A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 536: Virginia

Monday, March 9: Wrote my 680News wine reviews and sent an email to the directors of Grapes for Humanity inviting them to a dinner at Pangea on June 12th to celebrate Grapes for Humanity’s 15th anniversary.

In the evening a meeting with Sam and Esther Sarick to discuss the Grapes for Humanity dinner at their home with Gaia Gaja. For dinner, lamb chops with Cusumano Nero d’Avola 2013 from Sicily. Great value for $11.95 (deep ruby colour; spicy, blackberry nose with coffee bean notes; dry, medium body; blackberry and plum flavours with lively acidity and supple tannins (88)).

Tuesday, March 10: Worked on the updates to the Canadian entries for Oz Clarke’s Pocket Wine Book 2016. Then down to the Novotel Hotel to meet Peter Michel, whose family winery, Weingut Michel, was founded in 1685 in the Nahe. Seven generations of winemakers have been named Peter. He opened the following wines for me in the bar.

  • Weingut Michel Riesling Trocken 2014: pale straw colour; minerally, floral, citrus and white peach nose; dry, nicely balanced, clean and fresh with good length on the finish. (88+)
  • Weingut Michel Chardonnay Trocken 2014 (stainless steel): pale straw colour; minerally, apple; lovely texture, crisp apple, medium-bodied, dry with fresh citrus acidity. (89)
  • Weingut Michel Sauvignon Blanc 2014: pale straw colour; grassy, elderberry, green bean notes on the nose; sweetish, elderberry and gooseberry, soft mid-palate; medium-bodied, finishing dry. (88+)
  • Weingut Michel Riesling Feinherb 2013: pale straw colour; minerally, citrus nose; off-dry, fruity, soft on the palate, well balanced, honey, peach and lime; finishes cleanly with a long citrus finish. (89)
  • Weingut Michel Weissburgunder 2013: light straw colour; peachy, died apricot nose; sweet and mouth-filling, fruity, peach and honey flavours with balancing acidity. Very clean flavours. (89)
  • Weingut Michel Bacchus 2013: pale straw colour; grapey, aromatic, Muscat-like nose; sweet grapefruit and melon flavours, beautifully balanced with clean and fresh fruit flavours. (90)
  • Weingut Michel Grauburgunder 2013: pale straw colour; minerally, white peach nose; sweet and broad on the palate – sweet peach and melon flavours. (87)
  • Weingut Michel Rotling Halbtrocken 2013 (Dornfelder and Muller-Thurgau): amber-salmon colour; strawberry jam nose; mouth-filling , sweet strawberry puree flavour with an orange zest finish. Touch of bitterness on the finish. (87+)
  • Weingut Michel Spätbugunder Trocken 2013: deep ruby colour; earthy, beetroot, light floral note; medium-bodied, candied raspberry, earthy with a firm finish. Good tannin structure with a warm alcoholic finish. (88)
  • Weingut Michel Dornfelder Trocken 2013: deep ruby colour; spicy-floral nose of blackberries; dry, mouth-filling, soft mouth-feel, plum and red berry fruit flavours; firmly structured, bitter chocolate finish. (88+)

After this tasting I walked over to Montecito restaurant on Adelaide to have a dinner tasting with Jim Doehring, Central Region Sales Manager for Far Niente.

  • Far Niente Chardonnay 2013: straw colour with a spicy, vanilla nose of tropical fruit; full-bodied, rich, pineapple and toasty oak flavours with lively acidity and great length. (91)
  • EnRoute Pinot Noir Les Pommiers 2012 (Russian River): deep ruby colour; earthy, minty, black cherry nose; full-bodied, sweet fruit, firmly structured with well integrated oak and great length. (90)
  • Far Niente Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 2012: deep ruby colour; cedar, vanilla oak, blackcurrant nose; lean and firm (going through a dumb, close-down phase, I think, but all the elements are there). (90–92)
  • Far Niente John C. Sullenger Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012: dense ruby colour; cedar, blackcurrant and tobacco nose; richly extracted cassis flavour, firmly structured and vibrant. (92)

John C. Sullenger Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Wednesday, March 11: Recorded my 680News wine reviews and then went down to the Acadian Room for a presentation of Virginian wines and lunch put on by the Virginian Tourism Corporation.


Virginia town crier greeting guests

Sebastien Marquet, who makes wine at Doukenie winery in Purcellville, and his French-Canadian wife, Isabelle (who consults with him to six other Virginian wineries), told me that there are 280 wineries in the State, mostly boutique. Marquet’s grandmother was a winemaker and his parents owned a restaurant. At the age of 13 he was sent by his parents, at his own request, to the Lycée Viticole et Oenologue de Beaune to learn winemaking. Students there have ten hours a week of wine tasting (only in France!). His first vintage in Virginia – having worked in Languedoc-Roussillon, the Caribbean island of Martinique (where he planted the island’s first vineyard), Sonoma and Napa – was in 2007.


Isabelle and Sebastien Marquet

For some reasons his wines weren’t at the tasting but before lunch I tried two wines from 8 Chains North, a winery in Waterford, 7.5 miles northwest of Leesburg in Loudoun County:

  • 8 Chains North Chardonnay 2013: straw colour with green tints; spicy, rich caramel and toast aromas with nutty, barnyard notes. Full on the palate with good length. (89)
  • 8 Chains North Malbec 2012: deep plum colour with a spicy, floral nose of black cherries; dry, elegant with a lovely mouth-feel; smoky, cherry flavour with ripe tannins and a clean finish. (89)

At the lunch prepared by a Virginian Chef (peanut soup and roast pork) I tasted Tarara Winery Chardonnay Viognier 2012: deep straw colour with a green tint; minerally, earthy, smoky nose of grilled lemons; spicy peach flavour with nicely integrated oak. (89)

At 4 pm I walked over to grano, where Ann Sperling had brought her 2013 wines for Zoltan Szabo, Andre Proulx and me to taste.

  • Southbrook Triomphe Chardonnay 2013 ($22.95): straw coloured, minerally, apple and citrus bouquet; rich and full on the palate, lively lemony citrus acidity, fresh and zesty. (89)
  • Southbrook Triomphe Cabernet Franc 2013 ($21.95 – 5% Merlot): solid ruby colour; floral, leafy, white pepper, raspberry with a cedary note; creamy mouth-feel, well extracted fruit with a cinnamon finish. (88+)
  • Southbrook Triomphe Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($22.95 – with 11% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc): deep ruby colour; cedar, red berries on the nose; spicy, redcurrant and cherry flavours carried on lively acidity. Nicely integrated oak. (88)
  • Southbrook Estate Grown Small Lot Semillon 2013 ($34.95 – with 11% Chardonnay): golden straw colour; fragrant, lanolin, beeswax nose; full-bodied, Mirabelle plum and citrus flavours, lively acidity. (90)
  • Southbrook Whimsy “Minerality” Chardonnay 2012 ($34.95) straw colour; oily, apple nose; spicy, minerally, orange and apple flavour, reductive note, firm, saline note. Reminiscent of a vin jaune. (91)
  • Southbrook Whimsy Cabernet Franc 2012 ($34.95 – 3% Cabernet Sauvignon): deep ruby colour; floral, cedar, spicy, tobacco and cherry nose; dry, medium-bodied, firmly structured, well balanced with livelt acidity. (90)
  • Southbrook Estate Grown Small Lot Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($34.95 – 7% Merlot): deep ruby colour; cedar, tobacco, blackcurrant nose with a vanilla oak note; medium-bodied, dry, Petit Château style, firm finish with ripe tannins. (89)
  • Southbrook Whimsy Petit Verdot 2012 ($34.95 – 13% Cabernet Sauvignon): deep ruby colour; cedar, black tea, spicy, blueberry and redcurrant nose; firmly structured, medium-bodied, fresh on the palate with lively acidity and supple tannins. Good mouth-feel. (90)
  • Southbrook Estate Grown Small Lots Orange Wine 2014 (Vidal – $34.95?): cloudy amber; minerally, spicy, leafy-herbal nose; opens up on the palate with grapefruit with a lovely floral note that blossoms in the mouth giving crabapple and grapefruit with a chalky finish. A fascinating wine. Vidal never tasted so good. (89)
  • Southbrook Poetica Chardonnay 2012 ($49.95): deep straw colour; leesy, minerally, baked apple and caramel nose; rich and full on the palate, spicy with well integrated oak with apple and pear flavours. Will improve with bottle age. (90–92)
  • Southbrook Poetica Red 2012 (42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28.7% Cabernet Franc, 28.7% Petit Verdot): deep ruby colour; savoury, pencil lead, black fruits with vanilla oak notes on the nose; dry, medium-bodied, firmly structured, blackcurrant, elegant with expressive fruit. (90)
  • Southbrook Whimsy The Anniversary ($19.95 – fortified Chardonnay): deep amber colour; nutty, dried fig, rich and full on the palate, cashew nuts and dried peach on the palate with a touch of sweetness, great length. (91)

