A Wine Lover’s Diary, part 365: Learning Sake

Sunday, October 16th: A tasting this evening with Christopher Cannan’s wine from Priorat, made by his daughter Josephine at Clos Figueras. The tasting was meant to be at Torito Tapas Bar at 5 pm but when I arrived the restaurant was closed. Ian and Andrew Hanna, the wine importers, had to move the event to a French bistro down the road.

  • Font de la Figuera 2010 (85% Viognier, 10% white Grenache, 5% Chenin Blanc): dry, minerally, stoney flavours, reminiscent of Vernaccia di San Gimignano. Good mid-palate, peachy fruit. (89)
  • Serres de Priorat Red 2010 (Grenache, Carignan, Syrah and a little Cabernet Sauvignon): powerful blackcurrant nose, earthy, licorice flavours; well extracted fruit. A big, bold red. (90)
  • Font de la Figuera Tinto 2008 (Grenache, Carignan, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cabernet Sauvignon): deep ruby colour; dry, herbal nose; full-bodied and spicy with a dark chocolate flavour. (91)
  • Clos Figueras Tinto 2006 (Grenache, Carignan, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cabernet Sauvignon): deep ruby colour; cedar, savoury, smoky nose; rich and mouth-filling, firmly structured with a lovely mouth feel. (91)

Monday, October 17: Lunch at South of Temperance to meet Sam Smail, the winemaker at Whitehaven in Marlborough. Over lunch (grilled salmon) we tasted the following wines with my wine writer friend, Edward Finstein:

  • Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc 2010: straw coloured with a nose of nettles, guava and passion fruit; minerally, ripe fig, elderberry and grapefruit flavours; medium-bodied, fresh with a long finish. (91)
  • Whitehaven “Greg” Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (named for the late owner): straw colour with an intense nose of grass, minerals and green plums; leaner and more sinewy than the regular Sauvignon (above); fresh, clean and crisp on the palate with a rich elderberry flavour; lovey mouth feel and very elegant. (92)
  • Whitehaven Pinot Gris 2009: pale straw colour; peachy, minerally nose; soft mouth feel, some sweetness in mid-palate, spicy but a little short on the finish. (88)
  • Whitehaven Pinot Noir 2008: purple-ruby colour; a nose of violets and black raspberries; perfumed, elegant, sweet plum and cherry flavours melded with spicy oak; medium-bodied with a firm finish. (89)
  • Whitehaven “Greg” Pinot Noir 2009 (unfiltered, unfined, 10 barrels selected out of 400): ruby colour; minerally, Burgundian nose – earthy, cherry; lovely velvety mouth feel, lots of energy here; good.

Tuesday, October 18: Recorded my 680News reviews and after lunch downtown again for a Portuguese tasting of Port and Douro wines at the Design Exchange. My top wines were Quinta do Vallado Reserva Field Blend 2009, Lavradores de Feitoria Meruge 2007, Graham’s Chryseia 2007, and Quinta do Noval Touriga Nacional 2008. These wines are pretty pricey, though. Best value: Veedha 2008 ($12.95). Spent some time admiring the Quinta do Noval ports. Especially liked Noval Black, Noval Colheita 1997 and Quinta do Noval Vintage 2008.

In the evening Deborah and I were invited to Shirley Pape’s 75th birthday dinner at the Donalda Club. I had a lobster angel hair pasta starter and Berkshire Pork belly and scallops. The wines: Jaffelin Pouilly-Fuissé 2009 followed by Kim Crawford Pinot Noir 2009.

Wednesday, October 19: Rachel, the Clutter Lady, spent an hour and half in my office, making me throw out stuff. A difficult morning, redeemed by the prospect of going to the Spoke Club in the afternoon to taste Ornellaia.

  • Ornellaia Le Volte 2009: deep ruby colour with a nose of ripe cherries and cedar; firmly structured, medium-bodied, raisiny with a velvety mouth feel. (89)
  • Ornellaia Le Serre Nuove 2009 (the second wine of Ornellaia – 54% Merlot, 31% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc): deep ruby colour; ripe red berry fruit on the nose; rich and elegant, succulent mouth feel; well integrated oak with a dark chocolate and cherry-berry flavour. (91)
  • Ornellaia 2008 (54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot): dense purple-ruby colour; truffle and blackcurrant nose with a floral top note; sweet, ripe black fruit flavours, firmly structured and beautifully crafted with rounded tannins. (93)
  • Ornus dell’Ornellaia 2008 (100% Petit Manseng): amber colour; a nose of orange marmalade, honey and spice; very Sauternes-like in its barley sugar flavour, beautifully balanced and not too sweet. (92)

In the evening, a very rainy evening, down to Steam Whistle Brewing for sip&Savour Ontario. A very good attendance in spite of the weather. A good venue for this event that features the medal winning wines from the Ontario Wine Awards matched with finger food prepared by local chefs.

Thursday, October 20: Researching an article on sake for Post City Magazines. Went to EDO and Barry Chaim led me through a tasting of 8 sakes. Then down to George Restaurant to taste Charles Baker’s Rieslings.

