Saturday, 12 April 2014

Monte del Fra Side-by-Side Tasting - 2008 Vintage

Saturday Side-by-Side - A Pair of Stunning Valpolicellas from Tenuta Lena di Mezzo



Tonight's dinner of spaghetti with wilted swiss chard and garlic chili oil provided for a good excuse to conduct a side-by-side comparison with a pair of Valpos from Tenuta Lena di Mezzo in the Veneto.  

MONTE DEL FRÁ TENUTA LENA DI MEZZO VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO SUPERIORE 2008

This wine features ripe and dried red cherry, plum, black pepper, tobacco leaf, spice, and dried flowers.  Lots of mouthwatering acidity here, which should keep it interesting for the next 5-10 years.  93 Points. 


MONTE DEL FRÀ TENUTA LENA DI MEZZO RIPASSO VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO SUPERIORE 2008

Slightly denser than its counterpart, it offers up more floral and tobacco elements, with pepper, black cherry, black plum, smoke, and a hint of dried mushroom.  More approachable now.  92 Points.

These are both stunning wines for under $20.  Watch for more releases from Monte del Fra.

-Andy

Sunday, 30 March 2014

EL CAMINO - not your regular neighbourhood spot


Rachel reviews Ottawa's trendiest taqueria

March 29, 2014

Ok I am going to tell you a secret: I didn't want to like this place. The hoopla I've heard about wait times, texting to say your table is ready (ode to modernity) and the nouveau Elgin hipster crowd made me doubtful.

But a girlfriend and I decided to take the plunge. And ooooooooh did I fall....

We arrived just before 6:30 on Saturday night to an already 45-min wait line and a crowd milling outside waiting for their take out orders (this will be tip number 1 later on). No problem we said, a cold beer is waiting for us patiently two doors down at the Manx. And yes, it's true, they say they'll text you when your table is ready. This is much more agreeable in reality than I thought it would be, I must admit.

After an hour, we decided to head back of our own volition to find we had to elbow our way through throngs of hungry hungry hipsters (wasn't that an 80s kids game??) to wait another 15 min before being seated next to the door. By this point, it could have been minus 30 and I still would have taken the table. We watched throughout our meal as people were told how long the wait would be, even up to 9:30 when the host told two customers it would be a THREE-HOUR wait. I laughed out loud... we're not in Spain.

Now, here comes the biggest however ever: the food is amazing. Hands down without a doubt worth the wait before during and after your meal. Our server was cute, yes. But we waited 10-15 minutes before she came over to take our drink order... good thing we weren't in a rush.

The "not tacos" portion of the menu is actually much more interesting. Prawn stuffed betel leafs that are a deep-friend mouthwatering version of mint tea. Pork belly served with mango slaw, peanuts, and some mystery sauce... and I never go for pork belly.

The tacos were really quite good. The beef was pulled and a reasonably moderate portion. If you had shared a starter you could eat easily two or three. The fish tacos are a bit bigger, and because it's battered, a tad heavier, but oh so worth it. 

The kicker?? And the point when I understood why there was such a demand: the whole bill with 4 beers, 3 starters and 2 tacos, including tax was 60 dollars. Whaaaaat? We walked out of there as smug as the lady from the Ikea commercial. El Camino for the win.

Rating (tips): get take out. The food would be just as good and you're not missing out on much else... If you really want to sit and eat: arrive before 6 and don't sit by the door.

-Rachel

Friday, 28 March 2014

What we're drinking now - Walla Walla & Rhone Reds



Long Shadows Pedestal Merlot 2007 - Walla Walla, Columbia Valley, Washington State

This wine is fantastically expressive, featuring milk chocolate and black fruit on the nose.  More of the same on the palate, with black plum, raisins, cassis, and chalky minerals.  Super long and extracted, with some briar tension.  Drink now through 2030.  94 Points.

-Rachel



Famille Perrin Rasteau L'Andeol 2010, Rhone, France

The 2010 lineup for the Perrin Family continues to impress.  The Rasteau l'Andeol is redolent of red briar, black cherry, fig sauce, mineral, and a hint of pepper.  Complex, long, and incredibly approachable.  91 Points. 

