A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 669: OWA Sponsor Tour

Whisky school desks

Monday, October 9th: Spent Thanksgiving Day opening boxes and filling my new 500-bottle cabinet with wine. Found all kinds of hidden treasures which I will drink before they get over the hill. Tonight, with grilled salmon, Babich Pinot Noir 2004 from New Zealand (still very much alive).

Tuesday, October 10th: Worked on my Quench magazine article, about screw caps. For dinner, Moon Curser Tempranillo 2010 from the Okanagan.

Wednesday, October 11th: After unpacking more boxes, got down to writing an article for Lexpert Magazine on becoming a wine importing agent – as an amateur. In the evening, a conference call with the Board of Directors of Grapes for Humanity in Toronto to discuss next year’s program of events. For dinner, with grilled Salmon, Eral Bravo YBS 2005 (Mendoza, Argentina – Year’s Best Barrels: 60% Malbec, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah). Delicious.

Thursday, October 12th: More unpacking. It’s like the myth of Sisyphus – the more boxes we empty, the more appear. Still can’t find the kitchen radio and the paper tray of the printer. Received a copy of my friend Raymond Blake’s new book in the mail: Côtes d’Or – The wines and winemakers of the heart of Burgundy. Raymond is a leading wine writer in Ireland who has bought a house in the Côtes d’Or (lucky fellow). Am looking forward to reading it – once I can find a chair to sit down in.

Friday, October 13th: My wine writer colleague who lives in the ‘hood picked me up at 6:30 am to get to the Vintages tasting at the LCBO. We drove to the Burlington GO station and took the train into Union. Committed a faux pas by laughing out loud in the Quiet Zone on the upper level – so we moved to the basement after I was chided by another passenger. Didn’t realise it was a serious business, riding the GO. After the tasting of a 158-product release for November 11th, Michael and I dropped into TNT grocery store before returning to his house in High Park to relocate a raccoon he had caught digging up his garden. Ros, Michael and I went for dinner at their favourite Chinese restaurant on Spadina, New Ho King. Slept over at Michael’s house.

restaurant window with NEW HO KING FINE CHINESE CUISINE neon sign in the window and diners behind

Saturday, October 14th: Today is the sponsor tour of Niagara. Up at 7:30 am to take the subway to Yorkdale, where the Niagara Air Black Bus will meet us. I have to pick up coffee and muffins and croissants for ten at Starbucks, plus bottles of water.

Wooden wall of building: No. 99 Wayne Gretzky Estates

We leave at 9:30 am. Our first stop is No. 99 Wayne Gretzky Estates, where Peller Estates head winemaker Craig MacDonald (whose birthday it was) tours us around the winery and the distillery. We are greeted with a glass of Magnotta Blanc de Blancs Chardonnay sparkling wine before touring the operation with its amazing collection of Wayne Gretzky memorabilia and videos of his hockey triumphs.

Magnotta Blanc de Blancs Chardonnay
A sparkling greeting

Much taken by the spirits classroom with rustic desks that open up to reveal sample glasses. Craig tells us the two biggest sellers here are Wayne Gretzky Baco Noir ($15.95) and Wayne Gretzky Cream Whisky ($34.95). A tasting of Pinot Grigio 2016, Estate Series Shiraz Cabernet 2015 and Vidal Icewine 2016, followed by samples of Wayne Gretzky No. 99 Red Cask and Ice Cask Whisky. Then the Cream Whisky that tastes rather like Bailey’s Irish Cream.

Gretzky eaux de vie

Wayne’s World of Spirits

Our group of 12 walks next door to Trius for lunch. The accompanying wines: Trius Barrel 12050 Chardonnay 2013, Trius Showcase Clark Farm Pinot 2014, Trius Showcase Clean Slate Wild Ferment Sauvignon Blanc 2015. Emma Garner, “Ontario’s Riesling Queen,” joins us briefly at lunch and the staff pours her delicious Trius Showcase Ghost Creek Riesling 2016.

Trius winery

Welcome to Trius Winery Restaurant. Creamed Butternut Squash Soup: Carrot Muffin, Squash, Candied Walnuts and Pumpkin Seeds. Manitoulin Island Trout: Celeriac Slaw, Chardonnay Shrimp, Crab Croquettes, Fingerling Potato, Green Beans, Icewine Beets, Pea Shoots and Lemon Curd
Sponsor tour menu at Trius

Manitoulin Island Trout

Trius Showcase Ghost Creek Riesling 2016

Our final stop: 13th Street, where they make THE BEST BUTTER TARTS IN THE WORLD. We tour the winery and the impressive sculpture garden with the elevated mound before settling in for a tasting of 13th Street Brut, Chardonnay 2015, Gamay 2016, Pinot Noir Essence 2011 (I bought two bottles on the way out) and Cabernet Sauvignon 2015.

standing display banner with picture and text: PROUD TO BE THE 2017 GRAPE KING [picture] Doug Whitty, 13th Street Winery
Doug Whitty, owner of 13th Street and this year’s Ontario Grape King

13th Street Winery Cuvée Rosé Brut
Welcoming sparkling rosé

Barrel room art at 13th Street

Also picked up a dozen butter tarts and six to the people returning to Toronto on the bus. Deborah had joined us for lunch at Trius and drove me home.


