A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 626: Pierre Sparr


Monday, November 28th: Wrote my 680 NEWS wine reviews and then down to Boehmer Restaurant for a Garnacha tasting, both red and white – 24 in all. My top scoring wine turned out to be the most expensive: Viñas del Vero Secastilla 2011 (Somontano PDO – $40, 70 year-old vines): deeply coloured, richly extracted black raspberry flavour (91).

Viñas del Vero Secastilla 2011

Best value: Castillo de Monseran Garnacha 2015: medium-bodied, dry, fruity, raspberry flavour with a floral note – $9.95 (LCBO #73395).

A meeting at home with John Switzer and Paul Miles to discuss the Royal Winter Fair wine competition. For dinner, salmon steak with Wildass Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (Niagara Peninsula – $18.95): ale straw on colour; grassy, green plum nose; medium-bodied, crisply dry with grapefruit and passionfruit flavours (89).

Tuesday, November 29th: Lunch at Pai Thai on Duncan Street. Bernard Sparr was matching his Alsace wines with Thai dishes.

  • Pierre Sparr Crémant d’Alsace Brut Réserve (Pinot Blanc and Auxerrois): pale straw colour; green apple and lemon nose with mineral notes; medium-bodied, crisply dry with apple and lemon flavours and a salty note. (88.5)
  • Pierre Sparr Crémant d’Alsace Rosé Brut: deep pink in colour; a nose of cherries and citrus fruits with a light floral note; medium-bodied, dry with a cherry pit flavour. (88.5)
  • Pierre Sparr Riesling Schoenenbourg 2013: pale straw colour; minerally, floral grapefruit nose with notes of grapefruit zest and developing petrol notes; light to medium-bodied, dry, elegant, well-balanced peach and grapefruit flavours with a touch of honey. Good length. (90)
  • Pierre Sparr Gewurztraminer Réserve 2015: straw colour; lychee and rose petal nose; medium-bodied, off-dry, grapefruit and lychee flavours. (88)
  • Pierre Sparr Pinot Gris Mambourg 2015: deep straw colour; mealy, peach nose with a mineral note; full-bodied, well-balanced, sweet peach flavour with a honeyed note and balancing acidity. (89)
  • Pierre Sparr Sol Calcaire 2013: ruby colour; minerally, cherry nose with a light oak note; light to medium-bodied, dry, elderberry and cranberry flavours; firm structure with ripe tannins and good length. (89)
  • Pierre Sparr Gewurztraminer SGN 2008 (picked January 2009): coppery-golden colour; a nose of apricot and honey with spicy notes; full-bodied, intense, lychee and barley sugar flavours; beautifully balanced with great length. (94)

Pierre Sparr Riesling Schoenenbourg 2013

Wednesday, November 30th: Recorded my 680 NEWS wine reviews. Telephone meeting with Sandy Kurbis to discuss the Ontario Wine Awards.

Thursday, December 1st: An eye appointment with my ophthalmologist. Thankfully my prescription for my glasses hasn’t changed. Got down to some tasting.

  • Quinta de Curvos Loureiro Vinho Verde 2015 (Portugal – $12.95): medium straw colour; minerally, white peach nose with a floral top note; light-bodied, fresh, lemony-melon flavour with a faint spritz. Easy drinking. (88)
  • Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (Marlborough, New Zealand – 375mL, $8.85): straw colour; intense, green pepper and guava nose; medium-bodied, dry, elderberry and sweet gooseberry flavours with a grassy note. (89)
  • White Cliff Sauvignon Blanc Winemaker’s Selection 2016 (Marlborough, New Zealand – $14.95): medium straw colour; grassy, green plum nose; medium-bodied, dry, spicy, greengage and grapefruit flavours with lively acidity and good length. Good value. (88)
  • Norton Barrel Select Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (Argentina – $12.95): straw colour; discreet nose withoak predominating over green plum aromas; light to medium-bodied, dryherbaceous, grapefruit and green plum flavours. (86.5)
  • Château des Charmes Chardonnay 2014 (St. David’s Bench, Niagara Peninsula – $19.95): bright straw colour; spicy, apple and oak nose; medium-bodied, creamy apple and lemon flavours with a leesy note. Well-made with good length. (89)
  • Henry of Pelham Family Tree Red 2014 (Ontario, $18.95: 33% Syrah, 29% Merlot, 19% Cabernet Franc, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Baco Noir): deep purple-ruby-colour; spicy, cedary, blackcurrant and plum nose with a touch of oak; medium-bodied, dry, juicy red fruit flavours with lively acidity and ripe tannins. (88)
  • Henry of Pelham Baco Noir Speck Family Reserve 2014 (Ontario – $24.95): deep purple-ruby colour; cedary, savoury black plum nose with a herbal note; medium- to full-bodied, dry, fruity plum flavour with a floral note; lively acidity finishing on a note of sandalwood. Good mouth-feel. (89)
  • Henry of Pelham Cabernet Merlot Estate 2012 (Short Hills Bench, Ontario – $24.95): deep ruby colour; cedary, vanilla oak and currants on the nose with a light floral note; medium-bodied, medium-bodied, dry, petit château style, firmly structured red and blackcurrant flavours with lively acidity and supple tannins. (88.5)
  • Château des Charmes Cabernet-Merlot Old Vines 2012 (Niagara-on-the-Lake – $21.95): deep ruby colour; cedary, herb-tined nose of red and blackcurrants with a vanilla oak note; medium-bodied, dry, lean and elegant blackcurrant and red berry flavours with well-integrated oak; firmly structured and well-balanced. (89)
  • Ferraton Père & Fils Côtes du Rhône Samorëns 2014 ($14.95): deep ruby colour; spicy, black raspberry nose backed by oak; medium- to full-bodied, fruity and somewhat ponderous in mid-palate, moderate length. (86.5)

Friday, December 2nd: A Vintages release tasting for January. Not very inspiring. The LCBO seems to release a weird bunch of wines in January. David Rose and his partner Elaine came by in the late afternoon and with cheeses we opened a bottle of Ravenswood Old Vine Zindandel 2014 (Napa Valley – $ 21.95): deep ruby colour; plum and leather nose with oak backing; full-bodied, spicy, peppery black fruit flavours with chocolate notes (89).

Saturday, December 3rd: In the evening, the Wernhams’ annual Christmas party. The theme this year was “Pirates and the Seven Seas.” At the last moment I made this poster:

Tony wearing an eye patch and a sign that says YO HO HO! WHO DRANK MY RUM JIM, LAD?

Sunday, December 4th: Attended the Amici Chamber Ensemble fund-raiser at Grano. I had donated a wine tasting for the live auction.

Champagne Baron-Fuenté Grand Millésime 1998


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 625: Trial By Wine

Monday, November 21st: Arrived back in Toronto from Frankfurt (my least favourite airport in the world because of the distances you have to walk). Deborah met me at the airport and Pinot T. Wonderdog was pleased to see me.

