A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 615: Chianti Classico’s 300th Anniversary

poster: 1716–2016 | 300 anni di Storia | 3 secoli di vino | Salone dei Conquecento

Tuesday, September 20th: Cleaned up my desk in preparation for the flight to Florence (via Frankfurt) to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the Chianti Classico denomination. An uneventful flight to Frankfurt except I was wedged between two guys who elbowed me all night. Watched a dreadful Russell Crowe comedy thriller; every second word was an f-bomb. Even from the child actress.

A four-and-a-half-hour lay-over in Frankfurt. Arrived to 9 Celsius weather in Florence though the sun was shining. Caterina from the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico met me at the airport and drove me to my hotel, Starhotels Michelangelo on Viale Fratelli Rosselli, which will be my home for the next week. Slept for an hour, established email contact with the world and walked a couple of miles from the hotel to San Lorenzo Basilica, looking for two restaurants that had been recommended. Couldn’t find either so I took a chance on Antica Sosta degli Aldobrandini. Lucked into Happy Hour where for 8 euros you get a six-ounce glass of drinkable Chianti and as many tapas as you want. That, and a pistachio ice cream on the way home, was dinner.

Early to bed because I’m being met at 8:45 am to begin touring wineries. (Somewhere along the line today I lost my favourite ball cap. It used to be Burgundy colour but is now bleached pink by the sun. I held a moment of silence for it.)

Wednesday, September 21st: Silvia Fiorentini, Marketing and Communications Manager for the Consorzio, picked me up after breakfast in her chocolate brown Mercedes, which she drives like Fangio through the hellish traffic of Florence. Our first stop is Fontodi in Panzano in Chianti on a beautiful sunny day. Owner and winemaker Giovanni Manetti drives us into the vineyard to see the Sangiovese grapes, which they are beginning to harvest today.

Giovanni Manetti in Fontodi’s vineyard

Panzano, he tells me, is the first district in Italy to go organic. His family have been in the terra cotta tile business since 1650. Given the number of red roofs in the province it must be a great business to be in. Fontodi produces about 30,000 bottles, including a Pinot Nero. “I’m one of the two crazy guys making Pinot Noir in Tuscany,” he says.

  • Fontodi Pinot Nero 2014: ruby colour, floral, red berry fruit and oak spice with notes of apricot and barnyard on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, elegant and firmly structured with lively acidity, Tight at the moment. (89–91)
  • Fontodi Pinot Nero 2001: mature ruby colour; intriguing mature, savoury nose of raspberries and barnyard notes; medium-bodied, dry, savoury with smoke, tar and leather flavours; very intense yet elegant with ripe tannins. (92)
  • Fontodi Chianti Classico 2013: deep ruby colour; a complex nose of rose petals, licorice, cherry and apricot; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, beautifully balanced with lively acidity and a firm finish. (90)
  • Fontodi Chianti Classico 2005: mature ruby colour; earthy, licorice and cherry bouquet; medium-bodied, dry, elegant and harmonious, firmly structured with a savoury finish. (91)
  • Fontodi Chianti Classico Vigna del Sorba Gran Selezione 2012: dense purple-ruby colour; spicy, cedary, black cherry nose with a mineral note; medium-bodied, dry, rich and full on the palate with ripe, grainy tannins. Powerful but elegant. (92)
  • Fontodi Flaccianello delle Piave 2006 (100% Sangiovese): deep purple colour; black cherry nose with spicy oak and undergrowth notes; medium-bodied, dry and savoury, black cherry flavor; firmly structured, full and rich in the mouth with evident but supple tannins and lively acidity. Still youthful. (92–94)

Sculpture that seems to say 'I love cock' (or maybe 'rooster')

Our next stop is Isole e Olena in Barberino Val d’Elsa. My old friend Paolo di Marchi greets me and tells me that another old friend is there – his English importer, David Gleave. We sit down to a tasting and Paolo outlines his winemaking philosophy. A great wine is like a pentagon, he affirms: you need each side to give the wine harmony – soil at the base, climate and structure at the sides, and the “roof” is the human aspects – the winemaker and tradition (the accumulation of knowledge from past generations). Interesting analogy.

Paolo di Marchi at Isole e Olena

  • Isole e Olena Collezione Privata Chardonnay 2014: golden straw colour; spicy, tropical fruit nose with leesy notes; rich and full on the palate, spicy, minerally, pineapple and peach flavours; beautifully balanced with mouth-freshening acidity and great length. Very New World in style and reminiscent of Antinori Cervara della Sala. (Would love to taste those two side by side.) (92)
  • Isole e Olena Chianti Classico 2014 (15% Canaiolo and Syrah): ruby colour; spicy, cherry and blackcurrant aromas with pencil lead and animal notes; medium-bodied, dry, lean and sinewy with cherry and redcurrant flavours; well-integrated oak, elegant finishing with peppery tannins. (90)
  • Isole e Olena Cepparello 2013 (100% Sangiovese): deep ruby colour; spicy, cherry with oak notes; medium-bodied, dry, savoury, sour cherry flavor with well-integrated oak; firmly structured with a notes of violets on the finish. Hold 3–5 years. (90–91)
  • Isole e Olena Cepparello 2010: deep purple-ruby colour; spicy, barnyard and cherry bouquet; medium-bodied, dry, elegant and firmly structured with great length; lovely mouth-feel with resolved tannins and an engaging floral and apple peel finish. (91)
  • Isole e Olena Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2006 (12% Cabernet Franc and 8% Syrah): deep purple-ruby colour; a nose of cherries and oak spice with floral and animal notes; richly extracted cherry flavor, concentrated and fleshy but firm; very youthful still with grainy tannins. A magnificent wine. (94)
  • Isole e Olena Collezione Privata Syrah 2014 (2% Viognier): dense purple colour; spicy blackberry and sweet herbs on the nose with a mineral thread; full-bodied, dry, blackberry, blackcurrant and bay leaf flavours, firmly structured, finishing on a floral note. (93)
  • Isole e Olena Vin Santo del Chianti Classico 2006: tawny-amber colour; dried fig and honey on the nse; full-bodied, richly extracted, sweet honey and dried fig flavours carried on brisk acidity to give great length. (93)

Silvia took me to lunch at Locanda di Pietracupa in San Donato in Poggio. We both ordered the same dishes: Tagliolini fiori di zucca e tartufo (homemade thinner tagliatelle with courgette flowers, topped with fresh truffle) and grilled chicken salad. I had a glass of Tenute del Cerro Vermentino 2014.

After a visit to the Chianti Classico Consorzio office, I was dropped off at Antinori in Chianti Classico’s extraordinary new winery in Bargino, San Casciano Val di Pesa.

Entrance to Antinori in Chianti Classico

I watched a movie about the construction of the building as I waited for my guide, Sara Nieddu. It was subtitled, “5 Years in 15 Minutes.” I saw it three times. Sara was full of apologies as there had been a mix-up about my visit. But it was worth the wait. The building is a cathedral to Dionysus. After a tour and a film on winemaking we sat in a glassed-in tasting room that’s cantilevered out over the barrel cellar.

  • Antinori Peppoli Chianti Classico 2014 (10% Merlot and Syrah): ruby colour; cedary, earthy, cherry nose; medium-bodied, dry, sour cherry flavor with lively acidity; fresh, fruity and easy drinking. (88)
  • Villa Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva 2012 (10% Cabernet Sauvignon): ruby colour; cedary, black cherry and pencil lead nose with sweet herbs and vanilla oak notes; medium-bodied, dry, savoury cherry flavor with well-integrated oak. (90)
  • Badia a Passignano Gran Selezione 2011 (100% Sangiovese): deep ruby colour; spicy, leather, dried rose petals, cherry and oak nose; medium to full-bodied, dry with a sweetness of ripe cherries and plum at the core; well-balanced and harmonious and firmly structured. (91)

A taxi took me back to Florence, a hair-raising drive through the Tuscan hills at speed as there was an accident on the motorway that held up traffic for three kilometers. Once back I walked over towards the railway station looking for a shop where I could buy a jacket. In my haste to leave Toronto I forgot to pack one and there is a formal dinner on Saturday. On the way back to the hotel I picked up an egg and tomato sandwich, which is all I could eat after that big lunch.