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 668: Unpacking, Unpacking, Unpacking

It's an IKEA Antilop, as seen in the store
Buying a high chair for granddaughter Isla’s first visit

Monday, October 2nd: Today is the closing day for the sale of our Toronto condo. We are living out of boxes, hundreds of them, unwilling to unpack too much of the kitchen stuff because the cupboards are being redesigned. Discovered a rank smell emanating from the floor of the sunroom at the back of the kitchen that leads to the garden. On investigation it turns out there there’s a huge wasp nest on the underside of the floorboards. Contacted the exterminators to have it removed. Pinot loves the garden and has made a spot under a tree among vegetation her own.

Tuesday, October 3rd: Had to come into Toronto for a medical appointment at 10 am – GO bus from Fairview Mall in St. Catharines to Burlington, from where I take the GO train to Union Station. Following my medical appointment, a tasting at the LCBO (the next Vintages release). Then back on the GO train. While I was in Toronto a 500-bottle wine cabinet was being construced in the hall leading to our bedroom. Now I can unpack the wines that have been sitting in the garage.

Wednesday, October 4th: Another day of emptying boxes. Walked Pinot along the water at Martindale Pond.

a path through trees in a park
Fall comes to Port Dalhousie

Thursday, October 5th: Into Toronto again for a winerytohome.com tasting at Doug Towers’s with David Lawrason. Deborah drove me, as she is picking up her sister Suzanne to come and stay for the weekend. After the tasting, made my way over to Michael Vaughan’s in High Park. He, Rosie and I drove to the Distillery District to see the farce Picture This. The traffic was horrible and instead of eating onion soup at Cluny’s we had to settle for a hurried pick-up pizza in the car – I had had pizza for lunch at Doug Towers’s! Slept the night at Michael’s.

Friday, October 6th: Michael and I went over to the LCBO for a Vintages tasting of the October 28th release. (Don’t miss the Kilian Hunn Pinot Noir 2014 from Baden ($18.95). Amazing value for a Burgundian style Pinot.)

Kilian Hunn Pinot Noir 2014
Terrific Baden Pinot 2014

My daughter Annabel, her husband Ian and their boy Declan are visiting from Vancouver. And my son Guy, his wife Sasha and their daughter Isla are also coming to stay. So we have a full house. Deborah is working the show at Balls Falls for the next three days.

Annabel with an armful of our grandchildren

Saturday, October 7th: Suzanne and I went shopping at the covered market in St. Catharines. Picked up a shoulder of pork, which Ian roasted for dinner. Opened up a double magnum of Stratus Red 2004, which was delicious.

Sunday, October 8th: Dinner at John and Laurie Nadeau’s, who are near neighbours – turkey and all the trimmings with lots of Domaine Queylus Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Merlot.


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 667: Moving House

Martindale Pond, Port Dalhousie

Monday, September 25th: Wrote up a month’s worth of wine reviews for my 680 NEWS spot. Began packing up my office for the big move to St. Catharines on Saturday. In the afternoon went downtown to meet Iris Di Cicco, US Brand Manager for Cesari winery in Veneto. Tasted the following wines:

  • Cesari Mara Valpolicella Ripasso 2014: Dense purple colour; spicy, peppery, plum nose; medium to full-bodied, dry, firm, high-toned, plum flavour with lively acidity and grainy tannins. (88)
  • Cesari Mara Valpolicella Ripasso 2015: Deep ruby colour; cherry bouquet with dusty note; medium-bodied, dry, fresher than the 2014, light and lively on the palate. (88.5)
  • Cesari Mara Valpolicella Ripasso “Bosan” 2013: Deep ruby colour; pencil lead, black cherry nose with a herbaceous note; medium to full-bodied, fresh and lively, sour cherry flavour with an herbaceous note, lively acidity and well-integrated oak. (89)
  • Cesari Amarone della Valpolicella 2012: Deep ruby colour; herbal, black cherry, raisiny nose; full-bodied, richly extracted, dry, velvety mouth-feel; firmly structured with grainy tannins. (89)
  • Cesari “Il Bosco” Amarone 2010: Deep ruby colour; earthy, rose petal and cherry bouquet with graphite and herbal notes; full-bodied, rich and full on the palate with flavours of cherry and dark chocolate; ripe tannins. (90)
  • Cesari “Bosan” Amarone Classico Riserva 2008: Deep ruby colour; high-toned, raisiny, dried cherries and licorice nose; full-bodied, rich, well-balanced, spicy, dark chocolate, cherry and plum flavour with a firm tannic finish. (91)