-Andy

"Take the Stone Road home..."

Rachel reviews the Stone Road Grille in Niagara-on-the-Lake

March 8, 2014

What a great way to spend a few hours on a Saturday before or after you’ve visited a few of the wineries in Niagara. You’ll think you’ve gotten the wrong place when you pull into the bizarre parking lot… looking for a classy joint, and seeing only what looks slightly different from the convenience store window. But don’t fret – you’re in the right place. Open the door, and walk into what would happen if an English pub met an Italian eatery and had a baby.

The menu is simple, but varied. If the starters seem slightly over-priced for what you think you’d get, don’t worry, the mains will blow you away. Savoury, crispy frites served in a paper cone and homemade ketchup to accompany your classic pastrami sandwich with a twist: the coleslaw is in your sandwich, and you’ll never want it any other way again. The burgers were juicy, the Caesar salad garlicky and the bubbles in my Meglomaniac Brut Rosé fresh and alive!

It would be expected that a place like this have a great wine selection, but what we enjoyed was discovering the “not so familiar” wineries’ finest juices. Not only did we walk away with our bellies full, and our palettes sated, but our wallets lighter as we stopped down the street to pick up several bottles of the Pillitteri Exclamation Cabernet Franc we had for lunch.


Rating: If I lived in Niagara, I’d be there once a week….

Drop by « Backdrop »

Rachel reviews a new addition to the Ottawa food scene...


I must admit I have been a tad delinquant in my restaurant reviews… Don’t worry – this doesn’t mean I haven’t been eating!

But the hubbub this new Metcalfe and Gloucester restaurant, owned by the same people as Grounded (around the corner) is worth getting back to my duties. I have eaten at Backdrop twice now - once for lunch and once for dinner, and my impression was the same whether the sun or the moon was shining: this place is très cool.

The décor is hard to place. You feel kind of like you’re backstage in a theatre with rails, stairs and ladders everywhere you look. But there’s also this “mod” feel with high stools, steels countertops and the black wooden floor… The kitchen is visible from most points in the restaurant, which always instills in me a tad more confidence.

And all the staff are cool, too. Laid back, gentle and casual – you feel kind of in a neighbourhood pub à la Cheers.

Now that I’ve set the scene, let’s talk food. If you’re going for lunch, beware. Portions are very generous. A colleague and I decided to share the fish cakes, the jalapeno corn bread (yes, yes I said corn bread) and each get a soup. We had to roll each other down the steps back to work… The fish cakes would beat any fish and chips in a fin wrestle, and the corn bread was more like a corn loaf. But damn… delicious stuff.

The menu is very à propos in that they’ve adopted the whole “revolving door” concept. While there’s always an earth, air, water and fire selection, the dishes are always different. This is good for someone who likes variety, but bad for someone who has had their stew or their boar burger… you’ll want the same thing every time. They’re vegetarian friendly, and seem to be quite inventive: no boring pasta dish for you.


Rating: Worth walking to on your lunch hour

-Rachel

Vintages Release March 29, 2014 - Our Picks

Here are our picks for tomorrow's release!

WHITE:

COYOTE'S RUN RED PAW VINEYARD CHARDONNAY 2012  $21.95
VINTAGES 336115 | 750 mL bottle 

Made in: Ontario

Tasting Note
100% Hungarian oak for 6-and-a-half months, with no more than 25% new. The nose is peach pit, spice and with a lovely whiff of butterscotch and vanilla ... sounds sweet? Ah, but no. Toasted apple and vanilla-spice take charge in the mouth with a toasty-burnt-butter note near the finish. This wine has elements of California fatness but with that signature cool climate Ontario acidity. Score - 4 1/2 Stars (out of 5). (Michael Pinkus, ontariowinereview.com, July 2013)

