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Stephen Beaumont CSW CWE

Stephen Beaumont CSW CWE

2005 days ago

Stephen Beaumont scored this wine: 95/100

Just south of Lago d'Iseo in the Lombardy area of Northern Italy, lies the region of Franciacorta where they have been making wine since 11th century when Burgundian monks set up shop there. Most famous for its sparkling wines that are made using the traditional Champagne method (with the second fermentation in bottle), it is a region that deserves greater recognition as the wines, as evidenced by this exquisite example of a prestige sparkler from Ricci Curbastro, can be absolutely world class. I was fortunate to attend a seminar in Toronto at which Ricardo Ricci Curbastro was present, and he guided us through several of his wines. The company is very invested in sustainable practices and has achieved a negative carbon footprint that is now internationally recognized. But this is no gimmick; you can sense the passion as soon as he starts to speak about his business, and the quality of the wines speak for themselves. This is not an inexpensive wine - it retails for around $80 in USA - but compares very favourably to its French cousins in both value and quality. It is made from 100% Chardonnay and is smooth as silk (saten), another product for which the Lombardy area is famous. The bouquet has citrus and tropical notes layered with the yeasty aromas of an Italian bakery. The flavours, which are beautifully melded owing to the long aging, are slightly herbaceous but tinged with flowers and perhaps some vanilla and butter. Absolutely delicious on its own but crying out for food. Although this is a sparkling wine, Ricardo told us that in Franciacorta, they simply refer to it as 'wine'. It can accompany an entire meal and is not thought of as a wine only for celebration. If I could drink this wine every day, I would be a happy man! Seek it out, savour and enjoy. And if you get a chance to visit the area, visit the winery. It is a spectacular part of the world and you may even bump into George Cluny who lives nearby on Lake Como!

2006 days ago

Stephen Beaumont scored this wine: 94/100

I reviewed a 2013 Friulano from Tenute Tomasella that I tasted at the same seminar and found it to be remarkably good. Recognizing the complexity inherent in that wine, it was wonderful to be able to taste this limited production example from the same winery with the benefit of 7 years of bottle age and 9 months of French oak exposure. Annette Lizotte explained that there were only 1500 bottles made of this wine, so the likelihood of getting our hands on any of this vintage are fairly slim, but I review the wine in the hope that future vintages will age as elegantly as this one. It was almost Burgundian in its style (and owing to the French oak aging and malolactic fermentation, the vinification was more in line with their French cousins of the Cote d'Or) and yet somehow the Italian characteristics were not lost. Remember this is 100% Friulano, not Chardonnay. Intense, complex, structured with aromas of butter, vanilla and spice and lingering flavours of pear and maybe even pineapple make this a very special wine. Should you be lucky enough to find a bottle, drink it with richer dishes such as wild mushroom risotto topped with shaved black (or white!) truffles. Actually, don't drink it with anything else. This would surely be a match made in heaven and one that would linger long in your memory.

2006 days ago

Stephen Beaumont scored this wine: 92/100

Not far from Lake Garda in the Veneto region of North Eastern Italy, the local winemakers are busy making a red wine with which you are probably familiar - Bardolino. Overlapping that area of production is the DOC of Custoza. It is a little known wine outside Italy which is a shame as they can be interesting, and in the case of this particular offering from Gorgo, spectacular! At a recent Italian wine tasting held at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, I was amazed at the quality, complexity and just plain interestingness (if that is even a word!) of this blend of Garganega (the grapes used for Soave), Cortese, Riesling and Trebbiano. Up to 9 grape varieties are allowed in the Custoza blend and proportions are tightly controlled. The deep straw-yellow colour was not at all what I had expected, but it was bright and clear. On the nose it was like a summer basket of apricots and peaches, and ripe ones at that, with a waft of flinty minerals. I was confused. Was I smelling a muscat from Alsace?I'm sure that's where I would have gone had I been blind tasting this, at least from that bouquet. And how wrong I would have been. On the palate, another surprise. Very dry with just the slightest suggestion of residual sugar, just enough to continue the peach sensation but somehow more savoury and deep, yet still vital and bright with enough acidity to balance that ample fruit. And this is a 2014 wine, bottled weeks ago but already with this level if complexity! This is the fun of wine tasting - making new discoveries and then letting your mind soar into flights of fancy. What would I eat with this wine? As delicious as it was on its own, I would imagine it being even better with food. The tasting notes suggest raw or grilled fish and shellfish, white meats, rice and vegetables. Sound like sushi? I think this would be perfection and I cannot wait to find a bottle to try with my next bento box. Sadly I may have to do this in USA (where amazingly it sells for around $18/btl) as it is not yet available in Canada. Or I can jump on an international Lufthansa Business Class flight where they are serving to their lucky passengers. Highly recommended!

