A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 594: Hola Dinner

Monday, April 18th: A beautiful day today with a high of 24°C. Spent much of the day putting the panels together for the Ontario Wine Awards. This year the tasting will be on one day (May 7th) instead of two days. It will take place at George Brown College with six panels of four judges and two invited student guests.

Watched a little of a rare morning baseball game – the Jays beat the Yankees in a nail-biter. In the evening got down to some tasting:

  • Joie Farm Un-Oaked Chardonnay 2015 (Okanagan Valley – $22.90): pale straw colour; Golden Delicious apple nose with apple blossom and leesy notes; medium-bodied, dry, fresh with great texture. Beautifully balanced. (90)
  • Joie Farm Pinot Blanc 2015 ($22.90): pale straw with a peach pit nose, light floral notes and some effervescence; medium-bodied, peachy-melon flavour with a thread of minerality; good mid-palate fruit with a touch of sweetness. (89.5)
  • Joie Farm Yellow Muscat 2015 ($22.90): pale straw colour; aromatic, cardamom and orange blossom nose; beautifully balanced, medium-bodied, lovely mouth-feel with a rose water and honeyed orange flavour. (91 points; I would have given more if there was a touch more acidity.)
  • Joie Farm A Noble Blend 2015 ($23.90): A blend of Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Auxerrois, Pinot Blanc, Muscat and Schoenberger. Light straw colour, aromatic spicy, cardamom, orange blossom nose with a mineral note; medium-bodied, dry, rosewater, lychee, grapefruit and melon flavours. (90)
  • Joie Farm Re-Think Pink! Rosé 2015 (Pinot Noir and Gamay – $20.90): deep pink colour; strawberry and raspberry nose with a leafy note; light-bodied dry and fruity with a good spine of acidity. Lovely mouth-feel. (89)

Tuesday, April 19th: Down to the LCBO to taste wines from next month’s Vintages release that I had missed on Friday. Spent the rest of the day working on Ontario Wine Awards business. Before dinner got down to some more tasting:

  • Closson Chase Pinot Gris K. J. Watson Vineyard 2015 (Prince Edward County): very pale straw colour; minerally, peach pit nose; light to medium-bodied, herb-tinged, green peach flavour with citrus acidity. (87.5)
  • Closson Chase The Brock Chardonnay 2014: straw colour; winter apple and undergrowth nose; sweet apple flavour, judiciously oaked, medium-bodied, buttery-apple flavour, seamless on the palate with a long finish. (89)
  • Closson Chase Vineyard Chardonnay 2014: straw colour; smoky, spicy, toasty nose; medium-bodied, light on the palate with apple, orange and clove flavours; new oak flavours to the fore. Needs a little time to meld. (88 – 90).
  • Closson Chase Pinot Noir K. J. Watson Vineyard 2014: palest ruby colour, rather like a deeply-coloured rosé; lifted, delicate nose of strawberries and undergrowth; light to medium-bodied, somewhat dilute and restrained*, very delicate and lacy. (86)
  • Uggiano Falconeri Cabernet Sauvignon di Toscana 2008 ($41.75): Dense ruby-black colour; cedary, spicy plum bouquet; high-toned, richly extracted flavours, high alcohol. Licorice and plum flavours with a volatile note and lively acidity. Cabernet Sauvignon with a small amount of Sangiovese.

For dinner with chicken stir-fry, Mark West Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir 2012 ($24.95): deep ruby colour; a floral nose of vanilla oak and black raspberry; medium to full-bodied, dry, plum and black raspberry flavours. Lovely mouth-feel and well-balanced with ripe tannins. (91)

Wednesday, April 20th: Spent much of the day working on the Ontario Wine Awards. In the evening to a private house to conduct a fun tasting for a charity group. They had to answer the following questions about two wines on four tables served blind:

Table 1 (Chardonnay & Sauvignon Blanc):
1. What is the grape variety of each wine?
2. Which wine comes from Chile – A or B?
3. Which wine is the costlier – A or B?

  1. Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Les Clous Meursault 2013 ($44.95; Vintages #661322)
  2. Miguel Torres Santa Digna Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (Chile – $14.95; Vintages #177444)

Table 2 (Two Cabernet Sauvignon wines):
1. Which wine is Old World and which is New World?
2. What region or country does each wine come from?
3. Which is the costlier – A or B?

