A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 542: First Family of Wine

An amazingly youthful Riesling, vintage 1994

Monday, April 20: Went down to St. James Cathedral’s event space for a tasting of a group of Ontario wineries who have come together under the umbrella of “Somewhereness.” Meaning wineries who are interested in producing terroir-driven wines. Very impressive quality overall, especially among the Chardonnays, Rieslings and Pinot Noir. Wines that I scored 90 or over were:

  • Norman Hardie Niagara Pinot Noir 2011
  • Stratus  Tollgate Wine 2011
  • Stratus Red 2010
  • Bachelder Saunders Chardonnay 2012
  • Bachelder Wismer Chardonnay 2012
  • Bachelder Pinot Noir Parfum 2013
  • Hidden bench Estate Riesling 2013
  • Southbrook Triomphe Chardonnay 2013
  • Southbrook Whimsy Minerality Chardonnay 2012
  • Charles Baker Ivan Vineyard Riesling 2014
  • Charles Baker Picone vineyard Riesling 2012
  • Flat Rock Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling 2014
  • Flat Rock Chardonnay 2012
  • Flat Rock Rusty Shed Chardonnay 2012
  • Cave Spring Riesling Estate Dry 2010
  • Cave Spring CSV Riesling 2013
  • Cave Spring The Adam Step Riesling 2013

Tuesday, April 21: Emma Garner, the winemaker at Thirty Bench, came to the condo for a tasting of 2013 whites and 2012 reds.

  • Thirty Bench Winemakers’ Riesling 2013 (Vintages Essential – $18.95): pale straw colour; minerally, honey, lime nose; medium-bodied, fresh and lively on the palate with a tart grapefruit flavour. (88)
  • Thirty Bench Riesling Steel Post Vineyard 2013 ($30): pale straw with a lime tint; light floral and white pepper note above aromas of grapefruit with a thread of minerality; brisk and assertive on the palate with a long citrus finish. Needs time (90–92)
  • Thirty Bench Riesling Triangle Vineyard 2013 ($30): pale straw with a lime tint; floral, minerally, honeyed nose of citrus fruits; beautifully balanced, great tension between fruit and acidity; fresh and clean and long on the palate. (91)
  • Thirty Bench Wild Cask Riesling 2013 ($30): a deeper straw than the Triangle or Steel Post and richer on the nose; minerally, honey and grapefruit notes; soft on the palate with honeyed sweetness until the lime-like acidity kicks in. Again, great length. (91)
  • Thirty Bench Small Lot Pinot Noir 2012 ($35): spicy, black cherry with an animal, smoky note on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, savoury, cherry and cherry pit flavours with nicely balanced with firm finish. (89)
  • Thirty Bench Small Lot Merlot 2012 ($40): deep purple-ruby colour; cedar, blueberry nose with vanilla oak; lovely ripe fruit, St. Emilion style, well balanced with ripe, forgiving tannins. (90)
  • Thirty Bench Small Lot Cabernet Franc 2012 ($40): deep ruby-purple colour; cedar, blackcurrant nose with a tobacco note; sweet black fruit flavours with a creamy mouth feel; firm tannic finish. (91)
  • Thirty Bench Small Lot Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($40): deep purple-ruby colour; cedar, blackcurrant with a tobacco leaf nose topped by spicy oak; medium-bodied, dry, well-structured with a floral lift in mid-palate and cushioning tannins on the finish. (91)
  • Thirty Bench Benchmark Red 2102 (51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc and the rest Merlot – $60): deep purple-ruby colour; cedar, blackcurrant, cigar-box nose overlaid with oak spice; medium-bodied, dry, lovely mouth-feel, firm but succulent fruit carried on lively acidity, seamless in the mouth. (92)

In the evening down to the Hilton Hotel (formerly the Metropolitan Hotel) for the Cambridge Food and Wine Society’s annual awards event. Miguel Torres was being honoured as were Barry Chaim, the power of Edo, and Chef John Higgins. Miguel conducted a seminar tasting for the wine press in Lai Wah Heen, the hotel’s Chinese restaurant, before the dinner (a fund-raiser for the Trillium Chefs Canada). We tasted Miguel Torres Cordillera Brut Pinot Noir, Viña Esmeralda 2014, Gran Coronas Reserva 2010, Mas La Plana 2010 and Torres 5 Brandy. The same wines were served with the dinner.

