A Wine Lover’s Diary, part 403: I4C

Monday, July 16: A dental appointment this morning to investigate a sore tooth, but an X-ray revealed nothing. Wrote up my wine reviews for 680News and spent the rest of a very hot day preparing dinner. Stephen Brook, the British wine writer, and Patrick Imbert, the French Trade Commissioner, are our guests. Patrick’s girlfriend Alexandra couldn’t make it but she managed to come by towards the end of the evening to have wine and cheese.

I wanted to show Stephen some fine Canadian wines so we started with Blue Mountain Chardonnay 2009 and Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Brut with smoked salmon bites on pumpernickel and grilled almonds. We sat down to a watermelon and arugula salad with feta and pine nuts with Thirty Bench Steel Post Vineyard Riesling 2011. The main course was baked black cod with corn off the cob and a pasta salad with prosciutto, salami and fresh figs. The wines: Le Clos Jordanne La Petite Vineyard Pinot Noir 2004 and Le Clos Jordanne Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard Pinot Noir 2006. For the cheese course, Stoney Ridge Excellence Merlot 2010 and a half bottle of the only non-Canadian wine, Montes Folly 2000 – a wine I felt had to be consumed now. Turned out very well.

Tuesday, July 17: It’s going to be 37° Celsius today in Toronto. Recorded my 680News wine reviews, then on the way to lunch I had a email from my producer telling me that there had been a computer glitch and could I come back to re-record. It will have to be tomorrow since I’m on my way to have lunch with my friend Marc Nadeau and he had brought along a special bottle of Artadi Grandes Anadas 2011, a Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero, and I’m not going to record after that – and a glass of Bruno Paillard Première Cuvée Brut. I had a green salad and a steak tartare with frites. Got my fishing gear out of the locker in preparation for the annual trip – this year to Petersons’ Point Lake Camp, 200 miles north of Yellowknife (where our group of six went last year). Took delivery of some fine wines for Grapes for Humanity’s White Truffle Dinner on November 7th.

Wednesday, July 17: Went in to re-record my 680News wine reviews and then to Canoe for a Bollinger wine tasting and lunch. But before it started I had a meeting with the sommelier Will Predhomme to set up a blind tasting of Benjamin Bridge sparkling wines against prestige cuvée champagnes.

The Bollinger tasting started as a walk-around event with products from Société Jacques Bollinger (Champagne Bollinger, Champagne Ayala, Domaine Chanson, Langlois-Château in the Loire and Delamain Cognac).

  • Langlois-Château Quadrille Extra Brut 2004 (Chenin Blanc 50%, Chardonnay 30%, Cabernet Franc 15%, Cabernet Sauvignon 5%): very pale green colour; green apple nose, very fresh and elegant; light on the palate with a crisp acidic finish (90)
  • Champagne Ayala Blanc de Blancs Brut 2005: minerally, green apple and green pineapple nose with a light floral note; creamy and soft on the palate and lingering (91)
  • Champagne Ayala Rosé Majeur Brut: very pale pink, more eye of the partridge colour; a nose of wild strawberries and cranberries with lively citrus acidity; fairly dances on the palate (90)
  • Champagne Bollinger Special Cuvée: silver straw colour; toasty; honeyed nose; dry, firm on the palate, fresh with a citrusy finish (89)
  • Champagne Bollinger Rosé: very pale pink (just like the Ayala)a bouquet of raspberries, crisply dry with some grip on the finish (90)
  • Champagne Bollinger La Grande Année Rosé 2004: again very pale pink; earthy, red apple and citrus nose; beautifully balanced, dry apple and cranberry flavours – a majestic wine (92)
  • Langlois-Château Château de Fontane-Audon Sancerre Blanc Terroir Silex 2011: pale straw colour; grassy, gooseberry and elderberry nose; medium-bodied, minerally, mouth-watering green berry fruit with great length (91)
  • Langlois-Château Vieilles Vignes du Domaine Langlois-Château Saumur Blanc 2002: old gold colour; quince and citrus nose with a touch of oak; full on the palate, fresh and minerally with a pear and apricot flavour (89)
  • Langlois-Château Vieilles Vignes du Domaine Langlois-Château Saumur-Champigny 2009 (100% Cabernet Franc): ruby colour; floral, redcurrant nose; light and dry on the palate with flavours of red apples and redcurrants (88)
  • Chanson Père & Fils Pernand Vergelesses Les Caradeux 2010: straw colour; white flowers and peach on the nose; minerally, flinty peach and citrus flavours (89)
  • Chanson Père & Fils Clos des Mouches Beaune 2010: straw colour; underbrush nose with spicy apple notes; full on the palate yet very elegant and defined crush stone and apple flavours, beautifully structured and long in the mouth (92)
  • Chanson Père & Fils Chassagne Montrachet Les Chenevottes 2010: straw colour; earthy, underbrush, toasty nose; full-bodied with toasty, nutty apple and citrus flavours (90)
  • Chanson Père & Fils Corton Vergennes 2010: straw colour; toasty, apple nose with a thread of minerality; full on the palate offering apple and mineral flavours; beautifully balanced with great length (93)
  • Chanson Père & Fils Savigny-Dominode 2009: ruby colour; spicy, earthy, raspberry nose; minerally, pencil lead with a spicy raspberry flavour and a firm tannic finish (89)
  • Chanson Père & Fils Pernand-Vergelesses Les Vergelesses 2009: ruby colour; vioelts, raspberry on the nose with well integrated oak; sweet raspberry flavour and firmly structured, lovely mouth feel (90)
  • Chanson Père & Fils Clos des Mouches Beaune 2009: ruby colour; raspberry, violets and leather on the nose; forward flavours of raspberry and oak spice, lovely mouth feel; ripe tannins (92)
  • Chanson Père & Fils Clos des Fèves Beaune 2009: ruby colour; minerally, spicy, raspberry nose; firm but light and agile on the palate, earthy with a tannic grip. Needs at least five years cellaring. (92+)

