano del Grappa – yes it is the famous for its grappa (Italian grape spirit, made from the pomace left over after winemaking) and the sirene beauty of Ponte degli Alpini which spans the Brenta river. But one of my surprises was Padua, a college town, which counts amongst its past residents Galileo Galilei and Giotto, the renowned artist who painted the frescoes of Padua’s famous Scrovegni Chapel. Arriving at the train station, Padua offered little of the charms, I had hope for. Little did I know, at the time, just a few block walk away, past the dreariness of the modern city formed around the train station, a university town rich in history but alive with activity awaited me. And much of that liveliness is its food and drink culture. The old town abounds with outdoor markets, bustling cafés and street food vendors serving up porchetta (roast pork) sandwiches and I’m sure more than few cocktails made from the town’s spirit maker, Luxardo.
Luxardo traces its history of distillation almost 200 years, when Girolamo Luxardo, a consular represantive of the Kingdom of Sardinia moved his family to Zara, then in Kingdom of Dalmatia (now Croatia), where under the bequest of his wife Maria he opened a distillery producing liqueur from Maraschino cherries. The spirit company continued to grow and prosper in coastal location but like many cities in Europe, during the Second World War, Zara – and the original Luxardo distillery – was destroyed by repeated bombings.
At the end of 1944 the German troops withdrew from Dalmatia and then followed occupation by communist partisans. It led to many deaths including a number of the Luxardo family and mass exodus of its Italian citizens. In 1947 Giorgio Luxardo had the vision to rebuild the family distillery in Padua. Now, the 6th generation of the family is running the business, which includes their Maraschino liqueur but also includes Sambuca, Amaretto and Limoncello, amongst others. A selection of Luxaro spirits including their Amaretto, Limoncella, Sambuca and their Passione Nera (a black liquorice liqueur) are available at the NSLC.
Luxardo Amaretto Sour
1½ oz Bourbon
½ oz Luxardo Amaretto
½ oz egg white
¼ oz simple syrup
¾ oz lemon juice
Method: Place all ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake and strain into an ice-filled Colins or highball glass. Garnish with orange zest.
Joe Goes to Armani
1½ oz Tequila
½ oz Luxardo Amaretto
¼ oz St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
½ oz lemon juice
2 tsp orange marmalade
Dried orange slice
Method: Place all ingredients, except orange in a in ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with dried orange.
Luxardo Limoncello Spritz
1 oz Luxardo Limoncello, chilled
5 oz sparkling wine, chilled
Method: Place Limoncello in a Champagne flute. Top with sparkling wine. Garnish with a skewered brandied cherry.
Published September 23, 2016 By Mark DeWolf
Serve with Château Famaey ‘Chevalier Famaey Malbec’, Select NSLC, $16.99
Recipe & tasting note courtesy Kevin Schwenker, Wine Horizons
8 chicken thighs, skin on
5 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup white wine (whatever you’re pouring will work best)
1/2-1 C Chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1/4 cup tarragon, minced
10 ounces spinach
1. Preheat the oven to 400° F. Salt the Chicken thighs liberally and brush on 4 tablespoons of the Dijon mustard. Heat 2 tablespoons of cooking oil in a heavy-bottomed shallow pot over medium-high heat, and then add the chicken thighs, skin side down. After the skins have browned, remove the chicken thighs and reserve.
2. Add the sliced shallots to the pan and cook until soft, around 3 to 4 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for an additional 30 seconds. Add the wine and scrape up the browned bits on the pan with a spatula. When the wine comes to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and then add the chicken thighs back to the pan, skin side up. Add Chicken Broth so that the liquid level reaches three-quarters of the way up the chicken, then place the pan in the oven for 30 minutes.
3. While the chicken is cooking, bring salted water to a boil in a medium-size pot. Add the spinach and cook until bright green, around 2 to 3 minutes, strain and reserve.
4. When the chicken is done, remove the pan from the oven, and then remove the chicken from the pan and reserve (covered in tin foil to retain the heat). Bring the sauce to a boil on the stove over high heat. Add the remaining teaspoon of mustard and cook, stirring, until the sauce has reduced by half. Reduce heat, stir in the heavy cream and heat thoroughly to finish the sauce.
5. Plate the chicken on a bed of spinach and top with a few spoonfuls of the sauce and a sprinkle of sliced almonds and minced tarragon. Serve immediately.
