The tasting floor.  The circular table at the centre was filled with cheese.

Sante Wine Tasting

From the Wednesday past until the coming Sunday is Sante, the Yorkville wine festival that seems to have expanded Yorkville to include the Carlu and other south-of-Bloor locales. I was fortunate enough to be invited to the trade tasting at the Carlu yesterday afternoon.

The wine situation looks very good for this festival, with over 80 wineries participating - I didn't nearly have enough time to taste them all in the three hours that I was there. Nevertheless, there do seem to be a few themes emerging - and some must-try wines - for Sante.

Ontario Wines and especially hot new wineries continue to be a big thing. While it's far from gospel, at this point Cabernet Franc, as well as Gamay to a lesser extent, seem to be coming to the fore as the great red grapes of the Niagara Peninsula. Especially tasty seem to be the 2002 offerings from Tawse, Stratus, and Pillitteri, the first from the Beamville Bench and the latter two from Niagara-on-the-Lake. All three are full bodied, loaded with berry notes, and designed to be aged. Also of interest is the trend towards sub-appelation labeling, of which a number of wineries seem to be picking up on. As expected, most notable of them isChateau des Charmes, who were first out of the gates with their St David's Bench labeled Equuleus red.

Greek WinesIf one thing surprised me more than anything while wandering about the tasting booths, it was the sheer number of Greek wineries that were represented - I counted more than a dozen. Primarially focused on growing their indigenous grapes, most notably the red Agiorghitiko and the white Assyritco, the Greecian vintners seem to be planning a major assult on the Toronto marketplace. Expect lighter style, fruit driven reds with strong black liquorice notes, and firm, minerally, citrussy whites. Domaines Gaia and Spiropoulos are two of the better wineries that I sampled, with an especially lovely rose (Meliasto 2004) from the latter, full of dry berry and honey notes.

Moving away from Greece, I was particularly impressed by a Champagne that is new to the Toronto region, Louis de Sacy. They're introducing three pinot-dominated bubblies, a brut, a rose, and a decadent vintage reserve. The rose was spectacular, with surprisingly firm tannins backed up by lots of red berry and herbal notes, but the star of the show was doubtlessly the vintage reserve (I tried the 1996, although only the 1999 is currently available) which was just stunningly complex and repleat with flavours of brioche, lemon, citrus, and berry fruit. Unfortunately, there are no plans to have these available at our liquor monopoly, but you can still pick them up either at the festival, or by the six-bottle lot from the importer.

If you're going to Sante, have a good time, and try as much as you can; remember though, drink safely, and take a streetcar home.

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