A Wine Lover’s Diary, part 400: Still Here

Sunday, June 24: This is the 400th edition of my blog. When I started it on September 20th, 2004, I never thought I would keep it going this long.

Today we were invited by Meg and Philip Dowell to try his famous paella recipe, which he cooked on an open fire in the woods behind his house on Angels Gate property. Phil is Angels Gate’s winemaker and he had invited other winemakers – Sue-Ann Staff, Marlize Byers from Hidden Bench, Mary Delaney of Bachelder Wines, Craig McDonald of Hillebrand, Ann Sperling and Peter Gamble.

Philip Dowell preparing paella at Angels Gate

Philip Dowell preparing paella at Angels Gate

We all brought wine. My contribution was Jacobs Creek Shiraz Rosé 2011 and St-Nicolas Rosé Cider, both of which went beautifully with the paella. The winemakers were taken with the rosé cider, which had been flavoured with raspberry and strawberry – a dry and delicious combination of tart apple and red berries. I also got to taste Céderic Bardin Pouilly Fumé 2009, Marques de Caceres Blanc Fermente en Barrique 2010, Cline Ancient Vines Carignan 1996, Coto de Imaz Gran Reserva 2001, and Las Pizzaras del Jalon Garnacha Vinas Viejas 2005. Then Phil opened a 3-Litre fiasco of Bell’Agio Chianti 2009.

Monday, June 25: Wrote my 680News reviews and polished the article on Carl Heinrich for The County Grapevine Magazine. At 5 pm a meeting of the Grapes for Humanity board at which we decided to proceed with the event on November 6th – a white truffle dinner with fine wines to match, at Sopra.

Tuesday, June 26: My friend Stuart Pigott in Germany emailed me asking for stats on Riesling acreage in Canada. Stuart wrote the book Planet Riesling. He tells me Riesling plantings in California have increased 135% in the last ten years. Wrote my Lexpert magazine column on Zinfandel, the stars and stripes in a glass.

Wednesday, June 27: Recorded my 680News wine reviews and wrote up Wines of the Week for my site. In the evening Deborah and I went down to the Sofitel Hotel for a farewell cocktail party for Patrick Imbert, the French Trade Commissioner. Then we went on to Didier’s for dinner. Didier wasn’t in the kitchen but we had a good meal – I ordered Cornish hen with a glass of Philippe de Rothschild Viognier 2010.

Thursday, June 28: The new outdoor chairs for the balcony off my office arrived. They look very smart. From this balcony we have a view of Lake Ontario in the distance. The guy who cleans BBQs came and took ours downstairs. It looks like new now but I could have bought a new one with what he charged.

Charles Baker from Stratus brought wines for me to taste at Simple Bistro.

  • Stratus Tollgate Red 2008 (55% Merlot, 41% Cabernet Franc, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon): deep ruby colour; cedar, tobacco leaf, medicinal note with an intriguing floral note; medium-bodied, claret style, firmly structured, dry, with good acidity (87)
  • Stratus Cabernet Franc 2008: ruby-purple colour; cedar, savoury, currant nose; richly extracted, dry, plum and currant flavour, full on the palate with lively acidity (89)
  • Stratus Red 2008 (35% Cabernet Franc, 29% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot): deep ruby colour; minerally, spicy, currant nose with a cedar note; elegant, dry and firm. Still needs time. (89)
  • Stratus Stratus Petit Verdot 2008: dense purple colour; floral, spicy blueberry and blackberry nose; dry, elegant, driving acidity and firm; tannins evident on the finish (88)
  • Stratus Gamay 2009: deep ruby colour; smoky, peppery, black cherry nose; rich and full on the palate, plum and cherry flavours backed by French oak (90)
  • Stratus Syrah 2009: deep ruby colour; peppery, vanilla, blackberry, savoury, roasted herb notes on the nose; medium-bodied, lean and sinewy with a lively acidic spine. Needs time (89+)
  • Stratus Malbec 2009: dense purple colour; bitter chocolate, cedar nose; dry, redcurrant, cranberry flavours, chunky on the palate, lively acidity with a touch of harness on the finish (88)
  • Stratus Cabernet Sauvignon 2007: deep ruby colour; cedar, violets, blackcurrant nose; dry, elegant, beautifully balanced, definitively Niagara with focussed fruit, a licorice note and firm tannins. Hold for 2–3 years (91)
  • Charles Baker Riesling Piccone Vineyard 2010: medium straw colour; spicy, minerally, citrus and honey notes; off-dry, honeyed grapefruit, well balanced and clean (90)
  • Charles Baker Riesling Ivan Vineyard 2011: pale straw with a lime tint; minerally, floral, lime and grapefruit nose; light and elegant, fresh and crisply dry, Mosel style. (90)
  • Stratus Tollgate White 2008 (56% Sauvignon Blanc, 43% Chardonnay, 1% Sémillon): straw colour; minerally, floral, grassy, green melon; dry, full on the palate with flavours of cut grass, apple and melon; finishing firmly. Reminds me of Bordeaux Blanc with some fatness in mid-palate. (88)
  • Stratus Tollgate Fumé Blanc 2009: light straw colour with a green tint; grassy, green plum with a whisper of oak; dry, richer than a white Bordeaux, white peach with a herbal note; good length (89)
  • Stratus Sauvignon Blanc 2008: straw with a green tint; green plum with a hint of oak; medium-bodied, well balanced, pure Sauvignon character with a rich mid-palate flavour of green plum and melon (89)
  • Stratus White 2008 (37% Chardonnay, 28% Sémillon, 23% Sauvignon Blanc, 6% Gewurztraminer, 6% Viognier): straw colour; spicy, musk melon, apple, toasty oak nose; elegant, dry, well balanced and clean with good length (90)
  • Stratus Sémillon 2009: straw with a green tint; honeycomb with vanilla oak on the nose; rich fruit expression, dry and full on the palate, lovely stream of acidity. Will age well. (89+)
  • Stratus Meritage 2009 (52% Semillon, 48% Sauvignon): straw with a lime tint; very white Bordeaux on the nose, herbaceous, pear and citrus fruits; full on the palate, driven by lively acidity, warm alcoholic finish (89)
  • Stratus Chardonnay 2009: straw colour; spicy, apple with an oak note and a touch of forest floor on the nose; caramel, toast, apple, orange flavours; full on the palate, powerful, driven by citrus acidity (89)
  • Stratus Viognier 2009: straw colour; spicy, melon, honeysuckle nose; spicy, dry, melon flavour, sharp acidity, full on the palate and mouth-freshening (89)

