A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 637: Dining with Luc

Monday, February 13th: My son Guy’s birthday today (42!) Was meant to have a meeting with Karen Stintz and Archie Allison of Variety Village to discuss how the two foundations might co-operate; but had to cancel because of a lousy cold. Trying to baby myself since Deborah and I are flying to Guatemala on Thursday morning to attend the opening of a high school that Grapes for Humanity funded. Dropped in on the sleep clinic because I’m not happy with the nose “pillow” that pumps air up my nose. So they gave me a face mask. Now I look like a jet pilot.

Dinner at Canoe with Luc Bouchard, his importer Jason Woodman, Michael Vaughan and Tim Appelt. Greeted, on the 54th floor, with a gorgeous sunset. We started with Champagne Henriot Brut Souverain then moved on to William Fèvre Chablis Champs Royaux 2015 (accompanying my order of cured Arctic char), Bouchard Père & Fils Macon Lugny St. Pierre 2015. With my main course of juniper-smoked duck breast, Bouchard Père & Fils Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2014.

Tuesday, February 14th: The first Valentine’s Day card that I sent to my granddaughter Isla actually arrived on the very day. (I mailed it a week ago – she lives in Leslieville; I’m at Mt. Pleasant & Eglinton.) Wrote an article for Quench magazine in praise of the ISO tasting glass. For dinner, with chicken, Fess Parker Pinot Noir 2013 (deep ruby colour; cedary, jammy, black raspberry nose backed by spicy oak; full-bodied, fruity and bold, sweetish raspberry flavour with a touch of oak and soft tannins. Moderate length but easy drinking (88.5)).

Wednesday, February 15th: Gave Pinot the Wonderdog a long walk in the park before Deborah drove her up to Innisfil, where she will stay with our dog-sitter while we’re away. (She barked all the way – she hates the car.) I cleared my desk of work, wrote up my “Wines of the Week” and got down to some packing. Half the condo is being painted while we and the dog are away (the other half will be painted in May when we do our annual wine tour to Europe). So everything is off the walls and furniture pulled to the centre of the hall and the bedroom and den. The car is coming at 6:15 am tomorrow. So this is a short week in this wine lover’s life.

For dinner, spaghetti bolognese with a bottle of Pasqua Romeo & Juliet Valpolicella Ripasso 2014 (deep ruby colour; smoky, cherry nose with a vanilla oak note; medium to full-bodied, dry, sour cherry flavour with creamy oak notes and lively acidity (88.5)).


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 636: Great Aussie Tasting

Wine Australia for Australian Wine Winter Trade Tasting brochure on tasting glasses

Sunday, February 5th: Dinner at Guy and Sasha’s. Coq au vin. Brought over two Ontario wines I had to review:

  • Kacaba Vineyards & Winery Unoaked Chardonnay 2016 ($14.95): bright straw colour; leesy, spicy nose with a light floral note; medium to full-bodied, dry, richly extracted peachy-melon flavours with lively acidity with an almond note on the finish. (89)
  • Kacaba Vineyards & Winery Cabernet 2015 (90% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon – $15.95): deep ruby colour; a plum and blackcurrant bouquet with a light vanilla oak note; medium-bodied, dry and savoury red and blackcurrant with plum flavours. Lively acidity.(88)

Monday, February 6th: A meeting with Tony Garcia at George Brown College to discuss a Grapes for Humanity a fund-raiser there. Worked on an article for Decanter magazine called “My Toronto.” For dinner, with roast chicken, C’est La Vie Pinot Noir Syrah 2015 (South of France – $12.95): deep ruby colour, earthy, cherry nose; medium-bodied, dry, plum and cherry flavours with a light floral note and firm tannins. (85)

Tuesday, February 7th: Down to Verity on Queen Street East for Wine Australia’s Winter Trade Tasting, conducted by Mark Davidson

