A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 607: I4C 201

I4C poster

Monday, July 18th: A dental appointment this morning, never a good way to start the week. In the afternoon wrote up my wine reviews for Quench magazine. For dinner with salmon, Henry of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Chardonnay 2013: bright straw colour; Burgundian nose of apple, spicy oak with a forest floor note; medium-bodied, dry, great balance with apple and pear flavours lifted with spicy oak. (89)

Tuesday, July 19th: A conference call with Hans Gerhardt and Donald Ziraldo to discuss a possible wine event for 2017. Lindsay Groves came over for a drink. I opened a bottle of Tarquino Sauvignon Blanc 2015 from Mendoza: pale straw colour; lemony, grapefruit nose with a mineral note; medium-bodied, dry, fresh, green plum flavour with a grassy note. (88)

Wednesday, July 20th: Wrote my Quench column on rosés. Dinner with our friends Gordon and Esther at Mistura. Great bottle of Guado al Tasso Il Bruciato 2014 from Maremma.

Guado al Tasso Il Bruciato 2014

Thursday, July 21st: Picked up at noon to drive down to Niagara for this year’s International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration at White Oaks Conference Resort and Spa. After settling into my room I crossed the road to the outlet mall to visit Bass Pro, where I bought some lures and a packet of leaders for my fishing trip next month. Outside the mall they have a rack of barrels celebrating Niagara wineries. Nice touch.

Outlet mall barrels
Outlet mall barrels

Then on to the Directors’ dinner at Stratus. All the visiting winemakers and their Ontario peers were there. My first wine of the event was Josef Chromy Sparkling Chardonnay from last year’s I4C.

Friday, July 22nd: Up early for the I4C keynote speaker is Ian D’Agata. The First Session: “To Pick or Not to Pick… Harvest timing and implications.” Moderator John Szabo: “One third sunlight is all you need (to ripen grapes).” “19 degrees is sufficient to ripen Chardonnay.” Greg Stach, Landmark Vineyards, Sonoma: “There are two Chardonnays: fine wine Chardonnay and Chardonnay as a commodity.”

Blind tasting of six wines – have they been picked at optimum ripeness – early, peak or late?

  1. Champy Bourgogne Signature Chardonnay 2013: Tart, green apple and sour cream flavours; Chablis style.
  2. Landmark Vineyards Overlook Vineyards 2013: Elegant, oaked, nicely balanced with good acidity.
  3. Norman Hardie County Chardonnay Unfiltered 2014: Lean, tart, light-bodied, fresh acidity.
  4. Norman Hardie Niagara Chardonnay 2013: Fresh, lively, green apple, fresh and lively.
  5. Viña Tabalí Talinay Chardonnay 2014: Well-balanced green apple and lemony.
  6. Dog Point Vineyard Chardonnay Marlborough 2014: Smoky, toasty, green apple, good length, tart finish.

Session 2: The 4 C’s… Cellaring Cool Climate Chardonnay. Factors that allow Chardonnay to age: Acidity/pH; SO2, Residual Sugar, Alcohol Level, Phenolics, Dissolved CO2, Oxygen ingress, Malolactic Fermentation, Partial MLF, Filtration, use of Oak, Aromatics; Storage conditions (light, temperature humidity), Wine environment – vessel type, bottle colour, closure type.

Two wines from the same winery, different vintages;

  • Benjamin Bridge Methode Classique 2011 and Blanc de Blancs Brut 2004
  • Blue Mountain Chardonnay Reserve 2013 and 2005
  • Domaine Laroche Chablis Les Vaudeveys 2014 and Les Blanchots 2009
  • Foxes Island Belsham Awatere Estate Chardonnay 2011 (Auckland) and 2008
  • Cave Spring Cellars CSV Beamsville Bench Chardonnay 2013 and 2007


Sessions Three: Skins and Stems – Whole Cluster Winemaking (or not). Belinda Kemp from the Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute, Brock University. “Chardonnay is a quite neutral grape.”

  • Domain Drouhin Oregon Chardonnay Arthur 2014
  • Stoller Family Estate Dundee Hills Chardonnay 2015
  • Planeta Chardonnay 2014 (Sicily)

(Which of the following Pinots had whole-cluster fermentation?)

  • Malivoire Wine Mottiar Pinot Noir 2013
  • Malivoire Wine Mottiar Pinot Noir 2014
  • Malivoire Wine Mottiar Small Lot Pinot Noir 2014
  • Flat Rock Cellars Estate Pinot Noir 2013
  • Flat Rock Cellars Estate Pinot Noir 2013

Then upstairs to the press room to taste wines that will be served at I4C.

Media room wines (159 in all)

At 7 pm took a shuttle bus to the Niagara District Airport for a tasting of Chardonnays set up at booths inside the huge hangar. At the food stations you paid with cork (1 to 3 pieces, depending on the dish). Best dish was the deep-fried zucchini blossoms with aioli.

Saturday, July 23rd: After breakfast, into the Media Tasting Room for more tasting, then at 10:30 am Kurtis Kolt and I were driven to Redstone Winery for lunch. Before the al fresco lunch (on one of the hottest days of the year) we did some tasting at the bar:

  • Redstone Sparkling 2013 (60% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir, 10% Pinot Gris): pale straw colour; minerally, peach nose; medium-bodied, dry, white peach and citrus flavours with a firm somewhat bitter finish. (87.5)
  • Redstone Chardonnay 2012 (a blend of three vineyards): straw colour; minerally, apple nose with vanilla oak and an undergrowth note; medium-bodied dry with good varietal character. (88)
  • Redstone Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2012 (60% Sauvignon, 40% Semillon): pale straw colour; herbaceous, crab apple bouquet; medium-bodied, crisply dry with an apple peel flavour; slightly hard on the finish. (86)
  • Redstone Reserve Chardonnay 2012: pale straw colour; high-toned nose of apples; medium-bodied, sweetish peach and apple flavours. (88)
  • Redstone Syrah 2012: deep ruby colour; medium-bodied, dry, earthy, spicy blackberry flavour; firmly structured with a vanilla oak and sandalwood finish. (88)
  • Redstone Cabernet Franc Reserve 2012: deep ruby colour; leady, blackcurrant nose with vanilla oak and a floral note; medium-bodied, dry, firmly structured with evident tannins. (88)
  • Redstone Cabernet Sauvignon 2012: deep ruby colour; cedary, redcurrant nose; medium-bodied, dry, firmly structured, redcurrant and cranberry flavours with a firm tannic finish. (88)

