A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 655: Checkmate Chardonnays

Château Ripeau 1967
(See July 1st)

Monday, June 26th: Down to Canoe for a lunch tasting of Anthony von Mandl’s Checkmate Chardonnays conducted by winemaker Philip McGahan (who has made wine in the Hunter Valley and with Williams Selyem in Sonoma) and Anthony Gismondi. It was a blind tasting pitting the Checkmate Chardonnays against some top white Burgundies and Chardonnays from Sonoma and Argentina. All vintage 2014.


Anthony Gismondi and winemaker Philip McGahan

  • Checkmate Capture Chardonnay 2014 (Okanagan Valley – $90): pale straw colour with a lime tint; apple bouquet with nicely integrated toasty oak; medium-bodied, dry, well balanced apple and orange flavour with a lively spine of acidity, a thread of minerality and good length. A well-balanced wine. (92)
  • Checkmate Queen Taken Chardonnay 2014 (Golden Mile Bench, Okanagan Valley – $125): pale straw with a lime tint; minerally, white flowers and apple on the nose with apple, peach and oak spice notes; rich mouth-feel, full-bodied, dry and beautifully balanced. (93)
  • Marc-Morey Puligny-Montratchet 2014 (Burgundy – $80): pale straw-lime colour; minerally, smoky, high-toned lemony, green apple bouquet with a toasty oak finish; a beautifully balanced wine. (93)
  • Checkmate Little Pawn Chardonnay 2014 (Okanagan Valley – $110): straw colour; vanilla oak and apple nose; full-bodied, spicy peachy nose; well-balanced, great length of flavour with a lively acidic finish. (93)
  • Checkmate Knight’s Challenge Chardonnay 2014 (Okanagan Valley – $85): pale straw colour with a lime tint; minerally, apple nose; medium to full-bodied, dry, apple flavour with a touch of oak spice; fresh acidity with green pineapple and apple flavours. Long finish with well-integrated oak and a nutty finish. (92)
  • Wayfarer “Wayfarer Vineyard” Chardonnay 2014 (Sonoma County – $150): straw colour with a lime tint; spicy, nutty, toasty apple; rich and full on the palate. (93)
  • Checkmate Fool’s Mate Chardonnay 2014 (Okanagan Valley – $80): pale straw colour; white blossoms, oak spice, apple and white pepper bouquet; medium to full-bodied, mouth-filling, dry, well-balanced with a lively acidic finish. (92)
  • Domaine Latour-Giraud Meursault Cuvée Charles Maxime 2014 (Burgundy – $104): pale straw colour; developing barnyard notes; earthy, minerally, apple bouquet; medium-bodied, dry, lean and lemony, slightly tart and tight with mouth-watering acidity. (91)
  • Bodegas Catena Zapata Adrianna Vineyard White Stones Chardonnay 2013 (Mendoza, Argentina – $90): straw colour; spicy, resiny nose of Fernet Branca; full-bodied, dry, some bitterness here with lively acidity. (88)
  • Checkmate Attack Chardonnay 2014 (Okanagan Valley – $105): pale straw colour; minerally, apple nose with a sour cream note; medium-bodied, soft on the palate with fennel and salty notes and a toasty, nutty finish. (90)


Checkmate Attack Chardonnay 2014

Tuesday, June 27th: Another trip down to the LCBO lab to taste the July 8th Vintages release. In the evening to George Restaurant for diner celebrating Chateau Ste. Michelle’s 50th anniversary with head winemaker Bob Bertheau.


Chateau Ste. Michelle winemaker Bob Bertheau

Chateau Ste. Michelle 2015 Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

At the outdoor pre-dinner reception, we tasted Chateau Ste. Michelle Michelle Brut Rosé before sitting down to the following dinner:


Chateau Ste. Michelle dinner menu

Enjoyed the 2005 Merlot so much that I bought two bottles on the spot.

Wednesday, June 28th: Woke up with a debilitating pain in my shoulder. Think it might be a pinched nerve. Lunch at LBS restaurant on Yonge Street with Angella Aiello to discuss next year’s Winetario consumer tasting. In the evening, down to Giancarlo for a family dinner prior to tomorrow’s wedding celebration for my grand-niece Emily.

Thursday, June 29th: The pain in my shoulder is still there. Wrote my Wines of the Week and spoke with the Lieutenant Governor’s office regarding the presentation of certificates of the winners of the LG wine awards. Then prepared for the wedding. A beautiful affair but my enjoyment was tempered by the excruciating pain in my shoulder.

Friday, June 30th: No relief from the shoulder pain. Down to the LCBO for another Vintages release. In the evening Doris Miculan Bradley came by to pick up file boxes of Grapes for Humanity that I have been storing in my locker. For dinner with chicken, Huff Merlot 2016 (Prince Edward County – $20): deep ruby colour; a nose of black cherry and vanilla oak; medium-bodied, dry and fruity with a cherry flavour tempered by peppery notes. (88)

Saturday, July 1st (Canada Day): Deborah left for Coburg and the One of a Kind Show there. She’ll be working one of the booths that sells sweaters. She returns Monday night. I celebrated Canada’s 150th birthday at Michael & Rosie’s house with Paula and Steven Elphick. Michael opened some fine bottles – Flat Rock Riddled, Bertrand de Monceny Chablis Les Montmains 1983, Château Ripeau 1967, Henry of Pelham Cabernet Merlot 1998 (blind, I thought it was a Ducru-Beaucaillou!). Steven brought half bottles of Hidden Bench Select Late Harvest Gewurztraminer and Trimbach Riesling SGN. 

Bertrand de Monceny Chablis Les Montmains 1983

Henry of Pelham Cabernet Merlot 1998

Hidden Bench Select Late Harvest Gewurztraminer and Trimbach Riesling SGN

 

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 654: Winetario


Hungarian goulash

Monday, June 12th: Deborah and I drove down to Niagara to have a look at houses in the St. Catharines area. We saw eight houses and decided we liked the first one we toured. And we instructed the real estate agent to make an offer! Now the waiting game. For dinner with steak, Descendientes de J. Palacios Petales 2015 (purple-ruby colour; floral, cherry and plum nose with a herbal note; medium to full-bodied, savoury, sour cherry with drying tannins on the finish. Needs time (89)).

Tuesday, June 13th: Recorded my 680 NEWS wine reviews. Opened a bottle of Grange of Prince Edward Almanac Red Field Blend 2014 (deep ruby colour; earthy, red berry nose; medium-bodied, dry, sour cherry flavour with fresh acidity (87)). And then Closson Chase Pinot Gris K.J. Watson Vineyard 2016 (pale straw in colour; a nose of white peaches; medium-bodied, dry, peach and citrus flavours with a mineral note and a fleshy mid-palate (88)).