Tuesday, November 22nd: Had to go to the LCBO to catch up on a tasting I missed on Friday. Came home and tasted the following wines:

  • La Mascota Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (Argentina – $13.95): deep ruby colour; cedary red berry nose; full-bodied, dry, fleshy red berry flavour with a firm finish. (87)
  • Mascota Unanime 2011 (Argentina – $29.95): 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Malbec, 15% Cabernet Franc. Deep purple-ruby in colour; cedary, blackcurrant with a minty note on the nose; ful-bodied, rich and full on the palate, spicy black fruit flavours with dark chocolate notes and lively acidity. (90)
  • Bodegas Toro Albalá Don PX Selección 1967: Dense brown in colour, so rich it stains the glass; a concentrated bouquet of spicy molasses, dried figs and orange peel with notes of dried flowers and smoke; full-bodied, rich and unctuous on the palate with chocolate, fig and orange flavours carried on lively acidity. Lovely mouth-feel and amazing length. Most Pedro Ximenez wines are too sweet but this one is exquisitely balanced. A triumph. (97 points)

label from Bodegas Toro Albalá Don PX Selección 1967

Wednesday, November 23rd: Spent the morning doing wine evaluations for a charity auction. In the afternoon got down to some tasting:

  • Miguel Torres Santa Digna Syrah Reserva 2013 (Chile – $14.95): deep ruby colour; savoury-herbal nose of blackberries with oak spice; medium-bodied, dry, fruity blackberry and blackcurrant flavours constrained by toasted herb notes, carried on lively acidity. Great value. (88.5)
  • Momo Pinot Noir 2014 (Marlborough, New Zealand – $19.95): ruby colour; earthy-leathery, raspberry nose with a spicy oak note; medium-bodied, cry, fresh and lively raspberry flavour with a firm tannic structure. Beautifully balanced. (89)
  • Wildass Merlot 2014 (Niagara Peninsula – $18.95): deep ruby colour; blueberry and blackberry nose with oak spice; medium-bodied, creamy, coconut and blueberry flavour with lively acidity and evident tannins on the finish. (88.5)
  • Henry of Pelham Estate Pinot Noir 2012 (Short Hills Bench, Niagara – $24.95): medium ruby colour; cedary, smoky, black cherry bouquet; medium-bodied, dry, well-structured and firm with well-extracted fruit, sweet tannins and lively acidity. Good mouth-feel and good length. (89.5)
  • Château Bertin 2014 (Lussac Saint-Emilion – $19.95): deep ruby colour; cedary, dusty nose, floral, black fruit nose with oak spice notes; medium-bodied, dry, red and blackcurrant flavours with a note of leather; firm tannic finish with lively acidity. (88.5)
  • Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir Les Aspres Syrah Mourvèdre Grenache 2013 (Côtes du Roussillon -$18.95): deep ruby purple colour; savoury-herbal nose of blackberries and licorice with oak notes; medium to full-bodied, dry, velvety mouth-feel with flavours of blackberry, black raspberry and vanilla oak. Ripe tannins and fresh acidity. (89)
  • Burrowing Owl Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (Okanagan): deep ruby colour; cedary, plum and blackcurrant nose with oak backing; medium to full-bodied, dry, creamy black fruits, firmly structured with ripe tannins and good length. (90)
  • Burrowing Owl Meritage 2013 (Okanagan): deep ruby, cedary, blackcurrant, with spicy oak; medium-bodied, dry, richly extracted, sweet fruit (blackcurrant and plum) with creamy oak, ripe tannins and good length. (91)
  • Stratus Petit Verdot 2012 (Niagara-on-the-Lake – $38.20): dense ruby-purple in colour; cedary, blackcurrant nose with floral notes and toasted herbs; medium to full-bodied, well-extracted blueberry and currant flavours with pencil lead notes; firmly structured. Rich and full on the palate with evident but ripe tannins. (91)
  • Stratus Red 2012 (Niagara-on-the-Lake – $44.20): 29% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Franc, 13% Petit Verdot, 3% Malbec, and 3% Tannat. Dense purple-ruby colour; cedary, black fruit and licorice nose with vanilla oak notes; full-bodied, dry with richly extracted black fruit flavours with mocha-chocolate notes; firmly structured with rich but ripe tannins. (91–93)

Thursday, November 24th: Back to the LCBO for another catch-up tasting. The Vintages December 10th release is 169 products! This is Trial by Wine for the wine press.

A meeting at 3:30 pm in the National Club with Doris Miculan-Bradley and Dan Richards to discuss Grapes for Humanity’s donations. Dan is on the board of two African charities – Amani in Tanzania and Raising The Village in Uganda.

Friday, November 25th: Back to the LCBO for the second half of the Vintages December 10th release. Customary French Fries on the way home.


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 624: Friuli Collisioni

banner for Vine & Wine Rossi Nativi hanging from romanesque double-arched window high on stone wall

Friday, November 18th: Last night I flew Lufthansa to Frankfurt with Roberto Martella, en route to Venice and then by bus to Cividale del Friuli, a ninety-minute drive. On the Toronto-Frankfurt flight I sat next to an Indian couple who had brought their own food. The smell of curry permeated the cabin. The flight was delayed, which meant our layover time in Frankfurt was cut from an hour and ten minutes to thirty minutes. A sweaty run to the gate but we made the flight.

Met up with five other members of our group who will be attending the three-day Collisioni Festival (tasting local indigenous red varieties and Piemonte whites). A 90-minute drive in the rain to Cividale del Friuli, a charming medieval town founded by Julius Caesar.

Checked in to Hotel Roma, slept for an hour and then rendezvoused with the entire group for a walking tour of Cividale del Friuli conducted by a local tourism guide. She led us to a Langobard church in a monastery with beautiful frescos, to St. Peter’s Church and to Piazza Paolo Diacona that’s known as the “Ladies Square” – the original marketplace of the town.

Langobard church door

Church of St. Peter, Cividale del Friuli

Ladies Square, Cividale del Friuli

There are some 30 of us – sommeliers and wine writers from all over Europe and North America, with a heavy Canadian contingent. At 7:30 pm we walked over to dinner at Al Monastero Restaurant di Pavan Giuseppe, Via Pistori 9.

Al Monastero Restaurant

Plate decoration at Al Monastero Restaurant

Al Monastero menu

Risotto with speck at Al Monastero

A quartet called “Wine Unplugged” performed songs that related to the dishes we were served – Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold,” Jeff Buckley’s “Everybody Wants You” and Phil Collins’s “In the Air Tonight.” 85% of Friuli wines are white and that’s what we were served tonight.

  • Vencia & Vencia Ribolla Gialla 2015: straw colour; minerally, smoky, white peach nose with a floral note; medium-bodied, dry, well-balanced with a mineral finish. (89)
  • Gradis’Ciutta Pinot Grigio 2015: straw colour; minerally, peach and apple bouquet with a suggestion of oak; medium-bodied, dry and firm with good length. (89)
  • Blazic Friulano 2015: bright straw colour; minerally, pear and lemon zest nose; medium to full-bodied, dry, spicy pear and lemon flavours with an aromatic floral note in mid-palate. Great balance. (91)

Blazic Collio Friulano 2015

Walked home in the rain.

