Monday, July 4: Had a call from a company that prints wine labels, ASL, who told me that the label they printed for the Dan Aykroyd Sauvignon Blanc 2008 won a World Label Association award.
Julian Hitner came over and we tasted a bunch of wines that had been sent to me as samples.
- Mike Weir The Under Dog Unconventional White 2009: pale straw colour; pear and citrus nose; spicy, white peach and lemon flavour; acidic finish. (86)
- Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series 2 Bench White 2010 (44% Chardonnay, 26% Sauvignon Blanc, 17% Semillon, 12% Viognier, 1% Muscat): medium straw colour; peach and melon nose with a spicy note, nicely balanced, lively acidity and fresh. (88)
- Vintage Ink Rite of Passage Chardonnay 2010: straw colour; butternut, apple nose, sour cream note; sweet pear flavor, fades on the finish to a blunt finish. (86)
- Loron Bourgogne Chardonnay 2009: straw colour; floral, apple, with a whisper of oak; well made, medium-bodied white Burgundy writ small but good value at $12.95. (87)
- Farnese Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Cerasuolo Rosato 2010: deep pink; earthy, cherry pit nose; dry, cooked strawberry flavours; simple and short with an acidic finish. (85)
- Mike Weir The Under Dog Unconventional Red 2009: plum colour; red berry, green pepper nose; dry, medium-bodied, sour cherry flavor; soft on the palate and easy drinking. (87)
- Loron Beau! Beaujolais 2009: ruby; cherry with a touch of sweetness; raspberry candy flavor, touch of bitterness on the finish. (86)
- Oyster Bay Pinot Noir 2010: medium ruby colour; earthy, beetroot, red berry; sweet red berry fruit with lively acidity. Well made. Drink now. (88)
- Kressmann Selection Merlot 2010: ruby-purple colour; not a lot of varietal character, lean, sour cherry, acidic. (85)
- Koonunga Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2009: deep ruby; intense, blackcurrant, eucalyptus; spicy, blackcurrant, smoky note; firmly structured, good acidity. (87)
- Painter Bridge Cabernet Sauvignon 2008: deep ruby; earthy, red berry with a whiff of old oak; plummy sweetish fruit, blunt finish. (85)
- Trumpeter Cabernet Sauvignon 2010: deep ruby colour; cedar, blackcurrant; ripe fruit, firmly structured, juicy, sweet fruit; tannins creep up on you. (86)
Tuesday, July 5: Took three large boxes of books down to a bookseller on Bloor. He offered me $30 for at least 100 books, saying that some were out of date and some damaged. I bet he’s going to sell them all. At least they’re out of my locker.
Drove down to Niagara to stay for a couple of nights at the Hilton Garden Inn. There is a dinner tonight at Niagara College’s dining room for the judges of the inaugural Ontario Lieutenant Governor’s Wine Awards. On the way I detoured to Malivoire and did a little tasting with winemaker Shiraz Mottiar. First some tank samples of the 2010 vintage:
- An unoaked Chardonnay that will go into Malivoire M² Chardonnay 2010: good fruit expression, pear and melon flavours.
- 2010 Chardonnay that will go into the Vintages Essential oak-aged Chardonnay: spicy peach flavor with good acidity.
- Riesling 2010: orange blossom, honey and tangerine flavours. I hope they bottle this as a varietal.
- Then a barrel tasting of 2010 Mottiar Vineyard Chardonnay: rich and spicy with peach and sweet red apple flavours.
- Malivoire Moira Vineyard Chardonnay 2010: deeply coloured; caramel and toast and mouth-filling pineapple flavours.
- Malivoire Estate Pinot Noir 2010: floral, fruity, raspberry and black cherry flavours (reminds me of ’09 Côtes de Nuits Burgundy).
- Mottiar Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010: deeply coloured; leaner than the estate and more sculptured; violets and black cherries on the nose.
- Malivoire Courtney Gamay 2010: rich, peppery, black cherry and ripe plum flavours.
Shiraz sampled me with two appassimento wines (grapes dried in a greenhouse): The first, from Aglianico grapes, tasted like a Recioto della Valpolicella, sweet blackcurrant flavour. The second was a 2009 appassimento Cabernet Franc. Chalked on the single barrel was the name “Amarone.” Sweet, cedar, raisins and a smoky note.
