A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 583: MW v MS

Invitation to Igor Ryjenkov vs. John Szabo

Monday, February 1st: No snow yet. This is an amazing winter. Worked on my 680 NEWS wine reviews and polished the article for the International Wine & Food Society’s magazine. Tasted a couple of wines in the evening:

  • Gabbiano Chianti 2014 (90%Sangiovese, 10% Merlot): ruby colour; herb-tinged sour cherry nose; medium-bodied, dry with a lean, cherry flavour and lively acidity. (87.5)
  • Clos du Bois Calcaire 2013 (Sonoma County – $29.95): straw colour; apple, baked corn and butter on the nose with citrus notes; medium-bodied, dry, white peach and citrus flavours with a touch of oak spice. Nicely balanced. (89)

Tuesday, February 2nd: A make-up tasting at the LCBO for the March Vintages release. In the afternoon wrote my columns for Post City Magazines and On The Go.

Wednesday, February 3rd: Recorded my 680 NEWS wine reviews and worked on the novel. In the evening, down to Vertical restaurant in First Canadian Place for an interesting wine event: a Master of Wine v. Master Sommelier taste off – Igor Ryjenkov of the LCBO and John Szabo. Prior to the event they tasted through some 27 wines provided by the importing agents, Noble Estates and Trialto. They then chose wines to match this menu:

Before each course was served, both explained the rationale behind their selection – with a bit of trash talk thrown in for good measure. The guests then sampled the food and wine match and then voted as to their favoured pairing. I placed John Szabo ahead by one point. The wine of the night for me Fattoria dei Barbi Riserva Brunello di Montalcino 2005. With the dessert two sweet wines were served, Zind Humbrecht Gewürztraminer Sélection de Grains Nobles 2007 and 13th Street 13 Below Zero Riesling 2010. A fun event with great food and delicious wines.

Markus Molitor Riesling Spätlese Ürziger Würzgarten 2013
My white of the night

Fattoria dei Barbi Riserva Brunello di Montalcino 2005
My red of the night

Kanonkop Estate Pinotage 2012
One of the best Pinotages I’ve tasted in a long time

Zind Humbrecht dessert wines
Zind Humbrecht dessert wines

Thursday, February 4th: Interviewed Anthony von Mandl by phone for an upcoming article on Mission Hill Winery.

Friday, February 5th: A Vintages release tasting today. Stopped for my habitual New York fries on the way home. A quick nap and a shower then down to the National Club for the annual Drinks Ontario dinner. This year Portugal is the host country. Three wines with each course:

Octopus salad with baby kale, green beans, cherry tomatoes, black olive puree and olive oil drizzle, with Caves Aliança Vinho Verde, Bacalhoa JP Azeitão Branco Setubal and Quinta da Aveleda Vinho Verde

Arroz de pato – duck risotto with shredded duck, orange zest, smoked and cured sliced duck breast, with Dão Sul Cabriz Reserva Red Dão 2012, Real Companhia Velha Porca de Murca Douro Red 2013

Braised lamb shank served on a on a chorizo, kale, white bean and tomato ragout, with Symington Family Estates Altano Red 2013, Quinta so Vale Meão Meandro 2012, Delaforce Touriga Nacional 2013

Dessert: Baked custard tart with fig, port ice cream and chorizo brittle, with Taylor Fladgate 20 Year Old Tawny, Fonseca Bin 27, Warre’s Otima 10 Year Old Tawny Port. Followed by cheeses

I presented Joanna Steele with the customary engraved decanter and certificate as the winner of my blind tasting award.

Joanna Steele, winner of the Tony Aspler Blind Tasting Award

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 582: Grenache Tasting

Grenaches of the World tasting

Monday, January 25th: Worked on an article for the International Wine & Food Society’s magazine on the Niagara region (a prelude to a visit to the region by IW&FS members). For dinner with lamb chops, Konzelmann Cabernet Merlot 2012 (purple-ruby colour; a nose of cedar, redcurrant and plum; savoury, herb-tinged red berry flavour with a dark chocolate note and a floral uplift in mid-palate (88.5)).

