A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 544: Italy Uncorked

Saturday, May 2: Arrived back from London at 2:30 pm and Deborah picked me up at the airport. This evening is the annual fishing dinner, prepared by Steve Cohen (who cooks all our shore lunches on the fishing trips). Sadly I’ll miss this year’s week in the North West Territories. Managed to stay awake for a magnificent banquet with amazing accompanying wines:

29th Annual Fishing Dinner


Risotto w forest mushrooms & asparagus
Hot smoked salmon

Rack of lamb w king oyster mushrooms & pea sprouts
Potatoes au gratin

Cheese course w figs…10 year old Cheddar, 16 Acres Brie, Stevensons Stilton, Tomme de Grosse Ile semi-soft

Berries and coconut almond cake
Biscotti by Ellie
Breads by Roz

The best Chefs and Assistants:
Steve, David, Rose and Roz

Art Ellie Esther Sam Deborah Tony Sandy Harold Roz Steve









Monday, May 3: Wrote my 680News reviews and worked on the silent auction for Thursday’s Grapes for Humanity fund-raiser at the St. James Cathedral event space, Snell Hall and the outside terrace.

Tuesday, May 4: Spent most of the day on final arrangements for Thursday’s event. In the evening dinner with Russell and Jason Woodman and Elise Faur of Hall Wine in St. Helena at The Chase. I had visited the house of the owner, Kathryn Hall, many years ago and that’s where I saw my first infinity pool, a magnificent setting overlooking the valley. Elise had brought with her the following selection of wines:

  • Hall Sauvignon Blanc 2013: a lees-stirred, organic wine; rich and full-bodied with spicy, peach and citrus nose; sweet nectarine flavour. (91)
  • Walt Chardonnay La Brisa 2013 (Walt is Kathryn Hall’s maiden name) (Sonoma County): deeply coloured with a spicy oak, minerally and tropical fruit nose; mouth-filling and rich on the palate with pineapple and peach flavours; well integrated oak. (90)
  • Walt Pinot Noir La Brisa 2013: deep ruby colour with a spicy, Christmas cake nose; full-bodied, fleshy and sexy with sweet black raspberry and vanilla oak flavours; great balance and soft, tongue-caressing tannins. (92)
  • Hall Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2011: deep ruby colour; cedar, blackcurrant and vanilla oak on the nose; full-bodied, sweet fruit, well- structured and elegant. (90)
  • Kathryn Hall Cabernet Sauvignon 2011: dense purple colour; spicy, vanilla oak and blackcurrant nose; full-bodied, fleshy and full in the mouth with soft tannins. A joy to drink. (92)

Hall and Walt wines at The Chase

Wednesday, May 6: Recorded my 680News wine reviews and returned home for a tasting with wine importer Nicholas Pearce, who had brought along the following wines:

  • Gilvesy Bohem 2013 (Lake Balatonblend Riesling Italico, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc; $19.95): pale straw colour; minerally, apple nose; medium-bodied, crisply dry with green apple and green plum flavours (88)
  • Nicholas Pearce Prince Edward County Chardonnay Ashley’s Blend 2013 ($25): pale straw colour; apple and forest floor notes on the nose; very Burgundian in style, minerally apple and citrus flavours; well balanced and clean with good length. (90)
  • Domaine de Bellene Saint-Roman Vieilles Vignes 2011 ($35): pale straw with a green tint; minerally, smoky, stony nose of citrus and green apple; medium-bodied, dry and crisp, well-balanced with lance with good length. (91)
  • Leaning Post Chardonnay 2012 (Niagara Peninsula – $35): straw colour; minerally, apple with a forest floor note on the nose; mouth-filling, dry, citrus and caramel flavours with a touch of bitterness on the finish. (88)
  • Leaning Post Rosé 2014 (70% Gamay, 30% Cabernet Franc – $19): pale pink with a blue tint; wild strawberry and redcurrant nose; dry, redcurrant, rhubarb and strawberry flavour. Fresh and lively on the palate with mouth-freshening acidity. (89)
  • Stephane Aviron Beaujolais Villages 2013 ($19.95): ruby colour; peppery, cherry nose; light-bodied, fruity, dry, cherry and cherry pit flavours with a firm finish. (88)
  • Maison Roche de Bellene Chambolle-Musigny Vieilles 2001 ($70): mature ruby colour; lifted raspberry and violets on the nose; dry, elegant, with a thread of minerality, lively acidity and soft tannins. Great structure and still youthful. (91)
  • Domaine de Bellene Savigny Les Beaune Les Hauts Jarrons 2011 ($50): ruby colour; developing barnyard notes with mineral, raspberry notes; earthy, dry, red berry flavours; light on the palate with a firm finish. (89)
  • Leaning Post Pinot Noir Lowrey Vineyard 2011 ($38): ruby with an orange tint; minerally, cherry nose with a floral note; medium-bodied, dry, firmly structured with an earthy mid-palate and a dry, tannic finish. (88)
  • Clos del Rey Le Sabina 2013 (Cotes de Roussillon Villages, Grenache, Carignan, Syrah – $25): dense purple colour; struck flint, herbal, spicy, white pepper nose with vanilla oak; richly extracted and powerful blackberry and blueberry flavours; muscular and voluptuous, firmly structured. (92)

Spent the rest of the day writing up my report on the Canadian entries at the Decanter World Wine Awards. It will be published in their October edition along with all the results of the competition.

Thursday, May 7: At noon Marc Russell came by the condo in his trunk to pick up the wines for this evening’s “Italy Uncorked” fund-raiser for Grapes for Humanity – both for the pouring and the silent auction. We delivered them down to the La Salle Room of St. James Cathedral where the event started at 6:30 pm. Some 240 people in all. One of the live auction items was dinner with Chef Massimo Capra (Grapes for Humanity’s food and wine ambassador) for ten people with some great wines, including a 3 litre bottle of Ornellaia 2009. It sold twice for $10,000 a piece! The evening was a great success.

