A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 619: Amani

Sunday, October 16th: Mourning the Jays’ loss yesterday afternoon. Uphill battle now as they’re two games down. Did a small tasting at home:

  • Yvon Mau Côtes de Gascogne 2015 (1500 mL, $16.95): light straw colour; grassy, green plum and lemon zest nose; medium-bodied, dry, green plum and lemon flavour with good length. (87)
  • Columbia Winery Chardonnay 2013 (Washington – $17.95): Medium straw colour; apple with a spicy oak note; medium-bodied, sweetish pineapple and melon flavours with toasty oak backing and enough acidity to give the wine balance. (88.5)
  • Volo Bióu Grenache 2015 (Pays d’Oc – $10.95): deep purple-ruby colour; cedary, cherry and black raspberry nose; medium-bodied, dry, well-extracted flavours of raspberry puree with enough tannin to give the wine structure. Touch of sweetness in mid palate. (87)
  • Bodegas Osborne Solas Tempranillo & Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (Castilla y Leon – $11.65): ruby-purple colour; earthy-leathery plum bouquet; medium-bodied, dry, redcurrant and plum flavours with a note of orange peel and a light floral note. Soft tannins, easy drinking. (86.5)
  • Montecillo Tempranillo Crianza 2011 (Rioja – $13.10 till Nov. 6, then $15.10): deep ruby colour; spicy, sandalwood, cedar and cherry nose; medium-bodied, dry, lean and sinewy with lively acidity. (87)
  • Montecillo Rioja Riserva 2010 ($18.15): deep ruby colour with a mature rim; sandalwood, oak spice and red fruit aromas; medium-bodied, dry, lean and sinewy with strawberry and cherry flavours carried on lively acidity. (89)
  • Domaine des Terrisses 2012 (Gaillac – local varieties Duras, Braucol with Syrah – $17.95): deep ruby colour; savoury-herbal nose of black fruits with a smoky note; medium to full-bodied, dry, mouth-filling blackberry and blackcurrant flavours with a bitter chocolate note, finishing with ripe, grainy tannins. (89)
  • Columbia Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (Washington $17.95): deep purple colour; cedary, blackcurrant nose; medium to full-bodied, well-extracted sweet blackcurrant and plum flavours with a suggestion of oak; firm structure with moderate length. (88)
  • Alpha Estate Axia 2012 (Greece – 50% Syrah, 50% Xynomavro – $17.95): deep ruby colour; ccherry and leather with a light floral note; medium to full-bodied, rich plum and blackberry flavours carried on lively acidity. Dry with evident tannins. Needs 2–3 years. (89)

Monday, October 17th: Down to the Shangri-La Hotel for a tasting of three champagnes with Cyril Brun, chef de caves at Charles Heidsieck, who spent 15 years in the cellars of Veuve Clicquot before joining Heidsieck. Their bottle shape mimics the curves in their chalk cellars in Reims. The aperture, like those of Krug and Salon bottles, is 26 millimeters as opposed to the usual 29 mm.

  • Charles Heidsieck Rosé Réserve (disgorged in 2015): pale amber-pink in colour; tiny bubbles with an active mousse; toasty, wild strawberry nose with a biscuit note; light on the palate, elegant and dry with a thread of minerality; lovely mouth-feel – dances on the palate, great balance and length. (94) “The colour,” says Brun, “is not a target, but a result.”
  • Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve: light golden straw in colour’ minerally, apple and Mirabelle plum nose with a top note of white blossoms; medium-bodied and rich with apple and lemon flavours; beautifully balanced, light and delicate on the palate; very elegant and lacy. Lovely mouth-feel with a long, lemony finish. (95)

Charles Heidsieck Rosé Réserve and Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve

In the evening to Mistura, 265 Davenport, for a dinner prepared by the new chef, Klaus Rohrich. The event was beautifully organized by Sheila Swerling-Puritt. There were a dozen of us, food writers and bloggers, and I was the only male at the table – apart from Mistura’s owner, Paolo Paolini. We started with a glass of prosecco to accompany Chef Klaus’s homemade charcuterie, crostini and crispy gulf shrimp and canteloupe trusses. Then we sat down to sweet corn soup with roasted onion and crab salsa, corn croutons and crème fraiche. This was followed by balsamic glazed lamb ribs, crispy artichokes and wild boar agnollotti. The main course was bonless free range chicken with squash caponata, chestnut purée, roasted onions and sautéed spinach, with pan-seared filet of branzino with lemon-scented bean salad, Manila clams and olive-oil-poached cherry tomatoes. The wines: Torrevento “Matervitae” Fiano 2014 and Farina “Le Pezze” Ripasso della Valpolicell 2014. Dessert: Vanilla panna cotta, fruits of the season, strawberry meringue crumble, crispy sugar tuile followed by Vieni Graspa Dolce Piccante – an Ontario grappa flavoured with maple syrup and red pepper.

Vieni Dolce Piccante Graspa
Grappa with a bite

Tuesday, October 18th: Down to the LCBO lab to taste wines I’d missed from the November 12th Vintages release (I was in Florence). Then to the ROM for the Italian Grandi Marchi tasting.

Grandi Marchi banner in room

Seventeen of Italy’s top wineries pouring their wines. The revelation for me was the wines of Rivera from Puglia, especially Rivera Scariazzo Fiano 2015 and Violante Nero di Troia Castel del Monte 2013. Donnafugata Ben Ryè Passito di Pantelleria 2014 was a delight. Good to see Gaia Gaja in Toronto again.

Donnafugata Ben Ryè Passito di Pantelleria 2014
A great dessert wine

Then on to a Frescobaldi dinner at Mangia e Bevi restaurant, 260 King Street East. Frescobaldi supplied the court of Edward II with wine in the 14th century.

FRESCOBALDI TOSCANA | Mangia & Bevi | Starter: Crostini Toscani (chicken liver) ¶ POMINO Bianco 2015 | 1st: Little RIBOLLITA + crispy Cavolo Nero ¶ Nipozzano Riserva 2012 | 2nd: Beefo cheek salad + vegetable Crudite + Capers +Olives ¶ Tenuta di Castiglioni 2013 | 3rd: Squash gnocchi + Guanciale + Gorganzola cream ¶ Castel Giocondo Brunello 2011 | 4th: Braised Duck Tortelli + Porcini + Sage + Parmigiano ¶ MONTESODI 2012 | 5th: Chestnut Stuffed Pheasant + Pancetta + Carrots + Green Beans + Jus ¶ MORMORETO 2012 | 6th: Assorted Aged cheeses + Housemade Compote _ Crisps ¶ Ripe al Convento di Castel Giocondo 2010

Wednesday, October 19th: Recorded my 680 NEWS wine reviews and then on to Hart House for Lifford’s Red October event – 34 of Steve Campbell’s suppliers pouring only their red wines. Made a beeline for the Heitz table to taste the Heitz Trailside Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon and over to Craggy Range and Staete Landt for their amazing Pinot Noirs. Enjoyed the Gatinaras of Travaglini. Then on to Acadian Loft for a portfolio tasting of Mark Anthony wines (52 producers). A pleasure to see David Adelsheim again and to taste his Breaking Ground Pinot Noir 2014 and his Elizabeth’s Reserve Pinot Noir 2012. Also Bruce Tyrrell, whom I hadn’t seen in years.

PAINTING THE TOWN RED | RED OCTOBER | Wednesday, October 19th, 2:00PM – 5:00PM | Great Hall, Hart House | HOSTED BY LIFFORD WINE & SPIRITS

Thursday, October 20th: Drove down to Edulis restaurant on Niagara Street to interview the owners for a piece I’m doing for Decanter Magazine. Then a meeting at NEO coffee bar with Meindert Schapp, Executive Director of Amani, and Doris Miculan-Bradley, president of Grapes for Humanity, to discuss our foundation’s donation to Amani for the construction of a home for street kids in Moshi, Tanzania.

Friday, October 21st: A Vintages release tasting day. In the evening Deborah and I dined at Karen and Cesar’s condo. Cesar will be opening his new restaurant El Tenedor (“The Fork”) on Yonge Street next month.

Saturday, October 22nd: Attended the barmitzvah od Benjamin Cohen, the grandson of my fishing buddy, Steve Cohen. In the evening Deborah and I went to a fund-raiser dinner in the Toronto Reference Library for Amani. I presented a cheque to Meindert Schapp for $40,000 from Grapes for Humanity.


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 618: Pascual Toso

Pascal Toso wines with the 125th anniversary bottle

Tuesday, October 11th: Paid a mass of bills. Wrote my commentary for Quench magazine on the 300th anniversary of the Chianti Classico designation. For dinner, barbecued steak with a bottle of Quails’ Gate Merlot 2014: deep purple colour; savoury, vanilla and blueberry nose; medium-bodied, dry with herb-tinged blueberry flavour. (88)

Wednesday, October 12th: Down to the National Club for a tasting of Pascual Toso wines with winemaker Felipe Stahlschmidt followed by lunch.

