A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 521: Sparr & Thai

Monday, November 17: Wrote my 680News wine reviews and then settled down a day of inputting the wine reviews on my website for Vintages’ November 22nd release. It’s time-consuming work and I usually do it while listening to CBC Radio.

Tuesday, November 18: At noon, down to the LCBO to taste the Beaujolais Nouveaux, Italian Novelli, and other new wines that will be released on Thursday.

  • Reif The Fool Gamay 2014 (Ontario – $11.95): Purple-ruby colour; high-toned raspberry nose; candied raspberry flavour with lively acidity. (85)
  • Art’s Beaujolais Nouveau 2014 ($13.95): deep purple with a violet rim; earthy, cherry nose; well extracted cherry flavour with fresh acidity. (87)
  • Dubouef Gamay Nouveau 2014 (Pays d’Oc – $9.95): deep purple; minerally, cherry pit nose; dry, cherry flavour with a light floral note and some bitterness. (86)
  • Momessin Beaujolais Nouveau 2014 ($13.95): purple-ruby colour; muted nose of red berries; dry, sour cherry flavour with a firm finish. (87)
  • Duboeuf Beaujolais Villages Nouveau 2014 ($14.95): deep purple colour; cherry skin with a light banana note; dry, fresh and lively on the palate, good mouth-feel with a suggestion of tannin to give interest to the end taste. (88)
  • Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais Villages Nouveau 2014 ($15.95): bright purple colour; cherry with a light floral note; mouth-filling, well structured, dry, cherry and plum flavours with a firm finish. (88)
  • Catalans Primeur Syrah Merlot 2014 (Pays d’Oc – $9.95): dense purple-black; earthy, vanilla, black cherry nose; fruity, juicy and round on the palate; chunk mouth-feel. (87)
  • Tollo Novello Rosso Terre di Chieti 2014 ($9.45): dense purple-ruby colour; floral, black cherry nose; well extracted cherry and graphite flavours, well-structured and firm. (87+)
  • Negrar Novello del Veneto 2014 ($9.95): dense purple-ruby; fruity cherry and blackberry nose; sweet and juicy fruit, grapey flavour with enough tannin to give the wine structure. (87+)

While I was in the lab I also tasted Daniel Rion Nuits St. Georges Les Grandes Vignes 2011: ruby; raspberry with a floral note; medium-bodied, raspberry and red licorice flavours, beautifully balanced. (90)

In the evening I conducted a tasting of Prince Edward County wines for donors to the Bridgepoint, the health facility next to the renovated Don Jail. The tasting was held in the jail’s Rotunda – Huff Estates Cuvée Peter Sparkling, The Grange of Prince Edward Victoria Block Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2010 and their Northfield Cabernet Franc 2010 and Exultet Cru X Pinot Noir 2011.

Wednesday, November 19: Lunch with Bernard Sparr at Pail Northern Thai Kitchen (18 Duncan Street) – a really funky place with delicious food. Maison Pierre Sparr was sold to the Cave de Bebleneheim co-operative following a falling out within the Sparr family. With the added source of grapes the winery is making better wines than ever. We started off with two bubblies – Pierre Sparr Crémant Brut Reserve (89) and Brut Rosé (88+), served with vegetarian deep-fried battered squash fritters with garlic tamarind dip and grilled pork belly sausages with fresh turmeric, kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass, garlic and shallots.

Bernard Sparr

Main courses: papaya salad with dried shrimps; Thai omelette with ground pork on rice; grilled curry marinated chicken on a skewer with peanut sauce; green curry with bamboo shoots, kaffir lime leaves, basil leaves, green peppers and coconut milk, served in a coconut; crispy bass fillet with crispy shallots served with two sauces: fresh chili sauce and tangy tamarind sauce (contains oyster sauce). With these dishes the following wines were served:

  • Pierre Sparr Riesling Granit 2010: petrol nose, grapefruit and lime flavours; soft on the palate. (89)
  • Pierre Sparr Pinot Gris Réserve 2013: honeyed peach nose, beautifully balanced, spicy and dry. (90)
  • Pierre Sparr Gewurztraminer 2012: spicy, lychee nose; elegant rose petal and lychee flavours; lovely mouth feel, good length. Great value. (90)
  • Pierre Sparr Pinot Gris Mambourg 2011: minerally, floral, peach and pear nose with a honeyed note; rich and satisfying on the palate; semi-dry, its sweetness balanced with citrus acidity. (92)
  • Dessert: Mango with pandan sticky rice, with Pierre Sparr Gewurztraminer Vendanges Tardives 2012: spicy, lychee and honey nose; sweet, light on the palate with mango and lychee flavours; elegant with a lovely mouth-feel. (92)

Pierre Sparr Pinot Gris Réserve 2013

Thursday, November 20: Wrote my Post City Magazines column on Italian wines. In the evening down to the Convention Centre for the Gourmet Food & Wine Expo to help conduct a seminar given by Jason Woodman of Burgundy. Together we tasted the following wines that his company imports:

Villa Ponciago Beaujolais-Villages 2012 and Villa Ponciago Fleurie 2012, William Fèvre Chablis Champs Royaux 2012 and William Fèvre Chablis Vaillons 2012, Bouchard Père & Fils Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2012, Beaune du Château 2009 and Beaune Grèves Vigne de l’Enfant Jésus 2011. Then in Burgundian style, the following whites – Bouchard Père & Fils Mâcon-Lugny Saint-Pierre 2012, Montagny 2011 and Meursault 2012.

Opening slide of the Burgundy seminar

>Bouchard Père & Fils Beaune Grèves Vigne de l'Enfant Jésus 2011

Friday, November 21: A tasting of Vintages December 6th release – all the sparkling and white wines. The reds to be tasted next week. Picked up Deborah from the airport on her return from a week in the Dominican Republic. She gets back just in time to drive me to the airport tomorrow for a week in Sardinia and Piemonte.

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 520: Dom Pérignon P2

Annabel and Declan

Monday, November 10: A big tasting of Ontario wines at Doug Towers’s house with David Lawrason. Good take-out pizza between the whites and the reds.

Tuesday, November 11: Wrote my “On The Go” column on sparkling wines for the holidays, then down to the Trump Hotel to taste the ne plus ultra of sparkling wines – Dom Pérignon P2 with chef de Cave Richard Geoffroy. P2 stands for Plénitude Deuxième. Geoffroy explained the concept in terms of “windows” in the life of the champagne “when the wine stands up and speaks out.” The first Plénitude was the 1998 vintage of Dom Pérignon, which was released in 2005. The second Plénitude is the same vintage held for 15 years on its lees. The third Plénitude, he says, will be “35 to 40 years.” 1998 was a warm year, “which shows in aromatics beyond the silver character of iodine and smoke, the sheer ripeness of the fruit. The richness comes from the ripeness of the fruit.” Richard Geoffroy started with Moët Chandon in 1990 and has made 16 vintages of Dom Pérignon.

Richard Geoffroy and P2

We tasted the P2 together – not out of flutes but served in wine glasses. He gave up flutes 15 years ago because, he says, “they don’t do justice to the wine.” P2 is magnificent, pure and precise with a creaminess in mid-palate and a life-giving spine of lemony acidity. The wine is amazingly young, or as Geoffroy put it, “bafflingly youthful, rather lamb chops with insolent in a way.”

