A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 541: Michael Carlevale

Monday, April 13: A seminar this morning in the Ontario Room of the Royal York Hotel as a prelude to the annual California Wine Fair. Winemakers John Priest from Etude, Margo van Staaveran for Chateau St. Jean, Christophe Paubert from Stag’s Leap Winery and Laurie Hook from Beringer made up the panel and we tasted two wines from each of their wineries.

  • Chateau St. Jean Robert Young Chardonnay 2012 (Alexander Valley): straw colour; spicy, smoky, charred oak nose with vanilla notes; full-bodied, sweet fruit – caramel, pear, apple and lemon flavours with good length. (90)
  • Chateau St. Jean Reserve Chardonnay 2012 (Sonoma): straw colour; more Burgundian in style – minerally, apple nose; full-bodied, creamy with a fine spine of acidity; tangerine and apple flavours with well balanced oak. (91)
  • Etude Heirloom Pinot Noir Grace Benoist Ranch 2012 (Carneros Estate): deep ruby colour; spicy, black cherry with an earthy note on the nose; medium-bodied, elegant, lovely mouth-feel; dry, cherry and raspberry flavours, well-structured with ripe tannins. (91)
  • Etude Pinot Noir Grace Benoist Ranch 2012 (Carneros Estate): black cherry nose with an earthy note; more weight on the palate than the Heirloom, firmly structured. (89)
  • Stags’ Leap Winery The Leap Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (Stags’ Leap District): dense ruby-purple colour; lovely floral nose of cedar, blackcurrant and vanilla oak; fresh flavours of black and redcurrants, firmly structured and surprisingly delicate; juicy with lively acidity. Needs time. (89–91)
  • Stags’ Leap Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (Napa Valley): dense purple-ruby colour; mocha and spicy black fruits on the nose; creamy mouth feel but firmly structured, juicy red berry flavours with a tannic lift on the finish. (89)
  • Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon Bancroft Ranch Vineyard Howell Mountain 2010 (Napa): dense purple-ruby colour; a nose of blackcurrant, dried leaves and dark chocolate; rich and full in the mouth, finely structured, lively acidity with a mineral note on the finish. (90)
  • Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (Napa): dense purple-black in colour; blackcurrant with a floral note on the nose; richly extracted, full-bodied, finely structured, earthy, black fruit flavours ending on a savoury note. (91)

After the seminar there was the customary sparkling wine tasting while lunch guests mingled before going into the dining room. I was seated at the Far Niente and Diamond Ridge table. The menu:

Chili and Lime Seared Pacific Prawns, Kaffir Lime and Lemongrass “Pearl Risotto,” Ginger Beurre Blanc, Ponzu Reduction

Hill Street Cobblestone Stout Braised Beef Short Rib and Peppercorn Crusted Beef Tenderloin (Brown Butter Parsnip and Potato Puree, Roasted Baby Carrots, Cabernet Jus and Horseradish Emulsion)

Cheese Platter (Aged Gouda, La Dauvagine, Cashel Blue Cheese), Housemade Quince Jam, Ontario Dried Fruitd and Spiced Nuts, Fresh Baguette, Carrs Crackers and Grissini Sticks

Petits Fours

The wines I tasted:

  • Far Niente Chardonnay 2013: spicy, elegant, pear flavour; full-bodied, great oak integration and long length. (91)
  • Far Niente En Route Pinot Noir 2013: deep ruby colour; spicy, black cherry and rose petal nose; ripe fruit, full on the palate, spicy with a soft mouth-feel; great balance. (90)
  • Far Niente Tench Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012: dense ruby colour; creamy blackcurrant nose; soft, creamy blackcurrant flavour. Full in the mouth with ripe tannins and lively acidity. (91)
  • Diamond Ridge Chardonnay 2012: straw color; spicy, vanilla oak nose; full-bodied, sweetish pear flavour with a soft mouth-feel. (89)
  • Nickel and Nickel C.C. Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon 2012: deep ruby colour; blackcurrant, vanilla oak, nose; dry, elegant, well balanced with tasty blackcurrant fruit ending with grainy tannins. (91)
  • Diamond Ridge Meritage 2012: deep ruby colour; cedar, blackcurrant with spicy vanilla oak; dry, well-extracted fruit, beautifully balanced. (92)
  • EnRoute Les Brumeaux Chardonnay 2012: spicy peach, pear and vanilla oak nose, flavours that are replicated on the palate; full-bodied and richly extracted fruit. (89)

I had to leave after lunch (missing the opportunity to taste 450 Californian wines) as I attended the memorial service for Michael Carlevale at the Church of the Redeemer, across from the restaurant he once owned, Prego. Very moving tributes from his long-time partner Catherine Harris, Michael Cooke and Michael’s sister Jean Carlevale. The memorial service note read “A celebration of the overwhelmingly hospitable heart. Michael made our lives and the life of the city he adopted more rich and flavourful. His love of food was really a love for the people he fed.”

In the evening there was a fund-raiser dinner at Sopra to create a scholarship at George Brown for aspiring chefs. A great night of stories about Michael. I recounted the time when I was in Burgundy with him and a party of five of us went to Lameloise, the three-star restaurant in Chagny. We were seated in a room that was occupied, fully, by English-peaking people and we had an indifferent meal. On our way out Michael put his arm around the shoulder of the maître-d’ and said: “Do you have a room for foreigners?” Michael was the most generous of hosts and he frequently invited Deborah and me to dinner. We tried often to reciprocate and eventually he did accept our dinner invitation. Only he said, “If you serve fucking chicken, I’m leaving.” We all brought our own wine for the memorial dinner. Everybody raided their cellars for some great wines. I brought along a bottle of Frescobaldi CastelGioconda Brunello Rieserva 2003.


A great wine to toast Michael Carlevale’s memory


Dessert wine at Michael Carlevale’s memorial dinner

Tuesday, April 14: Spent the morning putting together the wine list for the silent auction on May 7th for Grapes for Humanity. Lunch at Terroni with Massimo Capra and reps from Chef Events. Massimo is going to be the food and wine ambassador for Grapes for Humanity and help us fund-raise. In the evening a meeting of the Grapes for Humanity board, to welcome two new directors – Tim Sorensen and Bernard Stramwasser. Sam Sarick, our host, served Beaucastel Châteauneuf du Pâpe 1999 in magnum.

Wednesday, April 15: A day of tasting wines for www.winerytohome.com. In the evening Guy and Sasha came over for dinner. With brisket, roast potatoes and green beans I served Rosewood Origin Series Cabernet Franc 2013 (ruby colour; spicy, floral, raspberry nose; medium-bodied, creamy on the palate with a dry, spicy, white pepper and green leaf flavour finishing firmly (88)).

