A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 524: Two Sisters

The pizza oven at Two Sisters Winery

Monday, December 8: Began researching Barolo for my Lexpert column and wrote up my 680News wine reviews. For dinner, flank steak with a bottle of Csanyi Winery Teleki Villànyi Kékfrankos (dense purple, plum and leather nose; medium-bodied, dry and savoury (87)).

Tuesday, December 9: We were meant to take Pinot the Wonderdog in for groom today but she had a cyst on her back that had burst and she was in obvious discomfort. The vet cleaned it out and told us she should wear the “cone of shame” so she wouldn’t lick the wound. But Deborah put an old T-shirt on her instead.

A meeting over lunch with Doris Miculan Bradley at Beerbistro on King Street (amazing number of beers!). Doris is taking over from me as President and CEO of Grapes for Humanity. We’ll share the position for the coming year. I intend to remain on the board of directors.

For dinner, grilled salmon with Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Fumé Blanc 2013 (pale lemon colour with grassy, grapefruit nose; medium-bodied, guava, passion fruit and melon flavours; full in the mouth (89)).

Wednesday, December 10: After recoding my 680News wine reviews at the Rogers studio I was picked up to drive down to Two Sisters Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake. The lawyer for the winery was the successful bidder at the auction during the gala dinner for Access Education Guatemala. I brought along the following wines from my cellar:

  • Mike Weir Riesling 2012
  • Jackson-Triggs White Meritage 2007
  • Exultet The Blessed Chardonnay 2012
  • Peller Estates Signature Series Merlot 2010
  • Vineland Estates Elevation Cabernet 2009
  • Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin 2007

Two Sisters  Winery, Niagara on the Lake

Two Sisters Winery, next door to Peller Estates, is a magnificent building set in 70 hectares of red Bordeaux varietals that looks like a baronial hall. It had only been open for two weeks. The sisters are Angela and Melissa of the Marotta construction family. They had their logo designed by a tattoo artist.

Two Sisters’ Angela and Melissa

Their winemaker is Adam Pearce, who graduated from Niagara College and worked at Fielding before doing vintages in Australia and Pentages in BC (where he was responsible for 22 varieties!). He told me he has a degree in underwater welding, which could come in handy come the flood. We did the tasting in the barrel cellar and Adam threw in his own wines:

  • Two Sisters Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (brought in Beamsville Bench fruit): pale straw; elegant, fresh, floral nose of green fruits; medium-bodied, green apple and kiwi flavours. (90)
  • Two Sisters Merlot 2010: dense purple colour, spicy, vanilla nose with a lifted blackberry and currant bouquet; rich and concentrated with a creamy mouth feel and a firm finish. A very distinguished Merlot. (91)
  • Two Sisters Cabernet Franc 2010: deep ruby-purple colour; spicy, vanilla oak nose with ripe fruit – bramble berry, red pepper and chocolate; medium-bodied, soft on the palate with ripe tannins. Needs a year or two in bottle to integrate the oak. (89–90).

Two Sisters Merlot 2010

We lunched in the winery’s restaurant (rustic Italian menu with antipasti, grilled octopus, and an amazing pizza selection) and the following Two Sisters wines:

  • Two Sisters Riesling 2013: pale straw colour; grapefruit and lime on the nose; well-balanced lime flavour with a touch of honeyed sweetness i n mid palate. (89)
  • Two Sisters Eleventh Post 2011 (52% Cabernet Franc, 24% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon): dense purple colour; creamy nose of vanilla oak, cedar, red pepper and currants; richly extracted fruit, full-bodied with a ripe blackcurrant flavour and velvety mouth-feel; evident but ripe tannins give the wine a final structure. (90)
  • Two Sisters Riesling Icewine 2013: straw colour; spicy, honey and peach nose with a botrytis note; nicely balanced peachy sweetness with citrus acidity. (90)

Thursday, December 11: A meeting with a neighbour to discuss the Association of Image Consultants and how to incorporate wine into their activities. In the mid-afternoon down to the Sheraton Hotel to conduct a wine tasting for an insurance company’s Christmas party. There were four wine stations with the following wines:

  • Vineland Estates Elevation St. Urban Vineyard Riesling 2012
  • Mountadam Estate Chardonnay 2009
  • Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc
  • Kim Crawford Pinot Noir C
  • Vineland Estates Pinot Meunier 2012
  • Cave Spring Cabernet Franc 2012

Friday, December 12: Went to get my passport renewed. A mercifully short wait. The corner of my old passport got burned a few years ago on a visit to Errazuriz in Chile. Inadvertently, I had put my bag over a heat vent during dinner which burned a hole through the bottom and scorched the corner of the passport. Immigration officers quizzed me about it every time I travelled, especially in China.

Chose my “Top Ten Wines of the Year” and my “Winery of the Year,” which will be posted next week. Took Pinot for a long walk in the park. She really enjoys the snow and romped with an eighteen-month-old doodle. Pinot is going to be ten on January 1st and still acts like a puppy. In the late afternoon did some tasting:

  • Beaulieu Vineyards BV Coastal Estates Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (California): pale straw colour; minerally, green plum and cut grass nose; medium-bodied, mouth-filling, dry, green plum and grapefruit flavours with a fresh finish. Clean, good length. (88)
  • Marynissen Estates Riesling 2013 (Four Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula – $16): very pale colour with a lime tint; spicy, floral-citrus nose; light-bodied, crisp, grapefruit and lime flavours finishing with fresh acidity. (88+)
  • Marynissen Estates Unoaked Chardonnay 2013 (Four Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula – $15): pale straw with a green tint; apple nose with a floral top note; medium-bodied and mouth-filling, dry, apple flavour that lingers cleanly on the palate. (88+)
  • Marynissen Estates Chardonnay 2013 (Chardonnay and Chardonnay Musqué, Niagara Peninsula – $17): not showing much evidence of oak-ageing in the colour which is virtually the same hue as the unoaked version; but broader on the nose with a smoky, leesy note of pear and apple; medium-bodied with a charred, toasty, apple puree flavour (87+)
  • Marynissen Estates Pinot Gris Kasper Vineyard 2013 (Niagara Lakeshore – $17): light straw colour; a nose of white peach and pear; medium-bodied, well extracted fruit flavours of pear and peach; good heft on the palate; well balanced, versatile food wine. (89)
  • Marynissen Estates Sauvignon Kasper Vineyard 2013 (Niagara Lakeshore – $17): pale straw with a lime tint; grassy, green bean and grapefruit zest nose; crisply dry with grapefruit and lime flavours and tart gooseberries. Finishes with mouth-watering acidity. (88)
  • Marynissen Estates Gewurztraminer Marynissen Vineyard 2013 (Four Mile Creek – $40): pale straw colour; characteristic nose of lychee and rose petals; dry, perfumed, rose water; elegant and exotic Turkish delight flavours of rosewater and cardamom with a long finish. The best Ontario Gewurz I’ve tried from this vintage. (91+)
  • Marynissen Estates Gamay Noir Marynissen Vineyard 2013 (Four Mile Creek – $25): ruby colour; cherry skin nose; well extracted flavours of black cherry and tobacco backed by smoky oak, deceptively rich on the palate and flavourful. (89+)
  • Marynissen Estates Cabernet Franc Fox Vineyard 2013 (Twenty Mile Bench – $18): solid ruby colour; currants and red pepper nose; dry, lean, redcurrant flavour with a fine spine of acidity and a floral note on the back taste. Very Loire Cab Franc in style. (89)
  • Marynissen Estates Merlot Marynissen Vineyard 2013 (Four Mile Creek – $17): solid ruby colour; earthy, oaky nose masking fruit at the moment; dry, medium-bodied, redcurrant and cranberry flavours with lively acidity and ripe tannins. (88)
  • Marynissen Estates Red Blend Marynissen Vineyard 2013 (33% Syrah, 30% Merlot, 20% Gamay Noir, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon; Four Mile Creek – $19): solid ruby colour; cedar, red and blackcurrant nose; dry, medium-bodied, well-balanced red berry flavours with a spicy oak note, elegant with a supple tannic finish. (89)
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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 523: Grapes’ AGM

Monday, December 1: The week coming back from a trip is always a bit of a letdown as there are a myriad emails to deal with and boring bills to pay, etc. Added to which we don’t have a car for the week because we were sideswiped and had to have the rear end painted. The guy didn’t stop. The estimate is $1,600.

Spent the day getting the paperwork together for Grapes for Humanity’s AGM tomorrow evening, printing off reports and writing my President’s review of the past year. Managed to taste a few wines though.

  • Mark West Chardonnay 2012 (California): golden colour with a green tint; vanilla oak and ripe sweet pineapple and peach on the nose; full-bodied, sweet with balancing acidity and a nutty finish. (88)
  • Boeri Barbera d’Asti 2012: dense ruby colour with a lifted nose of dried cherries and a note of Kirsch; medium-bodied, dry, savoury, sour cherry flavour. (87)
  • Rosenblum Zinfandel 2011 (California): deep ruby with a lifted nose of black plum and leather; rich and full-bodied plum flavour with soft tannins and nicely integrated oak. (88)

Tuesday, December 2: Spent most of the day inputting tasting notes for this Saturday’s Vintages release (the most tiresome part of my job). In the evening, the Grapes for Humanity AGM held at the house of the foundation’s treasurer. In my report I told the board that, after seven years as President & CEO, I wanted to step aside. We called for nominees and Doris Miculan Bradley was elected President by acclamation. A very worthy candidate. I shall stay on for a year as a functioning President Emeritus, as Doris is new to the foundation. It’s been a wonderful ride but I plan to continue to serve on the board.

Wednesday, December 3: Wrote my After Taste column for Quench about Dom Pérignon P2 1998 Champagne and some wine reviews. And did a bit of tasting:

  • Sterling Vineyards Napa Chardonnay 2012: straw colour with an oaky, tropical fruit nose leavened with citrus notes; full-bodied, toasty, sweet pineapple and citrus flavours. Rich and full in the mouth. (88)
  • Graffigna Elevation Red Blend 2012 (Argentina): 20% Bonarda, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Malbec, 20% Syrah, 20% Tannat; deeply coloured with a nose of plums and dark chocolate; dry, plum and leather flavours with well integrated oak and a firm tannic finish. (88)

Thursday, December 4: Selected the wines for a charity event. Interestingly, the winner of the auctioned item wants to do the tasting blind. Guy and Sasha came to dinner. Tomorrow they leave for three days in New York, Sasha’s first time in the Big Apple. We started with a bottle of Pierre Sparr Crémant d’Alsace Brut Réserve (88) with home-made hummus. Over a roast beef dinner we drank Alpha Estate Axia 2010 (a Syrah-Xynomavro blend from Greece (89)) and Carnivor Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (California, 89).

Friday, December 5: A Vintages release tasting, the last press tasting of the year. Only did half the wines so I’ll have to go back for the LCBO wine consultants’ tasting to finish the rest.

Saturday, December 6: A party at our friends Steve and Cathy Pauwels at their house in Paris, Ontario. And then home for the annual fancy dress part of Richard Wernham and Julia West. The theme this year was Italy. I wore Italian shoes. Carol-singing led by Albert Schultz of Soulpepper, great fun.

