Monday, September 9: Spent most of the day doing an evaluation of a wine cellar. Tasted the following wines:
- Wolf Blass Red Label Shiraz Cabernet 2011 (Australia – $14.95): ruby colour; peppery, cherry nose; light on the palate with black cherry and floral flavour with a herbal note, easy drinking. (86)
- Wolf Blass Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (South Australia – $17.00): deep ruby-purple colour; cedar, currants with a minty note on the nose; dry, sinewy, blackcurrant flavour, firm structure. An amiable wine. (87)
- Wolf Blass Grey Label Shiraz Cabernet 2009 (Robe/Mount Benson, Australia – $27.20): deep ruby colour; smoky, blackberry nose with vanilla oak and a peppery note; fruity, blackberry with a lively acidic spine and a warm alcoholic finish. (89)
- Tilia Malbec 2011 (Mendoza, Argentina – $12.95): deep ruby colour; rose petal, blackberry nose; blackberry and licorice flavour, juicy fruit with soft tannins. Very elegant for the price. Medium-bodied. (88)
- Tilia Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (Mendoza, Argentina – $12.95): deep ruby colour; cedar, blackcurrant with a floral note on the nose; sweet black fruit flavours with a firm tannic finish. Medium-bodied. (87)
- Bodega Catena Malbec 2010 (Mendoza, Argentina – $19.95): dense ruby-purple colour; blackberry and dark chocolate nose with a discreet fragrance of vanilla oak; beautifully balanced, medium-bodied, velvety mouth feel, blackberry and dark chocolate flavours; fine, dry finish with just enough tannin to give it a fist. (90)
- Château Joinin 2009 (Bordeaux): deep ruby colour; cedar, currant nose with a touch of vanilla oak; dry, savoury, smoky, currant flavour; firm structure. (88)
- Lapostolle Canto de Apalta 2010 (Rapel Valley, Chile; 36% Carmenère, 31% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Syrah): dense purple ruby colour; dry, savoury nose, blackcurrant and cedar with the Syrah singing through. Medium weight, dry, bitter chocolate flavour, firmly structured with chalky tannins. Hold for a year or two. (88)
- Lapostolle Casa Carmenère 2010 (Rapel Valley, Chile – $15.95): dense ruby colour; cedar, red pepper, tobacco leaf with a floral top note; dry, blackcurrant and coffee bean flavour; firm structure with good acidity. (88)
For dinner, pasta with a bottle of Ruffino Chianti 2011.
Tuesday, September 10: Started writing a new book on Canadian wines. Jean-François Bergeron has done the photography and I’m writing the text. At 2:30 pm down to the TIFF Lightbox, not for the film festival, but to taste 27 of the world’s benchmark Cabernet blends blind – one of which was a Wolf Blass Black Label (68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Shiraz, 5% Malbec). Chris Hatcher, who has been with Wolf Blass as a winemaker for 25 years, presided over the tasting, which has already been held in Melbourne and will be put on in London.
We were told that the 27 wines came from California, Italy, Australia, Bordeaux and Chile and all were from the 2008 vintage. The purpose of the tasting, said Chris, was “to find out where we sit in the world as far as Cabernet blends.” Our group of sommeliers and wine writers, on aggregate score, placed the Wolf Blass wine in first place. I placed it behind Mouton-Rothschild, Léoville-Las-Cases, Ducru-Beaucaillou, Gruaud-Larose, Giscours, Cos d’Estournel and Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande – but then my license plate is CLARET.
