A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 649: Birthday Dinner

it's very small and cylindrical on a large white plate with a tiny candle standing next to it
My Alo birthday cake

Sunday, May 7th: Judging the Lieutenant Governor’s Awards for Excellence in Ontario Wines at IWEG’s offices. Taking the 22 top scoring wines from the Ontario Wine Awards and having them judged by Igor Ryjenkov MW, Eugene Mlynczyk MW, Bruce Wallner MS, Jennifer Huether MS, Magdalena Kaiser, Astrid Brummer and myself. Finally settled on 11 as worthy of the distinction of an LG Award.

Monday, May 8th: Wrote up my 680 NEWS wine reviews – 8 of them (four weeks’ worth) since I’m leading a group to Italy on May 18th for 11 days. Prepared a dinner party for our friends Arlene and Michael. Champagne Henriot Blanc de Blancs to start with smoked salmon and nuts; then Deborah’s exotic fruit and vegetable salad with Louis Jadot Chassagne-Montrachet Grandes Ruchottes 2009. Main course: Ontario lamb chops on the BBQ with over baked potatoes with rosemary and green beans, with Cos d’Estournel 1982. Cheese course with Vincent Paris Cornas “La Geynale”2011. Dessert: chocolate cheesecake with Alvear Solera 1927 Pedro Ximenez.

Tuesday, May 9th: Wrote up the tasting notes for the winning wines in the Lieutenant Governors’ Awards and then got down to some tasting.

  • Matua Hawkes Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (New Zealand, $17.15): very pale, almost water white with a faint lime tint; grassy, minerally, green peach nose; medium-bodied, dry, gooseberry and grapefruit flavours, fresh and zesty with good length. (88.5)
  • Kacaba Susan’s Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (Niagara Peninsula – $15.95): almost water white with a green tint; minerally, reductive nose of grapefruit rind; medium-bodied, dry, mouth-filling, citrus, kiwi and green apple flavours. (87)
  • Kacaba Jennifer’s Pinot Gris 2016 (Niagara Peninsula – $17.95): pale straw colour with a pink note; minerally, peach blossom and white peach nose; medium-bodied, dry, earthy, peach pit flavor. (86)
  • Kacaba Rebecca Rosé 2016 (Niagara Peninsula -$17.95): pale pink colour; floral, banana and strawberry nose; medium-bodied, just off-dry with banana and watermelon flavours. (87)
  • Kacaba Cabernet Syrah 2015 (Niagara Escarpment): deep purple colour; cedary, herbal nose of black fruits; medium-bodied, floral, blackcurrant and blueberry flavours; beautifully balanced, sweet and savoury flavours of blackcurrant and blackberry with herbal notes carried on lively acidity. (90)
  • Oak Ridge Winery Old Zin Vines 2015 (Lodi, California, with 4% Petite Sirah – $21.95): deep ruby-purple colour; spicy, plum, tobacco and leather on the nose; full-bodied, sweet plum, milk chocolate and leather flavours with balancing acidity. A crowd-pleaser. (88.5)
  • Tinhorn Creek Chardonnay Oldfield Reserve 2015 (Golden Mile Bench, Okanagan – $34.99): straw-coloured, a nose of apple, hay and butter with a floral top note; full-bodied, rich and full in the mouth, spicy apple pie flavour with great length and a butternut finish. (90)
  • Tinhorn Creek Gewurztraminer 2015 (Golden Mile Bench, Okanagan – $15.99): light golden straw colour; spicy, lychee and ginger nose; medium-bodied, rich mid-palate lychee and rose water flavour with a touch of sweetness and enough acidity for balance. (88)
  • Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Reserve Rosé 2016 (Okanagan Valley – Cabernet Franc: $19.99): very pale pink (Provence style); minerally, wild strawberry and watermelon nose; medium-bodied, mouth-filling flavours of redcurrant and cranberry with just a touch of residual sugar to round off the palate. (88)
  • Château de Fontenelles Renaissance 2013 (Corbières – Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, Mourvèdre): dense purple colour; lovely floral blackberry nose; medium to full-bodied, dry, perfumed, black raspberry flavour with well-integrated oak. Lovely mouth-feel. (91)

Wednesday, May 10th: Should have gone to a speed dating tasting with New Zealand winemakers but was feeling awful. Stayed home and tried to sleep.

Thursday, May 11th: A Winerytohome tasting at Doug Towers’s with David Lawrason. The traditional pizza for lunch. A quick nap before heading down to Rosedale for a Grapes for Humanity fund-raiser called France Uncorked. It was held in a private house that accommodated over 200 people, with a tent in the garden. A great evening with lots of wine, oysters, cognac cocktails, cheeses, charcuterie, baby lamb chops.

Château Angludet Margaux 2011; Château Léoube Blanc de Léoube; Châtea Argadens Sauvignon-Semillon 2016; Champagne Hentriot Brut Souverain
Wines served at Grapes for Humanity’s France Uncorked

Friday, May 12th: My birthday. Deborah bought me a Hermès tie which I shall wear tonight when we dine at Alo. But first a Vintages release tasting and then a nap.

We decided to spoil ourselves with the tasting menu at the counter overlooking the kitchen, an amuse bouche followed by 14 courses with 12 wines. An amazing meal!

Sea Urchin / Raventos i Blanc 'de Nit' Rosé Cada 2014, Spain | Shima Aji / Dom. Gobelsburg Gruner Veltliner 2015, Austria | Toro / Camillo Montori 'Fonte Cupa' Pecorino 2015, Italy | Terrine / Künstler Riesling Trocken 2015, Germany | Olive Oil Custard / Gonzalez Byass 'Cristina' Olorosa Sherry, Spain | King Crab / Suertes del Marques 'Vidonia' 2016 Canary Islands, Spain | French White Asparagus / PearcePredhomme Pinot Gris 2015, USA | Squab / Burlotto Langhe Nebbiolo 2015, Italy | Venison Saddle / Frederique Brouca 'Clos Sauveplane' Faugeres 2013, France ≈ Bloor Orange | Roasted Dark Chocolate / Quinta Seara d'Ordens 10yr Tawny Port, Portugal | Pineapple / Barbosa Moscatel de Setubal 2013, Portugal ≈ Canelé · Cinnamon Donut | 05.12.17 | alo
Alo’s tasting menu

Alo’s amuse bouche

Alo’s butter

a small piece with some purées and garnishes and so forth
King Crab

Burlotto Langhe Nebbiolo 2015
The wine for squab

a nice piece with skin, with associated vegetables mostly under it with sauce

it's a very bubbly piece on what looks like a bed of Graham crumbs
Roasted Dark Chocolate

Saturday, May 13th: Sent off my Lexpert column on this year’s Decanter World Wine Awards. A Guatemala reunion dinner at Liz and David’s house with Adrienne and Myra, George and Anne. We had all been in Guatemala for the opening of a school funded by Grapes for Humanity.


