Monday, October 26th: Wrote my Lexpert column on Champagne. Learned some interesting trivia while I was there: Someone in Champagne has established that there are 150–200 million bubbles in a 750 mL bottle. 30 to 35 bubbles are created per second and they rise at a speed of 35 kilometres an hour. When a bubble bursts it forms the shape of a flower with petals. The pressure ejects a champagne cork at a speed of 65 km/h for the first 10 feet. Who knew?
In the evening, down to George Brown for the Grapes for Humanity dinner for thirty, hosted by Gaia Gaja who, following a champagne reception, led off with an eloquent introduction to the family’s wineries in Piemonte and Tuscany. The village of Barbaresco, where the Gaja family lives, has, says Gaia, 600 inhabitants and 100 wineries! The dinner menu:
An Intimate Evening with Gaia Gaja
Prepared by Chef Massimo Capra and his George Brown team
Oven Dried Savory Macarons
Beet & Goat Cheese Napoleon
Champagne Pol Roger Brut
Quail Stuffed with Figs Wrapped in Pancetta, Chestnut Flour Pancake
2000 GAJA Gaia & Rey Chardonnay, Piemonte
Risotto Classico Piemontese with Porcini Mushrooms
2011 GAJA Ca’ Marcanda, Promis, Bolgheri, Tuscany
1999 GAJA Sorì San Lorenzo, Piemonte
Rosemary Roasted Veal Shoulder with Seasonal Vegetables and Potatoes
2001 GAJA Barbaresco, Piemonte
1978 GAJA Barbaresco, Piemonte
GAJA Grappa di Barolo
A very successful evening with great good and amazing wines – especially the 1978 Barbaresco.
Tuesday, October 27th: Down to the Spoke Club for a masterclass on Grüner Veltliner conducted brilliantly by John Szabo M.S. There were four flights of 20 wines divided into four themes. I have always been a fan of GV, which is a very versatile food wine. My top wines from Flight One “Young & Elegant” were Birgit Eichinger Grüner Veltliner Wechelsberg 2013 (aromatic, beautifully balanced passionfruit and white peach flavours (90) and Edlmoser Ried Himmel Grüner Veltliner 2013 (tangerine and crushed stone flavours, carries its 13.5% alcohol very well – 89).
Flight Two “Powerful Reserve Wines”: Salomon Undhof Reserve “Von Stein” Grüner Veltliner 2010 (minerally, floral nose of kiwi and lychee; rich and full with a green pear flavour and a thread of minerality – 91), Domäne Wachau Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Ried Kellerberg 2012 (minerally, smoky, pear flavour with a real sense of minerally terroir – 90), Allram Grüner Veltliner Reserve Ried Gaisberg “1 ÖTW” 2011 (floral, struck flint nose with peach and mineral flavours – 90).
Flight Three “Mature Grüner”: Rudi Pichler Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Ried Wösendorfer Hochrain 2008 (barnyard nose; spicy peach flavour with lively acidity, great length and great balance – 91); Malat “Das Beste vom Veltliner” 1999 (spicy, floral, barley sugar and tobacco nose; Pinot Gris style, apricot, citrus and honey flavours; great balance – 92).
Flight Four “Innovative & Wild”: Zillinger Johannes Grüner Veltliner ‘Mumen’ 2013 (reductive, toasty, lychee nose, lively acidity with a lifted VA note – 89).
After a brief lunch, Zoltan Szabo, Michael Godell and I were picked up by a limo (the driver owns a restaurant on the Danforth) to be driven up to the Stem Group’s offices for a tasting of Gaja wines. Here I tasted a range of Gaja’s Piemonte wines: Gaja Rossj Bass 2014 (Chardonnay/Sauvignon Blanc), Gaja & Rey Chardonnay 2006 and 2013, Gaja Sito Moresco 2013 (Nebbiolo, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon), Gaja Dagromis Barolo 2011, Gaja Barbaresco 2012, Gaja Conteisa 2011 (a field blend of Nebbiolo and Barbera) and Gaja Sperss 2011.
