A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 572: CheckMate

White wine line-up at the Gourmet Wine & Food Expo (see Friday)

Monday, November 16th: Recorded my 680 NEWS reviews which I couldn’t do last week because of my cold. Tasted a couple of wines:

  • Quails’ Gate Chardonnay 2014 (Okanagan): straw colour; a nose of apples and warm straw; medium to full-bodied, dry, apple flavour with lively acidity and a lemony finish. (88)
  • Quails’ Gate Pinot Noir 2013: deep ruby colour; cherry and red meat nose with a light floral note; medium-bodied, dry and firmly structured. (89)

Tuesday, November 17th: Up early to catch a 10 am flight to New York for the Anthony von Mandl’s latest wine project – an Okanagan winery that specialises in Chardonnay, called CheckMate. The event was held at Vaucluse Restaurant at 63rd and Park. In his introduction, Anthony said, “The wine grape has become the canary in the mine shaft of agriculture.” He then gave the floor to wine climatologist Dr. Gregory Jones, who spoke about temperatures at which certain vinifera flourished. We then tasted through five Chardonnays from the new feather-light Gabriel Glas glasses (105 grams), four of the wines from single vineyards and one a blend of three vineyards, Each wine is named in the chess idiom.

  • CheckMate Capture Chardonnay 2013 (Border Vista Vineyard, Osoyoos East Bench – $90): straw coloured; lifted, floral nose of apple and almond; elegant, beautifully balanced, elegant and seamless with lemony acidity and a tangerine flavour. Great length. (91)
  • CheckMate Attack Chardonnay 2013 (The Barn Vineyard, Black Sage Bench – $115): straw colour; spicy, floral nose; full-bodied, creamy mouth-feel, soft on the palate but well balanced with a peachy flavour. (92)
  • CheckMate Little Pawn Chardonnay 2013 (The Barn Vineyard, Black Sage Bench – $110): straw colour; minerally, citrus, apple bouquet; rich, spicy, peach flavour with a floral note; lovely mouth feel, well integrated oak with precise acidity, ending on a butterscotch note. The most Burgundian in style of the five Chardonnays. (94)
  • CheckMate Fools Mate Chardonnay 2013 (The Barn Vineyard, Black Sage Bench – $80): straw colour; buttery, croissant nose; spicy pear and peach flavours, soft mouth feel but carried on lively acidity. (92)
  • CheckMate Queen Taken Chardonnay 2013 (Heritage Vineyard, Golden Mile Bench – $125): straw colour; minerally, smoky, white peach nose; ripe apple and peach flavours, elegant, mouth-filling peach and lychee flavours with a spicy note. (93)

CheckMate winemaker Phil Mcgahan

We then tasted two Napa Chardonnays to compare, Far Niente 2013 and Aubert 2013, which were weightier and more highly extracted, which speaks to a warmer growing season. Then lunch at which the five wines were paired with dishes.

Vaucluse menu for CheckMate wines – a world premiere tasting

After lunch I walked over to the Museum of Modern Art to see the Picasso sculpture exhibit and other works before catching the plane back to Toronto.

Several sculptures by Picasso…

Picasso sculpture

Picasso sculpture

Picasso sculpture

Picasso sculpture

…a Picasso painting…

Picasso painting

…a Chagall…

Chagall painting

…another Picasso…

Picasso painting

…Henri Rousseau…

Henri Rousseau painting

…and a Frida Kahlo self-portrait

Frida Kahlo self-portrait

Wednesday, November 18th: Spent the morning catching up on Grapes for Humanity business and then got down to some tasting after lunch.

  • Secreto Patagonico Chardonnay Limited Edition 2012 (Argentina – $18.95): straw colour with a green tint; spicy, oaky, tropical fruit nose; rich and mouth-filling, green pineapple flavour with nutty, toasty notes. Full-bodied with an acidic finish. (88)
  • Osborne Seven 2013 (Tierra de Castilla – Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon): deep ruby with a violet rim; earthy-spicy red berry bouquet; medium-bodied, soft mouth-feel, touch of sweetness with a finish of dusty tannins. (86+)
  • Osborne Solaz Tempranillo Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (Tierra de Castilla – $11.45): deep ruby colour; cedary, earthy, leather nose with smoky notes; medium-bodied, dry, redcurrant and cherry flavours with a herbal tinge. (86+)
  • Osborne Bodegas Montecillo Tempranillo Crianza 2010 (Rioja – $11.95 until November 29th, then $14.95): deep ruby colour; sandalwood and strawberries on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, sour cherry flavour with oak notes; medium-bodied, dry with a firm tannic finish and fresh acidity. (86+)
  • Osborne Montecillo Reserva 2009 (Rioja – $18.95): deep ruby colour; sandalwood and plum bouquet; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, red plum flavour; nicely balanced, firmly structured with a minty note. A versatile food wine. (88)
  • Bodega Volcanes de Chile Cabernet Sauvignon–Syrah reserve 2014 (Rapel Valley – $9.95): deep ruby colour; cedary-herbal nose of black fruits; medium-bodied, dry and savoury, toasted herbs and blackberry flavours with lively acidity. Good value. (87)
  • Torres Altos Ibericos Crianza 2012 (Rioja – $16.95): ruby-purple colour; cedary-sandalwood nose of cherries with a spicy note; medium-bodied, dry, red berry fruit flavours with balancing acidity, Good length. Good mouth feel. (88)
  • Marques de Caceres Gran Reserva 2008 (Rioja – $29.95: Trempanillo and Garnacha): deep ruby colour; earthy, black plum nose; medium to full-bodied, black fruit flavours with vanilla oak spice notes. Lively acidity giving the wine a long finish. (90)

Thursday, November 19th: Began drawing up a list of potential judges for the Ontario Wine Awards next April. Then, a meeting with Sandy Kurbis to discuss the competition in a new format.

Friday, November 20th: A Vintages release tasting.

Saturday, November 21st: Conducted a Burgundy seminar at the Gourmet Wine & Food Expo with Jason Woodman, whose company, Woodman Wines, imports these wines. The line-up:

  • 2014 William Fèvre Chablis Champs Royaux
  • 2012 William Fèvre Vaillons 1er Cru Domaine
  • 2012 William Fèvre Bougros Grand Cru Domaine
  • 2014 Bouchard Père & Fils Macon Lugny St. Pierre $18
  • 2014 Bouchard Père & Fils Pouilly Fuisse $29
  • 2013 Bouchard Père & Fils Meursault Les Clous Domaine $50
  • 2013 Bouchard Père & Fils Bourgogne Reserve Pinot Noir
  • 2011 Bouchard Père & Fils Beaune du Château
  • 2012 Bouchard Père & Fils Beaune Grèves Vigne de l’Enfant Jésus


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 571: Vitinord Conference

Monday, November 9th: Wrote my On the Go magazine wine reviews and went to record got 680 NEWS. My producer said my voice was still not right (because of the lingering cold) so I only did one week’s worth of recordings. I’ll have to go in next week. In the evening, a Grapes for Humanity dinner hosted by Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson at Barberian’s – an auction item my friend Joe purchased. We were 13 at table in the wine cellar. Here is the menu:

Barberian's Menu: Grapes for Humanity Dinner. 1st Course: Warm Lobster Salad with Burnt Butter. 2nd Course: Bone-In Filet (14 oz) or Bone-In Rib Steak (16 oz). Served with Scalloped Potato, Beet Chips & a Seasonal Vegetable. 3rd Course: A Selection of the Finest Cheeses. 4th Course: Barberian's Bourbon Sundae. Coffee or Tea.

And here is a list of the wines that were donated for the evening:

  • Bouchard 2009 La Bolorée Champagne (Blanc de blancs of Pinot Blanc)
  • Pichler Loibenberg Grüner Veltliner 2007
  • Hirtzberger Hochrain Grüner Veltliner 2008
  • Domaine de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1998
  • Domaine de Marcoux Vieilles Vignes Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2000
  • Pierre Usseglio Cuvée de Mon Aieul Châteauneuf-du-Pape 200I
  • Domaine de Pegau Reservée Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2003
  • Hugel Gewurztraminer SGN 1989

The wines of the night were the Pichler and the Beaucastel. Arron Barberian presented Geddy with a lifetime supply of Barberian’s steak spice.

Tuesday, November 10th: Up early to catch a flight to Chicago en route for Nebraska City to attend the Vitinord Conference. At Omaha airport I was met by a Quebecoise agronomist, Gaelle Dubé, in a Lied Lodge shuttle bus. We were joined by a young German couple, Anja Antes and Tobias Breit, also here for the conference. An hour’s drive to Lied Lodge in Nebraska City. The driver told me that Nebraska City has a population of 7,200. How come it’s called a city, I asked? He just shook his head.

Lied Lodge – a cathedral dedicated to trees

Lied Lodge is a cathedral to trees. There are inspirational messages about trees by Thoreau, Frank Lloyd Wright, Theodore Roosevelt and Rabindranath Tagore and others inscribed on the walls. But it must have taken thousands of trees to construct the building. Had dinner with the young German couple and ordered a bottle of Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 2014.

Wednesday, November 11th: Breakfast in the dining room. I’d forgotten how large American portions are. I ordered a “short stack of buttermilk pancakes.” I could have ordered the long stack for another $2 but I could only eat half of the short stack. A woman at the next table ordered a large Coke for her breakfast.

