A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 517: Stem Portfolio Tasting

Monday, October 20: Went to the Stem Group’s annual portfolio. This is one of my favourite tastings of the year since Tony Macchione and Robert Tomé have terrific taste in their selection of producers. Their list is mainly Italian (30 producers offered here) with four French, eight California, a couple of Australian and one each from Argentina and New Zealand. The catalogue was beautifully illustrated with labels.

I concentrated on the Italian selection and was blown away by the wines of Zymé. Celestino Gaspari is the son-in-law of the late Guiseppe Quintarelli, the legendary Amarone and Valpolicella producer. The six wines offered were all delicious. Most intriguing was Zymé Il Bianco 2013, a white wine made from a white clone of Rondinella, a constituent red grape in Valpolicella and Amarone. Intriguing too are wines that outdo Beaucastel Châteauneuf du Pape in the number of grapes in the blend – 15 (11 red varieties and four white): Zymé Kairos 2008 and my top-scoring wine of the tasting, Zymé Harlequin 2007 (94).

The other producer who really impressed me was 460 casina bric. Owner Gianluca Viberti poured his 460 casina bric Barolo 2010 and 460 casina bric Bricco delle Viole Barolo 2010 (92 and 93 points respectively). Then there were the impressive Gaja Ca’Marcanda Promis 2011 and Magari 2012 Tuscan blends, Valdicava Brunello di Montaclino 2004 and Valdicava Madonna del Piano Riserva Brunello di Montalcino 2006 (which I gave 92, one more point than the more costly 2007) and the silky Collemattoni Brunello 2007 (92). Other highlights: Masciarelli Villa Gemma Montepucliano d’Abruzzo 2006 (91), Henri Abelé Sourire de Reims Champagne (91) and Merry Edwards Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2012. I only wish I had the time and capacity to taste all the 128 wines on offer. Super tasting…

For dinner, Chateau St. Jean Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (deeply coloured; spicy blackcurrant and cedar nose; full and lush on the palate – 90).

Tuesday, October 21: Spent some time with Grapes for Humanity’s accountant going over expenses for Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson’s Grapes Under Pressure tour to Status Winery in Niagara. Received in the mail a copy of my Ottawa colleague Rod Phillips’s new edition of The 500 Best-Value Wines in the LCBO 2015, published by Whitecap. At $19.95 it makes a good Christmas gift.

Dinner at Grano put on by the Italian Trade Commission with two Umbrian producers – Caprai and Scacciadiavoli (the oldest winery in Montefalco, over 500 years). We started with Caprai Grechetto Anima Umbra 2013 (with 15% Trebbiano): minerally, lemony nose; medium-bodied, crisply dry with a herbal note on the finish. (87)

  • Scacciadiavoli Biano 2012 (50% Grechetto, 25% Trebbiano, 25% Chardonnay): straw colour; toasty, white peach nose; dry, good mouth feel, peach, apricot flavours with a touch of bitterness on the finish. (88)
  • Caprai Sagrantino Collepiano 2009: dense purple-black colour; blackberry and dark chocolate nose; flavours of blackcurrant, pencil lead and earth; dry and tannic. (89)
  • Scacciadiavoli Sagrantino 2007: dense purple colour; vanilla, roast chestnut, spicy, floral nose of black fruits; rich, blackberry and licorice flavours, full-bodied but carries its 15.5% alcohol very well. Fleshy on the palate with a firm tannic finish. (91)
  • Caprai Montefalco Sagrantino 25 Anni 2005: dense purple colour; smoky, tarry, iodine and black fruit bouquet; dry and full on the palate; old-style Sagrantino – needs 10 years to reach drinkability. (90–92)

A delicious Sagrantino from Umbria

Wednesday, October 22: Wrote my Wines of the Week and gave Pinot a long walk. Decided to get down to some tasting this morning since the samples are piling up.