For dinner, lamb chops with Sterling Vineyards Napa Valley Merlot 2011: ruby colour offering a nose of cherries with a light oak note; medium to full-bodied with sweet cherry and redcurrant flavours; easy drinking. (88+)

Wednesday, November 12: Lunched at Freshii with Liz Gallery and Cathy Martin, co-chairs of Grapes For Humanity’s fund-raiser, “Italy Uncorked,”‘ in May. The venue will be St. James’s Cathedral event space. The proceeds to go to Amani Children’s Homes. Then on to GFH’s accountant to go through the expenses for Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson’s Grapes Under Pressure tour to Stratus vineyards in September. Sent out promotional copies of The Five Minute Wine Book to members of the wine press. Dinner, opened a bottle of Zantho Grüner Veltliner 2013 from Burgenland: pale straw colour with a sweaty, white pepper, white peach and parsley nose; light on the palate, dry and easy drinking. (87+).

Thursday, November 13: Wrote my Lexpert column on Marsala, then down to Far Niente to have lunch with Joel Rose to discuss Grapes for Humanity’s AGM in December. In the afternoon did some tasting.

  • Chloe Sonoma County Chardonnay 2012 ($17.95): straw colour with a greenish tint; pineapple, apple caramel and melon nose with a touch of oak; medium-bodied, soft on the palate with melon and citrus flavours. Sustains nicely. (88+)
  • Chloe Sonoma Coast Red No. 249 2012 ($17.95): dense purple-black colour; cedar, vanilla, blackberry nose; dry, medium to full-bodied, sweet fruit, chunky mouth-feel, plummy, creamy flavour. (87)

Friday, November 14: Deborah left for a week in the Dominican Republic early this morning. She’s travelling with her fried Sally, who lives in our building. Escaping the cold and threat of snow. Spent much of the day chasing donations of Italian wine for Grapes for Humanity’s May event and doing promos for my new e-book. Dinner with the family at Richmond Station. Annabel, Ian and baby Declan came in from Vancouver last night and we all met with Guy and Sasha at the restaurant. I brought along Tawse Chardonnay 2010 and Two Hands Coach House Block Shiraz 2006.

Tawse Quarry Road Vineyard Chardonnay 2010
Matched beautifully with smoked trout

Two Hands Coach House Block Shiraz 2006
Amazing with Richmond Station’s hamburger

Saturday, November 15: Did a tasting in the evening before watching the hockey game.

  • Château des Charmes Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (St. David’s Bench, Niagara – $14.95): pale straw; minerally, green plum with a sulphur note; dry, medium-bodied, touch of sweetness here, herbaceous, yellow plum flavour. (86+)
  • Sprucewood Shores Unoaked Chardonnay Hawk’s Flight Reserve 2013 (Lake Erie North Shore, Ontario – $16.95): pale straw colour; minerally, apple nose; medium-bodied, crab apple flavour, round on the palate with defining acidity and moderate length. (87)
  • Mission Hill Reserve Chardonnay 2013 (Okanagan Valley -$21.95): straw colour; spicy, apple nose with an oak backing; exotic tropical fruit flavours tempered by lively acidity and corseted with oak; well balanced with good length and a cinnamon finish. (90)
  • Beringer Founders’ Estate Chardonnay 2013 (California – $16.95): bright, straw colour; toasty, apple nose; full-bodied, dry, mouth-filling, apple and green pineapple flavours with a spicy oak note. (88+)
  • Sprucewood Shores Riesling 2013 (Lake Erie North Shore – $13.95): very pale straw colour; minerally, Granny Smith apple peel nose; off-dry with nectarine and grapefruit flavours with a suggestion of spritz. Nicely balanced. (87+)
  • Flat Rock Pinot Noir 2012 (Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara – $19.95): ruby colour; raspberry with an earthy note and a light florality; medium-bodied, dry, raspberry and cherry flavours; nicely balanced. (88)
  • Flat Rock Gravity Pinot Noir 2012 (Twenty mile Bench, Niagara – $29.95): ruby colour; a more intense nose than the simple FR Pinot 2012, minerally, cherry bouquet; rich on the palate, generous raspberry and cherry flavours backed by subtle hints of oak with a minty note. (89)
  • Sprucewood Shores Lady in Red Cabernet Merlot 2011 (Lake Erie North Shore – $14.95): deep ruby colour; blackcurrant nose with a note of cedar; dry, light on the palate with red and blackcurrant flavours and a hint of vanilla oak; easy drinking; just the right sensation of tannin to give the wine structure. (87)
  • Sprucewood Shores Warm ‘N Cozy Mulled Wine ($11.95): ruby coloured with a nose of cinnamon and clove; sweet and spicy, perhaps a bit too spicy but when heated to the desired temperature it will make a winter warmer. Don’t look for wine flavours here. It’s all in the spicing. (Not rated)
  • Château des Charmes ‘Old Vines’ Cabernet-Merlot 2012 (Niagara-on-the-Lake -$19.95): deep ruby colour; a nose of cedar, currants and wood spice; dry, medium-bodied, firmly structured with a fine spine of acidity. (87+)
  • Mission Hill Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2012 (Okanagan Valley – $24.95): deep purple ruby colour; cedar, spicy vanilla oak, lovely rose petal and blackcurrant bouquet; dry, medium-bodied, claret-style, elegant and well balanced, good mouth-feel with a firm finish. (89+)
  • Petites Folies Merlot-Cabernet 2012 (Pays d’Oc – $15.95): deep ruby-purple colour; geranium leaf, cherry stone nose; mouth-filling chocolate and grainy tannins. Chunky mouth-feel. A manipulated wine. (86)
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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 519: Crazy Tasting Week

Sunday, November 2: Saw snow this morning but it didn’t settle. Tasted the following wines to reduce the pile that’s accumulating:

  • Borsao Tinto Garnacha 2012 (Borga, Spain – Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon, $11.95): deep purple colour; vanilla oak, plum and a smoky note on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, plum flavour and bitter chocolate with a lively spine of acidity. (87)
  • Gnarly Head Pinot Noir 2012 (California – $14.80): deep ruby colour; black raspberry with an earthy-spicy nose; sweetish and full on the palate, moderate length. (87)
  • Gnarly Head Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (California – $14.95): deep ruby colour; cedary, coffee bean and red berry bouquet; sweet, blackcurrant, full-bodied, fruity with soft tannins. (88)
  • Gnarly Head Old Vine Zin 2012 (Lodi – $17.95): deep ruby with a violet tint; plum, leather, spicy oak nose; sweet plum fruit with a spicy edge, carried on lively acidity to a firm finish. (88)
  • Louis M. Martini Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($18.95): dense ruby-purple colour; cedar and plum nose with coconut note; full-bodied, richly extracted black fruit flavour, firm finish. (88+)
  • Louis M. Martini Napa County Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 ($29.95): sense purple colour; cedar, blackcurrant, vanilla oak; richly extracted blackcurrant and dark chocolate flavours with balancing oak and acidity. (89+)
  • CedarCreek Merlot 2012 (Okanagan Valley): deep purple colour; briary, dark chocolate, black cherries on the nose; medium to full-bodied, dry, well extracted fruit, nicely balanced with supple tannins. (90)
  • CedarCreek Platinum Pinot Noir Block 2 2012 (Okanagan Valley – $39.95): deep ruby with a violet note; cherries, pencil lead nose; unctuous and full on the palate with a flavour of cherries with a firm finish. (88+)
  • CedarCreek Platinum Pinot Noir Block 4 2012 (Okanagan Valley – $39.95): deeper ruby colour than Lot 2, with a violet note; minerally, full-bodied, sweet black cherry flavour with a smoky note, good mouth feel; finishes firmly with a floral note. (90)
  • Quails’ Gate Chardonnay Stewart Family Reserve 2013 (Okanagan Valley – $35): straw colour offering a nose of pineapple and peaches with a touch of oak; rich and full on the palate, well balanced and satisfying. (91)
  • Quails’ Gate Merlot 2012 (Okanagan Valley – $25.95): deep purple colour; cedar, blackcurrant with a light oak note on the nose; full-bodied, richly extracted fruit seamlessly integrated with oak and carried on lively acidity. Very New World in style. (91)
  • Quails’ Gate Old Vines Foch Reserve 2012 (Okanagan Valley – $24.99): dense purple colour; cedar, tobacco, black cherry nose; full-bodied, spicy, blackberry flavour backed by vanilla oak and carried on lively acidity. (89)
  • Lavau Rasteau 2012 (Rhône – $19.95, Vintages release December 6th): 50% Grenache/50% Syrah – deep purple colour; blackberry, wild herbs on the nose; richly extracted, sweet plum and blackberry flavours, spicy and mouth-filling with earthy but soft tannins. Good value. (91)

