A Wine Lover’s Diary, part 366: The Halpern Tasting

Monday, October 24: Had lunch at Grano with Sandy Ward and talked about social media over a glass of Cusumano Syrah 2010 and a plate of risotto. In the afternoon wrote a piece about Georgian kvevri for Lexpert Magazine.

In the evening to Barberian’s, where Sandro Boscaini hosted a dinner in the cellar to show his Amarones. With hors d’oeuvres of smoked salmon, roasted red pepper and goat’s cheese crostini, and shaved prime rib roast crostini with horseradish Dijon mayo we tasted Masi Masianco 2010 (a pleasant, easy-drinking blend of Pinot Grigio and Verduzzo) and Masi Campofiorin 2008 (not as concentrated as the magnificent 2007 but more approachable.) At the table we tasted the following wines before the meal.

  • Masi Brolo di Campofiorin 2007 (Brolo is the name of the clos in which the grapes for the original Campofiorin in 1964 were grown. The ’64 Campofiorin, incidentally, was the first wine ever from the Veneto region I tasted – in London. It was an offering by the Sunday Times Wine Club selected by Hugh Johnson): deeply coloured with a roasted, smoky nose of black cherries and a floral note; and a suggestion of orange zest in the flavour. (89)
  • Masi Campolongo di Torbe Amarone Classico 2004: dense purple colour; a minerally nose of cherries, plums and raisins; sweet and plump but balanced by lively acidity; rich and spicy and fleshy. (90)
  • Masi Mazzano Amarone Classico 2004 (grown at a greater height than Campolongo): dense purple colour; minerally, spicy nose with a minty note; leaner and more elegant than Campolongo; fresh and lively on the palate with flavour of cherries, very firm and beautifully balanced; lean and sinewy with dark chocolate notes. A marathon runner compared with Campolongo’s sprinter. (92)
  • Masi Costasera Amarone Classico 2000: deep ruby colour; intense cherry bouquet; firmly structured, licorice, blackcurrant and dark chocolate flavours. A gorgeous wine, drinking beautifully. (91)
  • Masi Costasera Amarone Classico 1998: dense purple-ruby in colour with a nose of plums and dates and milk chocolate; flavours of coffee beans and blackcurrants burst on the palate; lively acidity gives the wine great length. (93)
  • Masi Costasera Amarone Classico 1995: deep ruby colour; high toned nose with a sour cherry bouquet; lighter in style than the other two vintages but still richly extracted with a mature dry, cherry and plum taste; reminiscent of a light port with a floral note. (90)

The meal followed: Tourchon of Foie Gras served with a blackberry and shallot compote, with Masi Brolo di Campofiornin 2007. US Prime New York Strip Loin with scalloped potatoes, Heirloom carrots and wild mushrooms, with Masi Costasera Amarone 2007 (a huge wine with sweet cherry and plum flavours laced with spices; great balance and still very youthful (92)). A selection of cheeses was served with Masi Campolongo di Torbe Amarone Classico 1997. At this point of the evening I had to leave and regrettably missed the dessert of cheesecake served with Masi Serego Aligheri Casal Dei Ronchi Recioto Classico 2007 and in my haste to catch the subway forgot to make notes on the 1997 Campolongo.

Tuesday, October 25: This morning the Clutter Lady came again to sort out my office. Everything is beautifully organized but I can’t find a thing.

A portfolio tasting of Rob Groh’s agency The Vine at the Thompson Landry gallery in the Distillery District. A miserable place to get to in the rain by TTC. But worth the effort. The centrepiece, as it were, was a vertical tasting of Cave Spring Rieslings – the estate bottling 2005, 2004 and 2003 and the CSV 2004, 2003, 2002. These were all beautifully made wines that just underlined the fact to me that Riesling is Ontario’s natural grape. Very taken with the CSV 2004 as well as the Cave Spring CSV Blanc de Blancs 2004, which I will put on the wine list for Jamie Kennedy on the Falls. Didn’t get to taste a wide selection of other wines, but those that I enjoyed were Cocci Grifoni Vigna Messieri Rosso Piceno Superiore 2006, Groth Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, Heartland Shiraz 2008 and McManis Petite Sirah 2009.

Took a cab over to Lee’s Restaurant on King Street to hear the announcement of the winners (and to eat their winning dishes) of the Vanguards of Culinary Fusion and Wine Pairing contest, held last week at the Pantages Hotel. Nine chefs had to create dishes to match a selection of wines from Alsace and the Rhône. Chefs Shane Straiko from Pantages Hotel and Misha Nesterenko from Marben in Toronto were the ultimate winners. We tasted their dishes with the wines they had chosen to match them.

Misha Nesterenko, Marben:

Pig head Presskopf, celeriac remoulade, granny smith apple purée, endive and autumn leaf salad, maple mustard jus, with Léon Beyer Pinot Gris 2009.

Braised short ribs, curly kale, horseradish pomme puree, butter glazed vegetables, fine herbs, with Chapoutier Côtes-du-Rhône Villages Rasteau 2009.