Saturday, November 19th: Awoke to heavy rain at 6 am. 8:30 am walked to Castello Canussio for the first of our tastings. Today will be a crash course in Refosco. Ian d’Agata introduced the tasting. “Friuli Venezia Giulia is thought of as a white wine region but it also produces great red wines.” There are, he said, five important red grapes in the region. “Refosco is a group of grapes with similar characteristics.” Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso is the most common. “Any grape variety with lots of synonyms means it’s been around for a long time… Already talked about in the nineteenth century. It’s a noble, vigorous, thin-skinned grape, probably Teroldego, via Lagrein and Marzemino. Refosco is the father of Corvina and grandfather of Rondinella. An early-budding variety, it needs to be ripe or will give green flavours.” 2015 vintage, “Splendid.”

  • Cadibon Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso 2015 (Friuli Colli Orientali – 13% alcohol): deep ruby colour; peppery cherry nose with a light floral note; light to medium-bodied, fruity, cherry with lively acidity, Beaujolais-like. Fresh and fruity with a spicy, floral finish. Good length (90)
  • Pitars Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso 2015 (Friuli Grave – 12.5%): deep ruby colour; cherry with an undergrowth note and a light oak note; medium-bodied, dry and lean with fresh acidity and just a suggestion of tannin. (87).
  • Tenuta Ca’ Bolani Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso 2015 (Friuli Aquileia – 13%): deep ruby colour; spicy, savoury, plum and cherry bouquet; medium-bodied, dry, licorice, plum and prune flavours with evident grainy tannins (87.5).
  • Castello di Buttrio Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso 2014 (Friuli Colli Orientali – 13%): deep ruby colour; spicy, cherry nose with a note of leather; medium-bodied, dry, sour cherry flavour with a fine spine of acidity and evident tannins (88).
  • Perusini Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso 2014 (Friuli Colli Orientali – 13.5%): dense ruby colour with a violet tint; cedary, black cherry nose with a note of new leather; medium-bodied, dry, sour cherry flavour with lively acidity and good length. (88.5)
  • Aquila Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso 2013 (Friuli Colli Orientali – 13.5%): dense purple-ruby colour; spicy, fruit cake nose with oak notes; richly extracted, medium-bodied, dry, savoury, bitter chocolate and sour cherry flavours with firm structure with gripping tannins (89). (90% in stainless steel.)

Aquila Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso 2013

Second session:

  • Buiatti Livio & Claudio Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso 2013 (Friuli Colli Orientali – 13.5%): deep ruby-purple colour; earthy, black cherry nose with a reductive note; medium-bodied, dry, cherry with a floral note; firmly structured, well-extracted fruit with a firm finish, warm alcoholic finish. (87)
  • Butussi Valentino Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso 2013 (Friuli Colli Orientali – 13.5%): deep purple-ruby colour; black cherry, undergrowth nose with a light floral note; medium-bodied, dry, fruity, well-balanced with ripe tannins with lively acidity. Acetic note. (88)
  • Ca’Tullio Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso Patriarca 2013 (Friuli Aquileia – 13%): deep ruby-purple colour; spicy, oaky, red flower note; medium-bodied, dry, floral red plum flavour with ripe tannins. (89.5)
  • Livon Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso Riul 2013 (Friuli Colli Orientali – 13%): deep ruby-purple colour; floral cherry, tobacco and pencil lead bouquet with a spicy oak note; medium-bodied, dry, floral black cherry flavour with lively acidity and firm grainy tannins. A keeper. (Aged in Hungarian oak.) (90)
  • Vitas 1907 – Roman Vitas & Co. Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso Villa Vitas 2013 (Friuli Aquileia – 13%): purple-ruby with a violet note in colour; leafy, cherry-plum nose with an earthy note; medium-bodied, dry, lively acidity, firmly structured with a firm finish. (88.5)
  • Cabert-Cantina di Bertiolo Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso Riserva 2012 (Friuli Grave – 13%): deep ruby colour; cedary, spicy, tobacco, red berry and rhubarb nose with oak nose; medium-bodied, dry, cranberry flavour with a milk chocolate note carried on lively acidity ending with a floral note. Firm finish. (89)

Refosco flight


A buffet lunch during which we could taste 18 wines, 4 from Piemonte and 14 from Friuli Venezia Giulia.

At 2pm a tasting of indigenous white wines from Piemonte. Arneis used to be called Nebbiolo Bianco and used to be blended with Nebbiolo.

  • Marchesi di Barolo Roero Arneis 2015 (13%): pale straw minerally, white peach nose; medium-bodied, crisply dry, fresh with a bitter almond finish. (88)
  • Agricola Gaimpiero Marrone Roero Arneis Tre Fie 2015 (13.5%): light straw colour; minerally, white peach and lemon peel nose; medium-bodied, chalky, white peach and lemon flavours. Some ripeness with a peachy flavor and some bitterness on the finish. (88.5)
  • La Scolca Gavi dei Gavi Codice Gigi 2015 (13%): pale straw colour; minerally, grassy, citrus and green apple nose; crisply dry, green apple and green peach flavours with a touch of bitterness on the lemony finish. (89)
  • Broglia Gavi del Comune di Gavi La Meirana 2015 (13%): pale straw colour; minerally-graphite and citrus nose; medium-bodied, crisply dry, crab apple, firm with some bitterness on the finish. (88.5)
  • Rivetto Lange Nascetta Borea 2013 (13%): medium straw colour; hay, citrus, minty nose; medium-bodied, struck flint with a bitterness on the finish.

Piemonte white wines

A tasting of another flight of Refosco followed:

  • Pizzulin Denis Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso 2012 (Friuli Colli Orientali – 14%): deep purple-ruby colour; earthy, plum nose with spicy oak notes; full-bodied, dry, richly extracted, fruity and firm with evident but ripe tannins. Needs time. (89–90)
  • Valchiaro’ Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso 2012 (Friuli Colli Orientali – 13.5%): deep purple colour; rich, spicy, plum nose; full-bodied, dry, plum and blueberry flavours with lively acidity and a lovely floral note; beautifully balanced and firmly structured. Evident oak. (91) (Aged 30 months in barrique.)
  • Le Monde Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso Inaco 2011 (Friuli Grave – 14%): dense purple-ruby colour; richly extracted plum and blackberry nose with vanilla oak; full-bodied, highly extracted plum and raisiny flavours with a coconut notes and a green, tannic finish. (87.5)
  • Marco Cecchini Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso 2011 (Friuli Colli Orientali – 14%): deep purple-ruby colour; vanilla, floral, black fruits on the nose; medium to full-bodied, dry, fruity, plum and blackberry with lively acidity and a firm tannic finish and a floral note. (89.5)
  • Petrucco Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso Ronco del Balbo 2011 (Friuli Colli Orientali – 13.5%): dense purple colour; earthy, animal, leather nose; full-bodied, richly extracted, sweet black fruit flavours, chewy, dense and rich. Still youthful. (91)
  • Valpanera Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso Riserva 2011 (Friuli Aquileia – 14.5%): dense purple-ruby colour; reductive, blackcurrant and black plum nose with an oaky note; full-bodied, dry, red plum flavour, firmly structured, lively acidity, evident tannins on the finish. (89)

At 5 pm a tasting of Refosco di Faedis wines from the Friuli Colli Orientali region. Refosco, a group of grapes rather than a family, was classified in 2005. The wines have a standardized label from that vintage. 12 producers in the association with six others. Entry-level wines have a white label (usually unoaked and from the plain); riservas, black label (oak-aged but not in barriques). Their symbol is the eagle, the bird of the region. All wines are sold at the same price. Average annual production of both labels is 15,000 bottles.

