A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 504: I4C

Monday, July 14: Another visit to the chiropractor, who tells me I am not bending down to pick stuff up properly. Wrote my Lexpert magazine column – 12 questions to know if you’re wine savvy. In the afternoon tasted the following wines:

  • Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve Chardonnay 2011 (Niagara Peninsula): straw colour with a green tint; minerally, Burgundian nose of forest floor and apple with an oak note; dry, medium-bodied with apple and lemon flavours. (88+)
  • Le Clos Jordanne Claystone Terrace Chardonnay 2011 (Twenty Mile Bench): pale straw colour; lightly floral nose of apples and oak; medium- to full-bodied, soft mouth feel, elegant and silky, beautifully balanced. (91)
  • Quails’ Gate Chenin Blanc 2013 (Okanagan Valley): very pale straw colour; minerally, pear nose; dry, medium-bodied, pear and lemon zest flavours, clean and true, well balanced. A great food wine. (89)
  • Quails’ Gate Dry Riesling 2013 (Okanagan Valley): very pale with a lime tint; minerally, floral, citrus nose; medium-bodied, tart green apple and lime flavours with racy mouth-freshening acidity. (89)
  • Quails’ Gate Gewurztraminer 2013 (Okanagan Valley): very pale, almost water white in colour; aromatic, spicy, grapefruit nose with an earthy note; expressing more varietal character on the palate than on the nose – rose petal and pink grapefruit flavours. (89)
  • Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve Pinot Noir 2011 (Niagara Peninsula): light ruby colour with a tawny note; minerally, sour cherry nose; dry, lean and sinewy with a discreet floral note; evident alcohol with a tannic lift on the finish. (89)
  • Le Clos Jordanne Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011 (Twenty Mile Bench): light ruby colour with a tawny note; high toned, more focussed than the Village Reserve, warm cherry, minerals and forest floor nose; lovely velvety mouth feel, full on the palate with cherry, plum and raspberry flavours ending on soft, pillowy tannins and a smoky barrel note. (90+)

Tuesday, July 15: Wrote up my wine reviews for Quench magazine for November (the year is going fast). In the afternoon settled down for more tasting.

  • Niagara College Teaching Winery Chardonnay 2013: (Estate fruit; 14 barrels total: 12 French (Radoux, Cadus, Damy, Berthomieu), 1 each Hungarian and American; 30% new, 15% second use, 7% third, the rest 4th and 5th use; 50% inoculated and 50% spontaneous fermentations; spontaneous malolactic fermentations finished in February; bi-weekly lees stirring until end of malo, then once a month; 13.2% alc.): straw colour; Burgundian nose, struck flint, smoky, green pineapple; medium-bodied, flavourful pineapple, green apple and pear flavours with a touch of bitterness on the finish. (89)
  • Niagara College Teaching Winery Cabernet Franc “Desicatto” 2012 (2 barrels made, both from the same hand-picked row of Estate fruit with 50% of the fruit being naturally dried for 6 weeks; both halves fermented and then aged separately in second-use Berthomieu barrels for 10 months, then blended together to age for remaining 11 months; 13.9% alc.): purple-ruby colour; cedary, vanilla oak, minty, dates, raisin and plum nose; rich mouth feel, dry, plum and dark chocolate flavours with a floral note and a tannic lift on the finish. (90)
  • Niagara College Teaching Winery Merlot Farinacci Vineyard 2012 (18% new, 18% second-use 27% third-use, 18% fourth-use, 18% neutral; 55% American, 27% French, 18% Hungarian; 13.7% alc.): Deep ruby colour; cedar, red berry nose with an engaging floral top note; dry, medium-bodied, redcurrant and black cherry flavours with a sweet oak note; dry, medium-bodied, firmly structured with grainy tannins. (89)
  • Niagara College Teaching Winery Meritage 2012 (46% Cab Franc (Estate), 36% Merlot (Farinacci Vineyard); 18% Cab. Sauv. (Huebel Estates, Line 3); 27% new, 14% second-use, 23% third-use, 36% fourth and fifth use; 60% French, 25% American, 15% Hungarian; 13.6% alc.): deep purple ruby colour; a cedary, blackcurrant nose with a creamy note; dry, medium-bodied, firmly structured red and blackcurrant flavours, good acidic spine with cocoa-like tannins on the finish. (90)
  • Niagara College Teaching Winery Red Blend Icewine 2013 (10.7% Petit Verdot, 11.8% Syrah, 22.6% Merlot, 20.6% Cab. Sauv. 34.3% Cab. Franc; pressed and blended at 36.9°B, fermented to 9.6% alc with 202 g/L residual sugar and 8.8 g/L): deep salmon colour; honeyed strawberry nose; rich and mouth-filling, sweet strawberry-raspberry puree flavour, unctuous and smooth on the palate with a firm finish and just enough citrus acidity to balance the sweetness. (92)
  • Niagara College Teaching Winery White Blend Icewine 2013 (98% Vidal with a tiny bit of Riesling and Chardonnay; pressed at 36.7°B, fermented to 9.3% alc with 195 g/L Residual Sugar, with 7.4 g/L TA; approx. 20% fermented in second-use Berthomieu barrel and aged for 4 months): straw colour; honeyed peach with a touch of botrytis on the nose; sweet peach and honey flavours; full in the mouth with good length. (91)

Wednesday, July 16: Somehow the day got away from me. I wrote up the Niagara College wine notes and sent them off to the winemaker. Then wrote up wine reviews for Quench magazine. Dinner: salmon with a bottle of Sileni Hake’s Bay Chardonnay 2013 (straw with a green tint; toasty caramel, apple and citrus nose; medium-bodied, dry, crisp green apple flavour with a dry, powdery finish. (88))

Thursday, July 17: A 10 am meeting at Grano with Anthony Wilson-Smith, President of Historica Canada, to discuss the history of winemaking in Canada project. Then went to a computer store to get my phone unlocked only to be told that it was already unlocked!

Friday, July 18: Drove down to Brock University with Zoltan Szabo to attend the 4th International Cool Climate Celebration, this year entitled “The Rebirth of Cool.” Fifty-eight cool climate wineries attending. 500,000 acres of Chardonnay are planted world-wide, said John Szabo, the moderator of the first panel (Techno vs. Tech-no). In Ontario it’s the second largest crop in volume and the most widely planted varietal. Tim Atkin MW, the British wine writer, delivered the keynote speech. “Chardonnay is a victim of its ubiquity,” said Tim, “and a victim of its adaptability.” Chardonnay, he said, is the fifth largest variety planted globally.

Tim Atkin MW, keynote speaker

The panelists for the first session: Ron Giesbrecht of Niagara College, Shiraz Mottiar of Malivoire, Jeremy Dineen of Josef Chromy wines in Tasmania. In front of us, four wines, all the same made by Ron Giesbrecht, but different treatments.

  1. Control, nothing added, 2013, stainless steel fermentation, no malolactic (Least appreciated in the room)
  2. No oak; gum Arabic added for mouth feel and to stabalize tartrates; a product to ameliorate lees (My favourite)
  3. Oak chips (French) added, three different types – sweet, intense and spice – added at different temperatures
  4. Tannin added

Fining agents, proteins and tannins have been used for centuries, said Ron. Reverse osmosis to concentrate. Jeremy: consumers will pay lots of money for manipulated food like molecular cuisine but want their wines natural.

Second session: Yield In Context – Mattias Oppenlander of Grape Growers of Ontario. Jim Willwerth, CCOVI, Dimitri Baza, Champy and Matthew Lane of Peter Lehmann and Christie Canterbury MW. Is there a relationship between yield and quality? In Burgundy, with global warming, will they increase yields to maintain good quality? Burgundy plants 10,000 vines per hectare. Half a kilo of grapes harvested per plant. The wines tasted:

  1. Champy Corton Charlemagne 2011
  2. Champy Pernand Vergelesses en Caradeaux 2011
  3. Peter Lehmann Eden Valley Chardonnay 2012
  4. Trius Winery Showcase Single Barrel Heubel Estate Chardonnay 2011

Third session: The Living Vine: The Viticultural Continuum. Panelists Blake Gray, California blogger, Miguel Torres Maczassek of Torres, Sebastian Jacquey of Le Clos Jordanne, and Ann Sperling of Southbrook Vineyards & Sperling Vineyards. Terroir expression is critical, says Ann. Biodynamic, organic or sustainable? The need for honest certification for consumers.

