A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 453: Tempest at I4C

Saturday, July 13: Deborah and I drove down to Niagara to attend the annual Hillebrand Jazz Festival. Trius’s winemaker, Craig McDonald, met us at the entrance and treated us to some refreshing glasses of Trius sparkling wine.

  • Trius Brut: pale straw colour, medium-bodied with a dry, crab apple and lemon flavour (88)
  • Trius Rosé Brut (Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay): deep salmon colour, strawberry, cranberry and orange flavours, dry with good structure on the finish (89)

Craig took us to lunch in the winery’s restaurant, during which we tasted the following wines:

  • Trius Sauvignon Blanc 2012: pale straw colour; grassy, green fig nose; medium-bodied, crisp, lemon, grapefruit and passion fruit flavours. Great value at $13.95. (89)
  • Trius Riesling 2012: pale straw colour with a lime tint; light petrol and grapefruit nose; initially dry grapefruit and lime flavour but a touch of sweetness in mid-palate balanced by citrus acidity. Good value at $13.95. (88)
  • Trius Chardonnay 2011: straw colour; apple nose with a touch of oak; medium-bodied, dry and crisp apple flavour with lively acidity; fresh with a good mouth feel. And again good vaue at $13.95. (89)

All tasted with potted salmon and crab rillettes, Icewine chioggia beets and Monforte feta cheese and toasted focaccia.

  • Hillebrand Showcase Wild Ferment Chardonnay 2010: straw colour; vanilla, apple nose with a touch of wood spice; elegant, creamy, dry caramel flavour; good length. (89+)
  • Hillebrand Showcase Outlier Gewurztraminer 2012: deep straw colour; high toned nose of ginger and lychee; full-bodied, spicy and rich but a little hsort on finish. May develop more length with some bottle age. (88)
  • Hillebrand Showcase Ghost Creek Riesling 2012: light straw colour with a green tint; petrol, lime and honey on the nose; fresh and lvely on the palate with tangerine, green plum and honey flavours; a seamless wine. (91)
  • Trius Red 2011 (50% Merlot, 37% Cabernet Franc, 13%Cabernet Sauvignon): ruby colour with a violet rim; cedar, mint and currants on the nose with a floral top note; firm, dry, savoury, cherry flavour riding on lively acidity with a red licorice and bitter chocolate finish. Not as robust as the 2010 but an agable wine. (89)
  • Trius Grand Red 2010: dense ruby colour; ripe black fruits and vanilla oak bouquet; sweet blackcurrant and tobacco flavours; full in them outh and well balanced with a firm finish. Pomerol style. (92)
  • Hillebrand Showcase merlot RHS (Right Hand Side) Clark Farm Vineyard 2010: dense purple colour; creamy cedar, vanilla, blackberry and blueberry nose; lovely mouth feel, firm and dry, well balanced and full on the palate. (91)
  • Hillebrand Red Shale Cabernet Franc Clark Farm Vineyard 2010: dense ruby color; blackcurrant and red pepper nose with a cedar note; dry, richly extracted fruit, sweet and savoury with a lovely soft mouth feel, great balance and mellow tannins. (92)
  • Hillebrand East Block Cabernet Sauvignon 2010: dense purple colour; cedar, savoury red berry nose; tight, lean and sinewy; medium-bodied, good mouth feel with chewy tannins. Needs 2–3 years in bottle (89–90+)

Outdoors for the music. Drank rosé in lawn chairs, ate hamburgers and French fries fried in duck fat and listened to Heillig Manoeuvre, Ron Davis and Michael Occhipinti. Slept the night at White Oaks.