Friday, September 23rd: Caterina picked me up in her Fiat to drive to Felsina in Castelnouvo Berardenga, the most southerly winery in the Chianti Classico appellation. She was delayed because of the traffic and her seat belt sensor wasn’t working properly which meant the alarm kept going off. The only way to stop it was to hold it firmly in place – which she did on the motorway in spite of my offers to help.

We were an hour late arriving at Felsina so Giovanni Poggali had to brief me quickly before the tasting and the tour of the cellars. His grandfather bought the 500-hectare estate in 1966. There were 6 hectares of vines planted then; now there are 65 hectares under vine, 80% Sangiovese with Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Also Malvasia and Trebbiano for Vin Santo. Felsina produces 450,000 bottles.

Tasting at Felsina

  • Felsina Issistri Chardonnay 2013: golden straw colour; rich apple and oak spice nose; full-bodied, dry, apple and caramel flavours; good length. (89)
  • Felsina Chianti Classico Berardenga 2013: deep ruby colour; cedary, black cherry nose with a floral note; medium-bodied, richly extracted, cherry and dark chocolate flavours with well-integrated oak. (90)
  • Felsina Chianti Classico Riserva Berardenga 2012: deep ruby with a mature rim; cedary, cherry with a note of vanilla oak; medium-bodied, dry and savoury, elegant, well-balanced. (91)
  • Felsina Rancia Chianti Classico Riserva 2012: deep ruby colour rich, ripe floral nose, cherry with lead pencil notes; medium-bodied, dry, well-extracted cherry and dark chocolate flavours with supple tannins. (92)
  • Felsina Fontalloro 2012 (100% Sangiovese from three vineyards, two in Colli Senesi and one in Chianti Classico; 2 years in new French oak): dense ruby colour; cedary, cherry with a savoury-herbal notes; medium to full-bodied, dry, savoury, cherry flavor with evident but supple tannins. (91)
  • Felsina Berardenga Colonia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2010: deep ruby colour; spicy, plum and cherry nose with vanilla oak notes on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, herbal, cherry and plum flavours, backed by vanilla oak; dusty, grainy tannins on the savoury finish. (90)
  • Felsina Maesta Raro Cabernet Sauvignon di Toscana 2012 (100% Cabernet Sauvignon aged 18 months in new French barrique): dense ruby-purple colour; cedary, plum and blackcurrant nose with vanilla oak notes; medium to full-bodied, dry, blackcurrant and dark chocolate flavours; well-balanced and firm with evident tannins. Hold 5 years (90–92)
  • Felsina Vin Santo del Chianti Classico 2005 (Sangiovese, Malvasia and Trebbiano): deep amber colour; dried fig, barley sugar bouquet; full-bodied, rich and full on the palate with flavours of caramel and orange. Beautifully balanced with fresh acidity. Great length. (94)

Next we drove to Badia a Coltibuono in Gaiole in Chianti, a monastery founded in 1051, now a 3-star hotel and restaurant. Their grapes are grown in Monti and the wines are made here.

Badia a Coltibuono

Winemaker and estate manager Roberto Stucchi Prinetti showed us around. The hall that the monks used to dine in is decorated with frescoes beautifully restored. Toured the 18th-century cellar where the family keeps its private library of vintages dating back to 1937.

Badia a Coltibuono’s Roberto Stucchi Prinetti

  • Coltibuono Cetamura Chianti 2015 (Colli Senesi): deep ruby colour; cherry and leather on the nose with a herbal note; medium-bodied, dry and fruity with a firm tannic finish. Easy drinking. (87)
  • Coltibuono Chianti Classico 2014: ruby colour; earthy, spicy, cherry and red plum nose; medium-bodied, dry, fresh with lively acidity and a tannic uplift on the finish. (88)
  • Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico 2014 (10% Canaiolo, Colorino and Cigiegiolo): ruby colour, spicy, cherry with a light oak note; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, firmly structured with ripe, dusty tannins on the finish with a cherry pit finish and a light floral note. (89)
  • Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva 2011: deep ruby colour; leather, cherry, floral-savoury notes on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, sour cherry and licorice flavours; firmly structured with evident but ripe tannins. Still young, needs five years at least. (90–92)
  • Badia a Coltibuono Cultus Boni Chianti Classico Riserva 2011 (80% Sangiovese with eight indigenous varieties): deep ruby, earthy, cherry with leather and herbal notes; medium to full-bodied, dry, richly extracted, full in the mouth with cherry and plum flavours backed by lively acidity and a firm tannic structure. (90)
  • Badia a Coltibuono Sangioveto di Toscana 2011 (100% Sangiovese): deep ruby colour; spicy, earthy, plum and cherry nose with oak notes on the nose; full-bodied, dry, plum and cherry flavours with well-integrated oak. Lovely mouth-feel. Firm finish. (91)
  • Badia a Coltibuono Montebello 2011 (nine indigenous varieties): deep ruby colour; majestic, spicy, creamy, cherry and sweet herbs on the nose; medium-bodied, elegant, beautifully balanced and firm; lovely mouth-feel with a floral note on the finish. (92)
  • Badia a Coltibuono Vin Santo del Chianti Classico 2009: coppery-amber colour; spicy, dried fig, macadamia nut nose with a note of dried flowers; full-bodied, rich, unctuous and full on the palate with nutty, spicy, orange and jasmine tea flavours. Great length. (95)

Lunched in the winery’s restaurant. Roberto opened a bottle of Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva 2006. I ordered risotto with lard and onion, which looked and tasted a lot better than the menu description.

Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva 2006

Risotto at Badia a Coltibuono

The final stop of the day was at Agricola Querciabella. The winery has 75 hectares of vineyard in the Chianti Classico region and a further 31 hectares in Maremma. South African winemaker Manfred Ing showed me the winery and opened the following wines.

Winemaker Manfred Ing at Querciabella

  • Querciabella Chianti Classico 2013 (100% Sangiovese): ruby colour; cedary, cherry nose with minerally, pencil notes; medium-bodied, dry, sour cherry flavour, lively acidity with a firm tannic structure. Needs 5 years. (89–91)
  • Querciabella Chianti Classico 2007 (5% Cabernet Sauvignon): ruby colour with a mature rim; spicy, tobacco, cherry with a light floral note on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, cherry with a savoury note; well-structured, fresh and lively with a firm finish. (91)
  • Querciabella Chianti Classico 1998 (5% Cabernet Sauvignon): mature ruby colour; earthy, tobacco, cherry bouquet nose with a note of dried flowers; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, savoury, cherry flavor. (91)
  • Querciabella Chianti Classico Riserva 2011 (100% Sangiovese): medium ruby colour; minerally, spicy, cherry nose; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, savoury-herbal; great mid-palate depth with a firm tannic finish. (92)
  • Querciabella Chianti Classico Riserva 1999 (10% Cabernet Sauvignon): mature ruby colour; tobacco, floral, cherry and blackcurrant nose; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, beautifully balanced with ripe tannins. Almost claret-like. (92)
  • Querciabella Camartina 2010 (70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Sangiovese): deep ruby colour; cedary, blackcurrant and cherry nose with a tobacco note; medium-bodied, dry, red and blackcurrant flavours with chewy tannins and a truffle note on the finish. (91)
  • Querciabella Camartina 1999 (30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 70%Sangiovese): mature ruby colour; cedary, blackcurrant, spicy nose; medium-bodied, elegant, dry, savoury, firmly structured, currant and tobacco flavours with great length. (92)
  • Querciabella Batár 1998 (50% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Bianco): old gold colour; caramel, toasty nose; rich and mouth-filling, caramel, baked apple and pear flavours with great length and balancing acidity, finishing on a dry barley sugar note. (91)
  • Querciabella Batár 2013 (50% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Bianco): straw colour; spicy, apple with a light oak note; medium to full-bodied, dry, elegant, apple and pear flavours; lovely mouth-feel, well-integrated oak, fine acidity with great length. (92)

We drove back to Florence and I was back in the hotel by 7:30, a long but productive day.

