A Wine Lover's Diary, part 81 (April 3, 2006)
Monday, March 27: Mostly administrative stuff today, dealing with the Ontario Wine Awards ordering the gold medal wines for the gala dinner, sending emails to the judges for this Saturday's tasting. Martin Gemmrich and Wolfgang Woerthle, who started a gourmet vinegar company called Aceto Niagara, dropped by with samples of their range of Icewine and fruit vinegars. I'll be writing about them shortly... In the evening, an invitation to taste the Bolla wines at Canyon Creek Chop House on Front Street. The importing agent, Charton and Hobbs, had booked a private room so that we could taste the wines in relative quiet. I remember Soave Bolla from the 1960s when my Uncle Louis, who was a vegetarian until the sun went down, used to invite me for lunch at an Italian fish restaurant near his office in London's Fitzroy Square. The only wine he ever ordered there was Soave Bolla. But at his dinner table he served Mouton-Rothschild and Yquem. It was Uncle Louis who introduced me to fine wine. Everyone should have an Uncle Louis. At Canyon Creek, Ed Finstein, Tod Stewart, Margaret Swaine and I tasted the following wines:
- Soave Bolla 2005: straw coloured; citrus peel nose, light-bodied, spicy, elegant and crisply dry with a bitter almond finish; good acidity.
- Tufaie Soave 2004 from Castellaro Mountain, a Vintages product: straw coloured with a ripe peach and melon nose, medium-bodied with a creamy, rich mouth feel. A lovely wine.
- Pinot Grigio 2004: pale straw colour; anise and citrus nose; tart and lemony with a white peach note; clean with good length.
- Pinot Grigio 2005: youthful, leesy-lemony nose with white peach and green apple flavours.
- Valpolicella Classico 2004: ruby colour with a peppery plum nose; medium-bodied and fruity (almost carbonic maceration-like); not a lot of extract with an acidic finish.
- Valpolicella Classico 2005: ruby colour; peppery, floral, sour cherry flavour.
- Amarone 2003: bright ruby colour; black cherries, chocolate and vanilla nose; rich, raisiny and sweet with well extracted fruit and a firm finish.
- Recioto della Valpolicella Classico 2003: dense purple colour, high toned, sweet raisiny nose; full-bodied and rich; round and sweet on the palate with plums, raisins and prune flavours.
We also tasted a wine that Bolla buys from Sicily, Sicilia Rosso 2003: deep ruby colour; floral, red licorice and plum; intense bitter chocolate, plum and black licorice flavours, soft, grainy tannins. Good value at $10.95. But I find the blue German-style bottle disconcerting for a wine from Sicily.
Tuesday, March 28: Am driving to Sarnia today to conduct a dinner tasting in the LCBO's demo kitchen on Exmouth Street for the Western Alumni association. It's a three-hour drive so I'm taking along a book on tape Jane Urquhart's The Stone Carvers. We taste the wines and then are served a meal chosen to complement them. There are about 27 participants. The wines are:
- Nautilus Sauvignon Blanc 2004 (New Zealand)
- Domaine Vincent Girardin Meursault Les Narvaux 2002
- Stoney Ridge Pinot Noir 2004
- Masi Brolo di Campofiorin 1999
- Leconfield Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2002
- Henry of Pelham Special Select Late Harvest Riesling 2004.
The wines were chosen by the store's consultant Aaron Pitcher, who did a great job in the selection and in matching them with the dinner (salad, beef tenderloin with mushroom risotto and crème brûlée). Amanda Mackenzie, who does special events for the LCBO in Sarnia, made it very easy for me to step in and have fun. Spent the night in the Holiday Inn rather than driving back to Toronto.
Wednesday, March 29: Started writing an article on BC's Similkameen Valley for Tidings magazine. There are only five grape wineries currently operating in the valley but in the next ten years the number will quadruple, I predict. Similkameen will become the Sonoma to Okanagan's Napa. Guy came to dinner. We had President's Choice Honey Garlic Ribs with a bottle of Penfold's Koonunga Hill Cabernet Merlot 2003.
Thursday, March 30: Had a meeting with Mary Tezak, whom I knew at the Toronto Star. She left the paper to start up her own business, importing European goods for the hospitality trade. She wanted to show me a range of linen napkins, place settings and table clothes woven with grape names (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Shiraz, etc.). Just the thing for a wine dinner. You'll be able to check them out on www.4mtrading.ca as soon as the website is up. Mary is taking orders at 1-877-877-0855. Had lunch with my old friend Pat Burroughs at Lai Wah Heen. His boss, Henry Wu, who owns the Metropolitan Hotel and Soho Hotel, is opening another Chinese restaurant in the old Square restaurant on Mount Pleasant (previously Steak Frites and before that Pronto) which will be within walking distance of our condo (when it's built). For dinner, with BBQ'ed hamburgers and mushroom risotto, Mission Hill Shiraz Reserve 2004.
Friday, March 31: Another Vintages release tasting. Thank goodness Zoltan Szabo is back and can share the tasting with me. I concentrated on the Rieslings, 25 in all. The best was Selbach-Oster Bernkastler Badstube Riesling Auslese 2003. This was the first time I have ever tasted a corked bottle of sherry El Maestro Sierra Fino.
Saturday, April 1: The second part of the Ontario Wine Awards judging at Crush. A much easier day since, there were only four flights dry Riesling, Oaked Chardonnays under $20, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. In the afternoon we held the competition for sommeliers a blind tasting of six wines plus a theoretical part; they had to match Ontario VQA wines to a series of recipes from Ontario resorts. The wines tasted blind were:
- Flat Rock Cellars Nadja's Riesling 2004
- Pelee Island Barrique Chardonnay 2003
- Silver Peak Wine Cellars Gamay Noir 2003
- Château des Charmes St. David's Bench Vineyard Merlot 2002
- Coyote's Run Estate Cabernet Franc 2004
- Henry of Pelham Special Select Late Harvest Riesling 2004.
For these competition judging sessions I start the panels off with a rinse-bouche to get their palates working and to make sure that they are on the same wavelength in terms of their scoring. (They are asked to mark the individual wines from 70 to 100 points so as not to skew the numbers with an egregiously low score. If the wine is flawed a second bottle is called for and tasted; if this too is flawed the wine is scored 69. The judges discuss each wine when they have finished the flight to ensure that no taster has overlooked a delicate wine that rates a good score but pales in comparison to one that is highly extracted.) I used a Vineland Estate Dry Riesling 2004 for the rinse-bouche; I needed to chill it down quickly, so I put it in the freezer at home. Needless to say, I forgot it when Deborah and I left the house. When we returned the wine was frozen solid and had pushed out the cork. We were having BBQ-ed hamburgers for dinner but I didn't want to waste the Riesling, which I had left on the counter to thaw out. I was also curious to see what effect freezing and thawing had on the wine. It was still delicious and I couldn't see any deterioration because of the trauma it had suffered.
Sunday, April 2: The final part of the Ontario Wine Awards the judging of the Late Harvest and Icewines. This tasting was held at the Fine Wine Reserve, where we store the wines prior to the competition. Two panels of sommeliers tasted the wines. The results will be announced at the gala dinner to be held at Queen's Landing, Niagara-on-the-Lake, on Saturday, April 22nd. Guy came over for dinner. My son has an extraordinary effect on Pinot the Wonder Dog. Whenever she sees him she crouches down, slides across the floor and pees. So we have to make sure that he greets her outside the house. BBQ-ed steak for dinner (Guy's favourite) with a bottle of Peter Lehmann Barossa Shiraz 2003. A perfect match.