  • Macor Gianni Refosco di Faedis 2015 (12%): deep ruby colour; black raspberry nose with a cedary, smoked bacon note; medium-bodied, dry, lively acidity with a firm tannic finish. (88.5)
  • Graziano Refosco di Faedis 2013 (13%): deep ruby-purple colour; high-toned fruity-floral, creamy blackberry nose; medium to full-bodied, dry, fresh, easy drinking with a firm finish. (88)
  • Perabo’ Maurizio Refosco di Faedis 2013 (13.5%): deep ruby with a violet tint; savoury, blackberry with an earthy-floral note; medium-bodied, dry, savoury, black cherry flavour with a chestnut skin note; firm finish with lively acidity. (89)
  • Ronc Dai Luchis Refosco di Faedis 2013 (14% alcohol; 8% air-dried grapes): deep purple-ruby colour; high-toned, pencil lead, vanilla and cedar notes on the nose; medium to full-bodied, dry, plum, rustic with firm tannins. (88.5)
  • Di Gaspero Flavio e Umberto Refosco di Faedis 2013 (13%): deep ruby colour; black raspberry nose with oak spice and light floral notes; medium-bodied, dry and savoury, lean and sinewy, firm tannic finish. (87.5)
  • Zani Elvio Refosco di Faedis 2012 (13%; 120-year-old vines) deep ruby colour; inky, spicy, cedary, blackberry nose with rose petal and white pepper notes; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, lovely mouth-feel, lively acidity beautifully balanced and long finish. (90)

Refosco di Faedis

8:00 pm: Rendez-vous at Hotel Roma hall and transfer to dinner. 8:30 pm: Dinner hosted by Associazione produttori Schioppettino di Prepotto at Azienda Agricola Vie d’Alt di Bruno Venica Winery in Prepotto. A buffet dinner with a table of 35 wines – Ribolla Gialla (3), Friulano (12), Verduzzo Friulano (2), Picolit (1), Schioppettino di Prepetto (13 – vintages from 2013 back to 2008), Schioppettino (2007 back to 2004).

Sunday, November 20th: The tastings today start at 9:30 am. Tazzelenghe translates as “tongue cutter” which speaks to its high acidity and tannin on a medium-bodied frame. It’s “teetering on the verge of extinction,” says Ian d’Agata. Only 6 producers of note; 6–7 hectares of Tazzelenghe left. Terrano (Refosco d’Istria), is “a hot-to-trot grape.”

  • Colutta Gianpaolo Tazzelenghe 2012 (Friuli Colli Orientali – 0.5 hectares of this variety; 50% air-dried grapes on the vine; 13.5% alc.): deep ruby colour; cherry, blackcurrant, pepper and rust on the nose with a note of oak; medium-bodied, dry, somewhat austere and rustic with lively acidity and evident tannins. (88) (Two years in oak.)
  • Jacuss Tazzelenghe 2012 (Friuli Colli Orientali – 0.4 hectares of Tazzelenghe; 13%): deep ruby colour; dusty, black plum nose with a light floral note; medium-bodied, dry, sour cherry buttressed by firm tannins. (88.5) (Two years in used barriques.)
  • La Viarte Tazzelenghe 2010 (Friuli Colli Orientali – 1.8 ha. of Tazze; 12.5%): dense purple-ruby colour, very youthful looking; fresh, floral, tobacco, minerally, plum nose; medium to full-boded, dry, well-extracted plum and blackcurrant flavours with a licorice note, lively acidity and a firm tannic finish. (90)
  • Bajta Terrano 2015 (Venezia Giulia – “the grapevines argue with the soil whether they can grow or not”; 3 – 4% air-dried; 12%): deep ruby colour; spicy, earthy, vanilla, pencil lead, black cherry nose with a green note; dry, medium-bodied, fruity with a touch of oxidation, highly acidic and tannic. (87) (Carbonic maceration aged in stainless steel.) Terrano was traditionally prescribed for women suffering from anemia (because of the iron content in the soil).
  • Castelvecchio Terrano senza solfiti 2015 (Carso – 4 ha.; 12.5%): deep purple-ruby colour; white pepper, spicy, plum nose; medium-bodied, dry, fresh and lively acidity with evident tannins, graphite and red plum flavours. Highly acidic. (87)
  • Skerk Terrano 2014 (Venzia Giulia – 1.5 ha.; 11%): deep purple-ruby colour; cedary, black fruit nose with oak spice; medium-bodied, dry, acid-driven with sour cherry flavour with a mineral thread and firm tannic finish. (88) (Slavonian oak.)

Flight of Tazzelenghe

11:30 am: Tasting of Pignolo wines. “A rags-to-riches story (for the variety).” The name comes from “pine cone,” compact berries, giving biggest, most tannic wines of Friuli’s native varieties, “the noblest of Friuli’s red grapes.” A shy bearer. You have to push ripeness of Pignolo because of the tannins. For me, this was the most exciting discovery on the trip.