BAYTON CHARDONNAY 2012 $17.95
VINTAGES 269084 | 750 mL bottle

Made in: Constantia, South Africa

Tasting Note
Features a plump core of pear, green fig and yellow apple fruit. Racy along the edges, offering hints of lime zest and melon rind, with good cut and drive through the finish. Should stretch out with modest cellaring. Drink now through 2015. Score - 91. (James Molesworth, winespectator.com, Oct. 15, 2013)


RED:


DOMAINE LA GUINTRANDY VIEILLES VIGNES CAIRANNE 2009  $19.95
VINTAGES 362624 | 750 mL bottle

Made in: Rhône, France

Tasting Note
[translated from the French] Maceration in entire bunches (Grenache 75% and Syrah) and a long barrel aging of eighteen months are at the origin of this intense and deep wine, distilling the nose of ripe cassis and spices. The palate, round and fine, is supported by well-integrated tannins and enriched by subtle vanilla oak that does not overpower the fruit. A harmonious ensemble best enjoyed in two or three months, and beyond. Score - 2 Stars (out of 3 (Remarkable Wine)). (Guide Hachette, 2012)


DOMAINE MONTIRIUS TERRE DES AÎNÉS GIGONDAS 2007  $24.95
VINTAGES 116079 | 750 mL bottle

Made in: Rhône, France

Tasting Note
Vivid ruby. Exotic, expressive aromas of black raspberry, kirsch, baking spice and herbs, with a touch of dried rose. Showing considerable complexity already, with sweet red and dark fruit flavors and a lashing of zesty spices. Finishes with excellent clarity and sweet, penetrating persistence. As much as this offers today, I'd hold off on opening mine for another few years. Score - 93. (Josh Raynolds, International Wine Cellar, Jan./Feb. 2010)


THE BLACK CHOOK SHIRAZ/VIOGNIER 2012  $17.95
VINTAGES 66738 | 750 mL bottle

Made in: South Australia, Australia



Tasting Note
Saturated ruby. Floral, fragrant and fresh on the nose, displaying dark berry and oak spice aromas. Zesty blackberry and bitter cherry flavors show good clarity and lift thanks to juicy acidity. Deepens on the persistent finish, featuring peppery spice, vanilla and violet pastille notes. Score - 90. (Josh Raynolds, International Wine Cellar, July/Aug. 2013) 



WAKEFIELD CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012  $17.95
VINTAGES 744235 | 750 mL bottle

Made in: South Australia, Australia

Description
Winner of Top 10 Red Wine $20 and Under and Best Value Australian Cabernet Sauvignon honours at the 2013 World Value Wine Challenge.

Tasting Note
Opaque with a ruby rim. Aromas of blackberry, black plum, dark earth, coffee, red bell pepper, cherry skin, dark chocolate, cloves and vanilla. Big, rich and robust flavors of chewy black cherries, cocoa vanilla and dark earth. Has a hint of vegetal sweet peppers, menthol, and tomato leaf. A touch boozy, but savory, well-balanced, and delicious. Best Buy. Score - 92. (tastings.com, Sept. 16, 2013)


FEATHERSTONE RED TAIL MERLOT 2011 $19.95
VINTAGES 131540 | 750 mL bottle

Made in: Ontario, Canada

Tasting Note
A juicy, luscious, full-bodied red with generous aromas and flavours of fleshy black plum and field blackberries. Balanced and supple and smooth. This wine has legs: it goes on and on. Try it with pork tenderloin. Drink: 2013-2016. Score - 91. (Natalie MacLean, nataliemaclean.com, Aug. 29, 2013)


CAROL SHELTON MONGA ZIN OLD VINE ZINFANDEL 2010  $25.95
VINTAGES 282525 | 750 mL bottle

Made in: California, USA

Description
Carol Shelton is a Zinfandel master. She sources the grapes for this wine from Lopez Vineyard, with its vines planted in 1918, and which was saved from urban sprawl by passionate Zin fans.

