TN: TWEC US/Canada Labor Day at Montecito: Franciacorta, Champagne, Barolo, Burgundy, Arbois, Rhone


The Toronto Wine Elitist Cabal ™ was paid a visit this week by honorary American member Nick Christie from North Carolina who was on a mini vacay before heading back to the US for the Labor Day weekend. Thus, we gathered together to share some wines to send him back to the US with.

Board and TWEC ™ members Jay Shampur, Tim Burnett and myself were joined at our favorite hangout Montecito by Nick, our pal Jeff Wong, and TWEC ™ member and pro sommelier Heather MacDougall (who also manages Montecito). Nick quarterbacked all the food ordering and we got to the wines:
Ca’del Bosco Franciacorta – Nick challenged me not to bring an end of meal sweet wine but to bring a “real” wine for the evening. Challenge accepted. I’ve been very intrigued to try some Italian Franciacorta for a while now. The main difference between Champagne and Franciacorta is that the grapes in Franciacorta are allowed to fully ripen, same as a standard table wine.

The difference becomes apparent from the first sip. Where fresh acidity is the dominant trait in Champagne, cream is the dominant flavor in this Franciacorta. You can taste and feel the ripeness of the grapes as the texture is a lot denser as well. It’s fruit forward but the fruit is more honeydew melon than the green apple you’d get from Champagne. Finish is quite short. The best way to describe this is as a sparkling white Rhone wine. If you go in expecting it to be like Champagne then you’re bound to be disappointed.
Once we got a feel for the wine, Nick immediately ordered a couple of seafood dishes to pair with them. The first was seared scallops with cornbread,chanterelles and smoked tomato jam.
Our second dish was a B.C. Albacore Tuna Crudo dressed with verjus, cucumber, chili and mint. This was absolutely delicious and a perfect match for the Franciacorta as the verjus provided the necessary acidity to complement the Franciacorta.

SENSATION 1997 CHAMPAGNE – The difference in acidity was immediately clear upon sipping this excellent Champagne. Interestingly, the last time we had this it some very complex Sherry-like oxidative notes that elevated the Champagne to another level. This time, none of that was present. Instead, we had a very rich but still refreshing Champagne with lots of baked apple flavor, graham biscuit flavor from the lees and refreshing lemony acidity. Really nice. Jay kept his glass and said the Sherry like notes started to develop later towards the end of the evening.
DOMAINE DU PELICAN 2015 SAVAGNIN ARBOIS – It’s quite rare to see a Savagnin based wine here in Toronto as the LCBO rarely brings them in. So I was excited when Jay brought this. Pale straw gold in the glass, a yeasty melon scented nose that reminds of Chardonnay, and a taste that can only be described as what you’d get if you smoked fresh apples in a Big Green Egg. Seriously, smoked apples with a streak of acidity and minerality typical of Savagnin. Complex outstanding wine.
For the second Champagne and the Arbois, we moved into our next flight of food which consisted of two fish courses and a pasta course. The first fish course was a Lake Erie Pickerel with spinach, marinated summer vegetables,tomato, and an arugula-mint purée.

The second fish course was a Goosen’s Farm Trout with charred gem lettuce, cherry tomatoes, watercress mayo, and parsley crumb.
The pasta course was a Fogo Island Shrimp Grattini with smoked butter, crispy artichoke, and a dollop of wild leek pesto.
On to the reds with an absolutely stunning Barolo to start off with.

SERGIO BARALE 2003 BAROLO BUSSIA – This fantastic Barolo was in a perfect spot. Decanted for an hour, it has a deep purple-reddish garnet color with a nose of smoke and ripe Bing cherries. Beautifully integrated flavors of ripe cherry, sweet tannin, vanilla, licorice and spices. Very smooth texture, not a hint of grit. This was just great.

DOMAINE ODOULE-COQUARD 2014 CHAMBOLLE-MUSIGNY 1ER CRU “LES FUEES” – I was really worried that Jeff’s contribution was far too young for us to be drinking. Hardly the case. The most striking aspect of the wine is how smooth the texture and mouthfeel are. The tannins are all receded and very fresh sour cherry flavor comes through with the faintest touch of sweetness. There is a slight touch of rusticity on the finish. Tim summed it up perfectly when he said that the wine is all California right up until the finish reminds you that it’s from Burgundy. Fantastic modern Burgundy that should appeal to both Cali and Burgundy lovers.
With the reds poured, we moved on to our protein based main courses. First up was a Cumbrae Farm’s Beef Skirt Steak
with romesco and marinated tomatoes sitting on Blackbird sourdough.
Next was the Montecito Chicken with new farm greens and salsa verdé.

The final main course was the Dorset Lamb Saddle with a veggie medley of eggplant, swiss chard,hanterelle mushrooms, chili and mint.
Heather then ordered a final red wine for us off of the list.

ERIC TEXIER 2012 COTES DU RHONE ST. JULIEN EN ST. ALBAN VIELLE SERINE DOMAINE DE PERGAUD – Yeah, might want to shorten the name here for marketing purposes. Just saying. Violets and lavender on the nose. This lovely Syrah wine had flavors of dark red berry fruit, black pepper and ripe plums. Tannins are present but surprisingly much softer than I thought they would be, though there is still enough rusticity to let you know this is a French wine. While I do love me some rich Cali Syrah, I can see why Rhone lovers would prefer this style over it due to its finesse and restraint.
To my surprise, the guys ordered another wine. I’m going to be blunt, this was a big mistake. We’d already had several wines, we were done eating and I had in fact moved on to dessert, and there was absolutely nothing to match it with. On top of that, it was a white. Why would we follow three great reds with a white? I think everyone else’s eyes were bigger than their palates. I did have a perfunctory taste so my notes aren’t really great to be honest.

LA SOUFRANDIERE 2011 POUILLY-VINZELLES “LES QUARTS” – From the very small taste I had, this was a very Meursault like Chardonnay with a gunpowder nose, high acidity that hits up on the cheeks, and fresh green apple flavors. I would’ve enjoyed this much more with the fish and pasta courses as opposed to the end of the evening. Really didn’t gets its proper due this evening. I should’ve smacked everyone else upside the head with the bottle.
Regardless, this was yet another fantastic evening at Montecito with fabulous California cuisine and great service. A particular thanks to our server Ryan for his attentiveness during the evening.

Great notes Tran.

I disagree on popping the last bottle, but not everyone has as flexible a palate as I do. #BoilerMaker

That said, after a couple ill-advised night cap beers, Friday’s workout (group swim, “speed” day), was really brutal.