Vitinord sign: 2015 VitiNord, Nebraska City, USA. www.Vitinord2015.org. International Cold Climate Viticulture & Enology Conference, November 11-15, 2015. Visit Nebraska. Visit Nice:

Sat in on a talk by Dr. Hans Rosenfeldt, a viticulturist and winemaker from Norway, on what was the world’s most northerly vineyard. First we had to establish what constitutes a vineyard – how many vines, what the grapes were used and whether the vineyard was a commercial proposition or not. The largest vineyard in Norway is one hectare west of Oslo where the owner makes sparkling wine from Solaris. Most vineyards in Norway are just a few rows of wines. Hans Rosenfeldt has 1200 square metres of greenhouses where he grows his grapes. After discussion from the floor, Mark Hart, acting as the unofficial secretary for the discussion, came up with the following notes and definition of a vineyard:

  • Size/extent: An outdoor vineyard of at least 100 vines and/or 0.1 hectares size.
  • Commercial nature: It must have produced 2 consecutive crops of ripe grapes, variety dependent.
  • Allowable protection: Protection for season extension is permissible, but the vines must not be protected from post-bloom to veraison.

Here is the composite description he developed:

A vineyard must be at least 100 vines or 0.1 hectares, permanently planted outdoors, and produce a ripe fruit crop for a product two consecutive years without protection during the midsummer period…

Tested out my PowerPoint presentation for tomorrow’s session. Had lunch (hamburger and fries) in the bar. At the opening ceremony for the congress the Chairman, Max McFarland, explained that the event is held every three years. The first was in Riga in 2006, followed by Ste. Hyacinthe in Quebec in 2009 and Neubrandenberg, Germany, in 2012. Eleven countries are represented this year and 19 US states.

A letter was slipped under my hotel door warning that there is a tornado watch on effect and what to do if the siren goes off. It’s raining hard outside and 60 mph winds are threatened.

This evening, a tasting of wines from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Vermont and Wisconsin. Tasted a lot of Marquette, Frontenac, St. Croix. Impressed by Tom Plocher’s crossings, Petite Pearl and Crimson Pearl. A winery in South Dakota, Valiant Vineyards, the oldest in the state, has a wine called Menopause Merlot. I grabbed this image from their website, as the wine wasn’t available for tasting:

Menopause Merlot

Thursday, November 12th: Prepared for my keynote address – “Building a Strong Model for Cool & Cold Climate Wine/Grape Industry Growth: Lessons Learned from Nova Scotia Success.” It seemed to go over well. Especially the final words when I did my Superman impression by opening my shirt to reveal this T-shirt:


After my 45-minute session, I sat in on “The Anatomy & Physiology of Winter Hardiness” by Dr. Tim Martinson from Cornell. Then had a tasting with Rod Ballinger, the owner of Bear Creek Winery in Fargo, North Dakota, and Tom Plocher, who created the hybrids Petite Pearl and Crimson Pearl. Ron poured two vintages of a new crossing of Troubador and an unnamed Swenson variety called Verona, formerly known as T.P. 1-1-34. The 2012 was deep purple in colour with an earthy blackberry flavour, well extracted from with startlingly vibrant acidity. The 2013 was deeper in colour and richer, rounded out with some oak. Then we tasted Bear Creek Crimson Pearl 2013: deep ruby colour; plum on the nose, earthy with light oak notes. Bear Creek Petite Pearl 2012 was dense purple in colour. I thought I caught a touch of cork in the sample. But the 2013 vintage of the same wine was really rich and dense, reminiscent of a Touriga Nacional.

Bear Creek Petite Pearl 2013

A buffet lunch and then a Sparkling Wine Workshop presented by Larry Mawby, the proprietor of Mawby Winery in Suttons Bay, Michigan. We tasted the base wine for three different sparklers compared to the finished bubbly: Mawby Winery Vignoles 2014 and the Cremant Classic 2009; La Crescent 2014 and August Hill Stereo 2013; and Brianna 2015 and James Arthur Vineyards Solace.

For dinner a group of us went out for dinner in Nebraska City to a Chinese restaurant recommended by the congress organizers – Imperial Palace. It turned out to be a diner. You gave your order at the counter by the kitchen and they called out when your dish was ready – the worst Chinese meal I’ve ever had. But it was cheap.

At 8 pm a tasting of wines brought along by the participants in the Vitinord conference – wines from England, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Vancouver Island, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick as well as local Nebraska wineries. Really enjoyed Valentin Blattner Les Mergats from Switzerland – very Sauvignon Blanc-like.

Valentin Blattner with his Les Mergats 2014 from Switzerland

Motts Landing Vineyard Sabrevois 2013 from New Brunswick

Friday, November 13th: News reached us of the horrific terror attacks in Paris. At 10 am I attended my last session at the Vitinord conference. Chris Foss (with whom I shared the awful Chinese meal last night) delivered a lecture with slides on “Climate Change & Sustainability in Wine Production in the United Kingdom.” Chris is head of the wine department at Plumpton College near Brighton. Then I finished packing, had a spot of lunch before taking the hotel shuttle to Omaha for the flight to Chicago then on to Toronto.

On the second leg of the flight I was sitting next to an Indian woman from Goa who lives in Mississauga. She told me that her daughter and her husband were vacationing in Paris and had wanted to dine in Le Petit Cambodge restaurant but couldn’t get in. This was the restaurant where ISIS terrorists slaughtered the diners.

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 570: Recording Aborted

Monday, November 2nd: Came back from Montreal with a wretched cold. Was meant to attend the annual Italian tasting at Roy Thomson Hall but was too sick to make it. Busied myself with the wrap-up accounts for the Gaia Gaja dinner.

Tuesday, November 3rd: Wrote my 680 NEWS wine reviews and finished off my Power Point presentation for the Vitinord conference in Nebraska next week. My theme is “Nova Scotia as a model for wine industry growth in cold and cool climate regions.”

Wednesday, November 4th: Was meant to record my 680 NEWS wine reviews but when I got to the studio, Stewart Hammill, my producer, said my voice was unrecognizable – so I had to postpone till next week. The cold took it down an octave, sounding very sexy but since I record three weeks at a session he decided I should wait until I sounded normal again. On the way home I passed the Manulife building on Bloor, which has the most perfect lawn in Toronto. Planted on it in advance of Remembrance Day were 11,483 small Canadian flags – one for every Canadian soldier killed in combat. An inspiring sight. Too sick to taste wine today.

Manulife lawn

Thursday, November 5th: Started work on my Quench magazine back page commentary – about Passion Vin in Montreal. The tastings are still in my mind – and on my palate.

To the Convention Centre to judge the wines submitted to Gold Medal Plates. My top wines were: Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin 2010, Cave Spring 2013 Dolomite Riesling 2013, Stratus Vineyards Red 2008 and Colio Bricklayer’s Cache Small Lot Syrah 2012. After the judging, wandered around the booths tasting the food prepared by nine chefs, matched to a wine of their choice.

Greeters at Gold Metal Plates

Decided to try to drink wine so I opened a bottle of Anselmi San Vincenzo 2014 (a Soave before Roberto Anselmi went outside the DOCG regulations). This wine is now a blend of 80% Garganega, 10% Chardonnay and 10% Sauvignon Blanc. To my mind this is the best value white wine coming out of Italy ($16.95 a bottle). My notes are: straw-coloured with a bouquet of peaches and citrus fruit; medium-bodied, dry and elegant, beautifully balanced, with great purity of line and great length. (91) Deborah had made a recipe I had eaten at Quo Vadis in London eons ago – poached sole in a cream sauce with red pepper. It was delicious.

Friday, November 6th: A Vintages tasting today though I was hardly in the mood to taste 80 wines. In the evening down to the Shangri-La Hotel for a fund-raising dinner in aid of Amani – a foundation in Tanzania that houses street children. Grapes for Humanity is donating $64,000 for the construction of a new centre.

The band at the Amani dinner

Saturday, November 7th: A winerytohome tasting at Doug Towers with David Lawrason.

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 569: Passion Vin

Monday, October 26th: Wrote my Lexpert column on Champagne. Learned some interesting trivia while I was there: Someone in Champagne has established that there are 150–200 million bubbles in a 750 mL bottle. 30 to 35 bubbles are created per second and they rise at a speed of 35 kilometres an hour. When a bubble bursts it forms the shape of a flower with petals. The pressure ejects a champagne cork at a speed of 65 km/h for the first 10 feet. Who knew?

Gaia Gaja

In the evening, down to George Brown for the Grapes for Humanity dinner for thirty, hosted by Gaia Gaja who, following a champagne reception, led off with an eloquent introduction to the family’s wineries in Piemonte and Tuscany. The village of Barbaresco, where the Gaja family lives, has, says Gaia, 600 inhabitants and 100 wineries! The dinner menu:

An Intimate Evening with Gaia Gaja

Prepared by Chef Massimo Capra and his George Brown team

Hors d’Oeuvres
Brandade Croquette
Oven Dried Savory Macarons
Beet & Goat Cheese Napoleon
Gorgonzola Brûlée

Champagne Pol Roger Brut


Quail Stuffed with Figs Wrapped in Pancetta, Chestnut Flour Pancake
2000 GAJA Gaia & Rey Chardonnay, Piemonte

Risotto Classico Piemontese with Porcini Mushrooms
2011 GAJA Ca’ Marcanda, Promis, Bolgheri, Tuscany
1999 GAJA Sorì San Lorenzo, Piemonte

Rosemary Roasted Veal Shoulder with Seasonal Vegetables and Potatoes
2001 GAJA Barbaresco, Piemonte
1978 GAJA Barbaresco, Piemonte

Degustazione Formaggi
Chocolate Bonet
GAJA Grappa di Barolo

A very successful evening with great good and amazing wines – especially the 1978 Barbaresco.