Tasting Note
Dense and burly, but loaded with flavor. The briary underbrush and blackberry aromas lead to well-structured cherry, tomato leaf and spice flavors. Best from 2015 through 2021. Special designation: Smart Buys. Score - 92. (Tim Fish, winespectator.com, Dec. 15, 2013)

RÍOS DE CHILE GRAN RESERVA SYRAH 2009 $21.95
VINTAGES 365239 | 750 mL bottle

Made in: Cachapoal Valley, Chile

Tasting Note
Opens with sensational aromas that span plum, berry and chocolate. Feels compact yet juicy, with a lot of depth and purity. Wild berry, mint and bacon-like flavors work the palate, while the finish is defined by tannins, woody spice and natural body. A smooth bruiser to enjoy with venison or steak. Score - 91. (Michael Schachner, Wine Enthusiast, June 2012)


YANGARRA SHIRAZ 2010   $29.95
VINTAGES 911974 | 750 mL bottle

Made in: South Australia, Australia

Tasting Note
Deep garnet-purple in color, the 2010 Shiraz offers quite a floral nose with a core of dark fruits, blueberries and dark chocolate. Big, rich and voluptuous yet wonderfully balanced in the mouth, it has medium to firm finely grained tannins and a fresh acid line, finishing with good length. Approachable now, it should drink best 2014 to 2022+. Score - 93. (Lisa Perrotti-Brown, MW, erobertparker.com, March 2013)



GEMMA GIBLIN RISERVA BAROLO 2006  $40.95
VINTAGES 185025 | 750 mL bottle

Made in: Piedmont, Italy

Description
This wine won a Best in Show Trophy at the 2013 Decanter World Wine Awards.

Tasting Note
Russian spices, leather and dried plums on a powerful, fragrant nose of roses, damsons and chocolate. Excellent flavours of sweet cherry, toffee and cinnamon with nice chewy tannins. Long and mouth-wateringly delicious. Score - 5 Stars (out of 5). (Decanter World Wine Awards, 2013)


SOLAR DE SAEL CRIANZA MENCÍA 2007  $16.95
VINTAGES 311902 | 750 mL bottle

Made in: Bierzo, Spain

Description
Spain's native Mencía variety thrives in Bierzo, which is home to some impressively mature vines.

Tasting Note
Vinedos y Bodega Arturo Garcia's 2007 Solar de Sael is 100% Mencia sourced from 80+ year old estate vineyards farmed with biodynamic principles. Opaque purple-colored, it displays an exotic perfume of menthol, balsamic, Asian spices, mineral, and black raspberry. Medium-bodied, rich, and full-flavored, it has a bit of underlying structure that should permit another 1-2 years of evolution. This impressive effort is also an outstanding value. Score - 90+. (Jay Miller, erobertparker.com, June 2010)


ALJIBES RED 2007   $20.95
VINTAGES 359976 | 750 mL bottle

Made in: La Mancha, Spain

Tasting Note
... made up of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, and 25% Cabernet Franc with the same elevage as the 2005. It exhibits a similar aromatic and flavor profile to its older sibling [cinnamon, clove, vanilla, tobacco, violets, black currant, and blackberry] but appears to be a bit fresher due to its relative youth. It is also an outstanding value for drinking from 2012 to 2022. Score - 92. (Jay Miller, erobertparker.com, June 2011)



BARAHONDA SIN MADERA MONASTRELL 2011  $15.95
VINTAGES 366823 | 750 mL bottle

Made in: Yecla, Spain

Tasting Note
The 2011 Barahonda Sin-Madera (100% Monastrell aged in stainless steel) offers abundant blueberry, black raspberry and cherry fruit notes intermixed with hints of crushed rocks, tobacco leaf, pepper and meat. This intense, medium to full-bodied, amazing wine is bursting with fruit. It, too, should drink well for 2-3 years, perhaps longer given Monastrell's oxidative, resistant personality. Score - 91. (Robert Parker Jr., erobertparker.com, Aug. 2012) 


Cheers, 


-Andy and Rach

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Bordeaux Blends - Continued - Southbrook Stuns Again

A second wine we found stunning from this weekend is the 2007 Southbrook Vineyards Triomphe Cabernet Merlot.





