Saturday, August 8th: Flew from Billy Bishop airport to Windsor. The first time I had used the under-channel walkway to the island airport. Very convenient. Cost of a sandwich in the airport canteen, $11 and change. I told the woman at the cash it was highway robbery. She asked me if I wanted a receipt.
At Windsor airport I was met by Suzanne, the owner of North 42 Degrees winery in Colchester who drove me to the B&B, La Roos (where I had stayed last time I was in Lake Erie). Since no-one was home we visited CREW – Colchester Ridge Estate Winery, which is owned by Suzanne’s relative, Bernie Gorski. All the winemakers are talking about the two terrible winters they have suffered through and the resulting crop loses for the cold and the rain. Tasted through a series of wines with Bernie.
- CREW Flagship Chardonnay 2013: pale straw colour with a lime tint; apple nose; medium-bodied, dry, well balanced with apple and pear flavours. (88)
- CREW Riesling 2013: very pale colour; minerally nose, developing petrol notes along with aromas of line and grapefruit; off-dry with a honeyed note in mid-palate. Good length and good vale at $15.00. (89)
- CREW Posh Cuvee 2013 (a blend of Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Vidal): lemon yellow colour; aromatic, mineral nose; soft mouth-feel, off-dry with grapefruit and honey flavours. Nicely balanced. (88)
- CREW Red Sky At Night (Merlot) 2013: deep salmon colour; redcurrant and cranberry nose; medium-bodied, dry, redcurrant and pomegranate flavours with good length. (87)
- CREW Cabernet Franc 2011: ruby colour with a tawny rim; spicy, cedar and cherry bouquet with a light floral note; medium-bodied, dry, spicy red berry flavour with a firm tannic finish. (87+)
- CREW Merlot 2011: ruby colour; barnyard note, oaky with a floral grace note on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, black cherry flavour; full in the mouth with enough tannin to give structure. (88)
- CREW Cabernet Sauvignon 2011: deep ruby colour; sappy, vanilla oak nose of blackcurrant with a floral note; medium-bodied, dry with savoury blackcurrant and licorice flavours. Finishes firmly. (88+)
- CREW Meritage 2010: ruby colour; blackcurrant and redcurrant nose; medium-bodied, sweet currant fruit, full on the palate – blackcurrant and plum flavours. (89)
Next stop, Muscedere Vineyards in Harrow, where Rob Muscedere conducted an impromptu tasting for me and Suzanne.
- Muscedere Pinot Grigio 2014: pale straw colour; peach pit, minerally nose with a floral top note; medium-bodied, dry, white peach flavour with a thread of minerality and good length. (87)
- Muscedere Pinot Grigio 2013: delicate floral nose, peachy flavour with lively acidity. More charm than the 2014.
- Muscedere Riesling 2013: pale straw colour; petrol and citrus fruit nose; ripe grapefruit and lime flavours with good length. (88)
- Muscedere Sauvignon Blanc 2012: pale straw colour; earthy, grassy, green plum nose; green plum flavour with lively acidity. (86)
- Muscedere Pinot Noir 2012: pale ruby colour; earthy, raspberry nose with a hint of violets; ripe plum and prune flavours; well structured. (88)
- Muscedere Cabernet Franc 2013: deep ruby colour; cedar, oak nose with creamy cherry and plum flavours; medium-bodied, dry with a rich mouth-feel and a firm tannic finish. (89)
- Muscedere Syrah 2011: deep ruby colour; white pepper, blackberry nose with a floral grace note; dry, delicate, firmly structured; medium-bodied, savoury black fruit flavours. (89)
- Muscedere Merlot 2012: deep ruby colour; minerally, plum and vanilla oak nose; fruity and firmly structured; dry with ripr fruit but evident tannins. Needs time. (88–89+)
- Muscedere Cabernet Sauvignon 2011: deep ruby colour; floral, cedar and blackcurrant bouquet; richly, well extracted fruit, dry and well structured. (88)
- Muscedere Meritage 2011 (60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc): dense ruby colour; cedar, blackcurrant with a floral top note; medium-bodied, dry, high toned fruit flavour and firmly structured. (88)
Then we went into the cellar to taste from the barrel: Merlot 2012, Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 and Syrah 2012. Suzanne dropped me back at the B&B and then picked me up along with Will Predhomme to have dinner with local winemakers at Elite Steakhouse in Kingsville. Before arriving at the restaurant Will and I visited Oxley Estate Winery in Harrow to taste a series of wines there:
- Oxley Estate Riesling Gewurztraminer 2014: grapefruit flavour with a bitter finish. (86)
- Oxley Estate Gewurztraminer 2014: spicy, lychee and rose petal nose and flavour. Satisfyingly dry. (88)
- Oxley Estate Wowza 2013 (a blend of Bianca, Geisenheim and Hibernal): medium-bodied, off-dry, citrus, nectarine flavours. (87)
- Oxley Estate Pinot Noir 2011: quite full on the mouth for a cool climate Pinot; cherry and strawberry nose and flavours with an earthy, red licorice note. (88)
- Oxley Estate Cabernet Franc 2013: Loire style, lean and elegant. (88)
- Oxley Estate Cabernet Merlot 2013: deep ruby in colour with a nose of currants, white pepper and mushroom. Nicely balanced with a fine spine of acidity. (88+)
Then on to Cooper’s Hawk in Harrow. In their cabinet of trophies they have a stuffed Cooper’s hawk.