From grano I took the subway to King Street to join Deborah and some friends at Il Fornello for a quick dinner before the theatre: Blythe Spirit with the amazing Angela Lansbury.

Thursday, March 12: A tasting at Doug Towers’s for winerytohome.com. For dinner with pasta and a sauce made with smoked meat, Emiliana Adobe Reserva Earth Day Limited Edition Merlot 2013 (dense purple colour; cedar, vanilla oak and blueberry on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, elegant blueberry and blackcurrant flavours with a lively acidic spine (88)).

Friday, March 13: Spent the day writing my Lexpert column on Virginia wine, citing Thomas Jefferson as the American president who was most passionate about wine. His famous quote: “No nation is drunken where wine is cheap and none sober, where the dearness of wine substitutes ardent spirits as the common beverage.” For dinner, grilled salmon with Emiliana Adobe Reserva Earth Day Limited Edition Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (bright straw colour; grassy, guava on the nose; dry, medium-bodied, perfumed, green plum and melon flavours with a crisp finish (87)).

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 535: Bill Hardy

Monday, March 2: Spent the morning inputting wine notes for the March 7th Vintages release. After lunch, down to Scrivener Square for a Montes tasting conducted by Aurelio Montes Jr.


Aurelio Montes Jr.

He told us about Montes’s decision to start dry farming to preserve water. Zero irrigation for Alpha brand, resulting in less yield, smaller berries, better quality. Now they’re getting half a bottle production per vine as opposed to a bottle

  • Montes Outer Limits Sauvignon Blanc 2013 ($19.95) (six months to a year lees contact): bright, pale straw colour; fresh, green plum and green bean nose with a floral note; crisply dry, sweetish gooseberry with lemony-lime acidity. (89)
  • Montes Outer Limits Cinsault 2014: purple-ruby colour; floral, spicy, black raspberry nose; richly extracted, full-bodied, sweetish raspberry jam; simple fruit, ripe and easy drinking; succulent and soft tannins. (88)
  • Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon 1999: deep ruby colour; cedar, blackcurrant with vanilla oak notes, Bordelais-style nose; elegant, medium-bodied, blackcurrant with a savoury-herbal note, ground coffee and bitter chocolate finish. (91)
  • Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon 2011: dense purple colour; spicy, blackcurrant nose with leather notes; richly extracted sweet fruit with a smoky-savoury note carried on fresh acidity. Firm finish with a bitter chocolate note. (88+)
  • Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (not irrigated): dense ruby-purple; floral, spicy, blackcurrant, vanilla oak; sweet curranty fruit, richly extracted with a tannic lift on the finish. Needs time (89–91)
  • Montes Purple Angel Camenère 2012 (8% Petit Verdot – 18 months French and American oak; $62.95): dense purple-black colour; floral, white pepper, vanilla oak, blackcurrant and tobacco leaf nose; richly extracted, fruity, tobacco and cassis flavours. Lovely mouth-feel, beautifully balanced, ripe tannins. (92)
  • Montes Taita 2007 (85% Cabernet Sauvignon with Syrah and Carmenère): dense purple-black colour; cedar, minty, vanilla oak, black fruits on the nose with a truffle note; richly extracted, sweet, porty flavour, dark chocolate and cassis flavours. Beautifully balanced, chalk tannins. (95)


Montes Taita 2007

A late meeting at Edo to discuss the Cambridge Food & Wine Society’s dinner to honour Miguel Torres on April 21st at the Chef’s House, George Brown College.

Tuesday, March 3: Wrote my “On The Go” column and then down to Canoe for a lunch tasting with Bill Hardy of Hardy’s.


Bill Hardy

We figured out that we’ve known each other for 35 years. Bill told us that Hardy’s is the largest producer in Australia and gave us the company’s 162-year history in three minutes.

  • Hardy’s William Hardy Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (Adelaide Hills) This is an “homage”line of varieties celebrating Bill’s 40 years with the family company. Light straw colour with a bouquet of green plum and citrus fruit; medium-bodied, fresh and lively on the palate with the merest hint of oak. (89)
  • Eileen Hardy Chardonnay 2013: straw colour; toasty, spicy, tropical fruit nose with a touch of barnyard; mouth-filling flavours of spicy pineapple, orange and lemon with a thread of minerality. (91)
  • Hardy’s Stamp of Australia Cabernet Merlot 2013: deep ruby colour; pencil lead, cedar, currants on the nose; plum and redcurrant flavour rounded out with oak and carried on lively acidity. (87)
  • Hardy’s Chronicles Butcher’s Gold Shiraz Sangiovese 2012 (80% Shiraz): dense purple colour; savoury, cedar, bitter chocolate and black cherry nose; dry, medium-bodied, cherry, plum and vanilla oak flavours with ripe tannins and lively acidity. (88)
  • Eileen Hardy Shiraz 2010: dense purple colour with a smoky, blackberry and licorice nose with a herbal note; full-bodied, dry, spicy blackberry and chocolate flavours with balancing oak and acidity. A great wine. (93)
  • Hardy’s Winemakers Rare Release Handpicked Shiraz 2008 (McLaren Vale and Clare fruit): dense purple-ruby colour; Northern Rhône style – savoury, herbal nose of black plums, licorice, dark chocolate, pencil lead and pepper; full-bodied, beautifully structured, lovely mouth-feel. A joy to drink. (94)


A fabulous wine

For dinner, grilled tilapia with a bottle of Sumac Ridge Black Sage Reserve Meritage 2006. I found this wine tucked away in a corner of the cellar and opened it with trepidation. While it had begun to maderize, it tasted remarkably like a Vin Jaune and was most enjoyable.

Wednesday, March 4: A conference call with Chef Massimo Capra’s agent to discuss the possibility of Massimo associating himself with Grapes for Humanity as his charity of choice. Then a meeting at Freshii with Tim and Eva Andrews, who will be doing the redesign for Grapes for Humanity’s website.

