A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 515: Sonoma in the City

Monday, October 6: Wrote my November On The Go column on holiday wines. A tasting at Doug Towers’s house for www.winerytohome. For dinner, lamb chops with Blue Mountain Gamay Noir 2013. For my money there’s no better Gamay in Canada than Blue Mountain’s. Consistently they make a wine that has great extract with a rich black cherry flavour. (91)

Tuesday, October 7: Pinot went to the groomer’s today and came home looking very elegant.

Pinot T. Wonderdog fresh from the groomer’s

Wrote my 680News wine reviews and wines to match Helen Hatton’s recipes on my site. A corporate dinner tasting at Biff’s for a financial company. Reception wine: Hinterland White Cap sparkling from Ontario. First course: Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio 2013; main course Catena Zapata Malbec 2011.

Wednesday, October 8: Wrote my Post City Magazines column about Sicily. Rooted around in the cellar to choose Ontario wines for tomorrow’s charity tasting at a home in Stouffville. Dinner at Wildfire steakhouse in the Cosmopolitan Hotel with MontGras winemaker Jaime de la Cerda. Didn’t realise that MontGras is now a million-case winery.

Jaime de la Cerda, MontGras winemaker

With seafood ceviche: MontGras Amaral Sauvignon Blanc 2013: straw colour; very ripe, grassy, gooseberry and elderberry nose; ripe and honeyed gooseberry and elderberry flavours carried on fresh acidity. (89)

MontGras Amaral Sauvignon Blanc 2014: leaner than the 2013 and lees-y on the nose; green pear, green pea and gooseberry flavours with lively acidity. (88)

We then tasted two single vineyard Amarals from different soils.

With Australian rack of lamb and French fries: MontGras Carmenère Reserva 2013: dense ruby-purple colour; savoury, herbal, pencil lead nose; full-bodied, spicy sweet blackberry flavour, almost Syrah-like. (88)

MontGras Antu Syrah 2012: deeply coloured; savoury, blackberry nose that’s replicated on the palate; full-bodied, rich and velvety. (90)

Thursday, October 9: Down to the ROM for a seminar on Sonoma wines conducted by John Szabo and a panel of winemakers. Donald Patz of Patz & Hall stated that “Carneros has more soil types than all of France.” We tasted the following wines introduced by the winemaker of the rep.

  • Gloria Ferrer Royal Cuvée Brut (66% Pinot Noir, 34% Chardonnay): pale straw colour with an active mousse; biscuity nose, elegant apple; full in the mouth with a long lemony finish. (90)
  • Quivira Dry Creek Sauvignon Blanc 2013: very pale lime colour; grassy, Meyer lemon nose with a herbal, mineral note; soft mouth-feel, gooseberry and fig flavours with lively acidity. (88)
  • La Crema Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2012: straw colour with a green tint; toasty, spicy, tropical fruit nose; full-bodied, rich. Broad in the mouth, caramel, spicy melon, nutty and toasty flavours with good length. (90)
  • Patz & Hall Dutton Ranch Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2012: straw-lime colour; fresh, spicy, floral, green pineapple nose with a mineral note; full-bodied, beautifully balanced apple flavours. A seamless wine. (92)
  • Dutton Goldfield Dutton Ranch-Freestone Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012: ruby-purple colour; rose petal and cherry nose with a thread of minerality; full-bodied, dry, elegant, beautifully balanced black cherry and cranberry flavours with a fresh acidic finish. (91)
  • Buena Vista Winery Pinot Noir 2011: deep ruby colour; cherry and cherry pit nose; broad, chunky fruit with a touch of sweetness; moderate length with a firm finish. (89)
  • Seghesio Rockpile Zinfandel 2011: deep ruby colour; spicy plum and leather nose; full-bodied with a lively spine of acidity ending on a licorice note and firm tannins. (90)
  • Kunde Sonoma Valley Zinfandel 2012: deep purple-ruby colour; licorice and black plum with vanilla oak on the nose; full-bodied, sweet fruit with lively acidity. (89)
  • Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2010: dense ruby-purple colour; classic cedar, blackcurrant and vanilla oak nose; rich and ripe, soft on the palate with supple tannins, Easy drinking with a coffee bean note on the finish. (90)
  • Rodney Strong Brothers Ridge Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2010: dense ruby; cedar, floral, herbal nose; full-bodied, but unfortunately cork-tainted. (Not scored)