  • Borgosandaniele Pignolo Arbis Ros 2012 (Friuli Isonzo – 2 ha. of Pignolo; 14.5%): deep ruby-purple colour; floral, minerally, black fruit nose; medium-full-bodied, dry with black plum and blackberry flavours with lively acidity and grainy tannins. Good length. (89) (Aged two years in new barriques and Slavonian oak.)
  • Rocca Bernarda Pignolo Novecento 2011 (Friuli Colli Orientali – 2ha.; 14.5%): deep ruby with a mature rim; cedary, spicy, vanilla, tobacco and plum nose; medium-bodied, dry, earthy and tannic. Closed in at the moment. (88–90) (Barrique aged for two years.)
  • Scarbolo Pignolo 2011 (Friuli Colli Orientali – 13.5%): dense ruby colour; earthy, cedary, plum nose; medium to full-bodied, dry, plum and dark chocolate flavours with lively acidity and a sandalwood note. (88.5)
  • Specogna Pignolo 2011 (Friuli Colli Orientali – 14%): deep ruby colour; floral, cedary, blackcurrant and blackberry nose; full-bodied, well-extracted, sweet black fruit flavours, firmly structured but elegant, well-balanced with a fine spine of acidity. (90) (36–40 months oak aging.)
  • Giovanni Dri Il Roncat Pignolo Monte dei Carpini 2009 (Friuli Colli Orientali – 600 bottles; 14.5%): deep ruby with a mature rim; ripe, mature, claret-like nose of cedar and blackcurrant; medium-bodied, dry, firmly structured, elegant, well-balanced with a tannic lift on the finish. Needs several years. (91)
  • Livio Felluga Pignolo 2009 (Friuli Colli Orientali – 15%): dense purple-ruby, youthful-looking; spicy, oak-driven cedary-sandalwood nose of plum – New World style; full-bodied, dry, mouth-filling, tannic, somewhat closed, pencil lead note with chewy tannins. (88–90) (Barrique-aged.)

Giovanni Dri Il Roncat Pignolo Monte dei Carpini 2009
My top Pignolo

1 pm: Buffet lunch followed by a tasting of Schioppettino wines, all from Friuli Colli Orientali. ‘The most exciting of the native red grapes of Friuli, according to Ian d’Agata. Huge bunches big berries, with green peppercorn notes.

  • Ronchi San Giuseppe Schioppettino 2015 (13% alc.): deep ruby colour; spicy, cedary, red berry nose; medium-bodied, dry, fruity and fresh, red and blackcurrant flavours with supple tannins. (89.5)
  • Conte D’Attimis-Maniago Schioppettino 2013 (13% alc.): deep ruby colour; floral-minerally nose of red berries and leather; medium-bodied, dry, fruity and light on the palate with a firm finish. Easy drinking. (88)
  • La Tunella Schioppettino 2012 (14.5% alc.; air-dried grapes for 15 days): deep ruby colour; floral, blackcurrant with a spicy, cedary note on the nose; full-bodied, sweet currant flavours with a floral lift; dry, elegant, beautifully balanced, well-structured. Velvety mouth-feel. (91) (Aged in 500-litre tonneaux.)
  • Centa S. Anna Schioppettino 2011 (15% alc. – 50% air-dried): deep ruby colour; cedary, blackcurrant with a peppery note on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, blackcurrant with a cedary note; elegant and firm, silky mouth-feel with lively acidity. Tannic finish. (89)
  • Flaibani Schioppettino 2011 (13% alc. – 1400 bottles): deep ruby colour; floral, blackcurrant nose with a light cedar note; medium-bodied, dry, red and blackcurrant flavours with lively acidity and a firm finish. (90)
  • Gigante Schioppettino 2011 (13% alc.): deep ruby colour; floral, blackcurrant nose with a light peppery note; medium-bodied, dry, light and elegant, currant and red cherry flavours, lovely mouth-feel with a firm finish. (91)

Flaibani Schioppettino 2011
A delicious Schioppettino

4:00 pm: Tasting of Schioppettino di Prepotto wines from Friuli Colli Orientali. Schioppettino used to be called Ribolla Nera. 23 producers are members of the association. All 13.5% alcohol. The wines used to use air-dried grapes but have gotten away from appassimento to allow the grape to express itself.

  • Colli Di Poianis Schioppettino di Preppoto 2013: deep ruby colour with a maturing rim; minerally, red berry nose with a light floral and cedary note; light and medium-bodied, dry, redcurrant and cranberry flavours with evident but supple tannins. Good mouth-feel. (88.5)
  • Grillo Iole Schioppettino di Preppoto 2013: deep ruby colour; spicy-cedary nose of cherries with a floral note and a suggestion of leather; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, cherry and black raspberry flavours; well balanced and firm. Great mouth-feel with a fresh finish. Like a cru Beaujolais. (90) (Two years in oak.)
  • Vigna Lenuzza Schioppettino di Preppoto 2013: deep ruby colour; floral, cherry nose with a lifted note; medium-bodied, dry with lively acidity and a firm finish; elegant, beautifully balanced with evident but ripe tannins on the finish. (89.5) (American oak-aged.)
  • La Buse dal Lof Schioppettino di Preppoto 2012: deep ruby colour; a nose of violets and blackcurrants backed by cedary notes; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, beautifully balanced, savoury red berry flavours with a lively acidic spine. Finishes firmly on an apple peel note. (89)
  • Marinig Schioppettino di Preppoto 2012: deep ruby colour; leather and red berry and blackcurrant nose with floral and cedary notes; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, beautifully balanced, lively acidity and good length. Lovely mouth-feel, firm finish. (90)
  • Ronco dei Pini Schioppettino di Preppoto 2012: deep ruby colour; minerally–pencil-lead nose of red berries with vanilla oak and cedar notes; medium-bodied, dry, lean and sinewy, redcurrant flavour with evident but ripe tannins. (88.5)

7.30 pm: Dinner hosted by Associazione produttori Refosco di Faedis at Villa Accordini, Campeglio di Faedis.

Dinner set-up at Villa Accordini

Villa Accordini’s menu

A glass of sparkling Ribolla Gialla, a quick tour of the cellar and then into the dining room for a 6-course dinner accompanied by various vintages of Villa Accordini Refosco di Faedis, ending with grappa. Back at the hotel by midnight, finished packing reading for an alarm call at 5:45 am.

Monday, November 21st: Arrived in rain, left in rain. Shared a taxi to Venice airport with Michael from New York and Elise, a sommelier at Mylos restaurant in Las Vegas. Bought a pair of cashmere gloves for Deborah in Duty Free. Flew to Frankfurt and then boarded the flight to Toronto. A mercifully uneventful flight back to Toronto. A very quick but intensive visit to Friuli and a new respect for the native red varieties grown there.


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 623: How to Save a Thousand Years

Monday, November 14th: Wrote my Lexpert column on blind tasting, concluding with irrefutable statement that “one glance at the label is worth a thousand years of experience.”

Lunch with Roger Randolph at the Military Club. Roger imports Château Puyfromage and he brought along a bottle of the 2014 vintage (72% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc). An old-style claret. Deep purple-ruby in colour with a cedary, plum and currant nose; medium-bodied, dry, savoury, red berry flavour, firmly structured with ripe tannins. A steal at $13.95 (88).

In the afternoon, tasted a bottle of Jean-Max Roger Sancerre Cuvée Caillottes 2015 (bright straw colour; floral, pink grapefruit nose; medium-bodied, dry, green herbs, grassy, green plum and grapefruit flavours with a mineral thread; long, fresh finish (90)). Dinner with our friends Arlene and Michael at the Granite Club. Michael brought along Pol Roger Extra Cuvée de Reserve 2000, Philippe Colin “Les Chenevottes” Chassagne-Montrachet 2011 and Guigal Château d’Ampuis Côte Rôtie 2007. Great roast beef and Yorkshire pudding with Brussel sprouts. A memorable meal.