Our party hosts, Richard and Julia, looking suitably Italianate

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 522: Sardinia & Piemonte

Ancient Barolo

Saturday, November 22: Deborah dropped me at the airport at 8:30 pm for a 10:25 pm flight to Rome, from where our group would fly on to Sardinia. Skipped dinner onboard and went to sleep – very comfortable on Alitalia Business Class with seats that fold down supine.

Sunday, November 23: Our delegation (three Quebec wine writers, two from BC, one from Ottawa and two of us from Ontario) arrived in Alghero at 4:30 pm. Two of the party lost their luggage between Rome and Sardinia, which put us an hour behind schedule.

A two-hour bus trip to Tempio Pausania in the north of the island for a visit to Cantina di Gallura. Sardinia has 1897 kilometres of coast and covers 24,000 square kilometres in total. There are 3,900 hectares of Vermentino planted on the island (5,200 ha. total in Italy, in Tuscany and Piemonte and Liguria where the grape is called Pigat).

Then on to a local restaurant – Hotel-Ristorante-Pizzeria Il Melograna da Claudio – for a huge dinner. We started with a magnum of Gallura Brut 2011 (Vermentino), a Charmat sparkler. Al the dishes included the local flat bread called carasau, very thin and crisp. A variation is made with olive oil and rosemary called guttiau.

Traditional Sardinian flatbread, carasau

We started with wild boar prosciutto on carasau, followed by orata (sea bream) marinated in almond milk with myrtle berries and red peppercorns. Then the dishes kept arriving: oysters, swordfish carpaccio, tuna tartar with black mushrooms, shrimps, bottarga salad, razor clams, fregole pasta with clams and artichokes and powdered fish roe and a plate of octopus. Then a whole dorade baked in salt and delivered flaming to the table. The accompanying wines: Cantina Gallura Vermentino Canayli 2013, Genesi Vermentino 2013 in magnum, Balanjana Bianco Colli del Limbara Vermentino 2010 (wood aged). With a dessert of baked goods, Cantina Gallura Modcati di Tempio Spumante. Finally, a digestif, Mirto di Sardegna Tremontis and grappa. After dinner, we transferred to the Hotel For You (yes, that was its name) in the town of Olbia and checked in at midnight.

Monday, November 24: Woke at 4 am this morning. So started working. Left the hotel at 9 am for a tour of Cantina delle Vigne di Piero Mancini in Olbia. Piero Mancini started out as a dentist.

  • Piero Mancini Primo Vermentino Gallura Superiore 2013 (20% barrique aged for four months): pale straw colour with an earthy peach pit nose and a bitter almond finish. (87)
  • Piero Mancini Vermentino di Gallura Spumante Brut 2013: dry, floral, peachy nose; minerally and perfumed. (89)
  • Piero Mancini Monica di Sardegna 2012: the first time I’ve tasted this grape – ruby colour; a minerally nose of dried flowers and cherries; rustic plum and cherry flavours with 14% alcohol. (87)
  • Piero Mancini Cannonau Falcare 2013: deep ruby colour; rustic, earthy raspberry and rose petal nose that replicate as flavours on the palate. Good lenght. (88)
  • Piero Mancini Moscato di Sardegna Cucione: floral, honey and orange blossom nose; touch of sweetness in mid palate with a bitter finish. (88)
  • Piero Mancini Pinot blanc Chardonnay Brut (50/50): green apple and apple core flavours with a bitter finish. (86)

Cantina Gallura Vermentino 2013

Two hours later, a tour of Cantina Pedres in Olbia, owned by Giovanni Mancini. His wife Caterina and daughter Emanuela introduced his wines while he busied himself bringing in a buffet lunch.

  • Pedres Spumante Brut: a dry Vermentino that tastes like a dry Muscat with an earthy note. (87)
  • Pedres Thilibas Vermentino di Gallura 2013: peach pit nose, earthy, dry, bitter almond flavour with a short finish. (86)
  • Pedres Cerasio Cannonau di Sardegna 2012: ruby colour; dry, plum and sour cherry flavours; rustic. (86)
  • Pedres Muros Colli di Limbara 2012: Syrah/Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot and Sangiovese – purple colour with a violet rim; herbal, black fruit nose with a floral note; dry and savoury. (87)

Spumante at Pedres

After lunch we departed for the town of Arzachena to visit Società Agricola Surrau. On the way we diverted to visit Porto Cervo on the Costa Smeralda. It was created by Prince Karim Aga Khan and various other investors. Porto Cervo has a resident population of 421 very wealthy inhabitants.

Porto Cervo, Costa Smeralda

The three brothers of the Demuro family, who own the Surrau winery, are big in construction and tourist resorts. They returned to their grandfather’s farm to create a stunning modern winery, which they named Surrau after the valley.