Thursday, March 5: Finished inputting the wine reviews for Vintages’ Saturday release. In the afternoon Rakesh Mehre of Contraband sparkling wine came to the condo with two of his products. Rakesh began his winemaking experiments at his friend’s garage in Montreal. He studied analytical wine tasting and winemaking degree called DUAD in Bordeaux. Upon returning to Canada to finish his Honours Degree in Œnology and Viticulture, he was determined to make sparkling wine accessible to everyone, and not just on special occasions. He came up with the concept of bars and restaurants offering sparkling wine on tap. While this idea didn’t really catch on, he concentrated on bottling his wine, which he packages under crown caps.

  • Contraband Extra Dry Charmat Method (100% Riesling – $18.95): pale straw, active mousse; apple and citrus nose; sweetish crab apple flavour, soft on the palate with yeasty note that dries the finish to a cidery end. Prosecco-like. (87)
  • Contraband Rosé Charmat Method (Riesling, Gewurz and Pinot Noir – $19.95): pale salmon colour; earthy, cherry pit nose; light-bodied, perfumed, cherry flavour, fresh and lively with a clean finish. (89)

Later, Deborah and I tasted these wines with the Indian food we ordered in. They worked very well.

Friday, March 6: Another Vintages release tasting for March 21. Best value wine: Dr. Hermann Erdener Treppchen Riesling Kabinett 2010 for $17.95. Dinner at Fieramosca with friends who obligingly brought along a magnum of Sassicaia 1993. What a way to end the working week!


Best value wine of March 21 Vintages release

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 534: Cuvée


Sunrise at Niagara Falls

Monday, February 23: Brutally cold today. Down to George Brown for a Zenato tasting conducted by Alberto Zenato. Winery founded by his father Sergio in 1960. They produce 3 million bottles.

  • Zenato Pinot Grigio delle Venezie 2014 ($15.95): pale straw colour with a greenish tint; minerally, peach pit nose with a light floral note; dry, lemony, white peach, minerally, medium-weight. (86)
  • Zenato Lugana San Benedetto 2013 (Trebbiano di Lugana – $16.95): straw colour; earthy, pear, citrus nose; pear and grapefruit flavours; nicely balanced with a minerally finish. (88)
  • Zenato Veneto Rosso 2011 (40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 20% Corvina – $12.15): dense purple-ruby colour; inky, cherry, plum nose; richly extracted, sweetish cherry jam flavour, with a warm alcoholic finish. (87+)
  • Zenato Veneto Rosso Parziale Appassimento 2012 (40% Corvina, 40% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon – $13.95): dense purple colour; spicy oak, white pepper and cherry notes on the nose; spicy, cherry, firmly structured, good mouth-feel with a tannic lift on the finish. (88)
  • Zenato Valpolicella Superiore 2012 (80% Corvina, 10% Rondinella. 10% Sangiovese – $17.95): dense purple colour; inky, black cherry, spicy nose; dry, medium-bodied, firm, evident tannin. (87+)
  • Zenato Ripassa Valpolicella Superiore 2011 (75% Corvina, 10% Rondinella, 5% Oseleta – $25.95): dense purple colour; smoky, vanilla oak, black cherry nose; medium-bodied, dry, cherry flavour, nicely balanced with a tannic finish. (89)
  • Zenato Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2010 (Corvina, Rondinella, touch of Croatina and Oseleta – $49.95): dense purple-black colour; spicy, raisiny, cherry nose with chocolate notes; sweet cherry and chocolate flavours; full-bodied and fleshy on the palate with a firm finish. (90)

A plate of porcini risotto and lentils with Italian sausage was served following the tasting.


Alberto Zenato

Then a short walk over to the Wine Conservatory for an Australian tasting conducted by Mark Davidson, entitled “History, Evolution & Revolution.”

Flight 1 – History

  • Tahbilk Museum Release Marsanne 2007 (Nagambie Lakes, Victoria): straw colour; waxy, lanolin, peachy with a light petrol note; dry, full-bodied, fresh and driving acidity, good length, lemon rind, white peach flavour. (90)
  • McGuigan Semillon 2004 (Hunter Valley, New South Wales): old gold colour; minerally, petrol and lanolin notes; ripe melon and citrus flavours with a woody note, great length. (91)
  • Peter Lehmann 1885 Shiraz 2012 (Barossa Valley, South Australia): deep purple-ruby; minty, oaky, blackberry nose; rich and full, spicy, sweet black berry, nicely contained by sweet tannins. (90)
  • Yalumba The Signature 2003 (55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Shiraz – Barossa South Australia): spicy, oaky, blackberry; earthy, dry, beginning to lose its fruit, tannic finish. (89)

Flight 2 – Evolution:

  • Vasse Felix Premier Chardonnay 2013 (Margaret River, Western Australia): spicy, undergrowth nose, Burgundian style; medium-bodied, fresh and delicious, green apple and toasty oak. Great length. (91)
  • Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch Shiraz 2012 (Strathbogie Ranges, Victoria): deep ruby colour; spicy, cinnamon, blackberry, elegant, fresh, Northern Rhone style, light peppery note. (91)
  • Yabby Lake Pinot Noir 2012 (Mornington Peninsula, Victoria): deep ruby colour; spicy, black raspberry, violets on the nose; dry, firm, chewy tannins. Lively acidic spine. Needs time. (89)
  • Jamsheed Garden Gully Syrah 2012 (Great Western, Victoria): dense purple colour; oriental spices, floral nose, orange peel nose; rich and full, savoury black fruits; great mouth-feel with a tannic lift on the finish. (91)


Terrific Aussie Chardonnay

Flight 3 – Revolution:

  • Riesling Freak No. 5 Riesling 2014 (Clare Valley): pale straw colour; minerally, honeyed grapefruit, developing petrol notes; good tension between sweetness and lime acidity. Touch of bitterness on the finish. (89)
  • Tom Shobrook Seppeltsfield Syrah 2012 (Barossa Valley, South Australia): dense ruby-purple colour; spicy, vanilla oak, minty red fruits on the nose; dry, lean and sinewy, blackcurrant with a lively spine of acidity. (91)
  • McGuigan Montepulciano 2013 (Barossa Valley, South Australia): dense purple-black colour; fruity, black cherry with a smoky, minerally note; richly extracted, chunky mouth-feel, tannic finish. (88–89)
  • Brash Higgins Nero d’Avola Amphorae 2013 (McLaren Vale, South Australia): dense purple colour; spicy, mincemeat nose, herbal-medicinal nose; dry, herbal, short with tannic finish. (87)

Tasted a few of the wines that had been set out on tables but the crush made it really difficult to make notes.

In the evening I took the TTC up to Milestones in the Sheppard Centre to taste the food prepared by the company’s executive chef Jason Rosso, whom I first met when he was in charge of the kitchen at Peller Estates. Treated to a variety of dishes from the menu along with Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc 2013 and Mitolo Junior Shiraz 2013. They offer 8 white wines by the glass and 9 reds. The dishes kept on coming: mango chili shrimp on an Asian green salad, dry rub chicken wings, goat cheese pita, chorizo and mozzarella fritters, burger with bacon, Montreal smoked meat on a milk bread bun, Portobello mushrooms, chicken and capellini (it’s been on the menu for 25 years), short ribs with caramelized onions and roasted garlic, seared Ahi tuna marinated in Japanese spices with a sauce of mandarin orange and Pommery mustard, Thai basil stir-fry of chicken and shrimp with a coconut and fish sauce, blackened tilapia filet with quinoa pilaf and salsa verde. Sampled the house cocktail – Devil’s Cup (Jim Beam with lemon meringue and agave foam). Finishing with a selection of desserts. Staggered out into the cold.