  • Grosset Polish Hill Clare Valley Riesling 2016 ($49.95): pale straw colour; minerally, petrol, lime and grapefruit bouquet; light to medium-bodied, crisply dry grapefruit flavour; very elegant with great length. (91)
  • Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Hunter Semillon 2012 ($55.95): very pale in colour; minerally, quince nose with a waxy note; medium-bodied dry, green peach and quince flavours. Will age magnificently. (90–92)
  • Tahbilk Goulburn Valley Marsanne 2010 ($18.95): bright straw colour; minerally, oily, white pepper, pear nose with a toasty note; full-bodied, dry, Asian pear flavour with lively acidity. (92)
  • Bindi “Quartz” Macedon Ranges Chardonnay 2005 ($121.23): pale straw colour; earthy, spicy, apple nose; medium to full-bodied, rich, clove, apple and toast flavours with oak predominating at the moment but with a year or two in bottle it should integrate well. (91)
  • Vasse Felix “Heytesbury” Margaret River Chardonnay 2015 ($69.95): very pale in colour; grassy, grapefruit with green herbs on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, grapefruit flavour with a note of lychees and greengage. Very elegant. (91)
  • By Farr Farrside Pinot Noir 2013 ($78.00): Mature ruby colour; minerally, spicy plum with dusty, oak notes on the nose; Burgundian-style, sweet middle palate with minty, black cherry and black raspberry flavours; firmly structured. (90)
  • Ochoto Barrels “Sense of Compression” Adelaide Hills Grenache 2016 ($86.95): pale ruby in colour; red apple and raspberry nose; medium-bodied, rich and full on the palate with lively acidity. savoury and richly extracted; finishes firmly with great length. (91)
  • Yangarra Old Bush Vine McLaren Vale Grenache 2013 ($39.95): deep ruby colour; spicy, black plum nose with an earthy note; full-bodied, dry, savoury raspberry and cherry flavours; firmly structured with grainy tannins. (89.5)
  • Brash Higgins McLaren Vale Grenache Mataro 2016 ($39.95): deep ruby colour; savoury-medicinal, herbal nose of blackberries; full-bodied, richly extracted with a sweet mid-palate of black fruits finishing firmly on a herbal note with lively acidity. (89)
  • Alpha Box and Dice “Dead Winemakers’ Society” McLaren Vale Dolcetto 2015 ($20): deep ruby colour; spicy, cherry nose; medium to full-bodied, dry, cherry flavour with a floral note; elegant, firm with grainy tannins. (90)
  • Cullen “Diana Madeline” Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon Blend 2010 (n/a): deep ruby colour; sandalwood and spicy plum nose with a floral grace note; medium-bodied, lean and sinewy blackcurrant flavour; elegant and firm (reminiscent of a St. Estephe). (92)
  • Luke Lambert Yarra Valley Syrah 2012 (n/a): deep ruby colour; savoury-herbal nose of blackberries; St. Joseph in style, firmly structured, full-bodied, high-toned and elegant. (92)
  • Rockford “Basket Press” Barossa Valley Shiraz 2008 ($94.95) dense ruby colour; vanilla oak, blackberry and blackcurrant nose; full-bodied, rich and intense, full in the mouth with dry, herbal succulent blackberry flavours and a great tannic structure. (91)
  • Yalumba “The Octavius” Barossa/Eden Shiraz 2012 ($129.95): deep purple-ruby colour; cedary, blackberry, herbal nose; full-bodied, dry, savoury-herbal blackberry flavour with lively acidity. Brilliant wine. (94)

Altogether a great tasting showing how far Australia has come from over-oaked and over-extracted wines.

Then over to the LCBO lab to finish tasting the February 18th Vintages release.

Wednesday, February 8th: Down to the Acadian Loft for a seminar on British Columbia wines conducted by David Lawrason.