Tuesday, September 26th: Recorded my 680 NEWS reviews. My producer, Stewart Hammill showed me the new studios where I’ll be recording next month. For dinner, with steak, Quails’ Gate Old Vines Foch 2015: Dense purple colour; cedary, vanilla oak and spicy blackberry nose; medium-bodied, dry, herbal-floral blackberry and sandalwood flavours; creamy mouth-feel with lively acidity and a bitter chocolate note on the finish. (89)

Wednesday, September 27th: Finally got around to tasting a series of Joie Farm wines.

  • Joie Farm Gamay 2015 (Naramata Bench, BC – $25.90): ruby colour; earthy, cherry nose; medium-bodied, dry, spicy cherry and red plum flavours backed by lively acidity. Fresh and fruity. (89)
  • Joie Farm PTG 2015 (Naramata Bench, BC – $25.90; 70% Pinot Noir/30% Gamay): ruby colour; cherry pit nose with a candied raspberry note; medium-bodied, dry, lovely mouth-feel; cherry, red plum with a licorice note and a floral grace note. (90)
  • Joie Farm Pinot Noir 2015 (Naramata Bench, BC – $25.90): medium ruby colour; savoury raspberry nose with an oak note on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, firmly structured, plum and cherry flavours with ripe tannins. (88.5)
  • Joie Farm “En Famille” Reserve Pinot Noir 2015 (Plein de Vie Vineyard, Naramata Bench, BC – $39.90): medium ruby colour; earthy, cherry with oak spice on the nose, tobacco and floral top notes; medium to full-bodied, dry, cherry and currant flavours; velvety mouth-feel, richly extracted, firmly structured and well-balanced with resolved tannins. (92)
  • Joie Farm “En Famille” Reserve Chardonnay 2015 (Con Vida Vineyard, Skaha Bluff, Penticton, BC – $29.90): bright straw colour; minerally, apple with a forest floor note on the nose, well integrated oak; full-bodied, ripe pear and apple flavours backed by spicy oak, buttery but dry and well-balanced with vanilla oak notes. Lovely mouth-feel with a long, Meyer lemon finish and a note of toasty oak. (91)
  • Joie Farm “En Famille” Riesling 2015 (Old Block St. Hubertus Vineyard, Kelowna, BC – $27.90): bright, pale straw colour; minerally, lime and grapefruit nose; medium-bodied, off-dry, honey, lime and grapefruit flavours that linger on the palate; nicely balanced. (89)
  • Joie Farm Reserve Gewürztraminer “En Famille” 2015 (Naramata, BC – $28.90): bright, medium straw colour; rose water and lychee nose; full-bodied, just off-dry, opulent, exotic cardamom, Turkish Delight flavour, well-balanced, elegant and lingering. The best Gewurz I’ve tasted from BC. (93)
  • Joie Farm Brut “Quotidien” 2016 (Okanagan Valley – Riesling and Chardonnay – Charmat process): white gold colour; biscuit, apple nose; medium-bodied, dry, apple, ginger flavour; good length. (89)
  • Joie Farm Plein de Vie Brut 2016 (Okanagan Valley – 45% Pinot Meunier/36% Chardonnay/18% Pinot Noir): deep pink colour; candied raspberry nose; medium-bodied, dry, fruity, raspberry and red plum flavours; easy drinking. (88.5)

Thursday, September 28th: A meeting with the lawyer to hand over keys of the condo and pick up house keys and garage door remote for the new house. A day of packing. Three guys from the movers arrived with boxes. When they left there was still much to be done. Broke for dinner with a bottle of Vivanco Crianza 2012 (Rioja): Deep ruby in colour; a nose of sandalwood, spicy red licorice with cedary notes; sweet plum and currant flavours; ripe and well-balanced. (90)

Friday, September 29th: A day of packing, packing, packing.

Our last Toronto condo sunset

Saturday, September 30th: Moving day. Drove Deborah and Pinot the Wonderdog down to St. Catharines to move in to our new house. Pinot was very confused, wanting to get back into the car to drive back to Toronto. A period of adjustment for all of us.