  1. Le Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos Jordanne 2011
  2. Sperling Vineyards Estate Bottled Chardonnay 2012
  3. Southbrook Vineyards Poetica Chardonnay 2011
  4. Miguel Torres Milmanda Chardonnay 2011

A buffet lunch of cold meats and salad. Drove to White Oaks Hotel, checked in and visited the room where 108 Chardonnays had been set out for the media to taste.

World Chardonnays for tasting

I began with the Burgundies:

  • Champy Viré-Clessé 2012: light straw colour; minerally, apple and forest floor nose; crisply dry, with lemony-green apple flavours that sustain well on the palate. (90)
  •  Champy Pernand Vergelesses en Caradeaux 2011: straw colour; floral, minerally, forest floor nose; medium-bodied, apple with green apple acidity. Tight and closed. (89+)
  • Champy Corton-Charlemagne 2011: straw colour; a funky bottle (better this morning at the symposium). 2nd bottle: reductive nose, still a bit funky but less so than the first bottle. (88)
  • Domaine Dublère Savigny-Les-Beaune 2011: bright straw colour; oaky, barnyard notes; fennel, apple and citrus flavours; soft, round mouth feel, finishing with lively acidity with a touch of bitterness. (88)
  • Domaine Dublère Nuits Siant Georges 2011: straw colour; forward caramel and oak nose; oaky, sweet and sour flavours; a little short on finish leaving an oak note on the palate. (86)
  • Gérard Bertrand Aigle Royal 2012: light straw colour; spicy oak, citrus and caramel nose; mouth-filling, dry, sustains well on the palate. (89)
  • Marie-Pierre Manciat Mâcon Les Morizottes 2012: light straw colour; minerally, apple with a leafy, woodsy noose; rich, peachy apple and citrus flavour. (89)
  • Marie-Pierre Manciat Pouilly-Fuissé Les Petites Bruyères 2012: straw colour; vanilla oak, spicy, green pineapple nose; rich and full on the palate, well balanced, lovely mouth-feel with a fresh citrus acidity finish. (90)
  • Marie-Pierre Manciat Crémant de Bourgogne Brut: bright straw colour; apple, toast on the nose; full in the mouth with apple puree and cider flavours. (88)
  • Olivier Decelle – Pierre Jean Villa Sait-Aubin Sur Gamay 2012: light straw colour; minerally, apple nose; high toned, apple with a vegetal note. (86)
  • Olivier Decelle – Pierre Jean Villa Savigny-Les-Beaune 2012: minerally, earthy, apple; again high toned, sour note. (86)
  • Kistler Chardonnay Les Noisetiers Sonoma Coast 2012: straw with a green tint; spicy, minerally, barnyard nose; richly extracted, full on the palate with toasty, nutty flavours; great balance. (92)
  • Kistler Chardonnay Stone Flat Vineyard Sonoma Coast 2012: floral, apple and grapefruit nose; full-palate with a toasty finish. (93)
  • Thelema Blanc de Blancs 1994: old gold colour; caramel with a cheesy note; crisply dry, green apple. Surprisingly fresh and vibrant for a 20-year-old bubbly. (89)
  • Maycas del Limari Sumaq Reserva Chardonnay 2013: light straw with a green tint; minerally, green tobacco nose; dry, full-bodied, pear flavour. Great value. (88)
  • Maycas del Limari Reserva Especial Chardonnay 2010: straw colour with a lime tint; barnyard note, passion fruit and elderberry flavours; firm structure, full-bodied. (89)
  • Sandhi Rita’s Crown Chardonnay 2011: straw colour; light oak, orange, caramel and toasty flavours carried on bright acidity. Full-bodied and fleshy. (91)
  • Ravine Vineyard Reserve Chardonnay 2011: straw with a green tint; forest floor nose, apple; concentrated, citrus and apple backed by oak and lively acidity. (89)

At 5:45 pm we were bussed to 13th Street Winery, where wine barrels had been set up around the grounds for the visiting wineries to pour their Chardonnays. Pigs had been roasted over barrel staves for dinner and a rock band entertained us. During the course of the evening I tasted Chardonnays from Chromy (Tasmania), Cave Spring, Rex Hill (Oregon). Blue Mountain (BC), Bodega Catena Zapata (Argentina), Talley Vineyards (California), Norman Hardie, Lailey Vineyards, Tawse, Sandi (California) and took a blind tasting test devised by Peter Bodnar Rod. Back at the hotel by 10 pm and skyped Deborah to catch up on the day’s news.

Barrel top tasting at 13th Street Winery

Pig roast in the vineyard

Saturday, July 19: Breakfast at the hotel. Today I was bussed to Flat Rock Cellars with fellow wine writer Mike DiCarlo. Only the driver got lost and we arrive forty minutes late, missing four of the six speakers. Sandra Oldfield, the winemaker from Tinhorn Creek was introducing her Tinhorn Creek Chardonnay 2012, followed by Mer Soleil Reserve Chardonnay 2013. Also tasted here, before the thin crust pizza was served, Viña Carmen Gran Reserva Chardonnay 2012, Peter Lehmann H & V Eden Valley Chardonnay 2012, Flat Rock Rusty Shed 2012 and Ponzi Reserve Chardonnay 2011. Matt Lane, the entertaining winemaker from Peter Lehmann, came up with the best line of the day: Australia, he said, is the only country that eats its national emblem. A long bus ride back to the hotel (we had to pick up others from different wineries) and visit to the press room for more tasting:

  • Marimar Estate Acero Chardonnay 2012: straw with a lime tint; minerally, melon and peach nose; rich and ripe, flesh and full on the palate with a spine of acidity to hold it all together. (91)
  • Marimar Estate La Masia Chardonnay 2012: spicy, oaky, caramel nose; mouth-filling, melon and citrus flavours; good length (89)
  • Josef Chromy Chardonnay 2013: pale straw with green tint; light oak character topping green fruit notes; good tension between fruit (melon) and sweetness (toffee) etched with citrus acidity. (89)
  • Josef Chromy Pepik Chardonnay 2012: light straw colour with a green tint; earthy, vanilla oak, green apple; green apple flavour with tangerine acidity; nicely integrated. (89)
  • Bachelder Chardonnay Johnson Vineyard 2012 (Oregon): straw colour with a green tint; funky, barnyard and citrus nose; medium-bodied, fennel, melon and apple flavours with lively acidity. (88)
  • Creation Chardonnay 2012: straw colour with a green tint; reductive nose, smoky; medium to full-bodied with a peach and bitter almond flavour; lively acidity. (88)
  • Creation Chardonnay 2013: straw with a lime tint; barnyard nose, caramel with oak notes; dry, mature, citrus and caramel flavours. (88)
  • Jean Leon Chardonnay Vinya Gigi Single Vineyard 2012: straw with a lime tint; citrus, nutty, tree bark nose; full-bodied, dry, citrus and peach flavours; some bitterness on the finish. (87+)
  • Clos Du Bois Chardonnay Sonoma Reserve 2012: straw with a lime tint; forest floor, vanilla oak nose; caramel and sour cream flavours with a citrus finish. (88+)
  • Rex Hill Chardonnay Willamette Valley 2011: straw with a green tint; spicy, green apple nose; spicy, ripe caramel and citrus flavours, full in the mouth, creamy, nutty; good length. (90)
  • Sumaridge Chardonnay 2012: straw colour; barnyard nose, apple with oak notes; spicy, well integrated oak, Burgundian style nose; spicy, apple and pear flavours; great length. (90)

