Sunday, February 19: My sister-in-law Suzanne (who spends half her life in Paris) has her French goddaughter Mathilde staying with her at the moment. They came to dinner this evening with Guy, Deborah and me. I decided to introduce her to Canadian wine. We started with Henry of Pelham Rosé Brut and then moved to Flat Rock Pinot Noir Reserve 2009 with barbecue steak, Quails’ Gate Merlot 2008 with the cheese and Tinhorn Creek Kerner Icewine 2009 with crème brûlée. Mathilde, who is 23, was duly impressed.
Monday, February 20: Family Day. Spent the day with Deborah and Pinot the Wonder Dog. In the evening Deborah and I went down to the Drake Hotel for the launch of a new, hip food and wine internet site, Swallow. Then Deborah, Cynthia David and I tried to find a place to eat. Dropped by Gand Electric but they said no table for 90 minutes. Tried a couple of other places and finally ended up at Wurst on King West. Didn’t realise it was only sausages – I thought they were trying to deflect criticism by their name. Shared three different sausages with French fries (and “Dirty Fries” – a kind of vegetarian poutine as far as I could make out) and a Quebec beer.
Tuesday, February 21: A make-up tasting at Vintages for a session I missed when I was in California. Zoltan Szabo returning from Peru came straight from the airport to help me out.
I picked up Deborah from Restoration Hardware at 5 pm and we drove down to overnight at the Sheraton on the Falls for a “Friends & Family” soft opening of Windows by Jamie Kennedy. We could choose what we wanted from the small plates menu. I ordered vegetarian tartlet with peppers and goat cheese (melts in the mouth) with a glass of Elena Walsh Pinot Grigio 2010. Deborah: Root vegetable salad with a glass of Magnotta Special Reserve Semillon. Me: Pork and beans. Deborah: Duck leg crepe with Upper Canada comfort cream and Niagara cherry pastrique. Then we shared a chicken pot pie. Dessert: Pouding chomeur and tarte tatin.
Wednesday, February 22: Deborah dropped me off at First Canadian Place for a tasting of the top scoring wine from each winery that will be participating in Cuvée next month. Shopped at Vintages for the wines I’ve selected for a tasting arranged by my son Guy for his friends on Friday. For dinner, baked salmon with Cedar Creek Platinum Chardonnay 2009 (straw colour with a spicy, tropical fruit nose with citrus notes; medium-bodied, elegant and well balanced with a lovely mouth feel. (90)).
Thursday, February 23: To Costco to pick up supplies for Friday’s tasting – beer cups for spittoons, bottled water, napkins, etc. Then down to the Fermentation Cellar in the Distillery District for a portfolio tasting of wines imported by Treasury Wine Estates. Began with a series of eleven Australian Shiraz, the highlights of which were Saltram Marme Brook Shiraz 2008 (90) and Penfolds Magill Estate Shiraz 2006 (92). I didn’t get around to everything on offer – there were 76 wines available – but the other great-tasting wines were Etude Chardonnay 2009 (90), Etude Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (91), St. Clement Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (91), and Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (91). But the wine of the day was Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 1990 – smooth as silk, tasting like a majestic claret (93). For dinner, pork loin with Babich Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (this wine has some residual sweetness that worked well with the pork).
Friday, February 24: A Vintages release tasting this morning, 132 wines. Mercifully Zoltan Szabo shared the tasting with me. This evening, Guy’s wine tasting for 24 of his friends in the party room at his condo. The food was catered by a work colleague of Deborah’s who arrived so late Guy was having kittens. We poured Prosecco as the guests arrived and then sat down to taste the following:
- Henry of Pelham Riesling 2008 (Ontario) served with coconut shrimp
- Bachelder Bourgogne Chardonnay 2009 (Burgundy) served with basil chicken satay
- Bachelder Niagara Chardonnay 2009 (Ontario)
- Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (New Zealand)
- Louis Jadot Beaune Theurons 2006 (Burgundy) served with stuffed mushroom caps
- DeLoach Pinot Noir 2006 (Sonoma, California)
- Chateau de Monturon 2009 (St. Emilion, Bordeaux) served with Moroccan lamb
- Penfolds Bin 128 Shiraz 2008 (Coonawarra, Australia) served with spicy beef side rib
- Jackson-Triggs Vidal Icewine 2007 (Ontario) served with fresh pineapple chunks
Saturday, February 25: Tasted some new wines from Niagara College Teaching Winery.
Niagara College Teaching Winery Canadian Oak Pinot Noir 2009: light, tawny ruby in colour; sweet coconut and sandalwood and raspberry nose; medium-bodied, dry, with a soft, velvety mouth feel and a crisp finish. Good length with a tannic lift on the finish to give the wine structure. Drink within two years. (90)
Niagara College Teaching Winery Canadian Oak Pinot Noir 2010: tawny ruby, a little deeper in hue than 2009 (spent less time in oak); oak not as obvious on the nose with the fruit more apparent, lifted notes of blackcurrant, vanilla and fresh mushroom; very elegant with more structure and grip than 2009 but with that same velvety mouth feel, only fresher. Warm alcoholic finish. Will age 2–3 years. (91)
Niagara Teaching College Winery Cabernet Franc Vin de Curé Desiccato 2010: Winemaker Terence van Rooyen began making appassimento style wines (drying the bunches before fermentation) but under VQA regulations he couldn’t use the term on the label, so he coined the name “Desiccato” to signify the desiccation of the berries (a name which the VQA has accepted). One tonne of grapes from the College vineyard were picked at 24 Brix. Half the tonne was dried for 13 days, after which the grapes measured 32 Brix. The wine was fermented to 17% alcohol and aged in new French oak. The other half tonne was fermented conventionally, barrel-aged for a year and then blended in and the total volume put back in French oak for four months. The resulting wine weighs in at 14.9%. The wine is deep ruby in colour with a sweetish nose of dates and plums, cedar and a rose petal note; full-bodied, well integrated oak, sweet red pepper and plum flavours (totally umami) that finish dry and savoury with powdery tannins. An interesting way to deal with Cabernet Franc’s characteristic vegetal notes. (90)