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 647: Decanter World Wine Awards

table sign: Decanter World Wine Awards | icons for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram | @DecanterAwards | Tag us #DWWA

Monday, April 24th: Up at 6:30 am, as I was unfamiliar with the route to ExCel in the Docklands. The journey involved taking the Northern line tube from Kentish Town to Waterloo, changing to the Jubilee line for Canning Town and then transferring to the DLR over-ground to Prince Regent. It takes about an hour.

ExCel is a massive convention centre and it took a little while to find the entrance on the water side (not the Thames at this point but a vast docking area.) The centre occupies a 100-acre site on the northern quay of the Royal Victoria Dock in London Docklands, between Canary Wharf and London City Airport. At the briefing, Decanter’s publisher, Sarah Kemp, informed the judges (there are over 260 of us throughout the five-day judging) that we will collectively sample 17,200 wines from all over the world. I am the Regional Chair of the Canadian panel. My co-judges today are Barb Philip MW and Rees Pender MW from BC and Siniśa Lasan, a wine consultant from Croatia.

a loading dock with hundreds of boxes stacked three high in five rows more than 50 metres long each
Wine entries to the Decanter World Wine Awards

Our morning began with 8 sparkling wines and we awarded one gold medal. Next flight, 11 Pinot from BC and Ontario (one gold) followed by 9 Bordeaux blends from the Okanagan and then, before breaking for lunch, 11 Cabernet Sauvignons from both provinces. After a hearty lunch, including an enormous cheese tray, we returned to our room overlooking the water, to taste 8 Okanagan Chardonnay, 12 Medium-Dry Whites (including two from Nova Scotia), 13 Bordeaux blends and finally 11 Vidal sweet wines, two of which were sparkling. After the tasting we all repaired to the restaurant for a beer, a gin and tonic or a glass of Steven Spurrier’s Bride’s Valley Sparkling Rosé. Then the journey in reverse back to Kentish Town, where I am staying with my old friends, Carole and David Goldberg.

Sommelier with Bride’s Valley pink sparkler

Tuesday, April 25th: Down to ExCel once more. A new judge has joined us – Sandra Knowles, a buyer for The Wine Society here in England. The morning session started with 9 sparkling wines, followed by 9 Riesling (2 golds) and Gewurztraminer. Then 14 Pinot Noir followed by Sirah/Shiraz (a disappointing flight). After lunch 13 Chardonnay, 11 Merlot, 12 BC Bordeaux blends, finishing with 8 icewines, mostly Vidal but including 2 Chardonnay and a Vidal Icewine form Monterégie, Quebec (3 golds here).

Canadian panel: Rees Pender. Sandra Knowles, Barb Philip and me

In the evening I took my hosts to dinner at Delaunay Restaurant in Aldwych. I ordered salmon tartare and a dish I haven’t had since I lived in England – kedgeree. The bottle of Schloss Gobelsberg “Loess” Grüner Veltliner 2015 went beautifully with the lightly curried smoked haddock and rice.

Wednesday, April 26th: The morning started with Medium Dry Riesling from BC and Ontario (2 golds), followed by 9 single-variety wines – including Baco Noir, Gamay, Barbera, Tempranillo, Sangiovese and Malbec. Next, 7 Super-Premium Merlot and 13 Okanagan Syrah/Shiraz. After lunch, 9 Ontario Chardonnay, 14 Cabernet Franc, 10 Red Blends and, finally, 11 Riesling Icewines from both Ontario and BC. (Gold here too.) After a glass of rosé sparklng, I made my way over to the judges’ party ay the Bermondsey Yard Café on Bermondsey Street, near the Shard building. Had a couple of glasses of English sparkling wine (Winston Estate) and then wended my way back to Kentish Town.

three bottles of Wiston Estate wines in an ice bucket; the labels are pink, blue, and ivory, respectively

Thursday, April 27: Our final day of judging began with 11 Sauvignon Blanc, 10 Pinot Gris/Grigio. Ending before lunch with 10 red sweet wines (mostly Cabernet Franc Icewines). At one point the room started reverberating with sounds like thunder or a small earthquake. It turned out to be a loud bass used by Tony Robbins giving one of his inspirational seminars and whipping up his followers (disciples?) with loud rock music in another part of the building. Our final obligation was to retaste all the gold medal wines we had awarded to confirm they were worthy of gold and then choose the best wines for the Regional Trophy in each of those categories we had given golds.

Back to Kentish Town. Carole and I went for an Indian meal in the High Street, which I washed down with a Cobra beer (“an Indian beer brand manufactured in the United Kingdom and China,” according to its website). Packed to be ready for my return flight to Toronto tomorrow.

Friday, April 28th: Took the tube all the way to Terminal 2 at Heathrow, bought a doll as a present for my granddaughter and changed my seat. Got an aisle seat at the bulkhead, which means lots of leg room – and mercifully there are two vacant seats between me and a lady on the other aisle. Meal choice: the inevitable pasta or chicken. Wines, both red and white, barely drinkable.


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 646: Luce della Vita

Monday, April 17th (Easter Monday): A quiet day walking Pinot and getting ready for the Decanter World Wine Awards judging next week in London. Dinner – pasta with meat sauce and a bottle of Allegrini Palazzo della Torre 2013 (Veneto – $24.95): Corvina, Rondinella and Sangiovese blend (deep ruby colour; cedary, tobacco and cherry bouquet; medium-bodied, dry and savoury, concentrated cherry, plum and blackcurrant flavours with balancing acidity and a firm finish (89)).