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 666: Last Dinner Party

Monday, September 18th: Lunch at Toula in the Harbour Castle Hilton with my old friend Ellen who lives in Washington, DC. We met in London in the 1970s. She reminded me that I had introduced her to Michel Couvreur, who was a Burgundy shipper in those days, now selling malt whisky. Before dinner opened a bottle ofClosson Chase Mosaic Charmat Method Sparkling 2010 (medium straw colour; off-dry style, very much in Prosecco style – 88).

Tuesday, September 19th: Spent the day shopping and preparing for tonight’s dinner party with old friends Patrick and Alexandra and Guy and Mika. Raided the wine cellar for some gems I have cellared for several years:

  • Laurent Perrier Cuvée Rosé Brut
  • Domaine de la Vougeraie Famille 2002 with spicy shrimp, stuffed mushroom caps, duck and goose foie gras pâté, skewers of grape tomatoes and bocconcini
  • William Fèvre Chablis Bourgros 2013 with smoked trout
  • Château Lafite 1989 and Château de Valandraud 2000 with barbecued butterflied leg of lamb, fingerling potatoes, baked heirloom carrots and barbecued asparagus
  • Antinori Albis 2006 (Cabernet Sauvignon 72%, Carménère 28%) with an assortment of cheeses
  • Alvear Solera 1927 Pedro Ximenez with peach tart

A great evening of food, wine and conversation – the last dinner party we will hold in our Toronto condo!

Wednesday, September 20th: Began writing my Lexpert magazine column about new research in cork production to alleviate the problem of cork-tainted wines.

Dropped in to the 5th annual portfolio tasting of Mark Anthony. Lots of terrific wines on offer. Scored many 90 or above. Really liked:

  • Mission Hill Martin’s Lane Simes Pinot Noir 2014
  • Hidden Bench Felseck Vineyard Chardonnay 2013

Hidden Bench Felseck Vineyard Chardonnay 2013

  • Distel Anchorman Chenin Blanc 2016
  • Nederburg Motorcycle Marvel Rhone Blend 2015

Nederburg Motorcycle Marvel Rhone Blend 2015

  • Rodney Strong Symmetry Meritage 2013
  • Rodney Strong Rockaway Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
  • Rodney Strong Alexander Crown Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
  • Beaulieu Vineyard Tapestry Red Wine 2013

Beaulieu Vineyard Tapestry Red Wine 2013

  • Chateau St. Jean Cinq Cepages 2012

Chateau St. Jean Cinq Cepages 2012

  • Etude Carneros Estate Pinot Noir 2014
  • Brumont Chateau Boucasse Madiran Vieilles Vignes 2006
  • Louis Latour Corton Charlemagne 2015
  • Louis Latour Corton Grancey 2015
  • Louis Latour Meursault Blagny 2015
  • Schloss Johannisberg Rotlack Kabinett Trocken 2016
  • Achaval Ferrer Quimera 2013

Achaval Ferrer Quimera 2013

For dinner, with lamb left over from Tuesday’s dinner party, Quails’ Gate Merlot 2015 (purple ruby colour; sandalwood and blueberry nose; full-bodied, sweet blueberry flavour with oak spice, richly extracted with a note of chocolate on the finish (89)).

Thursday, September 21st: Went for a blood test. Started cleaning out old files in order to cut down the volume for the move next week.

Friday, September 22nd: A Vintages tasting, 130 products. I tasted 56 since I have a charity tasting to conduct in Etobicoke this evening. Deborah drove me there and helped set up the tasting. I selected an all-Ontario list:

  • Huff Estate Cuvee Peter 2010
  • Chateau des Charmes Aligoté 2011
  • Angels Gate Chardonnay 2010
  • 13th Street Gamay Noir 2013
  • Trius Chalk Farm Pinot Noir 2014
  • Hillebrand Cabernet Franc 2008
  • Thirty Bench Red 2005/2007
  • Chateau des Charmes Late-Harvest Riesling 2005

Saturday, September 23rd: Deborah and I hosted a Niagara winery tour for members of her Unity church. I told them I worship at the Church of Dionysus. Twenty-two of us on a bus from the church in Mississauga. A blisteringly hot day. Our first visit was to Pillitteri, where the hospitality guide, Zack, showed us around. He told us the Pillitteri is the world’s largest single-estate producer of icewine. In the mercifully cool cellar we were ear-witnesses to a bended-knee proposal (she said “Yes!”). We marvelled at the Guinness Book of Records‘ Largest Poured Concrete Table – 500 inches – and the metal chairs hung around the walls whose geometric designs depict the history of the Pillitteri family. Then upstairs to the tasting room for:

  • Pillitteri Fusion Gewurztramner Riesling 2016
  • Pillitteri Market Collection Cabernet Merlot 2014
  • Pillitteri Vidal Icewine 2013
  • Pillitteri Cabernet Sauvignon Icewine 2013

While we were having our sandwich lunch in the covered picnic room, Gary Pillitteri came in to greet the group.