BC VQA banner

  • Summerhill Cipes Blanc de Noir Pinot Noir ($32): Pale straw colour; minerally, apple and peach nose; medium-bodied, dry, elegant and well-balanced with a honeyed note. (89)
  • St. Hubertus Riesling 2014 ($17.95): pale straw in colour; struck flint and grapefruit zest on the nose; light to medium-bodied, off-dry, grapefruit and honey flavours with vibrant acidity. (87.5)
  • Dirty Laundry Woo Woo Gewurztraminer 2015 ($19.99): almost water white in colour; lychee and rose water nose; dry, medium-bodied, good varietal character; light and easy drinking with good acidity and good length. (88.5)
  • Poplar Grove Pinot Gris 2015 ($23.95): very pale in colour; minerally, peach nose; medium-bodied, dry, with a rush of sweet fruit in mid palate. (88)
  • Sperling Vineyards Chardonnay “Vision” 2015 ($32): light straw colour; spicy, oaky, apple nose; medium to full-bodied, spicy, toasty, caramel and citrus flavours; good length with fresh acidity. Needs time for the oak to integrate. (88.5)
  • Mission Hill Family Estate Winery Five Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014 ($17.95): ruby colour; minerally, cherry nose with a light spicy oak note; medium-bodied, dry, cherry flavour and a firm finish. (88)
  • Moraine Cliffhanger Red Malbec and Merlot 2014 ($24.95): deep ruby colour; rhubarb and blueberry nose with a touch of oak; medium-bodied, dry, fresh and lively cranberry and redcurrant flavours with light herbal notes and lively; fresh on the palate with firm finish. (89)
  • Poplar Grove Syrah 2013 ($44.95): Deep ruby-purple in colour; spicy, white pepper and creamy blackberry nose; medium-bodied, dry, blackberry with a floral note on the palate; oak-driven and firm. (88.5)
  • Burrowing Owl Estate Winery Malbec 2014 ($44.25): dense purple colour; cedary, blackberry nose with a herbal note; medium-bodied, dry, cherry flavour with creamy oak and a spicy finish. (89)
  • Laughing Stock Portfolio Red Blend 2014 (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot – $54.95, Licensee price): dense purple colour; cedar, floral, plum nose with an oaky note; full-bodied, dry, richly extracted, good mouth-feel, firmly structured with a spicy finish. (92)

Then into another room for a walk-around table-top tasting. Best wine there was Poplar Grove The Legacy 2012 – a blend of 35% Cabernet Franc, 23% Malbec, 22% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. (92)

Poplar Grove The Legacy 2012

Dinner with Steve Pauwels and Cathy Martin at El Tenedor to discuss the May tour to Italy.

Thursday, February 9th: Worked on “My Toronto” article.

Friday, February 10th: A winerytohome tasting at Doug Towers’s with David Lawrason. Dinner with Guy, Sasha and baby Isla to celebrate Guy’s birthday at a pizzeria on Queen East. I ordered a bottle of AnticaVigna Valpolicella 2015. It was mildly corked but I didn’t have the heart to send it back and suffered in silence. Must be mellowing in my old age.

Saturday, February 11th: Drove up to Peterborough to conduct two back-to-back dinner tastings at The Lignum. A five-course meal matched with wines. Stayed the night in Peterborough in the local Best Western.

The Lignum dinner tasting menu


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 635: Dinner at Doma

Sunday, January 29th: Conducted a dinner tasting for the local Opimian Society in Seasons Restaurant, Oakville. The menu:

Wild mushroom and champagne soup

Arugula salad with poached pear and creamy goat cheese and toasted pistachio

Mixed grill of roasted herb capon breast and striploin steak with seasonal vegetables, creamy mashed potatoes and a natural jus

Traditional crème brûlée

The wines:

  • Lirico Torrontes Valle de Famatino/Petit Verdot 2015 (Argentina)
  • Warwick Professor Black Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (South Africa)
  • Cornellana Barrel Reserve Carmenere/Petit Verdot 2013 (Chile)
  • Cinema Crianza Ribera del Duero 2011 (Spain)
  • Chateau Haute Bergeron 2010 (Sauternes)

Monday, January 30th: Wrote an article for Grapevine magazine about glasses and how wines taste different in various shapes. Still have not come to terms with Riedel’s stemless O series.

Tuesday, February 1st: An appointment with the sleep pack people to see how I’m getting on with the machine (not great). A meeting in the afternoon with Kristal Carter of Tourism Toronto for background on an article I’m writing for Decanter magazine – “My Toronto.” At 9 pm Deborah dropped me off at the Appleton Sleep Clinic for another session to test how I’m reacting to the sleep machine. Not looking forward to it.

Wednesday, February 2nd: Not as bad a night as I was anticipating although I had 27 wires hanging from my body. Was woken up by the nurse/attendant at 6 am to leave.

Worked on the Decanter article and prepared for this evening’s wine tasting in the condo’s party room. The theme is “Bold Winter Reds.” I’m serving:

  • Les Dauphins Côtes du Rhône Réserve 2015
  • Cusumano Nero d’Avola 2015 (Sicily)
  • Quadrus 2010 (Douro Valley)
  • Las Mulas Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2015 (Chile)
  • Fairview Winery Goats Do Roam 2015 (South Africa)

Bold Winter Reds

Thursday, February 2nd: Gérard Blanloeil, Managing Director of Clarence Dillon Wines, came to the condo with Toby and Martine O’Brian to sample Clarenedelle with me. The concept, Gérard says, is to introduce Bordeaux to a younger consumer with more accessible wines.