  1. Trapiche Fincas Las Palmas Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (Mendoza, Argentina – $16.95; Vintages #143206)
  2. Château L’Argenteyre 2010 (Médoc, Bordeaux – $22.95; Vintages #441246)

Table 3 (Two Pinot Noir wines):
1. Which wine comes from Ontario – A or B?
2. Which wine is older – A or B?
3. Which is costlier – A or B?

  1. Norman Hardie Unfiltered Niagara Pinot Noir 2010 ($39; Vintages #208702)
  2. Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir 2013 (Chile – $10.95; LCBO #341602)

Table 4 (Syrah and Shiraz):
1. What is the grape variety common to these two wines?
2. Which wine is from the Rhone Valley?
3. Which is the costlier – A or B?

  1. Guigal Crozes-Hermitage 2012 (Northern Rhône – $28.95; Vintages #704908)
  2. Penny’s Hill Cracking Black Shiraz 2013 (McLaren Vale, South Australia – $21.95; Vintages #396473)

Thursday, April 21st: A winerytohome tasting at Doug Towers’s.

Friday, April 22nd: A desk-clearing day before I depart for London to judge in the Decanter World Wine Awards competition. Also worked on the novel, which was a pleasure.

Deborah and I went for dinner to Hola Tapas Bar (1298 Queen Street West). This is a gem of a tiny restaurant – elBulli writ small. Cesar Penalver doesn’t call himself a chef but he makes the most interesting and inventive menu I have had in Toronto for years.

Cesar Penalver

We put ourselves in his hands and we had a series of his small plates:

Aceitunas liquidas: Liquid olives (marinated in olive oil and fresh rosemary)

Liquid olives (inspired by Ferran Adrià)

Bombones de alcachofa y trufas: Artichokes and truffles (artichoke bites served over Brie cheese sauce and topped with truffle salsa, caviar and oil)

Artichokes and truffles

Capresa reconstruida: Hola Caprese salad (dehydrated tomatoes with fresh buffalo mozzarella, basil and olive oil dust)

Hola Caprese salad (eaten like a hamburger)

Terrina de pato y trucha ahumada: Duck and smoked trout terrine (duck breast and smoked trout pate served with red and black caviar, rosemary mustard and green apple gel)

Duck and smoked trout terrine

Sopa fria y caliente de ajo porro con galleta de papa: Cold and hot leek soup (with house made potato chip)

Cold and hot leek soup (top half cold, bottom half hot)

Bocadillos de pollo: Three ways chicken canapés (chicken Chicharron, ginger butter chicken, chicken velouté, aïoli, green onions, ginger caviar and seaweed)

Jamón, datiles y melon: Prosciutto-wrapped dates, served warm over house-made melon caviar and gel

We finished with an amazing dessert, Cesar’s take on crème brûlée: Espuma de crema Catalana (airy foam made of infused milk with orange, lime zest and cinnamon) served with a glass of sweet sherry.

Espuma de crema Catalana

An amazing meal.


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 593: MCIII

Monday, April 11th: A seminar on California Pinot Noir this morning at 11 am in the Royal York’s Ontario Room, conducted by Karen MacNeil, author of The Wine Bible. We tasted 13 Pinots. My favourite was Au Bon Climat “Alexander Knox” Pinot Noir 2012. This was a prelude to the sparkling wine reception and traditional lunch (with the traditional menu of braised and grilled beef). Karen MacNeil gave the address and presented each table with a copy of her book for the person whose birthday was nearest today’s date.

Karen MacNeil, Napa: California Pinot Noir...Rising. Toronto, April 11, 2016

Karen MacNeil

Au Bon Climat "Alexander Knox" Pinot Noir 2012
My Pinot of choice

After lunch, the annual California tasting in the ballroom. Mercifully, there was a quiet room for the wine press to taste as there is always a mob scene at this event. Two stand-out Napa Cabernets were Cedar Knoll Vineyard Co. Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 and Palmaz Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2012. After all that California wine, for dinner I opened a bottle of Masi Costasera Amarone 2011 (ruby colour; a nose of dried cherries and cedar with a barnyard note; medium to full-bodied, dry, savoury cherry flavour with lively acidity and a lovely, velvety mouth-feel (91)).