From Gaja’s Ca’Marcanda property in Bolgheri: Gaja Vistamare 2013 Gaja (Vermentino/Viognier), Gaja Promis 2003 (Merlot/Syrah/Sangiovese), Gaja Promis 2013, Gaja Magari 2013 (Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc), Gaja Ca’Marcanda 2000 (Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc) and Gaja Ca’Marcanda 2011.
From Pieve S. Restituta, Montalcino: Gaja Pieve S. Restituta Brunello 2010, Gaja Pieve S. Restituta Brunello “Rennina” 2004, Gaja Pieve S. Restituta “Rennina” Brunello 2010, Gaja Gaja Pieve S. Restituta Brunello “Sugarille” 2007 and Gaja Pieve S. Restituta Brunello “Sugarille” 2010.
These were for the most part magnificent wines. The only ones I was a little disappointed with were the Rossj Bass Chardonnay Sauvignon blend and the Sugarille Brunello, which I found to be drying out. The stand-out wines were Gaja Pieve S. Restituta Brunello 2010 (93), Gaja Pieve S. Restituta “Rennina” Brunello 2010 (94), Gaja Pieve S. Restituta Brunello “Sugarille” 2010 (93) and the best wine of the tasting, Gaja Ca’Marcanda 2000, which if I had tasted blind would have sworn was a Château Margaux (95).
My enthusiasm for the event was somewhat dampened when Michael Godell inadvertently upended a full spittoon over my jeans. To take my mind off it, Robert Tome, one of the partners of Stem, gave us the remainders of the bottles from the Ca’Marcanda 2000 and the Sugarille 2010 – which we drank from plastic cups in the limo home.
Wednesday, October 28th: Wrote my Post City Magazines December column on Champagne. Lunched at Mercatto with Magdalena Kaiser and Deborah to discuss Ontario Wine Awards 2016. Ordered a bottle of Bastianich Rosato 2014 to pretend it was still summer and the sun was shining when in fact Toronto was experiencing torrential rainfalls.
For dinner, grilled pork with the best Pinot Noir I have tasted out of Chile: Torres Escaleras de Empedrado Pinot Noir 2012: deep ruby-purple colour; spicy, raspberry, blackcurrant and milk chocolate bouquet with well integrated oak; medium-bodied, plum and raspberry flavours, beautifully balanced – a Morey St. Denis with a Chilean twist and a thread of minerality. (92)
Thursday, October 29th: Up at 6:15 am to walk Pinot and finish packing. A 9:20 am train to Montreal to participate in Passion Vin at the Bonaventure Hotel. After checking into the hotel there was a champagne reception at which Roederer 2008, 2009 and Roederer Brut Premier were served.
Friday, October 30th: A morning tour of Montreal markets beginning at the Atwater Market, housed in a 1933 Art Deco building, open seven days a week all year. Sampled chocolates at Genevieve Grandbois’ tiny booth. She sells hand-crafted and expensive chocolates. Then a series of cheeses at Fromagerie Hamel. Our guide, Anne-Marie Pellerin, told us that the tallest building in Montreal is 1000 Lagauchetère at 233 metres but no building can, by law, be higher than the mountain. Next stop, Maisonneuve Market, where we tried a sample of pumpkin pie. Final stop, Jean Talon Market, the largest outdoor market in North America, apparently. Here we tried tiny tomatoes the size of a child’s fingernail, a pumpkin-flavoured bagel, more cheeses and maple syrup-infused smoked salmon before stopping at a spice store that offers 400+ spices from all over the world.
