Ruffino Wines: Tasting Italy in a Glass

Ruffino dinner no. 1Our third winemaker dinner team tasting on October 18 featured the wines of the Italian winery Ruffino. Our team did an excellent job of summarizing the wines, food pairings and overall experience of the evening. A second Ruffino wine dinner was held the following night at a different restaurant. You can see all of the Ruffino wine reviews, showing stock at your local liquor store.

“Graffiti’s Italian Restaurant in Kanata was the perfect location for a Ruffino tasting dinner with Brand Ambassador Robert Ghezzo. Though dimly lit and boisterous at times, we were nonetheless transported to the Tuscan countryside as one big Italian family enjoying a meal and sipping delicious wines. It was a bonus to have Robert at our table soHeather Wall Ruffino Event we were able to chat WP_20131018_009with him one-on-one between his group presentations.

The evening started off with a short Ruffino and Tuscany history lesson. Ruffino was founded in 1877 by two cousins who wanted to produce quality rather than quantity Chianti. That original Chianti is still in production today though the blending has obviously varied over time.

In 1913, the Folinari brothers purchased Ruffino, but kept the established name. In 2004, Constellation Brands added Ruffino to its portfolio of wines. Ruffino owns 2800 acres of land, with 1400 acres planted with grapes. The other 1400 acres are planted with olive trees. An interesting bit of trivia: one olive tree produces just one litre of olive oil.

Ruffino Prosecco, with its larger bubbles, greeted us and gave us a hint of the lovely evening ahead. My fingers crossed that it will make its way into the Canadian market soon. Robert navigated us through each wine selection paired with scrumptious dishes crafted by chef Neil Mather.

Two pairings stood out for me. The first was Ruffino Reserve Ducale Chianti Classico with Squash and Roasted Red Pepper Purees with Chive Foam. It was a gutsy pairing. The red pepper puree picked up the pepper and spice in this fuller bodied Chianti.

The second was Ruffino Modus 2010 with the Braised Veal Shank with Saffron Risotto and Grilled Zucchini. The 2010 was a tricky growing season in Tuscany, with a cool, wet spring and very hot dry summer resulting in an elegant and mellow fruit Modus. Make no mistake though this is still full-bodied, inky and brooding. I sensed this pairing was a hit with many people in the room.

The evening was capped off with Moscato D’Asti. At just 6% alcohol, its light and bubbly and fragrant. It paired beautifully with our strawberry dessert, but would be equally grand on its own. Robert suggested serving it in chilled glasses. All-in-all, an exceptional evening of wine.” – Heather Wall

Earlier that day, Chef Neil Mather and Ruffino representative Julien Bazinet chatted about wine and food pairings on CTV News.
Posted with permission of CTV News

“Ruffino is synonymous with Chianti, and with holdings across Italy, namely in Tuscany (2800 acres of land (vines and olive trees); they are a serious player in Italian wine industry.

On October 19, we had the fortune of joining some of Natalie’s top wine reviewers at a dinner at Graffiti’s Italian Eatery in Kanata.  With six Ruffino wines paired with six very well executed dishes by Chef Neil, we knew we were in for a treat.

The food was te*rrific, perfectly paired with the six wines poured by Ruffino brand ambassador, Robert Ghezzo. Arriving a bit late, we missed out on some canapés, but we went straight to the Ruffino Prosecco, a new project for Ruffino, a perfect sipper pre-dinner. 89 Points.

The first course featured the Ruffino Orvieto Classico 2012.  Soft and round, featuring honeysuckle, flowers, citrus fruit, and chalky minerals define this wine. You almost get a hint of oak even though it’s stainless steel fermented and aged (no doubt some malolactic fermentation too).   88 Points.

The next train into the station was the Ruffino Lumina Pinot Grigio, which perfectly paired with the tiger prawn dish.  The wine is 100% Pinot Grigio, light golden colour, featuring pears, unripe white peach, straw, and a hint of caper brine on the finish (a good thing!).  90 Points.

WP_20131018_014Then onto the big reds, starting with the Ruffino Riserva Ducale Chianti Classico 2009, a bold Sangiovese featuring aromas and flavours of black raspberry, iron, blueberry, dark baker’s chocolate (nice one Heather Wall!), cherries, scorched earth, tar, and singed vanilla.  The tannins are quite present at the moment.  92 Points.

A sumptuous veal shank was paired with the Ruffino Modus 2010.  This wine has been made since 1999, and has never scored below 90 points.  The 2010 is no different (Natalie just gave it 94!), featuring aromas and flavours of scorched caramel, black plums, milk chocolate, spice, grape pumice, and vanilla.  Elegant and refined, this wine only needs another year or two in bottle to hit its peak.  93 Points for us.

