Monday, July 27, 2009

A Great Reason to Celebrate

Mark Anthony Brands and Santa Rita Wines wanted to throw a party – a launch party of one of their lines of wine that was getting a label redesign. So, on Thursday July 23rd, iYellow Wine Club, Le Germain and Mark Anthony Brands got together to celebrate the re-launch of the Santa Rita 120 line of wines. The venue was the very interesting and eclectic Thrush Holmes Empire, located in the Queen West Village area of Toronto and is the studio space dedicated to Thrush Holmes gallery of paintings. As you are walking along Queen towards the gallery, you are greeted with a very unassuming silver exterior with “THE” as the only word appearing on the building and three strips of neon lights to signify the entrance. Inside, the space is simple – a great way to showcase the artwork of Thrush Holmes – and you can hear a DJ playing around the corner making the atmosphere lively, entertaining and, obviously, a great place to re-launch a great wine.

As we walked through the door, Angela Aiello greeted us and said “You have to try the 120 Sauvignon Blanc – it’s AMAZING!” So, since that was pretty much right in front of us, we grabbed a glass and headed for it – Angela was right. The aromas and flavours were mostly grapefruit and lemon but with slight hints of tropical fruit and herbs. The winemaker had added in 2% of Semillon which is the likely contributor of the tropical fruit flavours of pineapple, mango and papaya but it was not overpowering and just added a slight complexity to a standard Sauvignon Blanc. Although the term “fruit bomb” tends to be associated with fruity red wines, this white wine could easily qualify for that term and at a price of $10.45 (Cdn) a bottle, it is a definite steal. The 120 Cabernet Sauvignon – the other wine being re-launched this evening – was another powerhouse of flavours and aromas. Berry fruit, leather, cloves and vanilla are almost perfectly balanced and meld together into an elegant finish. The Cabernet Sauvignon was a 2007 vintage and, based on what I tasted, I would give it another 6-9 months to reach optimum balance. Also priced at $10.45 (Cdn) a bottle, both of these wines are readily available at a variety of LCBO stores in Ontario.

Now, not only did Mark Anthony Brands bring along the 120 line of wines for the re-launch, they also brought along a few rare treats for us to enjoy. A couple of wines from the Reserva line, a Sauvignon Blanc from the Leyda Valley and a great red simply named Triple C were among the tops for the evening. The Reserva Sauvignon Blanc had this amazing yellow colour, which the white walls of the gallery picked up beautifully, with a very faint green hue around the rim of the glass. The aromas were citrus and passion fruit with a slight herbal hint as you start to sip the wine. The flavours are super concentrated and there is a pleasant acidity winding its way through the palate giving it freshness, firm structure and a lingering finish. At the other end of the white wine scale we find the Reserva Chardonnay which was an incredible combination of tropical fruit, grapefruit and then an underlying backbone of vanilla and hazelnut. This Chardonnay is elegant, wonderfully balanced, ready to enjoy and incredibly complex. Both wines in the Reserva line are priced at $13.95 (Cdn) a bottle and are readily available in a variety of LCBO stores in Ontario. From the Floresta line of wines, the truly interesting wine of the evening was a Sauvignon Blanc from the Leyda Valley. Leyda Valley is one of those newly discovered gems in the Chilean wine scene (much like Prince Edward County is to Ontario or Lodi is to California) and is located between the city of Santiago and the Pacific Ocean. Within 12 kilometers of the Pacific Ocean, the area has a cool enough climate, with maritime influences and summer breezes, to make it an exceptional area for Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah and Riesling. The Sauvignon Blanc shows that perfectly with strong citrus notes, floral, kiwi and gooseberry. It is elegant and concentrated, crispy, zingy and, quite simply, reflects the best that this particular grape can be. This particular wine is a Vintages release through the LCBO and is available at $19.95 (Cdn) a bottle.

Although most of the outstanding wines of the evening were white wines, there was one particular red wine that stood out for any of us lucky enough to try a sip of it. Triple C, which is a combination of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere, is an interesting take on a red blend. From the Maipo Valley in Chile, this wine shows intense aromas of black currants, flora, tar, chocolate, vanilla and a little bit of cloves. Although the palate is strong and intense, it is also elegant in its structure, has great balance and a wonderfully persistent finish. Only available through Private Order with Mark Anthony Brands, this wine is worth every penny of the $49.95 (Cdn) price per bottle.

Now, to compliment these wines, Angela Aiello worked with Mark Moffatt from Le Germain to come up with some delicious little appetizers to pair with the food. Two of my favourite combinations were a mini potato rosti topped with tomato, onion and cheese and a mini lemon meringue tart. The Potato Rosti worked beautifully with the Floresta Leyda Sauvignon Blanc and the mini Lemon Meringue tart was a perfect pairing with the Reserva Chardonnay.

Just an author’s note to end this – If you are not in Ontario, Santa Rita wines is distributed to 70 countries around the world. All you need to do is visit and click on World Distributors to find an importer near you.
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