A Wine Lover’s Diary, part 342: Judgment at Riverside

Monday, May 2: Voting day. Heard last night on the news that Osama bin Laden has been shot. Alex Pyne of Terroir Wine + Spirits came over to the condo with a bunch of wines to taste.

  • Mt. Boucherie Estate Collection Pinot Gris 2008: very pale colour; minerally, peach pit nose; dry, grapefruit and peach flavours; moderate length (87)
  • A Blooming Hill Vineyard Chardonnay 2009: very pale colour; a nose of apple puree; showing signs of oxidation with a tinny finish (84)
  • Eau Vivre Gewurztraminer 2008: pale straw colour; high toned, minerally, rose petal, lychee nose and cabbage leaf nose; aromatic, spicy grapefruit flavour with lively acidity (88)
  • Eau Vivre Pinot Noir 2008: tawny ruby colour; smoky, raspberry nose with notes of violets and minerals; elegant, dry raspberry and cranberry flavours; light and delicate on the palate, finishes firmly (88)
  • Trinity Vineyards Pinot Noir 2006: plum colour; a nose of rust, plum and stewed fruit; oxidative note (85)
  • Hard Row To Hoe Shameless Hussy Barbera 2007: deep ruby colour; plumy, spicy nose; pencil lead, plum and blackberry flavours with a thread of minerality and driving acidity (87) (an extra point for the name and the story behind it)
  • Summerhill Pyramid Winery Merlot 2007: deep ruby colour; earthy, floral, black cherry nose; mouth-filling sweet fruit; firmly structured with soft tannins that dry on the finish (88)
  • Hard Row To Hoe Zinfandel 2008: ruby-plum colour; leather and plum nose; creamy oak, mouth-filling with lively acidity (89)
  • Hard Row To Hoe Primitivo 2008: ruby colour; earthy, candied raspberry nose; powerful, full bore wine with a touch of residual sugar (87)
  • Silkscarf Shiraz-Viognier 2008: deep ruby colour; spicy, vanilla and blackberry nose with a peppery note; rich on the palate, smoky, toasty oak with a floral grace note. Reminiscent of a St. Joseph. (90)
  • Two Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon 2007: ruby with a tawny note; dry, herby, savoury nose; more generous on the palate opening to floral, red berry, medicinal flavours; soft tannic finish with a spicy, clove note (89+)
  • Amavi Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2008: deep ruby-purple; cedar, creamy vanilla oak nose with chocolate notes; ripe blackcurrant and plum flavours; firmly structured with a fine spine of acidity and a juicy fruit finish (88)
  • Aces Pocket Kings 2007 (Merlot 66.7%, Cabernet Sauvignon 19.4%, Cabernet Franc 13.9%): deep ruby colour; cedar, dried tobacco, red berry nose; rich blackcurrant flavour, full on the palate, well balanced with cassis and coffee bean flavours; very fleshy but elegant; great length (91)

Tuesday, May 3: 9:30 am: down to George Brown College for a tasting and lunch put on by G7 – 7 Wine Regions of Portugal. The tasting was held in the lab and five winery principals introduced seven wines.

  • Quinta da Aveleda Vinho Verde 2010 (Pedro Costa of Aveleda): very pale colour; minerally, stoney, citrus nose;light, floral, tart green plum flavour, grassy note with fresh citrus acidity (87)
  • Messias Grande Escolha 2007 Douro (Messias Vigaro): dense purple colour; spicy, plum, dark chocolate nose;porty flavour, full on thepalate, sweet blackberry and licorice notes; firm structure, with a dry savoury finish; warm alcoholic finish (88)
  • Quinta do Valdoeira 2007 Bairrada (Messias Vigario):dense purple-black colour; cedar, black fruits on the nose; sweet, spicy fruit, firm berry flavour, full on e palate with good acidity (87)
  • Quinta da Garrida Touriga Nacional 2005 Dão (Francisco Antunes of Alianca): dense purple; cedar, blackberry, mulberry bouquet with a floral note; richly extracted black fruits, licorice, bitter chocolate with supple tannins (89)
  • Bacalhoa Quinta da Garrida Touriga Nacional 2005 Lisboa (Sergio Marques): pale straw colour; floral, pear, yellow plum nose; elegant, fresh, lovely mouth feel; good balance of fruit and acidity (88)
  • Quinta da Balachao 2008 Setubal (Sergio Marques): dense purple-black colour; cedar, plum, blackcurrant nose; very Bordelais, dry curranty flavour with a floral note, elegant and firmly structured with dry, dusty tannins (89)
  • José Maria da Fonseca José de Sousa Mayor 2010 Alentejo (Domingos S. Franco): fermented in large clay pots – dense purple-black colour; elegant, spicy nose of elderberry and raspberry; fruity but firm with a dry tannic finish (89)

We then moved across the hall to a lunch room, where we were handed a glass of sparkling Aveleda Follies Alvarinho 2010 and a crispy fried mushroom aranchini on a cocktail stick, which I proceeded to drop on the floor, twice. Once we were seated, our hosts spoke to their wines that were served with the lunch.