Desserts at Milestones


Chef Jason Rosso

Tuesday, February 24: Spent the morning going over notes on Cold Comfort Farm, as I’m leading the discussion this evening for Deborah’s book club meeting. Had to take Pinot to the vet because she is shaking her head and has an ear that seems to be bothering her. Before the book club ladies arrived I tasted the three wines we’re serving tonight with chili con carne.

  • Casar di Burbia Godello 2011 (Bierzo – $16.25): medium straw colour; minerally, apple with a fragrant floral note on the nose; dry, medium-bodied, with a touch of sweetness in mid palate but finishing dry with a minerally, lemon pith note. (88+)
  • Casar di Burbia Mencia 2010 (Bierzo – $19.95): deep ruby colour; minerally, cherry, vanilla oak with lead pencil notes. A cross between Chianti and Bordeaux. Great structure and balance with ripe tannins. Good value (90+)
  • KWV Cathedral Cellar Brut 2010 (South Africa – $16.96): good active mousse; minerally, lemony nose; medium-bodied and dry with a creaminess on the palate. (88)

Wednesday, February 25: A meeting with Cathy Martin and Liz Gallery to discuss “Italy Uncorked” on May 7th at St. James Cathedral’s event space. In the evening, a corporate tasting for clients. A food and wine matching walk-around.

  • Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 2014 – Chevre + mushroom cone
  • Waimea Chardonnay 2012 – Pulled chicken taco
  • Mount Pleasant Lovedale Semillon 2007 – Juniper cured gravlax
  • Spy Valley Pinot Noir 2012 – Crispy duck rolls
  • Fowles Wines Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch Shiraz 2012 – Tandoori seared lamb loin
  • Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz 2011 – Pepper seared beef

After the event I dropped into Opus to a winemaker dinner with Felipe Madiera and his Carm 2011s from the Douro.

  • Carm White 2011 (Codegado Larinho, Rubigato, Viosinho): dry, medium-bodied, dry, peach, orange and citurs flavours; clean and elegant. (89)
  • Carm Reserva 2011 (Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz): dense purple colour; spicy, leather and black fruit and vanilla oak nose with a floral grace note; dry and savoury with black olive and blackberry flavours and a firm finish. (90)
  • Carm Grande Reserva 2011 (90% Touriga Nacional): ripe and rich, full on the palate; dry, black cherry and licorice flavours with a herbal note. Lovely mouth feel. (92)
  • Carm Maria Lourdes 2011 (70% Touriga Nacional, 30% Tinta Francisca): deep ruby colour with a cedar and black raspberry nose and pencil lead notes. Lively acidity and a tannic lift on the finish. (90)
  • Carm CM 2011: intense and oaky on the nose; dry and porty, thick on the palate. Spicy black fruits, muscular, bold and mouth-filling. (91).

The menu:

Salt cod croquettes and charcuterie

Braised octopus and bean salad with chorizo and cilantro crispy porkbelly confit and clams with potatoes and kale

Paprika charred venison striploin and saffron rice on black olive and egg “risotto” with piri-piri sauce

Selection of cheese and Pasteis de Nata

Thursday, February 26: Spent the day inputting wine notes on the March Vintages’ release. At 5 pm David Beauroy came over with a bottle of Château Chérubin 2007, a St. Emilion Grand Cru. 67% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Franc (a rich and savoury wine with blueberry and black fruit flavours that opened nicely after decanting. Still needs time but a lovely drop of wine (91)).


American falls in Niagara

Friday, February 27: Drove down to Niagara for Cuvée. Changed into my tuxedo and found in the pocket the name tag from last year’s event! Presented my annual Tony Aspler Cuvée Award of Excellence to Laurie Macdonald, the director of VQA. Tasted around the room and enjoyed meeting the winemakers. The food was excellent. Had an amazing dessert at Giovani Del Priore’s Criveller Cakes booth – a semi-freddo that melted in the mouth.


Criveller cakes at Cuvée

Saturday, February 28: Drove to Brock University for the Experts’ Tasting. Four flights of wines served blind. In the evening Deborah and I drove up to Caledon to dine with friends Frank and Patti-Ann Daley.

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 533: Flag Photo

Thursday, February 12: Back to freezing cold weather in Toronto. Busy day catching up on emails and writing my Post City Magazines column.

Friday, February 13: My son Guy’s 40th birthday. He’s celebrating in Las Vegas while we’re freezing here at minus 33 Celsius with the wind chill. In the morning went down to Maple Leaf Gardens to participate in a photo to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Canadian flag. 2015 people all dressed in red tops stood on the red parts of the flag at centre ice. I was standing at the extreme left of the maple leaf, one in from a bald guy who said that he was in the original photo taken at Beaverton in 1969 outdoors in winter. It was a very moving experience.


Filling in the Maple Leaf at the Gardens

Wrote my On the Go column and then got down to some tasting:

  • White House Wine Co. Riesling Pinot Grigio 2013 (Niagara Peninsula – $12.95): old gold colour; peach and citrus nose; dry, unctuous mouth-feel, white peach and lemon flavour. Touch of bitterness on the finish. (86)
  • Sue Ann Staff Fancy Farm Girl Frivolous White 2012 (Riesling – Niagara Peninsula – $14.95): pale straw colour; minerally, grapefruit nose already developing petrol notes; ripe and full on the palate with pear and lime flavours and a touch of honey. Good tension between sweetness and citrus acidity. (87)
  • Miguel Torres Las Mulas Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2014 (Chile – $12.95): light straw colour; struck flint, minerally, green bean, leafy nose; crisply dry, tart gooseberry flavour; more in Loire style than Chile, brisk lime flavour. Good length. Good value (87)
  • Henry of Pelham Chardonnay 2013 (Niagara Peninsula – $14.95): straw colour; minerally-yeasty nose of apples; dry, light to medium-bodied, dry, apple and citrus flavours; moderate length. (87)
  • Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc Cellar Selection 2014 (Marlborough, New Zealand – $19.95): pale straw colour; grassy, gooseberry nose; medium-bodied, crisply dry with flavours of gooseberry, passion fruit and lemon. Beautifully balanced with great length. (90)
  • Kim Crawford Pansy Rosé 2014 (Merlot – Hawke’s Bay, $17): deep salmon colour; raspberry and cherry nose; dry, medium-bodied, well extracted fruit, well balanced with acidity with a lively citrus-laced raspberry candy finish. (88)
  • Sue Ann Staff Fancy Farm Girl Flamboyant Red 2012 (Cabernet/Merlot – Niagara Peninsula – $14.95): light ruby colour; minerally, Cabernet Franc nose or leafy, redcurrant and tobacco leaf; light-bodied, easy drinking with surprisingly high alcohol and a lovely floral note in mid palate. (88)
  • Silver Bay Pinot Noir 2013 (Niagara Peninsula – $14.95): ruby colour; earth, cherry pit nose; dry, light-bodied, lean and rather short on fruit. (86)
  • Pedra Cancela Winemaker’s Selection 2010 (Touriga Nacional, Alfrocheiro, Tinta Roriz – Dao, Portugal: $13.95): deep ruby colour; smoky, earthy, minty nose; dry, medium-bodied, mouth-filling, minty red berry and plum flavours; firmly structured, lively acidity with ripe tannins. Good value. (88)

Had the opened bottle of Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc with mushroom and ricotta cheese ravioli. Delicious.

