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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 123 (February 5, 2007)

Monday, January 29: A full wine day today. At 10:30 am a tasting of the newly packaged Rosemount Diamond Label wines at the St. Germain Hotel. The bottle has a square diamond-shaped footprint. I've always like Rosemount wines. They deliver a lot of flavour and remind me stylistically of Kendall-Jackson. Charles Whish, the chief winemaker at Rosemount, led us through the tasting.

  • Diamond Label Sauvignon Blanc 2006: Pale straw with a herbaceous, fig nose; bright and clean with a lemony finish. The first vintage of this wine in screwcap.
  • Diamond Cellars Semillon Chardonnay 2006 (Diamond Cellars is Rosemount's entry level wine in this market, used to blends): Pale straw, grassy, crab apple nose; touch of sweetness but fresh with citrus acidity.
  • Diamond Label Chardonnay 2006: Medium straw colour; vanilla oak, melon nose; sweetish, easy drinking.
  • Diamond Cellars Grenache Shiraz 2006: Ruby colour; cherry, toast nose; sweetish, cherry and raspberry jam flavours; full on the palate, easy drinking with a raspberry candy finish. A versatile wine for food. Could be served chilled.
  • Diamond Cellars Shiraz Cabernet 2006: Ruby colour; cedar, red berry nose with some residual sweetness behind the floral note; well structured, juicy fruit, easy drinking.
  • Diamond Cellars Cabernet Merlot 2005: Ruby colour; cedar with a twist of oak; sweet berry fruit with a red pepper and floral note; soft tannins.
  • Diamond Label Merlot 2005: Bright ruby colour; oak and mulberry on the nose with that floral note; well balanced, very juicy, easy drinking in spite of its 14% alcohol.
  • Diamond Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2005: Deep ruby colour; vanilla oak and blackcurrant nose; earthy, firm and well structured.

At the lunch that followed we tasted:

  • Rosemount Chardonnay Show Reserve 2005: Straw colour; ripe peachy-tropical fruit nose; full-bodied, spicy oak flavours, rich and full on the palate and more interesting for its strain of minerality.
  • Rosemount Mountain Blue Shiraz Cabernet 2000: Dense purple black; minty, blackberry, full-bodied with luscious fruit, rich and spicy. A terrific wine.
  • Rosemount Balmoral Syrah 2001: Dense ruby-black; high-toned raisiny nose, peppery and full-bodied with soft tannins.

We finish off with Old Benson, a tawny "port." Deep amber colour with a nutty, raisiny sweet flavour, firm and oaky with great length. Apparently, it was named after a dog. Pinot would be pleased.

This evening is The Wine Writers' Circle annual Christmas dinner. It's held this year at Barberian's in the new wine cellar with its 19-foot ceiling and cathedral landing where all the best magnums and double magnums are kept. We had our reception on this level with Veuve Clicquot 1999, which really set the tone for the evening. Twenty-six of us sat down at one long table. We had all brought our own wines (mine were La Clos Jordanne Single Vineyard 2004 and Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1998). The bottles were passed around and I tried to make a list of what I tasted but gave up towards the end. So this is a partial list:

  • Henry of Pelham Rosé 2006
  • Drouhin Corton-Charlemagne 1986
  • Le Clos Jordanne Single Vineyard 2004
  • Ch. Latour 1972
  • Hitching Post Pinot Noir 2002 (The Sideways wine)
  • Bourgogne Dupont Tesserandot 2002
  • Pio Caesare Barolo 1982
  • Marco Felluga Carantan Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 1998
  • Ch. Prieuré Lichine 1986
  • Bernkasteler Doktor Riesling Kabinett 1961
  • Vosne Romanée Les Haut Maizières Vieilles Vignes 2004
  • Ch. Du Terte 1998
  • Sebastiani Zinfandel 2003
  • Raymond R Collection Cabernet Sauvignon 2003

I gave up at this point but there were a couple of dessert wines, one of which was a 6 Puttonyos Tokaji.