And finally with dessert we tried another new project from Ruffino, the Moscato d’Asti, which will hopefully be available at the LCBO soon.  Full on peach and floral bliss.  91 Points.

This was a great night with Robert from Ruffino, and Chef Neil from Graffiti’s!” – Andrew and Rachel

In the video above, Robert Ghezzo tells a fascinating story about how the Ruffino chianti bottle was the first (and only) of its type, and how it was originally sold as a “stress relief agent” in pharmacies during the prohibition era in the United States. You had to get a prescription from your doctor to buy it. The modern version of the bottle is pictured below.

Ruffino Chianti“The Italian wine-and-food pairing event hosted by Ruffino Italian wines and Graffiti’s Italian Eatery in Kanata was a huge success.  Executive Chef Neil Mather paired six incredible dishes with complimentary Italian wines from the well-known Tuscan wine house, Ruffino.Matt Steeves Ruffino Event

It was terrific to have Ruffino’s National Brand Ambassador, Robert Ghezzo, along with the knowledgable Julien Bazinet of Constellation Brands, present.  Robert spoke passionately about the rich history of Ruffino (est. 1877), and provided detailed introductions to each wine we enjoyed.

From the first dish, an arugula salad with goat cheese, toasted almonds, and fresh poached figs (paired with their Ruffino Orvieto Classico), and with each subsequent dish, we were all impressed with the chef’s complementary pairing choices as well as the Ruffino wines selected for the evening.

The highlight of the evening was the incredible 2010 Modus along with Chef Neil’s unbelievable braised veal shank with saffron risotto.  Folks, you’ve got to try that dish and wine pairing too!

The Ruffino wines tasted are all value priced and very food friendly (of course, they’re Italian)! Prosseco, Orvieto Classico, Lumina Pinot Grigio, Ducale Chianti Classico, Modus, and finally Moscato D’Asti all made lasting impressions.  Unfortunately the Prosecco and Moscato D’Asti are not yet available in our market, but we were assured they’re on their way.  Fingers crossed. Cheers!” – Matt Steeves

 In the video above, Robert talks about the many famous people who lived in Tuscany through the centuries.

WP_20131018_007“Graffiti’s Restaurant in Kanata was the scene of a delicious wine dinner hosted by Constellation, with the gracious presence of Robert Ghezzo to tell us all about Ruffino Wines. Chef Neil did a wonderful job of creating canapés and several courses that complimented the wines beautifully.Jane Staples Ruffino Event

A map of Tuscany indicated the six wine estates held by Ruffino and Robert graciously recounted the history of the company, founded in 1877. After we had tasted several of their products and enjoyed a wonderful autumnal meal, Julien Bazinet, Constellation’s Marketing Manager for Italy and New Zealand, led a raffle, to the delight of the several winners, some at our table.

My personal favourite was the Modus, for its complex flavour profile, its persistent finish and its beautiful label depicting the grape growth and wine production cycle. CTV news was also present and a party across the room added to an evening that was both exciting and highly informative.

Milli grazi a tutti!”  – Jane Staples

 Robert talks about the latest trends in Italian winemaking and the new wine his team is making: Ruffino has incorporated a popular varietal, Syrah, in one of their IGT Super Tuscan wines for the added benefits it brings with it and in response to a growing market demand for that style of wine.  More typical of Super Tuscans is Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blended to a base of Sangiovese, yet the IL DUCALE Toscana IGT is 60% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot, and 20% Syrah, making for a very modern Super Tuscan styled wine. – Matt Steeves

 In the video above, Robert talks about Ruffino Moscato, a light effervescent wine, that he hopes to bring into Canada as it is not yet available in this market.

Ruffino XOORuffino also produces exceptional vintage extra virgin olive oil for domestic use only.  Of their 2800 acres only 1400 acres are planted with grape vines where the balance are planted with olive trees.

Ruffino MapMap of Ruffino’s Six Wine Estates

This is the third in a series of team tastings by top reviewers in our community, most of whom are graduates of either the Algonquin College Sommelier Program or La Cite Collegiale Sommelier Program. You can see the wines reviewed in our previous team tastings with Errazuriz and Kim Crawford wines. Stay tuned for more.

Photo and video credits: Matt Steeves, Heather Wall, Jane Staples, Andrew Bernardo and Rachel Van .

GraffitisGraffiti’s Italian Restaurant

101 Kanata Avenue

Ottawa, Ontario K2T 1E6





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