Then we sat down to lunch on the patio. It was so hot the butter melted to a pool within minutes. The menu:

The Restaurant at Red Stone • i4C+ International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration July 22-24, 2016 • From Field To Table • Saturday, July 23, 2016 • Marinated Albacore Tuna: Cucumber, Dill, Buttermilk; Paired with 2012 Redstone Chardonnay • Whole Roasted Beef Striploin: Black Garlic, Tomato, Charred Snap Peas, Watercress; Paired with 2012 Redstone Reserve Cab Franc • Goat's Milk Panna Cotta: Summer Berry, Almond; Paired with 2013 Tawse Chardonnay Icewine

Table set with bread and butter in small cast-iron pans; the butter is a round, solid cake

The same pan; the butter is now thoroughly melted, as though it had been on a stove
…four minutes later

A view from above of a small glass bowl of what, from this angle, looks as much like potpourri as anything
Redstone dessert

The back to the hotel and more tasting in the Media Room before departing by shuttle bus for Ridley College for the Cool Chardonnay World Tour Grand Tasting & Al Fresco Dinner. All the participating wineries poured their wines in the college ground – over 100 wines from the best cool-climate wine regions from across the globe. The biggest line-up was at Imant Malins’ Fat Chance Cold Smoked Salmon Company’s booth, where he handed out generous samples of his magnificent smoked salmon.

i4C+ International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration July 22-24, 2016 • Cool Chardonnay World Tour Grand Dinner • Presented by VQA Wines of Ontario and the LCBO | VINTAGES • MENU • Chilled Vineyard Wood Fired Pork Loin with NC House Soppressata, Campus Pickles & James – Chef Craig Youdale, Canadian Food & Wine Institute at Niagara College • Dressed Tigchellar Strawberries & Queen Scallop with Green Strawberry, Almond, Radish, Buttermilk & Dill – Chef David Sider, The Restaurant at Redstone • Niagara Organic Greens with Cave Spring Ice Wine & Sherry Vinaigrette – Chef Jason Williams, Inn on the Twenty Restaurant • Salt-Baked Wild Salmon with Pearl Couscous Tabouleh, Stevensville Organic Heirloom Tomatoes & Pumpkin Seed Vinaigrette – Chef Erik Peacock, Wellington Court Restaurant • Fregola Salad with Estate Harvested Tomatoes, Peas, House-Made Ricotta, Adamo Estate Chardonnay Saba – Chef Roberto Fracchioni, Cabin at Hockley Valley Resort • Epp Family Farms Heirloom Carrots with Chardonnay, Caraway & Thyme Dressing; Sorrel Smoked Mini Potatoes with Burnt Onion and Horseradish Crème Fraiche – Chef Jason Parsons, Peller Estates Winery Restaurant • Pastrami Spiced Ontario Beef Striploin with Smoked Bacon Sauerkraut & Dijon Mustard – Chef Frank Dodd, Trius Winery Restaurant
Saturday dinner menu

At 9:30pm the Après Chardonnay Bar opened, featuring Ontario red wines.

Bachelder Oregon Johnson Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012
My top red at I4C

Domain Laroche Chablis Premier Cru 'Les Vaudevey' 2014
My top white at I4C

Sunday, July 24th: After breakfast, back to the media room to taste another ten wines before taking the shuttle bus to Ravine Vineyard for a Moveable Feast – Brunch. The Chardonnays were set out under a tent.

It's a buffet in an open-sided tent
Lunch at Ravine Vineyard

After lunch a bunch of us repaired down to the cellar to taste some Ravine vineyard wines.

  • Ravine Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2015: straw colour; spicy, Bordeaux-style nose with a note of oak; medium-bodied, dry, grassy, grapefruit and green plum flavours; elegant with great length. (90)
  • Ravine Vineyard Pinot Gris 2015: pink gold colour; spicy, peach pit nose with an oak note; medium-bodied, dry, white peach and citrus flavours with good length. (89)
  • Ravine Vineyard Cabernet Rosé 2015 (100% Cabernet Franc): salmon colour; minerally, strawberry and rhubarb on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, wild strawberry puree and lemon flavours with good length. (88.5)
  • Ravine Vineyard Lonna’s Block Cabernet Franc 2014: deep ruby-purple colour; colour; cedary, spicy, green tobacco and redcurrant flavours; medium-bodied, dry, black and redcurrant flavours; well-balanced and fresh on the palate. (89.5)
  • Ravine Vineyard Lonna’s Block Cabernet Franc 2013: deep ruby-purple colour; cedary, spicy, tobacco and vanilla oak spice bouquet; full-bodied, dry. ripe fruit – plum and prune flavours. (88.5)
  • Ravine Vineyard Lonna’s Block Cabernet Franc 2012: deep ruby-purple colour; high-toned, vanilla oak, redcurrant nose with a floral note; medium to full-bodied, dry and firmly structured. (89).

Ravine Vineyard Lonna's Block Cabernet Franc 2012, 2013, 2014
A vertical of Ravine Vineyard Cabernet Franc

A car took me back home. A very enjoyable experience all around.