1978 GAJA Barbaresco

Tuesday, October 27th: Down to the Spoke Club for a masterclass on Grüner Veltliner conducted brilliantly by John Szabo M.S. There were four flights of 20 wines divided into four themes. I have always been a fan of GV, which is a very versatile food wine. My top wines from Flight One “Young & Elegant” were Birgit Eichinger Grüner Veltliner Wechelsberg 2013 (aromatic, beautifully balanced passionfruit and white peach flavours (90) and Edlmoser Ried Himmel Grüner Veltliner 2013 (tangerine and crushed stone flavours, carries its 13.5% alcohol very well – 89).

Birgit Eichinger Grüner Veltliner Wechelsberg 2013

Flight Two “Powerful Reserve Wines”: Salomon Undhof Reserve Von Stein” Grüner Veltliner 2010 (minerally, floral nose of kiwi and lychee; rich and full with a green pear flavour and a thread of minerality – 91), Domäne Wachau Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Ried Kellerberg 2012 (minerally, smoky, pear flavour with a real sense of minerally terroir – 90), Allram Grüner Veltliner Reserve Ried Gaisberg “1 ÖTW” 2011 (floral, struck flint nose with peach and mineral flavours – 90).

Salomon Undhof Reserve 'Von Stein' Grüner Veltliner 2010

Flight Three “Mature Grüner”: Rudi Pichler Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Ried Wösendorfer Hochrain 2008 (barnyard nose; spicy peach flavour with lively acidity, great length and great balance – 91); Malat Das Beste vom Veltliner” 1999 (spicy, floral, barley sugar and tobacco nose; Pinot Gris style, apricot, citrus and honey flavours; great balance – 92).

Flight Four “Innovative & Wild”: Zillinger Johannes Grüner Veltliner ‘Mumen’ 2013 (reductive, toasty, lychee nose, lively acidity with a lifted VA note – 89).

After a brief lunch, Zoltan Szabo, Michael Godell and I were picked up by a limo (the driver owns a restaurant on the Danforth) to be driven up to the Stem Group’s offices for a tasting of Gaja wines. Here I tasted a range of Gaja’s Piemonte wines: Gaja Rossj Bass 2014 (Chardonnay/Sauvignon Blanc), Gaja & Rey Chardonnay 2006 and 2013, Gaja Sito Moresco 2013 (Nebbiolo, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon), Gaja Dagromis Barolo 2011, Gaja Barbaresco 2012, Gaja Conteisa 2011 (a field blend of Nebbiolo and Barbera) and Gaja Sperss 2011.

From Gaja’s Ca’Marcanda property in Bolgheri: Gaja Vistamare 2013 Gaja (Vermentino/Viognier), Gaja Promis 2003 (Merlot/Syrah/Sangiovese), Gaja Promis 2013, Gaja Magari 2013 (Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc), Gaja Ca’Marcanda 2000 (Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc) and Gaja Ca’Marcanda 2011.

Gaja Ca'Marcanda 2000

From Pieve S. Restituta, Montalcino: Gaja Pieve S. Restituta Brunello 2010, Gaja Pieve S. Restituta Brunello “Rennina” 2004, Gaja Pieve S. Restituta “Rennina” Brunello 2010, Gaja Gaja Pieve S. Restituta Brunello “Sugarille” 2007 and Gaja Pieve S. Restituta Brunello “Sugarille” 2010.

These were for the most part magnificent wines. The only ones I was a little disappointed with were the Rossj Bass Chardonnay Sauvignon blend and the Sugarille Brunello, which I found to be drying out. The stand-out wines were Gaja Pieve S. Restituta Brunello 2010 (93), Gaja Pieve S. Restituta “Rennina” Brunello 2010 (94), Gaja Pieve S. Restituta Brunello “Sugarille” 2010 (93) and the best wine of the tasting, Gaja Ca’Marcanda 2000, which if I had tasted blind would have sworn was a Château Margaux (95).

My enthusiasm for the event was somewhat dampened when Michael Godell inadvertently upended a full spittoon over my jeans. To take my mind off it, Robert Tome, one of the partners of Stem, gave us the remainders of the bottles from the Ca’Marcanda 2000 and the Sugarille 2010 – which we drank from plastic cups in the limo home.

Wednesday, October 28th: Wrote my Post City Magazines December column on Champagne. Lunched at Mercatto with Magdalena Kaiser and Deborah to discuss Ontario Wine Awards 2016. Ordered a bottle of Bastianich Rosato 2014 to pretend it was still summer and the sun was shining when in fact Toronto was experiencing torrential rainfalls.

For dinner, grilled pork with the best Pinot Noir I have tasted out of Chile: Torres Escaleras de Empedrado Pinot Noir 2012: deep ruby-purple colour; spicy, raspberry, blackcurrant and milk chocolate bouquet with well integrated oak; medium-bodied, plum and raspberry flavours, beautifully balanced – a Morey St. Denis with a Chilean twist and a thread of minerality. (92)

Thursday, October 29th: Up at 6:15 am to walk Pinot and finish packing. A 9:20 am train to Montreal to participate in Passion Vin at the Bonaventure Hotel. After checking into the hotel there was a champagne reception at which Roederer 2008, 2009 and Roederer Brut Premier were served.

Friday, October 30th: A morning tour of Montreal markets beginning at the Atwater Market, housed in a 1933 Art Deco building, open seven days a week all year. Sampled chocolates at Genevieve Grandbois’ tiny booth. She sells hand-crafted and expensive chocolates. Then a series of cheeses at Fromagerie Hamel. Our guide, Anne-Marie Pellerin, told us that the tallest building in Montreal is 1000 Lagauchetère at 233 metres but no building can, by law, be higher than the mountain. Next stop, Maisonneuve Market, where we tried a sample of pumpkin pie. Final stop, Jean Talon Market, the largest outdoor market in North America, apparently. Here we tried tiny tomatoes the size of a child’s fingernail, a pumpkin-flavoured bagel, more cheeses and maple syrup-infused smoked salmon before stopping at a spice store that offers 400+ spices from all over the world.

Took a taxi back to the hotel alone as I had to attend a lunch tasting of Domaine du Pégau Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The menu: avocado with crab; Tataki of bison; wild boar with wild mushrooms; mignardises. The wines:

  • Domaine du Pégau Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Réservée 2014: pale straw colour; minerally, white flowers and peach on the nose with a bitter almond note; lovely mouth-feel, dry, full-bodied, with a peach pit and anise flavour. (89)
  • Domaine du Pégau Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Réservée 2014: dense purple-ruby colour; garigue, animal nose with floral and pencil lead notes; full-bodied, dry and savoury, elegant, great balance, licorice and dark chocolate flavours with great length. (92)
  • Domaine du Pégau Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Laurence 2011: dense purple-ruby colour; meaty nose of blackberry, rose petals and white pepper; dry and savour with a touch of oak, lighter and leaner than the 2012. Well-structured with a tannic lift on the finish. (91)
  • Domaine du Pégau Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Laurence 2008: dense purple ruby colour; rich bouquet of blackberries, mint, herbs with a floral grace note. Rich and mouth-filing, dry and savoury, concentrated and youthful. (94)
  • Domaine du Pégau Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Réservée 2014: dense purple-ruby colour; reductive nose of black fruits, dried herbs with an animal note; full-bodied, dry and savoury with chewy tannins. (92)

Domaine du Pegau Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc 2014

First tasting after lunch, Col d’Orcia Brunellos conducted by Comte Francesco Marone Cinzano. There were 300 tasters in the room.

  • Col d’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino 2010: ruby colour; a nose of black cherries, vanilla oak with an earthy note of dried leaves; full-bodied, dry, sour cherry flavour, somewhat austere resembling a Nebbiolo; well-balanced with a note of blackcurrant in mid palate. Lovely mouth-feel, dry and savoury finish with evident but ripe tannins. Youthful, needs time. (90)
  • Col d’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino 2004: deep ruby colour holding well; sweet nose of cherries and vanilla oak with a barnyard note; dry but exuberant in the mouth, well integrated oak, firmly structured, well balanced and still young. (91–93)
  • Col d’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 1997: deep ruby colour with a mature rim; mature nose of leather, oak spice, cherries and tobacco leaf; full-bodied, dry, firmly structured with evident but supple tannins and lively tannins. Lots of life to come for this wine. (92)
  • Col d’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino 1990: amazingly youthful ruby colour; earthy, tobacco, barnyard nose with pencil lead and oak spice notes; rich and full on the palate, great structure and balance, dry, cherry and bitter chocolate flavours, Evident chalky tannins. (91)
  • Col d’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 1977: deep ruby with a tawny rim; leather, soy, dried cherries on the nose; more youthful on the palate than the nose suggests – sweet fruit that finishes dry with lively acidity, incredibly fresh; beautifully balanced, firmly structured. An exciting wine. (94)
  • Col d’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 1968: mature ruby colour with a brick –coloured; tobacco, leather, vanilla oak, cherries on the nose with a floral grace note; majestic wine, still very much alive; dry and elegant with persistent tannins still. (93)

The next tasting is Vieux Château Certan with the owners Alexandre and François Thienpoint conducting with my old friend Michel Phaneuf moderating.