Monday, July 15: At home, tasting the following South African wines with the importing agent, Sean Rowlands, who specialises in the country:

  • Rickety Bridge Chenin Blanc 2012: straw colour; minerally, quince nose; dry, medium-bodied, pear flavour, crisp acidic finish. (88)
  • Hermanuspietersfontein #3 Sauvignon Blanc 2012: pale straw colour with a lime tint; grassy, struck flint, smoky, elderberry nose; crisply dry, grapefruit and tart gooseberry flavours; long fresh finish. (89+)
  • Sumaridge Chardonnay 2010: golden straw colour; spicy, oaky, pineapple nose; toasty, rich and full on the palate, pineapple and lemon flavours with a toasty oak finish. (90)
  • Creation Pinot Noir 2012: light ruby colour; leather, cherry, nose; dry, velvety mouth feel, cherry flavour; medium-bodied, carries its 14.5% alcohol very well. (89)
  • Lemberg Spencer Pinotage 2011: deep purple colour; smoky, black cherry nose; full-bodied, smoky, tarry, black fruit flavours melded with vanilla. Lovely mouth feel with ripe tannins. (91)
  • Creation Syrah 2011: deep purple-ruby colour; savoury, herbal, blackberry nose; well extracted black fruit flavours, meaty with a herbal-iodine finish. (90)
  • De Trafford Cabernet Sauvignon 2010: dense purple-ruby; cedar, blackcurrant, vanilla oak with a leafy note; very elegant, claret-style, richly extracted, dark chocolate notes. Beautifully balanced and firmly structured. (92)

Deborah and I went to get passport photos taken for visa applications to visit China in August. For dinner, pasta with bacon and corn, Sandhill Cabernet Merlot 2010 (dense purple colour; spicy, minty, vanilla oak nose; medium-bodied, dry and savoury with a herbal note on the finish (88)).

Tuesday, July 16: The beginning of a very hot few days in Toronto. 32°C today with a humidex reading that makes it feel like 40°C. Drove out to the West End for a meeting with Mike Koff of the Canadian South Africa Network and the staff of the St. George’s Golf Club for a prospective Grapes for Humanity fundraising event on October 17th featuring the wines of South Africa. (The site is ideal).

Spent the rest of the day preparing a dinner party for Stephen Spurrier (who is in from London to be the keynote speaker at the International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration) and Marc & Elizabeth Nadeau (with whom Steven is staying). The menu: hummus with toasted pine nuts; gravad lax with capered mayonnaise; barbecued tenderloin, fingerling potatoes, peas and asparagus and corn salsa; cheeses; Deborah’s plum tart with whipped cream. Pulled out all the stops when it came to the wines:

  • Blue Mountain Brut (BC)
  • Cantina Lonardo Taurasi Grecomusc’ 2011 (Campania)
  • Joie Farm “En Famille” Reserve Gewurztraminer 2011 (BC)
  • Bouchard Pere & Fils Vigne de l’Enfant Jesus 2011 (Burgundy)
  • Joie Farm Pinot Noir 2011 (BC)
  • Painted Rock Red Icon 2009 (BC – Merlot 30%, Cabernet Franc 29%, Cabernet Sauvignon 25%m Petit Verdot 15%, Syrah 1%)
  • Stratus Icewine 2011 (Ontario – Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvèdre, Syrah)

Wednesday, July 17: A meeting with John Cullen, who wants to make a film about the Chinese approach to wine. Later in the day, a meeting with Mark Stone to discuss a pilot for a TV wine-based drama series.

Thursday, July 18: The hottest day so far. Went to the Chinese consulate to get visas for Deborah and myself for China. It will cost $300 for the two. Then on to Patria, a restaurant opposite Crush, for a tasting and tapas lunch featuring the wines of Beronia, the Rioja winery acquired by Gonzales Byass in 1982. This year is Beronia’s 40th anniversary and their winemaker of 31 years, Matias Calleja, led us through 11 wines from Beronia Viura 2012 (very pale colour with a green tint; minerally, pear skin nose; medium-bodied, crisp and dry pear and citrus flavours – 87) back to Beronia Gran Reserva 1973 (deep ruby with a mature rim with a depth of colour that belies its age; mature, soy, tobacco, strawberry and sandalwood nose; still very much alive with strawberry and pencil lead flavours, lively acidity and muscular tannins – 90).