Saturday, September 24th: Today is actually the 300th birthday of the decree by Cosimo III of Tuscany designating the four growing zones of Chianti – Chianti Classico, Pomina/Chianti Rufina, Carmignano (where Cabernet Sauvignon has been grown since the 16th century) and Valdarno di Sopra.

a foxed old document with a lengthy text in Italian which I will not transcribe
The 1716 decree demarcating the four Chianti Classico communes

The formal address was held in Palazzo Vecchio, a stunningly beautiful hall with painted walls and ceilings (Michelangelo’s statue of David is outside).

Palazzo Vecchio in Florence

The cities of Reims and Florence have been twinned since 1954 and now there is a more formal cooperation agreement under way although no details were given.

Doorbells, Florence

Our party had lunch in a restaurant called The Golden View (which provides the best view of the Ponte Vecchio over the River Arno). On the table were bottles of Rocca delle Macie Chianti Classico Riserva di Fizzano 2013, Isole e Olena Chianti Classico 2006, Felsina Francia Chianti Classico 2012, Capanelle Chianti Classico Riserva 2012 and Castello Monsanto Chianti Classico 2014.

Ponte Vecchio, Florence

Then I went in search of a tie, which I bought at a stall in the market for 6 euros (but it looks great). Back to the Opera de Firenze for more talk about the 300th anniversary. Italy’s youthful Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, spoke about the need to compete with the French for the international wine market, and the seven mayors from the cities in Chianti Classico signed a document ratifying an agreement to apply to UNESCO to have Chianti Classico made a World Heritage site. This was followed by a concert of opera selections by a 72-voice choir with arias be a soprano and a tenor (gorgeous). Then a sit-down dinner for 750 people – great menu with wines by Monsanto and Isole e Olena (Paolo Marchi and his wife were at our table, also Laura Monsanto from Castello Monsanto as well as Stephen Spurrier).

1716–2016 ¶ 24 SETTEMBRE 2016 • Opera di Firenze ¶ Menù ¶ Gemelli di pasta fresca con ragù d'anatra, spinacini, salvia fritta e lamponi ~ Filetto di manzo agli aromi ~ Cipolline Borrettane caramellate all'Aceto Balsamico di Modena IGP • Tortino di patate dell'Amiata alla maggiorana ~ Millefoglie con crema chantilly, scaglie di cioccolate e croccantino all'interno
Dinner menu

We were invited to take dessert and drinks on the concourse outside the opera house and were surprised by a fireworks display.

Birthday fireworks

Sunday, September 25th: Walked to Palazzo Strozzi to buy some gifts in the outdoor market and then back to meet Janine Saine, a wine writer colleague from Quebec, to walk to Piazza d. Mercato Centrale for lunch in a small open restaurant, Enoteca Chianti Classico, that offers 200 Chianti Classico labels for sale as wine from other Italian provinces. Had a plate of antipasti with glasses of Rocca di Montegrossi Chianti Classico 2013 and Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico La Ghirlanda 2013. I was so impressed by the latter that I bought a bottle of Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico Caledonia Riserva 2013 at the restaurant.

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico La Ghirlanda 2013

Janine and I went on to a public tasting in the crypt of the Basilica di San Lorenzo – 100 wines set out on tables representing the four Chianti zones. I tasted the following wines: Capezzana Trefiano Carmignano 2010, Tenuta di Artiminio Carmignano Riserva 2012, Villa di Capezzana Carmignano 2013, Farbrizio Gratesi Il Circo Rosso Carrmignano Riserva 2013; from Valdarno di Sopra, Castello di Montozzi Sangiovese Riserva 2013, Tenuta Sette Ponti Vigna dell Impero 2013, Nunzi Conti Chianti Classico 2013, Villa S. Andrea Chianti Classico Riserva 2010, Castello di Abola Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2013, Castello Trebbio Lastricato Chianti Classico Riserva 2011 and finally, from Rufina, Frescobaldi Nipozzano Vecchia Viti Chianti Rufina 2013. On our way back to the hotel we wandered through the San Lorenzo outdoor market and I bought a navy blue leather belt.

Wall art, Florence

In the evening I met up with Steven Spurrier, Barbara Philip and Janine for dinner. We dropped into an amazing wine bar – Le Volpi e l’Uva, Piazza dei Rossi, at the southern end of Ponte Vecchio. We ordered a glass of wine and a plate of salami and olives. The owner Leonardo, when he learned we were wine people, insisted on us blind-tasting three wines – Olivier Champion Jasinères Les Clos 2015, Sarno 1860 Fiano de Avelino (couldn’t find the vintage) and Château des Rontets Pouilly-Fuissé Clos Varambon 2014. Confession: we failed rather ignominiously.

Tuscan antipasto

Then on to dinner at Cammillo Trattoria, Borgo S. Jacopo 57. A small, noisy trattoria with great food. I ordered rocket salad with pine nuts and parmesan and ricotta cheese and chard gnocchi in butter and sage sauce. The wines: Rocca di Montegressi Chianti Classico 2013, Moris Farm Morellino di Scansano 2011 and a small carafe of house wine.

Monday, September 26th: Three winery visits today. Silvia Fiorentini drove Janine and me to Fonterutoli in Panzo in Chianti. Filippo Mazzei toured us around the spectacular cellar (beautifully designed by his architect sister) and led us through the tasting.

Fonterutoli’s Filippo Mazzei

  • Fonterutoli Chianti Classico 2014: dense ruby colour; cedary, black cherry with a light floral note; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, well-extracted black cherry flavor with a lively spine of acidity. (91)
  • Fonterutoli Ser Lato Chianti Classico 2013: deep ruby colour; earthy, savoury-herbal, black cherry bouquet; medium-bodied, dry, full in the mouth, well integrated oak with ripe tannins. (90)
  • Castello Fonterutoli Gran Selezione 2012: ruby with a tawny rim; black cherry, evident oak with a pencil lead note on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, lean and sinewy with a sour cherry flavor. (90)
  • Castello Fonterutoli Mix 36 2012 (all 36 clones of Sangiovese): deep ruby colour; cedary, cherry with a note of dried herbs on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, sour cherry flavour with lively acidity. (89)
  • Fonterutoli Siepi 2013 (50% Sangiovese, 50% Merlot): dense ruby colour; cedary, black cherry and blueberry nose with a light floral note; medium-bodied, dry, well-structured with ripe grainy tannins on the finish. (90)
  • Fonterutoli Chianti Classico 2009: deep ruby developing a tawny rim; cedary, leather, cherry nose with an animal note; medium-bodied, well-extracted plum and cherry flavours. Ready now. (92)
  • Fonterutoli Chianti Classico 2004: dense ruby with a tawny hue; mature, cedary, spicy plum and cherry nose; medium to full-bodied, with sweet fruit still firm with ripe tannins. (92)
  • Castello Fonterutoli Chianti Classico 2010: deep ruby colour; cedary, cherry, spicy nose with a note of oak; richly extracted, beautifully balanced.

Fonterutoli Chianti Classico 2004

Next stop: Dievole in Vagliagli, which we approached on a bumpy, unpaved road. Manuela Neideracher, the brand manager, toured us around the property and the oenologist conducted the tasting.

  • Dievole Chianti Classico 2013: ruby colour; cedary, cherry, with light oak bouquet; medium-bodied, dry and savoury with a firm tannic finish. Somewhat acidic. (87)
  • Dievole Chianti Classico 2014: ruby colour; spicy, plum and cherry with pencil lead and animal note; well-extracted, medium-bodied, dry, firmly structured, earthy with ripe tannins. (88)
  • Dievole Chianti Classico Novecento Riserva 2013: deep plum colour; vanilla oak, cedar, cherry nose; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, red plum and cherry flavours; firmly structured. (89)

The chapel at Dievole

Followed by an olive oil tasting of three different Dievole oils – one of which was judged “the best olive oil in the world.” We had lunch under a tree in the garden with a delightful rosé, Dievole Roriziosato Le Due Arbie 2015. I ordered mozzarella and tomato salad and pici pesto. Brizio Rosso di Montalcino 2014 and Podero Brizio Brunello di Montalcino 2011. Vin Santo and cartucchi for dessert.

