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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 109 (October 23, 2006)

Monday, October 16: A phone interview this morning with a Montreal journalist who is writing an article about wine scoring systems. How did I feel about numbers (Parker, Wine Spectator)? I told her I don't use numbers (I use a five-star system, which is basically a ten-point system since I give half stars, but really eight points because I never give less than *½, which is a completely undrinkable wine. Since the lowest published score for 100-numberniks is 75, it's really a 26-point system.) My feeling is that no wine is perfect and 100 points suggests there is perfection. I remember going to a tasting of 13 wines that had all been given 100 points by the Wine Spectator or Robert Parker. The list included the legendary Mouton-Rothschild 1945. The wine of the night was Jaboulet Hermitage la Chapelle 1961. The late, lamented Gérard Jaboulet was in attendance; it was his fiftieth birthday. All the wines are wonderful but only Jaboulet's was perfect. Which only goes to prove Aspler's Law: "Wine always tastes better in the presence of the winemaker." Lunch with Garrett Herman to discuss Grapes for Humanity business. This evening is the reunion dinner at Grano for members of last year's tour of Piedmont, Tuscany and Veneto. Several of them have signed up for next May's trip to Loire, Cognac and Bordeaux (which includes lunch at Mouton-Rothschild). I wanted to surprise them with top wines from Ontario. Here's what we drank:

  • Peninsula Ridge Sauvignon Blanc 2005
  • Charles Baker Riesling 2005 (Stratus)
  • Closson Chase Pinot Noir 2004
  • Norman Hardie Pinot Noir 2004
  • Creekside Lost Barrel Red
  • Jackson-Triggs Proprietors Grand Reserve Cabernet
  • Sauvignon 2004 (BC)
  • Inniskillin Cabernet Franc Icewine 2003
  • Inniskillin Vidal Icewine 2003

Before the group arrived, I met Giampaolo Venica of Venica & Venica in Collio, who was showing his wines to Grano's proprietor, Roberto Martella. So naturally I couldn't resist sitting in for a quick tasting myself (all 2005s): Venica Pinot Bianco, Tocai Friulano, Malvasia, Sauvignon "Cero" and the remarkable Sauvignon Ronce delle Mele. I wasn't crazy about Venica Balbium 2003, a red that tasted volatile; but the whites are delicious.

Tuesday, October 17: Up at 6:15 am in order to get down to Toronto Island Airport where Vincor/Constellation is assembling members of the wine press from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario and flying us down to Le Clos Jordanne by helicopter. (Le Clos Jordanne is the co-venture between Vincor and the Burgundy house, Boisset.) Except it's bucketing down rain and the helicopters are cancelled. Instead we wait a couple of hours for the arrival of a bus. The drive us to the vineyard, where a tent has been erected in the spot where the Frank Gehry winery will (maybe) be built. It's still raining so the tasting of the much anticipated Clos Jordanne wines and lunch will he held at the factory-like winery building adjacent to the QEW.

On arrival we're handed a glass of the Pinot Noir 2003. It's dry with minerally cherry flavour, finely honed and elegant with soft tannins, very restrained and very Burgundian. Then we sit down for the tasting led by winemaker Thomas Bachelder (see A Wine Lover's Diary, part 98). The Pinot Noirs are marketed like Burgundy: a village wine, a premier cru (single vineyard) and a Grand Cru.

  • Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve 2004 (a blend of four vineyards): Ruby colour; earthy, beetroot and violet nose, high toned; sweet fruit, raspberries with vanilla oak just present; firm structure and good length. (****½)
  • La Petite Vineyard Pinot Noir 2004: Ruby colour; minerally, sweet, floral raspberry nose; a wine of great charm, elegant and beautifully balanced with a spicy note on the finish. Drinking beautifully now. (*****)
  • Claystone Terrace Pinot Noir 2004: Ruby colour; high toned, minerally, vanilla, raspberry and mint notes; elegant yet powerful, lovely acidity, firmly structured with a tannic lift on the finish. (****½; with bottle age probably *****)
  • Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard Pinot Noir 2004: Ruby colour, the most Burgundian in style reminiscent of a Gevrey-Chambertin, rose petal, black raspberry nose, beautifully balanced, very stylish with a firm, long, minty finish. (*****)
  • Le Grand Clos Pinot Noir 2004 (the western block of the Close Jordanne vineyard): Ruby colour; minerally, cherry nose; rich mouth feel, a real sense of terroir here, amazing acidity, great tension between the fruit, alcohol, oak and acidity; great length. (*****)

These are, quite simply, spectacular Ontario Pinot Noir. Thomas Bachelder has established himself with these wines as the top Pinot Noir producer in Canada.

Next we tasted his Chardonnays.

