Monday, February 29th: Down to the ROM for the annual Ontario Wine tasting. Tasted through all the sparkling wines, Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs, then called it a day.
Dean Tudor gave me a copy of his wife Ann’s book, Fast & Fearless Cooking for the Genius. I had written a blurb for it: “At last a book for all us tentative and timorous wannabe chefs who yearn to prepare delicious meals fearlessly and fast. This volume is jazz, full of improvisations and unexpected riffs; but informed on every page by Ann Tudor’s love of food and open-hearted generosity in sharing her experience and kitchen-smarts with us less gifted practitioners of the wooden spoon.”
For dinner, roast chicken with Château des Charmes Pinot Noir 2012 (deep ruby colour; medium-bodied, dry, vanilla oak, cherry with a licorice note (88)).
Tuesday, March 1st: The month came in like the proverbial lion with a snow storm. Worked on my book.
Wednesday, March 2nd: Deborah dropped Pinot off at the vet’s to have her teeth cleaned. She has to be given an anesthetic. An expensive business – $831 with the blood test. In the next life I’m coming back as a vet.
David Rose and his partner Elaine came over to lunch. I opened a bottle of Bottega Rose Gold Sparkling Rosé with the marinated pork loin. In the evening to Sopra for a wine auction conducted by Tod Halpern to raise funds for the Carley’s Angels Foundation. Some terrific wines that raised $100,000.
Thursday, March 3rd: Spent much of the day writing and then started on a wine list for a restaurant called Bare Bistro in a nudist park, Bare Oaks Family Naturist Park. For dinner, grilled salmon with Château des Charmes Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2014 (straw colour; a nose of apple butter with a toasty oak note; medium-bodied, dry, fresh, apple flavour with well-integrated oak (89)).
Friday, March 4th: Deborah dropped me down at the LCBO with my suitcase. After the Vintages release tasting Zoltan Szabo arrived at 3 pm in a limo to drive with Michael Vaughan and me down to Niagara Falls for Cuvée. We were booked into the Marriott Hotel opposite the Scotiabank Convention Centre where the event is being held this year. Great view of both the Canadian and American Falls from my room on the 31st floor.
View of the Falls from my hotel
I awarded my Cuvée Award of Excellence this year (the traditional engraved decanter) to Lloyd Schmidt. The citation was “For advancing viticulture in Ontario by accessing the best vinifera varietals from the nurseries of the world – and fighting bureaucracy to do it.”
Saturday, March 5th: The limo took us to Trius, where head winemaker Craig McDonald prepared a tasting of the company’s sweet wines.
- Trius Showcase Late Harvest Vidal 2014 ($24.85, 9.4 g/L, 11% alcohol): straw colour with a lime tint; mango, honey, a touch of botrytis on the nose; rich and full on the palate, great balance, fresh and lively, honey and green pineapple and orange marmalade, barley sugar; clean with good length. (93)
- Peller Estates Riesling Icewine 2013 ($74, 40.9 Brix, 12.5 g/L acidity, 10.5% alcohol): old gold colour; honey, pineapple, leesy note on the nose; rich, opulent, sweet honeyed pear and tangerine, nicely balanced. (93.5)
- Trius Showcase Riesling Icewine 2012 ($70, 38.4 Brix, 10.5% alcohol, 9.5 g/L acid): deep old gold colour; minerally, light petrol note, floral, apple, orange, honey; well balanced. (95)
- Trius Vidal Icewine 2014 ($54, 39.5 Brix, 11% alcohol, 12.2 g/L): bright old gold colour; honey, mango, floral, Turkish Delight nose; barley sugar flavour with a hint of oak; quite broad on the palate (93)
- Peller Private Reserve Vidal Icewine 2014 (200 mL; $26.85, Brix 39.56, 11.8 g/L acidity, 11% alcohol): orange marmalade, toast, botrytis note floral with a hint of oak, pencil lead; honey, orange and pear flavours; clean, great length with a dried apricot finish. (94)
- Peller Estates Vidal Blanc Icewine 2014 (200 mL; $37.00, 39.2 Brix, 11% alc., 11.2 g/L): old gold colour; botrytis, honey, peach; great mouth-feel, beautifully balanced, orange marmalade with honey. Long finish. (95)
- Peller Estates Oak Aged Icewine 2014 (200 mL, 39.3 Brix, 216 g/L sugar, 12.0 g/L, 11% alcohol): old gold colour; vanilla, peach, honey, floral, orchard fruit nose; medium-bodied, light on the palate, elegant, orange marmalade; great length. (95)
- Trius Showcase Vidal Icewine 2014 ($60, 40 Brix, 11% alcohol, 12.7 g/L acidity; barrel-fermented, barrel-aged): amber colour; lifted licorice root, spicy, high-toned nose, honey, rustic; barley sugar, rich and opulent, mouth-filling molasses flavour, tangerine acidity; warm finish. (93)
- Wayne Gretzky Estates Vidal Icewine 2013 ($55, 39.2 Brix. 224 g/L sugar, 11% alcohol, 13.0 g/L): lemon yellow with a green tint; peach, tropical fruit, fresh and lively on the palate. (92)
- Peller Estates Brix 50 Icewine 2013 ($495, 50Brix, 340 g/L sugar, 11.4 g/L; 1528 bottles): deep amber colour; Tokaji-like nose of honeycomb, ginger, dried apricot, orange peel nose; unctuous, rich, velvety, honeyed grapefruit, amazing length. Extreme Icewine. (96)
- Inniskillin Vidal Icewine 1996 (in a 50mL bottle): Fernet Branca colour; soy, meaty, walnut nose; spicy, nutty, sherry-like, dried fig, brown sugar, lively acidity. (A curiosity.)