It rained much of the day and there was some trepidation about going The Cool Chardonnay World Tour Al Fresco Feast at Vineland Research & Innovation Centre since the walk-around tasting of sparkling wines and oysters was outside. Mercifully the rain stopped and dinner was served at long communal tables under two huge tents. There must have been 1500 people in the tent where I sat, next to Norman Hardie. By this time I was ready to bite my wrist for some red wine and happily a bottle of Pearl Morissette Gamay appeared magically. Menu: Confit Duck & Waterford County Bean Cassoulet; Chardonnay Grapevine Smoked Rainbow Trout; Honey & Thyme Roasted Blue Goose Organic Chicken with Chardonnay-Lemon Dressed Fresh Green and Spiced Niagara Yellow Plum Jam; Heirloom Tomato Panzanella with Focaccia, Montforte Feta and Garden Bail; Tunisian Carrot Salad, Harissa Vinaigrette, Kalamata Olives and Coriander; Ontario Golden Beet Salad, Upper Canada Ricotta, Toasted Walnuts, Ver Jus Vinaigrette; Assorted breads, De La Terre Kitchen; dessert – Freshly baked Artisan Fruit Pie. A group of sommeliers cruised the tables with open bottles of Chardonnay. A great dinner altogether.

Harald Thiel dispensing Hidden Bench Chardonnay

Sunday, July 20: Up at 7 am to drive back to Toronto. I had to miss the final event – a lunch at Ravine Vineyards. I4C was the best yet. Fifty-seven wineries from around the world (25 from Ontario, 2 from British Columbia).


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 503: Lieutenant Governor’s Awards

Tequila girls

Monday, July 7: Wrote an article on Umbria for Grapevine Magazine. Then tasted the following wines:

  • Blue Mountain Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (BC): pale straw colour with a grassy, green apple nose and a touch of oak; dry, green apple flavour with citrus notes and a touch of bitterness on the finish. Not in the same league as Blue Mountain’s Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. (87)
  • 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)
  • D’Alfonso del Sordo Guado San Leo Uva di Troia 2006 (Puglia): mature ruby colour with a high toned nose of dried cherries; full-boded, lean and firm with a plummy flavour. Showing its age. (86)

Tuesday, July 8: Worked on Grapes for Humanity accounts. We have settled our fund-raiser event for the fall. Geddy Lee, one of GFH’s directors, and Alex Lifeson will be leading a VIA Rail trip for Status Vineyards in Niagara on Saturday September 27th. It’s a big-ticket number to raise funds for a children’s healthcare facility in the Philippines – $1,250 a person. The response from fans in the US has been fantastic and we haven’t even begun to advertise the event.

Lunched at The Chase with Jack and Stephen Pauwels to work out an itinerary for next year’s wine tour. It looks like Portugal and Spain – Oporto, the Douro Valley, Ribeira del Duero and Madrid. In the afternoon watched Germany humiliate Brazil in a semi-final match of the World Cup (7–1). In the evening when Deborah went out to dine with her book club ladies at Summerlicious, I tasted wines from Prince Edward County’s newest winery, Trail Estate in Hillier:

  • Trail Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2013: pale straw in colour with a green tint; minerally, apple with a wet leaf note; dry, full in the mouth with apple and Asian pear flavours riding on lemony acidity. A solid wine with good length and a warm alcoholic finish. (88+)
  • Trail Estate Chardonnay 2013: very pale colour; melon and citrus peel nose with thread of minerality; crisply dry, green apple and lemon flavours. (88)
  • Trail Estate White 2013 (90% Riesling, 10% Gewurztraminer): pale straw colour; spicy, grapefruit and pine needle nose; soft mouth feel, dry, apricot and lemon flavours. Sustains well on the palate. (88)
  • Trail Estate Rosé 2013 (100% Pinot Noir): salmon pink in colour; strawberry and watermelon nose; medium to full-bodied with a flavour of pureed strawberries and rhubarb. Mouth-freshening acidity on the finish. A good food wine. (88+)

Wednesday, July 9: Went to the chiropractor for my back. In the late afternoon down to Queen’s Park for presentation ceremonies for the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in Ontario Wines. The winners were:

  • Peller Estates Private Reserve Vintage Gamay Noir 2012
  • Domaine Queylus Pinot Noir Tradition 2011
  • Tawse Winery Robyn’s Block Chardonnay 2011
  • Ravine Vineyards Reserve Chardonnay 2010
  • Tawse Winery Carly’s Block Riesling 2012
  • Trius Winery Showcase Ghost Creek Riesling 2013
  • Big Head Wines Syrah 2012
  • Malivoire Wine Company Stouck Meritage 2011
  • Trius Winery Trius Brut NV
  • Inniskillin Discovery Series Botrytis Affected Viognier 2013
  • Burning Kiln Winery Cab Frank 2012 (named for the grower Frank DeLeebeck)

(Outstanding wines for me were the two Tawse and the Ravine.)

Thursday, July 10: Down to the LCBO for a tasting of Ontario wines for the Taste Local release, September 14th–October 11th. Like Pillitteri’s new Canadian Gothic label. My top scores went to Norman Hardie County Pinot Noir 2012 (91), The Foreign Affair The Conspiracy Red 2012 (89) and Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling 2011 (89).

Pillitteri Canadian Gothic label

In the evening Deborah and I went to Casa Loma, where we had been invited by Shinan Govani to the launch of a ultra-premium Tequila called Don Good. Leggy model girls in short black dresses circulated among the guests with iPads telling us about the three tequilas on offer at several bars around the castle: Blanco, Reposado and Añejo, mixed as cocktails or straight. Hand-rolled cigars, oysters, a rock band, the place was fairly jumping. Took a photo of one of the owners of the brand, Lex Duy, with a bottle.

Lex Duy and her Tequila

Friday, July 11: Back to the LCBO for a tasting of wines for Vintages’ August 2nd release. A big discussion among the wine writers as to a preference between two New Zealand Sauvignons: Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc 2013 from Marlborough and Spinyback Sauvignon Blanc 2013 from Nelson. Both very good but I preferred the Greywacke.

Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc, my fav

On the subway home I was seated next to a woman who was eating a bacon sandwich. The aroma was intoxicating. Sitting in an adjacent seat was a man wearing a yarmulke and reading a prayerbook. I could see he was catching the aroma too and wondered what he was thinking. So I came home and wrote a short story. For dinner, with BBQ-ed steak, Raimat Tempranillo 2010 (deep ruby-purple colour; herb-tinged nose of black cherries with a rose petal note; medium-bodied, dry, earthy plum and cherry flavours with an acidic finish (88)).


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 502: Barry’s Gong

Tony in the pink (see Wednesday)

Sunday, June 29: Deborah and I attended the ceremonial presentation to my pal Barry Brown of Spain’s highest civilian decoration – the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Civil Merit – for his support of Spanish wine and tourism over 20 years.

Barry Brown and his gong

The event was held at Mideastro in Yorkville. The wines:

  • Gonzalez Byass, Fino Tio Pepe NV
  • Codorniu Seleccion Raventos Pinot Noir NV
  • Bodegas Castaño Macabeo & Chardonnay 2012
  • Bodegas Sierra Salinas Mo Salinas Monastrell 2011
  • Bodegas Beronia (Gonzalez Byass) Beronia Reserva 2009
  • Lustau Solera Reserva,Rare Cream Solera Superior NV
  • Sandeman Imperial Corregidor Rich Old Oloroso

The menu:

Gazpacho—Poached Shrimp Escabeche, Feta, Cucumber and Pepper Brunoise

Appetizers (served family style)

Nicoise Salad with Cured Smelt

Baladi Eggplant – Grilled Eggplant, Cherry Tomato Bruschetta, Herb Tahini, Bulgarian Feta, Candied Garlic, Basil and Za’atar

Black Truffle Carpaccio – Grass-Fed AAA Beef, Arugula, Parmigiano Reggiano shaving, Balsamic Pomegranate Reduction and Dwarf Peaches

Mains (choice of…)

Tilapia Spanish Style, with Jerusalem Artichokes, Leeks, Spanish Olives, Smoked Spanish Paprika in Tomato Saffron Broth
Kufta – Lamb, Beef, Moroccan Ras El Hanout, Grilled Tomatoes, Kalamata Olives, Labane and Tabouleh
Homemade Spaghetti Aglio a Olio – Grilled Chicken, Mushroom Medley, Heirloom Tomatoes, Olives, Arugula, and Parmigiano Reggiano
Summer Risotto – Edamame, Asparagus, Fresh Peas, Spinach, Leeks, Green Onions with Goat Cheese.