Gérard Blanloeil of Clarendelle

Clarendelle is “inspired by Haut Brion,” carrying a Bordeaux appellation (wines from right and left banks), production 80% red, 500,000–1000,000 bottles.

  • Clarendelle 2014 (70% Sauvignon, 25% Semillon, 5% Muscadelle – $23.95): earthy-floral, nose of beeswax, golden straw colour; minerally, apple and quince flavour with a floral note; lovely mouth-feel, lively spine of acidity with a lemony finish. (88)
  • Clarendelle 2012 (57% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Cabernet Franc – $23.95): deep purple colour; cedary, plum and blueberry with tobacco notes and oak spice; medium-bodied, dry almost savoury flavour of red fruits; well-balanced, firmly structured with soft, cocoa powder-like tannins. (89)

They will also be making commune wines under the Clarendelle label – Médoc 2014 and Saint Émilion 2014 – as well as Quintus (formerly St. Emilion’s Château Terte Dauguay, which Haut Brion purchased in 2011, as well as the neighbouring Château L’Arosée they acquired the following year).

Friday, February 3rd: A Vintages tasting this morning. 123 products in this February 18th release. Enjoyed a Kew Vineyards Marsanne 2014 that won a gold medal at the Ontario Wine Awards last year. An unexpected grape to be grown in Ontario.

Kew Vineyards Marsanne 2014

Saturday, February 4th: Deborah and I had dinner at Doma, a new Korean-French restaurant on Clinton Street. Very minimalist décor but stunning food, attractively served. Sweet potato purée foam in an egg cup as an amuse bouche. A glass each of Pablo Claro Sauvignon Blanc 2015 from Spain. We ordered, to share…

…Duck Two Ways with foie gras and cauliflower purée…

…lobster in a tomato soup with cumquats and grilled bok choy…

…followed by pork belly with buttered apple, pickled shallots, cilantro and ginger.

A glass of Domaine de Seminaires Côtes du Rhône 2015. Dessert:

bread pudding.

A totally delicious meal.


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 634: El Tenedor

Monday, January 23rd: Wrote my 680 NEWS wine reviews and began selecting judges for the Ontario Wine Awards – the sweet wine panels. For dinner, steak with a bottle of Konzelmann Heritage Reserve 2012 (Ontario – $21.75): Deep ruby colour; cedary-savoury nose of blackcurrants with a herbal note; medium-bodied, dry, firmly structured with grainy tannins. (88)

Tuesday, January 24th: A 9:30 am appointment to pick up a sleep pack machine. Apprehensive about learning to fall asleep with this apparatus strapped under my nostrils, pushing in air. The doctor prescribed some sleeping pills to help but I am still nervous.

At noon down to the LCBO to taste the rest of the wines from last Friday’s Vintages release. At 8 pm a telephone interview with Scott Radley of a radio show (900 CHML in Hamilton) about detecting flavours in wine. For dinner, fillet of sole with a bottle of Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc 2015 (Napa Valley – $22.95): olden straw colour; grassy, green plum nose with a touch of oak; medium to full-bodied, dry, rich mid-palate flavours of guava and grapefruit. Good length. (89)

Wednesday, January 25th: Recorded my 680 NEWS wine reviews and then Doris Miculan-Bradley, the President of Grapes for Humanity, picked me up to drive to the Hunt Club for lunch with the General Manager of The Toronto Hunt, Marcel Bregstein, to discuss holding a fund-raiser event there later this year.

Thursday, January 26th: Spent the day writing the novel. Dinner with Deborah at El Tenedor, 909 Yonge Street. I consulted on their wine list, and chef/owner Cesar Penalver wanted us to taste his menu (inspired by Ferran Adria of El Bullí).

Terrina de Foie y Jerez – Foie gras terrine, caviar and onion marmalade served on top of crostini and paired with a glass of sherry

Foie gras terrine tapas

Cartas de Pap – Pumpkin seeds, Dutch Beemster cheese and tomato wrapped in potato envelopes

Cordero – 26-hours-cooked lamb leg, served with potato and hot sherry jelly

Bullabesa – Fish of the day Bouillabaisse


Lomito de Res – Mignon topped with truffle-honey and ginger emulsion, served with potato and spinach

Postre de chocolate y Pimento – Dark chocolate ganache and red pepper sorbet (to die for)

This was one of the best meals I’ve had in Toronto!