Tuesday, November 15th: Down to the LCBO to taste the Beaujolais Nouveaux to be released, traditionally, on the third Thursday of November.


  • Reif Estate The Fool Gamay Nouveau 2016, $12.95
  • Reif Estate Kerner Nouveau The Hanging Man 2016, $12.95


  • Art’s Beaujolais Primeur Nouveau 2016, $13.95
  • Duboeuf Gamay Nouveau 2016, $10.95
  • Mommessin Beaujolais Nouveau 201, $13.95


  • Mezzacorona Novello, Trentino 2016, $9.95
  • Negrar Novello del Veneto 2016, $9.95

France (in Vintages):

  • Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais Villages Nouveau 2016, $15.95
  • Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau 2016, $15.95

A rather lacklustre vintage all round but if you must partake I’d go for the Negrar Novello and the Duboeuf Beaujlais-Villages.

Dinner at Grano to taste the wines of Casale del Giglo in Lazio.

  • Casale del Giglo Bellone 2015: golden straw in colour with a spicy, minerally, peachy nose reminiscent of Soave; medium-bodied, dry, with an interesting touch of bitterness on the finish. (89)
  • Casale del Giglo Antinoo Lauzio Bianco 2013 (two-thirds Viognier, one-third Chardonnay): deep straw colour with a spicy, minerally nose of white peach and honeysuckle; medium to full-bodied, rich and full on the palate with a touch of bitterness on the finish. (89)
  • Casale del Giglo Madreselva 2013 (equal parts Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot): dense purple colour; floral, cedary nose, vanilla oak and pencil lead notes; well-extracted blackcurrant and blackberry flavours. Nicely balanced. (89)
  • Casale del Giglo Mater Matuta 2011 (85% Syrah, 15% Petit Verdot): dense purple-black in colour; savoury, herbal, blackberry bouquet; medium to full-bodied, dry, blackberry and plum flavours, firmly structured with lively acidity. (90)

Wednesday, November 16th: Lunch at Nota Bene with Geddy Lee, Aaron Barberian and Steven Campbell to discuss a Grapes for Humanity Château Latour tasting dinner in Vancouver with the winery’s president, Frédéric Engerer. Steve brought along a bottle of Ata Rangi Craighall Charonnay 2014 and we ordered a bottle of Frédéric Mangiens Côte Nuits Perrières 2013. In the evening Deborah and I dropped in to see how Cesar Penaver is getting on with the construction of his new restaurant, El Tenedor at 909 Yonge Street.

Thursday, November 17th: Clearing my desk as I leave this afternoon for Friuli.


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 622: Catena Wines

Monday, November 7th: Wrote my 680 NEWS wine reviews and then prepared notes for a tasting I’m conducting on Wednesday for Winetasters – 1990 Bordeaux. For dinner, steak with a bottle of Chakana Estate Selection Malbec 2014 (Mendoza, Argentina – $21.95): dense purple colour; savoury blackberry nose with a herbal note; full-bodied, dry, richly extracted, fruity and firmly structured with plum and blackberry flavours supported by a good spine of acidity. (88.5)

Tuesday, November 8th: Had coffee with my friend Paul Kostoff. In the evening, down to Terroni on Adelaide for “The Extraordinary Italian Taste” – eleven chefs from the restaurant preparing a series of dishes which we ate standing up – pasta, risotto, tomato and bocconcini salad, prosciutto, Italian cheeses and wines.

a chef carving prosciutto from a large joint in a busy room

a chef serving pasta in a busy room

Wednesday, November 9th: A 10:45 am tasting at Leña (in the old Simpson’s building on Yonge Street) with Laura Catena. Catena was the first winery to produce high altitude wines in Argentina. Catena has partnered with Château Lafite.

Laura Catena

  • Catena Visa Flores Malbec 2014 ($25): Deep purple-ruby colour; a nose of blackberry and black cherry with pencil lead notes; full-bodied, beautifully balanced, dry and elegant. (91)
  • Catena Paraje Altamira Malbec 2014 ($22.95): Dense purple colour; broader than Vista Flores with a nose of violets, blackberry and spicy oak; rich and full on the palate, beautifully balanced and fleshy with dark chocolate notes. (92)
  • Catena San Carlos Cabernet Franc 2014 ($19.95): Deep ruby-purple colour; savoury, herb-tinged nose of cedar and red berries; medium to full-bodied, sweet fruit that finishes dry with powdery tannins; elegant and beautifully balanced. (92)
  • Catena Agrelo Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($22.95): deep purple-ruby colour; cedar and plum on the nose with a vanilla oak note; medium-bodied, dry, creamy blackcurrant and plum flavours and ripe tannins; firmly structured with a savoury, dry finish. (90)
  • Catena Adrianna Vineyard White Bones Chardonnay 2012 ($93): Bright straw colour; spicy, peach and apple nose, developing barnyard notes; full-bodied, dry, rich and ripe flavours of pineapple and apple with lively acidity. (91)
  • Catena Adrianna Vineyard White Stones Chardonnay 2012 ($110): Bright straw colour; spicy, creamy, green apple nose with evident minerality; medium-bodied, dry, spicy green apple and green plum flavours with grainy tannins and lively acidity; light and elegant and the closest Argentina has come to replicating Chablis! (90)
  • Nicolas Catena Zapata 2011 (a blend of three vineyards; 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Malbec – $110): Deep ruby colour; cedar, violets and blackcurrant on the nose; medium to full-bodied, richly extracted, dry with flavours of blackcurrants and fresh mushrooms; elegant, and savoury, firmly structured with grainy tannins. (91)
  • Catena Adrianna Vineyard Fortuna Terrae Malbec 2012 ($130): Dense purple colour; spicy, blackberry and vanilla oak nose with a floral top note; full-bodied, richly extracted, elegant and harmonious, beautifully balanced with a firm finish and a note of cinnamon. (93)
  • Catena Adrianna Vineyard Mundus Bacillus Terrae Malbec 2011 ($325): Dense purple colour; spicy, black cherry and plum bouquet with a floral note; full-bodied, richly extracted flavours of dark chocolate and black fruits; firm and tight with a rich mouth-feel and ripe tannins. Hold 4–5 years. (93–95)

Catena reds

In the evening up the North York Memorial Hall for the Winetasters’ 1990 Bordeaux tasting. The event is held in the basement of the library there. According to The Wine Cellar Insider, 1990 “was the second hottest year of the century in Bordeaux. Only 1947 was warmer. 1990 also offered vintners more sunlight as well. The year was only surpassed by 1949 for the amount of sun the grapes received. Interestingly, 1990 set another second place record. It was the second wettest year on record for a hot vintage. Only 1989 surpassed it for rainfall.”

