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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 89 (May 29, 2006)

Monday, May 22: Victoria Day. A quiet day just assembling notes for a seminar I have to give tomorrow on New Zealand Pinot Noir for the wine press, sommeliers and Liquor Board personnel. I am thinking of writing to Loblaws to ask them to make their vegetable bags in an opaque plastic. Currently they are made in a transparent form, which is unsightly when you have to pick up after Pinot the Wonder Dog. Especially when you have to carry it and meet other people on the way home. Guy came to dinner. BBQed ribs with a bottle of Jadot Clos St. Jacques Moulin-à-Vent 2003. Amazing wine, unlike any Beaujolais I have ever had.

Tuesday, May 23: The Pinot Noir seminar is at the design Exchange. Brent Marris, the proprietor/winemaker at Wither Hills in Marlborough, is doing it with me, thank heavens. The seminar is called "Meet Our Makers" and features Pinots of 2003 and 2004 from different regions. Since 2002 there has been a 931% increase in the sales of New Zealand Pinot noir in Canada. No doubt at the expense of Burgundy and Oregon. The first flight was the 2004 vintage:

  • Waipara Hills Simmond's Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2004 (Marlborough): 15.2% alcohol, but it didn't seem that weighty; good tension between fruit and acidity with sweet and savoury flavours.
  • Mt. Difficulty Pinot Noir 2004 from Central Otago: minerally, a real sense of terroir here; black cherry with a floral note; dry, lean and surprisingly delicate for its 14% alcohol, great balance.
  • Palliser Estate Pinot Noir 2004 (Martinborough): a buttery-vanilla and raspberry nose; very firm, still tight with plum and red berry flavours; good middle attack but needs another year or so to show its paces. Then we moved on to the 2003 vintage which Brent says is similar in style to the 2004.
  • Neudorf Pinot Noir 2003 (Nelson): very Burgundian nose, minerally, fresh mushroom and raspberry; opens nicely on the palate with sweet plum and black cherry fruit; well structured, firm, intense, with excellent length.
  • Wither Hills 2003 (Marlborough): I have always said that wine tastes better in the presence of the winemaker, but this was the showstopper for me. It's already developing barnyard notes, very elegant, Côtes de Nuits style; lovely mouth feel, seamless, sweet raspberry flavour with notes of violet and sweet oak; amazing length.
  • Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir 2003 (Waipara): pencil lead nose with oak and an earthy, forest floor nose; sweet cherry with a herbal note, great acidity that carries the flavour to a firm, tannic finish.
  • Peregine Central Otago Pinot Noir 2003: plum with evident oak on the nose; earthy, black cherry, not yet together, very youthful. Needs a couple of years in bottle.
  • Te Kairanga Pinot Noir Reserve 2003 (Martinborough): This was the most Burgundian of the wines, quite austere, elegant but some green banana notes. If I had it blind I would have said it was a Beaune from a warm vintage.

At the trade tasting that followed I concentrated mainly on Pinot Noir. Brent Marris had a sample of his Wither Hills 2005, which was fantastic. Other Pinots I enjoyed were Koura Bay 2004, Staete Landt 2004, Voss Estate 2003. I tried the Kim Crawford 2004 and was frankly disappointed. Two wines that intrigued me were Mount Riley Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc Savée 2004, made in the Champagne method, and Sacred Hill Deerstalkers Syrah 2004 from Hawkes Bay (very rich blackberry flavour with a floral grace note). Mercifully, Cooper's Creek was not showing their Mother Cluckers Chardonnay 2005. I had tasted this last Friday at the LCBO's General product release tasting. The label is a picture of a brood of hens (isn't the internet wonderful – I didn't know the collective noun for hens so I googled it). About 18 months ago I was speaking with Philip Mirabelli, the importing agent who brings in Andrew Hendry's Coopers Creek wines. They are responsible for Cat's Pee On A Gooseberry Bush Sauvignon Blanc. And I said to Philip, "The way things are going someone is going to bring out a Mother-F***** Red." Philip said: "Just wait."