You can toast the almonds during the preparation of the Chicken – keep a close watch and do not burn.
I like to serve this with freshly boiled baby potatoes with skins on, smash gently and serve with the chicken sauce.
12.5% Alc. by Vol. 750 ml, 100% Malbec
Colour: Intense ruby
Nose: A simple bouquet of fresh red and purple berries and a hint of roses and spice.
Palate: Supple start evolving into a polished middle of blueberries and dark fruits, nicely balanced – medium body of easy tannins and refreshing acidity which invites you to take another sip.
Finish: Completely rounded finale, pleasant longevity with a finish of sour cherry and dark spice.
Comments: A delightful wine that is the natural expression of the Malbec grape in its native home. Made to be drunk now – with or without food.
Awards: Wine Enthusiast – 85 pts. Chateau Famaey has been recognized by the Guide Dussert-Gerber as a *****1er Grand Vin Classé producer.
Published September 17, 2016 By Mark DeWolf
It has been 3 years since I last imbibed the hauntingly decadent scents of Piedmont; at least in person, that is. Ever since, I’ve have dreamed about returning as I sniff and take sips of my much beloved – but not often enough enjoyed – glasses of Barolo and Barbaresco – the legendary Nebbiolo-based red wines of Piedmont. There is an undeniable allure to these wines, made from vines grown in the fog shrouded hills around Alba. Nebbiolo, is in fact derived from the word Nebbia, meaning fog. Alba is a town that is also often under its own veil of savoury perfume. In the fall, the scents of the region’s most prized culinary treasure, truffles, filled the streets and are proudly displayed like diamonds of the earth at Alba’s many small food and wine stores.
While my nose gravitates to the pale hued reds of Barolo, rich in a perplexing but utterly alluring mix of rose petal, dried fruit and chicken coop – yup, it can be a good thing – aromas and deceiving dry palates, Piedmont is full of contradictions. For every earthy, edgy Barolo there is a bright, fruit forward and tangy Barbera – a grape that long made green, herbal, tart reds until improvements in vineyard management allowed vintners to ripen the grapes to full maturity, translating to wines with riper blackberry (especially in wines made from grape grown in the lower lying vineyards of Asti) and cherry scented reds, often enhanced with some youthful oak tones. Even Alba, known for its prized truffles is home to truffles of a different sort, the ones wrapped in gold foil, and packaged under the Ferrero Rocher brand. Yes, this Italian culinary capital is home to Ferrero Rocher, one of the world’s largest chocolatiers and the producers of amongst other things, Nutella and Kinder.
It all speaks to my condition. I am full of culinary contradictions as I am as happy eating chicken wings as I am beef tartare, and when it comes to wines, I’ll lap up a fruity, pear drop, floral and tropical fruit scented Moscato D’Asti (also from Piedmont) with almost as much enthusiasm as a contemplative glass of old-school Barolo. It all makes for a wonderful opportunity to discover the region’s contradictions, as Piedmont offers every style ranging from crisp and refreshing Gavi – a white wine made from the local Cortese grape – to exuberantly aromatic Moscato, light and fruity reds such as Barbera D’Alba and the ethereal and complex Barolo and Barbaresco. Amongst my favourite producers available locally, include Borgogno, Pio Cesare and Produttori dei Barbaresco, the latter, unfortunately, down to just a few bottles of their single vineyard Rabaja, at Harvest Wines & Spirits. While it carries a seemingly high price tag ($54.9) for many of us wine lovers with expensive tastes it represents an incredibly affordable opportunity to try a single vineyard Barbaresco, which from more recognized estates would be twice its price.
The Grapes: Borgogno is one of Piedmont’s most respected old-school Barolo producers. This Barbera is treated with the same respect as its Nebbiolo based wines – in fact, the grapes comes from two vineyards, Liste and the much revered Cannubi, a spectacular cru just nestled up to the village of Barolo. Natural yeast, low fermentation temperatures and aging in large casks, translates to an elegant, traditional style of Barbera.
The Juice: A seriously, elegant, complex style with high-toned mineral, spice, pepper , cherry, plum aromas and a palate focused more pippy cherry fruit notes than the riper blackberry notes of Barbera grown on lower slopes. There is a lingering earthy, smoky note on the finish. This will make a great wine for an Italian inspired meal. Not heavy but very engaging.