  • Vieux Château Certan La Gravette De Certan 2012: dense ruby colour; cedar, vanilla oak, blackcurrant and notes of graphite on the nose; very Merlot in flavour, ripe fruit (blackcurrant and plum) flavours with a dark chocolate note. Very expressive with ripe tannins and lively acidity. Beautifully balanced. (92)
  • Vieux Château Certan La Gravette De Certan 2010: dense ruby colour; mocha, vanilla oak, blueberries with pie crust nose, quite forward; mouth-filling, intense concentration, richly extracted, plum and black fruit flavours; chewy, with ripe tannins and coffee bean notes. (91)
  • Vieux Château Certan 2009: dense ruby colour; cedar, oak spice, blackberry and black cherry nose with a rose petal note; rich and full on the palate, beautifully balanced, opulent with a floral note; ripe but evident tannins. (92+)
  • Vieux Château Certan 2006: deep ruby colour; cedar, tobacco leaf, red berry fruit on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, lighter in body than the 2009, elegant and beautifully balanced and seamless with well integrated oak and supple tannins. (93)
  • Vieux Château Certan 2005: dense ruby colour; cedar, vanilla oak, blackcurrant and blueberry nose with a note of liquorice; richly extracted, full in the mouth, flavourful, blackcurrant flavour; not as well knit as the 2006 but very rich with dark chocolate notes and a firm tannic finish. Needs time. (91–93)
  • Vieux Château Certan 1998: amazing depth of colour; smoke, cedar, cigar box, blueberry nose; medium-bodied, elegant, silky mouth feel, perfectly balanced, elegant and fresh with great length and surprising power. Still youthful. (94)

Vieux Chateau Certan 1998

Took a taxi to meet Dominique Desrosiers of Tourisme Montréal at Brasserie T!, 1425 Jeanne-Mance Street, to dine with the four food journalists I toured the market with this morning. Ordered a glass of Meinkland Grüner Veltliner 2012 while I waited for them to arrive. Ordered the $31 – the equivalent Of Toronto’s Winterlicious program: seafood chowder; salmon, Jerusalem artichoke and kale; apple doughnut and vanilla ice cream. The wine: Dominique Piron Morgon Côte de Puys 2013.

Saturday, October 31st: Had breakfast with my sister Shirley in the hotel. We found we share an aversion to people who dunk things into their coffee. First tasting of the day: Jean-Claude Boisset conducted by winemaker Grégory Patriat.

  • Jean-Claude Boisset Les Vignes Franches 2012: straw colour; minerally, apple nose with just a suggestion of oak; medium-bodied, dry, beautifully balanced, fresh and lively on the palate, apple and white peach flavours with an exciting strain of lemony acidity. Needs time. Great length. (91–93)
  • Jean-Claude Boisset Puligny-Montrachet Les Perrières 2011: bright straw colour; minerally-chalky nose of apple with toasty notes, developing light barnyard notes; rich and full on the palate with butterscotch and lemon flavours. Bright and lively a final taste of apple and lemon and a touch of bitterness on the finish. (91)
  • Jean-Claude Boisset Corton-Charlemagne 2011: bright straw colour; spicy, apple, beautifully integrated oak; full-bodied, opulent, pineapple and peach flavours, well-balanced with amazing length. (93)
  • Jean-Claude Boisset Clos de la Roche 2011: solid ruby colour; barnyard, tobacco leaf, raspberry and rust with a light floral note on the nose; medium-bodied, sweet raspberry fruit with subtle oak notes, seamless in the mouth and lingering with a tannic lift on the finish. Quite forward but will last. (92)
  • Jean-Claude Boisset Clos de la Roche 2012: deep ruby colour; tight at the moment, violets, red fruits, minerally, struck flint notes on the nose; rich and full on the palate; firmly structured and well-balanced – needs five years or so. (92–94)
  • Jean-Claude Boisset Clos de la Roche 2008: ruby with a pale rim; barnyard nose of smoked bacon, pencil lead with a light floral note; dry, medium-bodied, spicy, cherry and cranberry flavours with lively acidity. Elegant, well balanced with a firm finish. (92+)

Jean-Claude Boisset Clos de la Roche 2008

A short break before a lunch tasting with Federico Ceretto.

  • Ceretto Blange’ Langhe Doc Arneis 2014: pale straw colour; light spritz, floral, minerally nose; custard apple flavour; fresh with a touch of sweetness in mid palate. (89)
  • Ceretto Barolo 2010 (a blend of 7 vineyards): ruby colour; cherry, rose petal and tar on the nose; medium-bodied, dry. Elegant and well-structured, firm on the palate with ripe tannins. (89–90)
  • Ceretto Barolo Bricco Rocche 2008: deep ruby colour; tobacco and dried rose petal bouquet with an earthy note; truffle notes and well balanced with grainy tannins and driving acidity. Still youthful. (91–93)
  • Ceretto Barolo Cannubi San Lorenzo 2005: deep ruby colour; deep ruby colour; spicy nose of dried cherries, undergrowth and dried rose petals, firmly structured, grainy tannins. Surprisingly young. Needs more time. (89–91)
  • Ceretto Barolo Bricco Rocche Brunate 1999 (in magnum): deep ruby colour with a mature rim; leather, smoky, dried cherries, with truffle notes; rich and full on the palate, sweet fruit with grainy tannins; elegant and beautifully balanced, finishing firmly with dark chocolate notes. (93–94)

Ceretto Barolo Cannubi San Lorenzo 2005

Ceretto Bricco Roche Barolo  Brunante 1999

Lunch was prepared by Chef Armand Forcherio, under the direction of Chef Enrico Crippa, 3 Michelin stars, Ristorante Piazza Duomo, the house chef at Ceretto: Ceretto Barolo Bricco Vitello tonnato; Risotto al Tartufo Bianco d’Alba; Brasato di Barolo crema di Burlotti; Piccolo Pasticeria.

Last tasting of the day: Château Troplong Mondot (a UNESCO site) with the owner, Xavier Pariente. The vineyards are exposed to all four compass points.

  • Château Troplong Mondot Mondot 2011 (the second wine): dense ruby colour; a nose of cedar, vanilla oak, leather, tobacco; dry, medium-bodied, savoury, bitter chocolate flavour with evident tannins. Needs 4–5 years. (88–90)
  • Château Troplong Mondot 2011: dense purple-ruby colour; new oak evident at the moment, dark chocolate, black plum nose; rich and full on the palate, black fruit flavours, savoury, elegant, well-balanced and tight. Keep at least 10 years. (90–92)
  • Château Troplong Mondot 2006: deep ruby colour; cedar, blueberry and blackcurrant nose with suggestions of oak; dry, medium-bodied, elegant, dark chocolate and black fruit flavours, rich and mouth-filling, firmly structured, still youthful. Very right bank. (91–93)
  • Château Troplong Mondot 2004: dense purple-ruby holding colour; cedar, pepper, blackcurrant nose with evident new oak; rich and chewy with black plum and currant flavours tinged with dark chocolate, Savoury and satisfying. Needs cellar time. (91– 93)
  • Château Troplong Mondot 1998: dense purple-ruby colour, still youthful looking; cedar, tobacco, vanilla oak, blackcurrant; elegant, beautifully balanced and youthful; firmly structured and seamless with lots of life still. Savoury, dark chocolate flavours. Old-style claret. (95)
  • Château Troplong Mondot 2010: great depth of colour; cedar, vanilla oak, harmonious with black fruits beautifully integrated into the bouquet; full-bodied, dry, richly extracted, intense and firm; dark chocolate and black fruit flavours. Chewy ripe tannins. Hold 15 years. Very contemporary. (93–95)

Château Troplong Mondot 2010

A champagne reception before the Grand Banquet with Louis Roederer Brut Premier. The dinner wines:

  • Louis Roederer Cristal Brut 2006
  • Col D’Orcia Poggio Al Vento Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2001
  • Domaine du Pégau : Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Laurence Rouge 2011
  • Château Troplong Mondot 2010
  • Jean-Claude Boisset Meursault Charmes 2012
  • Ceretto Barbaresco Bricco Asili 2003
  • Vieux Château Certan 2006
  • Jean-Claude Boisset Chambolle-Musigny Les Chardannes 2011
  • Ceretto Moscato D’Asti 2014

Roederer’s pink champagne

The menu, prepared by Jérôme Ferrer of Europea:

Cannelloni croquant de céleri et pommes vertes aux pates de crabs d’Alaska et hommard, velouté de panais et céleri-rave, huile de citron confit

Orzotto au parmesan et à la courge musquée. Pintade rôtie farcie champignons et jus

Filet mignon de boeuf Angus. Mousseline de pommes de terre aux brisures de truffles, jus de viande, tiges de salsifis braises, croustilles d’olives noires

Harpist entertaining guests at the Grand Banquet

Then a break for a live auction of 12 lots, the proceeds from which benefit l’Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemount to build an integrated centre for research and treatment of cancer patients. Lots, supplied generously, by the wineries who tried to outdo each other during the bidding with add-ons, reached a high as $40,000.

Then came the cheese:

1608 de Charlevoix, tatin de poires caramélissés à la vanille, parfait glacé au bleu bénédictine

La tarte citron meringue givrée-décomposée, Crème onctueuse au chocolat blanc, éclats de meringue et praline roses. Barbe à papa. Mignardises. Biscuits spéculoos

And so to bed.

Sunday, November 1st: Packed and made my way to the station to take the train back to Toronto.

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 568: Champagne & Burgundy

Friday, October 16th: Arrived in Paris on the start of a nine-day tour of Champagne and Burgundy. We are 13 altogether, including Greg Owen, the tour leader, and myself. A pretty sleepless night as there was a medical emergency on board and we thought they may have to turn the plane back to Gander or somewhere. Watched Mission Impossible, a mediocre Tom Cruise effort.