Cedar Knoll Vineyard Co. Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Palmaz Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Tuesday, April 12th: Wrote my On the Go magazine column and tasted a couple of wines:

  • Schloss Vollrads Riesling Qualitätswein 2012: happily not in the winery’s Trocken style – a beautifully poised Riesling with flavours of honeyed grapefruit and lime, perfectly balanced and more towards Spätlese than QbA. (92)
  • Joie Farm Muscat 2015 (Okanagan): pale straw colour; aromatic, cardamom and orange blossom nose; beautifully balanced, medium-bodied, lovely mouth-feel with a rose water and honeyed orange flavour. Their best yet. (91points –I would have given more if there was a touch more acidity)
  • EastDell Black Label Cabernet Merlot 2013 (Ontario): purple-ruby colour with a cedary nose of plums and currants; medium-bodied, dry, savoury plum flavour with good acidity. (87.5)

Wednesday, April 13th: Drove Deborah and her friend Sally to the airport. They’re off to Mexico for a week.

At 3 pm down to the Distillery District to meet Benoit Gouez, the cellar master for Moet et Chandon, to taste their newest champagne concept, MC III.

Benoit Gouez

But first Gouez led us through a component tasting of the base wines before secondary fermentation – Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the 2013 vintages, then the vintage champagnes that go into the blend. The composition of the final blend is as complex as the wine tastes! The primary component or “tier” is the still Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wine (50/50) aged in stainless steel. The second tier are the still reserve wines of 1 to 5 years old. The third tier are great vintages of champagnes that are 5 to 10 years old. Benoit Gouez calls them “the three universes” – stainless steel, wood barrel and glass bottle. The primary tier is made up of wines from the 2003 vintage; the second-tier vintages are 1998, 2000 and 2002. The third tier is a blend of vintages 1993, 1998 and 1999. The finished wine was ten years in the making. And after all that, what does it taste like? Golden straw in colour, it has an expressive nose of white flowers, citrus, white peach with a nutty note; elegant and full on the palate with a creamy texture and great balance. (98)

Moet’s MCIII

Thursday, April 14th: Wrote my Post City column. In the late afternoon drove up to the Franklin Fishing Club to conduct a tasting, comparing New World and Old World wines of the same varietal:

30 Bench Triangle Vineyard Riesling 2013 (Ontario)
2013 Pierre Sparr Lieu Dit Altenbourg Riesling 2013 (Alsace)

William Fevre Champs Royaux Chablis (Burgundy)
Beringer Founder’s Estate Chardonnay 2013 (Napa)

Latour Pinot Noir (Burgundy)
Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir (Chile)

E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône (Rhone)
Are You Game Shiraz (Victoria, Australia)

Friday, April 15th: A Vintages release tasting today. Really needed those French fries on the way home. Watched the Jays lose to the Red Sox. Don’t have a good feeling about this series.


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 592: Argentina Week

Tesseron cognacs

Monday, April 4th: Flew back from Seattle after a week of touring wineries and tasting at the wine show. For dinner with roast chicken, MacMurray Estate Vineyards Russian River Pinot Noir 2013 (deep purple-ruby colour;  spicy, black cherry and cedar nose; medium-bodied, dry, cherry flavour with well-integrated oak finishing on a cranberry note (90)).

Tuesday, April 5th: A make-up tasting for the Vintages release I missed. Then over to Michael Vaughan’s house to taste a range of Tesseron cognacs with Select Wines’ VP Dan Shorrocks and export manager Jacques Chastenet. The family, who also own Pontet Canet, only makes XO quality and above. Founded by Abel Tesseron in 1905, it was third generation owner Alfred Tesseron who launched their own brand in 2003.