The world’s best olive oil

Our final stop was at Castello di Volpaia in Radda, a winery I know well since I’ve visited it four times, including staying in the hamlet for a couple of nights on my honeymoon in 1997. Giovannella Mascheroni Stianti and her daughter Federica gave us a wonderful welcome. We tasted in Giovannella’s house.

Door at Castello di Volpaia

  • Castello di Volpaia Vino Spumante 2008 (Sangiovese): pale straw, white peach and citrus nose; medium-bodied, dry, peach with citrus, crisp and fresh with a firm finish. (89)
  • Castello di Volpaia Vermentino 2015 (Maremma): straw colour; earthy, yellow plum; medium-bodied, dry, peach and plum flavours with a saline note, well-balanced, with a touch of bitterness on the finish. (88)
  • Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico 2014 (10% Merlot): deep ruby colour; cherry, leather, cedar nose; medium-bodied, dry, savoury cherry flavour; firmly structured with lively acidity and evident but ripe tannins. (88.5)
  • Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico Riserva 2013: deep ruby colour; cherry, vanilla oak, spicy, note of leather on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, savoury, cherry with a light floral note; finishing firmly. (89)
  • Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico Coltassala 2013 (5% Mammelo): deep ruby colour; earthy, cherry, cedary, leather nose with a light floral note; medium-bodied, dry, sour cherry and plum flavours with well-integrated oak with a firm finish. (89)
  • Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico Casanova Il Puro Gran Selezione 2011 (25 clones of Sangiovese): deep ruby; rich and porty on the nose with new oak notes; full-bodied, raisiny, plum with lively acidity, firmly structured with a tannic lift on the finish. (90)
  • Castello di Volpaia Balifico 2012 (2/3 Sangiovese, 1/3 Cabernet Sauvignon): deep ruby-purple colour; cedary, spicy, blackcurrant and black cherry nose; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, beautifully balanced, firmly structured, ripe blackcurrant and plum flavours, richly extracted with a firm tannic finish. (91)

Church at Volpaia

Drove back to Florence, changed quickly in the hotel and walked over with Janine to have dinner at The Golden View Restaurant with the director general of the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico, Giuseppe Liberatore, Silvia Fiorentini, Christine Lechner (Marketing & Communications), and Justin Leone, chef/sommelier at Tantris restaurant in Munich. We started with a bottle of Guado al Tasso Vermentino 2013 (excellent – 91points). And it got better – next wine, Monteraponi Chianti Classico Riserva Baron’ Ugo 2011 (mature ruby colour; a nose of leather, cherries and dried rose petals; elegant and beautifully balanced, lovely mouth-feel; reminiscent of a Côte de Nuits (95)).

Monteraponi Chianti Classico Riserva Baron' Ugo 2011

Followed by Isole e Olena Cepparello 1999 (holding its rich ruby colour; a bouquet of cherries and blackcurrants with a tarry note and a touch of barnyard; full-bodied, dry and perfectly balanced, very elegant and rich (94)).

Isole e Olena Cepparello 1999

I ordered Carpaccio of Chianina beef and black truffles, followed by seafood spaghetti. For dessert, Castello di Volpaia Vin Santo del Chianti Classico 2011. The last supper in Florence and a great one.

Carpaccio of Chianina beef with black truffles

Tuesday, September 27th: After breakfast, packed for home. Taxied to the airport and flew to Munich to catch my Lufthansa flight to Toronto. No Chianti Classico on board, pity.


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 614: Hardy’s Wines

Monday, September 12th: Wrote up my 680 NEWS wine reviews and then met Zoltan Szabo for lunch, We had arranged to meet at Grano but when I arrived I found it was closed on Mondays, so we went to Coquine a block north. A crab omelette and a glass of rosé. In the evening to the ballgame with my son Guy. Missed the first inning because of some disruption on the subway. Jays beat Tampa – finally.

Tuesday, September 13th: An annual check-up with my family doctor. In the evening to L’Avenue for dinner with Julian, Malcolm and Jane. I brought along a bottle of KWV Cathedral Cellars Blanc de Blancs Brut 2010. Julian, Von Hövel Scharzhofberg Tiesling Auslese 2011; Malcolm, Château Quinault L’Eclos 2001. I ordered escargots in cream sauce and steak frites. Time they changed their menu. It’s been the same as long as I’ve been going there.

Von Hövel Scharzhofberg Tiesling Auslese 2011

Wednesday, September 14th: Recorded my 680 NEWS wine reviews followed by a session with my chiropractor. In the evening Deborah and I went to Bardi’s for Alex’s 40th anniversary party. He has a splendid wine cellar now but she showed me his original wine list, which was dismal. Ran into wine importer Steven Campbell there, who supplies him with wine.

Alex and Steve at Bardi’s party

At home opened a bottle of CedarCreek Ehrenfelser 2015 (Okanagan Valley): pale straw colour; aromatic, spicy, melon nose with notes of citrus fruit; medium-bodied, dry, quince and melon flavours with a touch of sweetness in mid-palate. (88)

Thursday, September 15th: Wrote my On the Go column, then down to the Miller Tavern on Bay Street for a lunch tasting with Bill Hardy of Hardy’s Wines.

Bill Hardy

  • Hardy’s Stamp of Australia Chardonnay Semillon 2015 (South East Australia): straw colour; apple and quince on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, melon and peach flavours with lively citrus acidity. Good value. (87.5)
  • Hardy’s Stamp of Australia Riesling Gewurztraminer 2015(South East Australia): straw colour; spicy, lime and grapefruit nose with notes of musk melon; medium-bodied, dry, orange, lime and lychee flavours with good length. (88)
  • Hardy’s HRB Riesling 2015 (Clare Valley and Tasmania fruit): pale straw colour; floral, grassy, pink grapefruit nose; medium-bodied, dry and crisp, elegant with good length, finishing with lemon-lime flavours. (89)
  • Hardy’s William Hardy Limestone Coast Chardonnay 2016: straw colour; almond-marzipan and apple bouquet; medium to full-bodied, dry, well-extracted white peach and citrus flavours with a nutty note. Good mouth-feel with a firm finish. (88.5)
  • Hardy’s Stamp of Australia Shiraz Cabernet 2015 (South East Australia): deep purple colour; cedary, spicy plum and vanilla oak nose; medium to full-bodied, dry, plum and prune flavours with a peppery, savoury finish and lively acidity. (87)
  • Hardy’s William Hardy Shiraz 2014 (McLaren Vale):deep purple colour; savour, spicy blueberry nose with a peppery note augmented by vanilla oak; medium to full-bodied dry and frsh with licorice and bitter chocolate flavours. (89)
  • Hardy’s HRB Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (Margaret River, Coonawarra and Frankland River): deep ruby-purple colour; cedary, minty, blackcurrant nose; medium to full-bodied, fresh and fruity, elegant with fine acidity and a firm finish. (88.5)
  • Hardy’s Eileen Hardy Shiraz 2005 (Mclaren Vale): dense purple colour; cedary, smoky, meaty nose with vanilla oak notes; full-bodied, rich and full on the palate with a dry, savoury flavour of blackberries and dark chocolate. A beautiful wine. (93)
  • Hardy’s Whisker’s Blake Classic Tawny 8 Year Old (Grenache): amber-brown colour; spicy, nutty, prune nose; rich and full on the palate, beautifully balanced, sweet coffee bean and raisin flavours with milk chocolate notes. Great length. (89.5)

Hardy’s Eileen Hardy Shiraz 2005

For lunch I ordered chicken curry which went well with the Riesling/Gewurz and the 2005 Shiraz.

For dinner, with steak, Henry of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Pinot Noir 2010 (Short Hills Bench, Niagara – $34.95): ruby colour; high-toned, spicy, lilac and cherry bouquet with an animal note; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, well-balanced, very stylish with mellow tannins. Light and delicate on the palate. (91)

Friday, September 16th: A Vintages release tasting and New York Fries on the way home. In the evening to Victoria University for a piano recital of contemporary music by Argentinian composers performed by pianist Diego Macias Steiner.

