A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 563: Ottawa Wine Challenge


View from my Ottawa hotel room

Monday, September 14th: Decided I would update Windows 7 to Windows 10 since they were offering it free.

Tuesday, September 15th: Disaster! Tried to upload Windows 10 overnight and awoke this morning to the dreaded black screen. Luckily my cellphone had my diary and contacts. Have arranged for it to be picked up tonight and sent to computer hospital but it means I’ll be without it for two days. So… have borrowed Deborah’s laptop to take down some tasting notes.

  • Strewn Cottage Block Sauvignon Blanc Riesling (Ontario – $12.95): sweet grass, minerally nose; medium-bodied, off-dry, grapefruit and peach flavours; good length, touch of bitterness on the finish. (86+)
  • Strewn Chardonnay Barrel Aged 2013 (Ontario – $13.95): deep straw colour; apple nose with a cidery note backed by oak; full in the mouth, spicy oak and apple puree flavours. (87)
  • Strewn Two Vines Riesling Gewurztraminer 2013 (Ontario – $11.95): yellow straw colour; lychee, grapefruit nose; off-dry, perfumed, rose petal, grapefruit and lychee flavours, surprisingly elegant and seamless with good length. (89)
  • Strewn Gewurztraminer 2014 (Ontario – $12.95): light straw with a green tint; rose petal and lychee nose; perfumed and aromatic, medium-bodied, dry with rose water and lychee flavours. Good varietal character, great mouth feel and great value. (89)
  • Napa Cellars Chardonnay 2013 (Napa Valley – $23.95): straw colour; apple, oak showing some barnyard notes; full-bodied, richly extracted, apple, pineapple and caramel flavours. Old style Napa Chardonnay. (89+)
  • Strewn Cottage Block Merlot 2013 (Ontario – $14.95): light ruby colour with a tawny rim; spicy blueberry with a whiff of oak; medium-bodied, dry, redcurrant and blueberry flavours with a floral note on the back taste; fresh acidity and enough tannins to give structure. (87)
  • Strewn Rogue’s Lot Cabernet Sauvignon Cabernet Franc 2012 (Ontario – $14.95): ruby colour with a brick-red rim; cedar, blackcurrant with geranium leaf note; dry, medium-bodied, lively acidity with a red plum flavour. (86)
  • Strewn Two Vines Cabernet-Merlot 2013 (Ontario – $12.95): ruby with a tawny rim; cedar, vanilla oak, dried leaves on the nose; strawberry compote flavour, sweetish fruit, good acidity with a firm finish. (86+)
  • Château Pey La Tour 2010 (Bordeaux Superieur – $19.95): dense purple-ruby colour; blackcurrant and coffee bean nose with a cedary note; medium-bodied, well-extracted blackcurrant and plum flavours with lively acidity and mellow tannins. (88)
  • Frescobaldi Campo Al Sassi Rosso di Montalcino 2013 (Tuscany – $21.95): deep ruby colour; minty, cherry nose; medium-bodied, dry, sour cherry flavour with a fine spine of acidity and a rustic cherry pit finish. (88)
  • KWV Cathedral Cellars Petit Verdot 2013 (South Africa – $15.95): dense purple colour; spicy blackberry with a smoky note; richly extracted, dry, blackberry and violets flavours with a tannic lift on the finish. (88)
  • San Pedro 1865 Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (Chile – $19.95): smoky, blackcurrant with toasty oak notes on the nose; full-bodied, sweet blackcurrant, chunky mouth-feel, sweet juicy fruit with balancing acidity and a hint of oak. (89)

Dinner at L’Avenue with Julian, Malcolm and Jane. We all brought wine. Malcolm, Larmandier Bernier Blanc de blancs Champagne and Château Canon La Gaffalière 1995; Julian, Domaines Lupier La Dama Old Vine Garnacha 2010; and I, Raymond Lafon Sauternes 1998 in a half bottle. I ordered scallop and confit pork belly, fried sage, preserved apple, house BBQ sauce and, as a main, liver and onions. With the Sauternes, blue cheese cheesecake.