For dinner, with spicy pork loin, Hester Creek Merlot Block 2 Reserve 2012: dense purple colour with a smoky, tarry oak nose; smoked bacon flavour; oak dominated (87).

Monday, November 3: Wrote my 680News wine reviews and then down to Roy Thomson Hall for the annual Italian Trade Commission wine tasting. Ninety producers grouped by importing agent. Delighted to discover a great Barolo producer – Mauro Molino. His Mauro Molino Barolo Gallinotto 2010 and Barolo Conca 2010 got my top marks of the event. Other outstanding wines: Marchesi di Barolo Barolo Cannubi 2010, Ornellaia 2011, Pasetti Colline Pescarese Testarossa 2011 (Trebbiano with 20% Pecorino) , Pian del Querci Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2007 and 2008 and Ruffino Chianti Classico Riserva Ducale Oro 2009.

Valentina Abbota with the Cannubi Barolo

In the evening, a dinner at Grano with Corrado Bottai of Tenuta Le Velette in Orvieto. We started with Le Velette Berganorio Orvieto Classico 2013, followed by Grechetto Solo Uve 2011, Sangiovese Accordo 2008 and the Sangiovese Cabernet Sauvignon Calanco 2009. The stunning wine of the evening was Le Velette Calanco 2005 (65% Sangiovese and 35% Cabernet Sauvignon): dense purple-black colour; floral, black cherry nose with an iodine note; rich cherry and licorice flavours (92). One of Grano’s waiters, a baritone, sang an aria at such volume that my ears were ringing. Hadn’t had that experience since a Rush concert.

Corrado Bottai of Le Velette

Le Velette Calanco 2005

Tuesday, November 4: Took the TTC over to Tecumseth street for a wine lunch with three South African producers at Beast restaurant. Hadn’t been here since Susur Lee owned the place eons ago. We were greeted with a glass of Graham Beck Brut, then sat down to Swordfish Crudo, Avocado, Tatsoi, Katsuobushi, Yuzu-honey dressing, with Fairview Nurock 2013 (Viognier, Chenin Blanc, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc): straw colour; minerally, pear nose; lively melon and pear flavours (89); and Ken Forrester FMC Chenin Blanc 2012. Ken told us that the British wine writer for the Daily Mail, Matthew Jukes, championed this wine and asked him at a wine show where was “that fucking marvellous Chenin.” Hence the acronym. Deep straw colour with a spicy, oaky, high-toned nose; rich and full on the palate with pineapple and ripe peach flavours (92).

Bouchard Finlayson Blanc de Mer 2013 (50% Riesling, 50% Viognier): straw colour with a grapefruit nose; crisp and easy drinking grapefruit and white peach flavours (88).

Short Ribs, Gnocchi, King Mushrooms, Jus, with Spice Route Chakalaka 2011 (Shiraz with other red varieties): deep ruby colour; meaty, smoky, tarry nose; medium-bodied, blackberry flavour, juicy and well balanced with a touch of oak (89).

Ken Forrester Renegade 2010 (Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah): deep ruby-purple colour; floral, vanilla and blackberry nose with a herbal note; medium-bodied, spicy, savoury with a peppery finish. Châteauneuf-du-Pape style (90).

Chèvre Noir, Watercress, Pear, Figs, Shortbread, with Bouchard Finlayson Galpin Peak Pinot Noir 2011: ruby colour; raspberry with a barnyard note on the nose, showing some oak influence; Burgundian style, lovely mouth-feel, elegant and beautifully balanced. Wouldn’t be out of place in a tasting of Côtes de Nuits (93).

Bouchard Finlayson Crocodile’s Lair “Kaaimansgat” Chardonnay 2013: straw colour; licorice and tropical fruit nose with spicy oak; richly extracted flavours of green pineapple and lemon (91).

Ken Forrester T Noble Late Harvest Chenin 2010 (The T is for Teresa): amber colour with a nose of dried apricot and honey; medium sweet with lively acidity and moderate length (89).

In the evening at Grano again for a tasting dinner that was meant to feature the wines of three producers from the Alcamo region in the west of Sicily: Possente, BioViola and Cassara. The latter two producers had sent a pallet to the LCBO with one case more than they should. The board ordered them shipped back to Sicily at the wineries’ expense or to be destroyed. So we only had Possente wines to taste – Possente Grillo 2013, Possente Nero d’Avola 2013 and Possente Vina Rossa Nero d’Avola 2012.

Wednesday, November 5: Wrote my On The Go column on sparkling wines for the holiday and then down to TIFF for the Mark Anthony portfolio tasting, 36 producers. Delighted to see Fritz Hasselbach there pouring his Gunderloch wines. He tells me that his son Johannes is now making the wines (under parental supervision), which are as stunning as ever. Gunderloch Riesling Spätlese Nackenheim Rothenberg 2012 and Gunderloch Riesling Auslese Nackenheim Rothenburg 2012 are just a joy to drink. Didn’t want to spit them out (both 93 points). Also liked the Mission Hill Compendium 2010, very Bordelais in style (91), David Bynum Pinot Noir 2012 (91) and Graham’s 20 Year Old Tawny (92).

Fritz Hasselbach of Gunderloch

Thursday, November 6: Wrote my Post City Magazines column on sparkling wines for the holidays. In the evening down to Lula Lounge with Deborah for a fund-raiser dinner for Access Education Guatemala, a charity that Grapes for Humanity supports. My home wine tasting fetched $1,700 in the live auction.

Friday, November 7: The second half of the November 22nd Vintages release to taste – 102 wines. I could only manage half. For dinner, with grilled tilapia, Douglas Green Sauvignon Blanc 2014 from South Africa: very pale colour; minerally, grassy, green plum and green fig nose; medium-bodied, tart with lively acidity (87).

Saturday, November 8: Derek Mossman Knapp, owner of the Garage Wine Co. and the moving spirit behind MOVI in Chile – a marketing association of independent boutique producers – came to dinner and brought his wines. Derek makes only 3,000 cases but exports to 12 countries! He was impressed by the CedarCreek Chardonnay 2013 from BC that I poured as we tucked into smoked salmon on pumpernickel bread and toasted almonds.