This evening I had another Tuesday Tasting at grano. An interesting theme – matching Canadian cheeses with mainly German wines.

The wines:

  • Studert-Prüm Riesling Kabinett 2004 (Mosel)
  • Balthasar Ress Riesling Kabinett 2004 (Rheingau)
  • Kurt Darting Riesling Spätlese 2003 (Pfalz)
  • Anselmann St. Laurent Trocken 2003 (Pfalz)
  • Nepenthe The Rogue 2002 (Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Shiraz)
  • Adelaide Hills (South Australia) (We needed one big red!)
  • Königswingert Bretzenheimer Vogelsang Ehrenfelser Auslese 2001 (Nahe)
  • Magnotta Riesling Icewine 2004 (Ontario)

The cheeses:

  • Du Village Triple Crème (Fromage Côté Limitée, Warwick, Québec): Premium bloomy rind cheese. Elegant, soft and rich, a result of extra cream. Flavour notes of hazelnut, butter and mushroom. Body and flavour change with age from mild and supple to cultured and runny
  • Délice des Appalaches (Fromagerie Éco-Délices, Plessisville, Québec): This unique cheese achieves its distinctive lingering apple fruit flavour and ultra creamy semi-soft body, with daily turning and hand washing with apple ice cider for 4–6 weeks, while aging on pine boards.
  • Baluchon (Fromagerie Jonathan, Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade, Québec): Delectable grassy to meaty flavours linger from the handcrafted raw milk cheese made from a particular herd of Brown Swiss and Holstein cows that graze in pastures near the cheese factory.
  • Balderson 5-yr Heritage Cheddar (Parmalat, Balderson, Ontario): Five years of natural aging develops the crumbly texture and rich fully mature cheddar taste with a complex spectrum of nutty, salty and slightly fruity flavours.
  • Bleu Bénédictin (Abbaye St-Benoît, St-Benoït du Lac, Québec): Made by monks at the Abbey from pasteurized whole cow milk. This premium semi-soft blue is aged at least three months in natural caves under the monastery to make it superb, with an extra creamy texture and a complex, pleasantly lingering flavour.

The basic message was that soft cheeses go better with white wines, hard cheeses with red and blue cheeses with sweet wines.

Wednesday, May 24: A day of catching up with e-mails, calling wineries to participate in the June 13th Ontario Wine Awards Consumer tasting of medal-winning wines, and a meeting with Jackie Davis at Starbucks on the corner about Grapes for Humanity. Heard from Ray Cornell that he is leaving Hernder Estates to become winemaker at Fielding Estate. Winemakers are like chefs, it seems. For dinner, pork loin, asparagus risotto and snow peas with a bottle of Bodegas y Vinedos de Murcia Mad Dogs & Englishmen 2004 – a blend of Monastrell, Shiraz and Cabernet – an international wine that could have come from anywhere but was delicious.

Thursday, May 25th: Today I am conducting a wine tasting for the book buyers of Indigo to introduce them to The Wine Atlas of Canada. I'm also signing copies of the three wine murder mysteries for everyone in attendance. Indigo's office is opposite Crush, where we held the Ontario Wine Awards judging. I'm showing four wines – Château des Charmes Riesling 2004, Mission Hill Chardonnay 2003, Henry of Pelham Baco Noir 2004 and Creekside Cabernet Merlot 2004. For dinner: Tilapia with Willm Riesling 2004 from Alsace.

Friday, May 26: The weather has turned hot. My vineyard in the back garden (south facing) is looking in very good shape, having come through the winter well. (Two vines of Louise Swenson, a cold climate variety that I have not actually harvested since I have an non-paid crew who harvest for me – birds and raccoons – in spite of the netting.) Spent the day putting notes together for a new book concept on wine cellars. Dinner: pork medallions with Meerlust Pinot Noir 2000, which Deborah said was drying out – and she was right, but it was still very tasty.




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