A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 598: Short Week


Sunday, May 15th: “Taste of Greece” Grand Tasting at the ROM today. Forty-seven wineries in all, each showing three wines. The whites, I found, are consistently good, especially Moscofilero, Savatiano and Malagousia. My top scoring whites were:

  • Skouras Moscofilero 2015 (91)
  • Alpha Estate Malagouzia Single Vineyard Turtles 2015 (90)
  • Papagiannokos Saviatiano 2015 (90)
  • Semeli Mountain Sun Moschofilero/Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (89)
  • Sokos Savatiano 2015 (89)
  • Domaine Vasiliou-Nemeion Estate Siban 2015 (Savatiano – 89)

Skouras Moscofilero 2015
The best Moscofilero

Semeli Mountain Sun Moschofilero/Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Delicious white blend

Best reds I tasted:

  • Alpha Estate Red 2012 (Syrah, Xinomavro, Merlot – 90)
  • Kir Yanni Ramnista 2012 (Xinomavro – 89)
  • Kir Yanni Paranga Red 2013 (Xinomavro and Merlot – 89)
  • Vasiliou-Nemeion Hgemon 2007 (Agiorgitiko – 89)

Dinner wine, with salmon, Maverick Chardonnay 2014 (Okanagan): straw colour; leesy, pear and undergrowth nose; flavours of green pineapple and buttered popcorn with spicy oak on the shortish finish, ending on a clove note. (88)

Monday, May 16th: Today, the judging of the Lieutenant Governor’s Awards for Excellence in Ontario Wine Awards at the Fine Wine Reserve. The wines to be judged are the top scoring wines from the Ontario Wine Awards, 27 in all. We are to award between 8 and 12 LG awards. The judges:

  • Astrid Brummer (LCBO Category Manager, Ontario Wines)
  • Jennifer Huether (Master Sommelier)
  • Magdalena Kaiser (Director of Public Relations – Marketing & Tourism for Wine Marketing Association of Ontario (WMAO) – Wine Marketing Association of Ontario)
  • Bruce Walner (Master Sommelier)
  • Eugene Mlynczyk (Master of Wine)
  • 2 Niagara College wine student judges:
    • Emma Smalley
    • Brent Peachey
  • And me.

Judges at the Fine Wine Reserve for the Lieutenant Governor awards

Ultimately, we awarded 12 wines. An impressive showing of VQA wines. For dinner, Chateau St. Jean Pinot Noir 2013: ruby colour; a nose of cherries with an undergrowth note; medium-bodied, fruity cherry and red plum flavours with a dry finish (89). Then I opened Whitehaven Marlborough Pinot Gris 2014 from New Zealand: light gold in colour; spicy peach nose; medium-bodied, sweet peach flavour balanced by citrus acidity; light mineral thread throughout (89).

Tuesday, May 17th: Worked on the final details of the Lieutenant Governor awards – wrote up the tasting notes (an amalgam of the judges’ best descriptors) and then began clearing my desk as Deborah and I leave tomorrow for Bordeaux and the Dordogne for our annual wine tour with our group.

A reunion dinner at Earls this evening for Angela Aiello and me with Doug Marshall, ‎International Marketing Manager at Washington State Wine Commission, and Claudie Lamoureux, whose company has the PR account for Washington wines. We celebrated with some Washington State bubbly and a delicious Cabernet Sauvignon.

Michelle Brut
Ange and Doug celebrate with Domaine St. Michelle sparkling wine at our Washington State wine tour reunion dinner

Canoe Ridge 'The Expedition' Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
The other dinner wine


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 597: Austrian Wines

Monday, May 9th: Wrote my On the Go column. Then Winemaker Jean-Edouard de Rochebouet from Bodega Atamisque came by the condo with samples of his wines. The labels of his wines have attractive drawings of indigenous Argentinian trees.

  • Bodega Atamisque Serbal Malbec 2014 (Tupungato, Argentina – Sept. 17 Vintages, $16.95): deep ruby colour; earthy, leather, black cherry nose with a spicy-floral top note; medium-bodied, dry and savoury with well-extracted plum and black cherry flavours with a refreshing spine of acidity. (88.5)
  • Bodega Atamisque Catalpa Malbec 2013 (Oct. 1 Vintages, $19.95): dense purple colour; black fruit nose with dark chocolate, vanilla oak and new leather notes; full-bodied, mouth-filling, dry, fleshy, black cherry flavour with fine powdery tannins. Good mouth-feel. (90)

In the evening I conducted a tasting for a company at The Corktown Kitchen, 364 King Street East: Tabali Reserva Especial 2011 (Chile), Paolo Conterno Barbera d’Alba 2014 (Piemonte) and Hidden Bench Pinot Noir 2013 (Ontario). For the dinner I ordered off the restaurant’s list Sandhill Pinot Gris 2013 from BC and Mandolin Pinot Noir 2013 from California.

