by Zoltan Szabo

A Vin Jaune breakfast

2003 Arbois Vin Jaune, Rolet Pere et Fils, Jura – France
Made from 100% Savagnin grapes. Deep straw yellow. Grilled apples, sour lemon, dried peaches, spicy yeast, nutty, summer hay, soft leather (!) and musk aromas. There’s a wild edge to it, yet truly delicious and different. Light and fresh with 14.5 % alcohol adding pleasant volatility to the bouquet, yet not even noticeable over the palate. Hate to compare, but it does remind me of dry Sherry, gets its similar character due to the fact of being matured in barrels under a film of yeast, called “voile”. However, it is not fortified. Serve it just below room temperature. Comes in uniquely shaped 375 ml bottle. I tried it with honey – garlic grilled gourmet sausages with lime – Tequila – habanero BBQ sauce and romano beans stew, along rustic French rye bread, late breakfast at Castello di Szabo, and made it just a great match. Many of these really interesting wines from Jura need to be privately ordered directly from France. I would love to see some of them poured by the glass in Toronto restaurants and wine bars. Voila…!

Also via private order are some of the excellent wines by Stags’ Leap from Napa Valley. Winemaker Christophe Paubert was in town for a brief visit and conducted a presentation at Crush Wine Bar, where world’s loveliest hostess runs the reservation desk during lunch hours. Mr. Drummond and I have visited the winery in the not so distant past, read more here and see his video conversation with Monsieur Paubert, following our recent lunch, here. The current vintage of Stags’ Leaps Petite Syrah is the 2007, available in magnum too, and is an extremely meritorious wine. Tasted it along the 1999 version, which showed much younger than its real age. Aromas and flavours of blueberries – huckleberry, blood orange jam, violet and exotic spice, add secondary nuances like leather and tea leaf for the older version. Rich and boisterous yet not lacking freshness, with muscular yet not obtrusive tannins and a very long finish. The other red that must be private ordered by the savvy wine director, is the Stags’ Leap 2007 ‘Ne Cede Malis’, a blend of 17 (!) Rhone grapes, the majority in the blend is 70 years old Petite Syrah. If you are lucky you can also scoop up the remaining bottles of 1999 vintage of the same wine… ‘Ne Cede Malis’ is a Latin phrase meaning “Don’t give in to misfortune’, but for me it translates “Life is too short to drink bad wines”….! Glorious steak reds, both, steakhouses take note…!

Soon to be released is the 2010 Flat Rock Gewurztraminer. Tasted it the other night while attending a wonderful winemakers’ dinner at city’s finest and certainly most authentic Indian cuisine restaurant, Indian Rice Factory on Dupont. With its intriguing tropical aromatics and flavours, this wine has an almost fat and creamy texture lifted by juicy acids that linger on for a while over its fresh finish. Anticipated release date for it is June 4th and I have already added my name to the waiting list.

Another wine from our backyard is the 2009 Lailey ‘Old Vines’ Chardonnay that was poured to me by excellent winemaker Derek Barnett for a tasting held at the very cute Swirl Wine Bar on Queen East, a small yet so very characterful place, atop of a dog food store, with no kitchen, with wonderful all – local charcuterie and cheeses offerings, along jarred goods such as pates, fruits and preserves. Grapes for this Chardonnay come from estate vineyards located in the Niagara River sub – appellation planted in 1979. It has great density and intensity over the palate with plenty of stone fruit, mineral and butter – hazelnut nuances. Oak is integrated, alcohols and acidity in a balancing symbiosis, long length. Very good.

Anna Bracco, “The First Lady of Dolcetto”, visited Toronto recently and co-hosted a tasting in the Cathedral Room of La Maquette restaurant, along brand ambassador Mario Schwenn, Tessa Donnadieu and the utmost elegant Donald Ziraldo. Timing was great as I was looking for good Dolcetto on behalf of couple of restaurateur friends. Not much Dolcetto is available on the market right now, some come in via consignment and others by private ordering. I always felt that Dolcetto is somewhat underrated when as it is a sweetheart of a grape, producing lighter – style, fresh and highly food – versatile reds.

Clavesana was founded 51 vintages ago by 32 growers / farmers and is nowadays totaling a large group of 350 families and co-vintners, producing mostly Dolcetto from the Langhe, sold to an extent of 90% domestically across Italy. With its 300.000 cases / year Dolcetto production, this cooperative supplies 12% of Dolcetto sold on Earth.

I also learned that “Conferimento Totale” is the the  code of behaviour of Clavesana’s 350 families, it means complete and mutual commitment from planting to harvest. “Tutti su per Terra” is Clavesana’s avantgarde venture for eco-centric wines and one of the social responsibility actions.

The “Inalto” project of Clavesana is developing applications of remote sensing techniques from Space for studies of day – to – day vineyard management, evolution and co – operative environment over its 1330 acres of vineyards, eventually to optimize quality and cost, furthermore to improve Dolcetto’s new perception, and to eliminate eco-footprint.

And yes, I liked the wines, honest, clean and very much enjoyable, easy – drinking Dolcetto, some outstanding value wines. I was told that Dolcetto is the wine of the pesant in the Langhe, yet to me are so original and charming. The 2008 Clavesana ‘Il Clou’ Dolcetto from the Dogliani DOCG and the 2008 ‘Allagiornata 110’ Dolcetto Dogliani were two of my top favourites, ‘Il Clou’ perhaps more ripe with red berries, spicy – floral notes, fresh acidity and a great length displaying sweet berry and earth nuances. The ‘Allagionata 110’ was a bit more complex with soft tannins, not mentioning its sexy label…Both these delicious wines cost less than $20…

I also liked the very modern – packaged 2010 D’OH Il Dolcetto with Piemonte designation of origin, with deeper colour, more black fruits, cherry – plum and a fresh, slight tart and appetizing finish. $11.95…

The ‘Sansossi’ I tried with dessert is a Vino Aromatizzato alla China made from Dolcetto, a bit fortified and infused with herbs, those who know Barolo Chinato will really like this, $24.95…

My advice to you is to call Trilogy Wine Merchants, yesterday, 416 968 0758 and that’s that, or shall I say “Siamo Dolcetto”…?! Indeed…! Basta…!

Read more of sommelier Zoltan Szabo at and follow him at