Tuesday, January 26th: Down to Vintages for a make-up tasting (no, not tasting make-up but wines I missed from last Friday’s tasting). Before dinner (pasta), tasted two Chiantis:

  • Gabbiano Chianti Classico 2012: This is an old school Chianti. Ruby red colour with a nose of cherries and plums; light to medium-bodied with a lean, sour cherry flavour and a frim tannic finish. (87)
  • Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2012 (Sangiovese with 5% Merlot): A richer, more concentrated version of the above wine. Ruby colour; earthy, cherry nose; medium-bodied, dry, cherry flavour with a lively spine of acidity; grainy tannins and good length. (89)

Wednesday, January 27th: Worked on the novel after finishing the first draft of the IW&FS article.

Thursday, January 28th: Wrote a piece for Jacob Richler’s restaurant magazine on Mission Hill, then got down to some tasting.

  • Konzelmann Riesling Reserve Old Vines 2014 (Niagara Peninsula – $23.15): pale straw colour; grapefruit, white honey with a floral note on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, Kabinett style, lovely mouth feel with a minerally, grapefruit flavour. (89)
  • Errazuriz Chardonnay Estate Series 2015 (Casablanca Valley, Chile – $13.95): pale straw with a green tint; minerally, green pear and apple nose; medium-bodied, fresh, green pineapple and apple nose, finishing with crisp acidity. Good value. (88.5)
  • Errazuriz Sauvignon Blanc Estate Series 2015 (Aconcagua Coast, Chile – $12.95): pale straw with a lime tint; green pepper, green plum nose; grassy, gooseberry and passionfruit flavours. Crisply dry, medium-bodied, with good length and a tart acidic finish. (88.5)
  • Errazuriz Max Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (Aconcagua Valley – $15.95): pale straw colour with a lime tint; grassy, green pepper, green plum nose; medium-bodied, dry, mouth-filling, gooseberry, green fig and passionfruit flavours. Great length. Great value. (90)
  • Kono Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (Marlborough, New Zealand – $19.95): very pale colour with a lime tint; smoky-minerally grapefruit and green melon nose; medium-bodied, tangy cut grass and green mango flavours. Long whistle-clean finish. (89.5)
  • Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (Marlborough, New Zealand – $23.95): pale straw with a lime tint; minerally, grapefruit, tangerine skin, orange blossom; medium- to full-bodied, crisply dry, lovely mouth-feel with tart grapefruit and green gooseberry flavours that go on and on. (92)
  • Konzelmann Pinot Noir 2012 (Niagara Peninsula – $24.25): deep ruby colour; high-toned raspberry and plum with a touch of oak on the nose; dry, medium-bodied, firmly structured, ripe fruit with supple tannins. (88)
  • Running With Bulls Tempranillo 2013 (Wrattonbully, Australia – $17.95): deep ruby colour; earthy, minty black cherry nose; dry, medium-bodied, fruity with lively acidity and a blackcurrant finish. Easy drinking. (88.5)
  • Tenuta Frescobaldi di Castiglioni 2013 (Tuscany – $21.95): deep ruby-purple colour; dry, savoury, cherry nose with a cedary note; medium-bodied, dry, lean and sinewy, sour cherry flavour with soft tannins on the finish. (88.5)
  • Errazuriz Max Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (Aconcagua Valley – $18.85): deep purple colour; spicy, blackcurrant with a cedary and vanilla note on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, racy acidity, inky and taut with a tannic uplift on the finish. (88.5)
  • Errazuriz Aconcagua Alto Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (Aconcagua Valley – $19.95): deep ruby-purple colour; cedar, blackcurrant nose; medium-bodied, dry, juicy, blackcurrant with lively acidity and ripe tannins. (89)
  • Applewood Farm Winery Evan’s Blackcurrant Port 2011 (Stoffuville, Ontario $19.95): 18% alcohol; dense purple-black colour; intense blackcurrant nose with evident alcohol; richly extracted blackcurrant with racy acidity. Intense and concentrated with driving acidity. (89)

Friday, January 29th: Attended a Grenaches of the World tasting at the trade office of Spain. This tasting had been conducted in London (January 20) and New York (yesterday) and is a run-up to the 2016 Grenaches du Monde competition in Zaragoza, Spain, beginning on February 4th. It’s open to all Grenache and its synonyms, Garnacha, Garnatxa and Cannonau. Some 600 wines from eight countries are entered in this year’s competition. Our tasting was conducted by a very knowledgeable Spanish sommelier, Fernando Mora.

