A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 550: Culmina Launch

Monday, June 22: Wrote up 30 wine reviews for Quench magazine. Since Deborah is still away I decided to open a can of tripe I had purchased in a gas station in Spain on a recent trip. Deborah hates tripe so this was a good time to try it. And since Deborah is not a great fan of curry cooked at home I decided to do curried tripe. It was delicious with a bottle of Burrowing Owl Chardonnay 2013 (straw colour; minerally, apple and forest floor bouquet; medium to ful-bodied, dry with pear and pineapple flavours and nicely integrated oak; touch of smokiness on the finish (89)).

Tuesday, June 23: Deborah got back from Vancouver on the red-eye and filled me in with news of our grandson. In the evening, down to Allen’s for a Wine Writer’s Circle Dinner. Each of us brought a bottle of wine:

  • 13th Street Gamay/Pinot Noir 2013 VQA
  • Irsai Oliver 2014 (Muscat) Hungarian
  • Veuve Clicquot Rich NV
  • Laurenz V. Friendly Gruner Veltliner 2012 Kampal
  • La Faite Cotes de Saint Mont 2001 Madiran
  • Kuhlmann Platz Cremant de Rose NV Alsace (Pinot Noir)
  • Argyros Santorini 2014 Assyrtika Greece
  • Yalumba The Strapper Grenache Shiraz Mataro 2012 Australia (my wine)
  • Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2011
  • Lenko Old Vines Merlot 2003 VQA

A hit at the Wine Writers’ dinner

The wine of the night

I ordered deep-fried calamari with Mongolian fire sauce and pan-seared wild halibut with tomato vinaigrette. The wine of the night was the Lenko Old Vines Merlot, still vibrant and fresh after 12 years. As a prelude to dinner Sheila Swerling-Puritt brought along a bottle of the new Veuve Clicquot Rich, a champagne with residual sweetness designed as the base of cocktails for the club circuit. It was poured over ice and we could choose the addition of a slice of pineapple, red pepper or cucumber. It costs $82.20, which is costly when you think about the ice and the fruit and vegetables.

Champagne for cocktails

Wednesday, June 24: Wrote my columns for Post City Magazines and On The Go and the Wines of the Week for my site. Booked a flight to Vancouver in August and then got down to some tasting:

  • Burrowing Owl Pinot Gris 2014 (Okanagan Valley): light straw colour; minerally, peach pit nose; sweetish white peach and pear flavours, mouth-filling. (88)
  • Strewn Gewurztraminer 2011 (Niagara Peninsula): straw colour; oily, aromatic, rose petal nose; thick and unctuous on the palate, lychee and tangerine flavours; moderate length. (86)
  • Ironstone Vineyards Obsession Symphony 2013 (California): very pale, almost water white with a lime tint; fragrant, orange blossom and citrus nose; dry, light-bodied, perfumed, cardamom and tangerine flavours. Exotic but beautifully made. (89+)
  • Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series Rosé 2014 (Okanagan Valley): pale orange-pink colour; peachy-watermelon nose; medium-bodied, some sweetness, expressive and fruity but could be drier. (87)
  • Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series Pinot Noir 2011 (Okanagan Valley): tawny ruby colour; briary, cherry nose; medium-bodied, dry, earthy cherry flavour, firmly structured, muscular. (86)
  • Tinhorn Creek Pinot Noir 2012 (Okanagan Valley): ruby colour with an orange rim; rhubarb and cherry nose with a minerally, light floral note; ripe red berry fruit with some sweetness in mid palate, soft and well balanced with a lovely mouth-feel and a firm tannic finish. (89+)
  • Burrowing Owl Pinot Noir 2013 (Okanagan Valley): solid ruby colour; black raspberry and violets on the nose; spicy oak and black cherry flavours with a smoky note; sweet fruit with balancing acidity. (90)
  • Burrowing Owl Cabernet Franc 2012 (Okanagan Valley): deep ruby colour; cedar, smoky, red berry; mouth-filling, well-extracted flavours of plum and grainy tannins with evident oak and a lively spine of acidity. (89)
  • Burrowing Owl Syrah 2012: dense purple-ruby colour; savoury-meaty nose of blackberry, pepper and oak spice; rich and full on the palate, creamy blackberry and chocolate flavours with balancing acidity and a tannic lift on the finish. Good length. (90)
  • Burrowing Owl Athene 2012 (53% Syrah 47% Cabernet Sauvignon): deep purple-ruby colour; cedar, blackcurrant and blackberry nose with an uplift from oak; beautifully balanced and seamless full-bodied flavours of black fruits and oak. Sweetness checked by savoury notes. A distinguished wine. (92)
  • Domaine Buisse-Matteri Cuvée du Paradis 2013 (Côtes de Provence): deep ruby colour; toasty, smoky, reductive nose; dry, medium-bodied, raspberry flavour with resolved tannins. Easy drinking. (87+)
  • Villa Maria Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (New Zealand): deep ruby colour; cedar, red berry nose; dry, medium-bodied, minty, currant flavours with soft tannins. (88)
  • Columbia Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (Columbia Valley, Washington – $17.95): deep ruby colour; cedar, red and blackcurrant aromas; dry, medium to full-bodied, firmly structured blackcurrant flavour with vanilla oak. (88)

Thursday, June 25: A meeting with Doris Maculan Bradley, the new president of Grapes for Humanity, and Arlindo Beca of Wines of Portugal to discuss the Douro Boys’ visit to Toronto in October. In the evening to Canoe for the launch of Culmina Hypothesis 2012 at Vintages. Don and Elaine Triggs hosted the event with winemaker Pascal Madevon.

Don Triggs of Culmina

The menu:

Canapes – West coast oyster and sea buckthorn; crispy pork belly & green tomatoes; shore lunch fried northern pike steam bun, with Culmina Decora Riesling 2014

Yarmouth lobster, compressed watermelon, licorice mascarpone & cucumber, with Culmina Unicus Grüner Veltliner 2014

Grandview Farms pasture pork, mixed charcuterie, warm olives & Branston pickle, with Culmina Saignée Rosé 2014

Owen Sound pheasant, Okanagan hazelnuts, apple butter & ricotta gnocchi, with Culmina Dilemma Chardonnay 2013

Intermezzo: rhubarb slices on a bed of sugar

Alberta waygu beef tip, tree syrup glazed short rib, horseradish greens, portobello pickles & smoky mustard aioli, with Culmina Hypothesis 2011 & 2012

I couldn’t stay for the cheese course, but got to taste a barrel sample of Culmina Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (which is going to be terrific when it’s out of oak and in bottle). In fact, all the wines showed very well and the rosé is the best I’ve tried from BC.

Culmina Unicus Grüner Veltliner 2014

Culmina Saignée Rosé 2014

Friday, June 26: A Vintages’ release tasting today. Dinner, BBQ steak with Le Vieux Pin Equinoxe Syrah 2012 (dense purple colour with nose of blackberries, vanilla oak, herbs and savoury spice; full-bodied, rich and full on the palate, dry, bold and jammy (92)).

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 549: Men in Pink

Monday, June 15th:  My email hacked. Somebody sent around an email signed Aspler saying I was in London and stranded without a passport. Please send 1200 pounds.  I posted the fact on Facebook and on my answering service but people still called – from London and Shanghai – asking if I was Ok. I told them I was but they could still send the money. Wrote my 680 News wine reviews and then to dinner at Campognolo on Dundas Street West for a tasting of wines from Foss Marai in Valdobbiadene. For their proseccos they use a different yeast for Brut and Extra Brut.

Foss Marai Extra Dry (blue bottle): very crisp for an Extra Dry; floral nose with a lemony finish. (87+)

Foss Marai Prosecco DOCG: driest prosecco I’ve tasted; floral nose, delicate, apple-pear flavours with a mineral note. (89)

Foss Marai Roos (Rosé): Sangiovese, Sagrantino, Montepulciano, Cabernet Sauvignon, Nero di Troia: dry wild strawberry flavour, firmly structured with a touch of bitterness on the finish. (88)

Foss Marai Niró 2010 (100% Aglianico): deep ruby colour; floral, licorice, cedar nose; fruity, dry, blackberry flavour with a tannic lift on the finish. (88)

Foss Marai Fumac Rosso Tranquillo 2010: (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Nero di Troia) deep ruby colour; high toned, spicy, black fruit nose; on the palate, redcurrant and cranberry flavours with lively acidity.(87)

Tuesday, June 16th: A meeting with the owners of Hola Café on Queen East to discuss a wine tasting for their clientele. Then over to Allen’s on the Danforth for John Maxwell’s annual “Men in Pink” lunch. Perfect weather for an outdoor lunch in the garden with Ontario producers bringing their rosés and all the men wearing something pink. 28 of us at a long table. Great menu: Buttermilk and roasted beet soup, BBQ-ed chilli-rubbed shrimp, beef tenderloin, zabaglione with Cattail Creek Late Harvest Vidal 2006. For dinner, with BBQ-ed ribs, Alamos Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 from Argentina: ruby colour; cedar, red berry nose; medium-bodied, dry, redcurrant and cranberry flavours with lively acidity and supple tannins. (87+)

Wednesday, June 17th: Wrote my Quench column for October on Avondale Sky winery in Nova Scotia and Tidal Bay wines. Then got down to some tasting.

