Monday, June 20: This morning, a Wine Writers’ Circle tasting at the Summerhill liquor store. Henry of Pelham’s winemaker, Ron Giesbrecht, led us through a vertical of Henry of Pelham Reserve Baco Noir, vintages 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010. Ron told us they pick 2–3 tonnes per acre from their oldest block for the Reserve wine and age it in American oak, 60% of which is new. My favourite was the 2007 followed by 2002. These wines were followed by Henry of Pelham Family Tree White 2009, a blend of Viognier, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer and Chardonnay Musqué (spicy and aromatic with a flavour of Chinese pear; ripe fruit (88)). Then Henry of Pelham Barrel-Fermented Chardonnay 2008 (straw coloured, medium-bodied with a sweet, spicy pineapple flavour carried on lively citrus acidity (89)). Ron called 2008 “a sleeper vintage.” Finally, Henry of Pelham Family Tree Red 2009 (Merlot, Syrah, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc – ruby-coloured with a spicy cherry nose; firmly structured with a cherry and rhubarb flavour and a tannic lift on the finish (87)).
Then Toni Batet, who represents Torres wines in Canada, arrived to present a vertical of Torres Mas La Plana Cabernet Sauvignon 1994, 1996, 1999, 2005 and 2007. This wine used to be called Coronas Black Label. A beautiful range of wines all scoring 90 or above. My favourite was the 1996 (92 points) followed by the 2007 (91).
In the afternoon down to Allen’s to taste a new beer called Spearhead Hawaiian Style Pale Ale. The brewer, Dimitri van Kamper (who is also a lawyer), told me he had made in the beer in West Coast IPA style, adding pineapple juice during the fermenting process. The flavour is very hoppy with a distinct lychee flavour. It’s the nearest a beer can get to Gewurztraminer. At present it’s only available on tap at certain restaurants.
At home tasted a couple of wines made at Reif Estate Winery labeled for Eddie Shack, the latest entry into the celebrity wine pantheon – a Chardonnay 2008 and a Cabernet Sauvignon 2008. The back label reads, “Clear The Track Here Comes Shack.” Very commercial and easy drinking.
Tuesday, June 21: Started work on compiling the wine list for Jamie Kennedy on the Falls, the new restaurant on the 14th floor of the Sheraton on the Falls which is scheduled to open in November. Then down to the Ritz Carlton Hotel for a vertical tasting of Château des Charmes Equuleus, Paul Bosc’s flagship red. (Equuleus, Paul Bosc Jr. told us, played second fiddle to Pegasus in Greek mythology. There is also a constellation named after him.) This blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Franc was first produced in 1998. We tasted nine vintages – 1991, 1994, 1995, 2002, 2005, 2007 and 2010. The wines showed very well, even the 20-year-old 1991. Best wines were 2007 (91) and 2002 (90+) – a repeat of the H of P Baco Noir tasting on Monday.
The tasting was followed by dinner:
First course – Heirloom tomato and Ontario mozzarella salad, basil pesto, white balsamic, served wit Château
des Charmes Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (soft,
sweetish guava flavour with a grassy note (88)).
Second course – Butter poached lobster, spring risotto, crisp bacon lardoons, fine herbs, with Château des Charmes Chardonnay Paul Bosc Estate 2007 (spicy pineapple flavour; great balanced (90)).
Main course – Porcini crusted filet mignon, garlic whipped potatoes, root vegetable, Equuleus shallot reduction, with Château des Charmes Equuleus 2005.
Dessert – Vanilla crème brûlée, marinated berries, lemon sorbet, with Château des Charmes Riesling Icewine 2007.
Wednesday, June 22: John Maxwell invited me to his annual “Men in Pink” lunch, which celebrates Ontario rosés. My wine writer colleague Billy Munnelly and John created this event, which is held at Allen’s on the Danforth. Thirty-seven men, all dressed in pink (I borrowed a pink shirt and tie from my son Guy for the occasion) and mainly winemakers, lunched on cucumber, butternut and radish soup, grilled BC salmon with arugula and salsa, tenderloin with PEI potatoes and asparagus and grilled pear with crème fraiche while downing copious quantities of Ontario rosé. There were some 20 labels available and I managed to sample about 13. I have always believed that Ontario, because of its variable climate, should be making more rosé. We could be the Marsannay of the New World if vintners took this wine more seriously.