Wednesday, June 14th: A Winerytohome tasting at Doug Towers’s house. In the evening, down to Arta Gallery in the Distillery District for Winetario – the consumer extension of the Ontario Wine Awards. Some two hundred people, mostly millennials, attended to taste the medal-winning wines. I presented James Chatto with the Journalism Award (a decanter) since he was unable to attend the awards presentation at Niagara College on May 31.


Angela Aiello, James Chatto and me

Had dinner at a Neapolitan pizza place on Mount Pleasant. The base of the crust was almost raw. When I drew the waitress’ attention to it, she said, that’s how we cook it.  Even the cook (who had just started) came over to confirm that that was the way they served it. Not going back there again.

Thursday, June 15th: Pinot was up all night, terrified of the thunder and lightning. Didn’t get much sleep. But, good news – our offer for the house in St. Catharines was accepted. Now the fun begins. Opened a bottle of Rodney Strong Charlotte’s House Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (pale straw colour; reductive, smoky, herbaceous nose; medium to full-bodied, dry, ripe peach and kiwi flavours ending on a lychee note (88.5)).

Friday, June 16th: A Vintages release tasting this morning for July 23rd. My top scoring wine: Dr. Hermann Erdener Treppchen Riesling Spätlese 2010 (93).

Saturday, June 17th: Our real estate lady Sally came around to discuss the sale of our condo. Number one priority: tidy up my office. In the evening, Deborah and I went to an outdoor dinner party thrown by our friends Andrew and Judy. Honouring their Hungarian heritage, they prepared goulash on an outdoor fire. Delicious.

 

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 653: Wine-Soaked Dinner

see Thursday, June 15
Dinner wines

Monday, June 12th: Wrote my Lexpert column on Greek wines, specifically on how tourists are killing Santorini. For dinner with barbecued steak, Black Hills Cellar Hand Punch Down Red 2015 (a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc: deep purple in colour with a cedary, herbal blackcurrant nose and a warm alcoholic note; medium to full-bodied, dry, with spicy, floral black fruit flavours carried on lively acidity (89)).

Tuesday, June 13th: Wrote my Quench commentary on a story my friend and fellow wine writer, the late Alex Epersbaecher, told me about French cops visiting Toronto in the mid ‘sixties and what they thought of Ontario wine. Finally tracked down my jacket, trousers and shirts at the dry cleaners that did a midnight dash.

Wednesday, June 14th: Started researching wines for a South-American-themed dinner for a Toronto golf club. In the evening, down to the Wine Academy for a dinner tasting of wines from the Côtes du Rhône, billed as “Best Kept Secret.”

Thursday, June 15th: Drove down to Niagara to visit Henry of Pelham, Angels Gate and Peller Estate to discuss a new wine project. In the evening, down to Maple Leaf Tavern to dine with five friends and some great wines: Pearce Prudhomme Chenin Blanc 2016 (from South Africa), Remoissonet Chambolle-Musigny Les Echanges 2007, Lafite 2008, Château de Fonsalette Reserve 1990, Guigal Côte Rôtie La Mouline 1998 and Jackson-Triggs Riesling icewine 1997 from BC. A great evening.

Friday, June 16th: A charity tasting this evening in aid of the Amici String Quartet at a private house. I brought along medal-winning Ontario wines.

  • Stoney Ridge Excellence Pinot Noir 2009
  • Henry of Pelham Riesling 2013
  • Magnotta Semillon 2013
  • Flat Rock The Rusty Shed Chardonnay 2013
  • Konzelmann Gewurztraminer Late Harvest 2008
  • Domaine Queylus Merlot 2013
  • Kacaba Reserve Syrah 2012
  • Tawse Redstone Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
  • Inniskillin Cabernet Sauvignon Petit Verdot 2015

Saturday, June 17th: Went to Tom’s in Kensington Market to buy a couple of suits (hadn’t bought a suit in ten years) and ended up buying a sports jacket as well. Tasted Bollini Pinot Grigio 2015 (pale straw colour; minerally, peach pit nose with a note of lemon peel; medium-bodied, white peach flavor with fresh lemony acidity. (88.5)).

 

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 652: Greece

Saturday June 3: Arrived in Thessaloniki and was met by a taxi driver who took me to the Thessaloniki-Makedonia Palace, where I met my three American travelling companions, Rachel, Vickie and Craig from New York.


Greek graffiti

5:30pm depart from Makedonia Palace to Kechris winery for a vertical tasting of Kechris Retsinas. Stelios Kechris took over the winery in 1984 and specialized in Retsina. Their Kechribari won an international award, first Retsina to do so. They produced the first retsina fermented in oak. They are the only winery who produce a rosé retsina.


Retsina Rosé

The grapes for Retsina: Roditis (20% of Greek vineyards) and Assyrtiko (1.5%), Xinomavro (3.5%). Resin: Pinus halepensis, age of the tree and time of harvest are factors in the selection of the resin. Difficult wine to produce, two processes that happen at the same time: fermentation and extraction of the fresh resin. Retsina is not a vintage-dated wine. It accounts for 10% of Greek wine production. Yiorgos Darlas of Kechris tells me: “You have wines that give you an impression of terroir; but Retsina gives you an impression of a whole culture.”


Kechris Retsina cart

The meal finishes with a green walnut liqueur and one made from cornelian cherries.

  • Kechris Kechribari (100% Roditis): pale straw, pine needles, lemon nose; light-bodied, dry, fresh and lively, crisp with a mouth-watering finish. (88) 2.3 euros.
  • Kechris Afros (100% Roditis): pale straw with evident spritz; pine needle, green tobacco nose; light-bodied, fresh, spritzy. (87)
  • Kechris Tear of the Pine (100% Assyrtiko; fermented in oak, French and American oak, mostly new): pale straw; spicy, vanilla, pine resin with a note of rosemary; light-bodied, crisply dry with lemony, vanilla oak with a herbal note. Good length. (89) 15 euros.
  • Kechris Roza (100% Xinomavro – first rosé retsina, oak fermented): pale pink colour; earthy, strawberry nose with just a hint of resin; light to medium-bodied, dry, wild strawberry flavour with fresh acidity. (89) 10 euros.

Then into the fermentation cellar, where five tables were set up with wines from Northern Greece: Katogios Winery, Avroff, Domaine Glinavos, Zoinos Winery, Ktima Voyatzi and our hosts, Kechris Winery. Dinner followed with the same wines on the table.