A smooth transition to the bus for the two-hour drive, in light rain, from Charles de Gaulle airport to Épernay. Lunched at La Banque Brasserie à Champagne, a former bank converted into a restaurant. I ordered a magnum of Champagne Collet Art Deco Brut for the table. Salade de géstiers de volaille and choucroute paysanne for me, although most of the group ordered croustillant de chèvre au miel and pavé de lieu, julienne de legumes.

Following lunch, a short bus trip to our hotel, Hostellerie La Briqueterie, a charming Relais et Châteaux property in the little town of Vinay that was once a brick works! Hence the name. Dinner at Chez Max in Épernay, a restaurant recommended by Harald Thiel and a real find. I ordered two bottles of Laborde Jouillot Rully Les Saints Jacques 2013 and Guy Sarget St. Nicolas de Bourgeuil 2013. From the priz fixe menu I ordered sautéed snails and porcini mushroom salad and pickperch with saffron and Chardonnay cream sauce, followed by an amazing selection of cheeses with a bottle of Seigneur de Fontimple Vacquéras 2013 and then the best crème brûlée I’ve ever tasted.

Saturday, October 17th: A rainy day today. First off the news when I opened my computer was that the Jays lost to Kansas City 5–0. Boo, hiss. After breakfast we drove to Hautvillers for a tour of Dom Pérignon.

The Abbey in Hautvillers

The Abbey of Hautvillers, where Dom Pérignon lived as a Benedictine monk, was built in 650, according to our guide Carmen (from Hong Kong). The earliest part that remains is a 12th-century doorway. Dom Pérignon (whose life span was the same of Louis IV, 1639–1715) is buried here, as is Dom Ruinart.

Bas relief of Dom Perignon

Dom Perignon’s tomb in the Hautvillers Abbey

After touring the abbey with its elaborately carved 18th century wood panelling, we were treated to a tasting of Dom Pérignon 1998 (smoky, toasty, iodine, white flowers and orange flavours; very winey and beautifully balanced (95)).

Dom Pérignon 1998

Then back into Épernay for lunch. Greg and I went to La Cave à Champagne, 16 rue Léon Gambetta, where I ordered a very tasty half bottle of H. Goutorbe Ay Rouge Coteaux Champenois with my prix fixe lunch of petite salade vigneronne foie de volaille lardonnes and pot au feu de tête de veau tiède vinaigrette, followed by a dessert of tarte fine aux pommes.

Claude Moët, the founder of the house, in 1743

After lunch a tour of the cellars of Moët & Chandon. At the entrance to the visitors’ section, suspended from the ceiling, is a huge chandelier made from 680 Baccarat crystal wine glasses. Below this, Moët has 28 kilometres of tunnelled cellars on three levels. Following the tour we sat down in a reception room where Napoleon was greeted by Jean-Rémy Moët in 1814. Here the resident sommelier, Jean-Nicolas Cordion, served us a glass of Dom Pérignon 2005 (a nose of honey, iodine, citrus, orange peel; ample body with flavours of apple and honey with a pencil lead note on the finish (93)). On the bus back to the hotel I felt moved to write the following verse:

It was a rainy day in Épernay; the champagne flowed like wine.
Still full from dinner but lunch was a winner
And tomorrow the sun will shine.

Dined at La Table Kobus Restaurant in Épernay. Ordered bottles of Château de Beauregard St. Veran 2013, De Ladoucette Pouilly-Fumé 2013 and Château de la Bettière Juliénas 2013. I chose a dish of red lentils with ham as a starter, lamb as a main dish and lemon meringue for dessert.

Lemon meringue tarts

Sunday, October 18th: A 3-hour walking tour of Reims this morning with the knowledgeable André as our guide. He tokd us that Reims was the largest city of the Roman empire after Rome and pointed out that the front and back windows of the new trams are in the shape of a champagne glass.

Reims tram with champagne glass-shaped window

Outdoor champagne market in Reims

A grower’s champagne

We stopped at a pop-up champagne market where thirteen producers were selling their grower’s champagne by the glass and bottle from open-air stalls. We stopped for a glass of Champagne Gaston Révolte Brut before making our way to Reims Cathedral. Where French kings were crowed from the time of Clovis who was baptised here. Admired the statue of the Smiling Angel at the Chagall stained-glass windows.

Reims Cathedral

The Smiling Angel at the entrance to Reims cathedral

The Chagall windows, Reims cathedral

Lunched at Le Carnot – croque madame and a glass of tired red wine. (Croque mesdames is a croque with a fried egg on top.) Then on to the premier cru village of Villedommage for a visit to Fresne Ducret, a vigneron independent. Pierre Fresne and his wife Daniella (who comes from Oakville, Ontario) farm six acres, mostly Pinot Meunier with some Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Pierre’s family traces back 10 generations and has not moved more than five kilometres from the ancestral village. To accompany the champagnes we tasted, Daniella had cooked a delicious pâté en croute (rabbit, pork and veal), a mushroom and cheese tart and pâté with a beetroot slice. We tasted Fresne Ducret Champagne Brut Origine, Brut Réserve and the 2007 Vintage. I bought a bottle of the vintage and the reserve. Really delicious bubblies with redcurrant and lemon flavours.

Daniella and Pierre Fresne

Daniella’s pâté en croute 

Dined at the hotel’s restaurant. Their wine list offers 160 champagnes. I ordered Le Chevalier Ladoix Les Gréchons 2013 and Chantal Lescure Côte de Baune Le Clos de Topes Bozots 2013. The amuse bouche was a mousse of red pepper and carrot, followed by cod ceviche and then breast of duck, a blackcurrant and red fruit sorbet trou normand and a dessert of three chocolate mousse with mango sorbet.

Sage advice

Monday, October 19th: Election day back in Canada. On the road by 8:45 am heading for Dijon. A foggy drive but the sun came out as we arrived in Dijon. Walked around the city to find a restaurant and finally fixed on Esprit Bistrot O’Bareuzai, where we ordered snails and French fries with a bottle of Cave de Viré Viré Clessé 2013. Did a bit of shopping in Galeries Lafayette and the famous mustard shop, Maillé.

Frites in Dijon

Then we drove on to the Clos Vougeot for a tour of the château that dates back to the 12th century. We watched a film explaining the history of the Chevaliers du Tastevin and saw the ancient wood presses that look like instruments of war.

Clos de Vougeot

Checked into the Hotel de la Poste, where we had dinner in the dining room – ham persillé, boeuf bourgignon and pasta, with Butterfield Vin Blanc de Bourgogne 2012 and Butterfield Vin Rouge de Bourgogne 2012, followed by the cheese tray (including époisses) accompanied by a glass of Veuve Armbal Crémant de Bourgogne.

Tuesday, October 20th: After breakfast we drove to Nuits-Saint-Georges to visit Boisset’s L’Imaginarium, an exhibition and museum site that explains the process for making sparkling wine by both the champagne method and the Charmat process. The interactive displays are imaginatively put together. We learned that there are 30–35 bubbles created per second and they rise at a speed of 35 kilometres an hour! When a bubble bursts it makes the shape of a flower.

Boisset’s Imaginarium

After the half-hour sound and light presentation on the history and process of winemaking in Burgundy, called Sacrée Vigne, we settled in a circular tasting room to sample the followng Crémant de Bourgogne with Marcel Combes:

  • Charles de Fère Cuvée Jean Louis Brut
  • Charles de Fère Brut Mérite Blanc
  • Charles de Fère Brut Mérite Rosé
  • Louis Bouillot Crémants:
    • Perle d’Ivoire Blanc de Blancs Brut
    • Perle de Nuit Blanc de Noirs Brut
    • Perle de Vigne Blanc Brut
    • Perle d’Aurore Rosé Brut
    • Perle Rare Blanc Brut 2011
    • Perle d’Or Blanc Brut 2008
    • Grands Terroirs Les Trois Saints 2003

A great Cremant de Bourgogne

They also have a riddling game that assesses your proficiency and speed at riddling bottles of champagne. Next stop: Clos de la Vougeraie, where we tasted the following wines in the cellar with winemaker Pierre Vincent:

  • Clos de la Vougeraie Le Clos Blanc de Vougeot 2012: spicy, mineral nose; beautifully balanced apple and citrus flavours with delicate oak tones. (92)
  • Clos de la Vougeraie Pommard Les Petits Noizons 2013: bright ruby colour; spicy, black raspberry flavour with new oak notes. Still tight and firm. (90–92)
  • Clos de la Vougeraie Volnay 2013: firm, tight, cherry flavour. (89–90)
  • Clos de la Vougeraie Nuits-St-Georges Clos de Thorey 2013: ruby colour; floral, earthy, rhubarb and raspberry bouquet; elegant and spicy, tobacco and red fruit flavours; beautifully balanced and firmly structured. (91–92)
  • Clos de la Vougeraie Clos de Vougeot 2013: elegant, vanilla oak, blackcurrant and raspberry notes; light yet full on the palate, lovely mouth-feel; lively acidity with a firm finish. (91–93)

Domaine de la Vougeraie

Clos de la Vougeraie winemaker Pierre Vincent

Next stop, Jean-Claude Boisset’s Les Ursulines property in Nuits-Saint-Georges. Winemaker Grégory Patriat showed us the ultramodern new winery that is being built for next year’s harvest. Its dome-like roof is covered with a metre of earth and grass and will ultimately be planted with vines. Everyone is telling us that this is the best time to visit Burgundy, as all the vineyards have turned golden, hence La Côte d’Or.

