A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 491: California Dreamin’

Jean-Charles’s shoes

Monday, April 7: An early tasting before the annual California wine tasting at the Fairmont Royal York. Jean-Charles Boisset, in resplendent shoes, entertained a group of wine writers and sommeliers at Epic restaurant.

Jean-Charles Boisset

We began with JCB Brut No. 21 Crémant de Bourgogne (citrus and marshmallow nose; crisp green apple flavour – 89) followed by the California wines the Boisset family owns.

  • Raymond Chardonnay 2010: light straw colour; pear on the nose, nicely textured, dry with a poached pear flavour. (88+)
  • JCB Chardonnay Sonoma Coast 2011: light straw colour; leesy, spicy nose of apple and oak; Burgundian style, dry, caramel and apple flavours with a lemony finish. (89)
  • Raymond Cabernet Sauvignon 2010: cedar, vanilla oak and blackcurrant nose; rich mouth feel and soft on the palate. (89)
  • JCB Pinot No. 7 2011: deep ruby colour; cherry and violets on the nose; well extracted cherry flavour. (89+)
  • JCB No.3 Pinot Noir 2011 (a blend of 53% Russian River Pinot with 47% Pinot from Gevry, Nuits St. George and Chambolle-Musigny): cherry red with a nose of raspberry and rhubarb; dry, sinewy and elegant with a firm finish. (90)
  • Raymond Generations Cabernet Sauvignon 2010: deep ruby colour; creamy, blackcurrant and cedar nose; rich and full-bodied with plum and blackcurrant flavours; beautifully balanced with ripe tannins. (91)

Then upstairs for the sparkling wine reception (the Royal York now charges $3.50 to check your coat!) and the lunch at which Jean-Charles was the speaker. The mood was very upbeat because California wine sales have increased for the past four years.

In the ballroom 450 wines were available for tasting but, mercifully, the wine press was offered a quiet room where 97 wines were put out so we could taste quietly at tables. I concentrated on Pinot Noir in both the press room and the main hall. My favourites were Marimar Estate Doña Margerita Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010, Etude Pinot Noir 2011, Hahn Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands 2011, DeLoach Vineyards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2012, Landmark Vineyards Overlook Pinot Noir 2012 and Waterstone Pinot Noir 2011. Best value: Jackson Family Camelot Pinot Noir (NV) selling for $13.95. Also really liked Buena Vista Petit Verdot 2011, C. G. Di Arie Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel 2007 (oldest Zin vines in North America, they said), Justin Justification 2011 (Cabernet Franc/Merlot), and Stag’s Leap Karia Chardonnay 2012.

Di Arie Zinfandel 2007

Tuesday, April 8: Spent much of the day working on the Ontario Wine Awards and preparing for a board meeting of Grapes for Humanity directors. For dinner with spicy pork loin, Montes Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon Colchagua Valley 2012 (dense purple colour; sweet plum and black cherry nosewith a spicy oak note; creamy mid-palate flavours, fruity and firm. No great length but enjoyable for the price of $13.55 (87)).

Wednesday, April 9: A tasting this morning of 12 family-owned Ontario wineries who came together in an association called “Somewhereness” (www.somewhereness.com) – a riff on wine write Matt Kramer’s expression “to describe the blend of terroir, climate, vine and vintner that lets a wine stand apart.” These are Ontario’s best producers and it was a pleasure to taste their wines.

Charles Baker Rieslings at Somewhereness

In the evening I conducted a trial seminar at The Vintage Conservatory for my “Executive Wine Experience.” The concept is to make young executives feel comfortable entertaining clients and navigating wine lists. The wines I chose from my cellar which were matched with food were:

  • Henriot Brut Souverain Champagne
  • Tawse Riesling 2010
  • Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay 2012
  • Remoissenet Père & Fils Clos Vougeot 2007
  • Château Chasse Spleen 1982
  • D’Arenberg The Dead Arm 2008
  • Shafer Merlot 2007

Unfortunately the ’82 Chasse Spleen was corked but I substituted Château Franc-Cardinal 2000, a wine made by my late, lamented friend Philip Holzberg. As luck would have it the Shafer Merlot was also corked.

Thursday, April 10: A meeting at KPMG to discuss the “‘Executive Wine Experience” to be held in their offices in June. In the afternoon I walked over to Grano for a tasting with Matt Fowles (Matt’s wife Luise designed the Fowles Wines’ labels – including Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch – and does indeed shoot her own lunch).

  • Are You Game? Chardonnay 2012 ($15.95): light straw colour; apple nose with oak; nicely balanced, full on the palate, spicy, pear and apple flavours; lovely mouth feel with alimony finish. Good value. (88)
  • Are You Game? Shiraz 2010 (10% Tempranillo – $16.95): dense purple-ruby colour; grilled meat and black fruit nose; savoury, herbal, blackcurrant flavour, fruity with lively acidity and a floral top note. (88+)
  • Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch Shiraz 2010 ($35.95): dense purple colour; spicy, blackcurrant, white pepper, vanilla oak nose; sweet and savoury flavours of blackcurrant and blackberry carried on a wave of fresh acidity; lovely texture and balance with ripe tannins. (92)
  • Fowles Stone Dwellers Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 ($19.75): dense ruby colour; cedar, blackcurrant with nuances of smoke and leather; medium to full-bodied, dry, fruity, lively acidity, fresh on the palate, firm finish. (91)

Friday, April 11: Zoltan Szabo and I drove down to Niagara to visit Thomas Bachelder, who is making wine for the new Domaine Queylus, a new Ontario winery owned by Quebec interests, situated on the top of the escarpment with the highest elevation vineyard in Niagara. With his assistant winemaker Kelly Baker we sat down in the new tasting room in a log-cabin house that used to belong to Vineland Estate’s winemaker Brian Schmidt.

Kelly Baker, assistant winemaker, Domaine Queylus

Thomas Bachelder, winemaker, Domaine Queylus

Domaine Queylus wines

Thomas explained that his Pinots are a blend of fruit from two sites, in Jordan and Beamsville, and that as a dedicated Burgundian he had to change his thinking about making wine from a single vineyard.

  • Domaine Queylus Pinot Noir Tradition 2010 ($30): light ruby colour; Volnay style; minerally, raspberry nose; fresh and elegant, beautifully balanced, great mouth feel with nervy acidity. (90)
  • Domaine Queylus Pinot Noir Réserve 2010 ($45): light ruby colour; earthy, beetroot and cherry nose; dense than the Tradition; firmly structured, more Morey St. Denis in style, tight and richer with a spicy oak finish. Needs time. (92)
  • Domaine Queylus Pinot Noir Tradition 2011 ($30): light ruby colour; more animal on the nosethan the 2010; cherry flavour with a floral grace note, firmly structured with a silky mouth feel; great structure. (92)
  • Domaine Queylus Pinot Noir Réserve 2011 ($45): light ruby colour; lovely nose of violets and raspberries with a mineral note; elegant, firmly structured, earthy, Pommard style. Great energy and length with a firm finish. (93)
  • Domaine Queylus Pinot Noir La Grande Réserve 2011 ($60): light ruby colour; violets and black raspberries on the nose tinged with vanilla oak; medium-bodied, lovely mouth feel, powerful, beautifully balanced, firmly structured with a sour cherry finish. Needs time (93–94)
  • Domaine Queylus Réserve Merlot Cabernet Franc 2010 ($45) (86% Merlot /14% Cabernet Franc): deep ruby colour; blackcurrant and leather nose with a thread of minerality; St. Emilion style, medium-bodied, sweet fruit, rich and full on the palate with a lively spine of acidity. (90)
  • Domaine Queylus Cabernet Franc Réserve 2011 ($45) (66% Cabernet Franc/34% Merlot): ruby colour; red and blackcurrants on the nose; more claret-like in style; firmly structured, elegant, finely textured. (89)
  • Domaine Queylus La Grande Réserve Merlot Cabernet Franc 2011 ($65) (65% Merlot/35% Cabernet Franc): deep ruby colour; cedar, spicy, currant nose with a hint of vanilla oak; elegant, redcurrant flavour with a sculpted tannin structure giving a firm finish. Needs time. (90)

Saturday, April 12: First day of judging at the Ontario Wine Awards at Crush wine bar. This is the 20th year of the awards and the largest number of entries. Day two is next Saturday and the sweet wine judging the day after that. At the end of the day Deborah and I went for dinner at Brooklyn Tavern to relax. Great meal there with an amazing bottle of La Stella Maestoso Merlot 2007.

