Archive for the 'Italian Wine' Category

An open letter to Air Canada

It’s been a while since I last posted – life, work, cycling and laziness get in the way. However, after a recent travel experience, I felt compelled to share what happened, as it’s summed up in my letter of complaint to Air Canada:

Dear sir or madam.

On Saturday, August 2nd, my wife Candace and I arrived at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport for our flight (AC1921) to Montreal. We were early, as we wanted to make sure we had time to check our luggage, which was comprised of two 6-pack boxes of wine (10 bottles of wine in total, with 2 bottles of olive oil in there as well). These bottles were enclosed in proper thick corrugated paper boxes as well as individual, firm styrofoam travel containers within the boxes – good quality wine shipping boxes.

When we arrived at the check-in counter, we were told by the agent that we could not check our wine in for the flight. I questioned this, telling the agent that I fly on Air Canada quite often and that I also frequently travel with wine. I regularly travel to San Francisco for work – and do so using Air Canada every time I can. I also tend to bring wine back each time I travel, so I’m very familiar with checking wine while traveling.

The agent firmly informed us that we would not be able to check our wine. Apart from confusing us, this also brought about an increasing sense of panic. I had spent a fair amount of money to buy this wine and had no intention of just leaving it behind.

The agent, now acting annoyed and not wanting to offer further assistance, told us that we could walk to Terminal 1 (we were in Terminal 3) to check if the post office on level one was open so we could use them to ship our wine. They weren’t willing to check if the post office was actually open or not. Seeing no other choice, we rushed over there in the heat of the day – only to find that it was closed.

As our flight’s scheduled departure was quickly approaching, we rushed back to the Air Canada check-in counter, hoping beyond hope that common sense would prevail and that we would be allowed to check our properly packed wine boxes. Unfortunately, the same agent served us, and in an annoyed fashion, told us that we COULD NOT check the wine. We asked to speak with a supervisor, but were stonewalled there as well.

At this point, we didn’t know what to do. I was almost shaking with anger (my wife was on the verge of tears) and was about to take the wine outside to break it into a garbage can. I had reached the end of my rope. There was no way I was going to gift it to the extremely unhelpful Air Canada staff.

As I was headed out the door to break the wine in the garbage, my wife told me to wait one minute, as she made a last-ditch effort to seek help at Terminal 3’s information booth. The man working the booth, as well as an airport worker standing nearby who sensed our despair, took sympathy on us and started trying to gather information as to why we weren’t being allowed to check our wine – and what we could do about it. They concluded that a call had been made by the agent and that we were out of luck.

They suggested that we try to pack what wine we could fit into our carry-on bags and to then check those bags. We managed to wrap and fit 9 of the bottles of wine, but had to leave the 2 bottles of expensive olive oil and a bottle of wine that we could not safely squeeze into our luggage with the 2 gentlemen who helped us.

Luckily, when we returned to the check-in counter, the indifferent agent was gone. One of the gentlemen who helped us had accompanied us to the desk. He had a brief conversation with the agent who was there and our bags were successfully checked. My wife was so relieved and traumatized that she burst into tears and thanked our new friend for all his help. I was numb. What an unnecessarily traumatizing and disappointing experience.

Thankfully, what wine we did manage to pack made it home safely for us to enjoy over the coming months and years. We’ll never get to enjoy the other bottle of wine, which we carefully selected at a winery we had visited – not to mention the olive oil we had selected as well.

I am normally an Air Canada supporter. I have recently joined your Aeroplan program, and as I have already mentioned, try to fly with your airline whenever I make my work trips to San Francisco (or any other travel in general). This is why I was so startled and disappointed with our treatment at the Fiumicino Airport. I felt I had to write to you about this experience. I can only hope this doesn’t happen to any other travelers who have chosen to fly with you.

I would also like to ask how we might claim the wine and olive oil we were unable to bring home with us. We had also paid for the proper wine shipping containers, which we were forced to leave behind. I know we were within our rights.

I look forward to your response.

Sean Calder


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2006 Mauro Veglio Langhe Nebbiolo “Angelo”

I’ve been looking for this Nebbiolo since Candace and I had it at the now-closed L’Altro Buca in Vancouver’s West End last year. Well, it seems that the fine folks at Kitsilano Wine Cellars have finally decided to stock it. I wandered in there  last week and was pretty bloody happy to see it on the shelves.