Then into the main hall for a tasting of 42 Sonoma wineries. Concentrated on Pinot Noir:

  • Flowers Seaview Ridge Pinot Noir 2011 (93)
  • Dutton-Goldfield Dutton Ranch Pinot Noir 2012 (91)
  • Gundlach Bundschu Estate Pinot Noir 2012 (91)
  • Macrostie Pinot Noir Wildcat Mountain Pinot Noir 2012 (91)
  • Deloach Estate 2011 (90)
  • Decoy Pinot Noir 2013 (89)
  • MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir 2012 (89)
  • Best value: Folie à Deux Pinot Noir 2012 (89)

In the evening I drove to Stouffville to a home tasting – the successful bidder at the Barbara Schlifer Clinic auction. I brought along the following Ontario wines:

  • Mike Weir Unoaked Chardonnay 2012
  • Tawse Sketches Riesling 2010
  • Inniskillin Viognier Reserve 2012
  • Rosewood Estates Gewurztraminer 2008
  • Kacaba Vineyards Cabernet Franc Reserve 2007
  • Henry of Pelham Baco Noir Reserve 2011
  • Tawse Wine Club Syrah 2010
  • Château des Charmes Late Harvest Riesling 2010

Friday, October 10: Did some tasting today to get rid of some of the backlog of samples that have been arriving. This is the busiest season for wine writers. Winemakers who come to New York to attend the Wine Spectator‘s annual event spend time in Toronto as well, meeting with the LCBO and putting on tasting dinners for the wine press.

  • Inniskillin Cabernet Merlot 2012 (Ontario – $14.95): ruby-purple colour; cedar, red berry nose; dry, medium-bodied, cranberry, plum and redcurrant flavours with a light floral note. Finishes firmly with mellow tannins. (87)
  • Ascheri Barolo 2010 (Piedmont – $32.25): ruby with a tawny hue; dried cherries, leather, tobacco nose; dry, elegant, medium-bodied and well crafted; youthful and tight but beautifully balanced and should age very well for a decade. (91+)
  • Jackson-Triggs Merlot Grand Reserve 2012 (Ontario – $24.95): deep purple colour; baking spices, black cherries and vanilla oak on the nose; dry, medium bodied with well-extracted dark fruit flavours carried on lively acidity to a firm tannic finish. (88+)
  • Jackson-Triggs Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (Ontario – $24.95): deep purple-ruby colour; cedar, blackcurrant and dark chocolate nose; dry, medium-bodied, plump mid-palate feel of vanilla oak and mocha, drying out on the finish of grainy tannins. (89)
  • Jackson-Triggs Grand Reserve Meritage 2012 (Ontario – $24.95): deep purple-ruby colour; cedary, black fruit nose with tobacco notes; dry, medium-bodied, well balanced spicy (cinnamon) blackcurrant flavours with just enough oak to round out the palate to a firm finish. Nicely done. (90)
  • Delaine by Jackson-Triggs Syrah 2012 Lot 910 (Ontario – $32.95): deep black plum colour; savoury, herbal, black pepper and blackberry nose with evident oak; dry, medium-bodied, elegant, lean and sinewy blackberry flavour. Northern Rhône style. Firm tannic finish. (89–90)
  • Vignamaggio Monna Lisa Chianti Classico 2011 (Tuscany – $19.95) (It is said that Mona Lisa was born and raised on the Vignamaggio estate and the famous la Gioconda smile graces the label): deep, tawny ruby colour; earthy, dried cherry nose; richer on the palate than the nose suggests with flavours of mocha, cherry, vanilla oak and pencil lead finishing firmly to give the wine structure. (89)
  • Red Knot by Shingleback Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (McLaren Vale – $17.95): dense purple colour; spicy, meaty, blackcurrant nose; creamy, chunky mouth-feel, dry and savoury flavours of blackcurrants with a mineral note and drying tannins on the finish. (87+)


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