KECHRIS | MENU | First Course: Greek mezedes, Dolmadakia (stuffed vine leaves), Eggplant salad, Anchovies, Feta | Second Course: Tender greens with salmon, sautéed shrimps of the Aegean sea and Messolonghi Bottarga | Main Course: Sautéed pork fillet with peppers, baby potatoes and green asparagus | Dessert: Greek yogurt served with a variety of spoon sweets

Sunday June 4: 8:30 am start for Goumenissa for a tasting of local wines at Chatzivaritis Winery:

  • Domaine Tatsis Angel’s Peak White 2016 (87)
  • Domaine Tatsis Xynomavro Xiropotamos 2014 (Blanc de Noirs – 87)
  • Domaine Tatsis Chardonnay 2007 (88)
  • Domaine Tatsis Negoska 2016 (87)
  • Domaine Tatsis Roditis Orange Wine 2014 (88)
  • Domaine Tatsis Negoska 2012 (87)
  • Domaine Tatsis Xynomavro Old Roots 2013 (88)


Chatzivaritis wines

After lunch a vertical tasting of wines from Domaine Goumenissa, beginning with 2002 and working through 2003, 2004, 2007 and 2013.

En route to Alpha Estate in Amyndeo we stopped at the waterfall in Edessa in northern Macedonia, the most northerly of Greece’s appellations.


Edessa waterfall


Angelos Iatrides of Domaine Alpha

Good to see my old friend Angelos Iatrides. Angelos has 9 clones of Xynomavro planted here. The tasting:

  • Alpha Xinomavro Hedgehog Single Vineyard 2014 (88)
  • Alpha Xinomavro Reserve Vieilles Vignes “Barba Yannis” 2013 (91)
  • Alpha Axia Syrah-Xinomavro 2014 (88)
  • Alpha Estate Blend SMX 2014 (60% Syrah, 20% Xinomavro. 20% Merlot – 91)
  • Alpha Rosé 2016 (88.5)
  • Alpha Malazgouzia Turtles Vineyard 2016 (87)
  • Alpha White 2015 (50% Assyrtiko, 50% Sauvignon Blanc – 87)
  • Alpha Etsate Assyrtiko Aghia Kiriaki Single Vineyard 2015 (87)
  • Alpha Esate Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (89)
  • Alpha Sauvignon Fumé Blanc Kalyvia Single Block 2016 (90)
  • Alpha Mavrodaphne Late Harvest 2006 (90)

After the tasting we drove to Nymfeo, a charming village situated at 1350 meters in the densely forested Verno mountains. All the houses have tin roofs.


Nymfeo in the Verno mountains

We booked into Hotel Nymfes, where our hostess Helen greeted us with her homemade strawberry and redcurrant liqueurs. Each of the five rooms is named after a nymph from Greek mythology. Mine was Eurydice.

Drove to Xino Nero for dinner at Thomas Tavern in Sklithro, which has 365 Greek wines on its list. The owner pulled out a 1991 Boutari Assyrtico from the Seladia Estate on Santorini. A veritable feast arrived: smoked aubergine, Greek porridge with wild mushroom ragout, Florina red pepper with grilled florinella cheese chicken with Florina peppers, wild boar pasta, pork loin with potatoes, tomahawk steaks, finishing with chocolate ganache, salted caramel and vanilla ice cream. Then Greek Mountain tea made from a local wild herb. The wines were from Alpha Estate.


Breakfast at Hotel Nymfes

Monday, June 5th: We departed for Vergina, a small town in central Macedonia, where we visited the archaeological excavation of King Philip’s tomb. It was here in 336 BC that Philip II was assassinated in the theatre and Alexander the Great was proclaimed king.


King Philip’s tomb excavations

Then on to a tasting of Naoussa wines at Kir Yianni Estate in Naoussa. Present were Argtia, Boutari, Estate Foundi, Katogi-Averoff, Stavros Kokkinos and Domaine Karydas. My top wines here were J. Boutari 1879 Xinomavro 2007 (90 – tasted like an old Barolo) and Kir Yanni Ramnista Xinomavro Clycamina (Block 15) 2011 (90) and Kir Yanni Ramnista Xinomavro Limni Block 5 2011 (90).

J. Boutari 1879 Xinomavro 2007

After the tasting and lunch we drove to Rapsani and the slopes of Mt. Olympus, which we toured in 4x4s. Rapsani’s 90 hectares make it the smallest appellation in Greece. Apparently, there are more wild boars in the vicinity than the population of Rapsani, a picturesque village perched at 600 meters. We tasted wines grown at three different altitudes and visited the early-eighteenth-century church of St. Theodore.

Sign: Mt. Olympus: The Rapsani Wine Adventure


St. Theodore’s church

Dinner with Tsantali in Rapsani on the terrace of Krasmona Rapsani – dined on hare, Greek salad, beetroot, veal and pork patties, fried potatoes and lamb cutlets, accompanied by Tsantali Rapsani Reserve 2009 and 2004.

Drove back to Thessaloniki to book into the Thessaloniki-Excelsior Hotel.

Tuesday, June 6: This morning we drove to Domaine Gerovassiliou in Epanomi. We toured the winery and the wine museum with its huge collection of corkscrews (2,600 pieces) and then settled into a wine tasting with Vangelis Gerovassiliou:

  • Gerovassiliou Malagousia 2016 (90)
  • Gerovassiliou White 2016 (a blend of Malagousia and Assyrtiko – 89)
  • Gerovassiliou Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (90)
  • Gerovassiliou Viognier 2016 (92 – the best white I’ve tasted from Greece on this trip so far)
  • Gerovassiliou Museum Collection White 2016 (Malagousia, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Assyrtiko – 89)
  • Gerovassiliou Red 2015 (a blend of Syrah, Merlot and Limnia – 88.5)
  • Gerovassiliou Syrah 2013 (89)
  • Gerovassiliou Avaton 2014 (Limnia, Mavroudi Mavrotragano – 88.5)
  • Gerovassiliou Evangelo 2013 (Syrah with 8% Viognier – 91)
  • Gerovassiliou Museum Collection Red 2014 (Syrah, Merlot, and the Avaton blend – 89)


Vineyard at Gerovassiliou

Lunched outside on the terrace of the ultra-modern tasting room, overlooking the vineyards with their strategically placed sculptures. Had Greek salad, deep fried octopus, sea bass en papillote, rare beef, yoghurt with chocolate and nuts, with Malagousia.


Sea bass en papillote

After lunch we drove to Porto Carras – a huge resort with a casino at Sithonia in Chalkidiki. The hotel, from the outside, resembles an ocean liner. Spent some time on the beach before visiting Porto Carras’ vineyards.

 


Villa Galini

Villa Galini, with its 27 bedrooms, is set in the grounds of some 450 hectares of vines (one of the largest vineyards in Europe). A magnificent retreat – Salvador Dali was a frequent guest here. This winery was the first to plant Assyrtiko outside Santorini. A tasting at the winery:

  • Chateau Porto Carras Athiri Muscat 2016 (86.5)
  • Chateau Porto Carras Athiri Assyrtiko Rhoditis 2016 (87)
  • Chateau Porto Carras Malagousia 2016 (88)
  • Chateau Porto Carras Assyrtiko 2016 (88)
  • Chateau Porto Carras Le Grand Blanc 2015 (Assyrtiko, Malagousia, Limnio (a red variety) – 90)
  • Chateau Porto Carras Rosé 2016 (88)
  • Chateau Porto Carras Limnio 2015 (88.5)
  • Chateau Porto Carras Ruby Heart 2014 (Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Limnio – 88)
  • Chateau Porto Carras Magnus Baccata 2013 (Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah – 87.5)
  • Chateau Porto Carras 2007 (Bordeaux blend – 89) and 2006 (88)
  • Chateau Porto Carras Syrah 2006 (88.5)
  • Chateau Porto Carras Poem 2015 (sun-dried Limnio – 89)

Chateau Porto Carras Le Grand Blanc 2015


Salvador Dali enjoying Porta Carras wine

Dined in the hotel: dolmades, seafood and fish platter, pasta with kavourmas (a pork confit) and goat cheese, beef in tomato sauce with eggplant puree and finally baklava.

