A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 491: California Dreamin’

Jean-Charles’s shoes

Monday, April 7: An early tasting before the annual California wine tasting at the Fairmont Royal York. Jean-Charles Boisset, in resplendent shoes, entertained a group of wine writers and sommeliers at Epic restaurant.

Jean-Charles Boisset

We began with JCB Brut No. 21 Crémant de Bourgogne (citrus and marshmallow nose; crisp green apple flavour – 89) followed by the California wines the Boisset family owns.

  • Raymond Chardonnay 2010: light straw colour; pear on the nose, nicely textured, dry with a poached pear flavour. (88+)
  • JCB Chardonnay Sonoma Coast 2011: light straw colour; leesy, spicy nose of apple and oak; Burgundian style, dry, caramel and apple flavours with a lemony finish. (89)
  • Raymond Cabernet Sauvignon 2010: cedar, vanilla oak and blackcurrant nose; rich mouth feel and soft on the palate. (89)
  • JCB Pinot No. 7 2011: deep ruby colour; cherry and violets on the nose; well extracted cherry flavour. (89+)
  • JCB No.3 Pinot Noir 2011 (a blend of 53% Russian River Pinot with 47% Pinot from Gevry, Nuits St. George and Chambolle-Musigny): cherry red with a nose of raspberry and rhubarb; dry, sinewy and elegant with a firm finish. (90)
  • Raymond Generations Cabernet Sauvignon 2010: deep ruby colour; creamy, blackcurrant and cedar nose; rich and full-bodied with plum and blackcurrant flavours; beautifully balanced with ripe tannins. (91)

Then upstairs for the sparkling wine reception (the Royal York now charges $3.50 to check your coat!) and the lunch at which Jean-Charles was the speaker. The mood was very upbeat because California wine sales have increased for the past four years.

In the ballroom 450 wines were available for tasting but, mercifully, the wine press was offered a quiet room where 97 wines were put out so we could taste quietly at tables. I concentrated on Pinot Noir in both the press room and the main hall. My favourites were Marimar Estate Doña Margerita Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010, Etude Pinot Noir 2011, Hahn Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands 2011, DeLoach Vineyards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2012, Landmark Vineyards Overlook Pinot Noir 2012 and Waterstone Pinot Noir 2011. Best value: Jackson Family Camelot Pinot Noir (NV) selling for $13.95. Also really liked Buena Vista Petit Verdot 2011, C. G. Di Arie Vineyard Old Vine Zinfandel 2007 (oldest Zin vines in North America, they said), Justin Justification 2011 (Cabernet Franc/Merlot), and Stag’s Leap Karia Chardonnay 2012.

Di Arie Zinfandel 2007

Tuesday, April 8: Spent much of the day working on the Ontario Wine Awards and preparing for a board meeting of Grapes for Humanity directors. For dinner with spicy pork loin, Montes Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon Colchagua Valley 2012 (dense purple colour; sweet plum and black cherry nosewith a spicy oak note; creamy mid-palate flavours, fruity and firm. No great length but enjoyable for the price of $13.55 (87)).

Wednesday, April 9: A tasting this morning of 12 family-owned Ontario wineries who came together in an association called “Somewhereness” (www.somewhereness.com) – a riff on wine write Matt Kramer’s expression “to describe the blend of terroir, climate, vine and vintner that lets a wine stand apart.” These are Ontario’s best producers and it was a pleasure to taste their wines.

Charles Baker Rieslings at Somewhereness

In the evening I conducted a trial seminar at The Vintage Conservatory for my “Executive Wine Experience.” The concept is to make young executives feel comfortable entertaining clients and navigating wine lists. The wines I chose from my cellar which were matched with food were:

  • Henriot Brut Souverain Champagne
  • Tawse Riesling 2010
  • Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay 2012
  • Remoissenet Père & Fils Clos Vougeot 2007
  • Château Chasse Spleen 1982
  • D’Arenberg The Dead Arm 2008
  • Shafer Merlot 2007

Unfortunately the ’82 Chasse Spleen was corked but I substituted Château Franc-Cardinal 2000, a wine made by my late, lamented friend Philip Holzberg. As luck would have it the Shafer Merlot was also corked.

Thursday, April 10: A meeting at KPMG to discuss the “‘Executive Wine Experience” to be held in their offices in June. In the afternoon I walked over to Grano for a tasting with Matt Fowles (Matt’s wife Luise designed the Fowles Wines’ labels – including Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch – and does indeed shoot her own lunch).

