A dozen or so of Toronto’s oenophiles (and one aspiring one, ahem, me) congregated at a Dundas West gallery for a Friday evening that felt like a dinner party – but with a twist. The gathering doubled as a sweet send-off for The Department (the gallery space will soon be converted to a hair salon) and as a casual setting for Matt Dees of Jonata wines to walk attendees through an intimate tasting of his Santa Ynez, California offerings.

Organized by Jamie Drummond and Malcolm Jolley of Good Food Revolution, the vibe was decidedly unpretentious, hit home perhaps by the fact that beers were cracked and casually consumed before a bottle of wine was even opened. Then, things got serious. Well, not too serious. Dees struck a perfect balance by geeking out over soil (he has a degree in it, as Shinan prompted me to remember) and keeping his references completely accessible. Some of my favourites include….

– “Saying wine is food friendly is like saying hats are head friendly.”
– “Wine is almost made before it even gets to the winery.”
– “There is a food for every wine.” 

A purist, Dees makes his wines aided by his degree in dirt, lunar cycle and the help of clever goats. With the shy pride of a new father, he describes his wine like promising progenies. While the entire tasting flight was delicious, I fell instantly in love with his 2006 La Fuerza da Jonata Petit Verdot that I suspect you need a secret handshake or special insignia tattoo to find. Very little of this wine was made and even less of it is still available.  Its inky, almost sappy, blackness stained the glass on contact and the taste had me immediately wanting to explore outside of Napa for my next California wine purchase.

Learn more about Jonata wine and winemaker Matt Dees.

 ~ Karen Cleveland | Photo from http://jonata.com/