A Wine Lover’s Diary, part 416: Royal Winter Fair

Monday, October 15: Wrote my 680News wine reviews and my column for On the Go. Recevied a review copy of my wine writer buddy Rod Phillips’s new book – The 500 Best-Value Wines in the LCBO. Rod speculates the next Big Red trend may be Bonarda from Argentina, Tempranillo from Spain or Pinotage from South Africa. I’d opt for Bonarda, having tasted Argento’s Bonarda 2011 (see Tuesday). For dinner with penne and meat sauce, Moon Curser Dead of Night 2010, a blend of Tannat and Syrah: dense purple-ruby colour; a nose of blackberry, black olive, vanilla oak and herbs; medium to full-bodied, dry and savoury blackberry flavours, juicy with lively acidity (89).

Margaret Swaine (left) and Carolyn Hammond judging

Margaret Swaine (left) and Carolyn Hammond judging

Tuesday, October 16: Judged at the Royal Winter Fair competition. My panel included Margaret Swaine and Carolyn Hammond. A computer glitch delayed proceedings and I had to leave before the final taste-off for the best sweet wine of show. Arron Barberian of Barberians steakhouse was on hand to announce that he has donated a prize of $2,000 to the winemaker of the Best Wine of Show.

Hurried over to One restaurant in the Hazelton Hotel, where Silvia Corti, the winemaker of Argento in Mendoza, was hosting a dinner featuring her wines with each course. Silvia has been their winemaker for eight years and has a total of seventeen vintages under her belt. We watched a short film about the Mendoza region while we sipped Argento Pinot Grigio 2012 (pale straw colour; minerally, white peach nose and flavour; medium-bodied – 87) and nibbled on lamb and grilled vegetable empanadas, eggplant puree, parsley and pickled shallots, salmon ceviche, orange and lime consommé, apple and avocado chutney crisp fingerling. Then to the private dining room for the meal:

Seared scallop, sweet potato raviolini, cured cherry tomato, double smoked bacon form, served with Argento Chardonnay 2012 (straw colour; spicy apple and ripe tropical fruit on the nose; full-bodied, nicely balanced with lively acidity – 88)

Locro stew (house made chorizo, corn, butternut squash, white beans, roasted peppers) with Argento Bonarda 2011 (dense purple-black, Dolcetto-like, black cherry and sandalwood nose; soft and fruity with a firm finish – 88)

Beef two ways: Roasted strip loin with chimichurri and pico de pallo, Braised short rib with black pepper and thyme frites, pecorino desardo, with Argento Malbec 2012 (dense purple colour, a nose of blackberries with a hint of oak; soft on the palate with sweet fruit and a chocolate note; dry, well structured finish – 88)

Chef selection of Argentinian cheeses, with Argento Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (dense ruby colour; vanilla oak, red berry nose; dry, firmly structured red berry and leather flavours – 88)

Wednesday, October 17: Recorded my 680News wine reviews, then spent the rest of the afternoon working on BC winery profiles for the book. Then got down to some tasting to get rid of the samples that have been piling up.