Ontario Wine Awards judges   


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 490: Going Greek

Poppy seed crusted tuna with quail egg by The Food Dudes

Monday, March 31: A winerytohome.com tasting at Doug Towers’s. In the evening Deborah and I picked up Guy from the airport after this visit to meet his new nephew in Vancouver. For dinner, opened a bottle of Altair 2004 I found tucked away in my cellar. Just love discovering bottles I’d forgotten about. This 10-year-old Chilean blend of Cabernet Sauvignon with Syrah, Carmenère and Cabernet Franc was magnificent (92 points).

Tuesday, April 1: A lunch meeting at Patachou with David Rose, Liz Gallery and Cathy Martin to discuss Grapes for Humanity’s “Chile Uncorked” event. In the afternoon Sean Rowlands of Gradwell Wine Agency dropped by the condo with some South African wines to taste:

  • Willow Way Shiraz Mourvèdre 2013 (Western Cape – $14.25 Fair Trade): deep ruby colour; savoury, meaty nose of black fruits and leather; full-bodied, dry, spicy, dark chocolate and blackberry with a lively spine of acidity and an iodine note on the finish. (89)
  • Balance Winemaker’s Selection Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 2013 (Western Cape – $12.95): deep ruby colour; plum with an earthy-clay nose; medium to full-bodied, dry and fruity with a soft mouth-feel and fresh acidity; firm finish with red and blackcurrant flavours. (88)
  • Mad About South African Wine Cabernet Sauvignon Petit Verdot 2013 (70/30%: Western Cape – $12.95): deep ruby; cedar, spicy oak, Bordeaux-style nose of currants and oak; medium-bodied, velvety mouth-feel, well balanced, firm, redcurrant, cranberry flavours; enough tannin to give structure. (88+)
  • Sumaridge Chardonnay 2011 (Walker Bay – $29.50): deep golden straw with a green tint: spicy, vanilla, caramel, peach and apple nose with a barnyard note; dry, full-bodied, green pineapple and peach flavours, beautifully balanced with well integrated oak and great length. (92)

Great label

Wednesday, April 2: Recorded my 680News wine reviews and wrote up my Wines of the Week for the website. In the afternoon, worked on the Ontario Wine Awards. We have 540 entries this year with a new category for appassimento wines. Emailed the judges with the ballot for voting “The Winemaker of the Year.”

Tasted the following wines in the afternoon:

  • Inniskillin Pinot Noir Rosé 2011: deep orange-pink; watermelon, cherry nose; dry, medium-bodied, soft mouth feel, easy drink, cherry and orange flavours. (87)
  • KWV Cathedral Cellars Shiraz 2009 (South Africa – $15.95): deep purple plum colour; earthy, savoury, herbal nose; dry, full-bodied, dark chocolate and blackberry flavours, rich mouth feel, dry with powdery tannins. (88)
  • Maison Brotte Esprit Barville Côtes du Rhône 2011: deep ruby colour; woody, cherry nose; opens on the palate with sweet Grenache flavours of black raspberry with a licorice note. Soft mouth-feel with just enough tannin to give the wine some structure on the finish. (88)
  • Domaine Barville Châteauneuf du Pape 2010: deep ruby colour; spicy-floral nose, vanilla oak and sweet wild berry nose; full-bodied, dry, herbal, sweet cherry flavour with cocoa powder tannins. (89+)

At 5:30 pm Tom Noitsis picked me up with Alpha Estate’s winemaker Angelo Iatridis to have dinner at Arkadia on Eglinton East. A fabulous Greek meal during which we tasted the following wines:

  • Alpha Axia White Malagouzia 2012 ($15.95): pale straw colour; a light floral nose of peach with a thread of minerality; medium-bodied, spicy, lemony flavour, lovely mouth feel with a mouth-watering finish of citrus acidity. (89)
  • Alpha Sauvignon Blanc 2012 ($17.95): straw coloured with a lime tint; leafy, green fig and gooseberry bouquet; rich mouth feel with floral, gooseberry and lychee flavours; mouth-filling, great texture, elegant with a long, fresh, lingering finish. (91)
  • Alpha Axia Red Blend 2009 ($17.95): 50/50 Syrah and Xynomavro – ruby colour; high-tone, vanilla and black cherry nose; lean and sinewy on the palate, dry, fruity and spicy; firmly structured with a lively acidic spine. (88)
  • Alpha Xinomavro Single Vineyard Hedgehog 2010 ($19.95): from 25 year old vines – deep ruby colour; spicy, cherry nose; medium-bodied, dry, cherry flavour, fruity and fresh with powdery tannins (not a usual descriptor I usually associate with Xynomavro), finishing with cherry and cherry pit flavours. (89)
  • Alpha Estate Proprietary Bend 2008 ($27.95): 60% Syrah, 20% Merlot, 20% Xinomavro – dense ruby purple in colour; cedar, spicy plum and blackberry nose; soft on the palate, well balanced, black cherry, blackberry and plum flavours; richly extracted flavours, full in the mouth with sweet, succulent fruit. (92)

Dinner at Arkadia

Angelo Iatridis

Thursday, April 3: A breakfast meeting at Stock Restaurant in the Trump Hotel to discuss a corporate tasting. Dropped into the Toronto Reference Library to check on magazine articles I wrote in 2012 – to the Access Payback for writers. In the evening a corporate wine tasting (food and wine matching) for Deloitte and their clients. Food prepared by The Food Dudes. The wines we tasted:

  • Giró Ribot Cava Brut Reserva
  • Walter Schug Chardonnay 2012
  • Kung Fu Girl Riesling 2012
  • St. Innocent Pinot Noir Momtazi Vineyard 2011
  • Pine Ridge Merlot 2009
  • Joseph Heitz Cabernet Sauvignon 2008
  • A Selection of Ontario Icewines

Friday, April 4: A Vintages release tasting. Watched the Jays’ home opener. They lost to the Yankees. For dinner, with lamb chops, Graffigna Centenario Malbec Reserve 2011: dense purple colour; spicy, spy, leather, pencil lead and blackberry nose; medium to full-bodied, dry, savoury flavour with a firm tannic finish. (87)

Another great label (Vintages April 26th release)   


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 489: Burgundy 201

Monday, March 24: Last night I broke a blood vessel in my left eye by coughing too hard. I look like something out of a horror movie. Went to see my doctor, who said it will clear up in a week or two.