Derek Mossman Knapp of Garage Wine Co.

With smoked duck breast on a bed of baby arugula we drank Garage Wine Co. Old-Vine Pale Lot # 38 2013 (Grenache and Carignan): pale ruby colour with a minerally, cherry nose; candied raspberry and orange flavours and lively acidity (88) (“Not a rosé,” Derek said, “but a chillable red”).

With the main course of Merguez, couscous and baked, glazed heritage carrots, Garage Wine Co. Lot # 39 2012 (Carignan, Grenchache, Mourvèdre): Rhône-style, elegant, beautifully balanced, raspberry and herbal flavours. (92)

Garage Wine Co. Lot # 44 Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Valley 2012 (15% Cabernet Franc): deep ruby colour; minerally, blackberry and currant nose; dry, elegant blackcurrant and redcurrant flavours carried on lively acidity. (90)

Garage Wine Co. Lot #21 Cabernet Franc Alto Maipo 2009: deep ruby colour; blackcurrant, tobacco leaf, cedar nose; dry, fresh and fruity with a fine spine of acidity. (89)

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 518: Berlin Tasting Anniversary

Greeters at the Wines of Chile tasting

Monday, October 27: Voted for Toronto Mayor and Councillors this morning. Fingers crossed for John Tory. Delighted at night to see he won the election. Augurs well for Toronto. Went for a PSA blood test at Princess Margaret Hospital. Hate having blood taken. I usually pass out but fine this time although my arm is bruised and I look like a coke addict. In the afternoon, with an empty arm, I did some tasting.

  • Dominique Cornin Pouilly-Fuissé Les Chevrières 2011 ($43.95): bright straw colour; minerally, apple with a light barnyard note; medium-bodied, fresh, apple and lemon flavours; well-balanced with good length. (90)
  • Jean-Max Roger Pouilly-Fumé Les Chante-Alouettes 2013 ($28.95): minerally, green plum nose; medium-bodied, green apple, crisp with lemony acidity. (89)
  • Zantho St. Laurent 2011 (Burgenland, Austria – $18): deep ruby-purple colour; sour cherry nose; dry, medium-bodied, Beaujolais style, fresh and lively with enough tannin to give shape to the finish. (88)
  • Zantho Zweigelt 2011 (Burgenland, Austria – $18): deep purple; plum and cherry nose; dry, lean with a pruny note. (86)
  • Ciacomo Mori Chianti 2011 (Tuscany – $19.95): deep ruby-purple; floral, cherry nose; dry and savoury, medium-bodied, sour cherry with a firm finish. (87)
  • Torres Sangre de Toro Garnacha 2013 (Catalonia – $12.95): deep ruby-purple; cedar, creamy black raspberry; soft on the palate, fruity with a firm finish. (88)

For dinner with grilled tilapia, Zantho Grüner Veltliner 2013 from Burgenland: pale straw colour, sweaty, white pepper, parsley and white peach aromas; dry, light on the palate, easy drinking. (87)

Tuesday, October 28: To the ROM for the annual Chilean tasting, which was preceded by a seminar. The tasting of eight wines was preceded by an address by Hector Vergara, who used to be a sommelier at the Sutton Place Hotel – the first Master Sommelier in Canada. The wines:

  • MontGras Amaral Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (Leyda Valley): very ale lime colour; minerally, grassy, green fig and gooseberry nose; medium-bodied, flavours of grapefruit and elderberry with a long fresh finish. (89+)
  • Ventisquero Kalfu Sumpai Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (Atacama – “the driest desert in the world”): very pale lime colour; minerally, leafy nose with a note of white flowers; crisply dry, gooseberry and elderberry flavours, fades a little on the finish (young vines) to a salty finish. (88+)
  • Emiliana Signos de Origen White Blend 2013 (Casablanca – 65% Chardonnay with Roussanne, Viognier and Marsanne): straw colour with a green tint; immediate barnyard note on the nose followed by peach with a light florality blended with oak spice. Richly extracted and full-bodied with a fine spine of acidity. (90)
  • Via Wines Chilcas Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2013 (Itata Valley): light straw colour; minerally, green tobacco leaf nose; dry, caramel, apple with a mineral note; creamy and toasty, full on the palate. First release of this wine. (89)
  • Montes Alpha Pinot Noir 2012 (Aconcagua): deep ruby colour; raspberry candy nose with violets, wood spice and an earthy note; dry, medium-bodied, fruity, red berry flavour with fresh acidity: Old World meets New World. (90)
  • Errazuriz Single Vineyard Syrah 2012 (Aconcagua Coast): dense purple colour; floral, minerally, white pepper, vanilla oak and blackberry on the nose; elegant, red berry and green banana skin flavours carried on a lively spine of acidity. (88)
  • Santa Rita Floresta Cabernet Franc 2012 (Pumanque): dense purple-black colour; minty, blackcurrant with a floral note on the nose; dry, medium-bodied with blackcurrant an licorice flavours; firm tannic finish. Needs cellar time. (90)
  • Calcu Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (Colchagua Valley – 15% Carmenère): dense purple colour; the nose is still tight but the floral, blackcurrant aromas bode well. Light and fresh, more European in style with lively acidity. (89)

Hector Vergara

After the seminar, downstairs to the main room for a tasting of 26 Chilean wineries. I didn’t get to taste all 145 wines but my top points of those I did taste went to Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier 2014 (at $9.95. this is consistently one of the best buys at the LCBO), Pérez Cruz Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2012, Sanata Alicia Millantu 2012 (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Carmenère) and Volcanes de Chile Tectonia Red Blend 2011 (Grenache, Petite Sirah, Mourvèdre).

Dinner at L’Avenue with Doris Miculan Bradley (who brought along a bottle of Victoire de Martel Blanc de Blancs Champagne), Sheila Swerling Puritt and the owners of Vitkin Winery in Israel, Doron and Sharona Belogolovsky. Doron describes it as “a medium-sized boutique winery.”

  • Vitkin Petite Sirah 2009 (40-year-old vineyard, the oldest Petite Sirah vines in Israel): dense purple colour; vanilla oak, blackberry and blackcurrant nose with wood spice and a floral note; rich and full on the palate, dry and savoury with dark chocolate and herbal notes. (89)
  • Vitkin Late Harvest Riesling 2005 (with Viognier and French Colombard): amber colour; honey, peach and dried apricot nose; well-balanced barley sugar flavour with lively acidity. (90)

Vitkin Petite Sirah 2009

Wednesday, October 29: Wrote my “Wines of the Week” column and then down to the four Seasons Hotel to meet Liz Gallery and Cathy Martin, the co-chairs of Grapes for Humanity’s fund-raiser in May, 2015. The theme: “Italy Uncorked.” The event will be held at the Four Seasons on Yorkville on May 6th. In the evening, a reunion dinner for my annual wine tour participants – at Carbon on Queen Street East. Brought a long a bunch of Spanish and Portuguese wines (and ports) as a foretaste of next year’s tour.

Thursday, October 30: A meeting with a financial corporation to discuss “The Executive Wine Experience” seminars. In the evening to the Shangri-la Hotel for an Errazuriz dinner to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Berlin Tasting – at which Errazuriz Viñedo Chadwick 2000 and Seña 2001 were blind tasted against the icon wines of Bordeaux, Tuscany and California and placed first and second, respectively. The dinner:

Passed canapés with Viña Errazuriz Wild Ferment Chardonnay 2013 (90).