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 606: 2017 Wine Tour

Monday, July 11th: Wrote my Lexpert column about Vinexpo 1989. Then did some tasting:

  • Spier Merlot 2014 (Stellenbosch): light ruby colour with a tawny hue; smoky, earthy, cherry nose; full-bodied, richly extracted plum flavour with lively acidity. (88)
  • 16 Mile Cellar Rebel Pinot Noir 2011 (Niagara – $22.95): pale ruby in colour with an orange rim; raspberry nose with a light floral note; medium-bodied, dry, earthy, red berry flavours in Burgundian style, with a dry finish; the greenness on the end palate suggests young vines but the wine augurs well for future vintages. (88.5)
  • Château des Charmes Cabernet Franc 2013 (Niagara – $14.95): solid ruby colour; leafy, minty, redcurrant nose with a cedary note; medium-bodied, dry, redcurrant and cranberry fleshed out with vanilla oak flavours. (87.5)
  • Miguel Torres Las Mulas Reserva Merlot 2015 (Chile – $12.95): ruby-purple colour; cedary, spicy, blueberry nose with a pencil lead note; medium-bodied, dry, blackcurrant flavour, well-extracted fruit with nicely integrated oak and a dry, savoury finish. (88)
  • E. & J. Gallo Ghost Pines Merlot 2013 (86% Sonoma/14% Napa – $18.95): deep purple-ruby colour; plum, black cherry and mocha chocolate on the nose; full-bodied, mouth-filling flavours of black plum and cherry with chocolate notes; grainy tannins on the finish. (88.5)
  • Ruffino Riserva Ducale Oro Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2011 (Tuscany – $47.95): mature ruby colour; spicy, cedary cherry bouquet with a note of tobacco and dried flowers; medium-bodied, dry, sour cherry with oak notes, savoury with a long dry finish. Old-style Chianti, beautifully balanced and a joy to drink. (91)
  • Henry of Pelham Baco Noir Speck Family Reserve 2014 (Ontario – $24.95): deep purple colour; cedary, blackberry nose with vanilla oak notes; medium-bodied, dry, creamy black berry and plum flavours with fresh acidity, well-balanced and lively on the palate with surprising elegance and length for a hybrid. Lovely mouth-feel. (89)

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

  • Jackson-Triggs Delaine Fumé Blanc 2012 ($24.95): straw-coloured with a spicy, grassy, lanolin and vanilla oak nose; very white Bordeaux in style – beautifully balanced and elegant, medium to full-bodied, peachy, grapefruit flavour with a spicy oak finish. Great length. (90)
  • Inniskillin Chardonnay Montague Vineyard 2013 ($24.95): medium straw colour with a lime tint; minerally, apple, pear nose with well integrated oak; medium-bodied, pineapple and pear flavours with spicy, toasty oak on the finish. (89)

Wednesday, July, 13th: Lunched with Steve Pauwels to discuss next year’s wine tour. We are thinking of Veneto and Friuli. Happy to be going back to Verona, my favourite city. In the evening our friends Ladka, Jerry and Barb came over for drinks. I opened up two delicious sparkling wines: Bouvet Crémant de Loire Excellence Brut and Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Brut 2015. A huge storm at 1 am. Pinot is afraid of thunder and lightning. We put the thunder shirt on her to calm her but she was trembling all night and kept us up.

Thursday, July 14th: Walked around like a wet dish rag most of the day from lack of sleep. We were meant to go to the iYellow Summer Wine Jam at Airship 37 this evening but we were just too exhausted to make it.

Friday, July 15th: A Winerytohome tasting at Doug Towers’s, after which Judy prepared the annual dinner. Deborah joined us and we ate al fresco.


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 605: Men in Pink

Men in Pink

Monday, July 4th: Wrote my 680 NEWS wine reviews and my Post City magazines column. Then got down to some tasting:

  • Watercloof Circle of Life 2012 (Stellenbosch, $19.95): A blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Semillon. Straw colour with a greenish tint; concentrated nose of mango and pineapple; medium-bodied, dry, grapefruit and peach flavours with a grassy note with mouth-watering acidity; well-balanced. (89.5)
  • Alamos Mendoza Selección Malbec 2013 (Argentina – $16.95): Deep purple colour; cedary, spicy, smoky nose of blackberries; full-bodied, mouth-filling flavours of sweet plums and blackberries with a soft tannic finish. (88.5)
  • Baron Philippe de Rothschild Escudo Rojo 2013 (Chile – $18.95. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère, Syrah and Cabernet Franc): Dense purple colour; smoky, cedary, black fruit nose; medium-bodied, dry, and savoury flavours of blackcurrant and blackberry with a lovely mouth-feel and a coffee bean note on the finish.(89)

For dinner, pasta with Frattoria di Piazzano Blend 2 2013: a blend of equal parts Colornino, Sangiovese and Malvasia Nero. Dense ruby-purple colour; cedary, plum and cherry nose; light to medium-bodied, high-toned, sour cherry and plum flavours. (87)

Tuesday, July 5th: Recorded my 680 NEWS reviews. Ann Sperling and Pete Gamble came to the condo for a tasting of their wines (Versado, Southbrook and Sperling Vineyards). We were joined for dinner by Michael Vaughan and Rosie.