La Pieve Barolo 2010

Piedmont D.O.C.G., Italy
1997 days ago

Stephen Beaumont scored this wine: 91/100

Barolo is one of my favourite wines. Made with the Nebbiolo grape in the Piemonte region of north west Italy, they are robust wines that can usually benefit from significant time in bottle. This wine was tasted at an unusual tasting of Italian wines at l'Alliance Francaise in Toronto. The entire evening was conducted in French, as is the raison d'ĂȘtre of the organization, and we were guided through the tasting by a French sommelier. The room was filled with Francophiles who can often be dismissive of wines from their neighbour, but nobody could dispute the considerable quality of this Barolo. The characteristic tar and rose bouquet set up the palate to receive a multi-layered experience that paired well with the sharp, tangy blue cheese that was passed around to accompany it. Personally, I'd have preferred a simple Parmigiano but probably because that combination evokes some amazing memories of trips to Piedmont when I did just that - ate chunks of aged Parmesan cheese with 20-year old Barolo on sun-soaked terraces overlooking the vines of La Morra. Heaven. On. Earth. While this is not an earth shattering example of Barolo, it is very characteristic and actually represents good value for a wine of this quality. It is made in the more modern style that traditionalists still shun - lighter and less oaked than the old styles that needed 10+ years to make them approachable. But this wine has ample tannin and structure and while already 5 years old, will benefit from more bottle age up to another five. Plenty of earthy notes come through and the finish is luxurious and multi-faceted, changing several times and leaving a hint of pepper and spice, all against a dark berry backdrop. Barolo always seems like a winter wine to me. Drink with game, roasts and grills. It definitely needs food.

Karlo Estates Cabernet Franc 2010

Prince Edward County, Canada
2079 days ago

Stephen Beaumont scored this wine: 91/100

The shocking news that Prince Edward County's pioneering and somewhat maverick winemaker, Richard Karlo lost his battle to cancer and passed away this week, prompted me to pull out his 2010 Cabernet Franc that was sitting in my cellar from when I bought it at the winery last year, waiting for a special occasion. In many ways, this wine is a reflection of Richard's character and view of life - bold and big with a firm backbone and yet a gentle, almost velvety style that paired beautifully with a concoction of leeks, bacon and apples layered between crepes with spinach and cheese. As Richard's notes about the wine suggest, it brings one back to the heady days of summer with its lush dark fruit tones and alluring aromas of tobacco and leather, and yet it seemed perfect as a warming wine for a winter evening. Our friends, who had never met Richard, got to know just a little about him by sharing his Cabernet Franc with us. I believe that wine can create, enhance and counterbalance many emotions, and our enjoyment of this wine last night succeeded in doing just that on so many levels. There was some sadness, yet joy in knowing that Richard has done what other great wine people have done - progress the craft, live life to the full and leave a legacy. Richard has left a legacy that will endure long past his all too short lifetime. The 2011 vintage is still available from the winery (which should be on everyone's "must visit" list when traveling to PEC - one of North America's most vibrant and exciting new wine regions) and I recommend it wholeheartedly as a wine to drink in any season, with friends, family and hearty food. Here's to you, Richard! Cheers!

Stephen Beaumont CSW CWE

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Memorable Wine

There have been so many, but probably a dinner with all five 1961 and 1962 Bordeaux First Growths! Amazing!

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First Wine

I was too young to remember my first ever wine however I started drinking wine when on a French exchange visit in the Loire Valley at age 13, diluted with water of course, which is the way all French kids start to enjoy their national beverage!

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Unusual Wine Experience

Spending time with the late Didier Dagueneau in his heyday. I stayed with the family overnight in Poully-sur-Loire, sleeping on the floor of his son's room after enjoying a sumptuous but simple dinner prepared by his wife and accompanied by his incredible Pouilly Fume, including the exquisite Silex. His three year old son corrected my French, with an endearing lisp!

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Current Fav Wine

I am particularly partial to all of Catena wines from Argentina. The Malbec is extraordinarily good value!

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Winner World's Best Drink Writer
WFour-Time Winner James Beard Foundation
Five-Time Winner Association of Food Journalists
Six-Time Winner Bert Greene Award
Best Wine Literature Book Gourmand World Cookbook Awards
Online Writer of the Year Louis Roederer International Wine Writing Award