A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 616: Sponsors’ Niagara Tour

Wednesday, September 28th: Spent the day going through emails that needed attention. In the evening Deborah and I went down to the Wine Academy, 67 Richmond Street West, for the annual reunion dinner of wine and food European tour with Pauwels Travel, made special by the attendance of Vaughan Bowser and his partner Marie. I brought a slew of Ontario wines and Cathy Martin picked up Cordero di Montezemolo Langhe Arneis 2015, Castello di Ama Chianti Classico Lorenzo 2011 and Lustau Moscatel Emilin. We started off with a welcome sparkler – Contadi Castaldi Brut from Franciacorta. A fun evening with old friends who have been travelling together on 12 years of these May tours. Next year’s tour: Veneto, Friuli and Lombardy.

Contadi Castaldi Brut

Thursday, September 29th: Wrote wine and food matches for a new restaurant, El Tenedor (“The Fork”), 909 Yonge Street, that’s opening in October. Also wrote up my Wines of the Week for this site. In the evening, down to Hy’s Steak House to have dinner with Peter Gambetti, the red wine maker for Yalumba, and his importing agent, Elizabeth Muir. Along with my steak (large enough that I could bring some home for Pinot the Wonderdog), I tasted the following wines:

  • Yalumba Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 (Coonawarra – $19.95): dense purple-ruby colour; cedary, plum and blackcurrant nose with a savoury-herbal note; medium to full-bodied, dry with good mid-palate fruit and spicy note on the finish. (88.5)
  • Yalumba Cigar Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (named for the shape of the Coonawarra region – with 7% Merlot ): dense purple colour, cedary, floral, vanilla oak and black fruit bouquet; full-bodied, dry, fruity but firm with a herbal-medicinal finish. Fascinating wine. (90)
  • Yalumba Ringbolt Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (Margaret River; with 5% Petit Verdot): deep ruby colour; cedary, blackcurrant nose; medium to full-bodied, dry. Elegant and well-structured with a dark chocolate and sandalwood notes from the 50% American oak. (89)
  • Yalumba Ringbolt Cabernet Sauvignon 2008: dense purple-ruby colour; medium to full-bodied, dry and elegant blackcurrant and rose petal flavours, beautifully balanced with great length and a note of tangerine peel on its lingering finish. (92)
  • Yalumba The Menzies Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (Coonawarra): dense purple colour; a nose of vanilla oak, plum and blackcurrant aromas with a herbal note; full-bodied, dry and firm, lovely mouth-feel, beautifully balanced with a note of licorice on the finish. (92)
  • Yalumba Ringbolt 21 Barriques Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (Margaret River, 40-year-old vines): dense purple colour; cedary, blackcurrant nose with well-integrated oak; rich and full in the mouth with sweet blackcurrant fruit, beautifully balanced, soft on the palate with a lovely mouth-feel. Elegant and expressive fruit flavours graced by a floral note. (93)
  • Yalumba Museum Muscat Reserve: deep amber colour; intense nose of honey, molasses, dried fig and toasted nuts; full-bodied and mouth-filling, sweet with great length. Nicely balanced. (90)

Yalumba Ringbolt 21 Barriques Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Friday, September 30th: David Rose came over for dinner. We ate smoked salmon and a can of cassoulet I brought back from France and I opened a bottle of Château de Vangelas Le Prieuré 2014 (Corbierès): deep purple-ruby colour; cedary, vanilla oak and herb-tinged blackberry on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, fresh and fruity on the palate. (88)

Saturday, October 1st: Today is the annual tour of two Niagara wineries for the sponsors of the Ontario Wine Awards. I picked up a “traveller” of Starbucks coffee and a dozen assorted croissants for the nine of us on the Niagara Airbus for the drive down. (We met up with seven other guests at our first winery – Peller Estates.) A welcome glass of Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Rosé Brut from winemaker Craig McDonald (voted “Winemaker of the Year” by the Ontario Wine Awards judges for his Trius wines).

Trius winemaker Craig McDonald and the unique corkscrew table

Then down to the cellars for a tasting with Craig and the company’s other winemakers, Emma Garner (Thirty Bench) and Katie Dickieson (Peller).