  • Surrau Branu Vermentino di Galluria 2013: pale straw colour; minerally, white flowers and white peach on the nose; elegant, lovely mouth-feel, well balanced with good length. (89)
  • Surrau Sciala Vermentino di Galluria Superiore 2012: floral nose of white peaches; leesy flavour, minerally, firm and well structured. (88)
  • Surrau Late Harvest Sciala 2013: earthy, spicy, barnyard nose; full-bodied, funky flavour with a rich mouth-feel. (88)
  • Surrau Cannonau di Sardegna Sincaru 2012 (14.5% alcohol): deep ruby colour; Zinfandel-like nose – vanilla oak, plum and leather; sweet black raspberry flavour, juicy and fresh; full-bodied, spicy with ripe tannins. Well-structured and sturdy. (90)
  • Surrau IGT Isola di Nuraghi 2012 (Cannonau/Carignano/ Cabernet Sauvignon with 1% Muristellu): deep ruby colour; smoky, savoury, leather nose; full-bodied, rich and rustic; juicy fruit with good acidity. (89)
    Surrau Barriu IGT Isola di Nuraghi 2011 (Cannonau/ Carignano/Cabernet Sauvignon with 1% Muristellu): dense ruby colour; spicy, raisiny, plum and blackberry jam on the nose; ripasso character, firm and muscular with a chunky mouth-feel. (90)

The wine bar at Surrau

Dinner: a series of plates of bottarga and celery salad, mozzarella and tomatoes, cheeses with honey, bresaiolo with arugula, salamis, ravioli stuffed with ricotta and lemon rind. Dessert: ricotta and honey with Surrau Sole di Surrau Vermentino Isola di Nuraghi Passito 2013 (medium sweet, fragrant, honey flavour but a little short on the finish (88)) and SurrauPassito Raju 2013 (dense ruby; pruny plum nose; medium sweet with a raisiny and spicy flavour (88)). Finally, Surrau Grappa Affinata.

Bottarga and celery salad

Then the long drive back to Hotel For You in Olbia.

Tuesday, November 25: After breakfast we left with our luggage for Alghero to see Cantine Sella & Mosca – where we spent much of the day. The company was founded in 1899. In 1905 there were 1,671 grape varieties planted on the property. They are the only winery in Sardinia now growing Turbato. The soil is amazingly rocky here. In fact, it was a Stone Age necropolis (38 graves were found in the rocks). 520 hectares of vines planted in pergola fashion and on trellises. To dry the bunches for their passito they have 4 kilometres of grapes left outdoors on bamboo canes for 2–3 weeks. In 2002 Campari bought the company.

Stone fields at Sella & Mosca

Sella & Mosca winemaker Beppe Caviola

At the tasting before lunch I lost my notes because of a wrong keystroke on the computer; but I do recall the standout wine: Sella & Mosca Marchesi di Villamarina 2009. It would not have been out of place in a blind tasting of Second Growth red Bordeaux (93).

Sella & Mosca Marchese di Villamarina 2009

Before lunch we had an aperitif of Sella & Mosca Torbato Terre Blanche Cuvee 161 Vino Spumante Brut (fresh and easy drinking with a dry pear flavour and lively acidity (88)). The menu: spinach and “Rebetta apple” salad; Sardinian pasta filled with potato, cheese, fresh mint, in basil-flavoured tomato sauce; baked sea bream with potatoes and baked seasonal vegetables; selection of Sardinian sheep’s milk cheeses. Dessert: fresh fruit and pine nut tart. The wines: Sella & Mosca La Cala Vermentino di Sardegna 2013 (light straw colour; minerally, floral, peach bouquet; medium-bodied, fresh, white peach and citrus flavours; sweetish mid-palate flavour with a bitter almond finish (87)); Sella & Mosca Terre Bianche Torbato Alghero 2013 (straw colour; minerally, white flowers on the nose; dry and brad on the palate with some sweetness and a bitter finish (87)). With the cheese, the Marchesi di Villamarina 2009 tasted earlier. Dessert wine: Sella & Mosca Monteluce Alghero Nasco Passito 2011 (my first taste of the Nasco variety unique to Sardinia – old gold colour; high toned nose of pineapple, barley sugar and honey; full-bodied sweet peach flavour (89)). A long drive back to Alghero to check into the Hotel Catalunya.

Wednesday, November 26: Checked out of the hotel for our hour-long flight to Milan where we took another bus to Canelli in Piemonte for a welcome reception to Piemonte at Cantine Coppo. We toured Coppo’s underground “cathedral” – part of a series of 18 kilometres of caves, tunnels and rooms carved out of the calcareous tuff and brick-covered under the streets of Canelli (now a UNESCO world heritage site). Perfect conditions for storing Asti Spumante. At noon, a Tasting Experience and buffet lunch (duck pasta, slow-cooked beef with Barbera and clove-flavoured sauce) at Ristorante dell’Enoteca Regionale di Canelli. Tasted the following wines:

  • Poderi Luigi Einaudi Dogliani Dolcetto 2013: dense purple colour with a violet tint; earthy, black cherries; fruity, dry, with lively acidity and a bitter finish. (88)
  • Coppo Barbera d’Asti L’Avvocata 2013: deep ruby; cherry with a gamey note on the nose; dry, firm structure, strong strain of acidity, cherry pit flavour with a floral note. (88+)
  • La Gironda Le Nicchie Barbera d’Asti Superiore Nizza 2011 : dense purple ruby colour; spicy, vanilla oak, black cherry, meaty with a leather note; full on the palate, fruity and richly extracted, dark chocolate with lively acidity. (90)
  • Ciabot Berton Langhe Nebbiolo 3 Utin 2012: tawny ruby; minerally, rose petal, licorice, blackcurrant nose with an earthy note; sweet fruit, firmly structured, elegant and majestic, evident tannins. (91)
  • Fratelli Serio & Battista Borgogno Cannubi Barolo Riserva 2008: deep, tawny ruby colour; creamy, blackcurrant nose; firmly structured, earthy, dry, plummy with a tannic needs time. (92)
  • Cerutti Moscato d’Asti Canelli “Surì Sandrinet” 2013: orange, honeysuckle nose; semi-sweet, well balanced, clean and fresh, grapey. Easy drinking. (90)

Next stop, Cantina Marchesi Alfieri in San Martino Alfieri. A magnificent Baroque property dating back to 1692, now a luxury hotel and B&B.