Thursday, April 16: Went down to the Distillery District for a tasting of Prince Edward County wines. Impressed by Huff Pinot Noir Quarry Road 2013 and Closson Chase Watson Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013 – both from Niagara fruit. Also enjoyed the Huff Pinot Gris 2013. For dinner with lamb chops, Rosewood Merlot 2012 (deep purple colour; cedar, blueberry and vanilla oak on the nose; dry, medium-bodied, nicelt balanced with a floral flourish on the end palate (88)).


A fine Pinot Noir

Friday, April 17: The second day of judging of the Ontario Wine Awards at Crush. The judging went very smoothly – no spilled wine, no broken glasses. All very decorous. A late evening meeting with Chef John Higgins at George Brown. Dinner, BBQ salmon steaks with Huff Pinot Noir Quarry Road 2013.


Judging Ontario Pinot Noir at the Ontario Wine Awards

Saturday, April 18: A food shopping day. At 4:40 pm Deborah and I picked up Miguel Torres from the airport and drove him to his hotel (The Four Seasons). He flew in from Spain via Frankfurt. Invited him for dinner tomorrow.

Sunday, April 19: The final day of tasting for the Ontario Wine Awards – the sweet wines. The tasting was conducted at The Fine Wine Reserve, two panels of four judges.


Sweet wine judging on Sunday

In the evening I picked up Miguel Torres and my sister-in-law Suzanne and brought them back to the condo for dinner. We started with Huff Estates Cuvée Janine Sparkling Rosé 2011 served with toasted almonds. Then sliced pear with goat’s cheese and walnuts on baby arugula with Henry of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Riesling 2009. Deborah made an asparagus risotto with slices of barbecued steak and I opened a bottle of Bouchard Père & Fils Le Corton 2000. With the cheese course, Diamond Ridge Pinot Noir 2012 (Anderson Valley). A great evening of conversation and good wine.

 

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 540: Ontario Wine Awards


The Ontario Wine Awards panel judging sparkling wines – Linda Bramble, Michael Godel, Andre Proulx and Konrad Ejbich

Sunday, April 5: Suzanne, Guy and Sasha came to dinner and Sasha showed us her engagement ring, a beautiful sapphire. I cooked a boneless leg of lamb, scalloped potatoes and French beans. Opened my last bottle of Domaine de la Vougeraie Clos Vougeot 2006 (which was magnificent).

Monday, April 6: My sister Shirley was in town and Deborah and I met her for breakfast at the Park Hyatt, then drove her to Union Station for her Montreal train. Wrote my 680News wine reviews. For dinner with (cold lamb), Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Merlot 2012 (dense purple colour, a nose of blueberry pie with vanilla oak; full-bodied, sweet blackcurrant and blueberry fruit with lively acidity (90)).

Tuesday, April 7: Recorded my 680News wine reviews, then down to the LCBO for a tasting of the April 14th Vintages release, which I had missed because of my Edmonton trip. Ordered in Chinese food for dinner. Not very good.

Wednesday, April 8: A miserable rainy day. Wrote up my Wines of the Week and spent the rest of the day entering the Vintages wine reviews onto my site. A laborious and time-consuming job.

Thursday, April 9: Wrote my Lexpert column on wine gizmos and gadgets (how totally useless most of them are). Grilled salmon for dinner with Douglas Green Sauvignon Blanc 2013 from South Africa (herbaceous, green pineapple flavours (87)).

Friday, April 10: Spent the day preparing for tomorrow’s Ontario Wine Awards judging and putting together lots for Grapes for Humanity’s silent auction on May 7th. Deborah was going to her dance class party so I opened a magnum of Fuzion Shiraz Malbec 2014, poured myself a glass and gave the bottle to her for her party. Good to see that this Argentina blend – that took the market by storm – is back to the quality that it originally was when it was first released. (Deep ruby colour; earthy, spicy, black cherry and pencil lead nose; dry, savoury, tobacco and licorice flavours with a cherry pit finish and fresh acidity. Good value. (87))

Saturday, April 11: The first day of judging of the Ontario Wine Awards at Crush on King Street. Traffic and construction meant a slow trip down. The most unexpected success was a flight of red appassimento wines.

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 539: Guy’s Engagement


Sasha and Guy

Monday, March 30: Flew back from Edmonton after a great week of fine dining during the inaugural Northern Lands Wine Festival. Looking forward to the next one in two years’ time. Came back to a pile of emails.

Tuesday, March 31: Worked on the Ontario Wine Awards, putting the judging panels together. Then picked up wine from Geddy Lee for Grapes for Humanity’s silent auction at “Italy Uncorked” on May 7th at St James Cathedral event space.

Wednesday, April 1: Worked on getting wines donated for the tasting aspect of “Italy Uncorked.” In the evening, down to the National Club to conduct a tasting of Canadian wines for the successful bidder at the Amani gala fund-raiser dinner. The wines:

  • Hillebrand Showcase Ghost Creek Riesling 2012 (ON)
  • Creekside Laura’s Blend 2010 (ON)
  • Tinhorn Creek Pinot Noir 2007 (BC)
  • Hillebrand Showcase Red Shale Cabernet Franc 2010 (ON)
  • Mooncurser Malbec 2010 (BC)
  • Kacaba Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (ON)
  • Vineland Estates Elevation Cabernet 2009 (ON)
  • Coyote’s Run Red Paw Vineyard Syrah 2007 (ON)
  • Burrowing Owl Syrah 2005 (BC)

The wines showed very well.

Thursday, April 2: Spent much of the day chasing up more wine donations for Grapes for Humanity’s fund-raiser on May 7th. Wrote my On The Go column and did some tasting:

  • Matua Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (Hawkes Bay, New Zealand – $15.95): very pale, almost water white in colour; sweaty, green bean nose; more interesting on the palate with tart, gooseberry and green plum flavours with a touch of sweetness in mid palate, finishing crisply dry. (87)
  • Blue Mountain Chardonnay 2013 (Okanagan Valley): straw colour; apple nose with well integrated oak notes; medium-bodied, dry, mouth-filling flavours of apple and pineapple rounded out with oak. Good length. (89)
  • CedarCreek Platinum Chardonnay Block 5 Chardonnay 2013 (Okanagan Valley): light straw colour; nutty, apple and toasty oak nose; medium-bodied, dry, spicy pear and apple flavours. Great balance and mouth feel with an orange and dry caramel finish. (91)
  • Franciscan Estate Chardonnay 2013 (Napa Valley – $24.95): straw colour; apple, toasty oak with a barnyard note developing on the nose; full-bodied, dry, mouth-filling, minerally, tropical fruit flavours with lively acidity. Lots of flavour here, fleshy and lingering. (89+)
  • Château des Charmes Rosé Cuvée Andrée 2014 (Niagara-on-the-Lake – $14.95): deep pink with a bluish tint; strawberry and sweet rhubarb on the nose; medium-bodied, dry with a sour cherry and strawberry flavour; fresh and lively on the palate. (88)
  • Matua Pinot Noir 2013 (Marlborough – $17.95): ruby colour with a violet rim; black raspberry with a floral note on the nose; light on the palate while filling the mouth; dry, medium-bodied, raspberry and cranberry flavours with enough tannin for structure. Easy drinking. (88+)
  • Blue Mountain Pinot Noir 2013 (Okanagan Valley): ruby colour; earthy, high-toned cherry nose; dry, medium-bodied, thick on the palate with a herbal finish, broadened by 10 months in oak. (88)
  • CedarCreek Meritage 2012 (Okanagan Valley – Merlot 46%, Cabernet Sauvignon 21%, Malbec 20%, Cabernet Franc 9%, Petit Verdot 4%): dense ruby-purple colour; cedar, smoky, black fruits on the nose with blackcurrant predominating over the oak notes; dry, medium to full bodied with driving acidity. Needs time. (88–89)
  • CedarCreek Platinum Desert Ridge Merlot 2012 (Okanagan Valley): dense ruby-purple colour; cedar, tobacco, blackcurrant and blackberry nose; richly extracted fruit with powdering tannins, cherry and currant flavours with racy acidity. Again, needs time. (89–90)
  • CedarCreek Platinum Desert Ridge Meritage 2012 (Okanagan Valley – Merlot 54%, Cabernet Sauvignon 32%, Cabernet Franc 7%, Malbec 4%, Petit Verdot 3%): dense ruby-purple colour; cedar, tobacco, blackcurrant nose; full-bodied, dry, spicy, blackcurrant and blueberry flavours with well integrated oak. Racy acidity and fine powdery tannins. (89–90)
  • Simi Merlot 2012 (with 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Malbec, 1% Cabernet Franc: Sonoma County – $22.95): deep ruby colour; spicy vanilla oak dark chocolate, blueberry pie nose; dry, medium to full-bodied, plum and blueberry flavours carried on lively acidity to a firm finish. (89)
  • Saved 2012 (27% Merlot, 19% Malbec, 17% Syrah, 13% Zinfandel , with 7% Sauzao, 6% Petit Verdot, 4% Petite Sirah, 4% Grenache, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon – fruit from Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles, Santa Barbara County and Dry Creek – $29.95): deep ruby colour; black fruits on the nose with spicy oak; full-bodied, blackcurrant and blackberry flavours, fleshy on the palate with chocolate and berry flavours kept in check by corseting tannins. A voluptuous wine that finishes firmly. (90)

Friday, April 3: Good Friday. A long walk with Pinot in the park then after lunch another walk along Yonge Street, greeting other dogs. Followed by a tasting:

  • Quails’ Gate Chasselas Pinot Blanc Pinot Gris 2014 (Okanagan Valley): pale straw colour; minerally, white peach nose; dry, medium-bodied, peach and citrus flavours. Well balanced with a touch of bitter almond on the finish. (87)
  • Quails’ Gate Chardonnay 2013 (Okanagan Valley): light straw colour; spicy, pear nose; clove, pear and apple flavours with lively citrus acidity. Well balanced with good length and evident oak notes. (89)
  • Quails’ Gate Dry Riesling 2014 (Okanagan Valley): very pale, almost water white in colour; lightly floral on the nose with minerally, citrus aromas; medium-bodied, off-dry, pink grapefruit and honey flavours nicely balanced by racy, lemony acidity. (89)
  • Quails’ Gate Gewurztraminer 2014 (Okanagan Valley): very pale, almost water white; spicy, grapefruit nose; rose petal and grapefruit flavour with lively acidity. Should develop a more fragrant nose with bottle age. (88)
  • Lagaria Chardonnay Vignetti delle Dolomiti 2013 (Trentino-Alto Adige and Veneto fruit – $13.55): pale straw colour; minerally, pear skin nose; dry, medium-bodied, spicy oak and pineapple flavours carried on citrus acidity. (87+)
  • Frei Brothers Reserve Chardonnay 2013 (Russian River Valley Sonoma County – $23.95): pale straw colour; smoky, spicy, oaky nose; medium to full-bodied, sweet fruit (apple and pear) backed by spicy oak. Easy drinking. (88)
  • Closson Chase Vineyard Chardonnay 2013 (Prince Edward County – $27.95): straw coloured; spicy oak and apple nose; full on the palate with green pineapple and apple flavours given some uplift by the well-integrated oak. Great length. More restrained and elegant than previous vintages of this wine. (92)
  • Pink House Wine Co. Chardonnay Merlot 2013 (Niagara Peninsula – $12.95): orange-pink colour; earthy strawberry nose; medium-bodied, sweetish strawberry puree flavour with an apple note. Heavy on the palate. (86)
  • Henry of Pelham Sibling Rivalry Pink 2014 (Niagara Peninsula – $13.95: Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Gamay): deep salmon pink; cherry and watermelon on the nose; sweetish redcurrant and cherry flavours finishing dry. (86+)
  • Henry of Pelham Rosé 2014 (Niagara Peninsula – $13.95: Pinot Noir, Merlot, Gamay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc): salmon pink; banana, strawberry nose with a floral note; strawberry and watermelon flavours with lively acidity. Fresh and easy drinking. (87)
  • Quails’ Gate Rosé 2014 (Okanagan Valley): pale pink with a bluish tint; minerally, cherry pit nose; dry, medium-bodied, full in the mouth with a faint spritz; sour cherry flavour. (87)
  • Quails’ Gate Pinot Noir 2013 (Okanagan Valley): ruby-plum colour; high toned, cherry nose with an earthy note; medium-bodied, firmly structured with a flavour of sweet black cherries and a warm alcoholic finish. (89)
  • M. Chapoutier Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Côtes du Roussillon Villages 2013 (Syrah, Grenache, Carignan- $15.45): deep purple-ruby; pepper, herbal, savoury nose of blackberries and tobacco; full-bodied, richly extracted, dry and savoury with a floral uplift on the finish. Lively acidic spine with a firm finish. (91)
  • William Hill Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2012 ($44.95): dense purple-black in colour; cedar, blackcurrant, vanilla oak nose; rich and mouth-filling blackcurrant and blackberry, mocha flavours with powdery tannins; full-bodied and expansive on the palate. (90)
  • Café Culture Coffee Mocha Pinotage 2014 (Western Cape, South Africa): deep ruby purple colour; smoky, tarry, blackberry nose; sweet, charred oak and coffee bean flavour with enough acidity to give length and structure. Full-bodied, oak-driven, finishing dry. (87+)

Saturday, April 4: My son called from Niagara-on-the-Lake this afternoon to tell me that he had proposed to his girlfriend Sasha and she had said “Yes!” Deborah and I are delighted.

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 538: Northern Lands Wine Festival

Monday, March 23: Finished work on the Oz Clarke Pocket Wine Book and sent the material off to London.

Amazing dinner put on by the Italian Trade Commission, How Italy Does Italian prepared by Michelin-starred Chef Giancarlo Morelli in the Ritz Carlton Ballroom. Simply the best meal I’ve had at a function as large as this (some 250 people).