Next stop, Niagara College Teaching Winery. We were greeted with a glass of Niagara College Balance Sparkling Wine before a tour of the Teaching College’s cellars. Then upstairs to the tasting room for:

  • Niagara College Balance Riesling 2015
  • Niagara College Pinot Noir 2015
  • Niagara College Dean’s List Meritage Icewine 2012

The final visit was to Flat Rock Cellars, where proprietor Ed Madronich showed us around after a brief look at the vineyard while sampling a glass of Flat Rock Cellars Good Karma Chardonnay 2015. Upstairs in the six-sided tasting room with a great view over the vineyards we tasted the following wines – Ed insisting we try the red wine before the white, as they do in Burgundy:

  • Flat Rock Cellars Pinot Noir 2015
  • Flat Rock Cellars Twisted 2016

Followed by a sample of the craft beer, an IPA, produced by the Shawn & Ed Brewing Company.

On the drive back to Mississauga, our bus driver got into a minor accident about 600 metres from where we left our car. No-one was hurt, only metal.

For dinner with pasta and meat sauce, Fairview’s Goat Do Roam Red Blend 2016 (deep ruby purple in colour; savoury, blackberry nose with herbal notes; medium to full-bodied, dry, plummy blackberry flavour (88)).


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 665: House Purchase

Sunday, September 10th: Went over to Michael Vaughan’s and did some tasting:

  • Bouchard Père & Fils Maçon Lugny 2015 (Burgundy  – $18.50): yellow straw in colour; a nose of hay, apple, light floral tone and a mineral note; medium-bodied, rich and ripe, pineapple and apple flavours with a touch of sweetness from a warm vintage. Full on the palate. (89 – BB)
  • Bouchard Père & Fils Petit Chablis 2015 ($22.20): pale straw in colour; dusty, green nut nose of green apple with a mineral thread; medium-bodied, dry, fresh and lively on the palate and quite ripe for a Petit Chablis, with lemony-lime acidity and good length. (89 – BB)
  • Bouchard Père & Fils Pouilly-Fuissé 2015: bright straw colour; a nose of green tobacco leaf, apple and melon; medium-bodied, ripe apple, pineapple and lemon flavours; well-balanced and clean with good length. (90 – BB)
  • Henry of Pelham Pinot Gris 2016 (Niagara Peninsula): golden straw colour; spicy, peach it and peach puree nose with a mineral note and light florality; medium-bodied, dry, apple and white peach flavours that tend to fade on the finish. (87.5)
  • Henry of Pelham Chardonnay 2013: pale straw colour with a hint of lime; a nose of apple, undergrowth with a toasty note; medium-bodied, ripe apple flavour; good mouth-feel, broad on the palate with a warm alcoholic finish. (88.5 – T)
  • Cave Spring Pinot Gris 2016 (Niagara Peninsula – $16.95): bright straw colour; minerally, peach pit nose; medium-bodied, dry with an apple core flavour and lively acidity. (87)
  • Henry of Pelham Riesling 2016 (Niagara Peninsula – $14.95): bright straw colour; minerally, grapefruit zest nose; medium-bodied, off-dry, honeyed grapefruit and lime flavours; well-balanced with good  length. (89 – BB)
  • Henry of Pelham Pinot Noir 2016: medium ruby colour; cherry bouquet with a light floral note; medium-bodied, dry, richly extracted cherry and red plum flavours, ripe and full on the palate with ripe tannins and a firm finish. (89 – BB)
  • Cave Spring Cabernet Franc 2015 (Niagara Escarpment – $17.95): deep ruby-purple colour; cedary, plum nose with a herbal note; medium-bodied, dry, oaky, plum and redcurrant flavours; firmly structured with a rich mouth-feel and a lively spine of acidity. (89 – BB)
  • Henry of Pelham Baco Noir 2016 ($14.95): deep ruby-purple in colour; cedary, black cherry nose; medium-bodied, dry, spicy (almost peppery) cherry and plum flavours with balancing acidity and good length. (89 – BB)

After the tasting, Michael, Rosie and I went to an Indian restaurant (Leila’s on Dufferin) to celebrate Michael’s brother Kim’s birthday. Top-notch Indian food.

Monday, September 11th: Spent virtually the whole day inputting wine notes, not a task I relish.