  • Marchesi Alfieri La Tota Barbera d’Asti 2011 (magnum): deep ruby colour; leather, cherry nose; elegant, lovely mouth feel, dry with fresh acidity. (90)
  • Marchesi Alfieri La Tota Barbera d’Asti 2012: deep ruby colour; earthy, herbal, leather, cherry nose; richer on the palate than 2011 with a smoky, tarry note. Full on the palate.
  • Marchesi Alfieri Alfiera Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2011 (magnum): dense purple-ruby colour; vanilla, cherry, mineral note; rich and velvety, cherry liqueur flavour. (91)
  • Marchesi Alfieri Alfiera Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2007 (magnum): dense purple-ruby; dry, mature cherry nose with spice; dry, well balanced, firm with licorice, cherry and balsamic notes. (91)
  • Marchesi Alfieri Alfiera Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2005 (magnum): dense ruby-purple, youthful looking; forest floor, leather, cherry nose; austere and dry, dry and firm with firm tannins and angaging floral note on the back taste. (92)
  • Marchesi Alfieri Costa Quaglia Monferato Nebbiolo 2010: ruby colour; dried rose petal, dried herbs, spicy, cherry nose; dry, earthy, firmly structured, herbal and savoury. (90)

200-year-old grape vine at Marchesi Alfieri

After a quick visit to the old cellars and the 200-year-old vine that grows in the courtyard of the castle, we bussed to Azienda Vitivinicola Bava – Giulio Cocchi Spumanti in Cocconato. Unfortunately, my old friend Roberto Bava was returning from China and wouldn’t be back at the winery until 11:30 pm. His younger brother Paolo conducted the tasting. The family owns 52 hectares of vine. The two companies, Bava and Cocchi (spumantis and wine-based aperitifs and vermouth), produce half a million bottles a year. Roberto Bava once told me, “We don’t sell wine; we sell emotion.”

  • Cocchi Bianc ‘d Bianc Alta Langa Brut 2008 (100% Chardonnay): pale straw with tiny bubbles; dry, earthy, apple flavour. (88)
  • Cocchi Rösa 2008 (100% Pinot Noir): pink with a bluish tint; cherry pit nose; dry, austere, sour cherry flavour. (88+)
  • Bava Thou Bianc Chardonnay 2013: pale straw; minerally, herbal, earthy nose; dry, crab apple flavour tinged with herbs. (86)
  • Bava Ruchè di Castalogne Monferrato 2013: ruby colour; floral, spicy, medium-bodied, dry, medium-bodied with a bitter, tannic finish. (87)
  • Bava Barbera d’Asti Superiore Stradivario 2009: deep purple-ruby colour; floral, herbal, graphite, black cherry nose; rich and full on the palate, dry with lively acidity and a flavour of blackcurrants. (90)
  • Bava Barbera d’Asti Superiore Stradivario 2001: deeply coloured, purple; dry, savoury nose, herbal; lovely texture, rich, spicy, dry plum and cherry flavours; nicely resolved tannins. (91)
  • Bava Barolo Scarrone 2007: mature ruby; rose petal with a tarry note on the nose; beautifully integrated, rich and full on the palate. Great balance. (92)

We ended the tasting Cocchi Americano Aperitivo.

A two-hour drive back to Alba to check into the I Castelli Hotel in Alba. While the rest of the group went on to a dinner with winemakers at Ristorante La Crota in Roddi, Rod, Steve and I opted to have a quiet meal and went looking for a pizza place. We found Sole Mio Ristofiziopizzeria and ordered delicious pizzas with a bottle of Barbaresco 2010 specially bottled for the restaurant. Got to bed by 10:30 pm.

The town of Barolo

Thursday, November 27: A great night’s sleep, the first since arriving in Italy. On the way to visit Domenico Clerico in Monteforte Alba, our guide Sandro, a sommelier, pointed out the Ferrero factory where they make Nutella and Ferrero Rocher. He also told us about a new documentary called Barolo Boys – about an association of 15 top producers plus one woman who also sponsor the local Monforte soccer team. Their jerseys are, of course, the colour of Barolo.

There are 350 Barolo producers, 500 including those who buy the wine and bottle it themselves. Sandro also told us about the history of Barolo. Until the mid-19th century Barolo used to be a slightly sweet and slightly sparkling wine. It was Marchese di Barolo, Carlo Tancredi Falletti, who made the first modern Barolo and called it after the name of the village where he lived. And how, in the 1960s, the sons of producers wanted to revolutionize the family business by dropping fruit to concentrate the wine. The idea was blasphemous to the older generation and many young winemakers were banished to create their own wineries. Sandro pointed out “the university for truffle hunting dogs” where they are trained to sniff out the tubers.

Domenico Clerico winery

Domenico Clerico

We arrived at Domenico Clerico in Monforte d’Alba. The new winery looks like an airline terminal. Oscar Arrivabene, the winemaker, conducted the tasting in the presence of his boss.