Southbrook Moon Harvest Barrel Chardonnay 2013

  • Sperling Vineyards Chardonnay 2014 (Okanagan – $30): pale straw with a lime tint; spicy pear nose with a light floral note on the nose; medium-bodied, fresh, apple pear and lemon flavours, lovely mouth-feel and a lively citrus acidic finish. Great length. (91)
  • Sperling Vineyards Vin Gris of Pinot Noir 2014 ($30): pink-gold colour; wild strawberry nose with a light oak note; full-bodied, wild strawberry and peach flavours carried on lively acidity; full on the palate, fleshy and well-balanced with a mineral thread. (89)
  • Sperling Vineyards Brut Reserve 2010 (70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay – $50): white gold colour; high-toned, apple and toast on the nose with a chalky-mineral note; lemony, green apple, fresh, lemony, minerally flavour with great length. A touch rustic and yeasty but absolutely delicious. (91)
  • Southbrook Moon Harvest Barrel Chardonnay 2013 (Four Mile Creek – $40): old gold colour; caramel, baked apple nose with a spicy oak note; richly extracted, full in the mouth, spicy, peach and apple flavour augmented by oak; fleshy but well balanced with a long, fresh finish. Great length. (92)
  • Southbrook Moon Harvest Barrel Cabernet Franc 2013 (7% Cabernet Sauvignon: Four Mile Creek – $40): deep-ruby-plum colour; cedary, spicy, minty, redcurrant nose; medium-bodied, dry, Bourgueil-style, fresh red and blackcurrant flavours, beautifully balanced with well-integrated oak. (90)
  • Southbrook Witness Block Cabernet Sauvignon Cabernet Franc 2013 (51% CS/49% CF – $40): deep ruby colour; cedary, blackcurrant with a spicy, coffee bean nose; medium-bodied, dry, well-extracted currant flavour; firmly structured and well balanced. (89.5)
  • Versado Malbec 2013 (Argentina – $25.95): deep ruby colour; floral, spicy, blackberry and blackcurrant nose with cedary and vanilla oak notes; full-bodied, roasted note, fleshy black fruit flavours with a savoury , licorice note. (91)
  • Versado Old Vine Malbec 2012 ($40): dense ruby colour; cedar, minerally, black plum nose; richly extracted, savoury black fruit flavours, beautifully balanced, firmly structured, rich and full on the palate, ripe tannins, with coffee bean and plum flavours. More Cahors in style than Argentina. (92)
  • Versado Reserva Malbec 2012 ($60): dense ruby colour; spicy, floral, blackberry nose with vanilla and cedar notes; medium to full-bodied, dry, ripe blackberry and blackcurrant flavours with a mineral thread and a lively spine of acidity; silky mouth-feel finishing firmly with a chocolate note. (93)
  • Sperling Vineyards Gewurztraminer Icewine 2014: ($50, 375 mL): Old gold colour; spicy, peach and honey nose; full-bodied, rich and sweet, well balanced flavours of tropical fruit, barley sugar and cinnamon. (92)

Versado Reserva Malbec 2012, Versado Old Vine Malbec 2012, Versado Malbec 2013

Wednesday, July 6th: Today is the annual Men in Pink event at Allen’s restaurant on the Danforth. This is the 8th year and John Maxwell must have a direct line to God because the weather for the event has been phenomenal apart for one year when it had to be held indoors. Ontario winemakers bring their rosés and the all-male attendees have to come dressed in pink. John’s chef prepared an all-pink meal: Buttermilk beet and radish soup, barbecued smoked salmon, barbecued steak (served pink) and strawberry panacotta with fresh strawberries and orange sauce for dessert. Always a fun occasion.

Pink soup

Billy Munnelly and John Maxwell in the pink

Thursday, July 7th: Gurth Pretty came to the condo for a meeting to discuss a wine and cheese concept. For dinner, flank steak with Fisticuffs Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (Napa Valley – $49.95): Dense purple colour; minty blackcurrant nose with a note of leather; richly extracted fruit with vanilla oak; full-bodied with a chunky mouth-feel; ripe plum flavour with soft tannins. (89)

Friday, July 8th: A Vintages release tasting, after which Michael and I joined Rosie at the outdoor art gallery in Nathan Philips Square. I bought a metal sculpture – a carved handsaw. Brought it home. Deborah was not impressed. She said I shouldn’t be buying art after a big tasting. Maybe she’s got a point.

The controversial saw


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 604: Muskoka Rose

Muskoka Rose

Sunday, June 26th: Deborah and I drove up to Gravenhurst with Pinot T. Wonderdog to spend a couple of days with David and Elaine at their B&B on Pike Lake. Pinot, who usually barks the whole journey in the car, only did so intermittently, thank heaven. The B&B, named Muskoka Rose, has been voted the best in Mukoka. Pinot loves the water and was first in the lake.

Pinot T. at Muskoka Rose

I had brought up some wines for tasting:

  • Saint-Aix Rosé 2015 (Coteaux d’Aix en Provence – $22.95): pale pink colour; a nose of yellow cherries; medium to full-bodied, dry and fruity with rhubarb and strawberry flavours. (88)
  • Mission Hill Martin’s Lane Pinot Noir 2012 (Okanagan – $25): ruby colour; high-toned raspberry nose with earthy, charred oak notes; medium-bodied, spicy, sweet cherry flavour, broad and firm on the palate. (90)
  • Mission Hill Martin’s Lane Pinot Noir 2013 (Okanagan – $25): a shade lighter ruby colour than the 2012; cedary, cherry nose; richly extracted, medium-bodied, dry and more in Burgundian style; medium-bodied, beautifully balanced, dry with a lovely mouth-feel and very elegant. (92)

Martin’s Lane Pinots

Monday, June 26th: An idyllic day, hot, blue sky. Tried fishing but only got one bite. Went into Gravenhurst and looked around antique shops. Had an ice cream, then back for dinner. Opened a bottle of Nobilo Icon Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (New Zealand – $24.95): pale straw colour; a nose of grapefruit and cut grass with passionfruit notes; medium-bodied, dry with richly extracted flavours of passionfruit and elderberries carried on lively lemony acidity. Great length. (91)

Muskoka chairs and lake

Tuesday, June 27th: Left the B&B after breakfast. Pinot was not as considerate on the way home, barking much of the way. Pasta for dinner with a bottle of Azienda Uggiano Prestige Chianti Classico 2015 (Tuscany – $16.95): purple colour; spicy plum, blackcurrant and cherry bouquet with oak notes; medium-bodied, dry, high-toned, old Chianti syle, beautifully balanced black fruit flavours with a floral grace note. Great value. (90)

Wednesday, June 28th: Catching up on emails this morning, then a 2 pm meeting with Sandy Kurbis to go over the Ontario Wine Awards presentation ceremony at Niagara College and the trade and consumer tasting at George Brown College. For dinner with chicken kebabs, Bodegas Piqueras Castillo de Almansa 2010 (Spain – $16.95): dense ruby-purple colour; earthy plum and blackcurrant nose; medium-bodied, dry, and well balanced. (89)

Thursday, June 29th: A meeting with Angela Aiello and the iYellow group for a post-mortem on the Ontario Wine Awards event and planning for next year. Then down to the Rogers Centre with my friend Frank to watch the Cleveland Indians win over the Blue Jays. Came home and to commiserate I opened a bottle of Zuccardi Q Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (Mendoza, Argentina – $19.95): dense purple colour; earthy, spicy, black fruit nose with a cedary note; medium to full-bodied, dry and savoury with well integrated oak and balancing acidity. (89)

Friday, July 1st: Canada Day. Watched the marathon 19-inning Jays v. Cleveland Indians. Emotionally exhausted. There is a circle of hell reserved for the home plate umpire whose strike zone when Cleveland was pitching was as wide as the city. Did some tasting to calm down.