Tuesday, April 18th: A meeting at the Fine Wine Reserve in Rexdale, where the wines for the Ontario Wine Awards are being put into flights. The purpose is to choose 9 or 10 labels for the Best Label Award, which will be voted on by the public on our Ontario Wine Awards website. Then down to the LCBO for a meeting about a new Ontario Wine brand.

a woman standing in a large room surrounded by portable tables each of which has dozens of bottles of wine on it
Sadie Darby flighting wines for the Ontario Wine Awards

Wednesday, April 19th: Spent much of the day on Ontario Wine Award business, emailing the 24 judges with final instructions and sending them ballots for the Winemaker of the Year Award. In the evening, Deborah and I went down to El Tenedor restaurant, where I conducted a dinner tasting of Spanish wines with Chef Cesar Penalver’s menu.

el tenedor restaurant wine bar presents WINES OF SPAIN | Menu created by Cesar Penalver | Wines paired by Tony Aspler | MENU | ENSALADA DE HUERTO; WINE PAIRED: HIDALGO LA GITANA MANZANILLA. Vintages LCBO: 745448. A garden Salad to welcome the spring; Apple dressing, vegetable earth, pea sprouts, sweet peas, carrots, broccoli, shiitake and enoki mushrooms | CHARCUTERIA MARINA; WINE PAIRED: MARQUES DE RISCAL WHITE. RUEDA. LCBO: 36822. Seafood charcuterie: experimental dish to make Albacore jamon, salmon chorizo and scallops-lobster butifarra | PASTA CON CABRA BORRACHA; WINE PAIRED: PACO Y LOLA ALBARINO. VINTAGES LCBO: 350041. (drunken goat) pasta filled with Albariño and goat confit, pear-Albariño-rosemary sauce and black truffle dressing | BACALAO NEGRO CON AJILLO AMONTILLADO; WINE PAIRED: LUSTAU ESCUADRILLA RARE AMONTILLADO SHERRY. VINTAGES 660324. Black cod served with garlic-amontillado and apple sauce. Parsley-garlic-red pepper aliolis | HELADOS DEL OLOR DEL VINO MENCIA; WINE PAIRED: ABAD DON BUENO CRIANZA 2006, BIERZO. VINTAGES LCBO: 244699. What is the flavour of the wine's aroma? Popsicles of: Strawberry-blacberry-cherry, tobacco and earth. Vanilla and Mencia gels

Thursday, April 20th: Drove to Niagara in the rain with Andrew Menceles to discuss a wine project with four Ontario wineries. In the evening, a dinner tasting at Toca in the Ritz Carlton Hotel with Lamberto Frescobaldi and Luce winemaker Stefano Ruini to taste a horizontal flight of Luce delle Vita. The wine was originally created as a co-production with Tim Mondavi in 1993 – and is historically a 50/50 blend of Sangiovese and Merlot in Montalcino.

  • Luce delle Vita 1997 (Merlot vineyard planted in 1976): mature ruby colour; a nose of tobacco, cherry, blackcurrant and orange peel with spicy, vanilla oak; medium-bodied, dry and beginning to dry out; firmly structured, ripe cherry and chocolate flavours carried on lively acidity. (92)
  • Luce delle Vita 1999: deep ruby-purple colour; creamy, spicy, cherry and vanilla oak nose with a floral note; rich and full on the palate. Beautifully balanced, sweet cherry flavour with cocoa powder tannins. Very elegant. A gorgeous wine. (94)
  • Luce delle Vita 2006: dense purple colour; cedary, vanilla oak, blackcurrant, plum and cherry bouquet; medium to full-bodied, firmly structured with cherry and dark chocolate flavours and grainy tannins. (92)
  • Luce delle Vita 2008: dense purple colour; spicy blackberry and pencil lead nose; rich and full on the palate with the characteristic cherry and chocolate flavours with grainy tannins. Still youthful – hold for five years. (91–93)
  • Luce delle Vita 2010: dense purple colour; cedary, spicy, biscuit nose of cherries, licorice, smoke and toasty oak; full-bodied, dry, creamy but firm with evident tannins. (92)
  • Luce delle Vita 2012: dense purple-ruby colour; more Sangiovese-like on the nose; full-bodied, dry, black cherry flavour with ripe, pliant tannins. More savoury than previous vintages, firmly structured with lively acidity. (92–94)

menu: TOCA, TORONTO, CANADA | First Course: Signature Ravioli 'Capresi' – Homemade ravioli stuffed with caciotta cheese, marjoram, tomato sauce | Second Course: A selection of the following: Rack of Lamb, Gnocchi alla romana – Gratin Roman gnocchi, butter, sage; Tagliata di Fiorentia – Fiorentina steak; Market Vegetables – a selection of vegetables | Third Course: Tortino ti gianduia – Gianduia ganache, hazelnut, milk chocolate mousse, maple gelato
Toca menu

Luce | First Course: Lucente IGT Toscana 2014 | Second Course: Luce IGT Toscana 2014 | Third Course: Luce Brunello di Montalcino2012
…and accompanying wines

6 wine glasses, each containing 1 ounce of red wine, in a semicircle around a closed menu
Luce Della Vita flight

Luce winemaker Stefano Ruini

Friday, April 21st: A visit to the Sleep Clinic with a Cpap machine to see Dr. Appleton and complain that it’s like a cat sleeping on my face. In the evening I conducted a fund-raiser tasting at St. Joseph’s School on Leslie Street (very near my son and daughter-in-laws’ house, so I could drop in to see my granddaughter Isla for a while). The event at the school was called “Silent Soirée” and parents of the students and teachers attended. The wines I chose to present were:

  • Mitchell Watervale Riesling 2014 (Clare Valley, South Australia)
  • M. Chapoutier Tournon Mathilda 2014 (Victoria, Australia)
  • Sacred Hill Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2016 (Marlborough, New Zealand)
  • Apaltagua Envero Gran Reserva Carmenere 2013 (Chile)
  • Château La Verrière 2014 (Bordeaux Supérieur)
  • Feudi San Pio Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2014 (Veneto)
  • Jaspi Negre 2013 (Montsant, Spain)

Saturday, April 22nd: Packing to fly to London as a Regional Judge in the Decanter World Wine Awards. My cheap flight stops in Ottawa.


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 645: Tasting Oregon

booklet: taste OREGON | a journey of discovery | OREGON WINE | The Distillery District, TUE APR 11 2017 | The Fermenting Cellar

Monday, April 10th: Wrote my 680 NEWS wine reviews for the next four weeks’ broadcasts, as I’m leaving for London next week for six days to chair the Canadian panel at the Decanter World Wine Awards. In the evening, over to Doug Towers’s house for a winerytohome.com tasting. David Lawrason came straight from the airport for it.

