Two for one
City Bites, April 2005
Okay, so they're both named Szabo, and both sommeliers… but that's
pretty much where the similarity ends. And they're not related.
"Szabo in Hungary is like Smith here," says John Szabo. The other
one, Zoltan, is Transylvanian, which sounds scarier than it is.
Unassuming their surnames may be (if you're from Eastern Europe),
but these two young sommeliers recently paired up to form a consulting
service aimed at boosting the quality of wine lists and wine service
And talk about bringing out the big guns: John is Canada's first
Master Sommelier and Zoltan is going after his Diploma from the
Wine & Spirit Education Trust, a path that will eventually lead
to the Master designation. Both are experts on food/wine pairings.
Zoltan favours organic or "biodynamic" wine, including unfiltered
wines. "I want the winemaker to add as little as possible to my
wine. Some winemakers prefer filtered for its clearer, brighter
colours, but in doing that you are losing some flavours, some
extract and some concentration." As for John - the founder of
the Centre for Vine Affairs (CVA) in 2002 has brought a new level
of wine appreciation, events and education to the city. If nothing
else, these guys will knock the image of wine geeks sideways.
Zoltan - who is effusively enthusiastic about, well, everything
- also promotes the Slow Food movement. (Slow Food doesn't mean
digging out mom's orange crock pot and boiling up cheap cuts of
meat for 12 hours, it means, says Zoltan, "slowing down your life,
taking the time to use fresh foods… I promote market fresh cuisine
and avoiding processed foods. I encourage everyone to move towards
healthy eating and drinking habits.") For restaurants, the Szabo
& Szabo alliance is a win-win situation. These sommeliers even
come with a money-back guarantee. "If you don't sell more wine
after working with us, we will give you your money back," says
Zoltan. Sounds like an offer that can't be refused.
Jackson-Triggs reigns at Cuvée
City Bites, April 2005
There are lots of Canadian wine awards, but only one calls itself
the industry's "Oscars." That's because the 200 entries
at the Cuvée Wine Awards are judged by a panel of peers
- the winemakers themselves - in a series of tastings that narrow
the field. Winners for 2005 were announced in March at a sold-out
gala in Niagara. Tom Seaver of Jackson-Trigges walked away with
the most hardware, snagging awards for best red and best sparkling.
Seaver's winning Meritage - a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot
and cabernet franc - came from the sellar 2002 vintage. Remember
how hot that summer was? Good for red grapes. Jackson-Triggs'
sparkling wine justifies the amount of care and money spent on
their stunning ultramodern winery just outside of very traditional
Niagara on the Lake: "All the grapes for that sparkling wine came
from right around the winery."
Perennial winner Sue Ann Staff of Pilliteri picked up the top
honours in the crowded field of icewine entries. "I've been fortunate
enough to win almost every year here at Cuvée," said a beaming
Sue Ann, "but each one is more exciting because I never know in
advance and each year the competition gets stiffer."
Niagara College Winery's chardonnay took best white; however
their wines are currently available only in their small boutique
and in a few select restaurants.