Friday, May 8: Did the wrap up on last night’s event and prepared for the Ontario Wine Awards gala dinner at Queens Landing in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Tony opening the 2015 Ontario Wine Awards gala

Chef John Higgins was the MC. John had cooked for the Queen at Buckingham Palace and told a hilarious story of the dinner for the Royal corgis was sent back to the kitchen because the meat wasn’t hand-chopped; John had put it through a meat grinder to save time. Emma Garner won the Wine Maker of the Year Award, Evan Saviolidis the journalism Award. Other major awards:

  • Appassimento Red Award –
    Pillitteri Estates 2010 Riserva Famiglia Cabernet Franc
  • Blended Red Award –
    The Foreign Affair 2012 Petit Verdot
  • Best Label Design Award –
    Sue-Ann Staff Estate 2013 Fancy Farm Girl Foxy Pink

Gold medal winners:

  • Sparkling Wine –
    Huff Estates 2010 Cuvee Peter F Huff
  • Dry Riesling –
    Thirty Bench Wine Makers 2013 Riesling
  • Semi-Dry Riesling –
    Flat Rock Cellars 2014 Riesling
  • Dry White Varietal –
    Inniskillin 2013 Reserve Viognier
  • Gewurztraminer –
    Trius 2013 Showcase Outlier Gewurztraminer
  • Pinot Blanc/Pinot Gris –
    Konzelmann Estate 2013 Pinot Blanc
  • Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon –
    Peller Estates 2013 Andrew Peller Signature Sauvignon Blanc
  • Oaked Chardonnay (under $20) –
    Flat Rock Cellars 2012 Chardonnay
  • Oaked Chardonnay (over $20) –
    16 Mile Cellar 2011 Civility Chardonnay
  • Unoaked Chardonnay –
    Konzelmann Estate 2013 Unoaked Chardonnay
  • Rosé/Blanc de Noir –
    Henry of Pelham Family Estate 2014 Rosé
  • Gamay –
    Vieni Estates 2012 Gamay Noir
  • Pinot Noir –
    Huff Estates 2013 Pinot Noir
  • Red Hybrid –
    Pelee Island 2013 Baco Noir Reserve
  • Cabernet Sauvignon –
    Trius 2012 Showcase East Block Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Cabernet Franc –
    Thirty Bench Wine Makers 2012 Small Lot Cabernet Franc
  • Merlot –
    Kacaba Vineyards 2010 Reserve Merlot
  • Syrah/Shiraz –
    Jackson-Triggs 2012 Delaine Syrah
  • Meritage and Cabernet/Merlot Blends –
    Thirty Bench Wine Makers 2012 Benchmark Red
  • Late Harvest –
    Peller Estates 2013 Private Reserve Late Harvest Vidal
  • Vidal Icewine –
    Chateau des Charmes 2012 Vidal Icewine Estate Bottled
    Sue-Ann Staff Estate 2012 Vidal Icewine
  • Vinifera Icewine –
    Inniskillin 2012 Riesling Icewine
  • Appassimento Red Award –
    Pillitteri Estates 2010 Riserva Famiglia Cabernet Franc
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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 543: London Bound

Saturday, April 25: Deborah dropped me at the airport for an 8:40 pm Air Canada flight to London. On Monday I begin four days of judging Canadian wines at the Decanter World Wine Awards. On the flight I watched Wild with Reese Witherspoon. Got a couple of hours’ sleep after a dinner of vegetarian shepherd’s pie (which sounds like an oxymoron but it was the better option than choosing AC chicken).

Sunday, April 26: Arrived in London at 8:30 am, topped up my oyster card with £50 and took the tube to Kentish Town. I’m staying with my old friend Rabbi David Goldberg and his wife, Carole, whom I have known for 45 years. David officiated at both my first marriage and my second wedding. On the journey in I read José Samarago’s Cain (great book).

Monday, April 27: The first day of judging the Decanter World Wine Awards. I have been the chair of the Canadian panel for the last ten years. This is the second year that the competition has been held at Tobacco Dock in Wapping. Great to meet up again with colleagues from all over the world. This year there are over 16,000 entries and 240 judges. My judging panel members are Barbara Philip MW, Rhys Pender MW, both from BC, Lynda Rhys, a Master Sommelier from London, and myself.

Today we had four flights before lunch and four after, beginning with 11 sparkling wines and followed by 11 Okanagan Chardonnays, 13 Pinot Noirs and 13 sweet red wines. The highlight of lunch is the magnificent cheese board with a huge selection of French and English cheeses (the judges consume 25 kilos a day, apparently!).

Our daily cheese

In the afternoon, 13 Merlots, 11 Chardonnays, 8 Okanagan Bordeaux blends and finishing with 7 sweet red wines. We awarded two gold medals – one for the very first wine we tasted this morning and one in the last flight of the day.

After the judging we all repair to a pub on the river, called The Captain Kidd, for a cleansing pint of beer. The weather was good enough to sit out on the patio overlooking the river. For dinner I walked over to the Lahore Kebab House on Commercial Street, where members of the Circle of Wine Writers had gathered, each bringing a bottle of wine. I had brought over with me a bottle of Chateau des Charmes Old Vines Riesling 2012.

Tuesday, April 28: The second day of judging. Our panel had a new member, Sarah Knowles, a London-based buyer for The Wine Society, a co-operative wine-buying group, who is studying for her Masters of Wine. In the morning we judged 12 Super Premium Pinot Noir, 11 BC Merlots, 9 aromatic single varieties and 9 Cabernet Franc icewines. In the afternoon, 13 single red varietals, 13 Rieslings, 8 Shiraz/Syrah and 12 Riesling icewines. Four gold medals today, one Pinot Noir and three icewine.

Canadian panel: Sarah Knowles, Rhys Pender, Barb Philip (seated) and me

After the pub, took the tube to Maida Vale to have dinner at Stephen Brook’s with Ian D’Agata and the ex-wife of James Suckling. The wines that Stephen served: 2013 Jaunegg Weissburgunder Schlossberg, 1999 Clusel-Roch Cote Rotie, 2009 Craggy Range Sophia and Mas Amiel 30-year Maury. A riotous evening.

Wednesday, April 29: Third day of judging. In the morning our Canadian panel blind tasted 10 Super Premium Bordeaux blends, 10 Chardonnay (2 of which were corked), 14 red blends (one corked), and 10 sweet whites. One gold medal in the morning. After lunch, 13 Cabernet Franc, 9 Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris, 9 Niagara Bordeaux blends and 12 Vidal icewines. During the day, Christelle Guibert, the tasting director for Decanter, came to tell us that there had been a mistake and we had been given the same icewine twice the previous day – and we’d given a gold medal to both samples! So we patted ourselves on the back. After the pub I returned to Kentish Town for dinner with David and Carole and their son Rupert.

Thursday, April 30: My last day of judging. The morning began with 11 Sauvignon Blanc (one gold medal) followed by 7 white varietals and 4 rosés, 7 BC Bordeaux varietals, 11 BC and Niagara single Bordeaux varietals. After lunch, a final flight of 11 Okanagan Syrahs before we re-judged the gold medal wines to see if they merited their gold and which would go forward for a Regional Trophy.

After the ritual trip to Captain Kidd, back to Kentish town to take David and Carole to dinner. They had chosen a restaurant called La Collina on Princess Road, near Primrose Hill. I ordered grilled calamari and spaghetti vongole with a bottle of Cantine del Vermentino Funtanaliras 2014 from Sardinia and finished the evening off with a grappa.