- Cooper’s Hawk Pinot Grigio 2013: pale straw colour; sweetish peachy nose, terroir driven with lively acidity. (88)
- Cooper’s Hawk Riesling 2013: water white; floral, minerally nose with flavours of grapefruit and honey. (88)
- Cooper’s Hawk Chardonnay Musqué 2013: sweetish, lacks acidity for balance. (86)
- Cooper’s Hawk Merlot Reserve 2012: rose petal and blueberry nose; medium-bodied, dry and firmly structured. A well-made wine. (88+)
- Cooper’s Hawk Cabernet Franc Reserve 2012: high-toned, smoky, toasty oak over-riding fruit. (86)
A Cooper’s hawk
Dinner at Elite steakhouse where our party of winemakers tasted the following wines: North 42 Degrees Riesling 2012, Pelee Island Barrique Chardonnay 2005, Oxley Estate Pinot Noir2013, Pelee Island Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Cooper’s Hawk Merlot Reserve 2012, Viewpointe Cabernet Franc 2008 (the highlight of the evening).
Sunday, August 9th: Visited Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery in Harrow this morning.
- Sprucewood Shores Riesling 2014 (Niagara fruit): pale straw colour; spicy, grapefruit and peach nose; off-dry, grapefruit flavour with a honeyed note. (88)
- Sprucewood Shores Chardonnay Unoaked 2013: pale straw colour; a nose of apple with a light floral top note; clean apple and pear flavours; medium-bodied, dry and elegant. (87)
- Sprucewood Shores Hawk’s Flight Barrel Chardonnay Reserve 2013: pale straw colour; creamy, nutty nose; oaky apple and citrus flavours. (87)
- Sprucewood Shores Lady in Red 2013 (50% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc): deep ruby colour; cedar, vanilla oak and red berry nose; dry, redcurrant and plum flavours. (86+)
- Sprucewood Shores Pinot Noir 2012: tawny ruby colour; woody-earthy plum nose; dry, high-toned raisiny plum flavours. (87)
- Sprucewood Shores Meritage 2012: deep ruby colour; cedar and red berry nose with a minty note; sry, lean, redcurrant flavour; firmly structured. (87)
Next stop: North 42 Degrees Estate Winery in Colchester, where the 21st annual EPIC Vintage Tasting is to take place this afternoon. Will Predhomme and I tasted the wines in the tent that had been set up for the event.
Stilt walkers at EPIC Vintage Tasting
- North 42 Degrees Sauvignon Blanc 2012: pale straw colour; cut grass, hay, green plum nose; perfumed, guava flavour with a lively acidic spine; medium-bodied, dry with good length. (88)
- North 42 Degrees Sauvignon Blanc 2013: straw colour; herbaceous nose; tart gooseberry and elderberry flavour. (87)
- North 42 Degrees Riesling 2012: straw colour; oxidative, spicy, dried apricot nose; good mouth feel. (88)
- North 42 Degrees Riesling 2013: same flavour profile as the 2012 but without its fruit intensity. (87)
- North 42 Degrees Gewurztraminer 2013: deep straw colour; lychee and rose petals on the nose; dry, well-balanced with great length. Varietally correct. (89)
- North 42 Degrees Pinot Noir 2012: tawny ruby colour; raspberry and rust on the nose; firmly structured, well balanced, medium-bodied, dry with an earthy raspberry flavour and a tannic finish. (89)
- North 42 Degrees Cabernet Franc 2012: ruby colour; cedar and red berry nose; medium-bodied, dry with a good mouth-feel. Bourgueil style. (88)
- North 42 Degrees Cabernet Sauvignon 2012: ruby colour; blackcurrant and redcurrant nose; dry, medium-bodied, firmly structured with a tannic finish. (87)
Then I tasted other wineries I hadn’t yet visited, beginning with Mastronardi at the table staffed by Tony Mastronardi and Meagan Dimenna.
