A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 661: Cambridge Awards

printed on paper: Cambridge Food & Wine Society 10th Anniversary

Monday, August 7th: Wrote up my 680 NEWS wine reviews, four weeks as Deborah and I are leaving on Saturday for a 20th wedding anniversary cruise to St. Petersburg and will be away until August 25th.

Opened a bottle of Wolfberger W3 2015, an Alsace blend of Riesling, Muscat and Pinot Gris (medium straw colour; fragrant, honeysuckle, apple and grapefruit nose; medium-bodied, just off dry, full on the palate and delicious (89)).

Tuesday, August 8th: Went to the tasting lab for the August 19th Vintages release. In the evening to Paradise Fine Chinese Dining at Leslie & Finch for the annual awards presentation of the Cambridge Food and Wine Society, founded by Leo Chan and J. P. Michelini. This year two old friends were honoured: Anthony von Mandl, proprietor of Mission Hill Family Estate, received the Riedel Winemaker of the Year Award (unfortunately, he couldn’t be in Toronto to accept it); and Jacques Marie received the Cambridge College of Builders Award. Sheila Swerling-Puritt did a great job matching the Mission Hill wines with Chef Ivan Lee’s menu.

  • Mission Hill Sauvignon Blanc No. 16 2013
  • Mission Hill Limited Edition Viognier 2015
  • Mission Hill Reserve Shiraz 2014
  • Mission Hill Riesling Icewine 2015

Menu: A Culinary Paradise & Wines from Beautiful British Columbia. Cocktail Reception Hors d'Oeuvres and Wines provided by: Kingdom of Cambodia – Festival Rice Cakes; Hiro Yoshida – Sushi and Sashimi; Mistura – Antipasti; Cynthia's – Seafood Cheese Ragu; Vina Santa Rita – Red and White Wines from Chile; Tea Master's Choice – chinese Tea. Dinner created by Paradise Fine Chinese Cuisine: Oven Roasted Piglet Crusted Shrimp Purée with Crab Paste Tofu, Seared Black Cod with Truffle Oil, Tea Smoked Duck Breast and Fresh Mango with Honey Pepper Sauce, Traditional Chinese Orange Beef. Dessert and Sweet Table provided by: Kingdom of Cambodia, Chef Ruwan Jayakody, Trillium Chefs of Canada, Jack's Bakery and Pastry, Chef Christopher Siu, Scheffler's Cheeses. Mission Hill Reserve Icewine, Glenfiddich Single Malt Scotch Whisky, Rémy Martin X O Cognac.

Wednesday, August 9th: Recorded the 680 NEWS wine reviews and finally finished the novel. In the evening to dinner at friends.

Thursday, August 10th: Wrote up my Wines of the Week and then got down to some tasting.

  • Bench 1775 Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (Okanagan Valley – $24.90): pale straw colour; slightly sweaty, grassy nose; medium-bodied, dry, grapefruit and green kiwi flavours with lively acidity. (88)
  • Bench 1775 Viognier 2016 (Okanagan Valley – $24.90): very pale in colour; fragrant, minerally, peach pit and honeysuckle nose; medium-bodied, round on the palate, beautifully balanced with ripe lychee and melon flavours. Sustains well on the palate. (90)
  • Henry of Pelham Fumé Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (Short Hills Bench – $19.95): pale straw colour; grassy, grapefruit nose; medium-bodied, dry, very Bordeaux white in style, green plum and lanolin flavours; well-balanced, fine mouth-feel. (89)
  • Henry of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Chardonnay 2010 (Short Hills Bench – $29.95): light straw colour; apple, spicy oak with a barnyard note; medium-bodied, dry, apple and pear flavours, well-balanced with just the right amount of oak giving the wine a spicy lift on the finish. Great length. (91)
  • McWatters Collection Chardonnay 2014 (Okanagan Valley – $30.95): light straw colour; earthy, undergrowth nose of apples; medium to full-bodied, sweet apple flavour, round and full in the mouth but lacking energy to give the wine length. (88)
  • Bench 1775 Malbec Nouveau 2016 (Okanagan Valley – $24.90): deep purple-ruby colour; spicy, cedary, blackberry nose with a light floral note; medium-bodied, dry, fruity, juicy, red and blackcurrant flavours carried on a lively spine of acidity. (88.5)
  • Bench 1775 Pinot Noir 2014 (Okanagan Valley – $29): mature ruby in colour; earthy, raspberry and tomato leaf nose; medium-bodied, dry and savoury; firmly structured with a note of smoky tar on the finish. (88)
  • Bench 1775 Cabernet Franc Clone 214 2013 (Okanagan Valley – $34.50): deep ruby colour; cedary, blackcurrant nose with oak spice; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, well-balanced with zesty acidity and red and blackcurrant flavours. Good length. (90)
  • Henry of Pelham Pinot Noir 2016 (Niagara Peninsula – $16.95): light ruby colour; red cherry nose with a light oak note; light to medium-bodied, fresh and lively on the palate with a cherry flavour augmented by vanilla oak. (88)
  • Inniskillin Montague Vineyard Merlot 2015 (Four Mile Creek – $29.95): Deep purple-ruby colour; spicy, cedary nose of plum and cherry with a touch of oak; medium-bodied, dry, juicy, black cherry flavour with well-integrated oak. Lovely mouth-feel with a long finish and gentle tannins. (90)
  • Giacomo Mori Chianti 2014 (Tuscany – $21.95): solid ruby colour; smoky-cedary nose of cherries and vanilla oak; medium-bodied, dry, sour cherry flavour with zesty acidity and a lingering finish. A well-made understated wine but delicious. (89)
  • Chateau Ste. Michelle Canoe Ridge Estate Merlot 2015 (Horse Heaven Hills, Washington): Deep ruby colour; earthy, herbal, black fruit nose; medium to full-bodied, dry, black plum flavour backed by spicy oak with an engaging floral note and ripe tannins. Beautifully balanced. (91)

