A riveting insider's look at the world of fine wine. Telling the stories of the people and the places that shape the world’s most compelling finds. John Szabo, Master Sommelier and Sara d’Amato, a jack of all wine trades, get to the root of the vine.
Ontario VQA Chardonnay
The Wine Thieves are thrilled to be back on home soil in beautiful southern Ontario investigating what might just be Ontario's finest and most reliable grape variety, Chardonnay. Of the 51 varieties authorized for VQA production, chardonnay is number one by volume accounting for 13% of total VQA production. This episode gives you an overview of Ontario appellations and sub-appellations, and explanations of some of the major differences we've come to expect from this chameleon grape variety across the province.
In discussion with winemaker friends Jay Johnston of Hidden Bench and Craig McDonald of Andrew Peller/Trius in Niagara, along with Dan Sullivan of Rosehall Run in Prince Edward County, John and Sara attempt to discover what makes chardonnay so popular with both producers and consumers, and why it is Ontario's signature grape. Value is always part of the equation, and John also makes a bold prediction on future pricing. Join us with a glass and get prepped for the upcoming i4C, the 11th edition of the International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration on July 23rd in Niagara, which showcases Ontario's finest in a global context.
This episode was produced in partnership with VQA Wine Country Ontario.
Hudson River Region, Lake Erie and the Urban Wineries of New York
The Wine Thieves are back in Europe this spring, the ideal time of year to rediscover Vinho Verde. Crisp, delicately perfumed, dry to lightly sweet, low in alcohol and sometimes with a hint of fizz are classic descriptors of this northern Portuguese specialty but as we'll discover, there is a great deal more to Vinho Verde than these refreshingly drinkable styles. The Minho region shows a great deal of diversity in its sub-regions with some influenced by the Atlantic and others further inland and sheltered. From Monção and Melgaço to Paiva, as these sub-appellations become more recognizable on the label, John and Sara take a deep dive into their distinctive features including the rivers they flank, the grapes in which they specialize the changes we can expect on the labels this very vintage.
From modern varietally-specific labelling to traditional field blends, the Thieves investigate the range of styles available within Vinho Verde. Alvarinho may be unrivalled in its fame but varieties such as Avesso, and Loureiro (Sara's favourite to pronounce) are fast becoming contenders. Let's not forget the red wines of Vinho Verde based on Vinhão, along with rosés and sparkling wines that are less likely to be found in export. Manuel Pinheiro, the President of the Vinho Verde Commission is this week's guest as we unravel Vinho Verde. This episode is a perfect listening match with sunning at the lake or grilling sardines this weekend. Tchau!
This episode was produced in partnership with the Vinho Verde Commission (CRVV).
New York Reds: Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir and Red Friends
Continuing their journey through New York, John and Sara take a deeper dive into the red wines grown across the state in search of an elusive flagship variety. The Thieves make the call that New York's signature red grape must surely be cabernet franc, even if their wine producing friends are reluctant to say it themselves. Merlot may be more widely planted but it remains a Long Island specialty, pinot noir demands ultra-specific sites, cool syrah shows great promise but lacks critical mass for now, blaufränkisch performs admirably but is a mouthful to say (and its synonym, Lemberger, is not particualrly attractive), and grenache, well, remains quixotic at best. One thing's for sure, New York winemakers don't like to be boxed in, which is why we see such tremendous diversity in the varieties planted and wine styles emerging from the state's 7 distinctive wine regions.
Our guests this episode are Josh Wig, co-owner of Lamoreaux Landing, a family-owned cabernet franc specialist located on the east side of Seneca Lake of the Finger Lakes, also specialists in grape-fed venison, Master Sommelier Christopher Bates, co-owner of Element Winery in the Finger Lakes, a high-intervention cook and low-intervention winemaker, and Christopher Tracy of Channing Daughters on Long Island, who talks field blends and the importance of diversity and expanding along with the universe. Join us with a glass of cabernet franc, merlot, pinot noir or Lemberger (scratch that, blaufränkisch) in hand as we discuss the where and the how of the reds that New York does best.
Sauvignon Blanc Day: A Toast to New Zealand!
May 7th is Sauvignon Blanc day but we'll be celebrating all week! Join the Wine Thieves at ground zero for new world sauvignon blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand. John and Sara explore its rise to prominence from the first plantings in the 1970s, through to its explosion on the international scene in the 1990s, and now to the current ‘third wave’ (a good third wave, that is) of producers that are breaking rules and leading the country in new stylistic directions.
Joining the discussion is James Healy, co-founder with Ivan Sutherland, of Dog Point wines in Marlborough. James was chief winemaker at Cloudy Bay in the 1990s before striking out on his own, and thus really was at ground zero of the New Zealand and Marlborough sauvignon blanc international explosion that occurred in the mid-1990s. He tells us about a new initiative called Appellation Marlborough Wine (AMW) and its importance and gaining prominence. We're also joined by Matt Deller, Master of Wine and Chief Global Sales & Marketing Officer for the Villa Maria group founded by Sir George Fistonich in the middle of last century in Auckland. 'Villa', as it's known, has grown to be one of the larger and most admired players in the NZ wine industry, and Matt discusses the company's commitment to organics and sub-appellations. In the final segment of the show, the Thieves welcome Erica Crawford of Loveblock winery and the co-creator, with husband Kim, of the hugely successful Kim Crawford brand, which they sold a decade and a half ago to Constellation Brands. Erica falls in love with sauvignon all over again making wines in the style she loves to drink, shares insight into the rapid commercial success of New Zealand sauvignon blanc, praises Lord of the Rings, and reveals how high grade tea powder might just change winemaking for the better. Grab a well chilled glass of crunchy sauvignon and settle in to a great discussion.
This episode was produced in partnerships with New Zealand Winegrowers.
The Wine Thieves' weakness for riesling compels them to tarry a little longer in the Finger Lakes region of New York (FLX). Riesling has become a signature grape of FLX, home to 85% of all the riesling planted in New York State. Here it delivers electric, laser-sharp wines the way we like them, bone-dry to sweet, from steep, lakeside slopes on gravelly, shaley, and loamy soils. In this episode, the Thieves get to the bottom of why riesling grows so well here, explore the divergent styles, discuss diversity vs. commonality of wines, and audaciously ask winemakers whether they think riesling should be the only grape variety planted in the Finger Lakes. You may be surprised by their answers!
John and Sara welcome four FLX riesling rangers who showcase the camaraderie and bonhomie they've come to expect from New York winemakers: Rick Rainey of Forge Cellars, who focuses on vineyard-designated, bone-dry rieslings with a less-is-more winemaking approach, Oskar Bynke of the biodynamic Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard with a legacy that dates back to the '60s and the earliest days of vinifera plantings, Peter Bell of Fox Run, a Toronto-born terroir skeptic yet riesling fanatic, whose 1984 plantings are located on the east-facing slopes of Seneca Lake, and Bruce Murray of Boundary Breaks on Seneca, who doesn't discriminate when it comes to styles of riesling and has time for them all. Lastly, and importantly, learn why the sight of Canadians on bicycles is one of the most dreaded in all of New York wine country. You won't want to miss this very entertaining episode of Wine Thieves!