Saturday, September 1: A dinner party at home with friends Natasha and Roger. Stared with a bottle of Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catherine Rosé with foie gras pâté, cashews and baba ghanoush dip. Then salmon ceviche with Tantalus Riesling 2011, followed by chicken roasted with peaches and shallots and corn salsa and quinoa with Georg Müller Daniel Spätburgunder Trocken 2009 and Domaine Henri Delagrange Volnay Vieilles Vignes 2005. With the cheeses, Southbrook Vineyards Poetic Cabernet Merlot 2007. Dessert, fig tart with Eugen Müller Forster Stift Riesling Eiswein 1996.
Sunday, September 2: Sister-in-law Suzanne and my son Guy came to dinner. Barbecued steak and served Good Earth Cabernet Franc 2010 (ruby colour; redcurrant and green pepper nose with vanilla oak; dry, savoury, herbal, red berry flavours; medium-bodied with an acidic finish – 87).
Monday, September 3: Wrote my 680News wine reviews and my monthly column for Post City Magazines. For dinner, grilled salmon with Oyster Bay Pinot Noir 2011 (ruby colour; earthy, cherry nose; dry, cherry and rhubarb flavour, not as much concentration as the previous vintage but finishes firmly – 87).
Tuesday, September 4: Took the subway down to Bloor to record my 680News wine reviews but at Rosedale we were instructed to leave the train (no explanation other than a passenger emergency at Dundas). Had to walk in the rain to Rogers building at Bloor & Jarvis under a tiny portable umbrella. Soaked feet when I arrived. A cab in the rain from there to Biff’s to lunch with my fishing buddy Steve Cohen. At 2 pm meeting with Adrienne Rosen at the office of Joel Rose (a director of Grapes for Humanity) to discuss a GFH donation to build a new high school in Guatemala.
Deborah picked me up and we headed to the Acura dealer on Front Street to pick up our new car – a 2013 Acura RDX in white. Drove it home with the same care as I did when I drove my first child home from the hospital. Celebrated with a bottle of Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (dense purple colour with a nose of cedar and blackcurrant; full on the palate with dark chocolate and pencil lead notes, ripe tannins and a dry, savoury finish – 89).
Wednesday, September 5: A 10 am tasting at Doug Towers’s for winerytohome.com. In the evening, opened a bottle of Joie A Noble Blend 2011, a BC Edelzwicker-style blend of Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Auxerrois and Schoenburger (pale straw colour; aromatic, spicy, orange blossom and peach nose; off-dry, lychee and peach flavours; nicely balanced – 89).
Thursday, September 6: In the morning wrote my On The Go column and the lunched with Liz Gallery and Cathy Martin at Patachou to discuss a Grapes for Humanity fund-raiser for next year. It will be a South American theme, in May probably at the Gardiner Museum. In the afternoon wrote my Tidings magazine column about Okanagan Crush Pad, a custom crush facility in Summerland. Hamburgers for dinner with a bottle of Hardy’s Butcher’s Gold Shiraz Sangiovese 2010. An odd blend that comes off as sweet and savoury at the same time with a smoky note and sour cherry flavour. But it worked well with the hamburger.
Friday, September 7: A Vintages tasting – another massive one. Came home had a sleep and then drove out to Oakville for a dinner tasting a couple had won at a Juvenile Diabetes Foundation charity auction. The wines were donated by Southbrook Vineyards and the food prepared by The Food Dudes. A very successful evening, even though I had to spit all the wines. Left the rental glasses there as the party looked like it was going to go on for a long time. Since I will be driving to Niagara tomorrow I can pick them up en route.
Saturday, September 8: Drove my son Guy down to Niagara to do some tasting. First stop, Pearl Morissette, a new winery that is not yet open to the public. Winemaker François Morissette, a Quebecker trained in Burgundy, showed us around. Apart from the 6 hectares of vines planted to Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Riesling the company also has a hobby farm raising Berkshire pigs, Muscovy ducks and Silkie hens. They also own a 40-acre vineyard on 19th Street which is two-thirds planted. “I focus on skin maturity,” François told us. “I don’t worry about sugars. Ontario is a much tougher place to grow grapes than Burgundy. The acidity performs in a different way.”
