2 Bottles & 2 Questions with Sara D'Amato

This month we'd like to introduce you to Sara D'Amato, Sommelier & Assistant Manager of Four Season's Truffles restaurant - Toronto’s only CAA/AAA Five Diamond restaurant.

We were first "introduced" to Sara via CBC's Wine Confidential documentary where she was featured, and we had also come across some of her writings for Vines Magazine. However, we only recently "officially" met Sara face to face at Truffles restaurant and it was a pleasure.

Grand Award Winner of the 2006 Renaissance Wine Tasting Challenge administered by Brock University, Sara developed her passion for winemaking at a young age when she used to travel to France with her family. Sara has fond memories of Provence's wineries and even collected wine cards as a kid!

D’Amato earned her BA in World Literature and minor in Philosophy from the University of Toronto and after graduation she worked for a market research firm, however fate, as they say, had a new direction for her.

An opportunity arose for her to pursue her passion for winemaking. D’Amato immediately enrolled in an innovative full-time winery and viticulture program at Niagara College, graduating in August 2005.
As part of her course, she also participated in a four-month internship in Bordeaux. While she has had extensive studies and experiences with wine, she's young and she'd definitely not a wine snob. According to D'Amato “It is fun to educate yourself about wine but it is more important to enjoy yourself and know what you like."

So without further adieu. Here Sara's insights...

2 Questions

#1 What's something "new & interesting" that you've learned about wine lately?
On a recent and very informative trip to Germany with the “Wines of Germany” group, I learned all about the new VDP classification of 2006 (sounds dry but it was quite fascinating). Although I knew German wine classifications to be some of the most complicated and highly structured in the world, I wasn’t quite prepared for how much I had yet to learn.

A quick run-down (because I imagine this will become increasingly relevant to Riesling drinkers in Ontario as we see more of this style of wine imported): the new “premier cru” designation classifies top category wines in Germany. These wines are classified as Erste Lage, meaning wines from the top vineyard sites. You will be able to recognize these bottles by their embossed number “1” followed by an upside-down pyramid of grapes.

In many regions of Germany, the term Grosses Gewachs is used, GG for short. These wines are dry as opposed to the high Pradikats wines (eg. Auslese, Beerenauslese, Trockenbeerenauslese) that are often quite sweet. Erstes Gewachs is a similar term but used only in the Rheingau.

With this new classification system, the great dry wines of Germany will get a chance to shine. Still confused? Read all about it at the VDP site here.

#2 It's a well-known fact that the Four Seasons is one of the 'it' places to be during the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival. Can you give us some insight into what you expect to be hot on the wine list during this year's TIFF? Also, do you happen to have any celebrity and wine stories?

Although I’m not a liberty to mention the names of the stars, I can say that many I’ve helped and encountered are surprisingly adept with their wine knowledge. This may have something to do with the fact that many have restaurant backgrounds, especially when they were starting out. In fact, several were never quite able to forget their love of food and wine despite their skyrocketing fame and other responsibilities and have started or bought restaurants after they became famous. Some of these stars associate their names with restaurants whereas others like to remain behind the scenes.

I am always impressed to hear about their private collections or those of their restaurants as well as their very particular interests such as German Riesling, Chinese Cabernet, Greek whites or Mexican Petit Syrah. They are not necessary all about Italian Pinot Grigio, California blockbusters or French names. To someone like me this is very exciting. Perhaps this worldly wine knowledge is due to the fact that they travel so much in their careers.

During the film festival, those involved in the business no doubt love to celebrate and therefore a good stock of very high-end Champagnes are required. Stars from both the US and Canada seem to be very interested in Canadian wines, however, when I recommend them. They are always pleasantly surprised to have learned about our industry and of our potential to produce great wines. I am, of course, anxious to add Canadian wine to their list of preferences.

2 Bottles

Bottle One: Fielding Estate Winery Meritage 2005, VQA Niagara

What a great example of what Niagara can do with Bordelaise varietals when the conditions are right! Hearty in flavour and elegant in texture. Sultry-smooth finish with delicious, lingering flavours of chocolate and black raspberries. Available winery direct or on their website www.fieldingwines.com for $35.00.

Bottle Two: Domane Wachau Riesling Terrassen Federspiel, 2006, Wachau, Austria

Check out this new release at Vintages that is dry, thirst-quenching, clean and fruity. An absolutely delightful and refreshing treat for those Indian Summer afternoons on the porch. Available through Vintages for $19.95 #723908

If I could put in a plug for our fantastic, upcoming Winemaker’s Dinner in Truffles!

October 1st, 6:30 PM, Four Seasons Hotel $150 per person We are excited to be hosting the ever-exuberant Jane Ferrari of Yalumba Winery from the Barossa region of Australia. We will be pairing a delectable 5-course menu with environmentally sustainable wines from Yalumba, many of which are being poured for the first time in Canada, including: the icon white, Virgilius Viognier, the Barossa Shiraz Viognier and the Late Harvest Botrytis Viognier.

Please visit Truffles website here.

To watch CBC's Wine Confidential documentary online see our main links section!