Saturday, February 14: Wrote a 300-word piece on what makes a great sommelier for Jacob Richler’s new book, 100 Best Restaurants in Canada. Steak for dinner with Lailey Cabernet Franc 2010.

Sunday, February 15: Deborah’s sister Suzanne was meant to come to dinner but cancelled at the last minute. We had prepared Moroccan chicken soup and grilled salmon. I opened a bottle of Domdechant Werner Domdechaney Riesling Trocken 2009 – a sensational bottle of wine, very rich with tropical fruit flavours, mango and lime, just a delight. Suzanne missed a great wine.


A great  bottle of wine

Monday, February 16: Family Day. Wrote my 680News wine reviews and walked Pinot in the park. It’s still brutally cold. Got notification of a traffic violation in Verona. Apparently when I was there in November I drove on a restricted street. 42 euro fine which was applied to the credit card I used to rent an Avis car. Bummer.

Tuesday, February 17: Went down to the Toronto Reference Library for a press conference held by Xavier de Eizaguirre, Chairman of the Board of Vinexpo. I’ve known Xavier for many years, since he was the Chairman of Mouton-Rothschild. He delivered a lot of data about wine consumption around the world. The US is now the top wine-consuming nation in volume terms, followed by France, Italy, Germany and China. Spain is the top producer followed by Italy and France. Canada has seen a 23.7% growth in consumption in the last ten years. We drink 13.6 litres a head, 60% of which is red wine. By 2018 they are projecting 15.3 litres.

At 2:30 a film crew came to the condo to film me giving a tribute to Geddy Lee and Rush for their charity work. The group is receiving the Allan Waters Humanitarian award at this year’s Junos. Geddy is a director of grapes for Humanity and he and Alex Lifeson have conducted three VIA tours to wine country, which have raised over half a million dollars for the foundation. Pasta for dinner with Château des Charmes Gamay Noir 2012.

Wednesday, February 18: Dropped off Deborah and Pinot at the groomer’s on Bathurst and then drove to the Rogers to record my 680News wine reviews. Arrived late because of the construction along Eglinton. Meeting with Forefront Communications to discuss the Ontario Wine Awards.

Thursday, February 19: Getting bored with the continuous cold weather. A tasting for winerytohome.com at Doug Towers’s with David Lawrason. Received a cheque for Grapes for Humanity for $60,000 from the eBay auction sale of Rush memorabilia. Those guys are sterling and really do deserve the Allan Waters Humanitarian award. The money will go to a project in Cambodia for children’s education.

Friday, February 20: A tasting to the first March release of Vintages products, 128 wines and spirits. Not an easy job. Got through 58 of them and then went home and promptly lost my gloves on the bus (I was engrossed in a book and missed my stop. Got up suddenly and they must have dropped on the floor.)

Saturday, February 21: Fresh snow in Sherwood Park. Deborah and I walked Pinot there after the bank (for some reason she likes going to the bank). In the evening, to Rodney’s Oyster House for my son Guy’s 40th birthday dinner. Ordered a bottle of Hirsch Grüner Veltliner 2013 with a dozen oysters and pasta with scallops.


My son Guy and his girlfriend Sasha

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 532: Guatemala

Monday, February 2: Up at 5 am to a huge winter storm. Minus 26 C with the wind chill. Pinot had a great romp in the park, bounding through the deep snow. Input my reviews of the February 7th Vintages release, answered a slew of emails and did some tasting:

  • San Raffaele Monte Tabor Soave 2013 ($13.95): pale straw colour; minerally, citrus and white peach bouquet; light on the palate, crisply dry, lemony, green peach flavour. With a touch of bitter almond on the finish. (88)
  • Nobilo Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($16.95): pale straw colour; minerally, grapefruit with a floral note on the nose; fresh, gooseberry and green bean flavours; dry, medium-bodied with a touch of bitterness on the finish. (88)
  • Wynns Coonawarra Chardonnay 2013 ($17.95): pale straw colour; minerally, pear with a light oak note; dry, medium-bodied, fresh pear and citrus flavours. Good length. (88)
  • Noblio Icon Marlborough Pinot Noir 2013 ($28.95): ruby colour; spicy black raspberry nose with a vanilla oak note; light and playful on the palate, soft mouth-feel; flavours of raspberry and redcurrant; well balanced and lingering. (89+)
  • Costa Mediana Vaplicella Ripasso 2011 ($16.95): deep ruby-purple colour; spicy, raisin and plum nose; dry, spicy, cherry with a minty note; fresh acidity. (88)
  • Santa Alicia Reserva Carmenère 2013 (Maipo – $12.80): deep ruby colour; smoky, minerally, blackberry and currant flavours; dry, medium-bodied with a coffee bean note. Nicely balanced with a savoury finish. (88)
  • Wynns Coonawarra Shiraz 2012 ($22.95): dense purple-ruby colour; cedar, blackberry nose; sweet, spicy, mulberry flavour; fruit driven with balancing acidity. (88+)
  • Wynns Coonawarra Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($27.95): dense ruby-purple colour; cedar, blackcurrant nose with an oak overlay; medium-bodied, dry, surprisingly lean and elegant with a floral lift on the finish. (89)
  • Pascual Toso Malbec 2013 (Mendoza – $12.95 until March 1, then up $1): dense purple colour; cedary, herbal, red berry nose; dry, full-bodied, charred oak and spicy black fruit flavours, soft mouth-feel, easy drinking with mellow tannins. (87)
  • Pascual Toso Malbec Limited Edition (Mendoza – $15.95): dense ruby-purple colour; smoky, minerally, red berry nose; full-bodied, dry, soft and unctuous on the palate with well integrated oak. Nicely balanced. Good value. (88)

Tuesday, February 3: A doctor’s appointment to check on my PSA. Packed for our trip to Guatemala to be present at the opening ceremony for a middle school in La Union that was funded by Grapes for Humanity. In the evening, a meeting with a director of Grapes for Humanity to discuss a fund-raising dinner in October with Gaia Gaja. For dinner, steak with Fielding Cabernet Sauvignon 2007.

Wednesday, February 4: Pinot sensed Deborah and I were going away and barked like crazy before we left at 11:30 am for the airport. Pinot will be looked after by her dog-sitter, Valerie, who will take her to Innisfil. Our group, led by Adrienne Rosen and Myra White, met at the airport and flew UA to Houston and then onto Guatemala City. Overnight at the Radisson Hotel.

Thursday, February 5: Woke up to find the lobby teeming with Miss Teen Universe contestants ready for the paparazzi.


A bevy of Miss Teen Universe contestants

Adrienne drove the bus with suitcases lashed to the roof. We passed by fields of pineapple, sugar cane, stands of rubber trees and palm oil plants. The traffic was slowed by huge trucks piled high with cut sugar cane. We stopped in Mazatenango for ice cream before proceeding on to Coatepeque. A four-and-a-half-hour drive.


Adrienne Rosen at the ceremonial opening of the middle school at La Union

A quick change at the Hotel Residentia before driving on to La Union for the school opening ceremony. Our group of Canadians was applauded as we entered the open area with white tents for the parents and officials while the school kids stood around the walls. A local band played, the kids sang “O Canada,” and then the speeches started – the Minister of Education, the Mayor and various school officials. Adrienne, whose foundation, Access Education Guatemala, was honoured with a scroll proclaiming her to be an honourary citizen; and she and I (representing Grapes for Humanity) cut the ribbon. We toured the classrooms and the computer room (donated by Telus) and climbed to the second storey to see where the next phase of construction will be.


