Monday, September 26: This week is shaping up to be a monstrous tasting week. Today I tasted through wines sent over by Ken Hayden, whose portfolio is restricted to what he calls “rare autochthonous wines.” His Toronto-based importing company, Appellation Wines, specializes in grapes you may never have heard of. I tasted a baker’s dozen, most of which I had not heard of, let alone tasted before:
- Fina Vini Zibibbo 2010 (Sicily): straw colour; minerally, leesy nose of Muscat grapes – carnation and orange notes; think Torrontes with more drive and energy; lychee, lemon and peach flavours with wet stones. Great length. (90)
- Santa Venere Vescovado Guardavalle 2010 (Calabria): pale almost water white; herbal, wet stone nose, dried flowers; pear and lemon flavours with a minty-chalky note on the finish; dry, light-bodied, good length. (89)
- I Vini Di Emilio Bulfon Sciaglìn 2010 (Friuli): old gold colour; minerally, salty, herbal nose reminiscent of Greco di Tufo; dry, savoury, nutty, lemony flavour. Mouth-watering acidic finish. An ideal food wine. (88)
- I Vini Di Emilio Bulfon Cjanorie 2010 (Friuli): ruby colour; earthy bouquet of cherry with a herbal-floral note; light on the palate, elegant, Pinot Noir-like with a rose petal note. (89)
- I Vini Di Emilio Bulfon Forgiarìn 2010 (Friuli): ruby colour; rustic, earthy, cherry pit nose; dry, lean and sinewy sour cherry flavour with a firm tannic finish. (87)
- I Vini Di Emilio Bulfon Piculìt Neri 2010 (Friuli): ruby colour; chocolate and red berry nose; live plum flavour, firm structure with a lingering finish. (87)
- Château Lecusse 2008 (Gaillac – variety: Fer Servadou): deep ruby; smoky, black cherry; well extracted black cherry flavour with a floral note and bracing tannins. Claret style. (88)
- Vera de Estenas Casa Don Angel Bobal 2005 (Utiel-Requena): deep ruby; sandalwood and strawberry nose, spicy nose; beautifully balanced, elegant strawberry, cocoa powder and tobacco flavours with a firm tannic finish. (91)
- Vinedos y Bodegas Pablo Menguante Vidadillo 2007 (Cariñena): deep ruby; black raspberry and roasted herb nose; fruity, Grenache-like flavours of raspberry and drying tannins. (87)
- Santa Venere Marsigliana Nera 2010 (Calabria): solid ruby colour; earthy, cherry nose; light on the palate with fresh cranberry and redcurrant flavours carried on fresh acidity. (87)
- Torreguaceto Sum 2008 (Sussumaniello grape, Puglia) deep ruby colour; rustic, minerally, black fruit nose; medium-bodied, fleshy, black cherry flavour with a rose petal note; acidic finish mitigated by firm tannins. (88)
- Cantina Ma.Ri.Ca Ramosceto Lacrima di Morro d’Alba 2010 (Marche): ruby with a violet rim; highly perfumed, spicy, rose petal, lemon grass nose; dry, lychee and blackberry flavour (like a red Gewurztraminer). Medium-bodied, elegant and nicely balanced with a long finish. Exotic and unusual but delicious. (91)
- Vinchio-Vaglio Serra Brachetto 2010 (Piemonte): cherry colour with a light mousse; sweet, musky nose, Muscat notes; light and frothy (6% alcohol), clean, well made and its grapey sweetness balanced by lively acidity. A delightful aperitif. (90)
Tuesday, September 27: Recorded my 680News wine reviews and then took the subway and a streetcar down to the Liberty Grand for a tasting of the Portfolio Wine Group. Enjoyed Megalomaniac Home Grown Red 2009, Château La Confession 2007, 14 Hands Hot to Trot 2008 and BenMarco Malbec 2009.
Then dashed over to the ROM for the annual Chilean tasting. Zeroed in on Carmenère. Didn’t get round to them all but of those I tasted I enjoyed Ventisquero Vertice Carmenère-Syrah 2007 and Ventisquero Grey Single Block Carmenère 2009, Anakena Carmenère Single Vineyard 2009, San Pedro 1865 Carmenère 2008 and, for sheer value, Santa Alicia Carmenère Reserva 2010.
Dinner this evening with my old friend Aurelio Montes, who tells me that he has taken a six-month sabbatical from his winery to study history at Berkeley in California. And no doubt to keep in close contact with the wines he’s making in Paso Robles and Napa. He brought along some samples for us to try over dinner at the InterContinental Hotel.