  • Dashe Cellars Grenache “Les Enfants Terribles” 2014 (Dry Creek Valley): purple colour; fresh, black raspberry nose with spicy, white pepper and herbal overtones; medium-bodied, dry, lean for 13.5% alcohol ending on a balsamic note with firm tannins. (88)
  • Tres Picos Borsão Garnacha 2014 (Campo de Borga): Dense purple colour; savoury-herbal nose of red berries, black olives, spicy oak with a floral grace note; full-bodied, sweet, juicy black raspberry flavour; mouth-filling, well balanced carrying its 14.5% alcohol very well. (90.5)
    Tres Picos de Borsão Garnacha 2014
  • Vieux Telegraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2011 “La Crau” (60% Grenache): mature ruby colour; dry, savoury nose of dried plums, licorice and pencil lead; full-bodied, dry, elegant and rich. Beautifully balanced with a bitter chocolate finish. (92)
    Vieux Telegraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2011 'Le Crau'
  • Bodegas Aragonesas Fagus de Coto de Hayas 2013: dense purple-black colour; spicy, sandalwood, oak-driven nose; full-bodied, creamy texture with black fruit flavours, somewhat jammy finishing on soft, ripe tannins. (89.5)
  • Henschke Johann’s Garden 2013 (60% Grenache with Shiraz and Mourvèdre): Dense purple colour; smoky-herbal, blueberry nose; full-bodied, dry, blueberry flavour; firmly structured, spicy with lively acidity. (90)
    Henschke Johann's Garden 2013
  • Bodegas Alto Moncayo (Campo de Borga): dense purple-black colour; spicy, strawberry and raspberry nose carried on oak notes; full-bodied, vanilla oak and well extracted red and black fruit flavours; fleshy and fruit-driven but finishes firm. 16% alcohol. (92)

    (second flight)

  • Aletta Garnacha 2013 (Campo de Borga): Deep purple colour; strawberry and cherry bouquet with a herbal note; dry, medium-bodied, fruity blueberry flavour. Commercial style. (88)
  • Pagos del Moncayo PdM Garnacha 2013 (Campo de Borga): dense purple-black colour; smoky, herbal, pencil lead nose with spicy oak; elegant black fruits and black olive nose; full-bodied and juicy but finishes dry and firm. (90)
  • Bodegas Ruberte Tresor Garnacha 2013 (Campo de Borga): dense purple-black colour; cedary, black cherry nose; full-bodied, elegant, rich blueberry flavour; beautifully balanced and seamless. (93)
    Bodegas Ruberte Tresor Garnacha 2013
  • Roman Cepas Viejas 2011 (Campo de Borga): dense purple-black colour; smoky-toasty oak and blackberry nose, “Bourbon-like” (was the sommelier’s apt descriptor) with a savoury note. Full-bodied, dry and savoury and firmly structured – but I detected a faint off-note (old barrel? Touch of TCA?). There’s a terrific wine lurking in there. I’d like to taste another bottle. It would probably be the wine of the tasting. (89.5)
    Roman Cepas Viejas 2011
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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 581: Kamasutra Dinner

Monday, January 18th: This morning a photographer from the Toronto Star came over to shoot Pinot T. Wonderdog for the Saturday Pet Psyche column by Jane Welowszky. She had already given Pinot the Proust interview a couple weeks ago. Pinot gave him the raucous Wheatie greeting but settled down once she realized her picture would be in Canada’s largest selling newspaper.

Worked my Post City Magazines column. They’ve changed editorial direction on the column and want me to compare two wines, a white and a red.

Dinner at Gordon and Carole Stimmell’s house. Curried shrimp with Cathedral Cellars Chardonnay 2012. Rack of lamb on the BBQ, which was so good I forgot to record the red wine. Deborah made a lemon tart for dessert which I carried in both hands on the subway. I brought a half bottle of Niagara College Dean’s List Prodigy Icewine 2013.

Tuesday, January 19th: Went down to the LCBO to taste wines I’d missed at the last Friday’s release tasting. Blown away by Antinori-Matte, Haras de Pirque Albis 2006, a Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon with 25% Carmenère from the Maipo Valley, that comes on like a First Growth claret. I gave it 94 points and will pick up three bottles on Friday (Vintages #579813).

Albis 2006

Wednesday, January 20th: Wrote my After Taste column for Quench Magazine on how I’ve given up worrying about wine and food pairings.