  • Argento Pinot Grigio 2015 (Argentina): pale straw colour; spicy, vanilla oak masking fruit; medium-bodied, dry, white peach and lemon flavour; medium-bodied, crisply dry, white peach and lemon flavours with a minerally finish. Good length. (88.5)
  • Château des Charmes Riesling 2012 (Ontario): very pale straw colour; spicy, lime and petrol with a honeyed note; light-bodied, off-dry, honey, grapefruit and lime flavours; good length with a mineral note. (90)
  •  Argento Chardonnay 2015 (Argentina): medium straw colour; spicy, apple with a forest floor note on the nose; medium to full-bodied, sweet yellow apple and oak flavours with a lemony finish. Moderate length. (88)
  • Chatelain Pouilly-Fumé Les Vignes 2014 (Loire): pale straw colour; fresh, grassy, green pepper and grapefruit nose; medium-bodied, dry, fresh and lively with elderberry and green fig flavours, beautifully balanced with great length. (91)
  • Kim Crawford Small Parcels Spitfire Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Marlborough, New Zealand) – $24.95): pale straw colour; grassy, gooseberry and grapefruit rind nose; full-bodied, dry, rich mid-palate fruit – passionfruit and grapefruit flavours, finishing crisply with great length. (91)
  • Château Haut Philippon 2014 (Entre Deux Mers): straw colour; white peach, citrus rind with a suggestion of oak on the nose; medium-bodied, crisply dry, grapefruit and gooseberry flavours with a light smoky note; good length. (89)
  • Château des Charmes Chardonnay 2012 (Ontario): straw colour; apple, vanilla oak nose with a barnyard note; medium-bodied, dry, caramel, apple and citrus flavours with good length. (89)
  • Santa Julia Chardonnay 2014 (Argentina): medium straw colour; spicy, apple with a barnyard note; medium-bodied, apple and pear flavours with a touch of oak; full-bodied, nicely balanced, sweetish apple with a touch of bitterness on the finish. (88)
  • Ghost Pines Chardonnay 2014 (Monterey, Napa, Sonoma): straw colour; smoky, oaky, spicy, apple nose with a touch of barnyard; full-bodied, sweetish, smoky apple flavour. (88)
  • Tom Gore Vineyards Chardonnay 2014 (California): straw colour; toasty, spicy, ripe apple and vanilla oak with a note of forest floor on the nose; medium to full-bodied, creamy, toasty, red apple flavour, quite intense and spicy. (89)
  • Charles Baker Riesling 2015 (Ontario – $27): very pale colour; minerally, citrus and, pear nose with a honeyed note; light-bodied, off-dry, minerally, apple, pear and citrus flavours, beautifully balanced. Lovely mouth-feel with a lime and honey finish. The best Charles Baker yet. (91.5)
  • Stratus Wildass Rosé 2015 (Ontario): pink with a blue tint; watermelon nose; medium-bodied, dry, watermelon and yellow cherry flavours, some sweetness in mid-palate; touch of bitterness to give the wine interest, with a fresh acidic finish. (88.5)

Top-scoring wines on Canada Day

Chatelain Pouilly-Fumé Les Vignes 2014

Charles Baker Riesling 2015


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 603: Eating Crow

Asado beef at Big Crow

Monday, June 20th: Wrote my 680 News wine reviews and worked on the novel. Deborah is away on her book club weekend at a cottage so I’m baching it. Pinot and I got caught in a torrential downpour coming back from the park. In the evening to Grano for a tasting of Marco Bonfante wines. Marco’s family have lived in Piemonte for 8 generations.

  • Marco Bonfante Rorero “Persté” 2015 ($24.95): Straw colour; minerally nose of citrus, apple and crushed stones; medium- to full-bodied, dry. Well-extracted apple, lemon and white peach flavours; frsh and lively on the palate. (89)
  • Marco Bonfante Imma Nebbiolo 2013 ($29.95): deep ruby colour; earthy, floral, cherry and sage bouquet with a spicy oak note; medium-bodied, dry, rustic and dusty, sweet raspberry flavour with a lively acidic spine and a cherry pit finish. (88.5)
  • Marco Bonfante Barolo 2011 ($59.95): deep ruby colour; cedary, cherry and dried rose petal and rust on the nose; medium to full-bodied, dry and firm, with sour cherry and oak spice flavours; lively acidity and firm on the finish. Hold 3–5 years. (89)
  • Marco Bonfante Albarossa “Albarone” 2012 (a 1938 cross of Nebbiolo and Barbera given appassiento treatment – $71.95): dense purple colour; spicy plum and prune bouquet with a cedary note; dry, full-bodied, richly extracted plum and cherry flavours with lively acidity ending on a vanilla oak note. (91)

Marco Bonfante’s Albarossa

Tuesday; June 21st: another quiet day working on the novel and then got down to some tasting.