Took a taxi back to the hotel alone as I had to attend a lunch tasting of Domaine du Pégau Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The menu: avocado with crab; Tataki of bison; wild boar with wild mushrooms; mignardises. The wines:
- Domaine du Pégau Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Réservée 2014: pale straw colour; minerally, white flowers and peach on the nose with a bitter almond note; lovely mouth-feel, dry, full-bodied, with a peach pit and anise flavour. (89)
- Domaine du Pégau Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Réservée 2014: dense purple-ruby colour; garigue, animal nose with floral and pencil lead notes; full-bodied, dry and savoury, elegant, great balance, licorice and dark chocolate flavours with great length. (92)
- Domaine du Pégau Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Laurence 2011: dense purple-ruby colour; meaty nose of blackberry, rose petals and white pepper; dry and savour with a touch of oak, lighter and leaner than the 2012. Well-structured with a tannic lift on the finish. (91)
- Domaine du Pégau Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Laurence 2008: dense purple ruby colour; rich bouquet of blackberries, mint, herbs with a floral grace note. Rich and mouth-filing, dry and savoury, concentrated and youthful. (94)
- Domaine du Pégau Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Réservée 2014: dense purple-ruby colour; reductive nose of black fruits, dried herbs with an animal note; full-bodied, dry and savoury with chewy tannins. (92)
First tasting after lunch, Col d’Orcia Brunellos conducted by Comte Francesco Marone Cinzano. There were 300 tasters in the room.
- Col d’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino 2010: ruby colour; a nose of black cherries, vanilla oak with an earthy note of dried leaves; full-bodied, dry, sour cherry flavour, somewhat austere resembling a Nebbiolo; well-balanced with a note of blackcurrant in mid palate. Lovely mouth-feel, dry and savoury finish with evident but ripe tannins. Youthful, needs time. (90)
- Col d’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino 2004: deep ruby colour holding well; sweet nose of cherries and vanilla oak with a barnyard note; dry but exuberant in the mouth, well integrated oak, firmly structured, well balanced and still young. (91–93)
- Col d’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 1997: deep ruby colour with a mature rim; mature nose of leather, oak spice, cherries and tobacco leaf; full-bodied, dry, firmly structured with evident but supple tannins and lively tannins. Lots of life to come for this wine. (92)
- Col d’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino 1990: amazingly youthful ruby colour; earthy, tobacco, barnyard nose with pencil lead and oak spice notes; rich and full on the palate, great structure and balance, dry, cherry and bitter chocolate flavours, Evident chalky tannins. (91)
- Col d’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 1977: deep ruby with a tawny rim; leather, soy, dried cherries on the nose; more youthful on the palate than the nose suggests – sweet fruit that finishes dry with lively acidity, incredibly fresh; beautifully balanced, firmly structured. An exciting wine. (94)
- Col d’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 1968: mature ruby colour with a brick –coloured; tobacco, leather, vanilla oak, cherries on the nose with a floral grace note; majestic wine, still very much alive; dry and elegant with persistent tannins still. (93)
The next tasting is Vieux Château Certan with the owners Alexandre and François Thienpoint conducting with my old friend Michel Phaneuf moderating.
- Vieux Château Certan La Gravette De Certan 2012: dense ruby colour; cedar, vanilla oak, blackcurrant and notes of graphite on the nose; very Merlot in flavour, ripe fruit (blackcurrant and plum) flavours with a dark chocolate note. Very expressive with ripe tannins and lively acidity. Beautifully balanced. (92)
- Vieux Château Certan La Gravette De Certan 2010: dense ruby colour; mocha, vanilla oak, blueberries with pie crust nose, quite forward; mouth-filling, intense concentration, richly extracted, plum and black fruit flavours; chewy, with ripe tannins and coffee bean notes. (91)
- Vieux Château Certan 2009: dense ruby colour; cedar, oak spice, blackberry and black cherry nose with a rose petal note; rich and full on the palate, beautifully balanced, opulent with a floral note; ripe but evident tannins. (92+)
- Vieux Château Certan 2006: deep ruby colour; cedar, tobacco leaf, red berry fruit on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, lighter in body than the 2009, elegant and beautifully balanced and seamless with well integrated oak and supple tannins. (93)
- Vieux Château Certan 2005: dense ruby colour; cedar, vanilla oak, blackcurrant and blueberry nose with a note of liquorice; richly extracted, full in the mouth, flavourful, blackcurrant flavour; not as well knit as the 2006 but very rich with dark chocolate notes and a firm tannic finish. Needs time. (91–93)
- Vieux Château Certan 1998: amazing depth of colour; smoke, cedar, cigar box, blueberry nose; medium-bodied, elegant, silky mouth feel, perfectly balanced, elegant and fresh with great length and surprising power. Still youthful. (94)
Took a taxi to meet Dominique Desrosiers of Tourisme Montréal at Brasserie T!, 1425 Jeanne-Mance Street, to dine with the four food journalists I toured the market with this morning. Ordered a glass of Meinkland Grüner Veltliner 2012 while I waited for them to arrive. Ordered the $31 – the equivalent Of Toronto’s Winterlicious program: seafood chowder; salmon, Jerusalem artichoke and kale; apple doughnut and vanilla ice cream. The wine: Dominique Piron Morgon Côte de Puys 2013.