Dinner at Kamasutra (1522 Bayview) with Deborah. Executive Chef Balwant Rathour ordered for us: tandoori prawns, tandoori cauliflower, lamb rogan josh, butter chicken, palak paneer with rice and garlic naan and a bottle of Pierre Sparr Gewurztraminer 2011, with dessert to follow.

Kamasutra dishes

Tandoori cauliflower

Tandoori prawns

Kamasutra Executive Chef Balwant Rathour

The meal was so good we lingered past our parking meter time and got a $30 ticket. (Are we as tax-payers paying over-time for meter-people who troll the streets and ticket you at 8:42 pm when it’s free after 9pm? They must have a quota to fill.)

Thursday, January 21st: Another dental appointment – to have two fillings. Came home and began writing an article for the International Wine & Food Society magazine on Niagara as a wine region. In the evening got down to some tasting:

  • Peninsula Ridge Barrel Aged Chardonnay 2014 (Beamsville Bench, Niagara – to be released in Vintages on March 5th at $15.95): bright straw colour; apple, oak spice and undergrowth notes on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, Burgundian in style; apple and citrus flavours with good length and great balance. A well-made wine. (89)
  • Flat Rock Cellars Riesling 2014 (Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara – LCBO March 5th, $16.95): pale straw with a faint lime tint; minerally, grapefruit zest nose; medium-bodied, off-dry, apple, grapefruit flavours with a suggestion of honey, finishing dry. (88)
  • Flat Rock Unplugged Chardonnay 2014 (Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara – $16.95): pale straw colour; leesy, apple nose with a mineral note; medium-bodied, dry, fresh and zippy on the palate with green pineapple and citrus flavours. (88)
  • Flat Rock Chardonnay 2013 (Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara – Vintages April 16th, $18.95): straw colour; toasty, spicy, apple bouquet with a mineral note; medium to full-bodied, dry and mouth-filling with apple and pear flavours and a touch of smoke. Good length. (89)
  • Flat Rock Twisted 2014 (Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay – Niagara Peninsula – $16.95): pale straw colour; aromatic, lychee, grapefruit and melon bouquet; off-dry, spicy, orange, peach and grapefruit flavours with a touch of sweetness in mid-palate. A lovely blend. (88.5)
  • Tiago Cabaco Premium White Alentejo 2014 (Portugal – Antao, Vaz, Verdelho, Viognier – $14.95): light straw colour; minerally, peach pit, lanolin nose; medium-bodied, dry, flavourful, green peach and green herb flavours with an engaging bitter almond finish. Good value. (89)
  • Trail Estate Pinot Noir Rosé 2014 (Prince Edward County – $21.95): deep salmon colour; earthy, cherry and vanilla nose; medium-bodied, raspberry candy flavour with enough acidity to control the sweetness. Viscous finish. (87.5)
  • Trail Estate Gamay Noir 2014 (Prince Edward County and Niagara fruit – $25.95): ruby colour; peppery, cherry nose with a touch of oak spice; dry and lively on the palate with cranberry and pomegranate flavours with a floral grace note. A touch bitter on the finish but this gives the wine some character. (88.5)

Friday, January 22nd: After the Vintages release tasting (120 wines out), I went over the Queens Quay Vintages to buy three bottles of the Albis 2006. I could only get one bottle so they called the Laird Street store to have two bottles put aside for me. This $40 Chilean wine flew off the shelves. For dinner lamb chops with a bottle of The Hidden Sea Shiraz 2013 from South Australia ($16.95 – full-bodied, mouth-filling dry and flavourful, toasty-smoky oak and black fruits with milk chocolate notes. Commercial but enjoyable (87)).


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 580: Niagara Icewine Festival

Twenty Valley Icewine Festival events schedule 

Monday, January 11th: Wrote my Lexpert column on major cities around the world that have vineyards within their limits – Vienna, Paris, Venice, Berlin, Thessalonica, London, New York, San Francisco. Took Deborah and Pinot’s groomer Marilyn (who shares a birthday with Deborah tomorrow) to dinner at Balsamico on Yonge Street, just south of Grano. I ordered a bottle of Frescobaldi Campo ai Sassi Ross di Montalcino 2013. At the LCBO it costs $21.95; on their list it was $65 and they don’t pay the HST when they buy it. Monstrous mark-up. I had asked if I could bring my own wine but they said they have no BYOB license. Not going there again.