  • Charles Baker Riesling Ivan Vineyard 2010 (20 Mile Bench): straw colour with a lime tint; a floral nose of citrus, pear and minerals; medium-bodied, off-dry, honeyed lime flavour with lively acidity. (91)
  • Charles Baker Riesling Piccone Vineyard 2009 (Vinemount): straw-lime colour; developing petrol ntes on the nose, minerally, lme pulp bouquet; very Mosel in style, very crisp and dry, grapefruit flavour with piercing acidity cutting through the foral notes; nicely balanced though there is a suggestion of browning apple on the finish. (89)

I met Charles at George because I was having dinner there with Chris Wyse of Burrowing Owl.

  • Burrowing Owl Pinot Gris 2010: very pale colour; peach pit, minerally nose with a floral note; spicy peach and pear flavours, good mid-palate fruit with a sweet apple finish. (89)
  • Burrowing Owl Chardonnay 2008: straw colour with a spicy oak, minerally, toasty nose; rich caramel and citrus flavours; mouth-filling, full bore Chardonnay, creamy on the palate with rich, spicy tropical fruit flavours and a nutty finish. (90)
  • Burrowing Owl Pinot Noir 2009: deep ruby colour; candied raspberry nose with a touch of oak and a note of violets; full-bodied, sweet raspberry and plum flavours; a little hot (alcohol) on the finish but hedonistic. (89+)
  • Burrowing Owl Athene 2009 (Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah): deep ruby colour; vanilla oak, tobacco, blackcurrant with a spicy, floral note on the nose; elegant licorice and blackcurrant flavours carried on a strong spine of acidity to a firm finish. (90)
  • Burrowing Owl Cabernet Franc 2008: deep ruby colour; creamy, cedar and red berry nose; very true varietally with good mid-palate fruit and a dark chocolate finish; firm structure and lively acidity. (89)
  • Burrowing Owl Merlot 2008: deep ruby colour; a nose of blueberry pie and cedar with a floral grace note; full on the palate and beautifully balanced. A very tasty wine. (91)
  • Burrowing Owl Syrah 2008: deep ruby colour; savoury blackberry and black olive nose with spicy oak; quintessential South Okanagan Syrah, sweet, peppery blackberry fruit with driving acidity supported by creamy oak. (91)
  • Burrowing Owl Meritage 2008: deep ruby colour; cedar, vanilla oak and blackcurrant nose with a floral note; ripe fruit, firmly structured, Cab Franc-driven full-bodied flavour of blackcurrants and plums. (90)
  • Burrowing Owl Coruja (owl in Portuguese): a Syrah-based “port” blended in a solera. Sweet mulberry flavour. The spirit is not yet melded with the fruit. Hold for 3–4 years. (88)

Friday, October 21: A Vintages release tasting this morning. In the evening I met up with my old friend Pat Burroughs, who took me to a friend of his who has an annual wine party for his friends. Each year it’s a different theme. This year, Piemonte and the Rhône. The wines available for tasting were:

  • 2007 Ceretto Barolo Brunate
  • 2007 Massolino Serralunge d’Alba Barolo
  • 2005 Marchesi di Barolo Barolo
  • 2005 Fenocchio Barolo Bussia
  • 2005 Ceretto Barbaresco Bricco Asili
  • 2006 Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco
  • 2007 Chapoutier Hermitage La Sizeranne
  • 2007 Guigal St. Joseph
  • 2006 Guigal Côte-Rôtie
  • 2007 Cornas several producers
  • A vertical of Château de Beaucastel 1986, ’88, ’89, ’90, ’93, ’94, ’95 (the outstanding wine was 1989)

Saturday, October 22: Today is the annual wine tour for sponsors of the Ontario Wine Awards. This year we visited Niagara College Teaching winery. Winemaker Terence Van Rooyen toured us around the winery and led us through a tasting of the following wines:

  • Niagara College Unoaked Chardonnay 2009
  • Niagara College Dean’s List Chardonnay 2009
  • Niagara College Dean’s List Pinot Noir 2009
  • Niagara College Dean’s List Cabernet Franc 2009
  • Niagara College Meritage 2007
  • Prodigy Icewine 2009 (a blend of Vidal, Riesling and chardonnay, co-fermented)

The we had lunch at Benchmark, the college’s student restaurant (an excellent meal). Hand-cut bitter greens salad, scallion-ginger vinaigrette, toasted hazelnuts, crumbled smoked bacon, Caramelized Niagara Pears, with Good Earth Rosé 2009. Spinach & goat cheese stuffed chicken supreme, sweet potato galette, seasonal vegetables, carmelized onion, red wine jus, with Niagara College Sauvignon Blanc 2009 and Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve Pinot Noir 2008.

Then back on the bus to Twase for a tour of Tawse and tasting of Tawse Echos Rosé 2010, Tawse Estate Chardonnay 2009, Tawse Riesling Sketches 2009, Tawse Van Bers Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2008, Tawse Meritage 2008 and Tawse Chardonnay Icewine 2008.

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