We also tasted the Beronia Gran Reserva  1994, 1982, 1994 and 2006. The most impressive wine for the price was Beronia Barrel Fermented Tempranillo 2011, which is coming to Vintages on September 28th ($17.95 – dense ruby colour; floral, strawberry, tobacco leaf and sandalwood nose; round on the palate with a spicy cherry flavour, beautifully balanced with a creamy oak finish (89+)).

My old friend Gordon Pape came to dinner and I virtually recreated the meal we had with Steven Spurrier. Gordon brought along a bottle of Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1990 (which was superb in that raunchy, funky old Châteauneuf style). I opened up Joie Farm “En Famille” Reserve Chardonnay 2011 (spicy pineapple and citrus flavours (90)) and Flat Rock Cellars Unplugged Chardonnay 2012 (dry, medium-bodied, white peach and pear flavours with a thread of minerality (88)).

Friday, July 19: Up at 6:20 am. Another hot day. Drove down with Konrad Ejbich and Veronique Rivest to Brock University for the first day of the International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration.

Albrecht spoke of a bottle of Brights Chardonnay 1957. In 1985 Chardonnay production was 464 tonnes. Today Chardonnay is the leading variety – 9,000 tonnes. 1991 was the best vintage up to that time. 1992 conditions were so bad they had to use helicopters to drop fungus spray. Alan Schmidt, Chair of the Wine Council of Ontario, introduced Steven Spurrier, the keynote speaker, whose topic was “Global Perspectives on Chardonnay.” Steven said, “Chardonnay is completely terroir sensitive.”

The tasting was introduced by Marimar Torres, François Morissette, Jacques Lardière and Thomas Bachelder.

The tasting:

  • Jean Leon 3055 Chardonnay 2012
  • Pearl Morissette Estate Cuvée Dix-Neuvième 2011
  • Louis Jadot Puligny-Montrachet Folatière 2010
  • Bachelder Saunders Vineyard Beamsville Bench 2011
  • Bachelder Puligny Montrachet “En Corvée de Vigne” 2011
  • Marimar Estate La Masia Chardonnay Don Miguel Vineyard 2010
  • Pearl Morissette Occidental Chardonnay Sonoma 2009

(My favourites were the Jadot 2010 and the Pearl Morissette 2011.)

At lunch, sat at the same table as Dave Keatley, the winemaker at Flowers. Tasted his Flowers Camp Meeting Ridge Chardonnay 2010 alongside Coyote’s Run Unoaked Chardonnay 2012.

After lunch, checked into White Oaks Hotel. At 5 pm a shuttle bus took participants in I4C to Trius for I4C’s walk-around tasting. Of the 59 wines from around the world’s cool climate regions – set out on barrels in the winery’s courtyard – I was able to taste 18 before the sky went black and everyone took shelter inside.

The storm about to hit
The storm about to hit

The heavens opened with a downpour worthy of Noah’s flood, which put paid to the official outdoor opening. Steven Spurrier was meant to sabre a bottle of sparkling wine. The chefs scrambled to bring their food in and rallied to prepare pulled pork sliders, French fries and hot dogs for the by-now ravenous crowd. The chefs were real heroes, working in the open air under huge canopies. The storm, with thunder and sheet lightning happening every five seconds, lasted all night. I got soaked just running to the shuttle bus that took us back to the hotel. When we got there about 10 pm the power went out.

The elevators were out so I walked down to the bar for a glass of red wine (Inniskillin Pinot Noir 2012) but I forgot my key in the room. I asked for another key at the desk but because the computers were down they couldn’t make me one. A staff member had to walk me up seven floors in the dark to open my door with a master key. He wouldn’t accept a $5 tip. Apparently a twister had touched down in Grimsby and caused a lot of damage. The lightning had taken out a transformer near the hotel.