Tuesday, January 12th: Deborah’s birthday. She and her book club ladies went to the St. Anne’s Spa near Coburg so I was on my own. Wrote my Post City Magazines column. At 1:30 over to Michael Vaughan’s to taste a raft of icewines for a new project we’re doing together: a competition for the best sweet wines of the world. For dinner with beef stir fry, Joel Gott Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (richly extracted, concentrated black fruit flavours with well integrated oak – 89).

Wednesday, January 13th: A morning working on my novel and then in the afternoon Joanna Steele and Marc Lavadière came to the condo for a taste-off to decide the winner of my annual blind tasting award for the wine importers. Started them off with Beronia Tempranillo 2012. No clear winner. Then Villa Ponciago La Réserve Fleurie 2011. Still no winner; so then I opened a bottle of Hillebrand Showcase Wild Ferment Clean Slate Sauvignon Blanc 2012. And Joanna triumphed – the first woman to win the engraved decanter since I started the competition in 2000.

Taste-off: Mark v. Joanna

Thursday, January 14th: A Winerytohome.com tasting at Doug Towers with David Lawrason. For dinner, steak with Gerard Bertrand Grand Terroir La Clape 2011 (Syrah/Carignan/Mourvèdre) – on the nose tobacco and black fruits with a herbal note; full-bodied, dry and savoury, herbal blackberry flavour with licorice notes and lively acidity.

Friday, January 15th: Picked up at noon by Niagara Airbus. Collected Michael Vaughan to be driven down to the Niagara Falls Hilton to participate in the Xerox Icewine Gala in the Grand Ballroom of the Fallsview Casino. This was the 21st year of the Icewine festival. On the way down we stopped in on Château des Charmes for a tasting of their sweet wines, presented by Michele Bosc and winemaker Amelie Boury. The first wine we tasted was a real showstopper!

Ch. des Charmes  Totally Botrytis Affected Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Ch. des Charmes great dessert wine

  • Ch. des Charmes Totally Botrytis Affected Cabernet Sauvignon 2013: Bright ruby colour; honeyed plum nose; rich and full and mouth-filling, cassis, black cherry and plum flavours; beautifully balanced, lovely mouth-feel, good length; just enough tannin to give the wine structure. Fermented in oak. An amazing wine. (95)
  • Ch. des Charmes Riesling Icewine Paul Bosc Estate 2014: Pale straw colour; mango, honey, red apple nose with a light mineral note, floral top note; spicy, honey peach, mango and orange flavours, rich and full on the palate, great length. (92–93)
  • Ch. des Charmes Vidal Icewine 2014: Golden straw colour; honey, apricot nose; rich, burnt sugar, unctuous, intense honeyed flavours. Could do with a little more acidity. (94)
  • Ch. des Charmes Cabernet Icewine 2014: Ruby colour; strawberry jam nose with a herbal note; well-balanced, sweet but not too sweet, good mouth-feel with enough acidity to sustain well on the palate. (92)

Amelie Boury, Paul Bosc Sr., Michele and Paul Bosc Jr.

At the Fallsview Casino thirty-five Niagara wineries were showing their Icewines and a couple of table wines with a series of food stations dotted around the ballroom offering bite-sized plates of amazing food and a spectacular series of sweet tables. Great band and great energy in the room. Michael and I divided up the tasting chores. I concentrated on the Riesling and Vidal while he tackled the red Icewines. My top scoring wines were Ravine Vidal icewine 2013 (93) Trius Vidal Icewine 2012 (93),Vieni Sparkling Vidal Icewine 2014 (92), Riverview Cellars Vidal Icewine 2014 (92), Sue Ann Staff Vidal Icewine 2012 (92), Jackson-Triggs Vidal Icewine 2013 (92), and Tawse Chardonnay icewine 2013 (92).

Icewine Festival desserts

Saturday, January 16th: After breakfast Michael and I were ferried to Jordan Village for the Twenty Valley Icewine Festival. The wineries were set up in a series of tents. The weather was mercifully fine to be tasting outdoors. Braziers in the shape of pine cones had been placed around to help participants warm up. Dropped into Cave Spring to taste a series of their wines.

  • Cave Spring Indian Summer Riesling 2013: medium straw colour with a green tint; a nose of grapefruit and honey; off-dry, medium-bodied, well balanced, fresh grapefruit flavour with a lovely mouth-feel. (91)
  • Cave Spring Riesling Icewine 2014: medium straw colour with a green tint; honey, grapefruit with a spicy, botrytis note; barley sugar flavour, great length with a bruised apple note on the finish. (92)

Icewine tents in Jordan (Ontario!)