  • Tesseron XO Ovation Lot 90 (a blend of cognacs; the average age is 13 years; 100% Ugni Blanc from Grande Champagne, Petit Champagne and Fins Bois): Amber colour; spirit, vanilla, caramel and wood spice nose; rich and elegant, orange peel, caramel and toast flavours. Mellow on the palate with great length. (92.5)
  • Tesseron XO Tradition Lot 76 (100% Ugni Blanc from Grande Champagne; the average age is 25 years): Deep amber colour; spicy, honey, dried fruits and caramel on the nose; nutty, dried stone fruit flavours; mouth-filling, rich, elegant and seamless . Great length. (94)
  • Tesseron XO Perfection Lot 53 (100% Grande Champagne from 90% Ugni Blanc and 10% Colombard; the average age is 50 years): Deep amber colour; spicy, creamy, caramel, vanilla, butter and dried fruits on the nose; lovely mouth-feel that fills the palate with toasty, dried peach flavours. Seamless with great persistence. (96)
  • Tesseron XO Lot 29 (the average age is 75 years; Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche and Colombard from Grande Champagne): Deep amber colour; spicy, buttery, woody, vanilla rancio nose; rich and full on the palate; sweet and elegant, toasty  orange and peach flavours with a creamy texture and amazing length. (97)
  • Tesseron XO Extreme (from 10 Paradis demijohns dating from 1853–1906 in the Paradis, the average age is 100 years, distilled from pre-and post-phylloxera vines from Grande Champagne, only 300 special 1.75-litre bottles produced at $12,000 each): Deep orange amber colour; spirit, nutty, vanilla oak and dried fruits; intense, sweet and full on the palate with mouth-filling flavours of honey, toast, butter and Macadamia nuts. Velvety mouth-feel, full-bodied with great length finishing on a spicy, tangerine peel note.

This is the only spirit I’ve given 100 points to

For dinner, beef stew with Tempo Morellino di Scansano 2012 (deep purple-ruby colour; cedary, dusty nose of cherries and tobacco with a light floral note; medium-bodied, dry, black cherry flavour with lively acidity and a savoury, leather finish (89)).

Wednesday, April 6th: Wrote an article on Washington wines for Lexpert magazine. Dinner at Edulis with our friends Joe and Laurissa. We opted for the 5-course meal. Joe brought a Puligny-Montrachet Les Champs Gain 2006  and I brought along a bottle of Château Haut-Bailly 1989. Both wines behaved perfectly.

Thursday, April 7th: Spent the morning inputting tasting notes from Tuesday’s Vintages tasting. Wrote up my Wines of the Week. In the afternoon I was meant to have a video tasting with Ignacio Lopez, the head winemaker at Graffigna in San Jan, Argentina but I couldn’t make the internet connection; so we conducted the tasting of two Malbecs by phone! Sunday April 17th is International Malbec Day and this was a precursor.

  • Graffigna Centenario Malbec Reserve 2014 (aged in French and 15% American oak, 100,000 cases): Dense purple colour showing a spicy, cedary, plum bouquet with dark chocolate and vanilla oak notes. Medium-bodied, dry, blackberry and plum flavours carried on lively acidity and contained in a firm tannic framework. A bargain at $13.95. (88)
  • Graffigna Malbec Reserve 2012 (grown at high elevation, aged in French oak, 10,000 cases): Dense purple colour with a creamy, spicy nose of dark chocolate with a floral-cedary note; full-bodied and richly extracted flavours of blackberry and dark chocolate with grainy tannins. Carries its 14.5% alcohol well. (90)

Then down to Hola Tapas Bar to conduct a tasting of Argentinian wines with food.

Infused seafood (shrimps, mussels, baby scallops cooked in a vacuum siphon), paired with Catena Chardonnay 2014

Atun con tomate (albacore tuna on nori-seaweed-infused sunflower oil and tomato peach sauce) with Alamos Torrontes 2015

Pate de cordero (lamb pate, caramelized onions and spicy red pepper sauce) with Fincas Las Palmas Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Ravioles de cerdo con salsa de chimichurri (house-made egg pork ravioli with chimichurri butter sauce) with La Posta Armando Bonarda 2014

Carpaccio vegetal (watermelon carpaccio, Parrano Gouda cheese, fresh mint and capers) with Los Clop Reserva Malbec 2010.

