September Newsletter

Look! I’ve started writing a newsletter!

I figured that since I did it for work, why can’t I do it for my own business? So, check it out, and then subscribe if it’s something you want to see every month! News, notes, and of course wine info will all be there for you! I might even add a food or cocktail recipe! Cheers everybody!

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VIA Italian Wine Maestro (IWM) Program

  Introducing the VIA Italian Wine Maestro Program!

Want to know more about indegenous Italian grape varieties? Are you a sommelier or server in an Italian restaurant? Do you sell a lot of Italian wines? If you have answered “yes” to any of these questions then this class is for YOU!

The Vinitaly International Academy Certification program was started in 2015 during Vinitaly in Verona, Italy. Courses were offered not only in Italy, but in the USA, Hong Kong, Russia and China. To date there are 202 VIA Italian Ambassadors and 14 VIA Italian Experts all over the world! It was always the goal to offer an “introductory” course in Italian Wine to prepare the student for the rigourous Ambassador program offered every year in April before Vinitaly. Rather than certify an institution, VIA has decided to certify the Educator which makes it possible to travel with this program where no certified educator may be.

Marcia J. Hamm, one of the 14 Italian Wine Experts (IWE) is now a Certified Educator, and ready to launch the Certified Italian Wine Maestro program starting in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada!

This is an eight session program giving the student a solid overview of Italian wine along with using a comprehensive tasting grid, specifically designed, to help taste and identify Italian native grape varietals. Here is a summary of what will be covered in the course:

  • Introduction, Families and Groups & Focus on Italian Sparkling Wine

  • Piedmont’s Native Grapes

  • Native Grapes of Veneto & Valle d’Aosta

  • Native grapes of Friuli-Venezia Giulia & Trentino-Alto Adige

  • Native Grapes of Liguria, Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany & Umbria

  • Native grapes of Le Marche, Molise, Abruzzo & Puglia

  • Native grapes of Lazio, Campania, Basilicata & Calabria

  • Native grapes of Sicily & Sardegna

The course will run over a four week period covering two sessions per week then giving you two weeks to study for the final exam.

Note that this course is designed for those with previous wine knowledge and WSET 2 or equivalent is recommended (but not required) as a prerequisite!Interested? For more details and to register for the course, head to the Education page on this website.

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Prosecco – What’s Really in the Glass – #ItalianFWT

I wrote an article about a year ago for our local provincial magazine called Culinaire – a magazine that focuses on both food and drink from local restaurants, cafes, pubs and wines from around the world. Since my specialty is Italian wines, I’m often pitching different grapes, wine, DOC, etc that I can write about. I’m attaching the article as part of this month’s #ItalianFWT, because I think it’s important for people to understand prosecco and all the good that comes with it!

Everyone loves bubbles right? From champagne all the way down to a simple, fruity sparkler, bubbles just make us happy!

Prosecco is often chosen above a champagne or cava, not only because of its price, but also because it has bigger, sharper bubbles than that of its sparkling counterparts. Champagne’s sparkling wine is made via the traditional method – a second fermentation in the bottle giving it a creamy mousse with fine bubbles – while prosecco is made via the tank, or Martinotti-Charmat method. The bubbles are created during the second fermentation in large stainless steel tanks or autoclaves, and bottled under pressure. That being said, there are many producers embracing the traditional method, and will have offerings in that style.

Before 2009, the grape used in making prosecco was actually called prosecco. With the complications of the area(s) the grape was grown in (which also bore the name prosecco), the name change also became necessary to reduce any possibility of sparkling wine outside of Italy to bear the name prosecco on the label.

Prosecco must be made with at least 85% glera (The prosecco grape’s new name),with additions of chardonnay and pinot bianco, along with lesser known Italian native grapes verdiso and bianchetta trevigiana; the former supplying extra acidity and the latter adding structure. Most producers, however will use 100% glera. You’ll also see varying degrees of sweetness too, with labels on the bottle stating: brut, extra brut, extra dry and dry, with the latter dry, ironically being the sweetest (i.e., higher levels of residual sugar). Having higher levels of residual sugar does not mean it will taste sweet, rather it gives a level of creaminess in the mouth with softer bubbles/mousse that you would not get with an extra brut!