Wednesday, June 7: A three-hour drive to Drama for a tasting at Pavlidis Estate of wines from this region. Top scoring wines of the 15 I tasted: Domaine Costa Lazaridi Amethystos Cava 2013 (Cabernet Franc – 89), Kitma Pavildis Emphasis Syrah 2013 and Amethystos Agriogitiko 2013 (89), Wine Art Estate Plano Malagousia 2016 (89) and Idisma drios Assyrtiko 2016 (89).


Pavlidis Estate


Souvlaki and a beer


Greek ice creams

After lunch we drove back to Thessaloniki to catch a 7:20pm flight to Athens and another to Santorini. Booked into Nikos Villas in Oia. A gorgeous view of the village from my balcony.


Nikos Villas, Oia


The village of Oia, Santorini


Church in Oia

Thursday, June 8: Drive to Pyrgos for a tasting of Santo wines and a variety of Assyrtikos. Lunched at Selene Meze with Santorini winemakers and later that afternoon a visit to the newly constructed Argyros winery for a tour and tasting.


Selene restaurant in Pyrgos, Santorini

small white building with blue doors and shutters and SANTO WINES vertically on either side of the door in blue


Puppets in Oia

Dinner with Argyros & Santo Wines at a restaurant called Red Bicycle in Oia. The village was full of tourists taking selfies. The meal started with Santo Sparkling Assyrtiko Brut 2012. Delicious Santorini tomatoes, green bean salad with shrimp, tuna tartare, then sea bream and vine leaf puree.


Argyros wines


Label depicting map of Santorini


Oia by night

Friday, June 9: After breakfast we visited Domaine Sigalas for what turns out to be the highlight tasting of the trip. Paris Sigalas is a real poet. He took us into the vineyard and showed us the “basket” vines and the soils.


Assyrtiko “basket” woven from vine canes


Paris Sigalas shows the structure of his ancient vines

Then we settled into the tasting. Sigalas has created a series of seven village wines to highlight the terroir differences of Santorini Assyrtiko:

  • Sigalas Megalochori Assyrtiko 2015 (90)
  • Sigalas Imerovigli Assyrtiko 2015 (91)
  • Sigalas Fira Assyrtiko 2015 (90)
  • Sigalas Akrotiri Assyrtiko 2015 (89)
  • Sigalas Argos Assyrtiko 2015 (89)
  • Sigalas Oia Assyrtiko 2015 (88.5)
  • Sigalas Vourvoulos Assyrtiko 2015 (91)


Sigalas’s seven single-village Assyrtikos

Next, Sigalas Kabalieros Single Vineyard 2015 (90). These were followed by a vertical of his estate Assyrtikos2011 (91), 2008 (93 – came on like a Montrachet!), 2005 (89.5). Finally, the late-picked Sigalas Nykteri 2013 (91) followed by Sigalas Mavrotragano 2015 (89) and the amazing Sigalas Vinstanto 2009 (93).

Lunched with Yiannis Paraskevopoulos of Gaia Wines. Enjoyed the Gaia Estate Agiorgitiko 2013 (89).


Entrance to Gaia Winery

Flight at 5:05 pm to Athens and checked into the Sofitel Hotel at the airport. The group moved in two parties to Kokotou Estate in Stamata. Here we had an outdoor tasting on the lawns of the estate of wines from Attica, Crete and the Aegean Islands: Aoton Winery, Domain Evinos, Idaia Winery, Kitma Kokotou, Lyrarakis Wines, Mykonas Winery, Oinoforos Lesvou, Domaine Papagiannakos, Domaine Paterianakis. Fittingly, perhaps, the wine enjoyed most was Aoton Retsina (89).

Saturday, June 10: Flew back to Toronto.

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 651: Ontario Wine Awards


Rush’s Alex Lifeson hosting the Ontario Wine Awards

Monday, May 29th: Wrote my 680 NEWS wine reviews and then got down to some tasting:

  • Uber Riesling Kabinett 2015 (Pfalz – $14.10): very pale colour; minerally, kiwi flavours with good tension between sweetness and acidity. Just a touch of oxidation on the finish. (86.5)
  • Sacred Hill Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (Marlborough, New Zealand – $18.95): very pale straw colour; grassy, green plum and grapefruit nose; medium-bodied, crisply dry with green plum and elderberry flavours carried on racy acidity. Well-balanced with great length. (91)
  • Robert Mondavi Chardonnay Reserve 2014 (Carneros, Napa Valley – $44.95): light straw colour; spicy oak, lemon and green apple with an apple blossom note on the nose; full-bodied, dry, rich and full on the palate with toasty, citrus, pineapple and caramel flavours; beautifully balanced and elegant with a long, nutty finish. (92)
  • Quails’ Gate Chasselas Pinot Blanc Pinot Gris 2016 (Okanagan Valley): very pale colour; minerally, pear skin nose; medium-bodied, dry, pear and green apple flavours with a touch of browning apple on the finish. (86.5)
  • Quails’ Gate Chenin Blanc 2016 (Okanagan Valley): light straw colour; minerally, quince and green pear nose; medium-bodied, dry, fresh and lively on the palate, well-balanced lemon and green pear flavours. (90)
  • Quails’ Gate Dry Riesling 2016 (Okanagan Valley): very pale colour; minerally, grapefruit nose; light-bodied, crisply dry with lime and grapefruit flavours; good length. (88.5)
  • Quails’ Gate Gewurztraminer 2016 (Okanagan Valley): very pale, almost water white in colour; spicy, aromatic, light lychee and rose petal nose; medium-bodied, showing more varietal character on the palate than on the nose; dry, medium-bodied, lychee and grapefruit flavours. (88)
  • Quails’ Gate Rosé 2016 (Okanagan Valley): pale pink colour; cherry pit nose; medium-bodied, just off-dry with strawberry and redcurrant flavours and balancing acidity. (87)
  • Tinhorn Creek Pinot Gris 2016 (Okanagan Valley): white gold colour; minerally, peach pit nose with lemony notes; medium-bodied, unctuous on the palate with a sweet peach flavour. Good length. (88)
  • Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series Pinot Noir 2013 (Okanagan Valley): light ruby colour; earthy, raspberry and dried tea leaf nose; medium-bodied, candied raspberry flavour with a note of smoky oak, lively acidity and a warm alcoholic finish. (89)
  • Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Reserve Cabernet Franc 2014 (15% Merlot – Okanagan Valley): solid ruby colour; cedary-floral nose of oak spice and red berries; medium to full-bodied, oak-driven, raspberry and redcurrant flavours with herbal note. (88.5)
  • Gérard Bertrand Grés de Montpellier Syrah Grenache 2014 (Languedoc – $18.95): deep ruby in colour, it shows a floral, cedary nose of blackberry and raspberry. Medium-bodied, it’s dry, well-balanced with savoury-herbal flavours of black fruits freshened by zesty acidity. (89)
  • Kacaba Cabernet Franc Reserve 2015 (Niagara Escarpment): dense ruby-purple colour; cedary nose of currants with a light floral note; medium to full-bodied, dry, well-extracted blackcurrant and black cherry flavours, well-structured with fresh acidity and good length. (90)