  • Pascual Toso Malbec 2014: deep purple colour; plum bouquet with a soapy, peppery note; medium to full-bodied, dry, creamy mouth-feel with plum and cherry flavours and a note of sandalwood. (86.5)
  • Pascual Toso Cabernet Sauvignon 2014: deep purple colour; cedary, plum and blackcurrant nose with a note of cinnamon and white pepper; medium-bodied, dry, well-extracted plummy fruit with fresh acidity and a chocolate finish. (88)
  • Pascual Toso Barrancas Toso 2014 (60% Malbec, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon): deep purple colour with a violet rim; black fruit aromas on the nose with evident oak; medium to full-bodied, dry with savoury-herbal notes and a lick of licorice on the finish. (88)
  • Pascual Toso Cabernet Sauvignon Limited Edition 2014: dense purple colour; cedary, spicy, blackcurrant nose; medium to full-bodied, dry, well-made, fruity and spicy cherry and blackcurrant flavours with soft tannins. (89)
  • Pascual Toso Selected Vines Reserva 2013 (100% Malbec): dense purple colour; inky, blackberry and plum bouquet with oak spice; medium to full-bodied, juicy and fruity with cherry and blackberry flavours shaped by soft tannins. (88.5)
  • Pascual Toso Alta Malbec 2013 (100% Malbec): dense purple colour; herbal-spicy, vanilla oak, blackberry and blackcurrant nose; medium to full-bodied, dry, elegant, fruity, well-balanced with a note of cocoa powder on the firm, well-structured finish. (90)
  • Pascual Toso Alta Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (100% Cabernet Sauvignon): dense purple colour; cedary, oyster shell node of black fruits with vanilla oak; medium to full-bodied, dry, black fruit flavours with a floral note but some greenness in the tannins. (88)
  • Finca Pedregal 2013 (72% Malbec, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon): dense purple colour; cedary, spicy, blackcurrant nose with vanilla oak; medium to full-bodied, dry, elegant, spicy-fruity plum and blackcurrant flavours with supple tannins. (91)
  • Magdalena Toso 2012 (73% Malbec, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon): dense purple colour; blackcurrant an plum aromas backed by spicy, vanilla oak; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, fresh with lively acidity. (89)

To tend the tasting we sampled a double magnum of the 125th anniversary of Pascual Toso Barrancas Toso 2014 (50% Malbec, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon): dense purple in colour; spicy, dark chocolate and blackberry nose with a savoury note and evident oak; medium to full-bodied, creamy, fruity blackberry and plum flavour; elegant, firmly structured with a lovely mouth-feel. (92)

Thursday, October 13th: Wrote my Lexpert column on a Thanksgiving theme – what I am grateful for in the wine world.

Friday, October 14th: A Vintages release tasting, the second half of the November 12th release which is huge. The fries on the way home tasted great.


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 617: Rush Dinner

(l to r) Alex Lifeson, Joe Canavan, Chuck Thomas and Geddy Lee

Monday, October 4th: An 11:30 am tasting at Toula with Concha y Toro winemaker Marcelo Papa.

Conchas y Toro’s Marcelo Papa

  • Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay 2014 (Limari Valley – $19.95): yellow straw colour; minerally, toasty, nutty, apple and pear bouquet; medium to full-bodied, dry, mouth-filling, richly extracted green pear and citrus flavours with well-integrated oak and a saline note; well-balanced with good length. (89)
  • Marques de Casa Concha Pais/Cinsault 2015 (Maule and Itata Valleys – $24.95): Carbonic maceration. Light ruby colour; spicy, fruity cheery nose with a light floral note; Beaujolais style, cherry, plum and blackcurrant flavours, dry with a long floral finish. (89)
  • Marques de Casa Concha Carmenère 2014 (12% Cabernet Sauvignon; Cachapoal Valley – $19.95): dense purple colour; spicy, blackcurrant, cedary nose with notes of red flowers and pencil lead; medium-bodied, dry and savoury with plum, blackcurrant and dark chocolate flavours; firmly structured. (90)
  • Casillero del Diablo Reserva Private 2015 (Maipo Valley – $17.95): 14 months in French oak. Dense purple colour; spicy, leather and blackcurrant nose with light oak notes; medium-bodied, dry, well-extracted fruit; firmly structured with balanced acidity. (89.5)
  • Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 (with 6% Cabernet Franc, 1%Merlot and 1% Syrah; Maipo Valley – $21.95): Dense purple colour; savoury, cedary, tobacco bouquet with vanilla oak, lead pencil and floral notes; full-bodied, richly extracted sweet blackcurrant and black plum flavours; lovely mouth-feel finishing firmly with ripe tannins. (91)

Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

In the evening to Barberian’s steak house on Elm Street for a Grapes for Humanity fund-raiser wine dinner hosted by Joe Canavan with Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson. Mayor John Tory and his wife Barb dropped in before dinner to have a glass of champagne. The Mayor had recently given the key to the city to Rush and named a Willowdale park Lee Lifeson Art Park.

Mayor John Tory and his wife Barbara. The Mayor is holding a Grapes for Humanity wine bag.

A riotous evening with much wine. For the record:

  • Bouchard Ursules Blanc de Noirs Champagne
  • F.X. Pichler 2007 Loibner Berg Riesling
  • Hirtzberger 2007 Honivogl Gruner Veltliner
  • 1997 Guigal La Mouline Côte Rôtie
  • 1999 Jamet Côte Rôtie
  • 2000 Ogier Côte Rôtie Belle Helene
  • 2001 Jasmin Côte Rôtie
  • 2003 Jamet Côte Rôtie
  • 1997 Dows Port

A flight of Côte Rôtie

Grapes for Humanity raised $40,000 this night for Amani (to build a house for street kinds in Moshi, Tanzania). 

Tuesday, October 4th: A Vintages make-up tasting at noon. For dinner: Henry of Pelham Chardonnay Estate 2014 (straw colour; ripe peach and tropical fruit on the nose; medium to full-bodied, spicy pineapple flavour with well-integrated oak and a sweetness of the core of the wine (89)); Ménage à Trois Silk Soft Red Blend 2014 (California) (deep ruby-purple colour; spicy plum ans sandalwood nose; sweet plum and blackcurrant flavours; soft and easy drinking; commercial style but well-made (87.5)).

Wednesday, October 5th: Wrote my On the Go column and then to lunch at TOCA in the Ritz Carlton with José Luis Lapuente Sánchez, General Manager of the Consejo Regulator DOCa Rioja. We sat at the chef’s table in the kitchen.

TOCA’s Rioja menu

A glass of refreshing Finca La Emperatriz Virua 2014. With the meal:

  • Ostatu Rosado 2015 (Rioja Alavesa): pale pink in colour; fresh, floral, mineral nose of cranberries; crisply dry with lively acidity. (88.5)
  • Tobia Selección Crianza 2010: deep purple-ruby colour; spicy, sandalwood and cherry nose with a cedary note; medium-bodied, dry, well-extracted, black cherry flavour with well-integrated oak. Well-structured with soft tannins and refreshing acidity on the finish. Dry and savoury with herbal notes. (89)
  • Coto de Imaz Reserva 2010: deep purple colour; cedary, cherry with light spice and floral notes on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, lovely mouth-feel and a firm finish. (91)
  • Cune Reserva 2011: deep ruby-purple in colour; cedary, sandalwood nose of black cherry and oak spice; medium-bodied, dry, well-extracted cherry and plum flavours with a lively spine of acidity and a note of red licorice. Sturdy and well-structured. (90)
  • Conde de Valdemar Gran Reserva 2007: still holding its dense purple colour; spicy, sandalwood, vanilla oak and plum bouquet; medium-bodied with a flavour of cooked plums with lively acidity; mature plum and blackcurrant flavours with firm tannins. (91)

Coto de Imaz Reserva 2010

Cune Reserva 2011

At the end of the meal we were each given hors d’oeuvres plates designed by Jacqueline Poirier, the hotel’s resident “Crazy Plate Lady.”

Jacqueline Poirier, “the Crazy Plate Lady,” with the plate she gave

Came home to taste samples that have been accumulating.