- Wayne Gretzky Estates Cabernet Franc Icewine 2013 ($85, 41.2 Brix, 232 g/L sugar, 11.5% alcohol, 9.1 g/L acidity): light ruby with an orange tint; wild strawberry, light floral note on the nose, mineral note with a touch of oak; sweet, strawberry jam; could do with a touch more acidity, warm finish. (93)
- Peller Estates Cabernet Franc Icewine 2013 ($52 for 200 mL, 40 Brix, 230 g/L sugar, 11.5% alcohol, 9.8 g/L acidity): light ruby colour; earthy, strawberry, tea leaf, touch of oak on the nose; full on the palate, sweet strawberry jam (92)
- Trius Showcase Cabernet Franc Icewine 2013 ($85; 42 Brix, 245 g/L sugar, 11.5% alcohol, 9.4 g/L acidity): light ruby colour; candied blackcurrant, black cherry nose, leafy note full-bodied, raspberry candy and honeyed pomegranate flavours with balancing acidity; great length with a sweet rhubarb finish. (94)
After the tasting we moved to another table for lunch (I ordered parsnip and white bean soup followed by Cornish hen – delicious meal). At lunch we tasted:
- Trius Showcase Wild Ferment Clean Slate Chardonnay Oliveira Vineyard 2013: straw colour; barnyard nose of vanilla oak and apple; medium-bodied, dry, apple and orange flavours, delicately oaked with great length (reminiscent of Margaret River Chardonnays). (92)
- Trius Showcase Wild Ferment Clean Slate Sauvignon Blanc 2013: straw colour with a green tint; a nose of grapefruit, passionfruit, and green plum with a toasty note; rich and full-bodied (13.9% alcohol), white Bordeaux style, very elegant and gently oaked. The best Sauvignon I’ve tasted in Canada. (93)
- Trius Ghost Creek Riesling 2014: Almost water white in colour; developing petrol notes behind the lime, éégrapefruit and honey tones; light on the palate at 8.8% alcohol but lots of flavour with great tension between the citrus and honeyed yellow apple flavours. (92)
- Trius Showcase Clark Farm Pinot Noir 2014: light ruby colour; high-toned spicy, cherry nose with mineral notes and a touch of oak; dry, medium-bodied, light on the palate with cranberry and beetroot flavours and a tart sour cherry finish. Needs time. (89–91)
- Trius Showcase Clark Farm Pinot Noir 2013: a shade deeper ruby in colour than the 2014; a nose of violets, smoke, cherry with mineral and vanilla oak notes; medium-bodied, dry with cherry and mushroom flavours. Very much in Volnay style. (91)
- Trius Showcase Red Shale Cabernet Franc 2012: deep ruby in colour; inky, savoury nose of cedar, tar, ripe black plum and vanilla oak; medium-bodied, dry, elegant and firmly structured with a damson flavour lifted with a floral note. Very St. Emilion in style. A gorgeous wine. (93)
- Trius Showcase RHS Merlot 2012: deep ruby colour; spicy, blueberry, pencil lead nose; medium-bodied, dry, richly extracted earthy and dry with blueberry and licorice flavours, finishing with firm tannins. (91)
On our way back to Toronto we stopped at 13th Street Winery to buy butter tarts. I bought a dozen, six of which I took over to James Harbeck and Aina Arro’s for dinner tonight. James cooked filet steak in a cherry sauce, sweet potato with coconut yoghurt, and salads followed by meringues with sabayon. I brought over a bottle of Trius Rosé Sparkling and Antinori Albis 2008. Also on the table – Château Ducru-Beaucaillou 1989 and Marimar Estate Doña Margarita Vineyard Mas Cavalls Pinot Noir 2007 and, served with the meringues and sabayon, Tawse Select Late Harvest Cabernets 2006. With the butter tarts, a glass of Madeira.