On the Road with the Grape Guy

On the Road with the Grape Guy is a on-going feature that follows me from event to event ... I post my thoughts, feelings and reviews of what happened and what I tasted ... basically it is here that I review the events I attend and the things that thrilled me.

Santa Margherita Lunch (Toronto)

30 Mar 2023


(June 2022) ... Learned quite a bitAmber53 at a Santa Margherita lunch back in June. Took my time getting this one out. Santa Margherita doesn't obviously need my help to sell wine, they do quite a job on their own. But when you learn something interesting you like to share it.

First, it is named after the founder's wife: Margherita Lampertico... Her husband, Gaetano Marzotto, was in textiles and decided to purchase 1000 hectares in Veneto. He started humbly, with cereals and cows and dedicated 150 hectares to vines. He also decided to build a glass factory along with a winery - thus integrating his business interests.

He then decided to create his own little village to help house his workers: Villa Nova Santa Margherita. The village did not only create housing, but also schools and theaters. His goal: "to create a special bond with the people to help achieve the projects goals" (or something like that?)

Prosecco production started 70 years ago in 1952 ... Pinot Grigio, which has been built up into the number one imported wine and imported Grigio over $18 - was started in 1961- and has been a game changer for the company.

Since then, Santa Margherita now has 12 estates in six regions, which includes a new acquisition in Oregon, USA- Roco Winery. Their other wineries include three in Tuscany (Chianti Classical and Maremma), two in Lombardy (Lombardy/Franciacorta), one in Lugana, one in Alto Adige, one in Sardinia and one in Sicily. When asked if there was a wish list of next regions, I was told, Umbria and Piedmont are top on that list.

As with many wineries today, Santa Margherita wanted to tout their sustainable initiatives and goals. And in truth, Santa Margherita has many that they are meeting or exceeding: Santa Margherita 1
They have abandoned chemical herbicides and embraced biodiversity. In their vineyards they have installed underground drip irrigation systems and are very focused on colonial selection to improve their wines. They have 2000 square meters of solar panels on their winery and produce 60% of their in-house needs... And their carbon zero initiative has donated to projects in Quebec, Leamington and Niagara - just to name a few on the eastern side of Canada.

Santa Margherita 2All in all, Santa Margherita produces 25.8 million bottles of wine of which 70% get exported

Just two wines were tasted today, the staple Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio, a review of which can be found here - (scroll down to Italy). One of the better vintages of this wine I have tasted in many years. And their 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon, Veneto IGT which I found a little green, but with some dark fruit and smoky notes. The greenness turned into herbaceous on the finish but the acidity was good - the wine was simple, but still drinkable and paired well with my crispy salmon dish, (*** ½) - no small feat for a red wine.

Knowing that Veneto is Northern Italy, Cabernet Sauvignon is probably not the most reliable grape for that environment. The recent podcast with Ponte winery pretty much confirmed that theory: Veneto is best suited for Franc. But good on Santa Margherita for trying and pushing, the envelope.


Chilean Tasting – in the Media Room

01 Mar 2023


Chile Tasting(November 8, 2022) ... This annual events one through Toronto again, this time in early November. Fifteen wineries showcased wines, a much lower number than in previous years ... Plus there was a table of wineries looking for representation (two wineries, of which one’s wines were held up at customs – which is always a shame at these events). This customs matter was not solely a one winery problem, at least six wineries had wines listed that also never showed up: Casas del Bosque, Cono Sur, Montes, Santa Carolina, Santa Rita, just to name the big names who were without some of their wines. At times you could almost hear the silent utterance of "damn the LCBO" or the cursing of our terrible system ... Either way, both tasters and the public are the losers in these instances.

That said, there was no doubt who the winner of the show was, and I'm not usually one who hands out that kind of accolade easily. The standouts were the wines from Montes, who had eight wines listed, two no-shows, one wine was "okay", but the rest were out-of-the-park hits ... Not a dud among them.

Which brings me to a new rating for this show ... The “okay” rating: for years I have made notations in my booklet of one-word, or short form notes; I also put an “x” for wines I do not care for. Other words like "thin", "weedy", "boozy" will also appear; these are wines I don't like, but give a reason for not liking them. Then there's my famous (to me) “ok”, these are wines that are just that, okay: nothing exciting, nothing offensive, just wines that are ... For lack of a better term okay.

And so without further ado, I give you my take on the 2022 edition of Drink Chile, Toronto – starting with the Montes wines.

All-Star Performer of the Show …

Montes 2020 Alpha M
An absolute ripper ... Tasty and full of flavoured ... Layered and lovely with all its dark fruit. Drink now or hold. This tickles and tingles the tastebuds, it’s everything I'd want in a Chilean wine.  (**** ½)

Montes 2020 Purple Angel
Spicy, earthy and coffee bean notes mix it up with blackberry, cassis and black cherry - there's a whole lot of more-ish-ness about this wine and age ability too.  (****+)

Montes 2020 Folly
This 100% Syrah has a meatiness about it; layered with mocha, blackberry, cassis, and black cherry with smoky, spicy and peppery nuances backing it all up.  (****+)

Montes 2019 Wings
A nod to Paul McCartney or Red Bull, either way, this wine flew high to represent another really good offering from Montes. Smoky-black cherry and hints of coffee - the fruit just sores and sings, and it's stays a long time on the palate. Beauty.  (****+)

Montes 2021 Outer Limits Pinot Noir
This is such a pretty Pinot with its smoky, earthy and beetroot notes plus some spiced-raspberry and even a touch of mocha.  (****)

And now on to the rest...