  • Huff Estates Pinot Gris 2015 (Prince Edward County – $20): pale straw colour; minerally, peach pit nose; medium-bodied, dry, green peach flavour with lively citrus acidity. (88)
  • Huff Estates South Bay Vineyards Chardonnay 2014 (Prince Edward County – $30): pale straw colour; apple, spicy oak with a barnyard note; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, green apple and lemon flavours with toasty oak notes; well balanced with great length. (91)
  • Chateau St. Jean Chardonnay 2014 (Sonoma County – $19.15): straw colour; spicy, pear, grilled cashew nuts with a vanilla oak note; full-bodied, dry, mouth-filling sweet and savoury flavours with well-integrated oak. Great length, finishing on tropical fruit notes. Great value. (91)
  • Huff Estates Riesling Off-Dry 2015 (Prince Edward County – $18): very pale in colour with lime tint; spicy, floral, honey and citrus nose with a mineral note; honey and crab apple flavours; good balance of sweetness and acidity with a touch of bitterness on the finish. (88)
  • Flat Rock Cellars Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling 2015 (Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario – $29.95): almost water white with a lime tint; minerally, lime and grapefruit rind nose; light-bodied, elegant, off-dry, honey and grapefruit flavours, great tension between sweetness and acidity, finishing firmly. (91)
  • Huff Estates Pinot Noir Reserve2014 (Prince Edward County – $35): cherry red with a tawny rim; earthy, raspberry nose with pencil lead and barnyard notes; light to medium-bodied, cranberry and sour cherry flavours; delicately oaked with a lively acidic spine. Volnay style. (90)
  • Huff Estates South Bay Vineyards Merlot 2013 (Prince Edward County – $40): deep purple-ruby colour; cedary, smoky, toasty, baked plum nose; medium-bodied, dry, juicy, blackberry and blueberry flavours with fresh acidity. (90)
  • Watchdog Roack Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (Columbia Valley, Washington – $17.95): deep ruby colour; cedary, blackcurrant nose with vanilla oak notes on the nose; medium-bodied, dry and savoury with currant and herbal flavours rounded out with oak. Fresh and lively on the palate with a spicy finish. (88.5)
  • Montes Twins Malbec/Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (Chile – $12.95): deep ruby colour; spicy, toasty-cedary nose of currants with a smoky note; medium- to full-bodied, dry, plum and blackcurrant flavours; richly extracted, spicy-minty with ripe tannins. Good value. (89)
  • Honoro Vera Garnacha 2014 (Calatayud, Spain – $15.95): deep ruby colour; baked earth and plum nose; full-bodied, dry, juicy, cherry and plum flavours with well-integrated oak, firmly structured with a blackcurrant finish. (88.5)
  • Allegrini Corte Giara Valpolicella Ripasso 2013 (Veneto – $19.95): tawny ruby colour; spicy, cedary, dried cherry nose with a minty note; medium-bodied, dry, richly extracted plum and cherry flavours; lovely mouth-feel and a firm finish. (90)
  • Gallo Signature Series Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (5% Petit Verdot, 2% Petite Sirah): dense ruby-purple colour; spicy-cedary nose of blackcurrants with a vanilla oak note; full-bodied, dry, plum and currant flavours with a dusty mouth-feel; creamy mid-palate with a dark chocolate note behind the berry fruit. Finishes firmly. (90)

Wednesday 22nd: Recorded my 680 NEWS wine reviews and then had lunch at Terroni with Karen and Cesar, who own Hola Café on Queen Street East, to discuss the new restaurant they will open on Yonge Street. Wrote my Quench column on the 100-point scoring system.

In the evening to Anthony Rose’s Big Crow restaurant on Dupont Street for an Argentinian Asado put on by the winery Graffigna. Not a vegetarian in sight. The menu:

APPETIZERS: Beef empanadas • Choripan argentino • Sweetbread with creamy potato and chimichurri • Graffigna Pinot Grigio 2015, Graffigna Centenario Malbec 2014. MAIN COURSE: Oj de bife (grilled ribeye) • Asado de tira (short ribs) • with • Chimichurri and salsa criolla • and • Strawberry, chili and chive • Cranberry beans • Cherry tomatoes, asparagus and basil pesto • Zucchini, mint and anchovies • Graffigna Centenario Malbec 2014, Graffigna Grand Reserve Malbec 2012. DESSERT: Crème caramel, dolce de leche, cream • Pumpkin preserves with fresh cheese
Asado menu at Big Crow

  • Graffigna Pinot Grigio 2015 ($12.95): Pale straw yellow colour; winter melon, white peach and citrus; dry, light- to medium-bodied, good concentration of white peach and pear carried on lively acidity. (87.5)
  • Graffigna Centenario Malbec 2014 ($13.95): Deep ruby colour; a nose of black plums, blackberries, with vanilla oak spice; dry; medium- to full-bodied; dry, savoury black fruit flavours with ripe tannins to give structure. (88)
  • Graffigna Grand Reserve Malbec 2012 ($17.00): deep ruby colour, black fruit aromas with a floral grace note; dull-bodied, dry, black plum and cherry flavours mingled with vanilla oak and a chocolate note. (90)

Anthony Rose and meat

Thursday, June 23rd: Worked on some Grapes for Humanity business (a donation of US$50,000 to the Marshyangdi school in Kathmandu). Then wrote up thirty wine tasting notes for the next issue of Quench. For dinner with roast chicken, Frei Brothers Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (Sonoma County – $26.95): dense purple colour; cedary, vanilla oak and earthy plum nose; full-bodied, dry and savoury, chunky mouth-feel; firmly structured with a coffee bean note on the finish. Grainy tannins. (90)

Friday, June 24th: A Vintages release tasting. Those French fries on the way home really tasted good. For dinner with barbecued hamburgers, Argento Reserva Malbec 2014 ($13.95): rich purple colour; spicy, cedary blackberry nose; medium-bodied, dry, savoury plum and blackberry flavours. Good value. (88)


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 602: Winetario

Winetario poster

Monday, June 13th: Picked up from the Fedex office two samples of Martin’s Lane Winery Pinot Noir 2012 and 2013 that Mission Hill had kindly sent me. Wrote my Post City column and then worked on the novel. For dinner with barbecued hamburgers, Zuccardi Q Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (Argentina, $19.95): dense purple colour; earthy, spicy, black fruit nose with a cedary note; full-bodied, dry and savoury with balancing acidity and well-integrated oak. (89)

Tuesday, June 14th: Down to the lab to taste the next Vintages release wines I’d missed on Friday. Then the tedious chore of inputting into the computer for the database.

