A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 508: Tasting at The Ex

On stage at The Ex
On stage at The Ex

Monday, August 18: Wrote my On The Go column then settled down to some tasting.

  • San Raffaele Organic Pinot Grigio 2013 (Veneto – $14.95): pale straw colour; minerally, peach pit nose; dry, white peach and lemon flavour; nicely balanced with a crisp pear-like finish. Good value (88)
  • Calmel & Joseph Villa Blanche Chardonnay 2012 (Pays d’Oc – $13.95): golden straw colour; a nose of apples with a nutty note; well extracted apple and pear flavours with good texture; medium to full-bodied with nicely balanced lemony acidity. Good value. (88)
  • Riebeek Cellars The Royal Old Vine Steen Chenin Blanc 2013 (Swartland, South Africa – $13.95): pale straw with a lime tint; minerally, quince nose; dry, quince and green apple flavours; nicely balanced, medium-bodied. Sustains well on the palate. Good value. (88)
  • Chakana Wines Maipe Chardonnay Viognier Reserve 2013 (Argentina – $15.95): light straw colour; apple, peach with a floral note on the nose and evident oak; mouth-filling, sweet peachy fruit with a touch of spice, full-bodied but soft in the mouth, nicely balanced with citrus acidity. (88)
  • Blue Mountain Pinot Blanc 2013 (Okanagan Valley – $17.90): very pale colour with a lime tint; minerally, peach pit nose; medium-bodied, dry, white peach and lemon flavours, finishing crisply dry. (89+)
  • Wildass Riesling 2012 (Ontario – $16.95): light straw colour; petrol, grapefruit and lime on the nose; honey and grapefruit flavours. Medium-bodied. (88)
  • Masi Rosa dei Masi 2013 (Veneto – $14.95): deep salmon colour; watermelon and cherry pit nose; dry, medium-bodied, fresh, with a soft mid palate but enough tangerine acidity to give the wine length. (87)
  • Tinhorn Creek Merlot 2012 (Okanagan Valley – $29.99): deep plum colour; spicy oak and black cherry nose; richly extracted, sweet black fruit flavours with a chocolate note. A little hot on the finish (14.9% alcohol) but lovely rich mouth-feel ending on silky tannins. (90)
  • Chakana Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (Mendoza, Argentina – $13.95): dense purple colour; toasty, smoky oak, spicy vanilla below which you can detect the blackcurrant fruit; richly extracted, mouth-filling, chunky, chewy black fruit flavours; full-bodied, no great elegance and a little short but good value for the price. (88)
  • Château de Treviac 2011 (Corbières – $17.95): 80% Syrah, 20% Grenache. Dense ruby-purple colour; tobacco, cocoa and spicy cedar on the nose; full-bodied, sweet fruit, beautifully balanced, velvety mouth feel, dark chocolate and black fruit flavours. (89)
  • Dominio de Tares Mencia Cepas Viejas 2009 (Bierzo – $29.95): Vines over 60 years old. Dense purple colour; spicy, sweet wood and blackberry nose; dry, full-bodied, beautifully balanced, rich and compelling with a fine spine of acidity and supple tannins. (91)

Tuesday, August 19: Wrote my 680News wine reviews and sent a short story off to The New Yorker. Faint hope, but what the hell. Also dug out a children’s story I wrote about Pinot the Wonderdog. Thinking of finding an illustrator and submitting it to a publisher. Sean Rowland of Gradwell Wines dropped by with a bottle of wine he wanted me to try:

  • Cape Beach Club Off-Dry Blanc (NV) (50% Chenin Blanc and Muscato – $9.95?): light straw colour; minerally, quince nose; light-bodied with a faint fizz on the palate; off-dry, green pear flavour with a honeyed note. Soft on the palate and easy drinking with a fresh citrus finish. A true summer wine. (88)

In the afternoon, did some more tasting:

  • Equibas de Argento Pinot Grigio 2013 (Mendoza, Argentina – $11.85): very pale straw with a lime tint; minerally, peach pit nose; dry, crisp and lemony, peachy-melon flavour. Fresh, zesty finish. One of the better Pinot Grigio in this price range. (88)
  • Cellar Hand Free Run White 2013 (Okanagan – $15.90): A blend of Pinot Blanc, Viognier, Chardonnay, Muscat and Sauvignon Blanc; straw colour with a green tint; apple and pear aromas on the nose with a delicate floral top note; spicy, peach and pear flours, good mouth-feel with a honeysuckle note on the finish. (88)
  • Black Hills Alibi 2013 (Okanagan – $24.90): Sauvignon Blanc with 25% Semillon. Light straw colour; grassy, green plum nose attenuated with oak; dry, full-bodied and unctuous on the palate with gooseberry and green bean flavours. Lively citrus acidity. (89+)
  • Black Hills Viognier 2013 (Okanagan – $24.90): light straw colour; white peach and honeysuckle nose; elegant, dry, and full-bodied, lovely texture with melon and citrus flavours finishing satisfyingly dry. (90)
  • Black Hills Chardonnay 2012 (Okanagan – $24.90): straw colour with a green tint; apple with oak spice and a touch of forest floor on the nose; full-bodied, dry, beautifully balanced, peach, pear and pineapple flavours with citrus acidity and beginning to suggest caramel notes on the finish. (91)
  • Cellar Hand Punch Down Red 2012 (Okanagan – $19.90): A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Franc. Deep ruby colour; cedar, blackcurrant and blackberry nose; dry, full-bodied, fruity plum and black fruit flavours, ripe tannins with balancing acidity. Well made. (89)
  • Black Hills Syrah 2012 (Okanagan – $34.90): deep ruby-purple colour; peppery, smoky, blackberry nose with a herbal note; elegant, savoury-herbal flavours of blackberry and sage. Fine spine of acidity with background tannins that give structure but don’t compromise the palate. Very St. Joseph in style. (91)
  • Esquinas de Argento Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (Mendoza, Argentina – $11.90): deep purple-ruby colour; cedar, black cherries and chocolate nose; medium-bodied, dry, savoury, tobacco, chocolate and currant flavours. Firmly structured with a warm alcoholic finish. (87)
  • Argento Malbec Reserva 2012 (Mendoza, Argentina – $12.90): deep purple-ruby colour; spicy, blackberry nose; richly extracted blueberry and blackberry flavours, full in the mouth. Full-bodied, dry with evident tannins on the finish. (88)

Wednesday, August 20: Somehow the day slipped away under a welter of emails. In the evening, over to Joe’s in the west end for dinner with Geddy, Rick and Brian. I brought along a Château Chasse Spleen 1982. Geddy brought Latour 1982 and Margaux 1983. Joe opened Louis Latour Chevalier-Montrachet Les Desmoiselles 2003 as we sat outside and served it with the fish course. Lamb followed with the clarets. The Margaux was the star although the Latour has years to go. With the dessert, Malivoire Cabernet Franc Icewine 2008. A great meal. Geddy told us about his Ice Bucket Challenge and showed us the hilarious You Tube video of it.

Thursday, August 21: Down to The Ex today for two wine seminars, featuring four appassimento wines from Ontario’s Burning Kiln Winery: Cureman’s Chardonnay 2011, Tablegang Gewürztraminer 2012, Cabernet Frank 2012 and Pinot Noir 2011. (Frank is not a spelling error but homage to the man who grew the grapes.) Between seminars I wandered around the CNE grounds. Dinner at our neighbour Sally’s – chicken curry with Ringbolt Cabernet Sauvignon 2012.

Tony's wine seminar at The Ex
Tony’s wine seminar at The Ex

Friday, August 22: A Vintages tasting for the September release. Best wine I tasted: Grgich Hills Estate Chardonnay 2011. Dinner at home, baked salmon with Flat Rock Cellars Riesling 2013 (very pale colour with a green tint; a nose of lime, grapefruit and honey; off-dry, minerally, sweet grapefruit and citrus flavors with racy acidity on the finish (89)). The roses I bought Deborah for our anniversary on August 17th are still looking gorgeous and not dropping their heads.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 507: Historica Canada

Monday, August 11: Wrote the Icewine entry for the encyclopedia Historica Canada and spent the rest of the day inputting wine reviews for the upcoming Vintages release.

Tuesday, August 12: Started collecting my published wine articles with the idea of putting together an e-book. Thinking of calling it Wine in Five Minutes, as this is about the amount of time it would take to read a single article. Definitely a bathroom book.