Tuesday, April 11th: A Taste Oregon event down at the Distillery District with an outdoor salmon bake (reminiscent of the annual International Pinot Noir Celebration in McMinnville).

large pieces of salmon held in wooden presses angled towards open fires on a brick pavement by a brick building, and a chef standing by them
Salmon bake at Archeo

In the Archeo Restaurant over 50 wines were set out on the bar for tasting. I concentrated on the Pinot Noirs. My top scoring wines were:

  • Maison Roy Petite Incline Pinot Noir 2013 (92)
  • Maison Roy Incline 2014 (92)
  • Sokol Blosser Dundee Hills Big Tree Block Pinot Noir 2013 (92)
  • Solena Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2014 (90)
  • Bergstrom Winery Cumberland Reserve Pinot Noir 2015 (90)
  • Mouton Oregogne Pinot Noir 2013 (90)
  • Trisaetum Winery Coast Range Estate Pinot Noir 2014

Maison Roy Petite Incline Pinot Noir 2013, Maison Roy Incline 2014
Two terrific Oregon Pinots

Also enjoyed a red blend from Seven Bridges Winery Prima Nata 2013 (Cabernet, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot – 90). Then into the main tasting in the Fermenting Cellar for more Pinots. Top scoring wines here were:

  • Domaine Drouhin Roserock Drouhin Oregon Zépherine Pinot Noir 2014 (94)
  • Adelsheim Reserve Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2013 (91)
  • Roserock Drouhin Oregon Eola-Amity Hills Pinot Noir 2014 (91)
  • Domaine Drouhin Dundee Hills Pinot Noir 2014 (90)
  • Roco Winery Chehalem Mountains Private Stash Pinot Noir 2014 (91)
  • Roco Yamhill-Carlton Marsh Estate Pinot Noir 2014 (91)
  • Sokol Blosser Dundee Hills Estate Pinot Noir 2014 (92)
  • Sokol Blosser Evolution Pinot Noir 2015 (91)

Altogether I tasted 45 Pinots. Overall I found that there is a new restraint in Oregon Pinots, very few over-extracted wines – much more delicate and elegant.

Then headed up to La Marquette for an Austrian tasting. Concentrated on Grüner Veltliner, My top scoring wines were:

  • Schloss Gobelsberg Ried Lamm 2015 (91)
  • Weingut Markus Huber Grüner Veltliner Reserve Alte Setzen 2014 (90)
  • Salomon Reid Alte Grüner Veltliner 2015 (90)

Finally, on to a Seder dinner at the Park Plaza with my family.

Wednesday, April 12th: Recorded my 680 NEWS reviews, then spent the day inputting notes on last Friday’s Vintages tasting before getting down to tasting the following wines:

  • Maison Aix Rosé 2016 (Aix-en-Provence – $22.95): very pale pink in the current Provence style; minerally, cranberry nose; medium-bodied, crisply dry, light and fresh on the palate with cranberry and rhubarb flavours. (89)
  • Henry of Pelham Riesling Estate 2016 (Short Hills Bench, Niagara – $17.95): colour with a lime tint; minerally, honeyed citrus nose; light to medium-bodied, off-dry, pale straw with well-balanced honey and grapefruit flavours. (89)
  • Cloudline Pinot Noir 2014 (Oregon – $28.95): light ruby colour; earthy, cherry nose; light to medium-bodied, dry, cherry flavour with a firm finish. (87.5)

Thursday, April 13th: Wrote an article for County Grapevine magazine, entitled “Pinot Noir, A Love Affair.” Had a meeting at the Arts & Letters Club with Piers Hemmingsen, who wrote The Beatles in Canada. He wanted to learn how I introduced Paul McCartney to Jane Asher in April 1963.

In the evening Deborah and I were invited to a dinner at Lena to celebrate Malbec World Day.

Consulate General of Argentina, Toronto | Wines of Argentina | Chipas Y pan / olives, pickles | Jamón / Ibérico aged 24 months | Ontario Garlic Shrimp / lemon, sliced garlic, white wine |~| Lamb Shoulder Bondiola / guajillo pepper, charred cabbage, root vegetables, potato gnocchi | Lala's Bravas Potatoes / pil pil, milk mayo | String Beans / green papper tomato sauce |~| Cheese Platter / assorted cheeses | Alfajores / shortbread, dulce de letche, coconut (packaged to go) | Freshly Brewed Coffee or Tea
Malbec menu

The wines:

  • Susana Balbo Crios Torrontes 2016 (Cafayete – $13.95): aromatic, honeysuckle and orange nose, dry and delicious. (89)
  • Mascota Vineyards Opi Chardonnay 2016 (Lujan de Cuyo, Valle de Uco, Mendoza – $10.95): medium-bodied, light on the palate; minerally, apple and lemon flavours, clean finish. (88.5)
  • Trapiche Finca Las Palmas Gran Reserva Chardonnay 2016 (Mendoza – $16.95): pale straw colour; white peach, apple and citrus flavours. (88)

Then into the Malbecs:

stick-on label saying MALBEC WORLD DAY by WINES OF ARGENTINA

  • Don David Reserve Malbec (Valle de Calchaqui (El Esteco) – $15.95): deep ruby-purple colour; savoury-herbal blackberry nose; dry, somewhat austere. (87)
  • Bodega Piedra Negra Malbec Reserva 2015 (Mendoza – $17; plus 20% Cot): dense purple-ruby colour; spicy plum and blackberry nose; medium to full-bodied, ripe and fruity with a floral note and a firm tannic finish. (89.5)
  • Don Paola Estate Malbec 2015 (Valle de Uco – $17.15): deep purple-ruby colour; spicy, floral blackberry nose with well-integrated oak; a well-balanced wine with well-extracted plum and blackberry flavours. (90)
  • Luigi Bosca D.O.C. Malbec 2014 (Luján de Cuyo – $29.95): deep ruby colour; pencil lead, blackberry, herbal nose; full-bodied, creamy blackcurrant flavour. (90)
  • Catena Alta Malbec 2013 (Mendoza – $49.95): deep purple-ruby; spicy, oaky, blackberry; full-bodied, creamy, sweet black fruit flavours. (89.5)

a young guy with curly hair and a beard, wearing a sweater over a button-up, holding an empty wine glass, in a dining room
Thibault Lepoutre, general manager, Bodega Piedra Negra

Then two Malbec blends:

  • Finca Agostino Shiraz Malbec 2014 (Valle de Uco – $19.60): dense purple colour; spicy, black fruits on the nose with vanilla note; full-bodied, dry, richly extracted blackcurrant with lively acidity and a floral note. (91)
  • Salentein Numina Gran Corte 2013 (Valle de Uco – $39: 62% Malbec, 21% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 4% Merlot): deep ruby colour; spicy blackberry and tobacco nose with a touch of licorice; medium to full-bodied, dry, red and blackcurrant flavours. (92)

Salentein Numina Gran Corte 2013

Friday, April 14th: Spent much of the day writing my novel and have reached the final chapter. Could finish it next week with luck.


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 644: California Wine Fair

Monday, April 3rd: The annual California Wine Fair at the Royal York. This is the 24th year, an event I always look forward to. The guest speaker was Leslie Sbrocco, who showed off her tattoo on her right calf. She said an older woman told her when she’s eighty it would look like a cognac snifter.