Frozen Nutella Cream, Caramelized Bananas, Rich Crème Anglais, with Salted Pecan Brittle and Tuile Cookie

Monday, June 30: Wrote up my 680News wine reviews and finished off my proposal for a book on the history of winemaking in Canada. Then did some wine tasting:

  • EastDell Soaring White Riesling Moscato 2013 (Ontario): almost water white; aromatic, pear nose with a spicy note; mouth-filling, orange and white flower blossoms, off-dry and tasty but a touch brittle on the finish. (87)
  • 20 Bees Pinot Grigio 2013 (Ontario): water white in colour; citrus and peach pit nose; dry, earthy, peach skin flavour; short and hard on the finish. (86)
  • 20 Bees Unoaked Chardonnay 2013 (Ontario): very pale lime colour; discreet apple core nose; more expressive on the palate with apple and pear flavours, a touch of residual sugar here. (86+)
  • Colio Bricklayer’s Predicament Chardonnay-Pinot Grigio 2013 (Lake Erie North Shore): pale straw colour; ripe apricot on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, Asian pear flavour, nicely balanced, clean flavours with a touch of bitterness on the finish. (87)
  • Monkey Bay Pinot Grigio 2013 (New Zealand): very pale colour; peach pit nose; minerally, sweetish, white peach and pear flavour, slightly gummy finish. (86)
  • EastDell Black Cab Cabernet Baco Noir 2013 (Ontario): deep ruby colour; smoky, plummy nose with a soapy perfume; dry, medium-bodied, blackberry and plum flavours with a rose petal note. (86+)
  • Colio Bricklayer’s Predicament Cabernet-Merlot 2015 (Lake Erie North Shore): deep ruby colour; cedar, redcurrant and red berry fruit nose with a floral note; medium-bodied, dry, good mouth feel, with ripe red berry flavours finishing firmly. (88)
  • Huff Estates South Bay Vineyards Chardonnay 2011 (Prince Edward County): pale lemon colour; spicy, citrus, apple blossom and forest floor notes on the nose; dry, elegant but rich in the mouth with peach, apricot and orange flavours finishing on a toasty, nutty note. The fine spine of acidity gives it great length. (91)
  • Cape Barren Adelaide Hills Native Goose Chardonnay 2013: pale straw with a lime tint; minerally, apple nose with a grassy note; medium-bodied, dry, green apple and green pineapple flavours riding on racy citrus acidity. A touch hard on the finish. (88)
  • Huff Estates Pinot Noir 2012 (Prince Edward County): light ruby-garnet colour; lifted, raspberry and wood bark nose; high-toned red berry, balsamic and soy flavours, dry and gamey. (86+)
  • Huff Estates Gamay 2012 (Prince Edward County): medium ruby colour; evident oak on the nose competing with spicy cherry notes; dry, medium-bodied, silky mouth-feel with lively acidity on the finish. (87+)
  • Cape Barren McLaren Vale Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Cabernet Franc 2012 (45% Cabernet Sauvignon 32% Merlot, 23% Cabernet Franc): solid ruby colour; minty, cedary, blackcurrant nose with a wisp of vanilla oak; surprisingly lean for its 14.5% alcohol; sinewy red and blackcurrant flavours with evident tannins and an exhilarating thrust of acidity. More Bordeaux claret in style; the elements not quite together yet but with bottle age (2 -3 years) this will be a lovely drop of wine. (89–90)
  • Cape Barren McLaren Vale Native Goose Shiraz 2013: dense purple colour; lifted, mulberry nose with chocolate and oak spice; creamy texture, full-bodied and full in the mouth, richly extracted black fruit flavours carried on racy acidity with elements of smoke and spice and bitter chocolate. (89)
  • Cape Barren McLaren Vale Native Goose GSM 2012 (57% Grenache, 37% Shiraz, 6% Mourvèdre): deep purple colour; spicy, floral, blackberry nose with a cedary and vanilla oak note; full-bodied and richly extracted, dry and savoury, nicely balanced; dark chocolate flavour, fleshy with a floral flourish on the finish. (90)

Tuesday, July 1: Spend much of the day putting my tax stuff together for my bookkeeper, a role that Deborah will take on from today. Dinner, pork ribs with a bottle of Wolf Blass Gold Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (dense purple colour with a cedary, minty blackcurrant nose overlaid with vanilla oak; medium to full-bodied, well extracted sweet, jammy blackcurrant fruit, nicely balanced (90)).

Wednesday, July 2: Wrote my Post City Magazines column and then headed down to Allen’s on the Danforth for John Maxwell and Billy Munnelly’s annual Men In Pink lunch. This is a celebration of Ontario rosé, attended by winemakers and friends. It’s males only and we all have to wear pink and bring along a bottle of old red wine (I found a Burrowing Owl Meritage 2000 in my cellar).

Men in Pink: John Maxwell and Billy Munnelly

Men in pink at table

Andre Lipinski was there and was telling me about his Big Head Sauvignon Blanc 2012. He brought it from the car when I asked if I could taste it, The fruit came from the Wismer vineyard and spent 15 months in oak. Very white Bordeaux in style, richly extracted with peach and guava flavours, beautifully balanced (90). The lunch menu: white gazpacho, curried crab salad on wedges of water melon, double-cut striploin with grilled vegetables and for dessert, grilled peaches with Campari cream. A fun day.

Rosés galore

Dessert: grilled peaches with Campari cream

Thursday, July 3: Recorded my 680News wine reviews before going to the dentist for a cleaning and check-up. He insists in going into great detail about how he makes his grape juice every year, what ratio of bushels of Concord to Alicante and Grenache to get the right sweetness levels. I wish he’d allow the stuff to ferment at least!

Friday, July 4: A tasting at Doug Towers’s for winerytohome.com with David Lawrason followed by dinner in the garden with Deborah and Doug’s wife Judy.

Saturday, July 5: Deborah and I went to see the movie Chef – a feel-good summer movie which left us ravenous when we got out at 8 pm.


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 501: Wearing a Halo

Monday, June 23: A meeting with a financial company to discuss the client appreciation wine and food event in September. Worked on my proposal for a history of the Canadian wine industry to be published in 2017, the 150th anniversary of confederation. Went to Rogers Centre with my friend Frank Daley to see the Jays thump the Yankees – always an uplifting experience.

Tuesday, June 24: A make-up tasting at Vintages (this means I missed a Friday tasting for the wine press and had to bunk in with the LCBO wine consultants at their tasting).