Saturday, September 17th: Got down to some tasting to reduce the backlog of samples that have arrived.

  • Henry of Pelham Sibling Rivalry White 2015 (Niagara Peninsula – $13.95): Riesling, Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer. Medium straw colour; aromatic, spicy melon nose with grapefruit notes; medium-bodied, just off-dry with melon and lychee flavours carried on citrus acidity. A touch of bitterness on the finish. (87)
  • Kim Crawfood Small Parcels Pinot Gris 2014 (Arawere Valley, New Zealand – $24.95): medium straw colour with a nose of ripe peach and pear skin and a suggestion of minerality; medium-bodied, mouth-filling flavours of white peach and pear carried on lively acidity and finishing on a lychee note. Great length. A well-made wine. (90)
  • Baron de Hoen Pinot Gris Reserve 2014 (Alsace –$15.95): light golden colour; minerally, peach and peach pit nose; medium-bodied, lively peach flavour carried on citrus acidity. Great value. (88)
  • Peller Estates Andrew Peller Signature Series Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (Niagara – $30.20): bright straw colour; cut grass, lanolin and green plum nose; medium-bodied, white Bordeaux in style, nicely balanced, grapefruit, green plum with a nutty note on the finish. Great length. (89.5)
  • Trius Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (Niagara Peninsula – $14.95): Pale straw colour; cut grass, green plum nose with a minerally note; medium-bodied, crisply dry, grapefruit and green plum flavours. Good value. (88)
  • Château Bellevue La Forêt Rosé 2015 (Fronton, France – $14.95): A blend of the local Negrette, Gamay, Syrah and Cabernets. Deep salmon colour; earthy, wild strawberry and watermelon nose; medium-bodied, just off-dry, round on the palate with strawberry and raspberry flavours and balancing acidity. (88)
  • De Bortoli G.S. Pinot Noir 2015 (Yarra Valley – $19.95): medium ruby colour; earthy, cherry nose; medium-bodied, dry, cherry flavour with a hint of sweetness and a firm tannic finish. (88.5)
  • El Miracle by Mariscal Garnacha Tintorera 2013 (Valencia, Spain – $14.95): deep ruby colour; peppery plum nose; medium-bodied, dry, plum and licorice flavours with lively acidity and ripe tannins. (87)
  • Château Haut-Canteloup 2010 (Médoc – $17.95): deep purple-ruby colour; inky, cedary plum bouquet; medium-bodied, dry, spicy blackcurrant, plum and bitter chocolate flavours with ripe, grainy tannins. (88)
  • Henry of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Cabernet-Merlot 2012 (Short Hills Bench, Niagara Peninsula – $39.95): Deep ruby colour; cedary, redcurrant and red plum nose with evident oak; medium-bodied, dry, red berry flavours backed by vanilla oak; harmonious with a good mouth-feel and a firm tannic finish. Hold for two years. (89–90)
  • Vina Tarapaca Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (Maipo Valley – $17.95): dense ruby-purple colour; cooked plum and prune nose with evident oak; full-bodied, richly extracted sweet plum flavour with balancing acidity and a tannic lift on the finish. (88)
  • Elderton Ode to Lorraine 2013 (Barossa Valley – Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot): earthy, minerally, blackberry nose with savoury, herbal notes; full-bodied, juicy, blackberry flavour with lively acidity and a firm finish. (90)

Sunset from our balcony on Saturday


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 613: Lieutenant Governor’s Wine Awards

The Lieutenant Governor's Award for Excellence in Ontario Wines | Prix du lieutenant-gouverneur pour l'excellence des vins de l'Ontario ¶ Presentation ceremony, September 7, 2016 | Cérémonie de remise, 7 septembre 2016 ¶ Queen's Park

Monday, September 5th: Deborah (my DD) and I drove down to Angels Gate Winery in Niagara for a late lunch party at Meg and Phil’s. Phil cooked his famous paella on an open fire in the woods behind his house. Everybody (four other couples) brought wine. We opened Angels Gate Sparkling Chardonnay 2012, Cave Spring Chardonnay Musqué 2014, Gadais Père et Fils Muscadet Vieilles Vignes 2013, Angels Gate Marsanne 2013, Quinta do Consuelo Rias Baixas 2014, Malivoire Vivant Rosé 2015 (in magnum), Ardal Reserva Ribera del Duero 2006, Terra Terra Douro Reserva 2011. I contributed a bottle of KWV Cathedral Cellars Blanc de Blancs 2010. A memorable lunch.

Philip Dowell’s paella

Tuesday, September 6th: Worked on the novel. In the evening, down to the Spoke Club for a presentation of Artisper Frescobaldi wines by Tiziana Frescobaldi – three magnums whose labels were designed by two German and one Italian artists, commissioned to “interpret the Tenuta del Castello di Nipozzano in an original way through evocative and poetic images…”

it has a a seated naked lady seen from the turned-away 1/4 angle and a wine bottle being used as a pen to sketch her
Frescobaldi Montisodi artwork by Michael Sailstorfer

a fountain pen tip in place of the cork in a wine bottle
I want one of these pens

Frescobaldi wines

I also tasted Montesodi Vendemmia Dedicato 2011 (deep ruby colour; a nose of cherry, plum and tobacco, firmly structured with lively acidity (90)), Frescobaldi Lamaione 2011 (Merlot – dense ruby-purple colour; a nose of cherries, blueberries, tobacco, cedar and vanilla oak; medium-bodied, dry, lovely mouth-feel and beautifully balanced with a pencil lead finish (92)), and Frescobaldi Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino 2011 (deep ruby colour; cedary, cherry and vanilla oak nose; medium to full-bodied, dry, elegant and savoury (90)). Someboday at the event told me they had heard that I’m retiring. Me, retiring! One doesn’t retire from wine.

Tiziana Frescobaldi

Wednesday, September 7th: Up early to join a busload of the Toronto diplomatic corps for a trip down to Niagara two visit a couple of wineries that won the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in Ontario Wines. Our first stop was at Southbrook, where we were shown around by owner Bill Redelmeier and winemaker Ann Sperling. Touring the vineyard, we tasted Southbrook Triomphe Riesling 2015, the first Riesling produced by Southbrook, Chardonnay Wild Ferment 2012, and Cabernet Franc “201” 2013.

Southbrook’s Bill Redelmeier

Willowbank School

Lunch at Willowbank School of Restoration Arts, prepared by culinary students at Niagara College in their 30-foot food truck. A torrential cloudburst before the group photograph was taken on the back staircase.

Then onto the bus to Tawse winery for a tour by winemaker Rene Van Ede. Greeted with a glass of Tawse Spark Blanc de Blancs 2011. In the cellar we tasted Tawse Estate Chardonnay 2015 out of the barrel, a blend of three vineyards and the most Burgundian in style I’ve tasted of Tawse Chardonnays. More barrel tastings of Tawse Robyn’s Block Chardonnay 2012, Tawse Cherry Avenue Pinot Noir 2013, Tawse David’s Block Merlot 2012 and Tawse Limestone Ridge Riesling 2014.

Then we all drove back to Queen’s Park for the official presentation of the awards by Her Honour the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, where the 12 award-winning wines were available for tasting.

The Lieutenant Governor and me (photo by Konrad Ejbich)

At home for dinner – trout filet – opened a bottle of CedarCreek Platinum Riesling Block 3 2013 (pale straw colour; lime blossom, grapefruit zest nose; medium-bodied, just off-dry, grapefruit and lime flavours with a touch of honey. Good length. (88.5))

Thursday, September 8th: Imant Malins dropped by to deliver his amazing smoked salmon. Worked on the novel and in the evening a visit to Dr. Tim, my chiropractor, to manipulate my shoulder. For dinner, Trius Red “The Icon” 2014 (deep ruby colour; cedary, blueberry and currants on the nose with vanilla oak notes; medium-bodied, dry, savoury and elegant. Needs time. (89–91)).