Friday, August 11th: A Vintages release tasting (a couple of interesting labels), then spent the rest of the day inputting the notes.

Unorthodox Koosher Sauvignon Blanc 2017
South African kosher Sauvignon Blanc

Ego Bodegas El Gorù
Would you buy this wine?

Tasted a couple of wines before dinner:

  • Closson Chase Vineyard Chardonnay 2015 (Prince Edward County): straw colour; tropical fruit nose with oak spice; clove and green pineapple flavour, rich and full on the palate with lively acidity and vanilla oak notes. (90)
  • Black Hills Rosé 2016 (a Pinot Noir from the Okanagan): deep pink colour; raspberry nose with a light herbal note; medium-bodied, just off-dry; fruity, raspberry flavour, nicely balanced. (88.5)

Dinner: barbecued steak with Le Secret des Capitelles Saint Chinian 2014 (Languedoc-Roussillon – $18.95): purple-violet in colour; savoury, black cherry nose with vanilla oak notes; medium to full-bodied, dry, sour cherry and plum flavours with lively acidity ending on a herbal note. (88.5)


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 660: Tasting Tasting

Monday, July 31st: Got down to some tasting after inputting wine reviews from Friday’s tasting.

  • CedarCreek Riesling 2016 (Okanagan – $15.99): very pale in colour with just a hint of lime; minerally, grapefruit nose; light to medium-bodied, off-dry, lime, golden raisin and grapefruit flavours with a touch of honey. (89)
  • CedarCreek The Senator 2016 (Okanagan – Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, $18.99): very pale in colour; apple and pear nose with a grapefruit zest note; medium to full-bodied, dry, ripe pear flavour with an engaging floral note. Good mouth-feel with lively acidity. (89)
  • CedarCreek Pinot Gris 2016 (Okanagan – $18.99): pale straw in colour; peach pit nose with a mineral note; medium-bodied, sweet peach with balancing citrus acidity; a little too much residual sugar for my taste. (87)
  • CedarCreek Platinum Viognier Haynes Creek 2016 (Okanagan Valley – $28.99): pale straw colour; peach nose with a light floral note; medium to full-bodied, richly extracted sweet peach puree and ripe melon flavours with a touch of bitterness on the finish. Overly rich, fleshy and lacking balance. (88)
  • Robert Mondavi Chardonnay 2014 (Napa Valley – $29.95): light straw colour; spicy, baked apple and citrus nose with a vanilla oak note; full-bodied, sweet peachy-pineapple flavour with well-integrated oak and a lively spine of acidity. Long finish. (90)
  • Mission Hill Perpetua Chardonnay 2015 (Okanagan – $73.03): pale straw colour; spicy pear and apple with oak notes; full-bodied, richly extracted apple and pineapple flavours carried on lively acidity and backed by vanilla oak. A rich and powerful wine. (90)
  • Piazzano Chianti 2015 ($14.95): deep ruby colour; plummy, earthy nose; medium-bodied, dry, sour cherry and plum flavours with ripe tannins and a lively spine of acidity. Good value. (88.5)
  • CedarCreek Estate Grown Pinot Noir 2015 (Okanagan – $24.49): ruby colour with a violet rim; cedary, cherry nose; medium-bodied, dry, plum and cherry flavours with well-integrated oak and ripe tannins and a chocolate note on the finish. (89)
  •  Mission Hill Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 (Okanagan – $30.95): dense purple colour; cedary, black plum and currant nose; full-bodied, richly extracted black fruit flavours with a creamy mouth-feel and well-integrated oak and a savoury bitter chocolate finish. (90)
  • Mission Hill Compendium 2014 (Okanagan – 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot – $84.27): dense purple colour; cedary, blackcurrant and plum with spicy new oak notes; full-bodied, richly extracted, black fruit flavours with a savoury dark chocolate and coffee bean flavour ending on grainy cocoa-like tannins. Beautifully balanced and voluptuous. (92)
  • Ravenswood Zinfandel Old Vine Vintner’s Blend 2015 (California – $18.95): deep ruby colour; spicy, leather and plum bouquet; medium to full-bodied, flavourful, black raspberry and red plum flavours. (88)
  • Ravenswood Old Vine Zinfandel 2015 (Lodi, California – $21.95): deep purple-ruby colour; cedary, spicy, plum nose with an oaky note; full-bodied, porty, sweet plum with balancing acidity and well-integrated oak. (89.5)

Dinner at Birch on Mount Pleasant. Ordered a bottle of Medagliato Pecorino Terre di Chieti 2015.