Saturday, October 31st: Had breakfast with my sister Shirley in the hotel. We found we share an aversion to people who dunk things into their coffee. First tasting of the day: Jean-Claude Boisset conducted by winemaker Grégory Patriat.
- Jean-Claude Boisset Les Vignes Franches 2012: straw colour; minerally, apple nose with just a suggestion of oak; medium-bodied, dry, beautifully balanced, fresh and lively on the palate, apple and white peach flavours with an exciting strain of lemony acidity. Needs time. Great length. (91–93)
- Jean-Claude Boisset Puligny-Montrachet Les Perrières 2011: bright straw colour; minerally-chalky nose of apple with toasty notes, developing light barnyard notes; rich and full on the palate with butterscotch and lemon flavours. Bright and lively a final taste of apple and lemon and a touch of bitterness on the finish. (91)
- Jean-Claude Boisset Corton-Charlemagne 2011: bright straw colour; spicy, apple, beautifully integrated oak; full-bodied, opulent, pineapple and peach flavours, well-balanced with amazing length. (93)
- Jean-Claude Boisset Clos de la Roche 2011: solid ruby colour; barnyard, tobacco leaf, raspberry and rust with a light floral note on the nose; medium-bodied, sweet raspberry fruit with subtle oak notes, seamless in the mouth and lingering with a tannic lift on the finish. Quite forward but will last. (92)
- Jean-Claude Boisset Clos de la Roche 2012: deep ruby colour; tight at the moment, violets, red fruits, minerally, struck flint notes on the nose; rich and full on the palate; firmly structured and well-balanced – needs five years or so. (92–94)
- Jean-Claude Boisset Clos de la Roche 2008: ruby with a pale rim; barnyard nose of smoked bacon, pencil lead with a light floral note; dry, medium-bodied, spicy, cherry and cranberry flavours with lively acidity. Elegant, well balanced with a firm finish. (92+)
A short break before a lunch tasting with Federico Ceretto.
- Ceretto Blange’ Langhe Doc Arneis 2014: pale straw colour; light spritz, floral, minerally nose; custard apple flavour; fresh with a touch of sweetness in mid palate. (89)
- Ceretto Barolo 2010 (a blend of 7 vineyards): ruby colour; cherry, rose petal and tar on the nose; medium-bodied, dry. Elegant and well-structured, firm on the palate with ripe tannins. (89–90)
- Ceretto Barolo Bricco Rocche 2008: deep ruby colour; tobacco and dried rose petal bouquet with an earthy note; truffle notes and well balanced with grainy tannins and driving acidity. Still youthful. (91–93)
- Ceretto Barolo Cannubi San Lorenzo 2005: deep ruby colour; deep ruby colour; spicy nose of dried cherries, undergrowth and dried rose petals, firmly structured, grainy tannins. Surprisingly young. Needs more time. (89–91)
- Ceretto Barolo Bricco Rocche Brunate 1999 (in magnum): deep ruby colour with a mature rim; leather, smoky, dried cherries, with truffle notes; rich and full on the palate, sweet fruit with grainy tannins; elegant and beautifully balanced, finishing firmly with dark chocolate notes. (93–94)
Lunch was prepared by Chef Armand Forcherio, under the direction of Chef Enrico Crippa, 3 Michelin stars, Ristorante Piazza Duomo, the house chef at Ceretto: Ceretto Barolo Bricco Vitello tonnato; Risotto al Tartufo Bianco d’Alba; Brasato di Barolo crema di Burlotti; Piccolo Pasticeria.