The wines, to be served blind, were (in my suggested serving order):

  • 1990 Les Ormes de Pez, St. Estephe (my ranking: 7; group ranking: 6)
  • 1990 Château Ducru-Beaucaillou, St. Julien (8 – slightly corked; 8)
  • 1990 Château Beychevelle, St. Julien (3; 7)
  • 1990 Cos d’Estournel, St. Estephe (6; 5)
  • 1990 Château Pichon Longueville Baron, Pauillac (5; 1)
  • 1990 Château Haut Brion, Pessac-Léognan (1; 3)
  • 1990 Cheval Blanc, St. Emilion (2; 2)

The final wine was a mystery wine. I thought it was a Cos d’Estournel 1995; It turned out to be Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 1990 from Napa. Humbled again.

the Bordeaux tasting wines

After the tasting I couldn’t find my car in the parking lot. Wandered around for half an hour before Jennifer Curran, a director of Winetasters, rescued me and drove me around until we found it.

Thursday, November 10th: Wrote up my Wines of the Week and then worked on the book. Coming down with a cold, unfortunately, and had to cancel an event this evening – a pairing of Laurent Perrier champagne with food. Damn, would have liked to be there but tomorrow I have a big tasting and my nose has to be working.

Friday, November 11th: A winerytohome tasting this morning at 10 am with Doug Towers and David Lawrason. We broke at 10:40 to watch the Remembrance Day ceremony on Parliament Hill.

Saturday, November 12th: Otta Zapotocky invited Deborah and me to have dinner at his new Swiss-inspired restaurant, Val d’Isere, in his old location of Tinto Bar de Tapas on Bayview Avenue. Otta had the ingenious idea of maintaining both restaurants – from Thanksgiving to Easter it will be Val d’Isere, the rest of the year it will be the Spanish restaurant. The name of the restaurant will be illuminated and the other will be dark. Deborah ordered Escargot on puff pastry to start and I, Val d’Isere potato chowder gratinée – served in a bread bowl and garnished with bacon and Gruyere.

Val d’Isere’s potato chowder gratinée in a bread bowl

Deborah had the short rib goulash and I, roasted whole pork hock with sauerkraut and potato roesti. We drank a glass of Domaine Gobelsburg Grüner Veltliner 2015, followed by a glass of Salvalai Pinot Noir delle Venezie 2015.

Roasted whole pork hock

Otta served us a glass of Martha’s 10 Year Old Tawny Port and introduced us to Becherovka, an amazing Czech digestif. Have to pick up a bottle at the LCBO.


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 621: Tasting Tasting Tasting

Monday, October 31st: The annual Italian tasting at Roy Thomson Hall this morning. 105 wineries. There must have been around 600 wines being poured. Unfortunately, I only had time to stop at 13 producers’ tables. My best tasting experience was at the Aurelio Settimo table. Mightily impressed by Aurelio Settimo Barolo Rocche dell’Annunziata 2010 (93) and 2008 (92). The 2011 wasn’t too shabby either (90). Other top wines I tasted: Ca’Tullio Viola Traminer Aromatico 2015 (90), Monteci Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2011 (91), Azienda Agricola Visintini Andrea Collo Orientali del Friuli Merlot 2008 (91).


Aurelio Settimo Barolo Rocche dell'Annunziata 2010

Ca'Tullio Viola Traminer Aromatico 2015

riserva Toriòn, Azienda Agricola Visintini

In the mail, when I got home, was a copy of John Szabo MS’s beautifully illustrated book, Volcanic Wines – Salt, Grit and Power. A very useful addition to the library – and one that won’t date. Looking forward to reading it.

Tuesday, November 1st: A busy wine day today. At noon down to the LCBO to taste some of the November 12th Vintages release wines I’d missed. Then on to the ROM for the “Love Wine. Love Chile” tasting. 27 wineries pouring six or less wines each. Enjoyed the wines of Montes, Baron Philippe de Rothschild, Maipo, Via Wines and Casas del Bosque.

Chilean greeters

In the evening, Deborah and I were invited to have dinner at the Rosedale Golf Club, where Eduardo Chadwick of Errazuriz was conducting a winemaker dinner.

ERRAZURIZ | November 1st, 2016 | Rosedale Golf Club ¶ Reception: Peach Compote with Melted Brie on Toasted Brioche | Beet and Goat Cheese Pizzette | Lamb Skewers with Black Olive Jus | Herb Chicken Empanadas | 2015 Aconcagua Costa Sauvignon Blanc | 2014 Aconcagua Costa Syrah ¶ Dinner: Amuse Bouche: Scallop Ceviche with Grapefruit * Grilled Nova Scotia Lobster | Cilantro, Pineapple Sauce | 2015 Aconcagua Costa Sauvignon Blanc * Cirrus Hill Farm Duck Confit Chili | Edamame, Yucca Chips | 2012 KAI * Seared Beef Tenderloin | Amarosa Potato Fondant, Hillside Farm Cauliflower | 2012 Don Maximiano * Roasted Buschbeck Rack of Lamb | Lamb Shoulder Estofado with Chickpeas and Heirloom Carrots | 2012 La Cumbre * Selection of Local Cheeses | Crostini, Honey Comb | 2013 Chadwick * Mignardises

Eduardo Chadwick with Chadwick 2013

Wednesday, November 2nd: A lunch tasting with Jackson-Triggs winemaker Marco Picoli at Woods, 45 Colborne, to taste his new label, Arterra.

  • Arterra Chardonnay 2015 (the fruit comes from Le Clos and Claystone vineyards – $29.95): Bright straw colour, a nose of apple and green pineapple with well-integrated oak; medium to full-bodied, dry, apple and pear flavours, well-extracted and fruity with a note of caramel on the finish. (89)
  • Arterra Pinot Noir 2015 (Montague Vineyard fruit – $29.95): deep ruby colour; cedary, spicy, minty, plum nose; medium to full-bodied, rich and fruity plum and cherry flavours with lively acidity and ripe tannins. Reminded me more of a Valpolicella Ripasso than Pinot Noir. 15% of the grapes for this wine were dried for 8 weeks and 15% were put through Ripasso, then oak-aged for 7–8 months.

Marco Picoli with Arterra wines

For dinner, lamb chops with Château d’Ardilley Haut Médoc 2012 (dense purple colour; cedary, blackberry nose with vanilla oak notes; dry, medium-bodied, blackcurrant and blueberry flavour with a lively acidic spine (87)).

Thursday, November 3rd: Wrote up my wines of the week and after lunch down to the Convention Centre to judge wines for Gold Medal Plates. David Lawrason asked the panel to taste 16 wines, a cider, and four spirits and then rank them, giving out top five. My top wines in order (1st to 5th) were: Cave Spring Cellars The Adam Step Riesling 2014, Hidden Bench Nuit Blanche 2014, Stratus Evergreen White 2008, Rosehall Run Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014, Tawse Winery Laundry Cabernet Franc 2012. When the dust settled, the group consensus was:

  1. Hidden Bench Nuit Blanche 2014
  2. Tawse Winery Laundry Cabernet Franc 2012
  3. Cave Spring Cellars The Adam Step Riesling 2014
  4. Tawse South Bay Chardonay 2013
  5. Hinterland Rosé Method Traditional

Friday, November 4th: Wrote a chapter of the novel, then shopped for tomorrow night’s dinner party and bought a Dutch oven for the osso buco. Then did a little tasting.