- Star Angel Paso Robles Syrah 2008: dense ruby colour; a nose of licorice wood, herbs and blueberries with a floral top note; firmly structured, full and lush on the palate with a lovely mouth feel. (90)
- Star Angel Aurelio’s Selection 2008 (with 5% Grenache and 5% Mourvèdre): dense ruby colour with a smoky, blackberry nose tinged with herbal aromas; spicy, raspberry flavour, creamy and mouth-filling with chocolate and coffee bean notes. (92)
- Napa Angel Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2007: dense ruby colour; vanilla oak, cedar and blackcurrant bouquet; sweet fruit, elegant and firmly structured with ripe tannins. (90)
- Napa Angel Aurelio’s Selection 2007: dense purple colour; intense floral nose of crushed blackcurrants, blackberries and vanilla oak; velvety mouth feel, elegant and richly extracted with dark chocolate flavours. (92)
Wednesday, September 28: At 11 am to Ici Bistro for a Beaujolais tasting an lunch. Chef/owner J.P. Chalet, who grew up in the region, said, “Three rivers run through Lyons – the Rhône, the Saone and Beaujolais.” All ten crus were represented and Beaujolais blanc. I was taken with Maison Jean-Paul Brun Beaujolais Terres Dorées Blanc 2009 (only available at the SAQ). My favourite Beaujolais: Château Bois de la Salle Juliénas Sublime Vieilles Vignes 2009 and Maison Louis Tête Morgan Les Charmes 2009. J.P.’s lunch was terrific: wild salmon quenelles with lobster bisque and pickled ginger, veal rib eye with stuffed mushrooms with morel sauce, a cheese platter of Ontario and Quebec cheeses and raspberry chibouste with wild blueberry sorbet. The menu was matched with all the Beaujolais we had tasted earlier.
After lunch, down to Crush to meet Stratus winemaker J.L. Groulx to taste Stratus’s latest releases.
- Stratus Wildass Red 2008 (a blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Gamay, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Tempanillo, Tannat, Sangiovese!): ruby coloured with a fruity, pencil lead nose; medium-bodied, black raspberry flavour, firmly structured. (87)
- Stratus Tollgate Red 2008 (Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot): deep ruby colour; a nose of pencil shavings and currants; dry and savoury with supple tannins. (88)
- Stratus Red 2008 (Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot): deep ruby colour; cedar, vanilla oak, cigar box nose; still a little tight but it’s well-structured with ripe tannins. Will improve with a year or two in bottle. (89–90)
- Stratus Red 2007 (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Gamay): deep ruby colour; cedar and cigar leaf nose; high toned, sweet and savoury flavours. Drinking well now. (89)
- Stratus Merlot 2008: ruby colour; a nose of cedar, struck flint, vanilla oak; medium-bodied, sweet fruit, elegant blueberry and currant flavours with a firm finish. (90)
- Stratus Merlot 2007: ruby colour; showing the same high toned note as the ’07 Red blend; cedar and cigar box nose, ripe fruit and supple tannins. (89)
- Stratus Petit Verdot 2007 (Confession: I’m not a fan of this grape as a varietal. I find it short and usually over-acidic.): Ruby colour; dry, lean, red berry fruit with lively acidity. (88)
- Stratus Syrah 2007: deep ruby colour; peppery, blackberry nose; creamy mouth-feel with lively acidity. Northern Rhône style. This is a wine to watch. (89+)
- Stratus White 2008 (Chardonnay, Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer and Viognier): a drier, more elegant style than the 2007. Straw colour with a nose of honeysuckle and peach; spicy and suave with well integrated oak and a long, dry finish. (91)
- Stratus White 2007 (Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Sémillon, Gewurztraminer and Riesling): straw coloured; spicy, honeyed ose of lychee and peach; soft on the palate with some sweetness in mid-palate. A mouth-filling wine. (90)
- Stratus Tollgate White 2007 (Sémillon, Viognier, Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc): straw colour; beeswax and apple nose; spicy oak and pear flavours. Finishes a little hard with evident oak. (87)
- Stratus Chardonnay 2009: golden straw colour; spicy oak and sweet apple on the nose; flavours of pineapple and spicy caramel on the palate with lively acidity and a toasty, nutty finish. First rate. (91)
- Stratus Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (the first varietal Sauvignon the winery has released): straw colour; grassy, gooseberry nose with a note of lychees; lovely rich mouth-feel, beautifully balanced and elegant. (91)
- Stratus Gewürztraminer 2009: straw colour; lychee and rose petal nose; spicy, sweet grapefruit and rose petal flavour; a touch of sweetness in mid-palate but finishes dry. (90)
- Stratus Red Icewine 2010 (Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Mourvèdre): light ruby colour; a nose of strawberry jam; intense, sweet raspberry, strawberry and rhubarb flavours; very clean and long. (90).