Luc Bouchard

The annual Burgundy tasting by Luc Bouchard of Bouchard Père & Fils and William Fèvre at the city headquarters of the RCYC. I always look forward to this tasting, which gives wine writers and sommeliers a real window on the vintage – in this case 2012. For my palate it’s a classic Burgundy vintage, the reds marginally better than the whites but a terrific vintage in Chablis (my favourites, apart from the always dependable William Fèvre Chablis Les Clos 2012, were Beauroy Domaine and Les Preuses). My top scoring reds were Bouchard Père & Fils Pommard Rougiens 2012, L’Enfant Jesus 2012, and the terrific Clos de Bèze. Of the whites, I liked Ancien Domaine Carnot Bouzeron Aligoté 2012, Puligny-Montrachet Village and Corton-Charlemagne.

My favourite Chablis at the tasting

At the tasting I ran into Otta Zapotocky, who owns L’Avenue Bistro on Avenue Road, and he invited me to a Louis Jadot dinner that evening at his restaurant. I sat next to Chuck, Otta’s partner in a new venture called Estrella Taqueria, a taco bar and restaurant on Yonge north of Sheppard. Otta describes himself on his business card as “Taco Whisperer.”

Jadot wine dinner

We started off with Jadot Bourgogne Chardonnay 2012 (straw colour; minerally, apple nose; nicely balanced with crisp lemony acidity, good mouth-feel and a little wood spice on the finish. (88)). With Emmenthal soufflé and corn cream sauce, Jadot Mâcon Villages Chardonnay 2012 (straw colour; smoky, flinty, green pineapple nose; fresh and lively on the palate. (88)). Sweet potato gnudi with parsley, fennel purée, roasted Vidalia onion, dwarf truffle peach, Marechal cheese, with Jadot Santenay Clos de Malte 2010 (the first time I’ve had a white wine from Santenay: minerally, green apple nose; high toned, tart green apple flavour with a surprisingly robust caramel and nutty finish (90)). Next, beef tartare with beet purée, beet chips, pickled beet salad, with Jadot Marsannay Clos du Roy 2011 (ruby colour; high toned, cherry and cherry pit nose; dry, lean and sinewy with a light floral note; light and elegant with moderate length and a touch bitter on the finish. (89)). Roasted quail in bacon, presillade, quail jus, herb risotto and fried shallots, with Château des Jacques Moulin-à-Vent 2010 (fruity, cherry and white pepper nose; easy drinking with a firm structure and a pencil lead note behind the dry cherry flavour (89)). Finishing with cheese tart (hazelnut, Thunder Oak Gouda and blueberry gastique), with Beaujolais-Villages Combe aux Jacques 2012 (deep ruby colour; cherry nose, light and fruity with a lively spine of acidity. (89)). A delicious meal by Chef Jeremy Dyer.

Tuesday, March 25: My bachelor fortnight ended this afternoon as Deborah returned from Vancouver with pictures of our new grandson, Declan. Wrote my Commentary for Quench magazine on travelling without a corkscrew and what I’ve learned in nearly forty years of chasing the grape around the world. Dinner – grilled salmon – with Wildass Riesling 2012 (straw colour with a hint of green; minerally, smoky, struck flint and citrus nose with a light petrol note; medium-bodied, crisply dry with a grapefruit flavour. (88)).

Wednesday, March 26: The day seemed to slip away with not much done. Wasted a lot of time on emails.

Thursday, March 27: Up at 5:30 am to drive my son Guy to the airport. He’s visiting with his sister to meet his new nephew. Worked on the Ontario Wine Awards and in the evening (when it snowed!) I did some tasting.

  • Si Soave 2012 (Veneto – Garganega: $10.25): pale straw colour; pear skin aroma with a light floral and citrus note; light-bodied, touch of sweetness in mid palate with little bitterness on the finish. (85)
  • Fleur du Cap Chardonnay 2012 (South Africa): straw coloured; smoky, struck flint nose, developing barnyard notes; pineapple and peach flavours with a strong spring of acidity. Flavourful but a little chalky and bitter on the finish. (86)
  • Wildass White 2009 (Ontario – $19.95: Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, Gewurztraminer, Riesling): golden straw colour; the Gewurz sings through on the nose, aromatic and lychee-driven; off-dry, full-bodied, intense flavours of grapefruit, peach and lychee. A beautiful, fleshy, powerful blend with great length and a lovely mouth-feel. (90)
  • McManis Family Vineyards Chardonnay 2012 (California): golden straw colour; creamy caramel, toasty oak nose; full-bodied, mouth-filling sweet peach and melon flavours with enough acidity to keep the wine in balance. (88+)
  • Château des Charmes Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (Ontario): ruby-purple colour; cedar, blackcurrant nose; medium-bodied, sweet fruit, cassis and dark chocolate flavours, nicely balanced with spicy oak. Finishes firmly. (88)
  • Umberto Fiore Barbaresco 2009 (Piemonte – $17.65): ruby colour; earthy, woodsy, cherry nose; medium-bodied, dry and savoury with a sour cherry flavour; ripe tannins and firmly structured. A good food wine. (88)
  • Wild Ass Red 2011 (Ontario – $19.95: a blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Petit Verdot, Gamay and Sangiovese): deep ruby colour; tobacco, cedar, spicy oak and red fruits on the nose; dry, medium to full-bodied, richly extracted, plum and cherry flavours backed by vanilla oak. No great length but a gutsy wine. (88)
  • Patrick Lesec Beames de Venise Cuvée Suzon 2011 (Rhône – $19.95): deep ruby colour; port, alcoholic nose of plums and chocolate; a real heavyweight but voluptuously fleshy and firm. Not for the faint of heart. Warm alcoholic finish. (87)
  • Château de Fontenelles Cuvée Renaissance 2010 (Corbières – Syrah, Grenache, Carignan and Mourvèdre: $18.95): dense ruby-purple colour; smoky, herbal, black olive, black tea nose; richly extracted sweet and savoury notes of dark chocolate and black cherries with a floral note. Good length and ripe tannins on the finish. (89)
  • Evans & Tate Metricup Road Shiraz 2010 (Margaret River, Western Australia – $22.95): deep ruby colour; lifted, smoky, black fruit nose with a note of cedar; dry, medium to full-bodied, sweetish cherry flavour. The nose promises more than the palate delivers. (87)

Friday, March 28: A tasting this morning of 70 rosés at the Summerhill LCBO with fellow members of the Wine Writers Circle. Then a meeting with Magdalena Kaiser-Smit of Wine County Ontario to discuss the Ontario Wine Awards.

A roomful of rosés

Saturday, March 29: Picked up some wines from Geddy Lee that he has donated to Grapes for Humanity’s silent auction on March 15th at The Gardiner Museum. Then dropped into see Warren Porter’s new Irongate wine storage facility on Laird Drive. In the evening Deborah and I tried out Otta’s new Estrella Taqueria. I brought along a bottle of Laughing Stock Portfolio 2008 from BC. A blend of Bordeaux’s five grapes. A lovely bottle of wine, richly extracted flavours of cassis and plum, full on the palate (91). Really impressed by Estrella, very creative tacos and very reasonably priced. Also a lengthy Tequila list.


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 488: A Winter Cold

Monday, March 17: St Patrick’s Day. My father was born in Belfast before Partition, which technically makes me Irish. Didn’t feel much like celebrating, though, as my cold has gotten worse and even the idea of a glass of wine is not appealing, let alone a glass of Jameson (although I prefer Redbreast). Deborah is still away helping Annabel with the new baby in Vancouver and I’m baching it. Wrote my 680 wine reviews and spent an inordinate amount of time on the phone.