Medagliato Pecorino Terre di Chieti 2015

Wednesday, August 2nd: Drove down to St. Catharines to go over plans for a kitchen reno in the new house. We move at the end of September. Did some tasting when we got back to the condo.

  • Henry of Pelham White House Wine Co. Vidal Moscato 2016 (Ontario – $11.95): bright pale straw colour; aromatic, orange and lychee nose; light to medium bodied, off-dry, lychee and melon flavour. Good length. An easy drinking wine with a faint spritz. (87)
  • Gérard Bertand Viognier Réserve Spéciale 2015: (Pays d’Oc – $14.95) straw colour; spicy, peach and light honeysuckle note; medium-bodied, just off-dry with a peachy-melon flavour and lively acidity. (87)
  • Mission Hill Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2016 (Okanagan – $21.91): pale straw colour; sweaty, green bean nose; medium-bodied, dry, grapefruit and green plum flavours. (87)
  • Mission Hill Crosswinds Syrah 2014: (Okanagan – $34.94): dense ruby-purple in colour; cedary, savoury blackberry and blackcurrant nose with a tobacco note; full-bodied, fruity, sweet blackberry flavour, somewhat jammy with a note of dried herbs; good acidity and ripe tannins. (88.5)
  • Mission Hill Pinot Gris Reserve 2016: (Okanagan – $24.95): light straw colour; minerally, peach pit nose; medium-bodied, dry, white peach and grapefruit flavours with balancing acidity. (88)
  • Buena Vista North Coast Chardonnay 2015: (Sonoma – $24.95): light straw colour; apple, undergrowth and well-integrated oak on the nose; medium to full-bodied, round on the palate with apple, orange and melon flavours and then the lemony acidity kicks in to give the wine structure and length. (89.5)
  • Simi Sonoma County Chardonnay 2015 ($19.95): medium straw colour with a lime tint; grilled pear with a barnyard note on the nose; medium to full-bodied, spicy, mango, apple and pear flavours with vanilla oak backing. Well-balanced with a lovely mouth-feel and good length. (88.5)
  • Simi Landslide Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (Alexander Valley – $39.95): Deep purple-ruby colour; cedary, black plum nose with oak spice; medium to full-bodied, dry, savoury, plum and blackcurrant flavours with a minty-herbal note and a warm alcoholic finish. (90)

Thursday, August 3rd: Lunched with Marc Nadeau at One restaurant. Sat on the terrace. Ordered tuna tartare.

One’s Tuna Tartare

Marc had brought along two wines from a BC producer in the Okanagan I had not tasted before, Mirabel Rosé of Pinot Noir 2016 and Mirabel Pinot Noir 2015 – both delicious.

Mirabel Rosé of Pinot Noir 2016

Mirabel Pinot Noir 2015

In the afternoon Deborah and I went to buy new appliances for the new house. Perhaps shouldn’t have done that after sharing two bottles of wine.

Friday, August 4th: Spent a blissful day working on the novel. For dinner, shrimps and rice with Château des Charmes Aligoté 2016 (pale straw in colour; minerally, citrus and apple nose; medium-bodied, crisp, crab apple and lemon flavour – 87.5).


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 659: Ferox Winery

Monday, July 24th: Deborah is away for three days on a cottage retreat with her book club ladies. Seems they’re taking more wine than food. Got down to some tasting after taking Pinot for a walk.

  • Henry of Pelham Red House Wine Co. Cabernet Shiraz 2016 ($13.95): ruby-purple colour; cedary-spicy nose of oak and plum with a light floral note; light to medium-bodied, dry, firm on the palate with a hint of sweetness. Easy drinking. (87)
  • Vinetti de Fiorini Chianti Superiore 2014 ($14.95): deep ruby colour; earthy, cherry nose; light to medium-bodied, dry, sour cherry flavour; fresh on the palate with lively acidity. (87)
  • Tocado 2015 (Campo de Borja – Grenache): deep ruby colour; spicy-cedary, black raspberry nose; medium-bodied, dry with a floral note, inky and fruity with a firm tannic finish. (87.5)
  • Alejandro Fernández Dehesa La Granja 2008 (Castilla y León – $20.95): dense-ruby-purple colour; sandalwood, spicy, black fruit nose; medium-bodied, dry, strawberry and sandalwood flavours with ripe tannins and lively acidity. (89)
  • Ravenswood Belloni Zinfandel 2014 ($44.95): deep purple-ruby colour; cedary, plum and leather nose; medium to full-bodied, ripe plum and blackberry flavours with grainy tannins fresh acidity and a note of black licorice on the finish. (90)
  • Huff Estates Rosé 2016 (Cabernet Franc – $19): pink with a bluish tint; minerally, raspberry nose; medium-bodied, dry with a raspberry flavour topped with a floral note. Finishes firmly. (88)
  • Huff Estates Pinot Gris 2016 (80% Prince Edward County/20% Niagara – $22): pale straw colour; minerally, white peach nose; medium-bodied, dry, white peach and citrus flavours; clean and true with great length. (89)
  • Huff Estates Riesling off dry 2016 ($20): very pale in colour; minerally, grapefruit and kiwi bouquet; light to medium-bodied, honeyed grapefruit and lime flavours with an engaging bitter note on the finish. (88.5)
  • Kono Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (Marlborough – $18.95): almost water white; grassy, elderberry and gooseberry nose; medium-bodied, dry, herbaceous, gooseberry and green melon flavours; fresh and lively on the palate with mouth-freshening acidity. (89)