Corktown Kitchen tasting

Tuesday, May 10th: Wrote up 30 wine reviews for Quench and then down to the Austrian Trade Commission for a tasting of Austrian wines from a tasting I had missed last month. The Grüner Veltliners are always a pleasure – very impressed by Leopold Grüner Veltliner Klassik 2015 (pale straw, floral, white pepper and white peach nose; elegant and dry with a lovely mouth-feel (90)) and Steiniger Grüner Veltliner Reserve Grand Cru 2014 (pale straw colour; minerally, white pepper and white peach nose; rich mid-palate peachy-melon fruit, well balanced with great length (90)). Also enjoyed Malat Höhlgraben Grüner Veltliner 2014 (light straw colour with a greenish tint; dry, grapefruit and white pepper flavour with a green plum finish (90)). Malat Steinbühel Riesling 2014 was also delicious (golden colour; oily, botrytis nose of honeyed grapefruit; off-dry, rich and full on the palate (90)).

Winzer Krems Sandrgube 13 Grüner Veltliner 2015
A bargain-priced Grüner at the LCBO

But the real surprise was the quality of the red wines now being produced in Austria – Wieninger Grand Reserve Pinot Noir 2013 (ruby colour; spicy, cherry and plum nose back by vanilla oak; full-bodied elegant and firm with soft tannins (91)); Esterházy Reserve “Tesoro” 2011 (dense purple-black colour; black fruit nose with a floral grace note; rich and full on the palate with a chunky mouth-feel, lively acidity and a firm finish (90)); Johanneshof Reinisch St. Laurent 2012 (deep purple ruby; spicy plum nose, elegant and beautifully balanced (90)) – their GV 2015 was very tasty too (minerally, spicy, green peach and crabapple flavours (89)). Bründlmayer Pinot Noir Reserve 2011 was also delicious (deep ruby colour with an undergrowth nose of dried cherries and firmly structured (89.5)). The wine of the tasting, though, was Tschida Angerhof BA Seewinkel (N/V): amazingly structured dessert wine with honeyed peach and tropical fruit flavours (95).

Wieninger Grand Reserve Pinot Noir 2013
My top Austrian Pinot Noir

Esterhazy Reserve “Tesoro” 2011

Tschida Angerhof BA Seewinkel (N/V)
A fantastic dessert wine

For dinner: Quadrus 2011 – a Douro blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Souzao made by Carm (dense purple colour with a spicy, earthy nose of leather, pencil lead and blackberries; medium to full-bodied, dry and savoury with cherry and plum flavours carried on lively acidity. More intense than the 2010 vintage (90)).

Wednesday, May 11th: A meeting with Angela Aiello and the iYellow team to discuss Winetario, the trade/press and consumer tastings at George Brown on June 17th. Then on to the ROM for a seminar on New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Seventeen wines in all. My top picks: Greywacke Wild Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2013 (smoky, struck flint nose of green plum with toasty oak and grapefruit notes (91)); Palliser Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (very pale straw colour; white pepper, grassy, grapefruit and lime nose with green bean and peapod notes; fresh and lively on the palate with a thread of minerality and a lovely mouth-feel (90)); and Pegasus Bay Sauvignon Semillon Waipara Valley 2013 (pale straw colour; grassy, green herbs and lanolin nose – very Bordeaux in style; medium-bodied, elegant, peach and grapefruit flavours; rich mouth-feel (90)). Then downstairs to the main tasting room where I concentrated on New Zealand Pinot Noirs. My top wines: Wither Hills Pinot Noir Marlborough 2012 (90), Sacred Hill Orange Label Pinot Noir Marlborough 2014 (90), Forrest Pinot Noir Marlborough 2013 (90).

A flight of Zealand Sauvignons

Thursday, May 12th: My birthday. David Beauroy dropped by with four Mark Herold wines he’s representing for me to taste.

  • Mark Herold Flux 2012 (Napa – 84% Grenache, 9% Syrah, 7% Mourvedre – $55): plum colour; vanilla oak, savoury black fruit nose, full-bodied, sweet black raspberry, firmly structured with an earthy finish. (89)
  • Mark Herold Collide 2012 (30% Carignan, 27% Petite Sirah, 24% Tempranillo, 19% Graciano – $60): dense purple colour; spicy, blackberry and blackcurrant nose with herbal, savoury notes; ripe and fleshy, full-bodied black fruits and bitter chocolate flavours and a tannic up-lift on the finish. Very Priorat in style. (91)
  • Mark Herold Brown Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (100% Cabernet Sauvignon – $162 Classic Catalogue): dense purple colour; spicy vanilla oak, mocha chocolate and black plum nose; full-bodied, dry, richly extracted juicy, plum and blackcurrant fruit with dark chocolate notes and evident but resolved tannins. (92)