  • Thirty Bench Small Lot Wood Post Riesling 2014: pale straw colour; grapefruit, lime, honey and mineral nose already developing petrol notes; light-bodied, crisply dry and lively, beautifully balanced flavours of grapefruit with mouth-watering acidity. (91)
  • Wayne Gretzky Pinot Grigio 2015: pale straw colour; minerally, peach pit nose; medium-bodied, dry, peach and apricot flavours with a touch of residual sweetness. Easy drinking. (87)
  • Peller Estates Signature Sauvignon Blanc 2014: sweet grass, lanolin, grapefruit and green fig bouquet; medium-bodied, dry, herbaceous, grapefruit flavour with a touch of road to round the wine out on the palate; creamy mouth-feel and beautifully balanced. (91)
  • Trius Showcase Outlier Gewurztraminer Carlton Vineyard 2015: straw colour; aromatic nose of lychee and rose petals; full-bodied, rosewater, lychee and ginger flavours – concentrated and dry; beautifully balanced with great length. (90)
  • Peller Private Reserve Gamay Noir 2014: deep ruby colour; earthy, cherry nose with notes of white pepper and leather; light-bodied, dry with a black cherry flavour. (88.5)
  • Wayne Gretzky Cabernet Shiraz 2014: deep purple-ruby; spicy, sandalwood, blackberry and plum on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, well-balanced with crisp acidity. (89)
  • Thirty Bench Cabernet Franc 2013: cedary, herbal, redcurrant and red plum on the nose with a vanilla oak note; medium-bodied, dry, Loire style; well-balanced with fresh acidity and a vanilla oak finish. (90)
  • Trius Showcase Red Shale Cabernet Franc 2013: spicy, licorice, earthy plum flavour with vanilla oak; medium-bodied, dry, ripe plum and currant fruit with a tangerine peel finish; well-structured and harmonious with a firm finish. (91)

Then a visit to Peller’s 10 Below Ice Lounge, donning parkas, for a glass of Icewine in a room made of ice.

Peller’s Ice Lounge

Lunch in the private dining room.

PELLER ESTATES • Ontario Wine Awards • Saturday October 1st, 2016 • White Tuna Carpaccio | Watermelon Radish, Wasabi Kelp Caviar, Lemon Thyme Yogurt | ''PRIVATE RESERVE'' ROSE 2015 ~ Yorkshire Valley Chicken | Poached Hens Egg, Red Fife Grain, Baby Carrots, Black Kale | ''PRIVATE RESERVE'' PINOT NOIR 2014

  • Peller Estates Private Reserve Pinot Noir Rosé 2015: pale pink in colour; a nose of wild strawberry and citrus; medium-bodied, crisply dry, redcurrant flavour, fresh, elegant and well-balanced. (89)
  • Peller Estates Private Reserve Pinot Noir 2014: ruby colour; spicy, earthy, cherry nose with a light vanilla oak note; medium-bodied, dry, savoury, cherry flavour; firmly structured with lively acidity. (88.5)

Next stop, Creekside and winemaker Rob Power. A welcoming glass of sparkling Sauvignon Blanc and then into the cellar after a quick tour of the facility and a tasting.

  • Creekside Barrel-Aged Sauvignon Semillon 2015: straw colour; lemony, grassy nose; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, Bordeaux style; fresh and lively on the palate. (88.5)
  • Creekside Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2013: straw colour; grassy, lanolin nose; medium-bodied, dry, spicy, passionfruit and citrus flavours; elegant, creamy mouth-feel; well-balanced with good length. (90)
  • Creekside Broken Press Syrah 2012 (a little Viognier in the blend): deep purple-ruby; spicy, floral, blackberry nose with a peppery note; medium-bodied, dry, herbal, blackberry flavour with a floral note; firmly structured. (92)
  • Creekside Unbroken Press Syrah 2012 (100% Syrah): deep ruby colour; herbal, black fruits on the nose with leather and earthy notes; full-bodied, dry, plum and blackberry flavours with dark chocolate notes. Savoury finish with grainy tannins. (91)

Arrived home at 6:30 pm and dashed to prepared dinner for Amanda Barnes and her Argentinian boyfriend, Emi. Amanda has embarked on an ambitious 3-year project – “Around The World In 80 Harvests,” visiting every continent where wine is made, interviewing winemakers and wine professionals. She interviewed me about Canadian wines.


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