  • Colio Girls’ Night Out Riesling 2011 (Ontario – $12.95): pale straw colour; minerally, citrus nose; dry, lime and grapefruit flavours with a touch of bitterness (86)
  • Colio Girls’ Night Out Chardonnay 2011 (Ontario – $11.45): straw colour; minerally, apple nose; dry, medium-bodied, crab apple flavour with refreshing acidity. A simple quaffing wine. (86+)
  • Sprucewood Shores Riesling 2011 (Lake Erie North Shore – $13.95): very pale colour; grapefruit rind, lime, musk melon nose; sweet and sour flavours of honey, melon and lime, bracing acidity. (87)
  • Sprucewood Shores Chardonnay 2011 (Lake Erie North Shore – $15.15): very pale colour; apple with a floral note on the nose; medium-bodied, fresh, green apple flavour; clean and well balanced. (88)
  • Gaston & Larsen Prospect Winery Larch Tree Hill Riesling 2011 (Okanagan Valley): light straw colour; petrol, lime, minerally, nose; medium-bodied, off-dry, honey and lime flavours; good tension between sweet and sour elements. Well made with crisp, bright acidity. (89)
  • Henry of Pelham Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2010 (Short Hills Bench, Ontario – $19.95): light straw colour; minerally, spicy oak and apple nose; more concentrated on the palate than the nose suggests. Sweet melon and pineapple flavours, nicely balanced and well integrated oak. Toasty, nutty finish. (90)
  • Beronia Reserva 2007 (Rioja – Tempranillo, Graciano, Mazuelo – $18.95): deep ruby colour; sandalwood, vanilla, cherry nose; dry, velvety mouth feel, medium-bodied, plum and strawberry puree flavour with a firm and spicy , acidic finish. (88)
  • Collazzi I Bastioni Chianti Classico 2009 (Tuscany – 80% Sangiovese, 18% Merlot,2% Malvasia Nero): solid ruby colour; cedary, cherry nose; dry, light on the palate with ripe tannins, forward and very approachable now, black cherry flavour. (89)
  • JCB # 3 (Jean-Charles Boisset’s Burgundy + California – 60% Pinot Noir from Russian River with 40% Côte de Nuits): deep ruby colour; smoky black cherry nose with a toasty note; sweet cherry and red licorice flavours, soft mouth feel but powerful (14.5% alcohol but carries it well). Seductive in its forward fruit and silky tannins. Starts off tasting California and finishes French. (89+)
  • Château des Charmes Cabernet –Merlot 2009 (Niagara-on-the-Lake – $14.95): ruby colour; leafy, redcurrant and cedar nose; dry, medium-bodied, redcurrant and cranberry flavour with gripping tannins on the finish and bright acidity (87)
  • Sprucewood Shores Lady in Red 2010 (Lake Erie North Shore: 50% Cabernet Franc, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Pinot Noir, 10% Merlot – $14.95): ruby colour; tobacco leaf and red berry nose; light on the palate with raspberry and cherry flavours, dry, elegant and easy drinking, soft tannins. A versatile food wine. (87)
  • Sprucewood Shores Meritage 2010 (Lake Erie North Shore: 45% Cabernet Franc, 33% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon): deep ruby colour; cedar, black and redcurrant notes on the nose; light claret-style with grip; dry, lean, sinewy with bitter chocolate and red berry flavours. (88)
  • Wyndham Estate George Wyndham Founder’s Reserve Shiraz 2009 (Langhorne Creek): deep ruby colour; minty-menthol nose of blackberry with a spicy cedar note; ripe blackberry with a savoury, herbal note with a firm finish. (89)

For dinner, with squid ink pasta, Volcanes Summit Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2011 (dense purple colour; on the nose, cedar and blackcurrant with a note of pepper. Full-bodied and generous on the palate, carrying its 14% alcohol well. Dry, with enough tannin to give it structure. Good value at $9.95 – 88).

Thursday, October 18: After my dental appointment for a cleaning (my dentist insists on telling me how he makes his annual batch of grape juice) I did some work on the wine book. In the evening Deborah and I were invited to Soulpepper in the Distillery District by Richard Wernham and Julia West for a musical soiree featuring students from the Soulpepper Academy and introduced by the artistic director Albert Schultz. A highly entertaining evening with a delicious dinner.

Friday, October 19: This morning a Vintages tasting for November 24. This release is so large they have split it into two. Today we tasted mainly white wines and dessert wines.

At just after midnight the fire alarm in the building went off and we all had to leave our units. I had to walk Pinot the Wonderdog down 14 flights. Neither of us was pleased. Turns out there was a short circuit in the system that trigged the sprinkler system on the third level of the parking garage.

Saturday, October 20: A lousy night’s sleep, as the alarm kept going off until 2 am. I had set the alarm for 7:15 am as I had to walk the dog, shower, have breakfast and be ready for a 9 am meeting with Jean-François Bergeron, with whom I am collaborating on the Canadian wineries book. We spent four hours going over the photos and textual matters.

In the evening Deborah and I drove to Burlington for attend a fund-raiser for breast cancer, called Beauty and the Bistro. I conducted a series of three tastings based on these medal-winning wines from the Ontario Wine Awards:

  1. Vineland Estates Winery 2009 St. Urban Riesling
  2. Château des Charmes Winery 2010 Chardonnay Musqué, Estate Bottled
  3. Lailey Vineyard Wines 2010 Cabernet Franc
  4. Cattail Creek Estate Winery 2007 Cabernet Merlot Reserve
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