Wednesday, June 15th: Lunch with Hans Gerhardt at Cibo to discuss a wine project. Ran into Franco Prevedello there (who used to own the restaurant when it was Centro) and, coincidentally, Otta Zapo, the owner of L’Avenue Bistro on Bayview Avenue, where I dined tonight with Julian Hitner and Malcolm and Jane Roberts. (Malcolm was instrumental in arranging a visit to Château de Fargues for our group in May).

Malcom brought along a bottle of Drappier Pinot Noir Brut Nature, Julian a bottle of Bouchard Père et Fils Meursault Perrières 2010 and I a bottle of 2006 Château Ronan. Otta brought over a half bottle of Zind-Humbrecht Vieilles Vignes Gewurztraminer 2010.

Drappier Pinot Noir Brut Nature

2006 Château Ronan

Walked back home from the restaurant with Julian.

Thursday, June 16th: Today is the trade and consumer tasting for the Ontario Wine Awards, re-branded as Winetario. The event, in partnership with the Iyellow Wine Group, is being held in the vestibule of George Brown College. Nineteen wineries are participating, showing their medal-winning wines and others they want to promote.

Friday, June 17th: A Vintages Essentials tasting today – 136 products, although they didn’t put out a sample of Louis XIII cognac. French fries on the way home and prepared myself for a Junior Diabetes Foundation charity tasting in Rosedale. We tasted the following wines:

  • Konzelmann Pinot Blanc 2013
  • McMichael Collection Chardonnay 2014
  • Jackson-Triggs Delaine Fume Blanc 2012
  • Tawse Pinot Noir Tintern Road Vineyard 2013
  • Pillitteri Cabernet Franc 2010
  • Creekside Broken Press Shiraz Reserve 2012

Saturday, June 18th: Spent much of the day preparing for a dinner party for six. One of our guests brought a magnum of Château Latour 1996 and a half bottle of Château d’Yquem. I opened a bottle of Taittinger 2008 and Taittinger Brut Réserve with the hors d’oeuvres, Stratus White 2012 with pear and arugula salad followed by mushroom risotto with black truffle, the Latour with barbecued butterflied leg of lamb with scalloped potatoes and green beans. Cheeses and fig tart (with the Yquem). A great meal.

Château Latour 1996


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 601: Tre Bicchieri

My two 94-point wines at the Tre Bicchieri tasting

Monday, June 6th: Down to Liberty Grand for a Master Class on Gambero Rosso’s special Tre Bicchieri award wines conducted by the book’s editor-in-chief, Marco Sabellico. He told us 421 wines received 3 glasses (tre bicchieri in Italian) for the 29th edition. 70 tasters assessed 22,000 wines.

  • Ca’ del Bosco Franciacorta Dosage Zero Brut Noie Vintage Collection Riserva 2004: straw colour; bready, citrus and apple nose; elegant, beautifully balanced, minerally, lovely mouth-feel; great length with a toasty finish. (94)
  • Terre Stregate Falanghina del Sannio Svelator 2014: bright straw colour; spicy, lemony, minerally nose with a floral note; crisply dry, beautifully balanced, smoky, lemony flavour with great length. (90)
  • Schiopetto Collio Friulano 2014: straw colour; minerally, struck flint nose of licorice and citrus with an animal note; elegant, beautifully balanced, lovely mouth feel with yellow plum sweet grapefruit flavours with a floral note. (91)
  • Manincor A. A. Terlano Sauvignon Tannenburg 2013: straw colour; grassy animal nose, white Bordeaux style; medium-bodied, dry, well-balanced, green plum flavour with a suggestion of oak. (91)
  • Pietradolce Etna Rosso Barbagalli 2012: ruby colour; minerally, cherry and plum bouquet; medium-bodied, dusty, grainy, firmly structured with an earthy finish. (89)
  • Ca’ del Baio Barbaresco Asili 2012: ruby with a tawny note; cherry, licorice, rose petal nose; beautifully balanced and elegant; firmly structured with a lovely mouth-feel. (93)
  • Guado al Meio Bolgheri Rosso Superiore Atis 2012: deep purple colour; cedary, blackcurrant nose; ripe and full in the mouth with plum and currant flavours; great balance with a firm finish. (90)
  • Allegrini Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2011: dense purple colour; blackcurrant nose with a floral (lavender) grace note; elegant, lively mouth-feel, richly extracted blackcurrant and cherry flavours, full in the mouth and beautifully balanced. (94)
  • La Crotta di Vegneron Valle d’Aosta Chambave Moscato Passito Prieuré 2013: old gold colour; lilac and honey on the nose; medium-bodied, spicy, pear and rose water flavours with great length. (92)

Then downstairs for the Tre Bicchieri tasting, 62 wineries arranged by region. My top wines here:

  • Cantina Tollo Montepulciano d’Abruzzo “Mo” Riserva 2011 (91)
  • Poggio Bonelli Poggiassai 2015 (90)
  • Poggio Le Volpi Baccarossa 2013 (90)
  • Mascarelli Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Marina Cvetic 2013 (90)

Tuesday, June 7th: Emma Garner, Thirty Bench’s winemaker, dropped by with her wines for a tasting.

