Chef Alida Solomon, winemaker Roberto Cipresso, Barbara, Laura Wills (La Sarta label designer).

For an authentic Tuscan culinary and wine evening, head to the bustling Tutti Matti (“Everyone’s Crazy”) Ristorante Toscano in Toronto’s Club District.  Their first ever “Sagra dei Matti – Festival of the Crazies” started November 15 and runs Thursdays until December 20, 2012.   Each evening has a different meat theme – wild boar, Tuscan birds, pork, beef…  The dinner includes a glass of Tutti Matti’s first vintage, “La Sarta” Vino Rosso.

Toronto born Chef Alida Solomon is celebrating 10 years of making authentic Tuscan cuisine at this small (former diner) 78-seat restaurant, which she opened in 2002.  A graduate of George Brown’s Culinary School, her inspiration came from immersing herself for six years in trattorias and vineyards in Montalcino, in the heart of Italy’s Tuscany region.  She embraces the Tuscan love of hearty peasant fare — beans, meat (wild boar, pheasant and beef) and bread (salt-free, in keeping with the Tuscan practice dating back to a prohibitive salt tax in the Middle Ages).  Solomon follows the Tuscan practice of using seasonal ingredients and artisanal cheese and meat.  She sources these from within 100 miles of her restaurant as well as directly from Italy, primarily from Tuscany.   She is winning accolades for her hand-made pastas and sauces, and all of her menu offerings are finished with extra virgin olive oil.

“La Sarta” Vino Rosso is the first winemaking partnership between Solomon and Italian winemaker Roberto Cipresso, who she met in her early days in Montalcino.  Cipresso has an impressive resume of winemaking in Tuscany, including working with Case Basse of Poggio Antico, one of Tuscany’s top wine Houses.   In 2009, he won the award for Top Italian Winemaker of the World at the Merano Wine Festival.  Cipresso’s passion is to find special sites and vineyards to create unique wines with his signature style.

‘La Sarta’ Vino Rosso 2006 is a blend of two grapes from two vineyards — 60% Sangiovese from Tuscany and 40% Syrah from Sicily.   Inky and opaque, this limited production wine (3,000 bottles or 250 cases) was aged in French barriques (one-third new).  It delivers forward aromas of dark forest berry fruits, with cedar, leather and meaty notes that carry through to the intense palate.  At $43 retail, available at the restaurant or through their agent (, it is a compelling Tuscan wine experience.  It would cellar well until Tutti Matti’s 20th anniversary, but there won’t be any bottles left!

Barbara D. Ritchie is a wine writer, lecturer and internationally accredited wine judge, who has travelled extensively throughout the main wine growing regions of the world. Her working knowledge of French, Italian, Spanish and German facilitates her in-depth winery profiles. A distinctive aspect to writing is her suggestions for food and wine pairings.

Barbara has judged at the California State Wine Fair, Ontario Wine Awards, Toronto Wine & Cheese Show, Santa Cruz Mountain Wines, Ontario Fruit Wines and George Brown Culinary College. Barbara has also been on the judging panel at Italy’s prestigious Banco d’Assaggio. She writes regularly for Good Food Revolution. Read more of her GFR posts here.