  • Citra Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 2015 ($7.95): pale straw colour; minerally, citrus peel nose; light-bodied, dry, white peach and lemon flavours with a peach pit finish. (85)
  • Citra Pinot Grigio Terre di Chieti 2015 (Abruzzo – $8.95): pale straw colour; minerally, burnt match head nose; medium-bodied, dry, smoky, citrus flavour with some bitterness on the finish. (84)
  • Tinhorn Creek Chardonnay 2015 (Okanagan Valley – $19.49): straw colour; spicy, buttered popcorn nose; full-bodied and rich, spicy, apple, pineapple and toasty flavours with some sweetness in mid-palate. Well-integrated oak and a long lingering finish. (90)
  • Tinhorn Creek Cabernet Franc 2014 ($21.99): mature ruby colour; cedary-spicy nose of cherries; medium-bodied, dry, fresh on the palate with flavours of cherries and pomegranate with an engaging floral note. Firmly structured. (88.5)
  • Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series Merlot 2013 (4% Cabernet Franc, 1% Merlot – $26.99): ruby with a mature rim; cedary, wood spice on the nose with strawberry and raspberry notes aromas and a light floral note; medium-bodied, full on the palate with blackberry and black cherry flavours and a tannic lift on the finish. Good mouthfeel. St. Emilion in style. (89)
  • Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series 2 Bench Red 2013 (47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Cabernet Franc, 20% Merlot, 6% Malbec, 3% Petit Verdot – $30.49): deep ruby colour; earthy, spicy, black raspberry nose with cedary-floral notes; medium-bodied, elegant, beautifully balanced with resolved tannins and a rich flavour of blueberry pie. (90)
  • Citra Sangiovese Terre di Chieti 2015 ($7.95): purple-ruby colour; smoky, struck-flint nose of cherries; medium-bodied, dry, fruity, red plum flavour with enough acidity and tannin to give it structure. (85)
  • Citra Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2015 ($7.95): purple-ruby colour; struck flint, plum and cherry nose; medium-bodied, dry, fruity, plum flavour. (86)
  • La Belle Angele Merlot 2015 (France – $10.95): deep ruby colour; cedary, baked plum bouquet with wood notes; medium-bodied, fruity, soft on the palate and slightly sweet with a touch of tannin on the finish. (85)
  • Trapiche Pure Black Malbec 2015 (Unoaked – Argentina – $15.95): deep purple colour; spicy, roasted plum nose; full-bodied, juicy, blackberry fruit with notes of blueberry and cranberry, finishing firmly. Well-made wine and good value. (88)
  • Big Bill Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 (Western Cape – $12.95): deep purple-ruby colour; spicy, smoky, tarry, blackcurrant nose; light to medium-bodied, lively acidity carrying red and blackcurrant flavours to a tannic finish. (86)
  • Gérard Bertrand Cap Insula 2013 (Languedoc – Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre – $17): deep ruby-purple colour; earthy, spicy, dark chocolate nose with dried rose petal notes; medium to full-bodied, dry, with a black raspberry and rose petal flavour; well-balanced and frim and flattering. (88.5)
  • Luigi Bosca Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (Argentina – $19.95): deep ruby-purple colour; cedary, plum and blackcurrant nose; full-bodied, dry, richly extracted, sweet plum and blackcurrant flavours, firmly structured. (88.5)

Thursday, October 6th: A Winerytohome tasting today with Doug Towers and David Lawrason.

Friday, October 7th: A Vintages’ release tasting today, split into two-weekly sessions as there are 147 products being released in November.

Saturday, October 8th: Deborah and I prepared a dinner party for our friends Adrienne and Myra and Michael and Rosie. The menu: smoked salmon appetizers; first course: moules marinières; main course: black cod; pommes dauphinoise; followed by cheeses and pumpkin pie and ice cream. The wines:

  • Cathedral Cellar Blanc de Blancs 2010 (South Africa)
  • Blomidon Estate Late Picked Chardonnay Methode Traditionelle 2011 (Nova Scotia)
  • Domaine Hamelin Chablis Beauroy 2014 (Burgundy)
  • Bachelder Côte de Beaune La Grande Chatelaine 2011 (Burgundy)
  • Exultet Estates The Blessed Chardonnay 2012 (Prince Edward County)
  • Marcarini Barolo La Serra 2004
  • Schloss Schönborn Hattenheimer Pfaffenberg Riesling Kabinett 1997


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 616: Sponsors’ Niagara Tour

Wednesday, September 28th: Spent the day going through emails that needed attention. In the evening Deborah and I went down to the Wine Academy, 67 Richmond Street West, for the annual reunion dinner of wine and food European tour with Pauwels Travel, made special by the attendance of Vaughan Bowser and his partner Marie. I brought a slew of Ontario wines and Cathy Martin picked up Cordero di Montezemolo Langhe Arneis 2015, Castello di Ama Chianti Classico Lorenzo 2011 and Lustau Moscatel Emilin. We started off with a welcome sparkler – Contadi Castaldi Brut from Franciacorta. A fun evening with old friends who have been travelling together on 12 years of these May tours. Next year’s tour: Veneto, Friuli and Lombardy.

Contadi Castaldi Brut

Thursday, September 29th: Wrote wine and food matches for a new restaurant, El Tenedor (“The Fork”), 909 Yonge Street, that’s opening in October. Also wrote up my Wines of the Week for this site. In the evening, down to Hy’s Steak House to have dinner with Peter Gambetti, the red wine maker for Yalumba, and his importing agent, Elizabeth Muir. Along with my steak (large enough that I could bring some home for Pinot the Wonderdog), I tasted the following wines:

  • Yalumba Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 (Coonawarra – $19.95): dense purple-ruby colour; cedary, plum and blackcurrant nose with a savoury-herbal note; medium to full-bodied, dry with good mid-palate fruit and spicy note on the finish. (88.5)
  • Yalumba Cigar Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (named for the shape of the Coonawarra region – with 7% Merlot ): dense purple colour, cedary, floral, vanilla oak and black fruit bouquet; full-bodied, dry, fruity but firm with a herbal-medicinal finish. Fascinating wine. (90)
  • Yalumba Ringbolt Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (Margaret River; with 5% Petit Verdot): deep ruby colour; cedary, blackcurrant nose; medium to full-bodied, dry. Elegant and well-structured with a dark chocolate and sandalwood notes from the 50% American oak. (89)
  • Yalumba Ringbolt Cabernet Sauvignon 2008: dense purple-ruby colour; medium to full-bodied, dry and elegant blackcurrant and rose petal flavours, beautifully balanced with great length and a note of tangerine peel on its lingering finish. (92)
  • Yalumba The Menzies Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (Coonawarra): dense purple colour; a nose of vanilla oak, plum and blackcurrant aromas with a herbal note; full-bodied, dry and firm, lovely mouth-feel, beautifully balanced with a note of licorice on the finish. (92)
  • Yalumba Ringbolt 21 Barriques Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (Margaret River, 40-year-old vines): dense purple colour; cedary, blackcurrant nose with well-integrated oak; rich and full in the mouth with sweet blackcurrant fruit, beautifully balanced, soft on the palate with a lovely mouth-feel. Elegant and expressive fruit flavours graced by a floral note. (93)
  • Yalumba Museum Muscat Reserve: deep amber colour; intense nose of honey, molasses, dried fig and toasted nuts; full-bodied and mouth-filling, sweet with great length. Nicely balanced. (90)

Yalumba Ringbolt 21 Barriques Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Friday, September 30th: David Rose came over for dinner. We ate smoked salmon and a can of cassoulet I brought back from France and I opened a bottle of Château de Vangelas Le Prieuré 2014 (Corbierès): deep purple-ruby colour; cedary, vanilla oak and herb-tinged blackberry on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, fresh and fruity on the palate. (88)

Saturday, October 1st: Today is the annual tour of two Niagara wineries for the sponsors of the Ontario Wine Awards. I picked up a “traveller” of Starbucks coffee and a dozen assorted croissants for the nine of us on the Niagara Airbus for the drive down. (We met up with seven other guests at our first winery – Peller Estates.) A welcome glass of Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Rosé Brut from winemaker Craig McDonald (voted “Winemaker of the Year” by the Ontario Wine Awards judges for his Trius wines).

Trius winemaker Craig McDonald and the unique corkscrew table

Then down to the cellars for a tasting with Craig and the company’s other winemakers, Emma Garner (Thirty Bench) and Katie Dickieson (Peller).

  • Thirty Bench Small Lot Wood Post Riesling 2014: pale straw colour; grapefruit, lime, honey and mineral nose already developing petrol notes; light-bodied, crisply dry and lively, beautifully balanced flavours of grapefruit with mouth-watering acidity. (91)
  • Wayne Gretzky Pinot Grigio 2015: pale straw colour; minerally, peach pit nose; medium-bodied, dry, peach and apricot flavours with a touch of residual sweetness. Easy drinking. (87)
  • Peller Estates Signature Sauvignon Blanc 2014: sweet grass, lanolin, grapefruit and green fig bouquet; medium-bodied, dry, herbaceous, grapefruit flavour with a touch of road to round the wine out on the palate; creamy mouth-feel and beautifully balanced. (91)
  • Trius Showcase Outlier Gewurztraminer Carlton Vineyard 2015: straw colour; aromatic nose of lychee and rose petals; full-bodied, rosewater, lychee and ginger flavours – concentrated and dry; beautifully balanced with great length. (90)
  • Peller Private Reserve Gamay Noir 2014: deep ruby colour; earthy, cherry nose with notes of white pepper and leather; light-bodied, dry with a black cherry flavour. (88.5)
  • Wayne Gretzky Cabernet Shiraz 2014: deep purple-ruby; spicy, sandalwood, blackberry and plum on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, well-balanced with crisp acidity. (89)
  • Thirty Bench Cabernet Franc 2013: cedary, herbal, redcurrant and red plum on the nose with a vanilla oak note; medium-bodied, dry, Loire style; well-balanced with fresh acidity and a vanilla oak finish. (90)
  • Trius Showcase Red Shale Cabernet Franc 2013: spicy, licorice, earthy plum flavour with vanilla oak; medium-bodied, dry, ripe plum and currant fruit with a tangerine peel finish; well-structured and harmonious with a firm finish. (91)

Then a visit to Peller’s 10 Below Ice Lounge, donning parkas, for a glass of Icewine in a room made of ice.