Los Clop Reserva Malbec 2010

Friday, April 8th: Down to the LCBO for a tasting of 14 newly listed wines. They also put out a few spirits, which I don’t normally taste, but I couldn’t resist trying the three Irish Whiskies from Redbreast – 12 Year Old Cask Strength, 15 Year Old and 21 Year Old. Too pricey for my budget, unfortunately.

Came home to find my computer has a virus which makes it impossible for me to see my Calendar or Contacts and I couldn’t read sent emails. Time for a new computer. Drowned my sorrows with a bottle of William Hill North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (deep ruby colour; cedar, plum and currants on the nose; medium-bodied, plummy and juicy with fresh acidity leading to a firm finish. (88)).


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 591: Taste Washington

Taste Washington • Taste Greatness

Monday, March 28th: Clearing my desk to leave for Washington tomorrow for a tour of wineries and the Taste Washington festival. For dinner, steak with a bottle of Bridlewood Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($19.95 – Dense purple colour; spicy-savoury nose of dark chocolate and red berries with a floral note; full-bodied, dry, juicy with a smoky, blackcurrant, blackberry and bitter chocolate flavour (88)). Continue reading

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 590: One Of A Kind

Monday, March 21st: Another writing day. Our friends Adrienne and Myra came to dinner. Myra likes champagne so I opened a bottle of Taittinger Brut. We served mussels with Waterkloof Seriously Cool Chenin Blanc 2014 from Stellenbosch and grilled salmon with Henry of Pelham Estate Pinot Noir 2010. Deborah had bought a huge tub of profiteroles from Costco which we overindulged in.

Tuesday, March 22nd: Spent the much of the day writing and then got down to some tasting.

Cesari Soave Classico 2014 (Veneto): light gold colour; grapefruit and white peach nose; light-bodied, crisply dry, citrus and apple flavours with an intriguing touch of bitterness on the finish. (88)

Wakefield Promised Land Unwooded Chardonnay 2014 (South Australia): light gold colour; leesy, apple nose; medium-bodied, dry, melon and apple flavours with a touch of sweetness in mid-palate and an apple-peel bitterness on the finish. (87)

Mauro Chardonnay 2014 (Puglia – $12.30): bright straw colour; apple nose with undergrowth notes on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, sweetish apple with lively acidity and a shortish blunt finish. (86)

Château Haut Philippon 2014 (Bordeaux – $14.95): very pale colour; grassy, grapefruit nose; medium-bodied, dry, green apple, grapefruit and elderberry flavours.  Great value. (88)

Henry of Pelham Chardonnay Estate 2014 (Ontario – $19.95): bright straw colour; light spicy nose of apple and butter; medium-bodied, dry, apple, white peach and citrus flavours; well-balanced, fresh and lively on the palate. Good length. (89)

Jackson-Triggs Viognier Okanagan Reserve Series 2014 ($15.95): bright straw colour; aromatic, lychee, peach and honeysuckle nose; medium-bodied, rich and mouth-filling, melon and lychee flavours with a floral grace note and a tangerine acidity finish. Great value. (89)

Gérard Bertrand La Clape Syrah Carignan Mourvèdre Grand Terroir 2011 (Coteaux Languedoc –  $18.95): deep ruby colour; earthy, black raspberry nose with wood spice; dry, medium-bodied, lean and sinewy with lively acidity. (87)

Mauro Primitivo del Salento Alberello 2014 (Puglia – $11.95): deep ruby colour; earthy plum with spicy oak; medium-bodied, dry with lively acidity, plum and cherry flavours with a note of clove on the finish. Good value. (87.5)

Culmina R &D Red Blend 2014 (Okanagan Valley – $25.95): deep ruby colour; spicy black fruits with a blackcurrant note; medium to full-bodied, dry with ripe black plum and currant flavours with notes of coffee bean and dark chocolate carried on lively acidity with a firm finish. Hold for a couple of years. (89 – 91)

Miguel Torres Cordillera de los Andes Carmenère 2009 (Curico, Chile – $21.95): dense purple colour; spicy, vanilla oak, new leather, blackberry nose; full-bodied, sweet blackcurrant and blackberry flavour with mocha chocolate flavours, finishing with grainy tannins. Lovely mouth-feel. (91)

Torres Salmos 2012 (Priorat – $35.95): deep purple-ruby colour; minerally-spicy nose of toasted herbs and blackberries; full-bodied, dry, creamy black fruit flavours, lovely mouth feel , long satisfying, savoury finish of black plums and well-integrated oak; firmly structured. (92)

Wednesday, March 23rd: Deborah is working at the One Of A Kind Show this week, helping out in a booth that sells “fruit pearls” – various fruits that have been molecularly changed into small pearls that explode with flavour in the mouth. The producer, from Quebec, suggests you put them in champagne.