Friday, January 27th: Deborah is off to her ladies’ book club weekend so Pinot and I are baching it. Got down to some tasting.

  • Norton Barrel Select Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (Mendoza, Argentina – $12.95): medium straw colour; minerally, grassy, green plum and grapefruit zest nose; medium-bodied, dry, tart green plum and gooseberry flavours with crisp acidity and a green pepper and cut-grass finish. (88)
  • Château des Charmes Barrel-Fermented Chardonnay 2015 (Niagara-on-the-Lake – $14.95): bright straw colour; a nose of hay and apples with a nutty-oak note; medium-bodied, spicy, richly extracted apple, melon and toast flavours finishing on a nutty note. Good value. (89)
  • Gérard Bertrand Gris Blanc 2015 (Pays d’Oc; Grenache Gris and Grenache Noir – $16.95): straw colour with a faint trace of pink; minerally, peachy-melon nose; medium-bodied, dry, white peach flavour with a note of dried herbs. (87)
  • Kim Crawford Rosé 2016 (Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand – $17.95) (formerly known as “Pansy” – Merlot): deep salmon colour; minerally, cranberry and pomegranate bouquet; medium-bodied, dry, watermelon and raspberry flavours. (87.5)
  • Henry of Pelham Baco Noir Speck Family Reserve 2015 (Ontario): dense ruby-purple colour; cedary, new leather, blackberry nose; medium to full-bodied, juicy, creamy blackberry flavour with lively acidity; comes on like a Zinfandel. Nicely balanced oak. (89.5)
  • Henry of Pelham Cabernet-Merlot 2012 (Short Hills Bench, Ontario – $24.95): deep ruby colour; oaky, cherry and plum nose; medium-bodied, dry, richly extracted plum and currant flavours with a note of violets in mid-palate; well-balanced with good length and a firm finish. (90)
  • Château des Charmes Cabernet Franc 2015 (Niagara-on-the-Lake): solid ruby colour; cedary, black raspberry and currants on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, savoury-herbal red berry flavours with grainy tannins. (86.5)
  • Ravenswood Dickerson Zinfandel 2013 (Napa Valley – $39.95): deep ruby colour; cedary, plum nose with a note of leather; full-bodied, dry, juicy plum flavour with lively acidity and a long finish. (89)


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 633: Birthday Dinner

Monday, January 16th: Started inviting judges for the 23rd annual Ontario Wine Awards in April. We need 24 in all for the dry wines (six panels), and eight for the sweet wines (two panels). A conference call in the afternoon to discuss plans with Angela Aiello and the IYellow Wine Club for a consumer tasting of the medal-winning wines. For dinner, steak with a bottle of Lavau Vacqueras 2014 ($24.95 – deep purple with a violet rim; floral nose of violets, blackberries and dried herbs; full-bodied, elegant and firmly structured with a savoury blackberry flavour (90)).

Tuesday, January 17th: A 9 am meeting with Cathy Martin at Terroni to discuss a Grapes for Humanity fund-raiser in May. Worked on the novel and in the late afternoon back to the Appleton Sleep Clinic for a report on my night’s sleep there, wired up on December 28th like a Frankenstein experiment. It appears that I need a sleep pack. Dr. Appleton says it will help my snoring (improve the timbre? Make it more musical? Or eradicate it totally?). Deborah will be pleased – and so will Pinot T. Wonderdog, who has been known to leap off the bed in alarm on nights when I’ve had a big Vintages tasting.

Wednesday, January 18th: Wrote up my Wines of the Week for posting tomorrow. Started approaching wineries in Veneto, Alto Adige and Lombardy regarding visits for my Pauwels Travel tour to those regions in May. In the afternoon Deborah and I went to Appliance Canada to buy a new dishwasher.

Thursday. January 19th: A meeting with Andrew Menceles to discuss a new Ontario wine brand. Took Deborah for a belated birthday dinner to Scaramouche, where they were having a Lobsterlicious event. Deborah started with six Gigas oysters from Ireland (with a glass of Forrest Sauvignon Blanc 2015 from New Zealand) and I had lobster bisque with a glass of Lustau Amontillado Sherry. Deborah had the lobster in butter sauce and I the grilled lobster.