First tasted in 2010, this wine had a long way to go. Now that it's hit its stride, it demands a lean cut of beef on the BBQ, nothing added except maybe a touch of beet juice reduction. The wine enters with plum, blackberry, juicy black cherry and warm spice aromas. These flow through the palate, with dried fig, smoldering tobacco, and linzer torte rounding out the wine. 92 Points.


-Andy

Wines Drank - Bordeaux 2006

After a busy wine weekend, this wine stood out as one worth chatting about:

Château Haut Selve Réserve 2006




The 2006 vintage is one of my favourites of the decade. What's that you say? 2000, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2009, 2010 didn't do it for you? To be honest, they all have their charm, but 2006 was truly a Claret drinkers' year, and the Haut Selve represents a perfect example of why the 2006s should not be overlooked. Still a pup, this wine features black plum skin, spice, wood, marshmallow root, crushed black currant, and an epic tannic structure and firm acidity that will welcome this wine into the 2020s with ease. At $21.60 on the Vintages Bin End sale, you will not find better if you tried. 90+ Points.

-Andy

Friday, 7 February 2014

Nearing the 600 Mark on NatalieMacLean.com

We've been busy!

As we approach our 600th wine review on Natalie MacLean's website, we invite you to start following us at

http://www.nataliemaclean.com/member/92081/andrewbernardo-ottawawinejournal


Cheers!

-Andy and Rach

Friday, 29 November 2013

Thunder Bay - Classic vs. Classy

Rachel discovers the Highs and Lows of Thunder Bay Cuisine, Accommodations, and Night Life

So you fly over Lake Superior in December and land in Thunder Bay - a city sprawled out over a stupendous amount of space, with seemingly nothing but the rail line connecting both ends.

We decide to stay at the Prince Arthur Waterfront Hotel, which is known in these parts as a "classic" Thunder Bay landmark. While it may be classic, it is in desperate need of a make over to bring it from The Shining-esque to shiny.

So where does one eat? All Google searches point to the "classic" steakhouse option: The Prospector. Interesting prospect, indeed, I say to myself. I am not, however, a steak house guru. As you can tell from my posts, I am an Asian fusion and small plate fanatic. But I decide to take a chance on beef. From the outside, the place looks promising, but I feel like this could-be-great steakhouse has met a similar fate as the Prince Arthur. The menus are probably from the 80s, and boast nothing of real interest, except a 12 dollar Caesar salad and 45 dollar crab legs - read: over priced, under enthused.

Salad bar included with your steak? Oh! ... oh. All I have to say is: Catalina dressing??

But there's a silver lining! We found ourselves 500 meters from both the above-mentioned "classics" after dinner for drinks at a delightful little place called Bight. Not only does it look out on the harbour, but more precisely onto the public skating rink that, if it were in Ottawa, would be packed with people. This place is clean, open, and super down to earth. The owner is an accidental wine guru who realized she had a really good sniffer at her first wine tasting, and who has translated this relaxed love of food and wine into a dynamic menu of pizzas, pastas, and "classy" touches like homemade flatbread with homemade ricotta instead of butter - what!?

The wine list is short, but sweet and offers something for everyone by the glass, half litre or bottle. It's ideal for special events or a regular ol' Thursday night giggle with the girls. I highly recommend the Cucumber and Basil Smash cocktail. You'll want more than one!

So what did I learn in Thunder Bay? You have to look a little harder for something great in this town - but it has huge potential. In chatting with locals we now have a list of places to try (and try we shall!): Sovereign, Silver Birch, and Cirque du manger (if we're feeling adventurous!)

-Rating: Looking forward to making myself a repeat Bight customer and to discovering other classy TB joints

-Rachel

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Girls night out @ Supply and Demand

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

I am sure you've heard by now about this new spot in Westboro that supports local businesses (in fact, you'll get a 10% off coupon for a local boutique with your bill) and whose chef is daring and unique. If Air Canada's En Route magazine has heard about it, it's about time you have as well.

It's a pretty small place, so recommend making a reservation. Even on a Wednesday night, we watched the tables turn over twice while we were there... Can't imagine what it would be like on a weekend!