Toronto sunset on Thursday

Friday, September 9th: A Vintages release today – tasted 60-plus wines then my customary New York Fries on the way home. For dinner with hamburgers, Torres Altos Ibericos 2013, a Tempranillo from Rioja (deep purple-ruby colour; dusty, earthy nose of cherry and plum with cedary-sandalwood notes; medium-bodied, dry, blackcurrant and plum flavours with lively acidity, good length and a firm tannic finish).


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 612: Grandchildren

Monday, August 29th: Spent the morning writing wine reviews for Quench magazine and the afternoon inputting Vintages release wine reviews. Then got down to some tasting.

  • Mission Hill 5 Vineyards Pinot Blanc 2013 (Okanagan Valley – $13.99): Light straw colour; spicy, white peach nose; medium-bodied, dry, white peach and pear flavours; nicely balanced and fresh. (88)
  • Mission Hill Reserve Chardonnay 2014 (Okanagan Valley – $20.49): light straw colour; apple with spicy oak on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, apple and pineapple flavour with lemony acidity, carefully oaked and well-balanced. Rich apple, pear and clove flavours with good length. (89)
  • Mission Hill Southern Cross Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (Okanagan Valley – $34.50): light straw colour; white Bordeaux style; green plum, lanolin with vanilla oak; medium-bodied, dry, well-balanced, herbaceous, green plum flavours with good length. (89)
  • Kabang Gewurztraminer 2013 (Niagara – $17.95): straw colour; spicy, aromatic, lychee and rose bud nose; medium-bodied, dry, with unctuous flavours of lychee and rosewater with a ginger note. Good length. (88)
  • San Pedro Gato Nero 9 Lives Red Blend 2015 (Chile – $11.95): purple-ruby colour; earthy, green herbs and plum nose; medium-bodied, fruity, blackcurrant and plum flavours with a touch of sweetness and soft tannins. (86.5)
  • Waterkloof Syrah 2012 (Stellenbosch – $22.95): dense purple colour; spicy, black olive and blackberry nose with a herbal note; medium to full-bodied, dry and savoury black fruit flavours. Very stylish, reminiscent of a Côte Rôtie with great length, supple tannins and a lovely mouth feel. (92.5)
  • Mission Hill Five Vineyards Cabernet Merlot 2013 (Okanagan Valley – $16.95): deep ruby-purple colour; cedary, plum and blueberry with a light floral note; medium-bodied, dry, savoury plum and blueberry flavours, firmly structured with lively acidity. (87.5)
  • Mission Hill Whispering Hill Organic Merlot 2013 (Okanagan Valley – $62): deep ruby-purple colour; savoury-cedary nose of blueberries and plums with a vanilla oak note; full-bodied, dry, dark chocolate and blueberry flavour with lively acidity and supple tannins. (89.5)
  • Mission Hill Crosswinds Syrah 2012 (Okanagan Valley – $69): deep purple-ruby; spicy, cedar and blackberry nose with a pencil lead note; medium to full-bodied, dry, firmly structured with a banana skin note. (88)
  • Paso Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (Paso Robles – $19.95): deep ruby-purple colour; cedary, blackcurrant nose with vanilla oak notes; medium to full-bodied, dry, blackcurrant flavour with a lavender note, well balanced with soft tannins but well-structured and easy drinking. (88)

Tuesday, August 30th: Worked on the novel for much of the day and then got to babysit my grandson Declan. Annabel and Ian have rented an AirB&B above a pastry shop on Queen Street East for their stay in Toronto. We entertained Declan from 6 pm to 10 pm with games and books and hide and seek. Delighted to see his parents back.

Babysitting Declan

Wednesday, August 31st: Wrote up my Wines of the Week, then drove over to my son Guy’s house for a lunch with my daughter Annabel, her husband Ian, and their son Declan, with Guy’s wife Sasha and their new baby girl Isla.

Baby Isla

We had bagels, lox and cream cheese and egg salad. I opened Sue Ann Staff Fancy Farm Girl Foxy Pink 2014 (deep salmon in colour with a minerally, spicy watermelon nose; light to medium-bodied with a touch of sweetness and a fresh raspberry finish (87)) and Wayne Gretzky Estates Pinot Grigio 2015 (pale straw colour; peach pit nose; medium-bodied, dry, minerally white peach and citrus flavours with a light floral note (87)). Before dinner, tasted the following wines:

  • Flat Rock Cellars Pinot Noir 2014 (Ontario – $20.20): ruby colour; earthy, raspberry nose; medium-bodied, dry, raspberry and sour cherry flavours, well-structured with lively acidity and good length. (88.5)
  • Flat Rock Cellars Gravity Pinot Noir 2013 (Ontario- $30.25): ruby colour with a tawny hue; cedary, raspberry; light to medium-bodied, dry, elegant, good varietal character, raspberry flavour with a grassy note and a firm tannic finish. Volnay style. (90)
  • Henry of Pelham Pinot Noir Estate 2010 (Ontario – $24.95): ruby colour with a mature, orange rim; cedar, forest floor, cherry nose; medium-bodied, dry, firm in the mouth with a sour cherry flavour and lively acidity, orange rind finish and evident tannins. (88.5)
  • CedarCreek Syrah 2014 (Okanagan – $22.29): deep purple colour; spicy, cedary, bitter chocolate and dried herbs on the nose; ful-bodied, dry, sandalwood and mocha chocolate and black plum flavours with a soft mouth-feel and resolved tannins. (89)
  • CedarCreek Platinum Meritage “Desert Ridge” 2013 (Okanagan – $39.09): 58% Cab. Sauv., 22% Cab. Franc, 14% Merlot, 6% Malbec. Deep purple-ruby colour; cedary, blackcurrant, vanilla oak bouquet; full-bodied, dry, richly extracted and creamy on the palate with blackcurrant and plum flavour and mellow tannins. (90)
  • Ravenswood Besieged 2014 (Sonoma – $24.95): A blend of Petite Sirah, Carignane, Zinfandel, Syrah, Alicante Bouschet, Barbera and Mourvèdre. Deep purple colour; cedary, plum and wood spice on the nose; full-bodied, richly extracted juicy black fruit flavours with a lively spine of acidity and a firm finish. (89)

Thursday, September 1st: A winerytohome.com tasting at Doug Towers’s – 39 wines. For dinner, BBQ rib steak with Dominio Dostares Estay V.T. Castilla Y Leon 2012 (deep ruby colour; spicy, herbal, cherry and plum nose; medium to full-bodied, dry, savory sour cherry flavour with a firm tannic finish. Old style Spanish wine. (87)).

Friday, September 2nd: Worked on the novel. For dinner, pan-fried trout with tomato risotto and a bottle of Trius Showcase Ghost Creek Riesling 2015 (pale straw colour; minerally, grapefruit and honey nose; light-bodied, just off-dry with grapefruit and lime flavours with a honeyed note (89)).

Saturday, September 3rd: Took Pinot for a long walk in the park. She met a 10-month-old Wheaten puppy named Watson whom she played with. Usually, she barks at other Wheatens.

Pinot in the park

For dinner, spaghetti carbonara with bacon and a bottle of D’Antiche Terre Aglianico 2012 from Campania. Deep purple-ruby in colour; high-tomed, minerally, dried rose and sour cherry bouquet with smoky, barnyard notes; medium-bodied, dry and savoury with a pencil lead finish. (88)


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 611: El Tenedor

August 21st: Deborah and I went over to Michael and Rosie’s for dinner and I brought along four wines from Joie Farm in the Okanagan to taste:

  • Joie Farm Gamay 2014: ruby colour; spicy, cherry nose with a cedary note; medium-bodied, fruity, cherry ,red plum and raspberry flavours with lively acidity and a cinnamon note on the finish. Good mouth–feel. (89.5)
  • Joie Farm PTG 2014: ruby-purple colour; cedary, spicy, cherry pit nose with a light oak note; medium-bodied, dry, cherry and cranberry flavours with a touch of tannin on the finish. Well balanced and firm. (89.5)
  • Joie Farm Pinot Noir 2014: ruby colour; spicy cherry nose with well-integrated oak; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, red plum and cherry flavours, lovely mouth-feel with good length. A charming wine. (91)
  • Joie Farm Pinot Noir En Famille Reserve 2014: deeper ruby than the previous Pinot; spicy, vanilla oak, ripe cherry and red plum bouquet with a thread of minerality; full-bodied, dry, richly-extracted, vivid fruit flavours, beautifully balanced with great structure. (92.5)

August 22nd: Wrote my Lexpert column on the British tonic wine Wincarnis that’s been on LCBO shelves since 1958. Then wrote up my 680 NEWS wine reviews for four weeks, as I leave for Tuscany for a week.