  • Thirty Bench Sparkling Riesling ($35): pale lime with an active mousse; grapefruit with a faint petrol note on the nose; light-bodied, crisply dry, grapefruit and lime flavours, clean and refreshing with a long lemony finish. (89)
  • Thirty Bench Winemaker’s Blend Riesling 2015 ($18.95): very pale, almost water white; minerally, grapefruit nose; off-dry, honeyed grapefruit flavour with a touch of bitterness on the finish. (88)
  • Thirty Bench Small Lot Riesling Steel Post 2014 ($30.00): pale straw; minerally, grapefruit nose; light-bodied, dry; crab-apple and citrus flavours with a touch of bitterness on the finish. (89)
  • Thirty Bench Small Lot Riesling Wood Post 2014 ($30.00): very pale with a lime tint; minerally, green apple and citrus nose, very Rheingau in style, lovely mouth-feel; a floral note, touch of honeyed sweetness in mid-palate but finishes dry on a lime note. (91.5)
  • Thirty Bench Small Lot Riesling Triangle Vineyard 2014 ($30.00): very pale with a lime tint; much broader on the nose than the other single-vineyard wines – minerally, apple and citrus nose with a light petrol note; light-bodied, off-dry, good tension between sugar and acidity, great mouth-feel. (91)
  • Thirty Bench Small Lot Gewurztraminer 2015 ($30.00): pale straw colour; spicy, aromatic, rose petal, ginger, lychee and grapefruit rind bouquet; great intensity, dry, rosewater and white peach flavours. (89.5)
  • Thirty Bench Small Lot Rosé 2015 (37% Cabernet Franc, 23% Pinot Noir, 22% Meunier, 16% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Merlot – $22): pink with an orange tint; candied raspberry and orange peel nose; red berry and pomegranate flavour with good acidity and an intriguing bitterness from tannin. (89)
  • Thirty Bench Red 2014 (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc – $24): deep purple-ruby colour; cedary, spicy, toasty-smoky, black plum nose; medium-bodied, petit château style; dry, red and blackcurrant flavours; firm tannic finish. Cellar worthy. (89–91)

Wednesday, June 8th: Dropped in to Safari Bar on Avenue Road for a quick lunch with our fishing group (we leave on August 11 for a week to Peterson’s Lake lodge, 200 miles north of Yellowknife).

Thursday, June 9th: Wrote my On the Go column and spent the rest of the day working on my novel. Then got down to some tasting in the evening with Michael Vaughan:

  • Boschendal The Pavillion Chenin Blanc 2015 (Western Cape): very pale colour: pear skin with a floral note on the nose; medium-bodied, sweet pear flavour with balancing acidity. (88)
  • Liquidity Viognier 2015 (Okanagan Falls – Product of Canada: $25): light straw colour; spicy, floral peach nose with an earthy note; full-bodied, off-dry, peach and citrus peel and fennel flavours. (87.5)
  • CedarCreek Chardonnay 2014 (Okanagan Valley): straw colour; spicy, toasty oak dominating apple and citrus aromas; full-bodied, richly extracted, apple, green pineapple and butter with mouth-freshening acidity and great length. (89)
  • Bench 1775 Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (Okanagan Valley): pale straw colour; sweaty-grassy nose of green plums; medium-bodied, crisply dry with lively flavours of green plum and cut grass. (88)
  • Bench 1775 Chill 2015: pale straw colour; a nose of banana and citrus peel; medium to full-bodied, melon flavour with a touch of bitterness on the finish. Good length. (88)
  • Bench 1775 Viognier 2015: pale straw colour; spicy peach bouquet; medium to full-bodied, dry, white peach flavour with a light floral note. Good varietal character. (89)
  • Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling 2014 (Washington State): pale golden colour; petrol, lime and honey on the nose; medium-bodied, off-dry honeyed grapefruit with little spritz. Good length. (89)
  • CedarCreek Riesling 2014 (Okanagan Valley): pale straw colour; minerally, lime with a floral note; medium-bodied, crisply dry, lime and grapefruit flavours; clean and true with great length. (91)
  • Obsession Symphony 2014: pale straw colour; flamboyant nose of orange blossom, peach; off-dry, spicy, floral peach and apricot flavours, well-balanced, perfumed, elegant with good length. (90)
  • CedarCreek Pinot Noir Rosé 2015 (Okanagan Valley): light pink colour; minerally, raspberry nose; medium-bodied, off-dry, raspberry and orange flavours. Finishing dry with good length. (88.5)
  • Flat Rock Pink Twisted 2015 (Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara; Gamay, Cabernet Franc and “a dash of Riesling” – $16.95): deep pink; cherry pit nose with a light floral note; medium-bodied, dry, minerally, cherry flavour; fresh and lively on the palate with a touch of tannin on the finish to give structure. (88.5)
  • Flat Rock Red Twisted 2012 (Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara -$22.95: Syrah and Pinot Noir): deep ruby colour; smoky-charry nose of black plum with oak spice; medium-bodied, dry, savoury plum flavour with lively acidity and deftly handled oak. (89)
  • CedarCreek Cabernet Merlot 2013 (Okanagan Valley – 58% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Franc, 16% Cabernet Sauvignon): deep ruby colour; candied raspberry nose with a cedary note; medium to full-bodied, juicy and fresh with lively acidity; finishes firmly on a blueberry note. (89)
  • CedarCreek Merlot 2013 (95% Merlot, 3% Malbec, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon): deep ruby colour; sandalwood, red berry and pencil lead nose; medium-bodied, dry, juicy and fruity with well integrated oak and good length. (90)
  • Bench 1775 Merlot 2013 (Okanagan): deep ruby colour; cedary, lightly spiced plum bouquet; medium-bodied, dry and savoury with evident tannins. (87.5)
  • Bench 1775 Cabernet Franc 2014: deep ruby, colour; cedary, redcurrant nose; medium-bodied, dry red and blackcurrant flavours with a firm finish. (88)
  • Bench 1775 Syrah 2013: deep ruby colour; cedary-herbal nose of blackberries with a peppery note; medium-bodied, dry and savoury with vanilla oak, blackberry and pencil lead notes and a creamy mocha finish. (89)
  • Shingleback Red Knot Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (McLaren Vale): dense ruby-purple colour; cedary, smoky blackcurrant nose; medium to full-bodied, dry, savoury, blackcurrant with a lively spine of acidity. Firm tannic finish. (88.5)

Friday, June 10th: A Vintages release tasting this morning, after which, the customary French fries on the way home.


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