When You’ve Lost the Passion…

When I started this blog in 2013, I had big ideas of posting once a week, maybe even twice. I had started on the wine journey, getting ready to do WSET 3 and learning all I could about wine. I worked part time at a wine shop to learn and taste while studying AND working full time at another job. I quit said full time job to become a store manager at a  boutique shop, where I remained for almost 5 years. Fast forward to completing my diploma in 2017, becoming first an Italian Wine Ambassador through the Vinitaly International Academy (VIA) in 2016, then reaching the pinnacle of the organization and becoming an Italian Wine Expert (IWE), one of only 15 in the world, in April of 2018. By June 2021, I had also completed the Italian Wine Scholar program, all self study online.

Since I started on this wine journey, I’ve always worked on the retail side of things, and because of that, I have rich relationships with the people on the import and distribution side of things, as it is them we buy from. I do get really excited about tasting new Italian wines from native grapes that I have only studied or read about. Being part of the VIA family allowed me to taste many wines I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise, and being in a market that is not a government monopoly has allowed importers to bring in whatever they like, which translates to the consumer here having a great deal of choice in wines! The advantage of living where I do is that there is literally boatloads of wine here and if you can’t find something you like, there is a problem…

The store I’m currently at. I manage the wine side of things. This photo represents a small amount of what we actually have…

For me, I’ve been asked lately if I’ve tasted anything new and exciting and up until last night, my answer was always ‘no’. Nothing at least I wanted to write about here. Yeah, I’ll admit, it’s been tough…I’ve lost a bit of the passion and fire I once had. Not being able to have walk around tastings in the store, specific themed classroom educational tastings (which I would be leading), or even reps pouring samples for the customers has taken its toll on me mentally. For me, it’s been nothing but pure sales for two years now. The passion is waning and the blog posts are few and far between.

Could I do some online education? Yes, probably, but the logistics of setting all that up, not to mention making sure students have wine is a nightmare. Logistically speaking, even though we are one country, we cannot ship from province to province, which (and I’m gonna say it) is stupid. I can’t accept samples from other countries as I’m not an importer or distributor. I can’t do wine exchanges with people from other countries. It’s infuriating.

So you might be asking, “what happened last night?” Well, I do have some like-minded people in my life who are OK to get together and OK to actually taste and drink wine with each other EVEN AT THE SAME TABLE!!!

Vintage champagne was on the menu and with only five of us in the group, it’s all about getting a good 5 oz of wine to really enjoy in the glass. The object of the group is aged wine, or premium wines that we wouldn’t (& couldn’t) purchase ourselves. So we pool our money, source them out and then purchase them.

Krug is six generations of family, starting in 1843. 2004 reveals the vibrant story of a fresh year, so this bottle is nicknamed “Luminous Freshness”. This Krug 2004 we got for a great deal, each of us paying $65 each to enjoy 5 oz. This seems expensive, but trust me, in a restaurant, you’d pay 10x this I’m sure. A blend of 39% Chardonnay, 37% Pinot Noir and 24% Meunier, the acid level on this champagne was crazy high! It had a fine mousse and full flavours of brioche, pastry,  lemon chiffon, quince & mandarin. To be honest, it could’ve benefitted from more time. At almost 18 years old, it was still young. Don’t get me wrong, it was very good and I can now say that I’ve tasted vintage Krug (I had previously tasted Krug Grande Cuvee Brut at my friends 70th birthday party in 2018).

Maison Bruno Paillard always had the desire to create a champagne different from any other; extremely pure. If you look at their website, the labels have changed, but the traditions have remained the same. Grand Cru fruit and low dosage. This 1996 Bruno Paillard was a surprise as it was in the cellar of one of our members. Not really knowing what he paid for it, he charged us $35 each. What??? At 25 years old, the bubbles weren’t as plenty as the Krug, but the acidity was still there. Unlike the blend in Krug, this was a Blanc de Blancs, therefore 100% Chardonnay. Darker in colour (whites become darker with age), this was just gorgeous with sponge toffee, caramel, truffle popcorn, hints of mushroom and even some beautiful floral notes that we got out of Bev’s Conterno Giacomo specialized glass.  So much of a surprise here that this was my clear winner. So yeah…in the last (many) months, this has been one of the most exciting things I’ve tasted lately. And I think with this group, the passion just might return…Santé.

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Hearty Beef Stew & Barbaresco – #ItalianFWT

In the second installment of the “Big B’s” (Brunello in October), this month we explore Barbaresco, the sometimes forgotten nebbiolo of Piemonte. For fans of Barolo (which we will cover next month), Barbaresco may seem a distant second. For me, the elegance of Barbaresco and early drinkability of a wine that can be as hard as nails for ten+ years is an advantage.

