A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 519: Crazy Tasting Week

Sunday, November 2: Saw snow this morning but it didn’t settle. Tasted the following wines to reduce the pile that’s accumulating:

  • Borsao Tinto Garnacha 2012 (Borga, Spain – Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon, $11.95): deep purple colour; vanilla oak, plum and a smoky note on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, plum flavour and bitter chocolate with a lively spine of acidity. (87)
  • Gnarly Head Pinot Noir 2012 (California – $14.80): deep ruby colour; black raspberry with an earthy-spicy nose; sweetish and full on the palate, moderate length. (87)
  • Gnarly Head Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (California – $14.95): deep ruby colour; cedary, coffee bean and red berry bouquet; sweet, blackcurrant, full-bodied, fruity with soft tannins. (88)
  • Gnarly Head Old Vine Zin 2012 (Lodi – $17.95): deep ruby with a violet tint; plum, leather, spicy oak nose; sweet plum fruit with a spicy edge, carried on lively acidity to a firm finish. (88)
  • Louis M. Martini Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($18.95): dense ruby-purple colour; cedar and plum nose with coconut note; full-bodied, richly extracted black fruit flavour, firm finish. (88+)
  • Louis M. Martini Napa County Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 ($29.95): sense purple colour; cedar, blackcurrant, vanilla oak; richly extracted blackcurrant and dark chocolate flavours with balancing oak and acidity. (89+)
  • CedarCreek Merlot 2012 (Okanagan Valley): deep purple colour; briary, dark chocolate, black cherries on the nose; medium to full-bodied, dry, well extracted fruit, nicely balanced with supple tannins. (90)
  • CedarCreek Platinum Pinot Noir Block 2 2012 (Okanagan Valley – $39.95): deep ruby with a violet note; cherries, pencil lead nose; unctuous and full on the palate with a flavour of cherries with a firm finish. (88+)
  • CedarCreek Platinum Pinot Noir Block 4 2012 (Okanagan Valley – $39.95): deeper ruby colour than Lot 2, with a violet note; minerally, full-bodied, sweet black cherry flavour with a smoky note, good mouth feel; finishes firmly with a floral note. (90)
  • Quails’ Gate Chardonnay Stewart Family Reserve 2013 (Okanagan Valley – $35): straw colour offering a nose of pineapple and peaches with a touch of oak; rich and full on the palate, well balanced and satisfying. (91)
  • Quails’ Gate Merlot 2012 (Okanagan Valley – $25.95): deep purple colour; cedar, blackcurrant with a light oak note on the nose; full-bodied, richly extracted fruit seamlessly integrated with oak and carried on lively acidity. Very New World in style. (91)
  • Quails’ Gate Old Vines Foch Reserve 2012 (Okanagan Valley – $24.99): dense purple colour; cedar, tobacco, black cherry nose; full-bodied, spicy, blackberry flavour backed by vanilla oak and carried on lively acidity. (89)
  • Lavau Rasteau 2012 (Rhône – $19.95, Vintages release December 6th): 50% Grenache/50% Syrah – deep purple colour; blackberry, wild herbs on the nose; richly extracted, sweet plum and blackberry flavours, spicy and mouth-filling with earthy but soft tannins. Good value. (91)

For dinner, with spicy pork loin, Hester Creek Merlot Block 2 Reserve 2012: dense purple colour with a smoky, tarry oak nose; smoked bacon flavour; oak dominated (87).

Monday, November 3: Wrote my 680News wine reviews and then down to Roy Thomson Hall for the annual Italian Trade Commission wine tasting. Ninety producers grouped by importing agent. Delighted to discover a great Barolo producer – Mauro Molino. His Mauro Molino Barolo Gallinotto 2010 and Barolo Conca 2010 got my top marks of the event. Other outstanding wines: Marchesi di Barolo Barolo Cannubi 2010, Ornellaia 2011, Pasetti Colline Pescarese Testarossa 2011 (Trebbiano with 20% Pecorino) , Pian del Querci Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2007 and 2008 and Ruffino Chianti Classico Riserva Ducale Oro 2009.

Valentina Abbota with the Cannubi Barolo

In the evening, a dinner at Grano with Corrado Bottai of Tenuta Le Velette in Orvieto. We started with Le Velette Berganorio Orvieto Classico 2013, followed by Grechetto Solo Uve 2011, Sangiovese Accordo 2008 and the Sangiovese Cabernet Sauvignon Calanco 2009. The stunning wine of the evening was Le Velette Calanco 2005 (65% Sangiovese and 35% Cabernet Sauvignon): dense purple-black colour; floral, black cherry nose with an iodine note; rich cherry and licorice flavours (92). One of Grano’s waiters, a baritone, sang an aria at such volume that my ears were ringing. Hadn’t had that experience since a Rush concert.

Corrado Bottai of Le Velette

Le Velette Calanco 2005

Tuesday, November 4: Took the TTC over to Tecumseth street for a wine lunch with three South African producers at Beast restaurant. Hadn’t been here since Susur Lee owned the place eons ago. We were greeted with a glass of Graham Beck Brut, then sat down to Swordfish Crudo, Avocado, Tatsoi, Katsuobushi, Yuzu-honey dressing, with Fairview Nurock 2013 (Viognier, Chenin Blanc, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc): straw colour; minerally, pear nose; lively melon and pear flavours (89); and Ken Forrester FMC Chenin Blanc 2012. Ken told us that the British wine writer for the Daily Mail, Matthew Jukes, championed this wine and asked him at a wine show where was “that fucking marvellous Chenin.” Hence the acronym. Deep straw colour with a spicy, oaky, high-toned nose; rich and full on the palate with pineapple and ripe peach flavours (92).

