Saturday, February 22: Our annual fishing dinner at Steve Cohen’s. On our trips Steve does all the cooking for shore lunches. We began with champagne – Charles Heidsieck Reserve Brut with hors d’oeuvres. The menu: Caviar Pie à la Esther, with Chopin Potato vodka followed by Miso Marinated black cod, with Zind Humbrecht Riesling Clos St. Urbain Grand Cru 1995. Duck breast and duck confit in cherry sauce, Lundberg Rice Pilaf, Portobello and turnip stack and French green beans, with G. Roumier Bonnes Mares 1999 and Osoyoos Larose 2001. With the cheeses, Château Calon Segur St. Estephe 1996 and Taylor Port 1970.
Sunday, February 23: Deborah and I attended the 20th anniversary celebration of the Avenue Road Art School as guests of its founder, Lola Rasminsky. Ran into lots of old friends, including Barry Chaim, Howard Engel and Marilyn Lightstone. Bob Rae auctioned off my home wine tasting as part of the fundraiser. In the evening I conducted a tasting of kosher wines imported by Mrs. Adler’s Mazel Wines at a private house. The wines we tasted:
- Gvoat Chardonnay/Cabernet 2011
- Montefiore Petite Sirah 2010
- Gvoat Herodian Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
- Psagot Select Vineyard Cabernet 2011
- Yatir Forest 2009 (49% Cabernet Sauvignon, 41% Petit Verdot and 10% Merlot)
- Yarden 2T 2010 Golan Heights Winery (51% Touriga Nacional, 49% Tinta Cao)
Monday, February 24: A tasting of Ontario wines with David Lawrason and Doug Towers for winerytohome.com. Came home and tasted Mission Hill 5 Vineyards Pinot Blanc 2012 (bright straw colour; white peach and peach pit nose with a mineral note; medium-bodied, peach and pear flavours with balancing acidity. (88)). And Mission Hill 5 Vineyards Cabernet Merlot 2011 (ruby colour; spicy, cherry bouquet with vanilla oak; cranberry and cherry flavours with a bitter chocolate note and grainy tannins (87+)).
Tuesday, February 25: Went to a private home to evaluate a cellar and then down to Reds Tavern to meet Alison Crary Rodrigues, associate winemaker at Sterling Vineyards. She had brought along a flight of Merlot – 1985, 1994, 2002 and 2011.
- Sterling Vineyards Napa Valley Merlot 1985: Alison called it a “Goldilocks vintage” – a little bit of this and a little bit of that. (97% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc) Ruby colour with a tawny rim; spicy, soy, leather, vanilla oak, blackcurrant and dried flowers on the nose; dry and elegant and beginning to dry our but still delicious with lively acidity. (90)
- Sterling Vineyards Napa Valley Merlot 1994 (85% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Cabernet Franc): ruby with a brick-coloured rim; savoury, cedar, vanilla and black cherry, white pepper, coffee bean and blackcurrant on the nose; sweet ripe plum flavour with refreshing acidity and a firm tannic finish. (91)
- Sterling Vineyards Napa Valley Merlot 2002 (86% Merlot, with Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon): ruby colour; cedar, vanilla, lavender, licorice and spicy cherry nose; elegant, fruit-driven, initially sweet on the palate but finishing dry with ripe tannins. Lovely mouth feel. (90)
- Sterling Vineyards Napa Valley Merlot 2011 (89% merlot with Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec): deep ruby colour; cedar, vanilla oak, creamy rhubarb and black cherry aromas with a floral top note; creamy, mocha flavour with the oak still showing through and a firm, tannic finish. Needs time. (89–91)
Lunch: Wild Mushroom Soup (Roasted Chicken Broth, truffled Enoki Salad, Parmesan Crouton) with Sterling Vineyards Napa Valley Chardonnay 2011 (golden straw colour; spicy, tropical fruit nose; full-bodied, pineapple and melon flavours; full-bodied with good acidity, marred by some bitterness on the finish (88)). Main course: pan roastedsalmon with sweet pea puree, sugar snap peas, fingerling potatoes, heirloom carrots and butter sauce. Followed by cheese platter, with Sterling Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (deep ruby colour; vanilla oak, creamy sweet blackcurrant and black cherry flavours with supple tannins. (80% Cabernet Sauvignon with Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. (89)).
In the afternoon Eugene Mlynczyk dropped by to discuss his dissertation subject for the Master of Wine program. We talked over a bottle of Mission Hill 5 Vineyards Pinot Blanc 2012 (lively melon and peach flavours, dry, citrus acidity (88)).
Wednesday, February 26: Met with Andrew, the young sommelier at Sip Wine Bar who is interested in taking courses to become an accredited sommelier. Lunch with Cathy Martin and Liz Gallery, who are co-chairing Grapes for Humanity’s “Chile Uncorked” fundraiser on May 15th. Then down to the Royal Alex to see a matinee of Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis. A challenging, thought-provoking play with a very physically-demanding performance by Bjorn Thors, the man who is changed into an insect overnight.
Restored my faith in humanity that evening by opening a bottle of Laughing Stock Vineyards Portfolio 2007. This is one of the best wines I’ve tasted from British Columbia in a long time. A blend of 56% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc, 6% Malbec and 1% Petit Verdot. Deep purple in colour with an appealing nose of cedar, black cherry and lovely sweet oak; medium-bodied, dry and elegant cherry and blackcurrant flavours, beautifully balanced and firmly structured with a lovely mouth-feel (92 points). Deborah and I had it with steak.
Thursday, February 27: Recorded my 680News wine reviews and then settled down to write an article on the latest trends in Canadian wines for Wine Business International.
Friday, February 28: Spent the morning working on the Wine Business International article and then drove down to Niagara Falls for Cuvée. Booked into the Hilton Hotel with an amazing view of both the American falls (which were partially frozen) and the Canadian. I got up on the stage to present my annual award and said, “This is the 15th year I have given the Tony Aspler Award of Excellence at Cuvée. This award is given to the individual or institution that has done most to further the aims and aspirations of the Ontario wine industry. This year’s recipient is an individual who owns a winery which has produced stellar wines vintage after vintage. And the owner has brought prestige to the local industry by his work in Burgundy. The award goes to Moray Tawse.” But Moray was not in the room! I had called his winemaker Paul Pender to get him there under some pretext but Paul apparently thought the awards were handed out at 9 pm rather than the actual time of 7 pm. However, Moray did show up and I presented him with the traditional engraved decanter and my wine writer colleague Rod Phillips took this picture.
My favourite wines of the night: Bachelder Wismer Chardonnay 2011, Domaine Queylus Grande Réserve Pinot Noir 2011 and Trius Wild Ferment Sauvignon Blanc 2012.
Saturday, March 1: Had breakfast with Jamie Drummond in the Hilton’s Grand Caffe and drove him to Brock University’s Pond Inlet for Cuvée’s annual Experts’ Tasting. This is the 25th year of this event. A flight of Riesling, followed by Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and a very exciting flight of red blends. I couldn’t stay for the Options Game as I had to get back to Toronto. I leave tomorrow for Chile. In the evening I tasted Kim Crawford Hawkes Bay Pansy! Rosé 2013: light cherry red colour; minerally cherry pit nose; medium-bodied, sweetish, confected raspberry flavour (86). For dinner, grilled salmon with Tinhorn Creek Pinot Gris 2011 (straw colour; minerally, peach pit nose; medium-bodied, dry pear flavour with a smoky, citrus note. Good mid-palate flavour (88)).