The Grapes: Most of the Nebbiolo grapes used to make this wine come from the estate’s own vineyards in Serralunga D’Alba. Fontanafredda is a historic estate. It is was originally acquired in the late 1850s but didn’t start wine production until the 1870s. Over the past 150 years, Fontantafredda has grown into the region’s largest producer. Quality has in the past been variable, but over the past decade, since the estate was acquired by Oscar Ferenetti (Eataly), the wines seem to have improved and become very reliable, perhaps reflective of not only updates to winemaking processes but also a move to sustainable viticulture. Their widely available entry level Barolo (NSLC, $36.79) is a solid, albeit commercial-style, that provides good insight into the regional style.
The Juice: A dense, powerful style of Barolo that boasts the near opaque colour to match. This wine is a good representation of its origins, the iron charged soils of the Serralunga Cru, where this venerable Barolo estate calls home. This wine, along with darker fruit notes, brings a little more structure than the entry level version from Fontanafredda. Enjoyable now but can be aged for 5 to 10 more years in the cellar.
The Grapes: Grapes are grown on a mix of estate owned and contracted in the Monferrato and Langhe. Cool fermentation is employed to preserve the wine’s fragrance and then aged in a mix of old, large Slovenian oak cask and barrique, straddling the line between old school and modern methodology.
The Juice: A deliciously perky, vibrant Barbera with a nice mix of tangy red fruit and spicy notes. It’s worth holding, in the short term, to allow some its youthful exuberance to settle. Match this one with simple pasta, mushroom-based appetizers and light meat dishes.
Published September 6, 2016 By Mark DeWolf
In a recent piece I wrote for Occasions Magazine, I described my love of Pasta all’Amatriciana. Not long after the magazine hit NSLC store shelves, the Italian ground shook as an earthquake measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale, hit central Italy. Its epicenter was Amatrice, in Lazio, where more than 200 people lost their lives.
Amatrice was by all accounts an attractive, medieval town. In fact, it is often listed in travel guides as one of Italy’s most beautiful. While the world’s attention is now focused on the town, for unfortunate reasons, it has long been famous in the culinary world. Amatrice is the home of Spaghetti all‘ Amatriciana. The dish features spaghetti (I use bucatini, a thicker version of spaghetti, when I can find it), guanciale (cured pork cheeks) or pancetta, pepperoncini (dried hot peppers), garlic, tomatoes, white wine and Pecorino cheese. Like most great Italian dishes, it isn’t complicated but delivers so much flavour.
In the wake of the earthquake, restaurateurs around the globe are rallying to support this now decimated town, considered one of Italy’s culinary capitals; an amazing statement for a country where food is everything. According to Halifax resident, and Italian Consular Correspondent, Rodolfo Meloni “I am glad to report that the first restaurants in Canada to start this fund raising campaign are two well-known restaurants in HRM.”
Il Trullo, located in Dartmouth’s prestigious King’s Wharf condominium complex, is offering $3 dollars to support the victims of the earthquake for every order of Spaghetti all’Amatriciana ordered at the restaurant in the month of September. Those that prefer pizza over pasta, can still support the cause, as even the world of pizza has offered to help. Pasqualino Rossi and Francesco Martucci members of the AVPN – the association that certifies worldwide wide the true Neapolitan pizza, has urged their colleagues, to participate in this initiative by creating a Pizza Amatriciana. One of those colleagues is Piatto Pizzeria & Enoteca, located on Barrington Street in Halifax.
The initiative comes with support from Carlo Petrini, founder of Slow Food, who recently called on chefs from around the world to put the famous dish on their menu, and donate a portion of sales to the town.
While, Amatrice is located in Lazio, a number of well-known wine regions can be found just across the border in Umbria, Marches and further south in Abruzzo. The wines of these regions, like the pasta, tend to veer towards simple, honest and deceptively flavourful. I for one will be venturing to Il Trullo and Piatto this month to support the cause, and am sure to make the dish at home accompanied with one of these great wines from nearby Marches, Abruzzo and further south in Puglia.
The Juice: A fine red wine hitting its stride. At 9 years old, this wine has developed the leathery, old wood tones I love in mature Italian wines but on mid-palate still has more than sufficient, lively cherry notes and impressive grape tannins, felt like a drying sensation in the gums to suggest it still has time in the bottle.