The nose is really sexy. There’s ripe berry fruit along with a walnut liqueur edge. A sip really shows the seductive side of this wine. The full body opens up with ripe strawberry, ripe black cherry and a walnut liqueur. It’s just what I remembered and reminded me why I had been trying to find it.

So good.

$41 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars here in Vancouver.

4    1/2 stars


2005 Di Majo Norante Contado Aglianico, IGT

I paid a visit to the LDB Specialty Store in Surrey/Delta near my Mom’s place a couple of weekends ago and their product consultant, Jo-Ann suggested this wine. Being the Aglianico fan that I am, I thought I’d give it a try. For $20, what was there to lose?

Well, here’s where I give a big shout-out to Jo-Ann. This is a helluva’ value for the money. Since I’ve had it, I’ve been trying to find more. Graham grabbed me a few bottles out in the ‘burbs, but you’ll have to either have a search on the BC LDB site or ask your local retailers.

This wine comes from Italy’s small Molise wine region, which is sandwiched between Abruzzo to the north and Puglia and Campania to the south. The nose is really beautiful. It has licorice, pepper, violet and smokey dark cherry. A taste gave me a complex mix of everything the nose hinted at along with a brown sugar edge to the dark cherry fruit and a long nicely tannic and mineral-laced finish.

It’s dark, complex and well-made… and is a gold medal value find (if you can get your hands on it).

$19.90 here in BC at LDB stores.

4 stars


2005 Azienda Veglio Michelino e Figlio Langhe Nebbiolo

When I picked this wine up the other night, I mistakenly thought it was the Mauro Veglio “Angelo” Nebbiolo I’ve been looking for since I had it at L’Altro Buca last year. Not so much.

This turns out to be a Nebbiolo from a lower-end producer… and is definitely not as good as the Mauro Veglio wine. A web search yielded that this wine retails for only 2,90 Euros, making the price here in Vancouver sting a bit.

The “Angelo” Nebbiolo was rich, fragrant and delicious. This one? Well, it has some of the nice Nebbiolo notes on the nose – the floral and light berry notes with a bit of citrus, but the flavours don’t keep up their end of the bargain.

In the mouth, it’s quite thin and ends with a bitter note. There are some of those nice Nebbiolo flavours – the cherry brandy and a bit of the walnut I love from the grape… but it kinda’ peters out. I have to say I’m disappointed in the wine. It’s not terrible, but definitely not what I was expecting.

I had been on a roll with the value wines, so I was due for a miss. All in all, I’d give it a pass.

~$27 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.

2.5  stars

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2007 Paolo Scavino Rosso Vino da Tavola

Paolo Scavino is known as a producer of great Piemontese single vineyard Barolos. What we don’t often see over on this side of the pond are the other, more everyday wines he produces such as this Vino da Tavola. The reason for the generic name is that it’s a blend of Nebbiolo, Barbera, Dolcetto and  Cabernet Sauvignon. I’m not 100% sure of the percentages of each, but it all adds up to a pretty tasty bottle of the juice.

It’s deep ruby-red in colour and its nose gives up dark cherry, mocha, violets and earth. The flavours? Well, I got black cherry,  black pepper and a rustic earthiness. That leads out to a medium-length finish showing ripe dark fruit with smooth tannins. Nice stuff.

All in all, it’s not the best $35 bottle of wine I’ve had recently, but I did really enjoy it (enough that I bought a second bottle to have sometime soon).

$35 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.

4 stars

No comments

2006 Marchesi di Frescobaldi Tenuta di Castiglioni, Toscana

So far this under-$30 thing is working for me. I’m 2 for 2 in finding wines I would happily sip at any price, let alone for under $30 CDN.

While I was in the Thurlow & Alberni specialty LDB store last week, I took a look at the Italian section. Knowing that 2006 was a phenomenal vintage for all things Tuscan, I spotted this 2006 and decided to give it a go. It’s a super-Tuscan blend of 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Sangiovese and 21% Merlot that I had tasted, but not loved, a few times in the past.

Well, 2006 seems to have fixed that. For the money, I was really happy with this wine. After a bit of time in the glass, the nose was a sultry mix of ripe cherry, perfumed rose petals, tobacco and an earthy minerality. The flavours were equally seductive, offering up rich and ripe berry/cherry fruit, chocolate and a finish laced with floral notes and silky tannins.