Tuesday, September 12th: Worked on wines I’m donating to a charity tasting for St. Joseph’s. The successful bidder wants to expand the number of guests which means an extra bottle of each wine. Wrote up a tasting sheet for the event. Then tasted Cantina Tollo Colle Secco Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2014 ($9.40): Deep purple-ruby in colour; spicy plum and tobacco nose with a light floral note; medium-bodied, dry, fruity, plum and cherry flavours with fresh acidity, ripe tannins and a note of old wood on the firm finish. Great value. (88.5)

Wednesday, September 13th: Typed up my phone interview with the cork guys in Portugal, then went for another chiropractor session for my shoulder. Went to visit Roberto Baycrest but he was sleeping so I left without disturbing him.

Deb is away in Mexico so I’m eating alone. She’s with 19 women for an extreme Zumba week – whatever that means. Probably extreme Margarita week. Opened a bottle of La Linda Old Vines Malbec 2014 ($15.95): dense purple colour; cedary, blackberry and blackcurrant nose with vanilla oak and a floral top note; medium to full-bodied, high-toned, fresh and fruity black fruit flavours; beautifully balanced. (89)

Thursday, September 14th: A meeting at Terroni with Doris, the President of Grapes for Humanity Canada, and two of the directors, Liz and Cathy, to discuss next May’s “Uncorked” event. We decided that the theme country will be Spain. In the evening Gordon Pape picked me up to drive down to the Palais Royale for a fund-raiser for Muscular Dystrophy Canada. Lots of food and drinks with spectacular entertainment.

Las Mulas Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2015
Wine at Palais Royale

Three ladies in sequined white one-pieces singing on a stage; the one in the middle has a large white plume headpiece
Entertainment at fund-raiser

Friday, September 15th: The bridge loan for the new house finally came through on the day we are meant to close the deal. Picked up the keys and the garage remote from the lawyer. Celebrated by opening a couple of Henry of Pelham wines:

  • Henry of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Chardonnay 2016 ($27.95): yellow straw in colour with a spicy, oaky, tropical fruit nose; medium-to-full-bodied, dry, richly extracted flavours of mango and pineapple with oak spice; the oak is nicely integrated and the wine has a long, graceful finish. (91)
  • Henry of Pelham Cabernet Merlot 2016: deep ruby in colour; cedary, plum and cherry nose; medium-bodied, dry, plum and currant flavours with a savoury-herbal note; a well-balanced wine. (88.5)


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 664: Moving Experiences

Monday, September 4th: Wrote up my wine reviews for 680 NEWS and spent some time in the wine cellar on the second level of the parking lot, boxing wines for the move. I’ve sold the cellar to a chef in the building. For dinner with barbecued steak, Franciscan Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (deep purple-ruby colour; cedar, vanilla oak and black plum bouquet; medium-bodied, dry, savoury, herb-tinged black plum and blackcurrant flavours (89.5)).

Tuesday, September 5th: More packing of wine. Coming across some interesting bottles I’d forgotten I had. Going to miss this cellar.

Wednesday, September 6th: Recorded my 680 NEWS wine reviews at the Rogers studio on Bloor Street. In the evening to Terroni on Adelaide for a meeting with Franco and Barbara Prevedello, Joey Bersani and others to discuss a tribute dinner for Roberto Martella. Had a delicious bottle of Girlan Pinot Bianco 2016 from Alto Adige.

irlan Pinot Bianco 2016

Thursday, September 7th: Paid a whopping Visa bill from our cruise. Forgot the all the charges were in US dollars. A meeting with our lawyer for the purchase of the house. Signed forms till my hand dropped off. Why is it so complicated?

Dinner at Roz and Steve’s up in Thornhill. Steve is my fishing buddy who makes gourmet meals on an open fire in the bush on our trips 200 miles north of Yellowknife.

Steve Cohen, master bush chef

Ubered there, which took forever. Great meal – smoked salmon, veal chop and fresh strawberries. Amazing wines – Zind Humbrecht Riesling 2005, Domaine Rousseau Gevrey-Chambertin 1999, Louis Latour Romanée-Saint-Vivant 1999 and Wild Duck Creek Estate “Duck Muck” Shiraz 2007 (16.5% alcohol, from Victoria – one of the best Shirazes I’ve tasted). A memorable meal.

Zind Humbrecht Riesling 2005

Domaine Rousseau Gevrey-Chambertin 1999

Louis Latour Romanée-Saint-Vivant 1999

Wild Duck Creek Estate 'Duck Muck' Shiraz 2007

Friday, September 8th: A Vintages release tasting to day – 121 products. Managed to taste 61. Then I went to New York fries. Deborah leaves for Mexico on a very early flight – with 20 women for a week of Zumba! – so she’s staying at a hotel by the airport.