Following the blind tasting, we sampled:
- Wolf Blass Cabernet Shiraz Langhorne Creek 2010: dense purple colour; minty blackberry and pepper nose; sweet, juicy fruit, elegant with lively acidity and a floral, minty note in the back taste. (91)
- Wolf Blass Grey Label Shiraz 2010: dense purple; chunky, earthy, blackberry flavour; full-bodied and fruity but a little short. (89)
- Wolf Blass Black Label 2008: dense purple black colour; spicy, vanilla oak, sweet blackberry fruit, firmly structured, juicy on the palate and full-bodied. Evident tannins – needs time. (91)
- Wolf Blass Platinum Label Shiraz 2009: dense purple colour; elegant, blackcurrant flavour; well extracted fruit, fleshy but firm with great balance. (92)
Wolf Blass himself arrived and we all sat down to dinner. The menu:
100 km organic greens and live sprouts, heirloom beets, crumbled goat’s cheese, pumpkin seed, roasted Ontario apple dressing, with Wolf Blass Gold Label Riesling 2011
Heirloom tomato, infused watermelon & devilled crab, radish, basil, with Wolf Blass Gold Label Chardonnay 2011
Pan roasted duck breast, wild Ontario blueberry chestnut, Brussels sprout & warm lentils, with
Wolf Blass Grey Label Cabernet Shiraz 2010
Red wine braised boneless beef short rib, smoked onion ring, corn and Yukon puree, mustard greens, with
Wolf Blass Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 1998
Flight of aged Ontario cheddars, chocolate pickled walnut, concord grape, with Wolf Blass Platinum Label Shiraz
Wednesday, September 11: David Rose picked me up at 9:30 am and we drove up to the offices of Summer Fresh, where I conducted a tasting of the company’s new prepared sauces with medal-winning Ontario wines: Mushroom Marsala with Flat Rock Pinot Noir Gravity 2007, Three Peppercorn with Peninsula Ridge Reserve Syrah 2010 and Butter Chicken with Konzelmann Late Harvest Gewurztraminer 2010.
In the afternoon I wrote the introduction to the British Columbia section of the book. For dinner, butter chicken curry with a bottle of Joie Farm Gewurztraminer 2010 (sweet and spicy melon flavour, a little low on acidity – but worked well with the curry; 88).
Thursday, September 13: Worked on the BC intro section. In the evening Deborah and I drove down to Lula Lounge, where Access Education Guatemala Children’s Fund was holding their annual fund-raiser. The event was a tribute to Grapes for Humanity for our donation to build a school there. They presented me with a plaque that read, “Access Education Guatemala Children’s Fund In special recognition of Grapes for Humanity Canada In honour of your unwavering commitment and contribution to improving the lives of the children of Guatemala.”
The dinner was delicious – watermelon mint gazpacho, jerk quarter chicken with Cuban-style rice and beans, marinated green beans and Cuban mojo sauce, followed by crème brûlée. The comedienne Martha Chaves gave a great stand-up routine. She quipped, “I love the name Grapes for Humanity. It means alcoholics who decided to do good.”
Friday, September 14: A morning spent writing my monthly column for Wine Fox on who makes better wine – BC or Ontario.
Deborah dropped me at the airport for a flight to Ottawa. For the next two days I’ll be judging wines for the Ottawa Wine Show competition. Staying at the Novotel. Dinner with fellow judges at Izakaya Asian Kitchen/Bar. The managing partner, Neil Gowe, a sommelier, is one of the judges. Very good wine list here. We tasted Kurt Angerer Kies Grüner Veltliner 2011, Thomas George Viognier Catie’s Corner Vineyard 2009, Hunter’s Pinot Noir 2007, Domaine Brusset Laurent B. Côte du Rhône 2010 and Schloss Rheinhartshausen Erbacher Schlossberg Riesling Spätlese 2006.
Saturday, September 15: The Ottawa Wine Competition judging began at 8:30 am in the Red Room of the Novotel. The wines are all featured at the upcoming Ottawa Wine Show. There were four tables of judges. My panel tasted 7 sparkling wines, 9 Pinot Noir, 10 Oaked Chardonnay, 8 Red Blends, 8 Other Reds, 7 White Blends and 7 Sweet (late Harvest) Whites. Then we broke for lunch before returning to taste 8 Other Whites, 9 Shiraz/Syrah, 7 Pinot Gris and 9 Cabernet Sauvignon. We only gave one gold medal all day – to an Ontario Syrah (which turned out to be Konzelmann Shiraz 2011). Then all panels tasted the gold medal winners blind to determine the Best White and Best Red. The winners were Alpine Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2011 and Coyote’s Run Red Paw Pinot Noir 2010.
Then we all went for a cleansing ale to Brothers Beer Bistro, where I ordered a pint of Flying Monkey Netherworld (a Barrie brewery). The judges met at 7 pm for dinner at The Side Door, 18 York Street, an Asian restaurant with spectacular food (one dish was Son-in-law egg – a poached egg, deep-fried with Asian spicing). Made a dent in their wine list with Paul Zinck Crémant d’Alsace Rosé, Zahel Grüner Veltliner 2010, Zyme II Rondinella Bianca 2010, Greenstone Shiraz 2009, Cuscina Cucci Barbera d’Alba 2009. A raucous, riotous evening.
Sunday, September 16: Flew back to Toronto on the 10 am flight.