Tuesday, May 30th: Went to the LCBO lab to taste wines I’d missed while I was in Italy. Final preparations for the Ontario Wine Awards medal presentations at Niagara College. Dinner at Barberian’s with the executives of the Gallo Nero, the Chianti Classico consortium, headed by Sergio Zingarelli of Rocca della Macie, with Sebastiano Capponi of Villa Calcinaia, Giovanni Pagali of Felsina and a representative from Ruffino.

Wednesday, May 31st: Recorded my 680 NEWS wine reviews and then Deborah picked Michael Vaughan and me up to drive down to St. Catharine’s for the Ontario Wine Awards presentation at Niagara College. The host this year was Alex Lifeson and we created a little drama by introducing him first by his real name, Alexandar Zivojinovich, and then he walked out on stage when I said, “Of course you know him as the lead guitarist of Rush, Alex Lifeson.” There was an audible gasp from the audience of winemakers and winery workers. Alex graciously stayed around to chat with everybody and have his picture taken.

The Winemaker of the Year Award went to Shiraz Mottiar of Malivoire. All the results of the competition are posted at www.ontariowineawards.ca.


Winemaker of the Year Shiraz Mottiar with Tony

Thursday, June 1st: Spent the day clearing my desk for my departure tomorrow afternoon to Greece. Edited a proof of an article I had written for the August edition of Decanter magazine on “My Toronto.”

Friday, June 2nd: Final clearing of the decks – Grapes for Humanity expense for France Uncorked and packed my suitcase. Looking forward to my first visit to Santorini and the fabled tomatoes they grow there (to say nothing of the Assyrtiko).

 

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 650: Veneto, Alto Adige, Lombardy

Thursday, May 18th: The jacket I wanted to pack for our trip to Italy is at the dry cleaners. When I went to pick it up there was a notice on the door saying the landlord had taken possession of the building because the tenant had not paid rent. Tried to reach the bailiffs by phone but their message machine was overloaded. Wonder if I’ll ever see that jacket again.

Lots of last minute details to attend to before the car comes at 2:30 pm to take Deborah and me to the airport. And much drama ensued. One of our party for the annual Pauwels-Aspler wine tour lost his passport and was unable to board. The Air Canada Rouge flight to Venice was full. I took a sleeping pill, put on an eye mask and forgot about dinner.

Friday, May 19th: Arrived in Venice at 9:10 am and with most of our party made for the bus that would take us to Verona and the Palazzo Victoria Hotel. After quickly settling into our room for a quick snack of salami, prosciutto, pizza and mozzarella, we bussed over to Romano Dal Forno for a tour and tasting conducted by Michele Dal Forno.


Michele Dal Forno

Impressed by vacuum tanks and the drying rooms with their automated fans that move on tracks over the boxed grapes to help the drying process for Amarone.


Grape drying fans at Dal Forno

The company produces 20,000 bottles of Amarone on average and 40,000 Valpolicella. Their 26 hectares of vines are planted 13,000 plants per hectare. The fruit of 10–12 vines produces one bottle of Amarone. They use 100% new oak each year and age their Amarone 2 years in oak and six years altogether before release.


Dal Forno’s cellar

The tasting:

  • Dal Forno Valpolicella Superiore 2007: intense purple-black colour; spicy, new oak nose, rich black plum and cherry notes; full-bodied, dry, concentrated black stone fruit flavours with rose petal and dark chocolate notes, finishing with ripe tannins. (93) There was no Amarone made in this vintage because of a hail storm in August.
  • Dal Forno Amarone Monte Ladoletta 2008: dense purple black in colour; intense, spicy nose of plum, roses, raisins, tobacco, vanilla oak and new leather; full-bodied, intense and concentrated, rich and porty with floral and gamey notes. Great balancing acidity. An amazingly complex and rich wine, full on the palate with a lovely mouth-feel; still youthful with well-integrated oak though the cocoa-powder-like tannins are soft and pliant. Couldn’t spit this wine! 16.5% alcohol. (60% Corvina and Corvinone, 15% Croatina, 15% Rondinella) (97)
  • Dal Forno Vina Seré Passito Rosso Vino Dolce 2004: dense purple colour; high-toned nose of plum jam and cinnamon with beautifully integrated oak notes; intensely sweet but wonderfully balanced with lively acidity; rich and port-like with sweet plum and blackberry flavours. Well-structured with youtfull tannins. Needs 5–10 years. (94–96).


Verona pastry shop

An early evening orientation walking tour of the city centre hosted by local guide and sommelier Laura Cesari, whose family owns the boutique estate Brigaldara, which were the wines served during dinner at the Antica Bottega del Vino. But first a group welcome drink in the hotel lounge – Cantine Produttori Prosecco (photo)*.

I have a great affection for Bottega del Vino, a wine bar-restaurant I first visited in 1982 and where Deborah and I had lunch on our honeymoon in 1997 (over a bottle of Quintarelli Valpolicella 1991). This evening out host, Laura Cesari served Brigaldara Soave 2016 with plates of prosciutto and speck with parmesan and epoisse (melted in a pot). Next course: risotto cooked with Valpolicella Ripasso with Brigaldera Il Vegro Vapolicella Ripasso Superiore 2014.


Risotto with Amarone

Then braised beef cheeks with mashed potatoes with Brigaldera Amarone 2012. Dessert – Tiramisù (the best I’ve ever tasted) (photo)* with Brigaldera Recioto della Valpolicella 2014. Laura also opened a bottle of Brigaldera Valpolicella 2015. Finished the meal with the traditional crumbled biscuits – sbrisoluna, made from corn flour, sugar, lard and almonds.

