Ask Sid: (UPDATE) Chianti vs. Chianti Classico?

October 24th, 2018
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what's the difference between chianti and chianti classico

Question: What is the main difference between Chianti and Chianti Classico?

Answer: Main difference is that although they share the same name they are entirely separate regions and different wines. Chianti is the name of a territory delimited in 1716 and the name of a wine made in Tuscany but not in the geographical zone called Chianti. Chianti Classico is the name of a wine made in the geographical zone called Chianti and the only one entitled to bear the historic Black Rooster symbol. Chianti Classico is now that original zone from 1761 then called Chianti. As of 2010 Chianti is banned in the Chianti Classico zone .

Different regulations apply including:

Chianti Classico: 80-100% Sangiovese; Up to 20% authorized red grape varieties; No white varieties; 7.5 tons /hectare & 2 kilos /vine with 4400 plants /hectare

Chianti: 70-100% Sangiovese; Up to 30% authorized red grape varieties; Up to 10% white varieties; 9 tons/hectare & 3 kilos /vine with 4000 plants/hectare

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October 22nd, 2018


Followers of this Blog will appreciate what remarkable quality progress British Columbia wines have made over the years. Among the grape varieties showing most impressively is pinot noir. Leading that progression are several wineries focusing on that varietal including Averill Creek, Foxtrot, Howling Bluff, Meyer, Privato and many more – even 2016 Lake Breeze Pinot Noir Wine of the Year at the 2018 BC Lieutenant Governor’s Wine Awards. The pioneer winery (together with Quails’ Gate) for pinot noir has been Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars in Okanagan Falls with great foresight by Founder Ian Mavety & his wife Jane starting with their first commercial release back in 1971. The winery is now in the conscientious capable hands of the second generation with winemaker Matt (back from New Zealand in 1997) and Christie for open friendly marketing. The wines have been highly thought of and collected locally for some time with the winery one of the first outsiders invited to the International Pinot Noir Celebration in Oregon. The 1994 regular and 2000 reserve are still lovely drinking but as the five clones of pinot noir vines mature the wines are showing more depth of flavour. Now have 89 acres planted (up from 50 in 2006) at around 400 metres with moderate weather in August usually around 20C in the day with cooler 5C at night. The BC Wine Appreciation Society (who are doing an excellent job in showcasing BC wines to their members) cleverly collected 10 vintages of the Reserve and served them as a vertical led by Christie Mavety on October 21, 2018. The Reserve is best lots and barrels showing structure and complexity of their total pinot noir production. Your scribe was impressed with the consistency of the wines and the delicacy they all showed. They vary in colour showing vintage differences but have a sense of place. They are not big fruit bombs but they show lovely subtlety and charm with good herbal notes. Approachable and definitely work as attractive pleasing food wines. The wines were well served cool in smaller white wine Riedel glasses which dampened somewhat the complex aromas that can be obtained better from a bigger glass.

Here are some brief comments:

2006: Lightest colour with a pale rim at their typical 13.5 alcohol is open strawberries in a softer seductive way for present drinking. More full cluster fermentation in this vintage than others.

2007: More fruit at same 13.5 gives a fuller richer impact with lovely herbal raspberry notes on an interesting plateau of enjoyment now. Underrated.

2008: Less alcohol at 13 but darkest of first four vintages and popular with the group. Like the depth of deep classy fruit and especially the balance. Looks young still and can develop further. Impresses.

2009: Magnum at 13.5 had paler rim but explosive true pinot noir maturing bouquet perfumes with complex charm and a long finish. Very pinot noir finesse styling is so attractive. Probably more forward in 750 ml format.

2010: Another magnum at 14 (the highest of these) from warm year for them with a dark look like 2008. Good pinot aromas & popular for the solid open bigger bodied impact but finishes with some spirit. Needs more finesse. Powerful one.

2011: Lowest alcohol with 2015 at 12.5 is bright red from the cooler year and admire the clean freshness with lovely elegance. The silky texture here captures the essence of pinot noir. Good one and no rush.

