Bottoms Up: Dr. WineKnow’s wine tidbits

Grappa King Still Going Strong
Sandro Bottega is well known among lovers of wine and spirits. His Proseccos are very popular here in Ontario and his Grappas – especially noted for the beautifully designed, artistic, hand-blown bottles they come in – are renowned worldwide as among the best. I spent a week with Sandro in Italy a number of years back experiencing every aspect of his empire. The guy’s certainly a master ambassador and a whirlwind, so when he recently came to town to host a tasting/seminar for the media and trade, I made the scene to say hello and offer my support.

Of his Proseccos available here, be sure to try the Vino dei Poeti (LCBO, $13.80) –floral, apple, pear, exotic fruit, crisp, elegant; Vino dei Poeti Rosé (LCBO, $12.95) – golden apple, wild red berry, currant and light spice; and Vino dell’amore – Moscato Petalo (LCBO, $13.05) – aromatic, floral, honey suckle, peach blossom and tropical fruit. They’re fab!

His stable of Grappas is huge, so he only showed five. Check out the two in the LCBO: Bottega Club ($29.60) – apple, pear, wild flower, vodka-like; and grappa-based, cream liqueur Gianduia Bottega ($27.15) – cream, chocolate, coffee, nutty. Also presented were the Grappa Prosecco ($49.95) – tangy apple, and spice; Grappa di Moscato ($46.95) – fruity, medicinal herbs and spice; and Grappa Amarone (soon in Vintages, $54.95) – dried herbs, cherry and spice.

Margarit Mondavi
It’s been awhile now since California wine icon Robert Mondavi passed on. However, his wife, Margarit, still holds down the fort as VP of Cultural Affairs and continues to promote the brand. She was the person who created the cultural side of the winery introducing concerts, art exhibits and culinary programs, which are now benchmarks for the wine world.

Margarit was recently in town to anoint the new Robert Mondavi Room at Ristorante Modus and make a small donation to the Toronto Symphony Junior Orchestra, and I had the pleasure of meeting her. Although I had met Robert numerous times, I had never made her acquaintance. Accompanying Margarit on this trip was Master of Wine, Mark de Vere, who guided us through a tasting of several Mondavi wines.

The 2009 Fume Blanc Reserve – elegant, minerally, zesty, mandarin orange, nectarine and gooseberry; 2008 Chardonnay Reserve (Vintages, Dec. 10, $46.95) – Burgundian style, buttered toast, apple and pear; 2009 Pinot Noir Reserve – toasted stewed cherry, dried herbs and light spice; 2008 Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon – toasted cassis, chocolate and tobacco; and 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve (2007 vintage available in Vintages, Feb. 2012, $139.95) – toasted vanilla, black currant, pipe tobacco and chocolate. All showed well.

Portuguese Workshop
I’ve been a huge fan of Portuguese wines for years now. To this day, they still represent great value for the dollar and are extremely food-friendly. At a recent workshop put on by Vini Portugal and hosted by noted Portuguese wine writer, Rui Falcao, this theory was emphasized.

We tasted the 2010 Aveleda Fonte Vinho Verde (LCBO, $8.95) – zesty, minerally, steely, lime; 2010 Quinta do Gomariz Grande Escolha ($14.95) – floral, tropical fruit and waxy; 2009 Periquita Red (LCBO, $8.95) – violet, cherry, red licorice, earthy and round; 2009 Tinto da Anfora (LCBO, $12.95) – toasted vanilla, wild berry, dried herbs and spice; 2008 Esporao Reserva (Vintages, $24.95) – toasted vanilla, spicy red/dark fruit, licorice and chocolate; 2008 Allianca Bairrada Reserva ($8.95) – sappy dried fruit, tar, leather and red licorice; 2007 Quinta da Fata Classico (Vintages, $16.95) – toasted mushroom, bright cherry/raspberry, crisp and spicy; and the 2009 Quinta do Crasto Reserva Vinhas Velhas ($39.95) – toasted vanilla, sweet black fruit, chocolate, tobacco, coffee and spice.

Some other wines that were equally enticing were available over lunch. The highlights were the 2008 Duorum Tinto (Vintages, $14.15) – plum, violet, tobacco, chocolate and tar; 2008 Meandro do Vale Meao (Vintages, $23.95) – roasted dark fruit, tobacco, spice and chocolate;  and the 2009 Quinta do Vale Meão (Consignment, $80.00).

You’re missing out on great sipping if you don’t try some Portuguese wines. They’re truly undiscovered gems.

Edward Finstein a.k.a. The Wine Doctor, is a wine writer, educator, judge &  consultant

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