It's a champagne flute filled with rosé champagne on a swirly bubbly blue background, covering the lower half of the back of her right calf
Leslie Sbrocco’s tattoo

After the lunch I headed to the press room where I could taste sitting down in peace. I concentrated on the Pinot Noirs first:

  • Patz & Hall Pinot Noir 2014 (91)
  • Schug Pinot Noir 2015 (91)
  • Artesa Pinot Noir 2014 (90)
  • Longoria Pinot Noir Fe Ciega 2014 (89.5)
  • Marimar Estate La Masia Pinot Noir 2013 (89)
  • Reata Rosellina’s Vineyard 2014 (89)

Patz & Hall Pinot Noir 2014
A great California Pinot

Then into other reds. My top scoring wines:

  • Daou Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (94)
  • Etude Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (94)
  • C.G. Di Arie Syrah 2012 (92)
  • Duckhorn Merlot 2013 (92)
  • Signorello Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (92)
  • Twomey Cellars Merlot 2013 (92)
  • Groth Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (91)

Daou Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
My top scoring wine at the California tasting

In the evening, down to Bent Restaurant for Sopexa’s National final “of a friendly competition between three top sommeliers from Quebec, Ontario and BC who will have to create the best food and wine pairing with Chablis based on a single menu.” Participants taste the wines blind and vote on the best pairing after each course to elect “Best Sommelier Chablis.”

PURE CHABLIS NATIONAL FINAL | Monday, April 3rd, 2017 | Bent Restaurant | MENU | Amuse Bouche: Mexican Goats Cheese Tart, Roasted Peppers, Chinese Eggplant, Black Olive, Tomatillo | First Course: Gravlax & Spicy Salmon Tartare, Avocado, Egg, Lemon Crème Fraîche, Pickled Onion, Capers | Second Course: Korean Crispy Shrimp, Shoestring Potato, Shimegi & Enoki Mushrooms, Nori, Hong Kong Xo Sauce, Sweet and Sour Chili Glaze | Third Course: Wild Mushrooms Chicken Pot, Chestnut, Parsnip, Carrot, Pease, Tarragon, Beurre Blanc | Cheeses: Selection of Cheeses
Bent menu for Chablis competition

The compere was Louis Moreau; the somms, Joshua Corea of Archive 909, Nicolas Charron-Boucher of Planvin and Roger Maniwa of Mak N Ming. After tasting three courses each matched with three Chablis, the winner was Nicolas Charron-Boucher.

he's holding a big 'boarding pass' for a Canada-Chablis flight; it's labelled PURE CHABILS PRIZE
And the winner is… Nicolas Charron-Boucher

My best matches were Domaine Vrignaud Chablis 2014 with salmon tartare and smoked salmon; Domaine Daniel-Etienne Defaix Côtes de Lechet Chablis 2003 with crispy Koeran shrimp; and Domaine Jean-Paul et Benoit Droin Chablis Valmur Grand Cru 2015 with the chicken pot pie.

Tuesday, April 4th: After a doctor’s appointment (all well!), down to the LCBO lab to finish tasting the rest of the April 15th release. For dinner with spicy chicken, I opened a bottle of Tom Gore Chardonnay 2014 from California ($19.95): straw coloured with a creamy, vanilla, pineapple and clove nose; full-bodied, rich and mouth-filling with tropical fruit flavours. A boisterous, over-the-top California Chardonnay. (89)

Wednesday, April 5th: A meeting with Doris Miculan Braddley at George Brown to discuss wines for a Grapes for Humanity event we’ll be holding there on June 26th called “Corks & Forks.” Then on to a meeting with Angela Aiello and her team about Winetario – the consumer event that follows the Ontario Wine Awards.

Thursday, April 6th: Wrote my Wines of the Week and then went to a Prince Edward County tasting at a de-sanctified church on Queen Street East. Impressed by Trail Estate wines, especially the Unfiltered Chardonnay 2015 (90) and one of the best Gewurztraminers I’ve tasted from Ontario soil (91). My other top scoring wines were Karlo Pinot Noir 2015 (89), Huff Estates Pinot Noir Reserve 2014 (89), Closson Chase The Brock Chardonnay 2015 (89), Closson Chase Pinot Gris Watson Vineyard 2016 (89), Keint-He Chardonnay Greer Road 2014 (89). A revelation for me was Michael Waterston’s Kinsip House of Fine Spirits. He distils stunning vodka and gin.

Friday, April 7th: A Vintages release tasting for April 29th – 132 products. Tasted 62, which means the rest next Tuesday. A treadmill for the palate.

Oreno Toscana 2013
Best wine at Friday’s Vintages tasting

Saturday, April 8th: Conducted a charity tasting at a private home in Etobicoke – the winner of an auction at an Amani House fund-raiser. Took along the following wines from my cellar:

  • Konzelmann Estate Pinot Grigio 2013
  • Mike Weir Riesling 2008
  • Flat Rock The Rusty Shed Chardonnay 2013
  • Tawse Gamay Noir 2015
  • Jackson-Triggs Cabernet Franc 2007
  • Trius Red The Icon 2014
  • Kacaba Reserve Syrah 2012
  • Inniskillin Vidal icewine 2014

The Jackson-Triggs Cab Franc stole the show.


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 643: Ackerman/Remy Pannier

Monday, March 27th: An 11:30 am tasting at the Novotel with the head winemaker of the Ackerman-Remy-Pannier group in the Loire, Pierre Charron.

Ackerman-Remy-Pannier head winemaker Pierre Charron

Starting off with Ackerman sparkling wines:

  • Ackerman Crémant de Loire Cuvée 1811 Blanc Brut: pale straw in colour; earthy apple and citrus nose; light-bodied, dry, quince, lemon and crab apple flavours; nicely balanced, clean and crisp with good length. (88) (Apparently, Ackerman made the first Loire Crémant in that year.)
  • Ackerman Crémant de Loire Royal Blanc Brut (three years on the lees): very pale in colour with a lime tint; leesy, bready, apple bouquet; light to medium-bodied, clean, dry,  crisp green apple and quince flavours with lively acidity and a lemony finish. (89)
  • Ackerman Crémant de Loire Ambrosa: pale straw with a lime tint; apple and pear on the nose with a light floral note; light-bodied, crisply dry lively and fresh on the palate with an apple flavour, a touch of sweetness and a floral note; good length. (88.5)
  • Remy Pannier Muscadet 2016: pale straw in colour; a nose of apricot and marshmallow with a white pepper note; light-bodied, dry, crab apple flavour with citrus acidity and a touch of bitterness on the finish. (86.5)
  • Remy Pannier Sauvignon Val de Loire 2016: almost water white; sweaty, green plum and apple core nose; medium-bodied, dry, green plum and grapefruit flavours with lively acidity and a touch of bitterness on the finish. (87.5)
  • Remy Pannier Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2016: very pale in colour; grassy, grapefruit nose; medium-bodied, dry, good varietal character; crisp, green plum flavour. (88)
  • Remy Pannier Blanc de Noir 2016 (Cabernet Franc with no skin contact): pale straw colour; marshmallow, yellow plum and redcurrant nose; medium-bodied, dry, redcurrant and citrus flavours; well-structured with good length. (88)
  • Ackerman Secret des Vignes Saumur Blanc 2015: very pale straw; quince and apple peel nose; medium-bodied, dry, spicy, green pineapple; well-balanced, good length with a touch of resiny oak on the finish.
  • Remy Pannier Rosé 2016: pink with a bluish tint; cherry pit nose with a floral note; off-dry, red plum flavour with balanced acidity. Easy drinking. (87)
  • Ackerman Saint-Nicolas de Bourgeuil 2015: ruby-violet colour; dusty, winter apple nose with a light floral note; light to medium-bodied, dry, fruity, cherry and redcurrant flavour, firm with a herbal green note on the finish. (87.5)
  • Ackerman Secret des Vignes Chinon 2014: purple-ruby colour; floral, black cherry nose with a mineral note; medium-bodied, dry, savoury, cherry flavour with lively acidity and a firm finish. (88.5)

In the afternoon I went over to visit Gordon Stimmell for a chat.

For dinner, pasta with a bottle of Cesari Mara Valpolicella Ripasso 2014: dense purple colour; cedary, peppery, cherry nose; medium-bodied, dry, quite savoury for a ripasso; firmly structured with lively acidity. (88.5)

Tuesday, March 28th: Spent much of the day on Ontario Wine Award business. In the evening Deborah and I went down to George Brown for the Italian Market event – booths with Italian food products and wines. Discovered a great Italian bakery – Forno Cultura – that makes an amazing loaf of black bread.

Italian Market spread

Tenuta di Martucino Brunello di Montalcino 2011
Wine of the night at the Italian Market event

Wednesday, March 29th: Wrote up my Wines of the Week, paid some income tax and then got down to some tasting.

  • Joie Farm Unoaked Chardonnay 2016 (Okanagan Valley): pale straw colour; leesy, apple and lemon nose with a light floral top note; medium-bodied, dry, lemon and crab apple flavours. A touch of bitterness on the finish (88).
  • Joie Farm Muscat 2016 (Okanagan Valley): pale straw in colour; aromatic, orange blossom and grapefruit nose; light-bodied, dry, orange, lemon and tangerine flavours with a spicy white blossom note finishing on a slightly bitter note which does not detract from the overall-flavour but adds a bit of character. (89)
  • Joie Farm Noble Blend 2016 (Okanagan Valley – Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Auxerrois): pale straw colour; aromatic, spicy grapefruit and apple nose; just off-dry, with lychee, rose water and grapefruit flavours carried on lively acidity. Lovely mouth-feel. (90)
  • Joie Farm Re-Think Pink Rosé 2016 (Okanagan Valley – 75% Pinot Noir, 25% Gamay): deep salmon colour; minerally, strawberry nose; medium-bodied, dry, well-extracted strawberry and watermelon flavours with lively acidity; lovely mouth-feel and food length with a raspberry candy finish. A versatile food wine. (89)
  • Rosewood Origin Cabernet Franc 2014 (Niagara Peninsula): deep purple-ruby colour; cedary, vanilla oak, blackcurrant and plum bouquet; medium-bodied, dry, well-extracted currant, cherry and plum flavours with a floral note; well-balanced with well-integrated oak and fresh acidic finish. (90)
  • Graffigna Malbec 2015 (Argentina): deep ruby colour; cedary, spicy plum and cherry nose; medium to full-bodied, dry, blackberry and espresso coffee flavours carried on lively acidity. (88)
  • Burrowing Owl Syrah 2014 (Okanagan Valley): cedary-oaky, blackberry nose with a note of toasted herbs; full-bodied, dry, savoury, blackberry and dark chocolate flavours, rich and full on the palate with good length. (89)
  • Burrowing Owl Athene 2013 (Okanagan Valley – 50% Cabernet Sauvignon/50% Syrah): dense purple-ruby in colour; savoury, blackberry, blackcurrant and pepper on the nose; full-bodied, richly extracted, dark chocolate and black fruit flavours; beautifully balanced and seamless with a firm but pliant tannic finish and great length. (92)
  • Franciscan Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (Napa Valley – $29.95): deep ruby-purple colour; cedary, spicy damson  nose, dried herbs and a floral top note; full-bodied, dry, savoury, plum and currant flavours; richly extracted with dark chocolate and black fruit flavours finishing on a spicy oak note and ripe chewy tannins. (89).

Thursday, March 30th: Wrote my monthly On the Go article, then had lunch at Cibo on Yonge with Andrew Menceles to discuss a wine project. In the evening went down to Burdock Restaurant and Brewery, 1184 Bloor St. West, in the rain for what turned out to be a most bizarre event. Comando G wines from the Gredos region in Spain and Pearl Morissette from Niagara. When I got there the place was crowded and I was handed a card with the name of the wine and a price for a 3 oz pour. Once you got the wine you wanted the pourer ticked it off on your card and when you left you settled up with the cashier. Now, I didn’t want a 3 oz pour and all I wanted was to taste and spit, especially the Spanish wines with which I was not familiar. It occurred to me that it would cost me something like $60 plus HST to sample the wines. So I had a glass of Pearl Morissette Vioginer Cuvée Nadia 2014 2014, which was delicious, paid $10 + HST and left. I appeared to be the only wine writer there.

Friday, March 31st: A Vintages release tasting for April 17th – 109 products out for review. I got through 64. For dinner, opened a bottle of Hidden Bench Locust Lane Rosé 2016: salmon colour; strawberry and watermelon on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, with red apple and watermelon flavours. (88.5)


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 642: Cuvée 2017

Monday, March 20th: Went down to Princess Margaret’s for a blood test then spent much of the day inputting tasting notes for the Vintages’ April 1st release. In the evening, some more tasting.