Gregory Patriat, Jean-Claude Boisset’s winemaker

In the cellar Grégory poured the following wines before lunch in the Caveau Saint-Charles:

  • Jean-Claude Boisset Meursault Limozin 2013: spicy, nutty, buttery nose; rich and full-bodied flavours of apple and lemon, beautifully balanced. (91)
  • Jean-Claude Boisset Meursault Charmes 2013: anise, grapefruit nose; elegant with great length; lovely mouth-feel, fresh acidity. (92)
  • Jean-Claude Boisset Nuits-St-Georges Les Chardonnieres 2013: deep ruby colour; rose petal, raspberry nose; elegant and light on the palate with a note of lead pencil on the finish. (91+)
  • Jean-Claude Boisset Gevrey-Chambertin 2012: eathy, blackcurrant nose; flavours of black cherry and vanilla oak; tight and firm at the moment. Needs time. (90–92)
  • Jean-Claude Boisset Chambolle-Musigny Les Charmes 2012: deep ruby colour; elegant, black raspberry and black cherry flavours underpinned with subtle oak flavours; great balance with a firm tannic finish. (91–92)

Venerable vintages at Les Ursurlines

Then we sat down to lunch in the cellar with Boisset’s CEO, Jean-François Curie. The menu:

Jambon persillé, sucrine et crème de moutarde
Boeuf Bourguignon et pommes vapeurs
Assiette de trois fromages
Tarte amandine aux coings confits

Jambon persillé

The wines: Jean-Claude Boisset Savigny-les-Beaune Blanc 2007 in magnum, Jean-Claude Boisset Aloxe-Corton Les Valozières 2012, Jean-Claude Boisset Morey-Saint-Denis Monts Luisants 2008 and a mystery wine served blind that turned out to be Pierre Ponnelle Bonnes Mares 1974 (102-year-old vines) which was still lively and delicious.

Jean-Claude Boisset Morey-Saint-Denis Monts Luisants 2008

Next stop, Bouchard Aîné et Fils. We tasted in their 18th century cellars.

  • Bouchard Aîné et Fils St. Véran 2013: easy drinking, fresh citrus and apple flavours. (88)
  • Bouchard Aîné et Fils Puligny-Montrachet “Champ Gain” 2007: spicy oak, green pineapple flavour with a touch of bitterness on the finish. (89)
  • Bouchard Aîné et Fils Maranges 2013 (the last village of the Côte de Beaune): simple, dry and fruity raspberry flavour, firmly structured; easy drinking. (88)
  • Bouchard Aîné et Fils Pommard 2011: evident oak on the nose; dry, lean and sinewy, raspberry flavour with a firm tannic finish. (89)
  • Bouchard Aîné et Fils Clos de Vougeot 2008: old style red Burgundy; a nose of leather and tobacco and cherry jam; dry red and blackcurrant flavours, velvety mouth feel and a firm finish. (91)

Greg and I ran into Moray Tawse and his daughter Robin as we were walking in search of a restaurant. He suggested we try La Maison du Colombier, which served small dishes and had a great wine list. Tiny rooms with an assortment of living-room furniture and tiny tables. Ordered glasses of Jean-Hugue & Guillaume Goissot Sauvignon de St. Bris 2012 and Leroy Bourgogone Rouge 2012. Met a woman there named Charlotte Horton who grows Pinot Noir at Castello de Pontentino in Seggiano (30 km from Montalcino).

The Ramparts of Beaune

Wednesday, October 21st: Mid-morning tour of Hospices de Beaune for the group while I stayed back at the hotel to type up my notes. Lunched at La Ciboulette with Greg Owen (pumpkin soup, pot au feu of duck with a half bottle of Domaine Roger Belland Maranges Le Fussière 2013 and crème brûlèe for dessert).

In the afternoon Greg and dropped into the Marché au Vins to taste a few wines out of their Enomatic machine. We paid 12 euros to taste 3 mL samples of Château de Marsannay Puligny-Montrachet Cuvée de Masière 2012, Château de Meursault Meursault 2008, Château de Marsannay Gevrey-Chambertin 2008 and Château de Meursault Meursault Volnay Clos des Chênes 2003. The resident sommelier came over with an open magnum of Château de Meursault Pommard Clos des Epenots 2012 and poured us both a glass (which was the best wine we tried) as we walked around the art gallery attached to the wine store.

Wines by the glass at Loiseau des Vignes

In the evening a group dinner at Loiseau des Vignes, a one-star Michelin restaurant, 31 rue Maufoux. It was the 80th birthday of one member of our group, whom we toasted with a magnum of Albert Bichot Blanc de Blancs Crémant de Bourgogne. The restaurant serves 70 wines by the glass dispensed by Enomatic machines. The menu: an amuse bouche of chickpea soup with a foam emulsion; foie gras terrine; poulet de Bresse; a selection of cheeses from a massive board and dessert, crêpe soufflé with hazel nut ice cream. The accompanying wines: Domaine Michel Viré Clessé 2012 and Anne Gros Bourgogne Rouge 2013. With the cheese course: Anne Gros et Jean-Paul Tollot Minervois La Ciaude 2010.

Poulet de Bresse

Cheese tray at Loiseau des Vignes

Crêpe soufflé at Loiseau des Vignes

Thursday, October 22nd: A morning tasting at Remoissenet Père et Fils conducted by Pascal Trimaille. A tour of the old cellars with wines dating back to 1947.

  • Remoissenet Père et Fils Beaune Blanc Montagne St Désiré 2013: light straw colour; minerally, struck flint nose; lemony, green pineapple flavour; great length. (91)
  • Remoissenet Père et Fils Chassagne-Montrachet “Morgeots” 2006: creamy, caramel nose with oak spice, developing barnyard notes; dry butterscotch flavour with a soft mouth-feel. (92)
  • Remoissenet Père et Fils Beaune Clos du Roi 1969: ruby colour with a tawny note; smoky, tarry, raspberry and violets on the nose with a barnyard note; delicate yet powerful, very elegant with lively acidity and very much alive; a note of blackcurrants on the back taste. (93)
  • Remoissenet Père et Fils Beaune Les Marconnets 2000: light ruby colour; spicy, raspberry and blackcurrant nose; light on the palate; not very intense but light on the palate with a firm finish. (89)
  • Remoissenet Père et Fils Beaune Chevaliers de l’Arquebus 2009: ruby colour; mousey nose with an earthy, cherry and blackcurrant flavour. Rather flat (a bottle problem). (86)
  • Remoissenet Père et Fils Beaune Maronets 2002: ruby colour; earthy, raspberry, spicy, white pepper nose; round on the palate with sweet fruit and a firm structure; lively acidic spine; still youthful, needs time. (91–92)
  • Remoissenet Père et Fils Beaune Bressandes 2010: ruby colour; spicy nose of violets, raspberries and vanilla oak; elegant, soft mouth-feel, beautifully balanced. A semless wine with a firm tannic finish. (92)
  • Remoissenet Père et Fils Beanue Grèves 2011: ruby colour; spicy, raspberry nose with floral notes; lean and sinewy on the palate, light-bodied, dry and firm with evident tannins on the finish. (88– 90)
  • Remoissenet Père et Fils Beaune Toussaints 2012: ruby colour; raspberry nose with hints of violets and pencil lead; elegant, dances on the palate; oak forward on the palate at the moment. Very elegant. (92–93)
  • Remoissenet Père et Fils Beaune Vignes Franches 2013: ruby colour; spicy, vanilla, milk chocolate nose with notes of struck flint; soft on the palate, well balanced, raspberry flavour; fresh with ripe tannins. (92)

Pascal Trimaille in Remoissenet’s cellar, Beaune

Remoissenet Père et Fils Beaune Bressandes 2010

Lunched at La Ciboulette – pumpkin soup followed by pork cheeks. The wines: Bizikot Bourgogne Chardonnay 2013. Then on to Bouchard Père et Fils for a cellar tour and tasting, guided by Viviana. She told us they have 2 million bottles in their 4000 square metres of cellars. The oldest wine they have is a 1846 Meursault Charmes.

  • Bouchard Père et Fils Pouilly-Fuissé 2014: straw colour; minerally, green pineapple and lemon on the nose; crisply dry, apple and pineapple flavours; lovely mouth-feel and good length. (89+)
  • Bouchard Père et Fils Meursault Genevières 2013: straw colour; minerally, lemon and apple bouquet; fresh and crisply dry, elegant, grapefruit and green apple flavours, firmly structured with understated oak. Good mouth-feel with a grapefruit pith note on the finish and a hint of oak spice. (90)
  • Bouchard Père et Fils Chevalier-Montrachet 2012: pale straw colour; minerally, citrus nose with a forest floor note; well integrated oak, spicy orange and apple flavours with toasty notes; beautifully balanced with great length. (93)
  • Bouchard Père et Fils Corton-Charlemagne 2012: straw colour; spicy, forest floor, vanilla oak bouquet; rih, butterscotch, green pineapple and citrus flavours; elegant, beautifully balanced ripe fruit. A seamless wine. (94)
  • Bouchard Père et Fils Fleurie Villa Ponciago Cuvée Les Hauts du Puy 2013: ruby colour with violet notes; black cherry and rhubarb nose; spicy, white pepper and cherry flavour; medium-bodied, fruity, dry and firm with an earthy finish. (88+)
  • Bouchard Père et Fils Beaune du Château 2012: a nose of violets, beetroot and raspberries; medium-bodied, dry, velvety mouth-feel with a firm tannic finish. (89+)
  • Bouchard Père et Fils Beaune Grenes Vigne de l’Enfant Jesus 2012: ruby colour; vanilla oak, spicy, tobacco, cherry and raspberry on the nose; dry, elegant, beautifully balanced, firm structure with a red plum note on the finish. (90–92)
  • Bouchard Père et Fils Le Corton 2012: ruby colour; violets, leather and cherry nose; mouth-filling and firmly structured; dry, fresh and lively on the palate with a tannic finish. Needs 5 years. (91–93)
  • Bouchard Père et Fils Chapelle Chambertin 2012: deep ruby colour; black cherry, white pepper nose with a floral grace note and well integrated oak; mouth-filling and powerful, well-structured and seamless in the mouth with a note of cinnamon on the finish. (92– 94)

Bouchard Père et Fils coat of arms at the entrance to their cellar

Dinner at Bistro Les Cocottes, 3 Place Madeleine. Ordered escargot, steak tartare, fries and salad with a bottle of Domaine Jean Baptiste Ponsot Rully Molesme 2013.