Mark Herold Brown Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

  • Mark Herold White Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (100% Cabernet Sauvignon – $299 Classics Catalogue): dense purple black colour; intense coffee bean and blackcurrant nose with creamy oak; full-bodied, beautifully balanced and seamless with ripe blackberry, blackcurrant and chocolate flavours enhanced by lively acidity and a tannic lift on the finish. Great mouth-feel. (94)

Mark Herold White Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Deborah’s present to me was a bottle of Big Guy Red Wine 2014, a Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah blend from California. It has a Wheaten Terrier on the label that looks like Pinot T. Wonderdog. She had our friend Pooch bring it with him from Sacramento. Coincidentally, my son Guy saw the identical wine in Maui and bought a bottle for me too!

Big Guy Red Wine 2014
My birthday wine

In the evening I opened and tasted two Syrahs from Le Vieux Pin in the Okanagan.

  • Le Vieux Pin Syrah Cuvée Classique 2014 (Okanagan – $44.99): Dense purple colour; smoky, savoury-herbal blackberry nose with a light floral top note; full-bodied, dry, well-extracted black fruit flavours carried on lively acidity with ripe tannins and good length. (89.5)
  • Le Vieux Pin Syrah Equinox 2013 (Okanagan – $79.99): dense purple colour; savoury-herbal, black fruits on the nose with a smoky note; full-bodied, dry and fruity with lively acidity. Beautifully balanced with blackberry and dark chocolate flavours enhanced by a floral note; fresh finish. (93)

Friday, May 13th: A weird day – there was a bomb scare at the school 100 yards from our condo which messed up traffic and a workman fell from a platform on a nearby building and was taken away by ambulance. Down to the LCBO for a Vintages release tasting. Stopped on the way home for French fries. Took a nap before going over to a neighbour’s for drinks. Watched the Jays shut out the Texas Rangers 5–0. Very satisfying.


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 596: Ontario Wine Awards 2016

Crasto Superior 2013

Monday, May 2nd: Caught up on emails and wrote up my 680 NEWS wine reviews. In the afternoon down to the Hyatt Regency Hotel to taste Douro wines and ports. Not the best conditions under which to taste, especially port. Enjoyed the Crasto Superior 2013, Dalva LBV 2010 and the aged tawnies 20 Year, 30 Year and 40 year from Taylor.

A tasty LBV

Taylor’s 30 year old tawny

For dinner with hamburgers, a bottle of Quadrus 2011 – a Douro blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Souzao made by Carm: dense purple colour with a spicy, earthy nose of leather, pencil lead and blackberries; medium to full-bodied, dry and savoury with cherry and plum flavours carried on lively acidity. More intense than the 2010 vintage. (90)

Tuesday, May 3rd: A day of working on the Ontario Wine Awards flights and administration. Dinner at the Harbord Room with Rui Falcão of the Port and Douro Wines Institute. Started with Taylor Fladgate White Port then Esporão Assobio White 2015 followed by Meandro do Vale Meao 2012, Quinta da Touriga Chã 2013 and Quinta da Touriga Puro 2011.

Wednesday, May 4th: Recorded my 680 NEWS wine reviews. Then down to the National Club to see James Sichel and to taste his wines.

  • G de Château Giraud 2015: bright straw colour; fresh nose of lanolin, grass and hay with spicy lemony undergrowth notes and a touch of oak; flavours of kiwi and Mirabelle plum fleshed out with oak to a peach and apricot finish. (92)
  • L’Abeille de Fieuzal 2011 (Pessac-Leognan): pale straw colour; lemony, grassy, minerally nose of struck flint with a touch of oak; fresh and lively grapefruit and green plum flavours with a tangy, citrus finish. (90.5)
  • Château Alter Ego 2007 (Merlot): dense purple colour; cedary, blackcurrant nose with a light floral note; medium-bodied, dry, with plummy-currant flavours and moderate length. (89.5)
  • Château Alter Ego 2012: dense purple colour, spicy blackcurrant nose with pencil lead and white pepper note; medium-bodied, dry, firmly structured with juicy, sweet fruit and a lovely mouth-feel. Forward and very drinkable now. (90)
  • Château Angludet 2011 (55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 10% Petit Verdot): dense purple colour; spicy, cedary, blackcurrant bouquet with a light vanilla oak note; richly extracted savoury flavours of black plum lifted with a floral note. Firmly structured plum and blackcurrant flavours and ripe tannins. (92)

James Sichel

Then up to the Box Car on Yonge for a portfolio tasting by Negociants International of their Australian wines. Really enjoyed Jansz Late Disgorged Cuvée from Tasmania (yeasty, toasty, gingery, baked apple flavour). Terrific wines Henschke, Vasse Felix, Jim Barry and John Duval.

A delicious sparkler from Tasmania

Thursday, May 5th: Wrote my Lexpert column on Queen Mary’s doll’s house wine cellar in Windsor Castle, then drove to Costco to shop for lunch stuff for the Ontario Wine Awards judges, who will be tasting the sweet wines on Sunday at The Fine Wine Reserve.

For dinner, curried chicken pot pie with a bottle of Santa Irene Bonarda Organic 2015 that will be released in Vintages on May 28th: dense purple-ruby colour; spicy plum nose with cedar, pencil lead and leather notes; medium-bodied, dry, savoury plum and cherry flavours with lively acidity. Finishes firmly. (89)

Friday, May 6th: To the LCBO for a tasting of wines on general release. Then made final preparations for the Ontario Wine Awards. The first day of judging is tomorrow at George Brown College – 24 judges.

The judges at the Ontario Wine Awards

Saturday, May 7th: Up early to walk Pinot the Wonderdog before heading down to George Brown for the tasting. This is the first time in we have judged all the dry wines on one day (usually it’s on consecutive Saturdays with three panels of four judges). Sadie Darby and her “elves” did a great job marshalling all the wines to the panels.

Judging panel at work

Sunday, May 8th: The GoodLife Toronto Marathon made it difficult getting down to the Fine Wine Reserve on King Street West. But the eight judges (two panels) tasted 30 sweet wines each. Spent the rest of the day inputting the results.

Tasting sweet wines at the Ontario Wine Awards

For dinner, steak with a bottle of Kacaba Cabernet Franc 2014: deep purple-ruby colour; cedary, plum and currant bouquet; medium-bodied, dry, full on the palate with alively spine of acidity. (88)


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 595: Decanter World Wine Awards

Decanter World Wine Awards poster

Sunday, April 24th: Arrived in London after a sleepless night. My original seat (30C) was an arm’s length from the toilet. I asked to change and the only available aisle seat was next to an 18-month-old boy and his mother. The boy kicked me throughout the journey just as I was about to fall asleep.

Took the tube from Heathrow to Kentish Town where I’m staying with my rabbi friend David Goldberg, who officiated at both my wedding ceremonies. David and his wife Carole took me to lunch in The Crypt in St. Martin’s in the Field. Trafalgar Square has been made a pedestrian precinct now and there are many buskers vying for tourists’ hand-outs, including several levitation acts – buskers dressed up as Yoda or other characters who hang onto a pole and seem to levitate in the air. Still don’t know how they do it. For dinner David opened a bottle of Vray Croix de Gay 1982 which was lovely and still alive, except it was served with cold salmon.

Monday, April 25th: The first day of judging at the Decanter World Wine Awards. Our Canadian panel – Barb Philip MW, Rhys Pender MW and a Danish Master Sommelier working in London, Kathrine Larsen, and I – judged 73 wines and awarded 2 gold medals and several silvers.

Judge’s setup

Lunched on shepherd’s pie and salad. After the tasting we repaired to the Captain Kidd pub on the river for the customary pint of bitter.

The Canadian panel at the Captain Kidd: Barb Philip, Tony, Kathrine Larsen and Rhys Pender

My journey from Tobacco Dock in Wapping back to Kentish Town takes about 45 minutes and involves two trains and a five-minute walk at both ends of the journey. Picked up a bunch of flowers for Carole and a bottle of Leyda Syrah 2012 at Oddbins in the High Street, as the Goldbergs’ daughter and her baby Oscar were coming for dinner, along with Alexis, who is in from the Languedoc and staying a couple of nights here. Alexis is the daughter of the late George Martin, the Beatles’ producer. She is in London to arrange the memorial service for her father.

Tobacco Dock 1812–1989 plaque

Tuesday. April 26th: Down to Tobacco Dock for the second day of judging British Columbia wines: Over £15 Okanagan Chardonnay, Okanagan Pinot Noir, BC Cabernet Franc and Okanagan Riesling. It began to snow while we were tasting! After lunch, Over £15 Bordeaux blends, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah and Ontario Riesling Icewines. After which, a visit to the Captain Kidd for a pint of bitter. Picked up a bottle of Aymura Syrah 2013 from Chile’s Elqui Valley for dinner (spaghetti bolognese).

A cleansing ale after a long day of tasting

Wednesday, April 27th: This morning we judged Okanagan Chardonnay, Red Blends, Gamay & Merlot before lunch. After lunch, Okanagan Merlot, Okanagan Syrah, Vidal Icewine and Red Icewine. After a pint at the Captain Kidd, I walked over to the judges’ party that was held at the Dickens Inn in Marble Key, St. Katherine’s Way, near the Tower of London. A beautiful walk along the river. At the party they served Wiston Estate Sparkling Wine from the South Downs.

Dickens Inn, Wapping

Wiston English Sparkling Wine

Thursday, April 28th: A final day of judging the Canadian entries to the Decanter World Wine Awards: Aromatic whites, Off-Dry whites, Ontario Cabernets and BC Single Varietals by Grape. After lunch we tasted the eleven wines we had accorded gold medals to confirm that they deserved them, and then ranked them to go forward to be judged by a separate panel to see if they are worthy of a Platinum Medal or the top prize as Best In Show. Christelle Guibert, Decanter‘s Tasting Director, poured us from a magnum a Muscadet she had made at a co-operative. It was delicious.

Christelle Guibert and Muscadet

After my final visit to the Captain Kidd with my panel members I made my way back to Kentish Town and prepared to go to dinner at the apartment of my friend Stephen Brook in Maida Vale. I had brought over for him a bottle of Trius Wild Ferment Sauvignon Blanc 2013 which we drank before dinner with his other guest Ian D’Agata and his date. Stephen’s partner Maria (who cooks for a private school) prepared a delicious chicken dish, an amazing cheese tray and a flourless chocolate cake. Stephen served us blind Château Sociando Mallet 1985 and Vray Croix de Gay 2001 (which I guessed as a Pomerol having had a 1982 vintage of this very wine on Sunday night).

Tower Bridge and the Shard

Friday, April 29th: Spent the morning going over my notes from the competition. In the evening I took my hosts and my old friend Livia Prior to dinner at Texture, an Icelandic restaurant at 34 Portman Street. We started with a bottle of Gaston Selection Champagne before we sat down at the table. I ordered smoked salmon and suckling pig with a bottle of Egon Müller Kanta Riesling 2014 from the Adelaide Hills, and Livia had brought a bottle of Colin-Deléger et Fils Maranges “La Fussière” 1998. A delicious meal.

Saturday, April 30th: Up early to finish packing to take the flight back to Toronto.


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 594: Hola Dinner

Monday, April 18th: A beautiful day today with a high of 24°C. Spent much of the day putting the panels together for the Ontario Wine Awards. This year the tasting will be on one day (May 7th) instead of two days. It will take place at George Brown College with six panels of four judges and two invited student guests.

Watched a little of a rare morning baseball game – the Jays beat the Yankees in a nail-biter. In the evening got down to some tasting:

  • Joie Farm Un-Oaked Chardonnay 2015 (Okanagan Valley – $22.90): pale straw colour; Golden Delicious apple nose with apple blossom and leesy notes; medium-bodied, dry, fresh with great texture. Beautifully balanced. (90)
  • Joie Farm Pinot Blanc 2015 ($22.90): pale straw with a peach pit nose, light floral notes and some effervescence; medium-bodied, peachy-melon flavour with a thread of minerality; good mid-palate fruit with a touch of sweetness. (89.5)
  • Joie Farm Yellow Muscat 2015 ($22.90): pale straw colour; aromatic, cardamom and orange blossom nose; beautifully balanced, medium-bodied, lovely mouth-feel with a rose water and honeyed orange flavour. (91 points; I would have given more if there was a touch more acidity.)
  • Joie Farm A Noble Blend 2015 ($23.90): A blend of Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Auxerrois, Pinot Blanc, Muscat and Schoenberger. Light straw colour, aromatic spicy, cardamom, orange blossom nose with a mineral note; medium-bodied, dry, rosewater, lychee, grapefruit and melon flavours. (90)
  • Joie Farm Re-Think Pink! Rosé 2015 (Pinot Noir and Gamay – $20.90): deep pink colour; strawberry and raspberry nose with a leafy note; light-bodied dry and fruity with a good spine of acidity. Lovely mouth-feel. (89)

Tuesday, April 19th: Down to the LCBO to taste wines from next month’s Vintages release that I had missed on Friday. Spent the rest of the day working on Ontario Wine Awards business. Before dinner got down to some more tasting:

  • Closson Chase Pinot Gris K. J. Watson Vineyard 2015 (Prince Edward County): very pale straw colour; minerally, peach pit nose; light to medium-bodied, herb-tinged, green peach flavour with citrus acidity. (87.5)
  • Closson Chase The Brock Chardonnay 2014: straw colour; winter apple and undergrowth nose; sweet apple flavour, judiciously oaked, medium-bodied, buttery-apple flavour, seamless on the palate with a long finish. (89)
  • Closson Chase Vineyard Chardonnay 2014: straw colour; smoky, spicy, toasty nose; medium-bodied, light on the palate with apple, orange and clove flavours; new oak flavours to the fore. Needs a little time to meld. (88 – 90).
  • Closson Chase Pinot Noir K. J. Watson Vineyard 2014: palest ruby colour, rather like a deeply-coloured rosé; lifted, delicate nose of strawberries and undergrowth; light to medium-bodied, somewhat dilute and restrained*, very delicate and lacy. (86)
  • Uggiano Falconeri Cabernet Sauvignon di Toscana 2008 ($41.75): Dense ruby-black colour; cedary, spicy plum bouquet; high-toned, richly extracted flavours, high alcohol. Licorice and plum flavours with a volatile note and lively acidity. Cabernet Sauvignon with a small amount of Sangiovese.

For dinner with chicken stir-fry, Mark West Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir 2012 ($24.95): deep ruby colour; a floral nose of vanilla oak and black raspberry; medium to full-bodied, dry, plum and black raspberry flavours. Lovely mouth-feel and well-balanced with ripe tannins. (91)

Wednesday, April 20th: Spent much of the day working on the Ontario Wine Awards. In the evening to a private house to conduct a fun tasting for a charity group. They had to answer the following questions about two wines on four tables served blind:

Table 1 (Chardonnay & Sauvignon Blanc):
1. What is the grape variety of each wine?
2. Which wine comes from Chile – A or B?
3. Which wine is the costlier – A or B?

  1. Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Les Clous Meursault 2013 ($44.95; Vintages #661322)
  2. Miguel Torres Santa Digna Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (Chile – $14.95; Vintages #177444)

Table 2 (Two Cabernet Sauvignon wines):
1. Which wine is Old World and which is New World?
2. What region or country does each wine come from?
3. Which is the costlier – A or B?

  1. Trapiche Fincas Las Palmas Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (Mendoza, Argentina – $16.95; Vintages #143206)
  2. Château L’Argenteyre 2010 (Médoc, Bordeaux – $22.95; Vintages #441246)

Table 3 (Two Pinot Noir wines):
1. Which wine comes from Ontario – A or B?
2. Which wine is older – A or B?
3. Which is costlier – A or B?

  1. Norman Hardie Unfiltered Niagara Pinot Noir 2010 ($39; Vintages #208702)
  2. Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir 2013 (Chile – $10.95; LCBO #341602)

Table 4 (Syrah and Shiraz):
1. What is the grape variety common to these two wines?
2. Which wine is from the Rhone Valley?
3. Which is the costlier – A or B?

  1. Guigal Crozes-Hermitage 2012 (Northern Rhône – $28.95; Vintages #704908)
  2. Penny’s Hill Cracking Black Shiraz 2013 (McLaren Vale, South Australia – $21.95; Vintages #396473)

Thursday, April 21st: A winerytohome tasting at Doug Towers’s.

Friday, April 22nd: A desk-clearing day before I depart for London to judge in the Decanter World Wine Awards competition. Also worked on the novel, which was a pleasure.

Deborah and I went for dinner to Hola Tapas Bar (1298 Queen Street West). This is a gem of a tiny restaurant – elBulli writ small. Cesar Penalver doesn’t call himself a chef but he makes the most interesting and inventive menu I have had in Toronto for years.

Cesar Penalver

We put ourselves in his hands and we had a series of his small plates:

Aceitunas liquidas: Liquid olives (marinated in olive oil and fresh rosemary)

Liquid olives (inspired by Ferran Adrià)

Bombones de alcachofa y trufas: Artichokes and truffles (artichoke bites served over Brie cheese sauce and topped with truffle salsa, caviar and oil)

Artichokes and truffles

Capresa reconstruida: Hola Caprese salad (dehydrated tomatoes with fresh buffalo mozzarella, basil and olive oil dust)

Hola Caprese salad (eaten like a hamburger)

Terrina de pato y trucha ahumada: Duck and smoked trout terrine (duck breast and smoked trout pate served with red and black caviar, rosemary mustard and green apple gel)

Duck and smoked trout terrine

Sopa fria y caliente de ajo porro con galleta de papa: Cold and hot leek soup (with house made potato chip)

Cold and hot leek soup (top half cold, bottom half hot)

Bocadillos de pollo: Three ways chicken canapés (chicken Chicharron, ginger butter chicken, chicken velouté, aïoli, green onions, ginger caviar and seaweed)

Jamón, datiles y melon: Prosciutto-wrapped dates, served warm over house-made melon caviar and gel

We finished with an amazing dessert, Cesar’s take on crème brûlée: Espuma de crema Catalana (airy foam made of infused milk with orange, lime zest and cinnamon) served with a glass of sweet sherry.

Espuma de crema Catalana

An amazing meal.


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 593: MCIII

Monday, April 11th: A seminar on California Pinot Noir this morning at 11 am in the Royal York’s Ontario Room, conducted by Karen MacNeil, author of The Wine Bible. We tasted 13 Pinots. My favourite was Au Bon Climat “Alexander Knox” Pinot Noir 2012. This was a prelude to the sparkling wine reception and traditional lunch (with the traditional menu of braised and grilled beef). Karen MacNeil gave the address and presented each table with a copy of her book for the person whose birthday was nearest today’s date.

Karen MacNeil, Napa: California Pinot Noir...Rising. Toronto, April 11, 2016

Karen MacNeil

Au Bon Climat "Alexander Knox" Pinot Noir 2012
My Pinot of choice

After lunch, the annual California tasting in the ballroom. Mercifully, there was a quiet room for the wine press to taste as there is always a mob scene at this event. Two stand-out Napa Cabernets were Cedar Knoll Vineyard Co. Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 and Palmaz Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2012. After all that California wine, for dinner I opened a bottle of Masi Costasera Amarone 2011 (ruby colour; a nose of dried cherries and cedar with a barnyard note; medium to full-bodied, dry, savoury cherry flavour with lively acidity and a lovely, velvety mouth-feel (91)).

Cedar Knoll Vineyard Co. Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Palmaz Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Tuesday, April 12th: Wrote my On the Go magazine column and tasted a couple of wines:

  • Schloss Vollrads Riesling Qualitätswein 2012: happily not in the winery’s Trocken style – a beautifully poised Riesling with flavours of honeyed grapefruit and lime, perfectly balanced and more towards Spätlese than QbA. (92)
  • Joie Farm Muscat 2015 (Okanagan): pale straw colour; aromatic, cardamom and orange blossom nose; beautifully balanced, medium-bodied, lovely mouth-feel with a rose water and honeyed orange flavour. Their best yet. (91points –I would have given more if there was a touch more acidity)
  • EastDell Black Label Cabernet Merlot 2013 (Ontario): purple-ruby colour with a cedary nose of plums and currants; medium-bodied, dry, savoury plum flavour with good acidity. (87.5)

Wednesday, April 13th: Drove Deborah and her friend Sally to the airport. They’re off to Mexico for a week.

At 3 pm down to the Distillery District to meet Benoit Gouez, the cellar master for Moet et Chandon, to taste their newest champagne concept, MC III.

Benoit Gouez

But first Gouez led us through a component tasting of the base wines before secondary fermentation – Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the 2013 vintages, then the vintage champagnes that go into the blend. The composition of the final blend is as complex as the wine tastes! The primary component or “tier” is the still Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wine (50/50) aged in stainless steel. The second tier are the still reserve wines of 1 to 5 years old. The third tier are great vintages of champagnes that are 5 to 10 years old. Benoit Gouez calls them “the three universes” – stainless steel, wood barrel and glass bottle. The primary tier is made up of wines from the 2003 vintage; the second-tier vintages are 1998, 2000 and 2002. The third tier is a blend of vintages 1993, 1998 and 1999. The finished wine was ten years in the making. And after all that, what does it taste like? Golden straw in colour, it has an expressive nose of white flowers, citrus, white peach with a nutty note; elegant and full on the palate with a creamy texture and great balance. (98)

Moet’s MCIII

Thursday, April 14th: Wrote my Post City column. In the late afternoon drove up to the Franklin Fishing Club to conduct a tasting, comparing New World and Old World wines of the same varietal:

30 Bench Triangle Vineyard Riesling 2013 (Ontario)
2013 Pierre Sparr Lieu Dit Altenbourg Riesling 2013 (Alsace)

William Fevre Champs Royaux Chablis (Burgundy)
Beringer Founder’s Estate Chardonnay 2013 (Napa)

Latour Pinot Noir (Burgundy)
Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir (Chile)

E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône (Rhone)
Are You Game Shiraz (Victoria, Australia)

Friday, April 15th: A Vintages release tasting today. Really needed those French fries on the way home. Watched the Jays lose to the Red Sox. Don’t have a good feeling about this series.


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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 592: Argentina Week

Tesseron cognacs

Monday, April 4th: Flew back from Seattle after a week of touring wineries and tasting at the wine show. For dinner with roast chicken, MacMurray Estate Vineyards Russian River Pinot Noir 2013 (deep purple-ruby colour;  spicy, black cherry and cedar nose; medium-bodied, dry, cherry flavour with well-integrated oak finishing on a cranberry note (90)).

Tuesday, April 5th: A make-up tasting for the Vintages release I missed. Then over to Michael Vaughan’s house to taste a range of Tesseron cognacs with Select Wines’ VP Dan Shorrocks and export manager Jacques Chastenet. The family, who also own Pontet Canet, only makes XO quality and above. Founded by Abel Tesseron in 1905, it was third generation owner Alfred Tesseron who launched their own brand in 2003.