I’ve tasted many Barolo and Barbaresco ad nauseum, remembering fondly the several trips around various wineries in both Barolo and Barbaresco to taste some beautiful wine. In Barolo, there are 11 municipalities or villages that can put Barolo on the label. Barbaresco has four main ones:

  • Treiso-  most refined and fresh
  • Neive – most powerful and fleshy
  • Barbaresco – most complete and balanced
  • San Rocco seno d’Elvio – soft and most ready to drink

Within the municipalities, there are 66 MGA (Menzioni Geografiche Aggiuntive (plural)) or “cru” sites. Of course, the wines must be 100% nebbiolo and ageing requirements are at least 26 months (9 of which must be in barrel) with the Riservas being aged for at least 50 months, again with 9 months in barrel. Bear in mind that these requirements are less what is required in Barolo.

My wine was the Fontanabianca Barbaresco. From Neive the winery was started in 1969 by the Pola family. Along with two cru sites, there are three Nebbiolo vineyards located in the commune of Neive, with southern/western exposure, for the production of their Barbaresco label. The nose was full of the quintessential nebbiolo red rose, along with red cherry, some nuances of Italian savoury herbs and even slight hints of tar. A gorgeous nose! On the palate, huge red cherry and Italian herbs with velvety, smooth tannins. A definite elegance within the power of nebbiolo. yet because it was from Neive, the fleshiness was most certainly there! Given a choice, I’d drink Barbaresco over Barolo any day!  As for my pairing, the stew itself was delicious with a brown gravy that was savoury and flavourful. The meat cooked for three days so it was very tender and literally melted in your mouth. Cheese biscuits served warm with the stew rounded out the meal. The recipe called for sharp cheddar in the biscuits but I changed it up and used manchego cheese which made for an interesting flavour all on its own.

As you can see from the picture I was obviously enjoying my stew, as it certainly receded from my bowl quickly!

My fellow writers here at #ItalianFWT have written some great articles about their own experiences with Barbaresco. Check them out below.

  • Wendy with A Day in the Life on the Farm shares Pure Comfort~~Roast Chicken, Wild Rice Pilaf and a Glass of Barbaresco Wine
  • Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares Risotto ai Tre Funghi, Rosticciana al Forno, + Fontanafredda Silver Label Barbaresco 2015
  • Lynn of Savor the Harvest is Reaching for Barbaresco Basarin with Marco and Vittorio Adriano
  • Susannah of Avvinare is Exploring The Beauty of Barbaresco
  • Martin of Enofylz Wine Blog has a 2017 Riva Leone Barbaresco Paired With Italian Fare and Friends
  • Gwendolyn Alley of Wine Predator shares Affordable Riva Leone Barbaresco Meets Bolognese
  • Nicole of Somm’s Table will share An Anniversary Celebration with Barbaresco
  • Robin of  Crushed Grape Chronicles  will be sharing Barbaresco and Thanksgiving Flavors

See you in December as we discuss Barolo. Salute!

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Exploring Verdicchio: One of Italy’s Most Ageable White Grapes- #ItalianFWT

For September’s #ItalianFWT, we’ll be exploring this amazing white grape of the Marche region, one of the most beautiful regions on the Adriatic coast. In our previous episodes, we discovered Trebbiano di Soave from Veneto (Verdicchio this month) and Trebbiano di Lugana (or Turbiana) from Lombardia, the former two being genetically identical, whereas the latter is more correctly termed as a biotype. In any case, it has been fun, not to mention interesting, to look at these grapes and now to connect the dots with this third!

This is a wine that always has lees ageing for added texture and complexity. Some have a bit of oak ageing while others are completely in stainless steel. There’s Castelli dei Jesi Verdicchio (Classico/Superiore) the region closer to the sea and on the hillsides which gives pleasant floral and delicate fruit aromas in its youth, with more Riesling-like characteristics of flint, sponge toffee and even the kerosene with ageing. Verdicchio di Matelica which is grown higher into the mountains will have higher acidity, alcohol and body with a little more austerity.

My wine was a Verdicchio di Matelica from Bisci. I was able to taste this producer’s wine while in Marche, that being my first time to actually have opportunity to taste Matelica wines, and then was excited to see them here in market upon my return. In the early 70’s the Bisci brothers purchased some land entirely within the Matelica region with the second generation now running things. Although they also make some red wine, the majority of their land is planted to Verdicchio. Certified organic since 2016, they number all their bottles. In wine circles we often talk about “tasting terroir”. This is very true about Bisci’s Verdicchio di Matelica. My friend Ian D’Agata said this about them:

Bisci is a heavyweight in the small Verdicchio di Matelica denomination. Size and quality go hand in hand here, and Bisci’s Verdicchio wines are among the best of the Marche. I especially like the fact that they are very faithful to the Matelica terroir: steely and refined, with a dry Riesling-like quality to them. 