Usually having strong aromas of white peach, apricot, and varying floral notes, one glass will rarely suffice. In terms of quality, one might think prosecco is prosecco and what might be the difference from one bottle to another? That’s where you couldn’t be more wrong!

The prosecco pyramid is made up of four (main) zones, representing various levels of quality. The bottom level is represented by Prosecco DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata), comprising 556 communes (villages). An area this large in size would most assuredly have varying levels of soil types, microclimates and exposures. There are many Prosecco DOC to be had and some can be lovely, however, there are also many that might be a cheap, industrial style available everywhere with nothing to set them apart. Next up on the pyramid is the Treviso Prosecco DOC that can be made in 95 townships. Like the basic Prosecco DOC, these wines can range from insipid to solid, and even outstanding. They will almost always have more texture and complexity of flavours than entry level Prosecco DOC, but the price point doesn’t always show that. Bellenda Prosecco in the Treviso DOC level is simply lovely with it being extra dry, it would sit around 12-21 g/L RS, which makes it perfect for your Bellini or Aperol Spritz! On it’s own, it showcases the typical white peach aromas and flavours that glera is responsible for.

Valdobbiadene-Conegliano Superiore is the DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) for a reason: in a band of both flatland and hillside vineyards that extend from the towns of Conegliano to Valdobbiadene, it’s here that some of the best prosecco is made. Located approximately 50 km north of Venice, the region boasts a unique microclimate with the Dolomites to the north keeping the cold breezes at bay, yet bringing in the warm winds from the southern Venice lagoon. The soils of Conegliano are rich in clay, providing firm, structured wines, whilst the higher hillsides of Valdobbiadene translate to highly aromatic and fresh wine because of sandier soils.

Producers will often blend grapes from these two areas to create the perfect wine.

In the Valdobbiadene zone, 43 single vineyard sites have been identified, being noted with the word rive on the label of the DOCG wine (part of the Cru level of prosecco). In other words, grapes from the steep hillsides – like Mosel in Germany – must be harvested by hand. There are lot of hours involved to make not just Valdobbiadene wines, but Valdobbiadene rive wines also. Ruggeri is a premier producer in the region and their Giall’Oro Extra Dry is a classic, award winning example of DOCG Valdobbiadene.

Adami Vigneto Giardino Rive Colbertado became one of my favourite prosecco during a tasting I delivered that showcased quality and sweetness levels in prosecco. Sitting around $41 CAD on the shelf, it’s prosecco at its finest with a label stating extra dry with a sweetness level around 21 g/l RS. Delivering acacia flowers, wisteria and white peach aromas and flavours along with some great minerality, it is solid with a full mouth filling creaminess, this prosecco is glera at its finest and purest and called Superiore for a reason.  Pair it with creamy risotto, melons, fruit tarts and foccacia! A simply stunning prosecco!

While rive prosecco certainly have a caché of their own, the top of the prosecco food chain undoubtedly belongs to Cartizze. With only 106 ha of land making up this Grand Cru, it’s here that you will find some of the most varietally correct, intensely perfumed, elegant (and expensive) prosecco. If you happen to have a spare $1.2 million lying around, you too can have a piece of Cartizze! Due to its great reputation, Cartizze is currently the most expensive vineyard land in all of Italy (in some cases even more than Barolo in Piemonte!) Keep your money though – there’s no land for sale anyway!

It just might be a life-changing moment when you taste Cartizze so ensure you’re in good company when you do! The iconic family producer Bisol is one of the originals and certainly know what they are doing when it comes to prosecco. They have been around since 1542 and with their rich history their Cartizze can be expressed with only one word: Elegance. This Cartizze Superiore has 25 g/l RS (so fully in the dry scale of sweetness) and is rich and creamy in the mouth with quintessential white flowers, white peach, pear, acacia blossom and hints of yellow apple. What can I say? Prosecco at its finest – share only with those who would appreciate its quality! Salute!