Peller’s Ice Lounge

Lunch in the private dining room.

PELLER ESTATES • Ontario Wine Awards • Saturday October 1st, 2016 • White Tuna Carpaccio | Watermelon Radish, Wasabi Kelp Caviar, Lemon Thyme Yogurt | ''PRIVATE RESERVE'' ROSE 2015 ~ Yorkshire Valley Chicken | Poached Hens Egg, Red Fife Grain, Baby Carrots, Black Kale | ''PRIVATE RESERVE'' PINOT NOIR 2014

  • Peller Estates Private Reserve Pinot Noir Rosé 2015: pale pink in colour; a nose of wild strawberry and citrus; medium-bodied, crisply dry, redcurrant flavour, fresh, elegant and well-balanced. (89)
  • Peller Estates Private Reserve Pinot Noir 2014: ruby colour; spicy, earthy, cherry nose with a light vanilla oak note; medium-bodied, dry, savoury, cherry flavour; firmly structured with lively acidity. (88.5)

Next stop, Creekside and winemaker Rob Power. A welcoming glass of sparkling Sauvignon Blanc and then into the cellar after a quick tour of the facility and a tasting.

  • Creekside Barrel-Aged Sauvignon Semillon 2015: straw colour; lemony, grassy nose; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, Bordeaux style; fresh and lively on the palate. (88.5)
  • Creekside Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2013: straw colour; grassy, lanolin nose; medium-bodied, dry, spicy, passionfruit and citrus flavours; elegant, creamy mouth-feel; well-balanced with good length. (90)
  • Creekside Broken Press Syrah 2012 (a little Viognier in the blend): deep purple-ruby; spicy, floral, blackberry nose with a peppery note; medium-bodied, dry, herbal, blackberry flavour with a floral note; firmly structured. (92)
  • Creekside Unbroken Press Syrah 2012 (100% Syrah): deep ruby colour; herbal, black fruits on the nose with leather and earthy notes; full-bodied, dry, plum and blackberry flavours with dark chocolate notes. Savoury finish with grainy tannins. (91)

Arrived home at 6:30 pm and dashed to prepared dinner for Amanda Barnes and her Argentinian boyfriend, Emi. Amanda has embarked on an ambitious 3-year project – “Around The World In 80 Harvests,” visiting every continent where wine is made, interviewing winemakers and wine professionals. She interviewed me about Canadian wines.


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 615: Chianti Classico’s 300th Anniversary

poster: 1716–2016 | 300 anni di Storia | 3 secoli di vino | Salone dei Conquecento

Tuesday, September 20th: Cleaned up my desk in preparation for the flight to Florence (via Frankfurt) to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the Chianti Classico denomination. An uneventful flight to Frankfurt except I was wedged between two guys who elbowed me all night. Watched a dreadful Russell Crowe comedy thriller; every second word was an f-bomb. Even from the child actress.

A four-and-a-half-hour lay-over in Frankfurt. Arrived to 9 Celsius weather in Florence though the sun was shining. Caterina from the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico met me at the airport and drove me to my hotel, Starhotels Michelangelo on Viale Fratelli Rosselli, which will be my home for the next week. Slept for an hour, established email contact with the world and walked a couple of miles from the hotel to San Lorenzo Basilica, looking for two restaurants that had been recommended. Couldn’t find either so I took a chance on Antica Sosta degli Aldobrandini. Lucked into Happy Hour where for 8 euros you get a six-ounce glass of drinkable Chianti and as many tapas as you want. That, and a pistachio ice cream on the way home, was dinner.

Early to bed because I’m being met at 8:45 am to begin touring wineries. (Somewhere along the line today I lost my favourite ball cap. It used to be Burgundy colour but is now bleached pink by the sun. I held a moment of silence for it.)

Wednesday, September 21st: Silvia Fiorentini, Marketing and Communications Manager for the Consorzio, picked me up after breakfast in her chocolate brown Mercedes, which she drives like Fangio through the hellish traffic of Florence. Our first stop is Fontodi in Panzano in Chianti on a beautiful sunny day. Owner and winemaker Giovanni Manetti drives us into the vineyard to see the Sangiovese grapes, which they are beginning to harvest today.

Giovanni Manetti in Fontodi’s vineyard

Panzano, he tells me, is the first district in Italy to go organic. His family have been in the terra cotta tile business since 1650. Given the number of red roofs in the province it must be a great business to be in. Fontodi produces about 30,000 bottles, including a Pinot Nero. “I’m one of the two crazy guys making Pinot Noir in Tuscany,” he says.

  • Fontodi Pinot Nero 2014: ruby colour, floral, red berry fruit and oak spice with notes of apricot and barnyard on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, elegant and firmly structured with lively acidity, Tight at the moment. (89–91)
  • Fontodi Pinot Nero 2001: mature ruby colour; intriguing mature, savoury nose of raspberries and barnyard notes; medium-bodied, dry, savoury with smoke, tar and leather flavours; very intense yet elegant with ripe tannins. (92)
  • Fontodi Chianti Classico 2013: deep ruby colour; a complex nose of rose petals, licorice, cherry and apricot; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, beautifully balanced with lively acidity and a firm finish. (90)
  • Fontodi Chianti Classico 2005: mature ruby colour; earthy, licorice and cherry bouquet; medium-bodied, dry, elegant and harmonious, firmly structured with a savoury finish. (91)
  • Fontodi Chianti Classico Vigna del Sorba Gran Selezione 2012: dense purple-ruby colour; spicy, cedary, black cherry nose with a mineral note; medium-bodied, dry, rich and full on the palate with ripe, grainy tannins. Powerful but elegant. (92)
  • Fontodi Flaccianello delle Piave 2006 (100% Sangiovese): deep purple colour; black cherry nose with spicy oak and undergrowth notes; medium-bodied, dry and savoury, black cherry flavor; firmly structured, full and rich in the mouth with evident but supple tannins and lively acidity. Still youthful. (92–94)

Sculpture that seems to say 'I love cock' (or maybe 'rooster')

Our next stop is Isole e Olena in Barberino Val d’Elsa. My old friend Paolo di Marchi greets me and tells me that another old friend is there – his English importer, David Gleave. We sit down to a tasting and Paolo outlines his winemaking philosophy. A great wine is like a pentagon, he affirms: you need each side to give the wine harmony – soil at the base, climate and structure at the sides, and the “roof” is the human aspects – the winemaker and tradition (the accumulation of knowledge from past generations). Interesting analogy.

Paolo di Marchi at Isole e Olena

  • Isole e Olena Collezione Privata Chardonnay 2014: golden straw colour; spicy, tropical fruit nose with leesy notes; rich and full on the palate, spicy, minerally, pineapple and peach flavours; beautifully balanced with mouth-freshening acidity and great length. Very New World in style and reminiscent of Antinori Cervara della Sala. (Would love to taste those two side by side.) (92)
  • Isole e Olena Chianti Classico 2014 (15% Canaiolo and Syrah): ruby colour; spicy, cherry and blackcurrant aromas with pencil lead and animal notes; medium-bodied, dry, lean and sinewy with cherry and redcurrant flavours; well-integrated oak, elegant finishing with peppery tannins. (90)
  • Isole e Olena Cepparello 2013 (100% Sangiovese): deep ruby colour; spicy, cherry with oak notes; medium-bodied, dry, savoury, sour cherry flavor with well-integrated oak; firmly structured with a notes of violets on the finish. Hold 3–5 years. (90–91)
  • Isole e Olena Cepparello 2010: deep purple-ruby colour; spicy, barnyard and cherry bouquet; medium-bodied, dry, elegant and firmly structured with great length; lovely mouth-feel with resolved tannins and an engaging floral and apple peel finish. (91)
  • Isole e Olena Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2006 (12% Cabernet Franc and 8% Syrah): deep purple-ruby colour; a nose of cherries and oak spice with floral and animal notes; richly extracted cherry flavor, concentrated and fleshy but firm; very youthful still with grainy tannins. A magnificent wine. (94)
  • Isole e Olena Collezione Privata Syrah 2014 (2% Viognier): dense purple colour; spicy blackberry and sweet herbs on the nose with a mineral thread; full-bodied, dry, blackberry, blackcurrant and bay leaf flavours, firmly structured, finishing on a floral note. (93)
  • Isole e Olena Vin Santo del Chianti Classico 2006: tawny-amber colour; dried fig and honey on the nse; full-bodied, richly extracted, sweet honey and dried fig flavours carried on brisk acidity to give great length. (93)

Silvia took me to lunch at Locanda di Pietracupa in San Donato in Poggio. We both ordered the same dishes: Tagliolini fiori di zucca e tartufo (homemade thinner tagliatelle with courgette flowers, topped with fresh truffle) and grilled chicken salad. I had a glass of Tenute del Cerro Vermentino 2014.

