Sunday, June 8: My son Guy came over for dinner and while the BBQ was heating up (for spicy pork and seasoned lamb sausages) we opened a bottle of Domaine Bouisse-Matteri Cuvee du Paradis 2013 (don’t be fooled by its pale orange-pink colour; the style in Provence is for very pale rosés. This wine has loads of flavour. Minerally, watermelon and strawberry on the nose, these fruit flavours carried on tangerine-like acidity fill the mouth and linger there to a satisfactory finish. (88+, private order $5.95 + HST from Terra Firma)). We drank it with hummus and pita. For the sausages with grilled vegetables and tabouli, a bottle of Blackstone Pinot Noir 2012 (gutsy and fruity with cherry and plum jam flavours with a touch of smokiness – 88).
Monday, June 9: After a meeting with my accountant, who re-ogranized my rudimentary book-keeping procedures, Deborah and I drove over to Geddy Lee’s house for a meeting concerning a Grapes for Humanity event in September. Geddy and Alex Lifeson will be leading a group by VIA Rail to a Niagara winery (so watch this space). In the afternoon I wrote my On The Go column and did some tasting:
- Tinhorn Creek Chardonnay 2013 (BC): straw colour; vanilla oak, spicy, peachy-pineapple nose; dry, full on the palate, with tropical fruit and citrus flavours. Good length. (88)
- Tinhorn Creek 2 Bench White 2013 (BC) (31% Sauvignon Blanc, 29% Chardonnay, 28% Semillon, 9% Viognier, 3% Muscat): light straw colour; aromatic, peachy nose with the Muscat singing through; spicy and dry, nicely balanced peach and citrus flavours. (89)
- Tinhorn Creek Gewurztraminer 2013 (BC): pale straw colour; fragrant lychee and rose petal nose; elegant, perfumed, lychee and ginger flavour, beautifully balanced, clean and fresh and lingering. Simply delicious. (91)
- Cono Sur Reserva Especial Chardonnay 2013 (Casablanca Valley): pale straw colour; pear bouquet with a touch of oak; thick on the palate with peach and citrus flavours; full-bodied and fleshy. (88)
- Tinhorn Creek 2 Bench Rosé 2013 (BC) (100% Cabernet Franc): pale salmon colour; grapefruit rind, cranberry nose; dry, medium-bodied, redcurrant and cranberry flavours with a touch of bitterness on the finish. (87)
- Tinhorn Creek Pinot Noir 2011 (BC): ruby colour with a tawny note; cherry nose with a light floral note; dry, sour cherry and cherry pit flavours with lively acidity. (88)
- Tinhorn Creek Pinot Noir 2010 (BC): a deep ruby than the 2011; cedary, cherry and lilac nose; well extracted fruit, firmly structured with cherry and floral flavours; good length. (90)
- Maipe Chakana Wines Bonarda Reserve 2011 (Mendoza, Argentina): dense purple colour; earthy, plum nose; mouth-filling plum and mocha and coffee bean flavours with ripe tannins. (89)
- Urban Uco Malbec-Tempranillo 2012 (Uco Valley , Mendoza): deep purple-ruby colour; dried flowers, cherry on the nose; licorice, dark chocolate and cherry flavours medium-bodied, dry with a savoury finish. (88+)
Then went down to Pastizza for a Wine Writers Circle dinner. This restaurant, on the corner of Market Street and Esplanade, is owned by Paolo Paolini and his Californian partner, Thomas George, who owns an eponymous winery in Healdsburg. The restaurant is schedule to open at the end of June but our group was treated to a dinner featuring the entire menu along with Thomas George wines, including the proprietary bottlings of Pastizza Brut (served with a variety of thin crust pizzas and Kobe beef pastrami sliders).
Pastizza’s house fizz
We started with casarece noodles in a clam and yellow tomato sauce followed by raviolone filled with mushrooms, then organic salmon with a pistachio crust with scalloped potatoes and asparagus, chicken and short ribs and salad, finishing with sticky toffee pudding. The wines:
- Pastizza Pinot Grigio 2012
- Pastizza Viognier 2010
- Pastizza Tempranillo 2010
- Thomas George Estates Zinfandel 2011
- Thomas George Russian River Chardonnay 2010
- Thomas George Estate Pinot Noir 2011
Wine rack at Pastizza
A great meal from a generous host. The kitchen has the most modern equipment I’ve seen – an amazing pasta machine and state-of-the-art gelato maker – and the bathroom has taps that double as hand driers! Worth a visit to see these alone.