Tuesday, March 18: Wrote my Lexpert column on rosés based on the “real men don’t eat quiche” syndrome – but now they do. Sent off a couple of articles to the magazine in China I write for. The pieces appear in Chinese and I don’t know what they read like since they translate them and send me the copy when it’s published.

Wednesday, March 19: Wrote my Wines of the Week reviews. Had an invitation to be a keynote speaker at the 2015 Vitinor conference in Nebraska. They want me to talk about cool climate wine growing, using Nova Scotia as the model. Sounds like fun. Met with a legal firm to discuss the possibility of holding seminars for young lawyers on how to entertain clients and feel comfortable navigating a wine list (not reaching for the most expensive wine on the card to try to impress).

Thursday, March 20: Worked on the Ontario Wine Awards, locking in judges for the three sessions. Still haven’t had a glass of wine and am losing weight. Hate to think that this is a way to diet. Have not felt much like cooking for myself and have taken to reheating last night’s meal. Food doesn’t taste so great without a glass of wine. But tomorrow is a Vintages release tasting at the LCBO, which means I have to taste.

Friday, March 21: Was awakened by a loud thump at 5.45am. Pinot the Wonderdog had fallen off the bed. She was shaken and embarrassed so I took her out for a walk – otherwise she was fine. The Leafs are up to their old losing ways, which doesn’t improve my mood. Came home from the Vintages tasting feeling tired so I took the rest of the day off and read Albert Speer’s Inside The Third Reich, which is probably not the book I should be reading in my physical state. With luck my cold should be gone by the weekend.

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 487: Winter’s Revenge

Deborah and our grandson, Declan

Monday, March 10: Came back from Chile with a cold. Bummer. A Brunello tasting at the AGO this morning but first a meeting with Giorgio Tinelli of the Italian Chamber of Commerce to discuss a promotion of Umbria’s Sagrantino producers in Toronto. There were 116 Brunellos and Rosso di Montalcinos listed in the catalogue but, this being an Italian event, there were almost twice as many wines on the tables. I managed to taste 40 of them. My favourites were the 2007 Brunello di Montalcino Riservas by La Fiorita (and also their delicious 2006), La Fortuna, Tenuto Silvio Nardi “Manachiara,” and SanPolino. And Val di Suga Brunello di Montalcino Vigna Spuntali 2007. Other top wines I tasted were the still youthful Col d’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino 1997, La Mannella 2008 and 2009 Selezione I Poggiarelli. I also liked the Corte dei Venti Sant’Antimo 2012 (a blend of 60% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah). Top Rosso di Montalcino: Tenuta San Giorgio 2011, Collosorbo 2012, Canalicchio si Sopra 2011 and the new world-styled Loacker-Corte Pavone 2011.

Home for a 4:30 pm telephone interview with Shari Mogk-Edwards, the LCBO’s Vice President of Merchandising, for the article I’m writing for Wine Business International on wine trends in Canada.

Tuesday, March 11: Went to my accountants with all my paperwork. The CRA tells me I have been reassessed for taxes owing of $7,300. My accountant assures me this is their mistake. I sincerely hope so. Spent the rest of day working on the Ontario Wine Awards, putting together the judging panels. An overnight storm threatens 15 centimeters of snow. Deborah is leaving on an 8:20 am flight tomorrow for Vancouver to help Annabel and Ian with the new baby. So we decide to hire a limo rather than my driving.

Wednesday, March 12: The snow only starts in mid-morning but we do get a real storm in this never-ending winter. Write my Post City column on Gewurztraminer. My cold is getting worse.

Thursday, March 13: Getting great photos back from Vancouver of Deborah holding Declan – and a delightful video of Declan with the hiccups. Not feeling so hot but I had accepted an invitation to go to the opening of Byblos, a new Eastern Mediterranean tapas bar on Duncan Street. The place is mobbed. I asked for a glass of wine but they were out of wine so I settled for a The Ten Suns cocktail (green-tea-infused Absolut vodka, lemongrass/ginger/honey syrup, yuzu juice, tincture of cardamom) because I thought it would be good for my cold. Left after 45 minutes not feeling great.

A bouquet of rosés

Friday, March 14: This morning, a tasting at the LCBO of 14 rosés either newly listed or about to be. Plus 13 other wines. Best wine there – Inniskillin Oak Aged Vidal 2012. Delicious but costly at $79.95. Left the tasting room feeling worse. Think I’m coming down with flu.

Delicious but costly Icewine

Took my temperature at home – 99.6, feeling feverish and coughing. Guy came over to walk the dog. Didn’t even feel like having a glass of wine.

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 486: Chile

Monday, March 3: Arrived in Santiago at 1 pm, an hour late. Our group is three Quebeckers – Karyne (who is pregnant), Thea and Raymond from Montreal and Kurtis from Vancouver. Our host is San Pedro represented by Morela Mendez, a Venezuelan of Italian extraction. We are bussed to our hotel, NOI, drop our bags and head to Vitacura for a tour and tasting of Altaïr wines conducted by winemaker Marco Puyo.

Altaïr winery

Altair’s winemaker Marco Puyo

  • Altaïr Sideral 2009 (75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Syrah, 10% Carmenère, 2% Petit Verdot, 1% Petite Sirah): deep ruby colour; peppery, blackcurrant, vanilla oak with a cedary note; medium to full-bodied; elegant, richly extracted, black fruits, coffee bean and chocolate flavours with lively acidity, a floral note and cushiony tannins. (91)
  • Altaïr Sideral 2010 (45 % Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Syrah, 16% Carmenère, 3% Petit Verdot, 2% Petite Sirah): dense purple colour; more vegetal on the nose than the 2009 (Carmenère influence) but nice florality; dry, full on the palate, firm structure, more minerality and evident tannins. Lean and tighter than 2009 but better structure and will cellar well. (91–92)
  • Cabo de Hornos 2009 (61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Syrah, 21% Malbec): dense ruby colour; floral, blackcurrant, vanilla oak nose; richly extracted, sweet blackcurrant fruit with a thread of minerality and tannin. Firm tannic finish, good acidity. (90)
  • Cabo de Hornos 2010 (84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Syrah, 12% Malbec): dense purple colour; spicy red and black fruits on the nose; rich mouth feel, plum, black cherry and blackcurrant flavours with balancing acidity and well integrated oak. Succulent fruit that starts sweet and evolves into a savoury finish. (93)
  • Altaïr 2009 (79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Syrah, 6% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot, 2% Carmenère): lilac, blackberries with a savoury, herbal note; richly extracted, sweet fruit, dark chocolate with powdery cocoa powder-like tannins. Well balanced with a blunt tannic finish. (89)
  • Altaïr 2010 (76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Syrah, 7% Carmenère, 4% Petit Verdot): dense purple-ruby colour; smoky, tar nose; acidity carries the flavours of red and blackcurrant berry fruit, very elegant, licorice notes. Firm tannic finish. (92)
  • San Pedro Tierras Moradas Carmenère 2009: dense ruby that stains the glass; spicy black cherry, cedar; spicy blackcurrant, lively acidity with shaping tannins. (89)
  • San Pedro Tierras Moradas Carmenère 2010: dense ruby-purple colour; leafy blackcurrant nose; firmly structured, beautifully balanced, more restrained than the 2009 but beautifully balanced cassis and spicy notes; great structure. (92+)
  • San Pedro Kankana del Elqui Syrah 2009: dense purple-black colour; smoky, meaty, iodine and roasted herbs on the nose; dry, savoury, full on the palate with a real flavour of Northern Rhône Syrah, smoky black olive, raspberry and cherry flavours. Great length. (93)
  • San Pedro Kankana del Elqui Syrah 2010: dense purple colour; white pepper, smoky, meaty, blackberry nose with a floral note; ripe and rich, dry and savoury; lively acidity. Still tight. (91)
  • San Pedro Kankana del Elqui Syrah 2013 from barrel: (going to be as good if not better than the 2009).