Shane Straiko, Pantages Hotel:

Chilean sea bass, citrus saffron fondant potato, baby spinach and strawberry balsamic salsa, with Pierre Sparr Alsace Gewurztraminer 2009.

Cinnamon citrus crème caramel, hickory chocolate ice cream, maple foie gras reduction, with Ogier Marquis de Valclair Gigondas 2009.

Wednesday, October 26: Worked on my Wines of the Week, then gave Pinot a long walk in the park. In the evening I went over to my son Guy’s condo to watch the final of the Rugby World Cup between France and New Zealand. I had made a great effort to avoid reading the Sports pages so I wouldn’t know the result. Brought with me a bottle of Grange of Prince Edward Trumpour’s Mill Estate Pinot Noir 2008 (ruby colour; violets and raspberry nose; concentrated sweet raspberry jam flavour; fruit-driven with a touch of minerality and fine spine of acidity. A really good effort for $16.95 (88)). The score was 8–7 in favour of the All Blacks ten minutes left in the game when the recording stopped! I had to go on the net to find that that was the final result.

Thursday, October 27: My daughter Annabel arrives from Vancouver today for her high school reunion. In the afternoon down to Allstream in Exhibition Place for the Halpern Grand Cru portfolio tasting. There is more fine wine in one room here than any other event in Toronto short of Vintages Fine Wine Auction pre-tasting. Outside the building Todd Halpern had brought in a tiger and an elephant from the Bowmanville Zoo, which attracted a lot of attention.


Inside I made a beeline for the Gaja table, where Gaia Gaja was pouring her father’s wines. Tasted Gaja Barbaresco 2008, Gaja Langhe Darmagi 2006 and Gaja Ca’Marcanda 2007. Great stuff. Very pleased to see Etienne Hugel beaming with happiness because he has a new woman in his life. Other standout wines of the limited number I tasted (there were 215 wines listed in the catalogue): Gosset Grand Rosé Brut Champagne, Cerreto Barol Bricco Assili 2007, De Martino La Aguada Single Vineyard Old Bush Vines 2008 (Carignane, Malbec, Carmenère and Cinsault), Faiveley Gevrey-Chambertin La Combe aux Moines 2009, Hechy & Bannier Côtes du Roussillon Villages 2008, Isole e Olena Uvaggio Coste della Sesia Rosso 2007 (Nebbiolo in Piemonte), Vega Sicilia Valbuena 2006. Best values: Cantine Marchesi Fumanelli Valpolicella 2010 ($13.80) and Weingut Heitlinger Burg Ravensburg Riesling Dry 2010 ($15.65).

I teamed up with Stephen Pauwels, whose company, Pauwels Travel, arranges the logistics for the annual wine trips that I lead to Europe (next year Piemonte and Emilia Romagna). We visited the winemakers we’ll be seeing on the trip. In the evening to Rossini’s restaurant for the annual dinner of the group who will be coming on the trip next year. To give them a taste of what they can expect I brought along Castello di Nieve 2006, 2007, 2008 and Marchesi di Gresy Martinenga Barbaresco 2006.

Friday, October 28: Deborah took the 9:30 am train to Montreal for her high school reunion. A Vintages tasting this morning. Not as large as usual because the November 26th release has been split into two tastings because of the size. Came across a wine called Bombing Range Red with a label depicting a World War One pilot in an open cockpit. There was a red disc covering up what he was holding. It was a glass of red wine. Apparently, the LCBO in its Social Responsibility mode had demanded that the glass of wine be covered up in case it might encourage those who fly World War One planes to drink wine while they’re doing so.

Bombing Range Red with dot Bombing Range Red original

In the evening I took Annabel (whose birthday is coming up on November 6th), Guy and his girlfriend Sasha to dinner at Rodney’s. I bought along Thirty Bench Samll Lot Riesling Wooden Post Vineyard 2010 and William Fèvre Chablis Bourgos 2004. We started with oysters and then I had deep-fried calamari and steamed mussels.

Later in the evening I conducted a tasting at a private home – an auction item for the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic. I poured the following wines:

  • Mission Hill Reserve Chardonnay 2010
  • Caliterra Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2011
  • Chateau des Charmes Gewurztraminer 2008
  • Trius Red 2009
  • Tinhorn Creek 2 Bench Red 2008
  • Gallo Family Frei Ranch Zinfandel 2007
  • Peller Estates Vidal Icewine 2010
  • Peller Estates Oak-Aged Vidal Icewine 2010

Saturday, October 29: Conducted a wine and cheese tasting at the Home Show. Three cheeses donated by the Dairy Farmers of Canada – a brie, cheddar and a blue. The wines: Thirty Bench Riesling 2009, Peller Estates Chardonnay 2009, Hillebrand White blend 2010, Trius Red 2008, Thirty Bench Red 2008 and Peller Estates Cabernet Franc 2008.

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