Château Saint-Pierre Tradition 2013 (Côtes de Provence):  pale straw with a green tint; minerally, citrus nose; dry, mouth-filling Asian pear flavour; full on the palate with a touch of sweetness in mid palate. (86+)

Domaine Bouisse-Matteri Cuvée du Paradis 2013 (Côtes de Provence): pale straw colour; crushed stones, lemon and lemon blossom on the nose; dry, full-bodied, unctuous on the palate at first before the acidity kicks in; apple and lemon flavours. (86+)

Daniel Pollier Pouilly-Fuissé Vieilles Vignes 2013 (Burgundy):  pale straw with a green tint: minerally, apple nose; medium-bodied, dry, apple and green pineapple flavours with good sustaining acidity and a sultana note on the finish. (88)

Quinta do Cabeço Oboé Douro Branco Reserva 2012 (Malvasia Fina, Rabigato, Vosinho):  light straw colour with a greenish tint; earthy, citrus nose; dry, full-bodied, aromatic, nectarine and citrus flavours. (88)

Kellermeister Barossa Chardonnay 2011 ($15.20): pale straw with a lime tint; minerally, apple nose; dry, medium-bodied, apple and lemon flavours; a touch hard on the finish.(86+)

Blossom Hill Crisp & Fruity White (California – $10.80): very pale colour; minerally-citrus nose; soft on the palate, sweetish, pear and citrus flavours. (86)

Château Saint-Pierre Tradition Rosé 2014 (Côtes de Provence): very pale, flesh colour; minerally, watermelon, nose; dry, raspberry flavour with prolonging acidity. (87+)

Blossom Hill Soft & Fruity Red (California – $10.80): ruby colour with violet tints; woodsy, red berry nose; off-dry, soft on the palate, raspberry flavour with just a suggestion of tannin to give the structure and enough acidity to give the wine a fresh finish. Inoffensive and quaffable. (86)

Ruffino Modus 2011 (Tuscany – $29.95): deep ruby colour; roasted, meaty nose, charcoal notes; dry, full-bodied, cherry and plum and dark chocolate flavours with lively acidity and a tannic lift on the finish. (89)

Luis Canas Crianza Rioja 2011 (Tempranillo with 5% Garnacha – $17.95): purple-ruby colour; sandalwood and strawberry nose with wood spice; rich and full on the palate, dry, savoury-herbal flavour with soft tannins. (88)

Chateau Saint Pierre Tradition 2011 (Côtes de Provence): ruby colour; rustic, forest floor nose; dry, raspberry flavour backed by a strong spine of acidity and light tannins on the finish. (87+)

Rancho Zabaco Zinfandel 2013 (Sonoma Heritage Vines – $19.95): deep ruby colour; a nose of black fruits; mouth-filling sweet black plum and blackberry flavours, full-bodied, fruity and firm. (88)

Frei Brothers Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (Sonoma – $26.95) deep ruby colour; cedar, blackcurrant with a floral top note; full-bodied, well-extracted sweet fruit, jammy in mid-palate with enough tannin and acidity to give structure. (88)

Kellermeister The Funk Wagon GSM Grenache Shiraz Mataro 2011 (Barossa Valley – $16.30): deep ruby colour; peppery, black raspberry nose with vanilla oak notes; full-bodied, sweet black fruits, chunky on the palate. Moderate length. (87+)

For dinner, salmon in a spicy sauce with Haycutters Shingleback Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2014: pale straw colour with a lime tint; medium-bodied, dry, green plum flavour with good mid-palate fruit. (87)

Thursday, June 18th: Spent the day inputting wine reviews for the Vintages release on Saturday. For dinner with grilled sausages. Alamos Malbec 2013: deep ruby colour; floral blackberry nose with a savoury note; medium-bodied, dry, soft mouth-feel. (88)

Friday, June 19th: Deborah left for Vancouver at 6am. She’s visiting our grandchild, Declan who is now 15 months old. Today I had a Vintages’ tasting of Vintages’ Essentials. Watched the ball game. The Jays beat Baltimore in a wild ride. Polished off a bottle of Culmina Hypothesis 2012 (57% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Franc, 19% Cabernet Franc) from BC: deep purple-ruby color with a complex nose of blackcurrant and blueberry, vanilla oak, cedar, tobacco and pencil lead; full-bodied, dry with a lovely floral note and lively acidity; corseted with tannins at the moment. Needs 2 – 3 years. (91 – 92)

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 548: Grapes for Humanity’s 15th Anniversary

Stratus winemaker J-L Groulx

Monday, June 8: At The Chase restaurant for the 10th Anniversary of Stratus. Tasting in the basement room (hot) led by the winemaker J-L Groulx.

  • Stratus White 2012 (Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, touch of Viognier): bright straw colour; peach with a grassy note on the nose; mouth-filling, tropical fruit flavours, mango and orange with lively acidity. Well integrated oak. (91)
  • Stratus White 2005: old gold colour; oaky, spicy, dried peach nose; mature. Lovely mouth feel, full-bodied. Toasty, nutty finish. Great length. (92)
  • Stratus Chardonnay 2012: straw colour; toasty, spicy nose of peach and apple; mouth-filling, nectarine flavour with evident oak. Full-bodied and ripe. (89–91)
  • Stratus Chardonnay Reserve 2002: straw colour; mature woodsy nose with caramel notes; sweet peach and tropical fruit flavours with toasty, nutty notes and a pencil lead finish. (90)
  • Stratus Viognier 2012: straw colour; aromatic, peach skin nose with a mineral note and a touch of oak; spicy, full on the palate, dry with a floral grace note. (90)
  • Stratus Red 2012 (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Tannat): dense ruby colour; floral, pencil lead, cedar nose; black fruit flavours, richly extracted, full-bodied, grainy tannins; dry, savoury, licorice finish. (91)
  • Stratus Red 2002: deep ruby colour; mature, leather, spicy, meat extract, soy nose with a floral top note; dry, elegant, and well balanced.
  • Stratus Cabernet Franc 2012: deep ruby colour; creamy, blackcurrant with a floral note; dry, dark chocolate and black fruit flavours, lovely texture with a tannic lift on the finish. (90)
  • Stratus Cabernet Franc 2005: deep ruby colour; earthy, redcurrant nose; dry, medium weight, some green flavours with evident tannins. (87+)
  • Stratus Cabernet Sauvignon 2012: dense ruby-purple colour; cedar, blackcurrant with vanilla oak on the nose; richly extracted, dry, full on the palate with ripe tannins. Youthful, needs time. (90–92)
  • Stratus Petit Verdot 2012: dense purple-ruby colour; violets and red berry nose with oak spice; full-bodied, dry, earthy black fruit flavours with grainy tannins. (89)
  • Stratus Gamay 2012: deep ruby colour; black cherry nose with a touch of oak on the nose and a cedar note; richly extracted and firmly structured, round on the palate with a firm tannic finish. (89)
  • Stratus Sangiovese 2012: deep ruby colour; elegant floral, cherry nose; medium-bodied, fleshy, soft mouth-feel, firm tannic finish. (90)
  • Stratus Tempranillo 2012: deep ruby colour; peppery, cherry nose with a floral note; dry, well extracted, elegant and full on the palate. (91)
  • Stratus Tannat 2012: dense purple-ruby colour; peppery, blackberry nose; blackberry fruit with lively acidity with chalky tannins; dense and full on the palate. (89)
  • Stratus Syrah 2012: deep ruby; peppery, blackberry with a savoury, herbal note on the nose; full-bodied, dry, spicy, blackberry with lively acidity and a firm tannic finish. (90)
  • Stratus Malbec 2012: deep purple-ruby colour; blackcurrant with a floral note and a touch of vanilla oak on the nose; dry, firmly structured, full in the mouth. Tannins kick in in mid-palate. (89)

For dinner, with grilled salmon: La Cadièrenne Bandol Rosé Grande Tradition 2014 (very pale pink with a bluish tint; minerally, raspberry nose with a touch of sweetness in mid palate; full-bodied with good length, finishing dry. (88))

Tuesday, June 9: Down to the Burroughs Building 639 Queen West for “The Soul of Portugal Tasting.” A top-floor room, crowded and hot. Thirty-four companies represented with 160 wines and ports available for tasting. I found it hard to taste under the crowded conditions but was impressed by Quinta da Fronteira Selecção do Enológo 2011, Cortes de Cima Syrah 2012, Esporão Reserva Tinto 2012, Niepoort Redoma Branco 2013, Quinta Vale D. Maria 2012, Crasto Superior 2012. Best value, João Portual Ramos Loios 2014 on the general list at $9.30.

Quinta da Fronteira Selecção do Enológo 2011

Cortes de Cima Syrah 2012

Esporão Reserva Tinto 2012

Quinta Vale D. Maria 2012

Crasto Superior 2012

To relax in the evening with Deborah I opened a bottle of Gruhier Crémant de Bourgogne Extra Brut 2010 – a terrific bubbly, golden colour, toasty, rich apple flavour; bone dry and full on the palate. A bargain at $20.95. (90)

Wednesday, June 10: A tasting today at Doug Towers with David Lawrason for winerytohome. For dinner, with roast chicken, Opawa Pinot Gris 2014 from New Zealand (straw colour with green tints; minerally, peach nose; dry with well-extracted nectarine flavours. (88))

Thursday, June 11: Up at 6 am in order to get down to Queen’s Park to meet members of the Lieutenant Governor’s staff and drive down to Niagara College to judge the 5th annual Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in Ontario. There were four adjudication panels tasting 305 entries. Our panel of Peter Rod, Yvonne Irvine and Kasia Koziara tasted blind 10 Chardonnays,11 Other Whites, 11 Cabernet Franc, 8 Merlot, 7 Cabernet Sauvignon before lunch. Then 6 sparkling wines, 7 Other Reds, 7 Rosés, 10 Riesling and 10 Dessert wines. We put forward 8 wines for the award and the other panels put forward their numbers. Tomorrow the panels will taste all the recommended wines and narrow down to number to 9–12 awards. Unfortunately, I can’t judge tomorrow as I have a Vintages release tasting. The stellar flights for our panel were Cabernet Franc and Riesling.

