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.

A Zonte's Tasting and Podcast

31 Mar 2023

(November 2022) ... To listen to the interesting history of Brad Rey and the birth of Zonte's Footsteps, I invite you to listen to it here.

And/or read about the wines tasted below:

Starter wines: four wines tasted, three white / one rosé. Of these, the prosecco style wine made from the original prosecco grape, now called Glera in Italy; The Excalibur 2021 Sauvignon Blanc is another wine tasted in this round – it takes it's aroma from New Zealand, but is pure Australian on its expressive palate. A 2021 Lady Marmalade Vermentino delivers on the level of a viognier / semillon with a mix of flavors: pretty floral and minerality; and a rosé that also delivers on refreshment, but not much more to say about that.

The Regionality of Shiraz ...
Being a Canadian in Australia, Brad felt he had to be all about Shiraz, but he wanted to take a different look at it: from a regional standpoint, and not a mass-market, money-making standpoint. His goal is to show the expression of Shiraz in different parts of Australia – and primarily some of the most popular versus those that are a little less well known … I think he's done an admirable job as the notes below clarify:

Lake Doctor (Langhorne Creek) - Olive, leafy, licorice, minerality, spiced plum... This is the only one that is co-fermented with Viognier (about 1%) to add that floral element.

The Chocolate Factory (McLaren Vale) - Cocoa, blackberry, black, cherry, sweet fruited and quite the dark fruit forwardness, also with a lovely acidic balance.

Interesting to note that the above two wines
make up 33% of the Zonte's production.

Baron Von Nemesis (Barossa Valley) - named appropriately, because Brad never wanted to make Barossa Valley Shiraz, and if given the chance he'd quit it, but the accountants won’t let him ... Big and ballsy yet with plenty of finesse: dark chocolate, plum with a spiced-raspberry forwardness on the palate.

Hills are Alive (Adelaide Hills) - subtle spice, floral, pretty with smoke, spice and a raspberry, strawberry showdown on the finish.

Other wines of note

Dawn Patrol2017 Dawn Patrol (Pinot Noir)
Using Dijon clones and the first planting of Pinot Noir in South Australia (roughly 1979 and on their own rootstock) ... It has Pinot character that is not often found in Aussie Pinot: spicy, earthy, gentle and savoury, plenty of complexity with a peppery-floral finish.  (****+)

2021 Splitting Hares (Tempranillo / Grenache)Splitting Hares
Pure raspberry juiciness with a jammy quality without being over the top. Pretty with floral, nice tannins, white pepper along with some savoury and herbal notes. Really appealing and a perfect wine to chill.  (****+)


To learn more about Zonte’s Footstep – click here to hear the podcast


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.


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