Pastizza’s wash basin taps with hand driers
Tuesday, June 10: Recorded my 680News wine reviews, then down to the LCBO to taste some wines from the June 21st Vintages release. In the late afternoon opened the following wines.
- Bench 1775 Chill 2013 (Naramata Bench, BC – 46% Pinot Gris, 25% Chardonnay, 11% Sauvignon Blanc, 6% Viognier, 6% Semillon, 6% Gewurztraminer): pale straw colour; fragrant nose of peach and nectarine; spicy citrus and peach flavours, ripe fruit but nicely balanced with mouth-watering acidity and good texture, finishing on a mango note. (89)
- Bench 1775 Sauvignon Blanc 2013: pale straw colour; grassy, minerally, green plum nose; crisply dry with well extracted grapefruit and green plum flavours that fill the palate and linger enticingly. (90)
- Bench 1775 Pinot Gris 2013: pale straw colour; peach pit nose with a mineral note; good, generous mouth feel, dry with nectarine and pink grapefruit flavours, fresh and lively on the palate. (89)
- Bench 1775 Gewürztraminer 2013: pale straw colour; spicy, rather reluctant nose for the variety; more expressive on the palate with lychee and rose water flavours, unctuous on the palate and yet delicate at the same time. Would have like to have experienced more concentration of flavour for the alcohol. (87)
- Bench 1775 Glow (Rosé) 2013 (48% Malbec, 26% Merlot, 14% Syrah, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon): pale salmon colour; minerally, red berry nose; redcurrant, cranberry and strawberry puree flavours carried on citrus acidity; great mouth feel and very much in Provence rosé style. Best rosé I’ve tasted from BC. Beautifully balanced. (90)
- Whistler Chardonnay Late Harvest 2013 (Bench 1775): straw colour; honeyed nose of peach and sultanas; initial sweetness curbed by racy acidity giving the wine a clean, continuous line of well-balanced, medium-sweet flavours of peaches and honey. (90)
- Closson Chase K. J. Watson Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011 (Niagara River): very pale ruby with an orange tint; high toned, strawberry nose; more power on the palate than the nose suggests, surprisingly weighty on the palate for such a difficult vintage with cherry and truffle flavours and just a hint of tannin on the finish. (87+)
- Mouton Cadet Vintage Edition 2012: ruby-purple colour; cedary, blackcurrant nose with oak spice; medium-bodied, more extract than the previous vintage, dry, focused red and blackcurrant flavours. Needs time to show its paces. Decant and leave for an hour or two. (88)
Wednesday, June 11: Packed for Vienna and the VieVinum wine festival. Deborah dropped me at the airport for my 5:55 pm Austrian Airlines flight (which left full and late). Watched a Chinese violent movie with subtitles and slept fitfully.
Thursday, June 12: Arrived Vienna. Our Canadian group of wine writers was bussed to our hotel, the Wandl on Petersplatz. Sheila Swerling-Puritt and I went for lunch at Cafe Korb around the corner from the hotel. I ordered Sausage with goulash gravy and a pint of beer.
My first lunch in Vienna
Then we went in search of “The Chocolate King of Vienna,” Leschanz, and when we eventually found it after many missteps decided not to buy any chocolate because of the heat.
Leschanz, The Chocolate King of Vienna
Vienna manhole cover
Figlmüller, Vienna’s legendary schnitzel house
The architect had one too many beers
Grabbed a couple of hours’ sleep before meeting up with Sean Wood, my wine writer colleague from Nova Scotia, and walked to the Badeschiff on the canal for the VieVinum welcome party. Eventually found it after going in the wrong direction. The event was held on a boat moored in the canal.