Friday, June 12: The June 27th Vintages release tasting this morning. Then home to prepare for Grapes for Humanity’s 15th anniversary dinner at Pangea. Board members from the US foundation were in town for their AGM and our Canadian directors joined them for the dinner. Everyone brought bottles of wine (my contribution – Yaluma Viognier 2013 and Alpha Estate 2007 (a Syrah, Xynomavro and Merlot blend).

The best of wines…

The highlight of the evening was a wine that one of our Canadian directors had purchased at the Toronto Symphony auction many years ago – a Salmanazar (9 litres) of Beringer Special Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 1980. It was in terrific shape, still youthful with a rich cassis, tobacco and smoky nose; full on the palate and beautifully balanced (93). This contrasted with probably the worst wine I have ever tasted in my life: Prasat Phnom Banon The Best Selected Red Wine (no vintage). The bottle was brought back by a US director from Cambodia. He arrived in Toronto from Phnom Penh that afternoon. The wine smelled of rancid tea leaves and a mature hockey bag. I could not put it in my mouth. (I subsequently googled it to find if it actually existed. Its website reads: “On the road between Battambang and the temple of Phnom Banan you will find the only vineyards in Cambodia.” Not worth the detour, believe me.)

…The worst of wines.

The other wines at the table or that I tasted were Domaine Mathieu Blanc 2005, Sattlerhof Kranachberg Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Bond St. Eden Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Fanti Brunello 2000, Château Bellefont Belcier 2000, though most of the time I stuck with the wonderful Beringer. During the dinner my fellow directors presented me with an award for my time as president of the foundation. The menu, prepared by Chef Martin Kouprie, was delicious. I chose:

Roasted Pear and Endive Salad with fennel, watercress, walnuts, Stilton cheese and mustard dressing

Mushroom risotto with sugar snap peas, mushrooms, wild rice, tomato, parmesan cheese and veal reduction

Sirloin of beef grilled, with wilted green, seasonal vegetables, pommes purée, sauce Bordelaise

Lemon Semifreddo with crisp sour lemon meringue & poached cranberries.

Just a great evening to celebrate 15 years. See the video.

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 547: Nova Scotia

Monday, June 1: Cleared my desk before leaving for the airport to fly to Halifax for a six-day tour of the wineries and the launch of the new vintage of Tidal Bay wines. Also researching for my keynote address at the 4th International Conference on Cold Climate Viticulture, Vitinord 2015 in November (using the Nova Scotia industry as a model).

Met at the airport by the effervescent Gillian Mainguy, acting director of the Atlantic Wine Institute, who drove me to the Blomidon Inn in Wolfville, where I’m staying for two nights. Dined at Grand Pré Winery’s Le Caveau restaurant with Gillian and winemaker Jürg Stutz. Over a meal of lobster and clam soup and pasta, Jürg poured the following wines:

  • Grand Pré Vintage Brut 2009 (Seyval and L’Acadie, four years on the lees): lemony, minerally, fresh and lively with a white peach and citrus flavour. (90)
  • Grand Pré Riesling Vintner’s Reserve 2013: very pale in colour with a lime tint; minerally, green apple and citrus nose; lime and honey flavours with driving acidity and a minty note on the finish. (88+)
  • Grand Pré Rosé 2014 (Leon Millot and L’Acadie): deep pink colour; crisp raspberry and watermelon nose; tart cranberry flavour, light and lively on the palate. (87)
  • Grand Pré Tidal Bay 2014 (L’Acadie, Ortega, Muscat, Vidal, Seyval Blanc): pale straw colour; aromatic, orange and citrus nose with a spicy tone; off-dry, light on the palate, clean and elegant with a peachy flavour. Good length. (89)
  • Grand Pré Baco Noir 2013: dense purple colour; spicy, black cherry nose with a light oak note; sour cherry flavour, fresh and lively on the palate. More delicate and demure than Ontario Baco. (88)
  • Grand Pré “Tom” N/V (a wine honouring the memory of a long-time vineyardist who started with Roger Dial back in 1979 – Baco Noir, Cabernet Foch, Marquette): deep ruby-purple colour; sweet tobacco, rose petal and black fruit aromas; light and charming on the palate, redcurrant flavour with a touch of sweetness; lively acidity, good mouth-feel and soft tannins. (88)
  • Grand Pré Cabernet Foch 2012: deep purple colour; cedar, spicy cherry and currant nose; tart redcurrant and cranberry flavours with a firm tannic finish. (86+)
  • Grand Pré Barrel-Fermented Riesling Icewine 2013: gold colour; high toned, tropical fruit and honey nose with evident oak, rich and full on the palate with mango, burnt sugar and honey flavours carried on lively acidity. Great length. (91)

Grand Pré’s winemaker Jürgen Stutz

Tuesday, June 2: Our first stop today is Lightfoot & Wolfville, a new 35-acre winery with biodynamic vineyards closest to the Minas Basin. Their wines are not yet on the market. Viticulturalist Peter Gamble, who consults to Michael & Jocelyn Lightfoot, and their winemaker daughter Rachel (who is co-winemaker with Josh Horton) were on hand for the tasting. Michael’s family has been farming area for seven generations. The slope of their vineyard, says Peter, “is like a mini Corton” and the inspiration is decidedly Burgundian.

  • Lightfoot & Wolfville Sparkling 2013 (100% Chardonnay still on its lees for three years, no dosage): crisp and lemony with a nose of green nuts; fresh and lively on the palate. (91–92)
  • Lightfoot & Wolfville Sparkling 2012 (barrel fermented): oak still sitting on top of the fruit. Needs time. (90–91)
  • Lightfoot & Wolfville Tidal Bay 2014 (Geisenheim 318, Chardonnay, Chasselas): pale straw colour, crisp crab apple nose; full in the mouth with lively lemony acidity accented with mineral-chalky notes. The driest of the Tidal Bays I tasted; reminded me of Albariño. (89)
  • Lightfoot & Wolfville Chardonnay 2013 (25% new oak): straw colour; toasty, apple with a vanilla note; classic Burgundian style, great mouth-feel; expressive peach and lemon flavours with good oak integration. A seamless wine. (91)
  • Lightfoot & Wolfville Late Harvest Chasselas 2012: old gold colour; high toned, barley sugar nose; medium sweet with a strong spine of acidity with a dried apricot finish and a touch of bitterness. (89)
  • Lightfoot & Wolfville Pinot Noir 2013: ruby colour; Burgundian nose – earth, raspberry with a floral note; a touch green but augurs well for the future when the vines have some age. (88–89)

A most impressive debut.

Next stop, Benjamin Bridge in the Gaspereau Valley (where Peter Gamble also consults). Winemaker Jean-Benoit Deslaurier, his assistant winemaker Bastien Warscotte (from Champagne) and owner Gerry McConnell all participated in the tasting, as did Jerry’s architect daughter, Devon who designed the winery.

Benjamin Bridge’s team: Jean-Benoit Deslauriers, Gerry McConnell, Devon McConnell and Bastien Warscotte 

  • Benjamin Bridge Brut 2008: straw colour; toasty, brioche, honey; very dry and elegant with a long, green apple, lemony finish with a hint of ginger. (91)
  • Benjamin Bridge Brut Reserve 2008: toasty, white flowers, brioche; elegant, billowing on the palate with white peach and lemon flavours, beautifully balanced, very elegant with great length. (92+)
  • Benjamin Bridge Rosé 2011 (43% Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay): pale salmon colour; wild strawberry, toasty nose; rich mouth-feel of wild strawberry and lemon, fresh and lively on the palate. Very satisfying. (90)
  • Benjamin Bridge Riesling 2013 (blend of three vineyards): straw with a lime tint; minerally, floral, honey, developing hints of petrol on the nose; off-dry, honey and grapefruit flavours with a touch of browning apple on the finish. (87)
  • Benjamin Bridge Cabernet Franc Rosé 2014: very pale pink with a bluish tint; true Cab Franc expression on the nose, redcurrant and citrus; crisply dry, redcurrant and cranberry flavours; lively acidic spine. (89)
  • Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 2014 (15 different varieties): very pale pink; aromatic, orange and lavender nose; off-dry, spicy, orange, peach and redcurrant flavours with lively acidity. Moscato d’Asti style. Light and delicious. (8% alcohol) (90)
  • Benjamin Bridge Tidal Bay 2014 (75% L’Acadie, 25% Ortega): very pale colour; aromatic, floral, white peach and citrus; dry, peach flavour and a peach pit finish that gives the wine structure. A touch of carbon dioxide gives the wine an added freshness. More flavour and heft than its 9.5% alcohol would suggest. (89)

Next stop, Luckett Vineyards in Wolfville with winemaker Mike Mainguy, Gillian’s husband. Over lunch of antipasto and a bowl of lobster and clam chowder we tasted the following wines:

  • Luckett Vineyards Ortega 2012: light straw colour; aromatic, floral, pear nose; off-dry, peach with a little quince-like bitterness on the finish. (87)
  • Luckett Vineyards Buried White L’Acadie 2013 (8 Hungarian oak, 2nd and 3rd fill, buried ten feet in the vineyard where the grapes were grown for 13 months!): almost water white; minerally, pear with a light floral note on the nose; dry, sweet nut flavour with crisp acidity (Soave-like). (88)
  • Luckett Vineyards Tidal Bay 2014 (50% L’Acadie, 45% Ortega, 5% Traminette): very pale straw colour; aromatic, creamy, perfumed nose; off-dry, fruity, peach and orange flavours. Clean and easy drinking with good length. (88)
  • Luckett Vineyards Phone Box White 2013 (Osceola Muscat, Traminette, L’Acadie): very pale with a lime tint; chalky, aromatic, light floral note on the nose; off-dry, tangerine and nectarine flavours with a touch of bitterness on the finish. (86+)
  • Luckett Vineyards Phone Box Red 2013 (Lucie Khulmann (40% appassimento), Leon Millot, Castel): dense purple colour; plum and cedar nose with an oak note; fruity, plum, dry with good acidity, firm finish. (87)
  • Luckett Vineyards Buried Red 2013 (Lucie Kuhlmann (a portion appassimento), Leon Millot, Foch, buried in the vineyard for 13 months): dense purple-black in colour; blackberry with a herbal note and a light oak on the nose; dry, pencil lead and blackberry flavours with lively acidity. (86+)
  • Luckett Vineyards Black Cab N/V (50% Cabernet Foch, 30% Castel, 20% Precoce): dense purple-black colour; earthy, cedary, black cherry; medium-bodied, dry and fruity, blackcurrant and elderberry flavours with a fine spine of acidity. (89)

Luckett’s winemaker Mike Mainguy

Next stop: Planters Ridge in Port Williams, a 150-year-old barn remodelled as a winery. First full vintage 2013. John McLarty, the owner, conducted the tasting.

  • Planters Ridge L’Acadie Blanc 2014: pale straw colour; pear and grapefruit nose with a herbaceous note; green pear flavour with a touch of bitterness on the finish. (86+)
  • Planters Ridge Quintessence White 2014 (67% Muscat, 16.5% L’Acadie, 16.5% Gris): pale straw; labrusca notes in the aroma, floral, pear and orange flavours with fresh acidity. (86)
  • Planters Ridge Riesling 2013: pale straw colour; spicy, grapefruit with a light floral note on the nose; nicely balanced grapefruit and honey flavours with an browning apple note on the finish. (85)
  • Planters Ridge Rosé 2014 (Baco Noir, Frontenac Blanc): salmon colour; raspberry nose; light-bodied, tart raspberry flavour with fresh acidity. (86)
  • Planters Ridge Quintessence Red 2013 (55% Lucie Kuhlmann, 33% Castel, 12% Marquette): dense purple colour; prune and plum nose; spicy, raisiny, plum flavour with fresh acidity and a prune finish. (86)
  • Planters Ridge Barrel Reserve Marquette 2013: deep ruby colour; blackberry with a floral grace note and a touch of oak on the nose; light-bodied, good mouth-feel, dry, fleshy with a rose petal and blackberry flavour. (87)
  • Planters Ridge Lucie Kuhlmann Barrel Reserve 2013: dense purple colour; earthy, black cherry nose; pencil lead and black cherry flavour with a coffee bean finish. Good length. (88)
  • Planters Ridge Tidal Bay 2013 (52% L’Acadie, 20% Seyval, 14% New York Muscat, 14% Frontenac Gris): very pale colour; labrusca notes on the nose; dry, Asian pear flavour with racy acidity and a crab apple finish. (86)
  • Planters Ridge Tidal Bay 2014 (tank sample – 44% L’Acadie, 8% Seyval, 29% Frontenac Gris, 15% Chardonnay, 4% Muscat): pale straw colour; floral, nose with less labrusca character than the 2013. Off-dry pear and tangerine flavours with good length. (87+)

Final winery stop: Avondale Sky, which is housed in an 1837 church that was floated from Walton 32 nautical miles and loaded on a car ferry from New Brunswick in 2011. Forty feet at peak and 36 feet by 50 feet.

Avondale Sky’s church winery

Winemaker Ben Swetnam conducted the tasting.

  • Avondale Sky Summerville L’Acadie 2013: pale straw colour; grassy, green plum; crisply dry, grassy, green apple and green plum flavours. (86)
  • Avondale Sky Burlington L’Acadie 2013: pale straw colour; reductive note, suggestion of oak on the nose; dry, grassy, green fruit and elderberry flavours. (87)
  • Avondale Sky Select Small Lots Canadian Oak L’ Acadie Blanc 2012: light straw colour with a green tint; oaky, white pepper, green plum nose; medium-bodied, crisply dry, evident oak. Reminiscent of Grüner Veltliner. (86+)
  • Avondale Sky Select Small Lots Petite Milo 2013: pale straw; orange peel with an aromatic note on the nose; elderberry and gooseberry flavours carried on lively acidity. (The first time I’ve tasted this grape.) (88)
  • Avondale Sky Tidal Bay 2014 (L’Acadie, Vidal, Geisenheim 318, Osceola Muscat, Petite Milo): pale straw colour; sweaty, Sauvignon Blanc-like nose; dry, gooseberry, green plum and cut grass flavours. (88+) Ben calls it, irreverently, “Tiddly B.”
  • Avondale Sky Tennycape 2013 (Vidal, L’Acadie, New York Muscat, Siegfried): pale straw colour; lifted, aromatic nose; off-dry, lychee and Mirabelle plum flavours; lively acidity. (87)
  • Avondale Sky Bliss 2014 (100% Geisenheim 318): pale straw colour; spicy, grapefruit skin nose; off-dry, grapefruit and honey flavours; great tension between fruit and acidity. Long-lasting grapefruit acidity. (89)
  • Avondale Sky Pinnacle Hill Icewine 2013 (Vidal): old gold colour; lifted tropical fruit and honeyed nose with fresh acidity; rich, burnt sugar, barley sugar and dried apricot flavours, mouth-freshening acidity. Great energy. (92)
  • Avondale Sky Red Head Reserve 2012 (Leon Millot): deep ruby colour; smoky, black cherry with vanilla oak on the nose; dry, savoury, herbal, sour cherry flavour. Good length. (87)

Avondale Sky’s winemaker Ben Swetnam

Back to the hotel for a quick change and then to dinner with Gillian at Troy – a Turkish and Mediterranean restaurant in Wolfville. Ordered a pint of Rojo Mojo Red Ale by the Sealevel Brewery with a platter of mixed mezze followed by very garlicky chicken kebabs.

Then on to Gaspereau Vineyards for the rotating winemakers’ Tuesday night tasting. The host winery gets to choose the theme: tonight, summer sippers. Each participating winery brings a wine to the theme and introduces it as it’s poured around for all. Participants include store managers and retail staff as well as the visiting winemakers. After about eight wines I excused myself and returned to the hotel to write up the day’s notes. And to pack for an early departure tomorrow to drive to Jost vineyards in Malagash.

Wednesday, June 3: The drive to Jost in Malagash takes two hours. Carl Sparkes, the owner, gave us a tour of the winery after a welcome glass of Selkie, Jost’s off-dry, aromatic frizzante wine in the style of Nova 7, named for a mythological seal-woman.

Jost’s Selkie

Jonathan Rodwell, Director of Viticulture and Winemaking for Devonian Coast (Jost’s parent company, which includes Gaspereau Vineyards and Mercator), conducted the tasting.

  • Jost Vineyards Tidal Bay 2014 (60% L’Acadie, 15% Muscat, 15% Ortega and 10% Cayuga): pale straw colour; aromatic, orange peel nose; clean and bright, off-dry, spicy, honey, grapefruit and nectarine flavours. (88)
  • Gaspereau Vineyards Tidal Bay 2014 (39% Vidal, 40% Vidal, 8% Chardonnay, 13% Muscat): light straw colour; minerally, grapefruit, crab apple nose; dry, grapefruit with lively acidity and a honeyed note. (88)
  • Mercator Vineyards Tidal Bay 2014 (69% L’Acadie, 16% Seyval, 14% Muscat): pale straw colour; aromatic, Muscat really coming through, orange blossom and honey; off-dry, good mouth-feel with lively acidity. Clean and true. (89)
  • Mercator White 2014 (tank sample – V-53, Petite Milo): pale straw colour; crab apple, aromatic nose; green apple with a rustic note on the palate. (86+)
  • Mercator Red 2013 (60% Castel, 31% Baco Noir with Chardonnay and Muscat): medium-bodied dense ruby colour; spicy, plum and prune nose; dry, cooked plum flavour with lively acidity. (87)

Then we tasted a range of red hybrids tank samples – Castell, Baco Noir, Lucie Kuhlmann, Marechal Foch, Marquette, and Triomphe d’Alsace, all 2014.

Jost label the LCBO would not accept 

Devonian Coast Maple Wine (fermented maple sap): deep amber colour; creamy caramel nose; rich mouth-feel, medium sweet with a true maple syrup flavour but not cloying thanks to a lively acidic spine with a brown sugar finish. (90)

After lunch we drove to see Suzanne Corkum at Ste. Famille in Falmouth.