Tony Mastronardi and Meagan Dimenna
- Mastronardi Riesling 2013: dry, grapefruit flavour, firmly structured with a touch of bitterness on the finish. (86)
- Mastronardi Unoaked Chardonnay 2013: pale straw colour with a fresh, apple and apple blossom nose. Medium-bodied and dry with an apple flavour carried on grapefruit acidity. (89)
- Mastronardi Late Harvest Riesling Reserve Briangë 2013: pale straw-lime in colour with a spicy, floral and citrus nose; sweet, soft on the palate with honey and grapefruit flavours. (87)
- Mastronardi Merlot 2013: ruby colour; creamy, coconut nose; medium-bodied, dry, oak-driven, firmly structure. (86+)
- Mastronardi Cabernet Sauvignon 2013: ruby colour; cedar, tobacco and blackcurrant on the nose; dry, oaky and firmly structured. (89)
- Viewpointe Riesling 2011: developing petrol notes; medium-bodied, off-dry, honey and grapefruit flavours. (88)
- Viewpointe Big Bluff White 2013 (Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Auxerrois): sweetish, easy drinking. (86)
- Viewpointe Big Bluff Red 2011 (Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot): pale ruby with a sour cherry flavour. (86)
- Viewpointe Cabernet Franc 2008: ripe, red cherry flavour; dry and firmly structured; still youthful with a tannic finish. (89)
- Viewpointe Pelaire Pointe Cabernet Merlot 2005: cherry and tobacco on the nose; flavours replicated on the plate, dry and firmly structured with an earthy finish. (88)
After touring the tent, I conducted a tasting of the following LENS wines:
- Colio Lily (Riesling) Sparkling
- North 42 Degrees Sauvignon Blanc 2012
- Oxley Pinot Noir 2013
- Pelee Island Island Vinedressers Meritage 2012
- Mastronardi Syrah 2010
- Cooper’s Hawk Riesling 2013
My tasting lineup at EPIC
Following my tasting, Linda Jones, Executive Director of the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council, picked me up at the winery and drove me across the border to Lansing. (I haven`t visited Lansing in 25 years, since my son played a hockey tournament there.) On the two-and-a-half-hour drive she explained to me about the Michigan Wine Competition that I would be judging on Tuesday with 23 other judges from across the States. Linda, her husband Mike and I had dinner together at the Kellogg Hotel, which has a spectacular wine cellar. I ordered a bottle of Leyda Pinot Noir 2011 from Chile, which was spectacular.
Doug Frost MW with the German wine he brought for dinner
Monday, August 10th: Walked around the grounds of Michigan State University, where the hotel is located. Unfortunately, the art museum was closed on Mondays. Had to cut my walk short because of a thunderstorm so returned to my room to write up my notes. In the evening the judges met for dinner. Good to see my old friends John Buechsenstein from California, Doug Frost MW from Kansas and Peter Bell, the winemaker from Fox Run in New York State.
A flight of Michigan reds
Tuesday, August 11th: Judging began at 8:30 am. We were divided into panels of four. My captain was Ellen Landis, from California. We had to come to a consensus as to whether a wine was worthy of a gold, silver or bronze medal or no award. There were 372 entries from 47 wineries (150 in total in Michigan, including fruit wineries). If all four of use gave a wine gold then it automatically became a Double Gold and would be tasted by the entire roster of judges in the afternoon for Best of Show trophies. Our panel tasted 9 Merlot, 9 Meritage, 9 Semi-Dry Red Proprietary Blends, 7 Miscellaneous Semi-Dry Whites, 7 Riesling Sweet. Then lunch. After lunch, 6 Gewurztraminer, 6 Miscellaneous Dry Whites, 5 Miscellaneous Dry White Hybrids, 5 Semi-Dry Rosés. Then the Sweepstake round followed. The results can be found at www.michiganwines.com. (They had me in the program as Wine Writer for the Toronto Globe and Mail. Don’t tell Beppi.)
The Michigan Sweepstakes winners
I was very impressed by the sparkling wines and Rieslings of Michigan. Some delicious Pinot, Syrah and Bordeaux blends too. After the competition we all went out to dinner at Dusty Cellars Wine Bar and Tap Room in Okemos. I was wined out by this time and had a beer.
Wednesday, August 12th: Flew from Lansing to Detroit and then caught the flight to Toronto. Took the UP Express from Pearson to Bloor. Didn’t realize that it was Bloor and Dundas West and not Bloor and Yonge. So I had to take the subway to Yonge and change to go north to Eglinton. Still it was an interesting ride and saved me $40. Caught up on emails and opened a bottle of Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Carte Blanche Blanc de Blanc 2010: pale straw colour with an active mousse; leesy, minerally nose of green apples and lemons with an engaging floral top note. Dry with a soft, caressing mouth-feel. (90).
Thursday, August 13th: Spent much of the day researching material for the novel I’m working on. In the evening opened a bottle of Sonoma-Cutrer Russian River Ranch Chardonnay 2013 for the chicken pasta Deborah had prepared (straw colour with a high-toned nose – forest floor and apple; medium to full-bodied, dry, beautifully balanced with just perceptible oak (91)).
Friday, August 14th: Worked on a presentation I’m giving in November at the Vitinord Conference in Nebraska City, on cold-climate winegrowing. Then got down to more tasting:
- Tinhorn Creek Chardonnay 2014 (Okanagan Valley): straw colour with a greenish hue; a nose of apple and forest floor; medium-bodied, dry, apple, pear and pineapple flavours; good length, seamless with an almond note on the finish. (90)
- Tinhorn Creek Gewurztraminer 2014: very pale colour with a spicy nose of lychee and Asian pear; medium-bodied, off-dry, unctuous mouth-feel with an exotic Turkish delight flavour, finishing dry. (89)
- Tinhorn Creek Merlot 2013 ruby colour; oaky, blueberry nose; medium-bodied, dry, blueberry and red berry flavours; nicely balanced and firm. (89)