At table: Haida Gwaii Black Cod, white bean, chorizo, roasted pepper cassoulet, smoked paprika, with Errazuriz La Cumbre Syrah 2011 (dense purple; juicy, herbal, minty blackcurrant with lively acidity; beautifully balanced (92)) and Errazuriz Kai Carmenère 2011 (dense purple; creamy black fruit nose with an elderberry note; lively acidity and a firm structure (90)).

Brome Lake duck confit, leek & apple tart, huckleberry vinaigrette, with Don Maximiano Founder’s Reserve 1989 (dense purple colour; balsamic, leather nose; dry and elegant and still lively. Very Bordeaux with a note of chocolate on the finish (92)) and Don Maximiano Founder’s Reserve 2011 (dense purple-black; vanilla oak, blackcurrant nose; creamy mouth feel, ripe tannins. Needs time (90–92)).

Aromatic braised pork cheek, parsnip puree, red cabbage fondue, fall spiced reduction, with Seña 2011 (dense purple-black staining the glass; creamy blackcurrant and cedar nose; richly extracted, sweet fruit with a cocoa note and ripe tannins (92)) and Seña 2000 (deep purple-ruby colour; rich and full, beautifully balanced; blackcurrant and rose petal nose; succulent and elegant. A seamless wine and still youthful (93)).

Cumbrae Farms dry aged beef tenderloin, caramelized onion pain perdu, forest mushroom, cipollini onion, leek puree, natural jus, with Viñedo Chadwick 2011 (dense purple colour; rich blackcurrant and cedar nose, elegant and fresh on the palate with a fine spine of acidity (93)) and Viñedo Chadwick 2000 (the wine of the night! Dense purple with a smoky, tarry, blackcurrant nose; silky mouth-feel, tobacco and cassis flavours; great balance and length (94)).

Friday, October 31: A Vintages tasting this morning for the November 22nd release – so large they have to split in two again. For dinner with chicken pasta, Château Rigaud Faugères 2012 (deep ruby colour; raspberry nose; rustic and savoury with a lively acidic finish (88)).

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 517: Stem Portfolio Tasting

Monday, October 20: Went to the Stem Group’s annual portfolio. This is one of my favourite tastings of the year since Tony Macchione and Robert Tomé have terrific taste in their selection of producers. Their list is mainly Italian (30 producers offered here) with four French, eight California, a couple of Australian and one each from Argentina and New Zealand. The catalogue was beautifully illustrated with labels.

I concentrated on the Italian selection and was blown away by the wines of Zymé. Celestino Gaspari is the son-in-law of the late Guiseppe Quintarelli, the legendary Amarone and Valpolicella producer. The six wines offered were all delicious. Most intriguing was Zymé Il Bianco 2013, a white wine made from a white clone of Rondinella, a constituent red grape in Valpolicella and Amarone. Intriguing too are wines that outdo Beaucastel Châteauneuf du Pape in the number of grapes in the blend – 15 (11 red varieties and four white): Zymé Kairos 2008 and my top-scoring wine of the tasting, Zymé Harlequin 2007 (94).

The other producer who really impressed me was 460 casina bric. Owner Gianluca Viberti poured his 460 casina bric Barolo 2010 and 460 casina bric Bricco delle Viole Barolo 2010 (92 and 93 points respectively). Then there were the impressive Gaja Ca’Marcanda Promis 2011 and Magari 2012 Tuscan blends, Valdicava Brunello di Montaclino 2004 and Valdicava Madonna del Piano Riserva Brunello di Montalcino 2006 (which I gave 92, one more point than the more costly 2007) and the silky Collemattoni Brunello 2007 (92). Other highlights: Masciarelli Villa Gemma Montepucliano d’Abruzzo 2006 (91), Henri Abelé Sourire de Reims Champagne (91) and Merry Edwards Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2012. I only wish I had the time and capacity to taste all the 128 wines on offer. Super tasting…

For dinner, Chateau St. Jean Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (deeply coloured; spicy blackcurrant and cedar nose; full and lush on the palate – 90).

Tuesday, October 21: Spent some time with Grapes for Humanity’s accountant going over expenses for Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson’s Grapes Under Pressure tour to Status Winery in Niagara. Received in the mail a copy of my Ottawa colleague Rod Phillips’s new edition of The 500 Best-Value Wines in the LCBO 2015, published by Whitecap. At $19.95 it makes a good Christmas gift.

Dinner at Grano put on by the Italian Trade Commission with two Umbrian producers – Caprai and Scacciadiavoli (the oldest winery in Montefalco, over 500 years). We started with Caprai Grechetto Anima Umbra 2013 (with 15% Trebbiano): minerally, lemony nose; medium-bodied, crisply dry with a herbal note on the finish. (87)

  • Scacciadiavoli Biano 2012 (50% Grechetto, 25% Trebbiano, 25% Chardonnay): straw colour; toasty, white peach nose; dry, good mouth feel, peach, apricot flavours with a touch of bitterness on the finish. (88)
  • Caprai Sagrantino Collepiano 2009: dense purple-black colour; blackberry and dark chocolate nose; flavours of blackcurrant, pencil lead and earth; dry and tannic. (89)
  • Scacciadiavoli Sagrantino 2007: dense purple colour; vanilla, roast chestnut, spicy, floral nose of black fruits; rich, blackberry and licorice flavours, full-bodied but carries its 15.5% alcohol very well. Fleshy on the palate with a firm tannic finish. (91)
  • Caprai Montefalco Sagrantino 25 Anni 2005: dense purple colour; smoky, tarry, iodine and black fruit bouquet; dry and full on the palate; old-style Sagrantino – needs 10 years to reach drinkability. (90–92)

A delicious Sagrantino from Umbria

Wednesday, October 22: Wrote my Wines of the Week and gave Pinot a long walk. Decided to get down to some tasting this morning since the samples are piling up.

  • EastDell Black Label Riesling 2013 (Ontario – $17.95): light straw colour; minerally, grapefruit rind with a floral note; perfumed, off-dry grapefruit and honey flavours with pervasive floral notes. (87)
  • Tic Tok Pocketwatch Chardonnay 2013 (Central Ranges, Australia – $14.95): very pale colour; floral, apple nose; medium-bodied, fresh, apple flavour carried on lively citrus acidity. (88)
  • Sebastiani Chardonnay 2012 (Sonoma County – $19.80): light straw colour; apple blossom, apple and pear notes on the nose; full-bodied, rich and full on the palate with spicy, nutty flavours of apples and pears. Good length. (89)
  • Le Velette Accordo 2008 (Umbria – 100% Sangiovese): dense purple colour; earthy, spicy, black fruits on the nose; full-bodied, dry, plummy flavour with a light floral note; ripe tannins. (87)
  • 20 Bees Cabernet Merlot 2012 (Ontario – $10.95): light ruby-purple colour; smoky, cedary, redcurrant; light-bodied, lean, cranberry and redcurrant flavours overlaid with oak. (85)
  • EastDell Black Label Cabernet Shiraz 2011 (Ontario – $19.95): plum colour; vanilla oak, graphite, blueberry and blackberry nose; dry, medium-bodied, creamy mouth feel with moderate length. (86)
  • Lakeview Cellars Syrah Cabernet 2012 (Ontario): deep ruby colour; spicy, oaky, red berry fruit on the nose; dry, medium-bodied, lean and sinewy with lively acidity. (87)
  • Rocca delle Macie Vernaiolo Chianti 2012 (Tuscany $13.95): ruby with a tawny note; cedar, dried cherry nose; medium-bodied, dry, sour cherry flavour with soft tannins. (86)
  • Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series 2 Bench Red 2011 (Okanagan Valley – Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot – $29.99): ruby colour with a tawny rim; cedar, spicy red berry nose; medium-bodied, dry, light claret-style, nicely balanced. (88)
  • Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series Merlot 2011 (Okanagan Valley – with 9% Cabernet Franc and 2% Syrah): ruby colour; cedar, vanilla oak, red berry; medium-bodied, dry, smoky, cherry flavour. (88+)
  • Tic Tok Pocketwatch Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (Central Ranges, Australia – $15.95): deep ruby colour; smoky, vanilla oak, red berry fruit bouquet; medium to full-bodied, smoked bacon and raspberry flavour, nicely structured. (88)
  • Luccarelli Negroamaro 2012 (Puglia – $9.95): deep ruby colour; smoky, blackberry with a forest floor note; sweet plum and dark chocolate flavours with a lively spine of acidity. Good value. (88+)