To learn more specifically about Prosecco Superiore and Prosecco DOCG, my colleagues at #ItalianFWT have been sponsored by the Prosecco Consorzio and have written on their findings. Have a read!

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Lambrusco(s)- The Star(s) of Emilia-Romagna (#ItalianFWT)

Lambrusco, the main family of red grapes from the Emilia side of Emilia-Romagna, is gaining in trend and popularity. Even five years ago, no one had even heard of Lambrusco, let alone be drinking it!

Now, the family is gaining a lot of noteriety, and more people are asking for lambrusco wine when they shop! The question is: what lambrusco are you looking for? To say just lambrusco, is technically wrong. There are 17 different grapes with the name lambrusco, and when we talk about the lambrusco family, there are five main ones we talk about, and/or are available in many markets. From lightest to darkest:

Lambruso di Sorbara⇒Lambrusco Marani⇒Lambrusco Salomino⇒Lambrusco Grasparossa⇒Lambrusco Maestri

Being a family of grapes means they are all related. There is nowhere else in Italy where these grapes are grown other than in Emilia, so these grapes are truly autochothonous! They are traditionally made with the Martinotti method (tank) to obtain the bubbles, but more and more producers are making traditional method and even Metodo Ancestrale to make lambrusco.

Perhaps the most famous lambrusco to be seen in market is the Lambruso di Sorbara – the lightest of all the lambrusco, it delivers a pink, sometimes pale pink wine that has mouth scrubbing acidity and crunchy red fruit flavours like cranberry and red currant. This particular di Sorbara from Medici Ermete

was made in the Metodo Ancestrale Style – dry and full spumante, there’s also hints of vanilla and brioche to make this a full flavoured wine! Pair this with Gnocco Fritto – not gnocchi, the potato pasta, but rather “pillows of goodness” in the form of fried bread that is served warm, and then topped with prosciutto. The fat on the prosciutto melts, fold it in half then pop it in your mouth! You will NOT regret having Gnocco Fritto! Yum!

Lambrusco Salamino is named such because the bunches are shaped like salumi, a favourite meat of Italy. It is always planted in the same vineyards as di Sorbara because the di Sorbara vines are hermaphroditic; meaning they have both male and female flowers (but functions as a female) so they need another pollinating source in order to ripen. That’s Salamino’s job, so it’s quite a great match! Salamino strikes the balance between the elegance of di Sorbara and the power and tannic nature of the Grasparossa.

Lambrusco Marani is very rare and not seen in many markets. In fact, plantings are decreasing in favour of Lambrusco Maestri. The wines are very floral in nature, also with extremely high acidity. The colour is darker than di Sorbara, but lighter than Salamino.

Lambrusco Maestri is deep purple, frothy and tannic and gives the fruitiest, creamiest, and most complex wines with unique aromas and flavours of milk chocolate and bubblegum! I’ve tasted only a couple of these and it’s indeed the profile! I’m working hard on getting some importers to bring some Maestri into the Western Canadian market because I think they would be really popular! They are extremely quaffable, and I am 100% convinced the public would love this particular lambrusco!

Last, but certainly not least, is Lambrusco Grasparossa – considered to be the highest quality by many in Italy, the inky purple, frothy, tannic, creamy dry lambrusco has tons of black cherry, blackberry and lots of violet aromas and flavours.  The great match here? Tagliatelle of course! The long pasta with a bolognese sauce full of pork meat is perfect  for this dry tannic wine!

A serving of tagliatelle with freshly grated parmagiano reggiano cheese. Divine!

The Tenuta Pederzana Grasparossa organic lambrusco called Cantolibero is from the Castelvetro DOC and is made without the use of any sulphites making it a wine that many would approve of. Dark fruits, aromatic herbs and fleshy tannins make this a perfect match for that rich tomato and meat sauce of a tagliatelle and bolognese!

Interested in knowing more about the Lambrusco family? Check out my collegues of #ItalianFWT and learn more!

