A Wine Lover’s Diary, part 700

Oculus bottle close up, showing name and pelican logo etched into glass

Tuesday, June 26th: Deborah and I drove into Toronto, she for a hair appointment and I to attend a retrospective tasting of Mission Hill’s flagship wine, Oculus – ten vintages from 2006 to 2015. The tasting was conducted by Darryl Brooker. The wine started in 1997. Exclusive use of French oak in 2001. 2004, Michel Rolland assisted in the blending till 2010. Now Pascal Madevon consults. First decade it was Oliver-based fruit, the second, Osoyoos vineyard down by the Washington State border which is much warmer. Picking at night to bring in cool fruit. Darryl prefers fermenting in concrete (all-natural fermentation). All of Oculus is basket-pressed. Usually bottle 21–22 months after it’s picked.

  • Oculus 2006 (Merlot 51%, Cabernet Sauvignon 26%, Cabernet Franc 15%, Petit Verdot 8%): dense purple-ruby; cedary, creamy, blackcurrant and black plum with vanilla oak; full-bodied, dry, richly extracted, velvety mouth-feel, savoury, black fruit flavours with soft, grainy tannins and a note of dark chocolate on the finish. Well-balanced with acidity, still remarkably youthful. (92)
  • Oculus 2007 (Merlot 50%, Cabernet Sauvignon 24%, Cabernet Franc 21%, Petit Verdot 5%): deep ruby with a mature look; cedary, cigar-box, blackcurrant nose; medium to full-bodied, dry, very St. Emilion in style, mouth-filling, lively acidity, plum and currant flavours. Ripe tannins, dark chocolate finish. (95)
  • Oculus 2008 (Merlot 46%, Cabernet Sauvignon 29%, Cabernet Franc 22%, Petit Verdot 3%): deep ruby colour; cedary, well-integrated vanilla oak notes; medium to full-bodied, dry, evident tannins with a touch of bitterness and herbal notes. (90)
  • Oculus 2009 (Merlot 50%, Cabernet Sauvignon 30%, Cabernet Franc 15%, Petit Verdot 5%): dense purple-ruby colour; cedary, vanilla, plum and a licorice note on the nose; medium to full-bodied, lively acidity, fresh on the palate, plum and currant flavours, firmly structured. Very youthful, evident tannins. Hold 5 years. (91)
  • Oculus 2010 (Merlot 51%, Cabernet Sauvignon 26%, Cabernet Franc 23%): deep ruby colour; sweet blackcurrant nose, very claret-like; medium-bodied, dry and savoury with an engaging floral note on the finish. Fresh and lively with a firm tannic finish with a rhubarb note. (90)
  • Oculus 2011 (Merlot 71%, Cabernet Sauvignon 16%, Cabernet Franc 13%): deep purple-ruby colour; lightly cedary, lightly herbal, plum and black cherry with a floral top note; medium-bodied, dry, slightly earthy with a hollow mid-palate and a little short on finish and evident tannins. (89)
  • Oculus 2012 (Merlot 52%, Cabernet Sauvignon 18%, Cabernet Franc 30%): deep ruby colour; cedary, sweet blackcurrant with vanilla oak; medium-bodied, elegant, plum and currant flavours, beautifully balanced and firm. Lovely mouth-feel with a mocha chocolate finish. (93)
  • Oculus 2013 (Merlot 51%, Cabernet Sauvignon 21%, Cabernet Franc 24%, Petit Verdot 5%): deep purple-ruby colour; cedary, spicy, vanilla oak, ripe black fruits on the nose; medium to full-bodied, dry, mocha chocolate, creamy mouth feel with a firm tannic finish. Hold 4–5 years. (92)
  • Oculus 2014 (Merlot 50%, Cabernet Sauvignon 26%, Cabernet Franc 15%, Petit Verdot 8%): cedary, lightly spicy, savoury, black plum bouquet with well-integrated oak notes; medium to full-bodied, dry, richly extracted red berry flavours with fresh acidity, beautifully balanced and firm. Hold 4–5 years. (93)
  • Oculus 2015 (Merlot 58%, Cabernet Sauvignon 26%, Cabernet Franc 16%): deep ruby-purple colour; cedary, evident new oak (needs time to meld), spicy, blueberry and blackcurrant nose; full-bodied, richly extracted, fruity but firm, concentrated black fruit flavours with a great structure. Evident tannins. Hold 4–5 years. (94)