  • Domenico Clerico Langhe Dolcetto Visadí 2013: deep purple colour; fruity, black cherry nose; dry, cherry flavour with lively acidity, ripe and delicious. (91)
  • Domenico Clerico Barbera d’Alba Trevigne 2012: deep ruby-purple colour; creamy, spicy, vanilla, red berry fruit; fresh, beautifully balanced, elegant and seamless. (92)
  • Domenico Clerico Barolo Pajana 2010: ruby with a tawny hue; vanilla oak, violets, dried cherries with a spicy-smoky note; well structured, powerful and full on the palate, dry, beautifully balanced with a firm tannic finish. (Ginestra cru) (92–93)
  • Domenico Clerico Barolo Ciabot Mentin 2010: another Ginestra cru. Muted compared to Pajana on the nose, firm and tight; dry, cherry flavour, austere but noble. Needs time. (91–93)
  • Domenico Clerico Barolo Aeroplanservaj 2008: tawny ruby; spicy, cherry nose with vanilla and leather notes; intense, firmly structured, licorice and cherry flavours. (92)
    There is a good story about how this wine name came about. Domenico tells it on his website: “The name of the wine had to be the mirror of a past that is reflected in the present, and I thought there was nothing more meaningful than the nickname my father gave me: the translation in Piedmont dialect of Wild Aeroplane. The name perfectly embodied what my father saw in me: a child, a boy, and then man a who flies over the surrounding hills in his imagination and lands, sometimes, for a few moments to be part of the real world.”
  • Domenico Clerico Barolo Percristina 2007: deep ruby with a tawny hue; licorice, cherry, herbal note on the nose; dry, elegant, firmly structured with evident tannins. (92)
  • Domenico Clerico Barolo Perchristina 2005: deep ruby with a tawny note; mature, spicy, tar, rose petal nose; elegant, lovely mouth feel, firm on the palate with a banana skin note on the finish. (94)

The tasting ended with a glass of Gosset Champagne as a palate cleanser.

Label with a story

My top Barolo of the trip

We drove around the Barolo region and ended up in Verduno for a tasting at Castello di Verduno, today a winery, an hotel and a restaurant called Ca’ del Re. The winemaker, Mario Andrion, led us through the following wines.

  • Castello di Verduno Basadone 2013 (Pelaverga piccolo): light ruby colour; cherry, tar and white pepper nose with a floral note; fruity, raspberry flavour with lively acidity and a tannic lift on the finish. Beaujolais-like (88). Eleven producers of this rare variety; less than 30 hectares planted.
  • Castello di Verduno Dolcetto Campot 2013: purple-ruby with a violet tint; earthy, black cherry nose with a floral note; fruity, perfumed, medium-bodied, fresh and easy drinking; almond note on the finish. (89)
  • Castello di Verduno Langhe Nebbiolo 2013: ruby colour; roses, cherry on the nose with a barnyard note; dry, light on the palate, fruity and floral with an engaging freshness. (89)
  • Castello di Verduno Barbaresco Rabajà 2006: deep ruby colour; dried cherries, minerally nose with floral accents; medium-bodied, dry, firmly structured, very elegant, chalky tannins on the finish. Drinking beautifully now but should be magnificent in five years. (92–94)
  • Castello di Verduno Barolo Montvigliero Riserva 2006: deep ruby with a tawny hue; roses, cherries; medium-bodied, firmly structured, silky mouth-feel, elegant, a majestic wine with wood accents. Great length. (93)

We lunched at the Castello’s restaurant, Ca’ del Re. Accompanying the opening dish of veal tartar with slivers of sheep’s cheese we had the white version of Pelaverga – Castello di Verduno Pelaverga 2013 (pale straw colour; a nose of peaches and white flowers with a thread of minerality; green pineapple flavour with lively acidity (88)). Next course, cream cheese discs with olive paste, followed by pumpkin risotto and blue cheese. Then chocolate ganache for dessert with grappa.

The door to Castello di Verduno

Ancient Barolos in Castello di Verduno’s cellar

Bussed to Michele Chiarlo’s resort (a collection of farm houses that was converted into a spa). A 1720 building houses an enoteca with many vintages of the best Barolo producers. The tasting was held in a very contemporary room,

  • Michele Chiarlo Gavi Le Marne 2013 (100% Cortese): pale straw; minerally, herbal nose; dry, peach pit flavour with a bitter almond finish. (88)
  • Michele Chiarlo Barbera d’Asti Superiore Le Orme 2012: ruby with violet note; cherry, earthy-leafy nose; dry, medium-bodied, lively acidity, firmly structured. (87+)
  • Michele Chiarlo Barbera d’Asti Superiore Cipressi della Court 2012: ruby with violet note; floral, minerally, cherry nose; dry, fresh, good expression of cherry fruit, well balanced with a fine mouth feel. (89+)
  • Michele Chiarlo Barbaresco Reyna 2010: mature ruby colour; woody, floral, cherry nose; dry, blackcurrant flavour, fruity, spicy and firm. (89)
  • Michele Chiarlo Barolo Tortoniano 2010: mature ruby colour; earthy, spicy, cherry; mouth-filling, peppery, dry, firmly structured, dried cherries. Good texture. (90)
  • Michele Chiarlo Barolo Cerequio 2004: mature ruby but holding colour well; vanilla oak, creamy, spicy, minty nose with a chestnut note; velvety mouth feel, dry, beautifully structured, black cherry, currant and licorice flavours; still youthful. (93)

Michele Chiarlo

Visit to the wine museum in the town of Barolo’s Falletti Castle, known locally as WiMu, “an interactive voyage through culture and wine traditions.” Then on to Fratelli Serio & Battista Borgogno on the top of Cannubi hill for another tasting.

