For the love of Lambrusco: Alberta entrepreneur launches her own label

Moirae Choquette sees great potential in Italian sparkling red wine

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Moirae Choquette loves Lambrusco.

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So much so, the Alberta entrepreneur has started importing and selling the Italian sparkling red wine.

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The former Calgarian now living in Edmonton bubbles with excitement when talking about her Tomato Wheels Lambrusco, which hit the Alberta market in September.

She fell for Lambrusco while traveling in Italy in 2015.

“It was love at first taste,” says Choquette, 36, who has worked in marketing and e-commerce for the past decade. “I would champion it to everybody in my network who would listen.”

When the pandemic nixed a scholarship and trip she had won’t cook in Italy with American chef David Chang, and business forays into imported spices and kitchenware struggled, she flipped the script and decided Lambrusco should be her focus.


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“As I was researching, the data was showing that Lambrusco is sitting where Prosecco was sitting 10 years ago. Some people know about it, but most don’t. And I just had alarm bells going off like – ding, ding, ding – this is the direction to go.”

Moirae Choquette with a bottle of her new Tomato Wheels Lambrusco.  Credit: Chelsea Smallwood
Moirae Choquette with a bottle of her new Tomato Wheels Lambrusco. Credit: Chelsea Smallwood jpg

While she liked wine, she knew little about the wine business. That led her to contact Calgary sommelier and consultant Brad Royale, who has produced several wines under his Kitten Swish label.

“I reached out to him and kind of told him my idea, ‘Look, I wanna blow up Lambrusco in North America and here’s my vision, here’s my company, what are your thoughts?’ and his energy was fantastic, and he was like, ‘Let’s do it.’ ”

Royale found a fourth-generation family winery in Emilia-Romagna, Italy – the heart of Lambrusco – producing wine from estate grapes. Choquette was able to entice the winery to send them samples.


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“Somehow, I managed to convince them, through many, many, many, many Zoom calls, that I was going to do what I said. It was just building that trust and rapport over these conversations.”

She and Royale then purchased every different Italian Lambrusco available in Canada – a little over 30 – and blind-tasted their samples against the rest. To her relief and excitement, both she and Royale thought their wine was the best.

Moirae Choquette is marketing her own Lambrusco in Canada under the Tomato Wheels brand.
Moirae Choquette is marketing her own Lambrusco in Canada under the Tomato Wheels brand. jpg

She struck up a partnership with the winery to sell their wine in Canada, but she wanted to give it her spin – to make it stand out in the market. She decided to bottle it in a clear bottle, with no foil on the cork. Both are uncommon practices. Then she worked with Edmonton artist Lee Krek to develop an eye-catching label.


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The Tomato Wheels Lambrusco – she named the company after a painting she created of an Italian scooter with tomatoes for wheels – has been selling briskly. She has another shipment from Italy expected to arrive in early November as stocks are already starting to run low.

The energetic Choquette, who also works full time on other projects, hopes to add a few more Lambruscos to her brand. But for now, she is saving the success.

Her biggest hurdle, she says, was finding funding. But the Metis entrepreneur, originally from North Battleford, Sask., was able to secure the funds needed to proceed, including a loan and grant through a program for Indigenous women entrepreneurs through the National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association.


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She adds she found great support all along her new wine journey.

“What I did was really leverage the network I have around me and just reaching out and asking for introductions or contacts and really just doing research,” says Choquette. “People are so willing to help. All you have to do is ask.”

Tomato Wheels



Emilia-Romagna, Italy

Deep purple-ruby in colour, the wine has just enough bubbles to give it a light freshness, while maintaining deep flavors and a touch of tannin. It’s made of 85 lambrusco salamino (one of six lambrusco grapes allowed) and 15 per cent malbo.

The most familiar Lambrusco to Canadian drinkers is probably Ruinite, the sweet red that was popular in the 1970s and ’80s. This is not that. Tomato Wheels Lambrusco is made in a dry style, with loads of soft dark fruit flavors such as blackberry, red licorice, raspberry and blueberry, with iron and rose petal notes on a lightly creamy, frothy palate.


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It’s refreshing, with a clean, lingering finish.

Price: About $32. Look for it at Bricks Wine Co., Cork Fine Wine, Liquor and Ale, Highlander Wine and Spirits, Kensington Wine Market, Market Wines, select Safeway Liquor stores, Vine Arts Wine, Beer and Spirits, Vine Styles and Willow Park Wines & Spirits .

Drink: Now. Christmas dinner, cured meats or barbecued ribs would be good matches. Cork; 11.5 per cent alc./vol.

E. Guigal


Cotes du Rhone Rouge

Rhone Valley, France

Etienne Guigal launched a winery in 1946 that has grown into one of the Rhone Valley’s most respected. Guigal worked on 67 vintages in his lifetime, while passing duties on to his son Marcel and grandson Philippe.

Based in the Cote Rotie region on the northern Rhone Valley, E. Guigal is legendary for its “La-la” wines – La Turque, La Landonne and La Mouline are among the most treasured Syrahs in the world.

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But through the years the family has added many other properties to its portfolio, and now produces excellent wines throughout the Rhone Valley. This Cotes-du-Rhone is a great gateway to Guigal wines. Made from syrah (50 per cent), grenache (40 per cent) and mourvedre (10 per cent), it boasts a beautiful nose of black fruit, flowers and spice, with a medium-full bodied palate and flavors of black cherry, blackberry , black raspberry and pepper. The ripe tannins perfectly complement the acidity. A very tasty bottle.

Price: About $23. It is very well distributed, look for it at your nearest large liquor retailer.

Drink: In the next three years. Try it with grilled steak or lamb or pan-fried duck. Cork; 14.5 per cent alc./vol.

Contact Darren Oleksyn at or follow him on Twitter or Instagram. Looking for a specific wine? Because wine inventories are always in flux, it’s a good idea to call a store to confirm they have it. A search on can give you an idea of ​​stores that have carried the wines.



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