So, as is our wont, we ordered oysters on the half shall to start, paired with a lovely sparking Vidal from Ontario. At $10 a glass, it's comparable to what you'd find price-wise at neighbouring restaurants. However, the oysters have got some of our "go-to" seafood places (who shall remain nameless) beat. Each one was pefectly shucked - no shells, no bits, no crunch - and the platter came with three accoutrements made in house. I'll gloss over the mignonette, fresh horseradish and lemon slices, to get right to the stand out piece de resistance: a mint and jalepeno concoction to drizzle (read douse) over your fresh little oyster. Flavour bomb! Perfect balance between savoury and spicy. Delish!

The choice of appetizer was a clear one for me, having had these for this time at Pidgin. I chose the shishito peppers. A fun appy to share with the table - you never know who will get a spicy one! My girlfriend had the kale salad, and the only bad thing I can say about it is that it's undervalued on the menu. The description in no way prepares you for this caesar salad wannabe, with toasted pine nuts, fresh grated parmesan and traditional (not creamy) garlic and oil dressing. An absolute must have. You'll feel less guilty about it because it's kale.

I could have spent the evening trying all the small plates and appetizers, as they offer such a variety from both land and sea: scallops, cured meats, crudo, mussels... But against my rules of not having pasta twice in one week (sinful, I know) I went with the squid ink rigatoni.

If you think you've had good squid ink pasta dishes before, you'll be in for a surprise. This spicy red sauce dish has tuna and proscuitto meatballs. Yes. Both. Together. In each meatball. And a fresh mint addition that cuts through the spicy tomato sauce. If you're more into carbonara sauces, well, you can opt for the black pepper spaghetti that is served with a warm poached egg. Can I get a "ohhhhh yeahhhhh" ??

And if pasta isn't your thing at all, no worries. They have fish, surf and turf like you've never seen (ha! beef and lobster ain't got anything on octopus and chicken) and, like I said before, various small plates to keep you interested for hours. And I must mention the wine list, which is diverse, slightly favouring Ontario and BC wines, and very reasonably priced. Our bottle of Cycles Gladiator, Petite Sirah, 2011, was just about 100% mark up - about half of what I would have expected.

Rating - Make a reservation today before the demand out does the supply!!

-Rachel

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The Wines of Karlo Estates - Prince Edward County

Last weekend, we were invited to dinner with close friends freshly back from Prince Edward County celebrating their 1st anniversary (also in PEC).  They poured a couple of wines from Karlo Estates, a winery I have never heard of prior to a happenstance run-in with a sales rep at Play Food & Wine here in Ottawa just a few weeks prior.

They poured two wines, both of which were impressive, starting with the 2010 Pinot Noir ($29.00), which was a fantastic effort from the 2010 vintage. This wine features the classic Pinot profile of cherry, sous-bois, and beetroot, as well as a hint of licorice root and white pepper. 90 Points.

The second wine was the 2010 5th Element, a single varietal Petit Verdot ($39.00).  Gorgeous aromas and flavours of currant, savoury and baking spices, damson plum, and cigar box. Some black pepper here too. 90 Points.

All in all an impressive One-Two punch.  I look forward to visiting them on our next trip to PEC.


-Andy

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

'Twas a Slice indeed - Slice & Co.

Tuesday, October 23, 2013
 
Attention Elgin street and surrounding area dwellers -- have I got news for you!

Remember the Second Cup across from the Manx that no one ever went to but had a fantastic patio? Well, there's a delicious pizza place that has moved in!

What's great about this place is not the choice between gluten free crust, deep dish or hand thrown traditional crust, or the simplicity of their standard pizza choice creations -- it's the fact that you can dine in OR take out.

You now have a much more delicious choice than the Elgin Street diner or the Pizza pizza and it's ready in just about the same amount of time.

The cocktail menu was a complete surprise - high quality ingredients and interesting twists on traditional choices like gin and tonics or Caesars, and the full menu doesn't disappoint either. For someone looking for healthier options, their salads are fresh, tasty and far from ordinary. And for those of us who want to add sausage to the vegetarian pizza, that's ok too.