The Grapes: Montepulciano grapes sourced from an elevated single vineyard source in Contruguerra, a municipality in Abruzzo.
The Juice: A medium to full-bodied red wine that is smooth and approachable, but still well-structured enough to satisfy. A very primary-fruit centric nose opens with stewed red berry fruit, vanilla and peppery aromas. The palates follows suit. This wine possess a lot of the ripe and smooth flavours entry-level Montepulciano drinkers will enjoy but with a little more backbone which also make it appealing to the more experienced wine drinker. A good match to simple meats dishes but would also make a fine accompaniment to tomato-based pasta.
The Grapes: 100% Bombino Bianco, a grape that is grown along the Adriatic coast, but mostly in Apulia (Puglia).
The Juice: I liken this to classic Italian white wine. It is relative subtle in its charms with delicate floral, under-ripe stone fruit tones and a nice saline, mineral edge to it. The bottle (or two) of wine that you enjoy as guests arrive at a dinner party. It’s not complicated but it makes for a great aperitif wine.
Published August 18, 2016 By Mark DeWolf
Discover the unique flavours of the Belgian-style brews made by Unibroue. They are the perfect accompaniments to outdoor dining occasions, as they can pair with a range of dishes, including cheese, seafood appetizers, robust grilled meat dishes, and even dessert such as Crème Brulée.
The latest of their collection to be released in Nova Scotia is their Grand Réserve 17, a Port store exclusive. The beer was originally brewed in 2008, as a niche product designed to appeal to a growing artisanal craft beer consumer in the US, who was already familiar with hoppy and oak aged beer. According to Unibroue’s resident beer sommelier and certiﬁed Cicerone Sylvain Bouchard,
“We labelled it as Grande Réserve, meaning great storage. We didn’t design it as beer to be aged, but it does age well. We have been brewing it once a year.”
This is a beer designed for social gatherings. At 6 litres, it requires a few people to enjoy it in one sitting. Sylvain suggests serving it in tulip shaped glasses or snifter at a little cooler than room temperature. “During the summer months, try serving this beer with barbecued lamb cutlets that have been rubbed with Moroccan spices. In the fall and winter, I suggest it with braised beef, roast game and with soft blue cheeses such as Gorgonzola or Stilton. Above all is else, it needs to be served with friends.”
Unibroue Selections Available at The Port Store, Clyde Street, Halifax include:
Unibroue Grand Réserve 17, 6 L $199.81
Éphémère Apple, 750 ml $6.35
Unibroue’s ﬁrst seasonal beer has become so popular that its apple version is now sold year round. It is a Belgian-style Wit Bier with the apple added during the boil. According to Sylvain, the result is a beer, “with coriander and orange peel notes with just a hint of sweetness but also lots of tartness.
I recommend serving it with anything pork- based, but it is also great before dinner served with brie or goat cheese. You can also serve it after dinner as a float. Just add vanilla ice cream and top with chocolate chips.”
La Fin du Monde, 750 ml, $6.76
This triple-style golden ale is Canada’s most awarded beer. It’s an impactful brew with floral, honey and spice aromas and rich, spicy but smooth palate. Sylvain suggests, “La Fin du Monde is the most fantastic beer to pair with sausage. It really doesn’t matter what kind, as it seems to work with the rich flavours of game sausage or something light and more herbal.”
Blonde de Chambly, 750 ml, $6.35
Blonde de Chambly was the ﬁrst Belgian-style beer brewed in Canada.
Since its launch in 1992, it has won more than 34 international awards. A classic representation of the Wit Bier style, it boasts Champagne like effervescence and aromas and flavours reminiscent of citrus fruit and spice. According to Sylvain, “Since it is, like all our beer, unﬁltered, it has an umami character imparted by the suspended yeast. Our Blonde de Chambly is simply a natural partner to fresh oysters or mussels.”
Maudite, 750 ml, $6.76
Maudite (damned) is a Belgian Dubbel style but might also be described as a strong amber red ale. Expect orange, wild spice and fragrant coriander and clove aromas. The palate is malty and spicy, and ﬁnishes with a pronounced, hop ﬁnish. As for what to pair with it, Sylvain says, “It has a lot of flavour. It’s really good with grilled red meats and strong wash rind cheeses like gruyere. But I absolutely love serving it with dessert. It is so good with crème brulèe.”