We then sat down a lunch beginning with a glass of Ayala Perle 2002 (elegant, light, bready, green apple nose; youthful, fresh and lively with a firm finish – 90+)

Screech Marinated Foie Gras Terrine, Brioche & Peach Lavender Compote, with Bollinger La Grande Année 2002 in magnum (elegant, dry, austere and majestic; still fresh and lively with a green apple flavour – 92)

Citrus Cured Pickerel Crème Fraiche, Candied Lemon and Fennel, with Domaine Chnason Chassagne Montrachet Les Chenevottes 2009 (straw colour; barnyard, minerally apple and caramel nose; ripe golden apple with citrus acidity and a browning apple and nutty finish – 89) and Domaine Chanson Corton Vergennes 2009 (straw colour; minerally, tropical fruit nose; elegant, beautifully balanced, vibrant citrus acidity – 92)

Tea Smoked Duck Breast, Northern Woods Mushrooms, Rapini and Saskatchewan Wheatberries, with Domaine Chanson Beaune Clos des Fèves 2007 (ruby with a tawny rim; concentrated, spicy red berry with a note of tar; sweet raspberry flavour, firmly structured with lively acidity – 91) and Domaine Chanson Beaune Bressandes 2001 (tawny ruby colour; mature, minerally, red berry and leather nose; dry, lean with supple tannins and a warm alcoholic finish – 90)

Northern British Columbia Alpindon Cheese, Rhubarb Compote & Buttermilk Biscuit, with Langlois-Château Vieilles Vignes Saumur-Champigny Rouge 2005 (dense ruby colour; cedar, vanilla oak and blueberry nose; medium-bodied, elegant, succulent and firmly structured with black fruit flavours and a floral grace note – 90)

Apple Tart with Newfoundland Tea Sorbet, with Langlois-Château Coteaux de Saumur 2010 (straw colour with a lime tint; honey, quince nose; medium-bodied , medium sweet, fresh with a lively tension between honeyed sweetness and citrus acidity – 91)

We finished off with a glass of Delamain Reserve de Grande Champagne Cognac. Then I had to go to a tasting of Australian wines from Victoria. There must have been 40 wines there. My favourites were Tahbilk Marsanne 2007, Kooyong Estate Clonale Chardonnay 2011, Taltarni Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon 2011, Melba Lucia Yarra Valley (Cabernet Sauvignon/Sangiovese) 2008, Pyrenees Ridge Shiraz 2009, Rees Miller Thousand Hills Shiraz 2008 and Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch Shiraz 2009.