Tuesday, March 24: A meeting with Dominque Vaughan-Russell, an image consultant, to suggest a seminar for her associates on wine etiquette. In the evening, there was a showing of The Imitation Game in our condo’s movie room. Brought down a glass of Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Merlot 2012 to accompany the movie.

Wednesday, March 25: Up early to finishing packing to fly to Edmonton for the first Northern Lands Wine Festival, organized by my old friend and wine writer colleague Gurvinder Bhatia. His father-in-law picked me up at the airport and drove me to the Westin Hotel. Gurvinder was there to greet me and whisked me and fellow wine scribes Treve Ring and Kurtis Kolt off to Taqueria Tres Carnales for a selection of delicious tacos and Mexican beer.

Met in the lobby of The Westin Edmonton at 5:15 pm for transport to Epcor Tower for a welcome sparkling toast (Tantalus Riesling Brut 2004 in magnum) from the viewing deck of Epcor Tower and an overview from senior city official on downtown development & revitalization including the new Rogers Place Arena project.


Gurvinder dispensing bubbly


New arena under construction in Edmonton

Then on to dinner at RGE RD (10643 – 123rd St.). We were seated at a long table and started off with Henry of Pelham Rosé Brut. The waiters brought in a 12-foot plank full of charcuterie which was placed in the middle of the table. Then the wines arrived: CedarCreek Platinum Chardonnay Block 5 2012, Little Farm Riesling 2013, Little Farm Rosé Mulberry Vineyard 2013. First course: cured lake trout with Chantilly cream with baby kale and edible flowers, followed by risotto aquarello (rice aged for seven years) made with parmesan stock. More wine: Culmina Hypothesis 2012 for the “nouveau beef” with smoked potatoes.


Charcuterie plank at RGE RD resto

We went on to the Duchess Bake Shop (10718 – 124th St.) for dessert. Fabulous selection of one-bite desserts and cocktails. This company employs 18 pastry chefs in a very small kitchen. They make 3000 macaroons by hand a day! Back at the hotel by midnight.


Desserts at Duchess Bakery

Thursday, March 26: After an early breakfast the judges for the competition (11 of us) met in the Turner Valley Room at hotel to start the judging. My table consisted of wine writers Steven Brook from London and Bill St. John from Chicago and winemaker Michael Bartier. At noon we broke for lunch and were bussed to Rostizado (owned by the same company as the Tres Carnales, where we had tacos yesterday for lunch). Delicious Mexican lunch of sea bream ceviche followed by gorditas (small corn flour cakes stuffed with spicy pulled pork), slivered pork shoulder, roast chicken, cauliflower with cumin and a spicy bean soup. Then a coffee downstairs under the restaurant in a space called Vacancy Hall, “a unique pop-up retail and studio space for designers, brands and entrepreneurs.” Then back to the hotel for the afternoon judging.

Bussed to a reception hosted in the home of Keshav and Rajshri in honour of Chef Vikram Vij and us wine judges. Lovely Indian hors d’oeuvres and dinner with Canadian wines. Great view of the North Saskatchewan River from the hosts’ balcony.


North Saskatchewan River by night

Friday, March 27: Second day of judging. Fifty wines before lunch and then down to the hotel’s private dining room for a menu prepared by Chef Ryan O’Flynn, Gold Medalist at the 2015 Canadian Culinary Championships held recently in Kelowna. A presentation of wines from Nova Scotia’s Benjamin Bridge Winery by winemaker Jean-Benoit Deslauriers accompanied the meal.

Butternut squash panna cotta with toasted squash seeds and espuma, with Benjamin Bridge Brut

Terrine of pine-smoked Canadian sturgeon and Quebec foie gras (the dish that won the chef the gold award), with Benjamin Bridge Brut Reserve 2008

Confit of Irving’s Farm pork belly with lobster and Rocky Mountain chorizo arancini, toasted pine nut “butter” and black trompettes, carrot purée, with Benjamin Bridge Rosé

Pavlova crispy meringue, raspberry sorbet, rose foam, vanilla cream, with Benjamin Bridge Vidal Icewine Borealis 2011

Then back to the tasting room to decide on the best wines, sparkling, white, red and sweet wines of the 200-odd entries in the competition. The results:

  • Tawse Spark 2013
  • Tawse Sketches Riesling 2012
  • Road 13 Syrah 2013
  • Henry of Vidal Pelham Select Late Harvest Vidal 2013


Northern Lands’ winning wines

At 7:40 pm I was met in the lobby of the hotel for transport to dinner at Rostizado for a collaborative dinner with Chefs Edgar Gutierrez, Connie DeSousa & John Jackson with John Skinner of Painted Rock Winery. Connie and John own the Char Cut Roast House in Calgary and she sports an intriguing tattoo on her right forearm – a pin-up with a string of sausages in her hand.


John Jackson and Connie De Sousa of Char Cut in Calgary


Connie’s tattoo


John Skinner of Painted Rock

The reception wine was Painted Rock Chardonnay 2013.

First course: Pork blood sope (pellizcadas) with smoked pork, corn, avocado and chilies, with Painted Rock Syrah 2012

Second course: Tuna conserva with avocado and pickled chilies, with Painted Rock Merlot 2012

Third course: Octopus with chorizo (the dish of the night), with Painted Rock Cabernet Sauvignon 2012


Octopus and chorizo

Fourth course: Duck carnitas with cotija basil puree, pickled butternut squash and pistachio brittle, with Painted Rock Red Icon 2012

Dessert: Pastel de chocolate fundido (Mexican chocolate molten cake with blackberries and smoked peanuts)

Walked back to the hotel.

Saturday, March 28: At 8:30 am, Gurvinder’s wife, Aimee, drove me to the seminar site, a restaurant called Sabor. I was moderating the Cool Climate Chardonnay seminar. Panelists: Michael Apstein – winereviewonline.com (Boston); Stephen Brook – Decanter Magazine (London); Heidi Noble – Joie Farm (BC); Paul Pender – Tawse Winery (ON); Norman Hardie – Norman Hardie Winery (ON); JAK Meyer – Meyer Family Vineyards (BC).

The flight of wines was tasted blind:

  • JoieFarm Reserve Chardonnay ‘En Famille’ 2012, Okanagan BC
  • Meyer Family McLean Creek Chardonnay 2012, Okanagan BC
  • Tawse Quarry Road Chardonnay 2011, Vinemount Ridge Ontario
  • Norman Hardie County Chardonnay 2013, Prince Edward County Ontario
  • Drouhin Chablis Vaudon 2013, Burgundy France
  • Domaine Drouhin Arthur Chardonnay 2013, Oregon USA
  • Felton Road Chardonnay Elms 2011, Central Otago New Zealand
  • Maycas del Limari Chardonnay Reserva Especial 2009, Limari Valley Chile.