Tuesday, March 4: This morning at 7:51 am a 5.4 earthquake centred in San Antonio. I was in the shower at the time and didn’t notice it! In the earthquake in 2010, Morela told me, Tarapaca (we visit the winery tomorrow in Isla de Maipo) lost 3.3 million litres of wine. The walls of the tasting room are still wine-stained for five inches from the floor. Ed Flaherty, whom I first met at Errazuriz in the 1990s, is the winemaker here.

Tarapaca’s winemaker Ed Flaherty

Morela Mendez with Tarapaca Gran Reserva Etiqueta Azul 2011

  • Tarapaca Sauvignon Blanc Gran Reserva 2013 (Leyda): 10% barrel fermented. Straw with a greenish tint; fresh, elderberry and gooseberry nose; crisply dry, grapefruit, lemon grass, minerally-flinty, salty note with great acidity. (90)
  • Tarapaca Chardonnay Gran Reserva 2013 (Leyda): 80% barrel fermented; golden straw with a green tint; mineral, pear, light oak influence; spicy, pear and green pineapple flavours; full on the palate with great length, well balanced. (90)
  • Tarapaca Pinot Noir Gran Reserva 2012 (Leyda): dense ruby colour; leather, pencil lead, black cherry nose with a floral top note; ripe fruit, lively acidity, evident alcohol. A little short on finish. Evident tannin. (88)
  • Tarapaca Syrah Gran Reserva 2011 (Maipo): dense purple-black; a savoury, blackberry, herbal nose with a creamy note; full-bodied, dry, earthy, blackberry with toasted herb flavours; firmly structured. (90)
  • Tarapaca Carmenère Gran Reserva 2012 (Maipo): 7% Syrah; dense purple-black colour; leafy, green tea, blackcurrant nose, vanilla oak; green vegetable note melded with blackcurrant, firm structure, dry finish. (89)
  • Tarapaca Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (Maipo) (19 different vineyard sites – with 5% Syrah and 5% Merlot and Carmenère): dense purple-black colour; pencil lead, blackcurrant, floral note; succulent blackcurrant fruit, firmly structured. Needs time. (89–91)
  • Tarapaca Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon Etiqueta Negra 2011 (Maipo): 10% Cabernet Franc. French and American oak. Dense ruby, vanilla, dark chocolate, black fruit nose; richly extracted, ripe fruit, still confined in tannins but rich enough for future expression. (90–92)
  • Tarapaca Gran Reserva Etiqueta Azul 2011 (Maipo) (2nd vintage – 38% Cabernet Franc, 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Syrah): dense purple-black colour; minerally, black cherry, vanilla oak nose; well structured, lovely mouth feel, tannic finish. Needs time but will develop beautifully. (91–93)

Tarapaca’s outdoor toilets: men left, ladies right

Lunch at the Tarapaca guest house: Appetizers – Shrimps sautéed in garlic with vegetables spaghetti, merquén corn soup with toasted flour, wild mushroom risotto balls with luche (sea weed) mayonnaise, served with Tarapaca Pinot Noir Reserva 2012 (Leyda): light purple colour, floral, cherry and vanilla oak nose; medium-bodied, ripe fruit, carries its 14.5% alcohol very well, nicely structured. (89)

First course; Beans and sea food, with Tarapaca 1865 Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (Leyda): pale straw colour; grassy, grapefruit nose; very crisp, gooseberry and grapefruit flavours. (89). Squid stuffed with charquican (potato and vegetables), with Tarapakay 2010. The name means “hidden tree.” 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Syrah. Dense purple colour; spicy, cedar and black fruit nose with vanilla oak, floral and tobacco notes; full-bodied, sweet fruit with dark chocolate flavours, beautifully balanced; carries its 15% alcohol, rich mid palate fruit and the Syrah sings through. (93)

Tarapaca’s flagship red wine

Main courses: Oda al Caldillo de Pablo Neruda (traditional fish soup with a poem by Pablo Naruda printed on potato pasta in squid ink), with Tarapaca Gran Reserva Chardonnay 2013 (Leyda). Short ribs wrapped in Swiss chard with corn puree and barley stew, with San Pedro 1865 Cabernet Sauvignon 2011.

Desserts: The Egg (looks like a hardboiled egg with some shell still on it but it’s made of panacotta with almond essence and a “yolk” of mango puree and “shell” pieces of meringue); an Coconut Cork (shaped like a wine cork) with borgoña and strawberry compote, with San Pedro Epica 2012.

The “egg” dessert

While the others went for a horse ride around the vineyard, Karyne and I slipped away for a visit to De Martino for a brief tour and tasting. Marco De Martino showed us his amphorae cellar before we sat down to taste. He has collected 156 amphorae from farmers as fermentation vessels, using Cinsault, Muscat and Carignane from Itata, the oldest wine region in Chile. During ageing the tops are sealed with adobe mud. De Martino uses no new oak; they pick early and ferment in foudres of Austrian oak.

De Martino’s amphorae

  • De Martino Quebrada Seca Chardonnay 2012: straw colour; minerally, toasty, pineapple nose; full-bodied, dry, mouth-filling spicy, green pineapple flavour. (90)
  • De Martino Sauvignon Blanc Parcela 5 2011 (Casablanca): straw colour; minerally, grapefruit nose; tart, elderberry, gooseberry and green melon flavours with lively acidity. (91)
  • De Martino Viejas Tinagas Cinsault 2013: deep purple colour; herbal-floral blackberry nose; spicy and fresh, white pepper and sour cherry flavours, medium-bodied. Like a Beaujolais on steroids. (88)
  • De Martino Limavida 2011 (an old vine field blend of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault and Carmenère planted in the early 1950s and dry farmed): dense purple colour; inky, blackberry and lead pencil nose; dry and fresh on the palate, fruity with lively acidity finishing with shaping tannins. (90)
  • De Martino Syrah Alto Los Toros 2011 (Elqui Valley – with 15% Petit Verdot): dense ruby colour; savoury, herbal blackberry and tobacco nose with vanilla oak; elegant, licorice and blackberry flavours, lovely fruit with lively acidity. (91)
  • De Martino Viejas Tinajas Muscat 2012 (Itata): hazy, golden straw colour; honeyed cardamom and orange blossom nose; fresh, floral, intense clove and orange peel flavours finishing dry with a firm tannic structure. (89)
  • De Martino Gallardia del Itata Muscat 2012: light, dry, fresh and elegant. (89)
  • De Martino Viejas Tinajas Especial 2012 (Maule – 80% Carignane and Cinsault): dense purple colour; medicinal, blackberry nose; mouth-filling, peppery, black fruits, lovely mouth feel with evident tannins. Rustic. (89)

Back at Tarapaca’s guest house a Pisco tasting had been set up by Claudia Olmedo, “the only Pisco sommelier in Chile.” She informed us that Columbus’s second voyage to the Americas brought vines to Peru, Chile and Bolivia. In brief she said: “Pisco is a spirit distilled from the wine in northern Chile. 1850, the first varietals arrived from France. In that year the Pisco name emerged. In 1931 Pisco was denominated. In 1936 Pisco Elqui was denominated. Varieties used: Moscatel of Alexandria, Moscatel Rosada, Torontel, Moscatel de Austria, and Pedro Jimenez. All Piscos are a blend. They have to be bottled in the zone. Only 10,000 hectares of grapes for Pisco in Chile. Distillation must finish by January 31st. 10 kilos of grapes produce I litre of Pisco. Pisco is up to 34% alcohol is called Traditional; 35% is Especial, 40% Reservado and 43%–50% Gran Pisco.”