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 663: Ode to the Order of Canada

standing banner: The Order of Canada: They desire a better country

Thursday, August 24th: Caught up with emails and correspondence after our Baltic cruise. Took my sore shoulder to Dr. Tim, my chiropractor, in the afternoon and then did some tasting:

  • Wolfberger W3 2015 (Alsace – $15.95; a Riesling, Muscat, Pinot Gris blend): medium straw colour; fragrant nose of honeysuckle, grapefruit and apple; medium-bodied just off-dry, full on the palate and loads of flavour. (89)
  • Manoir de Mercey Mercurey 2014 (Burgundy – $29.95): ruby colour; a nose of black raspberries with a floral note and oak spice; medium-bodied, dry and nicely balanced. (88.5)
  • Henry of Pelham Baco Noir 2016 (Ontario – $14.95): dense purple colour; savoury-herbal, blackberry bouquet; medium to full-bodied, dry, well-extracted, ripe blackberry flavour, well-balanced, fruity plum flavour with a herbal finish. (87.5)
  • Paolo Leo Passo del Cardinale Primitivo di Manduria 2017 (Puglia): dense purple colour; a nose of leather and plum; medium-bodied, dry, black plum flavour with lively acidity; a little short on finish. (88)

Friday, August 25th: A Vintages tasting today with 111 products released (except they didn’t put out the Dom Pérignon Luminous Brut Champagne 2006 (at $259.95 a bottle) – even though it was the 30th anniversary of the wine press tasting Vintages products). In the bad old days the LCBO would have single tasting glass in front of an open bottle from which we were all meant to taste! George Soleas, CEO and President of the LCBO, dropped by to mark the occasion and to tell us about the future plans for the Board.

Saturday, August 26th: Up early to walk Pinot before driving down to the Island Airport with Deborah for a Porter flight to Ottawa. As part of Canada’s 150th birthday celebration and the 50th anniversary of the Order of Canada, David Johnson, the Governor General, has invited all recipients of the Order to an outdoor reception in the grounds of Rideau Hall. Some 800 recipients responded and each was allowed one guest.

Rideau Hall grounds

Deborah and I in Rideau Hall’s greenhouse

I was delighted to see Donald Ziraldo, Paul Bosc Senior and Anthony von Mandl there. Anthony, who had flown in from Vancouver, told me that his 101-year-old mother witnessed the presentation of his medal the evening before. We all had the opportunity to tour Rideau Hall and admire the art as well as the gardens and green houses. Wines from Ontario, BC and Nova Scotia were served. Joining the Governor General on stage for the opening remarks were all former GGs, plus Julie Payette, who will succeed David Johnson.

Governors General

George Elliott Clarke, the Parliamentary Poet Laureate, read his poem “Ode to the Order of Canada” in both official languages. There were inspirational remarks by the Honorable Chantal Petitclerc and Marc Kielburger and musical performances by a jazz ensemble – all Order recipients: Tommy Banks, Terry Clarke, P. J. Perry Guloien, Jens Lindemann and John Geggie, with vocals by Suzie LeBlanc.

David Blackwell

I ran into an old friend whom I hadn’t seen for 34 years from my CBC Radio days, Bernie Lucht, who produced the Ideas series for years.

Our return flight from Ottawa was delayed over 80 minutes, but I have to say that the snacks they serve on Porter are far superior to what you get on Air Canada.

Monday, August 28th: Wrote my Quench column on off-site wine storage based on an interview with Marc Russell of the Fine Wine Reserve. Tasted the following wines:

  • Angels Gate GSM 2016 (Gamay, Shiraz, Merlot): ruby colour; savoury, cherry nose with a light floral note; medium-bodied, dry, fresh and lively on the palate; lovely mouth-feel. (90)
  • Barossa Valley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2016: deep purple colour; herb-tinged blackcurrant nose; medium to full-bodied, dry and somewhat tart with a savoury finish. (88)

Tuesday, August 29th: Went to the bank to negotiate a bridging loan for the new house, then wrote up thirty wine reviews for Quench magazine before an appointment with my chiropractor for the pain in my neck (no, not the bank loan).

For dinner with grilled salmon, Black Hills Alibi 2016 (Okanagan Valley: 70% Sauvignon Blanc, 30% Semillon): pale straw in colour; peach pit nose with a floral and lightly grassy note; more Viognier-like, full-bodied, dry, fresh and fruity with a peachy flavour. (91)

Wednesday, August 30th: Spent an hour on the phone with Carlos De Jesus, Portuguese Cork Association (APCOR) Operational Director Peter Weber, Executive Director of the Cork Quality Council in Portugal. APCOR had taken exception to an article I had written about tainted corks. They wanted to tell me of the most recent developments in eradicating TCA from corks. The rest of the day I spent getting the paperwork together for the bank. What a business. Dinner with Irvin and Carol Wolkoff. Irv opened a bottle of 1935 Fearon Block Port, which was delicious.