Upon uncorking the bottle, I immediately caught a whiff of a flinty petrol aroma. After  pouring it in my glass and giving it a good swirl, the aroma was full of green and yellow apple, Anjou pear, yellow flowers, even hints of pineapple but still with the mineral nuances. On the palate that lees ageing was evident as it was very textural and almost tannic on my palate which lent itself to a full bodied wine. More flavours of yellow apple and pear, great minerality and of course, bitter almond. This wine was as good as I remembered it in Le Marche and I couldn’t wait to have it with my food!

I put a lot of thought into this meal, and although not everything was a perfect match, the meal itself was a winner and my soon-to-be-son-in-law was impressed! He was excited to try the pairing as much as I was. I wanted to do fish, I really did, but instead I found a recipe for chicken with a caprese salad twist. It turned out amazingly, along with the portabella mushrooms with goat cheese and bacon. The mushroom, potatoes and grilled asparagus turned out to be the best of the pairings with the chicken just plain good on its own!



My fellow #ItalianFWT’s have been busy! Check out what they’ve discovered about Verdicchio and the land of Marche, then join us for our Twitter chat, Saturday, September 5, 9 am MDT (11 am EDT, 10 am CDT, 8 am PDT)

Wendy from A Day In the Life on the Farm shares Baked Tomatoes Marchigiano Style and a Verdicchio Wine.

Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares Cascatelli, a Brand New Pasta Shape, plus Pievalta Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore 2017.

Pinny from Chinese Food & Wine Pairing shares Querciantica Verdicchio – A Gem from La Marche’s Self-Made Wineamaker Angela Piotti Velenosi.

Terri at Our Good Life shares Scallops and Pasta and a Beautiful Verdicchio.

Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles shares Le Marche Italy – Verdicchio and beyond

Nicole at Somm’s Table shares Cantine Belisario Cambrugiano Verdicchio di Matelica Riserva with Brodetto alla Recanatese

Gwendolyn at Wine Predator shares “Verdicchio? Is That A Vegetable? Does It Go With Carbonara?”

Thanks for joining us! See you next month. Salute!

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Exploring Verdicchio: One of Italy’s Most Ageable White Grapes (Preview)

For September’s #ItalianFWT, we’ll be exploring this amazing white grape of the Marche region, one of the most beautiful regions on the Adriatic coast. In our previous episodes, we discovered Trebbiano di Soave from Veneto (Verdicchio this month) and Trebbiano di Lugana (or Turbiana) from Lombardia, the former two being genetically identical, whereas the latter is more correctly termed as a biotype. In any case, it has been fun, not to mention interesting, to look at these grapes and now to connect the dots with this third!

This is a wine that always has lees ageing for added texture and complexity. Some have a bit of oak ageing while others are completely in stainless steel. There’s Castelli dei Jesi Verdicchio (Classico/Superiore) the region closer to the sea and on the hillsides which gives pleasant floral and delicate fruit aromas in its youth, with more Riesling-like characteristics of flint, sponge toffee and even the kerosene with ageing. Verdicchio di Matelica which is grown higher into the mountains will have higher acidity, alcohol and body with a little more austerity.

Some of the beautiful seafood dishes (and there’s those olives!) prepared for me while on my first trip to Marche

Not only that, but Verdicchio makes stunning sparklers and even the odd passito wine. This gastronomic region is home to plenty of seafood dishes, gorgeous cheeses from sheep, goat or cow, truffles, egg pastas, not to mention the olive all’ascolana, olives stuffed with meat and bread, and then deep fried, a local dish from the Ascoli-Piceno area. If you’ve ever tried these, you know what I’m talking about!

Le Marche is one of the most stunning regions in all of Italy, and truly a hidden gem! From the beaches to the mountains, and the rolling hills in-between, there is so much to discover in this amazingly beautiful region! So, come with me virtually on a food and Verdicchio wine adventure to Le Marche! Please post your title in the event page on Facebook, or email me your title with your blog URL to joyofwine69@gmail.com by August 29 if possible. Posts should be live by Friday, September 3 and then you can be a part of our Twitter chat on Saturday, September 4!

Enjoy the land of Marche!

From the mountains… (Le Marche 2016)

to the sea! (Le Marche 2016)


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A Tour of Wines of Lombardia and Toasting to Lugana – #ItalianFWT

This month for #ItalianFWT, we travel to Lombardia, where international and native grapes live in harmony. Nebbiolo (known here as Chiavennasca) is highly underrated, but appellations like Valtellina are becoming more and more known on the Italian wine stage, with the five sub-regions creating flavour nuances, just like the cru areas of Barolo. If you’ve had great Chiavennasca, you know it, as it’s highly perfumed with loads of cherry and rose aroma; lean yet elegant with balanced acidity and tannins. Perhaps you’ve seen labels of Sassella? That’s Valtellina’s most well-known and long standing sub-region. Sforzato or Sfursat is even more unique with the nebbiolo grapes being air-dried before fermentation, which leads to intense and complex wines with at least 14% abv. (Think Amarone, but less powerful and more elegant).

