A Wine Lover’s Diary, part 380: Great Austrians

Monday, January 30: Wrote my commentary for Tidings magazine on the subject of Passe-Tout-Grains, a blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay – a wine I think Ontario should be making. In the evening Deborah and I went to Mideastro on Yorkville Avenue for the annual Wine Writers Circle Christmas dinner. It’s traditionally held in January because we’re all too busy to have it in December. I brought along a bottle of Stratus Merlot 2002 and Porto Carras Syrah 2003. We all put our bottles on the table and sampled each other’s wines. At the bar, a glass of Bottega Prosecco. My menu:

Canapé of mini babaganoush, hummus and fried eggplant, served with black olive bread.

First course: black truffle carpaccio (12 week aged Wagyu tenderloin rolled in arugula, Parmigano Reggiano, balsamic and black truffle oil on a layer of pomegranate honey reduction).

Second course: grilled calamari served on lime root vegetable cream and oxtail caviar lentil pot au feu.

Third course: sea bream couscous.

Fourth course: homemade pastille stuffed with dry fruit, dark chocolate with coconut semifreddo and garnished with mint and white chocolate coulis.

The wines:

  • Wither hills Sauvignoon Blanc 2010
  • Astrolabe Pinot Gris 2010
  • Spy Valley Riesling 2010
  • Nautilus Sauvignon Blanc 2010
  • Pasquale Alma Mater 2010
  • Château Pipeau 2005
  • Ancient Peaks Syrah 2007
  • Etim Old vine Grenache 2005
  • Chakana Reserva Malbec 2008
  • Domaine Pierre Fil Cuvée Elesyces 2007
  • Volpaia Citto 2008
  • Panther Creek Reserve Petite Syrah 2007
  • Tyrone Estate Devine Shiraz 2007

Finished the evening with a glass of Bottega Chocolate Grappa.

Tuesday, January 31: To the Spoke Club at 12:45 pm for an event called “Trialto Wine Group presents ‘Speaking of Wine.'” David Schofield from BC and Alex Gaunt from Ontario had brought together seven of their principals, who spoke about making wine in their region: Paul Dolan from Californa, Laura Catena from Argentin, Telmo Rodriguez from Rioja, Alberto Antonini from Tuscany, Isabelle Meunier from Oregon (who used to be Thomas Bachelder’s assistant winemaker at Le Clos Jordanne), Jacques Lurton from Bordeaux (and everywhere else) and Piero Incisa, who is making wine in Patgonia. After the seminar (and a glass of sparkling wine) we moved back into the room where the winemakers each presented two of their wines. My favourites were Bodega Chacra Treinta y Dos 2009 (from Patagonia, 92), Catena Zapata Nicolas Catena Zapata 2007 (92), Evening Land Pinot Noir Blue Label 2010 (91), Poggiotondo Vigna Conchiglie 2008 (90). Also in the tasting Southbrook Triomphe Chardonnay 2010 (91). In the evening, a visit to my chiropractor to try and sort out my ankle sprain, which has aggravated an old knee injury.

Wednesday, February 1: A tasting at Doug Towers’s house for winerytohome.com. For dinner, grilled salmon with a bottle of Louis Miguel Chardonnay 2010, one of the great bargains at the LBCO (dry, pear and apple flavours).

Thursday, February 2: Wrote my monthly article for Lexpert magazine on Paso Robles – the California wine region that gets no respect. Back to the chiropractor for another (painful) session. In the evening a meeting at Malcolm Jolley’s house to discuss RAW! The Great Toronto Tartare-Off with the committee. Arrangements are coming along just fine with many top chefs committed to participate.

Friday, February 3: A tasting of Austrian wines at 12:30 pm in their offices on St. Clair. Eleven Grüner Vetliners. Really enjoyed Schloss Gobelsburg Kammerner Renner Grüner Veltliner 2009 (rich, minerally, peach and licorice flavours; elegant and beautifully balanced – 90), Rudolf Rabl Käferberg Grüner Veltliner Reserve 2009 (minerally, white peach flavour, light on the palate – 89), Nigl Gärtling Grüner Veltliner 2010 (floral, green peach, minerally, white pepper flavour, lemony finish – 88). Best value Steininger Kamptal DAC Grüner Veltliner 2010 (floral nose, Mirabelle plum flavour, soft mouth feel, great balance – 89).

The Grüners were followed by five Austrian reds. My top scores to Judith Beck Judith Cuvée 2007 (Blaufränkisch, St. Laurent & Merlot – spicy, pencil lead, black cherry flavour with a floral note, elegant and firmly structured – 89), Weingut Heinrich Qualitätswein Blaufränkisch 2007 (spicy blueberry and red berry flavours, tannic finish – 88). Best value: Weingut Meinhard Forstreiter Zvy-gelt Zweigelt 2008 (fruity, peppery cherry; easy drinking, good length – 88).

Invited to dinner by our friends Renee and Ivor Simmons, who insisted we bring along Pinot the Wonder Dog. Took her a while to settle in the new surroundings and naturally she barked all the way there and all the way back. Renee made a pumpkin and tomato soup (served with Goose Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2009 and salmon). We drank Château Branaire Ducru 1995 and Château Batailley 1967 (which was still alive) with a cheddar made in Wisconsin by students at a local agricultural school and packaged in tins. Very good indeed. Fruit tart for dessert.

Saturday, February 4: Drove to Niagara Falls to conduct a staff training seminar on wine service for the new Jamie Kennedy restaurant in the Sheraton Hotel. Opened ten wines from the list for the servers to sample. Stayed overnight at the hotel, as I have another seminar tomorrow. Watched the Leaf trounce the Senators 5–0 and fell asleep at 10 pm to the sound of the Falls.

Sunday, February 5: Woke up at 7:30 am and the Falls are still there. Worked on the novel before going downstairs for the seminar on food and wine, matching with Chef Ross Midgely to the wines by the glass I had chosen for Windows’ wine list. Back in Toronto I watched the Superbowl, drinking a bottle of Rodney Strong Merlot 2008 with veal scaloppini that Deborah had prepared. Great match with the ripe blueberry fruit and nicely judged oak treatment (88).

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