December 13, 2013


A shortlist of perfect wines to share this season!


Gifts for friends, family, yourself!

It seems that the season (and the weather) demand great wine, and we’ve got an awesome range of ‘Artisanal, Benchmark, Characterful & Distinctive’ wines from family-owned estates, most of which are not in LCBO stores. Here are a dozen of personal favourites. Order now in time for the holidays!  And remember - a case of wine makes many fabulous gifts. If you can’t travel to Italy for the holidays, live vicariously through its wines. These are hand-crafted, with character and personality - wines meant for the dinner table, and best shared with family & friends.


Tuscan Reds

Castello di Potentino 2008 ‘Balaxus’ Alicante/Sangiovese
Retail:  $36.95 / btl    (6 x 750 ml/case)

Castello di Potentino 2009 ‘Piropo’ Pinot Noir
Retail:  $42.95 / btl    (6 x 750 ml/case)

The family of author Graham Greene has owned properties in the Tuscan region of Maremma for over 30 years. Purchased in 2000, the 11th century Castello di Potentino is located at the foot of Monte Amiata, Tuscany's highest peak, located 30 km from Montalcino.  Again, the Greenes have undertaken a remarkable restoration of the castle, planting vineyards and tending 100-year-old olive trees.  Charlotte Horton and Alexander Greene are a sister and brother team running the estate with the help of one full-time employee and a lot of volunteers through the WWOOF program - many of whom are Canadian (  The castle has recently starting accepting guests as a bed and breakfast.

Castello di Potentino has 4 hectares (10 acres) of low-density vineyard planted to Sangiovese, Pinot Noir and Alicante (Grenache). The vineyards are farmed following organic principles, but are not certified.  About 20,000 bottles (1,600 cases) are produced annually.  Charlotte is the winemaker, and the wines reflect her delicate touch - elegant, energetic, kaleidoscopic, gracious...  They are absolutely lovely wines, demonstrating a 'sense of place' and the microclimate of their valley's warm days and cool nights; the volcanic soil, and the delicate nature of the Sangiovese and Pinot Noir grapes.  The vineyards are tended by hand, and the fermentation uses only native yeast.  Fermentation and maturation take place in 5000 litre 'botti'.  No barriques are used, as Charlotte does not want to overpower the delicate fruit.  The wines are not fined or filtered prior to bottling, to preserve aromatics and complexity.  Very low levels of sulfites are used to protect the wines. These are hand-crafted, natural wines. 


2008 Le Macioche Rosso di Montalcino
Retail:  $39.95 / btl    (6 x 750 ml/case)

2008 Le Macioche Brunello di Montalcino
Retail:  $83.95 / btl    (6 x 750 ml/case)

This tiny, perfect estate is located south of Montalcino in the direction of St. Antimo Abbey, a few hundred metres beyond Biondi Santi.  Achille Mazzocchi & Matilde Zecca bought the property in 1985, completely renewed the 3 hectares (6½ acres) of vineyards, and built an immaculate winery into the hillside.  1991 was their first vintage.  The wines are elegant, highly aromatic, and very complex.  They impress with refinement, rather than power.  Simply gorgeous wines. 



Torraccia di Presura 2010 'il tarocco' Chianti Classico
Retail:  $34.95 / btl    (12 x 750 ml/case)

Laura Landi & Paolo Osti's Torraccia di Presura is the first Chianti Classico estate you'll encounter heading south from Florence toward the village of Greve-in-Chianti.  In fact, it's #1 on the Chianti Classico register.  The ‘il Tarocco’ labels are designed by Laura herself and represent a Tarot card motif of day/night. This is a classically-styled blend of Sangiovese & Canaiolo – vibrant, savoury, extremely versatile and absolutely delicious.   It’s a go-to wine in our house.  - 90 Points, John Szabo


2010 Le Boncie ‘Le Trame’ Chianti Classico
Retail:  $52.95 / btl    (6 x 750 ml/case)

Giovanna Morganti is quickly becoming recognized as one of the best of the new generation of Tuscan winemakers.  A disciple of Maurizio Castelli, Giovanna worked with him at San Felice where her father was the esteemed managing director during their glory years.  Giovanna's small estate is across the road from San Felice, comprising only three hectares of vineyards.  Her wine is called 'Le Trame' (The Intrigues) signifying the art & mystery of crafting individualistic wines.