  • EastDell Black Label Riesling 2013 (Ontario – $17.95): light straw colour; minerally, grapefruit rind with a floral note; perfumed, off-dry grapefruit and honey flavours with pervasive floral notes. (87)
  • Tic Tok Pocketwatch Chardonnay 2013 (Central Ranges, Australia – $14.95): very pale colour; floral, apple nose; medium-bodied, fresh, apple flavour carried on lively citrus acidity. (88)
  • Sebastiani Chardonnay 2012 (Sonoma County – $19.80): light straw colour; apple blossom, apple and pear notes on the nose; full-bodied, rich and full on the palate with spicy, nutty flavours of apples and pears. Good length. (89)
  • Le Velette Accordo 2008 (Umbria – 100% Sangiovese): dense purple colour; earthy, spicy, black fruits on the nose; full-bodied, dry, plummy flavour with a light floral note; ripe tannins. (87)
  • 20 Bees Cabernet Merlot 2012 (Ontario – $10.95): light ruby-purple colour; smoky, cedary, redcurrant; light-bodied, lean, cranberry and redcurrant flavours overlaid with oak. (85)
  • EastDell Black Label Cabernet Shiraz 2011 (Ontario – $19.95): plum colour; vanilla oak, graphite, blueberry and blackberry nose; dry, medium-bodied, creamy mouth feel with moderate length. (86)
  • Lakeview Cellars Syrah Cabernet 2012 (Ontario): deep ruby colour; spicy, oaky, red berry fruit on the nose; dry, medium-bodied, lean and sinewy with lively acidity. (87)
  • Rocca delle Macie Vernaiolo Chianti 2012 (Tuscany $13.95): ruby with a tawny note; cedar, dried cherry nose; medium-bodied, dry, sour cherry flavour with soft tannins. (86)
  • Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series 2 Bench Red 2011 (Okanagan Valley – Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot – $29.99): ruby colour with a tawny rim; cedar, spicy red berry nose; medium-bodied, dry, light claret-style, nicely balanced. (88)
  • Tinhorn Creek Oldfield Series Merlot 2011 (Okanagan Valley – with 9% Cabernet Franc and 2% Syrah): ruby colour; cedar, vanilla oak, red berry; medium-bodied, dry, smoky, cherry flavour. (88+)
  • Tic Tok Pocketwatch Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (Central Ranges, Australia – $15.95): deep ruby colour; smoky, vanilla oak, red berry fruit bouquet; medium to full-bodied, smoked bacon and raspberry flavour, nicely structured. (88)
  • Luccarelli Negroamaro 2012 (Puglia – $9.95): deep ruby colour; smoky, blackberry with a forest floor note; sweet plum and dark chocolate flavours with a lively spine of acidity. Good value. (88+)

In the evening Geddy Lee and I took Doris Maculin Braddley to dinner at The Harbord Room to thank her for all her hard work in managing the Grapes Under Pressure tour. Geddy brought along a couple of stunning Burgundies, Coche-Dury Corton-Charlemagne 2000 and Lignier Clos de la Roche 1990.

White Burgundy to die for

Ditto red Burgundy

Thursday, October 23: A meeting with Catherine Nugent at the newly constructed Bridgepoint Active Healthcare facility overlooking the Don Valley. Next month they’re holding a winetasting for their donors in the Don Jail which I’ll conduct. Catherine gave me a tour of the facility, which has a spectacular 360-degree vista of Toronto on the roof garden.

The view from the roof garden of Bridgepoint

Then we went into the jail to see the Rotunda where the tasting will take place. I was appalled to see the size of the cells, which were no bigger than closets and housed two sometimes three prisoners. Catherine told me that the late June Callwood wrote to the Queen to describe the conditions at the Don Jail. Her Majesty’s response helped to close the jail forever…

My old California friend Pooch had arranged to take Deborah and me to dinner. We booked at Tinto de Tapas Bar on Bayview. I brought along a bottle of Laughing Stock Portfolio 2012, a beautifully balanced claret-style wine (92).

Friday, October 24: A Vintages tasting today, the second half of the huge November release. Some terrific wines coming out on November 8. In the evening, down to the Shangri-La for the 2014 Armani Bay Street Smarty Pants Gala (which refers to the competitive trivia contest held throughout the evening). The home wine tasting featuring six award-winning Ontario wines I gave as a live auction item went for $2000. A great evening in spite of a server pouring a corked bottle of Lailey Cabernet Sauvignon into my half-filled glass.


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