This is a seriously tasty and enjoyable wine for $25 (CDN).

$24.99 at LDB stores here in BC.

4 stars


2007 Tenuta del Portale Starsa Aglianico, Basilicata IGT

blankI’m a big fan of Southern Italy’s native Aglianico grape. One of the more enjoyable wines in recent memory for me was an Aglianico from Mastroberardino. This is a rustic grape, that when done up right, can make everything from a decent table wine to a truly memorable bottle of juice with dark fruit and grippy tannins.

This falls closer to the former in that category, but is a tasty bottle of juice nonetheless. On the nose, there’s dusty cherry, dark plum and licorice spice. The silky tannins accompany full flavours of dark plum and cherry with a distinctly rustic and earthy edge. The medium finish has a nice plummy thing going on.

I know I have an Italian fixation, but this is a value wine with a capital “V”. At $22 CDN here in Vancouver, I can’t think of many reds at or below this price I’d rather drink. If you come across it, give it a go.

I couldn’t find an updated image of this wine’s new label, so the bottle you see to the right is just a blank placeholder. If you come across (or take) an updated pic of the bottle feel free to let me know.

* Full disclosure – I received this bottle as a sample from the Seacove Group.

$22.00 specialty listing here in BC.

3 1/2 stars


2005 Renzo Seghesio “Ruri” Nebbiolo, Langhe

11192009This wine falls squarely in the value category – especially if you want to try a decent Nebbiolo, but don’t want to lay out the $60 CDN or so that a Barolo or Barbaresco will set you back. It’s $28 at BC LDB stores – or at least at the one in downtown Vancouver at Thurlow and Alberni. For what I’m getting in my glass, it’s a very good value indeed.

In the glass, it’s got a very nice darker-than-normal-for-a-plain-‘ol-Nebbiolo colour, with a brick-ish edge. It looks rich. The nose has that classic tar and rose with walnut and sweet dark cherry. A sip gives me a soft mouthful of dark cherry, chocolate and walnut liqueur. The finish is velvety soft and mineral-edged. It’s not all that long-lasting, but this is a regular Nebbiolo and not a Barolo or Barbaresco. It is what it is and that’s pretty tasty, especially for the money.

It’s very approachable and would be a good introduction to the main Piemontese red grape for folks who want to learn more about the region.

$27.99 at the Thurlow & Alberni LDB store.

4 stars

No comments

Best Damn Tasting Ever! presented by the Seacove Group and New World Wines

OK, so I’ve been really bad with posting lately… and rightfully so. I’ve got a life and a full-time, outside wine job. I’ve been feeling badly about the lack of posts, so I’ve resolved to writing at least a few of ’em a week for the next while. Not only does that accomplish the more-posts-in-a-month goal, but it also makes me document the wine I drink, which was the original idea behind this site.

Well, now that that’s out there, I’ll get down to the task at hand. A few weeks ago, I received an invite from my friend Paul Watkin, who works with the Seacove Group, a wine agency in town for a tempting-sounding trade tasting being held at the Metropolitan Hotel.

The tasting was put on by the Seacove Group and the New World Wines agencies – and featured a diverse selection of wines from pretty much everywhere. There were wines from Italy, France, Spain, New Zealand, Portugal and the USA. Graham and I made our way around the room and I can honestly say there wasn’t a single wine we didn’t enjoy. Both agencies have some stunners, so I’m just going to give you our top 5’s from each.

Graham’s picks from Seacove:

  • Champagne de Venoge Brut Milliesime 1995 – Stunning length with beautiful citrus and lees.
  • Livon Braide Alte 2006 – Loved this wine.  Superbly crisp with nice pear and lime and solid mineral finish.  I imagined this with mussels or clams.  Mmmmm….
  • Egelhoff Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 – A gorgeous Napa Cab with great black fruit.  This wine was like someone ground a pepper mill over the glass.  Excellent stuff.
  • Chateau des Graviers AOC Margaux “Quintessence” 2001 – Delicious.  Great nose of tea, marker and ground coffee.  Finishes up with some nice graphite and green leaf.
  • Moncellior Pinot Noir 2008 – I really liked this one.  Nice full raspberry nose with great acidity and some nice green stalk on the finish.  This is a great value in the Otago Pinots for $35.