My grilled lobster

We shared a half bottle of Bel Colle Roero Arneis 2014 from Piemonte. For dessert, apple streusel. I finished off with a Nonino Amaro. Great meal and wonderful service at Scaramouche, as usual.

Bel Colle Roero Arneis 2014
Scaramouche dinner wine

Friday, January 20th: A Vintages release tasting for February 4th – 116 products. Tasted 61 and will do the rest on Tuesday. French fries on the way home.

Saturday, January 21st: After shopping at Costco, Deborah and I dropped in to Pusateri – talk about going from the ridiculous to the sublime. We marvelled at the meat counter with steaks at engagement ring prices and bought a couple of crab cakes that we will have for lunch tomorrow. For dinner, grilled salmon with a delicious bottle of Kim Crawford Small Parcels Spitfire Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (pale straw colour; grassy, grapefruit and greengage nose; medium-bodied, dry, intense and beautifully balanced green fruit flavours; fresh and lively on the palate with great length (90)). This is the best Kim Crawford wine I’ve had since Kim Crawford owned the winery.


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 632: Icewine Festival

Niagara Icewine Festival ice sculpture

Monday, January 9th: A 10:30 am dentist appointment. My dentist has moved offices, which is always disconcerting. Then lunch with an old university friend, David Alexandor. For dinner, with chicken cacciatore, Kacaba Unoaked Chardonnay 2015 (pale straw colour; minerally, apple and lemon nose with light undergrowth notes; medium-bodied, dry, well-extracted flavours of apple, pear and pineapple and a good mouth-feel (89)).

Tuesday, January 10th: Down to the LCBO lab to taste the rest of the January 21st Vintages’ release. Dinner – lamb chops with a bottle of Veedha Douro Red 2013 (deep ruby colour; dusty, earthy nose of blackberries with an oak note; full-bodied, savoury flavour of plum and mulberry with oak spice and supple tannins (88)).

Wednesday, January 11th: A winerytohome.com tasting at Doug Towers’s with a customary pizza for lunch. Dinner: grilled salmon with Inniskillin Montague Vineyard Chardonnay 2014 (golden straw colour; buttery, sweet melon with a forest floor note on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, apple and melon flavours tempered by lemony acidity, spicy oak and a touch of bitterness on the finish (88)).

Thursday, January 12th: Deborah’s birthday. Tried to get into Alo restaurant but no dice. So we went over to Deborah’s sister Suzanne and had dinner there.

Friday, January 13th: Picked up in a car to Join Tim Appelt and Michael Vaughan for the drive to Niagara Falls to attend the Xerox Icewine Gala at the Niagara Falls Hilton. But first we stopped in at Trius, where winemakers Craig McDonald (Trius), Emma Garner (Thirty Bench) and Katie Dickieson (Peller Estates) led us through a series of their wines.