In the evening Geddy Lee and I took Doris Maculin Braddley to dinner at The Harbord Room to thank her for all her hard work in managing the Grapes Under Pressure tour. Geddy brought along a couple of stunning Burgundies, Coche-Dury Corton-Charlemagne 2000 and Lignier Clos de la Roche 1990.

White Burgundy to die for

Ditto red Burgundy

Thursday, October 23: A meeting with Catherine Nugent at the newly constructed Bridgepoint Active Healthcare facility overlooking the Don Valley. Next month they’re holding a winetasting for their donors in the Don Jail which I’ll conduct. Catherine gave me a tour of the facility, which has a spectacular 360-degree vista of Toronto on the roof garden.

The view from the roof garden of Bridgepoint

Then we went into the jail to see the Rotunda where the tasting will take place. I was appalled to see the size of the cells, which were no bigger than closets and housed two sometimes three prisoners. Catherine told me that the late June Callwood wrote to the Queen to describe the conditions at the Don Jail. Her Majesty’s response helped to close the jail forever…

My old California friend Pooch had arranged to take Deborah and me to dinner. We booked at Tinto de Tapas Bar on Bayview. I brought along a bottle of Laughing Stock Portfolio 2012, a beautifully balanced claret-style wine (92).

Friday, October 24: A Vintages tasting today, the second half of the huge November release. Some terrific wines coming out on November 8. In the evening, down to the Shangri-La for the 2014 Armani Bay Street Smarty Pants Gala (which refers to the competitive trivia contest held throughout the evening). The home wine tasting featuring six award-winning Ontario wines I gave as a live auction item went for $2000. A great evening in spite of a server pouring a corked bottle of Lailey Cabernet Sauvignon into my half-filled glass.


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 516: My Sassicaia Day

Sunday, October 12: Thanksgiving Dinner at Deborah’s niece, Nadine, in Caledon. Turkey and all the trimmings. I brought up the following wines and tasted them quickly before the meal.

  • Zantho Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (Burgenland – $18): light straw colour with floral, herbaceous nose; medium-bodied, crisply dry with gooseberry and green plum flavours. (87)
  • Chateau St. Jean Fumé Blanc 2012 (Sonoma – $18.95): pale straw colour; grassy, pear nose; soft on the palate, medium- to full-bodied, pear and citrus flavours. (88)
  • Wolf Blass Gold Label Chardonnay 2013 (South Australia – $24.95): straw colour; smoky, toasty, barnyard nose; full-bodied, ripe melon and citrus flavours with great length. (90)
  • Silver Bay Cellars Pinot Noir (Ontario – $14.95): light ruby colour; medium-bodied, earthy, cherry and cherry pit nose; earthy, cherry and beetroot flavour with a firm tannic finish. (87)
  • François Labet Dame Alix Côtes du Rhône 2012 ($11.95): ruby colour; peppery, blackberry nose; medium-bodied, black raspberry flavour; light on the palate, acidic with a red apple finish. (87)
  • Wolf Blass Gold Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (South Australia – $24.95): deep purple-ruby colour; creamy, cedar and black currant nose; medium-bodied, well extracted fruit, firmly structured with soft, supple tannins. (88)

Monday, October 13: Wrote up my 680News wine reviews and then over to Geddy Lee’s house to discuss Grapes For Humanity’s Grapes Under Pressure tour by VIA Rail to Stratus on May 27th. I missed the event because I was in Barcelona.

Tuesday, October 14: My Sassicaia day. A pre-lunch tasting at Crush with Priscilla Incisa della Rocchetta of six vintages of Sassicaia. All the wines are 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc, whatever the vintage.

Priscilla Incisa della Rocchetta

  • Tenuta San Guida Sassicaia 2011: deep ruby with a violet tint; tight, cedar, licorice and blackcurrant on the nose with an earthy note; very elegant and well balanced with a lovely mouth-feel; firm and a little closed at the moment. (93)
  • Tenuta San Guida Sassicaia 2010: deep ruby colour; spicy, blackcurrant and vanilla oak, developing a floral note; light and elegant on the palate, well balanced with as firm tannic finish. (92)
  • Tenuta San Guida Sassicaia 2009: deep ruby colour; a nose of cedar, blackcurrant and truffles; very elegant and round on the palate, firm and ripe, almost plummy (from the hot year). (91)
  • Tenuta San Guida Sassicaia 2007: deep ruby colour; cedar and spicy oak with that truffle note and a touch green but still elegant. More of a red berry flavour. (90)
  • Tenuta San Guida Sassicaia 2006: deep ruby colour; dusty, very claret-like nose with a lilac top note; elegant and beautifully balanced. Just a delight to drink. (93)
  • Tenuta San Guida Sassicaia 2004: deep ruby colour; cedar, blackcurrant and vanilla oak on the nose; very elegant, dry with licorice and red berry flavours that linger to a firm finish. (93)

Lunch followed: Mushroom Bolognese porcini spätzle, parmesan + escarole, with Tenuta San Guido Le Difese 2012 (“difese” means wild boar tusk; 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Sangiovese): deep ruby in colour with a spicy, cherry nose. More Italianate in style that Sassicaia – savoury, sinewy, sour cherry and pencil lead flavours though silky on the palate with a tannic lift on the finish. A terrific food wine. (91)

Short ribs, parsnips, kale + carmelized shallot jus, with Tenuta San Guido Guidalberto 2012 (60% Cabernet Sauvignon (younger vines than Sassicaia + 40% Merlot): deep ruby colour; spicy, floral, licorice nose; dry and firm with flavours of cherries and blueberries with notes of tobacco carried on lively acidity; moderate length with evident tannins. Needs 2–3 years. (90–92)

In the evening I commented on the Sassicaia wines at a dinner at Opus for 22 people. A different vintage of Sassicaia was served with the following courses:

Seared tuna loin and sunchoke puree with Chinese artichokes and red wine-beet reduction, with Sassicia 2004: lovely ruby colour; cedar, tobacco and currant nose with a light floral note; very elegant red berry flavours with beautifully integrated oak. (93)

Atlantic lobster and black truffles with creamed corn and potato, with Sassicaia 2003: deep ruby colour; floral, baked fruit notes on the nose (speaks to the exceptionally hot year); stylistically different from other vintages, very ripe blackcurrant flavour, rich and full on the palate with cocoa powder tannins (90)