  • Henry of Pelham Riesling 2016 (Niagara Peninsula – $14.95): very pale straw colour; minerally, lime and grapefruit nose; light to medium-bodied, off-dry, honey and grapefruit flavours with a touch of bitterness on the finish. (86.5)
  • Flat Rock Riesling 2015 (Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara – $16.95): pale, almost water white; minerally, lime and grapefruit nose with a light floral note; light-bodied, off-dry, honeyed grapefruit flavour, nicely balanced with good length. (88.5)
  • Yalumba The Y Series Viognier 2016 (South Australia – $13.95): pale straw, spicy, minerally, peach and citrus nose; medium-bodied, dry, peachy with a herbal, peach pit finish. (88)
  • Flat Rock Twisted Pink 2016 (Ontario – $16.95): pink with a bluish tint; fresh, minerally, watermelon nose; medium-bodied, just off-dry with cherry and watermelon flavours. (87.5)
  • Albert Bichot Pinot Noir Bourgogone Vieilles Vignes 2014 ($18.25): ruby colour; earthy, raspberry jam nose; medium-bodied, dry, fruity and firm with a touch of sweetness mitigated by rhubarb-like acidity. (88)
  • Chakana Estate Selection Red Blend 2014 (Uco Valley, Mendoza – 60% Malbec/20% Cabernet Sauvignon/20% Shiraz – $24.95): dense purple ruby in colour; cedary, smoky, blackberry and blackcurrant nose with a herbal note; medium to full-bodied, fruity-spicy black plum and currant flavours with an engaging floral note; lovely mouth-feel, firm finish with ripe tannins giving the wine a note of dark chocolate with cocoa powder tannins. (90)
  • Wakefield Promised Land Shiraz 2015 (South Australia – $14.95): deep purple-ruby colour; savoury-herbal blackberry nose with iodine notes; medium-bodied, dry, minty blackberry with espresso coffee notes. (88.5)
  • Caliterra Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2015 (Colchagua Valley, Chile – 85% Cabernet Sauvignon/10% Carignan/5% Petit Verdot – $10.95): deep ruby colour; cedary, leather and blackcurrant nose; medium- to full-bodied, dry, juicy, minty, blackcurrant flavour with chalky tannins. (87.5)
  • Bodega Volcanes Tectonia Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (Maipo Valley, Chile – $19.95): deep ruby-purple colour; cedary, blackcurrant with well-integrated oak; medium to full-bodied, dry, well-extracted sweet blackcurrant fruit with ripe tannins. Lovely mouth-feel. A well-made wine. (89)
  • Montes Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2014 (Colchagua Valley, Chile – $13): deep ruby-purple in colour; cedary, plum and currant nose; medium-bodied, dry, savoury, smoky, blackcurrant flavour with a tarry note and a firm finish. (87.5)
  • Simi Sonoma County Merlot 2014 (85% Merlot/14% Cabernet Sauvignon/1% Malbec – $22.95): deep purple-ruby in colour; cedary nose of blueberries, plums and violets backed by spicy vanilla oak; full-bodied, creamy mouth-feel, dry and savoury, firmly structured with ripe powdery tannins and a clovey note on the finish. (91)
  • Fantini Numero Uno Primitivo 2015 (Puglia – $12.95): deep ruby colour; rustic, cedary plum nose; medium to full-bodied, dry, plum and blackcurrant flavours with an earthy note, lively acidity and blocking tannins. Great value. Hold for a couple of years to soften the tannins. (86.5–88)

Tuesday, March 21st: Down to the LCBO lab for more tasting of the April 1st Vintages release. For dinner, lamb chops with Burrowing Owl Merlot 2013 (dense purple-ruby colour; cedary, vanilla oak and blackcurrant nose; medium-bodied, dry, blueberry flavour with lively acidity and a firm finish. (89)

Wednesday, March 22nd: Wrote up my Wines of the Week. Sadie Darby came over to discuss plans for the Ontario Wine Awards. Then got down to some more tasting:

  • Inception Irresistible White 2015 (Western Cape, South Africa – Chardonnay with Viognier – $13.95): very pale in colour with a minerally nose of apple and pear: medium-bodied, dry, mouth-filling peach and pear flavour with a touch of sweetness. (87)
  • Tini Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (Friuli – $7.95): pale straw; sweaty, struck flint nose of grass and green plum; medium-bodied, dry, tart and a little short on length. (85)
  • Cesari Adesso Chardonnay d’Italia 2015 ($7.95): pale straw; minerally, smoky, citrus and apple nose; light to medium-bodied, dry, clean and fresh, green apple flavour with lively acidity. (86)
  • Henry of Pelham Riesling Estate 2016 (Short Hills Bench, Niagara): earthy, grapefruit rind nose; light to medium-bodied, dry, spicy, ginger and lemon flavours; good length. (87.5)
  • Susana Balbo Crios Torrontes 2016 (Argentina – $13.95): almost water white in colour with a faint lime tint; aromatic Muscat-like nose of peach and roses; light bodied, dry, perfumed, orange and lychee flavours; great length. Clean as a whistle. (89)
  • Sacred Hill Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (Marlborough, New Zealand – $18.95): very pale, almost water white with a lime tint; grassy, green pepper and grapefruit on the nose; medium-bodied, crisply dry green plum and grapefruit flavours that linger on the palate. (89)
  • Tini Sangiovese Romagna 2015 (Emilia Romagna – $7.75): bright ruby colour; earthy, cherry pit nose; medium-bodied, dry, rustic, cherry and raspberry flavours with a dried flower note and a firm tannic finish. (86)
  • Cesari Adesso Merlot d’Italia 2015 ($7.95): deep ruby colour; earthy, blueberry and cherry bouquet; medium-bodied, dry, redcurrant and cranberry flavours. (85.5)
  • Wakefield Promised Land Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 (South Australia – $14.95): deep ruby; cedary, blackcurrant nose with a note of iodine and vanilla oak; medium-bodied, dry and savoury, currants and toasted herb flavours with a firm finish. (87)
  • Fantini Casale Vecchio Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Lot 23 2015 (Montepulciano – $10.95): deep ruby-purple colour; cedary, cherry nose; medium-bodied, creamy, oaky cherry with vanilla bean flavours. (85.5)
  • Bodega Aniello 006 Riverside Merlot 2014 (Patagonia, Argentina – $17.95): ruby with a tawny rim; cedary, sweet tobacco, plum with vanilla oak on the nose; medium-bodied, sweet plum, raspberry and blackcurrant flavours with lively acidity and a creamy mouth feel that finishes firmly. (88)

Thursday, March 23rd: Selected wines for a charity event I’m conducting on Saturday for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation – an auction item at their gala. Then tasted a couple of wines with dinner. My sister-in-law Suzanne brought over her famous brisket. Pre-dinner, a bottle of Domaine J. Laurens Blanquette de Limoux Le Moulin Brut (pale straw, minerally-chalky, cab apple bouquet; medium-bodied, initially dry but opens on the palate with a touch of sweetness, 88). With the brisket – an excellent match – The Foreign Affair Temptress 2010 (Ontario – dense purple colour; spicy cherry and blackcurrant nose with a cedary note; full-bodied, richly extracted, sweet black cherry and blackcurrant flavours; almost port-like with notes of tobacco leaf and black cherries, 91).