The crust was thin but chewy (I didn't get deep dish, but I am sure it would be just divine) and the toppings super fresh: my mushrooms were actual quarters of mushrooms, my sausage spicy and lean, and it had just the right amount of cheese and sauce.

This is a perfect place for a weekday date night or night out with the girls. The inside is a bit small, you might want to make a reservation -- but I can't wait to spend a summer night on the patio with a pizza pie, a beer and a breeze.

Rating: I literally ate the whole thing. It was that good!
 
-Rachel

Sunday, 20 October 2013

We've hit 500!

We've hit 500 tasting notes on Natalie MacLean's website.

For all our tasting notes, see our profile at http://www.nataliemaclean.com/member/92081/andrew-bernardo

Cheers!!!

-Andy and Rachel

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Ruffino Dinner at Graffiti's Italian Eatery (Kanata)


Ruffino is synonomous with Chianti.  That bottle of wine encapsulated in wicker that our parents used to sip while listening to bouzouki music on the Danforth in the early 1970s.

They loved it – with the easy drinking, primary red fruit and cracked white pepper infused vino  that washed down virtually any food with ease.  

Ruffino has been around a long time, and while it has holdings across Italy, its heart will lie forever in Tuscany.  6 estates, 2800 acres of land (divided up between vines and olive trees), they are a serious player in Italian wine industry.  

On October 19, we had the fortune of attending a wine dinner at Graffiti’s Italian Eatery in Kanata.  With 6 Ruffino wines paired with 6 very well executed dishes by Chef Neil, we knew we were in for a treat. 



                       The Menu! (click to enlarge)


Arriving a bit late (thanks to 417 traffic), and missing out on some canapés, we dove right into the Ruffino Prosecco, a new project for Ruffino, but the quality of the wine would lead you to believe that they have been making it for years.  The wine featured a fine mousse, with notes of stone fruit, apples, pears, and citrus zest.  A soft, balanced acidity make this wine a perfect sipper before dinner.   89 Points.  (-Rachel)

The first course featured the Ruffino Orvieto Classico 2012, a blend of 4 different grapes, including an ancestor of the Trebbiano grape.   Soft and round, featuring honeysuckle, flowers, citrus fruit, and chalky minerals define this wine.  You almost get a hint of oak even though it’s stainless steel fermented and aged (no doubt some malo).   88 Points.  (-Rachel)  Great pairing with the salad.  Pass the Orvieto!

Next up was the Lumina Pinot Grigio perfectly paired with the tiger prawn dish.  100% Pinot Grigio, light golden colour, featuring pears, unripe white peach, straw, and a hint of caper brine on the finish (a good thing!).  90 Points.  (-Rachel) 



Dish 2 - Grilled Tiger prawn with tomato, heart of palm in cider vinaigrette – tomato gel, goat cheese, crispy pancetta and puffed rice.


Then onto the big reds, starting with the Ruffino Riserva Ducale Chianti Classico 2009, a bold Sangiovese featuring aromas and flavours of black raspberry, iron, blueberry, dark baker’s chocolate (nice one Heather Wall!), cherries, scorched earth, tar, and singed vanilla.  The tannins are quite present at the moment.  Drink 2014-2020.  92 Points. (-Rachel)  Paired with a squash and roasted pepper puree, and it worked.  

 The veal shank was paired with our favourite Ruffino wine, Modus.  This wine has been made since 1999, and has never scored below 90 points.  The 2010 is no different, featuring aromas and flavours of scorched caramel, black plums, milk chocolate, spice, grape pumice, and vanilla.  Elegant and refined, this wine only needs another year or two in bottle to hit its peak – unlike the monstrous 2007, which needs until 2016-2017 to come out of its shell.  93 Points.  (-Rachel) 

And finally with dessert we tried another new project from Ruffino, the Moscato d’Asti, which will hopefully be available at the LCBO soon.  Full on peach and floral bliss, and at 6%, you can easily (too easily?) drain a bottle by yourself.  91 Points.  (-Rachel). 