First Course: Trio of Appetizers
Pan-seared scallop with truffle cream sauce
Baked pastry filled with pork, scallions and ginger garnished with foie gras
Crispy fried tofu stuffed with mushrooms and vegetables, garnished with crispy broccoli
Accompanied by Special XO sauce prepared by Hong Kong’s Michelin Star Chef Lai Wai Hung
Wine: Torres Cordillera Brut NV

Second Course: Steamed filet of fresh red sea bream, shiitake mushrooms in premium soy sauce with shreds of ginger and scallions
Wine: Torres Viña Esmeralda 2014

Third Course: Peking Duck Duo
Freshly carved duck breast served with fresh scallions and cucumber, Hoisin sauce in a warm rice crêpe
Rainbow minced duck in a crystal fold
Wine: Torres Gran Coronas 2010

Fourth Course: Choice of Red braised Pork Belly with Shanghai bok choy and Sichuan eggplant
Wok-fried beef tenderloin in Cantonese sauce on a bed of assorted wild mushrooms and Sichuan eggplant
Wine: Torres Mas La Plana 2010

Fifth Course: Dessert Surprise
Rare Chinese Tea or Coffee
Choice of Torres 5 Imperial Brandy
Glenfiddich 15 years old Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Rémy Martin XO Cognac

Wednesday, April 22: Wrote an article for Grapevine magazine about tasting. In the evening Deborah and I were invited to the Primum Familiae Vini tasting at the ROM. A walk-around event with booths for each of the eleven members – Pol Roger, Hugel, Drouhin, Egon Müller, Torres, Tenuta San Guido, Famille Perrin, Antinori, Mouton-Rothschild, Vega Sicilia and the Symington Family. Originally there were 12 members but when Robert Mondavi was sold they had to drop out, as did Jaboulet (Perrin took their place). A very relaxed evening of tasting. After the tasting Deborah and I walked over to Opus for a glass of wine.

Miguel Torres, Deborah and Tony at the Primum Familiae Vini tasting

Thursday, April 23: Today I experienced one of the best lunches I have had in Toronto. The PFV held a lunch for the wine press at the Four Seasons Hotel. I was seated between Allegra Antinori and Laurent Drouhin, opposite Miguel Torres. In his introduction to the port that ended the meal, Rupert Symington summed up the ethos of the PFV, calling the association of European family wineries “the last line of defence against the globalization pf wine.”

Allegra Antinori

The menu and the accompanying wines, introduced by each member of the PFV, were stunning.

Foie gras, brioche, Laroda plum and lamb’s lettuce, with Pol Roger Churchill Champagne 2002 and Famille Hugel Riesling Jubilee 2010

Scallops, kumquat, baby leek and caviar, with Drouhin Chablis Les Clos 2012 and Egon Müller Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett 1994

Cavatelli pasta, rabbit coulis, preserved tomatoes and olives, with Torres Mas La Plana 2010, Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia 2009 and Famille Perrin Château Beaucastel 2005

Braised bison short rib, spring carrots, pommes dauphines, with Antinori Solaia, Château Mouton Rothschild and Vega Siclia Unico 2004

Stilton cheese, fig, walnut crostini, red watercress, with Symington Family Estates Graham’s Vintage Port 1977 in magnum

The PFV lunch lineup

All the wines showed beautifully, an unalloyed pleasure to taste them all.

Miguel Torres

On the way home I dropped into Indigo and bought a copy of Cain by José Saramago, which Miguel Torres had recommended. For dinner, spaghetti and prawns with Southbrook Triomphe Cabernet Franc Rosé 2014 (dry and fresh with orange, rhubarb and strawberry flavours, perfect with the dish (88)).

Friday, April 24: A tasting of 80 rosés with the Wine Writers’ Circle members. In the afternoon, worked on the Grapes for Humanity auction and began packing for tomorrow’s flight to London for the Decanter World Wine Awards judging.

Tasting 80 rosés


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