Stem Wine Group Gala Tasting at Ottawa’s Museum of Nature-October 22, 2014

Stem Group TableBy Jane Staples

The Stem Wine Group organized a very polished and elegant wine tasting event which took place at Ottawa’s Museum of Nature on October 22.

This was Stem Group’s 10th anniversary and they have a great deal to celebrate, having gone from representing 9 wineries in 2005 to over 50 wineries at this year’s event, with over 125 wines featured.

Italy dominated the scene, California had several wines on offer and Australia, New Zealand, France and Argentina were also represented.

I started with a taste of the Veneto region in northern Italy.  I tried Matto’s Pinot Grigio 2013. At just 12% alcohol, it was light, dry and crisp, with lovely pear notes on the nose and palate.

Then I sampled Inama’s Vin Soave Classico 2013 from Verona, another lovely aromatic white at 12% alcohol.  Dry, with a floral and slightly herbaceous nose, followed by a palate of white tree fruit.  Very light mouth-feel.  This would be your ideal summer sipping wine, elegant and versatile.

I discovered the Prosecco next and sampled Tombacco Serenissima Extra Dry: beautiful floral and biscuit notes on the nose and white fruit on the palate.  A few sips of this and you will indeed feel serenissima!

Next, a table of wines from Piedmont in northwest Italy beckoned.  I tried Boroli’s Barbera D’Alba 2012.  On the nose it showed vanilla and red tree fruit nuances, with some cedar on the palate as well.  Good acidity and balance, medium weight dry red, which can be served throughout the meal.

The next stop was at the Gaja table.  One of the most iconic names in Italian wine, these are unforgettable wines that etch new receptor sites in your mind. I sampled the Ca’Marcanda Promis, which is a blend of Merlot, Syrah and Sangiovese.  With subdued earthy notes on the nose, it exhibits the smoothness of Merlot, a contained spicy palate from the Syrah and sour cherry on the finish from the Sangiovese.  A very harmonious, balanced medium-bodied red that would match with anything in a tomato sauce.

Italy's Gaja Promis and MagariIn Italy, it is easy to fall in love and yesterday I fell in love with Gaja’s Dagromis Barolo 2009, made from 100% Nebbiolo grapes. The nose hints at vanilla and violets, then the palate caresses with flavours of ripe red berries, cedar, earth, vanilla and floral violets in a very smooth mouth-feel and lingering finish.

Gaja takes great care to nurture the soil in their vineyards, with the aim of superior soils producing superb flavours in their wines. Before reluctantly leaving the Gaja table, I tasted their Brunello Di Montalcino Pieve Santa Restituta 2009.  Made from 100% Sangiovese Grosso varietal, this medium-bodied wine has a refreshing woodsy nose and a palate that shows red fruit, cedar, some green and spicy herbaceous hints.

I decided to try some New World Wines and was delighted with the table from Merry Edwards Winery in California. Merry Edwards has won a coveted James Beard Award and been inducted into the Culinary Institute of America’s Vintners Hall of Fame. I first tried the Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2012.

This bright Sauv Blanc showed gooseberry and floral on the nose, with a juicy, fruity palate of tropical guava and less citrus than usual. This wine is aged sur lees and stirred twice weekly, to optimize the fruit flavours and give a big juicy mouth-feel.

I sampled three Merry Edwards Pinot Noirs.  My favourite was the Sonoma Coast 2012, which showed cherry, earth and cola notes and a hint of milk chocolate on the finish.

Italy's Bruton craft beerMy last stop was at the Rockbare table from Australia. Here I happily discovered Mojo Cabernet Sauvignon from Coonawaara  2012.  It has a cassis and herbaceous nose and a palate that shows lots of cassis, tobacco and slight mint. A delicious Cab Sauv that is available at LCBO Vintages, # 383539.  13.5%   James Halliday gave this wine 95 points. Unbelievable value at $18.95!
Australia's Rockbare Jackaroo ShirazTo finish the tasting, I tried Rockbare McLaren Vale Shiraz 2012.  I’m not usually a big Shiraz drinker, but this is a great one to change that opinion.  Lots of blackberry, cassis and ripe red berries, hints of black olive tapenade and super-concentrated fruit flavours.

Australia's Rockbare winemakerMarty O’Flaherty
Australia’s Rockbare Winemaker

Catering was provided by Tulip & Maple. They served Three-Mushroom Risotto and Mini Porchetta Sandwiches, providing just the right snacks to accompany the wines.

Stem Group’s Gala 10th Anniversary Tasting 2014 was a gracious event, showcasing their ongoing success and many fine products. A most enjoyable afternoon!


Jane Staples, Verified Wine Writer

Jane graduated from Algonquin College’s Sommelier Program with the Gold Medal in Food and Wine Pairing and a score of 94.5% in the final exam.

She completed courses in Wine Tasting, Grape Varieties, Food and Wine Pairing, Old World Wines, New World Wines, Vinification and Advanced Sommelier Techniques. She also has a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Toronto.

Jane Staples Oct. 2014Jane is a Verified Wine Writer for and also hosts her own wine site,  Along with Shirley Plant, Jane the co-authored the book Finally…Food I Can Eat!

She also provides sommelier services and tastings for private functions, and is fluent in English, French, Spanish and Italian.



Leave a Reply