2012: Deeper look slightly beetroot rhubarb menthol elements. Young still but more herbal presently at 13.5.

2013: Difficult year of wasps & sour rot at 13.5 but result is admirable distinctive pinot noir with an Okanagan sage seasoning. Well done.

2014: Like a lot this structure and lively vibrancy from an excellent vintage. Again 13.5. Only gentle light pump over instead of punch down for less extraction at fermentation with cooler cellar delaying malolactic fermentation till the Spring. Believe their change to a longer 16 months in cask (only 10 for 2006-2013) starting with 2014 is a smart move. This fresh baby is textbook pinot noir with a lot of complex fruit and the best one to collect for cellaring. Outstanding potential.

2015: Bit hazy not as bright looking with lower alcohol 12.5 from a hot year. After dropping crop their earliest harvest ever starting August 13 (for sparkling) to retain best acidity. Lighter more delicate. Forwardly.

An impressive range of elegant and stylish Okanagan pinot noirs. Congrats to the whole Mavety family for their initiative and perseverance with this heartbreak grape in producing something really unique and admirable. Keep it going!

Have you tried a Blue Mountain pinot noir? Recommend you do so.

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Ask Sid: Wine shops in Paris?

October 17th, 2018
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where to buy wine in Paris

Question: Heading to Paris and would like a recommendation for a big wine shop with many selections. Your help please?

Answer: One of the delights of visiting Paris is popping into a diverse number of quite small wine shops in the 20 different arrondissements or districts all providing some unique wine selections. However one of the better ones to check out is Nicolas with many outlets usually with some wines on sale – especially Champagne. Department stores such as Bon Marche and Galeries Lafayette have extensive wine departments. Another must is the large Lavinia in the 1st A at 3 Boulevard de la Madeleine downstairs cellar with their excellent selections of older vintages of classic wines. They also have locations in Madrid & Geneve. They have a value priced exclusive at 19.90 euros like the elegant 2015 Pernand-Vergelesses from quality Burgundy producer Pavelot or even a vertical of Chateau Pichon-Lalande starting with the current vintage of 2015 (242 euros a bottle) back to more expensive older ones of 1988 (365), 1986 (575), 1985 (655) and 1981 (386).

Check out these suggested ideas and enjoy your wine shopping fun experiences in Paris.

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EATALY: Italian Marketplace Lesson in Gastronomy

October 15th, 2018

Your scribe last week was in Chicago and while attending Gourmet of the Year celebrations held by Society of Bacchus visited another of the ever expanding Eataly empire with now over 40 stores. Admire what the Founder Oscar Farinetti has done with his concept to spotlight high-quality ingredients in their extensive shopping marketplace and many restaurants. They appreciate the place, the produce and the stories behind everything they sell. You have to support the philosophy of “Eat, Shop and Learn” which really works for lovers of wine and food. Remember that first one opening in Turin Italy back in 2007 and the remarkable expansive New York space in Lower Manhattan (200 Fifth) starting in 2010 with now an added second World Trade Center location. Educational visits previously in LA & Boston and last year was impressed with the wide product selection at the Stockholm Sweden location and noted the wide selection of good value Fontanafredda wines an Alba winery in Piedmont in which Mr. Farinetti also has a major interest. Excited about Las Vegas and Toronto sites that are now in the works. More competition for Whole Foods and other specialty grocers. Looking forward to visiting the big Bologna one in 2019.

What I like a lot is the unique experience at each store using the help of different local suppliers of bakers, butchers, cheesemakers, farmers & fishers with some of their ingredients to include in the products for sale and the restaurant dishes there. It does encourage you to learn about especially quality food plus wines becoming more knowledgeable towards developing a better Slow Food lifestyle for yourself. Of course there are many choice Italian products such as Afeltra’s air dried extruded pasta and the opportunity to explore foods from different regions in Italy. The store layout usually includes some “Tasting Labs” where you can perhaps see how fresh mozzarella is made and everything from pasta making, salumi, olive oils, vinegars, bakery, to gelato. La Scuola the cooking school for Eataly has a range of cooking classes, tastings, and culinary events. They are fortunate to have the talented Chef Lidia Bastianich as the Dean of the school overseeing the programs and sometimes teaching.