The tiny vineyard yields only about 13,000 bottles annually.  Planted to very high density, 7000 vines per hectare, the vineyard is primarily Sangiovese, with only a few rows of Canaiolo, Ciliegiolo and Gobelet-trained (head-pruned) Foglia Tonda  for blending.  Fermentation takes place in traditional open-top wooden tanks.  Gambero Rosso comments on Le Trame's 'great, & on occasion sublime, fruit', and Giovanna's 'traditional values & modern technique.'  This is surely authentic Chianti Classico, impressive for its purity and grace.  The vineyard is farmed organically, and production methods embrace elements of biodynamic philosophy.  These are wines, though classified as Chianti Classico and not defined Riserva, that have a wonderful capacity to age.  We find they really begin to show their best 5 years or more after the vintage.  So while the 2010 is delicious now, in another couple of years it will start to show delicious complexity and nuance.

“It’s easier than you think to make a good wine.  But making a characterful wine with a sense of place and varietal identity is an art.  Great artists have paint-stained hands, great winemakers have dirt under their fingernails - and Giovanna Morganti makes wine with personality.”  -  Slow Food Editore/Gambero Rosso.


Master Chef

Many of you know of Joe Bastianich from television or from his brilliant restaurants in New York, LA & Las Vegas – Babbo, Del Posto (1 Michelin star), Becco, Lupa, Esca…, his involvement in the remarkable Eataly NYC, or his definitive writing on Italian wine.  We know Joe through his wineries, and he’s truly passionate (and exceptionally knowledgeable) about Italian wine.  Joe & his mother Lidia own Bastianich Winery in Friuli and La Mozza in Tuscany – and Joe is a very hands-on owner, working with an inspired team at each estate.  In addition, Joe is also a partner in the excellent Piedmont estate Brandini.  We’re proud to represent all three wineries in Ontario.

Bastianich 2011 ‘Vespa Bianco’, Colli Orientale del Friuli
Retail:  $47.95 / btl    (6 x 750 ml/case)

Made from Chardonnay, Sauvignon & Picolit, Vespa is a classic white blend from Friuli in the tradition of Col Disore, Vintage Tunina or Terre Alte.  It’s an impressively complex, intense wine. - 91 Points, Wine Spectator

La Mozza 2010 ‘i Perazzi’ Morellino di Scansano, Maremma-Tuscany
Retail:  $22.95 / btl    (12 x 750 ml/case) 

A fresh, medium-bodied interpretation of Sangiovese that makes a perfect red wine for every day. A true representation of quality, character and value.



Sparkling wine isn’t just for parties – but it sure does help set the tone.  We like to start and finish the evening with bubbly.  Here’s a selection of styles from dry to sweet, pink and white.

Orlando Abrigo 2012 Moscato d’Asti, Piedmont
Retail:  $22.95 / btl    (12 x 750 ml/case)

Frizzante rather than all-out sparkling (Spumante), and moderately sweet, this is a delightful aperitif or even better served with fresh berries.  Absolutely delightful.

Cocci Grifoni 2012 ‘Gaudio Magno’ Passerina Brut, Marche
Retail:  $22.95 / btl    (6 x 750 ml/case)

Delicately sparkling, very dry.  Passerina is an indigenous grape of the Marche, on Italy’s Adriatic coast.  It’s a much more elegant option to Prosescco – not to mention a rare and unique wine for those ‘in the know’ to share with friends.

Cave Spring ‘Dolomite’ Brut, Niagara Escarpment
Retail:  $24.95 / btl    (6 x 750 ml/case)

Ontario is gaining a reputation for outstanding Traditional Method (aka Champagne Method) sparkling wines, and Cave Spring is among the best.  Surprise your friends and family with this impressive, vibrant, dry wine crafted in the Blanc de Blancs style from 100% Chardonnay.

Schramsberg ‘Mirabelle’ Brut Rosé, California
Retail:  $38.95 / btl    (12 x 750 ml/case)

'German immigrant Jacob Schram founded this historic Napa winery in 1862 and had Chinese labourers carve three kilometres of cellar space into the volcanic rock of Diamond Mountain. Robert Louis Stevenson spent time sampling the wines in the cellars and chronicled the experience in The Silverado Squatters. The estate later was mothballed under Schram’s widow when the Prohibition police came a-knockin’. Revived in 1965 by Jack and Jamie Davies, it has adopted the slogan “America’s House of Sparkling Wine.” The Mirabelle displays a pretty salmon hue and the palate is substantial and bone-dry, with bright berries and crisp citrus joined by bracing minerality.'  90 points - Beppi Crosariol, The Globe & Mail