  • Village Reserve Chardonnay 2004: Deeply coloured yellow straw; caramel, vanilla, butter, orange and peach flavours rise from the glass; full-bodied, fresh acidity with a caramel and citrus finish. (****)
  • Claystone Terrace Chardonnay 2004: Again, deeply coloured; spicy, vanilla, orange and pineapple nose; full-bodied with a lovely spine of acidity. (****)
  • Le Clos Jordanne Chardonnay 2004: Yellow straw; caramel, citrus and peach bouquet; full-bodied, lovely mouth feel, wonderful balance and great length. A terrific Chardonnay. (****½)
  • Le Grand Clos Chardonnay 2004: Golden straw colour; minerally, apple and lemon, more Burgundian than the other three; full-bodied, but elegant with great length. Still young and very cellar-worthy. (*****)

There were speeches by Jay Wright, the CEO of Vincor; Rob Sands, President of Constellation; and Jean-Charles Boisset. None mentioned the fate of the Gehry winery. When I asked Rob Sands if it would ever be built, he said: "We've had some very light vintages (in Ontario). We have haven't had a full chance to get up to full production The Gehry winery is a nice idea but it's just a façade. There's nothing that we are going to do in that building that we wouldn't do here. It would be very nice to have that Gehry winery in Ontario, it would be great for the industry but we're going to have to wait a couple of years to see if it really makes sense and make a decision at that time."

Jean-Charles Boisset accepting a copy of the Atlas (photo by Steve Elphick)

We then tasted 2005 wines from the barrel before sitting down to lunch. I signed the copy of The Wine Atlas of Canada that Jan Wright had presented to Jean-Charles Boisset.

Wednesday, October 18: Recorded my wine reviews for 680 News and then to Barberians for a lunch in the cellar with my old friend Sandro Boscaini of Masi. Aaron Barberian has created a magnificent underground cellar that contains 44,000 bottles. We tasted:

  • Masianco 2005: A lovely aperitif wine (peach pit, citrus nose, clean, beautifully balanced).
  • Masi Campofiorin 2003: Always consistent, and this vintage is terrific – floral black cherry and plum nose, dry, medium-bodied with lively acidity.
  • Brolo di Campofiorin 2003: Blueberry, new oak, tobacco leaf; rich raisins, dates and licorice flavours; lovely balance and great length.
  • Toar 2001 (75% Corvina, 25% Oseleta): Dense ruby, vanilla, black cherry; sweetish with lovely velvety fruit, firm structure with a dry finish.
  • Osar 2000 (100% Oseleta – an ancient Veneto grape that Sandro Boscaini discovered and brought back to production): Dense purple; Christmas cake nose, vanilla, plum, raisins and spice; full-bodied, sweet plums, raisiny with lively balancing acidity.
  • Costasera Amarone 2001: Deep ruby purple; a nose of dried cherries and chocolate with a floral note; full-bodied, sweet black cherry fruit with lively acidity.
  • Serego Aligheri Vaio Amaron 2000: Deep ruby, minerally, dry, earthy, spicy nose; full-bodied, sweet raisiny, date flavour, great structure, very elegant.
  • Campolongo di Torbe 2000: Deep ruby colour; a nose of dark chocolate, cocoa and vanilla; sweet dried cherry flavour, very delicate and fine boned but firm, well balanced with good length.
  • Mazzano Amarone 2000: Dense purple-black intense vanilla, chocolate, cherry nose; full-bodied and muscular, fruity, chocolate flavour; well balanced.
Sandro Boscaini of Masi in Barberian's magnum cellar (photo by Konrad Ejbich)

When I visited the winery last May Sandro showed me the cube-shaped barrels he's experimenting with. They cost 30% less than French barriques and, he says, can be reused for a many as 12 years. They are easy to take apart as six sides, lightly planed and retoasted. By 4:30 pm I am in a law office downtown preparing to conduct a tasting in aid of Grapes for Humanity. The theme is off-beat Italian wines which I secured from Prevedello & Matthews. They are, in serving order:

  • Gaja Sitorey 1995 (Barbera)
  • Gaja Ca'Marcanda Promis 2000 (55% Merlot, 35% Syrah, 10% Sangiovese)
  • Ceretto Bricco Rocche Barolo Prapo 1999
  • Poderi Colla Dardi Le Rose Bussia Barolo 1998
  • Frescobaldi Mormoretto 2000
  • Antinori Guado al Tasso 2000 (60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 10% Syrah)
  • Sassicaia 1995
  • Tignanello 1990

The wine of the night? The Ceretto Barolo.

Thursday, October 19: A morning of answering emails, evaluating a couple of large-format bottles for the Toronto General & Western Hospital auction and returning phone calls. Then downtown for a meeting for Santé at Steve Thurlow's condo, which has a magnificent view of the Toronto islands. Then to Random House to put on a tasting for Indigo book sellers. We tasted Vineland Estates Dry Riesling 2005 and Henry of Pelham Cabernet Merlot 2003.

Friday, October 20: A general list release tasting down at the LCBO. There are a lot of Christmas gift wines. I was amused to see the back label of Virgin Vines Shiraz 2005 reads: "Simply drink this dense purple, bold red wine with something or someone you find delicious." The French translation underneath inverts the concept to "...with someone or something you find delicious."

In the afternoon David Lawrason and Doug Towers came over for a tasting of 36 Ontario wines. For dinner, roast beef with Burrowing Owl 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, great match.




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