**(Please note: All photos of food and wine was from my trip to Emilia-Romagna – aka “Lambrusco Land” 🙂 in April, 2018)

  • Camilla from the Culinary Adventures with Camilla will be featuring “Every Wine Deserves a Second Look: Warmed Brie with Mulberry Chutney + Cleto Chiarli Lambrusco di Sorbara Vecchia Modena 2018”
  • Jill at L’Occasion shares “La Collina Biodynamic Bubbles — Lambrusco!
  • Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm highlights “Lambrusco? Really??”
  • Deanna from Asian Test Kitchen will showcase “Top 5 Fast Food Pairings with Lambrusco”
  • Jeff at Food Wine Click will share “Lambrusco Shines with Red Fizz and Fun”
  • Cindy of Grape Experiences will feature “Italian Old-School Classics: Easy Drinking Lambrusco with Spicy Vegetarian Pensa Romana”
  • Linda from My Full Wine Glass will be sharing “Drinking Lambrusco in Strawberry Season”
  • Pinny of Chinese Food and Wine Pairings  is focused on “Picnicking with Scarpetta Frico Lambrusco”
  • Lauren at The Swirling Dervish will be sharing “Revisiting Lambrusco with Francesco Vezzelli Rive dei Ciliegi”
  • Nicole with Somm’s Table shares “Cooking to the Wine: Pezzuoli Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro with Antipasto Pizza”
  • Gwendolyn of Wine Predator will be showcasing “Bugno Martino’s Organic Lambrusco Defy Expectations”
  • Susannah of Avvinare will be featuring “Sparkling Lambrusco from Vitivinicola Rota”
  • Host Jennifer of Vino Travels shares “Over 150 years of Dedication to Lambrusco with Cleto Chiarli”

Salute! And may all your lambrusco(s) be enjoyable!

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For Such a Time as This

The last two months have been a bit of a whirlwind with two trips to Italy in a month and a half, a job layoff, and now figuring out what to do next in my life. Well, I find myself with some time so might as well write…right? After returning from Italy after my first trip which consisted of judging at 5 star wines, then the organized chaos of Vinitaly, I discovered that my hours and wage would be cut at my full time job as store manager and wine buyer. Clearly, it’s much more complicated than that, but after further conversation, I discovered that those who invested in the store didn’t want me there anymore. Decision made: take the layoff. Off to Italy again, just two weeks ago, with a chance to learn further with the larger-than-life Ian D’Agata. And learn I did. After a flurry of three day learning, I came away with the 3iC Educator designation (3iC stands for Italian Indigenous international), which is D’Agata’s new school). I had to come back to three more slightly awkward days at the store knowing I was done, but not trying to make it awkward for the customers either.

Yesterday was the final day in the store with the completion of the Spring Open House – one of three large store events I always plan and execute every year at the store. It was bittersweet. Now, I’m officially done, going my own way, or not sure which way I’m going. Summer might be a time of relaxation and reflection as I contemplate my next moves.

I always seem to have some sort of excuse as to why I can’t (or don’t write). I guess I have no excuse now, rather all the time in the world to learn and experience new things and in time, hopefully find the next great thing.

Spritz! Some summer writing inspiration!

As I write, my daughter sits next to me on her computer studying, as she is in her last year of University studying to be a nurse. She is not taking a break, but going straight though the summer in order to finish by Christmas. Brave she is. So her tenacity is inspiring me to write this post and get it out there before it becomes older than me.

What I will miss most is tasting new product and getting my hands on some of the new Italian native grapes that have made their way into wine bottles and into the market. I have great working relationships with all the reps with whom I bought from, so I know that if I ask them to taste something new, they will accommodate me. I’ll miss the camaraderie with my customers and showing them what’s new and unique. But I will forge new customer relationships and that is always exciting!

Many of my readers are not religious or spiritual (and that’s ok!) but I am, and I get great inspiration from the Bible, along with some very great verses (think of them as quotes). There’s two books of the Bible that are named after women – Esther and Ruth. Ruth is the story of a daughter-in-law who makes a decision not to leave her mother-in-law, even though by every accounts she could. They stay together and Ruth ends up marrying a guy named Boaz and becoming the grandmother of the Great King David. I love both of these books, but my favourite is Esther:

Esther, the young Jewish girl originally named Hadassah, who on her Uncle Mordecai’s advice, presents herself as one of the thousands of young virgins to be considered as the next wife to the very powerful King Xerxes of Persia. Mordecai was raising Esther since both her parents had died. As Mordecai is encouraging in this venture, he also advised that she not say anything about being Jewish. Esther was very beautiful and decided against many of the beauty treatments that the other girls were getting. In fact, the dude in charge of the harem was rather fond of Esther and when she asked him for suggestions on how she should present herself to the King, she listened. When it was her turn to meet the King, he was “so delighted with her”, he put the crown on her head and declared her queen. Long live Queen Esther.