  • Ste. Famille Tidal Bay 2014 (Seyval, Geisenheim 318 and New York Muscat): pale straw colour; minerally, orange blossom and nectarine; off-dry, aromatic, white peach flavour with mouth-watering acidity. (87+)
  • Ste. Famille Siegfried 2012 (unique to Ste. Famille): straw colour with a green tint; bready, spicy, orchard fruit nose; off-dry, caramel and citrus flavours with a racy acidic finish. (87)
  • Ste. Famille Baco Noir 2014: deep purple colour; plum nose with fresh acidity; dry, savoury, plum flavour. Fruit sustains well on the palate with a raisiny note on the finish. (88)

Drove to Lunenburg to the home of Roger and Gale Dial, where I’m staying the night. They live in a converted Baptist church which, in its previous incarnation, was a mortuary and is situated next to a cemetery. Roger and I have been friends for 35 years since I first visited Nova Scotia to research Vintage Canada. He owned the original Grand Pré, the first winery in the province.

Before dinner we sat down to smoked salmon and a bottle of Gaspereau Vineyards Pinot Noir Brut 2009. Before we demolished that, Roger’s son, Adam, joined us. At dinner (scallops followed by a delicious stew of octopus and calamari and salad) Roger brought out a series of old L’Acadie wines, which he served blind: Gaspereau Vineyards L’Acadie Blanc 2013 and Coffin Ridge L’Acadie Blanc 2011 (from Ontario), Grand Pré L’Acadie Blanc 1999 followed by Grand Pré Cuvée d’Amur Michurinetz 1982, which tasted like an old petit château Bordeaux. For dessert, rhubarb pie, ice cream, and whipped cream with Jost Solstice Ice L’Acadie Blanc 1996 and Royal Tokaji 5 Puttunyos 1996. These two wines, also served blind, tasted spookily similar.

Venerable L’Acadie Blanc

Thursday, June 4: The sun came out today for the first time on my trip. Roger drove me through Mahone Bay to Blomidon for a tasting at Blomidon Estate Winery, conducted by winemaker Simon Rafuse.

  • Blomidon Estate Winery Crémant 2012 (Seyval, L’Acadie, Chardonnay): pale straw colour; leesy, apple nose; dry, cidery flavour, crisp acidity, light on the palate. (88)
  • Blomidon Estate Winery Cuvee L’Acadie 2011: pale straw colour; creamy, quince nose; lemony, pear flavour. Clean, light-bodied and lingering lemony finish on the palate. (88+)
  • Blomidon Estate Winery Late Picked Chardonnay 2011 Sparkling Extra Brut: very pale colour; leesy, apple nose; lemony, green apple; fresh and lively, creamy and soft on the palate. (89)
  • Blomidon Estate Winery Woodside Road Vineyard Sparkling Brut 2011 (83% Chardonnay, 13% Pinot Noir, 4% Pinot Gris): apple and citrus nose; crisp elderberry flavour with a lively spine of acidity. Great mouth feel and good lemony finish. (90)
  • Blomidon Estate Winery Tidal Bay 2014 (55% Seyval, 40% L’Acadie, 5% New York Muscat): almost water white in colour; minerally, lychee, grapefruit nose; dry, aromatic, pink grapefruit flavour. Clean and fresh. (88+)
  • Blomidon Estate Winery Chardonnay Unoaked 2013: very pale colour; high toned, grassy, white peach nose; dry, medium-bodied, dry, peach pit flavour with a white honey note on the finish. (87)
  • Blomidon Estate Winery Chardonnay Unoaked 2014: very pale colour; apple blossom, apple nose; elegant, fresh and lively on the palate, apple and citrus flavours. (90)
  • Blomidon Estate Winery Chardonnay Oaked 2013 (33% new French oak, 9 months on the lees): vanilla oak, apple with a floral grace note; Chablis-esque flavour, leesy, dry, apple and lemon flavours. (88+)
  • Blomidon Estate Winery Marechal Foch 2010 (two years in American oak): deep purple-ruby colour; floral, cedar, lifted, blackberry nose; medium-bodied, tobacco and black cherry flavours. Soft tannins with lively acidic finish that carries the flavours of black cherry and blackcurrant. (89+)
  • Blomidon Estate Winery Vin de Paille (Chardonnay) 2012: amber colour; honey, dried peach and raisin nose; oxidative note, full on the palate, medium-sweet, with dried peach and apricot flavour; full-bodied, well balanced with great length. (90)
    Blomidon Estate Winery Chardonnay Blanc de blancs 2008: pale straw colour, active mousse; yeasty, leesy, nutty nose; dry, apple and apple core flavours, austere, clean and elegant with a lemony finish. A touch hard on the finish. (89)

Blomidon’s winemaker Simon Rafuse

Lobster poutine

Lunch at The Port Gastropub on the deck overlooking an estuary of the Bay of Fundy – lobster poutine (delicious!) with a pint of Blue Heron Extra Special Bitter.

Gaspereau Vineyards winemaker Gina Haverstock 

Next stop: Gaspereau Vineyards and winemaker Gina Haverstock. After a walk to the top of the vineyard with a bottle of Muscat, the following tasting:

  • Gaspereau Vineyards Riesling 2013: very pale colour; minerally, lemon peel nose; light, delicate rhubarb flavour with lime and honey notes. Great finesse here. (89)
  • Gaspereau Vineyards Muscat 2013: very pale with an onion-skin colour; intense orange blossom and grapefruit nose; light-bodied, perfumed, dry and very elegant and exotic with a clean clove-like finish. (90)
  • Gaspereau Vineyards Tidal Bay 2014 (Seyval, Vidal, Chardonnay and Muscat): pale straw with a faint pink note; fresh, aromatic, peach nose; light on the palate, dry, perfumed, orange green apple and grapefruit flavours. Clean with good length. (89)
  • Gaspereau Vineyards Seyval 2014: almost water white in colour; minerally, peach pit nose; soft, off-dry, honey and peach flavours with balancing acidity; lovely mouth-feel. (87+)
  • Gaspereau Vineyards Marechal Foch 2013: savoury, smoky black cherry nose; dry, herbal, black cherry and pencil lead flavours with a lively spine of acidity. (88)
  • Gaspereau Vineyards Lucie Kuhlmann 2011: dense purple colour; vanilla oak, black cherry nose; spicy, richly extracted, black cherry riding of vanilla oak with soft tannins and juicy, fresh finish. (88)

Gaspereau Vineyards winery

Drove back to Halifax to check into the Marriott Hotel and prepare for this evening’s Tidal Bay launch, at which I’m the guest speaker. Linked up with my old friend and wine writing colleague Sean Wood. We went for a quick bite before the event.

Some 260 people were there, including the provincial Minister of Agriculture. Eleven of the twelve wineries producing Tidal Bay wines were present for tasting (only Lightfoot & Wolfville were missing because their wines are not yet labelled), as well as other wines and some distillers’ products. Tidal Bay is a brilliant concept that allows members of the Wine Association of Nova Scotia to come together with a single blended white wine that adheres to rigorous regulations.

Tidal Bay Appellation: Wine Standards

Concept: Fresh, crisp, dryish, still, white with a bright, “signature Nova Scotia” aromatic component


  1. All grapes used in the making of the wine must be Nova Scotia grown.
  2. Permissible Grape Varieties:

The Appellation wine is to be composed of grape varieties as follows:

  1. PRIMARY VARIETIES (which must, alone or in combination, make up a majority of the final blend):
        Geisenheim 318
  2.  SECONDARY VARIETIES (optional, but must not, alone or in combination, make up more than 49% of the final blend):
        Pinot Blanc
        Pinot Gris
        Kentville White Varieties
        Geisenheim 319, 322 or 6495-3
        Minnesota Muscat
        Petit Milo
        Frontenac Gris
  3. TERTIARY VARIETIES (For reference, these are highly aromatic varieties nevertheless capable, within prescribed maximums, of displaying uniquely Nova Scotian aromatic traits in a blended wine.) (optional, but must not, alone or in combination, make up more than 15% of the final blend; and must not, as determined by the Independent Tasting Panel, overshadow the terroir-based aromatics or flavour of the wine):
        Perle of Csaba
        New York Muscat
      French-hybrid or vinifera Muscat varieties

In my address I suggested that this appellation will be the calling card for Nova Scotia wines and should be on the wine lists of fish restaurants in London, Paris and New York, as well as Chinese and Japanese restaurants.

Friday, June 5: After breakfast, a tasting with Suzanne Comeau of Annapolis Highland Vineyards in the restaurant of the Marriott Hotel at 10 am.

  • Annapolis Highland Vineyards Tidal Bay 2014 (L’Acadie and Sibera): very pale, almost water white; minerally, grapefruit and mango nose; off-dry, banana and white peach flavours with lively acidic finish. Clean and well made. (88+)
  • Annapolis Highland Vineyards L’Acadie Blanc Reserve 2014: very pale, almost water white; peach pit nose with a mineral note; green peach flavour; good mouth feel with a touch of bitterness on the finish. (87)
  • Annapolis Highland Vineyards Muscat 2012: eye of the partridge colour; orange blossom, lychee nose; off-dry, spicy, exotic flavours of tangerine, nectarine and lychee; good length. (89)
  • Annapolis Highland Vineyards Baco Noir Rosé 2014: pink-amber colour; yellow cherry nose with a mineral note; off-dry, cherry flavour; full on the palate for 11% alcohol and a citrus finish. (87)
  • Annapolis Highland Vineyards Lucie Kuhlmann 2012: deep ruby colour; leather, white pepper and plum nose; creamy mouth-feel, dry, plum flavour; nicely balanced. (87+)
  • Annapolis Highland Vineyards Castel 2012: deep ruby-purple colour; savoury, spicy black fruit nose; dry, sour cherry flavour; medium-bodied, well balanced with nicely integrated oak and an engaging tannic lift on the finish. Reminiscent of a Côte du Rhône-Villages. (89)

Sean Wood joined me for the tasting and then we both went back to his house (where I will spend the night) for lunch. After lunch, Sean gave me a sightseeing tour, stopping at the fortified York Redout and the tiny, picturesque fishing villages along the coast of Ketch Cove and Herring Cove.

Muzzle-loading cannons at the York Redout

Herring Cove, Nova Scotia

In the evening he and I were invited to join Jerry McConnell, his daughter Devon and winemaker Jean-Benoit Delauriers for a Benjamin Bridge Wine Club dinner at Chives Restaurant. Twenty-two of us sat down to an amazing multi-course dinner paired with Benjamin Bridge wines.

FIRST Course
Warm spring asparagus salad: Westphalean ham, braised wild leek, quail’s egg, and hand foraged morel mushrooms, with Benjamin Bridge Brut 2008 

Tuna tartar, sesame ginger vinaigrette, avocado, daikon slaw, sesame crackers, with Cabernet Franc Rose by Benjamin Bridge 2014

THIRD Course
Shellfish and spring vegetable “hodge podge” Atlantic lobster, seared scallop, and smoked oyster veloute, Vero by Benjamin Bridge 2014

Campfire style Arctic char, colconnon croquette, fiddleheads, and tidal bay beurre blanc, with Tidal Bay by Benjamin Bridge 2014

Nova 7 cocktail served in between 4th and 5th course.

Duck Trio
Lentil and duck confit strudel, smoked duck breast, seared foie gras, rhubarb, spinach cream, duck jus redux
Benjamin Bridge Sparkling Rose 2011

SIXTH Course
Lady Earl Grey caramel custard, Icewine poached garden rhubarb and ginger tuiles, with Benjamin Bridge Sweet Chardonnay 2013 

Got to bed at midnight.

Saturday, June 6: Up at 7 am to pack and prepare to fly home to Toronto. Sean gave me a lift to the airport. I arrived in Halifax to rain and I left in rain but it was a great trip. I bought a couple of live lobsters for company on the way home. Little do they know their fate.

Pinot T. Wonderdog meets a Nova Scotia lobster

I introduced them to Pinot when I got home. They went very well with a bottle of Closson Chase South Bay Chardonnay 2013.

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 546: Australia’s First Families

Francis d’Darenberg Osborn and his winemaker daughter Alicia

Sunday, May 24: The wine samples have been mounting up in my 11-day absence in Portugal and Spain so I thought I’d get down to some tasting.

  • Le Cirque Classique Sauvignon Blanc Muscat 2012: light straw colour with a greenish tint; aromatic nose of stone fruits, unctuous, tongue-coating flavours of peach and melon; medium-bodied, off-dry, easy drinking. (86)
  • Wolf Blass Yellow Label Chardonnay 2014 ($14.95): pale straw colour; smoky, minerally nose, peach and citrus flavours broadened by oak with enough acidity to make it interesting. Good value. (87)
  • Chateau St. Jean Sonoma County Chardonnay 2013 ($18.95): straw colour with a lime tint: spicy, citrus and apple with oak notes on the nose; full-bodied, rich and full on the palate with peach and clove flavours; lingers well in the mouth. (89)
  • Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir Rosé 2014 (Chile): pale salmon colour; minerally, wild strawberry bouquet; touch of sweetness in the strawberry-raspberry flavour, good acidity. (86)
  • G. Marquis Hand-Harvested Pinot Noir 2013 (Niagara-on-the-Lake): ruby colour; candied raspberry nose with an earthy note; soft on the palate, medium-bodied, sour cherry flavour with a touch of bitterness on the finish. (85)
  • Chateau St. Jean Sonoma Pinot Noir 2012 ($19.95): ruby colour; black raspberry nose with evident oak; dry, medium to full-bodied. Firmly structured with a touch of sweetness. (87+)
  • Norton Barrel Select Malbec 2013 ($12.95): deep purple-ruby colour; spicy, black cherry with a peppery note on the nose; sweet black fruit flavours with supple tannins and a good spine of acidity. Good value. (87)
  • Torres Las Mulas Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2013 (Chile – $12.95): deep ruby colour; blackcurrant nose; light and fruity, dry and firmly structured. (86)

Monday, May 25: Wrote my 680News wine reviews and sent off a slew of thank-you emails to wineries that had hosted us on our tour. Then got down to more tasting:

  • McWilliam’s Tumbarumba Chardonnay 2013 ($26.95): pale straw with a lime tint; minerally, pear nose; crisply dry, lean and lemony; very Chablis-like in style. Medium-bodied, pear and crab apple flavours. (89)
  • G. Marquis Single Vineyard Niagara Stone Road Chardonnay 2013: pale straw colour with a green tint; minerally-smoky, green melon nose; dry, pear flavour with an odd chemical note; tart finish. (85)
  • Cape Bay Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 2013 (Western Cape – $10.70): ruby with a violet rim; smoky, tarry, cedar and redcurrant nose; medium-bodied, dry, rubbery note. (85)
  • Wolf Blass Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (Langhorne Creek and McLaren Vale – $16.95): deep purple-ruby colour; cedar and blackcurrant nose; dry, savoury, currant flavours with a firm finish. Not a lot of depth but good varietal character. (86)

For dinner, with grilled lamb chops, Canoe Ridge The Expedition Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 from Washington’s Horse Heaven Hills AVA ($24.90): deep ruby colour; blackcurrant and black cherry nose with a cedary note; full-bodied, with a sweet and savoury flavour given a lift by a floral note; nicely integrated oak and a firm finish. (90)

Tuesday, May 26: Recorded my 680News wine reviews and then down to the AGO for an unusual tasting of wines from Australia’s first Families of Wines. There are 12 members but only 11 showed up in Toronto, as one of the Campbell brothers of Campbell’s of Rutherglen broke his leg in Montreal! The concept was a speed tasting. Each winery showed two wines and the winemaker/owner could talk about them for six minutes, at which time a bell rang and you had to move on to the next table. We were all given a number and this was the table we had to start at. I was given the number six (Jim Barry table). The wines, in numerical order (which happened to be the alphabetical order) were:

  1. Brown Brothers Chardonnay 2010; Brown Brothers Patricia Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
  2. d’Arenberg The Money Spider Roussanne 2013; d’Arenberg The Iron Pressings 2006 (Grenache, Shiraz, Mourvèdre)
  3. De Bortoli Yarra Valley Estate Grown Pinot Noir 2014; De Bortoli Noble One Botrytis Semillon 2011
  4. Henschke Mount Edelstone 60th Anniversary Vintage 2012 (Shiraz); Henschke Hill of Grace 2005
  5. Howard Park Porongurup Riesling 2014; Howard Park Abercrombie Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
  6. Jim Barry “The Florita” Riesling 2013; Jim Barry “The Armagh” Shiraz 2006
  7. McWilliam’s Appellation Tumbarumba Chardonnay 2013; McWilliam’s Appellation Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
  8. Tahbilk Museum Release Marsanne 2008; Tahbilk “1860” Vines Shiraz 2009
  9. Tyrrell’s Wines Vat 1 Semillon 2010; Tyrrell’s Vat 47 Chardonnay 2011
  10. Wakefield St. Andrews Shiraz 2012; Wakefield The Visionary Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
  11. Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier 2013; Yalumba FDR1A Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 2005

Stephen Henschke

Henschke Hill of Grace 2005

They were all wines of very high quality but the stand-outs for me were the two Henschke Shiraz – Hill of Grace (96) and Mount Edelstone (94) – and De Bortoli Noble One (93), Jim Barry “The Armagh” (91), Yalumba FDR1A Cab/Shiraz (92), Tyrrell’s Chardonnay (91), Wakefield St. Andrews Shiraz (91), and d’Arenberg Roussanne (90). A fascinating tasting, rather like speed dating.

Wednesday, May 27: Wrote my Wines of the Week and dealt with wines that had not been collected from the Grapes for Humanity auction. For dinner, pork loin with McWilliams Canberra Syrah 2013 (solid ruby colour with a savoury nose of blackberries and herbs; dry, sour cherry and baker’s chocolate flavours with lively acidity and a fresh finish (89)).

Thursday, May 28: Wrote my Post City column about Cabernet Sauvignon and the need, in cool climates, to blend with Merlot or Cabernet Franc. In the evening I drove to Caledon to conduct a tasting for a school fund-raiser at the house of my nephew-by-marriage a few times removed, Gary W.

Friday, May 29: A Vintages release tasting today. Came across a wine with a label that definitely doesn’t say “Grab me.” It’s called Blindfold White 2013, an oaky blend of Chardonnay, Viognier, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc “and a few other grapes.” The winery is called The Prisoner Wine Company in Rutherford, California. What you might call a protest label.