Friday, March 24th: Picked up Ian d’Agata from his hotel at Bloor and Islington and drove down to Niagara Falls to attend Cuvée. I’m booked into the Marriott (didn’t realise there are two kitty corner to each other – nor that they charge $34 (inc. HST) to park in their open-air parking lot overnight!). Cuvée was held, like last year, in the Convention Centre. I presented my annual Tony Aspler Cuvée Award of Excellence to Ian, explaining in my introduction: “This award was inaugurated in 2000 to mark my 25 years of wine writing. The annual award goes to the individual or institution that has done most to further the aims and aspirations of the Ontario Wine industry. This year’s winner was Dr. Ian d’Agata for his role in championing Ontario wines in the international arena, most notably in Vinous magazine, and for being an enthusiastic ambassador for the region.” This is first time the winner has not been living in the province.

Ian d'Agata receiving the Tony Aspler Cuvée Award of Excellence

Then into the main hall for the tasting. Each of the 47 participating Niagara Peninsula wineries was invited to pour two of its winemaker’s favourite wines. I concentrated on the reds. My top-scoring wine was Creekside Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012. Other high-scoring wines were Domaine Queylus Pinot Noir Reserve 2014, Flat Rock Cellars Gravity Pinot Noir 2013, Kacaba Silver Bridge Syrah 2013, Konzelmann Cabernet Merlot Reserve 2012, Malivoire Pinot Noir, The Hare Wine Co. Noble Red Appassimento 2013 and Stratus Cabernet Franc 2013. The food at this year’s Cuvée was excellent, with a magnificent dessert booth.

Saturday, March 25th: After breakfast, Ian d’Agata, Michael Vaughan, Tim Appelt and I met at Inniskillin’s tasting room where winemakers Bruce Nicholson led us through a tasting of his wines:

  • Inniskillin Discovery Series P3 2016 (Pinot Gris/Pinot Noir/Pinot Blanc): coral coloured; a nose of yellow cherry; medium-bodied, dry, soft, well-balanced pear and apple flavours with a touch of sweetness. (88.5)
  • Inniskillin Reserve Series Viognier 2016: pale straw colour; spicy, white peach with a light floral note; full-bodied, dry, mouth-filling, peach and pear flavours lifted by a floral note. Good length. (89)
  • Inniskillin Discovery Series Pinot Gris 2016: pale straw colour; minerally, white peach bouquet; medium-bodied, dry, peach and lemon flavours, nicely balanced with a lovely mouth-feel and good length. (89.5)
  • Inniskillin Discovery Series Süss Reserve Riesling 2016: pale straw colour; spicy, grapefruit nose with minerally notes; light to medium-bodied, grapefruit and melon flavours with a floral note and a touch of bitterness on the finish. (87.5)
  • Inniskillin Discovery Series Sauvignon Blanc 2016: pale straw colour; grassy, grapefruit nose with a floral grace note; medium-bodied, dry, spicy, herbaceous flavour of green plum with livel acidity and a touch of bitterness on the finish. (88.5)
  • Inniskillin Discovery Series Merlot Petit Verdot 2015: deep ruby colour; cedary, spicy, floral, tobacco, cherry and redcurrant on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, firmly structured, flavourful with a note of cinnamon on the finish. Needs time. (89–90)
  • Inniskillin Estate Series Pinot Noir Rosé 2015: deep pink in colour; minerally, cherry pit nose with red apple and raspberry aromas and a note of violets; medium-bodied, dry, easy drinking with a firm finish. (88)
  • Inniskillin Estate Series Pinot Grigio 2016: pale pink gold in colour; white peach nose with a light floral note; medium-bodied, dry, white peach and citrus flavours with a touch of crab apple bitterness that gives it character. (88)
  • Inniskillin Montague Vineyard Chardonnay 2013: pale straw colour; mature, ripe apple nose; medium-bodied, sweetish, creamy apple flavour. (88)
  • Inniskillin Montague Vineyard Chardonnay 2014: medium straw colour; a nose of cashew nuts and toast; medium-bodied, dry, spicy apple flavour with well-integrated oak. (89.5)
  • Inniskillin Cabernet Franc Sparkling Icewine 2015: deep pink in colour; strawberry puree nose; medium-bodied, honeyed strawberry flavour with a light spritz; beautifully balanced, great tension between sweetness and fresh acidity and great length. (93)

Then we drove over to Jackson-Triggs, where winemaker Marc Picone led us through the following wines:

  • Jackson-Triggs Grand Reserve Entourage 2014 (70% Pinot Noir/24% Charodnnay/5% Pinot Meunier): pale lemon colour; minerally, bread crust, citrus and apple on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, earthy, crab apple flavour with a fresh citrus acidity on the finish. (90)
  • Jackson-Triggs Sparkling Muscato 2016: pale straw in colour with a hint of lime; spicy, floral orange blossom nose; light-bodied (8.5% alcohol), dry, cardamom, clove, orange and honey flavours. Easy drinking. (89)
  • Jackson-Triggs Sauvignon Blanc 2015: pale straw colour; grassy, green plum, waxy bouquet with a floral top note; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, fresh and lively on the palate with good length, finishing on a lemony-apple note. (89)
  • Jackson-Triggs Proprietors’ Grand Reserve Chardonnay 2015: pale straw colour; minerally, floral, apple nose with toasty oak notes; medium-bodied, dry, spicy (clove) apple and lemon flavours with well-integrated oak; lovely mouth-feel with great length. (90)
  • Jackson-Triggs Anterra Chardonnay 2015: light golden straw in colour; spicy, toasty, tropical fruit nose; full-bodied, rich, spicy, green pineapple and lemon flavours, creamy on the palate with vanilla oak notes and a caramel note on the finish. (90)

Drove back to Toronto, dropped Ian off at his hotel and went home to change before driving back to Oakville for a charity tasting – an auction item for the Junior Diabetes Foundation. I served the following wines from my cellar and used the spittoon all evening.

  • Trius Ghost Creek Riesling 2014
  • Konzelmann Pinot Blanc 2014
  • Inniskillin Montague Vineyard Chardonnay 2010
  • Tawse Tintern Road Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013
  • Trius Cabernet Franc 2015
  • Angels Gate Mountainview Merlot 2007
  • Kacaba Vineyards Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
  • Inniskillin Sparkling Cabernet Franc Icewine 2012


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