All in all a great night with Robert Ghezzo, brand ambassador for Ruffino here in Canada, and Chef Neil from Graffiti’s!

-Andrew and Rachel

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Allium

Friday, September 20, 2013

If you wander a tad off the beaten Hintonburg/Westboro track, down Holland, you'll find Allium. It's a medium-sized restaurant with modern, clean décor and friendly staff. The servers are most willing to speak in either French or English, and are attentive without being overly so.

The wine list caters to a variety of diners - those who want to pair their dishes by the glass, those who - like us this evening - wanted to share a half litre among girlfriends, or those who are looking for an interesting and well priced selection of bottles. If wine isn't at all what you're into, I highly recommend the cocktails -- specifically the Moscow Mule, which I haven't had properly made (albeit with a twist) since being in the Windy City.

The menu is limited to a few carefully chosen dishes, but does include vegetarian options if that's your thing. For those of us who are adventurous, you'll be tickled to find both an appetizer and main course "blind" option à la Murray Street Café. You can't ask questions, you can't have allergies - but you definitely  won't believe your eyes (get it? blind...) or your mouth.

My only critique here is that the "blind" main was very heavy. I understand that it's autumn and people tend to be looking for a meal leaning more into the comfort food category. However, while my lamb was cooked to perfection, I didn't need meatloaf, gnocchi and fried green tomatoes as side dishes. Maybe one? But not all three... No way I was finishing this plate...

The seared tuna plate was also a generous portion, but was served with a nice piece of cornbread and a relatively light succotash. The steak frites was the best bang for your proverbial buck, where the steak was larger than the serving of frites.

Overall, this chill but chic restaurant deserves your visit. I will return, probably in the spring, to see what they do with their seasonally inspired menu options at that time of year.

Rating: maybe not a diamond, but a Swarovski crystal in the Westboro ruff??

-Rachel

What We're Drinking Now - Poggio Verrano Dromos 2006

Sunday dinner calls for Rachel's "Pot Pie", a family recipe stew made with venison and egg noodles.  In search of a Bordeaux blend with an Italian twist, we pulled a bottle of red from the Maremma from the cellar.  The Poggio Verrano Dromos 2006 (39.95 - LCBO #107383)



This wine shows the perfect balance of poise and power so typical in Maremma and Bolgheri in 2006.  It displays perfumed black berry fruit, mint, tar, and a hint of black olive on the nose.  More of the same on the palate, joined by black currants and grilled savory.  Can't take my nose out of the glass.  Drink now through 2019.  92 Points.  -Andy


Monday, 16 September 2013

Treated like a "Queen" in "King"ston - Le Chien Noir

Thursday, September 5, 2013

This is the second time that we have eaten at Le Chien Noir in Kingston. It's a lowly lit venue with bistro-style inspired décor. The wine list is pretty good - some original picks at various prices - and the menu is both reliable and surprising.

Whether you live in Kingston or are just passing through, you can depend on the Chien Noir for its famous and always delicious steak frites, with locally sourced beef (!) and more Québecois than French style frites. They also have fresh oysters (different picks daily) that are sourced from Ottawa's own Whale's Bone, served with the regular fixings and some homemade ones as well. While the oysters are a tad pricey, the rest of the menu, including a Prix Fixe option, is very reasonable.

The main dishes are hefty portions (often served with sides like lobster mashed potatoes...) and are exactly what to order if you're looking for comfort food. Personally, I think their selection of starters (more like small plates) are where it's at.

I had the flank green bean and heirloom tomato salad, which was so light, fresh and full of flavour thanks to the basil infused vinaigrette. It was so good for such a simple idea that I was only slightly jealous of Andy's tuna tartare. Beautiful pieces of tuna, served with lotus chips and lots of sesame and ginger. The perfect juxtaposition of tastes and textures in both these dishes proves why this restaurant is so "dog"gone good: great chef, great menu, excellent servers, with a down-to-earth atmosphere.

Rating - Best restaurant between Ottawa and Toronto, no question!

-Rachel