  • Henry of Pelham Red House Wine Co. Baco Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 (Ontario): deep ruby-purple colour: cedary, blackberry nose with a herbal note; medium-bodied with a touch of sweetness, lively acidity and plum and blackberry flavours. (86.5)
  • Henry of Pelham Sibling Rivalry Red 2015 (Ontario – Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon): deep ruby-purple colour; briary, curranty nose with a suggestion of oak; medium-bodied, dry, fruity, nicely balanced with ripe tannins. (87)
  • Château Guillou 2014 (Montagne Saint- Emilion – $19.95): deep ruby colour; cedary, blueberry nose with spicy oak on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, savoury, blueberry and currant flavours, firmly structured. (87)
  • Domaine Galaman 2013 (Fitou – $14.95): Syrah, Carignan, Grenache. Deep purple-ruby colour; savoury nose of toasted herbs, cedar and blackberry; medium-bodied, dry, blackcurrant and blackberry flavours, nicely balanced with a firm tannic finish. Good value. (87.5)
  • Montebuena Cuvée KPF 2014 (Rioja – $15.95): deep ruby colour; cedary-sandalwood nose of strawberry puree; medium-bodied, dry, cherry and strawberry flavours with lively acidity. (87.5)
  • Hob Nob Wicked Red Blend (Pays d’Oc – $12.95): Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Pinot Noir. Earthy, black cherry nose; medium to full-bodied, sweetish plum and cherry flavour. Firmly structured, fruity but finishing dry. (86.5)
  • Sartori Montegradella Valpolicella Classico 2012 (Veneto – $17.95): deep ruby colour; cedary, cherry and blackcurrant nose with an oaky note; medium to full-bodied, sweet and sour flavours of cherry and currants with lively acidity and a firm structure. (88.5)
  • Sartori Corte Bra Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2009 (Veneto – $49.95): deep ruby colour; spicy, dried cherry nose with an earthy note; full-bodied, sweet cherry and plum flavours with grainy tannins and a firm tannic finish. (89)

A copy of Liz Palmer’s The Ultimate Guide to Champagne was dropped off at the condo – a delightful travelogue through the Champagne region with loads of tips on how to enjoy my favourite beverage.

Autumn colours in my ‘hood

Saturday, November 5th: Spent much of the day preparing for a dinner party for our friends Rene and Ivor and Roz and Steve. While I prepared the meal (Deborah made dessert) I drank San Raffaele Organic Pinot Grigio 2015 (very pale in colour with a lime tint; minerally, white peach and lemon bouquet; medium-bodied, crisply dry and fresh (88.5)).

The menu:

Imant Malin’s Smoked Salmon with capers and lemon wedges

Osso buco with roasted potatoes in rosemary and roasted vegetables

Cheeses: 6-year-old Balderson Cheddar, David Wood’s Goat Cheese and a ripe Brie

Dessert: Red wine pear crisp

The wines:

  • Henry of Pelham Carte Blanche Blanc de Blancs 2011
  • O’de Mailly Champage 2008
  • Tantalus Riesling 2012
  • Masi Campofiorin 2006
  • Bottega Brunello di Montalcino 2006
  • Inniskillin Cabernet Franc Icewine 2014

A great dinner party, if I say so myself.


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 620: Somewhereness


Monday, October 24th: Lunch at Terroni on Yonge Street with Ann Walmsley who, 36 years ago was my researcher on CBC Radio’s “Africa Week.” We reminisced about the program that ran for five nights in the “Ideas” slot, and about her book, The Prison Book Club – and the novels we were both writing.

Then on to St. James Cathedral’s event space for “Somewhereness” – 12 small and mid-sized Ontario wineries of quality who have come together to express the soil of Niagara and Prince Edward County. Bill Redelmeier of Southbrook explains it as “Twelve of the top fifteen wineries in Ontario. The other three are whomever you’d like them to be.” I tasted 30 of the 44 wines on offer. My top scoring wines were Charles Baker Riesling Picone Vineyard 2013 (92.5), Charles Baker Riesling Ivan Vineyard 2015 (92), Bachelder Wismer Windfield #1 Chardonnay 2013 (92), Cave Spring Cellars Riesling Adam Steps 2014 (92), Hidden Bench Nuit Blanche 2014 (91), Stratus Red 2012 (91), Flat Rock The Rusty Shed Chardonnay 2012 (90), Norman Hardie County Chardonnay 2014 (90), Tawse Estate Chardonnay 2012 (90). This tasting proved to me that Ontario is making terrific wines now.

Cave Spring Cellars Riesling Adam Steps 2014

My friend Pooch from California came home with me for dinner. Deborah cooked duck breast. Pooch brought over a bottle of Avalon Pinot Noir 2014 (Edna Valley, California) and I served a bottle of Domaine des Terrisses 2012 (Gaillac).

Tuesday, October 25th: A meeting at Queens Park with the Lieutenant Governor’s office to discuss the partnership between the Ontario Wine Awards and the Lieutenant Governor’s Awards for Excellence in Ontario Wines. Then on to One Restaurant to have lunch with Marc Nadeau. Next a meeting with Arlene Willis, my co-founder of Grapes for Humanity, to talk about the future of the Canadian foundation.

Wednesday, October 26th: Worked on the novel much of the day. In the evening, a meeting of directors of Grapes for Humanity. We decided to create a membership for the foundation, called Friends of Grapes for Humanity, to raise funds when we are not putting on events.

Thursday, October 27th: A day of paying bills and doing accounts, very boring. This evening down to Lulu Lounge for Access Education Guatemala’s annual fund-raising gala dinner and auction. Grapes for Humanity has donated funds for the construction of a secondary school in La Union.

Friday, October 28th: A Vintages release tasting, the second half of the huge November 26th catalogue. In the evening, dinner at the Donalda Club with friends Gordon and Esther and Bob and Maureen. We all brought wine: Hudelot Noellat Close de Vougeot 1990, Humberto Canale Merlot 2007 (my contribution), La Spinetta Pin Monferrato Rosso 2004 and Château Lynch Bages 1999.

Saturday, October 29th: Dinner at Edulis on Niagara Street, a restaurant I’m reviewing for Decanter Magazine. We ordered the seven-course dinner. No menu, they just bring you dishes, heavy on the fish and seafood. I ordered a bottle of Clos Lapeyre Jurançon Sec 2014. A delicious meal.

Edulis’s opening dish – big eye tuna with cashews, radishes and crispy shallots

Dish two – scallop with ginger butter, paw paw and smoked scallop roe

Dessert – sorbet of quince and apple with brown butter cream and cracked meringue


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