  • Pisco Control Original: clear, clean with spicy, anise; lemon zest. Smooth on the palate.
  • Pisco Tres Erres: very pale straw; spicy, banana and almond flavours, alcoholic finish.
  • Pisco Mistral (6 months in American oak): pale amber colour; leather, spicy, sweet vanilla, clove, elegant.
  • Pisco Mistral Gran Nobel Reservada Privada: deep amber colour; spicy, oaky, Cognac-like, caramel, smoky, dried orange skin, chocolate, pencil lead, great length.

Dinner: Salmon tartar with Tarapaca Sauvignon Blanc Gran Reserva 2013 followed by pork loin, spicy potato and zucchini, with Tarapaca Gran Reserva Merlot 2012 (7% Syrah): dense ruby colour; creamy blueberry and blackcurrant nose; rich and full on the palate, big and bold, soft mouth-feel with feathery tannins. (89). Dessert Crème Carmel cake with Tarapaca Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc Gewurztraminer Terroir 2012: medium-bodied, semi-sweet, spicy lychee flavour (89).

Wednesday, March 5: Awakened at 1:45 am by a tremor. Turned out to be a 5.4 earthquake centred in San Antonio. Went back to sleep like a good Chilean. After breakfast we left for a two-and-a-half-hour drive to San Pedro’s Castilla de Molina. En route I got an email from my wife telling me that Annabel had had her baby. A boy! ‘Bel sent me a photo.

After checking into our rooms we were served a glass of Viñamar Brut to celebrate my becoming a grandfather. Then a tasting in the 1865 cellar with winemaker Miguel Rencoret.

The sparkling wine toast to my grandson Declan Rowan

San Pedro’s winemaker Miguel Rencoret

San Pedro’s 1865 cellar

  • San Pedro Cabernet Sauvignon 35 South Reserva 2013 (Central Valley): ruby colour; cedar, red and blackcurrant nose; dry, medium-bodied, claret style, nicely balanced, floral, berry-driven with ripe tannins. Warm alcoholic finish. (88)
  • San Pedro Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 35 South Reserva 2012 (Central Valley, 60/40): ruby colour; cedar, blackcurrant, vanilla, spicy nose; soft mouth-feel, floral, redcurrant and blueberry flavours, soft finish. (87)
  • San Pedro Epica 2012 (Central Valley – 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Carmenère, 5% Syrah; 12 grams residual sugar): deep ruby; sweet, vanilla, cedar, cherry and blackcurrant nose; off-dry, soft, medium-bodied, easy drinking with enough tannin to give it shape. (87)
  • San Pedro 1865 Malbec 2011 (Maule): deep ruby colour; rose petal, pencil lead, red berry nose; lean and sinewy, sweet fruit with a firm tannic finish. Well integrated oak. (88+)
  • San Pedro 1865 Carmenère 2011 (Maule): deep ruby colour; green pepper, blackcurrant, vanilla oak nose; creamy, blackcurrant, sweet fruit with good acidity and round tannins. Soft mouth feel. (88)
  • San Pedro 1865 Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (Maipo Valley): deep ruby colour; cedar, vanilla oak, redcurrant; medium-bodied, lean, sinewy, tannic, some green flavours. Lacks mid-palate fruit. (86)
  • San Pedro 1865 Cabernet-Syrah 2011 Limited Edition (Cachapoal Valley): dense ruby-purple; iodine, blackberry nose; dry, savoury, blackberry, black olive flavours; firm tannic finish. Needs time. (89)
  • San Pedro 1865 Syrah 2011 (Cachapoal): deep ruby colour; cedar, herbal, peppery, meaty nose; sweet, spicy, ripe blackberry, great structure, good mouth-feel; full-bodied with blackcurrant and rose petal flavours, well integrated oak. (89)

Sunset in Molina

A sunset aperitif on the terrace with San Pedro 1865 Sauvignon Blanc and a meat and potato-filled empanada the size of half a dinner plate. A dance troupe performed Chile’s national dance, the cueca, and invited us to join in. Dinner followed: steak, chicken, chorizo sausage with spinach salad, boiled potatoes and fresh tomatoes with Kankana del Elqui Syrah 2010, followed by Kankana del Elqui Syrah 2008 (dense purple colour; rose petal, iodine, vanilla oak, pepper nose; dry and savoury, elegant, soy and plum flavours (92)).

Chile’s national dance, la cueca

Thursday, March 6: After breakfast, bussed to a 40-year-old block of Sauvignon Blanc in San Pedro’s 1100-hectare vineyard (the largest single-surface vineyard in South America). The block of vines was planted in parron style; the clusters hang from a pergola at head height, making then easy to cut. We amused the harvesters as we tried our hand at picking, filling 15-kilo plastic buckets. This method of growing, usually for table grapes, yields 25 tons per hectare.

Sauvignon Blanc harvesters take a break

Went to Pencahue in the middle of the Maule Valley to see San Pedro’s 1865 Carmenère vineyard. The vineyard as a whole stretches over 700 hectares. Here there is a special purple soil, coloured by the zinc and titanium, which makes the ground look wine-stained. Back to San Pedro’s guest house for lunch: mushroom ceviche; celery, green apple, walnut and avocado salad; chicken stuffed with spinach and wheat berry risotto, with Castillo de Molina Sauvignon Blanc 2013 and Castillo de Molina Pinot Noir 2011. Desert: a pudding made from dried peaches, wheat berry and honey.

After lunch, drove back to Santiago and checked in again at the NOI Hotel. Time to catch up on emails and then we all went for a drink and some appetizers to Mestizo, a restaurant bar with its own little park and lagoon in the heart of Santiago. A bottle of Tabali Sauvignon Blanc 2013 with three types of ceviche, empanadas and dips, one beef and one corn and cheese.

Tallest building in South America (right)

Then on to dinner at Happening Restaurant for an Argentinian meat meal, but first a tasting of La Celia wines from Argentina led by its winemaker, Sebastian Ruiz. On the way to the restaurant a pedestrian stepped out into the road and our bus had to swerve madly to avoid him. Karyne, who is pregnant with Alice, came up with the best line of the trip: “We nearly had another girl in the bus!”

La Celia in the Ugo Valley was founded in 1890. The owner, Eugenio Bustos, sold horses to France. Instead of paying him they sent Malbec vines. He named his winery after his daughter, Celia. Today they have 450 hectares, 350 of them planted to Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Chardonnay.