We tasted tanks samples of Pearl Morissette Chardonnay 2011 and Pinot Noir 2011. Then the bottled Pearl Morissette Barrel Fermented Riesling 2010 (floral, spicy grapefruit, round on the palate with a firm finish – 89). Next François opened his 2009 Chardonnay, which is still tight and will be released after his 2010. Finally, he opened Pearl Morissette Cabernet Franc 2010, which is quite simply the best Cab Franc I have tasted in Ontario, very Bourgueil in style with a lovely floral bouquet and stylish fruit. I bought two bottles.
Next stop Hidden Bench. Guy and I walked in on Harald Thiel conducting a wine and food matching tasting for members of Hidden Bench Wine Club. Graciously, he invited us to sample the wines.
- Hidden Bench Estate Riesling 2011: pale straw colour; floral, mineral nose; crisp lime and grapefruit flavours with racy acidity. (91)
- Hidden Bench Locust Lane Viognier 2011: straw colour; peach and honeysuckle nose; exotic, rich peach and melon flavour with balancing acidity. (90)
- Hidden Bench Felseck Vineyard Chardonnay 2009: straw colour; spicy, intense green pineapple and green apple nose, whose flavours replicate on the palate with discreet oak; elegant with great length. (90)
- Hidden Bench Tête de Cuvée Chardonnay 2009: straw colour; smoky, spicy, green pineapple. Still tight but great intensity. I would like to taste this wine in two years. (91+)
- Hidden Bench Nuit Blanche Rosomel Vineyard 2010 (100% organically grown Semillon): straw colour; lanolin and vanilla oak nose; intense peach and cut grass flavours, judiciously oaked. Very satisfying. (90)
- Hidden Bench Estate Pinot Noir 2010: deep ruby colour; violets and black cherry nose; elegant, firmly structured with well extracted fruit. (89)
- Hidden Bench Locust Lane Pinot Noir 2009: deep ruby colour; minerally, black raspberry and beetroot nose; elegant, firmly structured; very Burgundian in style; still tight, a keeper. (91)
We checked into our B&B – The Orchard Croft, 2393 Red Maple Avenue, Jordan Station – and then went to dinner at the Stone Road Grille in Niagara-on-the-Lake. I brought along a bottle of Donum Pinot Noir West Slope 2009 that Guy had brought back for me from Sonoma. We started with oysters with a glass of Cave Spring Dolomite Sparkling. I ordered mushroom risotto and salmon. A very comfortable night at the B&B. Other guests included a newly married couple from St. Catharines and three Texans.
Sunday, September 9: Ildiko Kelemen, the Hungarian chatelaine of the B&B, prepared a magnificent breakfast of fresh peaches, berries and granola in sour cream, orange juice with sparkling wine and eggs poached in red wine (which I haven’t had since I was in Burgundy). Then off to Tawse Winery in Vineland for a tasting with winemaker Paul Pender.
Paul gave us tank samples of the fermenting juice for Tawse Robyn’s Block Chardonnay 2012, Pinot Gris 2012 and the finished wine for Redstone Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 and Redstone Syrah 2010 (both wines from the old Thomas & Vaughan property, which will be labelled as Redstone. The Syrah is delicious, reminiscent of a St. Joseph). We tasted the tank sample of Tawse David’s Block Spark 2009. Then down to the tasting bar to taste through four Chardonnays 2010, Quarry Road, Robyn’s Block, Estate and Sketches, followed by Tawse Growers’ Blend Pinot Noir 2010, Tawse Van Bers Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2008, Tawse Laundry Vineyard 2010, Tawse Growers’ Blend Cabernet Franc 2010 and finally, Tawse Meritage 2008.