Saturday, May 20: After breakfast a guided walking tour of Verona with the obligatory stop at Juliet’s balcony. The walls here are covered with graffiti – love notes, chewing gum and band-aids (photo). Our hotel lobby had a wall of the same:


Graffiti wall at the Palazzo Victoria

A delicious trattoria lunch at Enoteca della Valpolicella, Via Osar 45, 37022 Fumane. The first wine: Ca dei Frati Lugana 2016 with stuffed zucchini flower (photo), parmesan risotto made with Valpolicella Recioto and chocolate (photo), followed by duck breast with a Recioto sauce, accompanied by Corteforte Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore 2009.


Duck breast with Recioto sauce

Next, our first winery tour – Azienda Agricole Zyme. Zyme, as our guide Marco Quintarelli (photo) explained, is Greek for “yeast.” The winery is carved out of a fifteenth-century sandstone quarry. He told us that the symbol of the winery is a pentagon, symbolic of the five elements that go to making wine: water, soil, sun, the vine and man. And that it takes three kilos of grapes to make a bottle of Amarone.


Entrance to Zyme

We started with Zyme Metodo Classico 2011, 100% Pinot Noir. Then an interesting white wine from a mutation of Rondinella – Zyme Black to White Rondinella Bianca 2016 (with 15% Gold Traminer, 15% Kerner and 10% Incrocio Manzoni). Then Zyme Valpolicella Classico 2016, followed by Zyme Valpolicella Ripasso 2013, Zyme Cabernet 602020 2011 (60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, 20% Merlot), Zyme Oseleta 2010, Zyme Amarone 2009, Zyme Kairos 2012, Zyme Harlequin 2008 (a blend of Garganega, Trebbiano Toscana, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, Teroldego, Croatina, Oseleta, Sangiovese and Merzemino!). And then the heavens opened.

Zyme Kairos 2012

Bussed back to Verona for a group dinner at the Michelin-starred Il Desco (www.ristoranteildesco.com) in a private room. The meal was prepared by the father and son chefs, Matteo and Elia Rizzo.


Matteo and Elia Rizzo

The meal began with a sparkling wine, Enrico Gatti Franciacorta Nature (photo). Instead of butter, a blue cheese and mascarpone spread. Then individual plates of green pea bread, bean cannoli, asparagus with polenta and chip crisp (photo) with Vicentini Augustino Soave 2015. Next course, deep-fried scampi with a raspberry vinaigrette (photo); then, lobster risotto with coriander and lime (photo), followed by sea bass with anise cream and fennel gratinée with Tenuta Santa Maria Torrepieve 2014 (Chardonnay). Desserts: Lemon foam with cinnamon and cherry eau de vie (photo), pineapple and chantilly cream, lemon ice cream with a chocolate and licorice biscuit followed by petits fours (photo).

Sunday, May 21st: Took the train to Venice, where we had a guided tour. Erica, our guide, told us that Venice has a population of 55,000 and receives 18 million visitors. I think they were all there with us that morning. She also said that open fires and barbecues are forbidden in Venice.


Venice

A group of us lunched at Tavernetta San Maurizio. I ordered a bottle of Valle Ribolla Gialla 2016 for my alle vongole and octopus salad, then a bottle of Inama Soave 2015. Stopped for a gelato and the ladies bought handbags.

someone seen from behind wearing a white hoodie with the text ART IS EITHER PLAGIARISM OR REVOLUTION
Seen in San Marco square

The group met on the terrace for the Gritti Palace hotel for Bellinis before taking the water taxi to the railway station for the return trip to Verona.


Deborah enjoying a Bellini

Only Deborah and I missed the train because we were buying baby clothes for our granddaughter. We took a later train and waited 35 minutes for a taxi at Verona station to take us to the hotel.

Dined with James and Aina at Trattoria Tre Marchetti (photo) behind the arena where a group called Nek was performing (loudly). I ordered a bottle of Roberto Anselmi Capitel Foscarino 2016 for my pasta dish (photo) and a bottle of Le Ragose Le Sassine Valpolicella Ripasso 2013 for steak with truffles. Stopped into a bar for a grappa nightcap (photo).

Anselmi Capitel Foscarino 2016 and Le Sassine Valpolicella Ripasso 2013
Dinner wines at Tre Marchetti

Monday, May 22: This morning we toured the cellars of Masi Agricola. Our visit included a tour and tasting at the adjacent Serego Alighieri estate, where historically they have given their wines a final ageing in cherry wood barrels.

Corvina
Valpolicella and Amarone’s major grape


Staircase at Serego Alighieri

Then on to an al fresco lunch at Sandro Boscaini’s Tenuta Canova estate, where the following wines had been pre-poured for us: Serego Alighieri Possessioni 2014 (Corvina, Molinara and Sangovese), Serego Alighieri Monte Piazzo Valpolicella 2013, Serego Alighieri Vaia Amarone 2011 and Castel del Ronchi Recioto della Valpolicella 2013. At the lunch of cheeses, salumi and prosciutto we drank Masi Moxxé 2016 (sparkling version of Masianco – a blend of Pinot Grigio and Verduzzo), Masi Costasera 2012 and Masi Campofiorin 2013, finishing with Serego Alighieri Vaia Amaron Grappa di Amarone (photo).


Fireplace at Allegrini

Next stop, the Villa della Torre estate of Allegrini. Our hostess told us that Valpolicella means the “valley of many cellars.” The estate with 100 hectares is one of the largest in the Valpolicella Classico region. The tasting: Allegrini Soave 2016, Valpolicella 2016, Allegrini Palazzo della Torre 2014 (40% Corvina, 30% Corvinone, 25% Rondinella, 5% Sangiovese), Allegrini La Grolla 2014 (90% Corvina, 10% Oseleta), Allegrini Amarone Classico 2013, Allegrini La Poja 2011 (100% Corvina) and finally, Allegrini Recioto Giovanni Allegrini 2012.

Allegrini La Poja 2011

Dinner at Trattoria al Pompiere with Lisa Anselmi, who brought along her father’s wines: Anselmi San Vinceno 2016, Capitel Croce 2015, and the marvellous dessert wine, I Capitelli Recioto 2015. For a red wine, I ordered Tedeschi La Fabriseria 2012. The menu, mixed salumi, asparagus risotto and (my main) salt cod two ways with roasted polenta.


Salumi platter

Tuesday, May 23rd: Today: the Alto Adige and the regional capital of Bolzano (Bozen), with its arcaded pedestrian streets, beautiful piazzas and colourful facades (photo) (photo). A visit to see “Ötzi,” the world’s oldest preserved Neolithic “iceman,” dating back 5,000 years. Ötzi was found by hikers on a nearby glacier in 1991 and now is lying in state in the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology – complete with his beautifully preserved bearskin cap. Lunched at Franziskaner Stuben in the market area with a couple of bottles of Terlan Winkl Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (I had veal schnitzel).


Veal schnitzel in Bolzano

Next winery visit: Cassiano-Manincor, a 400-year-old estate with a stylish new underground winemaking facility run on biodynamic principles. The vineyards are sprayed with different herbal teas to ward off insects – nettle tea, horsetail tea and chamomile tea. Count Michael Goess-Enzenberg led us through his wines after a tour of the vineyard.