Friday, October 23rd: After breakfast we drove up to Chablis for visit, tasting and lunch at William Fèvre. The outgoing Alain Marcuello, who runs the wine shop and is hospitality manager, showed us the cellars and conducted the tasting.

  • William Fèvre Champs Royaux 2014: pale colour; light floral nose of green apples; crisply dry, soft on the palate but finishes firmly. (87+)
  • William Fèvre Montmains Chablis 2013: pale straw color; minerally, smoky, white flowers and citrus nose; earthy chalky, lemon flavour with a fine mouth feel. (89)
  • William Fèvre Chablis Vaillons 2013: pale straw colour; mineral, gun flint and citrus nose; apple and lemon flaovurs; round on the palate with a fresh finish. (88+)
  • William Fèvre Chablis Montée de Tonnerre 2013: pale straw colour; ripe bouqut of apples and white flowers; full on the palate with more richness than the 2012; dry, apple flavour with good texture and lively acidity. (90)
  • William Fèvre Chablis Vaulorent 2013: pale straw colour; chalky, minerally, white flowers and citrus nose; crisply dry and beautifully balanced. (89+)
  • William Fèvre Chablis Bourgos 2013: pale straw colour; minerally, white flowers, citrus and apple bouquet; elegant, green apple flavour with a thread of minerality; full in the mouth. (91)
  • William Fèvre Chablis Bourgos Côtes Bouguerots 2013: pale straw colour; minerally, citrus and floral nose; core concentration than the Bourgos; beautifully balanced, elegant and rich with great length. (92) (I bought a bottle.)
  • William Fèvre Chablis Les Preuses 2013: pale straw with green reflections; minerally nose of green apples; round on the palate, earthy and firm with touch of bitterness on the finish. (90)
  • William Fèvre Chablis Les Clos 2013: (William Fèvre owns 4 hectares of the 28 ha. Of Les Clos – the best vineyard in Chablis): pale straw colour with green reflections; spicy, apple and toasty nose; elegant, beautifully balanced and full on the palate. Lovely mouth-feel, a seamless wine. (93)

William Fèvre’s house

Then to lunch across the hall in Fèvre’s restaurant, Le Bistro des Grands Crus. I ordered pumpkin soup, andouillette in a mustard and cream sauce with a glass of nameless Pinot Noir.

Our final dinner was at Château de Montvillargennes in Chantilly (a 25-minute drive from Charles de Gaulle airport). Montvillargennes is the largest château hotel in France, set in a 15-acre park and built in the Norman style in the last century by the Rothschild family. Here we had a farewell dinner in a huge private room. A glass of Charles Heisieck Brut Reserve Champagne to start, then foie gras with strawberry jelly, filet steak (or guinea fowl) and citron tarte for dessert. The accompanying wines: Domaine Pellé Sancerre Croix au Garde 2013 and Guigal Saint Joseph 2012.

Château de Montvillargennes in Chantilly

Saturday, October 24th: Up at 6:30 am to pack and leave for the airport at 7:15 am, several pounds heavier myself and my luggage.

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 567: Douro Boys

Tony and the Boys

Monday, October 12th: Wrote my 680 NEWS wine reviews and finished writing a profile of winemaker Frédéric Picard for Grapevine magazine. Tasted a couple of wines from Joie Farm in BC.

  • Joie PTG 2013: this passe-tout-grains, a blend of Gamay and Pinot Noir, is deep ruby in colour with a nose of cherries and oak spice; dry, light-bodied but firmly structured with a lively acidic spine. (89)
  • Joie Gamay 2013: ruby colour; lifted cherry bouquet; medium-bodied, dry; a deceptively simple wine, strawberry and cherry flavours with a pencil lead note; again, lively acidity. (89)

In the evening Deborah and I dropped into a neighbour’s for a drink. Brought along a bottle of Château Teyssier Montagne Saint-Emilion 2010 (dense purple-ruby colour with a nose of cedar and blackcurrant; medium-bodied, dry, savoury and elegant. A well-balanced claret (89)).

Tuesday, October 13th: Finished inputting the reviews of wines for the October 17th Vintages release. At 2:30 pm down to the University Club for a tasting to the Douro Boys wines. All five members of the group were there showing their table wines as well as a port.

Christian Van Zeller of Quinta Vale D. Maria

I was very impressed by the white wines:

  • Quinta do Vale Meão Meandro 2014 (Rabigato and Arinto): pale straw, minerally white peach and citrus nose with a floral top note; medium-bodied, dry, white peach and lemon flavours carried on vibrant acidity. (89)
  • Quinta do Vallado Reserva Branca 2014 (Gouveio, Rabigato, Arinto, Viosinho): minerally, floral, almond and peach pit nose; fresh and lemony flavour, lively acidity with a touch of oak. (90)
  • Quinta Vale D. Maria Rufo 2014: minerally, nutty, leesy nose of peaches with a floral top note; flavours of passionfruit and green plum with a touch of bitterness on the finish. (89+)
  • Quinta do Crasto Superior White 2014 (Verdelho, Codega de Lourinha, Viosinho and Rabigato): pale straw colour; vanilla oak and white peach nose; full in the mouth, dry and refreshing with a long lemony finish. (90)
  • Niepoort Coche 2013 (Rabigato, Códega do Larinho, Arinto and others): straw coloured with a smoky, toasty nose reminiscent of Meursault. Very Burgundian in style, elegant, perfectly balanced oak with a thread of minerality. (93)
  • Niepoort Redoma 2014 (Rabigato, Códega, Viosinho, Arinto and others): pale straw colour with a minerally, smoky nose lifted by white blossom notes; full-bodied, crisp white peach flavour, great mouth feel and judicious use of oak. (90)

Dirk Niepoort with his exemplary Coche 2013

My favourites among the reds:

  • Quinta do Vale Meão Douro 2012: dense purple colour; oaky, well extracted mulberry flavours; stull tight needs five years or so. (90–92)
  • Quinta Vale D. Maria 2012: an elegant wine with black fruit aromas and flavours topped with a rose petal note; firmly structured. (91)
  • Niepoort Charme 2013: developing barnyard notes on the nose; earthy black cherry flavour, lovely mouth feel with driving acidity. (91)
  • Quinta do Crasto Vinha da Ponte 2012: dense ruby colour; spicy, oaky, mulberry nose with a floral grace note; rich flavours of mulberry and black cherry; tightly woven and needs 3–5 years. (90–92)
  • Quinta do Vallado Reserva 2012: richly extracted black cherry and dark chocolate flavours; full in the mouth. (90)

Quinta do Vale Meão Douro 2012

My favourite ports of the night were:

  • Quinta do Vallado 20 Year Tawny: rich walnut and dried fig flavours, beautifully balanced with amazing length. (93)
  • Quinta do Vale Meão Vintage Port 2013 (one of the few port houses who declared that year): lighter than their usual ports, spicy, mulberry flavour, very elegant. (92–94)

After the tasting I came back to the University Club for a dinner for members of the club and clients of FWP, who represent three of the winemakers. The Douro Boys had generously donated blended magnums of their 2011 wines for a Grapes for Humanity auction. The five lots included visits to the property with tastings and dinners. We raised close to $6,000 which will go towards building a secondary school for Access Education Guatemala. A very successful evening.

Menu for the Douro Boys dinner at the University Club

Wednesday, October 15th: Recorded my 680 NEWS wine reviews and began to clear my desk before I leave tomorrow for Champagne and Burgundy with a group of 11 wine lovers. In the evening I conducted a tasting at Hola Tapas Bar and Restaurant, 1298 Queen Street East. It was the night of the fifth game of the playoffs and there was a TV on behind as I began the tasting. The 30 people erupted when Batista hit his winning homer and flipped his bat. The wines tasted:

  • Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava
  • Finca Las Caraballas Verdejo 2013 (Castilla y Leon)
  • AA Privat Pansa Blanca 2014 (Catalunya)
  • Pazo des Bruxas Albarino 2013 (Rias Baixas)
  • Bodegas Langa Hnos Chapillon Siendra 2011 (Calatayud)
  • Bodegas Balbas Ardal Crianza 2005 (Ribera del Duero)
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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 566: Kaiken Wines

The best Torrontes I’ve tasted

Monday, October 5th: Had to pick up the Gaja wines for Grapes for Humanity’s dinner on October 26. The venue has been moved from a private house to the Chef’s House at George Brown College.

