Sunday, June 2: Did a tasting this afternoon of three Icewines produced by Niagara College Teaching Winery. In order to chill them down to a proper temperature I used a gadget called Ravi Instant Wine Chiller. You place an inner cartridge in the freezer and then slip it into a transparent plastic outer shell. You press the device into the bottle neck and pour the wine through the cartridge. It’s a bit complicated to assemble and clean but it does work. The wines were nicely chilled.
- Niagara College Teaching Winery Cabernet Franc Icewine 2011: deep amber ruby; high toned nose of strawberry puree; unctuous mouth feel, semi-sweet with a herbal note and candied raspberry finish. (89)
- Niagara College Teaching Winery “Prodigy” Icewine 2012 (99.5% Vidal with a tiny amount of Chardonnay): old gold colour; honey, tropical fruit nose; rich, spicy, peach and pineapple flavour that finish with a toffee and barley sugar note; full-bodied, intense fruit flavours with good balancing acidity. (92)
- Niagara College Teaching Winery “Savant” Icewine 2012 (44.2% Cabernet Franc, 18.7% Syrah, 8% Merlot, 15.4% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3.9% Petit Verdot): tawny ruby colour; floral, crushed strawberry nose; a flavour of strawberry puree and raisins, good presence in the mouth. Sweet and syrupy, given length by a fine spine of acidity. (90)
For dinner, Deborah’s veal-stuffed peppers. Château des Charmes Old Vines Riesling 2010: pale straw with a lime tint; minerally, citrus nose, already developing petrol notes; dry, lime and pear flavours; a little light on mid-palate flavour with an apple-like finish. (87+)
Monday, June 3: Wrote up a proposal for a new book on touring Ontario wineries. In the afternoon, drove down to the Hilton Garden Inn in Niagara-on-the-Lake for a dinner at Niagara College’s Benchmark Restaurant. The Lieutenant Governor, David Onley, presided over the kick-off dinner before tomorrow’s LG Wine Awards for Excellence in Ontario wines.
We had hors d’oeuvres on the terrace outside the restaurant prepared and served by culinary students:
Hothouse Cucumber Gazpacho with Mint Yogurt
Kent Heritage Farms Chicken Satay with Chipotle-Peanut Dip
Lake Huron Whitefish Terrine with Dill and Preserved Lemon Crème Fraiche
Upper Canada’s Camelot Cheese with White Meadows Maple and Pear Chutney
Then we moved indoors to the table:
Traves Farms Hoop House Sweet and Bitter Lettuce with St. David’s Roast Peppers and Niagara Food Specialties Chorizo, served with Niagara College Teaching Winery College Rosé
Beef Sirloin with Niagara College Teaching Winery Dean’s List Cabernet Franc 2010
Butter Poached Atlantic Salmon on Gingered Heirloom Greens, Traves Arugula Pommes Puree and Roasted Pearl Onions, with Niagara College Teaching Winery College Dean’s List Chardonnay 2010
Dessert: Celebrity Goat Cheese Cheesecake, Whitty Farms Strawberries and Niagara Ice Syrup, with Niagara College Teaching Winery College Dean’s List Cabernet Franc Icewine 2010
Hearty breakfast prior to Lieutenant Governor’s tasting
Tuesday, June 4: After a hearty breakfast at Benchmark restaurant (fruit cup, fruit juice, omelette, back bacon and sautéed potatoes, coffee, scones, muffins) our group of judges moved into the tasting room to begin tasting about 75 wines. We were divided into three panels (my panel: Dr. Amy Bowen, Kevin Panagapka, winemaker at the virtual winery 2027 Cellars, Bruce Wallner, Master Sommelier, and Karlee Moore, a student winemaker).
Judging panel: Amy Bowen, Bruce Wallner, Karlee Moore, Tony and Kevin Panagapka
We tasted five flights before lunch and five after: 9 Chardonnay, 11 Blended Whites, 7 Cabernet Franc, 7 Blended Reds, 9 Meritage. After lunch: 7 Sparkling wines, 8 Other Reds, 7 Pinot Noir, 10 Riesling and 4 Vidal Icewines. In all we passed 17 wines on to the next round tomorrow. All 12 judges will taste those wines that have been passed to select 8 to 12 wines that will receive the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in Ontario Wines 2013. Dinner at the White Oaks Resort in the Play Restaurant. Ordered a Rolling Rock beer with my Tandoori Chicken.