Saturday, July 20: The power is still out. In the lobby young girls who were attending a wedding were having their make-up done and their hair fixed by professionals. Breakfast had been set out – a tray of pastries and muffins and an urn of coffee. Magdalena Kaiser-Smit drove me over to Hidden Bench, where I was to have lunch. Deborah was driving in from Toronto to join me.

The winery hosted 105 guests at a sit-down lunch prepared by Splendido’s chef, Victor Barry We all enjoyed a glass of Cave Spring NV Blanc de Blanc with La Meque oysters, poached Nova Scotia lobster and peas, perigord truffled beef tartar, foie gras and strawberry before Harald Thiel, chair of I4C and proprietor of Hidden Bench, invited us to sit.

The lunch began with a panel discussion led by Jamie Goode with five winemakers whose wines we would be having with the lunch – Marlize Beyers (Hidden Bench), Norman Hardie, Clive Joes (Nautilus), Matt Chidack (Roche de Bellene) and Elizabeth Douglas (La Crema). Little did we know that the power was out at Hidden Bench until Harald announced that the ladies would be shuttled to Angels Gate winery if they needed to use the facilities (the guys were left to their own devices). Each of the four courses at lunch was accompanied by three wines and the winemakers introduced their wine.

Roasted Sea Scallop, Yukon Gold Potato, Chive & Smoke, with Maison Roche Bellene Chassagne-Montrachet Chevottes 2011, Norman Hardie County Chardonnay 2011, Nautilus Estate Chardonnay 2010 (best match with the dish)

Perfect Hidden Bench Egg, Saskatchewan Chanterelles, Spinach & Garlic, with Lailey Vineyard Old vines Chardonnay 2011, Flat Rock Cellars Rusty Shed Chardonnay 2011, La Crema Winery 2011 (best match). Harald informed me that two of his chickens managed to escape during the storm.

Roasted Yorkshire Pork, Crème Friache, Oxtails, Nasturtium and Vanilla Jus Roti, with Château Génot-Boulanger Puligny-Montrachet Les Nosroyes 2010, Hidden Bench Vineyards Chardonnay Tête de Cuvée, Kistler Vineyards Vine Hill Vineyard Chardonnay 2010 (best match)

Splendido Upper Canada Cheese Plate, with  Vina Ventisquero Queulat Single Vineyard Chardonnay 2011 (best match), Trius Barrel-Fermented Chardonnay 2011, Cave Spring Cellars Chardonnay Estate 2011

After the splendid Splendido lunch we made our way over to the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre for an outdoor seminar of matching Indian curries with Chardonnay. Sommelier Peter Bodnar Rod chose wines to match Vikram Vij’s cuisine. Great quote from Vikram: “If you say you’re allergic to curry, that’s BS. You can’t be allergic to curry as you can’t be allergic to music.” This is one of the more printable quotes from the spontaneous responses of Canada’s leading Indian cuisine chef.

Vikram Vij preparing rice for curry
Vikram Vij preparing rice for curry

Vikram's spices for curry
Vikram’s spices for curry

The first dish was coconut marsala prawns in coconut milk and green chili with Niagara College Teaching Winery Chardonnay Unoaked 2011 and Poplar Grove Chardonnay Reserve 2011 (better match). Chicken curry in sour cream, black cardamom and cloves with 13th Street Stonestone Reserve 2011 and Adelsheim Caitlin’s Chardonnay Reserve 2011 (better match), followed by lamb curry in cream and garam marsala with Malivoire Moira Chardonnay 2010 and Domaine de la Vourgeraie Clos du Prieuré 2007 (better match).

Back at home, we opened a bottler of Du Toitskloof Cellar Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (Western Cape, South Africa): pale straw colour with a lime tint; leesy, minerally, green plum and sweet grass nose; medium-bodied, dry, good mouth feel with zesty gooseberry and green pear flavours in the round, mid palate finishing with mouth-watering acidity. Good length and great value at $11.50. (89)

Sunday, July 21: Packed for my annual fishing trip at Peterson’s Point Lake Lodge in the Yukon. I leave tomorrow at 6:30 am.

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