  • Truis Brut Rosé (70% Pinot Noir, 15% Chardonnay, with equal parts Gamay and Pinot Meunier): amber-pink in colour; raspberry, red apple skin nose with a light floral note; light to medium-bodied, dry, strawberry flavour, clean and fresh with good length and a mineral lift on the finish. (89) ($29.95)
  • Trius Sauvignon Blanc 2015: very pale in colour; grassy, gooseberry nose with a touch of oak; medium-bodied, dry and crisp, green plum flavour, good acidity. Well-structured with an oak component. (87.5) ($14.95)
  • Trius Riesling 2015: pale straw colour; lime, apple with a honeyed note; light-bodied, lime and grapefruit flavours with a touch of honey and a little bitterness on the finish. (87.5) ($15)
  • Thirty Bench Small Lot “Wild Cask” Riesling 2015: very pale straw; mouth-watering, grapefruit and lime nose with a light floral top note; light-bodied, crisply dry, lime and green apple flavours; elegant with great length with a pine needle note on the finish. Good tension between citrus acidity and residual sugar. (90) ($30)
  • Thirty Bench Winemaker’s Blend Chardonnay 2015 (10% Chardonnay Musqué; 15–20% new oak): straw colour with a green tint; spicy, apple, apple blossom and citrus nose with a light toasty oak note; medium-bodied, apple and peach flavours, nicely balanced, good acidity. (89.5) (<$20) Good value.
  • Trius Viognier 2015 (three-year-old vines, barrel-fermented): light straw colour; peachy-apricot, citrus, minerally, floral nose; medium-bodied, dry, well-balanced with a long finish. (88.5) (under $20)
  • Peller Private Reserve Gamay Noir 2015: ruby colour; ripe plum and cherry nose with a graphite notes; light to medium-bodied, fruity and fresh red plum flavour with lively acidity. Well-made, fresh finish. (89)
  • Thirty Bench Winemaker’s Blend Double Noir 2015 (60% Gamay/40% Pinot Noir): ruby colour; spicy, pencil lead, cherry nose with vanilla oak notes; sour cherry with lively acidity and a firm finish. (89) (<$20)
  • Peller Estates Private Reserve Pinot Noir 2015: ruby colour; earthy, raspberry candy and cherry pit nose with a light white pepper note; medium-bodied, dry, well balanced and delicate but firm. Good length. (90) ($24.95)
  • Trius Showcase Clark Farm Pinot Noir 2014: ruby colour; cherry nose developing barnyard notes with vanilla oak and rose petal notes; medium-bodied, dry, raspberry and cherry flavours. Côte de Nuits style with a firm finish. (91) ($36)
  • Trius Showcase Red Shale Cabernet Franc 2014 (French oak): cedary, blackcurrant with a leafy-red pepper and vanilla oaks; medium-bodied, dry, full in the mouth, great mouth-feel with lively acidity, firm with good length. (90) ($42)
  • Peller Estates Cabernet Sauvignon 2007: deep ruby with a mature rim; cedar, blackcurrant and plum nose; medium-bodied, elegant, dry, firmly structured, well-balanced, very Bordelais in style. (91)
  • Trius Shiraz 2015 (with a little Viognier): Dense purple, cedary, tobacco leaf, peppery, violets, blueberry, blackberry, vanilla oak nose with a floral note; dry, medium-full-bodied, elegant, St. Joseph style. (90) (~$19.95)

Trius Shiraz 2015

After the tasting we had lunch in Trius’ dining room before checking into the hotel in Niagara Falls. Changed into suits and ties for the gala downstairs in the ballroom. For tasting purposes, Michael, Tim and I had divided up the Icewines in the room. Michael took red Icewines, Tim Rieslings and I, Vidals.

Michael’s top red Icewines (20 tasted):

  • Jackson-Triggs Cabernet Franc 2015 (94)
  • Trius Showcase Cabernet Franc 2013 (92)
  • Kacaba Cabernet Franc 2013 (92)
  • Andrew Peller Signature Series Cabernet Franc 2014 (91)

Tim’s top Riesling Icewines (11 tasted):

  • Chateau des Charmes Riesling Icewine, Paul Bosc Estate Vineyard 2014 (94)
  • Colaneri Estate Winery Riesling 2013 (93)
  • Riverview Cellars Winery Riesling Icewine 2015 (93)

My top Vidal Icewines (22 tasted):

  • Colaneri Vidal 2014 (92)
  • Sue Ann Staff Winery Vidal Icewine 2012 (92)
  • Strewn Estate 2014 Vidal Icewine (91)
  • Jackson Triggs Vidal Icewine 2015 (91)
  • Vieni Vidal Sparkling Icewine 2014 (90)

Thirty-eight wineries poured their wines, each paired with a local restaurant (great food this year – and a spectacular display of desserts). Finished the evening in my room on the 31st floor watching a firework display.

Icewine Festival desserts

Saturday, January 14th: After breakfast in the hotel, Michael, Tim and I were driven to Jordan Village for Winterfest – a series of open-air tents in the parking lot next to the Inn on the Twenty. Twenty-three wineries, Dillon’s Small Batch Distillery and the Bench Brewing Company were teamed up with local restaurants. Michael picked up the butter tarts we had both ordered from the 13th Street Bakery (best butter tarts in the world!).

Winterfest tents

Before touring the tents we kept warm (it was freezing outside) by having a tasting of Cave Spring Cellars wines in their shop and tasting bar, conducted by Len Pennacetti.