Blindfold White 2013


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 545: Portugal and Spain Tour

Monday, May 11: Wrote my Quench commentary on Cotes du Rhone Villages and supplied the magazine with 30 wine reviews. In the evening my California friend Pooch came around for dinner. We drank Washington Hills Late Harvest Riesling 2013 with truffle-oiled popcorn and with the barbecued steaks, Alceño Premium 50 Barricas Syrah and Kenwood Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 with the cheeses. Deborah had made a chocolate cake in anticipation of my birthday tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 12: Went down to El Catrin restaurant in the Distillery District for a port tasting with David Guimaraens, who makes Fonseca and Taylor’s. 2015 is the 200th anniversary of Fonseca. After a cocktail of Fonseca Siroco Dry White Port on the rocks with orange peel we sat down to taste six vintage ports from what David called “classic vintages,” beginning with the oldest.

  • Fonseca Vintage Port 1970: quite pale in colour, showing brick red, more like a red Burgundy. Spicy, raisiny nose of black cherries and blackcurrants; lovely mouth-feel, beautifully balanced with sweet fruit and caramel notes; plushy tannins. (93)
  • Fonseca Vintage Port 1985: still holding its deep ruby colour; vanilla note on the nose; creamy on the palate, rich and sensuous with silky, sweet flavours of dark chocolate, cherry and blackcurrant; firmly structured. (95)
  • Fonseca Vintage Port 1994: dense ruby colour; spicy, minerally, inky, coffee bean nose; intense sweet and unctuous blackcurrant and chocolate flavours with a herb-tinged note and a warm alcoholic finish. (94)
  • Fonseca Vintage Port 2000: deep ruby colour; savoury, herbal nose – spicy, licorice, black cherry and sage on the nose; lighter in style but beautifully balanced; creamy, licorice flavour; elegant with ripe tannins and lively acidity. (94)
  • Fonseca Vintage Port 2011: dense purple colour; spirit, floral, blackcurrant nose with a herbal note; spicy, sweet and fruity, mouth-filling but firm with good grip on the finish. (93–95)
  • Fonseca Vintage Port 2012: dense purple colour; inky, spicy, vinous nose with pencil lead and floral and herbal grace notes; rich blackcurrant flavour, firm and tight with a lovely mouth-feel. (94)

After the tasting we sat down to lunch – guacamole and tacos, followed by a special birthday dessert.

Birthday dessert

Home to send off emails before going downtown again for my birthday dinner at The Chase. Jordan, the sommelier, treated us to a glass of champagne and recommended a bottle of Palacios Remondo Placet 2011 from Rioja to go with our oysters and grilled halibut. Then they presented us with a lovely dessert with candles. A fine birthday dinner.

Wednesday, May 13: A mad scramble to finish work before the car came to take Deborah and me to the airport for our flight to Frankfurt and then on to Oporto. We met most of the group who are travelling with us on my annual Pauwels wine tour – this year to Portugal and Spain. Steve Pauwels, who usually leads the group, had injured himself on the squash court and was on crutches with his right leg in a brace after an operation. Because he had to keep his leg straight he travelled business class while the rest of us were at the back of the bus. Watched an Australian movie, Son of A Gun, which I gave up on halfway through because of the sound quality coming through my ear-bud headphones.

Thursday, May 14: A a joke I asked the steward for a Bloody Mary. She said, “On Air Canada you should order a bloody Caesar”… I once ordered one in a bar in the States and the guy said, “You want a salad, y’all?”

Arrived early in Frankfurt and had a three-hour layover before our flight to Oporto, where several of our group are already at the Yeatman Hotel, where we will be staying for the next three nights. The hotel, high above Vila Nova de Gaia, has a spectacular view of the old town of Oporto, the Douro River and the Ponte Luis I, the iron bridge that Eiffel built. The rooms are named after port houses; ours is Real Campaniha Velha, the oldest Portuguese port house.

Our room at the Yeatman was named after their Douro’s oldest port company

We lunched in Taylor’s restaurant (a short walk down innumerable steps from the hotel), starting with a glass of Taylor’s White Port. Plates of olives, goat’s cheese marinated in oregano, garlic and olive oil, and pales of cold cuts and shrimps and scallops with bottles of Quinta do Vallado 2014 (a blend of Arinto, Codega, Gouveio, Rabitago and Vosinho).

Slept for an hour in the afternoon, mercifully, and toured the hotel’s spa and gym before meeting the group for a welcome drink in the bar – the customary port cocktail (white port on ice with tonic water). Then by bus to dinner at Cockburn’s Vinum restaurant.

Oporto from Graham’s terrace

Model of a barca velha

Anchovy appetizer

A white port cocktail on the terrace with an anchovy hors d’oeuvre before sitting down to dinner: white bean and tomato in a wrap of zucchini, spicy mixed-meat sausage with grilled red pepper, barbecued rib steak with boiled new potatoes served with Prats & Symington P+S Prazo de Roriz 2011, followed by apple tart tatin with vanilla ice cream, with Graham’s The Tawny.

Getting into their port

Friday, May 15: After breakfast, bussed to Graham’s for a tour of the lodge and a tasting of three tawnies – 30 Year Old, 40 Year Old and a single harvest 1982.

Graham’s old tawnies

Building across the street from The Factory House, Oporto

Then on to The Factory House for a tour and lunch hosted by Rupert Symington. Members (all British) have to contribute 12 dozen bottles of vintage port of a declared year.

Lunch menu: Cream of leek soup, with Altano 2014 (Malvasia , Rabitago, Vosinho, Muscatel); Toasted pork tenderloin on a bed of vegetables with rice, with Quinta do Ataide 2011; Crepe with orange mousseline, with Graham’s Treasurer’s Tawny (20 Year Old); and Serra and Stilton cheeses, with Graham’s 1983 Vintage Port.

Lunch at the Factory House

After lunch Stephen Pauwels and I walked around the shops and had a drink (a glass of Quinta do Noval Maria Manson 2013) at Majestic Café, the oldest in Oporto. Dinner at O Gaveto in Matoshinhos on the coast – a very unprepossessing looking restaurant but serving delicious fresh seafood and fish. Ordered Alselmo Mendes Alvarhino 2013 and Esporão Reserva 2013 with plates of shrimps and barnacles, clams, seafood rice followed by turbot, sea bass and grouper. Steve ordered a couple of bottles of Busaco Branco Reserva 2013.

Seafood at O Gaveto

Saturday, May 16: After breakfast a tour of Oporto, including the cathedral and the market. Bought ham and cheese sandwiches, custard tarts and a half bottle of Grao Vasco 2010 for a picnic on the balcony overlooking the river and Oporto’s Ribiera district.

Candies in Oporto market

Street buskers in Oporto

Next a visit to Burmester at the end of the Luis I bridge. Toured the cellar, guided by a young Portuguese named Pedro who was a doppelganger for my cousin Carl Aspler. We then walked along the quay to Calem (which is part of the Sogevinus group that includes Kopke, Veedha and Barros). A tasting of the following wines: White Port, Kopke Rudy Port, Burmester 10 Year Old Tawny, Kopke 20 Year Old Tawny, Kopke Colheta 1984 and Kopke Colheta 1975.

Kopke Colheita 1984

Dinner at the Yeatman Hotel’s Michelin one-star restaurant with João, one of the owners of Carm, a million-bottle winery in the Upper Douro near the Spanish border. But first, drinks on the terrace – Carm Rosé 2014. The menu:

Yeatman dinner menu

Sunday, May 17: Packed and ready for our drive to the Douro Valley, but first we purchased 12 bottles of wine from the Yeatman’s excellent wine store for this afternoon’s boat trip.

Mateus Palace

The gang at Mateus Palace

After a stop at the Mateus Palace to see its gardens, we drove up to the Douro and had lunch at DOC, Estrada Nacional in Amarmar.

DOC menu

Lobster dish at DOC

Opening Quinta de La Rosa 2009 with port tongs at DOC

We boarded the “Torga” for a boat trip up the Douro, during which we consumer five bottles of João Portugal Ramos Alvarinho Vino Verde 2013 with Lay’s potato chips. Dined at the hotel (duck breast risotto with a bottle of Vale de Meão Meandro 2012).

Monday, May 18: Our first visit was to Quinta do Noval with its huge spreading cedar of Lebanon. The quinta celebrates its 300th anniversary this year. Ana toured us around the Nacional vineyard above the house, where we became acquainted with Bonito the mule who is leased out to the vineyards to plow between the vine rows.

Quinta do Noval

Ana in Noval’s Nacional vineyard

Bonito the mule at work in Noval’s Nacional vineyard

Then into the quinta to see the lagares, where they foot-tread the grapes, before a tasting of the following wines: Quinta do Noval Red 2011, Noval Black (a ruby port), Noval LBV 2009, Noval Vintage 2012, Noval 10 Year Old Tawny, Noval Colheita 2000.

Lunch: Serra cheese, bola (bread stuffed with meat), smoked pork and toasted almonds, with Cedro do Noval Branca 2014 and Cedro do Noval Tinto 2011.

Azulejo tiles on the walls of the station in Pinhão

Back to the hotel for a rest. Deborah and I walked to Pinhão train station to see the azulejos depicting winemaking scenes. Then bussed to Dirk Niepoort’s modern Quinta de Nápoles for a monumental tasting of wines produced by the Douro Boys (an association of five progressive quintas in the region.)

Wall art at Niepoort’s Quinta de Nápoles

Niepoort’s winemaker Carlos

Niepoort: The winemaker Carlos took us into the cellar for a tank and barrel tasting of Redoma Branca 2014 from stainless steel and oak, Bioma 2013, Batuta 2013. Then upstairs in the tasting room: Dialogo 2013 and 2014, Dialogo Tinto 2013, Vertente 2012, Batuta 2012, Charme 2013.