Tuesday, July 25th: Spent much of the day getting tax receipts for sponsors and purchasers of Grapes for Humanity’s “France Uncorked” event. Trying to deal with the volume of wine samples for tasting.

  • Henry of Pelham White House Wine Co. Riesling Pinot Grigio 2016: straw colour, peachy-grapefruit nose; medium-bodied, dry, white peach and citrus flavours with lively acidity. (87)
  • Tinhorn Creek 2 Bench White 2016 (Okanagan Valley): medium straw colour; minerally, peach and melon bouquet; medium to full-bodied, dry, smoky, tarry flavours of peach, orange and pineapple. (89)
  • Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay 2014 (California – $26.95): straw coloured with a nose of undergrowth and apple with well-integrated oak; medium to full-bodied, spicy, apple and peach flavours; well-balanced and creamy on the palate with a nutty finish. (89)
  • Bremerton Coulthard Cabernet 2014 (Langhorne Creek, South Australia – $24.95): deep ruby in colour; cedary, blackcurrant with vanilla oak notes; medium-bodied, dry, herbal blackcurrant flavour with a lively spine of acidity. (88.5)

Wednesday, July 26th: To the LCBO lab for a tasting of the August 5th Vintages release.

Thursday, July 27th: Wrote my Quench magazine piece about Anthony von Mandl’s new Okanagan winery, Checkmate – and thirty wine reviews. Received a copy from London of the piece I wrote for Decanter‘s August issue, “My Toronto”; see www.decanter.com/?s=aspler. Prepared for this evening’s dinner tasting at the Oakdale Golf Club – a South American wine theme:

Hors D’Oeuvres
Assorted mini empanadas, Goat cheese in a cucumber cup, and Grilled shrimp skewers

Trio of Mixed seafood ceviche, Grilled provolone with marinated eggplant, Mild chorizo and peach chutney

Grilled gaucho beef tenderloin with red chimichurri sauce, garlic roast potatoes, cherry tomatoes and green beans
Grilled halibut with cilantro chimichurri,
wild rice, cherry tomatoes and green beans

Dulce de leche lava cake with vanilla ice cream
(Gluten free option- berries with vanilla ice cream)
Coffee & Tea

Oakdale Golf Club dinner wines

Friday, July 27th: Another Vintages release tasting – for August 19th. 123 products.

Saturday, July 28th: Down to the Rogers Centre with Deborah for a Blue Jays game against the Los Angeles Angels – a birthday/Father’s Day gift from my son Guy. Guy and Sasha brought Isla along for her first Blue Jay game. We lost. So goes the season.

Baby Isla’s first Jays game

On the way home Deborah and I dropped into to Dean’s Real Scoop ice cream parlour on Queen West (around the corner from my son’s house) to commiserate. Saw the following sign above the counter.


Came home to taste some wines from a new Ontario winery called Ferox. The wines were made at Reif.

  • Ferox Riesling 2016 (Niagara Peninsula – $38): very pale in colour with a minerally, honeyed grapefruit nose; light-bodied, just off-dry with flavours of grapefruit, apple and orange. Great length. (90)
  • Ferox Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (Four Mile Creek – $46): very pale in colour with a grassy, earthy, green bean nose; medium-bodied, dry, melon and green plum flavours with a lovely mouth-feel. Very white Bordeaux in style. (89)
  • Ferox Merlot Cabernet 2015 (Niagara Peninsula – aged in 70% new French oak and 30% American – $55): Dense purple in colour with a cedary, spicy blackcurrant nose lifted by a lovely floral note; medium to full-bodied, dry, firmly structured with plum and cherry flavours and hints of baker’s chocolate supported by grainy but ripe tannins. (90)

A very promising debut.

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 658: I4C 2017

standing version of i4C logo made from multi-coloured screwcaps

Monday, July 17th: A winerytohome.com tasting at Doug Towers’s house, with David Lawrason. For dinner with steak, Tinhorn Creek Syrah 2014 (dense purple-ruby colour; cedary, herbal, blackberry nose; full-bodied, dry and savoury with fresh acidity and powdery tannins. 88.5).