Top wines tasted outdoors:

  • Henry of Pelham Riesling Icewine 2014: pale straw colour; peach and honey nose; rich and sweet but nicely balanced – unctuous tropical fruit flavours with great length (93)
  • Malivoire Wine Company Cabernet Franc Icewine 2013: cherry red colour; a nose of strawberry jam; sweet and jammy on the palate, candy apple flavour with a fresh acidic finish. (91)

Finished the afternoon by watching the ladies’ barrel-rolling competition before heading home.

Sue-Ann Staff competing in the barrel rolling competition

Sunday, January 17th: Took the TTC over to Dean Tudor’s house for a tasting of New Zealand wines from the annual May tasting, which I missed as I was out of town. Sixty-four wines in all. My top scoring wine was an Elephant Hill Syrah but I know nothing about it – even the vintage – as it arrived without a front and back label. Other top scoring were Mud House Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (90), Trinity Hill by John Hancock Syrah 2013 (90), Marisco Vineyards The King’s Legacy Chardonnay 2013 (90), Akarua Rua Pinot Noir 2014, Whitehaven Wine Company Pinot Noir 2012 (90), and Babich Black Label Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (90).

Trinity Hill by John Hancock Syrah 2013


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 579: Blind Tasting Award

Monday, January 4th: Wrote my 680 NEWS wine reviews and worked on the novel. For dinner with pasta, Bolla Creso Verona Rosso 2011 (Corvina with 35% Cabernet Sauvignon; deep ruby colour; cherry nose with a spicy note; medium-bodied, dry, savoury cherry flavour tinged with licorice; well-balanced and seamless and finishing on an earthy note (90)).

Tuesday, January 5th: Went to the bank to pay off a huge Christmas Visa bill. Then shopped for the wines for my Blind Tasting Award on Thursday at the Fine Wine Reserve. For dinner, Thai chicken stir-fry with a bottle of Maverick Estate Syrah 2013 from the southern Okanagan (dense purple-ruby colour; smoky, herby, blackberry and blueberry nose; smoky blackberry and blueberry flavour with tones of sage and bitter chocolate backed by lively acidity (89+)).

Wednesday, January 6th: My cold is still lingering, dammit. Recoded my 680 NEWS wine reviews and then drove up to my friend Irv Wolkoff’s to have lunch at the Centre Street deli. Best smoked meat in town, hand sliced.

Thursday, January 7th: Prepared for the blind tasting competition this evening. There are 10 contestants from the Ontario wine importers – but only eight showed up at the Fine Wine Reserve. Participants had to taste six wines and determine blind the grape variety, the region, the vintage, and bonus marks for the producer. The wines in order of serving were:

  1. Miguel Torres Las Mulas Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (Chile)
  2. Kacaba Jennifer’s Pinot Gris 2014 (Ontario)
  3. Cono Sur Bicileta Pinot Noir 2014 (Chile)
  4. Marchesi Frescobaldi Castiglioni Chianti 2014 (Tuscany)
  5. Magnotta Shiraz Limited Edition 2013 (Ontario)
  6. Limnos Wines Muscat de Limnos 2014 (Greece)

When the dust settled there was a tie in the scores between Joanna Steele of Lifford and Marc Laverdière of Roust. So, there will have to be a taste-off to determine the winner.

Friday, January 8th: A Vintages tasting this morning. Stopped in at New York Fries on the way home for a take-out order of fries. Best thing after a big tasting. Ate them as I walked home. (My mother told me never to eat in the street. Sorry Mom.) For dinner, pork tenderloin pot au feu with Jean Leon Merlot Petit Verdot 2014 (deep ruby colour; cedar, blackcurrant nose; medium-bodied, dry, spicy with blackcurrant and cranberry flavours with lively acidity (88)).


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 578: Quiet New Year

Monday, December 28th: Wrote my column for Quench magazine on Sherry – predicting it will make a comeback this year (but I’ve been saying that for the last decade – a prophet whistling in the dark). Also began working on consolidation points in Niagara, Lake Erie North Shore and Prince Edward County for entries to the Ontario Wine Awards. For dinner, lamb chops with Trapiche Las Palmas Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 from Argentina ($16.95): dense ruby colour; an herb-tinged blackcurrant and cedar nose; full-bodied, dry and firmly structured (88).