Wednesday, August 13: Wrote my Quench magazine commentary on the weirdest alcoholic beverages in the world. There are some strange ones out there that people actually drink!

Thursday, August 14: Historica Canada has asked me to update the entry on the Canadian wine industry. The last entry is dated 1996, when there were 33 VQA wineries in Ontario. Now there are 150.

Deborah and I took my sister to dinner at Tinto de Tapas Bar on Bayview. The place was packed and we could only get seats at the counter where the chef was cooking. Fascinating to watch him create the dishes. A terrific meal but we came out and our clothes smelled of cooking oil. Must remember to get a table away from the kitchen next time.

Friday, August 15: A tasting of LCBO new releases this morning. There is a noticeable trend in the under-$20 wines the board is purchasing now – all have residual sugar. My fellow wine writers Steve Thurlow and David Lawrason discussed this phenomenon and came to the conclusion, although we dislike this style of wine, we have to write about it because this is what the new demographic of consumers is going for. Tant pis. As if the Pinot Grigio fad wasn’t bad enough.

A BBQ tonight at our friends, Arlene and Michael’s.

Saturday, August 16: Deborah, Guy and I drove to Aurora for a celebration party. My nephew David got engaged to Mari and the party was at her cousin’s house. I had chosen the wines: Ferrari-Carano Sauvignon Blanc 2012 and Domaine Tournon Mathilda Shiraz 2011.

David and Mari
David and Mari

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 506: A Quiet Week

August 4: Spent the day catching up on emails and writing my On The Go column and my 680News wine reviews. Some sample bottles have accumulated in my absence so I decided to do a tasting before I shaved off a week’s beard.

  • Bella Wines Sparkling Chardonnay 2012 (Okanagan Valley – $23.90; crown cap): very pale colour with a green tint and a very active mousse; yeasty, citrus and green apple nose; dry, apple flavour with moderate length. (88)
  • California Square Russian River Chardonnay 2012 ($18.95): straw colour with a green tint; vanilla oak and stone fruit on the nose; full-bodied, sweet pineapple and ripe peach flavours; mouth-filling, fleshy and broad on the palate. (89)
  • Bouchard Père & Fils Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2012 (Burgundy, $19.95): ruby colour; moist earth and cherries on the nose; dry, medium-bodied, light and easy drinking, lean and sinewy with a firm finish. (87)
  • California Square Red Wine 2012 (Paso Robles, $18.95): a blend of Merlot, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Syrah in a square bottle. Ruby-purple colour; black cherry and chocolate nose, powerful, sweet fruit, blueberry and black cherry flavour with enough tannin to give it structure. Full-bodied. (88)
  • Delicato Family Noble Vines 181 Merlot 2012 (Lodi, $16.95): ruby colour; deep ruby colour; minty, dusty, plum; full-bodied, dry, chunky mouth-feel, earthy black cherry flavour. (87)
  • Delicato Family Irony Small Lot Reserve Merlot 2011 (Napa – $19.95): ruby colour; cedary, currants with a vanilla oak note on the nose; richer and denser on the palate than the nose suggests – dark chocolate and black fruit flavours; full-bodied and fleshy. (88+)
  • Vinecol Bonarda Organic 2013 (Mendoza, Argentina – $15.95): dense ruby-purple with a nose of licorice and mulberries; richly extracted, fleshy and chewy, dark chocolate and black fruit flavours with evident alcohol. (88+)

For dinner, grilled salmon with Juno Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (South Africa – $11.85): pale straw colour; floral, green plum nose; medium-bodied, dry, grassy, gooseberry flavour. Good value. (88)

Tuesday, August 5: Wrote my Post City column and signed off on the invitation for Grapes for Humanity’s September 27th fund-raiser:

Saturday, September 27th, 2014
Grapes Under Pressure 3 – Geddy and Alex’s Excellent Harvest Adventure

Building on the phenomenal success and tremendous response from their first two extravaganzas, Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson team up again for the third installment of their “not so annual” Excellent Harvest Adventure.