In the evening, dinner at Cava with four wine-loving friends. I wanted to share my last bottle of a 1959 claret with them. We started with Agusti Torello Mata Cava “Kripta” Brut Gran Reserva 2006 (the best cava I’ve tasted!), followed by my bottle of Château Haut Batailley 1959, Alvaro Palacios L’Ermita 1997, Vega Sicilia Unico 1995 and finishing with a glass of Gonzales Byass Pedro Ximenez Dulce Nectar. Walked home from the restaurant and dropped into Grano and had a glass of Moscato d’Asti with Roberto and Lucia Martella. When I got home Deborah looked at me and said – “You’ve been drinking.”

Thursday, July 19: Deborah took Pinot the Wonderdog to the groomer. She came back with a Brazilian. I followed suit – had a haircut but no Brazilian. Spent the morning typing up the wine notes from yesterday, inputting wine reviews for the August 4th Vintages release, booked a car to the airport for Monday (I have to pick up Art and Larry and meet Sam and Harold at the airport for an 8:45 am flight to Edmonton and then on to Yellowknife). Spoke with Steve Ranger about doing the evaluations for wine donations to Grapes for Humanity. Tasted two wines in the afternoon:

  • Niagara College Dean’s List Cabernet Franc 2010: deep ruby-purple colour; a nose of cedar, red and black currants with a floral top note; medium-bodied with a soft, plushy mouth feel, creamy mid palate with berry and dark chocolate flavours and supple tannins (91)
  • Niagara College Dean’s List Meritage 2010 (of 57% Cab Franc, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Merlot): deep ruby colour with a bouquet of cassis and spicy oak; medium-bodied, well balanced with sweet blackcurrant and plum fruit flavour; firm but ripe tannins and well balanced over all (90)

Friday, July 20: Up early to take the subway to Royal York station to meet David Lawrason and John Szabo. David is driving us down to Brock University in St. Catharines for the opening event of the second annual International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration. Stephen Brook is moderating an experts’ tasting of six Chardonnays introduced by their winemakers. The theme is “Extreme Winemaking” – extreme in the sense of elevation, climate, rainfall, etc.

  • Catena Chardonnay 2009 (Chile: Adrianna Vineyard at 1500 metres): straw colour with a spicy oak and apple nose; broad on the palate with caramel and lemon flavours; piercing acidity that gives it a long finish (89)
  • Yabby Lake Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2010 (Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, Australia): pale straw colour; smoky, flinty underbrush nose with a mineral thread; dry, Burgundian style, fresh, green apple flavour with a crisp finish (90)
  • Flowers Chardonnay 2010 (Sonoma Coast): straw colour with a spicy, citrus nose; elegant with driving acidity and green apple freshness, finishing with lemony, orange and tangerine flavours (91)
  • Decelle-Villa Meursault Les Vireuils 2010 (Burgundy): pale straw colour with a green tint; minerally, underbrush, crisply dry with green apple and lemon flavours and a nutty finish (91)
  • Hillebrand Showcase Chardonnay Olivieri Vineyard 2009 (Ontario): light straw colour with a nose of almonds and apples, minerals and white pepper; tart green apple and green almond flavours with a lively acidic finish (88)
  • Blue Mountain Chardonnay Reserve 2009 (BC): light straw colour with a toasty oak and apple nose and a floral grace note; flavours of tangerine, peach and vanilla oak backed by lively citrus acidity. Nicely balanced (89)
Thomas Bachelder promoting Chardonnay

Thomas Bachelder promoting Chardonnay

A buffet lunch followed in the main hall, introduced by Thomas Bachelder wearing a cheerleading T-Shirt. He told the crowd that this event is an unabashed copy of IPNC (International Pinot Noir Celebration in McMinnville, Oregon that’s been going for 26 years). Like that event, bottles of wine are put on the tables and you go around bartering and negotiating for those on other tables. Our table had Jean Boudry Côtes du Jura Chardonnay 2006, Printhie MCC Chardonnay 2010 (Orange, New South Wales), Domaine Chason Corton Vergennes 2009. During the course of lunch I managed to sample Marchand Tawse Chassagne Montrachet Abbaye de Morgeot 2009, Gregoire Bichot Domaine des Clos Beaune 2010, Kumeu River Hunting Hill Chardonnay 2008, Firesteed Citation Chardonnay W3 2008, Pondview Chardonnay 2010, Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay 2010, Closson Chase South Clos Vineyard Chardonnay 2010 and Guiboulot La Combe d’Eve 2010.

Once we had checked into the White Oaks Resort we were picked up by bus and driven to Jackson-Triggs for I4C’s Kick-Off Party, where 55 cool climate Chardonnay producers from 14 of the world’s coolest regions were pouring their wines (110 wines in all). Before the food stations dotted around the winery opened, Stephen Brook gave a keynote address about Extreme Winemaking around the world.