Tuesday, December 29th: Snow at last. A day working on the novel with no interruptions apart from having to visit Restoration Hardware to buy some small gifts for our hosts, Rose and Michael, for tomorrow’s dinner.

Wednesday, December 30th: Another day to work on the novel, as this time of the year nothing is happening and no-one is around to pitch stories. Dinner this evening with Rose and Michael. From his extensive cellar Michael opened Lanson Gold Label Brut 1997 Champagne, Charles Heidsieck Blanc de Millénaires 1985, Wynn’s Coonawarra Black Label Riesling 2005, Château Cos d’Estournel 1982, and Château Grand Puy Lacoste 1982.

The menu: French onion soup, BBQ steak with cauliflower and Brussel sprouts and roast potatoes. The steaks came from The Butcher Shoppe (now in its 31st year of supplying Toronto’s finest restaurants), where owner Allan Weisberg picked out the rib steaks for Michael. Dessert: Mabel’s Triple chocolate brownies & Chapman’s Lactose Free Vanilla Ice Cream with a half bottle of Château Filhot Sauternes 2009 from my cellar. A memorable meal, if only I could remember how it ended with all the spirits we tasted before leaving by Uber!

Thursday, December 31st: Deborah and I decided to stay home. We started with duck pâté which we bought in Quebec when we visited Charlevoix’s Flavour Trail in September. We demolished that with Louis Roederer Brut Pemier Champagne (beautifully balanced, minerally, toasty, citrus and peach flavours – 91). Then I grilled a Rock Cornish Hen with green beans and rice, followed by a selection of cheeses. Watched a movie, watched the ball drop in New York City and finally saw the New Year in with a cup of NeoCitran (for my cold).

Friday, January 1st: Pinot the Wonderdog’s 11th birthday today. Deborah and I took her for a long walk in the park and then to Pet Value to buy her a toy. She tried out several before taking a liking to a squeaky toy in the shape of a monster. Began choosing the wines for my annual Blind Tasting Award for the wine importers.

Pinot with her birthday toy


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 577: Snowless Christmas

Monday, December 21st: Wrote my 680 News wine reviews and drafted a letter inviting the wineries to enter the Ontario Wine Awards competition. This year we’re partnering with George Brown College Hospitality & Culinary Arts and iYellow Wine Club. In the evening, over to one of our director’s house in Rosedale for Grapes for Humanity’s AGM. We were served Fel Pinot Noir 2012 from Anderson Valley. (Apparently, those are the initials of Cliff Lede’s mother – Florence Elsie Lede). Delicious wine.

Tuesday, December 22nd: Recorded the 680 News wine reviews and worked on the novel.

Wednesday, December 23rd: No snow yet with temperatures rising to 17C which means it doesn’t look like it’s going to be a white Christmas. Spent the day writing more of the novel since there’s not much going on. workwise

Thursday, December 24th: Took Pinot for a long walk in the park. Sent of Christmas greetings to friends. This evening, the annual Christmas party at our friends Arlene and Michael. Always lashing of Pol Roget Brut and great food. Loads of kids this year.

Friday, December 25th: Drove up to Caledon for Christmas dinner at Deborah’s niece Nadine and her husband Gary’s 75-acre property. Usually there’s snow enough to toboggan but this year everything is green. Guy and Sasha and Deborah’s sister Suzanne joined us in the car. I brought up Greek wines since Nadine’s father Spiro is Greek: The Gift of Dionysos Parparoussis Sideritis 2014, Rous Winery Skipper Vidiano-Plyto, Achaia Parparoussis Oenofilos Cabernet Sauvignon Mavrodaphne 2011, Ktima Biblichaora Biblinos Oenos 2010. Spiro made his traditional vegetable soup for lunch; we went for a walk, exchanged presents Christmas dinner.

Saturday, December 26th: After doing the grocery shopping, Deborah and I drove over to Tom’s Place in Kensington Market for me to buy some shirts and trousers. Also picked up a new sports jacket. For dinner, tilapia with a bottle of Château de Charmes Brut: Golden colour with tiny bubbles; yeasty nose of white honey, spring flowers with minerally, citrus notes; mouth-filling with apple, pear skin and lemon flavours. Nicely balanced but not exactly Brut; but expressive Chardonnay none the less with good length (88+).


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