After a visit to the Chianti Classico Consorzio office, I was dropped off at Antinori in Chianti Classico’s extraordinary new winery in Bargino, San Casciano Val di Pesa.

Entrance to Antinori in Chianti Classico

I watched a movie about the construction of the building as I waited for my guide, Sara Nieddu. It was subtitled, “5 Years in 15 Minutes.” I saw it three times. Sara was full of apologies as there had been a mix-up about my visit. But it was worth the wait. The building is a cathedral to Dionysus. After a tour and a film on winemaking we sat in a glassed-in tasting room that’s cantilevered out over the barrel cellar.

  • Antinori Peppoli Chianti Classico 2014 (10% Merlot and Syrah): ruby colour; cedary, earthy, cherry nose; medium-bodied, dry, sour cherry flavor with lively acidity; fresh, fruity and easy drinking. (88)
  • Villa Antinori Chianti Classico Riserva 2012 (10% Cabernet Sauvignon): ruby colour; cedary, black cherry and pencil lead nose with sweet herbs and vanilla oak notes; medium-bodied, dry, savoury cherry flavor with well-integrated oak. (90)
  • Badia a Passignano Gran Selezione 2011 (100% Sangiovese): deep ruby colour; spicy, leather, dried rose petals, cherry and oak nose; medium to full-bodied, dry with a sweetness of ripe cherries and plum at the core; well-balanced and harmonious and firmly structured. (91)

A taxi took me back to Florence, a hair-raising drive through the Tuscan hills at speed as there was an accident on the motorway that held up traffic for three kilometers. Once back I walked over towards the railway station looking for a shop where I could buy a jacket. In my haste to leave Toronto I forgot to pack one and there is a formal dinner on Saturday. On the way back to the hotel I picked up an egg and tomato sandwich, which is all I could eat after that big lunch.

Friday, September 23rd: Caterina picked me up in her Fiat to drive to Felsina in Castelnouvo Berardenga, the most southerly winery in the Chianti Classico appellation. She was delayed because of the traffic and her seat belt sensor wasn’t working properly which meant the alarm kept going off. The only way to stop it was to hold it firmly in place – which she did on the motorway in spite of my offers to help.

We were an hour late arriving at Felsina so Giovanni Poggali had to brief me quickly before the tasting and the tour of the cellars. His grandfather bought the 500-hectare estate in 1966. There were 6 hectares of vines planted then; now there are 65 hectares under vine, 80% Sangiovese with Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Also Malvasia and Trebbiano for Vin Santo. Felsina produces 450,000 bottles.

Tasting at Felsina

  • Felsina Issistri Chardonnay 2013: golden straw colour; rich apple and oak spice nose; full-bodied, dry, apple and caramel flavours; good length. (89)
  • Felsina Chianti Classico Berardenga 2013: deep ruby colour; cedary, black cherry nose with a floral note; medium-bodied, richly extracted, cherry and dark chocolate flavours with well-integrated oak. (90)
  • Felsina Chianti Classico Riserva Berardenga 2012: deep ruby with a mature rim; cedary, cherry with a note of vanilla oak; medium-bodied, dry and savoury, elegant, well-balanced. (91)
  • Felsina Rancia Chianti Classico Riserva 2012: deep ruby colour rich, ripe floral nose, cherry with lead pencil notes; medium-bodied, dry, well-extracted cherry and dark chocolate flavours with supple tannins. (92)
  • Felsina Fontalloro 2012 (100% Sangiovese from three vineyards, two in Colli Senesi and one in Chianti Classico; 2 years in new French oak): dense ruby colour; cedary, cherry with a savoury-herbal notes; medium to full-bodied, dry, savoury, cherry flavor with evident but supple tannins. (91)
  • Felsina Berardenga Colonia Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2010: deep ruby colour; spicy, plum and cherry nose with vanilla oak notes on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, herbal, cherry and plum flavours, backed by vanilla oak; dusty, grainy tannins on the savoury finish. (90)
  • Felsina Maesta Raro Cabernet Sauvignon di Toscana 2012 (100% Cabernet Sauvignon aged 18 months in new French barrique): dense ruby-purple colour; cedary, plum and blackcurrant nose with vanilla oak notes; medium to full-bodied, dry, blackcurrant and dark chocolate flavours; well-balanced and firm with evident tannins. Hold 5 years (90–92)
  • Felsina Vin Santo del Chianti Classico 2005 (Sangiovese, Malvasia and Trebbiano): deep amber colour; dried fig, barley sugar bouquet; full-bodied, rich and full on the palate with flavours of caramel and orange. Beautifully balanced with fresh acidity. Great length. (94)

Next we drove to Badia a Coltibuono in Gaiole in Chianti, a monastery founded in 1051, now a 3-star hotel and restaurant. Their grapes are grown in Monti and the wines are made here.

Badia a Coltibuono

Winemaker and estate manager Roberto Stucchi Prinetti showed us around. The hall that the monks used to dine in is decorated with frescoes beautifully restored. Toured the 18th-century cellar where the family keeps its private library of vintages dating back to 1937.

Badia a Coltibuono’s Roberto Stucchi Prinetti

  • Coltibuono Cetamura Chianti 2015 (Colli Senesi): deep ruby colour; cherry and leather on the nose with a herbal note; medium-bodied, dry and fruity with a firm tannic finish. Easy drinking. (87)
  • Coltibuono Chianti Classico 2014: ruby colour; earthy, spicy, cherry and red plum nose; medium-bodied, dry, fresh with lively acidity and a tannic uplift on the finish. (88)
  • Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico 2014 (10% Canaiolo, Colorino and Cigiegiolo): ruby colour, spicy, cherry with a light oak note; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, firmly structured with ripe, dusty tannins on the finish with a cherry pit finish and a light floral note. (89)
  • Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva 2011: deep ruby colour; leather, cherry, floral-savoury notes on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, sour cherry and licorice flavours; firmly structured with evident but ripe tannins. Still young, needs five years at least. (90–92)
  • Badia a Coltibuono Cultus Boni Chianti Classico Riserva 2011 (80% Sangiovese with eight indigenous varieties): deep ruby, earthy, cherry with leather and herbal notes; medium to full-bodied, dry, richly extracted, full in the mouth with cherry and plum flavours backed by lively acidity and a firm tannic structure. (90)
  • Badia a Coltibuono Sangioveto di Toscana 2011 (100% Sangiovese): deep ruby colour; spicy, earthy, plum and cherry nose with oak notes on the nose; full-bodied, dry, plum and cherry flavours with well-integrated oak. Lovely mouth-feel. Firm finish. (91)
  • Badia a Coltibuono Montebello 2011 (nine indigenous varieties): deep ruby colour; majestic, spicy, creamy, cherry and sweet herbs on the nose; medium-bodied, elegant, beautifully balanced and firm; lovely mouth-feel with a floral note on the finish. (92)
  • Badia a Coltibuono Vin Santo del Chianti Classico 2009: coppery-amber colour; spicy, dried fig, macadamia nut nose with a note of dried flowers; full-bodied, rich, unctuous and full on the palate with nutty, spicy, orange and jasmine tea flavours. Great length. (95)

Lunched in the winery’s restaurant. Roberto opened a bottle of Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva 2006. I ordered risotto with lard and onion, which looked and tasted a lot better than the menu description.

Badia a Coltibuono Chianti Classico Riserva 2006

Risotto at Badia a Coltibuono

The final stop of the day was at Agricola Querciabella. The winery has 75 hectares of vineyard in the Chianti Classico region and a further 31 hectares in Maremma. South African winemaker Manfred Ing showed me the winery and opened the following wines.

