A Wine Lover’s Diary, part 391: Tasting without The Donald

Monday, April 16: A received an email telling me that a number of California winemakers are secretly producing wines laced with cannabis. And what grape blends best with pot? Well, it seems to be Cabernet Sauvignon, particularly Cab grape grown in the Stag’s Leap district. One pound of marijuana is put into a cask of fermenting wine, apparently, which means that each bottle will contain 1.5 grams. A new kind of high.

In the afternoon I went to the Trump Hotel for an Austrian tasting. Today the hotel was officially open and there were high-ranking cops in dress uniform hanging round the lobby as The Donald was in the house. It was a very hot day and the hotel had not switched on the air conditioning. Conditions in the tasting room were brutal with over 400 people crowded into the room where the wines of 30 producers were being poured. I concentrated on Grüner Veltliner. My top wines were Kurt Angerer “Eichenstaude” Grüner Veltliner 2010, Bründlmayer Reserve Alte Reben Grüner Veltliner 2010, Salomon Undhof Reserve Von Stein Grüner Veltliner 2010, Nigl Reserve “Privat Pellingen” Grüner Veltliner 2010. Best value: Rabl Klassik Spiegel Grüner Veltliner 2011 and Salomon Undhof Riesling Auslese 2006.

Dinner at home, grilled salmon with a bottle of Flat Rock Cellars Rusty Shed Chardonnay 2010 (straw coloured with a spicy, floral, peach nose and notes of forest floor; full-bodied flavours of buttered popcorn, pineapple and lemon acidity (90)).

Tuesday, April 17: Spent the morning at St. Joseph’s Hospital in the Fracture Clinic. A new set of X-rays shows I have a fractured fibula in my right leg as well as a hairline fracture of the ankle (luckily the ankle is healing well, apparently). The doctor recommends I go to a sports medicine clinic for exercises to strengthen the muscles.

Picked up wines donated by Geddy Lee for Grapes for Humanity’s silent auction on May 4th. Tickets are sold out for the event.

Dinner at Grace Restaurant on College Street. I brought a bottle of Fromm Clayvin Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010 (deeply coloured; high toned black cherry nose; earthy, spicy, full-bodied and richly extracted with a silky mouth feel (90)). Had a great meal: guinea fowl and foie gras terrine, halibut cheek tortelloni, marinated grilled quail with black walnut, lentil, Swiss chard and bacon. Dessert: bread and butter pudding.

Wednesday, April 18: Mounds of emails preparing for the Ontario Wine Awards gala on May 4th. In the afternoon got down to some tasting to reduce a backlog of samples building up in my office.

  • Stoney Ridge Pinot Noir Excellence 2009 (Ontario): ruby with a tawny rim; minerally-smoky, dried violets and raspberry nose; dry, elegant with a herbal note; full on the palate. (89+)
  • Quails’ Gate Pinot Noir 2010 (Okanagan Valley): ruby with a purple edge; violets and cherries on the nose; beautifully balanced, elegant, medium-bodied, dry red berry flavour, great acidity that gives the wine length. Velvety mouth feel. (91)
  • Rodney Strong Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (Sonoma): deep ruby; cedar. Blackcurrant and coffee bean nose; medium-bodied, sweet and juicy blackcurrant fruit nicely contained in a ripe tannic structure. (89)
  • Le Vieux Pin Syrah 2009 (Okanagan): deep ruby colour; warm blackberry and sage nose with an animal note; mouth-filling, richly extracted, full-bodied; dry and savoury with lively acidity and a bitter chocolate finish. Evident alcohol. (89)
  • Yvon Mau Colombard Chardonnay 2010 (Côtes de Gascogne): very pale colour; apple, peach pit nose; dry, medium-bodied, fresh acidity with a browning apple finish. (85)
  • Le Vieux Pin Pinot Noir Rosé Vaïla 2011 (Okanagan Valley): salmon pink colour; minerally, sulphur note, wild strawberries on the nose; dry, soft mouth feel before the acidity kicks in to a tart rhubarb finish. (86)
  • Quails’ Gate Chasselas Pinot Blanc Pinot Gris 2011 (Okanagan Valley): almost water white; minerally-smoky, seedy, lemon rind nose; soft on the palate with a white peach, peach pit and lemon flavour; nicely balanced and fresh. (89)
  • Henry of Pelham Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (Ontario): very pale colour; grassy, lemon blossom, minerally nose; dry, soft on the palate with grapefruit and cut grass flavours; good length. (88)
  • Terra Andina Chardonnay 2010 (Central Valley, Chile): very pale lime colour; apple and pineapple nose; sweet fruit with an initial softness on the palate before the acidity kicks in. Simple but tasty and good value (under $10). (86+)
  • Quails’ Gate Chardonnay Stewart Family Reserve 2010 (Okanagan Valley): straw colour; smoky, minerally, toasty tropical fruit nose; rich and ripe fruit flavours, full on the palate with dynamic flavours or tangerine, peach and toasty oak. Great length. (92)

Barry Chaim, the owner of EDO, invited Deborah and me to dinner to discuss a trip to Japan we’re planning next year. His chef Ryo Ozawa, French trained, had prepared a tasting menu and Barry had matched it to wines from his cellar. I brought a long a bottle of Blue Mountain Pinot Noir 2010 (deep ruby colour with a nose of violets, minerals and cherries; beautifully balanced, ripe fruit with a pencil lead note and a firm finish – 91).

