A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 395: Insane Wine Week

Monday, May 14: This is an insane wine week in Toronto. There are so many events on that it’s hard to choose what to attend. After writing my 680News wine reviews I went down to the AGO for a walkabout tasting of wines from Tuscany preceded by a seminar on Chianti led by my colleague Edward Finstein.

We tasted 8 Chianti Classicos: Fontodi 2009, Villa Cafaggio 2009, Vignamaggio Castello di Monna Lisa 2008, Rocce delle Macie Tenuta Sant’alfonso 2007, Dievole Dieulele Riserva 2007, Le Fonti Riserva 2007, San Felice Poggio Rosso Riserva 2007 and Ruffino Ducale Oro Riserva 2006. Best wine was Le Fonti followed by Fontodi, Dievole and Ruffino. Then the walkabout.

Billed as “A Taste of Tuscany,” it featured 24 Chianti wineries, no Brunellos, no Vino Nobiles, and nothing outside the Chianti Classico zone. I headed straight for the Le Fonti table where I tasted a delicious Le Fonti Chianti Classico Riserva 2008.

Other top wines I tasted: Ruffino Chianti Classico Riserva 2006, Castello Vicchiomaggio Agostino Petri Chianti Classico Riserva 2008, Fattoria Nittardi Casanuova di Nittardi Chianti Classico 2009 and a Super Tuscan Villa Cafaggio Cortaccio (a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. I was so excited by it I didn’t record the vintage!)

The best value was Canonica a Cerreto Chianti Classico Riserva 2007 at $17. Then to dinner at Volos with Angelos Iatridis, the winemaker at Alphfa Estate, my favourite winery in Greece. Tom Noitsis, his Ontario agent, had brought along a series of wines that we tasted with a variety of Greek dishes:

  • Alpha Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2010: soft, green plum flavour with fresh acidity; lots of mid-palate flavour and a lovely mouth feel. (89)
  • Alpha Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2011: lemon balm and banana nose; fresh, grassy, lemon and peach flavours. Delicious and more layered than the 2010. (90)
  • Alpha Estate Xinomavro “Hedgehog” 2007: ruby; sour cherry, leather, crisp and firm, medium-bodied. (88)
  • Alpha Estate Xinomavro Old Vines 2007: deep ruby colour; spicy, red berry and red plum flavours; elegant and firmly structured. (90)
  • Alpha Estate Xinomavro Old Vines 2008: deeper colour than the 2007; raspberry bouquet, juicy, fruity and forward, light on the palate. (89)

We next tasted two vintages of Alpha SMX (2007 and 2008): a rich and spicy blend of Syrah, Merlot, and Xinomavro before finishing with Sigalas Vin Santo 2004.

Tuesday, May 15: Read up about Australia’s First Families of Wine, an initiative created by 12 family-owned Australian wineries to market their wines. They represent 16 Australian regions across four states. This is a nod toward the Primum Familiae Vini of Europe. The Aussie members are Brown Brothers, Campbells Wines, d’Arenburg, De Bortoli, Henschke, Howard Park Wines, Jim Barry Wines, McWilliam’s Wines, Tahbilk, Taylors Wines, Tyrrell’s and Yalumba. That’s quite a line-up, but who’s playing in goal?

I had a visit from Emma Garner, the winemaker at Thirty Bench. Emma has won a Regional Trophy for her Small Lot Steel Post Riesling 2010 at the Decanter World Wine Awards. She brought along wines from the 2011 vintage.

  • Thirty Bench Small Lot Wood Post Riesling 2011 ($30): pale straw colour; spicy, floral, honeyed lime and grapefruit nose; lovely mouth feel, medium-bodied, apple flavour good balance between sugar and acidity. Good length. (90)
  • Thirty Bench Small Lot Steel Post Riesling 2011 ($30): pale straw colour; minerally, spicy, grapefruit; tangerine and lime flavours, beautifully balanced, crisp and very satisfying. (91+)
  • Thirty Bench Small Lot Triangle Vineyard Riesling 2011 ($30): pale straw colour; floral, honey and citrus nose with an earthy note; fuller on the palate than Steel Post or Wood Post; denser, rich lime, grapefruit and honeyed flavours; more open, green plum and honey flavour. (90)
  • Thirty Bench Wood Post Riesling 2011 ($18): a blend of all three blocks – pale straw colour; honey, apricot and citrus nose; sweet and tart with a thread of minerality; green apple and grapefruit flavour. A touch more sweetness than the Small Lot Rieslings but finishes dry with citrus zestiness. (89)
  • Thirty Bench Rosé 2011 ($22) (40% Pinot Noir, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, 13% Merlot): deep salmon pink; minerally, cherry, red currant nose with a mineral note; soft mouth feel; dry, firm on the palate with lively acidity; cranberry and redcurrant flavours with good length. (88)
  • Thirty Bench Winemaker’s Red 2011 ($24) (57% Cab Franc, 29% Cab Sauv and 14% Merlot): deep ruby colour; cedar, vanilla oak, blackcurrant nose; firm, dry, red and blackcurrant flavours with a coffee bean note. Ripe tannins with an appealing dryness on the finish. (89)

After this tasting I hurried down to the St. Lawrence Centre for the 10th annual portfolio tasting of the wines imported by Churchill Cellars. Apart from the Pol Roger Brut, which is a very solid and consistent champagne, I enjoyed Alsace Willm Riesling Reserve 2010, Château Bel Air 2010 (great value at $13), Whitecliff Sauvignon Blanc 2010 from New Zealand, and Marques de Riscal Riserva 2006.