In the evening Deborah and I went over to Cesar Penalver’s condo to taste his menu dishes for his new 29-seat restaurant, El Tenedor (“The Fork”), to open at 909 Yonge Street in October. Not knowing what the dishes were I brought over two versatile food wines, Henry of Pelham Estate Riesling 2013 (straw colour with a ime tint; already developing petrol notes above the grapefruit and lime aromas; off-dry, honey and grapefruit flavours in Spätlese style; medium-bodied with a lovely mouth-feel; clean flavours with mouth-freshening acidity (90)) and Yalumba Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 (dense purple-ruby colour; savoury, cedar, black currant, vanilla oak bouquet with a light floral: medium-bodied, dry, elegant and firmly structured (89.5)). A series of dishes arrived:

Ravioli windows – Aged cheddar, cumin and pumpkin seas in a transparent envelope

Tomato tartar

Garden salad with a frozen dressing (which we eat with our fingers, dipping the fresh vegetables into what looks like earth (ground black lentils over a creamy, savoury ice-cream))

Watermelon carpaccio with honey

Zucchini cannelloni stuffed with shrimp

Linguine vongole with baby clams, lemon pepper and garlic

Risotto with scallops, fennel and cauliflower

Lamb sous vide on a pool of pea puree with chicken mousseline

Dessert: Chocolate, orange with a spicy, sweet Marsala

Chef Cesar Penalver working on ravioli windows

(It’s going to be a great restaurant.)

Tuesday, August 23rd: Spent most of the day inputting my wine reviews of the September Vintages release, then tasted a few wines to keep the palate in practice.

  • Le Vieux Pin Cuvée Violette Syrah 2014 (Okanagan): dense purple colour with a violet rim; spicy floral blackberry nose with a note of dried herbs; medium to full-boded, dry and savoury blackberry flavour with balancing acidity and a lovely mouth-feel. (93)
  • CedarCreek Platinum Merlot 2013 (Okanagan): dense purple colour; savoury, leather. Spicy, cedar nose with a note of blueberry and pie crust; medium to full-bodied, lively acidity finishing on a savoury note of fresh blueberries. (89)
  • Cape Bay Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz (South Africa): ruby colour; smoky, tarry raspberry nose with notes of cedar and vanilla oak; medium-bodied, dry, lean and sinewy with a flavour of red plums. (87)

Wednesday, August 24th: Recorded my 680 NEWS reviews and spent the rest of the day working on my book. Dinner – pan-fried salmon with San Pedro Gato Nero 9 Lives Chardonnay/Semillon 2015 (straw colour; spicy apple nose with a touch of oak; full-bodied, dry, grassy, apple and pear flavours with a note of green pineapple on the finish).

Thursday, August 25th: Final preparations during the day for a dinner tasting I’m conducting at the Oakdale Golf Club.

Oakdale Italian Winemakers Dinner • August 25th 2016 ¶ Menu ¶ Hors D'Oeuvres: Grilled Shrimp skewers • Tomato and Bocconcini skewers • Focaccia Pizza with pesto and mushrooms • SANTA MARGHERITA PROSECCO SUPERIORE ¶ Dinner: Duo of Panache of Mesculm leaves with ripe figs, goat cheese crostini, with an aged balsamic reduction and amarena cherry vinaigrette • and • Grilled Squid Antipasto with Red peppers, artichokes and black olives • GAVI DI GAVI 2015 LA GIUSTINIANA CRU LUGARARA • GRECO DI TUFO MASTROBERARDINO 2014 ¶ Choice Entrée: Filet Mignon in a porcini mushroom Barolo reduction • Summer vegetable tower, and rosemary roasted potatoes • ALLEGRINI CORTE GIARA RIPASSO VALPOLICELLA 2013 • QUERCIABELLA CHIANTI CLASSICO 2013 • or • Halibut Puttanesca • Tomato, capers, black olive, garlic and white wine ragout • Summer vegetable tower, and rosemary roasted potatoes • PALA FIORI VERMENTINO DI SARDEGNA 2015 ¶ Italian Trio: Fresh berries with zabaglione, Hazelnut mousse tower, Lemon tart ¶ Coffee, tea, decaffeinated and biscotti

The wines:

  • Santa Margherita Prosecco Superiore
  • Gavi di Gavi La Giustiniana Cru Lugarara 2015
  • Mastroberardino Greco di Tufo 2014
  • Allegrini Corte Giara Ripasso Valpolicella 2013
  • Querciabella Chianti Classico 2013
  • Pala i Fiori Vermentino di Sardegna 2015

Friday, August 26th: A Vintages release tasting for September 17th. One hundred and twenty-six wines, of which I tasted half. These tastings get bigger and bigger. I’ve decided that 65 is my limit per day.


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 610: Fishing NWT

Wednesday, August 10th: Up at 5 am to get to the airport, picking up Art and Jeff on the way. We link up with Steve and Harald at Pearson Airport and will meet Harald’s brother Robert in Calgary. We’re going for a week’s fishing to Peterson’s Point Lake Lodge, 200 miles north of Yellowknife.

Margaret Peterson and her daughter Amanda greet us at Yellowknife Airport. En route to the Explorer Hotel we stop at a local store to pick up a bottle of Atemms Pinot Grigio 2014, King Estate Pinot Gris 2014, Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2013 and Chapoutier Rasteau 2013. (We have already shipped forty plus bottles with us on the flight.) We dine in the hotel restaurant. I order Caesar Salad and Rib Eye steak with twice-baked potato. The wine: Jim Barry Wood McRae Shiraz 2010.

Thursday, August 11th: Up early to find Yellowknife locked in with fog. Margaret drives us to the Tindi Air base for our traditional breakfast of strawberries, bannock cakes and jam and Pol Roger Champagne.

Champagne breakfast prior to take-off

We have to wait for the fog to lift before our Twin Otter takes off for the one-hour-and-twenty-minute flight to the lodge, due north of Yellowknife. It’s raining when we arrive and settle into our cabins. I’m sharing with Harald and Robert. There is a group of six guys from Florida here as well.


After a lunch of spicy fish soup and toasted cheese sandwiches prepared by the lodge’s cook, Norma, we take to the lake. I’m fishing with Steve and John is our guide. I’m skunked that afternoon but Steve catches a 21 lb lake trout, which means he gets on the board. (20 lb fish and above are recorded nightly on the board in the communal lounge and dining room.) Dinner: Smoked meat sandwiches, cole slaw and pickles followed by blueberry cheesecake. The wines: The Lucky County Shiraz 2013 and two bottles of Kilikanoon Killerman’s Run Shiraz 2011. Heavy rain this evening.

Norma and her cheesecake

Friday, August 12th: Fishing with Robert today with Jeff as our guide. In the morning I caught a 17-pounder, a 12 and a 4 lb trout. Steve, who cooks all the shore lunches, prepared beer-battered fish on an open fire. The wines: Redstone Winery Viognier 2013, McMichael Group of Seven Chardonnay 2014 and Te Pā Sauvignon Blanc 2015. In the afternoon I caught eight fish, none bigger than 8 lbs. Robert got a 24-pounder, which put him on the board. A bone-rattling ride back to camp as the wind whipped up the lake.

Two-decker outhouse. Top for management. Lower for Point Lake Union of Guides.

Dinner: steak. The wines: Roumier Chambolle-Musigny 2009, Amiot Chambolle-Musigny Les Amoureuses 2012, Fonseca Guimaraens Vintage Port 1986 with a selection of cheeses Harald brought including a delicious Stevenson Stilton. Rhubarb crumble for dessert.