Tuesday, January 30: Pinot the Wonder Dog has athlete's paw. She's on antibiotics and we have purchased at great expense a set of snow shoes, which are the devil's own job to get on her feet. She is not amused. They have light-reflecting bands that wrap around the booty and Velcro to the top. Spent the morning writing the 680 NEWS reviews and working on Grapes for Humanity business: trying to get wine donations for the auction. Then on to the cheese book. Dinner tonight at Biff's with Silvain Pitiot, the winemaker at Mommessin's Clos de Tart. This really is a magnificent wine. With its second label, La Forge de Tart, only about 2,000 cases are made. Started off with Organic Greens, endive, chèvre and hazelnut salad, paired with Domaine de Champs de Cour Moulin-à-Vent 2005 and the Reserve of the same wine. I remember visiting the Mommesin winery in Beaune in 1987 and Patrice Noyelle, who was the export director at the time (now he's the Managing Director of Pol Roger), let me taste a 1947 Moulin-à-Vent. I don't know if it was from that domaine but the wine tasted like a fine old Burgundy. The Reserve is made in Burgundian style (not by carbonic maceration) and aged in second-use Clos de Tart barrels. It's deeply coloured with a nose of black cherries and violets; lovely rich mouth feel and spicy black fruit flavours with good acidity – very much like a ripe Burgundy, or rather a Pinot Noir in New World style given the vintage. Next a fricassee of escargot with lardon and toasted brioche, alongside Morey-Saint-Denis 1er Cru La Forge 2004. Ruby red with a nose of raspberries, smoke and rust; forward fruit, firm with a green, chalky finish (although I must confess I preferred it to the Clos de Tart 2004 that was to follow). For the next course I ordered seared salmon with pommes forchette (since I had steak last night and that was the alternative or Basquez chicken. I recall Michael Carlevale of Prego telling me that if anyone serves him chicken at a dinner party he leaves. I feel the same way but I have never left – I just avoid chicken when I'm eating out). With this dish out table was treated to a vertical of Clos de Tart: a barrel sample of 2005, 2004, 2002, 2001, 1996 and 2003. Sylvain Pitiot chose the order carefully because the 2003 was unlike any Burgundy I have had. "It was the first time we didn't use the sorting table," Says Sylvain. "The grapes were perfect." Clos de Tart is expensive because they crop at 1.3 to 1.5 tonnes per acre and some of the vines are over 100 years old.

  • Clos de Tart 2005 (barrel sample): Deep ruby colour; tight, spicy, raspberry jam nose; well extracted fruit, rich, great balance with a firm tannic finish.
  • 2004: Ruby colour; minerally, green note on the nose, slightly out of balance, high alcohol, green tannins.
  • 2002: Ruby colour, vanilla, pencil lead, raspberry nose; mouth-filling, soft and velvety, ripe fruit. Very elegant. My favourite of the night.
  • 2001: Deeply coloured, minerally, vanilla and chocolate nose, developing a barnyard note; elegant, lovely balance with a note of violets in the black raspberry fruit. Needs time.
  • 1996: Mature ruby; truffle and mushroom nose, elegant dried fruit flavours, firm structure, reminiscent of a Barolo; good acidity, great length with a tannic finish. I would drink it now.
  • 2003: The deepest and densest in colour; smoky, toasty nose, more Syrah than Pinot Noir, richly extracted, fat and chewy. A unique Burgundy, huge.

I left about 11 pm, before the cheese course, which was followed by dessert (classic vanilla bean crème brûlé).

Wednesday, January 31: I had in my diary a note that at noon there was a lunch tasting at la Maquette on King Street with François Lurton. I got there on the dot only to find that the tasting had started at 11:30 am and François was in the middle of his slide presentation. I hate being late, especially as I had to leave at 2:15 pm for a meeting.

The Lurton brothers, Jacques and François, are almost as busy as Michel Rolland (who makes wines with them in Toro). François was in Toronto to promote the Lurton wines made in Bordeaux, Pays d'Oc, Charente, Côtes de Roussillon, Corbières, Fitou, Argentina, Chile and the Douro Valley. The Lurton Brothers, as Frenchmen, are unusual in that they have embraced the New World style of winemaking enthusiastically. Their wines are fleshy and fruit-forward, easy drinking and fun. And they're priced to sell. Their Bodega Lurton Pinot Gris 2005 is a terrific wine for $11.15. Also impressive were Domaine des Salices Viognier 2005 for $14.15 (Vintages March 31) and La Recouafa Chateau des Erles 2004 (Corbières) – all coffee and blackberry flavours, coming to Vintages March 31 for $29.95 – and ALKA Carmenere 2003, the best of this variety I have tried – rich sweet succulent fruit, still youthful with dark chocolate and black fruit flavours, well integrated oak and beautifully balanced for such a big wine (Winter Classics Catalogue 2007 – $49.95). With the lunch I enjoyed Hacienda Araucano Pinot Noir 2006 from Chile, which is currently being offered to Vintages (if they don't buy it I'll get it from the agent, Noble Estates. It comes in at around $15.65).

A meeting with Pat Burroughs at Soho Hotel to plan a Valentines Night chocolate and wine tasting at Casa Loma in aid of First Playgrounds.

Dinner, a bottle of Château Franc-Cardinal 2003 from Bordeaux's Côtes de Franc, made by my old friend Philip Holzberg, who styles himself on the label "Earl du Cardinal."

Thursday, February 1: A mad scramble to get the cheese book finished because our deadline for Whitecap, the publisher, is February 9th and I leave for Guelph on Saturday and then an early flight on Sunday to Quebec City for Sélections Mondiales tastings. Recorded my 680 NEWS reviews but had to change all the prices because on February 5th the LCBO starts charging 20 cents per bottle deposit. There is going to be chaos at the Beer Store outlets when people try to redeem all the hoarded bottles. For dinner, a bottle of Concha y Toro Trio 2004, a blend of Merlot, Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon, made by one of Chile's best winemakers – Ignacio Recabarren.

Friday, February 2: Pushing to finish my contribution to Gurth Pretty's cheese book. Wrote my introduction and sidebars and now it's finished. Deadlines are an adrenalin rush. Tonight I pack for Quebec. For dinner, BBQ steak with a bottle of Rodney Strong Symmetry Meritage 2001 from Alexander Valley.




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