Friday, May 1: A free day in London. Took the bus to Gower Street and walked around before having some fish and chips at Gigs on Tottenham Street, then back to Kentish Town to write up my blog before trekking out to Sydenham Hill to have dinner with my old friend Jim Budd (the leading authority on wines of the Loire who has the most extraordinary collection of Hawaiian shirts as well as the most luxuriant moustache I have ever seen).

Jim Budd

The view from his apartment, overlooking all of London with the Horniman Museum below, is spectacular. We started with Chapel Down Pinot Reserve 2008 Sparkling Wine. With ceviche of salmon, scallops and tune, Pierre Luneau-Papin “L” Muscadet Sèvre & Maine 1995 (amazingly alive and fresh), followed by roast chicken and pork sausages, boiled potatoes and green beans, with Château de Beaucastel 1980. With a selection of cheeses, Huet Le Mont Vouvray Demi-Sec 1999.

Saturday, May 2: Up early to pack and get to Heathrow for my flight to the airport. While I was waiting for my flight, the BBC News announced the arrival of the Royal baby.


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 542: First Family of Wine

An amazingly youthful Riesling, vintage 1994

Monday, April 20: Went down to St. James Cathedral’s event space for a tasting of a group of Ontario wineries who have come together under the umbrella of “Somewhereness.” Meaning wineries who are interested in producing terroir-driven wines. Very impressive quality overall, especially among the Chardonnays, Rieslings and Pinot Noir. Wines that I scored 90 or over were:

  • Norman Hardie Niagara Pinot Noir 2011
  • Stratus  Tollgate Wine 2011
  • Stratus Red 2010
  • Bachelder Saunders Chardonnay 2012
  • Bachelder Wismer Chardonnay 2012
  • Bachelder Pinot Noir Parfum 2013
  • Hidden bench Estate Riesling 2013
  • Southbrook Triomphe Chardonnay 2013
  • Southbrook Whimsy Minerality Chardonnay 2012
  • Charles Baker Ivan Vineyard Riesling 2014
  • Charles Baker Picone vineyard Riesling 2012
  • Flat Rock Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling 2014
  • Flat Rock Chardonnay 2012
  • Flat Rock Rusty Shed Chardonnay 2012
  • Cave Spring Riesling Estate Dry 2010
  • Cave Spring CSV Riesling 2013
  • Cave Spring The Adam Step Riesling 2013

Tuesday, April 21: Emma Garner, the winemaker at Thirty Bench, came to the condo for a tasting of 2013 whites and 2012 reds.

  • Thirty Bench Winemakers’ Riesling 2013 (Vintages Essential – $18.95): pale straw colour; minerally, honey, lime nose; medium-bodied, fresh and lively on the palate with a tart grapefruit flavour. (88)
  • Thirty Bench Riesling Steel Post Vineyard 2013 ($30): pale straw with a lime tint; light floral and white pepper note above aromas of grapefruit with a thread of minerality; brisk and assertive on the palate with a long citrus finish. Needs time (90–92)
  • Thirty Bench Riesling Triangle Vineyard 2013 ($30): pale straw with a lime tint; floral, minerally, honeyed nose of citrus fruits; beautifully balanced, great tension between fruit and acidity; fresh and clean and long on the palate. (91)
  • Thirty Bench Wild Cask Riesling 2013 ($30): a deeper straw than the Triangle or Steel Post and richer on the nose; minerally, honey and grapefruit notes; soft on the palate with honeyed sweetness until the lime-like acidity kicks in. Again, great length. (91)
  • Thirty Bench Small Lot Pinot Noir 2012 ($35): spicy, black cherry with an animal, smoky note on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, savoury, cherry and cherry pit flavours with nicely balanced with firm finish. (89)
  • Thirty Bench Small Lot Merlot 2012 ($40): deep purple-ruby colour; cedar, blueberry nose with vanilla oak; lovely ripe fruit, St. Emilion style, well balanced with ripe, forgiving tannins. (90)
  • Thirty Bench Small Lot Cabernet Franc 2012 ($40): deep ruby-purple colour; cedar, blackcurrant nose with a tobacco note; sweet black fruit flavours with a creamy mouth feel; firm tannic finish. (91)
  • Thirty Bench Small Lot Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($40): deep purple-ruby colour; cedar, blackcurrant with a tobacco leaf nose topped by spicy oak; medium-bodied, dry, well-structured with a floral lift in mid-palate and cushioning tannins on the finish. (91)
  • Thirty Bench Benchmark Red 2102 (51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc and the rest Merlot – $60): deep purple-ruby colour; cedar, blackcurrant, cigar-box nose overlaid with oak spice; medium-bodied, dry, lovely mouth-feel, firm but succulent fruit carried on lively acidity, seamless in the mouth. (92)

In the evening down to the Hilton Hotel (formerly the Metropolitan Hotel) for the Cambridge Food and Wine Society’s annual awards event. Miguel Torres was being honoured as were Barry Chaim, the power of Edo, and Chef John Higgins. Miguel conducted a seminar tasting for the wine press in Lai Wah Heen, the hotel’s Chinese restaurant, before the dinner (a fund-raiser for the Trillium Chefs Canada). We tasted Miguel Torres Cordillera Brut Pinot Noir, Viña Esmeralda 2014, Gran Coronas Reserva 2010, Mas La Plana 2010 and Torres 5 Brandy. The same wines were served with the dinner.

First Course: Trio of Appetizers
Pan-seared scallop with truffle cream sauce
Baked pastry filled with pork, scallions and ginger garnished with foie gras
Crispy fried tofu stuffed with mushrooms and vegetables, garnished with crispy broccoli
Accompanied by Special XO sauce prepared by Hong Kong’s Michelin Star Chef Lai Wai Hung
Wine: Torres Cordillera Brut NV

Second Course: Steamed filet of fresh red sea bream, shiitake mushrooms in premium soy sauce with shreds of ginger and scallions
Wine: Torres Viña Esmeralda 2014

Third Course: Peking Duck Duo
Freshly carved duck breast served with fresh scallions and cucumber, Hoisin sauce in a warm rice crêpe
Rainbow minced duck in a crystal fold
Wine: Torres Gran Coronas 2010

Fourth Course: Choice of Red braised Pork Belly with Shanghai bok choy and Sichuan eggplant
Wok-fried beef tenderloin in Cantonese sauce on a bed of assorted wild mushrooms and Sichuan eggplant
Wine: Torres Mas La Plana 2010

Fifth Course: Dessert Surprise
Rare Chinese Tea or Coffee
Choice of Torres 5 Imperial Brandy
Glenfiddich 15 years old Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Rémy Martin XO Cognac

Wednesday, April 22: Wrote an article for Grapevine magazine about tasting. In the evening Deborah and I were invited to the Primum Familiae Vini tasting at the ROM. A walk-around event with booths for each of the eleven members – Pol Roger, Hugel, Drouhin, Egon Müller, Torres, Tenuta San Guido, Famille Perrin, Antinori, Mouton-Rothschild, Vega Sicilia and the Symington Family. Originally there were 12 members but when Robert Mondavi was sold they had to drop out, as did Jaboulet (Perrin took their place). A very relaxed evening of tasting. After the tasting Deborah and I walked over to Opus for a glass of wine.

