Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sommelier Brings Italy to Ottawa

Have you ever been to an olive oil tasting? I didn't even know they existed until I met Antonio Mauriello, Sommelier/Owner of DiVino Wine Studio and Enoteca. Turns out an olive oil tasting is very much like a wine tasting, with swirling, smelling and of course, tasting. Antonio and the friendly folks at DiVino don't just do olive oil tastings though. They also have wine tastings, cooking classes, wine education, events, scotch tastings, cheese seminars and a wine bar!

But wait -- that's not all! Antonio will actually take you to Italy twice a year (and arrange the travel and accommodations) where you'll sip and savour culinary delights while touring wineries, kitchens and the beautiful Italian countryside. Next month he's off to Piemonte and Toscana but I was able to sit down with him recently to chat about everything DiVino.

Antonio came to Canada in 1998 from Rome, Italy. He met his Canadian wife in Rome and the rest is history. Although his day job was in the tech industry, he had been trained as a Sommelier, so the natural progression was to share his passion for Italian food and wine with Ottawa. His main goal was to bring the daily passion for food and wine that he experienced in Italy into the lives of Canadians.

DiVino is participating in La Vendemmia this week and they have some exciting events ahead. During the festival they are partnering with Slow Food Ottawa for a tomato-themed event and they are offering an "Olive Oil and Balsamic Showcase" as part of the Taste Little Italy Wine and Food Show. You can read about this week's events here. Antonio is excited about being a part of La Vendemmia because "it involves a large scale of participants".

The wines at DiVino are exclusively Italian. They carry 500 labels and 1500 bottles. I loved the regions' names painted on the wall above the wines! Their focus is on Italy, but they also keep other wines in stock for educational purposes and special events.

After passing the famous "wall of wine" at DiVino, I spied a friendly young Chef prepping for the evening service. The kitchen is an exposed, galley-style cooking station where you can see your food being prepared and chat with the Chef.

Next I toured the tasting room which is not only used for tastings and seminars, but also any type of event. "This is the ideal place to book a private or corporate event because of our personal service and dedicated staff. We will work with you on any theme you like", said Antonio.

Just when I thought, "What does this man NOT do?" he also informed me that he runs Italian Language Classes right there in the tasting room. From what I observed, Antonio treats DiVino like it's his home -- he is welcoming you in with open arms to drink some wine, eat some delicious Italian cuisine and perhaps join him on his next journey to the homeland.

Like some other restaurants in the city, DiVino Wine Studio and Enoteca also has an Enomatic Machine, a computerized wine service device that prevents air from getting into the bottles, thus preserving the taste and aroma of the wines. By using this machine, customers can get higher priced wines by the glass, and try some wines they might not normally be exposed to without having to buy the whole bottle.

I fully enjoyed my little chat with Antonio and I plan to visit DiVino for dinner, a tasting, a seminar, and maybe even a trip someday. If you're also getting the travel bug after reading this, Antonio is heading to Sicily in May, so pack your bags and don't forget to bring a healthy appetite for all things Italian.

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