Tuesday, July 18th: Drove up to Marc Russell’s second wine storage facility in Rexdale to interview him for an article about wine storage for Quench magazine. Had to clear out of the condo as we had two prospective buyers coming to see it. Which meant taking Pinot out for a couple of hours. Wrote up my wine reviews for the next issue of Quench and opened a bottle of Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay 2014 (straw coloured with a nose of apple and undergrowth and well-integrated oak; medium to full-bodied, spicy, apple and peach flavours; well-balanced, creamy on the palate with a nutty finish (89)).

Wednesday, July 19th: Down to the Shangri-La Hotel for a blending lesson/competition. Rick Sayre, Rodney Strong’s winemaker, divided the group into four teams each of us had to come up with a blend for Rodney Strong Symmetry Meritage 2013. We were given half bottles of each of the five components – Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot – as well as a pipette and measuring column. ‘We want a big, rich Cabernet wine,’ said Sayre. Our table didn’t win but it was a fun exercise. The actual blend Sayre made was 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, 4% Malbec, 4% Merlot and 8% Petit Verdot.

Rodney Strong Symmetry Meritage components

Two more showings of the condo this evening. Very boring to have to vacate all the time. Can’t wait for it to sell. For dinner, with pasta, Cecchi Chianti 2015 (deep purple-ruby colour; high toned, cedary, cherry bouquet with a herbal note; medium-bodied, dry, sour cherry flavour with a touch of bitterness on the finish and a firm tannic end).

Thursday, July 20th: Did some research on Argentina and Chile for a tasting I’m doing next week at the Oakdale Golf Club. Then we got a call from our real estate agent telling us that we have an offer on the condo – which we gratefully accepted. Deborah and I toasted the occasion with a bottle of Chevalier Monopole Brut Rosé (pale salmon pink in colour with tiny bubbles; sweetish strawberry nose; medium-bodied, just off-dry with strawberry and cranberry flavours. Great value at $16.95. 88 points). For dinner, lamb chops with a half bottle of Château La Sergue 2000 (Lalande de Pomerol) which I found in my cellar tucked away. Glad I didn’t wait any longer.

Chevalier Monopole Brut Rosé, Château La Sergue 2000
Celebration wines on selling the condo

Friday, July 21st: Up early to drive down to Niagara for the International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration at White Oaks. Picked up Zoltan Szabo and Michael Vaughan on the way down. Traffic was terrible. We missed the opening address by Karen MacNeil, author of the Wine Bible. Over the three days 159 wines will be on offer in 22 events, featuring 59 winemakers from 9 countries.

The first session of “The School of Cool” was titled “Soil Smackdown… Which soil type is best for Chardonnay? What flavour and taste aspects, if any, are attributable to differences in soil type?” Unfortunately, arriving late because of traffic we missed Dr. Paul Anamosa’s opening remarks. But he takes the palm for the best line of the day – on the bus to the evening tasting at Niagara Airport: “One swallow doesn’t make a sommelier.” Wines tasted during this session:

  • Lightfoot and Wolfville Ancienne Chardonnay 2014
  • Malivoire Mottiar Chardonnay 2014
  • Esterhazy Leithaberg Chardonnay 2015 (Austria)
  • Creekside Queenston Road Vineyard Chardonnay 2015
  • Manoir de Mercy Bourgogne Hautes Côtes de Beaune “Clos des Dames” 2015
  • Adamo Oaked Chardonnay Willms Vineyard 2014
  • Cremaschi Furlotti Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2015 (Chile)
  • Bachelder Chardonnay Wismer Foxcroft Vineyard 2013
  • Southbrook Poetica Chardonnay 2013
  • Inniskillin Montague Vineyard Chardonnay 2014

Session Two: “Chardonnay: I Do It My Way.” Ten winemakers explained what decision they make in treating their grapes with each vintage.

  • Heidi Noble: Joie Farm Un-Oaked Chardonnay 2016
  • Norm Hardie: Norman Hardie Chardonnay Sans Soufre 2015
  • Grégory Viennois: Domaine Laroche Chablis Vaudevey 2014
  • Mark Boardman: Invivo Wines Gisbourne Chardonnay 2016 (New Zealand)
  • Adam Mariani: Scribe Chardonnay Carneros 2014
  • François Morissette: Pearl Morissette Cuvée Dix-Neuvième 2014
  • Miguel Torres Jr.: Miguel Torres Milmanda 2014
  • Martin Werner: Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery Chardonnay 2014
  • Fintan du Fresne: Chamisal Vineyard Chamise Chardonnay 2014

Session Three: “The Sugar Trials.” How much sugar, if any, should be added as the dosage to sparkling wine? We were poured four glasses of Trius Brut with varying amounts of dosage – zero dosage, 3 grams/litre, 6 grams and 9 grams. We were asked to identify them and which we preferred. Then a tasting of six bubblies with the winemakers explaining their use of dosage.