Wednesday, September 16th: A day without my computer. Felt like someone had cut off my arm. Managed to scrounge some time on Deborah’s laptop to send emails and write my Wines of the Week column. Then got down to more tasting:

  • Attems Pinot Grigio 2014 (Venezia Giulia – $19.95): pale straw with a lime tint; minerally, peach pit bouquet; medium-bodied, crisply dry, white peach and lemon flavours with an intriguing touch of bitterness on the finish. (89)
  • Blue Mountain Pinot Gris 2014 (Okanagan Valley – $20.90): pale straw colour; lifted nose of white peach and pear skin with a mineral note; medium- for full-bodied, dry, white peach, pear and citrus flavours. Lots of attack in the flavour but well balanced. Nothing wishy-washy about this Pinot Gris. (90)
  • Tinhorn Creek Cabernet Franc 2013 (Okanagan Valley): ruby with a tawny rim; earthy, red berry nose; medium-bodied, dry, cherry and dark chocolate flavours with a firm tannic finish. (88)
  • Tinhorn Creek Cabernet Franc Oldfield Series 2012 (Okanagan Valley): deep ruby colour; cedar, vanilla oak, red and blackcurrants on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, elegant red berry flavours with a note of violets; well-structured with a fine spine of acidity. A seamless wine. (91)
  • Tinhorn Creek Merlot Oldfield Series 2012 (Okanagan Valley): red plum and vanilla oak nose with a floral grace note; medium-bodied, dry, a polished wine, well balanced with red fruit flavours carried on lively acidity to a firm tannic finish. (89)
  • Tinhorn Creek 2 Bench Red Oldfield Series 2012 (Okanagan Valley): deep ruby colour; a nose of cedar, blackcurrant with dark chocolate notes; medium-bodied, dry, blackcurrant flavour backed by vanilla oak with a toasty note; firm finish after a sustained acid-carried fruit. (89)
  • Blue Mountain Gamay Noir 2014 (Okanagan Valley): solid ruby colour; peppery cherry bouquet with a light floral note; dry, light-bodied, elegant and textured, black cherry flavour. Well structured. To my palate the best Gamay made in Canada. (91)
  • Hester Creek Syrah-Viognier 2013 (Okanagan Valley – $24.95): dense purple-ruby colour; smoky, charred oak and vanilla nose with a floral top note; full-bodied, dry, smoked meat flavour with a savoury, peppery, herbal finish. Good length. (89+)
  • Hester Creek The Judge 2012 (Okanagan Valley – $45): Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot. Deep ruby colour; a nose of cedar, cigar box, coffee bean and blackcurrant; dry, medium-bodied, savoury currant flavours; firmly structured but not without a certain smoky elegance. (90)
  • Maverick Pinot Gris 2014 (Okanagan Valley): straw colour; aromatic, peach with a floral note on the nose; full-bodied, richly extracted peach flavour, full in the mouth. (90)
  • Kitma Biblia Chora Areti Assyrtico 2013 (Greece): straw colour; minerally, citrus nose; medium-bodied, crisply dry and lemony with a mineral thread. (88).

Thursday, September 17th: Met with Luc Bouchard and Jason Woodman to discuss which wines we would be serving in the seminar at the Gourmet Wine & Food Show. Packed for Ottawa. I leave in the morning from Billy Bishop airport to judge in the Ottawa Wine Challenge. Dinner at The Fifth with Michael and Rosie. Michael brought along a bottle of Brochet Hervieux HBH Cuvee Speciale Brut Champagne 1997 and Château Léoville-Barton 1970 and I brought Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne 2005 and Ridge Zinfandel 1992. We finished with Michael’s Château Doisy-Védrine Sauternes 2003. A great dinner from J-P Challet.

Friday, September, 18th: A Vintages release tasting and then directly to the island airport for the flight to Ottawa. Dinner at Erlings (225 Strathcona) with the judges. Excellent meal and the wines kept coming.

Saturday, September 19th: Staying at the Westin Hotel. My room on the 22nd floor overlooks the Rideau Canal, the Parliament buildings and the National Arts Centre. A great view marred by a huge crane above the Convention Centre. There are four panels tasting some 75 wines today. Our panel of sommeliers Alison Hussey and Evan Keaschuk tasted 7 white blends, 4 unoaked Chardonnays, 11 Cabernet Sauvignons, 7 oaked Chardonnays, 8 Sauvignon Blancs, 7 sparkling wines, 10 red blends, 10 Pinot Noirs and a further 10 red blends. Then we tasted the gold medal wines to determine the best of show in white and red. Following the competition, Rod Phillips, Zoltan Szabo and I participated in a round-table discussion for members of the National Capital Sommelier Guild on what judges look for in wine competitions. We tasted three whites and three reds double-blind. Then the judges went to dinner at the Ottawa Streat Gourmet Warehouse. (The chef runs a food truck.) Again, much wine taken.

Sunday, September 20th: Flew home to Toronto.

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