Miguel Torres, Deborah and Tony at the Primum Familiae Vini tasting

Thursday, April 23: Today I experienced one of the best lunches I have had in Toronto. The PFV held a lunch for the wine press at the Four Seasons Hotel. I was seated between Allegra Antinori and Laurent Drouhin, opposite Miguel Torres. In his introduction to the port that ended the meal, Rupert Symington summed up the ethos of the PFV, calling the association of European family wineries “the last line of defence against the globalization pf wine.”

Allegra Antinori

The menu and the accompanying wines, introduced by each member of the PFV, were stunning.

Foie gras, brioche, Laroda plum and lamb’s lettuce, with Pol Roger Churchill Champagne 2002 and Famille Hugel Riesling Jubilee 2010

Scallops, kumquat, baby leek and caviar, with Drouhin Chablis Les Clos 2012 and Egon Müller Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett 1994

Cavatelli pasta, rabbit coulis, preserved tomatoes and olives, with Torres Mas La Plana 2010, Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia 2009 and Famille Perrin Château Beaucastel 2005

Braised bison short rib, spring carrots, pommes dauphines, with Antinori Solaia, Château Mouton Rothschild and Vega Siclia Unico 2004

Stilton cheese, fig, walnut crostini, red watercress, with Symington Family Estates Graham’s Vintage Port 1977 in magnum

The PFV lunch lineup

All the wines showed beautifully, an unalloyed pleasure to taste them all.

Miguel Torres

On the way home I dropped into Indigo and bought a copy of Cain by José Saramago, which Miguel Torres had recommended. For dinner, spaghetti and prawns with Southbrook Triomphe Cabernet Franc Rosé 2014 (dry and fresh with orange, rhubarb and strawberry flavours, perfect with the dish (88)).

Friday, April 24: A tasting of 80 rosés with the Wine Writers’ Circle members. In the afternoon, worked on the Grapes for Humanity auction and began packing for tomorrow’s flight to London for the Decanter World Wine Awards judging.

Tasting 80 rosés


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 541: Michael Carlevale

Monday, April 13: A seminar this morning in the Ontario Room of the Royal York Hotel as a prelude to the annual California Wine Fair. Winemakers John Priest from Etude, Margo van Staaveran for Chateau St. Jean, Christophe Paubert from Stag’s Leap Winery and Laurie Hook from Beringer made up the panel and we tasted two wines from each of their wineries.

  • Chateau St. Jean Robert Young Chardonnay 2012 (Alexander Valley): straw colour; spicy, smoky, charred oak nose with vanilla notes; full-bodied, sweet fruit – caramel, pear, apple and lemon flavours with good length. (90)
  • Chateau St. Jean Reserve Chardonnay 2012 (Sonoma): straw colour; more Burgundian in style – minerally, apple nose; full-bodied, creamy with a fine spine of acidity; tangerine and apple flavours with well balanced oak. (91)
  • Etude Heirloom Pinot Noir Grace Benoist Ranch 2012 (Carneros Estate): deep ruby colour; spicy, black cherry with an earthy note on the nose; medium-bodied, elegant, lovely mouth-feel; dry, cherry and raspberry flavours, well-structured with ripe tannins. (91)
  • Etude Pinot Noir Grace Benoist Ranch 2012 (Carneros Estate): black cherry nose with an earthy note; more weight on the palate than the Heirloom, firmly structured. (89)
  • Stags’ Leap Winery The Leap Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (Stags’ Leap District): dense ruby-purple colour; lovely floral nose of cedar, blackcurrant and vanilla oak; fresh flavours of black and redcurrants, firmly structured and surprisingly delicate; juicy with lively acidity. Needs time. (89–91)
  • Stags’ Leap Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (Napa Valley): dense purple-ruby colour; mocha and spicy black fruits on the nose; creamy mouth feel but firmly structured, juicy red berry flavours with a tannic lift on the finish. (89)
  • Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon Bancroft Ranch Vineyard Howell Mountain 2010 (Napa): dense purple-ruby colour; a nose of blackcurrant, dried leaves and dark chocolate; rich and full in the mouth, finely structured, lively acidity with a mineral note on the finish. (90)
  • Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (Napa): dense purple-black in colour; blackcurrant with a floral note on the nose; richly extracted, full-bodied, finely structured, earthy, black fruit flavours ending on a savoury note. (91)

After the seminar there was the customary sparkling wine tasting while lunch guests mingled before going into the dining room. I was seated at the Far Niente and Diamond Ridge table. The menu:

Chili and Lime Seared Pacific Prawns, Kaffir Lime and Lemongrass “Pearl Risotto,” Ginger Beurre Blanc, Ponzu Reduction

Hill Street Cobblestone Stout Braised Beef Short Rib and Peppercorn Crusted Beef Tenderloin (Brown Butter Parsnip and Potato Puree, Roasted Baby Carrots, Cabernet Jus and Horseradish Emulsion)

Cheese Platter (Aged Gouda, La Dauvagine, Cashel Blue Cheese), Housemade Quince Jam, Ontario Dried Fruitd and Spiced Nuts, Fresh Baguette, Carrs Crackers and Grissini Sticks

Petits Fours

The wines I tasted:

  • Far Niente Chardonnay 2013: spicy, elegant, pear flavour; full-bodied, great oak integration and long length. (91)
  • Far Niente En Route Pinot Noir 2013: deep ruby colour; spicy, black cherry and rose petal nose; ripe fruit, full on the palate, spicy with a soft mouth-feel; great balance. (90)
  • Far Niente Tench Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012: dense ruby colour; creamy blackcurrant nose; soft, creamy blackcurrant flavour. Full in the mouth with ripe tannins and lively acidity. (91)
  • Diamond Ridge Chardonnay 2012: straw color; spicy, vanilla oak nose; full-bodied, sweetish pear flavour with a soft mouth-feel. (89)
  • Nickel and Nickel C.C. Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon 2012: deep ruby colour; blackcurrant, vanilla oak, nose; dry, elegant, well balanced with tasty blackcurrant fruit ending with grainy tannins. (91)
  • Diamond Ridge Meritage 2012: deep ruby colour; cedar, blackcurrant with spicy vanilla oak; dry, well-extracted fruit, beautifully balanced. (92)
  • EnRoute Les Brumeaux Chardonnay 2012: spicy peach, pear and vanilla oak nose, flavours that are replicated on the palate; full-bodied and richly extracted fruit. (89)

I had to leave after lunch (missing the opportunity to taste 450 Californian wines) as I attended the memorial service for Michael Carlevale at the Church of the Redeemer, across from the restaurant he once owned, Prego. Very moving tributes from his long-time partner Catherine Harris, Michael Cooke and Michael’s sister Jean Carlevale. The memorial service note read “A celebration of the overwhelmingly hospitable heart. Michael made our lives and the life of the city he adopted more rich and flavourful. His love of food was really a love for the people he fed.”