Wednesday, June 25: Wrote my Wines of the Week column and worked on the wine industry book proposal before settling down for some tasting:

  • Summer Shack Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (Australia): light straw colour; grassy, green pear nose; sweetish pear flavour with an acidic tang on the finish. (86)
  • Two Oceans Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (South Africa): pale straw colour; grassy, vegetal nose; soft on the palate, well balanced grapefruit and yellow gooseberry flavours. (86+)
  • Mission Hill Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2012 (Okanagan Valley): light straw colour; grapefruit, green plum nose; dry, medium-bodied, fresh with some weight on the palate, touch of sweetness in mind palate. (87)
  • Cupcake Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (Marlborough): very pale colour; cut grass, green pepper nose; elderberry and gooseberry flavour; soft on the palate and easy drinking, fresh and juicy on the finish. (87)
  • Mission Hill Reserve Pinot Gris 2012 (Okanagan Valley): straw colour with just a hint of pink; peach pit nose with a hint of white flowers; white peach flavour, dry and mouth-filling, finishing on a minerally note. (87+)
  • Flat Rock Cellars Pinot Noir Rosé 2013 (Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario): deep pink colour; candied raspberry nose; a touch of sweetness here, medium-bodied, fruity, raspberry and watermelon flavours. Easy drinking. (87)
  • Wakefield Promised Land Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (South Australia): deep ruby-purple colour; cedary, blackcurrant nose; dry, savoury black and redcurrant flavours, medium-bodied with ripe tannins with just a suggestion of oak.
  • Concha Y Toro Winemaker’s Lot Carmenère 2012 (Chile): dense purple colour; cedar, chocolate, black fruits on the nose; richly extracted, dry with ripe and palate-caressing tannins; coffee bean and blackcurrant flavours; good length. (90)

Thursday, June 26: Spent the morning inputting wine reviews into my website, a thankless but necessary chore. In the afternoon, a meeting with Joel Rose, a fellow director of Grapes for Humanity, to hear a presentation by Sara Rose-Carswell, Government Relations Manager for HALO USA in Washington. They are looking for funding to remove landmines from the West Bank (laid by Jordan at the outbreak of the 1967 war). We will bring this proposal to the board as a whole. Then down to Grano to taste a series of Sicilian wines for an event in Toronto in November:

  • Possente Grillo Terre Siciliane 2013: straw colour; minerally, peach pit nose; dry, peach with lemony flavour with a touch of bitterness on the finish. (86)
  • BioViola Yule Catarratto 2013: straw colour; aromatic, floral orange, reminiscent of Viognier or Moscofilero, soft mouth feel with refreshing acidity. (87+)
  • Antanello Cassara Zibi (NV) (Zibibbo grape): straw with a greenish tint; Muscat-like nose of orange blossom; dry, Torrontes-like, lovely mouth feel, tangerine acidity. (89)
  • BioViola Merlot 2013: deep purple-ruby colour; plummy, vanilla oak nose with balsamic nose; dry, black cherry flavour, dirty barrel note. (85)
  • Possente Nero d’Avola 2013: deep ruby-purple colour; cedar, chestnut, black fruits; dry, firmly structured, evident oak, black plum. (87)
  • Antanello Cassara Shiraz (NV): dense purple colour; ripe black cherry and tar; dry and firm, a touch of cork flattens the flavours.

The condo had a BBQ for the residents this evening. I’d been saving wines under gas from tastings at home and was able to supply a couple of cases for the event. At the raffle in aid of cancer research we won a $50 certificate at the local dry cleaner’s. Came home with a sore throat which, for me, is a prelude to a cold.

Saturday, June 28: Sure enough the cold developed into real stinker – headache, hacking coughing, fever, aching back. Spent the day prone on the sofa, watching the Blue Jays lose to Chicago and starting to write a short story that’s been on my mind for some time.


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 500: 500th Blog

Kacaba Syrah 2000–2013

Tuesday, June 17: This is the 500th edition of my blog. Cue the fireworks.

fireworks fireworks fireworks

Arrived home from Vienna and Deborah picked me up at the airport. Good to travel, good to be home. Tried to stay up as late as possible to get back to a normal sleeping rhythm. Went to bed at 10 pm, which was 4 am my body time.

Wednesday, June 18: Wrote an article for Lexpert magazine on Austrian wine and transcribed an article for Quench that I had written in pen on the airline’s puke bag, having no other paper at hand. The theme was how to smuggle wine into your cellar without your wife knowing.

For dinner, barbecued hamburger with a bottle of Frei Brothers Reserve Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (dense purple colour; spicy blackcurrant, plum and dark chocolate on the nose; full-bodied, sweet blackcurrant and creamy plum flavour backed by lively acidity. Soft mouth-feel (89)).

Thursday, June 19: Wrote wine reviews for Quench magazine and worked on Grapes for Humanity’s financial year end for the auditors. Then rewarded myself with a tasting:

  • Mark West Pinot Noir 2012 (Santa Lucia Highlands): ruby with a tawny rim; sweet strawberry nose with a tobacco leaf note; full-bodied and warm with alcohol; cherry flavour with dried herbs. (88)
  • Blackstone Winemaker’s Select Merlot 2012 (California): solid ruby colour; plummy nose with charred oak and herbal notes; sweet fruit with black cherry flavours, moderate length, dry and full-bodied. (87)
  • CedarCreek Pinot Gris 2013 (Okanagan Valley): pale straw colour; peach and peach pit nose; richly extracted peach flavour with balancing acidity; Alsace-style, full in the mouth with an engaging thread of minerality and a long finish. (89)
  • CedarCreek Chardonnay 2012 (Okanagan Valley): pale straw colour; minerally, apple nose with the merest suggestion of oak support; medium-bodied, dry, yellow apple with citrus acidity. Good length. (89)
  • CedarCreek Platinum Chardonnay Block 5 2012 (Okanagan Valley): light straw colour; lifted nose of honey, apple and spice; crisply dry, green apple and honey flavours with a lively acidic finish that gives the wine great length. (91)
  • CedarCreek Ehrenfelser 2013 (Okanagan Valley): very pale with a lime tint; lightly aromatic with a minerally, citrus peel nose; medium-bodied with a white peach and green plum flavour. Crisply dry with mouth-watering acidity. (88)
  • CedarCreek Gewurztraminer 2013 (Okanagan Valley): pale straw colour; spicy, rose petal nose; mouth-filling, unctuous, off-dry, lychee and grapefruit flavours, a little high in alcohol. Needs more time to develop aromas. (87–89)
  • CedarCreek Viognier 2013 (Okanagan Valley): light straw colour; floral, peach nose; rich and full on the palate with peach and apricot flavours and a suggestion of honey. Caressing mouth feel. (89+)
  • CedarCreek Rosé Pinot “Noir” 2013: salmon colour; cherry and wild strawberry nose, flavours that replicate in the mouth; thick on the palate, a touch of sweetness with a candied note on the finish. A little more acidity would do it justice. (87)
  • CedarCreek Riesling 2013: very pale colour with a lime tint; minerally, grapefruit rind nose; crisply dry, green apple and grapefruit flavours, racy acidity on the tart finish. A wine for Riesling lovers. (89)
  • CedarCreek Platinum Block 3 Riesling 2013: palest straw colour with a lime tint; minerally, citrus nose; tart, green apple and lemon flavours. Mouth-tingling acidity, fresh as a mountain stream. (90)

Thursday, June 19: Wrote an article for County Grapevine magazine on Grüner Veltliner and how it can age. Tasted Closson Chase Vineyard Chardonnay 2012: deep golden colour with a high toned forest-floor nose of tropical fruit; over-extracted flavours of pineapple and orange with vanilla oak; fleshy and broad. (87). With dinner of BBQ hamburgers, Wolf Blass Gold Label Barossa Shiraz 2012: dense purple-black colour; savoury, blackberry nose; herbal, black fruit flavours with lively acidity (88+).

Friday, June 20: A tasting of 13 Kacaba Syrahs back to 2000 led by winemaker John Tummon. Mike Kacaba planted his Vineland vineyard in 1998. “My dream was Syrah. I had a passion for Shiraz.” He bought the stock in California, rootstock 3309, clone 877. Sue-Ann Staff was first winemaker, followed by Jim Warren. Rob Warren (no relation), then Beth Mischuk, and in 2005 John Tummon.