At 12:30 pm I moderated another panel discussion on the future of the Canadian Wine Industry. Panelists: Stephen Brook; Donald Triggs – Culmina (BC); Sandra Oldfield – Tinhorn Creek (BC); Tom Pennachetti – Cave Spring (ON); Michael Apstein – winereviewonline.com (Boston, MA); W. Blake Gray – The Gray Report (San Francisco) and David Scholefield – Okanagan Crush Pad; Allison Markin, Okanagan Tourism consultant; and Aldo Parise, editor Quench magazine. While we discussed the industry the audience sipped on these wines: Cave Spring Estate Riesling 2013, Culmina Hypothesis 2012, Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Cabernet Franc 2010, Haywire Canyonview Pinot Noir 2012.

At 5:00 pm we walked to the Shaw Conference Centre for a “Meet Your Makers” event featuring 47 Canadian wineries, 11 craft breweries, 3 craft distillers and 22 chefs. A great venue for wine tasting with lots of natural light. I concentrated on the small new BC wineries I hadn’t tasted before. Enjoyed Privato Vineyard & Winery Pinot Noir 2010, Noble Ridge Reserve Meritage 2012 and Maverick Estate Pinot Noir 2013.

At 9:30 pm over to LUX Steakhouse for the afterparty for participating producers, chefs, judges and volunteers. Wine, beer, hors d’oeuvres and live music (Canadian bands: Le Fuzz, Lindsey Walker and Lionel Rault). The awards for the festival wine and craft beer competitions and the Producers’ Ping Pong tournament were be presented at the party.

Sunday, March 29: At 8 am Gurvinder picked Paul Pender and me up at the hotel and drove us to Global TV for an interview on the Breakfast Show. Then all the remaining judges and Vikram Vij were invited to Gurvinder’s parents’ home for an Indian brunch. After the brunch Gurvinder took us to see his wine store, Vinomania.


Cocktails with Vikram, Paul, Aldo, Aimee and Gurvinder

At 4:45 Gurvinder and Aimee picked up Vikram, Aldo, Paul and me from the hotel in a large taxi and we began a restaurant/bar crawl around Edmonton. We started at Ampersand 27, where the house signature dish is Pig’s Ear Pad Thai. With a variety of dishes from the menu we drank the following wines that Gurvinder had brought from his store: Marotti Campi Verdicchio Salamarino 2010, Donatella Cinelli Colombini Cenerentola Orcia 2010, Cos Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico 2011.

Cos Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico 2011

Next stop: Three Boars, a cocktail bar where we sampled eight different cocktails on their outdoor veranda.


Paper towel dispenser, men’s washroom, Three Boars bar

Then on to dinner at Corso 32 where we were joined by the owners of RGE RD, Blair and Caitlin. Started off with Ruggeri Giustini B Prosecco Extra Dry 2012 with arincini filled with mushrooms, cheese and rice and speck with horseradish. Ravioli with black truffle with Poggiobello Friulano 2013. Rainbow trout with Marotti Campi Origolo Lacrima di Morroci d’Alba 2012. Garganelli pasta bolognaise with Cos Nero di Lupo 2013. Fried short ribs with Travaglini Gattinara Tre Vigne 2008 and Cabutto Barolo Tenuta La Volta 1997. Dessert – chocolate pâté with salted hazelnuts, with Nardini Amaro. Walked back to the hotel.

Monday, March 30: Flew back to Toronto.

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 537: St. Patrick’s Day

Monday, March 16th: Worked on the Oz Clarke Pocket Wine Guide, updating the Canadian entries.

Tuesday, March 17th: Wore my green sweater today, the only thing I have green in my wardrobe. Gave Pinot a green bowtie from a piece of exercise plastic and took a photo of her for Facebook sniffing a bottle of Redbreast Irish Whiskey. (This is my favourite which I discovered at the Irish Whiskey Museum a dozen or so years ago. I looked all over Ireland to buy a bottle and found one in an off-licence in Galway. It cost me $50. When I got back to Toronto I found the LCBO had it on the shelf for $39!) Spent most of the day inputting wine reviews for the March 21st Vintages’ release. At noon, down to Mercatto on Bay Street to meet Stephen Pauwels and Greg Owen to discuss the possibility of an October wine tour to Europe.

Wednesday, March 18th: Tasted a raft of Rockway Vineyards wines from Niagara’s Twenty Mile Bench sub-appellation:

Rockway Vineyards Small Lot Block 12-110 Chardonnay Wild-Ferment 2013: straw coloured with a green tint; spicy apple nose with citrus notes; medium to full-bodied with sweet pear, pineapple and lemon flavours rounded with oak. Beautifully balanced with good length and well integrated oak. (91)

Rockway Vineyards Small Lot Block Blend Riesling 2013: very pale colour; minerally, grapefruit nose; dry, medium-bodied, grapefruit and lime flavours with vibrant acidity. (88)

Rockway Vineyards Small Lot Block 150-183 Riesling 2013: almost water white; minerally, honeyed grapefruit; off-dry, elegant, lime and honey flavours; great tension between sweetness and acidity; lingering finish. (89)

Rockway Vineyards Fergie Jenkins Series Riesling 2013: very pale colour, almost water white; delicate nose of lime, honey, crushed stones with a floral top note; dances on the palate with lively acidity and flavours of grapefruit, lime and lemon. (90)  

Rockway Vineyards Small Lot Gewurztraminer 2013: very pale straw colour; light varietal character on the nose – floral, melon; off-dry, good mouth-feel, tangerine and honey flavours with balancing acidity. (87)

Rockway Vineyards Late Harvest Vidal 2013: pale straw colour; a nose of honey and peach with a thread of minerality; medium-bodied, semi-sweet with balancing acidity and a touch of bitterness on the finish which works well to control the sweetness. (90)

Rockway Vineyards Small Lot Block 11-140 Cabernet Franc 2012: deep plum colour; cedar, spicy oak, red berries with a light floral top note on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, cranberry-cherry flavour carried on lively acidity finishing on grainy but supple tannins. (87+)

Rockway Vineyards Small Lot Block Blend Merlot 2012: deep ruby colour; cedar, blueberry nose with oak spice; dry, medium-bodied, lean, blueberry and plum flavours with fresh acidity. (87)

Rockway Vineyards Small Lot Block 12-120 Cabernet Sauvignon 2012: deep ruby colour; cedar, redcurrant and black cherry nose; medium-bodied, dry, good varietal character, redcurrant, red plum flavour with ripe tannins. (88)

Rockway Vineyards Reserve Meritage 2012: deep ruby colour; cedar, red and blackcurrants with a sandalwood note on the nose; dry, medium-bodied, rich on the palate with lively currant flavours wrapped in supple tannins. (89)

Rockway Vineyards Small Lot Block 12-140 Syrah 2012: deep ruby colour; savoury-herbal nose of blackberries and white pepper; medium-bodied, dry, lean, Northern Rhône style, moderate length with a tannic lift on the finish. (88)

Rockway Vineyards Small Lot Wild Ferment Red 2012: (25% Syrah, 25% Merlot, 25% Cabernet franc, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon) deep ruby colour; cedar, tobacco leaf, red berry fruit and vanilla oak spice on the nose; dry, medium-bodied, sweet and savoury flavours of red berries and toasted herbs; firmly structured with lively acidity. (89)

Thursday, March 19th: Wrote my column for Lexpert on the difference between a wine snob and a wine fascist. Then followed up wine agents for wine donations for Grapes for Humanity’s May 7th “Italy Uncorked” fund-raiser at St. James Cathedral’s event space. Then got down to tasting a case of Pelee Island wines.