  • Tamari Reserva Malbec 2012: deep purple-ruby colour; spicy, plum and black fruit nose; chunky mouth feel; dry, fruity, good acidity with moderate length. (87)
  • Tamari AR Malbec 2012: dense purple-ruby colour; minerally, fruitcake nose with notes of violets and evident oak; full-bodied, sweet blackberry and chocolate flavours with lively acidity. Well extracted fruit with a firm tannic finish. (88)
  • La Celia Cabernet Franc Pioneer Reserva 2012: deep ruby colour; pencil lead, vanilla oak nose, spicy blackcurrant; full-bodied, fruity, lively acidity. Tight, green tannins, needs time. (88–89)
  • La Celia Malbec Pioneer Reserva 2012: dense purple colour; orange zest, white pepper, black cherry and plum nose; full-bodied, richly extracted plum and black fruits, ripe tannin. Dry with good length. (89)
  • La Celia Elite Malbec 2012: dense purple colour; creamy, unctuous, black cherry, vanilla with an oily note; sweet fruit, full-bodied, dark chocolate, lively acidity with melting tannins; rich and full on the plate. (89–90)
  • La Celia Heritage Malbec 2011: dense purple colour; lifted blackcurrant and orange peel nose with spicy, cinnamon and floral notes; richly extracted fruit, velvety mouth feel; inky and firmly structured with ripe tannins. (90)
  • La Celia Supremo 2011 (16 months in new and one-year-old oak): dense purple-black that stains the glass; plums, dates, vanilla oak, spicy with a floral top note; richly extracted, full-bodied, sweet fruit; well balanced, firmly structured with lively acidity and firm tannins. (91)

La Celia’s winemaker Sebastian Ruiz

Dinner: spicy sausage and baked cheese, the four different cuts of grilled beef, mushrooms and salad.

Friday, March 7: After breakfast, bussed to Leyda for a visit to the vineyards of Leyda winery, the pioneer in this region 4 kilometres from the ocean. They had to build an 8-kilometre pipeline to bring water from the Maipo River. The original vineyard was planted 15 years ago. The region, because of morning fog and the sea breezes, is cooler than Casablanca. The winemaker, Viviane Navarrete, drives us through the vineyard to a tented area for our tasting. Kurtis and I are in the back of her truck and after the five-minute ride we are covered in brown dust.

Winemaker Viviane Navarrete explains Leyda’s soils

  • Leyda Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2013: light straw colour; fresh, green plum and citrus nose; medium-bodied, crisply dry with gooseberry and tangerine flavours and mouth-freshening acidity. (89)
  • Leyda Sauvignon Blanc Garuma Vineyard 2013: light straw colour; lemon and grapefruit nose with minerally, grassy notes; rich mouth feel, broader on the palate that the Reserva with a dry kiwi and grapefruit flavour. (89)
  • Leyda Lot 4 Sauvignon Blanc 2013: light straw colour with a green tint; creamy green fruit and grapefruit on the nose with a vanilla oak note; soft and full on the palate with minerally, grapefruit and elderberry flavours; great length. (91)
  • Leyda Sauvignon Gris Kadun Vineyard 2013: light straw colour; a nose of ginger, pepper and green pear; lively acidity with good texture. (89+)
  • Leyda Falaris Hill Chardonnay 2012: straw colour with a green tint; popcorn and citrus fruit nose with a touch of vanilla; spicy, green pineapple flavour; full-bodied with a lovely mouth feel and great length. (90)
  • Leyda Lot 5 Chardonnay 2012: straw colour; a nose of apple and peach with a light oak influence; full-bodied, lovely mouth feel, well integrated oak with fleshy, apple and pineapple flavours. Great length. (91)
  • Leyda Pinot Noir Reserva 2012: light ruby colour; minerally nose of cherries and violets; well-structured cherry and cherry pit flavours, firmly structured with a lovely mouth feel. (89)
  • Leyda La Brisas Pinot Noir 2012: ruby colour; a nose of raspberries, cherries and dried tomatoes and minerals; full on the palate, firmly structured with evident alcohol on the finish. (88)
  • Leyda Cahuel Pinot Noir 2012: ruby colour; smoky, cherry and violets on the nose; full on the palate, elegant, fresh cherry flavour; good length with lively acidity and a firm tannic finish. (89+)
  • Leyda Lot 21 Pinot Noir 2012: a deeper shade of ruby than the Cahuel Vineyard or La Brisas; spicy cherry and light oak nose; richly extracted cherry and orange peel flavours; full on the palate with lively acidity. Reminded me of a Pinot from Central Otago. Carries its alcohol very well. (91)
  • Leyda Canelo Syrah 2011: dense ruby-black colour; pepper, blackberries on the nose with a spicy-herbal note; well extracted fruit with a lively spine of acidity, savoury and firmly structured, finishing dry and elegant. (90)

Drove to Valparaiso and stopped for lunch at Fauna Restaurant at the top of the city. Great view of the ocean and the hills of the old town. Ordered razor clams in white wine sauce, octopus with tapenade and Juan Fernandez Island fish. Karyne had brought along a bottle of Pedro Parra’s Clos Fous Locura 1 Terroir de los Andes Chardonnay 2011 (minerally, Chablisesque with a touch of oxidation). We also had Gato Nero Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (very pale colour with a grapefruit nose; fresh and grassy on the palate with a kiwi flavour (87)). Gato Nero Cabernet Sauvignon 2013: purple-violet colour; floral, cedar nose of cloves and red berries; medium-bodied, sweetish with a redcurrant flavour, soft on the palate with enough tannin to give it structure. (86+)

Sunset in Vina del Mar

Drove into Vina del Mar to check into the Sheraton Miramar Hotel. The hotel, set beside the ocean, looks like a giant cruise ship. My room has a terrific ocean view. Watched the sunset on the terrace with a pisco sour before heading for dinner at Casa Higueras Restaurant. We had a set menu beginning with an amuse-gueule of a slice of blood sausage on toast with a honey form sauce. A bottle of Leyda Single Vineyard Garuma Sauvignon Blanc 2012 with a dish called Mar y Tierro, octopus and scallop with corn sauce.

Food art: Mar y Tierra

This dish was followed by sea bass ceviche, then salmon y guisantes, grilled salmon with fava beenpuree with Casa El Bosque Pinot Noit 2011. A bottle of Von Siebenthal Carabantes Syrah 2011 with tuna from Easter Island with a risotto of squid and pimentos. Dessert: sponge cake with grilled peaches and vanilla ice cream. The best meal I’ve had in Chile.

Saturday, March 8: Leaving the hotel this morning, our last day in Chile. There’s a marathon happening, which means certain streets are closed, which means we have to walk with our bags to a point where we can meet the bus. Our guide Willy Estupiñan shows us around Valpariso. Our first visit is the house of Palbo Neruda on Florida Hill. Neruda, a Communist, owned three houses in Chile. The place is full of the eclectic objets d’art Neruda collected.

Pablo Neruda’s house La Sebastiana, Florida Hill, Valparaiso

Valparaiso houses

Street art in Valpariso

We took the 1883 funicular railway car down the port level to see Sotomayor Square. Will told us that the favourite food of students (Valparaiso is a university town) is completo, a hot dog all dressed. When ordered with red pepper, mayonnaise and avocado it’s known as an Italian – the colours of the Italian flag. Signs on the highway read “Si Tomas, No Manejes” – if you’re drinking, don’t drive. The limit here is 0.3 alcohol.

We drive to Rencana, which has a kilometre-long beach, where we lunch at Las Pomairinos restaurant. We order a bottle of Concha Y Toro Terrunyo Sauvignon Blanc 2011 for the avocado, tomato and palm hearts salad, pilpil shrimps and pilpil clams. I order grilled conger eel, with which we have a bottle of Cono Sur 20 Barrels Chardonnay 2012.

The beach at Rencana

A short visit to the beach to see at a distance a volcanic rock formation immediately off shore. The rocks used to be black but they have been stained white by the droppings of pelicans, cormorants and seagulls. The locals call it “Michael Jackson Rock.” Back to the bus for the drive to Santiago airport and the flight home. At the airport Kurt finds that they sell pisco sours in mickeys once you’re through immigration and security. We have our last drink in Chile.