Kacaba winemaker John Tummon

  • Kacaba Syrah 2000 (coolest growing season, wet): browning ruby colour; spicy, leather, soy and pepper nose; mature, drying fruit but nicely balanced, savoury, licorice flavour; lovely mouth feel. (89)
  • Kacaba Syrah 2001 (lady bug year): rancid peanut… (75)
  • Kacaba Syrah 2002 (severe drought, good harvest weather): dense ruby colour; vanilla oak, cedar, high toned, blackberry and licorice nose; dry, savoury, medium-bodied, still firm and delicious. (90)
  • Kacaba Syrah 2003 (cool year): ruby with a cooked plum note; dry and drying out and acidity. (86)
  • Kacaba Syrah Reserve 2004 (hot, sunny Sept-Oct): deep ruby colour; tobacco, pepper, mature soy notes; dry, savoury, very St. Joseph style. (88)
  • Kacaba Syrah 2006 (warm, rainy spring, November harvest): deep ruby colour; structured red berry flavours, firm, elegant with evident tannins. (89)
  • Kacaba Syrah Proprietor’s Reserve 2007 (warm and dry, stressed vines; “Best vintage I’ve seen since I’ve been at Kacaba”): dense ruby colour; cedar, blackberry, vanilla oak; sweet blackberry with herbal-savoury and tobacco notes, firmly structured. Great length. (91)
  • Kacaba Syrah 2008 (cool spring and fall): solid ruby colour; peppery, blackberry, vanilla with cedary notes; dry, lean, raspberry flavour. Somewhat dilute. (86)
  • Kacaba Syrah Single Vineyard 2009: deep ruby colour; smoky, peppery, herbal blackberry nose; dry, medium-bodied, savoury with lively acidity. (88)
  • Kacaba Syrah Reserve 2010 (co-fermented with 5% Viognier): deep ruby colour; cedary, vanilla oak, toasted herbs, tobacco nose; dry and savoury, black raspberry, well extracted fruit; elegant, firmly structured with lively acidity. (91)
  • Kacaba Syrah Single Vineyard 2010 (co-fermented with 5% Viognier): dense ruby colour; herbal, vanilla, black fruits, chunky mouth feel, firm structure, earthy note; dry with a tannic lift on the finish. (88–89)
  • Kacaba Syrah Proprietor’s Select 2011: dense ruby colour; savoury, peppery, floral note on the nose; richly extracted, sweet fruit tinged with tobacco and herbal notes; well balanced and firm with a tannic lift on the finish. (90)
  • Kacaba Syrah Terrace Vineyard 2011: deep ruby colour; smoky, tarry, blackberry nose; dry, lean and sinewy with savoury, herbal flavours; firmly structured. (89)
  • Kacaba Syrah Reserve 2012 (co-fermented with 5% Viognier): deep ruby-purple colour; cedary, vanilla note with a light floral note; richly extracted blackberry fruit flavour, firmly structured, chunky mouth feel. Needs time. (90)
  • Kacaba Syrah 2013 (Main Vineyard barrel sample all with 7% Viognier): deep ruby; smoky, herbal blackberry nose; medium-bodied, dry, raspberry flavour, elegant, showing well.
  • Kacaba Syrah 2013 (Flats Vineyard barrel sample): deep ruby colour; smoky, herbal blackberry, floral raspberry note.
  • Kacaba Syrah 2013 (Terrace Vineyard barrel sample): deep ruby colour; chunky, pencil lead, dry, herbal and succulent.


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 499: VieVinum Vienna

Sunday, June 8: My son Guy came over for dinner and while the BBQ was heating up (for spicy pork and seasoned lamb sausages) we opened a bottle of Domaine Bouisse-Matteri Cuvee du Paradis 2013 (don’t be fooled by its pale orange-pink colour; the style in Provence is for very pale rosés. This wine has loads of flavour. Minerally, watermelon and strawberry on the nose, these fruit flavours carried on tangerine-like acidity fill the mouth and linger there to a satisfactory finish. (88+, private order $5.95 + HST from Terra Firma)). We drank it with hummus and pita. For the sausages with grilled vegetables and tabouli, a bottle of Blackstone Pinot Noir 2012 (gutsy and fruity with cherry and plum jam flavours with a touch of smokiness – 88).

Monday, June 9: After a meeting with my accountant, who re-ogranized my rudimentary book-keeping procedures, Deborah and I drove over to Geddy Lee’s house for a meeting concerning a Grapes for Humanity event in September. Geddy and Alex Lifeson will be leading a group by VIA Rail to a Niagara winery (so watch this space). In the afternoon I wrote my On The Go column and did some tasting:

  • Tinhorn Creek Chardonnay 2013 (BC): straw colour; vanilla oak, spicy, peachy-pineapple nose; dry, full on the palate, with tropical fruit and citrus flavours. Good length. (88)
  • Tinhorn Creek 2 Bench White 2013 (BC) (31% Sauvignon Blanc, 29% Chardonnay, 28% Semillon, 9% Viognier, 3% Muscat): light straw colour; aromatic, peachy nose with the Muscat singing through; spicy and dry, nicely balanced peach and citrus flavours. (89)
  • Tinhorn Creek Gewurztraminer 2013 (BC): pale straw colour; fragrant lychee and rose petal nose; elegant, perfumed, lychee and ginger flavour, beautifully balanced, clean and fresh and lingering. Simply delicious. (91)
  • Cono Sur Reserva Especial Chardonnay 2013 (Casablanca Valley): pale straw colour; pear bouquet with a touch of oak; thick on the palate with peach and citrus flavours; full-bodied and fleshy. (88)
  • Tinhorn Creek 2 Bench Rosé 2013 (BC) (100% Cabernet Franc): pale salmon colour; grapefruit rind, cranberry nose; dry, medium-bodied, redcurrant and cranberry flavours with a touch of bitterness on the finish. (87)
  • Tinhorn Creek Pinot Noir 2011 (BC): ruby colour with a tawny note; cherry nose with a light floral note; dry, sour cherry and cherry pit flavours with lively acidity. (88)
  • Tinhorn Creek Pinot Noir 2010 (BC): a deep ruby than the 2011; cedary, cherry and lilac nose; well extracted fruit, firmly structured with cherry and floral flavours; good length. (90)
  • Maipe Chakana Wines Bonarda Reserve 2011 (Mendoza, Argentina): dense purple colour; earthy, plum nose; mouth-filling plum and mocha and coffee bean flavours with ripe tannins. (89)
  • Urban Uco Malbec-Tempranillo 2012 (Uco Valley , Mendoza): deep purple-ruby colour; dried flowers, cherry on the nose; licorice, dark chocolate and cherry flavours medium-bodied, dry with a savoury finish. (88+)

Then went down to Pastizza for a Wine Writers Circle dinner. This restaurant, on the corner of Market Street and Esplanade, is owned by Paolo Paolini and his Californian partner, Thomas George, who owns an eponymous winery in Healdsburg. The restaurant is schedule to open at the end of June but our group was treated to a dinner featuring the entire menu along with Thomas George wines, including the proprietary bottlings of Pastizza Brut (served with a variety of thin crust pizzas and Kobe beef pastrami sliders).

Pastizza’s house fizz

We started with casarece noodles in a clam and yellow tomato sauce followed by raviolone filled with mushrooms, then organic salmon with a pistachio crust with scalloped potatoes and asparagus, chicken and short ribs and salad, finishing with sticky toffee pudding. The wines:

  • Pastizza Pinot Grigio 2012
  • Pastizza Viognier 2010
  • Pastizza Tempranillo 2010
  • Thomas George Estates Zinfandel 2011
  • Thomas George Russian River Chardonnay 2010
  • Thomas George Estate Pinot Noir 2011

Wine rack at Pastizza

A great meal from a generous host. The kitchen has the most modern equipment I’ve seen – an amazing pasta machine and state-of-the-art gelato maker – and the bathroom has taps that double as hand driers! Worth a visit to see these alone.

Pastizza’s wash basin taps with hand driers

Tuesday, June 10: Recorded my 680News wine reviews, then down to the LCBO to taste some wines from the June 21st Vintages release. In the late afternoon opened the following wines.