Geddy and Alex will welcome you aboard our private train from Toronto’s Union Station as we enjoy breakfast enroute to Stratus Vineyards. Stratus, a 62-acre beautifully modern winery near Niagara-on-the-Lake, combines science with tradition and relies on the centuries-old method of “assemblage” to produce wines of amazing depth and complexity while maintaining a reputation of being one of the world’s most sustainable wineries. A champagne reception awaits you upon arrival at Stratus. As you tour this stunning property, guests can try their hand at picking grapes and learn about cutting-edge winemaking techniques while drinking and tasting the “The Best of Niagara” from a variety of local producers of wine, beer and food products. Award-winning Chef Michael Steh of The Chase will prepare a gourmet vintners lunch as special guest winemaker, JL Groulx, leads us through his handcrafted Stratus vintage selections. Participate in the excitement of a silent auction as well as other special surprises before the late afternoon train ride back to Toronto.

Grapes for Humanity Canada is proud to partner with Magna Children at Risk, and proceeds for this exclusive event will go directly to rebuild health care facilities in the Philippines which were damaged by the Haiyan Typhoon. www.grapesforhumanity.com


Round trip departs Union Station at 9 am* on Saturday, September 27th – return trip in the late afternoon.
*Attendees will be notified of any VIA Rail schedule changes

To reserve your spot for this unique adventure, please contact Deborah Benoit at benoit.deborah@gmail.com or at 416-488-9762

$1250 per person* includes transport by private VIA train, champagne reception, gourmet lunch, winery tours, tastings, gift bags, and more.
*Tax receipts will be issued to Canadian participants for an amount less event expenses
* Purchase 4 tickets for $4500 or 6 tickets for $6000 while quantities last

Special thanks to the generosity of the following folks – Pierre Santoni and VIA Rail Canada, Michael Steh and staff, Stratus Vineyards and Cumbrae Meats.

Wednesday, August 6: Recorded my 680News wine reviews. Selected wines for my wine talk at the CNE on Thursday, August 21st. Tasted Castello di Neive Barbaresco 2011 (ruby colour; earthy, cherry nose with a touch of wood and dried rose petals; medium-bodied, sour cherry flavour with fresh acidity; well balanced. Good value at $19.90. (89)).

Thursday, August 7: Worked on the auction wines for Geddy Lee and Aex Lifeson’s VIA Rail tour to Stratus. And settled down to a tasting in the afternoon.

  • Diamond Estates The Winery 1914 Valour 2013 (Ontario – Merlot, Syrah, Gamay – $14.95): deep ruby colour; cedar, cherry nose; medium-bodied, dry, firmly structured with a spicy black cherry flavour. Moderate length. (86+)
  • Wildass Rosé 2013 (Ontario – $17.95): deep salmon colour; minerally, strawberry and watermelon nose; dry and mouth-filling, full-bodied and powerful. (87)
  • Calliope Rosé 2013 (BC – Syrah & Viognier: $9.90): deep orange-pink colour; candied raspberry nose; full in the mouth with a touch of sweetness; raspberry and cherry flavours. (87)
  • Winzer Krems Sandgrube 13 Grüner Veltliner 2013 (Austria – $12.80): light straw colour; minerally, white peach and white pepper nose; slight spritz on the palate, dry, with a white peach and green pepper flavour, finishing freshly. (87)
  • Diamond Estates The Winery 1914 Honour 2013 (Ontario – Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay – $13.95): pale straw colour; aromatic, spicy nose of apple and lemon peel; spicy, lemony, sweet peach and apple flavours. (87)
  • Calliope Figure 8 2013 (BC – Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Pinot Gris and Riesling): light straw colour; aromatic, white peach nose with a subtle floral note; dry, fresh and clean, grapey flavour. Good acidity. (87)
  • Calliope Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (BC): very pale colour; green pea and apple nose; grassy, green plum flavour; dry, good varietal character with citrus acidity. (87+)
  • Calliope Viognier 2013 (BC): pale straw colour; minerally, peach pit nose; touch of residual sweetness here; full in the mouth with peach and apricot flavours. (88)
  • Strewn Chardonnay Barrel-Aged 2013 (Ontario – $12.95): light straw colour; apple with wood spice on the nose; full-bodied, spicy, oak-dominated fruit, creamy mouth feel with a butterscotch finish. (87+)
  • Strewn Two Vines Riesling Gewurztraminer Semi-Dry 2012 (Ontario – $11.95): pale straw with a greenish tint; spicy, lychee and grapefruit nose; off-dry, soft mouth-feel, with lychee and pink grapefruit flavours. Nicely balanced. (88)
  • Strewn Gewurztraminer 2012 (Ontario – $12.95): light straw with a greenish tint; aromatic and spicy but not expressing characteristic lychee notes on the nose; more varietal character on the palate with leafy, green peach and cardamom flavours. (87)