Worked on the book and wrote my Post City column. For dinner with Italian sausage risotto, Ruffino Modus Toscana 2012 ($29.95): A blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot – deep ruby colour with a cedary, cherry and blackcurrant bouquet; medium-bodied, dry and savoury with nicely resolved tannins and a firm finish. (91)

Thursday, March 24th: A day of chores – dropping off wine to the successful bidder of a Grapes for Humanity auction, visiting the bank to transfer funds to Access Education Guatemala for the school GFH is building there.

Friday, March 25th: Good Friday. After dropping Deborah down to Exhibition Place for the show, I drove to Princess Margaret Hospital to give a blood sample for a PSA test. Took Pinot T. Wonderdog for a long walk.

Saturday, March 26th: I picked up Deborah from the One Of A Kind Show and drove over to Michael Vaughan’s in High Park for a tasting and dinner.

Remy Pannier Sauvignon Blanc 2014: pale straw colour; grassy, gooseberry, slightly dusty, green tobacco nose; light to medium-bodied, tart, green plum with lively acidity; good length. (87.5)

Remy Pannier Muscadet 2014: bright straw colour; discreet nose of  crab apple, green nuts, and citrus peel nose; medium-bodied, soft mouth-feel, dry, lemony mid-palate, crab apple finish. (87)

Firestone Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (Santa Ynez Valley): light straw colour; earthy, green plum and melon the on the nose; medium-bodied, full in the mouth, dry, with a bitter almond finish. (88)

Remy Pannier Rosé d’Anjou 2014: pale salmon colour; pomegranate with a light floral note; light-bodied, off-dry, apple skin, cranberry and citrus flavours. (88)

Pascual Toso Malbec 2014 (Mendoza, Argentina): (14% alcohol) deep ruby colour; spicy, earthy, black cherry nose; perfumed, floral, fruity with the suggestion of sweetness but delivers dry on the palate; no great length, finishing on greenish tannins. (86)

Pascual Toro Malbec Limited Edition 2013: dense purple colour; dark chocolate, black fruits with a cedary note on the nose; full-bodied, rich and spicy, black cherry, well-extracted sweet fruit kept in check by lively acidity and ripe tannins, finishing on a licorice note. (88.5)

We brought over some goose pâté mousse and a jar of Apple Pearls that Deborah had picked up at the show.

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 589: It’s a Girl!

Monday, March 14th: Wrote my Quench column on Grenache and submitted 30 wine reviews for the magazine. Called Sadie Darby in Hawaii to discuss the Lieutenant Governor Awards judging. Tasted Jackson-Triggs Entourage Brut 2011: light straw colour with an active mousse; citrus and apple nose with a mineral thread; medium-bodied, dry, green apple, citrus and almond flavour; elegant with good length. (90)

Tuesday, March 15th: A day of paying bills and sending emails. Sent some articles to the magazine I write for in China. Dinner at L’Avenue. Brought along a bottle of 19 Crimes Shiraz Durif 2014 (Victoria, Australia – $16.95): dense purple-black in colour; peppery, herbal black fruit nose; full-bodied, dry and savoury with a firm tannic finish. (88.5). Ota opened a bottle of Big Head Botrytis Affected Chenin Blanc 2014 (Ontario – $34.00): old gold colour; honeyed pear nose; rich and full on the palate, the sweetness tempered by balancing acidity – an impressive, broad-shouldered wine. (90)

Wednesday, March 16th: Great news today. Guy phoned to say that the ultrasound shows that Sasha is going to have a girl (in August). Spent much of the day printing off Blue Jay tickets and renewing my licence and car sticker on line. For dinner, baked tilapia with a bottle of Baron de Hoen Riesling Reserve 2014 (Alsace): straw colour; lime and green apple with a minerally, floral note; medium-bodied, dry, green apple, grapefruit and lime flavours with tangerine-like acidity and a touch of bitterness on the finish. (88)

