A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 619: Amani

Sunday, October 16th: Mourning the Jays’ loss yesterday afternoon. Uphill battle now as they’re two games down. Did a small tasting at home:

  • Yvon Mau Côtes de Gascogne 2015 (1500 mL, $16.95): light straw colour; grassy, green plum and lemon zest nose; medium-bodied, dry, green plum and lemon flavour with good length. (87)
  • Columbia Winery Chardonnay 2013 (Washington – $17.95): Medium straw colour; apple with a spicy oak note; medium-bodied, sweetish pineapple and melon flavours with toasty oak backing and enough acidity to give the wine balance. (88.5)
  • Volo Bióu Grenache 2015 (Pays d’Oc – $10.95): deep purple-ruby colour; cedary, cherry and black raspberry nose; medium-bodied, dry, well-extracted flavours of raspberry puree with enough tannin to give the wine structure. Touch of sweetness in mid palate. (87)
  • Bodegas Osborne Solas Tempranillo & Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (Castilla y Leon – $11.65): ruby-purple colour; earthy-leathery plum bouquet; medium-bodied, dry, redcurrant and plum flavours with a note of orange peel and a light floral note. Soft tannins, easy drinking. (86.5)
  • Montecillo Tempranillo Crianza 2011 (Rioja – $13.10 till Nov. 6, then $15.10): deep ruby colour; spicy, sandalwood, cedar and cherry nose; medium-bodied, dry, lean and sinewy with lively acidity. (87)
  • Montecillo Rioja Riserva 2010 ($18.15): deep ruby colour with a mature rim; sandalwood, oak spice and red fruit aromas; medium-bodied, dry, lean and sinewy with strawberry and cherry flavours carried on lively acidity. (89)
  • Domaine des Terrisses 2012 (Gaillac – local varieties Duras, Braucol with Syrah – $17.95): deep ruby colour; savoury-herbal nose of black fruits with a smoky note; medium to full-bodied, dry, mouth-filling blackberry and blackcurrant flavours with a bitter chocolate note, finishing with ripe, grainy tannins. (89)
  • Columbia Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (Washington $17.95): deep purple colour; cedary, blackcurrant nose; medium to full-bodied, well-extracted sweet blackcurrant and plum flavours with a suggestion of oak; firm structure with moderate length. (88)
  • Alpha Estate Axia 2012 (Greece – 50% Syrah, 50% Xynomavro – $17.95): deep ruby colour; ccherry and leather with a light floral note; medium to full-bodied, rich plum and blackberry flavours carried on lively acidity. Dry with evident tannins. Needs 2–3 years. (89)

Monday, October 17th: Down to the Shangri-La Hotel for a tasting of three champagnes with Cyril Brun, chef de caves at Charles Heidsieck, who spent 15 years in the cellars of Veuve Clicquot before joining Heidsieck. Their bottle shape mimics the curves in their chalk cellars in Reims. The aperture, like those of Krug and Salon bottles, is 26 millimeters as opposed to the usual 29 mm.

  • Charles Heidsieck Rosé Réserve (disgorged in 2015): pale amber-pink in colour; tiny bubbles with an active mousse; toasty, wild strawberry nose with a biscuit note; light on the palate, elegant and dry with a thread of minerality; lovely mouth-feel – dances on the palate, great balance and length. (94) “The colour,” says Brun, “is not a target, but a result.”
  • Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve: light golden straw in colour’ minerally, apple and Mirabelle plum nose with a top note of white blossoms; medium-bodied and rich with apple and lemon flavours; beautifully balanced, light and delicate on the palate; very elegant and lacy. Lovely mouth-feel with a long, lemony finish. (95)

Charles Heidsieck Rosé Réserve and Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve

In the evening to Mistura, 265 Davenport, for a dinner prepared by the new chef, Klaus Rohrich. The event was beautifully organized by Sheila Swerling-Puritt. There were a dozen of us, food writers and bloggers, and I was the only male at the table – apart from Mistura’s owner, Paolo Paolini. We started with a glass of prosecco to accompany Chef Klaus’s homemade charcuterie, crostini and crispy gulf shrimp and canteloupe trusses. Then we sat down to sweet corn soup with roasted onion and crab salsa, corn croutons and crème fraiche. This was followed by balsamic glazed lamb ribs, crispy artichokes and wild boar agnollotti. The main course was bonless free range chicken with squash caponata, chestnut purée, roasted onions and sautéed spinach, with pan-seared filet of branzino with lemon-scented bean salad, Manila clams and olive-oil-poached cherry tomatoes. The wines: Torrevento “Matervitae” Fiano 2014 and Farina “Le Pezze” Ripasso della Valpolicell 2014. Dessert: Vanilla panna cotta, fruits of the season, strawberry meringue crumble, crispy sugar tuile followed by Vieni Graspa Dolce Piccante – an Ontario grappa flavoured with maple syrup and red pepper.