Pelee Island Secco 2013 (Pinot Blanc/Auxerrois): ($15.75) gently sparkling, pale lemon in colour; earthy, peach pit nose; dry, peach and pear flavours, soft on the palate. Easy drinking (86)

Pelee Island Chardonnay (Non Oak): ($10.75) light straw colour; minerally, apple nose; dry, medium-bodied, apple flavour with citrus acidity. (85)

Pelee Island Lighthouse Sauvignon Blanc 2013: ($12.75) pale straw colour; lemon grass, grapefruit skin nose; dry, medium-bodied, green apple and green melon flavours. (86)

Pelee Island Gewurztraminer Riesling 2013: ($12.75) pale straw; aromatic, spicy, apple and grapefruit nose; dry, medium-bodied, not a lot of Gewurz character coming through with a browning apple finish. (85)

Pelee Island Traminer Muscat 2013: ($13.75) pale straw colour; spicy, orange blossom and cardamom nose; dry, fresh, orange and pink grapefruit flavours; clean and lingering. (88)

Pelee Island Cabernet Franc Rosé 2013: very pale, flesh pink in colour; redcurrant and citrus nose with a thread of minerality; well-balanced fruit and acidity; flesh on the palate with a clean, dry finish. (87)

Pelee Island Night Glider Gamay Zweigelt 2013: ($11.75) ruby colour; cherry, tomato paste and tobacco leaf nose; dry, fruity and mouth-filling with lively acidity. Easy drinking. (86)

Pelee Island Pinot Noir 2012: ($12.75) ruby colour; earthy, tobacco leaf and strawberry nose; dry, medium-bodied, candied raspberry flavour with enough tannin to give structure. (86)

Pelee Island Pinot Noir Reserve 2013: ($15.75) ruby with a tawny rim; raspberry and leather nose with light floral note; medium-bodied, dry, firm structure with good acidity, cherry and raspberry flavours. (87)

Pelee Island Baco Noir Reserve 2013: ($14.95) deep plum colour; smoky, meaty, blackberry nose; dry, medium-bodied, minty-spicy black fruits with lively acidity. Good length. (87)

Pelee Island Cabernet Franc 2013: ($11.75) light ruby colour; redcurrant, cedar with a light floral note; light-bodied, dry, round on the palate with well-defined currant flavours and ripe tannins. Good value. (87+)

Pelee Island Cabernet Sauvignon 2013: ($14.75) ruby colour; cedar, smoky, plum and currant bouquet; dry, medium-bodied, lean, sour cherry flavour with fresh acidity. (86+)

Friday, March 20th: Another Vintages release tasting today.  In the evening with dinner tasted the following wines:

Flat Rock Riesling 2014: (Ontario – $16.95) pale straw with a lime tint; honey and grapefruit on the nose; off-dry, sweet grapefruit and lime flavours; light on the palate. Easy drinking. (88+)

Charles & Charles Chardonnay 2013: ($15.95 – Washington) pale straw colour with a nose of vanilla oak and spicy apple; full-bodied, richly extracted flavours of pineapple and melon with balancing acidity and a minty finish. Good value. (89)

Ruffino Modus 2012: (50% Sangiovese, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot; Tuscany, $29.95) dense purple-ruby; earthy cherry, tobacco and vanilla oak on the nose;  sweet black cherry and blackcurrant flavours; elegant, finishing dry with supple tannins and a cinnamon note. (90)

Ravenswood Beseiged 2013: (Petite Sirah, Carignane, Zinfandel, Syrah, Barbera, Alicante Bouschet, Mourvèdre – Sonoma County, $24.95) dense purple-ruby colour; spicy-savoury bouquet of blackberries and dark chocolate; rich and full on the palate with a cinnamon and nutmeg flourish on the end taste. A big brooding wine that went well with lamb merguez sausages and couscous. (89+)

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 536: Virginia

Monday, March 9: Wrote my 680News wine reviews and sent an email to the directors of Grapes for Humanity inviting them to a dinner at Pangea on June 12th to celebrate Grapes for Humanity’s 15th anniversary.

In the evening a meeting with Sam and Esther Sarick to discuss the Grapes for Humanity dinner at their home with Gaia Gaja. For dinner, lamb chops with Cusumano Nero d’Avola 2013 from Sicily. Great value for $11.95 (deep ruby colour; spicy, blackberry nose with coffee bean notes; dry, medium body; blackberry and plum flavours with lively acidity and supple tannins (88)).

Tuesday, March 10: Worked on the updates to the Canadian entries for Oz Clarke’s Pocket Wine Book 2016. Then down to the Novotel Hotel to meet Peter Michel, whose family winery, Weingut Michel, was founded in 1685 in the Nahe. Seven generations of winemakers have been named Peter. He opened the following wines for me in the bar.

  • Weingut Michel Riesling Trocken 2014: pale straw colour; minerally, floral, citrus and white peach nose; dry, nicely balanced, clean and fresh with good length on the finish. (88+)
  • Weingut Michel Chardonnay Trocken 2014 (stainless steel): pale straw colour; minerally, apple; lovely texture, crisp apple, medium-bodied, dry with fresh citrus acidity. (89)
  • Weingut Michel Sauvignon Blanc 2014: pale straw colour; grassy, elderberry, green bean notes on the nose; sweetish, elderberry and gooseberry, soft mid-palate; medium-bodied, finishing dry. (88+)
  • Weingut Michel Riesling Feinherb 2013: pale straw colour; minerally, citrus nose; off-dry, fruity, soft on the palate, well balanced, honey, peach and lime; finishes cleanly with a long citrus finish. (89)
  • Weingut Michel Weissburgunder 2013: light straw colour; peachy, died apricot nose; sweet and mouth-filling, fruity, peach and honey flavours with balancing acidity. Very clean flavours. (89)
  • Weingut Michel Bacchus 2013: pale straw colour; grapey, aromatic, Muscat-like nose; sweet grapefruit and melon flavours, beautifully balanced with clean and fresh fruit flavours. (90)
  • Weingut Michel Grauburgunder 2013: pale straw colour; minerally, white peach nose; sweet and broad on the palate – sweet peach and melon flavours. (87)
  • Weingut Michel Rotling Halbtrocken 2013 (Dornfelder and Muller-Thurgau): amber-salmon colour; strawberry jam nose; mouth-filling , sweet strawberry puree flavour with an orange zest finish. Touch of bitterness on the finish. (87+)
  • Weingut Michel Spätbugunder Trocken 2013: deep ruby colour; earthy, beetroot, light floral note; medium-bodied, candied raspberry, earthy with a firm finish. Good tannin structure with a warm alcoholic finish. (88)
  • Weingut Michel Dornfelder Trocken 2013: deep ruby colour; spicy-floral nose of blackberries; dry, mouth-filling, soft mouth-feel, plum and red berry fruit flavours; firmly structured, bitter chocolate finish. (88+)

After this tasting I walked over to Montecito restaurant on Adelaide to have a dinner tasting with Jim Doehring, Central Region Sales Manager for Far Niente.

