A Wine Lover’s Diary, part 417: Let There Be Luce

Monday, October 22: Spent most of the day working on Grapes for Humanity’s White Truffle dinner to be held on November 7th at Sopra. Apparently it’s been a bad year for truffles in Italy – not enough rain – so prices are high. We’re being quoted $10 a gram. Then there are the fine wines to match, the delivery of the wines, the entertainment (a pianist), the printing of the menu, the video presentation by Adrienne Rosen on behalf of Access Education Guatemala and the guest gift of a bottle of truffle oil.

Since I leave for Argentina on Wednesday there’s a lot to do. In the afternoon, tasted the following wines from the Okanagan Valley:

  • 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)
  • St. Hubertus Oak Bay Gamay Noir 2010: light ruby colour; high toned volatile nose, peppery cherry notes; balsamic vinegar note, floral, sour cherry and raspberry flavours with lively acidity. (85)
  • Mt. Boucherie Estate Collection Merlot 2007: ruby colour; earthy, blueberry nose with a wisp of vanilla oak; medium-bodied, dry and savoury with dark chocolate tones. Firmly structured, supple tannins, nicely balanced with acidity. (88)
  • Church & State Cabernet Sauvignon 2009: deep ruby colour; a nose of cedar and blackcurrant with a floral top note; full on the palate, richly extracted fruit, chunky mouth feel, firm structure with a coffee bean note on the finish. (90)

Pooch, my friend from California who runs four wine competitions there, came to dinner and my son Guy joined us. We started with Deborah’s leek and potato soup. I opened a bottle of Niagara College Teaching Winery Pinot 2011 for the BBQ standing rib of beef (with sweet potato and roasted parsnips) – ruby colour with a nose of cherries and vanilla oak; medium-bodied, dry with lively acidity and chalky tannins and some grip on the finish. Very Burgundian in style. (90)

Tuesday, October 23: Rained all night and had to give Pinot her morning walk in the rain. Tidying up my desk for departure on Wednesday to Buenos Aires via New York for a week touring wineries in Argentina. At 6 pm down to Trattoria Giancarlo for a vertical of Luce conducted by Lamberto Frescobaldi, the 30th generation of his family who have been living in Florence since 1000 and have been making wines since the fourteenth century. Luce della Vita began as a co-production with Robert Mondavi. Tim Mondavi made the wine (a Sangiovese and Merlot blend) with Lamberto and it wasn’t named until the wine was in the bottle in 1993.

Before the tasting, a stand-up reception with a glass of Danzante Prosecco with Italian hors d’oeuvres. We sat down at table and tasted through 11 vintages of Luce from 2009 back to 1999. In poor vintages the proportion of Merlot is higher (as in 2002 when it was 75% and tasted like a St. Emilion). They were all beautifully crafted wines and all except the 2004 and 2001 scored 90 or above on my points. Those both received 89 points. My highest rankings went to Luce 2006 (elegant, floral with a rich chocolate flavour – 93) and the amazing Luce 1999 (still holding its deep ruby colour; a nose of pencil lead and cherries, spicy and beautifully balanced, firmly structured and still youthful – 93). Also enjoyed the 2000 vintage, which was very Californian in its richness and forwardness (92), and the 2009 (spicy black cherry with a floral note, richly extracted cherry and plum flavours ending with chocolate and powdery tannins (92+).

Then we had dinner, served with Lucente 2010 decanted from magnums:

Baked mushrooms, grilled polenta, parmesan

Risotto in Chianti, grilled figs and sheep’s milk

Grilled sirloin, olive oil infused crispy sage, garlic and red chilli

Dessert: Vanilla gelato over warm apple crostato

I sat next to Lamberto and we compared notes on our dogs as well as photographs. His is called Brunello.

Coming tomorrow: Argentina.

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