A tasting at Doug Towers’s with David Lawrason for www.winerytohome.com. For dinner, lamb chops with Buried Hope Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (North Coast, California – $19.95): dense purple colour; spicy, oaky, blackcurrant bouquet; full-bodied and fruity on the palate, lovely mouth-feel finishing firmly. (89+)

Tuesday, October 6th: Worked on my presentation at the Vitinord Conference in Nebraska City next month. The session is 40 minutes. My theme is “Nova Scotia as a model for wine industry growth in cold and cool climate regions.” At 4 pm met with Doris Miculan Bradley to work on final page edits for Grapes for Humanity’s new website.

Wednesday. October 7th: Spent the day working on the Vitinord address, then got down to some tasting.

  • KWV Cathedral Cellars Chardonnay 2013 (Western Cape, South Africa – $15.95): pale lemon colour; earthy, apple nose; dry, intense lemony acidity and bruised apple flavours; a touch hard on the finish. (86)
  • CedarCreek Gewurztraminer 2014 (Okanagan Valley): light straw colour; spicy, lychee and rose petal bouquet; medium-bodied, off-dry, Turkish delight flavour of cardamom, lychee and rosewater; unctuous on the palate with an orange note on the finish. (89+)
  • Château Rahoul Graves Rouge 2010 (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Verdot – $24.95): deep ruby colour; cedar, blackcurrant and blueberry with well integrated oak; full-bodied, rich on the palate with a velvety mouth-feel; medium-bodied, dry, with sweet fruit and a mineral note. Great balance. (90)
  • Château Barril Lamarzelle Figeac 2008 (Saint Emilion – $39.95): deep ruby colour; cedar, red and blackcurrant bouquet with evident oak; dry, medium-bodied, lean and sinewy; fruit beginning to dry out. (88)
  • Clos de los Siete 2012 (Mendoza – $21.95) (57% Malbec, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Syrah, 2% Petit Verdot): dense ruby colour; cedar, vanilla oak, blackberry and chocolate on the nose with a peppery, pencil lead note; full-bodied, dry, savoury, black fruit flavours with powdery tannins. The Syrah comes singing through even at 9%. Lively acidic finish. (89)
  • KWV Cathedral Cellars Shiraz 2013 (Western Cape, South Africa – $15.95): deep ruby colour; smoky, blackberry and black cherry with oak spice and a note of leather. Medium-bodied, dry with exuberant acidity, pencil lead and black fruit flavours with a tannic note on the finish. (87)

Thursday, October 8th: Another morning of working on the Vitinord address. Then a late lunch at Nota Bene with Aurelio Montes Jr. to taste his wines from the Kaiken Winery in Mendoza.

  • Kaiken Torrontes 2015: pale straw colour; aromatic nose of cardamom and ginger; fresh and tangy on the palate with tangerine, melon and honeysuckle flavours carried on vibrant acidity. The most exciting Torrontes I have tasted! (90)
  • Kaiken Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (grown at 1600 metres): pale straw colour; herbaceous, tropical fruit nose; fresh and lively on the palate with green plum and kiwi flavours; good length. (89)
  • Kaiken Chardonnay 2013: pale straw colour; spicy oak, minerally, apple and anise bouquet; rich mouth-feel, full-bodied, well-integrated oak with an intriguing bitterness on the finish. (90)
  • Kaiken Malbec Reserve 2013: deep purple-ruby colour; smoky, meaty nose of vanilla oak, blackberry and leather; full-bodied, dry and savoury with lively acidity. (89)
  • Kaiken Terroir Series Malbec Bonarda Petit Verdot Reserva 2013: dense purple colour; spicy black fruits on the nose with tobacco and floral notes; sweet black fruit flavours (lots of extract here), beautifully balanced with a firm tannic finish. (90)
  • Kaiken Terroir Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (with 15% Malbec and 10% Petit Verdot): dense purple colour that stains the glass; smoky, tarry, blackcurrant nose; rich and full on the palate, succulent, sweet blackcurrant flavour with ripe tannins; great mouth feel and a long finish. (91+)
  • Kaiken Ultra Malbec 2013: dense purple colour; rich nose of cassis and vanilla oak; full-bodied, elegant, fruity with flavours of black cherries, mulberries and tobacco leaf carried on fresh acidity; well integrated oak and ripe tannins, Great mouth-feel. (92)
  • Kaiken Ultra Cabernet Sauvignon 2013: dense purple-ruby colour; cedar and savoury blackcurrant nose with vanilla oak; mouth-filling blackcurrant and plum flavours yet elegant and firmly structured with a tannic lift on the finish. A well-balanced wine. (90)
  • Kaiken Obertura Cabernet Franc 2013: dense ruby colour; vanilla oak, coffee bean, earthy red and blackcurrant aromas with a leafy note; medium to full-bodied, well-balanced with a firm finish. Reminiscent of Bourgueil in a warm year. A great first effort. (90)

Straight from lunch down to George Brown College to meet with Joan Culliton of the Ottawa Wine & Food Festival and Michael Fagan, who is consulting to the college on their wine and beverage business management program. We toured the stunning new tasting rooms in the Chef’s House. Disappointed by the Jays’ loss to Texas. Commiserated over a bottle of Fattoria di Piazzano Chinati Piazzano 2013 with pasta (deep ruby-purple colour; cherry, cedar and vanilla oak nose with a floral top note; medium-bodied, dry, cherry flavour. Well-structured and good value at $14.95 (88)).

Friday, October 9th: Had to miss the Vintages tasting this morning as I needed to finish off the Vitinord presentation. I leave next Thursday to conduct a wine & food tour of Champagne and Burgundy. Now devastated by the Jays’ second loss to Texas.

Saturday, October 10th: Guy and three of his friends came by to take furniture out of our storage locker (actually it’s more like a room, 18′ × 6′). Now we can actually see the junk we should have gotten rid of when we moved to the condo. Still grumpy over the Jays losing two in a row to Texas. Doesn’t augur well for moving on in the play-offs. We’ll know tomorrow night if they’re still in the running. To take my mind off it I did some tasting:

  • Flat Rock Cellars Riddled Sparkling 2009 (92% Chardonnay “with a touch of Pinot Noir”; Niagara Peninsula – $29.95): pale straw colour; baked bread, lemon and apple on the nose; medium-bodied, crisply dry, green apple and lemon flavours with an intriguing touch of bitterness on the finish. (88+)
  • Trail Estate Barrel-Aged Chardonnay 2013 (Prince Edward County$32.00): pale straw colour; minerally, pear and citrus nose; medium-bodied, dry, green pear and lemony flavours evolving into caramel and apple flavours with some bitterness on the finish. (87)
  • Flat Rock Pinot Noir 2013 (Niagara Peninsula – $19.95): ruby colour with a tawny note; high-toned, cherry bouquet with a light floral note and a touch of oak; medium-bodied, dry, good Pinot character; firm on the palate with fresh acidity. (88)
  • Flat Rock Gravity Pinot Noir 2013 (Niagara Peninsula – $29.95): ruby with a tawny note; tobacco, cherry nose with a vanilla oak note; medium-bodied, dry, good intensity of flavour – cherries and moist earth; well-structured and firm. (89)
  • Strewn Rogue’s Lot Cabernet Sauvignon Cabernet Franc 2012 (Niagara Peninsula – $14.95): mature ruby colour; cedar, redcurrant nose with a leafy note; more expressive on the palate with black and redcurrant flavours with a minty note carried on lively acidity with enough oak to give it a round mouth-feel. (87+)
  • Bench 1775 Cabernet Franc Malbec 2013 (Okanagan – $34.50): deep ruby colour; cedar, smoke, red berries on the nose with a cedary note; medium-bodied, dry, richly extracted and savoury; well-balanced with a lively acidic spine. (89+)
  • Trail Estate Cabernet Franc Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2013 (Prince Edward County – $39.00): deep ruby colour; the leafy, redcurrant tones of Cabernet Franc sing through on the nose on a cedary accent; medium-bodied, dry redcurrant and pencil lead flavours, Loire style with fresh acidity. (89)
  • Burrowing Owl Cabernet Franc 2013 (Okanagan – $44.95): deep ruby colour; cedar, mocha, creamy, red berry fruit bodied, topped with vanilla oak; medium to full-bodied, dry, savoury red berry fruit flavours with a spicy oak note. Beautifully balanced and firmly structured. Great length. (90)
  • Burrowing Owl Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (Okanagan): dense purple-ruby colour; cedar, blackcurrant, toasty oak nose; medium to full-bodied, dry, beautifully balanced and firmly structured, fine mouth-feel with powdery tannins. A wine to keep for five years. (90–92)
  • San Pedro 1865 Single Vineyard Carmenère 2013 (Chile – $19.95): dense purple-ruby colour; intense nose of blackcurrant and vanilla oak with a cedary note; full-bodied, fruity but dry, concentrated plum and raspberry flavours with blackcurrant on the finish. Fleshy with a chunky mouth-feel. A massive wine. (90)
  • Sunrock by Jackson Triggs Illumina Red Meritage 2012 (Okanagan – $34.95): deep purple colour; spicy, vanilla oak predominates at the moment over red and blackcurrant fruit; medium- to full-bodied, dry and savoury with a minty note on the finish; chalky tannins. All the elements are there but not melding at the moment. Give it 3–5 years. (88–90)
  • Lavau Vacqueras 2012 (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre: Rhône – $24.95): deep ruby colour; cedar, mint, black raspberry with a note of dried herbs; full-bodied, dry, mouth-filling, savoury-herbal flavours of black raspberry. Full in the mouth with moderate length. (88+)
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