My picks from Seacove:

  • 1995 Champagne de Venoge Brut Millesièmme -Wow. Just wow. So graceful and tasty.
  • 2006 Signorello Winery Padrone – OK, it’s expensive, but it’s also really bloody tasty. Massive black fruit and pepper are followed by equally massive tannins. This one needs time.
  • 2005 Van Zeller Douro CV “Curriculum Vitae” – Elegant dark plum and berry fruit lead to a loooong finish. Pretty wonderful stuff.
  • 2003 Egelhoff Wines Cabernet Sauvignon – Great dark fruit and black pepper flavours made me want to go back for more.
  • 2006 Quinta do Crasto Touriga Nacional – Dark fruit and chocolate with a finish that lasted minutes. I love this wine.

Graham’s picks from New World Wines:

  • Barnett Vineyards Merlot Spring Mountain 2006 – Amazing spice on this wine.  Anise and Cinnamon with gorgeous red fruit.  Loved it.
  • Darioush Winery Signature Series Shiraz 2005 – Deep intense black fruit with nice black pepper and firm tannins.
  • DeLille Cellars D2 2006 – This was soft and sexy goodness.  Gorgeous red fruit and silky finish.
  • Betz Family Winery Clos de Betz 2006 – Beautiful dark chocolate, black fruit and some nice mint on the finish. – Loved it.
  • Flowers Vineyard & Winery  Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2006 – Elegant, with beautiful cranberry and currant.  Great length with a bit a brown sugar on the finish.

My picks from New World Wines:

  • 2005 Darioush Winery Signature Series Shiraz – So good! Immense dark fruit, dark chocolate and black tea flavours lead out to a long-long finish.
  • 2006 Barnett Vineyards Merlot Spring Mountain – Dark chocolate and plum fruit with a toasty edge. So good.
  • 2006 Betz Family Clos de Betz – It may be starting to sound like a record on repeat, but dark chocolate and blackberry flavours made me want more.
  • 2006 DeLille Cellars D2 – Mouth-filling dark fruit. Yum.
  • 2004 Lail Vineyards Blue Print – This had a hint of bell pepper to its dark fruit and spice. Bloody good.

2004 L’Azienda Agricola Renato Fenocchio “Aurora”, Langhe Rosso

10142009This wine has been my go-to secret for a while now. Via Kitsilano Wine Cellars, I was able to get my hands on 6 bottles of it a while back… and I savoured every one of them. Candace and I have had it many times and also shared a bottle with Graham – making him want to find more of it as badly as I did.

It’s a hard-to-find (until now – I’ll get to that in a minute) blend of Nebbiolo and Barbera from the town of Nieve in my favourite wine region, the Langhe in Piedmont. It’s named for winemaker Renato’s daughter, Aurora and I think it’s even some of her young artwork that decorates the label.

I’m not 100% sure of the blend, but I think it’s mostly Nebbiolo with a dash of Barbera to spice things up. Now when I said it was my secret go-to wine, it was because you just couldn’t find this wine in town until last week – Kitsilano Wine Cellars received a shipment of ~ 10 cases. Now you and I can quaff this to our heart’s content.

In the glass, it’s got a classic light Barbaresco-like nose of dark cherry brandy, cinammon spice, nuts (think walnut) and a perfumed violet-edge to its tar scented finish. There’s even some of my felt tip marker in there. A big ‘ol sip gives up ripe red cherries, a kinda’ walnut liqueur thing going on and a long spicy finish.

2004 was a great year in the Langhe and this is a wine to try. It offers up a lot for the money. Most really tasty wines from the area run over $50 (at least) in our local stores. Kudos to the guys at Farmstead Wines for picking this one to bring in. In keeping with their standards, the grapes that make up Fenocchio’s wines are naturally farmed.

On their site, they point out that, “Not only do they have some of the best vineyards in the Barbaresco region, including parcels adjacent to Angelo Gaja’s, the family does all of the work themselves by hand… Renato and his wife Milva spend a ridiculous amount of time in their vineyards. In fact, their grapes are so good that they often sell excess to Bruno Giacosa.” I have to agree. These are some seriously tasty grapes, especially for the money.

$45 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.

4 1/2 stars


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