Monday, April 13: A seminar this morning in the Ontario Room of the Royal York Hotel as a prelude to the annual California Wine Fair. Winemakers John Priest from Etude, Margo van Staaveran for Chateau St. Jean, Christophe Paubert from Stag’s Leap Winery and Laurie Hook from Beringer made up the panel and we tasted two wines from each of their wineries.
- Chateau St. Jean Robert Young Chardonnay 2012 (Alexander Valley): straw colour; spicy, smoky, charred oak nose with vanilla notes; full-bodied, sweet fruit – caramel, pear, apple and lemon flavours with good length. (90)
- Chateau St. Jean Reserve Chardonnay 2012 (Sonoma): straw colour; more Burgundian in style – minerally, apple nose; full-bodied, creamy with a fine spine of acidity; tangerine and apple flavours with well balanced oak. (91)
- Etude Heirloom Pinot Noir Grace Benoist Ranch 2012 (Carneros Estate): deep ruby colour; spicy, black cherry with an earthy note on the nose; medium-bodied, elegant, lovely mouth-feel; dry, cherry and raspberry flavours, well-structured with ripe tannins. (91)
- Etude Pinot Noir Grace Benoist Ranch 2012 (Carneros Estate): black cherry nose with an earthy note; more weight on the palate than the Heirloom, firmly structured. (89)
- Stags’ Leap Winery The Leap Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (Stags’ Leap District): dense ruby-purple colour; lovely floral nose of cedar, blackcurrant and vanilla oak; fresh flavours of black and redcurrants, firmly structured and surprisingly delicate; juicy with lively acidity. Needs time. (89–91)
- Stags’ Leap Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (Napa Valley): dense purple-ruby colour; mocha and spicy black fruits on the nose; creamy mouth feel but firmly structured, juicy red berry flavours with a tannic lift on the finish. (89)
- Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon Bancroft Ranch Vineyard Howell Mountain 2010 (Napa): dense purple-ruby colour; a nose of blackcurrant, dried leaves and dark chocolate; rich and full in the mouth, finely structured, lively acidity with a mineral note on the finish. (90)
- Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (Napa): dense purple-black in colour; blackcurrant with a floral note on the nose; richly extracted, full-bodied, finely structured, earthy, black fruit flavours ending on a savoury note. (91)
After the seminar there was the customary sparkling wine tasting while lunch guests mingled before going into the dining room. I was seated at the Far Niente and Diamond Ridge table. The menu:
Chili and Lime Seared Pacific Prawns, Kaffir Lime and Lemongrass “Pearl Risotto,” Ginger Beurre Blanc, Ponzu Reduction
Hill Street Cobblestone Stout Braised Beef Short Rib and Peppercorn Crusted Beef Tenderloin (Brown Butter Parsnip and Potato Puree, Roasted Baby Carrots, Cabernet Jus and Horseradish Emulsion)
Cheese Platter (Aged Gouda, La Dauvagine, Cashel Blue Cheese), Housemade Quince Jam, Ontario Dried Fruitd and Spiced Nuts, Fresh Baguette, Carrs Crackers and Grissini Sticks
The wines I tasted:
- Far Niente Chardonnay 2013: spicy, elegant, pear flavour; full-bodied, great oak integration and long length. (91)
- Far Niente En Route Pinot Noir 2013: deep ruby colour; spicy, black cherry and rose petal nose; ripe fruit, full on the palate, spicy with a soft mouth-feel; great balance. (90)
- Far Niente Tench Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012: dense ruby colour; creamy blackcurrant nose; soft, creamy blackcurrant flavour. Full in the mouth with ripe tannins and lively acidity. (91)
- Diamond Ridge Chardonnay 2012: straw color; spicy, vanilla oak nose; full-bodied, sweetish pear flavour with a soft mouth-feel. (89)
- Nickel and Nickel C.C. Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon 2012: deep ruby colour; blackcurrant, vanilla oak, nose; dry, elegant, well balanced with tasty blackcurrant fruit ending with grainy tannins. (91)
- Diamond Ridge Meritage 2012: deep ruby colour; cedar, blackcurrant with spicy vanilla oak; dry, well-extracted fruit, beautifully balanced. (92)
- EnRoute Les Brumeaux Chardonnay 2012: spicy peach, pear and vanilla oak nose, flavours that are replicated on the palate; full-bodied and richly extracted fruit. (89)
I had to leave after lunch (missing the opportunity to taste 450 Californian wines) as I attended the memorial service for Michael Carlevale at the Church of the Redeemer, across from the restaurant he once owned, Prego. Very moving tributes from his long-time partner Catherine Harris, Michael Cooke and Michael’s sister Jean Carlevale. The memorial service note read “A celebration of the overwhelmingly hospitable heart. Michael made our lives and the life of the city he adopted more rich and flavourful. His love of food was really a love for the people he fed.”