Bouchard Finlayson Blanc de Mer 2013 (50% Riesling, 50% Viognier): straw colour with a grapefruit nose; crisp and easy drinking grapefruit and white peach flavours (88).

Short Ribs, Gnocchi, King Mushrooms, Jus, with Spice Route Chakalaka 2011 (Shiraz with other red varieties): deep ruby colour; meaty, smoky, tarry nose; medium-bodied, blackberry flavour, juicy and well balanced with a touch of oak (89).

Ken Forrester Renegade 2010 (Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah): deep ruby-purple colour; floral, vanilla and blackberry nose with a herbal note; medium-bodied, spicy, savoury with a peppery finish. Châteauneuf-du-Pape style (90).

Chèvre Noir, Watercress, Pear, Figs, Shortbread, with Bouchard Finlayson Galpin Peak Pinot Noir 2011: ruby colour; raspberry with a barnyard note on the nose, showing some oak influence; Burgundian style, lovely mouth-feel, elegant and beautifully balanced. Wouldn’t be out of place in a tasting of Côtes de Nuits (93).

Bouchard Finlayson Crocodile’s Lair “Kaaimansgat” Chardonnay 2013: straw colour; licorice and tropical fruit nose with spicy oak; richly extracted flavours of green pineapple and lemon (91).

Ken Forrester T Noble Late Harvest Chenin 2010 (The T is for Teresa): amber colour with a nose of dried apricot and honey; medium sweet with lively acidity and moderate length (89).

In the evening at Grano again for a tasting dinner that was meant to feature the wines of three producers from the Alcamo region in the west of Sicily: Possente, BioViola and Cassara. The latter two producers had sent a pallet to the LCBO with one case more than they should. The board ordered them shipped back to Sicily at the wineries’ expense or to be destroyed. So we only had Possente wines to taste – Possente Grillo 2013, Possente Nero d’Avola 2013 and Possente Vina Rossa Nero d’Avola 2012.

Wednesday, November 5: Wrote my On The Go column on sparkling wines for the holiday and then down to TIFF for the Mark Anthony portfolio tasting, 36 producers. Delighted to see Fritz Hasselbach there pouring his Gunderloch wines. He tells me that his son Johannes is now making the wines (under parental supervision), which are as stunning as ever. Gunderloch Riesling Spätlese Nackenheim Rothenberg 2012 and Gunderloch Riesling Auslese Nackenheim Rothenburg 2012 are just a joy to drink. Didn’t want to spit them out (both 93 points). Also liked the Mission Hill Compendium 2010, very Bordelais in style (91), David Bynum Pinot Noir 2012 (91) and Graham’s 20 Year Old Tawny (92).

Fritz Hasselbach of Gunderloch

Thursday, November 6: Wrote my Post City Magazines column on sparkling wines for the holidays. In the evening down to Lula Lounge with Deborah for a fund-raiser dinner for Access Education Guatemala, a charity that Grapes for Humanity supports. My home wine tasting fetched $1,700 in the live auction.

Friday, November 7: The second half of the November 22nd Vintages release to taste – 102 wines. I could only manage half. For dinner, with grilled tilapia, Douglas Green Sauvignon Blanc 2014 from South Africa: very pale colour; minerally, grassy, green plum and green fig nose; medium-bodied, tart with lively acidity (87).

Saturday, November 8: Derek Mossman Knapp, owner of the Garage Wine Co. and the moving spirit behind MOVI in Chile – a marketing association of independent boutique producers – came to dinner and brought his wines. Derek makes only 3,000 cases but exports to 12 countries! He was impressed by the CedarCreek Chardonnay 2013 from BC that I poured as we tucked into smoked salmon on pumpernickel bread and toasted almonds.

Derek Mossman Knapp of Garage Wine Co.

With smoked duck breast on a bed of baby arugula we drank Garage Wine Co. Old-Vine Pale Lot # 38 2013 (Grenache and Carignan): pale ruby colour with a minerally, cherry nose; candied raspberry and orange flavours and lively acidity (88) (“Not a rosé,” Derek said, “but a chillable red”).

With the main course of Merguez, couscous and baked, glazed heritage carrots, Garage Wine Co. Lot # 39 2012 (Carignan, Grenchache, Mourvèdre): Rhône-style, elegant, beautifully balanced, raspberry and herbal flavours. (92)

Garage Wine Co. Lot # 44 Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Valley 2012 (15% Cabernet Franc): deep ruby colour; minerally, blackberry and currant nose; dry, elegant blackcurrant and redcurrant flavours carried on lively acidity. (90)

Garage Wine Co. Lot #21 Cabernet Franc Alto Maipo 2009: deep ruby colour; blackcurrant, tobacco leaf, cedar nose; dry, fresh and fruity with a fine spine of acidity. (89)

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