We started with sashimi cut yellowtail marinated in maple tamari glaze with real wasabi & sesame, seared tuna with Japanese mustard and miso vinaigrette, and diced raw salmon mixed with avocado, tempura bits, cucumber tobiko, onion and EDO dynamite sauce, served with Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2008.

Egg custard with Nova Scotia lobster, organic beans, green onion and enoki mushroom in lobster bisque, with Hugel Riesling 2007.

US Kobe beef nigiri, with the above-mentioned Blue Mountain Pinot Noir.

Fluke & sea scallop with shiitake, enoki, portobello and white mushrooms, shisso baked in parchment paper, ponzu sauce.

Grilled Kobe striploin steak, red wine teriyaki sauce, steamed shiitake, enoki and seasonal mushrooms, truffled flavoured, risotto style, with Grand Trinel Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2003.

Dessert: Fresh fruit chocolate fondue, with Peller Estates Vidal Icewine 2007.

Thursday, April 19: I’ve been reading Jay McInerney’s new wine book, The Juice – Vinous Veritas. Compelling stuff. McInerney has inherited the mantle of Hugh Johnson as the best prose writer on wine in the English language.

Went to the Sports Medicine clinic on Eglinton, where the physiotherapist examined me and gave me a series of exercises – one of which is to use a rolling pin on my hamstring muscles at the back of my leg – to get out the knots in the muscle! Also had to buy a rubber band to create tension while exercising my ankle. In the afternoon, a meeting with two representatives from HALO, the landmine clearing company, with regard to donations Grapes for Humanity to had made to them. Dinner with Julia West and Richard Wernham and their guests.

Friday, April 20: Trying to clear my desk, as I leave tomorrow for London to chair the Canadian judging panel at the Decanter World Wine Awards. Lunch at Bravi Restaurant with Enrico Viglierchio, the General Manager of Castello Banfi in Montalcino. Tasted the following wines:

  • Vigne Regali Cuvée Aurora Rosé 2008 (100% Pinot Noir): salmon pink in colour; strawberry and red apple nose; full on the palate, dry, flavourful with an earthy note. (88+)
  • Vigne Regali La Lus Albarosso 2008 (Albarossa is a cross between Nebbiolo and Barbera): deep ruby colour; vanilla and cherry nose with a light floral note; fruity and fresh, medium-bodied, cherry and plum flavours with a firm tannic finish. (89)
  • Castello Banfi Rosso di Montalcino 2009: ruby colour; red and blackcurrant nose with a note of violets; dry, elegant, savoury cherry flavour with a firm finish. (88)
  • Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino 2004: ruby colour; animal-barnyard nose, dry cherries; elegant, beautifully balanced, medium-bodied, silky mouth feel with a firm tannic finish. (89)
  • Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino 2006: ruby colour; savoury-herbal nose, cherries; ripe cherry flavour, full on the palate with earthy tones; firm with a warm alcoholic finish. (89+)
  • Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino 2007: ruby colour; cherry pit nose with a floral note; rich mid-palate fruit, dry and firm, spicy and beautifully balanced. (91)
  • Castello Banfi Poggio Alle Mura Brunello di Montalcino 2007 (unfiltered): ruby colour; spicy, floral, cherry and white pepper nose; elegant sweet fruit that finishes dry, firmly structured with a note of licorice on the finish. A beautiful wine. (92)
  • Castello Banfi Poggio All’Oro Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2006: ruby colour; rose petal, cherry nose; well extracted plum and cherry flavours, full-bodied, powerful and muscular, with fine-grained tannins. (92)
  • Castello Banfi Summus 2007 (40% Sangiovese, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Syrah): deep ruby colour; cedar, blackcurrant, tobacco, earthy-spicy and vanilla oak nose; sweet blackcurrant and blackberry flavour, rich and full-bodied. Delicious. (92)
  • Castello Banfi Excelsus 2007 (Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot): deep ruby colour; vanilla, black cherry and blackcurrant nose; rich and sweet on the palate, ripe fruit beautifully balanced with oak; lovely mouth feel, coffee bean and black fruit flavours, soft tannins. (92)
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