Friday, August 8: A Vintages tasting for August 30th release. A whole whack of Chardonnays coming out. Otherwise, a quiet week.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 505: Gone Fishin’

Monday, July 21: I leave on Wednesday for Yellowknife for the annual fishing trip, so today was a scramble to meet deadlines for Quench Magazine and attend a meeting with Dish to plan a corporate wine and food event in September. I also wrote my 680News wine reviews. In the evening I went to the ball game with my son, Guy, and saw the Blue Jays trounced by Boston 14–1. I don’t know why it upset me so much.

Tuesday, July 22: Recorded my 680News wine reviews and cleared my desk for an early departure tomorrow for Yellowknife.

Wednesday, July 23: The car came at 6:45 am. I picked up Art on the way to the airport, where we linked up with Steve, Harold and Cliff. Bud will be joining us in Yellowknife. We flew to Calgary, lunched at the airport and took another flight on to Yellowknife. It was warmer there than Toronto – 26°C.

We were picked up at the airport by Margaret Peterson (owner of Peterson’s Point Lake Lodge, where we have fished for the past four years). In the hotel we made a dent in a bottle of Edradour 12-Year-Old Malt Whisky before taking a cab over to Bullock’s for dinner. Bullock’s is like an overgrown shack. Every inch of the walls and ceiling is covered with graffiti, business cards and bumper stickers (“Your village called. Their idiot is missing,” “No Thongs Except On Feet,” “All Ringing Cell Phones Will Be Deep-Fried”). The place was packed and we had to wait an hour before our meal arrived. I ordered grilled Arctic char, French fries and salad ($39.95!) and a Yukon Gold beer.

Signs outside Bullock's
Signs outside Bullock’s

Thursday, July 24: Shared a hotel room with Steve. I thought he was going to set the alarm for 6:30 am in order to meet the group downstairs at 7 am – and he thought I was going to set my alarm. I woke up and looked at my watch and saw 7 am so I woke Steve. I showered quickly and he followed. Then he looked at his watch and it was 6:15 am. Without my glasses I had misread the time.

Margaret Peterson had prepared our traditional breakfast on the dock of Air Tindi, where we catch the float plane to the lodge. Cinnamon buns, strawberries and two bottles of Pol Roger. Our flight was delayed because of the smoke from forest fires. From the air we could see plumes of smoke from random small fires that got denser the further we flew from Yellowknife. The lodge is 200 miles north of the city. When we arrived we could see the smoke sitting above the lake like dense fog. At the docking area we were greeted by Chad, Margaret’s son, guides John and Jeff, and Jack and George, who keep the lodge running on shore. Tanya, the camp cook, was back from Nova Scotia and she prepared a lunch of vegetable soup, smoked turkey and cheese and ham and cheese sandwiches with chocolate cookies for dessert. All washed down with Moosehead beer. We were on the lake by 1:45 pm (temperature in the lodge 26.1°C).

The Gospel according to Chad Peterson
The Gospel according to Chad Peterson

My first day’s fishing partner was Harold. There is nothing more frustrating than sitting in a boat and not getting a bite while your partner, using the same lure, is pulling fish out of the lake as if there is no tomorrow. Harold caught eight fish, including a 32 lb lake trout, before I got a fish. I finished the afternoon with two fish, a shaker (3 lbs) and a 10-pounder. Dinner in the communal dining room: Smoked meat from Centre Street Deli, fried potatoes, rhubarb cobbler and whipped cream. The wines: Chateau des Charmes Gamay Droit 2010, Tawse Wine Club Syrah 2010, Southbrook Triomphe Syrah 2008. Steve and Art presented us with a new fish T-shirt emblazoned with the legend: “The Trout, The Whole Trout And Nothing But The Trout, So Help Me Cod.”