  • Far Niente Chardonnay 2013: straw colour with a spicy, vanilla nose of tropical fruit; full-bodied, rich, pineapple and toasty oak flavours with lively acidity and great length. (91)
  • EnRoute Pinot Noir Les Pommiers 2012 (Russian River): deep ruby colour; earthy, minty, black cherry nose; full-bodied, sweet fruit, firmly structured with well integrated oak and great length. (90)
  • Far Niente Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 2012: deep ruby colour; cedar, vanilla oak, blackcurrant nose; lean and firm (going through a dumb, close-down phase, I think, but all the elements are there). (90–92)
  • Far Niente John C. Sullenger Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012: dense ruby colour; cedar, blackcurrant and tobacco nose; richly extracted cassis flavour, firmly structured and vibrant. (92)

John C. Sullenger Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Wednesday, March 11: Recorded my 680News wine reviews and then went down to the Acadian Room for a presentation of Virginian wines and lunch put on by the Virginian Tourism Corporation.


Virginia town crier greeting guests

Sebastien Marquet, who makes wine at Doukenie winery in Purcellville, and his French-Canadian wife, Isabelle (who consults with him to six other Virginian wineries), told me that there are 280 wineries in the State, mostly boutique. Marquet’s grandmother was a winemaker and his parents owned a restaurant. At the age of 13 he was sent by his parents, at his own request, to the Lycée Viticole et Oenologue de Beaune to learn winemaking. Students there have ten hours a week of wine tasting (only in France!). His first vintage in Virginia – having worked in Languedoc-Roussillon, the Caribbean island of Martinique (where he planted the island’s first vineyard), Sonoma and Napa – was in 2007.


Isabelle and Sebastien Marquet

For some reasons his wines weren’t at the tasting but before lunch I tried two wines from 8 Chains North, a winery in Waterford, 7.5 miles northwest of Leesburg in Loudoun County:

  • 8 Chains North Chardonnay 2013: straw colour with green tints; spicy, rich caramel and toast aromas with nutty, barnyard notes. Full on the palate with good length. (89)
  • 8 Chains North Malbec 2012: deep plum colour with a spicy, floral nose of black cherries; dry, elegant with a lovely mouth-feel; smoky, cherry flavour with ripe tannins and a clean finish. (89)

At the lunch prepared by a Virginian Chef (peanut soup and roast pork) I tasted Tarara Winery Chardonnay Viognier 2012: deep straw colour with a green tint; minerally, earthy, smoky nose of grilled lemons; spicy peach flavour with nicely integrated oak. (89)

At 4 pm I walked over to grano, where Ann Sperling had brought her 2013 wines for Zoltan Szabo, Andre Proulx and me to taste.

  • Southbrook Triomphe Chardonnay 2013 ($22.95): straw coloured, minerally, apple and citrus bouquet; rich and full on the palate, lively lemony citrus acidity, fresh and zesty. (89)
  • Southbrook Triomphe Cabernet Franc 2013 ($21.95 – 5% Merlot): solid ruby colour; floral, leafy, white pepper, raspberry with a cedary note; creamy mouth-feel, well extracted fruit with a cinnamon finish. (88+)
  • Southbrook Triomphe Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($22.95 – with 11% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc): deep ruby colour; cedar, red berries on the nose; spicy, redcurrant and cherry flavours carried on lively acidity. Nicely integrated oak. (88)
  • Southbrook Estate Grown Small Lot Semillon 2013 ($34.95 – with 11% Chardonnay): golden straw colour; fragrant, lanolin, beeswax nose; full-bodied, Mirabelle plum and citrus flavours, lively acidity. (90)
  • Southbrook Whimsy “Minerality” Chardonnay 2012 ($34.95) straw colour; oily, apple nose; spicy, minerally, orange and apple flavour, reductive note, firm, saline note. Reminiscent of a vin jaune. (91)
  • Southbrook Whimsy Cabernet Franc 2012 ($34.95 – 3% Cabernet Sauvignon): deep ruby colour; floral, cedar, spicy, tobacco and cherry nose; dry, medium-bodied, firmly structured, well balanced with livelt acidity. (90)
  • Southbrook Estate Grown Small Lot Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($34.95 – 7% Merlot): deep ruby colour; cedar, tobacco, blackcurrant nose with a vanilla oak note; medium-bodied, dry, Petit Château style, firm finish with ripe tannins. (89)
  • Southbrook Whimsy Petit Verdot 2012 ($34.95 – 13% Cabernet Sauvignon): deep ruby colour; cedar, black tea, spicy, blueberry and redcurrant nose; firmly structured, medium-bodied, fresh on the palate with lively acidity and supple tannins. Good mouth-feel. (90)
  • Southbrook Estate Grown Small Lots Orange Wine 2014 (Vidal – $34.95?): cloudy amber; minerally, spicy, leafy-herbal nose; opens up on the palate with grapefruit with a lovely floral note that blossoms in the mouth giving crabapple and grapefruit with a chalky finish. A fascinating wine. Vidal never tasted so good. (89)
  • Southbrook Poetica Chardonnay 2012 ($49.95): deep straw colour; leesy, minerally, baked apple and caramel nose; rich and full on the palate, spicy with well integrated oak with apple and pear flavours. Will improve with bottle age. (90–92)
  • Southbrook Poetica Red 2012 (42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28.7% Cabernet Franc, 28.7% Petit Verdot): deep ruby colour; savoury, pencil lead, black fruits with vanilla oak notes on the nose; dry, medium-bodied, firmly structured, blackcurrant, elegant with expressive fruit. (90)
  • Southbrook Whimsy The Anniversary ($19.95 – fortified Chardonnay): deep amber colour; nutty, dried fig, rich and full on the palate, cashew nuts and dried peach on the palate with a touch of sweetness, great length. (91)

From grano I took the subway to King Street to join Deborah and some friends at Il Fornello for a quick dinner before the theatre: Blythe Spirit with the amazing Angela Lansbury.

Thursday, March 12: A tasting at Doug Towers’s for winerytohome.com. For dinner with pasta and a sauce made with smoked meat, Emiliana Adobe Reserva Earth Day Limited Edition Merlot 2013 (dense purple colour; cedar, vanilla oak and blueberry on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, elegant blueberry and blackcurrant flavours with a lively acidic spine (88)).