Students try out their new classroom


Plaque thanking Grapes for Humanity for funding the building of the school

On the drive back to the hotel Adrienne was stopped by the cops. She showed them her scroll as an honorary citizen and they embraced her and sent us on our way.

Before dinner Adrienne and I drove over to the Central Commercial mall to buy some wine at the Paiz supermarket – mainly Chilean and Argentinian wines on the shelves. Dinner at La Rueda restaurant, a steak house. Santa Rita Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2010, Casillero del Diablo Shiraz 2012 and Luiz Felipe Edwardes Cabernet Sauvignon 2013.

Friday, February 6: Slept till 8:30 am. Deborah and I walked through the local cemetery that was like a village of mausoleums. Watched a woman making torillas in what looked like a garage, then back to the hotel for a traditional breakfast of eggs, black beans and tortillas.


Woman making tortillas in Coatepeque

Packed up the bus with the luggage and set out for Lake Panajachel, through the mountains. Passed through a series of Mayan villages. The village of San Marin has a Mayan cemetery with mausoleums painted in vivid colours. We’re told that political parties will pay for the painting of your house if you paint it red, green or blue – the colours of the three parties. The same colours are painted on the rocks by the roadside as you go through the mountains.


Xelapan Café’s baked goods in Xela

Drove through Quetzaltenango and stopped for lunch in Xela at Xelapan Café, a bakery with a restaurant in the back that faces the Central Square. A Suzuki motorbike convention was being held here and we waited for the parade of bikes to pass.


Mountain view of Panajachel on Lake Atitlan

We continued on through Solala and eventually arrived at our hotel in Panajachel – Hotel Atitlán, a beautiful property above Lake Atitlán sent in formal gardens with caged toucans and a huge parrot. In the dining room is a glassed-in aviary with love birds. The common parts of the hotel are full of antiques and local handicraft masks, figurines and wood carvings of saints. From the gardens you get a magnificent view of the three volcanoes across the lake, Atital, Toliman and San Pedro.


Hotel Atitlán wood carving


Garden of Hotel Atitlán from our terrace


Sunset over Lake Atitlan

A couple of glasses of Concha y Toro Frontera Sauvignon Blanc 2013 in the bar before dinner. I ordered black bean soup and a dish called Camarones Atitlán. The accompanying wine: Cono Sur Merlot Reserva Especial Merlot 2011.

Saturday, February 7: After breakfast our party drove into Panajachel where we took a boat across the lake to an artists’ town, San Juan.


Panajachel dock for boats to San Juan (Toliman volcano)


Tuktuk – the local taxi

Our first stop, transported by tuktuk (the local three-wheeled taxi that seats three), was Casa Flor Ixcaco, a women’s weaving co-operative where they take raw cotton, spin it into thread, dye it and weave it into traditional patterns. We were treated to a lecture on how they did each step. The dyes are all natural, made from flowers, fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices.


Spinning cotton to thread at Casa Flor Ixcaco, the women’s weaving co-operative


Weaving the fabric

Next we visited another women’s co-operative, The Association of Medicinal Plants, and were shown a range of herbs that are used for homeopathic remedies as well as products such as face creams, soaps and shampoo. Then we toured an art gallery with works by local artist Angelina Quic.


Boy with firewood

Back on the boat for lunch at Club Ven Acá on the north shore of Lake Atitlán. Deborah and I took a dip in the hotel hot tub before settling down for lunch. I ordered pulled pork with a bottle of Torres Viña Sol 2011. The wind came up and the boat-ride back to Panajachel was an adventure, especially the docking and disembarking procedures.


Club Ven Acá on the shore of Lake Atitlán

Dinner at Restaurante Hana in Panajachel, which is owned by an American, John, and his Japanese wife, Mihoko. The walls are decorated with old photos of Mayans. John cooks “gringo” breakfasts here and Mihoko takes over in the evening to prepare a Japanese menu. I brought along a bottle of Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc 2013 and Stoneleigh Latitude Pinot Noir 2012 (Deborah and I had carried them in our luggage). The menu: pickled green beans and carrots, salad, miso soup, sushi, vegetable tempura and Jamine tea. For dessert, chocolate pudding.


Mihoko and John, owners of Restaurante Hana, Panajachel

Sunday, February 8: Our group drove up to Chichicastenango, a Mayan town nearly 2,000 metres in the mountains that has the largest and oldest market in South America. The town has two mayors, one Mayan who holds the position for life. We were introduced to him, Tomás Calvo Mateo, who greeted us in the local Mayan dialect.


Tomas Calvo Matea, Mayan mayor of Chichicastenango


The covered market at Chichicastenango


Maya masks in a market stall


The steps of Santa Sophia Church, Chichicastenango

There are two churches at either end of the market in Chichicastenango. The more important is Santo Tomás with its 18 stairs leading up to the door, each standing for one month of the Mayan calendar year. The church, founded in 1540 by the Spanish, is built on the site of ancient Mayan shrine. Between the two churches, in the centre of the market, is a 30-foot pole. The Mayans believed that your life is predetermined but you can change its trajectory when you reach the age of eighteen by climbing the pole and swinging down on a rope, expiating your character flaws. To preserve your anonymity you hide your identity in a costume with a monkey mask.

The Catholic priests appropriated Tomás and made him a saint because the Mayans worshipped him as the god of the sun. The indigenous population celebrates Santo Tomás between December 17 and 25, dressing up in elaborate costumes with wooden masks. We visited an artist’s studio where they make the masks every year and another atelier where they create the elaborate costumes. We watched a ceremonial dance in the courtyard.


Ancient wooden masks


Ceremonial costumes to celebrate the annual festival for Santo Tomás

Then our guide led us up to the cemetery where a female shaman blessed us (for a fee) – a ceremony which involved the lighting of yellow candles, incantations, smoke to carry the message to the gods and stroking our bodies with a bunch of herbs.


Mayan cemetery, Chichicastenango


Female shaman invoking a blessing


Street food, Chichicastenango

Lunched at the Mayan Inn, the oldest hotel in Chichicastenango, built like a Spanish hacienda and owned by an American. Drove back to the Atitlán Hotel bouncing over tumulos, the “sleeping policemen” to slow traffic. We heard that the Fuego volcano near Antigua had erupted and caused a change in the weather, bringing a heavy downpour.

Dined at the hotel after a glass of Undurraga Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 in the bar. Ordered a dish called Kakik de Pavo – a huge bowl of spicy turkey soup with what looked like half a turkey in it. The wines: Torres Viña Sol 2013, Concha y Toro Trio Reserva Merlot Carmenère Syrah 2013 and Mapu Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2011.

Monday, February 9: Packed up and left the Hotel Atitlán for Antigua, to visit Guatemala’s only winery, Chateau DeFay, a three-hour drive. The winery is located in Santa Maria de Jésus on the eastern slope of the Agua volcano. A sign painted on a rock in the village says it’s 6 kilometres away. What it doesn’t say is that once you leave the village the road is unpaved and you pass a garbage dump that is on fire. You drive up a 650-metre tree-lined driveway and are confronted by German shepherds (six of them). On your right is a bedraggled vineyard that looked as if it’s incapable of delivering fruit. Then you see the house that would not be out of place as a small château in Normandy.