Three bottles of Oculus in different sizes

In the evening, Deborah and I took Pinot to Food Truck Tuesday at Port Dalhousie by the water.

Thursday, June 28th: Went tasting with Jeremy Ennis, sommelier at Langdon Hall. Our first stop, Flat Rock Cellars where Allison Findlay, assistant winemaker, led us through the tasting.


Flat Rock’s assistant winemaker, Allison Findlay

  • Flat Rock Crowned Sparkling Brut 2009 (92% Chardonnay, 8% Pinot Noir; $45): straw colour; leesy, minerally, apple with a light floral note; light to medium-bodied, crisply dry, lemony with great length. A lovely fresh sparkler. (90)
  • Flat Rock Estate Pinot Noir 2016 ($20.95): medium ruby colour; violets and raspberry nose; medium-bodied, sweet raspberry and plum flavours with a firm structure. Good fresh acidity. (89)
  • Flat Rock Gravity Pinot Noir 2013 ($34.95): rusty ruby in colour; raspberry with an undergrowth note and light floral aromas; medium-bodied, dry, elegant and well-balanced with a firm tannic finish. (90)
  • Flat Rock Unplugged Chardonnay 2017 (unoaked, 6 months on lees – $17.95): bright, very pale straw colour; apple and peach nose with light aromatic, floral note; light to medium-bodied, dry, apple and pear flavours with a creamy note with a fresh, long lemony finish. (89)
  • Flat Rock Estate Chardonnay 2016 ($19.95): pale straw with a  lime tint; lightly toasty, spicy, apple nose; medium-bodied, sweet apple and par flavours with fresh, lemony acidity; well-balanced. (89)
  • Flat Rock Rusty Shed Chardonnay 2016 ($26.95): pale straw colour; toasty, barnyard nose of apple and oak spice; medium-bodied, apple, pineapple flavour, Macon-style; soft, creamy mouth-feel with an engaging note of bitterness on the finish to give the wine interest. (90)
  • Flat Rock Gewurztraminer 2017 ($22.95): very pale straw; aromatic bouquet of orange blossom, grapefruit, hint of ginger; medium-bodied, dry, spicy, rosewater and grapefruit flavours. (88.5)
  • Flat Rock Riesling Reserve 2014 ($30): very pale, almost water white; grapefruit with a light floral and petrol note; light-bodied, aromatic, crisply dry, minerally, green peach and lime flavours. (89)
  • Flat Rock Riesling 2016 ($17.95): very pale colour; minerally, lightly floral nose; light bodied, minty, sweet grapefruit, honey and grapefruit-lime flavours with a lightly bitter finish. (88)
  • Flat Rock Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling 2016 ($24.95): almost water white; minerally, light petrol note, grapefruit nose; light to medium-bodied, dry, minerally, honey, grapefruit; beautifully balanced, fresh and lively on the palate, great length. (91)

Next stop, Rockway Vineyards with winemaker Dave Stasiuk.