Thursday, March 17th: Spent a productive day working on the novel and then got down to some tasting:

  • Lagaria Chardonnay 2013 (Trentino – $13.55): light lemon colour; minerally, apple and citrus nose; medium-bodied, dry, apple skin flavour, a little short on finish. (86)
  • Peller Estates Pinot Gris 2012 (Niagara Peninsula – $18.95): straw colour; white peach and peach pit nose; medium to full-bodied, dry with well extracted fruit with a touch of bitterness and browning apple on the finish. (86)
  • Flat Rock Cellars Riesling 2014 (Twenty Mile Bench – $16.95): very pale with a hint of lime; minerally citrus nose developing petrol notes; off-dry, medium-bodied, honey and grapefruit flavours. Well-made and good value. (89)
  • Thirty Bench Small Lot Gewurztraminer 2013 (Beamsville Bench – $30): old gold colour; lychee, rose petal and pink grapefruit nose; dry, medium-bodied, richly extracted cardamom and lychee flavours. Mouth-filling with a lingering Turkish Delight finish. (91)
  • Kim Crawford Corner 50 Vineyard Merlot Cabernet 2013 (Hawke’s Bay, $29.95): dense purple-ruby colour; cedar, sandalwood, smoky, spicy black fruit nose; medium to full-bodied, dry, plum and currant flavours with lively acidity and soft tannins; creamy mid-palate. (88)
  • Toscolo Chianti Classico Riserva 2010 (Tuscany – $25.95): ruby with a mature rim; leather, coffee, cherry with a cedary note on the nose; dry, lean, cherry and bitter chocolate flavours with powdery tannins. (87)
  • Kacaba Terraced Vineyard Syrah 2013 (Niagara Escarpment- $24.95): dense purple colour; spicy, black olive, blackberry nose with evident oak; dry, medium-bodied, black cherry and dark chocolate flavours – marred by a hint of cork (but a good wine is lurking there).
  • Kacaba Proprietor’s Block Syrah 2013 (Niagara Escarpment – $24.95): dense purple colour; spicy, cedar, blackberry, pepper nose; medium-bodied, dry, savoury, black cherry with a lively spine of acidity – a seamless wine. (89)
  • Sledgehammer California Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($16.95): deep ruby colour; cedary, spicy, currants on the nose; full-bodied, dry, fruit-driven with a savoury, truffle note. Touch of sweetness in mid-palate. (87)
  • Sledgehammer California Zinfandel 2013 ($16.95): deep ruby-purple colour; leather and plum nose with some wood spice; full-bodied, sweetish plum and tobacco flavours. Easy drinking with a soft descent. A good commercial wine. (87.5)
  • Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (Maipo Valley – $21.95): dense ruby-purple colour; very Bordeaux on the nose – cedar and blackcurrant; full-bodied, dry, richly extracted, tar, dark chocolate and black fruit flavours. Mouth-filling with ripe, powdery tannins. (89)

Friday, March 18th: Before going to LCBO for the Vintages April 2nd release tasting, tasted Ascheri Barbera d’Alba 2014 (Piemonte – $16) : deep ruby colour; cherry, plum and wood spice on the nose; medium-bodied dry and savoury with a sour cherry flavour’ mellow tannins, well balanced with fresh acidity. Good value. (89)

Saturday, March 19th: Went to the Eaton Centre to check out new laptops. Mac or Microsoft? Leaning towards a Mac even though it will be a learning curve for me.