Friday, March 13: Spent the day writing my Lexpert column on Virginia wine, citing Thomas Jefferson as the American president who was most passionate about wine. His famous quote: “No nation is drunken where wine is cheap and none sober, where the dearness of wine substitutes ardent spirits as the common beverage.” For dinner, grilled salmon with Emiliana Adobe Reserva Earth Day Limited Edition Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (bright straw colour; grassy, guava on the nose; dry, medium-bodied, perfumed, green plum and melon flavours with a crisp finish (87)).

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 535: Bill Hardy

Monday, March 2: Spent the morning inputting wine notes for the March 7th Vintages release. After lunch, down to Scrivener Square for a Montes tasting conducted by Aurelio Montes Jr.


Aurelio Montes Jr.

He told us about Montes’s decision to start dry farming to preserve water. Zero irrigation for Alpha brand, resulting in less yield, smaller berries, better quality. Now they’re getting half a bottle production per vine as opposed to a bottle

  • Montes Outer Limits Sauvignon Blanc 2013 ($19.95) (six months to a year lees contact): bright, pale straw colour; fresh, green plum and green bean nose with a floral note; crisply dry, sweetish gooseberry with lemony-lime acidity. (89)
  • Montes Outer Limits Cinsault 2014: purple-ruby colour; floral, spicy, black raspberry nose; richly extracted, full-bodied, sweetish raspberry jam; simple fruit, ripe and easy drinking; succulent and soft tannins. (88)
  • Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon 1999: deep ruby colour; cedar, blackcurrant with vanilla oak notes, Bordelais-style nose; elegant, medium-bodied, blackcurrant with a savoury-herbal note, ground coffee and bitter chocolate finish. (91)
  • Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon 2011: dense purple colour; spicy, blackcurrant nose with leather notes; richly extracted sweet fruit with a smoky-savoury note carried on fresh acidity. Firm finish with a bitter chocolate note. (88+)
  • Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (not irrigated): dense ruby-purple; floral, spicy, blackcurrant, vanilla oak; sweet curranty fruit, richly extracted with a tannic lift on the finish. Needs time (89–91)
  • Montes Purple Angel Camenère 2012 (8% Petit Verdot – 18 months French and American oak; $62.95): dense purple-black colour; floral, white pepper, vanilla oak, blackcurrant and tobacco leaf nose; richly extracted, fruity, tobacco and cassis flavours. Lovely mouth-feel, beautifully balanced, ripe tannins. (92)
  • Montes Taita 2007 (85% Cabernet Sauvignon with Syrah and Carmenère): dense purple-black colour; cedar, minty, vanilla oak, black fruits on the nose with a truffle note; richly extracted, sweet, porty flavour, dark chocolate and cassis flavours. Beautifully balanced, chalk tannins. (95)


Montes Taita 2007

A late meeting at Edo to discuss the Cambridge Food & Wine Society’s dinner to honour Miguel Torres on April 21st at the Chef’s House, George Brown College.

Tuesday, March 3: Wrote my “On The Go” column and then down to Canoe for a lunch tasting with Bill Hardy of Hardy’s.


Bill Hardy

We figured out that we’ve known each other for 35 years. Bill told us that Hardy’s is the largest producer in Australia and gave us the company’s 162-year history in three minutes.

  • Hardy’s William Hardy Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (Adelaide Hills) This is an “homage”line of varieties celebrating Bill’s 40 years with the family company. Light straw colour with a bouquet of green plum and citrus fruit; medium-bodied, fresh and lively on the palate with the merest hint of oak. (89)
  • Eileen Hardy Chardonnay 2013: straw colour; toasty, spicy, tropical fruit nose with a touch of barnyard; mouth-filling flavours of spicy pineapple, orange and lemon with a thread of minerality. (91)
  • Hardy’s Stamp of Australia Cabernet Merlot 2013: deep ruby colour; pencil lead, cedar, currants on the nose; plum and redcurrant flavour rounded out with oak and carried on lively acidity. (87)
  • Hardy’s Chronicles Butcher’s Gold Shiraz Sangiovese 2012 (80% Shiraz): dense purple colour; savoury, cedar, bitter chocolate and black cherry nose; dry, medium-bodied, cherry, plum and vanilla oak flavours with ripe tannins and lively acidity. (88)
  • Eileen Hardy Shiraz 2010: dense purple colour with a smoky, blackberry and licorice nose with a herbal note; full-bodied, dry, spicy blackberry and chocolate flavours with balancing oak and acidity. A great wine. (93)
  • Hardy’s Winemakers Rare Release Handpicked Shiraz 2008 (McLaren Vale and Clare fruit): dense purple-ruby colour; Northern Rhône style – savoury, herbal nose of black plums, licorice, dark chocolate, pencil lead and pepper; full-bodied, beautifully structured, lovely mouth-feel. A joy to drink. (94)


A fabulous wine

For dinner, grilled tilapia with a bottle of Sumac Ridge Black Sage Reserve Meritage 2006. I found this wine tucked away in a corner of the cellar and opened it with trepidation. While it had begun to maderize, it tasted remarkably like a Vin Jaune and was most enjoyable.

Wednesday, March 4: A conference call with Chef Massimo Capra’s agent to discuss the possibility of Massimo associating himself with Grapes for Humanity as his charity of choice. Then a meeting at Freshii with Tim and Eva Andrews, who will be doing the redesign for Grapes for Humanity’s website.

Thursday, March 5: Finished inputting the wine reviews for Vintages’ Saturday release. In the afternoon Rakesh Mehre of Contraband sparkling wine came to the condo with two of his products. Rakesh began his winemaking experiments at his friend’s garage in Montreal. He studied analytical wine tasting and winemaking degree called DUAD in Bordeaux. Upon returning to Canada to finish his Honours Degree in Œnology and Viticulture, he was determined to make sparkling wine accessible to everyone, and not just on special occasions. He came up with the concept of bars and restaurants offering sparkling wine on tap. While this idea didn’t really catch on, he concentrated on bottling his wine, which he packages under crown caps.

  • Contraband Extra Dry Charmat Method (100% Riesling – $18.95): pale straw, active mousse; apple and citrus nose; sweetish crab apple flavour, soft on the palate with yeasty note that dries the finish to a cidery end. Prosecco-like. (87)
  • Contraband Rosé Charmat Method (Riesling, Gewurz and Pinot Noir – $19.95): pale salmon colour; earthy, cherry pit nose; light-bodied, perfumed, cherry flavour, fresh and lively with a clean finish. (89)

Later, Deborah and I tasted these wines with the Indian food we ordered in. They worked very well.

Friday, March 6: Another Vintages release tasting for March 21. Best value wine: Dr. Hermann Erdener Treppchen Riesling Kabinett 2010 for $17.95. Dinner at Fieramosca with friends who obligingly brought along a magnum of Sassicaia 1993. What a way to end the working week!


Best value wine of March 21 Vintages release

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