But there are other native grapes and styles of wine that are important and highly lauded in Lombardia. I have access to a lot of great wines in my market, but wish there was more Oltrepo Pavese, a region that is well known for its traditional method sparkling wines made with Pinot Nero. In fact, many don’t know that Oltrepo Pavese is the largest, and most productive sub-region of Lombardia! Furthermore, it is a stronghold for Pinot Nero and has made a name for itself with this grape. They also make a wealth of still wines in this region from grapes like Croatina (most planted red grape of Lombardia), Barbera, Pinot Noir, and white wine from Moscato Bianco.

Let’s not forget about world famous Franciacorta, another sub-region known for its traditional method sparkling wines. Like Champagne, made from a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Nero, but unlike Champagne, instead of Meunier, the wines will have Pinot Bianco. Now with the introduction of the native grape Erbamat, the wines of Franciocorta will be even more unique and definitely more Italian.

If you ever get a chance to taste Moscato di Scanzo, you’ll have tasted a sweet passito wine from Italy’s smallest DOCG. A rare grape from the red muscat family, it will be a wine you soon won’t forget. Sweet, yes, but balanced with high acidity and the spicy floral berry notes will have you swooning. I’ve never seen these in the North American market, which is really a shame, because these are fantastic wines.

Chiaretto  (KEY-ah-ret-tow) is what the locals here call rose, typical along the shores of Lake Garda. On the Lombardia side, we can see grapes such as Marzemino, Barbera, Sangiovese and the Gropello group, making these fabulous rosati!

Lugana is a DOC shared between Lombardia and Veneto, with the shores of Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake separating the two. The appellation itself is on the southern shores of the lake, with the biggest chunk of the DOC landing in Lombardia. This is where it gets confusing: the grape here is Trebbiano di Lugana, which has been discovered as a biotype of Trebbiano di Soave (Veneto) which is also known as Verdicchio in Marche. (Stay tuned, we’ll be talking about the wines of Verdicchio in September’s #ItalianFWT). To make it even MORE confusing, growers and producers (at least on the Veneto side), decided that having the name Trebbiano in the grape name, and have it associated with others (some of those being of significantly lower quality) from the Trebbiano family, opted for the name Turbiana.  With that said, in most cases we typically only see the region on the bottle. (Lugana, Soave)

For our purposes, I’m calling it Trebbiano di Lugana, since the wine I’m sharing with you is from the Lugana region. A typical Trebbiano di Lugana is marked by high acidity, medium to full body, minerality and complexity that only increases with age. The aroma and flavour profile is white flowers, yellow apples, stone fruits, flint, nuts and sweet spices. I’m a big fan of this grape and the wine. You can make still wines, vendemmia tardiva (late harvest) and spumante, the latter two being in small quantities and likely never exported. The levels of quality in the still wines are as follows:

  • Lugana- the youngest and most fruit-forward, being released shortly after harvest.
  • Lugana Superiore – more complex and structured, with an ageing requirement of 12 months before release.
  • Lugana Riserva – aged for 24 months before release, with at least six months in bottle. It is the most age-worthy of the styles with fuller body and higher alcohol.

Ca’ dei Frati was founded in 1939 when patriarch Felice Dal Cero settled on the Lombardy region side of the Lugana appellation. It’s called Ca’ dei Frati or “friar house,” because it was once owned by monks who grew grapes there. If you were to look at the “tech sheet” for their Lugana wine, they call this grape Turbiana! Incidentally, this is the wine that put this winery on the map and what they are most well known for, considered the jewel in their crown! Personally, I love this wine, and it shows typicity of the grape with aromas of stone fruits (lots of peach and apricot in this wine), along with hints of tropical fruit, a touch of basil and almond, and of course that typical Trebbiano acidity.

This wine screamed fish, so that is what I did! Of course, being summer, lots of fresh vegetables are always on the menu, and the fettucine alfredo with zucchini and a side of asparagus completed the light miso cod. I was SUPER happy with how the pasta turned out and it ended up to be a really great match as the creaminess of the pasta offset the high acidity and gave the wine a creamy texture…almost like peach pie with ice cream. Each bite was savoured and paired magnificently with my food! In fact, I’m not the foodie in the crowd and I was so focused on actually getting a really great dish prepared, I almost forgot to take a picture of the wine! I grabbed a shot of the bottle and you can see my glass in the corner of the food plate photo! Phew! An actual well thought out, planned and executed meal on my end that reaped huge results!


Let’s see what the other member of #ItalianFWT are up to and where they are taking us in Lombardia!

See you next time! Salute!

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