Winemaker Manfred Ing at Querciabella

  • Querciabella Chianti Classico 2013 (100% Sangiovese): ruby colour; cedary, cherry nose with minerally, pencil notes; medium-bodied, dry, sour cherry flavour, lively acidity with a firm tannic structure. Needs 5 years. (89–91)
  • Querciabella Chianti Classico 2007 (5% Cabernet Sauvignon): ruby colour with a mature rim; spicy, tobacco, cherry with a light floral note on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, cherry with a savoury note; well-structured, fresh and lively with a firm finish. (91)
  • Querciabella Chianti Classico 1998 (5% Cabernet Sauvignon): mature ruby colour; earthy, tobacco, cherry bouquet nose with a note of dried flowers; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, savoury, cherry flavor. (91)
  • Querciabella Chianti Classico Riserva 2011 (100% Sangiovese): medium ruby colour; minerally, spicy, cherry nose; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, savoury-herbal; great mid-palate depth with a firm tannic finish. (92)
  • Querciabella Chianti Classico Riserva 1999 (10% Cabernet Sauvignon): mature ruby colour; tobacco, floral, cherry and blackcurrant nose; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, beautifully balanced with ripe tannins. Almost claret-like. (92)
  • Querciabella Camartina 2010 (70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Sangiovese): deep ruby colour; cedary, blackcurrant and cherry nose with a tobacco note; medium-bodied, dry, red and blackcurrant flavours with chewy tannins and a truffle note on the finish. (91)
  • Querciabella Camartina 1999 (30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 70%Sangiovese): mature ruby colour; cedary, blackcurrant, spicy nose; medium-bodied, elegant, dry, savoury, firmly structured, currant and tobacco flavours with great length. (92)
  • Querciabella Batár 1998 (50% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Bianco): old gold colour; caramel, toasty nose; rich and mouth-filling, caramel, baked apple and pear flavours with great length and balancing acidity, finishing on a dry barley sugar note. (91)
  • Querciabella Batár 2013 (50% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Bianco): straw colour; spicy, apple with a light oak note; medium to full-bodied, dry, elegant, apple and pear flavours; lovely mouth-feel, well-integrated oak, fine acidity with great length. (92)

We drove back to Florence and I was back in the hotel by 7:30, a long but productive day.

Saturday, September 24th: Today is actually the 300th birthday of the decree by Cosimo III of Tuscany designating the four growing zones of Chianti – Chianti Classico, Pomina/Chianti Rufina, Carmignano (where Cabernet Sauvignon has been grown since the 16th century) and Valdarno di Sopra.

a foxed old document with a lengthy text in Italian which I will not transcribe
The 1716 decree demarcating the four Chianti Classico communes

The formal address was held in Palazzo Vecchio, a stunningly beautiful hall with painted walls and ceilings (Michelangelo’s statue of David is outside).

Palazzo Vecchio in Florence

The cities of Reims and Florence have been twinned since 1954 and now there is a more formal cooperation agreement under way although no details were given.

Doorbells, Florence

Our party had lunch in a restaurant called The Golden View (which provides the best view of the Ponte Vecchio over the River Arno). On the table were bottles of Rocca delle Macie Chianti Classico Riserva di Fizzano 2013, Isole e Olena Chianti Classico 2006, Felsina Francia Chianti Classico 2012, Capanelle Chianti Classico Riserva 2012 and Castello Monsanto Chianti Classico 2014.

Ponte Vecchio, Florence

Then I went in search of a tie, which I bought at a stall in the market for 6 euros (but it looks great). Back to the Opera de Firenze for more talk about the 300th anniversary. Italy’s youthful Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, spoke about the need to compete with the French for the international wine market, and the seven mayors from the cities in Chianti Classico signed a document ratifying an agreement to apply to UNESCO to have Chianti Classico made a World Heritage site. This was followed by a concert of opera selections by a 72-voice choir with arias be a soprano and a tenor (gorgeous). Then a sit-down dinner for 750 people – great menu with wines by Monsanto and Isole e Olena (Paolo Marchi and his wife were at our table, also Laura Monsanto from Castello Monsanto as well as Stephen Spurrier).

1716–2016 ¶ 24 SETTEMBRE 2016 • Opera di Firenze ¶ Menù ¶ Gemelli di pasta fresca con ragù d'anatra, spinacini, salvia fritta e lamponi ~ Filetto di manzo agli aromi ~ Cipolline Borrettane caramellate all'Aceto Balsamico di Modena IGP • Tortino di patate dell'Amiata alla maggiorana ~ Millefoglie con crema chantilly, scaglie di cioccolate e croccantino all'interno
Dinner menu

We were invited to take dessert and drinks on the concourse outside the opera house and were surprised by a fireworks display.

Birthday fireworks

Sunday, September 25th: Walked to Palazzo Strozzi to buy some gifts in the outdoor market and then back to meet Janine Saine, a wine writer colleague from Quebec, to walk to Piazza d. Mercato Centrale for lunch in a small open restaurant, Enoteca Chianti Classico, that offers 200 Chianti Classico labels for sale as wine from other Italian provinces. Had a plate of antipasti with glasses of Rocca di Montegrossi Chianti Classico 2013 and Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico La Ghirlanda 2013. I was so impressed by the latter that I bought a bottle of Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico Caledonia Riserva 2013 at the restaurant.

Bindi Sergardi Chianti Classico La Ghirlanda 2013

Janine and I went on to a public tasting in the crypt of the Basilica di San Lorenzo – 100 wines set out on tables representing the four Chianti zones. I tasted the following wines: Capezzana Trefiano Carmignano 2010, Tenuta di Artiminio Carmignano Riserva 2012, Villa di Capezzana Carmignano 2013, Farbrizio Gratesi Il Circo Rosso Carrmignano Riserva 2013; from Valdarno di Sopra, Castello di Montozzi Sangiovese Riserva 2013, Tenuta Sette Ponti Vigna dell Impero 2013, Nunzi Conti Chianti Classico 2013, Villa S. Andrea Chianti Classico Riserva 2010, Castello di Abola Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2013, Castello Trebbio Lastricato Chianti Classico Riserva 2011 and finally, from Rufina, Frescobaldi Nipozzano Vecchia Viti Chianti Rufina 2013. On our way back to the hotel we wandered through the San Lorenzo outdoor market and I bought a navy blue leather belt.

Wall art, Florence

In the evening I met up with Steven Spurrier, Barbara Philip and Janine for dinner. We dropped into an amazing wine bar – Le Volpi e l’Uva, Piazza dei Rossi, at the southern end of Ponte Vecchio. We ordered a glass of wine and a plate of salami and olives. The owner Leonardo, when he learned we were wine people, insisted on us blind-tasting three wines – Olivier Champion Jasinères Les Clos 2015, Sarno 1860 Fiano de Avelino (couldn’t find the vintage) and Château des Rontets Pouilly-Fuissé Clos Varambon 2014. Confession: we failed rather ignominiously.

Tuscan antipasto

Then on to dinner at Cammillo Trattoria, Borgo S. Jacopo 57. A small, noisy trattoria with great food. I ordered rocket salad with pine nuts and parmesan and ricotta cheese and chard gnocchi in butter and sage sauce. The wines: Rocca di Montegressi Chianti Classico 2013, Moris Farm Morellino di Scansano 2011 and a small carafe of house wine.

Monday, September 26th: Three winery visits today. Silvia Fiorentini drove Janine and me to Fonterutoli in Panzo in Chianti. Filippo Mazzei toured us around the spectacular cellar (beautifully designed by his architect sister) and led us through the tasting.

Fonterutoli’s Filippo Mazzei

  • Fonterutoli Chianti Classico 2014: dense ruby colour; cedary, black cherry with a light floral note; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, well-extracted black cherry flavor with a lively spine of acidity. (91)
  • Fonterutoli Ser Lato Chianti Classico 2013: deep ruby colour; earthy, savoury-herbal, black cherry bouquet; medium-bodied, dry, full in the mouth, well integrated oak with ripe tannins. (90)
  • Castello Fonterutoli Gran Selezione 2012: ruby with a tawny rim; black cherry, evident oak with a pencil lead note on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, lean and sinewy with a sour cherry flavor. (90)
  • Castello Fonterutoli Mix 36 2012 (all 36 clones of Sangiovese): deep ruby colour; cedary, cherry with a note of dried herbs on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, sour cherry flavour with lively acidity. (89)
  • Fonterutoli Siepi 2013 (50% Sangiovese, 50% Merlot): dense ruby colour; cedary, black cherry and blueberry nose with a light floral note; medium-bodied, dry, well-structured with ripe grainy tannins on the finish. (90)
  • Fonterutoli Chianti Classico 2009: deep ruby developing a tawny rim; cedary, leather, cherry nose with an animal note; medium-bodied, well-extracted plum and cherry flavours. Ready now. (92)
  • Fonterutoli Chianti Classico 2004: dense ruby with a tawny hue; mature, cedary, spicy plum and cherry nose; medium to full-bodied, with sweet fruit still firm with ripe tannins. (92)
  • Castello Fonterutoli Chianti Classico 2010: deep ruby colour; cedary, cherry, spicy nose with a note of oak; richly extracted, beautifully balanced.

