Monday, April 2: Today is my Pinot Noir Day, beginning with the California Wine Fair. An early morning seminar on Sonoma Pinot Noir led by Evan Goldstein MS and John Szabo (whom Evan referred to as the Mick Jagger of Toronto Sommeliers). Evan is an engaging speaker and fed us some interesting facts: Pinot Noir is 1% of the total vines plantings in the world and one-third of these are in France (most of which are in Champagne). Sonoma County has more soil types than all of France. He was amused that Ontario regulations state than the consumption of beverage alcohol in licensed premises cannot begin before 11 am.
The 8 wines (7 from the magnificent 2009 vintage) were:
- Flowers Vineyard & Winery Sea View Ridge Pinot Noir 2009 (89)
- Joseph Swan Vineyards Saralee’s Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009 (88)
- Freeman Winery Keefer Ranch Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009 (91)
- Patz & Hall Chenoweth Ranch Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009 (89)
- Sequana Dutton Ranch Pinot Noir 2009 (90)
- Kosta Brown Gap’s Crown Pinot Noir 2009 (88)
- Hartford Court Land’s Edge Pinot Noir 2009 (90)
- Siduri Wines Keefer Ranch Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010 (90)
After the trade lunch at which Evan Goldstein spoke, I headed for the Press Room, where many of the wines had been set out for the wine press to taste – mercifully away from the crush of people in the ballroom. I concentrated on California Pinot Noirs here, tasting another fourteen. The best for my palate were Kenneth Volk Santa Maria Cuvée 2008, Dierberg Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir 2008 and Aquinas Pinot Noir 2009.
In the evening I went to the York Club, where I conducted a Pinot Noir dinner to raise funds for Grapes for Humanity, featuring 8 wines from around the world served blind. In order:
- Hidden Bench Locust Lane Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008 (Ontario)
- Le Clos Jordanne Claystone Terrace (Ontario)
- Domaine de Montille Pommard Les Pezerolles 2004 (Burgundy)
- Louis Latour Corton Clos de Lavigne au Saint 2005 (Burgundy)
- Faiveley Gevrey-Chambertin Les Cazetiers 2005 (Burgundy)
- Jane Hunter Hunter’s Pinot Noir 2009 (New Zealand)
- Benton Lane Winery Pinot Noir 2008 (Oregon)
- Rochioli Vineyards Pinot Noir 2007 (Sonoma)
The wine of the night for me was the Rochioli, which reinforces my judgement that the Russian River is the best region for Pinot Noir in California.
Tuesday, April 3: Wrote my Lexpert column on Tokaji. Learned in my research that Hungary is the only country in the world whose national anthem celebrates a wine. In the third verse of Himnusz, written in 1823 by Ferenc Kölcsey, their nationally renowned poet, are the words:
For us on the plains of the Kuns
You ripened the wheat
In the grape fields of Tokaj
You dripped sweet nectar…
Tasted the following wines this afternoon:
- San Pedro Gato Nero Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (Chile – $8.95): deep ruby colour; a nose of cedar, blackcurrants with a woodsy note; medium-bodied, fruity, soft on the palate with a touch of sweetness. Easy drinking and good value. (86)
- Masserie Pisari Salento Rosso Primitivo 2010 (Puglia – $14.95): deep ruby colour; earthy-leathery plum nose; spicy, rustic plum flavour, firm tannic finish. (86)
- Two Oceans Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2011 (South Africa – $9.95): solid ruby colour; smoky, earthy, black cherry nose; Band-Aid note in the flavour, a little coarse with a tannic finish. (85)
- Flat Roof Manor Merlot 2010 (South Africa – $10.95): ruby colour; cedar, smoky, blueberry with a tobacco leaf note; nicely balanced, fresh acidity with a firm finish. (86+)
- Two Oceans Shiraz 2011 (South Africa – $9.95): ruby colour; rubbery, smoky red berry nose; not much varietal character. Short with a blunt finish. (84)
- Obikwa Shiraz 2011 (South Africa – $8.95): ruby colour; smoky blackberry and cola nose; medium-bodied, fruity, not a lot of Shiraz character but an easy-drinking wine with a solid tannic finish. (86)
- Durban Hills Shiraz 2009 (South Africa – $11.95): ruby colour; a bouquet of leather and blackberry with a spicy note; smoky, creamy blackberry flavour with a touch of vanilla oak; medium-bodied, finishes firmly. Well made. (87)
- Nederburg The Winemaster’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (South Africa – $10.95): ruby colour; smoky, earthy, blackcurrant nose; velvety mouth feel, dry, herbal, blackberry flavour, medium-bodied, good length. (87)
- San Pedro 35° South Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2010 (Chile – $12.85): straw colour; minerally, gooseberry and green leaf nose; light on the palate, crisply dry with lemony acidity. (87)
Wednesday, April 4: After a dental appointment for a cleaning (my dentist sends me articles torn out of hs profession’s magazine about what wine does to your teeth) I went down to the RCYC’s land-based club to the annual Bouchard Père & Fils Burgundy tasting. Sampled the 2010 reds and whites and the Chablis of William Fèvre.