Four-Plus Star Wines Cab Franc Chile

Emiliana 2019 Coyam
A real kitchen sink blend full of dark berries and spice, all while leaving behind a pleasant and appealing linger.

Las Veletas 2019 Cuartel #5 Cabernet Franc
There's something special here that got my toes-a-tingling: tobacco, cherry, raspberry and mocha all made me want more.

Perez Cruz 2019 Liguai
Lots of red berries on offer with a meaty spiciness. There's also some mocha, vanilla and more of those red fruit tones just keep coming back over and over and over again. Really appealing.

Four Star Wines

Anakena 2017 Alwa
A five valley blend Cabernet Sauvignon that brings lots of fruit to the table, it's smooth and silky across the tongue.

ArrestiAresti 2021 Trusquel Series Vichuquen Costa Chardonnay
This has some real punch, both of flavour and balance: spiced-tropical fruit and a lovely grilled-pineapple finish, which has some really good length.

Concha y Toro 2019 Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon
Another winner in the Marques line; silky dark berries, hints of blueberry, plus vanilla touches the rim, it's just there, but not too much in your face. Pretty and a consistently good wine year after year.

CatalinoGarces Silva 2019 Catalino
This is one of two Pais wines on this list, it's like Chile’s answer to Gamay - lots of red fruit, juicy and gentle spices.

Las Veletas 2021 Almaula
And here's number two (Pais); this has Pinot Noir similarities with colour, but still Gamay-esque in taste. Plenty of raspberry-cherry and juicy components, this one is almost chuggable.

Perez Cruz 2020, Grenacha
Sweet raspberry / cherry fruit, nice light colour, super juicy and quaffable with the merest hint of white pepper.

Santa CarolinaPerez Cruz 2020 Carmenere Limited Edition
A rather atypical juicy Carmenere with vanilla, blackberry, smoked, cherry and herbal characteristics.

Perez Cruz 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon Limited Edition
Minty, mocha, and blackberry create a lovely mouthfeel and aroma, plus there's a little spiced-blueberry on the finish

Santa Carolina 2019 Reserva Familia Cabernet Sauvignon
Lots of black fruit and chocolate highlight this Vintages Essential, and the finish sticks around a long time.

Three-and-a-Half / Three-and-a-Half-Plus Star Wines

2021 Aresti Cabina '56 (Sauvignon Blanc) - *** ½+
2022 Casas del Bosque Botanic Series La Contera (Sauvignon Blanc) - *** ½
2022 Casas del Bosque Botanic Series Rosé (Pinot Noir) - *** ½
2019 Cases Del Bosque Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon - *** ½+
2021 Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo Chardonnay - *** ½+
2020 San Pedro 1865 Cabernet Sauvignon - *** ½+
2020 Santa Rita Medalla Real Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon - *** ½+
2020 Vermonte Primus Cabernet Sauvignon - *** ½+

And finally, these were my okay wines. There's nothing wrong with these, they're just okay, good to drink any night of the week. They just didn't tickle the back of my throat enough to make me want to score them and take a full note. Hey, we all have days like that ...

2019 Anakena Ona (Red blend)
2021 Anakena Nuna (Cabernet Sauvignon)
2020 Aresti Espiritu di Chile Viajeru (Cabernet Sauvignon)
2020 Casas del Bosque Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon
2021 Casas del Bosque Gran Reserva Pinot Noir
2020 Concha y Toro Winemakers Lot 148 (Carmenere)
2020 Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo (Cabernet Sauvignon)
2021 Cono Sur Organic Cabernet Sauvignon
2021 Emiliana Adobe Reserva Rosé Organic (blend)
2020 Emiliana Adobe Reserva Merlot Organic
2020 Emiliana Novas Gran Reserva Carmenere / Cabernet Sauvignon Organic
2019 Las Veletas Grenache Carignon / Mourvedre
2019 Las Veletas Petit Verdot - Cabernet Franc
2019 Las Veletas Estate Carmenere
2020 Las Veletas Estate Pais
2022 Montes Outer Limits Sauvignon Blanc
2017 Perez Cruz Quelen
2019 Perez Cruz Cabernet Franc Limited Edition
2020 Tarapaca Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon
2019 San Pedro 1865 Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon
2021 Santa Carolina Reserva Chardonnay
2020 Santa Carolina Reserva Carmenere
2021 Santa Rita Medalla Real Gran Reserva Syrah
2021 Santa Rita Medalla Real Gran Reserva Pinot Noir
2021 Santa Rita Secret Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
2022 Santa Rita Secret Reserve Sauvignon Blanc
2022 Vermonte Sauvignon Blanc
2019 Vermonte Primus - The Blend
2021 Altamana Grande Reserve Assemblage Rouge


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