In the evening there was a fund-raiser dinner at Sopra to create a scholarship at George Brown for aspiring chefs. A great night of stories about Michael. I recounted the time when I was in Burgundy with him and a party of five of us went to Lameloise, the three-star restaurant in Chagny. We were seated in a room that was occupied, fully, by English-peaking people and we had an indifferent meal. On our way out Michael put his arm around the shoulder of the maître-d’ and said: “Do you have a room for foreigners?” Michael was the most generous of hosts and he frequently invited Deborah and me to dinner. We tried often to reciprocate and eventually he did accept our dinner invitation. Only he said, “If you serve fucking chicken, I’m leaving.” We all brought our own wine for the memorial dinner. Everybody raided their cellars for some great wines. I brought along a bottle of Frescobaldi CastelGioconda Brunello Rieserva 2003.

A great wine to toast Michael Carlevale’s memory

Dessert wine at Michael Carlevale’s memorial dinner

Tuesday, April 14: Spent the morning putting together the wine list for the silent auction on May 7th for Grapes for Humanity. Lunch at Terroni with Massimo Capra and reps from Chef Events. Massimo is going to be the food and wine ambassador for Grapes for Humanity and help us fund-raise. In the evening a meeting of the Grapes for Humanity board, to welcome two new directors – Tim Sorensen and Bernard Stramwasser. Sam Sarick, our host, served Beaucastel Châteauneuf du Pâpe 1999 in magnum.

Wednesday, April 15: A day of tasting wines for www.winerytohome.com. In the evening Guy and Sasha came over for dinner. With brisket, roast potatoes and green beans I served Rosewood Origin Series Cabernet Franc 2013 (ruby colour; spicy, floral, raspberry nose; medium-bodied, creamy on the palate with a dry, spicy, white pepper and green leaf flavour finishing firmly (88)).

Thursday, April 16: Went down to the Distillery District for a tasting of Prince Edward County wines. Impressed by Huff Pinot Noir Quarry Road 2013 and Closson Chase Watson Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013 – both from Niagara fruit. Also enjoyed the Huff Pinot Gris 2013. For dinner with lamb chops, Rosewood Merlot 2012 (deep purple colour; cedar, blueberry and vanilla oak on the nose; dry, medium-bodied, nicelt balanced with a floral flourish on the end palate (88)).

A fine Pinot Noir

Friday, April 17: The second day of judging of the Ontario Wine Awards at Crush. The judging went very smoothly – no spilled wine, no broken glasses. All very decorous. A late evening meeting with Chef John Higgins at George Brown. Dinner, BBQ salmon steaks with Huff Pinot Noir Quarry Road 2013.

Judging Ontario Pinot Noir at the Ontario Wine Awards

Saturday, April 18: A food shopping day. At 4:40 pm Deborah and I picked up Miguel Torres from the airport and drove him to his hotel (The Four Seasons). He flew in from Spain via Frankfurt. Invited him for dinner tomorrow.

Sunday, April 19: The final day of tasting for the Ontario Wine Awards – the sweet wines. The tasting was conducted at The Fine Wine Reserve, two panels of four judges.

Sweet wine judging on Sunday

In the evening I picked up Miguel Torres and my sister-in-law Suzanne and brought them back to the condo for dinner. We started with Huff Estates Cuvée Janine Sparkling Rosé 2011 served with toasted almonds. Then sliced pear with goat’s cheese and walnuts on baby arugula with Henry of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Riesling 2009. Deborah made an asparagus risotto with slices of barbecued steak and I opened a bottle of Bouchard Père & Fils Le Corton 2000. With the cheese course, Diamond Ridge Pinot Noir 2012 (Anderson Valley). A great evening of conversation and good wine.


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 540: Ontario Wine Awards

The Ontario Wine Awards panel judging sparkling wines – Linda Bramble, Michael Godel, Andre Proulx and Konrad Ejbich

Sunday, April 5: Suzanne, Guy and Sasha came to dinner and Sasha showed us her engagement ring, a beautiful sapphire. I cooked a boneless leg of lamb, scalloped potatoes and French beans. Opened my last bottle of Domaine de la Vougeraie Clos Vougeot 2006 (which was magnificent).

Monday, April 6: My sister Shirley was in town and Deborah and I met her for breakfast at the Park Hyatt, then drove her to Union Station for her Montreal train. Wrote my 680News wine reviews. For dinner with (cold lamb), Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Merlot 2012 (dense purple colour, a nose of blueberry pie with vanilla oak; full-bodied, sweet blackcurrant and blueberry fruit with lively acidity (90)).

Tuesday, April 7: Recorded my 680News wine reviews, then down to the LCBO for a tasting of the April 14th Vintages release, which I had missed because of my Edmonton trip. Ordered in Chinese food for dinner. Not very good.

Wednesday, April 8: A miserable rainy day. Wrote up my Wines of the Week and spent the rest of the day entering the Vintages wine reviews onto my site. A laborious and time-consuming job.

Thursday, April 9: Wrote my Lexpert column on wine gizmos and gadgets (how totally useless most of them are). Grilled salmon for dinner with Douglas Green Sauvignon Blanc 2013 from South Africa (herbaceous, green pineapple flavours (87)).

Friday, April 10: Spent the day preparing for tomorrow’s Ontario Wine Awards judging and putting together lots for Grapes for Humanity’s silent auction on May 7th. Deborah was going to her dance class party so I opened a magnum of Fuzion Shiraz Malbec 2014, poured myself a glass and gave the bottle to her for her party. Good to see that this Argentina blend – that took the market by storm – is back to the quality that it originally was when it was first released. (Deep ruby colour; earthy, spicy, black cherry and pencil lead nose; dry, savoury, tobacco and licorice flavours with a cherry pit finish and fresh acidity. Good value. (87))

Saturday, April 11: The first day of judging of the Ontario Wine Awards at Crush on King Street. Traffic and construction meant a slow trip down. The most unexpected success was a flight of red appassimento wines.