Count Michael Goess-Enzenberg

He showed us how his workers collect the sap from the vines by attaching a bottle to the canes (photo). From this sap he manufactures a line of cosmetic face creams. Then a tasting of Manincor Moscato Giallo 2016, Manincor Sophie Chardonnay, Manincor Schiava Kalteresse Keil 2016, Manincor Rubattsch Lagrein 2014, and Manincor Cassiano 2015 (50% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Tempranillo and Syrah).

Manincor Cassiano 2015

Our second appointment was with Tiefenbrunner at their spectacular property with its own Roman Gothic fairy tale castle dating back to the 12th century. Owner Christof Tiefenbrunner toured us up a ridiculously steep hill for a view of the valley (photo). Then we sat down outside for a tasting of Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio 2016, Gewurztraminer 2016, Feldmarshall Von Fenner Müller-Thurgau 2015, and Turnhof Lagrein 2015.


Fantasy grotto at Tiefenbrunner

Wednesday, May 24: We left the Veneto region travelling west into neighbouring Lombardy. Our base for the following three nights was the picturesque wine region of Franciacorta. En route we stopped in Bergamo with its medieval upper town, where 16th-century Venetian walls encircle a charming maze of cobbled streets.


Bergamo

Lunched at La Cantina del Donizetti – the same outdoor restaurant we lunched at 12 years ago. I ordered a caprese salad and penne with anchovies, black olives and capers. Our table of twelve demolished three magnums of Tiefenbrunner Pinot Bianco Anna 2014.


Cathy and Steve with a magnum of Tiefenbrunner Pinot Bianco

Late afternoon arrival at our hotel for the following three nights, the 5-star Relais L’Albereta, a Relais & Chateaux member owned by the Moretti family, overlooking Lake Iseo. After settling in, we visited the adjacent Bellavista Estate for our introduction to Franciacorta’s sparkling wines.


Bellavista’s range of bottle formats

Dinner at the nearby Michelin-starred Due Colombe restaurant. The meal began with a glass of Contadi Castaldi Brut. (photo) (photo) (photo) (photo) (photo)

due colombe | 24th May 2017 | Chef Stefano Cerveni and his Kitchen Bigade propose Due Colombe Creativity | Welcome Appetizers | Laguna Trip... | Foie Gras Crème Brulée, Sprouts, Flowers and Traditional Balsamic Vinegar | Creamy Risotto, Lobster and Burrata Pugliese Cheese | The Due Colombe Oil Beef with Crispy Polenta | Pre Dessert | Yogurt, Burnt Meringue, White Celery and Gin | Coffee and Petit Fours || Frou Our Cellar | Franciacorta Brut, Curtefranca White Wine 'Malandrino' and Curtefranca Red Wine, Castello di Gussago | Moscato d'Asti Braida 'Vigna senza nome'

Thursday, May 25th: Late morning scenic private boat cruise around Lake Iseo before stopping for lunch at a waterfront restaurant, Locando al Lago, on the pedestrian-only Monte Isola, the largest lake island in Italy.


Sulzano on Lake Iseo


Fishing boat on Lake Iseo


Isola di Loreta on Lake Iseo

MENÙ | Antipasti: Carpaccio di trota con misticanza, Mousse di tinca e crostino all'origano, Filetto di pesce in carpione con uvetta e pinoli, Filetto di sardina essiccata con polenta abbrustolita. Primo Piatto: Risotto al pescato di lago. Secondi Piatti: Misto di filetti di lago dorati, Contorni misti. Dessert: Semifreddo al torroncino con frutti di bosca caldi. Minerale, caffè. Vini: Terre di Franciacorta Doc Cascina S. Cristoforo bianco / rosso | Ristorante locanda al lago 0309886472 3479186478
Lunch menu on the lake

(photo) (photo) (photo)

The lunch wines: San Cristofor Bianco (NV) and Brolettino Lugana Ca’ del Frati 2015.

Back on the mainland, a VIP tour and tasting at Ca’ del Bosco winery (www.cadelbosco.com).


Entrance gate to Ca’ del Bosco

Ca' del Bosco Cuvée Prestige Romeo & Guilietta 13 November 2014


Ca’ del Bosco’s Carmenere

Our guide showed us the gigantic machines that wash and dry the grape bunches (photo). She had an unfortunate speech pattern that involved putting the sound “meh” at the end of every phrase. At the end of the tour we tasted Ca’ del Bosco Cuvée Annamaria Clementi Riserva 2007 from magnums (55% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Bianco and 25% Pinot Noir – an exquisite sparkler).


Elena Mestriner opening a magnum on Ca’ del Bosco

A group dinner back at our hotel this evening prepared by their renowned chef. (photo) (photo)

MENÙ | Yellow tomato risotto, lovage and pollen | Beef fillet, capers, caramelized tomatoes | Merengue with wild berries || WINES | Bellvista Franciacorta Alma Gran Cuvee Brut | PEtra IGT Toscana Hebo 2014


Dessert at our hotel dinner

Friday, May 26th: Drove into Milan for a guided tour of the Sforza Castle dating back to 1358 (Ludovico Sforza was the patron of Michelangelo), the Duomo cathedral and the Galleria (to see the place where Campari was invented, Biffi ristorante where the first panatone was made, and the first Prada shop opened) and then an obligatory stop at Peck, the food store that makes Pusateri’s look like Loblaw’s.


Sforza Castle


Interior of the Duomo


Milan’s best food store

Lunch at Il Salumaio di Montenapoleone (www.ilsalumaiodimontenapoleone.it) (photo) (photo). The wines: Bellora Soave 2016 and Claudio Alario Montagrillo Dolcetto di Diano d’Alba 2015.

a Milano dal 1957 | il Salumaio di Montenapoleone | Milanese rice *** Milanese veal cutlet with rocket and cherry tomatoes *** Tiramisù

Did some shopping and met the group in a square near the Galleria dominated by a statue of Leonardo da Vinci for the bus ride back to our hotel.


Statue of Leonardo da Vinci

A final gathering of the group on our last evening with wines we had collected during the tour. Deborah and I dined in the hotel’s bistro, sharing a caprese salad, San Daniele prosciutto, spaghetti and a bottle of Anselmi Capitel Foscarino 2016 before packing for departure in the morning.

Saturday, May 27: The bus took us to Milan Malpensa airport for our 2:15 pm flight to Frankfurt and 5:15 pm connecting flight to Toronto. Another great trip.

*For those who would like to see a lot more pictures of the trip, my editor, James Harbeck, was unable to set down his camera for the duration and has uploaded a detailed visual record to Flickr. I’ve linked to a few of them in the article for additional illustration of some things I’ve mentioned and menu items.