Next stop Barberians to a 50-year anniversary celebration for the founder of Villa Maria Estate, Sir George Fistonich. With a succession of finger foods the following wines were served: Villa Maria Private Bin Lightly Sparkling Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (served in Canada for the first time – a wine I’d really like to see on LCBO shelves), Villa Maria Private Bin Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2011, Villa Maria Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2011, Villa Maria Private Bin Marlborough Pinot Noir 2010, Villa Maria Cellar Selection Pinot Noir 2010, and Villa Maria Reserve Marlborough Pinot Noir 2006.

For dinner, with chicken salad, Trinity Hill Pinot Gris 2010 (dry, minerally peach nose; medium-bodied, with fresh apple and pear flavours; nicely balanced – 89).

Wednesday, May 16: After recording my 680News wine reviews I went down to The Fifth Social Club for a seminar on Zinfandel followed by a walk around tasting. The seminar was conducted by Eric Baugher from Ridge vineyards, Joel Peterson from Ravenswood, Dr. Jerry Seps from Storybook Mountain Vineyards, and Doug Beckett of Peachy Canyon Winery. We tasted the following 8 Zins:

  • Storybook Mountain Eastern Exposure Zinfandel 2009: deep ruby colour; spicy blackberry and plum nose; plummy flavour; full on the palate with lively acidity; fresh and full with a warm alcoholic finish. (89)
  • Robert Biale Grande Vineyards Napa Valley Zin 2009: ruby-purple colour; spicy cherry nose; great structure with creamy vanilla, blackcurrant and chocolate flavours; great balance with lively acidity. (91)
  • Seghesio Family Vineyards Cortina Zinfandel 2009: leather and plum nose; fruity, earthy with lively acidity. (88)
  • Ridge Vineyards Lytton Springs Zinfandel 2009: dense purple colour; a nose of dates, plums, and spice; concentrated plummy fruit with ripe tannins. Missing greatness by a green note on the finish (vines closing down in the heat?). (89)
  • Ravenswood Old Hill Zin 2008: deep purple-ruby colour; spicy, tobacco, cedar, and red berry nose; elegant liquorice and blackberry flavours; firmly structured with lively acidity. (91)
  • Rock Wall Wine Company Monte Rosso Zinfandel 2009: iodine, oaky, sweet fruit nose; jammy, plum flavour; almost port-like with a firm finish. (90)
  • Peachy Canyon Vortex Zinfandel 2009: ruby-purple colour; meaty, spicy, black cherry nose; blackcurrant, strawberry and black cherry flavours; sweet fruit with fresh acidity. (89)
  • Candor/Hope Candor Lot 3 Zinfandel (NV): dense purple colour; minerally, sweet, smoky nose; full-bodied, chunky on the palate with black fruit flavours; a little short on the finish. (88)

Downstairs to the walk around tasting where there were 20 wineries pouring Zinfandel. My highlights were Easton Wines Estate Bottled Zinfandel 2004 (91), Scott Harvey Wines Old Vine Reserve 2009 (91), Carol Shelton Karma Zin Old Vines Rue Vineyard 2007 (90), Ridge Vineyards Ponzo Vineyard Zinfandel 2008 (90), Perry Creek Zinman Reserve 2009. Best value: Rock Wall Wine Company Jesse’s Vineyard Zinfandel 2009, Peachy Canyon Westside Zinfandel 2008.

For dinner, pasta with meat sauce and a bottle of Trinity Hall Pinot Noir 2010 (ruby colour; plum, cherry and beetroot nose; medium-bodied, plum flavour with an energetic spine of acidity – 88).

Thursday, May 17: Wrote my Tidings column on Wincarnis, a nostalgia piece. Lunched with my old friend David Alexandor at the Granite Brewery before taking the subway down to the AGO for the annual tasting of Portuguese Wines.

Twenty-five wineries were pouring ports and table wines. Decided to stick to the table wines. My top scoring wines were Conceita Tinto 2009, Quinta do Infantado Reserva 2009, Terra D’Alter Reserva Tinto 2009, Quinta do Convento 2008 (managed by Donald Ziraldo). Best value: Paco do Conde Herdade das Albernoas 2011 ($9.25), Casa Santos Lima Passion of Portugal 2010 ($7.65), and Fado Red 2009 ($14).

Dinner, shrimp in cream sauce with brown rice, with Stoneleigh Pinot Noir Rosé 2011 (deep orange-pink with a nose of raspberry; flavours of raspberry and cranberry with just a hint of sweetness before a dry finish and a note of violets – 88).

Friday, May 18: A Vintages tasting day this morning. In the afternoon, Deborah and I drove up to Caledon to have dinner with our friends Frank and Patti-Ann Daley at Gourmandissimo – a Tuscan affair with Chef Gilles Roche and Sommeliers Ric Kitowski and Jocelyn Klemm of The Wine Coaches. The menu:

  • Crostini alla Toscana (traditional live pâté) with Poggio Stenti Toscana Rosato Sangiovese 2010
  • Ricotta-parmigiano-spinach Strozzapreti, with Falchini Vernaccia di San Gimignano ‘Vigna a Solatio’ 2010
  • Roasted quail wrapped in pancetta, with Sant’ Appiano Chianti 2009 and La Lecciaia Rosso di Montalcino 2009
  • Wild boar hunter style with mushrooms and polenta, with Logonovo Super Tuscan 2009
  • Cantucci, with Sorelli Vin Santo del Chianti Classico
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