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 539: Guy’s Engagement

Sasha and Guy

Monday, March 30: Flew back from Edmonton after a great week of fine dining during the inaugural Northern Lands Wine Festival. Looking forward to the next one in two years’ time. Came back to a pile of emails.

Tuesday, March 31: Worked on the Ontario Wine Awards, putting the judging panels together. Then picked up wine from Geddy Lee for Grapes for Humanity’s silent auction at “Italy Uncorked” on May 7th at St James Cathedral event space.

Wednesday, April 1: Worked on getting wines donated for the tasting aspect of “Italy Uncorked.” In the evening, down to the National Club to conduct a tasting of Canadian wines for the successful bidder at the Amani gala fund-raiser dinner. The wines:

  • Hillebrand Showcase Ghost Creek Riesling 2012 (ON)
  • Creekside Laura’s Blend 2010 (ON)
  • Tinhorn Creek Pinot Noir 2007 (BC)
  • Hillebrand Showcase Red Shale Cabernet Franc 2010 (ON)
  • Mooncurser Malbec 2010 (BC)
  • Kacaba Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (ON)
  • Vineland Estates Elevation Cabernet 2009 (ON)
  • Coyote’s Run Red Paw Vineyard Syrah 2007 (ON)
  • Burrowing Owl Syrah 2005 (BC)

The wines showed very well.

Thursday, April 2: Spent much of the day chasing up more wine donations for Grapes for Humanity’s fund-raiser on May 7th. Wrote my On The Go column and did some tasting:

  • Matua Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (Hawkes Bay, New Zealand – $15.95): very pale, almost water white in colour; sweaty, green bean nose; more interesting on the palate with tart, gooseberry and green plum flavours with a touch of sweetness in mid palate, finishing crisply dry. (87)
  • Blue Mountain Chardonnay 2013 (Okanagan Valley): straw colour; apple nose with well integrated oak notes; medium-bodied, dry, mouth-filling flavours of apple and pineapple rounded out with oak. Good length. (89)
  • CedarCreek Platinum Chardonnay Block 5 Chardonnay 2013 (Okanagan Valley): light straw colour; nutty, apple and toasty oak nose; medium-bodied, dry, spicy pear and apple flavours. Great balance and mouth feel with an orange and dry caramel finish. (91)
  • Franciscan Estate Chardonnay 2013 (Napa Valley – $24.95): straw colour; apple, toasty oak with a barnyard note developing on the nose; full-bodied, dry, mouth-filling, minerally, tropical fruit flavours with lively acidity. Lots of flavour here, fleshy and lingering. (89+)
  • Château des Charmes Rosé Cuvée Andrée 2014 (Niagara-on-the-Lake – $14.95): deep pink with a bluish tint; strawberry and sweet rhubarb on the nose; medium-bodied, dry with a sour cherry and strawberry flavour; fresh and lively on the palate. (88)
  • Matua Pinot Noir 2013 (Marlborough – $17.95): ruby colour with a violet rim; black raspberry with a floral note on the nose; light on the palate while filling the mouth; dry, medium-bodied, raspberry and cranberry flavours with enough tannin for structure. Easy drinking. (88+)
  • Blue Mountain Pinot Noir 2013 (Okanagan Valley): ruby colour; earthy, high-toned cherry nose; dry, medium-bodied, thick on the palate with a herbal finish, broadened by 10 months in oak. (88)
  • CedarCreek Meritage 2012 (Okanagan Valley – Merlot 46%, Cabernet Sauvignon 21%, Malbec 20%, Cabernet Franc 9%, Petit Verdot 4%): dense ruby-purple colour; cedar, smoky, black fruits on the nose with blackcurrant predominating over the oak notes; dry, medium to full bodied with driving acidity. Needs time. (88–89)
  • CedarCreek Platinum Desert Ridge Merlot 2012 (Okanagan Valley): dense ruby-purple colour; cedar, tobacco, blackcurrant and blackberry nose; richly extracted fruit with powdering tannins, cherry and currant flavours with racy acidity. Again, needs time. (89–90)
  • CedarCreek Platinum Desert Ridge Meritage 2012 (Okanagan Valley – Merlot 54%, Cabernet Sauvignon 32%, Cabernet Franc 7%, Malbec 4%, Petit Verdot 3%): dense ruby-purple colour; cedar, tobacco, blackcurrant nose; full-bodied, dry, spicy, blackcurrant and blueberry flavours with well integrated oak. Racy acidity and fine powdery tannins. (89–90)
  • Simi Merlot 2012 (with 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Malbec, 1% Cabernet Franc: Sonoma County – $22.95): deep ruby colour; spicy vanilla oak dark chocolate, blueberry pie nose; dry, medium to full-bodied, plum and blueberry flavours carried on lively acidity to a firm finish. (89)
  • Saved 2012 (27% Merlot, 19% Malbec, 17% Syrah, 13% Zinfandel , with 7% Sauzao, 6% Petit Verdot, 4% Petite Sirah, 4% Grenache, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon – fruit from Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles, Santa Barbara County and Dry Creek – $29.95): deep ruby colour; black fruits on the nose with spicy oak; full-bodied, blackcurrant and blackberry flavours, fleshy on the palate with chocolate and berry flavours kept in check by corseting tannins. A voluptuous wine that finishes firmly. (90)

Friday, April 3: Good Friday. A long walk with Pinot in the park then after lunch another walk along Yonge Street, greeting other dogs. Followed by a tasting:

  • Quails’ Gate Chasselas Pinot Blanc Pinot Gris 2014 (Okanagan Valley): pale straw colour; minerally, white peach nose; dry, medium-bodied, peach and citrus flavours. Well balanced with a touch of bitter almond on the finish. (87)
  • Quails’ Gate Chardonnay 2013 (Okanagan Valley): light straw colour; spicy, pear nose; clove, pear and apple flavours with lively citrus acidity. Well balanced with good length and evident oak notes. (89)
  • Quails’ Gate Dry Riesling 2014 (Okanagan Valley): very pale, almost water white in colour; lightly floral on the nose with minerally, citrus aromas; medium-bodied, off-dry, pink grapefruit and honey flavours nicely balanced by racy, lemony acidity. (89)
  • Quails’ Gate Gewurztraminer 2014 (Okanagan Valley): very pale, almost water white; spicy, grapefruit nose; rose petal and grapefruit flavour with lively acidity. Should develop a more fragrant nose with bottle age. (88)
  • Lagaria Chardonnay Vignetti delle Dolomiti 2013 (Trentino-Alto Adige and Veneto fruit – $13.55): pale straw colour; minerally, pear skin nose; dry, medium-bodied, spicy oak and pineapple flavours carried on citrus acidity. (87+)
  • Frei Brothers Reserve Chardonnay 2013 (Russian River Valley Sonoma County – $23.95): pale straw colour; smoky, spicy, oaky nose; medium to full-bodied, sweet fruit (apple and pear) backed by spicy oak. Easy drinking. (88)
  • Closson Chase Vineyard Chardonnay 2013 (Prince Edward County – $27.95): straw coloured; spicy oak and apple nose; full on the palate with green pineapple and apple flavours given some uplift by the well-integrated oak. Great length. More restrained and elegant than previous vintages of this wine. (92)
  • Pink House Wine Co. Chardonnay Merlot 2013 (Niagara Peninsula – $12.95): orange-pink colour; earthy strawberry nose; medium-bodied, sweetish strawberry puree flavour with an apple note. Heavy on the palate. (86)
  • Henry of Pelham Sibling Rivalry Pink 2014 (Niagara Peninsula – $13.95: Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Gamay): deep salmon pink; cherry and watermelon on the nose; sweetish redcurrant and cherry flavours finishing dry. (86+)
  • Henry of Pelham Rosé 2014 (Niagara Peninsula – $13.95: Pinot Noir, Merlot, Gamay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc): salmon pink; banana, strawberry nose with a floral note; strawberry and watermelon flavours with lively acidity. Fresh and easy drinking. (87)
  • Quails’ Gate Rosé 2014 (Okanagan Valley): pale pink with a bluish tint; minerally, cherry pit nose; dry, medium-bodied, full in the mouth with a faint spritz; sour cherry flavour. (87)
  • Quails’ Gate Pinot Noir 2013 (Okanagan Valley): ruby-plum colour; high toned, cherry nose with an earthy note; medium-bodied, firmly structured with a flavour of sweet black cherries and a warm alcoholic finish. (89)
  • M. Chapoutier Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Côtes du Roussillon Villages 2013 (Syrah, Grenache, Carignan- $15.45): deep purple-ruby; pepper, herbal, savoury nose of blackberries and tobacco; full-bodied, richly extracted, dry and savoury with a floral uplift on the finish. Lively acidic spine with a firm finish. (91)
  • William Hill Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2012 ($44.95): dense purple-black in colour; cedar, blackcurrant, vanilla oak nose; rich and mouth-filling blackcurrant and blackberry, mocha flavours with powdery tannins; full-bodied and expansive on the palate. (90)
  • Café Culture Coffee Mocha Pinotage 2014 (Western Cape, South Africa): deep ruby purple colour; smoky, tarry, blackberry nose; sweet, charred oak and coffee bean flavour with enough acidity to give length and structure. Full-bodied, oak-driven, finishing dry. (87+)

Saturday, April 4: My son called from Niagara-on-the-Lake this afternoon to tell me that he had proposed to his girlfriend Sasha and she had said “Yes!” Deborah and I are delighted.

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 538: Northern Lands Wine Festival

Monday, March 23: Finished work on the Oz Clarke Pocket Wine Book and sent the material off to London.

Amazing dinner put on by the Italian Trade Commission, How Italy Does Italian prepared by Michelin-starred Chef Giancarlo Morelli in the Ritz Carlton Ballroom. Simply the best meal I’ve had at a function as large as this (some 250 people).

Tuesday, March 24: A meeting with Dominque Vaughan-Russell, an image consultant, to suggest a seminar for her associates on wine etiquette. In the evening, there was a showing of The Imitation Game in our condo’s movie room. Brought down a glass of Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Merlot 2012 to accompany the movie.

Wednesday, March 25: Up early to finishing packing to fly to Edmonton for the first Northern Lands Wine Festival, organized by my old friend and wine writer colleague Gurvinder Bhatia. His father-in-law picked me up at the airport and drove me to the Westin Hotel. Gurvinder was there to greet me and whisked me and fellow wine scribes Treve Ring and Kurtis Kolt off to Taqueria Tres Carnales for a selection of delicious tacos and Mexican beer.

Met in the lobby of The Westin Edmonton at 5:15 pm for transport to Epcor Tower for a welcome sparkling toast (Tantalus Riesling Brut 2004 in magnum) from the viewing deck of Epcor Tower and an overview from senior city official on downtown development & revitalization including the new Rogers Place Arena project.

Gurvinder dispensing bubbly

New arena under construction in Edmonton

Then on to dinner at RGE RD (10643 – 123rd St.). We were seated at a long table and started off with Henry of Pelham Rosé Brut. The waiters brought in a 12-foot plank full of charcuterie which was placed in the middle of the table. Then the wines arrived: CedarCreek Platinum Chardonnay Block 5 2012, Little Farm Riesling 2013, Little Farm Rosé Mulberry Vineyard 2013. First course: cured lake trout with Chantilly cream with baby kale and edible flowers, followed by risotto aquarello (rice aged for seven years) made with parmesan stock. More wine: Culmina Hypothesis 2012 for the “nouveau beef” with smoked potatoes.

Charcuterie plank at RGE RD resto

We went on to the Duchess Bake Shop (10718 – 124th St.) for dessert. Fabulous selection of one-bite desserts and cocktails. This company employs 18 pastry chefs in a very small kitchen. They make 3000 macaroons by hand a day! Back at the hotel by midnight.

Desserts at Duchess Bakery

Thursday, March 26: After an early breakfast the judges for the competition (11 of us) met in the Turner Valley Room at hotel to start the judging. My table consisted of wine writers Steven Brook from London and Bill St. John from Chicago and winemaker Michael Bartier. At noon we broke for lunch and were bussed to Rostizado (owned by the same company as the Tres Carnales, where we had tacos yesterday for lunch). Delicious Mexican lunch of sea bream ceviche followed by gorditas (small corn flour cakes stuffed with spicy pulled pork), slivered pork shoulder, roast chicken, cauliflower with cumin and a spicy bean soup. Then a coffee downstairs under the restaurant in a space called Vacancy Hall, “a unique pop-up retail and studio space for designers, brands and entrepreneurs.” Then back to the hotel for the afternoon judging.

Bussed to a reception hosted in the home of Keshav and Rajshri in honour of Chef Vikram Vij and us wine judges. Lovely Indian hors d’oeuvres and dinner with Canadian wines. Great view of the North Saskatchewan River from the hosts’ balcony.

North Saskatchewan River by night

Friday, March 27: Second day of judging. Fifty wines before lunch and then down to the hotel’s private dining room for a menu prepared by Chef Ryan O’Flynn, Gold Medalist at the 2015 Canadian Culinary Championships held recently in Kelowna. A presentation of wines from Nova Scotia’s Benjamin Bridge Winery by winemaker Jean-Benoit Deslauriers accompanied the meal.