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 588: Benvenuto Brunello

Monday, March 7th: Wrote my 680 NEWS wine reviews and spent the rest of the day inputting wine reviews from last Friday’s Vintage release tasting. Then tasted a couple of wines and a spirit:

  • Two Sisters Merlot 2012: deep ruby colour; a nose of cedar, blueberry and blackcurrant with a spicy, toasty oak note; medium to full-bodied, dry, well-extracted blueberry and black cherry flavours; full in the mouth, with well integrated oak and a floral grace note. Firmly structured with ripe tannins. Hold for two years. (90)
  • Two Sisters Cabernet Franc 2012: deep ruby colour; cedar, savoury nose of vanilla oak, pencil lead, black fruits with a herbal note; medium-bodied, dry, somewhat tight at the moment, dark chocolate and currant flavours carried on a lively spine of acidity to a cinnamon finish. (89–90)
  • Writers Tears Pot Still Irish Whiskey ($50.30): old gold colour; honey, heather, orange peel, caramel and spicy oak on the nose; mellow, rich and full on the palate with a lingering buttery, malty flavour. (93.5)

For dinner, smoked meat from Street Deli with Fantini Numero Uno Primitivo 2014 (dense purple colour; spicy, plum with cedar on the nose – very New World in style, creamy mouth-feel (87)).

Tuesday, March 8th: Down to the AGO for a big “Benvenuto Brunello” tasting – 37 wineries, not only pouring Brunello di Montalcino but Rosso de Montalcino, 115 wines in all, mostly from the 2010 and 2011 vintages from Brunello and 2014 for the Rossos. I didn’t get to taste them all but I got a good impression of the two Brunello vintages: 2010 was very rich, full and forward while 2011 was more elegant and restrained and will cellar longer. My top scoring Brunellos were:

Altesino Brunello di Montalcino 'Montosoli' 2011

  • Altesino Brunello di Montalcino “Montosoli” 2011 (93)
  • Altersino Brunello di Montalcino 2011 (91)
  • Carpazo Brunello di Montalcino 2011 (93)
  • Celestino Pecci Brunello di Montalcino 2011 (92)

Celestino Pecci Brunello di Montalcino 2011

  • Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello di Montalcino 2011 (92)
  • Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino 2010 (92)
  • Argiano Brunello di Montalcino 2011 (91)
  • Barbi Brunello di Montalcino 2010 (91)
  • La Fortuna Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2010 (91)
  • Mastrojanni Brunello di Montalcino Vigna Loreto 2011 (91)
  • Rendola Brunello di Montalcino 2004 (91)

Rendola Brunello di Montalcino 2004

  • Podere Le Ripi Brunello di Montalcino 2010 (90)
  • Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello di Montalcino 2009 (90)
  • Val di Suga Brunello di Montalcino 2011 (90)

Top Rosso di Montalcino:

  • Altesino Rosso di Montalcino 2011 (91)
  • Rendola Rosso di Montalcino 2009 (90)
  • Molino di Sant’Antimo Rosso di Montalcino 2011 (89)

Wednesday, March 9th: Recorded my 680 NEWS wine reviews and prepared for a tasting of red wines for my condo in the party room. The wines were:

  • San Pedro Gato Negro 9 Lives Reserve 2015
  • Josh Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
  • Young Brute 2014
  • Trius Red Shale Cabernet Franc 2012
  • Sisters Run Grenache Shiraz Mataro 2014
  • Bolla Creso 2011

Thursday, March 10th: Drove down to Niagara College with Sandy Kurbis, in the rain, for a meeting to discuss holding the presentation of Ontario Wine Awards medals there on June 1st. Lunch at their Benchmark Restaurant. Heard that the college is going to open a teaching distillery in addition to their winery and brewery.

For dinner with grilled steak, La Crema Pinot Noir 2014 (deep ruby colour; a nose of cherries with dialled-back oak; spicy, smoky cherry flavour, rich mouth-feel, full-bodied and well balanced. Much more restrained than previous vintages in terms of oak (91)).

Friday, March 11th: Spent the day working on the novel. Up to 45,000 words. In the evening we invited some neighbours around for drinks. They all brought their dogs, which meant we had four dogs running around the condo. Pinot was the perfect hostess, allowing her guests to root around in her toy basket and share her treats. We got through a lot of opened bottles of red from Wednesday’s tasting and I opened two whites:

  • Montes Twins Sauvignon Blanc Chardonnay Vioginer 2015 (Chile): pale straw colour; aromatic, honeysuckle, peach and apple nose with a grassy note; medium-bodied and dry. (88)
  • Domaine Millet Chablis 2014: straw colour; apple blossom and ripe apple nose; richly extracted and mouth-filling for a Chablis, crisply dry with a firm finish. (89)


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