Ran into Donald Ziraldo, who opened the proceedings by sabering a bottle of sparkling wine (with a sabre from a Canadian soldier in the War of 1812). During the course of the next couple of hours I tasted the following Chardonnays: Ponzi 2009, Ravine Vineyard 2010, Flowers, 2010, Norman Haride County Chardonnay 2010, Gregoire Bichot Chablis Vaillons 2009, Lamoreaux Landing 2008, Chehalem Ian’s Reserve Stoller vineyard 2008, A to Z 2010, Southbrook Poetic 2010, Kemeu River Estelle 2008, Kumeu River Matthew’s Vineyard 2008, Kumeu River Village 2008, 13th Street Sandstone 2010, Coyote’s Run Black Paw 2010, Pearl Morrisette 2010, Saunder’s Vineyard 2010, Bachelder Wismer Vineyard 2010, Hamacher Cuvée Forests Diverses 2010, Felton Road Bannockburn 2011.

Pizza to go at I4C

Pizza to go at I4C

The concert by The Arkells started and everybody moved to the amphitheatre area, where a large tent had been pitched and all the wines were brought here. The energy was electric, an amazing buzz as 500 people drank cool climate Chardonnays from all over the world with rock music in the background. Here I added to my tasting Myer Family Tribute Series 2010, Giboulot Côte de Beaune Les Pierres Blanches 2010. At 9:30 pm, left the party, which was in full swing, and took the shuttle bus back to White Oaks. A very satisfying day.

Saturday, June 21: Magdalena Kaiser-Smit, the Public Relations Director for the Wine Council of Ontario, drove Stephen Brook and me over to Hidden Bench, one of the eight wineries putting on lunches. Deborah is driving from Toronto to join me there.

Hidden Bench’s Harald Thiel, the Chair of I4C, had styled his lunch “Splendido on the Bench.” Chef Victor Barry and his staff prepared a magnificent five-course lunch matched to nine Chardonnays, all of whose winemakers were present to introduce their wine. We were greeted with a glass of Angels Gate Blanc de Blancs 2010 and passed hors d’oeuvres – Corn Soup & Sorrel, Niagara Gold Gougère, Summer Salad and Big Eye Tuna & Avocado. Then we sat down under the shade of the grape reception area at a long table. (18 members of my annual wine tour were there! Quite a reunion.)

The proceedings began with Stephen Brook leading a seminar with some of the winemakers answering his questions, “Do cool climate Chardonnays reflect their terroir more than warm climate Chardonnays?” (short answer: Yes) and “Does organic or biodynamic growing improve the quality of wine?” (again, short answer: Yes). We tasted blind Yabby Lake Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2010, Hidden Bench Estate Chardonnay 2010 and Flowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2010, Domaine Chanson Pernand-Vergelesses 2009, Villa Maria Single Vineyard Keltern Chardonnay 2009 and Hamacher Forets Diverses Chardonnay 2010.

Then lunch was served:

Smoked Rocky Point Oyster with Chive & Potato, accompanied by Flowers Camp Meeting Ridge Chardonnay 2010 and Inniskillin Winemaker’s Series Montague Vineyard 2010

Magdaline Island Scallop, Ramp, Maple Syrup & Grapefruit, with Domaine Chanson Corton Vergennes 2009 and Hidden Bench Felseck Vineyard 2009

Cumbrae Farms Suckling Pig, Chanterelles & Flowers, with Yabby Lake Cooralook Chardonnay 2009, Pearl Morissette Cuvée Dix-Neuvième 2010 and Hamacher Forets Diverses Chardonnay 2010

Selection of Artisanal Cheeses and accoutrements from Upper Canada Cheese Company, with Villa Maria Single Vineyard Keltern Chardonnay 2009 and Angels Gate Kew Vineyard Chardonnay 2008

Dessert: Blueberry, Lemon, Vanilla, Balsamic, Beet & Black Pepper

Generally speaking, I4C was a resounding success, all the events beautifully organized with the enthusiastic support of all the participating wineries, both local and international. I think it augurs well for the future of this event as its reputation spreads among the wine world. It certainly deserves to.

After lunch Deborah and I drove to Caledon for a party to celebrate her niece Nadine’s 50th birthday. Arrived home at 11:45 pm.

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