Recommend on your next travels around the world that you check their website ( to see if they have a location where you are going. Take advantage of this great opportunity to learn more about wine and food!

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It’s not a place, it’s an experience! Looking back at The Pump Room

October 14th, 2018

pump room ambassador east hotel chicago restaurant history

By Joseph Temple

The year is 1946. The Second World War has finally ended and you’ve just arrived at Chicago’s Union Station in an elegant Pullman car. After hours of riding the rails, you’re hungry and looking to experience the very best that the Windy City has to offer. So where do you go? The answer is simple: you head to the city’s Gold Coast; more specifically, the Ambassador East Hotel where The Pump Room, Chicago’s finest restaurant is located.

You walk into this elegant establishment and the first thing you notice are the crystal chandeliers, the blue sapphire walls, and a sunken carpeted dining room filled with white leather booths. As you sit down in one of these booths soaking in all of this décor, a busboy dressed in a white turban begins pouring your cup of coffee.  Then, at the table next to you, king crab is about to be served—on flaming swords!! Waiting for your blini and caviar, everyone suddenly turns their heads to see who has just arrived. It’s Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, recently married and about to sit down at the famous Booth One!

Welcome to The Pump Room!

Named after an English restaurant sharing the same name, it first opened in 1938 by restaurateur Ernie Byfield in the Ambassador East Hotel (now the Ambassador Chicago hotel). Described not as a place, but as an experience, it has been referenced in Frank Sinatra’s “Chicago (That Toddlin’ Town)” and featured in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1959 film North by Northwest, easily becoming one of the most famous restaurants of the 1940s and 1950s. Offering an irresistible blend of both style and substance, its runaway success along with the repeal of Prohibition basically saved the Ambassador East, built in 1926, from the economic hardships of the Great Depression.


A key to the restaurant’s success was its location combined with unprecedented star power. Chicago, being the country’s biggest rail transit hub, was a frequent stop for passenger cars traveling between New York and Los Angeles. With many movie stars experiencing an up to three-hour layover, Byfield capitalized on this fact by offering limo service from Union Station to The Pump Room for any celebrity looking to dine out. As a result, the restaurant became a popular spot for a who’s who of Studio Era Hollywood: Jack Benny, Joan Crawford, John Barrymore, Judy Garland and many other A-listers all dined at The Pump Room.

Another benefit offered to all these celebs was being seated at Booth One, the best booth in the house equipped with a mounted rotary phone and a perfect view.  During the heyday of continental style fine dining, where dishes were served from rolling carts and/or prepared tableside, The Pump Room, with its lavish décor and flaming swords became so famous that it was chosen by American Airlines to create the first menu for dinner service from Chicago to London.

Sadly, the restaurant went into a period of decline starting in the 1960s. Although not as big as it was in the mid-century, many celebrities still chose to dine there. One, however, due to a strict dress code was denied service. That person—artist Phil Collins even made it the title of his 1985 best-selling album No Jacket Required. Closing its doors for the final time in 2017, The Pump Room will always be remembered as a restaurant synonymous with Chicago. As actor Paul Newman once said: “That was the place then.”


Bizzarri, Amy. Discovering Vintage Chicago: A Guide to The City’s Timeless Shops, Bars, Delis & More. Lanahm: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015.
Block, Daniel R. & Rosing, Howard B. Chicago: A Food Biography. Lanahm: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015.
Corcoran, Michael & Bernstein, Arnie. Hollywood on Lake Michigan: 100+ Years of Chicago and the Movies. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2013.
Kupcinet, Irv. Kup’s Chicago: A Many-Facted and Affectionate Portrait of Chicago. New Orleans: Garrett County Press, 2012.
Levy, Shawn. Paul Newman: A Life. Hachette: Aurum Press, 2010.
Maruzzi, Peter. Classic Dining: Discovering Americas’ Finest Mid-Century Restaurants. Layton: Gibbs Smith, 2012.

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