Sunrise through smoke at Peterson's Point Lake Lodge
Sunrise through smoke at Peterson’s Point Lake Lodge

Friday, July 25: I’m sharing a cabin with Cliff and Bud. There was thunder overnight but no rain. The temperature is 11.5°C. At the camp there are outdoor toilets. Two rules in how to navigate them:

  1. Breathe through your mouth.
  2. Do not look down.

Breakfast: scrambled eggs and bacon and the banana bread my wife Deborah made. We were delayed getting on to the lake because of the fog and smoke. Finally got off at noon with Art as my fishing partner. Fished for two and a half hours and got skunked (only two strikes). Lunch at the lodge cooked by Steve, who cooks all the shore lunches: wasabi-crusted fish, fried rice and smoked meat sandwiches. The wines: Tawse Sketches Riesling 2009, Kilikanoon The Lackey Riesling 2009, Hidden Bench Felseck Gewurztraminer 2012. On the lake by 4:45 pm and fished till 7:25 pm. Caught two fish at the river – 4 lb and 10 lb – and late in the evening another 10-pounder on a cisco rig. In another boat Steve caught a 43 lb lake trout, which turned out to be the biggest fish of the trip. Dinner: Rib eye steak, baked potato, cauliflower au gratin, caramelised onions and cole slaw. Rhubarb cobbler and cream followed by a selection of cheeses. The wines: Niagara College Meritage 2007, Creekside Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, Peter Lehmann Clancy’s Cabernet Shiraz 2011.

Chad filleting a lake trout for shore lunch
Chad filleting a lake trout for shore lunch

Saturday, July 26: Breakfast: pancakes and beef sausages. We were fogged in again this morning but made it on the water by 10:30 am. Fished with Cliff today. Before lunch I caught three trout, 4 lb, 14 lb and 12 lb. Shore lunch at Pigpen, so called because the cabin is a mess and hasn’t been inhabited for years. The place has three double bunks and is fully equipped with three boats, motors, tackle, canned food (some visitor left a $10 bill to pay for pancake mix he’d used) and old magazines, including the September 1981 issue of Playboy with Bo Derek on the cover. Beer-battered fish, fried potatoes and baked beans. The wines: Creekside Viognier 2009, Vineland Estates Chardonnay Musqué 2009, Vineland Estates Chardonnay Musqué 2010.

Tony with Playboy at Pigpen
Tony with Playboy at Pigpen

The fishing gods are fickle. They give and they take away. In the afternoon I caught ten fish – 25 lb, 21 lb, four at 14 lbs and the rest smaller. Having landed a fish over 20 lbs I am now on the board in the lodge which records all fish caught above this weight. Dinner: Smoked salmon from J. Willy Krauch & Sons of Tangier, Nova Scotia, lasagne al forno, broccoli salad, Greek salad, garlic bread. Dessert: spice cookies and egg tarts and Art’s wife Ellie’s chocolate cookies. The wines: Angels Gate Pinot Noir 2010, Seghesio Zinfandel 2012, Rockaway Reserve Syrah 2011.

My 25 lb lake trout with guide John
My 25 lb lake trout with guide John

Sunday, July 27: Breakfast: French toast and bacon. More fog and smoke on the lake that delayed our departure till 12:30 pm. Fished with Bud today and quite early on we got a double header. Mine was 20 lbs and his was 28 lbs. Lunch again at Pigpen: Fish pasta truite espagnole, Steve called it. The wines: Angels Gate Pinot Grigio 2013, Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio 2013, Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2013. In the afternoon I caught a 16 lb and a 9 lb, then I missed the largest fish I have hooked in this lake. It towed the boat! Played it for three minutes or so, then it spat out the hook. (We fish with barbless hooks and only keep what we eat for shore lunch.) Dinner: Roast Cornish hen with basmati rice, peas and braised cabbage. The wines: Angels Gate Mountainview Pinot Noir 2010, Villa Maria Marlborough Cellar Selection Pinot Noir 2010.