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 485: Cuvée 2014

Saturday, February 22: Our annual fishing dinner at Steve Cohen’s. On our trips Steve does all the cooking for shore lunches. We began with champagne – Charles Heidsieck Reserve Brut with hors d’oeuvres. The menu: Caviar Pie à la Esther, with Chopin Potato vodka followed by Miso Marinated black cod, with Zind Humbrecht Riesling Clos St. Urbain Grand Cru 1995. Duck breast and duck confit in cherry sauce, Lundberg Rice Pilaf, Portobello and turnip stack and French green beans, with G. Roumier Bonnes Mares 1999 and Osoyoos Larose 2001. With the cheeses, Château Calon Segur St. Estephe 1996 and Taylor Port 1970.

Sunday, February 23: Deborah and I attended the 20th anniversary celebration of the Avenue Road Art School as guests of its founder, Lola Rasminsky. Ran into lots of old friends, including Barry Chaim, Howard Engel and Marilyn Lightstone. Bob Rae auctioned off my home wine tasting as part of the fundraiser. In the evening I conducted a tasting of kosher wines imported by Mrs. Adler’s Mazel Wines at a private house. The wines we tasted:

  • Gvoat Chardonnay/Cabernet 2011
  • Montefiore Petite Sirah 2010
  • Gvoat Herodian Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
  • Psagot Select Vineyard Cabernet 2011
  • Yatir Forest 2009 (49% Cabernet Sauvignon, 41% Petit Verdot and 10% Merlot)
  • Yarden 2T 2010 Golan Heights Winery (51% Touriga Nacional, 49% Tinta Cao)

Monday, February 24: A tasting of Ontario wines with David Lawrason and Doug Towers for winerytohome.com. Came home and tasted Mission Hill 5 Vineyards Pinot Blanc 2012 (bright straw colour; white peach and peach pit nose with a mineral note; medium-bodied, peach and pear flavours with balancing acidity. (88)). And Mission Hill 5 Vineyards Cabernet Merlot 2011 (ruby colour; spicy, cherry bouquet with vanilla oak; cranberry and cherry flavours with a bitter chocolate note and grainy tannins (87+)).

Tuesday, February 25: Went to a private home to evaluate a cellar and then down to Reds Tavern to meet Alison Crary Rodrigues, associate winemaker at Sterling Vineyards. She had brought along a flight of Merlot – 1985, 1994, 2002 and 2011.

  • Sterling Vineyards Napa Valley Merlot 1985: Alison called it a “Goldilocks vintage” – a little bit of this and a little bit of that. (97% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc) Ruby colour with a tawny rim; spicy, soy, leather, vanilla oak, blackcurrant and dried flowers on the nose; dry and elegant and beginning to dry our but still delicious with lively acidity. (90)
  • Sterling Vineyards Napa Valley Merlot 1994 (85% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Cabernet Franc): ruby with a brick-coloured rim; savoury, cedar, vanilla and black cherry, white pepper, coffee bean and blackcurrant on the nose; sweet ripe plum flavour with refreshing acidity and a firm tannic finish. (91)
  • Sterling Vineyards Napa Valley Merlot 2002 (86% Merlot, with Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon): ruby colour; cedar, vanilla, lavender, licorice and spicy cherry nose; elegant, fruit-driven, initially sweet on the palate but finishing dry with ripe tannins. Lovely mouth feel. (90)
  • Sterling Vineyards Napa Valley Merlot 2011 (89% merlot with Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec): deep ruby colour; cedar, vanilla oak, creamy rhubarb and black cherry aromas with a floral top note; creamy, mocha flavour with the oak still showing through and a firm, tannic finish. Needs time. (89–91)

Lunch: Wild Mushroom Soup (Roasted Chicken Broth, truffled Enoki Salad, Parmesan Crouton) with Sterling Vineyards Napa Valley Chardonnay 2011 (golden straw colour; spicy, tropical fruit nose; full-bodied, pineapple and melon flavours; full-bodied with good acidity, marred by some bitterness on the finish (88)). Main course: pan roastedsalmon with sweet pea puree, sugar snap peas, fingerling potatoes, heirloom carrots and butter sauce. Followed by cheese platter, with Sterling Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (deep ruby colour; vanilla oak, creamy sweet blackcurrant and black cherry flavours with supple tannins. (80% Cabernet Sauvignon with Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. (89)).

In the afternoon Eugene Mlynczyk dropped by to discuss his dissertation subject for the Master of Wine program. We talked over a bottle of Mission Hill 5 Vineyards Pinot Blanc 2012 (lively melon and peach flavours, dry, citrus acidity (88)).

Wednesday, February 26: Met with Andrew, the young sommelier at Sip Wine Bar who is interested in taking courses to become an accredited sommelier. Lunch with Cathy Martin and Liz Gallery, who are co-chairing Grapes for Humanity’s “Chile Uncorked” fundraiser on May 15th. Then down to the Royal Alex to see a matinee of Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis. A challenging, thought-provoking play with a very physically-demanding performance by Bjorn Thors, the man who is changed into an insect overnight.

Restored my faith in humanity that evening by opening a bottle of Laughing Stock Vineyards Portfolio 2007. This is one of the best wines I’ve tasted from British Columbia in a long time. A blend of 56% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc, 6% Malbec and 1% Petit Verdot. Deep purple in colour with an appealing nose of cedar, black cherry and lovely sweet oak; medium-bodied, dry and elegant cherry and blackcurrant flavours, beautifully balanced and firmly structured with a lovely mouth-feel (92 points). Deborah and I had it with steak.

Thursday, February 27: Recorded my 680News wine reviews and then settled down to write an article on the latest trends in Canadian wines for Wine Business International.

Friday, February 28: Spent the morning working on the Wine Business International article and then drove down to Niagara Falls for Cuvée. Booked into the Hilton Hotel with an amazing view of both the American falls (which were partially frozen) and the Canadian. I got up on the stage to present my annual award and said, “This is the 15th year I have given the Tony Aspler Award of Excellence at Cuvée. This award is given to the individual or institution that has done most to further the aims and aspirations of the Ontario wine industry. This year’s recipient is an individual who owns a winery which has produced stellar wines vintage after vintage. And the owner has brought prestige to the local industry by his work in Burgundy. The award goes to Moray Tawse.” But Moray was not in the room! I had called his winemaker Paul Pender to get him there under some pretext but Paul apparently thought the awards were handed out at 9 pm rather than the actual time of 7 pm. However, Moray did show up and I presented him with the traditional engraved decanter and my wine writer colleague Rod Phillips took this picture.

My favourite wines of the night: Bachelder Wismer Chardonnay 2011, Domaine Queylus Grande Réserve Pinot Noir 2011 and Trius Wild Ferment Sauvignon Blanc 2012.

Saturday, March 1: Had breakfast with Jamie Drummond in the Hilton’s Grand Caffe and drove him to Brock University’s Pond Inlet for Cuvée’s annual Experts’ Tasting. This is the 25th year of this event. A flight of Riesling, followed by Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and a very exciting flight of red blends. I couldn’t stay for the Options Game as I had to get back to Toronto. I leave tomorrow for Chile. In the evening I tasted Kim Crawford Hawkes Bay Pansy! Rosé 2013: light cherry red colour; minerally cherry pit nose; medium-bodied, sweetish, confected raspberry flavour (86). For dinner, grilled salmon with Tinhorn Creek Pinot Gris 2011 (straw colour; minerally, peach pit nose; medium-bodied, dry pear flavour with a smoky, citrus note. Good mid-palate flavour (88)).

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