Veal and tomato with crispy sweetbreads and tripe ravioli, with Sassicaia 2002: lighter in colour than the rich 2003; a nose of violets and red cherry with a real sense of terroir; well integrated oak, lean and sinewy with raspberry and redcurrant flavours; very light on the palate with lively acidity. (91)

Wild boar and creamy polenta with beans and mushrooms, with Sassicaia 2001: deep ruby colour; meaty, cedary nose of blackcurrants with smoke and tar notes; rich and full on the palate, beautifully balanced with a silky texture. This is a wine for Burgundy lovers. (94)

Rack of lamb with cabbage, cauliflower and laurel, with Sassicaia 2000: deep ruby colour with a nose of cedar, truffle, lead pencil and blackcurrant; more oak influence here with red berry flavours; great mouth-feel with gripping tannins. More masculine. (93)

Selection of cheeses: Sassicaia 1980: still holding its vivid ruby colour; cigar box, malt and raspberry nose – the most Bordelais in style of all the Sassicaias I’ve tried today. Bright red berry fruit, so fresh and lively for its 34 years with tannins still giving the wine structure. (95)

Altogether, a sensational day of tasting!

Wednesday, October 15: Recorded my 680 News wine reviews and then down to Patria for a tasting of Navarra wines. Impressed by the wines of Bodegas de Monjardin, especially their Bodegas de Monjardin Reserva Seleccion 2008 (a Cabernet Sauvignon with 10% Tempranillo) and their great value Tempranillo Clasico. Impressive too were the wines of Bodegas Inuerrietta – Norte 2011 (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot), Cuatrocientos 2011 (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Garnacha) and Altos de Inurrieta 2009 (Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Graciano, Garnacha). They also make a delicious Inurrieta Orchidea Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (without oak). Also liked Bodegas Tandem Macula Reserva 2006 (a Merlot Cabernet blned). Best value: Bodega Principe de Viana Garnacha Viñas Viejas 2013 (100% Garnacha). In fact I would have like to have seen more varietal Garnacha at this tasting rather than the ubiquitous Cabernet/Merlot blends.

Beth Novak Miliken of Spottswoode

In the evening over to L’Avenue Bistro for a dinner with Beth Novack Miliken, the owner of Spottswoode Family Wine Estate. We started off with Escargot in cream sauce served with Spottswoode Sauvignon Blanc 2011: floral, spicy, green plum bouquet; medium to full-bodied, crab apple and green plum flavours carried on fresh acidity with a herbal note. Lovely mouth-feel. (91)

Spottswoode Sauvignon Blanc 2013: minerally, floral, creamy, leafy nose; broader than the 2011 with green fig and green apple flavours, crisp, rich and full on the palate, again with a great mouth-feel. (90)

Braised lamb shoulder en papillote, with Spottswoode Field Book Griffin’s Lair Syrah 2010 (4% Viognier): dense purple-black colour; a nose of iodine, blackberry, cream and vanilla oak; tarry, smoked bacon flavour, well balanced with charming blackcurrant fruit that shines through; great mouth-feel; bitter chocolate finish. (92)

Spottswoode Lyndenhurst Cabernet Sauvignon 2011: dense purple-black colour; cedar, blackcurrant and violets on the nose; firmly structured, brooding dark fruit; medium-bodied with a chocolate note. (90)

Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignon 2001: unfortunately corked but the sweet blackcurrant fruit suggested that a clean bottle would be terrific.

Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignon 2011: dense purple-black colour; cedar, blackcurrant and vanilla oak on the nose; supple, sweet fruit, creamy mouth feel, firm and seamless finishing on a savoury note. (93)

Thursday, October 16: Wrote my Lexpert column on appassimento wines. In the evening, down to East 36th restaurant on Wellington. It was raining and I was late. I crossed Wellington at the Yonge Street corner on a green light and suddenly I hear this voice shouting, “You’re crossing on an advance green light.” When I got to the curb it was a cop. He looked 15-years-old and began to lecture me and quiz me – where was I going? Was I late? Can I see your identification. I wasn’t aware that police were permitted to ask for identification just because you jay-walked but I wasn’t going to make an issue of it since I was late. Evenutally he let me go once I had shown him my driver’s license.

I was joining Nathan Waks and his wife for a dinner tasting of Kilikanoon wines. Nathan was the principal cellist at the Sydney Symphony Orchestra at the age of 19. He now owns Kilikanoon. Over a bunch of tapas-style dishes we tasted his wines, beginning with Kilikanoon Killerman’s Run Riesling 2014. Nathan told me that it’s the fashion in Australia to drink Riesling as young as possible. This one had a minerally, lime nose; crisply dry with a tart lime flavour and bracing acidity (89).

  • Kilikanoon Killerman’s Run GSM 2012: deep ruby-purple colour; spicy, floral, minty nose; sweet fruit with a light texture finishing on a savoury-herbal note. (90)
  • Kilikanoon Killerman’s Run Cabernet Sauvignon 2012: dense purple-ruby colour; cedar, dry red berry nose; medium-bodied, firm and sinewy, light on the palate. (88)
  • Kilikanoon Kelly’s 1932 Grenache 2012: deep ruby colour; smoky, black raspberry and cedar nose; soft mouth-feel, sweet fruit, seamless on the palate with imperceptible tannins and structure. A very graceful wine. (92)
  • Kilikanoon Killerman’s Run Shiraz 2012: deep ruby colour; spicy blackberry and blackcurrant nose with just a suggestion of oak; rich and full on the palate, nicely balanced with a minty-menthol finish. (89)
  • Kilikanoon Miracle Hill Shiraz 2010: dense purple colour; leather, cedar and blackberry with new oak and a floral top note. Full-bodied, plummy and soft on the palate; lovely texture with a firm tannic finish. (91)
  • Kilikanoon The Oracle Shiraz 2010: dense purple colour with a blackcurrant and vanilla oak nose; rich and full, plush and opulent on the palate; full-bodied, lovely glossy texture with a firm finish. Drinking well now but should last for ten years. (93)

Kilikanoon The Oracle Shiraz 2010

Friday, October 17: A Vintages tasting this morning for November 8th – so large they split it in two!

Saturday, October 18: Drove to Burlington to conduct three short seminars on wine and food matching with appetizers prepared by Chef Niall from Summer Fresh. It was a fundraiser to help purchase a digital mammography unit with biopsy attachment for Joseph Brant hospital cancer clinic. The wines:

  • Château des Charmes “Old Vines” Riesling 2012
  • Mike Weir Winery Unoaked Chardonnay 2012
  • Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery Baco Noir Reserve 2011
  • Konzelmann Estate Winery Merlot Reserve 2012


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 515: Sonoma in the City

Monday, October 6: Wrote my November On The Go column on holiday wines. A tasting at Doug Towers’s house for www.winerytohome. For dinner, lamb chops with Blue Mountain Gamay Noir 2013. For my money there’s no better Gamay in Canada than Blue Mountain’s. Consistently they make a wine that has great extract with a rich black cherry flavour. (91)

Tuesday, October 7: Pinot went to the groomer’s today and came home looking very elegant.

Pinot T. Wonderdog fresh from the groomer’s

Wrote my 680News wine reviews and wines to match Helen Hatton’s recipes on my site. A corporate dinner tasting at Biff’s for a financial company. Reception wine: Hinterland White Cap sparkling from Ontario. First course: Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio 2013; main course Catena Zapata Malbec 2011.