Art relaxing with Pinot Gris
Art relaxing with Pinot Gris

Monday, July 28: Breakfast: scrambled eggs and turkey sausages. Another day of fog on the lake. Could not get out until 11:45 am. The lake was like glass but visibility was about 200 yards. Chad had to hug the coastline as he guided the boat. Fished with Steve. Before lunch I caught four fish; the largest was 8 lbs. We lunched on Carter’s Island. Steve cooked blackened fish with dirty rice. The temperature must have been 28°C. The wines: Angels Gate Pinot Gris 2011, Hillebrand Showcase Ghost Creek Vineyard Riesling 2009, Hidden Bench Felseck Gewurztraminer 2012. A great afternoon’s fishing. I caught seven fish, the biggest 16 lbs. Steve got a 30-pounder and we had two double headers. Dinner: Moose Bourguignon, potato soufflé, turnip puff, cole slaw, salad and Saskatoon berry cobbler. The wines: Rosewood Merlot Reserve 2010, Tawse David Block Merlot 2008, and with the Stilton, Graham’s Vintage Port 1980.

Steve cooking dirty rice
Steve cooking dirty rice

Partnering the Stilton
Partnering the Stilton

Tuesday, July 29: Breakfast: pancakes and bacon. Today we wore the black T-shirt that Bud had given us: “O.C.F.D.,” an acronym on the front in large capital letters which meant Obsessive Compulsive Fishing Disorder. On the back: “I bait for a cure.” Fished with Harold today, four fish in the morning, none of any size. Lunch at Sand Island. Wasabi-crusted lake trout with chaud-froid sauce and pasta salad. In the afternoon Harold caught a 20-pounder and I had a total of seven, 10 lbs being the biggest. In this competitive game, size matters. Dinner: BBQ steaks (huge!), baked potato, carrots and peas, salad and bok choy salad. Dessert: rum egg nog cake. The wines: Maycas del Limari Chardonnay Reserve Especial 2010, Vineland Estates Cabernet Franc Reserve 2007, Hess Allomi Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, Two Hands Lily’s Garden McLaren Vale Shiraz 2006. We drew straws to see who would be fishing with whom on our final day. I drew Harold.

The board for trophy fish
The board for trophy fish

Wednesday, July 30: Breakfast: quiche, beef and turkey sausages, muffins and banana bread. We were on the lake by 8:45 am and had rain for the first time on the trip. I missed a big fish. Harold caught a 14-pounder and I ended the session before lunch with two tiny fish as we trolled into the Pigpen shore lunch. Traditionally, on the last day, Steve makes Bouillabaisse, having brought the stock, the mussels, shrimp, scallops and roux frozen from Toronto. He then adds the fresh fish. Always the meal of the trip. The accompanying wines: Tawse Sketches Riesling 2010, Tawse Riesling 2010, Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2013. Fished for three and a half hours after lunch and had one strike that got me a 4 lb trout. But it excused itself from my line when it saw the boat.

In the evening before dinner the sky went black and there was a tremendous storm with lightning, thunder and torrential rain. Dinner: Chicken Divan, rice pilaf, homemade brown bread and carrot cake. (Tanya had overheard me say I love carrot cake and she made me one.) Then a selection of cheeses. The wines: Exultet The Blessed Chardonnay 2010 and Villa Maria Cellar Selection Pinot Noir 2010, Creekside Broken Press Syrah 2010.

The guys outside Pigpen: (standing l-r) Art, Steve, Cliff; (seated) Harold, Bud, Tony
The guys outside Pigpen: (standing l–r) Art, Steve, Cliff; (seated) Harold, Bud, Tony

Thursday, July 31: The wind howled all night. The temperature dropped to 5.4°C. We packed our gear, cleaned up the cabin and swept the floors. Breakfast: toast and peanut butter and carrot cake. The float plane arrived at 10 am carrying a group from Minnesota who followed us in last year. We took off at 10:30 am for Yellowknife. Flying back we could see vast tracts of burnt out trees. The land below looked like a huge counterpane of camouflage – browns and blacks and greens and rust colours stippled with patches of grey rock. In the sunshine the lakes shone like pools of mercury. As we approached Yellowknife the smoke in the air got heavier. With the tail wind the trip back took an hour and fifteen minutes. Margaret Peterson and her daughter Amanda were on the dock to welcome us back. Margaret drove us to the airport and on the way showed us the first schoolroom in Yellowknife – a tiny log cabin. We passed a church with a sign outside that read, “Pray for rain.” Last year, Margaret said, the sign read, “Why didn’t Noah swat those two mosquitoes?” Amen to that.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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).


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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)).


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment