A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 566: Kaiken Wines

The best Torrontes I’ve tasted

Monday, October 5th: Had to pick up the Gaja wines for Grapes for Humanity’s dinner on October 26. The venue has been moved from a private house to the Chef’s House at George Brown College.

A tasting at Doug Towers’s with David Lawrason for www.winerytohome.com. For dinner, lamb chops with Buried Hope Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (North Coast, California – $19.95): dense purple colour; spicy, oaky, blackcurrant bouquet; full-bodied and fruity on the palate, lovely mouth-feel finishing firmly. (89+)

Tuesday, October 6th: Worked on my presentation at the Vitinord Conference in Nebraska City next month. The session is 40 minutes. My theme is “Nova Scotia as a model for wine industry growth in cold and cool climate regions.” At 4 pm met with Doris Miculan Bradley to work on final page edits for Grapes for Humanity’s new website.

Wednesday. October 7th: Spent the day working on the Vitinord address, then got down to some tasting.

  • KWV Cathedral Cellars Chardonnay 2013 (Western Cape, South Africa – $15.95): pale lemon colour; earthy, apple nose; dry, intense lemony acidity and bruised apple flavours; a touch hard on the finish. (86)
  • CedarCreek Gewurztraminer 2014 (Okanagan Valley): light straw colour; spicy, lychee and rose petal bouquet; medium-bodied, off-dry, Turkish delight flavour of cardamom, lychee and rosewater; unctuous on the palate with an orange note on the finish. (89+)
  • Château Rahoul Graves Rouge 2010 (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Verdot – $24.95): deep ruby colour; cedar, blackcurrant and blueberry with well integrated oak; full-bodied, rich on the palate with a velvety mouth-feel; medium-bodied, dry, with sweet fruit and a mineral note. Great balance. (90)
  • Château Barril Lamarzelle Figeac 2008 (Saint Emilion – $39.95): deep ruby colour; cedar, red and blackcurrant bouquet with evident oak; dry, medium-bodied, lean and sinewy; fruit beginning to dry out. (88)
  • Clos de los Siete 2012 (Mendoza – $21.95) (57% Malbec, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Syrah, 2% Petit Verdot): dense ruby colour; cedar, vanilla oak, blackberry and chocolate on the nose with a peppery, pencil lead note; full-bodied, dry, savoury, black fruit flavours with powdery tannins. The Syrah comes singing through even at 9%. Lively acidic finish. (89)
  • KWV Cathedral Cellars Shiraz 2013 (Western Cape, South Africa – $15.95): deep ruby colour; smoky, blackberry and black cherry with oak spice and a note of leather. Medium-bodied, dry with exuberant acidity, pencil lead and black fruit flavours with a tannic note on the finish. (87)

Thursday, October 8th: Another morning of working on the Vitinord address. Then a late lunch at Nota Bene with Aurelio Montes Jr. to taste his wines from the Kaiken Winery in Mendoza.

  • Kaiken Torrontes 2015: pale straw colour; aromatic nose of cardamom and ginger; fresh and tangy on the palate with tangerine, melon and honeysuckle flavours carried on vibrant acidity. The most exciting Torrontes I have tasted! (90)
  • Kaiken Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (grown at 1600 metres): pale straw colour; herbaceous, tropical fruit nose; fresh and lively on the palate with green plum and kiwi flavours; good length. (89)
  • Kaiken Chardonnay 2013: pale straw colour; spicy oak, minerally, apple and anise bouquet; rich mouth-feel, full-bodied, well-integrated oak with an intriguing bitterness on the finish. (90)
  • Kaiken Malbec Reserve 2013: deep purple-ruby colour; smoky, meaty nose of vanilla oak, blackberry and leather; full-bodied, dry and savoury with lively acidity. (89)
  • Kaiken Terroir Series Malbec Bonarda Petit Verdot Reserva 2013: dense purple colour; spicy black fruits on the nose with tobacco and floral notes; sweet black fruit flavours (lots of extract here), beautifully balanced with a firm tannic finish. (90)
  • Kaiken Terroir Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (with 15% Malbec and 10% Petit Verdot): dense purple colour that stains the glass; smoky, tarry, blackcurrant nose; rich and full on the palate, succulent, sweet blackcurrant flavour with ripe tannins; great mouth feel and a long finish. (91+)
  • Kaiken Ultra Malbec 2013: dense purple colour; rich nose of cassis and vanilla oak; full-bodied, elegant, fruity with flavours of black cherries, mulberries and tobacco leaf carried on fresh acidity; well integrated oak and ripe tannins, Great mouth-feel. (92)
  • Kaiken Ultra Cabernet Sauvignon 2013: dense purple-ruby colour; cedar and savoury blackcurrant nose with vanilla oak; mouth-filling blackcurrant and plum flavours yet elegant and firmly structured with a tannic lift on the finish. A well-balanced wine. (90)
  • Kaiken Obertura Cabernet Franc 2013: dense ruby colour; vanilla oak, coffee bean, earthy red and blackcurrant aromas with a leafy note; medium to full-bodied, well-balanced with a firm finish. Reminiscent of Bourgueil in a warm year. A great first effort. (90)

Straight from lunch down to George Brown College to meet with Joan Culliton of the Ottawa Wine & Food Festival and Michael Fagan, who is consulting to the college on their wine and beverage business management program. We toured the stunning new tasting rooms in the Chef’s House. Disappointed by the Jays’ loss to Texas. Commiserated over a bottle of Fattoria di Piazzano Chinati Piazzano 2013 with pasta (deep ruby-purple colour; cherry, cedar and vanilla oak nose with a floral top note; medium-bodied, dry, cherry flavour. Well-structured and good value at $14.95 (88)).

Friday, October 9th: Had to miss the Vintages tasting this morning as I needed to finish off the Vitinord presentation. I leave next Thursday to conduct a wine & food tour of Champagne and Burgundy. Now devastated by the Jays’ second loss to Texas.

Saturday, October 10th: Guy and three of his friends came by to take furniture out of our storage locker (actually it’s more like a room, 18′ × 6′). Now we can actually see the junk we should have gotten rid of when we moved to the condo. Still grumpy over the Jays losing two in a row to Texas. Doesn’t augur well for moving on in the play-offs. We’ll know tomorrow night if they’re still in the running. To take my mind off it I did some tasting:

  • Flat Rock Cellars Riddled Sparkling 2009 (92% Chardonnay “with a touch of Pinot Noir”; Niagara Peninsula – $29.95): pale straw colour; baked bread, lemon and apple on the nose; medium-bodied, crisply dry, green apple and lemon flavours with an intriguing touch of bitterness on the finish. (88+)
  • Trail Estate Barrel-Aged Chardonnay 2013 (Prince Edward County$32.00): pale straw colour; minerally, pear and citrus nose; medium-bodied, dry, green pear and lemony flavours evolving into caramel and apple flavours with some bitterness on the finish. (87)
  • Flat Rock Pinot Noir 2013 (Niagara Peninsula – $19.95): ruby colour with a tawny note; high-toned, cherry bouquet with a light floral note and a touch of oak; medium-bodied, dry, good Pinot character; firm on the palate with fresh acidity. (88)
  • Flat Rock Gravity Pinot Noir 2013 (Niagara Peninsula – $29.95): ruby with a tawny note; tobacco, cherry nose with a vanilla oak note; medium-bodied, dry, good intensity of flavour – cherries and moist earth; well-structured and firm. (89)
  • Strewn Rogue’s Lot Cabernet Sauvignon Cabernet Franc 2012 (Niagara Peninsula – $14.95): mature ruby colour; cedar, redcurrant nose with a leafy note; more expressive on the palate with black and redcurrant flavours with a minty note carried on lively acidity with enough oak to give it a round mouth-feel. (87+)
  • Bench 1775 Cabernet Franc Malbec 2013 (Okanagan – $34.50): deep ruby colour; cedar, smoke, red berries on the nose with a cedary note; medium-bodied, dry, richly extracted and savoury; well-balanced with a lively acidic spine. (89+)
  • Trail Estate Cabernet Franc Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2013 (Prince Edward County – $39.00): deep ruby colour; the leafy, redcurrant tones of Cabernet Franc sing through on the nose on a cedary accent; medium-bodied, dry redcurrant and pencil lead flavours, Loire style with fresh acidity. (89)
  • Burrowing Owl Cabernet Franc 2013 (Okanagan – $44.95): deep ruby colour; cedar, mocha, creamy, red berry fruit bodied, topped with vanilla oak; medium to full-bodied, dry, savoury red berry fruit flavours with a spicy oak note. Beautifully balanced and firmly structured. Great length. (90)
  • Burrowing Owl Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (Okanagan): dense purple-ruby colour; cedar, blackcurrant, toasty oak nose; medium to full-bodied, dry, beautifully balanced and firmly structured, fine mouth-feel with powdery tannins. A wine to keep for five years. (90–92)
  • San Pedro 1865 Single Vineyard Carmenère 2013 (Chile – $19.95): dense purple-ruby colour; intense nose of blackcurrant and vanilla oak with a cedary note; full-bodied, fruity but dry, concentrated plum and raspberry flavours with blackcurrant on the finish. Fleshy with a chunky mouth-feel. A massive wine. (90)
  • Sunrock by Jackson Triggs Illumina Red Meritage 2012 (Okanagan – $34.95): deep purple colour; spicy, vanilla oak predominates at the moment over red and blackcurrant fruit; medium- to full-bodied, dry and savoury with a minty note on the finish; chalky tannins. All the elements are there but not melding at the moment. Give it 3–5 years. (88–90)
  • Lavau Vacqueras 2012 (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre: Rhône – $24.95): deep ruby colour; cedar, mint, black raspberry with a note of dried herbs; full-bodied, dry, mouth-filling, savoury-herbal flavours of black raspberry. Full in the mouth with moderate length. (88+)
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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 565: Virginia

Albemarle Estate on a foggy morning

Sunday, September 27th: A 10:17 am flight to Washington DC. It took an hour to get through US customs and immigration (they took away the pear Deborah had packed for me). Rented a Honda Civic to drive from Dulles Airport to Charlottesville. Should have taken the GPS for $20 a day. Got lost leaving the airport but eventually found my way to Charlottesville, having driven along the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Checked in to Albemarle Estate at Trump Winery, a private country estate that sits among nearly 1,300 acres of lush countryside with vineyards, lakes, and spectacular scenery. The 26,000-square-foot, 45-room mansion has been renovated and is palatial in rococo style. The most luxurious B&B I’ve ever stayed in – ten guest rooms located in the main estate, the pool house (where I’m staying), and a rustic cabin with twin king-size beds.

Corridor in the world’s most luxurious B & B

Drove into Charlottesville for dinner at C&O restaurant on Water Street. Ordered sweetbreads in Madeira sauce with raisins and green pepper corns followed by grilled trout with almonds. No wine because I had to drive back to the Albemarle Estate in the dark. Got lost trying to get out of Charlottesville and eventually found the road south, praying that it was the right route since there were no signposts. Eventually arrived back at the Trump estate.

Monday, September 28th: A hearty breakfast of yogurt, fresh fruit, confit of duck breast and hash brown potatoes with two poached eggs, toast, coffee and orange juice – a fitting meal before a day of five winery visits and tastings.

Bit Pressley (yes, Bit is his name) from Blue Ridge Wine Excursions picked me up in a Mercedes so I wouldn’t have to drive. The first tasting was at the Trump Winery. Planted in 1999 and nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Trump Winery is situated on a 1,300-acre estate just a few miles from Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, the birthplace of American viticulture, and James Monroe’s Ashlawn-Highland. Trump Winery’s 200 acres of vinifera is Virginia’s largest vineyard.

Trump winemaker Jonathan Wheeler

Winemaker Jonathan Wheeler started with a tasting in the cellar of wines in tank – the Chardonnay that will make the Blanc de Blancs, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier. Then into the tasting room for the bottled wines:

  • Trump Blanc de Blanc Sparkling 2009: pale straw colour with an active mousse; a nose of apple and honey with a biscuit note; dry and elegant, well balanced with a crabapple finish. (91)
  • Trump Rosé Sparkling 2009: pale pink in colour; a nose of raspberries with a leesy note. Round on the palate, dry with a cherry flavour and a good acidic spine. (90)
  • Trump Sparkling Reserve Brut 2008 (100% Chardonnay): pale straw colour; white flowers, toast, citrus and apple aromas; mouth-filling, creamy, green apple and toast flavours with a long, lingering finish. (92)
  • Trump Chardonnay 2014: straw colour; leesy apple nose with a floral note; medium-bodied, dry, apple flavour. (88+)
  • Trump Viognier 2014: pale straw colour; a nose of peach and passionfruit with a top note of honeysuckle; full-bodied, dry, full on the palate with good length. (90)
  • Trump Rosé 2014 (Merlot): Light pink in colour with a hint of barnyard on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, well-extracted cherry and strawberry flavours. (88)
  • Trump Pinot Noir 2014: ruby colour with a nose of black cherries; medium to full-bodied, dry with lifted flavours of cherry and violets. Firm tannins – needs 2–3 years. (87–89)
  • Trump Meritage 2013 (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec): deep ruby in colour with a spicy, red berry nose; dry, fruity redcurrant flavour finishing with firm tannins. (87+)
  • Trump New World Reserve Red 2012 (Merlot and Cabernet Franc dominate this Bordeaux blend): deep ruby colour; blackcurrant and spicy oak on the nose; medium to full-bodied, dry, with well-extracted blackcurrant flavour that finishes with evident tannins and a dark chocolate note. Needs 2–3 years. (89–91)

Pollack Winery

Next stop, Pollak Vineyards in Greenwood. Pollak Vineyards is a small family-owned winery founded in 2003 with the purchase of a 98-acre farm west of Charlottesville and Crozet. Today they have 27 acres of vinifera.

  • Pollak Vineyards Chardonnay Reserve 2012: straw colour; spicy, floral nose; dry, full on the palate, round with a peach and pear flavours; a touch of bitterness on the finish. (88)
  • Pollak Vineyards Chardonnay Reserve 2013: pale straw colour; spicy, toasty nose; rich pineapple and peach flavours – full in the mouth. (90)
  • Pollak Vineyards Viognier 2014: very pale in colour; honeysuckle and whote peach nose; medium to full-bodied, dry, spicy peach flavour that thins out on the finish. (87+)
  • Pollak Vineyards Pinot Gris 2014: pale straw colour; spicy-floral nose of nectarines; floral, honeyed grapefruit flavour with a touch of sweetness in mid-palate. Easy drinking. (88)
  • Pollak Vineyards Cabernet Franc Rosé 2014: pale pink colour with a bluish tint; minerally, spicy, redcurrant nose with a floral note. Soft on the palate with good length. (87+)
  • Pollak Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2013: ruby colour; floral, cherry with spicy oak on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, beautifully balanced, good mouth-feel. (90)
  • Pollak Vineyards Cabernet Franc Reserve 2012: deeper ruby colour than the 2013; spicy, floral, vanilla oak nose; firmly structured, red and blackcurrant flavours; still tight, needs 2–3 years. (91–92)
  • Pollak Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2013: ruby colour; vanilla oak, rose petal, cedar, red berry nose; elegant, fruity redcurrant and cherry flavours with ripe tannins. (89)
  • Pollak Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2009: deep ruby colour; cedar, blackcurrant and vanilla oak nose; elegant and beautifully balanced, firmly structured with good mouth-feel and a minty finish. (90)
  • Pollak Vineyards Merlot 2013: ruby colour; minerally, struck flint nose of blueberries; medium-bodied, dry, redcurrant and cherry flavours with a firm, tannic finish. (88+)
  • Pollak Vineyards Merlot 2012: ruby colour; floral, spicy, vanilla oak and blueberry nose; dry, elegant, beautifully balanced with well-integrated oak and supple tannins. A note of cinnamon on the finish. (91)
  • Pollak Vineyards Meritage 2012 (40% Cabernet Franc, 40% Merlot, 20% Petit Verdot): ruby-purple colour; blackcurrant, cedar and vanilla oak nose; medium-bodied, dry, elegant and well structured; quite forward with ripe tannins and affirm finish. (89)
  • Pollak Vineyards Petit Verdot 2012: deep purple colour; high toned, spicy, rose petal, smoke and cherries on the nose; dry and full on the palate with a peachy note and a long acidic finish. (89)
  • Pollak Vineyards Mille Fleurs 2010 (Viognier and Chardonnay in white port style, 17% alcohol): sweet, smoky peach, honey and nut flavours. Well-made and delicious. (90)

Next stop, King Family Vineyards, a family owned and operated winery located at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Crozet, fifteen minutes from Charlottesville in the Monticello AVA. They have a polo ground on the property.

  • King Family Viognier 2014 (10% Petit Manseng): medium straw colour; spicy, white peach nose with a honeysuckle note; mouth-filling peach flavour nicely balanced with acidity. Good length to a minerally finish. A well-balanced wine. (89+)
  • King Family Chardonnay 2014: straw colour with a greenish tint; leesy, nutty, apple nose with spicy, vanilla oak notes; custard apple flavour, full in the mouth with a firm finish. An attractive touch of bitterness on the finish to cut through the fruity-sweetness and give structure. (89)
  • King Family Crosé Rosé 2014 (76% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon): salmon colour; wild strawberry, forest floor, citrus peel nose; medium-bodied, dry, light and fresh with a grapefruit acidity. (87)
  • King Family Cabernet Franc 2014 (87% Cabernet Franc, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Petit Verdot, 1% Malbec): deep ruby colour; cedar, leather, vanilla oak and redcurrant; medium-bodied, dry, well extracted ripe currant fruit, well structured. More in Bourgeuil style. Elegant and nicely balanced. With a tannic lift on the finish. (89)
  • King Family Merlot 2013 (20% Petit Verdot, 4% Malbec): deep ruby colour; floral, blueberry nose with a vanilla oak note; medium-bodied, dry, blueberry flavour with a fine spine of acidity. Well balanced, finishing with supple tannins. (89+)
  • King Family Meritage 2013 (49% Merlot, 24% Petit Verdot, 21% Cabernet Franc, 6% Malbec): deep ruby colour; cedar, blackcurrant, vanilla oak nose with dried rose petal and barnyard notes; dry, medium-bodied with an orange peel and floral note. Hold 2–3 years. (90–91)
  • King Family Meritage 2009 (52% Merlot, 20% Petit Verdot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 8% Malbec): deep ruby; floral, blackcurrant, vanilla oak nose with a cedary note; medium-bodied, dry, rich and full on the palate but graceful and well balanced. Sweet currant fruit with tobacco notes. Firm finish with enough tannin to age well. A keeper. (92)
  • King Family Petit Verdot 2013: deep ruby colour; rose petal, cedar, vanilla oak nose; full-bodied, dry, muscular and firmly structured, sweet black fruit flavours backed by vanilla oak. (90+)

Finished the tasting with a picnic lunch in the tasting room.

Thomas Jefferson’s statue at Monticello

Next stop, Jefferson Vineyards in Charlottesville, a family-owned winery and vineyard in Charlottesville located where Thomas Jefferson and Philip Mazzei first began the American wine revolution.

  • Jefferson Vineyards Viognier 2014 (8% Riesling, 6% Petit Manseng, 4% Chardonnay, 1% Traminette): aromatic, spicy, white peach nose; medium-bodied, peach and pear flavours; touch of bitterness on the finish. (87)
  • Jefferson Vineyards Chardonnay 2014 (stainless steel): minerally, apple nose; medium-bodied, dry, pear flavour with a firm finish. (87)
  • Jefferson Vineyards Pinot Gris 2014 (12% Petit Manseng, 8% Riesling, 1% Traminette): pale straw colour; pear skin nose; dry, medium-bodied, green pear and peach pit flavours. (86)
  • Jefferson Vineyards Chardonnay Reserve 2014: straw colour; apple and apple blossom bouquet with a light oak note; dry, medium-bodied, forward oak with pear and apple flavours. (87+)
  • Jefferson Vineyards Petit Manseng 2014 (16% Riesling, 4% Viognier, 3% Traminette): pale straw colour; minerally nose, star fruit with a light floral note; more assertive on the palate with spicy, green pineapple and lemon flavours. Finishes firmly. (88)
  • Jefferson Vineyards Rosé 2014 (38% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Malbec): very pale pink; minerally, redcurrant nose with a struck flint note; dry, medium-bodied, redcurrant and cranberry flavours carried on lively acidity to a cheery put finish. (86+)
  • Jefferson Vineyards Vin Rouge 2014 (44% Chamburcin, 43% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Petit Verdot): ruby colour; fruity, black cherry and plum nose; medium-bodied, dry, fresh acidity. Easy drinking. (86)
  • Jefferson Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2014 (9% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon): ruby colour; black cherry and white pepper on the nose with vanilla oak notes; medium-bodied, dry, sour cherry with good tannic structure. (87+)
  • Jefferson Vineyards Petit Verdot 2014 (3.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3.5% Merlot): deep ruby colour; tobacco, cedar, currants on the nose with a floral top note; well balance, fruity currant flavours with lively acidity. (88+)
  • Jefferson Vineyards Meritage 2013 (47% Petit Verdot, 21% Cabernet Franc, 19% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon): deep ruby colour; smoky, toasty, vanilla oak with redcurrant aromas; lean and sinewy redcurrant flavour; Bordeaux petit château style, light and easy drinking with a firm tannic finish. (88)

Flowers at Monticello

Final stop for the day, Blenheim Vineyards. The winery was established in 2000 by Dave Matthews, 20 minutes southeast of Charlottesville. The three vineyard sites grow seven varieties. Winemaker Kirsty Harmon’s philosophy is to make “approachable, fruit forward, softer, in the now” wines. She’s a hands-off winemaker: “My job,” she says, “is to squish grapes and not make vinegar.”

  • Blenheim Vineyards White Table Wine (Chardonnay, Viognier, Pinot Noir and Petit Verdot): light straw colour; minerally, pear and citrus bouquet; dry, medium-bodied, green pear and lemon flavours; fresh and lively. Easy drinking. God value. (87)
  • Blenheim Vineyards Viognier 2013: straw colour; floral, peach with a touch of oak; full-bodied, dry and aromatic, white peach and citrus flavours. Good length. Good value. (88+)
  • Blenheim Vineyards Roussanne 2013: bright straw with a greenish tint in colour; spicy, white peach, forest floor and oak nuances; full-bodied, dry, richly extracted, peach and citrus flavours. Good length with a peach pit finish. (89)
  • Blenheim Vineyards Painted White 2013 (Marsanne, Viognier, Pinot Noir): straw colour; lifted, white peach and citrus nose with a suggestion of oak; medium-bodied, dry, pear skin and peach flavours. Good length. (88+)
  • Blenheim Vineyards Rosé 2014 (Merlot, Syrah, Pinot Noir and Petit Verdot): salmon colour with an amber note; earthy, strawberry nose; full-bodied, dry, cranberry flavour with citrus acidity. Good length. (88)
  • Blenheim Vineyards Red Table Wine (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc): light purple-ruby colour; fruity, redcurrant, leafy nose; raspberry flavour with lively acidity that finishes on a tannic note to give structure. Chillable. Good value. (87+)
  • Blenheim Vineyards Grenache 2013 (with Syrah and Mourvèdre): ruby colour; cedar, black raspberry nose; spicy, sweet and savoury, full on the palate, peppery, blackberry with herbal notes. Well balanced with lively acidity. (90)
  • Blenheim Vineyards Painted Red (Petite Verdot, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec): deep ruby colour; pencil lead, cedar, vanilla oak, black raspberry nose; medium-bodied, dry, forward, easy drinking with a cinnamon finish. (88+)
  • Blenheim Vineyards Petit Verdot 2013: ruby-purple colour; lifted red berry nose; medium-bodied, dry, savoury black cherry with a lively acidic spine with a cherry pit finish. (88+)

Dinner at the Albemarle Estate, provided by the Trump Winery tasting room. I was meant to drive into Charlottesville to have dinner at the Clifton Inn but the idea of dining along without a glass a wine and having to find my way back to the B&B in the dark didn’t appeal.

Dining room at Albemarle Estate

Tuesday, September 29th: A blustery, rainy day. After breakfast at the Albemarle Estate I packed and drove to Monticello to Meet with Gabriele Rausse, known as “The Father of the Modern Virginia Wine Industry.” He’s been involved in the creation of several Virginia wineries and started his own label, Gabriele Rausse Winery, in 1997. Today he is Monticello’s assistant director of gardens and grounds. After a tour of Jefferson’s house I met with Gabriele, who toured me around the grounds, showing me the Sangiovese vines he planted there.

Drove on to Pippin Hill Vineyards in North Garden to have lunch with Brigitte Belanger-Warner and to taste the wines made there.

  • Pippin Hill Sauvignon Blanc 2014: pale straw colour; smoky, green plum nose; minerally, dry,medium-bodied, kiwi and green bean flavours that finish crisply dry, good length. (88)
  • Pippin Hill Chardonnay 2014 (60% neutral oak, 40% stainless steel): pale straw colour, minerally, spicy golden apple nose; dry, medium-bodied, spicy, citrus and apple flavours; crisp and lingering. (89)
  • Pippin Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2013: ruby colour; cedar and blackcurrant bouquet; medium-bodied, dry, savoury blackcurrant flavour with a floral top note. Lively acidity and supple tannic finish. (88+)
  • Pippin Hill Meritage Reserve 2013 (50% Petit Verdot, 25% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Franc, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon): pruple-ruby colour; tobacco, cedar, oak spice nose; dry and lean blackcurrant flavour – savoury, licorice notes, nicely balanced. (88)
  • Pippin Hill Petit Verdot 2013 (100%): deep, dense purple-ruby colour; vanilla oak, iodine and blackberry nose with a floral grace note; dry, savoury black fruit flavours with lively acidity. (88)
  • Pippin Hill Bin 21 (ruby port style made with Chamburcin): dense purple colour; smoky plum and black cherry nose; medium-sweet with a warm alcoholic finish. (89)

After lunch I drove to Loudon County in the rain (Tropical Storm Joaquim is on the way, apparently). Checked into Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, a luxury hotel decorated throughout with horse and hunting motifs. Jennifer Sigal from Visit Loudon picked me up at 6:25 pm to drive to the Wine Kitchen restaurant in Leesburg, half an hour away. We dined with Jason Miller, the restaurant owner, and Jordon Harris, the winemaker of Tarara Winery in Leesburg. Jordon is a graduate of Niagara College’s winemaker course. He brought along some of his wines and other Loudon County producers’. With the meal we tasted the following wines:

  • Tarara Winery Nevaeh White 2009 (Nevaeh is “heaven” backwards – 70% Viognier and 30% Chardonnay): pale straw colour; aromatic, white peach nose with a mineral note; well extracted, dry, peach, pear and citrus flavours. (89)
  • Tarara Winery Nevaeh White 2012 (62% Chardonnay, 38% Viognier): straw colour; minerally, bright white peach nose with a floral note; great balanced of fruit and acidity. Elegant and fresh with great length, finishing on a spicy tangerine note. (90)
  • Tarara Winery Nevaeh White 2013: Not up to the 2012 – minerally, apple flavour; a little short on the finish. (87+)
  • Tarara Winery Chardonnay 2013: straw colour; apple with spicy oak on the nose; full-bodied, soft on the palate with apple and apple blossom flavours that fill the mouth, finishing dry. (88)
  • Hillsborough Bloodstone 2012 (a blend of 94% Fer Servadou and 6% Tannat): deep ruby-purple colour; tobacco, pepper and rose petal bouquet; medium-bodied, dry, leather and cherry flavours with a lively acidic spine and a firm tannic finish. (89)
  • 8 Chains North Hot Donkey Reserve 2010 (Malbec, Petit Verdot with 10% of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot): deep ruby colour; cedar, tobacco, vanilla oak with a barnyard note on the nose; dry, medium to full-bodied with flavours of tar and blackfruits. Very Bordelais in style, reminiscent of a St. Estephe; firmly structured and very dry. Needs time. (89–91)
  • Tarara Tranquility 2010 (60% Cabernet Sauvignon , 40% Tannat): dense purple-ruby colour; high toned, leather, chocolate nose with a note of violets; full-bodied, dry, savoury fruit and dark chocolate flaovurs with a warm alcoholic finish. (89)
  • Sunset Hills Tannat Estate Club Select 2009 (22% Merlot): dense purple-black colour; vanilla oak, blackberry with savoury-herbal notes on the nose; dry, lean and sinewy, compact on the palate with lively acidity and a firm tannic finish. (88)
  • Tarara Winery Nevaeh Red 2010 (70% Merlot, 15% Syrah, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cabernet Franc): dense purple-ruby colour; spicy, smoky, vanilla oak with a floral top note; dry, black fruit flavours, well balanced, and firmly structured with a dark chocolate finish. (90)
  • Tarara Winery Meritage 2007 (46% Cabernet Franc, 34% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon): deep ruby colour; a nose of cedar, vanilla oak and blackcurrant with a floral note; dry, savoury, tobacco flavour with a chalky mouth-feel; drying green tannins of the finish. (88)

A real adventure returning to the Salamader Resort & Spa in a stretch limo, as the storm blew in and made driving through deep pools of water on the road really hazardous.

Wednesday, September 30th: A car from the Salamander dropped me at Greenhill Winery & Vineyards to meet winemaker Sebastien Marquet. Jennifer Sigal joined me there. Greenhill, a 4000-case winery, opened in August 2013 and features 11 acres of vitis vinifera vineyards set against a stunning backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains. They have Charolais cattle on the property and plan to sell the meat.

Guest house at Greenhill

  • Greenhill Blanc de Blancs 2013: pale straw colour with tiny bubbles; a nose of white flowers, apple and pear with a honey note and a touch of oak; light-bodied, dry, clean, winey flavour; round on the palate with good length. (89)
  • Greenhill Chardonnay 2014: pale straw colour; spicy, smoky, toasty oak with apple and white flowers on the nose; well-extracted green apple flavours, rich mouth-feel; medium- to full-bodied, well balanced with good length. (90)
  • Greenhill Viognier 2014: light straw colour; rich honeysuckle, white peach nose; dry, medium-bodied, dry, aromatic, well balanced fruit (peach and apricot flavours), lively acidity with a touch of bitterness on the finish to give interest. (89)
  • Greenhill Riesling 2014: pale straw with a lime tint; minerally, floral, grapefruit; medium-bodied, dry, grapefruit flavour with fresh citrus acidity, great length. (89+)
  • Greenhill Seyval Blanc 2014: very pale colour; minerally, green plum nose; more expressive on the palate – medium-bodied, white flowers, stone fruit flavour, finishes firmly on a peachy note. (Best Seyval I’ve tasted!) (89)
  • Greenhill Superstition 2013 (60% Mourvèdre and 40% Tannat): deep ruby colour; spicy, smoky, black cherry nose with a floral note; dry, sour cherry flavour with lively acidity. A fascinating blend. (89)
  • Greenhill Ontology 2014 (100% Chamburcin): deep ruby colour; earthy, smoky cherry nose with spicy oak; full in the mouth, dry, dark cherry flavour. (88)
  • Greenhill Philosophy 2013 (16% Cabernet Sauvignon, 71% Cabernet Franc, 13% Petit Verdot): deep ruby colour; cedar, blackcurrant, violets with just a suggestion of vanilla oak; dry, medium-bodied, elegant, beautifully balanced, blackcurrant and redcurrant flavours. A Virginian claret. (91)

Sebastian Marquet at Greenhill winery

After the tasting we all drove over to Purcellville, where Sebastian’s wife, Isabelle Tourchon, joined us for lunch at Magnolias at the Mill. “Maggie’s,” as the locals refer to it, is housed in a 1905 restored mill; the millworks are still visible throughout the restaurant.

Next stop, Doukenie Winery in Hillsboro, where Sebastian makes the wine from 12 acres of vineyards on a 500-acre farm in the town of Hillsboro.

  • Doukenie Sauvignon Blanc 2014: light straw colour; floral, green plum, leafy nose; good mid-palate fruit, pear and green plum flavours, grassy, citrus acidity; finishes firmly with good length. (88)
  • Doukenie Chardonnay 2014 (100% oak fermented, 35% new oak): pale straw with a green tint: spicy, salty-butter, toasty oak with caramel and peach and pineapple flavours, Rich and full on the palate, toasty New World style. Good length. (90)
  • Doukenie Mandolin 2014 (Traminette, Vidal): pale straw colour; spicy aromatic, lychee with a floral note; off-dry, lychee, orange and rose petal. Exotic, off-dry with balancing acidity. A fascinating hybrid blend. A very commercial wine. (88)
  • Doukenie Cabernet Franc 2014: ruby colour; leafy, inky nose of cedar and peppery redcurrant; medium-bodied, dry, savoury, herbal red berry flavours. Firm finish. (87+)
  • Doukenie Zeus 2013 (53% Tannat, 47% Cabernet Sauvignon): dense ruby-black colour; leather, spicy oak, blackberry nose; full-bodied, dry, lively acidity carrying blackberry with a greenish note to a firm tannic finish. (87)
  • Doukenie Vintner’s Reserve 2013 (40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 8% Petit Verdot): deep ruby colour; cedar, blackcurrant with an oak note; medium-bodied, dry, savoury, blackcurrant with lively acidity and firm tannic structure. Claret style. (89+)
  • Doukenie Petit Verdot 2013 (100%): dense purple-black colour; lifted, tobacco, smoky, toasty vanilla oak and rose petal nose; full-bodied, well-extracted, mouth-filling plummy, dark chocolate note. Firm structure. (88+)
  • Doukenie Dionysus 2009 (100% Merlot): deep ruby colour; creamy, spicy, sweet tobacco, vanilla oak nose; richly extracted, medium to full-bodied, beautifully balanced, seamless with flavours of blackcurrant and black raspberry. Very St. Emilion in style, still youthful with a firm tannic finish. Hold 3–5 years. (91–93)

Mandolin Doukenie founder brought with her from Greece. Now the winery logo.

Next stop, Breaux Vineyards in Purceville to meet with Jennifer Blosser. The 404 acre estate has 105 acres planted in 18 different grape varieties. Nestled between the hills, the vineyard plantings extend up the Short Hill Mountain.

  • Breaux Vineyards Breauxmance Sparkling 2013 (Vidal and Chamburcin): pale pink colour; minerally, yellow cherry nose; medium-bodied, dry, cranberry and rhubarb flavours; fresh and lively on the palate with a red berry flavour and a citrus finish. (88)
  • Breaux Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2014: pale straw colour; fresh grapefruit, cut grass, gooseberry nose; medium-bodied, off-dry, pear and grapefruit flavours with lemony acidity and lemon rind finish. (88+)
  • Breaux Vineyards Grand Oak Sauvignon Blanc 2014: light straw colour; spicy oak, lanolin, nectarine bouquet; white Bordeaux style, rich on the palate, coconut, peach flavours nicely balanced with citrus acidity. (91)
  • Breaux Vineyards Viognier 2014: light straw colour; honeysuckle, peach and peach pit nose; full-bodied, unctuous creamy mouth-feel, off-dry, beautifully balanced peach flavour. (89)
  • Breaux Vineyards Nebbiolo 2010: tawny ruby colour; tobacco, rose, dried cherries, toasted herbs nose; medium-bodied, dry, firmly structured, cherry and plum flavours with firm tannins. Youthful, needs 3–5 years. (89–91)
  • Breaux Vineyards Meritage 2012 (40% Merlot, 40% Malbec, 10% Petit Verdot, 9% Cabernet Fanc, 1% Cabernet Sauvignon): dense ruby colour; cedar, violets, blackcurrant nose with vanilla oak; medium-bodied, dry, savoury, curranty flavour with lean and sinewy flavours of blackcurrant and redcurrant flavours. Good tannic structure. Keep for two years. (89+)
  • Breaux Vineyards Equation (NV) (Syrah, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc): dense ruby colour; spicy, vanilla oak, black fruit nose; full-bodied, sweet black fruits with tobacco and leather notes, earthy on the palate, chunky mouth feel. Easy drinking with good structure and a chocolate note on the finish. Good value. (88)
  • Breaux Vineyards Lineage V3 (Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon – with spirit made from Nebbiolo. Made in solera): dense ruby-black in colour; mulberry, vanilla oak, coffee bean nose; sweet black fruits, firmly structured. LBV style with a firm tannic finish. A touch bitter on the finish. (89)

Jennifer Blosser of Breaux Vineyards

Final tasting of the day at Boxwood Winery in Middleburg, dedicated to red wines only. They make 3500 cases, using 30% new oak.

  • Boxwood Estate Trellis 2012 (Merlot 47%, Cabernet Franc 28%, Cabernet Sauvignon 22%, Petit Verdot 3%): deep ruby colour; spicy, vanilla oak, cedar, red berry fruit nose; medium-bodied, dry, firmly structured, earthy, blackberry and plum flavours; firmly structured, coffee bean and cocoa powder finish. (89)
  • Boxwood Estate Topiary 2012 (Merlot 55%, Cabernet Franc 45%): deep ruby colour; cedar, vanilla oak, tobacco, black fruits; medium to full-bodied, richly extracted, curranty flavours with grainy tannins. Good mouth-feel. Firm structure. Hold 3 years. (89–91)
  • Boxwood Estate 2012 (Merlot 56%, Cabernet Sauvignon 33%, Petit Verdot 11%): deep ruby colour; cedar, spicy oak, blackcurrant bouquet; medium-bodied, dry, very Bordelais in style with tobacco and blackcurrant flavours, lovely mouth-feel. Well-balanced, earthy with a firm finish. (92)

Boxwood Estate 2012

Back at the Salamander, Christina Kozich gave me a tour of the property followed by dinner in their Harrimans restaurant.

Thursday, October 1st: Christi Braginton of the Virginia Tourism Corporation picked me up at the Salamander to drive to Chrysalis Vineyard not far away in Middleburg. Met with the exuberant owner, Jennifer McCloud, who toured us around the newly constructed winery and cheesemaking facility in the basement. She is incorporating a fascinating electronic system in her tasting room – using cards that, when activated, will deliver selected tasting portions at stations. Jennifer is known as the “Queen of Norton” – a much-vilified North American variety for which Riedel has designed its own glass. Chrysalis has 40.35 acres of Norton planted.

The irrepressible Jennifer McCloud of Chrysalis

  • Chrysalis Albarino Verde 2014: pale straw colour; fresh, citrus and mineral notes on the nose; dry, light on the palate green plum flavour. (88)
  • Chrysalis Albarino 2014: pale straw colour, minerally, grassy, green plum nose; medium-bodied, crisply dry; good length. Light in the mouth. Reminscent of Muscadet. (88)
  • Chrysalis Viognier 2013: pale lemon colour; honeysuckle, apricot nose; full on the palate, sweet, peachy with enough acidity to give it balance. (88+)
  • Chrysalis Viognier 2014: pale straw colour; honeysuckle, peach and apricot nose with a mineral note; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, well balanced with good length with a bitter almond finish. (89)
  • Chrysalis Mariposa Dry Rosé 2013 (Petite Verdot, Tannat, Nebbilo, Norton): deep pink colour; strawberry with an earthy note; dry, richly extracted strawberry and cranberry flavours. Lively acidity, good mouth-feel. (88)
  • Chrysalis Sarah’s Patio White 2014 (Vidal, 5% Petit Manseng): pale straw colour; honey, melon nose; sweet melon and apple flavours, nicely balanced with acidity. (87)
  • Chrysalis Sarah Patio Red 2014 (100% Norton): deep ruby colour; grapey, black cherry nose; richly extracted, off-dry, grapey. Not complex, touch of sweetness but nicely balanced with acidity. Enjoyable when served chilled. (87+)
  • Chrysalis Shitz & Giggles 2014 (Norton): dense purple colour; evident oak, grapey, rose petal nose; medium-bodied, off-dry, grapey with some tannins to give structure. (88)
  • Chrysalis Rubiana 2013 (Fer Servadou, Tinta Cao, Petit Verdot, Viognier, Tannat): deep ruby colour; floral, black fruits with a raisiny note; medium-bodied, dry, acidic. (87)
  • Chrysalis Estate Bottled Norton 2013: dense purple colour; light oak note, floral, with blackberry aroma; medium-bodied, dry blackberry, black cherry flavours with an orange peel note. (88+)
  • Chrysalis Petit Verdot 2013: dense purple colour; pencil lead, violets, black cherry nose; medium- to full-bodied, dry, richly extracted, firmly structured with a tannic lift on the finish. (89)
  • Chrysalis Papillon 2013 (Tannat and Petit Verdot): dense purple colour; a nose of tobacco, black cherry, vanilla oak with a note of tar; dry, medium-bodied, firmly structured with chalky tannins. Needs time, 3–5 years. (90)
  • Chrysalis Norton Locksley Reserve 2013 (a touch Tannat and Petit Verdot): dense purple colour; tobacco, vanilla oak, floral, black cherry nose; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, beautifully balanced with lively acidity to a firm finish. What a revelation this wine is! (91)

A label we’ll probably never see at the LCBO

At noon, lunched with Christi Braginton at the Fox Inn & Tavern in Middleburg, an old stone coaching in that dates back to 1728 and is purported to be the longest continuously serving tavern in the country.

Fox Inn and Tavern in Middleburg

Drove to Dulles airport in the rain, returned the rental car and flew back to Toronto.

This was a real eye-opening wine tour. I had no idea that Virginia produced such a range of interesting wines, beyond the usual Bordeaux and Burgundy varieties. I really enjoyed the blends with Tannat, Fer Servadou, Chamburcin, the 100% Petit Verdot, the Petit Manseng, Albariño and, course, Norton in the hands of Jennifer McCloud.

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 564: Carpineto Tasting

Sparkling wine tasting

Monday, September 21st: A Wine Writers Circle tasting this morning of 89 sparkling wines. In the afternoon I wrote my 680 NEWS wine reviews. For dinner, lightly curried chicken with a bottle of Hillebrand Showcase Clean Slate Wild Ferment Sauvignon Blanc 2012 (very Bordeaux in style – grassy, green plum nose with well integrated oak; medium-bodied, passionfruit, lemon and smoke flavours. A seamless wine (91)).

Tuesday, September 22nd: Wrote a column for Grapevine magazine on sparkling wine. Dinner at Donatella with German Berra, the winemaker from Finca Flichman in Argentina. He told me that Flichman introduced Syrah to Argentina in the 1920s. During the meal we tasted the following wines:

  • Finca Flichman Misterio Malbec 2014 ($8.95): deep ruby colour; savoury-herbal nose with a touch of oak and a floral top note; medium-bodied, dry and savoury with good acidity. Good value. (87+)
  • Finca Flichman Misterio Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($8.95): deep ruby colour; savoury nose with evident oak; medium-bodied, dry, ripe blackcurrant and plum flavours; soft on the palate. Good value. (88)
  • Finca Flichman Espesiones Reserve Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($15.95): deep ruby colour; floral, black fruit nose with herbal notes and vanilla oak; full-bodied, richly extracted sweet fruit tinged with toasted herbs and a dark chocolate note. Good mouth feel and good value. (89)
  • Finca Flichman Paisaje de Barrancas 2013 (Syrah, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon – $17.95): dense purple colour; spicy blackberry, cigar leaf nose with a floral note and a thread of minerality; rich and full on the palate, full-bodied, beautifully balanced with a fruity sweetness. (90)
  • Finca Flichman Paisaje de Tupungato 2013 (Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot – $17.95): dense purple colour; cedar, pencil lead, spicy black fruits on the nose with a floral grace note; lean and sinewy, firmly structured with lively acidity and an apple peel note on the finish. (89)
  • Finca Flichman Dedicado 2012 (Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah – $29.95): dense purple colour; vanilla oak, cocoa, blackberry and blackcurrant nose; lovely mouth-feel, full-bodied, sweet and succulent, lively acidity and a firm finish. A seamless wine. (92)

Finca Flichman Dedicato 2012

Wednesday, September 23rd: After recoding my 680 NEWS wine reviews I went to Cibo to lunch with Antonio Zaccheo Jr. from Carpineto. In a private room our table of wine writers shared a glass of Farnito Chardonnay Brut, an easy-drinking sparkler with an off-dry apple flavour (88).

  • Carpineto Dogajolo Toscana Bianco 2014 (Chardonnay, Grechetto and Sauvignon Blanc – $15.95): straw colour; fruity, grassy, aromatic nose; apple flavour, soft on the palate with lively acidity and a chalky finish. (88)
  • Carpineto Dogajolo Toscana Rosso 2014 (Sangiovese with 30% Cabernet and other varieties – $16.05): ruby colour; fruity, cherry and vanilla oak nose; medium-bodied, dry, easy drinking with a firm structure and a tannic finish. A versatile food wine. (88+)
  • Carpineto Chianti Cassico 2013 ($19.95): ruby colour; vanilla oak, tobacco, cherry nose with a floral note; medium-bodied, dry, cherry flavour with ripe tannins and good acidity. A well-structured wine. (89)
  • Carpineto Chianti Cassico Riserva 2010 (Sangiovese with 20% Canaiolo – $29.95): deep ruby colour; a nose of red cherries, tobacco and vanilla oak; lovely mouth-feel, firmly structured, dry, cherry flavour with ripe taninns and a note of forest floor on the finish. A seamless wine. (90–92).
  • Carpineto Chianti Cassico Riserva 1995 (~$80): rich and full in the mouth with cherry and tobacco flavours, mouth-filling and beautifully balanced, A pleasure to drink. (92)
  • Carpineto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2010 ($29.95): deep ruby colour; earthy, black cherry, mushroom and vanilla on the nose; dry and fruity, firmly structured but tight. Needs time. (89–91)
  • Carpineto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva 1988 (~$150): mature ruby colour; a nose of tobacco, cedar, cherries and truffles; dry, elegant, beautifully balanced; silky mouth-feel and firmly structured. Still youthful. (92)
  • Carpineto Brunello di Montalcino 2010 ($59.95): deep ruby colour; chocolate, vanilla oak and tobacco nose; flavours of fresh blackcurrants and black cherries; firmly structured, elegant and beautifully balanced, lovely mouth-feel. Drinking well now but will last another decade. (92–94)

Antonio Zaccheo Jr.

With the lunch we tasted the following wines:

  • Carpineto Farnito Chardonnay 2014 ($25): straw yellow colour; spicy, floral, apple nose; dry, full-bodied, nicely oaked and well balanced. (89)
  • Carpineto Farnito Cabernet Sauvignon 2010: ruby colour; spicy blackcurrant and vanilla oak nose; dry, medium-bodied and well-structured. (88+)
  • Carpineto Farnito Cabernet Sauvignon 2000: dense ruby-purple colour; tobacco, cigar box, blackcurrant nose with vanilla oak and a floral top note; sweet blackcurrant fruit with an iodine note, great balance. Reminiscent of Château Montrose. (93)
  • Carpineto Farnito Vinsanto del Chianti 1996 (500 mL bottle): deep amber colour; a nose of molasses and prunes with a touch of oak; off-dry, flavours of dried fig and nuts. Great balance and great length. (94).

Carpineto Farnito Cabernet Sauvignon 2000

Thursday, September 24th: Wrote my Post City column on Beaujolais and spent the rest of day inputting Vintages release tasting notes. Tasted a couple of wines:

  • San Raffaele Monte Tabor Organic Pinot Grigio 2014 (Veneto, $13.95): straw coloured with a nose of citrus and peach pit; medium-bodied, crisply dry with white peach and lime flavours. Good value. (89)
  • Dominio de Tares Cepas Viejas Mencia 2011 (Bierzo, $29.95): deep ruby-purple colour; spicy, earthy blackberry nose; full-bodied, well-extracted fruit with a chunky mouth feel. (89).

At 5:30 pm down to a tasting of Virginian wines and then on to the theatre to see Motown. Great show.

Friday, September 25th: A Vintages release tasting. 146 wines. On the way home I stopped into New York Fries for a bag of French fries. Perfect after a big tasting. For dinner, lamb chops with Beronia Tempranillo 2012 (Rioja): deep ruby colour with a minerally, cedar, cherry and blackcurrant nose; medium-bodied, dry, blackcurrant and strawberry flavours with mellow tannins and balancing acidity. (88+)

Saturday, September 26th: Today, the annual Ontario Wine Awards’ sponsors’ tour to Niagara. We stopped at Two Sisters winery and Domaine Queylus.

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 563: Ottawa Wine Challenge

View from my Ottawa hotel room

Monday, September 14th: Decided I would update Windows 7 to Windows 10 since they were offering it free.

Tuesday, September 15th: Disaster! Tried to upload Windows 10 overnight and awoke this morning to the dreaded black screen. Luckily my cellphone had my diary and contacts. Have arranged for it to be picked up tonight and sent to computer hospital but it means I’ll be without it for two days. So… have borrowed Deborah’s laptop to take down some tasting notes.

  • Strewn Cottage Block Sauvignon Blanc Riesling (Ontario – $12.95): sweet grass, minerally nose; medium-bodied, off-dry, grapefruit and peach flavours; good length, touch of bitterness on the finish. (86+)
  • Strewn Chardonnay Barrel Aged 2013 (Ontario – $13.95): deep straw colour; apple nose with a cidery note backed by oak; full in the mouth, spicy oak and apple puree flavours. (87)
  • Strewn Two Vines Riesling Gewurztraminer 2013 (Ontario – $11.95): yellow straw colour; lychee, grapefruit nose; off-dry, perfumed, rose petal, grapefruit and lychee flavours, surprisingly elegant and seamless with good length. (89)
  • Strewn Gewurztraminer 2014 (Ontario – $12.95): light straw with a green tint; rose petal and lychee nose; perfumed and aromatic, medium-bodied, dry with rose water and lychee flavours. Good varietal character, great mouth feel and great value. (89)
  • Napa Cellars Chardonnay 2013 (Napa Valley – $23.95): straw colour; apple, oak showing some barnyard notes; full-bodied, richly extracted, apple, pineapple and caramel flavours. Old style Napa Chardonnay. (89+)
  • Strewn Cottage Block Merlot 2013 (Ontario – $14.95): light ruby colour with a tawny rim; spicy blueberry with a whiff of oak; medium-bodied, dry, redcurrant and blueberry flavours with a floral note on the back taste; fresh acidity and enough tannins to give structure. (87)
  • Strewn Rogue’s Lot Cabernet Sauvignon Cabernet Franc 2012 (Ontario – $14.95): ruby colour with a brick-red rim; cedar, blackcurrant with geranium leaf note; dry, medium-bodied, lively acidity with a red plum flavour. (86)
  • Strewn Two Vines Cabernet-Merlot 2013 (Ontario – $12.95): ruby with a tawny rim; cedar, vanilla oak, dried leaves on the nose; strawberry compote flavour, sweetish fruit, good acidity with a firm finish. (86+)
  • Château Pey La Tour 2010 (Bordeaux Superieur – $19.95): dense purple-ruby colour; blackcurrant and coffee bean nose with a cedary note; medium-bodied, well-extracted blackcurrant and plum flavours with lively acidity and mellow tannins. (88)
  • Frescobaldi Campo Al Sassi Rosso di Montalcino 2013 (Tuscany – $21.95): deep ruby colour; minty, cherry nose; medium-bodied, dry, sour cherry flavour with a fine spine of acidity and a rustic cherry pit finish. (88)
  • KWV Cathedral Cellars Petit Verdot 2013 (South Africa – $15.95): dense purple colour; spicy blackberry with a smoky note; richly extracted, dry, blackberry and violets flavours with a tannic lift on the finish. (88)
  • San Pedro 1865 Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (Chile – $19.95): smoky, blackcurrant with toasty oak notes on the nose; full-bodied, sweet blackcurrant, chunky mouth-feel, sweet juicy fruit with balancing acidity and a hint of oak. (89)

Dinner at L’Avenue with Julian, Malcolm and Jane. We all brought wine. Malcolm, Larmandier Bernier Blanc de blancs Champagne and Château Canon La Gaffalière 1995; Julian, Domaines Lupier La Dama Old Vine Garnacha 2010; and I, Raymond Lafon Sauternes 1998 in a half bottle. I ordered scallop and confit pork belly, fried sage, preserved apple, house BBQ sauce and, as a main, liver and onions. With the Sauternes, blue cheese cheesecake.

Wednesday, September 16th: A day without my computer. Felt like someone had cut off my arm. Managed to scrounge some time on Deborah’s laptop to send emails and write my Wines of the Week column. Then got down to more tasting:

  • Attems Pinot Grigio 2014 (Venezia Giulia – $19.95): pale straw with a lime tint; minerally, peach pit bouquet; medium-bodied, crisply dry, white peach and lemon flavours with an intriguing touch of bitterness on the finish. (89)
  • Blue Mountain Pinot Gris 2014 (Okanagan Valley – $20.90): pale straw colour; lifted nose of white peach and pear skin with a mineral note; medium- for full-bodied, dry, white peach, pear and citrus flavours. Lots of attack in the flavour but well balanced. Nothing wishy-washy about this Pinot Gris. (90)
  • Tinhorn Creek Cabernet Franc 2013 (Okanagan Valley): ruby with a tawny rim; earthy, red berry nose; medium-bodied, dry, cherry and dark chocolate flavours with a firm tannic finish. (88)
  • Tinhorn Creek Cabernet Franc Oldfield Series 2012 (Okanagan Valley): deep ruby colour; cedar, vanilla oak, red and blackcurrants on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, elegant red berry flavours with a note of violets; well-structured with a fine spine of acidity. A seamless wine. (91)
  • Tinhorn Creek Merlot Oldfield Series 2012 (Okanagan Valley): red plum and vanilla oak nose with a floral grace note; medium-bodied, dry, a polished wine, well balanced with red fruit flavours carried on lively acidity to a firm tannic finish. (89)
  • Tinhorn Creek 2 Bench Red Oldfield Series 2012 (Okanagan Valley): deep ruby colour; a nose of cedar, blackcurrant with dark chocolate notes; medium-bodied, dry, blackcurrant flavour backed by vanilla oak with a toasty note; firm finish after a sustained acid-carried fruit. (89)
  • Blue Mountain Gamay Noir 2014 (Okanagan Valley): solid ruby colour; peppery cherry bouquet with a light floral note; dry, light-bodied, elegant and textured, black cherry flavour. Well structured. To my palate the best Gamay made in Canada. (91)
  • Hester Creek Syrah-Viognier 2013 (Okanagan Valley – $24.95): dense purple-ruby colour; smoky, charred oak and vanilla nose with a floral top note; full-bodied, dry, smoked meat flavour with a savoury, peppery, herbal finish. Good length. (89+)
  • Hester Creek The Judge 2012 (Okanagan Valley – $45): Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot. Deep ruby colour; a nose of cedar, cigar box, coffee bean and blackcurrant; dry, medium-bodied, savoury currant flavours; firmly structured but not without a certain smoky elegance. (90)
  • Maverick Pinot Gris 2014 (Okanagan Valley): straw colour; aromatic, peach with a floral note on the nose; full-bodied, richly extracted peach flavour, full in the mouth. (90)
  • Kitma Biblia Chora Areti Assyrtico 2013 (Greece): straw colour; minerally, citrus nose; medium-bodied, crisply dry and lemony with a mineral thread. (88).

Thursday, September 17th: Met with Luc Bouchard and Jason Woodman to discuss which wines we would be serving in the seminar at the Gourmet Wine & Food Show. Packed for Ottawa. I leave in the morning from Billy Bishop airport to judge in the Ottawa Wine Challenge. Dinner at The Fifth with Michael and Rosie. Michael brought along a bottle of Brochet Hervieux HBH Cuvee Speciale Brut Champagne 1997 and Château Léoville-Barton 1970 and I brought Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne 2005 and Ridge Zinfandel 1992. We finished with Michael’s Château Doisy-Védrine Sauternes 2003. A great dinner from J-P Challet.

Friday, September, 18th: A Vintages release tasting and then directly to the island airport for the flight to Ottawa. Dinner at Erlings (225 Strathcona) with the judges. Excellent meal and the wines kept coming.

Saturday, September 19th: Staying at the Westin Hotel. My room on the 22nd floor overlooks the Rideau Canal, the Parliament buildings and the National Arts Centre. A great view marred by a huge crane above the Convention Centre. There are four panels tasting some 75 wines today. Our panel of sommeliers Alison Hussey and Evan Keaschuk tasted 7 white blends, 4 unoaked Chardonnays, 11 Cabernet Sauvignons, 7 oaked Chardonnays, 8 Sauvignon Blancs, 7 sparkling wines, 10 red blends, 10 Pinot Noirs and a further 10 red blends. Then we tasted the gold medal wines to determine the best of show in white and red. Following the competition, Rod Phillips, Zoltan Szabo and I participated in a round-table discussion for members of the National Capital Sommelier Guild on what judges look for in wine competitions. We tasted three whites and three reds double-blind. Then the judges went to dinner at the Ottawa Streat Gourmet Warehouse. (The chef runs a food truck.) Again, much wine taken.

Sunday, September 20th: Flew home to Toronto.

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 562: Valpolicella

View of Verona from Corte San Mattia

Sunday, September 6th: Last night I caught a 10:25 pm flight for Rome and then a flight to Verona. I’m here for a bloggers’ tour in Valpolicella. There are five of us involved – Jane from Ottawa, Alexander from Hong Kong, Maxime from Beijing and Jung from Korea.

I was met at Verona airport by Federica from the Valpolicella Consortio, who arranged the tour and will be travelling with us. She dropped me at the hotel where we will spend five nights. It’s a delightful agritourismo called Fioravante set in a vineyard in San Pietro in Cariano with its own swimming pool. Dinner in Castelrotto di Negrarine. An English couple had a well-behaved Wheaten terrier named Lucy with them as they dined outside. Made me homesick for Pinot.

The menu: pasta e fagioli with Amarone, risotto with porcini, carpaccio of duck, pork. A dessert of millefoglie with Monteveronese cheese. The wines: Corte Sant’Alba Ca’ Fiui Valpolicella 2014, Secondo Marco Valpolicella Classico 2013, Cecilia Beretta Terre di Cariano Valpolicella Classico 2012, I Sartori Valpolicella Superiore 2011, Scriani Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore 2013, Villa Bella Fracastoro Amarone Riserva 2006. If this is indicative of the meals we will be having I shall have to go on a serious diet on my return.

Duck carpaccio at Relais Castrum

Secundo Marco Valpolicella 2013

Monday, September 7th: Woke at 4:30 am and that was it for the night. By 8:45 we are on the road to our first winery: ARMANI (Località Ceradello – 37020 Dolcè). The Armani family have been grape growers in Trentino since 1607 – 16 generations. They own six wineries in three provinces, as well as making Prosecco. Outside the winery is a small vineyard that is resurrecting 12 local varieties that were on their way to extinction. After a cellar tour, the tasting:

  • Albino Armani Corvina 2013: deep ruby colour; cherry nose with a mineral thread; dry, medium-bodied, fruity cherry character and fresh. (87+)
  • Albino Armani Valpolicella Superiore “Egle” 2012: ruby colour; earthy cherry pit nose and strawberry notes on the nose; dry, fruity and fresh with lively acidity. (88)
  • Albino Armani Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso 2012: deep ruby colour; raisiny, dried cherries with sweet tobacco and oak notes; richly extracted, dry, beautifully balanced with a lovely mouth-feel. Nicely structured with a tannic lift on the finish. (89)
  • Albino Armani Amarone della Valpolicella 2010: ruby colour; tobacco and cedar with dried cherries on the nose; richly extracted, full-bodied, nicely balanced with good length and a warm alcoholic finish. (90)
  • Albino Armani Cuslanus Amarone Classico 2010: deep ruby colour; cedar, cherry nose with an oak note and a lovely floral grace note; mouth-filling, full-bodied, cherry, plum and raisin flavours with well integrated tannins. Still youthful. (91)
  • Albino Armani Recioto della Valpolicella 2012: deep ruby with a purple tint; sweet plum and prune bouquet; full-bodied, dried cherries and kirsch flavours. Firm finish. (88+)

Rondinella grapes

Next stop, SANTA SOFIA (Via Cà Dede, 61 – 37029 San Pietro In Cariano). I had visited this property on my last visit to Valpolicella. After the cellar tour by the owner, Giancarlo Begnoni, we drove up to Trattoria Caprini in Torbe for “a light lunch” as described in the program: lasagnette pasta with ragu sauce, beef cheek in a spicy sauce with polenta and bitter greens, followed by grana Padano and Vezzena cheese.

  • Santa Sofia Monte Gradella Valpolicella 2011: deep ruby colour; spicy, black cherry and rose petal nose with vanilla oak notes; medium-bodied, dry, elegant.

Santa Sofia

Next stop: LE RAGOSE (Località le Ragose – 37024 Arbizzano). Paolo Galli farms 18 hectares. His father planted Cabernet Sauvignon 35 years ago at an elevation of 350 meters. Paolo took us through the vineyards before the tasting:

  • Le Ragose Valpolicella Classico 2014: deep ruby colour; spicy, white pepper, cherry nose; lively acidity, grassy note and sour cherry with a firm finish. Somewhat Beaujolais-like. (87)
  • Le Ragose Valpolicella “Sassine” Ripasso 2010: ruby with a violet note; rose petal, cherry nose; dry, medium-bodied with blackcurrant and cherry flavours, fresh and lively on the palate; drier and more savoury than usual Ripassos. (90)
  • Le Ragose Amarone Caloetto 2006: dense purple-ruby colour; savoury, plum and black cherry aromas; surprisingly dry and savoury with spice and lively acidity. (89+)
  • Le Ragose Cabernet Sauvignon 2010: deep ruby colour; blackcurrant, cedar nose; dry, fruity, elegant, medium to full-bodied and firmly structured with well-extracted fruit. Ripe tannins. (89)

Paolo Galli of Le Ragose

Next stop at 4:30 pm, CASA VINICOLA SARTORI (Via Casette, 2 – 37024 Negrar). Sartori is one of the oldest and biggest wineries in Valpolicella, exporting 80% of their wines. They are housed in a 17th-century villa. The chapel on the property dates back to the 15th century. They own 2,300 hectares of vineyards and have access to a further 2700 hectares with the acquisition of a co-op.

  • Sartori Regolo Valpolicella Ripasso 2012: deep ruby colour; spicy, peppery, black cherry nose; sweet cherry, soft on the palate with lively acidity. Easy drinking. (87+)
  • I Saltari Valpolicella Superiore 2011: leather, iodine note, sour cherry, medium-bodied, fresh and firmly structured – blackcurrant and sour cherry flavours. (90)
  • Sartori Valpolicella Classico 2010 (5% Cabernet Sauvignon): ruby colour with a mature rim; savoury, cedar, red berry nose; with a wisp of oak; firm and fleshy with lively acidity and evident but supple tannins. (89)
  • Sartori Corte Bra Amarone 2008: dense ruby-black colour; smoky, black licorice, black cherry and pencil lead nose; full-bodied, rich , spicy, peppery, dry, herbal and savoury plum flavours; chunky mouth feel. (90+)
  • I Saltari Amarone 2008: dense ruby-black in colour; creamy, black cherry nose with cinnamon and cedar notes; ripe fruit, full-bodied but belies its 15.5% alcohol. Fleshy and firm with fresh, balancing acidity and good length. (92)

8:00 pm: Dinner at RISTORANTE LA DIVINA (via Conca d’Oro, 1, 37015 San Giorgio di Sant’Ambrogio di Valpolicella). The menu:

Braised Veronese radicchio with porcini mushrooms and grana Padano, served with Scriani Valpolicella Classico 2014 and Boscaini Carlo Ca’ Bussin Valpolicalla Classico 2013

Orecchiette pasta with tomato sauce and mozzarella, served with Massimago Valpolicella Classico Profasio 2012 and Sartori Monte Gradella Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2012

Amarone pork steak served with Villabella Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore 2013 and Latium Campo dei Ciliegi Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore 2011

Veronese cheeses, served with Pasqua Amarone di Valpolicella Classico Riserva 2009 and Santa Sofia Amarone Classico 2009

Millefoglie with orange cream and chocolate drizzle, served with Cecilia Beretta Amarone Classico Terre di Cariano 2006 and Santa Sofia Amarone Classico 2009

Finally, Zonin Grappa

Tuesday, September 8th: 9:00 am to SCRIANI, Via Ponte Scrivan, 7 – 37022 Fumane. A 3-hectare vineyard here. Very impressive wines.

  • Scriani Valpolicella Classico 2014 (Corvina 60%,Corvinone 20%, Rondinella 10%, Molinara 7%, Oseleta 3%): bright ruby colour; peppery, spicy, cherry and blackcurrant nose with a floral top note; dry, medium-bodied, well-balanced with lively acidity, a note of basil, redcurrant and sour cherry flavours and a warm alcoholic finish. (90)
  • Scriani Valpolicella Superiore 2013 (Corvina 60%, Corvinone 20%, Rondinella 10%, Croatina 7%, Oseleta 3%): bright ruby colour; evident oak, cherry with a floral note on the nose; dry, fresh, cherry flavour; firm with lively acidity, fruity and well-structured. (89+)
  • Scriani Valpolicella Classico Superiore “Ripasso” 2013 (Corvina 60%,Corvinone 20%, Rondinella 10%, Molinara 7%, Oseleta 3%): deep ruby colour; leather, raisiny, cherry with a cedar note; well extracted blackcurrant flavour, dry, full-bodied with racy acidity; good length. (91)
  • Scriani Valpolicella Classico Superiore “Ripasso” 2007: mature ruby colour; developing a barnyard note with spicy, savoury, leather, cherry nose with a floral top note; lovely mouth-feel, sweet cherry flavour, firm structure; a muscular wine with evident but supple tannins. (92)
  • Scriani Carpanè Corvina Veronese 2010: deep ruby colour; a nose of cedar, cherry, blackcurrant with a grassy note; rich, spicy medium to full-bodied, elegant and firmly structured with a vanilla oak note. (91)
  • Scriani Amarone Classico 2010 (16% alcohol Corvino, 25% Corvinone, 15% Rondinella): deep ruby colour; intense blackcurrant, tobacco and vanilla oak nose; richly extracted, sweet fruit, full-bodied and beautifully balanced, Finishes firmly and carries its alcohol well. (92+)
  • Scriani Amarone Classico Riserva 2010 (16% alcohol Corvino, 25% Corvinone, 15% Rondinella): deep ruby colour; spicy, animal note on the nose; richly extracted, sweet plum and prune flavours, chunky mouth-feel. Evident tannins. Needs time. (91–93?)
  • Scriani Recioto della Valpolicella 2011 (Corvina 60%, Corvinone 20%, Rondinella 10%, Molinara 10%): deep ruby colour; rich, raisiny, blackcurrant nose; sweet and porty, blackcurrant flavour with a firm finish. (89)

The Cottini family, Azienda Agricola Scriani

11:00 am: TENUTE SALVATERRA, Via Cengia, 8 – 37029 Loc. Cengia S. Pietro in Cariano. Five hectares on the estate with 300 acres spread around Valpolicella as well as producing Pinot Grigio and Prosecco. Great density of planting here, 9600 vines per hectare. Here we had a lunch tasting:

  • SalvaTerre Valpolicella Classico 2013: ruby colour; cherry and cherry pit nose with a light floral note; fresh, dry and light with a savoury sour cherry flavour. (87)
  • SalvaTerre Valpolicella Classico Ripasso 2012: deep ruby colour; floral, cherry nose with an vanilla oak note; dry cherry compote flavour, firmly structured. (88+)
  • SalvaTerre Lazzarone 2010 (60% Corvina, 10% Corvinone, 25% Rondinella, 5% other local varieties): dense ruby colour; cherry kirsch nose with earthy and floral notes; dry and savoury with lively acidity. (89)
  • SalvaTerre Amarone Classico 2008 (65% Corvina, 10% Corvinone, 20% Rondinella, 5% other local varieties): deep ruby colour; spicy, oak, tar and black cherry nose with a note of dried rose petals; rich and full on the palate – dry, beautifully balanced; powerful yet elegant. (91)
  • SalvaTerre Amarone Classico Rieserva Cave de Prun 2004: ruby colour holding nicely; cinnamon, cherry, lightly floral with a suggestion of oak; dry, beautifully balanced, integrated and seamless. A majestic wine. (93)

Tenute Salvaterra

Cellar at Tenute Salvaterra

2:30 pm BOSCAINI CARLO, Via Sengia, 37015. This quote from the website: “Our winery covers an area of 14 hectares overlooking the famous village of St. Giorgio Ingannapoltron, known around the world for its marvelous ancient church, cloister, and archeological excavation. In the beginning, the late Carlo Boscaini (who lived to the venerable age of 102 drinking wine in modest quantity but high quality) produced wine with great passion from leased land.”

  • Boscaini Carlo Valpolicella Classico Ca’ Bussin 2013: mature ruby colour; minerally, dusty, cherry nose; dry, lean, sinewy, very Burgundian in style; elegant, well-structured, sour cherry flavour with ripe tannins. (88+)
  • Boscaini Carlo Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2012: deep ruby colour; dusty terroir-driven, blackcurrant with a spicy note on the nose; ripe, coffee bean and blackcurrant flavours; good length. (89+)
  • Boscaini Carlo Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso 2011: dusty, spicy, oaky, with a light floral note; sweet cherry flavour with coffee bean and raisin notes. Sustains well on the palate; good acidity finishing dry. (90)
  • Boscaini Carlo Amarone Classico “San Giorgio” 2011: deep ruby colour; dark chocolate and plum nose with a thread of minerality; sweet, porty with chocolate and cherry flavours. Big and round in the mouth. (89)
  • Boscaini Carlo Recioto della Valpolicella La Sengia 2013: dense ruby-purple; kirsch and bitter chocolate nose; sweet cherry flavour, fruity but firm with an engaging bitter finish. (89).

Boscaini Carlo

4:30 pm SECONDO MARCO, Via Campolongo, 9 – 37022 Fumane. A beautifully appointed winery with a contemporary look. All his wine labels are made from fabric. Winemaker Marco Speri took us into the cellar for a barrel tasting, showing us Amarones from 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 before a formal tasting upstairs. High quality across the portfolio.

  • Secondo Marco Valpolicella Classico 2014: light ruby colour; cedar, cherry nose; medium-bodied, dry, lean, sinewy, lively acidity with a firm finish. (88+)
  • Secondo Marco Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso 2012: ruby with a mature rim; vanilla oak, cherry nose and a hint of violets; rich and dry with a sour cherry flavour; well balanced with mouth-freshening acidity. Firm finish. Needs time. (90–92)
  • Secondo Marco Amarone Classico 2009: deep ruby colour; cedar, cherry and cherry pit nose; richly extracted, cherry with finely ground tannins; beautifully balanced with cocoa powder tannins. A seamless wine. A keeper. Hold five years at least. (93–94)
  • Secondo Marco Amarone Classico 2010: deep ruby colour; cedar, vanilla, spicy, black cherry and pencil lead nose; richly extracted, cherry, blackcurrant and black plum flavours with a strong acidic spine and a lovely note of violets in the back taste. Firm tannic finish. Needs 8–10 years. (92–94)
  • Secondo Marco Amarone Classico 2012 (barrel sample): deep ruby colour; vanilla oak, grassy note, fruit masked by oak at the moment but a light floral note coming through on the nose; dry, lean, tight locked in flavours. But already showing its elegance. Reminds me of a Pinot Noir. Needs time. (91–93)
  • Secondo Marco Recioto della Valpolicella Classico 2012: dense ruby colour; Christmas cake nose with kirsch notes; sweet cherry flavour beautifully balanced with acidity and a structured finish. Great length. (91)

Secondo Marco Amarone 2008

Marco Speri of Secondo Marco

6:30 pm VILLABELLA, 37010 Cavaion Veronese, Cordevigo. From the website: “In 2002, the wine and olive estate with Villa Cordevigo on its land, was acquired by the Delibori and Cristoforetti families. After ambitious restoration over a number of years, the nature and soul of the Villa were preserved while turning it into a superb country hotel with a wealth of art and history.”

  • Villabella Bardolino Chiaretto Classico 2014: pale salmon colour; minerally, yellow cherry nose, citrus with a floral note; crisply dry, light-bodied Meyer lemon flavour, fresh and lively on the palate. (88+)
  • Villa Cordevigo Bardolino Chiaretto Classico Biologico 2014: deep salmon colour; earthy, strawberry nose; strawberry flavour, full in the mouth with some weight. (88)
  • Vigna Morlongo Bardolino Classico Anniversario 2013: deep ruby colour; peppery, plum nose; dry, medium-bodied, plum flavour. (88)
  • I Roccoli Valpolicella Classico 2013: deep ruby colour; cherry nose with an earthy note; firmly structured with lively acidity and a firm structure. (88+)
  • Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore 2013: dense purple-ruby; raisiny, peppery, cherry nose; mouth-filling cherry and coffee bean flavours; firm and rich. (89+)
  • Villa Cordevigo Rosso Veronese IGT 2008 (Corvina and Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot – dried grapes): dense purple-ruby colour; cedar, cigar leaf and plum bouquet; dry, full-bodied, ripe black fruit flavours with dark chocolate notes; firm structure, youthful with soft tannins. Needs time. (89+)
  • Villabella Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2008: dense purple-ruby colour; spicy, cedar, tobacco, black cherry and blackcurrant nose with violets and vanilla oak notes; rich and full on the palate with dark chocolate and cherry flavours. Round on the palate and still youthful. (92)

Oseleta ristorante at Villabella

We dined in Villa Cordevigo’s restaurant, Oseleta. Chef Giuseppe D’Aquino has one star. We started with marinated porcini mushrooms, followed by Fassone beef, red onion sorbet, pistachio sauce, crispy raspberry; cappelletti filled with veal, pearà cream, Cordevigo red wine sauce, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese form; cheek of Fassone beef, Oseleta sauce, parsnip, sour cherries and chocolate. Two desserts.

Wednesday, September 9th: 9:00 am VILLA MONTELEONE, Via Monteleone, 12, Sant’Ambrogio di Vallpolcella. A traditional house started by an American neurosurgeon from Chicago whose wife now runs the operation. They cultivate 6 hectares, averaging 35,000 bottles.

  • Villa Monteleone Valpolicella Classico Campo Santa Lena 2014: deep ruby colour; cherry with light floral note; light-bodied, fruity and dry, sour cherry flavour with driving acidity. Beaujolais style. Easy drinking. (87)
  • Villa Monteleone Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso Campo San Vito 2011: deep ruby colour; oaky, pencil lead, black cherry bouquet; rich and full in the mouth, initially sweet black cherry and then dies out on the finish to a warm alcoholic finish. Firm structure. (87+)
  • Villa Monteleone Amarone della Vapolicella Classico 2009: deep ruby with a tawny rim; creamy, chocolate, prune bouquet with a touch of undergrowth; concentrated, full-bodied, sweet black cherry and plum flavours, well balanced, firm finish. Old style Amarone. (89+)
  • Raimondi Palsun Recioto della Valpolicella 2011: deep ruby colour; spicy, iodine, kirsch, cherry bouquet; sweet and rich with balancing acidity, finishing savoury, dark chocolate with a tannic lift on the finish. (89)

11:00 am CORRADO BENEDETTI, Via Croce dello Schioppo, 1 – 37020 Sant’Anna d’Alfaedo. This amazing shop sells a variety of salumi and local cheeses as well as wine. Their website boasts, “The gastronomic range available is unimaginable and rather difficult to describe in writing: salami, soppresse, lards, cured meats, cuts of meat chosen for cooking at home or grilling with friends. And there’s more: fresh or mature cheeses, ‘pure’ or flavoured with local herbs, fruits and wines. But let’s not forget the fresh fruit jams, the wonderful preserves and pickles made from fresh vegetables, the creative jellies made with local wines such as Amarone and spicy mostarde for magnifying the taste of any cheese.” And they’re not exaggerating! We tasted a variety of their products washed down with the following wines: Zyme Vapolicella Classico Superiore 2011, Corte Sant’Alda Campi Magri Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore 2012, Albino Armani Valpolicella Ripasso 2012.

Corrado Benedetti

Cheese aging at Corrado Benedetti

2:30 pm PASQUA, Via Belvedere, 135 – 37131 Verona. The four Pasqua brothers founded the winery in 1925. I was please to run into Carlo Pasqua whom met first some thirty years ago.

  • Famiglia Pasqua Bianco Passione e Sentimento Romeo & Juliet 2014 (100% Garganega – dried for one month): golden colour; dried peach and citrus nose with a mineral note; rich and full on the palate, round and fruity, peach and apricot with a touch of sweetness tamed by citrus acidity. (88+)
  • Cecilia Beretta – Mizzole Valpolicella Superiore 2013 (60% Corvina, 25% Corvione, 10% Rondinella, 5% Croatina): deep ruby colour; cherry, coffee bean nose with vanilla oak note; medium-bodied, sour cherry carried on lively acidity. (88+)
  • Pasqua Black Label Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso 2013 (60% Corvina, 20% Rondinella, 10% Corvinone, 10% Negrara): deep ruby colour; cherry with an oak note on the nose; well-structured medium to full-bodied, black cherry and raisin flavour, lively acidity. (88)
  • Famiglia Pasqua Rosso Passione e Sentimento Romeo & Juliet 2013 (Merlot 40%, Corvinp 30%, 30% Croatina): deep ruby colour; tobacco and cherry bouquet; medium to ful-bodied, perfumed, rose petal and cherry flavour; soft on the palate, easy drinking. (89)
  • Pasqua Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Villa Borghetti 2011: deep ruby colour; oaky earthy, black cherry bouquet; good mouth-feel with a touch of residual sweetness; chocolate on the finish; firm structure. (89)
  • Famiglia Pasqua Amarone della Valpolicella 2011 (60% Corvina, 25% Rondinella, 10% Oseleta. 5% Corvinone): deep ruby colour; earthy, cedar, rose petal, licorice and vanilla oak bouquet; full-bodied, some sweetness in mid-palate; firmly structured and well balanced. Needs time. (90–91)
  • Cecilia Beretta Terre di Carano Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2009 (60% Corvina, 25% Rondinella, 5% Croatina, 5% Oseleta. 5% Corvinone): deep ruby colour; cigar box, cinnamon, pencil lead and cherry nose; full-bodied, sweet fruit, firmly structured, quite forward and juicy with a warm alcoholic finish. (90)
  • Famiglia Pasqua Amarone della Valpolicella Riserva 2006 – 90th Anniversary edition (60% Corvina, 25% Rondinella, 10% Oseleta, 5% Corvinone): deep ruby colour; spicy, vanilla, cherry nose with licorice and violet notes; sweet cherry flavour with balancing acidity. Firm structure, the tannins are a little green; needs aging. (89–91)
  • Pasqua Amarone della Valpolicella 2003 (65% Corvina, 25% Rondinella, 10% Croatina, 5% Oseleta): dense ruby-black in colour; roasted, dried cherry nose with notes of plum, prune, dried rose petals and coffee beans; tannic finish. The question is, will it ever come around – 2003 was a very hot year. (88–?)

Pasqua wine labelled with graffiti from Juliet’s house in Verona

4:30 pm LATIUM Via Fienile, 2 – 37030 Mezzane di Sotto. Seven petals of the flower on the label represent the seven family members involved in the company. Used to sell grapes to the cooperative and started their own winery in 2002. 60% Valpolicella wines and 40% Soave. Latius is the old Roman name of Illasi, a nearby village. 43 hectares, 140,000 bottles production of high quality wines.

  • Latium Campo Le Calle 2014 (100% Garganega, dried for two months): bright straw colour; grassy, green plum nose; richly extracted apricot and green plum flavours; full in the mouth, beautifully balanced with great length. Lively acidity. (92)
  • Latium Valpolicella 2014 (80% Corvina, Rondinella and other varieties 20%): bright ruby colour; blackcurrant, cedar nose with a rose petal nose; fresh and lively on the palate, sour cherry flavour with fresh acidity. Supple tannins on the finish give the wine structure. (89)
  • Latium Campo dei Ciliegi Valpolicella Ripasso 2012 (Corvina and Corvinone 70%, Rondinella 20%, Oseleta and Croatina 10%): deep ruby colour; cedar, blackcurrant nose with a rose petal note; richly extracted, cherry flavour with beautifully integrated oak and fresh acidity. (92)
  • Latium Campo Prognài Valpolicella Superiore 2012 (Corvina and Corvinone 70%, Rondinella 20%, other varieties 10%): ruby colour; cedar, rose, cherry, vanilla oak nose; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, seamless with a firm tannic structure. A lovely wine. (92)
  • Latium Campo Leòn Amarone della Valpolicella 2010 (70% Corvina, Rondinella 20%, Oseleta and Croatina 10%): deep ruby colour; cedar, tobacco leaf, vanilla oak with rose petal notes; rich and full-bodied, concentrated, sweet fruit that finishes dry. (91)
  • Latium Sette Dame Passito dei Veneto 2011 (100% Garganega, dried for six months): old gold colour; honey, macadamia nut nose with a light oak note; honeyed, barley sugar with balancing acidity. Rich and full-bodied, peach and honey flavours with a nutty finish. (92)
  • Latium Amarone Due Mori Riserva 2008: deep ruby colour; prune and dates, spicy, dried rose petal nose; lots of extract, full-bodied, sweet and porty with serious tannins. Good acidity and well structured. A wine to lay down. (92–94?)
  • Latium Septem Viri Recioto della Valpolicella 2009 (Corvina 70%, Rondinella 20%, Croatina 5%, Oseleta 5%): deep ruby, colour; sweet cherry with balancing acidity and an earthy, tannic finish. Warm alcoholic sensation on the final taste. (89+)

Latium Campo dei Ciliegi Valpolicella Ripasso 2012

8:00 pm Dinner at LOCANDA 800, Moron, 46 – 37024 Negrar. The menu:

Octopus with Valpolicella sauce, served with Santa Sofia Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2013 and Salvaterra Valpolicella Classico 2013

Gnocchi with arugula, pesto and pecorino, with Scirani Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2013 and Boscaini Carlo La Preosa Valpolicella Classico 2012

Filet of veal with mushrooms and potatoes, with Pasqua Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2013 and Sartori Amarone Riserva 2010

Cheeses with Secondo Marco Amarone Classico 2010

Thursday, September 10th: 9:00 am ZYMÈ, Via Cà del Pipa, 1 – 37029 S. Pietro In Cariano. This is a spectacularly contemporary winey, carved out of a 15th century sandstone quarry. Celestino Gaspari worked with Giuseppe Quintarelli from 1986 to 1997 and it really shows in the wines. He came across a Rondinella vine that had produced bunches of both black and white grapes. He managed to isolate the gene that produces the white bunches and cultivated a vine that produces white Rondinella.

  • Zyme Il Bianco From Black to White 2014 (60% white Rondinella with 40% aromatic varieties): light straw colour; rose petal and white peach nose with a mineral note; fresh, crab apple and peach flavour. Well-structured with mouth-freshening acidity great length. (91)
  • Zyme Valpolicella Rêverie 2014 (Corvina 40%, Corvinone 30%, Rondinella 25%, Oseleta 5%): deep ruby colour; raspberry and cherry nose; dry, elegant, lean, sour cherry with a terroir character; clean and well balanced, very Pinot Noir-ish. (90)
  • Zyme Valpolicella “Val” Classico Superiore 2011 (Corvina 40%, Corvinone 30%, Rondinella 25%, Oseleta 5% – given Ripasso treatment but not declared on the label): mature ruby colour; again very Pinot Noir; violets, cherries and tobacco on the nose with well integrated oak; elegant, beautifully balanced, lovely mouth-feel, firmly structured with clean lines and good length. (91)
  • Zyme Oseleta 2009 (two vines to make one bottle of wine!): dense ruby colour; tobacco, cedar, floral, cherry bouquet; rich mouth-feel, textured, sour cherry and plum flavours with a strong thread of acidity and evident tannins. (90)
  • Zyme Amarone Classico della Valpolicella 2007 (Corvina 40%, Corvinone 30%, Rondinella 15%, Oseleta 10%, Croatina 5%): mature, deep ruby colour; tobacco, vanilla oak and cherries on the nose; a seamless wine, beautifully structured, velvety mouth feel with ripe tannins. (94)
  • Zyme Amarone Classico della Valpolicella La Mattonara 2003 (Corvina 40%, Corvinone 30%, Rondinella 15%, Oseleta 10%, Croatina 5%): deep ruby colour; intense, spicy, vanilla, rose petal, cherry and tobacco bouquet; Beautifully integrated oak, full-bodied, elegant with chewy tannins. A majestic wine. (96)

Zymè’s modern winery

Zymè’s cellar carved out of a sandstone quarry

Zymè’s great 2003 Amarone – my top-scoring wine of the tour

11:00 am GIOVANNI EDERLE – CORTE SAN MATTIA Via Santa Giuliana, 2a, 37128 Verona. The winery takes its name from the local church. A beautiful estate high on the hills overlooking Verona. A working farm and agritourismo with a restaurant and 35 rooms. Giovanni Ederle drove us around the property in a reconditioned American army jeep to show us the vineyards, fig trees, olive orchard and kitchen garden that supplies the resaurant. All his whites are made with a blend of Garganega 60% and Chardonnay 40%. All the reds are Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella.

  • San Mattia Barbagianni Spumante Brut (Charmat): straw colour; apple nose with citrus notes; dry, lemony, apple flavour with a mineral finish; light-bodied, fresh and easy drinking. Long lemony finish. (89)
  • San Mattia Bianco 2014: golden straw colour; apple and white peach with a light floral note; dry, medium-bodied, apple and pear flavours with a note of ginger. (87+)
  • San Mattia Donna Francesca 2012: old cold colour; oaky, slightly oxidized, baked apple and nut bouquet; full-bodied, peach and caramel flavours with a salty note on the finish. (89+)
  • San Mattia Rosso 2013: a light ruby colour; earthy, cherry pit nose; dry, sour cherry with a bitter finish; fresh and fruity. A delicate cherry flavour on the finish. (88)
  • San Mattia Rubro del Forte 2012: ruby colour; lightly oxidized, dried cherry nose; full-bodied, leather, dried cherries and bitter chocolate note. (88)
  • San Mattia Amarone della Valpolicella 2012 (5% Croatina – grapes dried 4 months): ruby colour with a tawny hue; evolved nose of dried cherries, chocolate and vanilla oak; full-bodied, sweet and savoury umami flavour of dried cherries and prunes, velvety mouth-feel with a tannic lift on the finish. Needs time (89–91)

We lunch outdoors on carrot flan on a bed of Monte Veronese cheese sauce and risotto with aromatic herbs.

2:30 pm MASSIMAGO, Via Giare, 21, 37030 Mezzane di Sotto. Camilla Rosso Chauvenet comes from a family of lawyers but she chose to become a winemaker. Wise decision. The wine is set high in the Mezzane hills – 28 hectares of vineyards, olive trees and woods. No-one who works here is over 35 and Camilla’s artistic sensibility is evident not only in the wines but in the winery’s promotional material.

Camilla Rosso Chauvenet of Massimago

  • Massimago Rosae Saignee 2013 (Saignee of Valpolicella): salmon coloured; minerally, yellow cherry nose;medium-bodied, crisply dry, sour cherry flavour. Bracing pink grapefruit acidity. (87+)

Matteo, the oenologist, gave us berries to taste to show if the grapes are reading for harvest.

  • Massimago Valpolicella 2014 (Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella): light, bright ruby colour; redcurrant, white pepper with a mineral note; medium-bodied, dry, green herbal notes. (87)
  • Massimago Profasio Valpolicello 2012 (Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella): ruby colour with a violet note; cedar, cherry with a suggestion of vanilla oak on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, peppery cherry flavour with a cherry pit finish. (89+)
  • Massimago Amarone Della Valpolicella 2011: ruby colour; vanilla, dried rose petal, tobacco and cherry nose; rich and full on the palate, soft on the palate and carries its 16.5% alcohol. Sweet black cherry and kirsch flavour with balancing acidity. (90)

4:30 pm CORTE SANT’ALDA, Via Capovilla, 28, 37030 Località Fioi, Mezzane di Sotto. We arrived at this biodynamic winery high in the hills as they were beginning the crush. Marinella Camerani is a very engaging host who welcomed us even though the staff was crazy busy receiving and crushing grapes Garganega and Trebbiano for their Soave.

  • Corte Sant’Alda Agathe 2014 (made in a 500-litre amphora from 100% Molinara): very pale ruby colour; cranberry, redcurrant and dry watermelon flavours, medium-bodied and dry with some bitterness on the finish. (87)
  • Corte Sant’Alda Valpolicella Ca’ Fiui 2014: deep ruby-purple colour; rustic, cherry and plum bouquet; well extracted sour cherry flavour with lively acidity and a salty note; cherry pit finish. (88)
  • Corte Sant’Alda Valpolicella Ripasso Campi Magri 2012: deep ruby-purple colour; cedar, rose petal, cherry bouquet; spicy, richly extracted cherry flavour with balancing acidity and a touch of bitterness on the finish. Firm structure with ripe tannins. (89+)
  • Corte Sant’Alda Amarone 2010: deep ruby colour; warm, cedar, plum and cherry nose with a herbal note; full-bodied, sweet and raisiny with a fine spine of acidity and a firm tannic finish. Nicely balanced. (89–91)
  • Corte Sant’Alda Recioto della Valpolicella 2011: deep ruby colour; cherry kirsch with an earthy note; full-bodied, sweet cherry and dark chocolate flavours; fine mouth-feel, nicely balanced with acidity. (90)

Corte Sant’Alda’s rose made in an amphora

Our final (farewell) dinner was at ENOTECA DELLA VALPOLICELLA, Via Osan di Sopra, 45 – 37022 Fumane. A great wine store in the basement. The menu:

Pumpkin flowers with basil sauce and olive oil, with Zyme Valpolicella “Reverie” 2014 and Le Ragose Valpolicella Classico 2014

Ravioli with white truffles with Boscaini Carlo Valpolicella Ripasso 2011

Duck breast with honey with Sartori Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore 2012

Veronese cheeses with Latium Amari Campo Leon 2010 and Albino Armani Amarone Cuslanus 2009

With dessert, Secundo Marco Recioto della Valpolicella 2012 and Scriani Recioto della Valpolicella Maddelena 2012 – and grappa

Pasta with truffles

Chocolate dessert at Enoteca Della Valpolicella

Friday, September 11th: Flying home today. A great trip to Valpolicella and a new respect for Amarone.

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 561: Home for a Week

J-C Roy’s painting hung in our living room

Monday, August 31st: Wrote my monthly Quench “Aftertaste” column about tomato wine. For dinner with steak stir-fry, Black Hills Nota Bene 2012 from the southern Okanagan (49% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc – deep ruby colour with a nose of tobacco, cedar, vanilla oak, cherry and currants with a floral note; full-bodied, dry, savoury with black fruits and licorice flavours. (92))

Tuesday, September 1st: Hung the painting we purchased in Baie-Saint-Paul in the living-room. It looks stunning. Wrote an email to the artist Jean-Claude Roy telling him about the amazing coincidence of finding one of his works on the wall of J-F Bergeron’s house in Stoneham, whom we were staying with on our trip to the Charlevoix Flavour Trail. Wrote my 680 NEWS wine reviews.

Wednesday, September 2nd: Recorded the 680 NEWS wine reviews at the Rogers building on Bloor and Church. Went to the bank to transfer funds to HALO’s head office in New York. Grapes for Humanity has donated $30,315 US to help clear a minefield in the West Bank. Shocked to see it was $40,549 in Canadian funds. Had to regain my composure by tasting the following wines:

  • Lindeman’s Bin 65Chardonnay 2014 (Southeastern Australia – $10.95): pale straw colour; minerally, apple and citrus nose; dry, apple, citrus and green pineapple flavours. (Good value) (86+)
  • Louis Bernard Côtes du Rhône 2013 (Grenache Blanc, Bourboulenc, Clairette – $12.95): straw colour; peach pit and citrus nose; dry, medium to full-bodied, white peach and lemon flavours with a touch of browning apple on the finish. Good value. (86+)
  • Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series 2 Bench White 2014 (30% Semillon, 25% Chardonnay, 23% Sauvignon Blanc, 12% Viognier, 10% Muscat – $19.99): pale straw colour; minerally nose of pear with an aromatic note; dry, pear and citrus with a touch of spice. (88)
  • Ravine Vineyard Chardonnay 2013 (Niagara Peninsula – $30): pale straw colour; minerally, smoky, undergrowth nose; dry, full-bodied, Burgundian style; richly extracted full in the mouth, beautifully balanced with good length. (90)
  • Chateau des Charmes Gamay Noir “Droit” 2012 (St. David’s Bench, Niagara – $16.95): ruby colour; earthy, cherry and plum bouquet; richly extracted, sweet fruit, firmly structured with a black cherry flavour and a peppery note. (89)
  • Ara Pathway Pinot Noir 2013 (Marlborough, New Zealand – $16.95): ruby colour with a brick rim; cherry pit nose with a touch of oak; dry, cranberry and cherry flavours, soft mouth-feel with lively acidity. (87+)
  • King Estate Acrobat Pinot Noir 2013 (Oregon – $24.95): ruby colour; candied raspberry nose with a tobacco leaf note; well extracted, cherry flavour, good texture. Moderate length. (88+)
  • Seven Falls Cellars Merlot Wahluke Slope 2012 (Washington): deep ruby colour; cedary, blueberry nose with evident oak; full-bodied, ripe plum and vanilla oak flavours; chunky mouth-feel, sweetish but finishes dry. (88+)
  • Sagelands Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (20% Merlot; Columbia Valley, Washington – $18.95): deep ruby colour; earthy, spicy cherry nose with an oak note; dry, mouth-filling cherry and currant flavours; full-bodied and round on the palate with supple tannins. (88)
  • Canoe Ridge Vineyard The Expedition Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 7% Syrah; Horse Heaven Hills, Washington – $24.95) deep ruby colour; cedary, blackcurrant nose with a light floral note; medium to full-bodied, sweet fruit with ripe tannins; lovely mouth-feel with a coffee bean note on the finish. (90)
  • Pendulum Red 2011 (68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 4% Syrah, 3% Tempranillo; Columbia Valley, Washington): deep ruby colour; cedar, milk chocolate, cherry bouquet; dry, full-bodied, firmly structured with ripe tannins. (89)

Thursday, September 3rd: A Winetohome tasting at Doug Towers’s house with David Lawrason.

Friday, September 4th: A Vintages release tasting for September 19th. One hundred and forty-five wines. Shared the duty with Zoltan Szabo. Came home to watch the Jays get thrashed by the Orioles (which always puts me in a bad mood). Began packing for Verona for a wine bloggers’ conference on Valpolicella and Amarone. I leave tomorrow night.

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 560: Charlevoix Flavour Trail

Thursday, August 27th: Up early to catch a 9:30 am flight from the island airport to Quebec City. Rented a Mazda 5 and drove to the hotel that Jean-François Bergeron reserved for us in Saint Foy – Le Quartier. Had lunch next door in the St. Hubert BBQ and then drove into the old city.

Rene Levesque’s house in Quebec City

Walked around, mainly in the rain, and saw the house where René Lévesque lived. Then stopped in at a shopping mall in St. Foy. Met Jean-François for a drink and he recommended we have dinner at Bistro Boulay (1110 Rue Saint-Jean, in the old city). We eventually found the restaurant in a cobbled street full of restaurants and funky shops. The executive chef, Arnaud Marchand, is 24 years old with an impressive CV. He grows all the herbs he uses in the kitchen on the roof of the restaurant. Deborah ordered Arctic char carpaccio, boreal marinade with elderberry vinegar and organic canola oil, cattail hearts, milkweed pods, herb emulsion. I ordered scallop marinated in organic blackcurrant balsamic vinegar served with corn. With these dishes we had a glass of Domaine Coulon Viognier 2013. Deborah had Angus beef hanger steak, boreal compound butter, pont neuf fries, mixed vegetables and cooking jus and I, the “bistro’s blood pudding duo: my father and Marcel’s cabbage and leek blood sausage, the traditional black pudding with boreal spices, potato purée and roasted apples.” We had a glass of Château de Puy 2010 with the main course. The restaurant comped us dessert – a slice of sea buckthorn berries (grown on the roof) and meringue pie, pine forest spikenard crème anglaise with a glass of Domaine la Branche Vin d’Érable Liquoreux from Montérégie, Québec. A memorable meal.

Friday, August 28th: Up at 7 am to drive from St. Foy to Baie-Saint-Paul. Just before Ste. Anne de Beaupré we passed a bee museum. Our first visit along the Charlevoix Flavour Trail – though we got horribly lost thanks to the GPS – was to Domaine de la Vallé de Bras – the world’s only producer of tomato wine. Pascal Miche and his wife Lucie have been producing wine by fermenting tomatoes for five years using a secret recipe from Pascal’s Belgian great-grandfather. His name was Omer and the brand is Omerto in homage to him. They make four different products from three varieties of organically-grown tomatoes – Dry, Sweet, Semi-Dry aged in acacia wood, and a sweet version aged in cherry and chestnut casks.

The world’s first tomato wines

They have 4,000 tomato plants in their “vineyard” and they produce in toto 15,000 litres. The tomatoes are harvested in mid-August to the mid-September at 25–26 Brix and have to be chaptalized to get the “wine” up to 16% alcohol. The fermentation takes five months. It’s very much a hands-on operation with five people involved in the harvesting, crushing, fermenting, filtering, bottling and labelling of the bottles. They now export to Hong Kong, Japan and the US.

Deborah and I tasted through the range and we were very surprised by the quality. The dry “wine” tasted like sake with no suggestion of tomato flavour. The sweet version has a nose of orange blossom, honey, melon and lychee. The acacia-aged version has a malt whisky character and the chestnut/cherry-aged wine smells of rose petals and cherries. Pascal says that his wines – which are vintage-dated – can last for 20 years!

Auberge Chez Truchon

We bought a half bottle of each product and then drove on to La Malbaie, about 45 minutes north, to have lunch at Auberge Chez Truchon. Chef/owner Dominique Truchon prepared a special lunch for us, beginning with duck from La Ferme Basque in torchon style, crème brûlée of grande glace cider, duck heart confit, dried breast, bun and vinegar from Balconville. With this dish, a glass of Bodegas Lacus Inédito 3/3 from Rioja. The main dish: Grilled gigot d’agneau de Charlevoix with a sauce of dried tomatoes and basil, French fries cooked in duck fat and summer vegetables. For dessert, molten chocolate cake, black cherries, Amaretto ice cream, almond crumble. Another great meal.

Gigot d’agneau and fries in duck fat

Drove back to Baie-Saint-Paul to check into our hotel, Le Germain Charlevoix. The hotel is extraordinary – set on the site of an old farm formerly owned by Les Petites Franciscaines de Marie (the farm complex burned down in 2007 with only one small building remaining. There’s a model in the hotel’s courtyard showing what the farm looked like in its heyday (if you’ll forgive the pun). It was the largest wooden barn in Quebec.

Germain Hotel Charlevoix (formerly La Ferme)

Model of La Ferme before the fire

The only way I can describe the architecture of the hotel is as “industrial-pastoral.” The out-buildings are named La Bergerie, Le Moulin and Basse-Cour (the building in which we are staying). The hotel has won numerous international awards, including the best designed hotel in the world in 2013. All the rooms are farm-themed and the furniture, linens, towels, lighting and appurtenances were either made locally in the province or by Canadian manufacturers.


In the afternoon we walked around Baie-Saint-Paul, visiting a great art gallery. In the evening we dined at the hotel’s restaurant, Les Labours. We sat at the bar overlooking the rectangular kitchen, watching Chef Sylvain Derivieux and his staff preparing dinner. Sylvain chose our menu: blood pudding with a horseradish foam and a glass of Domaine L’Ange Gardien Rosé 2014; veal sweetbreads with a cream of corn sauce; Arctic char with almonds and edamame beans, with a glass of Thomas Batadière L’Esprit Libre Chenin Blanc 2013; roast lamb, smashed potatoes with wild garlic, beets and broccoli, with a glass of Château Mirebeau 2010; dessert – chocolate with a mousse of passionfruit, raspberry with almond-flavoured ice cream.

Les Labour’s sweetbreads in a cream of corn sauce

Saturday, August 29th: Went for a coffee and croissant at a local coffee house and then were given a tour of the hotel by Ann Pepin, who told us the history and showed us a couple of rooms. Then we drove to the ferry at Isle-aux-Coudres to take the 20-minute trip to the island (free!). We drove around, stopping at Boulangerie Bouchard (established 1945) to buy lunch – tourtière turnover and a smoked salmon wrap (as well as a blueberry pie for our hosts tomorrow). Then on to Cidrerie Vergers Pedneault, where we sampled various ciders and fruit wines. Purchased at bottle of Le Pedneault Ecume de Mer. Final stop before taking the ferry back to the mainland: Les Moulins de l’Isle-aux-Coudres. This museum houses a fully functional watermill (1825) and windmill (1836), as well as a miller’s residence. The mill stones still grind wheat and buckwheat here.

Cidreie on Isle-aux-Coudres

Back in Baie-Saint-Paul we visited the Art Symposium in the local hockey rink. Twelve artists were invited to work on an art project for a month and interact with the public as they did so. We were very taken by an artist from Halifax whose hobby is creating wooden models of every merchant ship that he records passing through the St. Lawrence. His focus for the Symposium was ships that passed Baie-Saint-Paul. Then we revisited Gallerie d’Art Yvon Desgagné, where we bought a small oil painting we fell in love with – by Jean-Claude Roy, a French artist who painted Newfoundland landscapes.

The J.C. Roy painting we bought

Dined at Mouton Noir, a bistro at 43 rue Saint-Ann in Baie-Saint-Paul that backs on to the Gouffre River. Chef Thierry Ferré comes from Brittany. Deborah ordered rouleaux of duck and escargot salad followed by scallop, shrimp and salmon with lobster sauce, and I chose the squid and peach salad, followed by a pork dish that was like pot au feu with a pastry shell. The sommelier recommended a bottle of Domaine Labet Pinot Noir 2013 from Corsica. Too full to order dessert.

My pork pot-au-feu pie at Mouton Noir

Sunday, August 30th: On Sunday mornings there’s a market in the Germain Hotel Charlevoix courtyard with stalls selling fruit and vegetables, honey, soaps, handicrafts and jewellery with musicians playing on the lawn. Took to the Flavour Trail this morning after breakfasting in the hotel.

First stop: La Ferme Basque, a producer of foie gras using the traditional Basque method of gavage. Isabelle Mihura and her partner Jacques Etcheberrigaray keep 4500 ducks – Mulards for foie gras and Muscovy ducks for meat. Apparently, only males are force-fed for foie gras. The females are kept for their eggs.

Isabelle Mihura and her duck products

Ducks at La Ferme Basque

Next stop Centre de l’Émeu, where Raymonde Tremblay keeps a flock of over 400 emus from which she produces emu oil, soaps and assorted butchered and prepared meats. Emu chicks grow to six feet in a year and are ready to breed when their necks turn blue (male and female, no kidding!). They can run at 70 kilometres an hour but can’t walk backwards. Raymonde sells jars of her own recipe spaghetti sauce made with emu meat as well as emu cassoulet.

Emu at Centre de l’Émeu

Raymonde Tremblay and friend

Next stop, Maison d’Affinage Maurice Dufour, an award-winning cheese producer. We sampled six different cheeses, Le Migneron, Le Ciel de Charlevoix, Le Secret de Maurice, La Tomme d’Elles, Tomme de Brebis de Charlevoix and Le Bleu de Brebis de Charlevoix. They also make a white, red and rosé wine. We got to sample the white called Le Charlevoyou 2014. A bit foxy.

Award-winning cheese

Le Charlevoyou

Next stop, Boulangerie La Rémy, an early 19th-century watermill where local organic wheat is milled into flour for its onsite bakery. Lunched outdoors at Laiterie Charlevoix Economuseum, finishing up with their delicious cheesecake ice cream.

Laiterie Charlevoix

Checked out of the hotel to drive to Stoneham, where we spent the night with our friends Jean-François and Hélène Bergeron. A wine-filled dinner with their family members, starting with Jacob’s Creek Moscato 2014 as we sat outside looking at the lake. Then Paul Buisse Crémant de Loire with smoked salmon. Barbecued steak, potatoes and Greek Salad with Paolo Conterno Barolo “Riva del Bric” 2009 and Clos de las Siete 2009. With the assorted Quebec cheeses I brought out a bottle of the tomato wine I’d purchased at Omerto – Omerto Moelleux Aperitif Tomato Wine.

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