  • Sperling Vineyards Blanc de Blancs Brut Nature
  • Champagne Drappier Blanc de Blancs NV
  • Château des Charmes Blanc de Blancs Sparkling 2014
  • Marcel Cabelier Crémant du Jura Organic 2014
  • Maison Pierre Sparr Crémant Brut Clos Sainte-Odile Chardonnay NV
  • Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Blanc de Blanc “Carte Blanche” 2012

After a buffet lunch, there was a walkaround trade and media tasting of the wines at I4C. Then Michael and I checked into the Pillar and Post. At 6:45 we assembled for the bus that would take us to Niagara District Airport for the “Flights of Chardonnay” kick-off event in an aircraft hangar. Again, all the wines were there as well as food stations. Best dish: lobster agnolotti accompanied by Thirty Bench Winemakers Small Lot Chardonnay 2015.

Lobster agnolotti at I4C

Saturday, July 22nd: Drove back to Toronto for a family event with my granddaughter, Isla.

Sunday, July 23rd: At 6 pm down to Lifford for a Pinot Noir event – a fundraiser for CAPS, the sommelier association. Some twenty Pinots available for tasting, including Drappier Blanc de Noirs Champagne.

Drappier Blanc de Noirs

My top scoring wine was Invivo Central Otago Pinot Noir 2016 (91) and the three magnums of Close Jordanne 2004 – Claystone, Clos and Grand Clos.

Three magnums of Clos Jordanne

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 657: Lieutenant Governor’s Wine Awards

Condo for sale – not Pinot the Wonderdog

Monday, July 10th: Wrote my 680 NEWS wine reviews and then got down to some tasting:

  • Curvos Loureiro Vinho Verde 2015 ($12.95): pale straw colour; almond and citrus peel bouquet with a mineral note; light-bodied with a faint spritz; crisply dry with lemon and green melon flavours and a long fresh finish. (89)
  • Concilio Pinot Grigio 2016 ($13.95): pale straw in colour; minerally, peach pit nose; medium-bodied, dry, white peach flavour with a lemony finish. (88)
  • Montablano Refosco del Peduncolo Rosso 2015 ($16.95): deep purple-ruby colour; spicy black cherry nose with a floral note; medium to full-bodied, dry, fruity plum flavour with oak spice and firm tannins, finishing on a rose petal note. (88.5)
  • Simi Landslide Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013: deep purple colour; cedary, savoury nose of blackcurrant and blackberry; full-bodied, dry, savoury, herbal black fruit flavours. (89)
  • Torres Salamos Priorat 2014: dense purple colour; cedary, blackberry nose with a note of cinnamon; medium to full-bodied, dry, savoury, plum flavour; well-balanced with lively acidity. (89)

Tuesday, July 11th: Down to the lab for a tasting of the next Vintages release. Wrote up the wine notes for a charity tasting I’m doing later this month. Spent time decluttering my office. For tomorrow’s open house at the condo.

Wednesday, July 12th: Recorded my 680 NEWS reviews and then Deborah and I took Pinot to Sherwood Park for a picnic, as it was open house day for agents and we had to absent ourselves.

Picnic in the park with Torres Vardon Kennett sparkling wine and my pasta salad

At 4:30 down to Queens Park for the presentation ceremony of the winners of the Lieutenant Governor’s Awards for Excellence in Ontario Wines. Here are the winners:

Magnotta NV Blanc de Blancs
A fine Chardonnay sparkler made in the traditional method. A complex wine with persistent tiny bubbles with a toasty, leesy nose; medium-bodied, dry, green apple and hazelnut flavours with a long, minerally, nutty finish.

Creekside 2015 Iconoclast Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc
Pale straw colour with a spicy nose of grapefruit, green pear and lanolin; medium-bodied with a creamy texture, crisply dry, fresh and clean with an engaging tartness and good intensity of flavour.

Trius 2015 Showcase Clean Slate Sauvignon Blanc Wild Ferment
A beautifully balanced wine with a bouquet of cut grass, orange blossom with a thread of minerality. Medium-bodied, dry, round on the palate with flavours of gooseberries and passionfruit.

Flat Rock 2014 Rusty Shed Chardonnay
Golden straw colour with a green tint, this Chardonnay offers an expressive nose of red apple and melon with a floral note and toasty oak; full and rich on the palate, it sustains well thanks to its vibrant acidity.

Henry of Pelham 2016 Riesling Estate
A fine example of an off-dry Riesling. Pale straw colour with a nose of honeyed grapefruit and lime; light to medium-bodied, with guava and citrus fruit flavours that linger long on the palate.

Trius Showcase Riesling Ghost Creek Vineyard 2015 
Pale lemon colour with orchard fruit aromas of peach and apple with a floral grace note; good tension between sweet fruit and citrus acidity with a long, mouth-freshening finish.

Château des Charmes 2015 Gamay Noir “Droit” St. David’s Bench Vineyard
Medium ruby colour with a herbal, earthy, cherry nose and just a hint of oak; medium-bodied with meatiness in mid-palate and a dry and savoury plum flavour. Classic Ontario Gamay.