2010 is what the Burgundians call a “classic” vintage: it’s light and elegant and firmly structured, lacking the concentration and power of the 2009 but not without charm. Of the reds I like Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Nuits Saint-Georges Les Cailles 2010 (91) and Le Corton 2010 (91). The Volnay Caillerets Ancienne Cuvée Carnot 2010 and Vigne de L’Enfand Jésu 2010 were also very good. Surprised by the quality of the Savigny-Les Beaune Les Lavières 2010. My top whites were Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Beaune Clos Saint Landry 2010 and Corton Charlemagne 2010.
Ordered in Chinese food and opened a bottle of Henry of Pelham Off-Dry Riesling 2009, which was the perfect match of General Tsao’s Chicken and Orange Beef.
Thursday, April 5: spent much of the day on the Ontario Wine Awards, matching up the tasting panels and assigning flights. We have 482 wines entered this year and the usual problems of vintages not matching the wine entered. And in one instance, instead of a case of wine arriving, we got a case of latex gloves. Did some tasting in the afternoon:
- Calvet Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2010 (Bordeaux – $13.95): ruby colour; cedar, red berry nose; dry, savoury, almost herbal flavour of sour cherry and redcurrant; firm tannic finish. (85)
- Yvon Mau Merlot 2010 (Vin de Pays de L’Aude – $8.95): deep ruby; woody, cherry pit nose; sweet cherry and pencil lead flavour. (86)
- Les Jamelles Merlot 2010 (Vin de Pays d’Oc – $12.95): ruby colour; vanilla oak, minty, redcurrant nose; medium-bodied, easy drinking, red fruit flavours carried on lively acidity. (86)
- Las Rocas de San Alejandro Garnacha 2009 (Calatayud, Spain – $14.95): deep ruby colour; spicy, black cherry, oak note; a flavour of strawberries and cherries and warm earth; ripe and succulent with a chalky tannin finish. (87)
- Flat Rock The Rogue Concoction 2010 (Ontario – a secret blend – $30): aromatic, spicy nose of apples and orange blossom; soft mouth feel, spicy Gewurz-like mid palate with a fennel note; sustains well on the palate to a dry finish. (89)
- Batasiolo Bosc DLA REI Moscato d’Asti 2011 (Piemonte): pale straw with an evident fizz; floral, orange and honey nose; off-dry, light on the palate, semi-sweet. Like biting into a Muscat grape. 5.5% alcohol. (88)
Cooked salmon for dinner and opened a bottle of Marimar Estate Don Miguel Vineyard La Masia Chardonnay 2007, a rich, spicy mix of orange blossom, peach and creamy vanilla oak with touch of the forest floor on the nose; full-bodied with a lovely mouth feel and a nutty finish (90).
Friday, April 6: Last minute preparations for tomorrow’s judging of the Ontario Wine Awards. On the phone with Jeff Baker in New York, who created the computer program for the Awards, getting the latest file with all the wines put into flights and sequenced by residual sugar.
Deborah made a beef stir fry and I opened a bottle of Wakefield St. Andrews Single Vineyard Release Shiraz 2006 from the Clare Valley (dense purple colour with a bouquet of vanilla oak, cedar, pencil lead and sweet blackberry; full-bodied, bold upfront fruit, jammy and soft on the palate but finishing with lively acidity – 89).
Saturday, April 7: Up early to get everything together for the first day of Judging of the Ontario Wine Awards at Crush Wine Bar. Three panels of four judges each judge about 70 wines each.
In the evening Deborah and I drove up to Caledon for Easter dinner with Deborah’s niece and her family. I brought along Quails’ Gate Rosé 2011, which disappeared very quickly (rhubarb and redcurrant flavours, fresh, lively and crisply dry – 88), Niagara College Unoaked Chardonnay 2009 (spicy, sweet rhubarb, apple and peach flavours ith citrus acidity; medium-bodied, good length – 89), Closson Chase Watson Vineyards Chardonnay 2009 (high-tined, caramel and tropical fruit flavours; spicy, voluptuous and mouth-filling; toasty, nutty, sweet apple finish – 89), Lakeview Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2007 (earthy-floral, sweet spicy blackurrant; richly extracted with dusty tannins – 88), and Sokol Blosser Meditrina (vanilla, marzipan, red berry nose; dry, savoury, plummy red berry flavour – 87).