Thursday, June 23: Emma Garner, Thirty Bench’s winemaker, came to the condo for a tasting of her 2010 wines. Julian Hitner joined us for the tasting.
- Thirty Bench Winemaker’s Riesling 2010 ($18.50): Pale straw; minerally, lime and grapefruit with a light floral note; good tension between sweetness and racy acidity. Kabinett style, good length with a fresh finish. (89)
- Thirty Bench Small Lot Wood Post Vineyard Riesling 2010 ($30): Pale straw, more terroir-driven, minerally, citrus, lemon-lime; racy acidity with a zesty, tart citrus length. (90)
- Thirty Bench Small Lot Steel Post Vineyard Riesling 2010 ($30): Pale straw with a lime tint; minerally-floral nose, restrained lime notes; beautiful balance, fresh, clean, mouth feel. Tangy citrus fruit with a long mouth-freshening finish. (91)
- Thirty Bench Triangle Vineyard Riesling 2010 ($30): Pale straw with a lime tint; the most terroir driven of the three single vineyards. Rich and expressive lime and grapefruit fruit with a honeyed note. Drinking well now and should develop well in the bottle. Fresh and lively on the palate. (92)
- Thirty Bench Small Lot Gewurztraminer 2010 ($30): Straw with a greenish tint; perfumed, lychee and grapefruit with a Botrytis note. Exotic, rose water, tropical fruit and Turkish Delight flavours. Full and round on the palate, sustaining well. A little high in alcohol giving it a warm finish. (89)
- Thirty Bench Small Lot Chardonnay 2009 ($35): Straw with a green tint; nutty, barnyard, smoky, Burgundian style nose; well integrated oak with orange and nectarine flavours; good length finishing with a toasty, nutty flavour carried on lively acidity. (90)
- Thirty Bench Winemaker’s Red 2009 ($24) (63% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Cabernet Franc): Deep purple-ruby colour; cedar, pencil lead, vanilla, blackcurrant and redcurrant; lean, fresh, redcurrant flavour; dominant acidity but ripe tannins. (87+)
In the evening Deborah and I were invited to the inaugural fund-raising event of Environmental Defence Canada at the Fermenting Cellar in the Distillery District. Sean Cullen hosted the wine-centric evening called “Wine Bluff.” The Wine Bluff panel, Chef Brad Long, Sandi Marques (Cork and Karma), and Chef Geoffrey Johnson (en Ville catering) each sampled six different wines and either truthfully described the wine or bluffed their way through it. Our role as guests was to determine which one is telling the truth. Our table won. But then if we hadn’t, I would have to take down my shingle.
Friday, June 24: A meeting at Firefly Books with Lionel Koffler. Jean-Louis Bergeron and I were pitching him a concept for a coffee-table book about Canada’s wineries. In the afternoon, a meeting with Amy McConnell and Julian Hitner to discuss a project for a wine museum in Shanghai.
Tonight, an invitation to dine at Corey Mintz, who will write up the meal for his column in the Toronto Star. Corey said I could invite some guests. I called my friend Frank Daley and his wife Patti Ann and Patrick Imbert, the French Trade Commissioner. I brought along several bottles of Ontario wine that had won medals at the Ontario Wine Awards, not knowing what Corey was going to cook. We started with Mike Weir Riesling 2009 before sitting down. With the beef and tomatillo salad I opened Calamus Pinot Gris 2009. Next course was lamb, apricots and parsnip purée with Southbrook Whimsy Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, followed by freshwater trout on a bed of salsa with Tawse
Laidlaw Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008. A dessert of fresh strawberries with chocolate sauce with Magnotta Vidal Icewine 2008. A very lively evening.