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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 107 (October 11, 2006)

Monday, October 2: Wrote my November column for Post City magazines. The editor had asked me to get wine recommendations for a thanksgiving dinner from five of Toronto's top sommeliers. Also wrote a short history of Cos d'Estournel for the Grapes for Humanity auction catalogue on November 2nd. I didn't realise that the three pagodas surmounting the winery came from Zanzibar. "These structures, unlike any other in Bordeaux, speak to the early history of this great 2nd Growth claret in the commune of St. Estèphe. They were sent to Bordeaux from the palace of Zanzibar and they symbolize the original owner's extraordinary vision and business acumen.

"Louis Gaspard d'Estournel was born in 1762 during the reign of Louis XV. Having inherited a few vines near the village of Cos, he recognized the quality of their wine in 1811 and decided to vinify them separately. Very rapidly, Cos d'Estournel exceeded the prices of the most prestigious wines produced in Bordeaux and was exported as far as India.

"Louis became known as 'the Maharajah of Saint-Estèphe.' To celebrate his success in the Indian market, he had the pagodas erected over his cellar. He also organized spectacular festivities at Cos and presented royalty and artists with some precious bottles, 'Returned from India.' Queen Victoria and the Tsar of Russia drank Cos, as did the Emperor Napoleon III, who loved this wine so much that he had several thousand bottles sent to the Palace of the Tuileries. Among Cos's devotees were writers as renowned as as Stendhal, Jules Verne, Eugène Labiche and Karl Marx."

For dinner: BBQ steak (because Guy was here) with a bottle of Mission Hill Meritage 2004 – very claret-like.

Tuesday, October 3: Andrew Hannah of John Hanna & Sons is coming to the house with Nick Nobilo, whose family used to own Nobilo Wines in New Zealand before selling to Constellation. Nick says he pioneered Gewürztraminer in New Zealand. In 2000 he bought 8 hectares in Ormand "to produce world-class Gewürztraminer." That's all he grows, five different clones of the stuff, and produces it under the Vinoptima label. We tasted together three different vintages:

  • 2005: Deeply coloured, old gold; intense minerally nose of honey, Botrytis, lavender and spice; full-bodied in Zind-Humbrecht character, lovely mouth feel with sweet nectarine and tangerine flavours.
  • 2004: Straw colour; minerally, spicy grapefruit and honey; rich and unctuous on the palate; very clean, full-bodied, and concentrated with great acid balance. More structure than the 2005.
  • 2003: Straw colour; minerally, spicy, more Viognier/Riesling-like than Gewürz with soft peach and honeyed orange flavours; great mouth feel, rich and satisfying with great length.

We ended with Vinoptima Noble Harvest Gewürztraminer 2004 (half bottle). Old gold colour; honey, dried apricot and spice on the nose; unctuous orange and honey flavours, great length. These are really interesting wines, quite unlike Alsace or German style, without lychee and rose petals but more citrus and exotic spices. They're not cheap – around $50 a bottle but worth it. (See

Lunch at Grano with Hernan Gras of MontGras in Chile. Hernan used to make wine for Brights in the 1980s. He brought along several of his wines. Always good quality for the price. I was very taken with his new Intriga Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 from a newly purchased winery in Maipo. Dense purple-black with a minty, blackcurrant and vanilla oak nose scented with smoke and iodine; full-bodied, sweet, succulent blackcurrant fruit, firmly structured; easy drinking with soft tannins and that characteristic Maipo Valley note of smoke and tar on the finish. It costs $18.95, a bargain.

In the afternoon I dropped by Centro for a portfolio tasting of the Stem Wine Group. Robert Tomé and Tony Macchionne have put together a fascinating list of Italian wines from small, eclectic producers. Wines I gave five stars out of five to were Boroli Barolo Villera 2001, Delibori Vigneti e Cantine Villabella Amaraone 2000 and the astonishing Villabella Villa Cordevigo Rosso 2003, Siro Pacenti Brunello di Montalcino 2001, Valdicava Brunello di Montalcino "Madonna del Piano" Riserva 1999, La Fattoria de Magliano "Perenzo" IGT Maremma Toscana 2004, Tenuta Poggio Verrano "Dromos" IGT Maremma Toscana 2004, and Arnaldo Caprai Montefaclo Sagrantino "25 Anni" 2003. I had a lot of fun tasting. Haven't seen this concentration of high-quality products at tastings in a long time. (Stem Group, 416-548-8824).