Wednesday, June 5: Drove back to Toronto in the early morning. Then dressed in a pink shirt for John Maxwell’s annual Men In Pink lunch at Allen’s on the Danforth.
The weather was good enough for us to lunch in the garden after consuming copious amounts of rosé wines supplied by Ontario winemakers who were present. The only rule, said John, is that you try as many wines as possible and after each course you change seats (four to the left). No women are allowed at this event. Everyone wore something pink, with the prize for the most outrageous costumes going to my wine writer colleague Billy Munnelly and Hillebrand winemaker Craig MacDonald (who won’t be allowed back to Australia after they see his photo posted).
Billy Munnelly gets into the pink spirit
Craig MacDonald in the pink
We started with mango and crab salad, followed by tagliatelle in lemon cream sauce, Angus veal chop, grilled asparagus, zucchini, aubergine and baked potato with sour cream and chives. Dessert: fresh strawberries and blueberries in cream.
I learned two things at lunch: Andrew Laffey, owner of the Hothouse Restaurant, told me that protein is always positioned at 6 o’clock on the plate, and Rodney, of Rodney’s oysters, resplendent in a pink cowboy hat, informed me that his restaurant uses wine corks to marinate octopus. (I think I need some more information on how that works.)
After a lengthy lunch, home to change out of my pink shirt and into more sombre attire as I had to go to a visitation later in the evening. But first, I attended what turned out to be the best tasting of Italian wines I have had in Toronto. It was the Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri tasting at the Liberty Grand, featuring wines that have been awarded the coveted 3 Glasses symbol. 106 wines from all 20 Italian provinces. I could only manage to taste 27 in the time available to me. My top scoring wines: Castello di Volpaia Casanova Il Puro Chianti Classico Riserva 2008 (93), Elvio Cogno Vigna Elena Riserva Barolo 2006 (92), Rocca di Frassinello Baffonero 2010 (Merlot: 92), Podere Grattamacco 2009 (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese: 92), Podere Sapaio 2009 (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot: 92), Musella Amarone della Valpolicella Riserva 2007 (92), La Montecchia Conte Emo Capodilista Irenèo Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carmenère: 92), Abbona Terlo Ravera Barolo 2008 (91), Poggio Al Tesoro Dedicato A Walter 2009 (Cabernet Franc: 92), Paolo Scavino Monvigliero Barolo 2008 (91), Pecchenino Sirì d’Jermu Dogliani 2009, La Togata Brunello di Montalcino 2007 (91), Terenzi Madrechiesa Morellino de Scansano Riserva 2009 (91) and Sorelle Bronca Ser Bele Riserva Colli di Conegliano 2009 (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet franc, Merlot: 91). A terrific tasting. Then Deborah picked me up with Guy and we went for a visitation at Humphrey funeral home to pay our respects to Shirley Pape.
Thursday, June 6: A tasting at Doug Towers’s for www.winerytohome and then Deborah picked me up to drive to Humphrey Funeral Home for the funeral service for Shirley Pape. A very emotional affair. I have known Shirley and Gordon Pape since 1972. We met in London when Gordon was the Southam correspondent there and have been friends ever since. After the service we were invited back to the Donalda Club for a dinner for the family and close friends.
Friday, June 7: A vintages tasting this morning for Essentials (the wines they are meant to have in constant supply). Dinner, pasta with a litre bottle of Apelia Agiorgitiko 2010 (86).
Saturday, June 8: Shopped at Longo’s and bought some mussels for dinner. Prepared them in Tinhorn Creek Pinot Gris 2012 (from BC) with enough wine left over to drink a glass while cooking. (Pale straw colour; minerally, peach pit nose; sweet peach flavour with enough lemony acidity to balance. Medium-bodied with good length. (88)). With the dish, Kacaba Unoaked Chardonnay 2012 from Ontario: straw colour; floral, apple nose; dry, red apple flavour, fresh and lively, nicely balanced (89+).
Sunday, June 9: Drove to Niagara-on-the-Lake with Deborah, Frank and Patti-Ann Daley to see Guys and Dolls at the Shaw Festival. Great show. Lunch at Stone Road Grill before the performance. Ordered bottle of Konzelmann Shiraz 2011 (ruby colour; peppery, savoury red berry nose; dry, savoury flavour, nicely balanced. (88)). For dinner, General Tao Chicken Nuggets and Tabouli salad with Inniskillin Pinot Gris Reserve 2012 (straw colour; peach, vanilla oak nose; medium-bodied. Peachy-lemony flavour (88)).