Thursday, September 29: Down to Biff’s for the annual Le Clos Jordanne tasting of the new vintage (2009).
- Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve Pinot Noir 2009: ruby colour with a high toned nose of raspberry and undergrowth; elegant, dry and firm – very Volnay-like. Needs time (88+)
- Le Clos Jordanne Talon Ridge Pinot Noir 2009: deep ruby colour; minerally nose revealing black raspberry and violets as it warms; dry, medium-bodied and firmly structured; great presence on the palate. (90)
- Le Clos Jordanne La Petite Colline Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009: ruby colour; minerally nose already developing barnyard notes to complement the new oak; spicy raspberry flavour, delicate and lacey on the palate but finishing firmly. (91)
- Le Clos Jordanne Claystone Terrace Pinot Noir 2009: ruby colour; raspberries and violets on the nose but still a little tight; lovely mouth feel, fresh and lively with great balance. The most masculine of the series so far. (92)
- Le Clos Jordanne Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009: ruby colour; minerally, raspberry nose; elegant raspberry and tobacco leaf flavours, beautifully balanced with a silky mouth feel; great length. Will repay cellaring for a couple of years. (93)
- Le Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009: ruby colour; a little closed on the nose, minerally, cherry and redcurrant notes; medium-bodied with lively acidity. The most unyielding of the flight but should develop beautifully with bottle age. (90–92+)
- Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve Chardonnay 2009: straw color; spicy, minerally, lemony, pear nose; well integrated oak. Good mid-palate fruit, Chablisesque style. (89)
- Le Clos Jordanne Talon Ridge Chardonnay 2009: straw colour; minerally, citrus nose with vanilla oak; toasty, lemon and green apple flavours backed by discreet oak. Great length. (91)
- Le Clos Jordanne Claystone Terrace Chardonnay 2009: straw colour; greater depth and interest than Talon Ridge on the nose – smoky, minerally, spicy oak and orange flavours. Reminiscent of Puligny-Montrachet. (92)
- Le Clos Jordanne Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard Chardonnay 2009: straw colour; minerally, spicy, lemony, green apple nose; rich on the palate with beautifully balanced oak; great mouth feel and a long finish. (92)
- Le Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos Chardonnay 2009: straw colour; a nose of green apple, fennel and lively citrus acidity; comes off like a Chablis Les Clos, great attack, lovely mouth feel and balance and a long fresh finish. The star of the tasting. (93)
Then I hurried down to Corks, the wine bar area in Longo’s at Maple Leaf Square, for the media preview event for sip & Savour Ontario in support of House Link. A dozen or so food bloggers attended. Chef David Ashlee did a cooking demonstration of the food to be served to the attendees matched with gold medal-winning wines from this year’s Ontario Wine Awards. We started with a reception wine – Peller Estates NV Ice Cuvée Rosé – and then sat down classroom-style in the demonstration kitchen. The first course: salmon ceviche in green tea crepes stuffed with avocado, jicama and wasabi, served with Château des Charmes “Old Vines” Riesling 2008. Then Frenched lamb chops with stuffed vine leaves in a red wine, shallot reduction, with Kacaba Cabernet Franc Reserve 2007. Dessert: Chilled Cucumber Soup with Icewine Mascarpone Whip, with Konzelmann Vidal Special Select Late Harvest Vidal 2008. This event is a prelude to sip & Savour Ontario on October 19th at the Steam Whistle Brewery.
Friday, September 30: Lunch with Angela Lyons of Treasury Wines to discuss the possibility of Penfolds’ winemaker Peter Gago doing an event for grapes for Humanity in the fall of 2012. In the evening to the Fairmont Royal York for a fund-raiser, Kick Box for the Cure. Jay Mandarino auctioned off various items including a dinner tasting for six prepared by The Food Network’s Corbin Tomaszeski. I’m supplying the wines and the commentary for the dinner. Jay was auctioning from a boxing ring that was later used for a demonstration of kick boxing. He had me clamber through the ropes to add other items to the lot. It sold for $3,000.