Friday, June 29: We are cat sitting for Deborah’s friend Barb. Her grey, long-haired cat Toby is a friend of Pinot’s. He prefers Pinot’s food to his own.

Today Penfolds released details of their Ampoule, a wine artefact that will set you back $168,000 Australian. It’s a vial of 2004 Kalimna Block 42 Cabernet Sauvignon in a handblown glass ampoule “that provides an ideal wine environment and a bespoke glass plumb-bob that suspends the ampoule within a wooden Jarrah cabinet.” Only twelve were made, so I guess I won’t ever get to taste it. But if anyone buys one in the vicinity, “the winemaker will travel to the destination of choice, where the ampoule will be ceremoniously removed from its glass plumb-bob casing and opened using a specially designed, tungsten-tipped, sterling silver scribe-snap. The winemaker will then prepare the wine using a beautifully crafted sterling silver tastevin.” Now that’s service…

The Penfolds Ampoule

The Penfolds Ampoule

Top Chef Canada winner Carl Heinrich

Top Chef Canada winner Carl Heinrich

Deborah and I drove to Prince Edward County to attend the 6th annual “6 Barrels for 6 Chefs” event at Huff Estates. It took us three hours to drive from Toronto. With canapés we tasted Cuvée Peter F. Huff Sparkling (crisp, elegant, apple and toast flavours with citrus acidity – 91) and an intriguing carbonated Vidal, called Vidalesco 2010 (dry, melon flavour – 87). Three County winemakers’ Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (still in the barrel) were matched with dishes prepared by six chefs:

  • Bryan Steele from the Stratford Chef School served Lobster ravioli with lemongrass and citrus with Huff Estates South Bay Chardonnay 2011
  • Chris MacDonald of Cava made Cuttlefish stew with grilled Polenta & Nduja (spicy, spreadable pork sausage) with Norman Hardie Pinot Noir 2011
  • Craig Hardin of Campagnolo served Steelhead trout tartare with Closson Chase Pinot Noir 2011
  • Ryan Crawford, The Stone Road Grille, served Pasta carbonara, prosciutto, local pea textures, Meg’s egg ravioli, with Norman Hardie Pinot Noir 2009
  • Rocco Agostino, Pizzeria Libretto & Enoteca Sociale, served Burrata, fresh peas with crispy anchovy, with Closson Chase Chardonnay 2011
  • Carl Heinrich, winner of Top Chef Canada (who will be opening his own restaurant in Toronto later this summer, called Richmond Station) served Monforte summer sausage, crushed potatoes and peas, with Huff Estates South Bay Chardonnay 2011
  • Dessert – strawberry and rhubarb crumble with Huff Estates First Frost 2008

The drive back took us less than two hours.

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