Nomad at Hinterbrook 2013 Cabernet Franc
Deep ruby in colour with a flattering nose of bell pepper, coffee beans and currants; medium-bodied, dry, plum and cherry flavours with balancing acidity and a long finish.

Kew Vineyards 2012 Heritage
Bordeaux varieties subjected to appassimento treatment before fermentation. Ruby colour with a bouquet of dried berries with notes of leather, rose petals and moist earth. Medium to full-bodied with blackcurrant and coffee flavours that finish with a tannic lift on the finish.

Trius 2014 Showcase Vidal Icewine
Deep golden-amber colour; botrytis and floral notes on the nose redolent with mango, honey and peach aromas; full-bodied, sweet and unctuous on the palate with dried fig, tropical fruit and honey flavours kept in check by balancing acidity.

Inniskillin Niagara Estate 2014 Sparkling Vidal Icewine 
Deep golden colour with a nose of caramel and apricot jam; medium weight, honeyed peach flavour with an active mousse whose bubbles ameliorate the wine’s sweetness and give length to the finish.

All the winning wines were available for tasting after the presentation of certificates.

Award-winning winemakers with the Lieutenant Governor

Thursday, July 13th: Wrote my Lexpert column on Anthony von Mandl’s Checkmate winery in the Okanagan. For dinner with beef ribs, La Condamine Paulignan Minervois 2013 ($17.95): deep purple-ruby; black raspberry, mint and oak spice on the nose; medium to full-bodied, dry, blackberry and licorice flavours with a note of dark chocolate. Fruity but firm. (89)

Street art on Yonge Street – a bus shelter notice board

Friday, July 14th: Having to keep the condo spotless for viewing is very trying. A Vintages tasting this morning with some New York fries on the way home. Had to vacate for a viewing around dinnertime so Deborah and I took Pinot to the parkette on Yonge Street and ordered sandwiches from the Banh Mi Boys restaurant. Pinot had a soft ice cream, which she devoured.


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 656: Clearwater Farm

Monday, July 1st: To celebrate the Canada Day holiday I opened a bottle from BC – Tinhorn Creek Merlot 2015, which Deborah and I demolished with barbecued steak (deep ruby colour; cedary, lightly floral nose of blueberries backed by spicy oak; medium to full-bodied, dry, richly extracted blueberry and plum flavours with a vanilla oak finish; firmly structured (89.5)).

Tuesday, July 2nd: Went for an MRI and X-ray for my shoulder, which is still giving me pain.

Sign in the X-ray clinic

Made arrangements for twelve of Toronto’s top sommeliers to be attend the Lieutenant Governor’s Wine Awards presentation on July 12th and picked up two bottles of Chateau Ste. Michelle Merlot 2005 I had ordered at the dinner a week ago. Began decluttering my office, as the condo goes on the market next week. Dinner at Birch on Mount Pleasant. Enjoyed a bottle of Janare Falanghina del Sannio 2016.

Falanghina at Birch Bistro

Artichoke dish that accompanied the Falanghina

Wednesday, July 3rd: Wrote up my Wines of the Week and worked on rewrites on the novel. In the evening, dinner with our friends Adrienne and Myra and Liz and Dave at Los Guaca-Moles on Euclid Avenue.

Thursday, July 4th: Dental appointment this morning and then spent the rest of the day on rewrites for the novel.

Friday, July 5th: Lunch with Sadie Darby at Cibo on Yonge Street to discuss next year’s Ontario Wine Awards. Spent the rest of the day tidying up my library and the wine cellar, which I hope to sell with the condo. Dinner with our friends Arlene and Michael at L’Unita. Michael showed me his magnificent new cellar in their condo. And he pulled out some amazing wines for dinner.

Dinner wines at L’Unita

Saturday, July 6th: Deborah and I drove up to our friends Joe and Laurissa’s beautiful home on Roche’s Point, where they were hosting a fund-raiser for Clearwater Farm at Reed. Al the guests were bused over to tour the farm before returning for a cocktail party in Joe’s boat house.

includes a map and a picture of roosters on some farm equipment
Clearwater farm poster

The Lieutenant Governor was there and so was Toronto Mayor John Tory, sporting the shoes he wore in the Pride Parade.

The Mayor’s Pride Parade shoes


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 655: Checkmate Chardonnays

Château Ripeau 1967
(See July 1st)

Monday, June 26th: Down to Canoe for a lunch tasting of Anthony von Mandl’s Checkmate Chardonnays conducted by winemaker Philip McGahan (who has made wine in the Hunter Valley and with Williams Selyem in Sonoma) and Anthony Gismondi. It was a blind tasting pitting the Checkmate Chardonnays against some top white Burgundies and Chardonnays from Sonoma and Argentina. All vintage 2014.