Meanwhile, Mordecai was watching from the outside, to keep an eye on Esther and make sure everything was ok. He even uncovered an assassination attempt on Xerxes, reported to Esther who in turn let the king know what was going on. Mordecai was made to be a hero and acknowledged as such. This didn’t make Haman, a very high official in Xerxes court very happy. In fact, Haman hated Jews, and made it his mission to eliminate them at every turn. He liked being in a position of power, and quite frankly, abused that power. Haman devised a plan to get rid of the Jews, and take all their money (which would allow him to get rid of Mordecai too) and went to the king with his plan. The King, of course, agreed, because they always leave decisions to their high ranking officials right? But of course the King didn’t even realize his own wife was a Jew. This was not good…Esther’s people annhilated and slaughtered? What could she do? Mordecai came to her with this dilemma and told her as queen, she needed to go to the king, beg for mercy and plead for the people. But her dilemma: If she approached the king without being summoned or invited, she’d be killed. Whoa…that’s harsh. But perhaps one of my favourite verses (quotes) of the Bible is Mordecai’s reply to Esther saying she could die by approaching the king:

Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all the other Jews are killed. If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for such a time as this?– Esther 4: 14 (New Living Translation)

For such a time as this. Powerful words that mean something. When one door closes, another opens, when a door closes, a window opens, a gate opens…whatever you want to say, it’s true. There’s always something around the next corner, and I heard this week too, that sometimes it’s important to wait for things to come to you, rather than go looking for things. I’m talented, I’m educated and I know a lot about wine. I’m also personable and friendly. Such a time as this…I don’t know what that necessarily means right now, but I’m willing to wait and find out. I’ve had a whole lot of great affirmation from people I’ve worked with from in the industry and taking the summer off would not be a bad thing! I’ll still write, pour, taste, judge…keep my palate attuned! It would be easy (and still is sometimes) to get down on myself and feel sorry for myself. I mean, I thought I’d end my career at this store…I wasn’t looking for anything else.

Plus to add to all that, in 9 days…I turn 50! Ack! As much as I try to avoid it, it’s going to happen, so I’ve decided to embrace it and celebrate…with some good wine and good friends!

One of my offices for the summer? 😀

Oh by the way, waiting for the rest of the story? After some time to think and pray, Esther forgets that she could potentionally be walking to her death, rather presents herself to King Xerxes. He’s pretty smitten with her, so he holds out his sceptre (which means she won’t be killed). He asks what she wants, and instead of coming right out to say what she wants, she has developed a plan: serve food and wine to both the king and Haman, THEN tell the king about her heritage! (There’s just something about food and wine, right?) She does this for not one night, but two. On night two, she lays it all on the line and tells the King to PLEASE not kill her or her people. Xerxes is puzzled and can’t help but ask who would even want to do such a thing! She replies that the wicked Haman (who turns completely white when he hears this news) is to blame, and in a rage, the king takes a moment in the garden to think and compose himself. Haman, trying to defend himself, sits next to Esther on the couch to beg and plead for his life. Well, that was a mistake, because when the king returned to find Haman on the couch next to his wife, he lost it. Haman was killed, the Jews were spared, Mordecai was honoured, and the Jews celebrated with a feast (more food and wine!) Esther’s name would go down in history! (all paraphrasing in the story is mine, but taken from the book of Esther in the Bible)

For such a time as this…meaning everything happens for a reason. If I never believed it before, I totally do now. Here’s to the next great thing! Salute!

(NOTE:  There have been some movies made and novels written about Queen Esther. If you’re curious, check out your local library)

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