Fonterutoli Chianti Classico 2004

Next stop: Dievole in Vagliagli, which we approached on a bumpy, unpaved road. Manuela Neideracher, the brand manager, toured us around the property and the oenologist conducted the tasting.

  • Dievole Chianti Classico 2013: ruby colour; cedary, cherry, with light oak bouquet; medium-bodied, dry and savoury with a firm tannic finish. Somewhat acidic. (87)
  • Dievole Chianti Classico 2014: ruby colour; spicy, plum and cherry with pencil lead and animal note; well-extracted, medium-bodied, dry, firmly structured, earthy with ripe tannins. (88)
  • Dievole Chianti Classico Novecento Riserva 2013: deep plum colour; vanilla oak, cedar, cherry nose; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, red plum and cherry flavours; firmly structured. (89)

The chapel at Dievole

Followed by an olive oil tasting of three different Dievole oils – one of which was judged “the best olive oil in the world.” We had lunch under a tree in the garden with a delightful rosé, Dievole Roriziosato Le Due Arbie 2015. I ordered mozzarella and tomato salad and pici pesto. Brizio Rosso di Montalcino 2014 and Podero Brizio Brunello di Montalcino 2011. Vin Santo and cartucchi for dessert.

The world’s best olive oil

Our final stop was at Castello di Volpaia in Radda, a winery I know well since I’ve visited it four times, including staying in the hamlet for a couple of nights on my honeymoon in 1997. Giovannella Mascheroni Stianti and her daughter Federica gave us a wonderful welcome. We tasted in Giovannella’s house.

Door at Castello di Volpaia

  • Castello di Volpaia Vino Spumante 2008 (Sangiovese): pale straw, white peach and citrus nose; medium-bodied, dry, peach with citrus, crisp and fresh with a firm finish. (89)
  • Castello di Volpaia Vermentino 2015 (Maremma): straw colour; earthy, yellow plum; medium-bodied, dry, peach and plum flavours with a saline note, well-balanced, with a touch of bitterness on the finish. (88)
  • Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico 2014 (10% Merlot): deep ruby colour; cherry, leather, cedar nose; medium-bodied, dry, savoury cherry flavour; firmly structured with lively acidity and evident but ripe tannins. (88.5)
  • Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico Riserva 2013: deep ruby colour; cherry, vanilla oak, spicy, note of leather on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, savoury, cherry with a light floral note; finishing firmly. (89)
  • Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico Coltassala 2013 (5% Mammelo): deep ruby colour; earthy, cherry, cedary, leather nose with a light floral note; medium-bodied, dry, sour cherry and plum flavours with well-integrated oak with a firm finish. (89)
  • Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico Casanova Il Puro Gran Selezione 2011 (25 clones of Sangiovese): deep ruby; rich and porty on the nose with new oak notes; full-bodied, raisiny, plum with lively acidity, firmly structured with a tannic lift on the finish. (90)
  • Castello di Volpaia Balifico 2012 (2/3 Sangiovese, 1/3 Cabernet Sauvignon): deep ruby-purple colour; cedary, spicy, blackcurrant and black cherry nose; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, beautifully balanced, firmly structured, ripe blackcurrant and plum flavours, richly extracted with a firm tannic finish. (91)

Church at Volpaia

Drove back to Florence, changed quickly in the hotel and walked over with Janine to have dinner at The Golden View Restaurant with the director general of the Consorzio Vino Chianti Classico, Giuseppe Liberatore, Silvia Fiorentini, Christine Lechner (Marketing & Communications), and Justin Leone, chef/sommelier at Tantris restaurant in Munich. We started with a bottle of Guado al Tasso Vermentino 2013 (excellent – 91points). And it got better – next wine, Monteraponi Chianti Classico Riserva Baron’ Ugo 2011 (mature ruby colour; a nose of leather, cherries and dried rose petals; elegant and beautifully balanced, lovely mouth-feel; reminiscent of a Côte de Nuits (95)).

Monteraponi Chianti Classico Riserva Baron' Ugo 2011

Followed by Isole e Olena Cepparello 1999 (holding its rich ruby colour; a bouquet of cherries and blackcurrants with a tarry note and a touch of barnyard; full-bodied, dry and perfectly balanced, very elegant and rich (94)).

Isole e Olena Cepparello 1999

I ordered Carpaccio of Chianina beef and black truffles, followed by seafood spaghetti. For dessert, Castello di Volpaia Vin Santo del Chianti Classico 2011. The last supper in Florence and a great one.

Carpaccio of Chianina beef with black truffles

Tuesday, September 27th: After breakfast, packed for home. Taxied to the airport and flew to Munich to catch my Lufthansa flight to Toronto. No Chianti Classico on board, pity.


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 614: Hardy’s Wines

Monday, September 12th: Wrote up my 680 NEWS wine reviews and then met Zoltan Szabo for lunch, We had arranged to meet at Grano but when I arrived I found it was closed on Mondays, so we went to Coquine a block north. A crab omelette and a glass of rosé. In the evening to the ballgame with my son Guy. Missed the first inning because of some disruption on the subway. Jays beat Tampa – finally.

Tuesday, September 13th: An annual check-up with my family doctor. In the evening to L’Avenue for dinner with Julian, Malcolm and Jane. I brought along a bottle of KWV Cathedral Cellars Blanc de Blancs Brut 2010. Julian, Von Hövel Scharzhofberg Tiesling Auslese 2011; Malcolm, Château Quinault L’Eclos 2001. I ordered escargots in cream sauce and steak frites. Time they changed their menu. It’s been the same as long as I’ve been going there.

Von Hövel Scharzhofberg Tiesling Auslese 2011

Wednesday, September 14th: Recorded my 680 NEWS wine reviews followed by a session with my chiropractor. In the evening Deborah and I went to Bardi’s for Alex’s 40th anniversary party. He has a splendid wine cellar now but she showed me his original wine list, which was dismal. Ran into wine importer Steven Campbell there, who supplies him with wine.

Alex and Steve at Bardi’s party

At home opened a bottle of CedarCreek Ehrenfelser 2015 (Okanagan Valley): pale straw colour; aromatic, spicy, melon nose with notes of citrus fruit; medium-bodied, dry, quince and melon flavours with a touch of sweetness in mid-palate. (88)

Thursday, September 15th: Wrote my On the Go column, then down to the Miller Tavern on Bay Street for a lunch tasting with Bill Hardy of Hardy’s Wines.

Bill Hardy

  • Hardy’s Stamp of Australia Chardonnay Semillon 2015 (South East Australia): straw colour; apple and quince on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, melon and peach flavours with lively citrus acidity. Good value. (87.5)
  • Hardy’s Stamp of Australia Riesling Gewurztraminer 2015(South East Australia): straw colour; spicy, lime and grapefruit nose with notes of musk melon; medium-bodied, dry, orange, lime and lychee flavours with good length. (88)
  • Hardy’s HRB Riesling 2015 (Clare Valley and Tasmania fruit): pale straw colour; floral, grassy, pink grapefruit nose; medium-bodied, dry and crisp, elegant with good length, finishing with lemon-lime flavours. (89)
  • Hardy’s William Hardy Limestone Coast Chardonnay 2016: straw colour; almond-marzipan and apple bouquet; medium to full-bodied, dry, well-extracted white peach and citrus flavours with a nutty note. Good mouth-feel with a firm finish. (88.5)
  • Hardy’s Stamp of Australia Shiraz Cabernet 2015 (South East Australia): deep purple colour; cedary, spicy plum and vanilla oak nose; medium to full-bodied, dry, plum and prune flavours with a peppery, savoury finish and lively acidity. (87)
  • Hardy’s William Hardy Shiraz 2014 (McLaren Vale):deep purple colour; savour, spicy blueberry nose with a peppery note augmented by vanilla oak; medium to full-bodied dry and frsh with licorice and bitter chocolate flavours. (89)
  • Hardy’s HRB Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (Margaret River, Coonawarra and Frankland River): deep ruby-purple colour; cedary, minty, blackcurrant nose; medium to full-bodied, fresh and fruity, elegant with fine acidity and a firm finish. (88.5)
  • Hardy’s Eileen Hardy Shiraz 2005 (Mclaren Vale): dense purple colour; cedary, smoky, meaty nose with vanilla oak notes; full-bodied, rich and full on the palate with a dry, savoury flavour of blackberries and dark chocolate. A beautiful wine. (93)
  • Hardy’s Whisker’s Blake Classic Tawny 8 Year Old (Grenache): amber-brown colour; spicy, nutty, prune nose; rich and full on the palate, beautifully balanced, sweet coffee bean and raisin flavours with milk chocolate notes. Great length. (89.5)

Hardy’s Eileen Hardy Shiraz 2005

For lunch I ordered chicken curry which went well with the Riesling/Gewurz and the 2005 Shiraz.