1935 Fearon Block Port

Thursday, September 1st: A Winerytohome tasting at Doug Towers’s – 40 wines tasted, after which we all had dinner. Doug had asked David Lawrason to bring along a wine that was not from Ontario. We both brought something from BC: David, Black Hills Carmenère 2015, and I, Checkmate Black Rook Merlot 2013 (which, unfortunately, was corked).

Friday, September 2nd: Down to the LCBO lab to taste a dozen new wine listings. After this, Michael Vaughan introduced me to TNT, the Chinese supermarket on Cherry Street. Bought quail’s eggs, shrimp and corn for a dinner party on Saturday.

Then back to my place with Michael for a tasting of wines that had been accumulating:

  • Trius Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (Niagara Peninsula – $14.95): pale straw colour; grassy, white peach nose; medium-bodied, dry, grapefruit and green plum flavours with a sweaty, honeysuckle note on the finish. (88.5)
  • Thirty Bench Winemaker’s Blend Chardonnay 2015 (Niagara Peninsula – $19.95): light straw colour; apple nose with oak spice, on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, apple and pear flavours with toasty oak notes, a light floral component and a long lemony finish. (89)
  • Peller Estate Riesling 2015 (Niagara Peninsula – $12.95): pale straw colour; honeyed grapefruit and apple with a light petrol note; medium-bodied, just off-dry with honey, grapefruit and lime flavours. Good length. (87.5)
  • Trius Rosé 2016 (Ontario – $15.95): salmon pink in colour; light strawberry nose; light to medium-bodied, red apple with lemon; fresh on the palate with a strawberry candy finish. (86.5)
  • Raven Conspiracy Deep Dark Red 2016 (Niagara Peninsula – $15.95): deep ruby-purple colour; earthy, sweet, clovey, confected, medium-bodied, off-dry, dusty, short, sweet red apple flavour. (85)
  • Wayne Gretzky Cabernet Merlot 2015 (Niagara Peninsula – $14.95): ruby-purple colour; cedary, red plum and redcurrant nose; light to medium-bodied, spicy, juicy and fruity, dry with a firm finish. Good value. (88)
  • Peller Estates Baco Noir 2015 (Ontario – $11.95): deep purple colour; smoky, reductive nose of black cherries and bitter chocolate with a charred note; medium-bodied, dry, smoky, sandalwood flavour and a firm finish. (87.5)
  • Thirty Bench Red 2014 (Beamsville Bench – $24.40): deep purple-ruby in colour; cedary, blackcurrant with oak spice; medium-bodied, dry, lean and sinewy, redcurrant and red plum flavours carried on lively acidity. Petit château claret style with a firm tannic finish. Hold for a couple of years and will improve. (88.5)
  • Bodega Altaza Lealtanza Rioja Reserva 2011 (Rioja – $19.90): ruby-plum colour with a mature rim; cedary, sandalwood nose of strawberry puree; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, beautifully balanced, firmly structured with a long finish. Great mouth-feel finishing freshly. (89)
  • Trius Showcase Red Shale Cabernet Franc 2014 (Four Mile Creek – $48.95): deep, dense purple colour; pencil lead, cedar, blackcurrant and blackberry nose; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, beautifully balanced and firm; richly extracted, juicy with lively acidity and great length and coffee bean note on the finish. Lovely mouth-feel. (93)
  • Tinhorn Creek Chardonnay 2016 (Okanagan Valley): medium straw colour; popcorn, apple nose; spicy, pineapple flavour with lemony, oaky, full-bodied, orange, mango and lemon flavours. (86)
  • Tinhorn Creek Pinot Noir 2014 (Okanagan Valley): light tawny-ruby; earthy, tomato leaf, cherry nose; medium-bodied, beetroot and cherry; cooked strawberry and bitter tannins. (86.5)
  • Tinhorn Creek Cabernet Franc 2015 (Okanagan Valley): dense purple colour; cedary, vegetal nose of blackcurrant; medium-bodied, herbaceous, ground coffee, plum flavour with grainy tannins. (87)
  • Tinhorn Creek Merlot 2015 (Okanagan Valley): deep purple-ruby colour; cedary, plum nose; medium-bodied, dry, earthy, plum flavour with gripping tannins. (88)
  • Tinhorn Creek The Creek 2014 (55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 9% Malbec, 2% Petit Verdot): deep ruby colour; cedary, dried herbs, black fruits on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, fresh acidity, red and blackcurrant flavours. (88)

For dinner with steak, Porto Carras Limneon 2015 from Greece (deep ruby colour; a nose of plum leather and oak spice; medium-bodied, dry, savoury plum flavour with fresh acidity and ripe tannins. (88)).


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