Butternut squash panna cotta with toasted squash seeds and espuma, with Benjamin Bridge Brut

Terrine of pine-smoked Canadian sturgeon and Quebec foie gras (the dish that won the chef the gold award), with Benjamin Bridge Brut Reserve 2008

Confit of Irving’s Farm pork belly with lobster and Rocky Mountain chorizo arancini, toasted pine nut “butter” and black trompettes, carrot purée, with Benjamin Bridge Rosé

Pavlova crispy meringue, raspberry sorbet, rose foam, vanilla cream, with Benjamin Bridge Vidal Icewine Borealis 2011

Then back to the tasting room to decide on the best wines, sparkling, white, red and sweet wines of the 200-odd entries in the competition. The results:

  • Tawse Spark 2013
  • Tawse Sketches Riesling 2012
  • Road 13 Syrah 2013
  • Henry of Vidal Pelham Select Late Harvest Vidal 2013

Northern Lands’ winning wines

At 7:40 pm I was met in the lobby of the hotel for transport to dinner at Rostizado for a collaborative dinner with Chefs Edgar Gutierrez, Connie DeSousa & John Jackson with John Skinner of Painted Rock Winery. Connie and John own the Char Cut Roast House in Calgary and she sports an intriguing tattoo on her right forearm – a pin-up with a string of sausages in her hand.

John Jackson and Connie De Sousa of Char Cut in Calgary

Connie’s tattoo

John Skinner of Painted Rock

The reception wine was Painted Rock Chardonnay 2013.

First course: Pork blood sope (pellizcadas) with smoked pork, corn, avocado and chilies, with Painted Rock Syrah 2012

Second course: Tuna conserva with avocado and pickled chilies, with Painted Rock Merlot 2012

Third course: Octopus with chorizo (the dish of the night), with Painted Rock Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Octopus and chorizo

Fourth course: Duck carnitas with cotija basil puree, pickled butternut squash and pistachio brittle, with Painted Rock Red Icon 2012

Dessert: Pastel de chocolate fundido (Mexican chocolate molten cake with blackberries and smoked peanuts)

Walked back to the hotel.

Saturday, March 28: At 8:30 am, Gurvinder’s wife, Aimee, drove me to the seminar site, a restaurant called Sabor. I was moderating the Cool Climate Chardonnay seminar. Panelists: Michael Apstein – winereviewonline.com (Boston); Stephen Brook – Decanter Magazine (London); Heidi Noble – Joie Farm (BC); Paul Pender – Tawse Winery (ON); Norman Hardie – Norman Hardie Winery (ON); JAK Meyer – Meyer Family Vineyards (BC).

The flight of wines was tasted blind:

  • JoieFarm Reserve Chardonnay ‘En Famille’ 2012, Okanagan BC
  • Meyer Family McLean Creek Chardonnay 2012, Okanagan BC
  • Tawse Quarry Road Chardonnay 2011, Vinemount Ridge Ontario
  • Norman Hardie County Chardonnay 2013, Prince Edward County Ontario
  • Drouhin Chablis Vaudon 2013, Burgundy France
  • Domaine Drouhin Arthur Chardonnay 2013, Oregon USA
  • Felton Road Chardonnay Elms 2011, Central Otago New Zealand
  • Maycas del Limari Chardonnay Reserva Especial 2009, Limari Valley Chile.

At 12:30 pm I moderated another panel discussion on the future of the Canadian Wine Industry. Panelists: Stephen Brook; Donald Triggs – Culmina (BC); Sandra Oldfield – Tinhorn Creek (BC); Tom Pennachetti – Cave Spring (ON); Michael Apstein – winereviewonline.com (Boston, MA); W. Blake Gray – The Gray Report (San Francisco) and David Scholefield – Okanagan Crush Pad; Allison Markin, Okanagan Tourism consultant; and Aldo Parise, editor Quench magazine. While we discussed the industry the audience sipped on these wines: Cave Spring Estate Riesling 2013, Culmina Hypothesis 2012, Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Cabernet Franc 2010, Haywire Canyonview Pinot Noir 2012.

At 5:00 pm we walked to the Shaw Conference Centre for a “Meet Your Makers” event featuring 47 Canadian wineries, 11 craft breweries, 3 craft distillers and 22 chefs. A great venue for wine tasting with lots of natural light. I concentrated on the small new BC wineries I hadn’t tasted before. Enjoyed Privato Vineyard & Winery Pinot Noir 2010, Noble Ridge Reserve Meritage 2012 and Maverick Estate Pinot Noir 2013.

At 9:30 pm over to LUX Steakhouse for the afterparty for participating producers, chefs, judges and volunteers. Wine, beer, hors d’oeuvres and live music (Canadian bands: Le Fuzz, Lindsey Walker and Lionel Rault). The awards for the festival wine and craft beer competitions and the Producers’ Ping Pong tournament were be presented at the party.

Sunday, March 29: At 8 am Gurvinder picked Paul Pender and me up at the hotel and drove us to Global TV for an interview on the Breakfast Show. Then all the remaining judges and Vikram Vij were invited to Gurvinder’s parents’ home for an Indian brunch. After the brunch Gurvinder took us to see his wine store, Vinomania.

Cocktails with Vikram, Paul, Aldo, Aimee and Gurvinder

At 4:45 Gurvinder and Aimee picked up Vikram, Aldo, Paul and me from the hotel in a large taxi and we began a restaurant/bar crawl around Edmonton. We started at Ampersand 27, where the house signature dish is Pig’s Ear Pad Thai. With a variety of dishes from the menu we drank the following wines that Gurvinder had brought from his store: Marotti Campi Verdicchio Salamarino 2010, Donatella Cinelli Colombini Cenerentola Orcia 2010, Cos Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico 2011.

Cos Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico 2011

Next stop: Three Boars, a cocktail bar where we sampled eight different cocktails on their outdoor veranda.

Paper towel dispenser, men’s washroom, Three Boars bar

Then on to dinner at Corso 32 where we were joined by the owners of RGE RD, Blair and Caitlin. Started off with Ruggeri Giustini B Prosecco Extra Dry 2012 with arincini filled with mushrooms, cheese and rice and speck with horseradish. Ravioli with black truffle with Poggiobello Friulano 2013. Rainbow trout with Marotti Campi Origolo Lacrima di Morroci d’Alba 2012. Garganelli pasta bolognaise with Cos Nero di Lupo 2013. Fried short ribs with Travaglini Gattinara Tre Vigne 2008 and Cabutto Barolo Tenuta La Volta 1997. Dessert – chocolate pâté with salted hazelnuts, with Nardini Amaro. Walked back to the hotel.

Monday, March 30: Flew back to Toronto.

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