  • Tesseron XO Ovation Lot 90 (a blend of cognacs; the average age is 13 years; 100% Ugni Blanc from Grande Champagne, Petit Champagne and Fins Bois): Amber colour; spirit, vanilla, caramel and wood spice nose; rich and elegant, orange peel, caramel and toast flavours. Mellow on the palate with great length. (92.5)
  • Tesseron XO Tradition Lot 76 (100% Ugni Blanc from Grande Champagne; the average age is 25 years): Deep amber colour; spicy, honey, dried fruits and caramel on the nose; nutty, dried stone fruit flavours; mouth-filling, rich, elegant and seamless . Great length. (94)
  • Tesseron XO Perfection Lot 53 (100% Grande Champagne from 90% Ugni Blanc and 10% Colombard; the average age is 50 years): Deep amber colour; spicy, creamy, caramel, vanilla, butter and dried fruits on the nose; lovely mouth-feel that fills the palate with toasty, dried peach flavours. Seamless with great persistence. (96)
  • Tesseron XO Lot 29 (the average age is 75 years; Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche and Colombard from Grande Champagne): Deep amber colour; spicy, buttery, woody, vanilla rancio nose; rich and full on the palate; sweet and elegant, toasty  orange and peach flavours with a creamy texture and amazing length. (97)
  • Tesseron XO Extreme (from 10 Paradis demijohns dating from 1853–1906 in the Paradis, the average age is 100 years, distilled from pre-and post-phylloxera vines from Grande Champagne, only 300 special 1.75-litre bottles produced at $12,000 each): Deep orange amber colour; spirit, nutty, vanilla oak and dried fruits; intense, sweet and full on the palate with mouth-filling flavours of honey, toast, butter and Macadamia nuts. Velvety mouth-feel, full-bodied with great length finishing on a spicy, tangerine peel note.

This is the only spirit I’ve given 100 points to

For dinner, beef stew with Tempo Morellino di Scansano 2012 (deep purple-ruby colour; cedary, dusty nose of cherries and tobacco with a light floral note; medium-bodied, dry, black cherry flavour with lively acidity and a savoury, leather finish (89)).

Wednesday, April 6th: Wrote an article on Washington wines for Lexpert magazine. Dinner at Edulis with our friends Joe and Laurissa. We opted for the 5-course meal. Joe brought a Puligny-Montrachet Les Champs Gain 2006  and I brought along a bottle of Château Haut-Bailly 1989. Both wines behaved perfectly.

Thursday, April 7th: Spent the morning inputting tasting notes from Tuesday’s Vintages tasting. Wrote up my Wines of the Week. In the afternoon I was meant to have a video tasting with Ignacio Lopez, the head winemaker at Graffigna in San Jan, Argentina but I couldn’t make the internet connection; so we conducted the tasting of two Malbecs by phone! Sunday April 17th is International Malbec Day and this was a precursor.

  • Graffigna Centenario Malbec Reserve 2014 (aged in French and 15% American oak, 100,000 cases): Dense purple colour showing a spicy, cedary, plum bouquet with dark chocolate and vanilla oak notes. Medium-bodied, dry, blackberry and plum flavours carried on lively acidity and contained in a firm tannic framework. A bargain at $13.95. (88)
  • Graffigna Malbec Reserve 2012 (grown at high elevation, aged in French oak, 10,000 cases): Dense purple colour with a creamy, spicy nose of dark chocolate with a floral-cedary note; full-bodied and richly extracted flavours of blackberry and dark chocolate with grainy tannins. Carries its 14.5% alcohol well. (90)

Then down to Hola Tapas Bar to conduct a tasting of Argentinian wines with food.

Infused seafood (shrimps, mussels, baby scallops cooked in a vacuum siphon), paired with Catena Chardonnay 2014

Atun con tomate (albacore tuna on nori-seaweed-infused sunflower oil and tomato peach sauce) with Alamos Torrontes 2015

Pate de cordero (lamb pate, caramelized onions and spicy red pepper sauce) with Fincas Las Palmas Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Ravioles de cerdo con salsa de chimichurri (house-made egg pork ravioli with chimichurri butter sauce) with La Posta Armando Bonarda 2014

Carpaccio vegetal (watermelon carpaccio, Parrano Gouda cheese, fresh mint and capers) with Los Clop Reserva Malbec 2010.

Los Clop Reserva Malbec 2010

Friday, April 8th: Down to the LCBO for a tasting of 14 newly listed wines. They also put out a few spirits, which I don’t normally taste, but I couldn’t resist trying the three Irish Whiskies from Redbreast – 12 Year Old Cask Strength, 15 Year Old and 21 Year Old. Too pricey for my budget, unfortunately.

Came home to find my computer has a virus which makes it impossible for me to see my Calendar or Contacts and I couldn’t read sent emails. Time for a new computer. Drowned my sorrows with a bottle of William Hill North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (deep ruby colour; cedar, plum and currants on the nose; medium-bodied, plummy and juicy with fresh acidity leading to a firm finish. (88)).


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