  • Bench 1775 Chill 2013 (Naramata Bench, BC – 46% Pinot Gris, 25% Chardonnay, 11% Sauvignon Blanc, 6% Viognier, 6% Semillon, 6% Gewurztraminer): pale straw colour; fragrant nose of peach and nectarine; spicy citrus and peach flavours, ripe fruit but nicely balanced with mouth-watering acidity and good texture, finishing on a mango note. (89)
  • Bench 1775 Sauvignon Blanc 2013: pale straw colour; grassy, minerally, green plum nose; crisply dry with well extracted grapefruit and green plum flavours that fill the palate and linger enticingly. (90)
  • Bench 1775 Pinot Gris 2013: pale straw colour; peach pit nose with a mineral note; good, generous mouth feel, dry with nectarine and pink grapefruit flavours, fresh and lively on the palate. (89)
  • Bench 1775 Gewürztraminer 2013: pale straw colour; spicy, rather reluctant nose for the variety; more expressive on the palate with lychee and rose water flavours, unctuous on the palate and yet delicate at the same time. Would have like to have experienced more concentration of flavour for the alcohol. (87)
  • Bench 1775 Glow (Rosé) 2013 (48% Malbec, 26% Merlot, 14% Syrah, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon): pale salmon colour; minerally, red berry nose; redcurrant, cranberry and strawberry puree flavours carried on citrus acidity; great mouth feel and very much in Provence rosé style. Best rosé I’ve tasted from BC. Beautifully balanced. (90)
  • Whistler Chardonnay Late Harvest 2013 (Bench 1775): straw colour; honeyed nose of peach and sultanas; initial sweetness curbed by racy acidity giving the wine a clean, continuous line of well-balanced, medium-sweet flavours of peaches and honey. (90)
  • Closson Chase K. J. Watson Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011 (Niagara River): very pale ruby with an orange tint; high toned, strawberry nose; more power on the palate than the nose suggests, surprisingly weighty on the palate for such a difficult vintage with cherry and truffle flavours and just a hint of tannin on the finish. (87+)
  • Mouton Cadet Vintage Edition 2012: ruby-purple colour; cedary, blackcurrant nose with oak spice; medium-bodied, more extract than the previous vintage, dry, focused red and blackcurrant flavours. Needs time to show its paces. Decant and leave for an hour or two. (88)

Wednesday, June 11: Packed for Vienna and the VieVinum wine festival. Deborah dropped me at the airport for my 5:55 pm Austrian Airlines flight (which left full and late). Watched a Chinese violent movie with subtitles and slept fitfully.

Thursday, June 12: Arrived Vienna. Our Canadian group of wine writers was bussed to our hotel, the Wandl on Petersplatz. Sheila Swerling-Puritt and I went for lunch at Cafe Korb around the corner from the hotel. I ordered Sausage with goulash gravy and a pint of beer.

My first lunch in Vienna

Then we went in search of “The Chocolate King of Vienna,” Leschanz, and when we eventually found it after many missteps decided not to buy any chocolate because of the heat.

Leschanz, The Chocolate King of Vienna

Vienna manhole cover

Figlmüller, Vienna’s legendary schnitzel house

The architect had one too many beers

Grabbed a couple of hours’ sleep before meeting up with Sean Wood, my wine writer colleague from Nova Scotia, and walked to the Badeschiff on the canal for the VieVinum welcome party. Eventually found it after going in the wrong direction. The event was held on a boat moored in the canal.

Thirty-three wines had been set out for us to try in various categories – Best of Weissburgunder, Best of Aromatics, Best of Rare Varieties, Best of Pinot Noir, Best of Cuvee and Best of Sweet wines. The best wines for me were Josef Lensch Barkbarkeit Pinot Noir Reserve 2009 from Burgenland and an amazingly fresh and lively rosé, Langmann vulgo Lex Schilcher 2013. I had never come acorss this wine before so I looked it up in Wikipedia:

produced solely in the Austrian region of Western Styria (Weststeiermark)… The Schilcher wine itself is a distinct rosé made from the indigenous Blauer Wildbacher grape. (Wildbacher is a dark-skinned grape variety and specialty of the Styria region of Austria. It is a very old variety said to go back to the Celts, and manuscripts first record the name in the 16th century. The variety is not particularly demanding in terms of soil though it does require warm sites with sufficient aeration as it is prone to rot. The grapes tend to ripen late and yields can be inconsistent. Wines made from Wildbacher typically exhibit red berry and herbal flavors with a refreshing acidity.) The colour ranges from a light onion tinge to a deep ruby. The grape was once a wild variety which was said to contain alcohol compounds which, in turn, allegedly would induce wild inebriation, hence its colloquial name Rabiatperle – rabid pearl… Wine from the Schilcher grape is also used for blending and for the production of sparkling wine… Authentic Schilcher wine must carry the official emblem of the white horse (referring to the Lipizzans bred in Piber for the world-famous Spanish Riding School in Vienna) and also carry the official certification number of denomination.

We ate on board, marinated asparagus, tomato goat cheese tart with black olives and beef tartar with avocado to start, followed by roast beef strips with creamed spaetzle Stroganoff. On the walk back to the hotel with Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson of Winnipeg Free Press, got lost again. It seems to be the theme for Vienna. Got to bed around 11 pm.

Friday, June 13: Awoke at 1:30 and again at 4:30. Got up to write this blog. After breakfast, taxied over to Wiener Hofburg for a tasting of Austrian red wines called “Evolution in Style.” This was a beautifully organised event where you sat down and ordered flights of wines from sommeliers who brought the bottles to your table and poured the wines. You could taste five flights of Pinot Noir (28), four flights of St. Laurent (22), eight flights of Zweigelt (40), fifteen flights of Blaufränkisch (79) and five flights of blended reds (28). The wines had been chosen by a committee based on the numbers of points they had received in wine magazines, with some political bias for regional inclusion. I opted for the Pinot Noir category, followed by Blaufränkisch (not all) and then some Zweigelt – 63 wines in total. Impressed by the Pinot Noirs from Burgenland, the Zweigelts from Carnuntum and the Blaufränkisch from Burgenland.

Sommelier Suzie pouring wines at Wiener Hofburg

Ontario tasters (l to r) Michael Pinkus, Evan Saviolidis, Zoltan Szabo, John Szabo

A standing-up buffet for lunch – cream of potato and celery soup, followed by smoked ham and salad. After lunch Sheila Swerling-Puritt, Julian Hitner and I went to the famous pastry shop and chocolate shop Demel on Michaelerplatz for dessert. We shared a chocolate cake with cream, a custard cream flaky pastry with cream and an apple strudel with cream and teas. Then walked over to a high-end grocery store, Julius Meinl am Graben, to see their wine department – very impressive selection.

Michaelerplatz, Vienna

Pastries at Demel

In the evening, taxied to Mayer am Pfarrplatz, the house where Beethoven lived when he wrote the 9th Symphony, now a heurige restaurant. All the guests at VieVinum had been invited. Forty-six wines were available for tasting. Memorable among them were Prager Grüner Veltliner 2013, Ott Barnhard Feuersbrunner Rosenberg Grüner Veltliner 2012, Nikolaihof Riesling 2010, Brundlymayer Reserve Zöbinger Heiligenstein Riesling 2012, Wieninger Rosengartl 2013. A buffet of traditional Viennese food was provided, including cream filled desserts. Taxied back to the hotel by 10 pm and watched World Cup soccer.

Plaque on Beethoven’s house at Mayer am Pfarrplaz

A meal Beethoven might have eaten

Saturday, June 14: After breakfast I walked to the Hofburg to begin tasting. My visit was to Dorli Muhr-Van der Niepoort to taste her wines.

Dorli Muhr, winemaker at Muhr-Van der Niepoort

Then wandered the many halls looking for wineries I wanted to taste. Ran in to Berthold Salomon and Will Opitz, old friends. Lunched outdoor in sunshine, in spite of an early downpour – a buffet of spaetzle, salad and some mystery meat. Then back for some more tasting before returning to the hotel for nap before walking over to “The big Austrian Wine Party” in the very elegant surroundings of the Kursalon at the end of the Stadtpark.