House cured salmon, brioche toast, spring mixed greens, horseradish crème fraiche, served with Aveleda Follies Alvarinho 2010

Red wine braised beef shortribs, ginger scented carrot puree, potato pave, green pea foam, with José Maria da Fonseca Periquita Superyor 2008, Bacalhoa Tinta da Anfora 2008, Aliança Quinta dos Quatro Ventos Reserva 2006 and Messias Quinta do Valdoeiro 2005

Selection of cheeses with Messias Porto LBV 2005. Cannoli filled with candied citrus ricotta mousse, maple & raisin caramel sauce, roasted hazelnuts, with Bacalhoa Mosctael 2004 and José Maria da Fonseca Alambre Moscatel de Setubal 20 Anos

And then dark chocolate truffle and coffee with Aliança Antiqua VSOP

Wednesday, May 4: Up early to catch a 10:30 am flight to Los Angeles. I’m judging at the Riverside International Wine Competition in Temecula. The competition, celebrating its 30th year, is run by my friend Dan Berger, with whom I wrote North American Wine Routes.

I’m picked up by Mark Newman at the airport, only he’s 90 minutes late because of an accident on the freeway (2 cars on fire!). It’s a 2-hour drive from LAX to the South Coast Winery, Resort and Spa in Temecula. This is the first time I’ve visited this region. The only thing I recall about it was the infestation of the glassy-winged sharpshooter they had a few years ago.

The hotel is set in the vineyard, a series of chalets in a block of four units. Very comfortable. On the table is a complimentary bottle of South Coast Winery Estate Fumé 2009. Nice gesture. There are rabbits running around the property and darting lizards, flowers everywhere. Met the owner, Jim Cater, who tells me he
began growing grapes at age 55 before building this place.

A meet and greet for the judges on a large outdoor patio with tables set for dinner. Dan Berger asked the judges to bring along an interesting bottle to add to a collection of winners from last year’s competition. I brought Coyote’s Run Red Paw Pinor Noir 2007. Before a self-serve dinner of ravioli, breaded chicken, pasta salad and desert I sampled J.H. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 1992, Francis Ford Coppola Reserve Viognier 2008, Neil Ellis Sauvignon Blanc 2008, Lazarre Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Clos Pepe Estate Chardonnay 2009, Merry Edwards Klopp Ranch Pinot Noir 2008, William Selyem Precious River Pinot Noir, Billhill Pinot Noir 2004, Brandborg Pinot Noir 2008, Darryl Groom Shiraz 2008, Baily Malbec 2007, Baily Meritage 2005 and Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon 1968. Dined with Dick Peterson, John Buechenstein, Daryl Groom and Phil Baily. And so to bed.

Thursday, May 5: Awoke at 5:30 am, still on Toronto time. At 8:30 Dan Berger gave us our briefing. My panel was Daryl Groom, Dr. Margie Joes and Dan Sweet. Our first wine was a solitary Colombard, which was really good and we gave it a gold medal. Then 32 Chardonnays (3 golds awarded). 27 Cabernet Sauvignon (3 golds), 23 Merlot (2 golds), 3 Carménères (all terrific, one gold) and 6 Grenache (2 silver).

We broke for lunch – chicken, pasta salad. When we returned to the tasting room, 26 Australian Shiraz/Syrah (1 gold). Then we evaluated 4 Cabernet Sauvignon from another panel to decide the best wine to move forward. A quick nap and then prepared for the evening dinner.

A shuttle trolley to a winery about a mile or so away, Monte d’Oro. I brought along a bottle of Inniskillin Cabernet Franc 2007, which was added to the wines that were opened for pouring. I sampled Casey Flat Ranch Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Santorini Assyrtico 2005, Ravines Dry Rielsing 2008Simoneau Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, Navarro Planters Reserve Pinot Noir 2008, Villa San Juliette Petite Sirah 2009, Eberle Barbera 2009, Cougar Crest Legacy Syrah 2006, Sanctuary Mariah Vineyard Zinfandel 2006, Limerick Lane Molly’s Block Collins Vineyard Zinfandel 2006. A buffet dinner of chicken, beef and salad with mashed potatoes and asparagus.

Friday, May 6: This morning’s tasting started with 31 Meritage wines, to which we gave three golds. This was followed by a sweepstakes round to choose the best white, red, sparkling and dessert wine. The way it works is all 36 judges retaste all the gold medal wines in those categories and by a show of hands we indicate what we liked best. The most votes for a given wine wins. Canada took two of the prizes – Donald Ziraldo’s Equifera Vidal Icewine 2008 and Joie Farm Rosé 2009. (For complete results see www.riversidewinecompetition.com.) In the early afternoon Carol Shelton, a great Zinfandel winemaker who got a gold medal for her Zinfandel, drove me to my hotel on Los Angeles’s airport strip for tomorrow’s 8 am flight home. Dined at McDonald’s, which seemed totally appropriate. Chicken burger, fries and a Coke.

Saturday, May 7: A 5 am alarm call to catch the shuttle at 5:30 am for the airport for the flight back to Toronto.

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