Last tasting of the day: Château Troplong Mondot (a UNESCO site) with the owner, Xavier Pariente. The vineyards are exposed to all four compass points.
- Château Troplong Mondot Mondot 2011 (the second wine): dense ruby colour; a nose of cedar, vanilla oak, leather, tobacco; dry, medium-bodied, savoury, bitter chocolate flavour with evident tannins. Needs 4–5 years. (88–90)
- Château Troplong Mondot 2011: dense purple-ruby colour; new oak evident at the moment, dark chocolate, black plum nose; rich and full on the palate, black fruit flavours, savoury, elegant, well-balanced and tight. Keep at least 10 years. (90–92)
- Château Troplong Mondot 2006: deep ruby colour; cedar, blueberry and blackcurrant nose with suggestions of oak; dry, medium-bodied, elegant, dark chocolate and black fruit flavours, rich and mouth-filling, firmly structured, still youthful. Very right bank. (91–93)
- Château Troplong Mondot 2004: dense purple-ruby holding colour; cedar, pepper, blackcurrant nose with evident new oak; rich and chewy with black plum and currant flavours tinged with dark chocolate, Savoury and satisfying. Needs cellar time. (91– 93)
- Château Troplong Mondot 1998: dense purple-ruby colour, still youthful looking; cedar, tobacco, vanilla oak, blackcurrant; elegant, beautifully balanced and youthful; firmly structured and seamless with lots of life still. Savoury, dark chocolate flavours. Old-style claret. (95)
- Château Troplong Mondot 2010: great depth of colour; cedar, vanilla oak, harmonious with black fruits beautifully integrated into the bouquet; full-bodied, dry, richly extracted, intense and firm; dark chocolate and black fruit flavours. Chewy ripe tannins. Hold 15 years. Very contemporary. (93–95)
A champagne reception before the Grand Banquet with Louis Roederer Brut Premier. The dinner wines:
- Louis Roederer Cristal Brut 2006
- Col D’Orcia Poggio Al Vento Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2001
- Domaine du Pégau : Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Laurence Rouge 2011
- Château Troplong Mondot 2010
- Jean-Claude Boisset Meursault Charmes 2012
- Ceretto Barbaresco Bricco Asili 2003
- Vieux Château Certan 2006
- Jean-Claude Boisset Chambolle-Musigny Les Chardannes 2011
- Ceretto Moscato D’Asti 2014
Roederer’s pink champagne
The menu, prepared by Jérôme Ferrer of Europea:
Cannelloni croquant de céleri et pommes vertes aux pates de crabs d’Alaska et hommard, velouté de panais et céleri-rave, huile de citron confit
Orzotto au parmesan et à la courge musquée. Pintade rôtie farcie champignons et jus
Filet mignon de boeuf Angus. Mousseline de pommes de terre aux brisures de truffles, jus de viande, tiges de salsifis braises, croustilles d’olives noires
Harpist entertaining guests at the Grand Banquet
Then a break for a live auction of 12 lots, the proceeds from which benefit l’Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemount to build an integrated centre for research and treatment of cancer patients. Lots, supplied generously, by the wineries who tried to outdo each other during the bidding with add-ons, reached a high as $40,000.
Then came the cheese:
1608 de Charlevoix, tatin de poires caramélissés à la vanille, parfait glacé au bleu bénédictine
La tarte citron meringue givrée-décomposée, Crème onctueuse au chocolat blanc, éclats de meringue et praline roses. Barbe à papa. Mignardises. Biscuits spéculoos
And so to bed.
Sunday, November 1st: Packed and made my way to the station to take the train back to Toronto.