 

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 649: Birthday Dinner

it's very small and cylindrical on a large white plate with a tiny candle standing next to it
My Alo birthday cake

Sunday, May 7th: Judging the Lieutenant Governor’s Awards for Excellence in Ontario Wines at IWEG’s offices. Taking the 22 top scoring wines from the Ontario Wine Awards and having them judged by Igor Ryjenkov MW, Eugene Mlynczyk MW, Bruce Wallner MS, Jennifer Huether MS, Magdalena Kaiser, Astrid Brummer and myself. Finally settled on 11 as worthy of the distinction of an LG Award.

Monday, May 8th: Wrote up my 680 NEWS wine reviews – 8 of them (four weeks’ worth) since I’m leading a group to Italy on May 18th for 11 days. Prepared a dinner party for our friends Arlene and Michael. Champagne Henriot Blanc de Blancs to start with smoked salmon and nuts; then Deborah’s exotic fruit and vegetable salad with Louis Jadot Chassagne-Montrachet Grandes Ruchottes 2009. Main course: Ontario lamb chops on the BBQ with over baked potatoes with rosemary and green beans, with Cos d’Estournel 1982. Cheese course with Vincent Paris Cornas “La Geynale”2011. Dessert: chocolate cheesecake with Alvear Solera 1927 Pedro Ximenez.

Tuesday, May 9th: Wrote up the tasting notes for the winning wines in the Lieutenant Governors’ Awards and then got down to some tasting.

  • Matua Hawkes Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (New Zealand, $17.15): very pale, almost water white with a faint lime tint; grassy, minerally, green peach nose; medium-bodied, dry, gooseberry and grapefruit flavours, fresh and zesty with good length. (88.5)
  • Kacaba Susan’s Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (Niagara Peninsula – $15.95): almost water white with a green tint; minerally, reductive nose of grapefruit rind; medium-bodied, dry, mouth-filling, citrus, kiwi and green apple flavours. (87)
  • Kacaba Jennifer’s Pinot Gris 2016 (Niagara Peninsula – $17.95): pale straw colour with a pink note; minerally, peach blossom and white peach nose; medium-bodied, dry, earthy, peach pit flavor. (86)
  • Kacaba Rebecca Rosé 2016 (Niagara Peninsula -$17.95): pale pink colour; floral, banana and strawberry nose; medium-bodied, just off-dry with banana and watermelon flavours. (87)
  • Kacaba Cabernet Syrah 2015 (Niagara Escarpment): deep purple colour; cedary, herbal nose of black fruits; medium-bodied, floral, blackcurrant and blueberry flavours; beautifully balanced, sweet and savoury flavours of blackcurrant and blackberry with herbal notes carried on lively acidity. (90)
  • Oak Ridge Winery Old Zin Vines 2015 (Lodi, California, with 4% Petite Sirah – $21.95): deep ruby-purple colour; spicy, plum, tobacco and leather on the nose; full-bodied, sweet plum, milk chocolate and leather flavours with balancing acidity. A crowd-pleaser. (88.5)
  • Tinhorn Creek Chardonnay Oldfield Reserve 2015 (Golden Mile Bench, Okanagan – $34.99): straw-coloured, a nose of apple, hay and butter with a floral top note; full-bodied, rich and full in the mouth, spicy apple pie flavour with great length and a butternut finish. (90)
  • Tinhorn Creek Gewurztraminer 2015 (Golden Mile Bench, Okanagan – $15.99): light golden straw colour; spicy, lychee and ginger nose; medium-bodied, rich mid-palate lychee and rose water flavour with a touch of sweetness and enough acidity for balance. (88)
  • Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Reserve Rosé 2016 (Okanagan Valley – Cabernet Franc: $19.99): very pale pink (Provence style); minerally, wild strawberry and watermelon nose; medium-bodied, mouth-filling flavours of redcurrant and cranberry with just a touch of residual sugar to round off the palate. (88)
  • Château de Fontenelles Renaissance 2013 (Corbières – Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, Mourvèdre): dense purple colour; lovely floral blackberry nose; medium to full-bodied, dry, perfumed, black raspberry flavour with well-integrated oak. Lovely mouth-feel. (91)

Wednesday, May 10th: Should have gone to a speed dating tasting with New Zealand winemakers but was feeling awful. Stayed home and tried to sleep.

Thursday, May 11th: A Winerytohome tasting at Doug Towers’s with David Lawrason. The traditional pizza for lunch. A quick nap before heading down to Rosedale for a Grapes for Humanity fund-raiser called France Uncorked. It was held in a private house that accommodated over 200 people, with a tent in the garden. A great evening with lots of wine, oysters, cognac cocktails, cheeses, charcuterie, baby lamb chops.

Château Angludet Margaux 2011; Château Léoube Blanc de Léoube; Châtea Argadens Sauvignon-Semillon 2016; Champagne Hentriot Brut Souverain
Wines served at Grapes for Humanity’s France Uncorked

Friday, May 12th: My birthday. Deborah bought me a Hermès tie which I shall wear tonight when we dine at Alo. But first a Vintages release tasting and then a nap.

We decided to spoil ourselves with the tasting menu at the counter overlooking the kitchen, an amuse bouche followed by 14 courses with 12 wines. An amazing meal!

Sea Urchin / Raventos i Blanc 'de Nit' Rosé Cada 2014, Spain | Shima Aji / Dom. Gobelsburg Gruner Veltliner 2015, Austria | Toro / Camillo Montori 'Fonte Cupa' Pecorino 2015, Italy | Terrine / Künstler Riesling Trocken 2015, Germany | Olive Oil Custard / Gonzalez Byass 'Cristina' Olorosa Sherry, Spain | King Crab / Suertes del Marques 'Vidonia' 2016 Canary Islands, Spain | French White Asparagus / PearcePredhomme Pinot Gris 2015, USA | Squab / Burlotto Langhe Nebbiolo 2015, Italy | Venison Saddle / Frederique Brouca 'Clos Sauveplane' Faugeres 2013, France ≈ Bloor Orange | Roasted Dark Chocolate / Quinta Seara d'Ordens 10yr Tawny Port, Portugal | Pineapple / Barbosa Moscatel de Setubal 2013, Portugal ≈ Canelé · Cinnamon Donut | 05.12.17 | alo
Alo’s tasting menu


Alo’s amuse bouche


Alo’s butter

a small piece with some purées and garnishes and so forth
King Crab

Burlotto Langhe Nebbiolo 2015
The wine for squab

a nice piece with skin, with associated vegetables mostly under it with sauce
Squab

it's a very bubbly piece on what looks like a bed of Graham crumbs
Roasted Dark Chocolate

Saturday, May 13th: Sent off my Lexpert column on this year’s Decanter World Wine Awards. A Guatemala reunion dinner at Liz and David’s house with Adrienne and Myra, George and Anne. We had all been in Guatemala for the opening of a school funded by Grapes for Humanity.

 

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