Quinta do Vale Meao: Meandro Branca 2013, Meandro Tinto 2012, Quinta do Vale Meao 2012.

Quinta do Vale Meão 2012

We moved onto the balcony to sit down and resumed the tasting.

Quinta do Crasto: Crasto Superior Branca 2013, Crasto Tinto 2013, Crasto Superior 2013, Crasto Vinho Velhas Reserva 2012, Crasto Touriga Nacional 2012.

Quinta do Vallado: Muscatel Prima 2014, Vallado Tinto 2012, Vallado Touriga Nacional 2012, Vallado Tinto Reserva 2012.

Quinta do Vale Dona Maria Rufo 2012, Quinta do Vale Maria 2012.

Cristiano van Zeller

View from Niepoort’s terrace

In the dining room more wines were brought out for the dinner (roast goat, rice, potatoes and salad; crème caramel, cheeses): Quinta do Vale Dona Maria Rufo Branca 2013, Neipoort Coche 2013, Vallado Reserva Branca 2014, Crasto Branca 2013, Vallado Soasa 2012, Vale Dona Maria 2011, Crasto Touriga Nacional 2004.

Tuesday, May 19: On the road by 9 am, en route for Ribera del Duero. Just after the Spanish border we took a pit stop at a small garage with a shop that sold everything, including a range of airguns.

On sale at a pit stop near Trabazos, Spain

At Zamora we stopped at Fariña, a family-owned winery where we tasted Bodegas de Fariña Colegiata Malvasa 2014, Colegiata Tinta de Toro Rosé 2014, Fariña Vino & Arte Primero 2014 (a carbonic macerartion wine; each year the winery holds a competition to choose the best painting for the label), Colegiata Tinta de Toro 2014 and Gran Colegiata Barrica 2014. Nicola, the export manager, told us that Columbus took Toro wines on board his ships for his voyages of discovery.

Then we sat down to lunch: ham, olives, cheese and chorizo, followed by pork rib stew with potatoes. The wines: Fariña Crianza French Oak 2009, Fariña Reserva 2008 and Fariña Gran Colegiata Campus Old Vines 2008 (the latter two wines tasted like Côte Rôtie). A dessert of locally made cookies with Fariña Val de Reyes Muscatell & Abillo 2012 and Val de Reyes Late Harvest Tempranillo made in a solera.

Drove on to Sardón del Duero to check into Le Domaine of the Abadia Retuerta, followed by a tour of the 180-hectare vineyard and the expensively appointed winery for a tasting of Abadia Retuerta Seleccion Especial 2011 and Abadia Retuerta Pago Valdebellon Cabernet Sauvignon 2011.

Abadia Retuerta Pago Valdebellón Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Dined in Le Domaine’s Vinoteca on a variety of small, shared dishes – foie gras, chicken salad, ham croquettes and glasses of Menade Sauvignon Blanc 2014 and Abadia Retuerta Seleccion Especial 2010.

Le Domaine at Abadia Retuerta

Wednesday, May 20: Breakfast in the dining room. Everyone gets a copy of the International edition of the Herald Tribune with your name printed on the cover. Bussed to Vega Sicilia, a short distance away, for a tour of the winery with its Technical Director Javier. First a walk around the Japanese garden. Javier told us that the winery had planted 35,000 cork trees (which will produce cork in 40 years) in an area that used to grow corn, as well as oak trees (which will eventually produce oak for their cooperage). “The barrel is the best client Vega Sicilia has,” said Javier, referring to the evaporation that occurs over the wine’s time in the barrel.

We toured the ultra-modern facility and then sat down in the dining room of the “chateau” hung with paintings by Spanish artists the winery uses on the labels of their magnums and larger format bottles each year. With a lunch of Iberico ham, croquettes and Spanish omelette we tasted Vega Sicilia Pintia 2010 (Toro), Vega Sicilia Macan 2011 (Rioja), Vega Sicilia Valbuena 2010 and Vega Sicilia Unico 2007 (the latter out of a glass specially designed by Riedel for the Unico).

Tasting lineup at Vega Sicilia

While some of the group went on to visit the town of Peñafiel and its wine museum, Deborah and I took a nap, having slept poorly last night. At dinner the assistant winemaker from Pingus, Yulia Zhdanova, brought her wines for us to taste. Before we sat down we had a glass of Raventos i Blanc sparkling wine. Before the meal I tasted barrel samples of Flor de Pingus 2013 and Pingus 2013, followed by the same wines from the 2014 vintage. The Pingus 2014 is one of the best wines I’ve tasted in some time: deeply coloured purple that stains the glass, with a floral, cedar, blackcurrant and plum nose threaded with minerality. More concentrated than the 2013, muscular and full in the mouth. Elegant, cherry, chocolate and blackcurrant flavours tinged with a herbal note; beautifully poised with velvety tannins. In five years’ time this will be a glorious wine. (97)

Pingus’s assistant winemaker Yulia Zhdanova

The menu:

Home-made duck foie gras mi-cuit with “Reineta” apple compote and nuts, with Pingus PSI 2011

Monkfish with an emulsion from the its bones and tender garlic, with Flor de Pingus 2011

Baby lamb shoulder blade with potato wedges and cumin juice, with Abadia Retuerta Seleccion Especial 2010

Nut sponge cake with vanilla ice cream and coffee dream.

Pingus dinner wines

Thursday, May 21: Packed up this morning to hit the road at 9:30 am for the drive to Madrid. Checked into the Ritz Hotel and had a light lunch in the terrace garden – gazpacho and a crabmeat hamburger and a bottle of Azul y Garanza Rosa 2014 from Navarra. Then a quick visit to the Prado, a two-minute walk away. I think I know now where Chagall got the inspiration for his flying figures – from El Greco.

Prado poster

Royal palace in Madrid

In the afternoon we had a conducted a tapas tour with our exuberant guide Kelly, a Jewish girl from Minnesota. Our first stop for ham, Manchego cheese and potato salad and sweet vermouth on tap, El Anciano Rey de los Vinos (est. 1909), Calle de Bailén. Next stop, Taberna La Concha, Calle Cava Baja 7, a basement room with a frenetic owner who dashed up and down the stairs with the dishes: Homemade salmorejo sprinkled with egg and jamón; tosta of smoked cured beef from León; tosta of prawns in a shallot mayonnaise; roasted piquillo pepper stuffed with melted tetilla cheese, washed down with Pazo San Mauro Albarinho 2014. Final stop: Casa del Abuelo, Calle Nuñez de Arce 5: The famous garlic shrimp; grilled Iberian pork; grilled blood sausage from Burgos; flash-roasted Padrón peppers; grilled green asparagus; grilled garlic mushrooms with La Viña del Abuelo Verdejo 2014 (Rueda).

Tapas bar, Madrid

Madrid’s favourite sandwich

Friday, May 22: This morning a tour of the markets. Our group led by Luke, an Englishman. First stop, Chocolat for a thick hot chocolate with crispy fried donut-like fingers called porras, which are like churros but puffier.

Chocolate and porra

Next stop, Casa Gonzales for wine and four Spanish cheeses; then into the market for meet the olive man and sample six different olives: manzanilla, Campo Real, “grandma style,” Malaga, arbequina and black olive. Next stop, the ham man for serrano, acorn-fed Iberico, and aged Cecina. Finally Omaira, a tiny restaurant in the market that served us slow-cooked beef cheeks and a glass of Buro Peñaloso Ribera del Duero Crianza 2010.

Olives in Madrid market

In the afternoon while the ladies shopped I went looking for more Zurbaran paintings but the gallery to which I had been directed turned out to be a hole in the ground. Then another disappointment: Kelly had told me the best sherry bar in Madrid was Venencia on Calle Echegaray. When four of us went in search of it we found it shuttered. So we popped into a local bar for beers and a glass of Manzanilla.

Mireia Torres

At 8:45 pm we walked over to the Alabaster restaurant on Calle Montalban for dinner with Miriea Torres, who had taken the fast train from Barcelona, with Torres wines, to host the dinner. The staff had prepared a magnificent menu:

Lobster cocktail with Torres Fransola 2013 (Sauvignon Blanc)

Fried baby scallops with Jean Leon Vinyard Gigi Chardonnay 2013

Langoustines from Galicia with Torres Milmanda 2012 (Chardonnay)

Poached egg with carbonara cream with Torres Perpetual 2012

Hake from Burela with lime pil-pil, with Torres Mas Borras 2011 (Pinot Noir)

Beef sirloin from Galicia with roast potatoes, with Torres Mas La Plana 2010 (Cabernet Sauvignon)

Torria brioche with Secret del Priorat 2011 (Late harvest Cariñena and Garnacha Tinta)

Torres Perpetual 2012

A magnificent meal with great wines!

Saturday, May 23: Up at 7:30 am to finish packing and have breakfast before the bus took us to Madrid airport for the trip home.

My website editor, James Harbeck, was also on the trip, and he took quite a few photos. See his albums on Flickr for more pictures of this tour:


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

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

29th Annual Fishing Dinner


Risotto w forest mushrooms & asparagus
Hot smoked salmon

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

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

Berries and coconut almond cake
Biscotti by Ellie
Breads by Roz

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

Art Ellie Esther Sam Deborah Tony Sandy Harold Roz Steve









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

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

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

Hall and Walt wines at The Chase

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

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

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

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

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

Tony opening the 2015 Ontario Wine Awards gala

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

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

Gold medal winners:

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