Chateau DeFay

Guillermo Alvaro, the manager of the estate, told us the history of the property – how a French banker named Jacques Defay fell in love with Guatemala and in 1996 determined to create the country’s first winery – against the advice of the Ministry of Agriculture. He bought land, hired a Californian winemaker, Bruno Coppola (distant relation of Francis Ford Coppola), who selected 25 varieties from Washington State and Napa for his vineyard. But in May 2010 Tropical Storm Agatha flooded the vineyard and they have made no wine since – at least we didn’t get to taste anything later than vintage 2009.

The lunch was overcooked – probably because we arrived half an hour late – and then we tasted through the range. They should have listened to the Ministry of Agriculture. I wrote the following limerick in memory of the experience:

Our visit to Chateau DeFay
Took us somewhat out of our way
Their lunch was inedible
The wines were “incredible”
My only review was “Oy vay!”

We drove on to Antigua and checked into the Porta Hotel. Dined at Casa Santo Domingo, a huge former monastery now spectacularly redesigned as a hotel with a first-class restaurant. We had their 9-course tasting menu:

Salad with marinated watermelon, palm hearts, avocado, granny Smith apples, pineapple and smoked pineapple foam.

Pumpkin cream and red bean soup with caramelized curry pumpkin seed, beet foam and small cilantro tamales.

Tuna tartare with baby capers, red onion, cilantro, tomato, avocado arugula emulsion served over mango, brunoise and carbon fried yucca chips, chile guaque oil.

Phyllo pastry rolls filled with shrimp and Napa cabbage served with peach sauce, Thai barbecue and soy-ginger mayonnaise.

Apple sorbet.

Sautéed salmon with guajillo chili “abado” served with sugar snaps, edamame and bok choy, pineapple and fennel purée and carrot chips.

Short ribs sous vide with broccoli purée, caramelled onions, ravioli filled with potato-garlic, confit, ratatouille, crimini mushrooms & reduced veal with Oporto.

Sautéed tenderloin with two varieties of potatoes, cauliflower-asparagus purée, teriyaki-blue cheese cream.

Mini pastry delicates.

The wines: Trapiche Chardonnay 2003 and Undurraga Merlot 2013.


Sautéed salmon with guajillo chili “abado”

Tuesday, February 10: After breakfast our group was treated to a walking tour of Antigua, a World Heritage site, by a local guide, Elizabeth Bell, who has lived in Guatemala for 46 years. She showed us the volcano that had erupted and was still spewing smoke and ash (“Guatemala snow,” she called it). She gave us 6,000 years of Mayan history in eight minutes.

The town, once the capital of Guatemala, was destroyed by an earthquake in 1776, and rebuilt in a grid system with cobbled streets. Antigua has become the destination wedding centre of Central America, apparently.


Cathedral ruins, Antigua

We visited a jade factory where I learned that according to the Mayan calendar, my birthdate has me born under the sign of the armadillo.


Polishing jade in a jade factory


Baby Jesus figurines in the museum of Casa Santo Domingo, Antigua


Pre-Columbian sculpture in the Casa Santo Domingo museum

Next we toured the Casa Santo Domingo’s pre-Columbian art and sculpture museum. Lunched at Doña Luisa Xicontencatl (panaderia y pasteleria). Ordered chili con carne and a hot chocolate. After lunch walked around town visiting shops and picked up some chocolates as gifts.


Guatemala’s best rum


Wine bar sign in Antigua

Dined at Hector’s Bistro, a tiny place. Our party of six had to wait half an hour for a table so we sat on a low wall across the road from the restaurant and drank Viña Bujanda 2011, courtesy of the owner. He also gave us a plate of grilled tomatoes with cheese. I ordered Portobello mushrooms in olive oil and balsamic, jumbo shrimps in a spicy sauce and a passion fruit crème brûlée. The wine: Infinitus Cabernet Sauvignon Tempranillo 2012.

Wednesday, February 11: Up at 2:30 am with Montezuma’s Revenge. This morning we drove to the airport in Guatemala City and took the UA flight to Houston, followed by the flight to Toronto. Back to the cold weather.

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 531: Amarone in Verona

Monday, January 26: Final preparations to leave for Verona via Frankfurt for Anteprima Amarone 2011. I tried to get an aisle seat on the Lufthansa flight but ended up in the middle of the first row behind First Class. The flight attendant said it had more leg room. She lied. And the seat didn’t go back so I didn’t get much sleep. Watched a bad movie called The Drop with James Gandolfini, the Soprano guy.

Tuesday, January 27: There must have been one hell of tail wind because we arrived in Frankfurt 50 minutes ahead of schedule. Am sitting in the airport in Frankfurt having already walked 16 miles and haven’t yet reached Terminal B but there is free wifi – whoopee!


City gates to Verona

An hour-and-fifteen-minute flight to Verona over the Alps. Picked up by a bus with Michela Morris from Vancouver and Tomasz Prange from Warsaw. We’re staying at the Bologna Hotel in the centre of Verona at the end of the street I walked to get to the arena in Piazza Bra when I was here in September. From my window I can see the arena 100 yards away.


The arena in Piazza Bra


Four-poster bed at Hotel Bologna

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 530: Wine Writers at Play


Winewriters at Barberian’s

Monday, January 19: Spent much of the day inputting wine reviews and working on the wine list for a corporate event on Wednesday – another Executive Wine Experience seminar. In the evening Deborah and I took the TTC down to Barberian’s for the Wine Writers Circle annual Christmas dinner. Each of us – some 24 including spouses, partners, friends, etc. – was asked to bring a bottle. Here is a list of the wines that ended up on the table in the underground wine cellar (I brought the Two Sisters wines):

  • Dry Sack William and Humbert
  • Bottega Prosecco Vino dei Poeti (2 bottles)
  • Soalheiro Alvarinho 2011 (2 bottles)
  • Segura Viudas Brut Reserva
  • Hayman & Hill Reserve Selection Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley 2004
  • Two Sisters Winery Riesling 2013 VQA
  • Two Sisters Winery Cabernet franc 2010 VQA
  • Two Sisters Winery Merlot 2010 VQA
  • Two Sisters Winery Eleventh Post 2011 (Bordeaux blend) VQA
  • Punset Barbaresco 2008
  • Domaine de Beaurenard Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2010
  • Domaine Raphael Chopin – La Ronze – Regnié 2009
  • Beaujolais Nouveau Chateau-Cambon 2014
  • Luis Canas Reserva 2009 Rioja
  • Vina Real Crianza 2010 Rioja
  • Molino di San Antimo Brunello di Montalcino 2007
  • Chenas 2013 Pascal Aufranc
  • A Geofroy Chablis 1er Cru Beauroy 2012
  • Stonefield’s Puligny Montrachet, 2005, Remoissenet et Fils
  • Quintarelli Rosso Ca’ del Merlo 2004
  • Megalomaniac Eccentric Savignin 2011
  • Chateau Villemaurine 1985 St. Emilion Magnum
  • Chateau Chasse-Spleen 2000 Magnum
  • Trius Red 2005
  • Trius Red 2007
  • Trius Red 2010
  • Lailey Chardonnay The Blend 2013 Wild ferment
  • Domaine Baud Pere & Fils Vin Jaune, 2005, Chateau Chalon AC
  • Paolo Bea Pagliaro Secco 2006, Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG
  • Vidal Icewine, 2006, Pillitteri
  • Merlot, 2013, Charles Shaw
  • Freisa de Langhe, 2012, G. Borgogno
  • Fikardos Marathefiko, 2008, Pafos, Cyprus
  • Sangue del Diavolo Raboso del Piave, 2010, Ca di Rajo
  • Chateauneuf Du Pape, 2010, Beaurenard
  • Barbarseco, 2008, Pusset
  • Morgon Cote du Py, 2012, A Auceur

So, a fine night was had by all.