We were greeted with a glass of sparkling wine and a table with eight different Austrian cheeses. Inside the main rooms were five different wine bars, each with its own selection of wines. Forty-six wines in all. A string quartet played as we ate and drank at bar tables. Enjoyed Bründlmayer Zöbringer Heiligenstein Riesling Reserve 2012 and Schloss Gobelsburg Riesling Reserve Alte Reben 2007. Buffet dinner of filet steak, scalloped potatoes, green beans and mushroom risotto. Walked back to the hotel and tried to get an early night.

Sunday, June 15: Another day the VieVinum. At 4 pm got on the bus to Salomon Undhofin Krems to take part in the 222nd anniversary celebration for the winery. We were driven in a motorized “train” ride up to the terraced Kögl vineyard overlooking the town. Two hundred and twenty-two years ago the Salomon family bought the former Capuchin monastery and its vineyards when Joseph II decreed the church must give up those monasteries which did not act as hospitals or centre of education.

Town of Krems from the Kögl vineyard

We were greeted by a glass of sparkling rosé (Salomon Brut Nature 2012) before dinner in a tented area. I ran into Robert Mielzynski, whom I hadn’t seen in years. He’s now importing wines into Poland, living in Warsaw and representing Salomon Undhof wines there. Bert and Gertrude Salomon and their children Bert and Fay welcomed us and introduced Jancis Robinson, who delivered a tribute to the family. Before the dinner we were treated to a tasting of venerable bottles of Salomon Undhof Steiner Kögl Reserve Riesling 2011 and Stein Kögl Riesling 1979, 1972, 1964 and 1933.

Salomon Steiner Kögl Riesling 1933

The Salomon family, Bert, Fay, Gertrude and Bert

Jancis Robinson and husband Nick Lander enjoying dessert at Salomon Undhof

Then the dinner wines were put on the table while we queued up at the buffet tables: Salomon Undhof Wieden & Berg Grüner Veltliner 2013, Steiner Kögl Reserve Riesling 2011, Von Stein Reserve Grüner Veltliner 2010, Pfaffenberg Reserve Riesling 2011, Undhof Kögl Riesling 1988, Wieden Grüner Veltliner 1971 and Gelber Traminer Noble Reserve 2008 in magnum. In addition there were the Salomon wines from the family estate in Australia: Aestatis Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre 2009, Finniss River Shiraz 2007, Altus Shiraz 2003.

The Menu: Trout with green apple and radish; smoked trout with horseradish and whipped cream sauce, potato salad; dim sum with egg, green bean and chanterelles; oven-roasted shoulder of veal with summer vegetables and gnocchi; venison hamburger, mashed potatoes and chanterelles sauce. Dessert: apricot cream with vanilla cream tart and handmade chocolates.

Musical interlude at Salomon Undhof

On the tasting bar after dinner I sampled Salomon Undhof Pfaffenberg Riesling 1986, Salomon Undhof Wieden Grüner Veltliner 1964 and 1954, and Undhof Auslese 1998. Also, from New Zealand, Salomon & Andrew Otago Pinot Noir 2011 and Alttus Shiraz 2009. Got back to the hotel around midnight.

Monday, June 16: A final day at VieVinum. Picked up some flavoured pumpkin seeds. Lunched with Sean and Jody Wood at Amerlingbeisl (8 Stiftgasse). With a bottle of Steinfeder Terrassa Rosé 2013, I ordered beef goulash with homemade dumplings.

Menu at Amerlingbeisl

In the afternoon did some shopping at Wein & Co. for 30 year-old apple vinegar. In the evening, a final VieVinum event at a restaurant called On Market – 28 wines that we could sample with a series of Asian dishes. I left after the third dish, as it looked like being a long night (eight dishes were on the menu). Walked back to the hotel and packed for an early morning bus to the airport.

Tuesday, June 17: up at 6 am and finished packing. Bussed with six colleagues to the airport for the Austrian Airlines flight to Toronto.


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 498: Sagrantino Galore

Monday, June 2: Caught up most of the day with Grapes for Humanity stuff relating to “Chile Uncorked” – writing thank-you notes to sponsors, getting tax receipts for wine donations and spending some time with our accountant.

Master Cortador Pedro Marin

In the evening Deborah and I were invited to Cava to meet some Spanish food producers and taste their products with Rioja wines. Pedro Marin, a Master Cortador, hand cut Serrano ham matched with Ostatu Rioja Blanco 2013. The menu:

Escabeche of Shrimp with Sea Asparagus, radishes and pearl onions, with Basilio Izquierdo “Acod” 2010

Roast Copper River Sockeye with pomegranate, wheat berries and broccoli, with Bodegas Tobia Rosado Fermentado en Barrica 2012

Iberico pork tenderloin roasted with fennel pollen and wild ginger, wild greens, valdeon croquet and sidra sauce, with Muga Reserva 2009

Couldn’t stay for dessert because we had to get back to walk Pinot T. Wonderdog. (It was Monte Eenebro “Mel y Mato” with local honeycomb, wild plum compote, figs and Idiazabal crackers, with Remelluri Reserva 2009.)

Tuesday, June 3: Bought the wines for my Executive Wine Experience seminar on Thursday. In the evening to the Toronto Cricket Club for a celebration of the life of Shirley Dunlop. A very moving event with many speakers reminiscing abut Shirley. Ran into a lot of old friends in the wine trade there. For dinner BBQ steak with Wolf Blass Gold Label Malbec 2012 (dense purple colour; blackberry nose with a floral note; ripe fruit, dry, herbal, blackberry fruit with a savoury finish. Definitely not Argentina! (89)).

Wednesday, June 4: To the Gardiner Museum for a tasting of wines from the Consortium of Montefalco wineries put on by the Italian Trade Commission. Seven producers showing Montefalco Rosso (a blend of Sangiovese (60–70%), Sagrantino and sometimes Colorino or Merlot) and Sagrantino. My top scores for the Rosso went to Arnold Caprai Montefalco Rosso 2010 and Perticaia Montefalco Rosso Reservea 2009. Top scoring Sagrantinos: Antonelli San Marco Sagrantino 2007, Scacciadiavoli Montefalco Sagrantino 2007 and Arnoldo Caprai Collepiano Sagrantino 2008. For dinner, with grilled salmon, Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir Rosé 2013 (orange-pink in colour with a nose of watermelon and cranberry; dry, easy-drinking and great value at under $10).

Scacciadiavoli Montefalco Rosso 2009

Thursday, June 5: Dropped in at the opening of the sip & Savour Ontario Farm & Artisan Market (Avenue Road and Rowe Avenue), a new farmers’ market to be held every Thursday afternoon until October. Ran into Eddie Shack there. Bought apples, cheese, basil plants and cremini mushrooms.

Soap seller at the farmers’ market

Honey in the afternoon

Great apples!

Edward Steven Philip Shack

Market entertainers

In the evening I conducted my second Executive Wine Seminar. The wines:

  • Cattier Champagne Brut
  • Thirty Bench Steel Post Riesling 2008
  • Leyda Sauvignon Blanc Lot 4 2013
  • William Fèvre Champs Royaux Chablis 2012
  • Remoissenet Chassagne-Montrachet 2006
  • Les Tourelles de Longueville 2006
  • Jadot Beaune Boucherottes 2006
  • Inniskillin Riesling Icewine 2007

Friday, June 6: A tasting of newly released wines at the LCBO. In the evening we went to The Oxley in Yorkville for dinner with my sister Shirley and my New York cousins, Roz and Paul and my nephew Mark and his wife Dawn. Mark and Dawn rent a house in Hazelton Avenue and pointed out the house that Adam Sandler has rented while he’s filming in Toronto. On our way back to the car we saw Adam Sandler in the garden.


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