In the evening a meeting of the Independent Wine Education Guild directors. I brought along the open half bottle of Vinoptima Noble Harvest Gewürz from this morning and a bottle of Burrowing Owl Cabernet Franc 2004. We also tasted Nepenthe Riesling 2004 and Muga Reserva 2002.

Wednesday, October 4: Today is the big Chilean tasting down at the Distillery District. It begins with a formal sit-down tasting of 35 wines in the Boiler House. Best wines: Veramonte Merlot Reserva 2004, Vina la Rosa Carmenère La Capitana Barrel Reserve 2005, Vina Altair Red Blend 2003, Concha y Toro Terrunyo Carmenère 2004, Vina Montes Alpha Syrah 2004. All awarded 4.5 stars. The only five-star wine was Vina San Pedro Cabernet Sauvignon Cabo De Hornos Special Reserve 2002. The most distinctive wine, because it tasted more like Bordeaux than Chile, was Miguel Torres Santa Digna Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2003.

In the evening I had dinner at Amadeus with Alfred Wirth.

  Eduardo Chadwick (left) and Stephen Spurrier.

Thursday, October 5: Today is the Canadian sequel to the Berlin Tasting that Eduardo Chadwick put on in 2004, matching his wines blind against First Growth Bordeaux and top Super Tuscans. The event was repeated in Santiago, São Paolo, Tokyo and now here at the Rosewater Supper Club under the aegis of Vintages. They had structured it so that 60 sommeliers, wine writers and wine professionals each tasted the following wines blind (in this order though we didn't know it) and then chose their top three in order.

  • Sassicaia 2000
  • Château Lafite 2000
  • Vinedo Chadwick 2003
  • Tignanello 2000
  • Don Maximiano 2003
  • Château Latour 2000
  • Sena 2003
  • Vinedo Chadwick 2000
  • Château Margaux 2000
  • Sena 2000

Stephen Spurrier, who initiated this kind of competition with the Paris Tasting of 1976 when he pitted top California wines against white Burgundy and red Bordeaux, had flown over from London to chair the tasting. When the scores were tabulated Margaux was the participant's first choice, followed in order by Latour, Don Maximiano, Tignanello, and Sena. (I put Tignanello top, Vinedo Chardwick 2000 second and Latour third). In previous tastings the Chadwick/Errazuriz wines fared better. In Berline they were first and second. But it showed that the quality of these wines can stand against the top wines of France and Italy – and at prices that are one-third of First Growth Bordeaux.

For dinner, the end of the pork roast with a bottle of Burrowing Owl Pinot Noir 2005 – a rich, cherry-flavoured wine, full-bodied and chunky on the palate.

Friday, October 6: Another Vintages tasting for the November release. Tasted a remarkable Cheval Blanc 2004 that David Churchill put out for the wine writers. It's not in the release but there are a few bottles left in the system.

  Me and photographer Steve Elphick flogging the Atlas at Taste.
  Chef Michael & Karen Potters win the the best food award at Taste for their roast wild boar.

Saturday, October 7: Drove down to Prince Edward County with Sheila Swerling Puritt to flog books (the wine atlas) at Taste, the County's annual wine ands food fare. It was a glorious autumn day and a great chance to admire the changing leaves. We stopped in on the way at Closson Chase, where I picked up my order of 6 bottles of Deborah Paskus's amazing Pinot Noir 2004. She was in the middle of crush. Geoff Heinrich's was there and I had him sign my copy of A Fool and Forty Acres, his delightful account of creating a Burgundy-style vineyard in Prince Edward County. We tasted his 2004 Pinot and I ordered a couple of bottles since it hasn't been labelled yet. Steven Elphick, the photographer for the atlas, and his wife Paula were at the fair when we arrived. Steve had brought along framed photos he had taken of the wineries. We sold 33 books. Sheila and I then visited Norman Hardie, who was in the midst of harvesting but took time out to give us a barrel tasting of his 2005 Pinot Noir (the Beamsville Bench Pinot is amazing; Sheila and I both put in our order for a 6-bottle case), his Chardonnay 2005 and Riesling 2005. Then on to Sandbanks but Catherine Langlois wasn't there, nor was Richard Johnston when we dropped by By Chadsey's Cairns. Dined at the Carriage House in Bloomfield (a glass of Huff Merlot 2004) and drove home. There was an email waiting for me from Richard Johnston telling me he's made the first Chenin Blanc in the county and intends to plant more.




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