  • Fratelli Serio & Battista Borgogno Nebbiolo d’Alba 2011: ruby colour; spicy, dried cherries with an oak note; dry, lean and sinewy with evident tannin. Old style Nebbiolo. Needs time. (88–89)
  • Fratelli Serio & Battista Borgogno Barbera d’Alba Superiore 2010: deep ruby; dried roses, dried cherries on the nose; dry, medium-bodied, lively acidic spine, lean and tight. Austere but well balanced. (88)
  • Fratelli Serio & Battista Borgogno Barolo Cannubi 2009: ruby with a tawny hue; light floral note, dried cherries with an oak note on the nose; dry, firmly structured, austere – built to age. (88–90)
  • Fratelli Serio & Battista Borgogno Barolo Cannubi Riserva 2008: ruby with a tawny rim; leather, tobacco, dried red fruits; old style Barolo, dry, sinewy with evident tannins. (89)
  • Fratelli Serio & Battista Borgogno Barolo Cannubi Riserva 2007: licorice, dried cherries, spicy, leather nose; sweet cherry fruit with a floral grace note, firmly structured, good mouth feel with a tannic build-up on the finish. Needs 7–10 years. (89–91)
  • Fratelli Serio & Battista Borgogno Barolo Cannubi Riserva 2005: mature ruby colour; tobacco, chestnut, dried cherries on the nose; dry, gripping tannins, well-structured but needs time (at least 5 years). (89–91)
  • Fratelli Serio & Battista Borgogno Barbaresco 2011: ruby with a mature rim; chestnut, dried red berry fruit bouquet; sweet fruit, well extracted, full on the palate, lovely floral note, firm structured. (90)

Angelo Gaja’s property in Barolo

Dinner at Ristorante Ca’ del Lupo in Montelupo Albese to meet four winemakers from the region. The menu: Mixed salad with Guinea fowl, vegetables and balsamic vinegar; Pumpkin and gorgonzola crepes; homemade fettuccine with sausage; Fassone veal bites in Barolo with roast potatoes; and for dessert, Nougat parfait with chocolate sauce. The wines:

  • Tenuta Carretta Gayega Rorero Arneis 2013: pale straw colour; mineral, smoky, citrus and peach nose with notes of struck flint; richly extracted peach flavour; full in the mouth with good length. (89)
  • Poderi Moretti Rorero Arneis Occhetti 2013: straw colour; minerally, leesy, peach nose; perfumed, white peach and citrus flavours. (88)
  • Malvira Rorero Arneis 2008 (10% oak aged): golden straw colour with a spicy, minerally, ripe; richly extracted and full on the palate with a tropical fruit nose; full in the mouth with pineapple and citrus flavours. Great length. (91)
  • Montalbera Ruché di Castagnole di Monferrato 2013: ruby with a violet hue; rose petal and cherry nose; peppery, pomegranate flavour, lively on the palate with a tannic note on the finish. (89)
  • Azienda Agricola Runchet Barbera d’Alba 2013: dense purple-ruby colour; earthy, fruity, vanilla oak nose with a spicy top note; dry and fruity with plum and cherry flavours carried on lively acidity. New World style. (89)
  • Poderi Moretti Nebbolo d’Alba Occhetti 2011: deep ruby colour; high-toned nose of cherry, oak and grapefruit rind; well extracted fruit with good acidity. Cherry jam flavour but dry with a savoury finish. (89)
  • Azienda Agricola Runchet Langhe Nebbiolo 2013: deep ruby colour; lifted floral, black cherry and blackcurrant nose with spicy vanilla oak; richly extracted, firm cherry flavour with evident but supple tannins. (90)
  • Tenuta Carretta Barbaresco Garassimo 2011: deep ruby colour; spicy, struck flint, cherry and vanilla oak on the nose; clove and cherry flavours, firmly structured with a tannic lift on the finish. (90)
  • Tenuta Carretta Cascina Ferrero Barolo 2010: deep ruby colour; struck flint nose with floral, peppery, cherry notes. (First bottle was mildly corked – second was much better with nicely balanced ripe fruit.) (89)
  • Malvira Roero Nebbiolo Superiore “Trinita” 2001 (in magnum): deep ruby colour; rose petal. Pencil lead and cherry nose; very elegant, well balanced, firmly structured with a tarry note and grainy tannins. A lovely wine with still lots of life. (93)
  • Poderi Moretti Rorero Ginis Riserva 2006 (Nebbiolo): deep ruby colour; creamy, cherry nose; modern style – fruity and full on the palate, velvety mouth fee. (89)
  • Azienda Agricola Runchet Moscato d’Asti 2013: very pale colour; honey and orange blossom on the nose; light, elegant, clean and grapey. (89)

Malvira’ Roero Nebbiolo Superiore “Trinita” 2001 (in magnum)

Friday, November 28: Our first stop was Azienda Agricola Rivetto within sight of the Serralunga castle. The young 4th generation winemaker, Enrico Rivetto, showed us the sparkling Nebbiolo he’s working on. The grapes were cut a thumb’s length from the tip of the bunches. The wine, spending 42 months on the lees, will be called “Nebbione.” Five other producers in this region and in Gattinara and Val d’Aosta are working on this concept. Enrico also is experimenting with fermentation in a 400 litre terracotta amphora. He also makes the rare Nascetta, the only white grape native to the Langhe.

  • Rivetto Langhe Nascetta 2013: golden straw colour; minerally, peach nose with an aromatic note; soft mouth feel, dry with lively acidity, white peach and lemon rind, grassy flavours. (88+)
  • Rivetto Langhe Nascetta 2012: golden straw colour; spicy, peach pit nose; Viognier-like with fresh acidity. (88)
  • Rivetto Barbera d’Alba Zio Nando 2011: dense ruby-purple colour; cedar, black cherry nose; rich, ripe and full black cherry flavour with hints of vanilla and all-spice. (89)
  • Rivetto Barbera d’Alba Loirano Soprano 2011 (top part of the Loirano hill; 100% French oak): dense purple colour that stains the glass; firmly structured, showing a lot of oak at the moment, but the black fruit flavours are there and will express themselves with a couple of years of ageing. Fine spine of acidity. (89–90)
  • Rivetto Barolo Serralunga d’Alba 2010: mature ruby colour; earthy-spicy, vanilla, black cherry nose; dry, richly extracted, firmly extracted with evident muscular tannins; new style Barolo (89–91)
  • Rivetto Leon Riserva 2008: deep ruby colour; licorice, black cherries with a floral note; elegant, beautifully balanced, firm structure, with chewy tannins. Needs time. (90–92)
  • Rivetto Barolo Briccolina 2009: mature ruby colour; chestnut, cherry nose with a floral note; dry, elegant, firm structure, dry, soft tannins but built for ageing. Lovely floral note on the finish. (92)
  • Rivetto Barolo Serralunga d’Alba 2009: mature ruby colour; dried rose petals, cherry with an earthy note; dry, elegant, firmly structured, evident tannins with a licorice note. Needs five years. (90)