Tuesday, January 20: Wrote my 680News wine reviews and then down to Houston’s for a lunch tasting of Errazuriz wines.

  • Errazuriz Max Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2013 ($15.95): straw colour; grassy, green bean nose with ripe grapefruit and lime flavours with a mineral-salty note and a cisp finish. (88+)
  • Errazuriz Sauvignon Blanc Aconcagua Costa 2014 ($23.95): straw colour; grassy, minerally, green fig bouquet; medium-bodied, fresh, beautifully balanced and spicy with long, crisply dry finish. (90)
  • Errazuriz The Blend 2012 (50% Marsanne, 38% Roussanne, 12% Viognier): straw colouw; lifted, floral, honey nose with an aged Riesling (!) note. Soft on the palate, full-bodied with a crab apple flavour and a nutty finish. (89)
  • Errazuriz Pinot Noir Aconcagua Costa 2013 (wild years ferment – $24.95): deep ruby colour with an ose of black cherries, wood spice and vanilla oak; medium-bodied, with succulent black cherry fruit and a note of clove; dry fleshy but elegant with lively acidity and a firm tannic flourish on the end taste. (90)
  • Errazuriz Max Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($18.95): dense ruby-purple colour; cedar, blackcurrant and spicy oak on the nose; full-bodied, richly extracted black fruit flavours with tobacco and licorice notes. (89)
  • Errazuriz Cabernet Sauvignon Aconcagua Alto 2012 (with 15% Cabernet franc – $19.95): purple-black in colour with a nose of blackcurrants, cedar and pencil shavings; ripe fruit with an earthy note, well-structured and richly extracted with grainy tannins on the finish. Hold 2–3 years. Good value. (90)
  • Errazuriz Don Maximiano 2011 (75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Carmenère, 10% Petit Verdot, 5% Malbec – $89.00): dense purple colour with a nose of tobacco leaf, graphite, chocolate and vanilla oak. Full-bodied, richly extracted black fruit flavours, ripe tannins with a firm structure. (91)
  • Errazuriz KAI Carmenère 2012 (with 5% Petit Verdot, 22 months in French oak, 47% new – $160): dense purple-black colour; spicy, creamy, black cherry nose with pencil lead notes; great concentration of fruit with lively acidity. Lovely mouth-feel and beautifully balanced with a firm finish. Still very youthful. (91) I had this wine with chicken curry and it matched beautifully.
  • Viñedo Chadwick 2011 (100% Cabernet Sauvignon grown on the family’s former polo field – $249): dense purple-ruby colour with a nose of cedar, blackcurrant, vanilla oak with a creamy note. Elegant with a lovely mouth-feel, firmly structured, dry but succulent fruit, beautifully balanced with a firm finish. Needs time. (91–93)


Errazuriz tasting

For dinner with pasta, Boschendal Chardonnay 2013 (South Africa): deep straw colour with a buttery, ripe pear nose and a touch of oak; full-bodied, spicy flavours of peach, melon and green pineapple. (89)

Wednesday, January 21: Spent the morning printing off material for this evening’s Executive Wine Experience seminar for a large Toronto company.

Wine and Food pairings

Champagne Cattier Brut with Salmon Tartar Cup

Ghost Creek Riesling 2012 (Ontario) with Poached Cocktail Shrimp

Leyda Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (Chile) with Grilled Asparagus

Jadot Bourgogne Chardonnay 2013 with Smoked Chicken

Remoissenet Clos Vougeot 2007 with Camembert Cheese

Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 with Lamb Loin

Domaine Terlato & Chapoutier Shiraz-Viognier 2012 (Australia) with Manchego Cheese

Henry of Pelham Vidal Icewine 2013 with Apple Caramel Pie with maple sugar crust

Château des Charmes Cabernet Franc Icewine 2012 with Fruit Tart


Executive Wine Experience dry wines

Thursday, January 22: Recorded my 680News wine reviews and then to my doctor to have the first of three Hepatitis A and B shots. These are for our trip to Guatemala on February 4th to attend the opening of a school that Grapes for Humanity funded. Apparently Deborah and I need three shots, next one in a month and a third after six months – at $75 a shot! But they say it’s good for life.

Wrote my Quench commentary and then got down to some tasting.

  • KWV Chenin Blanc Contemporary Collection 2014 (South Africa – $7.45 till Feb. 1 then $9.45): pale straw colour; minerally pear nose; mouth-filling sweet pear and apple flavours, soft on the palate with enough acidity to give it structure. Good value even at the higher price. (87)
  • Durbanville Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (South Africa – $11.95): light straw colour; grassy, asparagus and kiwi nose; dry, medium-bodied, green pepper, gooseberry and grapefruit flavours. Good varietal character. (88)
  • Clos du Bois North Coast Chardonnay 2013 (California): straw colour; spicy melon with toasty oak on the nose; full-bodied, rich and full on the palate, spicy with tangerine and sweet melon flavours; good length. (89)
  • Domaine Galaman Fitou 2013 (Carignan, Grenache, Syrah; Languedoc): dense ruby-purple colour; herbal, blackberry with a light floral note; medium-bodied, dry, spicy, black raspberry flavour with lively acidity and a savoury finish. (89)
  • Cape Heights Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (South Africa – $11.95): solid ruby colour; cherry jam with a cedary note on the nose; medium-bodied, smoky, sour cherry flavour with a tarry nuance and fresh acidity. (86+)
  • Durbanville Hills Shiraz 2012 (South Africa – $11.95): deep ruby-purple colour; cedar, spicy, red berry nose; medium-bodied, mint and clove flavours (oak masking fruit flavours). (86)
  • Nederburg Winemaster’s Reserve Shiraz 2013 (Western Cape – $11.95): deep ruby colour; earthy, smoky, cherry pit nose; medium-bodied, dry, smoky-fruity, savoury black cherry flavour with a blunt tannic finish. (86)
  • Porcupine Ridge Syrah 2013 (Swartland – $14.95): dense ruby-purple colour; cedary, herb-tinged blackberry nose; full-bodied, richly extracted, blackberry and bitter chocolate flavours; nicely balanced with affirm tannic finish. Good value. (88+)
  • Café Culture Coffee Mocha Pinotage 2014 (Western Cape – $12.95): deep ruby-purple colour; smoked bacon with a tarry note on the nose; sweetish, juicy red berry, coffee bean and chocolate flavours with a clovey finish. Easy drinking. (87)
  • Thelema Mountain Red 2012 (Western Cape; 37% Shiraz, 25% Petit Verdot, 23% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 4% Grenache, 1% Cabernet Franc – $12.95): deep ruby colour; cedar, tobacco leaf, red berry with some vanilla oak on the nose; medium-bodied, well extracted fruit, nicely balanced with a firm finish. Good value. (88)
  • Clos du Bois Merlot North Coast 2012 (California – $16.95): deep ruby colour; vanilla oak, cedar, blueberry nose; medium-bodied, sweet fruit, creamy on the palate with balancing acidity and pliant tannins. Easy drinking. (87)
  • Ravenswood Vintners’ Blend Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (California – $17.95): deep ruby colour; cedar, red and blackcurrant bouquet; medium- to full-bodied, dry, spicy red berry flavour with licorice notes and a firm finish of tannin. (87)

Friday, January 23: A Vintages’ release tasting today, some 120 wines. Tasted about half of them. For dinner, chicken with Frescobaldi Luce della Vita 2007.

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