  • Are You Game? Chardonnay 2012 ($15.95): light straw colour; apple nose with oak; nicely balanced, full on the palate, spicy, pear and apple flavours; lovely mouth feel with alimony finish. Good value. (88)
  • Are You Game? Shiraz 2010 (10% Tempranillo – $16.95): dense purple-ruby colour; grilled meat and black fruit nose; savoury, herbal, blackcurrant flavour, fruity with lively acidity and a floral top note. (88+)
  • Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch Shiraz 2010 ($35.95): dense purple colour; spicy, blackcurrant, white pepper, vanilla oak nose; sweet and savoury flavours of blackcurrant and blackberry carried on a wave of fresh acidity; lovely texture and balance with ripe tannins. (92)
  • Fowles Stone Dwellers Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 ($19.75): dense ruby colour; cedar, blackcurrant with nuances of smoke and leather; medium to full-bodied, dry, fruity, lively acidity, fresh on the palate, firm finish. (91)

Friday, April 11: Zoltan Szabo and I drove down to Niagara to visit Thomas Bachelder, who is making wine for the new Domaine Queylus, a new Ontario winery owned by Quebec interests, situated on the top of the escarpment with the highest elevation vineyard in Niagara. With his assistant winemaker Kelly Baker we sat down in the new tasting room in a log-cabin house that used to belong to Vineland Estate’s winemaker Brian Schmidt.

Kelly Baker, assistant winemaker, Domaine Queylus

Thomas Bachelder, winemaker, Domaine Queylus

Domaine Queylus wines

Thomas explained that his Pinots are a blend of fruit from two sites, in Jordan and Beamsville, and that as a dedicated Burgundian he had to change his thinking about making wine from a single vineyard.

  • Domaine Queylus Pinot Noir Tradition 2010 ($30): light ruby colour; Volnay style; minerally, raspberry nose; fresh and elegant, beautifully balanced, great mouth feel with nervy acidity. (90)
  • Domaine Queylus Pinot Noir Réserve 2010 ($45): light ruby colour; earthy, beetroot and cherry nose; dense than the Tradition; firmly structured, more Morey St. Denis in style, tight and richer with a spicy oak finish. Needs time. (92)
  • Domaine Queylus Pinot Noir Tradition 2011 ($30): light ruby colour; more animal on the nosethan the 2010; cherry flavour with a floral grace note, firmly structured with a silky mouth feel; great structure. (92)
  • Domaine Queylus Pinot Noir Réserve 2011 ($45): light ruby colour; lovely nose of violets and raspberries with a mineral note; elegant, firmly structured, earthy, Pommard style. Great energy and length with a firm finish. (93)
  • Domaine Queylus Pinot Noir La Grande Réserve 2011 ($60): light ruby colour; violets and black raspberries on the nose tinged with vanilla oak; medium-bodied, lovely mouth feel, powerful, beautifully balanced, firmly structured with a sour cherry finish. Needs time (93–94)
  • Domaine Queylus Réserve Merlot Cabernet Franc 2010 ($45) (86% Merlot /14% Cabernet Franc): deep ruby colour; blackcurrant and leather nose with a thread of minerality; St. Emilion style, medium-bodied, sweet fruit, rich and full on the palate with a lively spine of acidity. (90)
  • Domaine Queylus Cabernet Franc Réserve 2011 ($45) (66% Cabernet Franc/34% Merlot): ruby colour; red and blackcurrants on the nose; more claret-like in style; firmly structured, elegant, finely textured. (89)
  • Domaine Queylus La Grande Réserve Merlot Cabernet Franc 2011 ($65) (65% Merlot/35% Cabernet Franc): deep ruby colour; cedar, spicy, currant nose with a hint of vanilla oak; elegant, redcurrant flavour with a sculpted tannin structure giving a firm finish. Needs time. (90)

Saturday, April 12: First day of judging at the Ontario Wine Awards at Crush wine bar. This is the 20th year of the awards and the largest number of entries. Day two is next Saturday and the sweet wine judging the day after that. At the end of the day Deborah and I went for dinner at Brooklyn Tavern to relax. Great meal there with an amazing bottle of La Stella Maestoso Merlot 2007.

Ontario Wine Awards judges   


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