Roumier Chambolle-Musigny 2009, Amiot Chambolle-Musigny Les Amoureuses 2012

Saturday, August 13th: A beautiful sunny day. Breakfast: blueberry pancakes and bacon.

Sunrise at Point Lake

Fishing with Jeff, and Didier is our guide today. In the morning I caught 13 lb, 11 lb and 14 lb, but nothing for the board. For shore lunch Steve cooked blackened fish with dirty rice. The wines: Pascal Jolivet Indigené Pouilly-Fuissé 2007, 13th Street Gamay Noir 2009 and Donnachiara Greco di Tufo 2014. Four small fish in the afternoon. Still not on the board. Dinner: Turkey pot pie with Oyster Bay Pinot Noir 2014, Tawse Tintern Road Pinot Noir 2013 and Domaine de Montille Beaune Les Perrières 2005. Dessert: fresh fruit cheesecake pizza.


Sunday, August 14th: Awoke to a thick fog on the lake. A breakfast of French toast and baked oatmeal with bacon. The fog cleared very quickly. I caught one small fish all morning. Steve’s recipe today: trout glazed with Dijon grainy mustard, maple syrup and French shallots. The wines: Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Sparkling Rosé, Tempier Bandol Rosé, Pascal Jolivet Sancerre Clos du Roi 2014.

Fillets of trout ready for the fry pan

In the afternoon I caught three fish, not very big. (Beginning to get antsy about making the board.) Dinner: ceviche, wild game lasagna, salad and lemon cake. The wines: Thirty Bench Small Lot Cabernet Franc 2011, Tre Brancaia Rosso Tuscana 2011 and Seghesio Zinfandel 2013.

TO DO LIST: FISH • eat • sleep • REPEAT

Monday, August 15th: Breakfast: Frittata and croissants. Fishing with Art. Caught a 20-pounder this morning, much to my relief, as well as a 14 lb and four small ones.

My board fish – 20lbs. Now back in the lake.

For lunch Steve cooked trout alla puttanseca with which we happily consumed Te Pā Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Donnachiara Greco di Tufo 2014 and 13th Street Premier Cuvée Sparkling 2008. In the afternoon I caught a 14-pounder that had swallowed a white fish; the tail was sticking out of the trout’s mouth!

Rainbow over Point Lake

Dinner: chicken breast stuffed with seafood, accompanied by rice and salad. Dessert: apple spice cake with toffee sauce. The wines: Inniskillin Shiraz Cabernet 2010, Domaine de Montille Corton les Pougets 2005, Domaine Taupenot-Merme Corton Rognet 2010. This afternoon, Greg, one of the Floridians, caught six fish over 20 pounds, the largest 39 pounds. But these guys eat sandwiches for lunch in the boat.

Tuesday, August 16th: Breakfast: Blueberry pancakes and beef sausages. Four fish this morning, a 12-pounder and three small ones. At the Outpost where we broke for shore lunch we were greeted by a caribou. Steve’s plat du jour was wasabi-crusted trout with shrimp chow mein.

Shrimp chow mein

The wines: Joie A Noble Blend 2014 and two bottles of Grosset Polish Hill Riesling 2004. One fish in the afternoon and then at 4:30 pm the sky went dark grey and a sudden storm blew up. We raced back to the lodge but the waves were rising to four feet, threatening to swamp the boats, so we took shelter on an island until the storm passed, feeding on wild blueberries. Arrived back at the lodge in blazing sunshine. For dinner: an appetizer of smoked fish nachos, then moose roast, mashed potatoes, minted peas, carrot, orange and cashew salad, followed by rice pudding. The wines: Clos de los Siete 2011, Wirra Wirra Church Block Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz Merlot 2013 and Fonseca 1997 with a selection of cheeses.


Wednesday, August 17th: My anniversary – made arrangements to Skype Deborah this evening. Breakfast: French toast and sausages. Caught three fish this morning. Lunch at Pigpen – a cabin on the shore above the river that’s been abandoned. Inside is like a museum with stocks of salad dressing, herbs, toilet paper for an army, clothes and sleeping bags. There are also boats and motors. On the sandy shore there were grizzly bear prints but no evidence of the bear itself.

Steve’s bouillabaisse

The last lunch has been traditionally Steve’s bouillabaisse – a meal we all look forward to. Steve prepares the fish broth and the roux at home and brings it up with the mussels, shrimp, scallops and tinned lobster. The wines to accompany this special dish: Pol Roger Réserve Champagne, Jean-Marc Pillot Chassagne-Montrachet Les Vergers 2010 and Michel Bouzereau et Fils Meursault 2011. A spectacular lunch. In the afternoon I caught six trout including a 12-pounder. But at least I made the board; in fact, we all did. Dinner: chicken breast stuffed with cream cheese and basil, baked carrots and parsnips, rice and salad. The wines: Juan Gil Monastrell Jumilla 2013, Château Batailley 2000, Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle 1990 and Marcarini Barolo La Serra 2004. A birthday cake was presented to Steve and we all received lodge mugs.

Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle 1990, Juan Gil Monastrell Jumilla 2013, Château Batailley 2000, Marcarini Barolo La Serra 2004
Last supper wines

Steve’s birthday cake

Thursday, August 18th: Awoke to learn that I’m a grandfather again! Sasha, Guy’s wife, delivered a baby girl in the early hours of this morning. Her name is Isla and although she didn’t make the board, she weighed in at a healthy 8 lbs 11 oz.

Breakfast: grilled cheese sandwiches. Packed up and flew back to Yellowknife. Then to Calgary and back to Toronto. A thoroughly enjoyable fishing trip.


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 609: Guy Champagne

Monday, August 1st: Pinot’s ruptured cyst if healing well but we have to keep her collar on to stop her trying to lick it. She is also on antibiotics.

Got the news today that they are dropping my monthly column from Post City Magazines but they want me to write some features on wine so I’ll still appear in the magazine. That’s the life of a freelance. You never know when editorial directions will change.

Spent much of the day writing the novel. In the evening, opened a bottle of Mount Eden Sauvignon Blanc 2015 from New Zealand (pale straw colour with a green tint; grassy, grapefruit nose with green passionfruit notes; medium-bodied, crisply dry with green plum and gooseberry flavours (90)).

Tuesday, August 2nd: Deborah and I went over to dinner to Guy and Sasha’s. Sasha is expecting a little girl any day now. Sasha made a chicken stir-fry and I opened a bottle of Frei Brothers Reserve Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 2014 (dense purple colour; leather, plum and vanilla oak on the nose; full-bodied, fruity-earthy blackberry and plum flavours with a suggestion of tannin to give the wine structure and a warm alcoholic finish (88)). Deborah made strawberry shortcake that was demolished in no time flat.

Wednesday, August 3rd: Deborah left with a girlfriend to spend the night in Picton so I stunk up the kitchen by making a chicken curry. Opened a bottle of Graffigna Malbec Reserve 2014 (purple-ruby colour; cedary, plum and tobacco nose; medium to full-bodied, dry, fruity with a lively spine of acidity (88)).

Thursday, August 4th: A very hot day today. The carpet cleaners came to pick up three Persian carpets for cleaning. The guy showed me evidence of moths and suggested we spray the place before they bring them back. Under the carpets were black moth eggs. Traumatized, I opened a bottle of Mitolo Jester Shiraz 2014 from South Australia (deep purple-ruby colour; herbal, blackberry nose with an light floral and oak nose; full-bodied, spicy blackberry flavour, good fruit in mid-palate with lively acidity and a licorice note on the finish (89)).

Mitolo Jester Shiraz 2014

Friday, August 5th: A Vintages release tasting today. Will have to pick up a bottle of Guy Champagne to celebrate the baby’s arrival. I scored it 92. It’s released on August 20th.

Guy Charlemagne Champagne
Best wine at the Vintages release tasting

For dinner with steak a bottle of Clossson Chase Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014 (Prince Edward County – ruby colour; minerally, raspberry nose with a light barnyard note; light to medium-bodied, dry, Volnay style with a lovely mouth-feel; raspberry flavour with the fragrance of violets. Judicious use of oak. The best Pinot I’ve tasted from this winery (92)).


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