In the evening there was a fund-raiser dinner at Sopra to create a scholarship at George Brown for aspiring chefs. A great night of stories about Michael. I recounted the time when I was in Burgundy with him and a party of five of us went to Lameloise, the three-star restaurant in Chagny. We were seated in a room that was occupied, fully, by English-peaking people and we had an indifferent meal. On our way out Michael put his arm around the shoulder of the maître-d’ and said: “Do you have a room for foreigners?” Michael was the most generous of hosts and he frequently invited Deborah and me to dinner. We tried often to reciprocate and eventually he did accept our dinner invitation. Only he said, “If you serve fucking chicken, I’m leaving.” We all brought our own wine for the memorial dinner. Everybody raided their cellars for some great wines. I brought along a bottle of Frescobaldi CastelGioconda Brunello Rieserva 2003.
A great wine to toast Michael Carlevale’s memory
Dessert wine at Michael Carlevale’s memorial dinner
Tuesday, April 14: Spent the morning putting together the wine list for the silent auction on May 7th for Grapes for Humanity. Lunch at Terroni with Massimo Capra and reps from Chef Events. Massimo is going to be the food and wine ambassador for Grapes for Humanity and help us fund-raise. In the evening a meeting of the Grapes for Humanity board, to welcome two new directors – Tim Sorensen and Bernard Stramwasser. Sam Sarick, our host, served Beaucastel Châteauneuf du Pâpe 1999 in magnum.
Wednesday, April 15: A day of tasting wines for www.winerytohome.com. In the evening Guy and Sasha came over for dinner. With brisket, roast potatoes and green beans I served Rosewood Origin Series Cabernet Franc 2013 (ruby colour; spicy, floral, raspberry nose; medium-bodied, creamy on the palate with a dry, spicy, white pepper and green leaf flavour finishing firmly (88)).
Thursday, April 16: Went down to the Distillery District for a tasting of Prince Edward County wines. Impressed by Huff Pinot Noir Quarry Road 2013 and Closson Chase Watson Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013 – both from Niagara fruit. Also enjoyed the Huff Pinot Gris 2013. For dinner with lamb chops, Rosewood Merlot 2012 (deep purple colour; cedar, blueberry and vanilla oak on the nose; dry, medium-bodied, nicelt balanced with a floral flourish on the end palate (88)).
A fine Pinot Noir
Friday, April 17: The second day of judging of the Ontario Wine Awards at Crush. The judging went very smoothly – no spilled wine, no broken glasses. All very decorous. A late evening meeting with Chef John Higgins at George Brown. Dinner, BBQ salmon steaks with Huff Pinot Noir Quarry Road 2013.
Judging Ontario Pinot Noir at the Ontario Wine Awards
Saturday, April 18: A food shopping day. At 4:40 pm Deborah and I picked up Miguel Torres from the airport and drove him to his hotel (The Four Seasons). He flew in from Spain via Frankfurt. Invited him for dinner tomorrow.
Sunday, April 19: The final day of tasting for the Ontario Wine Awards – the sweet wines. The tasting was conducted at The Fine Wine Reserve, two panels of four judges.
Sweet wine judging on Sunday
In the evening I picked up Miguel Torres and my sister-in-law Suzanne and brought them back to the condo for dinner. We started with Huff Estates Cuvée Janine Sparkling Rosé 2011 served with toasted almonds. Then sliced pear with goat’s cheese and walnuts on baby arugula with Henry of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Riesling 2009. Deborah made an asparagus risotto with slices of barbecued steak and I opened a bottle of Bouchard Père & Fils Le Corton 2000. With the cheese course, Diamond Ridge Pinot Noir 2012 (Anderson Valley). A great evening of conversation and good wine.