Vieni Dolce Piccante Graspa
Grappa with a bite

Tuesday, October 18th: Down to the LCBO lab to taste wines I’d missed from the November 12th Vintages release (I was in Florence). Then to the ROM for the Italian Grandi Marchi tasting.

Grandi Marchi banner in room

Seventeen of Italy’s top wineries pouring their wines. The revelation for me was the wines of Rivera from Puglia, especially Rivera Scariazzo Fiano 2015 and Violante Nero di Troia Castel del Monte 2013. Donnafugata Ben Ryè Passito di Pantelleria 2014 was a delight. Good to see Gaia Gaja in Toronto again.

Donnafugata Ben Ryè Passito di Pantelleria 2014
A great dessert wine

Then on to a Frescobaldi dinner at Mangia e Bevi restaurant, 260 King Street East. Frescobaldi supplied the court of Edward II with wine in the 14th century.

FRESCOBALDI TOSCANA | Mangia & Bevi | Starter: Crostini Toscani (chicken liver) ¶ POMINO Bianco 2015 | 1st: Little RIBOLLITA + crispy Cavolo Nero ¶ Nipozzano Riserva 2012 | 2nd: Beefo cheek salad + vegetable Crudite + Capers +Olives ¶ Tenuta di Castiglioni 2013 | 3rd: Squash gnocchi + Guanciale + Gorganzola cream ¶ Castel Giocondo Brunello 2011 | 4th: Braised Duck Tortelli + Porcini + Sage + Parmigiano ¶ MONTESODI 2012 | 5th: Chestnut Stuffed Pheasant + Pancetta + Carrots + Green Beans + Jus ¶ MORMORETO 2012 | 6th: Assorted Aged cheeses + Housemade Compote _ Crisps ¶ Ripe al Convento di Castel Giocondo 2010

Wednesday, October 19th: Recorded my 680 NEWS wine reviews and then on to Hart House for Lifford’s Red October event – 34 of Steve Campbell’s suppliers pouring only their red wines. Made a beeline for the Heitz table to taste the Heitz Trailside Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon and over to Craggy Range and Staete Landt for their amazing Pinot Noirs. Enjoyed the Gatinaras of Travaglini. Then on to Acadian Loft for a portfolio tasting of Mark Anthony wines (52 producers). A pleasure to see David Adelsheim again and to taste his Breaking Ground Pinot Noir 2014 and his Elizabeth’s Reserve Pinot Noir 2012. Also Bruce Tyrrell, whom I hadn’t seen in years.

PAINTING THE TOWN RED | RED OCTOBER | Wednesday, October 19th, 2:00PM – 5:00PM | Great Hall, Hart House | HOSTED BY LIFFORD WINE & SPIRITS

Thursday, October 20th: Drove down to Edulis restaurant on Niagara Street to interview the owners for a piece I’m doing for Decanter Magazine. Then a meeting at NEO coffee bar with Meindert Schapp, Executive Director of Amani, and Doris Miculan-Bradley, president of Grapes for Humanity, to discuss our foundation’s donation to Amani for the construction of a home for street kids in Moshi, Tanzania.

Friday, October 21st: A Vintages release tasting day. In the evening Deborah and I dined at Karen and Cesar’s condo. Cesar will be opening his new restaurant El Tenedor (“The Fork”) on Yonge Street next month.

Saturday, October 22nd: Attended the barmitzvah od Benjamin Cohen, the grandson of my fishing buddy, Steve Cohen. In the evening Deborah and I went to a fund-raiser dinner in the Toronto Reference Library for Amani. I presented a cheque to Meindert Schapp for $40,000 from Grapes for Humanity.


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