The 2010s were a little shy on acid but had really rich fruit flavours, wines that won’t necessarily hang around but will be delicious in the short run.
Checked in to Hilton Garden Inn and then drove over to Bench Mark, Niagara College’s restaurant. The dinner was hosted by His Honour David Onley, Ontario’s Governor General. On the terrace we were offered a craft beer made by the students or a glass of Niagara College Teaching Winery Riesling 2010. Chef Michael Olsen prepared a locavore meal of Port Colborne Hothouse Tomatoes with Fresh Mozzarella and Garden Basil, served with Niagara College Rosé 2010. Main course: Roast Tenderloin of Beef with Cabernet Crimini Mushroom Jus, Yukon Gold Potato Mash and Fresh Buttered Simcoe Asparagus, with Niagara College Dean’s List Meritage 2007 followed by Strawberry Shortcake, with Niagara College Dean’s List Cabernet Franc Icewine 2009.
Wednesday, July 6: After breakfast into the tasting lab at Niagara College to begin the judging. There are two panels: Janet Dorozynski, Michelle O’Sullivan, Gavin Robertson, Amy Bowen and me; the other panel is Konrad Ejbich, Amy Bond, Jolanta Budzniak, Isabelle Lesschaeve and James Treadwell. Between the two panels we will taste all the wines submitted to the competition: 282 wines submitted by 77 Ontario wineries. Each winery was invited to submit up to four wines. Our job is to choose wines we believe are right for the ultimate award of the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in Ontario Wines. Ultimately, tomorrow, we will choose 8 to 12 winners from the wines that make the cut. Our panel tastes 8 Sparkling wines, 10 Dry Rieslings, 9 Off-dry Rieslings, 10 Chardonnays, 7 Sauvignon Blanc and 7 Gewurztraminer before lunch.
Lunch: Hummus and pita to start, followed by meatloaf, mashed potatoes and buttered peas, with a pint of Niagara College Ale.
In the afternoon we tasted 6 Rosés, 9 Pinot Noir, 9 Cabernet Franc, 12 Merlot, 8 Cabernet Sauvignon, 9 Red blends, 7 Meritage, 4 Red Rogues (other red varietals), 12 Icewines and 7 Red Icewines.
At 6 pm, a glass of Niagara College Chardonnay 2010 on the terrace of the restaurant before dinner. I ordered prosciutto and melon followed by pickerel and mixed vegetables with rhubarb cobbler and white chocolate ice cream for dessert. Then back to the hotel to type up my notes.
Thursday, July 7: After breakfast the two panels were amalgamated to taste the 46 wines that had made the cut. We were asked to choose 8 to 12 wines that would receive the Lieutenant Governor’s Awards for Excellence in Ontario Wines. As expected, the Rieslings and Chardonnays showed well. We came up with 14 and had to whittle them back to 12. A difficult choice. After lunch (no wine – just iced tea with Greek salad and salmon) I drove back to Toronto. Didn’t feel like cooking and neither did Deborah, so we went across the road to The Homeway for dinner. I took across four wines from Calliope, a second label of Burrowing Owl, for the owner to taste with me.
- Calliope Riesling 2010: very pale colour with a lime tint; floral, peach and lime on the nose; crisp, fresh and lively on the palate. (88)
- Calliope Sauvignon Blanc 2010: again very pale in color with a grassy, gooseberry nose; medium-bodied, tart with good middle fruit and a lemon-lime finish. (89)
- Calliope Viognier 2010: pale straw colour; aromatic, rose petal and white peach nose; a disconnect between the nose and palate – it starts off well but tails into tart acidity. (85)
- Calliope Rosé 2010: pink with a bluish tint; strawberry and cranberry nose; lively acidity carries red berry and crisp orange flavours. Good length. (88)
Friday, July 8: A tasting for winerytohome.com at Doug Tower’s – 45 wines. Deborah cooked salmon crusted with sesame for dinner. I opened a bottle of Tinhorn Creek Pinot Noir 2008 (more in the savoury than sweet style with an earthy flavor of sour cherry. Worked very well with the salmon – 88).
Spent the rest of the evening wrapping up for my trip to Portugal and Veneto. I leave tomorrow and won’t be back until July 22.