For dinner, with steak, Henry of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Pinot Noir 2010 (Short Hills Bench, Niagara – $34.95): ruby colour; high-toned, spicy, lilac and cherry bouquet with an animal note; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, well-balanced, very stylish with mellow tannins. Light and delicate on the palate. (91)

Friday, September 16th: A Vintages release tasting and New York Fries on the way home. In the evening to Victoria University for a piano recital of contemporary music by Argentinian composers performed by pianist Diego Macias Steiner.

Saturday, September 17th: Got down to some tasting to reduce the backlog of samples that have arrived.

  • Henry of Pelham Sibling Rivalry White 2015 (Niagara Peninsula – $13.95): Riesling, Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer. Medium straw colour; aromatic, spicy melon nose with grapefruit notes; medium-bodied, just off-dry with melon and lychee flavours carried on citrus acidity. A touch of bitterness on the finish. (87)
  • Kim Crawfood Small Parcels Pinot Gris 2014 (Arawere Valley, New Zealand – $24.95): medium straw colour with a nose of ripe peach and pear skin and a suggestion of minerality; medium-bodied, mouth-filling flavours of white peach and pear carried on lively acidity and finishing on a lychee note. Great length. A well-made wine. (90)
  • Baron de Hoen Pinot Gris Reserve 2014 (Alsace –$15.95): light golden colour; minerally, peach and peach pit nose; medium-bodied, lively peach flavour carried on citrus acidity. Great value. (88)
  • Peller Estates Andrew Peller Signature Series Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (Niagara – $30.20): bright straw colour; cut grass, lanolin and green plum nose; medium-bodied, white Bordeaux in style, nicely balanced, grapefruit, green plum with a nutty note on the finish. Great length. (89.5)
  • Trius Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (Niagara Peninsula – $14.95): Pale straw colour; cut grass, green plum nose with a minerally note; medium-bodied, crisply dry, grapefruit and green plum flavours. Good value. (88)
  • Château Bellevue La Forêt Rosé 2015 (Fronton, France – $14.95): A blend of the local Negrette, Gamay, Syrah and Cabernets. Deep salmon colour; earthy, wild strawberry and watermelon nose; medium-bodied, just off-dry, round on the palate with strawberry and raspberry flavours and balancing acidity. (88)
  • De Bortoli G.S. Pinot Noir 2015 (Yarra Valley – $19.95): medium ruby colour; earthy, cherry nose; medium-bodied, dry, cherry flavour with a hint of sweetness and a firm tannic finish. (88.5)
  • El Miracle by Mariscal Garnacha Tintorera 2013 (Valencia, Spain – $14.95): deep ruby colour; peppery plum nose; medium-bodied, dry, plum and licorice flavours with lively acidity and ripe tannins. (87)
  • Château Haut-Canteloup 2010 (Médoc – $17.95): deep purple-ruby colour; inky, cedary plum bouquet; medium-bodied, dry, spicy blackcurrant, plum and bitter chocolate flavours with ripe, grainy tannins. (88)
  • Henry of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Cabernet-Merlot 2012 (Short Hills Bench, Niagara Peninsula – $39.95): Deep ruby colour; cedary, redcurrant and red plum nose with evident oak; medium-bodied, dry, red berry flavours backed by vanilla oak; harmonious with a good mouth-feel and a firm tannic finish. Hold for two years. (89–90)
  • Vina Tarapaca Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (Maipo Valley – $17.95): dense ruby-purple colour; cooked plum and prune nose with evident oak; full-bodied, richly extracted sweet plum flavour with balancing acidity and a tannic lift on the finish. (88)
  • Elderton Ode to Lorraine 2013 (Barossa Valley – Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot): earthy, minerally, blackberry nose with savoury, herbal notes; full-bodied, juicy, blackberry flavour with lively acidity and a firm finish. (90)

Sunset from our balcony on Saturday


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 613: Lieutenant Governor’s Wine Awards

The Lieutenant Governor's Award for Excellence in Ontario Wines | Prix du lieutenant-gouverneur pour l'excellence des vins de l'Ontario ¶ Presentation ceremony, September 7, 2016 | Cérémonie de remise, 7 septembre 2016 ¶ Queen's Park

Monday, September 5th: Deborah (my DD) and I drove down to Angels Gate Winery in Niagara for a late lunch party at Meg and Phil’s. Phil cooked his famous paella on an open fire in the woods behind his house. Everybody (four other couples) brought wine. We opened Angels Gate Sparkling Chardonnay 2012, Cave Spring Chardonnay Musqué 2014, Gadais Père et Fils Muscadet Vieilles Vignes 2013, Angels Gate Marsanne 2013, Quinta do Consuelo Rias Baixas 2014, Malivoire Vivant Rosé 2015 (in magnum), Ardal Reserva Ribera del Duero 2006, Terra Terra Douro Reserva 2011. I contributed a bottle of KWV Cathedral Cellars Blanc de Blancs 2010. A memorable lunch.

Philip Dowell’s paella

Tuesday, September 6th: Worked on the novel. In the evening, down to the Spoke Club for a presentation of Artisper Frescobaldi wines by Tiziana Frescobaldi – three magnums whose labels were designed by two German and one Italian artists, commissioned to “interpret the Tenuta del Castello di Nipozzano in an original way through evocative and poetic images…”

it has a a seated naked lady seen from the turned-away 1/4 angle and a wine bottle being used as a pen to sketch her
Frescobaldi Montisodi artwork by Michael Sailstorfer

a fountain pen tip in place of the cork in a wine bottle
I want one of these pens

Frescobaldi wines

I also tasted Montesodi Vendemmia Dedicato 2011 (deep ruby colour; a nose of cherry, plum and tobacco, firmly structured with lively acidity (90)), Frescobaldi Lamaione 2011 (Merlot – dense ruby-purple colour; a nose of cherries, blueberries, tobacco, cedar and vanilla oak; medium-bodied, dry, lovely mouth-feel and beautifully balanced with a pencil lead finish (92)), and Frescobaldi Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino 2011 (deep ruby colour; cedary, cherry and vanilla oak nose; medium to full-bodied, dry, elegant and savoury (90)). Someboday at the event told me they had heard that I’m retiring. Me, retiring! One doesn’t retire from wine.

Tiziana Frescobaldi

Wednesday, September 7th: Up early to join a busload of the Toronto diplomatic corps for a trip down to Niagara two visit a couple of wineries that won the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in Ontario Wines. Our first stop was at Southbrook, where we were shown around by owner Bill Redelmeier and winemaker Ann Sperling. Touring the vineyard, we tasted Southbrook Triomphe Riesling 2015, the first Riesling produced by Southbrook, Chardonnay Wild Ferment 2012, and Cabernet Franc “201” 2013.

Southbrook’s Bill Redelmeier

Willowbank School

Lunch at Willowbank School of Restoration Arts, prepared by culinary students at Niagara College in their 30-foot food truck. A torrential cloudburst before the group photograph was taken on the back staircase.

Then onto the bus to Tawse winery for a tour by winemaker Rene Van Ede. Greeted with a glass of Tawse Spark Blanc de Blancs 2011. In the cellar we tasted Tawse Estate Chardonnay 2015 out of the barrel, a blend of three vineyards and the most Burgundian in style I’ve tasted of Tawse Chardonnays. More barrel tastings of Tawse Robyn’s Block Chardonnay 2012, Tawse Cherry Avenue Pinot Noir 2013, Tawse David’s Block Merlot 2012 and Tawse Limestone Ridge Riesling 2014.

Then we all drove back to Queen’s Park for the official presentation of the awards by Her Honour the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, where the 12 award-winning wines were available for tasting.

The Lieutenant Governor and me (photo by Konrad Ejbich)

At home for dinner – trout filet – opened a bottle of CedarCreek Platinum Riesling Block 3 2013 (pale straw colour; lime blossom, grapefruit zest nose; medium-bodied, just off-dry, grapefruit and lime flavours with a touch of honey. Good length. (88.5))

Thursday, September 8th: Imant Malins dropped by to deliver his amazing smoked salmon. Worked on the novel and in the evening a visit to Dr. Tim, my chiropractor, to manipulate my shoulder. For dinner, Trius Red “The Icon” 2014 (deep ruby colour; cedary, blueberry and currants on the nose with vanilla oak notes; medium-bodied, dry, savoury and elegant. Needs time. (89–91)).

Toronto sunset on Thursday

Friday, September 9th: A Vintages release today – tasted 60-plus wines then my customary New York Fries on the way home. For dinner with hamburgers, Torres Altos Ibericos 2013, a Tempranillo from Rioja (deep purple-ruby colour; dusty, earthy nose of cherry and plum with cedary-sandalwood notes; medium-bodied, dry, blackcurrant and plum flavours with lively acidity, good length and a firm tannic finish).


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