Len Pennacetti

  • Cave Spring Riesling 2014: pale straw colour; minerally, grapefruit and apple nose already developing petrol notes; light to medium-bodied, just off-dry, grapefruit with a touch of honey. Lovely texture and a bargain at the price – $15.95. (89)
  • Cave Spring Dolomite Riesling 2015: pale straw colour; minerally, apple and citrus nose; broader on the palate than the 2014 but elegant. (89)
  • Cave Spring Estate Reserve 2014: very pale in colour; petrol, honey and lime on the nose; light-bodied, green apple flavour with brisk acidity. (90)
  • Cave Spring CSV Riesling 2014: pale straw colour; minerally, petrol, honey, grapefruit and lime flavours; spicy and beautifully balanced. (91)
  • Cave Spring Adam Steps 2015 (wild ferment): pale straw; a nose of sweet grapefruit with a lovely floral note. Light on the palate with great length. (89)
  • Cave Spring Riesling Dry 2014: pale straw colour; minerally, crisp, lemony nose; light-bodied, mouth-fresheningly dry with green apple and lemon flavours. Another bargain at $15.45.
  • Cave Spring Pinot Noir 2014: ruby colour; earthy, cherry nose; light to medium-bodied, dry, sour cherry flavour with a firm tannic finish. (88)
  • Cave Spring Dolomite Pinot Noir 2015: ruby colour; minerally, cherry bouquet with an earthy note; medium-bodied. Dry cherry and cranberry flavours, firmly structured. (89)


Watched an outdoor fashion show featuring, among others, winemaker Sue-Ann Staff and celebrity chef David Rocco, parading clothes from local stores.

Sue-Ann Staff modelling

David Rocco modelling

Toured the winery tents and devoured chili, pizza and Icewine donuts before the car came at 2:45 pm to drive us back to Toronto. A great event; everybody seemed to be having an enjoyable time, in spite of the cold.


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 631: Blind Tasting Award

Monday, January 2nd: Wrote up wine recommendation for my friend Cesar Penalver’s new restaurant, El Tenedor (Spanish for “fork”), which opens this week. Otherwise a quiet day after the vinous excesses two nights ago. Opened a bottle of Riverview Cellars Bianco Riesling Gewurztraminer 2015 (straw colour; aromatic, spicy, grapefruit and lychee aromas; medium-bodied, dry, fruity, grapefruit and lychee flavour well-balanced with a touch of sweetness. The Gewurz sings through. (88)).

Tuesday, January 3rd: Prepared the wines for my blind tasting award to be held on Thursday evening at the Fine Wine Reserve. This will be the 18th year.

  1. Trius Showcase Ghost Creek Riesling 2014 (Ontario)
  2. Babich Sauvignon Blanc Black Label 2015 (Marlborough, New Zealand)
  3. Bouchard Père & Fils Maçon-Lugny Saint-Pierre 2015 (Burgundy)
  4. Villa Maria Pinot Noir 2014 (Marlborough, New Zealand)
  5. Creekside Broken Press Syrah Reserve 2012 (Ontario)
  6. Porcupine Ridge Syrah 2015 (Swartland, South Africa)

Drove to Costco to pick up a case of bottled water for the event and some cookies. Then wrote up my 680 NEWS wine reviews. For dinner with steak, a bottle of Otazu Premium Cuvée Vino Tinto 2012 (Navarra – 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Tempranillo, 15% Merlot: deep ruby colour, cedary-sandalwood nose; spicy, black cherry nose with a vanilla note; medium-bodied, dry, savoury, cherry and plum flavours with a firm tannic finish. (88.5)).

Wednesday, January 4th: Recorded my 680 NEWS wine reviews and spent the rest of the day working on the novel.

Thursday, January 5th: Prepared the paperwork for the blind tasting competition. Eight intrepid souls from the Ontario wine trade have entered. One no-show. The eventual winner was Eugene Mlynczyk MW of Constellation. This is his third win, which means that he has to retire (as did Scott Montgomery, who also won three times). Past winners:

2015: Joanna Steele
2014: Greg Dunlop
2013: David Beauroy
2012: Marc Laverdiere
2011: Andrew von Teichman
2010: Eugene Mlynczyk
2009: Frank Rey
2008: Andrew von Teichman
2007: Eugene Mlynczyk
2006: Aaron Shaw
2005: Bruce McLean
2004: Scott Montgomery
2003: Scott Montgomery
2002: Rob Jull
2001: Paul Lato
2000: Scott Montgomery
1999: Bruce McLean

Friday, January 6th: A Vintages release tasting for January 21st – 97 wines. I tasted 55 and will be back next Tuesday to taste the rest.


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