Winemaker Enrico Rivetto

Castello di Grinzane

After visiting Rivetto we bussed to Castello di Grinzane (another UNESCO World Heritage Site) where Cavour lived. Then on to an organic winery, Azienda Agricola Ressia in Nieve where we had a lunch tasting (the wines by Fabrizio Ressia and the food, a typical local menu, prepared by his mother). Tonnato vitello, Toma cheese, lettuce and walnut salad, salamis and lardo, Russian salad with tuna and roasted peppers with anchovy and capers.

  • Ressia Dolcetta d’Alba Canova 2013: ruby colour; floral, cherry nose; old style, rustic. Medium-bodied, dry and fresh, Beaujolais-like. (88)
  • Ressia Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2011: ruby colour; floral, cherry nose; sweet fruit, soft on the palate with an engaging blackcurrant flavour; soft tannins. (Aged in barrels with French staves and Slovenian ends). (89)
  • Ressia Ressiot 2011 (a blend of Barbera d’Alba, Nebbiolo di Barbaresco and Merlot): ruby colour; cooked cherries on the nose with a floral note; good mouth feel, dry with lively acidity, dry plum and cherry flavours with a tannic finish. (88+)
  • Ressia Lanche Nebbiolo Gepu 2011: ruby colour; vanilla, sweet cherry; fruity and full on the palate; firmly structured, earthy with ripe tannins. Rustic, (88)
  • Ressia Barbaresco Canova 2011: ruby colour; minerally, cherry pit, tobacco nose; creamy mouth feel, dry, minty, cherry, easy drinking. (89)
  • Ressia Barbaresco Riserva Oro 2009: ruby coloured; mature, spicy cooked cherries and rhubarb nose; dry, elegant, well integrated oak. Old style, cherry and tobacco flavours with firm tannin. (Pre-phylloxera vineyard, a clone of Barbaresco planted 1999. Only made in 2005 and 2009.) (89)

Next stop, Gigi Rosso in Castiglione Falletto, in the centre of the Barolo region. Maurizio Rosso, married to a Californian, conducted the tasting. He told us Barolo produces 13 million bottles while Barbaresco produces 3.5 to 4 million.

  • Gigi Rosso Rorero Arneis 2013: pale straw with a lime tint; high toned, minerally, green peach; medium-bodied, green pineapple with lively citrus acidity. (89+)
  • Gigi Rosso Dolcetto Diano d’Alba Vigna Vecchia del Pinnacolo 2012: rose petal and cherry nose; dry, sour cherry with a hint of bitter almond on the finish. Firm structure, tannic lift on the finish. (89)
  • Gigi Rosso Barbera Superiore Vigna del Cavallo 2010: dense purple colour; pencil lead, dark plum with oak notes; rich and full on the palate with exciting acidity; well integrated oak; firm finish. (89+)
  • Gigi Rosso Barolo Arione 2010: ruby with an orange rim; tea, rose petal, cherry; elegant, forward, beautifully balanced with ripe tannins and a long lingering finish. (91)
  • Gigi Rosso Barolo Arione Riserva dell’ Ulivo 2007: ruby colour; tobacco, cherry, cedar nose; sweet fruit with a cherry and blackcurrant flavour; firmly structured, elegant and confined at the moment. (90–92)
  • Gigi Rosso Langhe Rosato 2013 (Nebbiolo): pale salmon colour; minerally, cherry pit and banana skin nose; flavourful, strawberry and rhubarb; full in the mouth with structure. Easy drinking with a touch of bitterness on the finish. (88+)

Winemaker Maurizio Rosso

Dinner in Monforte d’Alba at Ristorante Le Case della Saracca. The restaurant is carved into the side of a hill, on several levels, with tiny rooms. When I saw it I realised it was the same restaurant our Pauwels group dined in in May 2012. There were two wine producers there and a guy who headed the truffle association who spoke to our group about the cultural importance of truffles to Piemonte (but there were no truffles served with the meal!). We started off with vitello tonnato (again), followed by a Jerusalem artichoke flan with a sauce of olive oil, cream and anchovy, then ravioli stuffed with spinach and pork in a butter and thyme sauce, then roast veal, French fries, grilled cabbage, eggplant and red peppers. Dessert, chocolate cake. We tasted the wines of Olivero Mario, Poderi Ruggeri Corsini, and a magnum of Domenico Clerico Bricotta Barolo 2009 (a richly extracted, spicy fruitcake of a wine with black cherry, blackcurrant and licorice flavours; firmly structured, elegant with well integrated oak (92)). Got back to the hotel at 12:30 am, packed and slept till the wake-up call at 7 am.

Vitello tonnato

Saturday, November 29: Our group was bussed to Torino airport for the flight to Rome. The transit lines at Fiumacino Airport were horrendous so I used my British passport to get through the EU passport line. There were almost fist-fights in the other line as passengers tried to get through the electronic controls. From Rome we flew to Toronto.

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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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