Anthony Gismondi and winemaker Philip McGahan

  • Checkmate Capture Chardonnay 2014 (Okanagan Valley – $90): pale straw colour with a lime tint; apple bouquet with nicely integrated toasty oak; medium-bodied, dry, well balanced apple and orange flavour with a lively spine of acidity, a thread of minerality and good length. A well-balanced wine. (92)
  • Checkmate Queen Taken Chardonnay 2014 (Golden Mile Bench, Okanagan Valley – $125): pale straw with a lime tint; minerally, white flowers and apple on the nose with apple, peach and oak spice notes; rich mouth-feel, full-bodied, dry and beautifully balanced. (93)
  • Marc-Morey Puligny-Montratchet 2014 (Burgundy – $80): pale straw-lime colour; minerally, smoky, high-toned lemony, green apple bouquet with a toasty oak finish; a beautifully balanced wine. (93)
  • Checkmate Little Pawn Chardonnay 2014 (Okanagan Valley – $110): straw colour; vanilla oak and apple nose; full-bodied, spicy peachy nose; well-balanced, great length of flavour with a lively acidic finish. (93)
  • Checkmate Knight’s Challenge Chardonnay 2014 (Okanagan Valley – $85): pale straw colour with a lime tint; minerally, apple nose; medium to full-bodied, dry, apple flavour with a touch of oak spice; fresh acidity with green pineapple and apple flavours. Long finish with well-integrated oak and a nutty finish. (92)
  • Wayfarer “Wayfarer Vineyard” Chardonnay 2014 (Sonoma County – $150): straw colour with a lime tint; spicy, nutty, toasty apple; rich and full on the palate. (93)
  • Checkmate Fool’s Mate Chardonnay 2014 (Okanagan Valley – $80): pale straw colour; white blossoms, oak spice, apple and white pepper bouquet; medium to full-bodied, mouth-filling, dry, well-balanced with a lively acidic finish. (92)
  • Domaine Latour-Giraud Meursault Cuvée Charles Maxime 2014 (Burgundy – $104): pale straw colour; developing barnyard notes; earthy, minerally, apple bouquet; medium-bodied, dry, lean and lemony, slightly tart and tight with mouth-watering acidity. (91)
  • Bodegas Catena Zapata Adrianna Vineyard White Stones Chardonnay 2013 (Mendoza, Argentina – $90): straw colour; spicy, resiny nose of Fernet Branca; full-bodied, dry, some bitterness here with lively acidity. (88)
  • Checkmate Attack Chardonnay 2014 (Okanagan Valley – $105): pale straw colour; minerally, apple nose with a sour cream note; medium-bodied, soft on the palate with fennel and salty notes and a toasty, nutty finish. (90)

Checkmate Attack Chardonnay 2014

Tuesday, June 27th: Another trip down to the LCBO lab to taste the July 8th Vintages release. In the evening to George Restaurant for diner celebrating Chateau Ste. Michelle’s 50th anniversary with head winemaker Bob Bertheau.

Chateau Ste. Michelle winemaker Bob Bertheau

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2015 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

At the outdoor pre-dinner reception, we tasted Chateau Ste. Michelle Michelle Brut Rosé before sitting down to the following dinner:

Chateau Ste. Michelle dinner menu

Enjoyed the 2005 Merlot so much that I bought two bottles on the spot.

Wednesday, June 28th: Woke up with a debilitating pain in my shoulder. Think it might be a pinched nerve. Lunch at LBS restaurant on Yonge Street with Angella Aiello to discuss next year’s Winetario consumer tasting. In the evening, down to Giancarlo for a family dinner prior to tomorrow’s wedding celebration for my grand-niece Emily.

Thursday, June 29th: The pain in my shoulder is still there. Wrote my Wines of the Week and spoke with the Lieutenant Governor’s office regarding the presentation of certificates of the winners of the LG wine awards. Then prepared for the wedding. A beautiful affair but my enjoyment was tempered by the excruciating pain in my shoulder.

Friday, June 30th: No relief from the shoulder pain. Down to the LCBO for another Vintages release. In the evening Doris Miculan Bradley came by to pick up file boxes of Grapes for Humanity that I have been storing in my locker. For dinner with chicken, Huff Merlot 2016 (Prince Edward County – $20): deep ruby colour; a nose of black cherry and vanilla oak; medium-bodied, dry and fruity with a cherry flavour tempered by peppery notes. (88)

Saturday, July 1st (Canada Day): Deborah left for Coburg and the One of a Kind Show there. She’ll be working one of the booths that sells sweaters. She returns Monday night. I celebrated Canada’s 150th birthday at Michael & Rosie’s house with Paula and Steven Elphick. Michael opened some fine bottles – Flat Rock Riddled, Bertrand de Monceny Chablis Les Montmains 1983, Château Ripeau 1967, Henry of Pelham Cabernet Merlot 1998 (blind, I thought it was a Ducru-Beaucaillou!). Steven brought half bottles of Hidden Bench Select Late Harvest Gewurztraminer and Trimbach Riesling SGN. 

Bertrand de Monceny Chablis Les Montmains 1983

Henry of Pelham Cabernet Merlot 1998

Hidden Bench Select Late Harvest Gewurztraminer and Trimbach Riesling SGN


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