A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 641: Dining with Gordon

Monday, March 13th: Wrote up my 680 NEWS wine reviews and then the wine notes for Quench before getting down to more tasting:

  • Henry of Pelham Pinot Grigio 2016 (Ontario): Golden straw colour; minerally, peach nose; medium-bodied, off-dry, peach and melon flavours with a touch of sweetness. (87)
  • Louis Martini Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (Sonoma): dense purple colour; smoky, floral, vanilla oak and black plum bouquet with a cedary note; full-bodied, dry, creamy mouth-feel. A well-structured wine. (89)
  • Creekside Cabernet Franc 2013 (Ontario): Deep purple-ruby; cedary, black fruit nose with spicy, peppery notes; medium-bodied, dry, floral, blackberry flavour with a vanilla oak backing; ripe tannins and a firm finish. (89.5)
  • Yalumba Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2016: Deep ruby colour; cedary, dusty, savoury nose of blackcurrants; medium-bodied, dry, lean and sinewy blackcurrant flavour with a floral note. (89)
  • Luigi Bosca Malbec 2013 (Argentina): Deep ruby colour; cedary-sandalwood nose of spicy blackberries; full-bodied, dry, creamy blackberry flavour with vanilla oak; richly extracted sweet black fruit flavours with mocha-chocolate notes and a chalky finish. (89)

Tuesday, March 14th: Wrote my Lexpert column on “Tasting Like a Pro.” Then went down to the LCBO to taste the rest of the March 28th Vintages release. French fries on the way home.

Wednesday, March 15th: Recorded my 680 NEWS wine reviews. In the afternoon, worked on the Ontario Wine Awards judging panels.

Thursday, March 16th: Finally had a day when there were no deadlines so that I could get back to writing the book. Still no title but the end is in sight. Opened a bottle of Rémy Pannier Rosé d’Anjou 2015 (pale pink with an orange tint; minerally, cherry pit and wild strawberry bouquet; light-bodied with a touch of sweetness in mid palate; fresh watermelon flavour with citrus acidity (88.5)).

Friday, March 17th: St. Patrick’s Day – wore green socks. Down to the LCBO for the next Vintages release tasting (April 1). Dinner at Parmigiano.

Saturday, March 18: After grocery shopping, Deborah and I went for a bowl of chicken soup and a shared sandwich of smoked meat at Panser’s on Bathurst. Overheard a patron at the next table asking the waitress, “What would you charge to send 500 portions of cabbage borscht to New Zealand?” Dinner at Gordon and Carole Stimmell’s. We brought carrot cake and three bottles of wine. They cooked Dungeness crab. Great meal. Uber-ed home.

  • Flat Rock Riddled 2010 (Ontario – 100% Chardonnay, traditional method): Lively mousse; leesy, citrus, apple and lemon nose; fresh and lemony on the palate, easy drinking with good length. (89)
  • Flat Rock Unplugged Chardonnay 2015 (stainless steel and 10-year-old barrels(!)): Straw colour; spicy pear and melon nose; light to medium-bodied, dry, apple blossom, citrus and green pineapple flavours. Good length. (88.5)
  • Caliterra Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (Casablanca Valley, Chile): Pale straw colour; grassy, grapefruit and green plum nose; medium-bodied, dry, minerally grapefruit flavour. (88)


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 640: Taste Ontario

VQA poster: New views. New tastes. No apologies.

Monday, March 6th: The annual Taste Ontario tasting for the wine trade and the press at the ROM. Couldn’t get around to taste all 160 wines on offer but of those I did taste here are my top scores:

Top Rieslings I tasted:

  • Charles Baker 2013 (91)
  • Cave Spring CSV Riesling 2015 (91)
  • Château des Charmes Old Vines Riesling Estate Bottled 2014 (89)
  • Flat Rock Cellars Riesling  2015 (89)
  • 2027 Cellars Falls Vineyard Riesling 2016 (88.5)
  • Tawse Riesling 2015 (89)
  • Two Sisters Riesling 2015 (88.5)

Top Cabernet Franc:

  • Southbrook Small Lot 101 Cabernet Franc 2013 (90)
  • Cave Spring Cellars Cabernet Franc 2014 (89)
  • Domaine Queylus Cabernet Franc 2013 (89)
  • Meldville Cabernet Franc 2015 (89)
  • Sue-Ann Staff Cabernet Franc 2012 (89)

Meldville Cabernet Franc 2015

Top Gamay:

  • Malivoire Small Lot Gamay 2015 (89)
  • The Grange of Prince Edward Select Gamay Pinot 2014 (89)
  • 13th Street Sandstone Vineyard Gamay 2014 (88.5)
  • Pelee Island Fox Trot Gamay Noir Zweigelt 2015 (88.5)
  • Tawse Redfoot Gamay 2015 (88.5)

Top Pinot Noir:

  • Thomas Bachelder Wismer Parke Pinot Noir 2014 (91)
  • Thomas Bachelder Parfum Pinot Noir 2014 (90)
  • Domaine Queylus Reserve Pinot Noir 2013 (90)
  • Domaine Queylus Signature Pinot Noir 2013 (90)
  • Adamo Wismer Parke Pinot Noir 2014 (89)
  • Cave Spring Estate Pinot Noir  2015 (89)
  • Norman Hardie Pinot Noir 2015 (89)
  • 2027 Cellars Wismer Vineyard Foxcroft Block Pinot Noir 2013 (88.5)

Other wines I tasted:

  • Norman Hardie Chardonnay 2014 (91)
  • Château des Charmes Equuleus 2012 (89.5)
  • Adamo Gewurztraminer Wismer Lakeview Vineyard 2015 (89)
  • Creekside Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (89)
  • Wescott Reserve Chardonnay 2015 (89)
  • Medville Chardonnay 2015 (89)
  • Vieni Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (89)
  • Vieni Red Trillium Ripasso 2013 (89)
  • Hidden Bench Bistro Red 2013 (88.5)
  • The Good Earth Viognier 2015 (88.5)

All in all an impressive collection of wines, with each winery allowed to submit four labels.

Tuesday, March 7th: Went to the LCBO to taste wines I missed on Friday. At 5 pm John Nadeau came over to the condo and we opened a bottle of Domaine Queylus Cabernet Franc 2013 with some cheeses.

Wednesday, March 8th: Began writing my monthly article for Quench on the inevitability of screwcap closures. At 12:30, lunch at Cibo with an old friend, Doug Paddey. Finished off the article in the afternoon. In the evening I opened a bottle of Château Vrai Caillou 2014 (deep ruby colour; cedary, red berry nose; medium-bodied, dry, well-extracted sweet blackberry and blueberry flavours with a savoury-herbal note and a floral lift on the finish (88.5)).

Thursday, March 9th: Spent the day inputting wine reviews for the website and working on wineries to visit in Veneto, Alto Adige and Friuli for the annual wine tour in May.

Friday, March 10th: A  Winery-to-Home tasting at Doug Towers’s with David Lawrason: 32 wines and all but one under screwcap.

Saturday, March 11th: Drove up to Walkerton with my friend and neighbour, Dr. Michael Belovitch, a veterinarian who does charity work in Cuba and in Canada’s northern communities – spaying, neutering and immunizing dogs and teaching kids how to care for the dogs. This was a fund-raiser for Cat Lake Friends of Animush.  By the time we arrived the snow was falling and already quite deep in the parking lot. Some 50 local people braved the weather to attend, first a beer tasting followed by a wine tasting that I conducted. The wines were donated by Ontario wineries.

Walkerton wine tasting

  • Hidden Bench Estate Riesling 2014
  • Peninsula Ridge Pinot Grigio 2015
  • Daniel Lenko Unoaked Chardonnay 2009
  • Daniel Lenko White Cabernet 2012
  • Angels Gate Merlot 2013
  • Peninsula Ridge Shiraz 2015

Drove back in a blinding snowstorm down to Orangeville and then the weather cleared, but it was pretty scary, trying to see other tire tracks on the road. Got home by midnight, in time to put the clocks forward.


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 639: Dinner at Alo

Friday, February 24th: Finally got a reservation at Alo, since I wanted to include them in the article Decanter magazine commissioned, entitled “My Toronto.”

Chris, the sommelier, did a fantastic job matching the dishes. The wines: Schloss Gobelsburg “Steinsetz” Grüner Veltliner 2015, Garafoli “Podium” Verdicchio de Castelli dei Jesi 2015, Bernard Fouqet Silxes Vouvray Chenin Blanc 2015, Wilhelm Walsch St. Magdalener 2016, Foradori Morei Teroldego 2013.

Garafoli 'Podium' Verdicchio de Castelli dei Jesi 2015

Foradori Morei Teroldego 2013

Alo’s chef Patrick Kriss

Amazing meal, the best I’ve had in Toronto in eons. The plating was exquisite and the service highly choreographed. They even give you your choice of napkin colour. Not inexpensive but definitely worth it.

Monday, February 27th: Wrote my 680 NEWS wines reviews and the got down to  some catch-up tasting as the samples mounted up while we were away in Guatemala.

  • Konzelmann Chardonnay Reserve 2015 (Niagara Peninsula): straw colour; spicy, apple nose with an oaky note; full-bodied, dry, pineapple flavour with well-integrated oak and good length. (89)
  • Sieur d’Arques Grande Cuvée 1531 Crémant de Limoux Brut (Languedoc Roussillon): pale straw colour; minerally, chalky, green pear nose; medium-bodied, dry, apple and citrus flavours with a lemony finish. (89)
  • Kim Crawford Rise & Shine Pinot Noir 2014 (Central Otago): ruby colour; cedary, black raspberry nose; medium-bodied, dry, cherry and raspberry flavours with lively acidity. (88.5)
  • Quails’ Gate Gamay Nouveau 2016 (Okanagan Valley): medium ruby colour; cherry nose with a note of vanilla oak; medium-bodied, dry, fruity, fresh and lively raspberry flavour with a sweet rhubarb finish. Nice change from Beaujolais Nouveau. (88.5)
  • Mission Hill Reserve Shiraz 2014 (Okanagan Valley): deep purple-ruby colour; sandalwood and blackberry nose with a herbal note; full-bodied, dry, savoury blackberry flavour with lively acidity and a lovely mouth-feel. (89)
  • Pasqua Romeo & Juliet Valpolicella Ripasso (Veneto): deep ruby colour; smoky, cherry nose with a note of vanilla oak; medium to full-bodied, dry, sour cherry flavour with creamy oak and a lively acidic spine. (88)
  • Coppola Cabernet Sauvignon Ivory Label 2014 (Napa): deep ruby colour; cedary, sinewy blackcurrant nose; full-bodied, dry, blackcurrant flavour with obvious oak influence. (88)

Tuesday, February 28th: Had an appointment with the sleep clinic to purchase a CPAP machine (I’ve had a loaner these past weeks to try and get used to it. Still feels like a cat is sleeping on my face and I’m not). Changed the head gear, which I hope will make a difference as I’m not happy having to take sleeping pills. Spent the rest of the day working on the novel.

Wednesday, March 1st: Recorded my 680 NEWS wine reviews. In the evening, Deborah and I went to see The Book of Mormon – not as great as it was hyped up to be; in fact somewhat offensive.

Thursday, March 2nd: Worked on the Ontario Wine Awards. For dinner with roast chicken, 16 Mile Rebel Pinot Noir 2012 (Niagara Escarpment – $22.95): Deep ruby colour; a nose of raspberries and vanilla oak with a grace note of violets; medium-bodied, dry, in Burgundian style – firmly structured, sweet raspberry flavour, velvety mouth-feel with a solid tannic finish. Hold for two years. (90)

Friday, March 3rd: A Vintages release tasting – 120 wines. Had to nap before going to the annual Drinks Ontario dinner held at the National Club. Really good dinner – my beef tenderloin came almost rare, quite a feat to over 200 people. Unfortunately, Eugene Mlynczyk MW couldn’t be there to accept my Blind Tasting Award but had deputized Paul Henderson to accept the engraved decanter and certificate. Since Eugene has won the award three times he has to retire his palate.


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 638: Guatemala

Thursday, February 16th: Up at 5 am to prepare to leave for the airport for a 9 am flight to Mexico City. A four-hour lay over so Deborah, Liz, Michael and I have lunch at Chili’s in the airport – chicken frajitas and a split of Santa Rita Sauvignon Blanc 2015. Security went through my toiletry bag and took out a small nail file and nail clippers. The also took out a gum massager with a rubber tip wondering what it was and passed it around. I mimed that it was an instrument for cleaning out the ears. They let me through.

Adrienne was waiting at Tapachula Airport, the most westerly point of Mexico. We drove in truck and an SUV to the Guatemala border to pass through immigration. A tiny office up some stairs. Then a 40-minute drive over a road corrugated with speed bumps (tumulos) to arrive at our hotel – Hotel Virginia in Coatepeque.

A late dinner at La Rueda restaurant, where Deborah and I had dined the last time we were in Guatemala. I ordered California Steak rare (it came medium on a sizzling metal platter that cooked it even more) and salad. The highlight was the delicious grilled scallions. The wines: Chandon Extra Brut from Argentina, Montes Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Luis Felipe Edwards Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2015 and Concho y Toro Sauvignon Blanc (N/V).

Grilled scallions at La Rueda

Our bedroom is right by the road (the Pan-American Highway) and the sound of traffic is loud, but, exhausted from travel, we slept very soundly.

Chichicastenango cemetery

Friday, February 17th: Breakfasted on a ham omelet, then our group drove to the first school that Grapes for Humanity funded in Coatepeque. Some 400 kids were assembled to greet us and we went amongst them. Much hugging. Then visited a couple of houses, shacks really with mud floors and no running water. A quick lunch back at the hotel (a tuna sandwich) and then changed before driving to the official opening of the high school in La Union.

Adrienne Rosen addressing the students at the school in Coatepeque

Deborah and I were here two years ago when only the ground floor had been built. Now the second storey was completed and today is the official opening – handing over the keys. The flags of Guatemala and Canada were paraded and Pastor Elverado Reyes blessed the school. There followed a lengthy list of speakers, Alfonso Juncko, the Mayor of Coatepeque, Manfil Castoñon de Leon, a Supervisor from the Ministry of Education, Adrienne Rosen (founder of Access Education Guatemala), Veronica Alvarez, the director of the school, Edna Barragán de Peña, President of Access Education in Guatemala (Acceso a la Educación para los niños), and her husband, Cesar, who donated the land. When Cesar came to say his thank-you for the Canadian contribution, the heavens suddenly opened and rain came crashing down on the roo,f which sounded like thunderous applause. Deborah and I were surprised when we were asked to unveil a plaque on the gymnasium wall that honoured Grapes for Humanity and us.

Window in Coatepeque

Returned to the hotel and at the pool Rabbi Elyse Goldstein lit the Shabbat candles and blessed the wine – Errazuriz Sauvignon Blanc 2015 and Misiones d Renzo Chardonnay Gran Reserva 2010. Dinner at Real Steak restaurant again. I ordered grilled chicken. The wines on the table: Lagar de Cervera Albarino 2013, Misiones de Rengo Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Santa Carolina Chardonnay Reservado 2016, Trivento Tabu Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 and Dona Paula Pinot Noir 2014.

Saturday, February 18th: After breakfast we left for Xela (also known as Quetzaltenango) in the mountains, the second-largest city in Guatemala. Stopped for lunch at Xelapan bakery on the main square. Ordered a pizza though the pastries looked very inviting.

Xela church

Then to Pana, a drive through dense fog at times. We’re booked into the Hotel Atitlán , where Deborah and I stayed last time we were in Guatemala. There was a big fancy wedding going on with a dinner tent in the garden below the pool and the hot tub. I caught up on this blog while the group drank prosecco and Chardonnay in the hot tub.

Calla lilies at Hotel Atitlán

Sunset over the volcano at Lake Atitlán

For dinner, black bean soup and breaded shrimp with French fries. The wines: Santa Rita Chardonnay Reserva 2015 and Canepa Carmenère Finisimo 2013. Then into the bar for a nightcap of Zacapa Sistema 23 Solera Gran Reserva Rum.

Sunday, February 19th: After breakfast we drove into Chichicastenango (named after the nettle plant that grows in abundance here) with our guide, the very knowledgeable Dina. Chichi, for short, is the spiritual capital of Guatemala where the Mayan bible, Popol Vuh, was written. The church of Santo Tomás has an altar that dates back to 1550. It stands at one end of the market – which, incidentally, is the largest open-air market in Central America; at the other end is the Calvary church.

Santo Tomás church

Market in Chichicastenango

Chichicastenango parrots

Mask shop in Chichicastenango

Cantina Copa Vacia in Chichicastenango

We bought white and yellow chrysanthemums and white and yellow candles. In the Mayan culture white is the colour of protection of children and yellow, personal protection. Then we walked up to the cemetery for a “healing” by Shaman Don Juan. The ceremony involves the shaman first drawing on a cement platform a circle in sugar with a cross in the middle, each quadrant representing the spirits of earth, wind, water and fire. Around the circumference and the arms of the cross he placed a row of oak bark pressed with pine resin. He then placed the heads of the flowers around the circumference and sprinkled myrrh, wood splints, cinnamon, chocolate (originally the Mayan currency) and hypericum (St. John’s wort) inside. Then 13 fistfuls of oak chips as 13 in Mayan culture represents the 13 movements of the body.

Shaman Don Juan preparing the circle

He then set light to the wood and touched our heads and arms with the candles each of us had been given. He told us to kiss the candles which he then threw onto the fire, calling each of us by our names and telling us that we must concentrate on the fire and tell the spirits what we want. He then sprinkled flower water on a bunch of herbs and sprinkling our bodies he blessed each of us in turn. We all had to throw a bunch of wood chips that looked like raisins onto the fire.

Don Juan with the fire

Meanwhile at a neighbouring cement platform, two women were practicing some black magic, obviously putting a curse on someone by preparing exploding pepper cans and cutting the head off a dead cat which they threw on the fire, much to our horror.

Walked up a very steep hill to the Mayan Inn, where we had lunch (churrasco beef with avocado and tomato salad and flan for dessert) and a Gallo beer.

Gallo beer

After lunch, visited the two churches. Dina explained that corn is sacred in the Mayan culture; the ancients believed that humans were created from corn after two unsuccessful attempts to create people out of mud or wood. Walked around the market before driving back to the hotel. I wrote up the blog while the group luxuriated in the hot tub with Mapu Sauvignon Blanc 2015 and double shots of Zacapa Sistema 23 Solera Gran Reserva Rum. For dinner we drove into Panajachel to dine at Hana Sushi, where I was introduced to Cabro Extra Beer.

Cabro Extra

Monday, February 20th: After breakfast, while the rest of the group took the boat to the artists’ village San Juan, Adrienne took Deborah and me zip-lining within walking distance of our hotel in the Reserva Naturel Atitlán. The walk up to the top of the mountain was worse than the Grouse Grind in Vancouver – because of the altitude. The elevation of the lake is 1562 meters above sea level and our guide Oscar says we climbed 300 meters from the lake level – although it felt much higher than that. We were joined by a mother and daughter from Portland, Oregon. There were seven lines all together, the longest ride being 70 seconds. Very exhilarating and scary at first. Magnificent views of the lake, the mountain and the town of Atitlán. Another thing off my bucket list.

Tony ziplining

Then we took a tuk-tuk (a three-wheeler, three-seater open vehicle) to the dock for the boat to Jaibalito to have lunch at Ven Acá.


While we waited for the rest of the party to join us, we consumed a bottle of Concho y Toro Casillero del Diablo Sauvignon Blanc 2016 with Adrienne’s friend Bill, an expat American who has built himself a magnificent house on the lake front.

The house that Bill built on Lake Atitlán

More of the same when the gang arrived. Lunched on fish tacos and ceviche. Took the boat back to Hotel Atitlán’s dock and Adrienne drove us to Antigua, where we checked in to Hotel Casa Santo Domingo, a former monastery with a wonderful art museum and Baroque furniture. The site, as big as a village, is owned by the family who own Gallo beer. A bath to ease aching muscles and no food tonight. Looking forward to a massage in the morning.

Found in the grounds of Santo Domingo

Tuesday, February 21st: We walked into the main square of Antigua to have breakfast at Café Barista – a fruit smoothie and a bun with avocado, tomato, cheese and ham. At 10 am Deborah and I went to the hotel’s spa. I had a four-hands massage for an hour. Then walked back into town to shop for gifts before sitting at the pool with a bottle of Undurraga Aliwen Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2015.

Cobbled street in Antigua

Dined in the hotel’s restaurant, a 7-course tasting menu. We began with a salad with nectarines, grilled red onions, mozarello bocconcini, cilantro, etc., etc. Then in quick succession, spicy tuna tataki; pumpkin cream and red bean soup; sautéed salmon; lemon sorbet; beef short rib; tenderloin medallion; and a mini pastry delicatessen. The wines: Cecchi La Mora Vermentino 2014 and Torres Gran Sangre de Toro Reserva 2012. (The first bottle was unfortunately corked, which caused great confusion among the wait staff as if wine had never been sent back before.)

Mini pastry delicatessen

Wednesday, February 22nd: Had breakfast in a small restaurant next to the hotel, 7 Caldos – fruit plate and coffee and orange juice. Then went into the market for last-minute purchases.

Breakfast at 7 Caldos

Everywhere we see images and carvings of San Simón with a cigar in his mouth, sometimes in a cowboy hat wearing dark glasses. An article in the Independent Travel Guide by Ted Campbell explained: “San Simón was a Spanish priest who lived in Zunil around 200 or 300 years ago. Despite being a womanizer and heavy drinker and smoker, he was beloved by the community, one reason being that he let anyone sleep in the church when they needed to. The Catholic Church excommunicated him for his bad behavior and he built his own church in the town. It became more popular than the other church, as was evident by the overflowing gifts of candles and flowers made to him every day.”

On the way back to the hotel to finish packing we dropped into the chocolate museum, which shows how chocolate is made. Lunched at Michos, where each dish on the menu is listed as coming with a glass of wine or a beer. The menu reads: “We encourage your daytime buzz. Non-alcoholic deduct Q5.” I ordered a prosciutto and Brie sandwich with a glass of Maipu Sauvignon Blanc 2015.

Back to the hotel to finish packing and then into the bus for the drive into Guatemala City. Checked in to the Radisson Hotel and walked over to the best wine store in the city – Vinoteca, 6ta Avenida, 12-73 Zona 10.

Best wine store in Guatemala City

Dinner at Flights, a wine and tapas restaurant operated by Vinoteca (4ta Avenida, 12-59 | Plaza Fontabella), where we sampled virtually everything on the menu with Montes Sauvignon Blanc 2015 and Montes Syrah 2013. For me, it was the best meal we had in Guatemala.

Carpaccio at Flights

Thursday, February 23rd: Packed up and took the hotel shuttle bus to the airport for our flight to Mexico City before boarding our flight to Toronto. An excellent adventure altogether.


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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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