Wednesday, October 8: Wrote my Post City Magazines column about Sicily. Rooted around in the cellar to choose Ontario wines for tomorrow’s charity tasting at a home in Stouffville. Dinner at Wildfire steakhouse in the Cosmopolitan Hotel with MontGras winemaker Jaime de la Cerda. Didn’t realise that MontGras is now a million-case winery.

Jaime de la Cerda, MontGras winemaker

With seafood ceviche: MontGras Amaral Sauvignon Blanc 2013: straw colour; very ripe, grassy, gooseberry and elderberry nose; ripe and honeyed gooseberry and elderberry flavours carried on fresh acidity. (89)

MontGras Amaral Sauvignon Blanc 2014: leaner than the 2013 and lees-y on the nose; green pear, green pea and gooseberry flavours with lively acidity. (88)

We then tasted two single vineyard Amarals from different soils.

With Australian rack of lamb and French fries: MontGras Carmenère Reserva 2013: dense ruby-purple colour; savoury, herbal, pencil lead nose; full-bodied, spicy sweet blackberry flavour, almost Syrah-like. (88)

MontGras Antu Syrah 2012: deeply coloured; savoury, blackberry nose that’s replicated on the palate; full-bodied, rich and velvety. (90)

Thursday, October 9: Down to the ROM for a seminar on Sonoma wines conducted by John Szabo and a panel of winemakers. Donald Patz of Patz & Hall stated that “Carneros has more soil types than all of France.” We tasted the following wines introduced by the winemaker of the rep.

  • Gloria Ferrer Royal Cuvée Brut (66% Pinot Noir, 34% Chardonnay): pale straw colour with an active mousse; biscuity nose, elegant apple; full in the mouth with a long lemony finish. (90)
  • Quivira Dry Creek Sauvignon Blanc 2013: very pale lime colour; grassy, Meyer lemon nose with a herbal, mineral note; soft mouth-feel, gooseberry and fig flavours with lively acidity. (88)
  • La Crema Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2012: straw colour with a green tint; toasty, spicy, tropical fruit nose; full-bodied, rich. Broad in the mouth, caramel, spicy melon, nutty and toasty flavours with good length. (90)
  • Patz & Hall Dutton Ranch Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2012: straw-lime colour; fresh, spicy, floral, green pineapple nose with a mineral note; full-bodied, beautifully balanced apple flavours. A seamless wine. (92)
  • Dutton Goldfield Dutton Ranch-Freestone Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012: ruby-purple colour; rose petal and cherry nose with a thread of minerality; full-bodied, dry, elegant, beautifully balanced black cherry and cranberry flavours with a fresh acidic finish. (91)
  • Buena Vista Winery Pinot Noir 2011: deep ruby colour; cherry and cherry pit nose; broad, chunky fruit with a touch of sweetness; moderate length with a firm finish. (89)
  • Seghesio Rockpile Zinfandel 2011: deep ruby colour; spicy plum and leather nose; full-bodied with a lively spine of acidity ending on a licorice note and firm tannins. (90)
  • Kunde Sonoma Valley Zinfandel 2012: deep purple-ruby colour; licorice and black plum with vanilla oak on the nose; full-bodied, sweet fruit with lively acidity. (89)
  • Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2010: dense ruby-purple colour; classic cedar, blackcurrant and vanilla oak nose; rich and ripe, soft on the palate with supple tannins, Easy drinking with a coffee bean note on the finish. (90)
  • Rodney Strong Brothers Ridge Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2010: dense ruby; cedar, floral, herbal nose; full-bodied, but unfortunately cork-tainted. (Not scored)

Then into the main hall for a tasting of 42 Sonoma wineries. Concentrated on Pinot Noir:

  • Flowers Seaview Ridge Pinot Noir 2011 (93)
  • Dutton-Goldfield Dutton Ranch Pinot Noir 2012 (91)
  • Gundlach Bundschu Estate Pinot Noir 2012 (91)
  • Macrostie Pinot Noir Wildcat Mountain Pinot Noir 2012 (91)
  • Deloach Estate 2011 (90)
  • Decoy Pinot Noir 2013 (89)
  • MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir 2012 (89)
  • Best value: Folie à Deux Pinot Noir 2012 (89)

In the evening I drove to Stouffville to a home tasting – the successful bidder at the Barbara Schlifer Clinic auction. I brought along the following Ontario wines:

  • Mike Weir Unoaked Chardonnay 2012
  • Tawse Sketches Riesling 2010
  • Inniskillin Viognier Reserve 2012
  • Rosewood Estates Gewurztraminer 2008
  • Kacaba Vineyards Cabernet Franc Reserve 2007
  • Henry of Pelham Baco Noir Reserve 2011
  • Tawse Wine Club Syrah 2010
  • Château des Charmes Late Harvest Riesling 2010

Friday, October 10: Did some tasting today to get rid of some of the backlog of samples that have been arriving. This is the busiest season for wine writers. Winemakers who come to New York to attend the Wine Spectator‘s annual event spend time in Toronto as well, meeting with the LCBO and putting on tasting dinners for the wine press.

  • Inniskillin Cabernet Merlot 2012 (Ontario – $14.95): ruby-purple colour; cedar, red berry nose; dry, medium-bodied, cranberry, plum and redcurrant flavours with a light floral note. Finishes firmly with mellow tannins. (87)
  • Ascheri Barolo 2010 (Piedmont – $32.25): ruby with a tawny hue; dried cherries, leather, tobacco nose; dry, elegant, medium-bodied and well crafted; youthful and tight but beautifully balanced and should age very well for a decade. (91+)
  • Jackson-Triggs Merlot Grand Reserve 2012 (Ontario – $24.95): deep purple colour; baking spices, black cherries and vanilla oak on the nose; dry, medium bodied with well-extracted dark fruit flavours carried on lively acidity to a firm tannic finish. (88+)
  • Jackson-Triggs Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (Ontario – $24.95): deep purple-ruby colour; cedar, blackcurrant and dark chocolate nose; dry, medium-bodied, plump mid-palate feel of vanilla oak and mocha, drying out on the finish of grainy tannins. (89)
  • Jackson-Triggs Grand Reserve Meritage 2012 (Ontario – $24.95): deep purple-ruby colour; cedary, black fruit nose with tobacco notes; dry, medium-bodied, well balanced spicy (cinnamon) blackcurrant flavours with just enough oak to round out the palate to a firm finish. Nicely done. (90)
  • Delaine by Jackson-Triggs Syrah 2012 Lot 910 (Ontario – $32.95): deep black plum colour; savoury, herbal, black pepper and blackberry nose with evident oak; dry, medium-bodied, elegant, lean and sinewy blackberry flavour. Northern Rhône style. Firm tannic finish. (89–90)
  • Vignamaggio Monna Lisa Chianti Classico 2011 (Tuscany – $19.95) (It is said that Mona Lisa was born and raised on the Vignamaggio estate and the famous la Gioconda smile graces the label): deep, tawny ruby colour; earthy, dried cherry nose; richer on the palate than the nose suggests with flavours of mocha, cherry, vanilla oak and pencil lead finishing firmly to give the wine structure. (89)
  • Red Knot by Shingleback Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (McLaren Vale – $17.95): dense purple colour; spicy, meaty, blackcurrant nose; creamy, chunky mouth-feel, dry and savoury flavours of blackcurrants with a mineral note and drying tannins on the finish. (87+)


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