  • Rockway Vineyards Sparkling (Brut – 1st sparkling wine: 60/40 Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, 27 months on the lees – $28–30): very pale, tiny bubbles, creamy, lemony, green apple nose; light-bodied, crisply dry, apple core flavour with a touch of bitterness on the finish. (88)
  • Rockway Vineyards Pinot Noir Rosé 2017 ($17.95): light pink in colour; lightly peppery, cherry nose; medium-bodied, crisply dry, strawberry and blood orange flavours, mouth-freshening. (89)
  • Rockway Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($18.95): very pale colour; minerally, grapefruit skin nose; medium-bodied, grapefruit and green plum flavours, crisply dry. (89)
  • Rockway Vineyards Fergie Jenkins Riesling 2016 ($16.95): minerally, lightly floral, grapefruit nose; light-bodied, off-dry, honeyed grapefruit flavour with a firm finish. (88)
  • Rockway Vineyards Small Lot 2015 ($21.95): very pale colour; minerally, lightly floral, high toned nose with light petrol notes; light-bodied, off-dry, honeyed grapefruit flavour with a hint of bitterness on the finish. (88.5)
  • Rockway Vineyards David Hearn Chardonnay Riesling 2015 ($17.95): pale straw colour; minerally, apple-pear and grapefruit nose; medium-bodied, dry, honey and lime flavours. (88)
  • Rockway Vineyards Chardonnay Wild Ferment 2016 ($24.95): light straw colour; spicy, lightly oaked, apple and citrus notes on the nose with an earthy note; medium-bodied, sweet apple balanced by lemony acidity. (88)
  • Rockway Vineyards Pinot Noir 2014 ($19.95): medium ruby colour; cedary, cherry nose with a touch of VA; medium-bodied, spicy, earthy, strawberry flavour and a firm finish. (88)
  • Rockway Vineyards Merlot 2013 ($24.95): deep purple-ruby colour; spicy, plum and blueberry nose; medium-bodied, dry, richly extracted, plummy fruit with a firm, warm alcoholic, tannic finish. (88)
  • Rockway Vineyards Small Lot Syrah Block 12–140 2013 ($27.95): deep ruby colour; savoury, herbal, blackberry nose with well-integrated oak; full-bodied, richly extracted, well-balanced and firm with ripe tannins. (89.5)
  • Rockway Vineyards Syrah Small Lot Block 12–140 2012 ($35): deep ruby colour; earthy, licorice and blackberry nose with a note of dried herbs; medium-bodied, dry, blackberry with a floral note and lively acidity. (90)
  • Rockway Vineyards Meritage Small lot 2013 ($24.95): deep ruby colour; cedary, herbal nose with a floral note; medium to full-bodied, dry and savoury with a blackberry flavour and ripe powdery tannins (89)
  • Rockway Vineyards Small Lot Meritage 2012 ($24.95): deep purple-ruby colour; full-bodied, floral, blackberry flavour with evident tannins with a coconut note on the finish. (88)
  • Rockway Vineyards Cabernet Franc Small Lot Block 11–140 2015 ($24.95): deep purple colour; cedary, lightly floral, plum nose; full-bodied, richly extracted, plummy, lively acidity, firmly structured. (89)
  • Rockway Vineyards Cabernet Franc Small Lot Block 11–140 2012 ($32): deep purple-ruby, cedary, blackberry and currant nose; full-bodied, soft mouth-feel, earthy, dark chocolate with evident tannins. (89–90)
  • Rockway Vineyards Select Late Harvest Vidal 2015 ($18.95): light straw colour; honeyed peach nose; medium-bodied, off-dry, a touch hard on the finish; raisiny end taste. (88)
  • Rockway Vineyard Vidal Icewine 2015 ($49.95): light straw colour; lifted, honeyed mango nose; medium-bodied, mango and honey flavour with a touch of bitterness on the finish. (90)

Dinner tastings – Monday, with beef stir fry: Lavau Vacqueras 2014: deep ruby purple in colour; cedary, blackberry nose with a light herbal note; medium to full-bodied, dry, sweet blackberry and black plum flavours, rich and full with soft tannins and a savoury, lightly herbal finish. (90)

Wednesday – BBQ steak: CedarCreek Merlot 2015 (Okanagan Valley): deep purple in colour; cedary, blueberry nose, creamy vanilla oak with a pencil lead note; full-bodied, fruity, blueberry, pencil lead and mocha chocolate flavours and supple tannins. (91)


Deborah and Pinot at Food Truck Tuesday

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