Canadian Brad Rey makes vibrant food friendly Australian wine at Zonte’s Footstep.

Zonte’s Footstep vigneron Brad Rey is photo bombed by his agent, Cru Wine Merchants’ Charles Baker.

When Brad Rey of the South Australian concept winery Zonte’s Steps suggested the contents of the glass in front of me would taste like Black Forest cake the effect was not encouraging. But it’s not good manners to refuse to taste the wine made by the man who’s sitting across from you at the table, and Brad is a Canadian expat by way of Calgary to boot, so he’d know it was impolite. Needless to say, I braced myself and had good draw on the 2016 Zonte’s Footsteps Chocolate Factory McLaren Vale Shiraz ($18.95, LCBO# 396481), which will be released into the LCBO’s Vintages program on April 13th. It took my brain about two seconds to process two things: 1) Brad was right it does taste like Black Forest Cake, and 2) this was not my father’s Australian Shiraz. Neither conclusion, I should admit, we’re really a surprise. I had tasted a few of Zonte’s Steps wines before we got to the Chocolate Factory and loved each one for it’s unabashed celebration of fruit and (natural) acidic vibrancy. Brad Rey and his partners at ZF make straight forward food wines that challenge old preconceptions of Australian wine among Old World chauvinist snobs like me, especially their in their terroir distinct line of Shiraz.  So, while yes the Chocolate Factory has a discernible note of mocha and milk chocolate in it’s finish, that’s really just the seasoning on an otherwise very Mediterranean immersion in dark cherry and herbal notes. It’s a wonderfully complex yet racy red for under $20 that I find reminiscent of the fresher wines of Northwest Italy. After my tasting with Brad, I did a second succesfull test over dinner with a roast breast of chicken; the point being it’s versatile and really does want food. Certainly worth a try whether you like Black Forest cake or not.

PS. More Zonte’s Steps wines is heading to our market shortly, so more on ZF and Brad Rey to follow on GFR… stay tuned!