Thirty-three wines had been set out for us to try in various categories – Best of Weissburgunder, Best of Aromatics, Best of Rare Varieties, Best of Pinot Noir, Best of Cuvee and Best of Sweet wines. The best wines for me were Josef Lensch Barkbarkeit Pinot Noir Reserve 2009 from Burgenland and an amazingly fresh and lively rosé, Langmann vulgo Lex Schilcher 2013. I had never come acorss this wine before so I looked it up in Wikipedia:
produced solely in the Austrian region of Western Styria (Weststeiermark)… The Schilcher wine itself is a distinct rosé made from the indigenous Blauer Wildbacher grape. (Wildbacher is a dark-skinned grape variety and specialty of the Styria region of Austria. It is a very old variety said to go back to the Celts, and manuscripts first record the name in the 16th century. The variety is not particularly demanding in terms of soil though it does require warm sites with sufficient aeration as it is prone to rot. The grapes tend to ripen late and yields can be inconsistent. Wines made from Wildbacher typically exhibit red berry and herbal flavors with a refreshing acidity.) The colour ranges from a light onion tinge to a deep ruby. The grape was once a wild variety which was said to contain alcohol compounds which, in turn, allegedly would induce wild inebriation, hence its colloquial name Rabiatperle – rabid pearl… Wine from the Schilcher grape is also used for blending and for the production of sparkling wine… Authentic Schilcher wine must carry the official emblem of the white horse (referring to the Lipizzans bred in Piber for the world-famous Spanish Riding School in Vienna) and also carry the official certification number of denomination.
We ate on board, marinated asparagus, tomato goat cheese tart with black olives and beef tartar with avocado to start, followed by roast beef strips with creamed spaetzle Stroganoff. On the walk back to the hotel with Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson of Winnipeg Free Press, got lost again. It seems to be the theme for Vienna. Got to bed around 11 pm.
Friday, June 13: Awoke at 1:30 and again at 4:30. Got up to write this blog. After breakfast, taxied over to Wiener Hofburg for a tasting of Austrian red wines called “Evolution in Style.” This was a beautifully organised event where you sat down and ordered flights of wines from sommeliers who brought the bottles to your table and poured the wines. You could taste five flights of Pinot Noir (28), four flights of St. Laurent (22), eight flights of Zweigelt (40), fifteen flights of Blaufränkisch (79) and five flights of blended reds (28). The wines had been chosen by a committee based on the numbers of points they had received in wine magazines, with some political bias for regional inclusion. I opted for the Pinot Noir category, followed by Blaufränkisch (not all) and then some Zweigelt – 63 wines in total. Impressed by the Pinot Noirs from Burgenland, the Zweigelts from Carnuntum and the Blaufränkisch from Burgenland.
Sommelier Suzie pouring wines at Wiener Hofburg
Ontario tasters (l to r) Michael Pinkus, Evan Saviolidis, Zoltan Szabo, John Szabo
A standing-up buffet for lunch – cream of potato and celery soup, followed by smoked ham and salad. After lunch Sheila Swerling-Puritt, Julian Hitner and I went to the famous pastry shop and chocolate shop Demel on Michaelerplatz for dessert. We shared a chocolate cake with cream, a custard cream flaky pastry with cream and an apple strudel with cream and teas. Then walked over to a high-end grocery store, Julius Meinl am Graben, to see their wine department – very impressive selection.
Pastries at Demel
In the evening, taxied to Mayer am Pfarrplatz, the house where Beethoven lived when he wrote the 9th Symphony, now a heurige restaurant. All the guests at VieVinum had been invited. Forty-six wines were available for tasting. Memorable among them were Prager Grüner Veltliner 2013, Ott Barnhard Feuersbrunner Rosenberg Grüner Veltliner 2012, Nikolaihof Riesling 2010, Brundlymayer Reserve Zöbinger Heiligenstein Riesling 2012, Wieninger Rosengartl 2013. A buffet of traditional Viennese food was provided, including cream filled desserts. Taxied back to the hotel by 10 pm and watched World Cup soccer.
Plaque on Beethoven’s house at Mayer am Pfarrplaz
A meal Beethoven might have eaten
Saturday, June 14: After breakfast I walked to the Hofburg to begin tasting. My visit was to Dorli Muhr-Van der Niepoort to taste her wines.
