Amarone Amore – Luigi Righetti Amarone 2005

On Saturday night, my sister, brother-in-law, nephew, and I found a nice little restaurant, called Verona, on King St. West near Spadina in Toronto.  We didn’t really have a destination in mind and were just wandering looking for a place to eat.  We had discussed the possibility of Italian food.  As we passed the restaurant the hostess asked if we would like to see a menu.  I had never been there before so we stopped to have a look.  We liked what we saw so we got a table.  It was a very pleasant surprise.  My sister and her husband both started with the wild mushroom soup, which was excellent, and I had a very nice grilled calamari dish.  Then I had a very tasty grilled lamb tenderloin.  My sister had the striploin steak, which she seemed to enjoy much more than the steak she had had the previous night at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse.  My nephew liked his spaghetti and meatballs, and my brother-in-law had the linguine.  Overall, the food was very good and the prices were quite reasonable.  I will definitely be back to Verona.

I also found the prices on the wine list very fair.  I selected the Luigi Righetti 2005 Amarone della Valpolicella.  I had never had this wine before but I was intrigued by the inexpensive price for an Amarone. 

The Luigi Righetti winery was founded in 1909 in Valgatara in Veneto in the heart of the Valpolicella Classico region of Italy.  It remains a family run business with Giam Maria Righetti as the 5th generation of winemakers.  The winery focuses on making high quality wine at affordable prices.  The wines have the potential for aging, but are also very approachable and enjoyable when young.  

The Amarone is a blend of Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara.  The fermentation lasted 30 days and it was then aged for 15 months in oak.

The Luigi Righetti Amarone della Valpolicella 2005 is a deep ruby colour with intense aromas of black cherries, plums, earth, and spice.  It has a very velvetty structure with ripe tannins and explodes with dark fruit flavours.  The slight leathery, earthy and dark spice flavours add to the complexity of this well-balanced wine.  A very enjoyable wine at a very reasonable price for an Amarone.

Collemattoni Brunello di Montalcino 2003

I’ve had a great food and wine weekend!  My sister and her family were in town for the weekend and we were able to dine at two very good restaurants and drank some excellent wine.  My weekend was so full of good food and drink that I had to write about it in this wine blog!

On Friday night, my brother-in-law had a hankering for a big steak, so we headed over to Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse at the bottom of the Hilton in Toronto.  My steak was excellent, as was David’s, but my sister, who had ordered the Shrimp and Steak with Cajun spices, was not as happy with hers.  She thought the spices were way too salty.  Overall, the meal was good, but I found it a bit pricey.  Another criticism is with the very hot plates.  They are heated in a 500 degree oven and we found that the extreme heat from the plates actually overcooked the bottom of our steaks a bit as they sat on the plate.

Perhaps the best part of the meal was the wine.  I was happy to introduce them to Brunello di Montalcino as they had never tried it before.  I knew they’d like it because they prefer big, full-bodied reds, so I ordered the Collematoni Brunello di Montalcino 2003.

The 2003 vintage was a challenging one for Brunello due to the very hot and very dry conditions.  Many grapes were sun-burnt and over ripe when harvested, producing heavy, flabby wines.  This wine was different.  It was fresh and elegant with no over ripe character at all.

The Collemattoni winery is owned by the Bucci family who have 7 hectares of 100% Sangiovese vineyards located in the southern part of Montalcino in San Angelo in Colle.  Montalcino is located in Tuscany, Italy.

The Brunello is fermented in stainless steel tanks at a controlled temperature of  28-30°C.  The wine is macerated on the skins for 20-25 days and then aged in 32 hl Slovenian oak barrels for 30 months.  It then ages for an additional 4 months in bottle before release.

The 2003 Collemattoni Brunello di Montalcino has pronounced aromas of blueberries, which my 5 year old nephew pointed out (a budding sommelier), with black cherries, plums and a host of other dark fruit.  there are also hints of earth, tar, and spice.  It’s a full-bodied wine with the sweet dark fruit flavours lifted by a good streak of acidity.  There are ample, yet velvetty tannins, and a long, luxurious finish.  Definitely a beautiful wine!

I’ll talk about Saturday night in my next post.

Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar Update

A few days after I wrote the blog post called “Jamie Kennedy to Sell Wine Bar” on June 11, 2009, I read in the Toronto Star that this may not be the case at all.  Susan Sampson, food writer to the Toronto Star, reported on June 12 that Jamie Kennedy “is not considering a private sale” of his wine bar.  However, apparently it had been on offer to senior managers of his company, but it seems as though it is not anymore.  Kennedy does admit that he’s having a very difficult time financially.

As I mentioned in my post on the subject on June 11, locally sourced produce is typically more expensive than the imported stuff – not only in price, but also in time.  It takes time to source what you need because you’re usually working with growers who only have a very small amount of product available.  Jamie Kennedy claims that  this extra cost is not why he’s having financial difficulties.  He blames it on expanding his company too quickly.  It seems evident that he is still very much committed to the slow food movement.  I applaud his conviction.

Jamie Kennedy to Sell Wine Bar

The Toronto restaurant scene has been dealt yet another blow with Sonia Verma reporting in the Globe and Mail yesterday that star chef, Jamie Kennedy, has made the decision to sell his eponymous Wine Bar due to financial difficulties.  With the closing of Boba, Cluck, Grunt and Low, and Perigee (to name a few) earlier in the year, and now the sale of the Wine Bar, it seems apparent that Toronto is definitely suffering the effects of the world’s failing economy.  Jamie Kennedy’s decision is particularly upsetting to me because it is at his restaurants that I was inspired to become a sommelier.

The first time I went to the Wine Bar I was still a school teacher.  I knew a little about wine, but, most importantly, I knew that I liked it a lot.  The food, of course, was delicious and I was very impressed by the recommended wine pairings for each dish.  I don’t recall the details of what I ate or drank, but I do remember that it was an eye-opening experience.

My next visit to a Jamie Kennedy restaurant was a couple of years later.  I was in the midst of questioning my career choice as a teacher, and to help get my mind off things, my husband took me to lunch at the Gardiner Museum.  We ordered the recommended wines along with our meals.  Again, the pairings were superb.  Not only were the food and wine delicious on their own, but together the flavours exploded in my mouth awakening all my senses.  The combination of the food and the wine added a dimension to both that they did not have on their own.  I was hooked.  I thought to myself that being a sommelier must be the best job in the world.  It was at that moment that I decided to pursue my wine education.  When I arrived back home, I immediately enrolled in the next International Sommelier Guild’s Wine Fundamentals II course (I had already completed ISG’s Wine Fundamentals I a couple of years earlier).  That spring I resigned from the school board and in August I began the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers program at George Brown College.  And, the rest, so they say, is history.

Now, I realize the person responsible for all those incredible food and wine pairings was the very gifted Jamie Drummond, the sommelier for Jamie Kennedy since 2004, but I still have a soft spot in my heart for Jamie Kennedy, with his unruly mop of dark, curly hair.  He has been at the front of the slow food movement in Toronto for a long time, but it seems that the very thing he preaches is what is bringing him down.  Unfortunately, it’s expensive to eat locally produced food – funny because one would think that it was cheaper.  Jamie has scaled down the food at the Gardiner Museum, but is determined to continue to feature local produce on its menu and on the menu at the Gilead Café.  He believes that consumer demand for local produce will eventually drive the prices down.  Let’s hope, for his sake, he’s right or this could be the end of the Jamie Kennedy empire in Toronto.

Have you had a memorable (good or bad) experience at one of Jamie Kennedy’s restaurants?  Leave a comment to tell about it.

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