Dorli Muhr, winemaker at Muhr-Van der Niepoort
Then wandered the many halls looking for wineries I wanted to taste. Ran in to Berthold Salomon and Will Opitz, old friends. Lunched outdoor in sunshine, in spite of an early downpour – a buffet of spaetzle, salad and some mystery meat. Then back for some more tasting before returning to the hotel for nap before walking over to “The big Austrian Wine Party” in the very elegant surroundings of the Kursalon at the end of the Stadtpark.
We were greeted with a glass of sparkling wine and a table with eight different Austrian cheeses. Inside the main rooms were five different wine bars, each with its own selection of wines. Forty-six wines in all. A string quartet played as we ate and drank at bar tables. Enjoyed Bründlmayer Zöbringer Heiligenstein Riesling Reserve 2012 and Schloss Gobelsburg Riesling Reserve Alte Reben 2007. Buffet dinner of filet steak, scalloped potatoes, green beans and mushroom risotto. Walked back to the hotel and tried to get an early night.
Sunday, June 15: Another day the VieVinum. At 4 pm got on the bus to Salomon Undhofin Krems to take part in the 222nd anniversary celebration for the winery. We were driven in a motorized “train” ride up to the terraced Kögl vineyard overlooking the town. Two hundred and twenty-two years ago the Salomon family bought the former Capuchin monastery and its vineyards when Joseph II decreed the church must give up those monasteries which did not act as hospitals or centre of education.
Town of Krems from the Kögl vineyard
We were greeted by a glass of sparkling rosé (Salomon Brut Nature 2012) before dinner in a tented area. I ran into Robert Mielzynski, whom I hadn’t seen in years. He’s now importing wines into Poland, living in Warsaw and representing Salomon Undhof wines there. Bert and Gertrude Salomon and their children Bert and Fay welcomed us and introduced Jancis Robinson, who delivered a tribute to the family. Before the dinner we were treated to a tasting of venerable bottles of Salomon Undhof Steiner Kögl Reserve Riesling 2011 and Stein Kögl Riesling 1979, 1972, 1964 and 1933.
Salomon Steiner Kögl Riesling 1933
The Salomon family, Bert, Fay, Gertrude and Bert
Jancis Robinson and husband Nick Lander enjoying dessert at Salomon Undhof
Then the dinner wines were put on the table while we queued up at the buffet tables: Salomon Undhof Wieden & Berg Grüner Veltliner 2013, Steiner Kögl Reserve Riesling 2011, Von Stein Reserve Grüner Veltliner 2010, Pfaffenberg Reserve Riesling 2011, Undhof Kögl Riesling 1988, Wieden Grüner Veltliner 1971 and Gelber Traminer Noble Reserve 2008 in magnum. In addition there were the Salomon wines from the family estate in Australia: Aestatis Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre 2009, Finniss River Shiraz 2007, Altus Shiraz 2003.
The Menu: Trout with green apple and radish; smoked trout with horseradish and whipped cream sauce, potato salad; dim sum with egg, green bean and chanterelles; oven-roasted shoulder of veal with summer vegetables and gnocchi; venison hamburger, mashed potatoes and chanterelles sauce. Dessert: apricot cream with vanilla cream tart and handmade chocolates.
Musical interlude at Salomon Undhof
On the tasting bar after dinner I sampled Salomon Undhof Pfaffenberg Riesling 1986, Salomon Undhof Wieden Grüner Veltliner 1964 and 1954, and Undhof Auslese 1998. Also, from New Zealand, Salomon & Andrew Otago Pinot Noir 2011 and Alttus Shiraz 2009. Got back to the hotel around midnight.
Monday, June 16: A final day at VieVinum. Picked up some flavoured pumpkin seeds. Lunched with Sean and Jody Wood at Amerlingbeisl (8 Stiftgasse). With a bottle of Steinfeder Terrassa Rosé 2013, I ordered beef goulash with homemade dumplings.
Menu at Amerlingbeisl
In the afternoon did some shopping at Wein & Co. for 30 year-old apple vinegar. In the evening, a final VieVinum event at a restaurant called On Market – 28 wines that we could sample with a series of Asian dishes. I left after the third dish, as it looked like being a long night (eight dishes were on the menu). Walked back to the hotel and packed for an early morning bus to the airport.
Tuesday, June 17: up at 6 am and finished packing. Bussed with six colleagues to the airport for the Austrian Airlines flight to Toronto.