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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 145 (July 17, 2007)

Hillebrand's Senior Winemaker, Darryl Brooker

Sunday, July 8: Darryl Brooker, Hillebrand's winemaker, has invited Deborah and me down to the winery to tour the newly constructed barrel cellar and restaurant and to listen to the jazz concert. This we do in the new "Lookout," a two-storey tower for outdoor dining. Before the concert starts Darryl has a series of wines for us to try – "us" being me, Bill and Cato Munnelly, Rod Phillips and his friend Ruth, Peter Boyd and his son Satch and friend Dave Rukavina, assistant winemaker Jay Johnston and his wife Laurie Petrou, Adine Fabiani, Hillebrand's Brand Manager, Premium Wines, and Darryl, his wife Sally and their enormously entertaining baby daughter Sally. We are in the upper room with a great view over the vineyards and the concert site below.

Hillebrand's Artist Series is a new label for wines under screwcap and takes over from the Harvest line. Each label has an original art work by an Ontario artist. 150 artists submitted 250 paintings. Eight artists were chosen for the thirteen labels, seven of which are available at the LCBO, the others only at the winery or, I believe, Vineyards Estate Wines stores.

  • Artist Series Riesling Semi-Dry 2006: Pale straw colour. Lime and grapefruit and honeyed notes on the nose; medium bodied, good tension between fruit and acidity finishing with a honeyed note.
  • Trius Unoaked Chardonnay 2006: Pale straw; minerally, apple nose; an aromatic note in mid-palate suggesting a little Chardonnay Musqué.
  • Artists Series Gamay Rosé 2006: Very deep pink with a peppery cherry nose; dry and fruity, nicely textured with a touch of tannin to give it structure. A tasty wine.
  • Artist Series Meritage 2005: Solid ruby colour; cedar and redcurrant on the nose; raspberry candy note, firm finish. Good value.
  • Trius Riesling 2005: Pale straw with a honeyed grapefruit nose and a touch of petrol; medium-bodied, well balanced with a fresh grapefruit and sweet lime finish.
  • Artists Series Muscat 2006: Very pale colour; aromatic nose of orange blossom and carnation; sweetish and soft, easy drinking and perfumed. A wine for Thai or Chinese food.
  • Artist Series Limited Edition Gewürztraminer 2006: Sweetish, light lychee character.
  • Artist Series Gamay Noir 2006: Similar to the Rosé but a shade deeper in colour, with the same peppery cherry flavour, only more pronounced.
  • Collector's Choice Chardonnay 2005: Deeply coloured; intense, mature nose – caramel and toast; apple puree flavour with a nutty finish.
  • Showcase Olivera Vineyard Chardonnay 2005 (one of seven single-vineyard Chardonnays made with different oak barrels – this one with Cadus from the Vosges): Oak predominates; the wine has a lactic flavour with notes of caraway.

We have an aperitif of Trius Brut served with the first course.

  • Chilled Eastern Township Shellfish with Joel's horseradish
  • Heirloom Tomato, chiogghi beets and wild dandelion with Monteforte feta, served with Showcase Riesling 2006 (almost water white; minerally, lime nose; dry, green apple and lime and grapefruit flavours, crisp finish with good length. Well made.)
  • Seared Fundy Bay Scallops with sweet pea ravioli, with Artists Series Limited Edition Pinot Gris 2006 (pale straw; peach pit nose; medium-bodied, sweetish, clean finish)
  • Vintage Cap Steak with Nova Scotia Lobster Cannelloni, with Trius White 2006 (a blend of 30% Pinot Gris, 30% Gewurztraminer, 30% Riesling and 10% Chardonnay: pale straw, aromatic; peach and grapefruit flavours, medium-bodied with good length) and Trius Red 2005 (the best dry wine of the evening: deep ruby with a nose of cedar, vanilla and blackcurrant and a smoky note; medium-bodied, sweet fruit, soft tannins with a toasty oak finish. Very elegant.)
  • Artisinal Cheese, with Single Barrel Vidal Icewine American Oak 2005 and Single Barrel Vidal Icewine French Oak 2005. Amazing difference between these two wines made from the same grapes. The French Oak Icewine was old gold in colour (deeper than the American); the nose was rich and spicy with tropical fruit flavours balanced with a fine spine of acidity. The American oak Icewine was golden colour (as opposed to old gold for the French oak) with pineapple and honey flavours but the oak did not seem integrated and sat on top of the flavours.
  • Dessert: Wild Raspberry Cabernet Franc Icewine soufflé.

One of the best meals I've had in a long time. Bravo Chef Frank Dodd.

And the jazz was pretty good too: Sixteen-year-old Sophie Berkal-Sarbit, who sings with the emotional content of a woman twice her age. The Sisters Euclid with amazing guitarist Kevin Breit; the great Latin jazz sound of Manteca and Dione Taylor to end the session. Altogether a very satisfying day in wine country.

Monday, July 10: A film crew came to the house to interview me for a documentary for Bravo on my friend and fellow crime writer, Howard Engel. Howard and I were the co-founders of Crime Writers of Canada in 1982. By default I was the fledgling organization's first Chairman. In those days Eddie Greenspan used to present the Arthur Ellis Awards at our annual banquet. I met Howard in London in the 1970s. He was working for the CBC and I was a freelancer. Scott Morrison, the interviewer, asked me what Howard's legacy would be. I told him I thought his detective, Benny Cooperman, was a highly original creation, a mix of Leopold Bloom and Colombo. Howard suffered a stroke a six years ago but has overcome his disability to continue writing and publishing. A remarkable and courageous man... Wrote a piece on Canadian Icewine for Pure Canada Magazine. Nothing can be more pure Canadian than Icewine unless it's the Mounties, but they appear to me no longer pure. For dinner: tilapia (again, but it's good) with Daniel Lenko Riesling Reserve 2005. Boy, he makes good wine.

Tuesday, July 10: A meeting to discuss the possibility of a TV wine series. The idea is to film a teaser at Flat Rock in a couple of weeks. I say no more in case I jinx it. Alex Grant, an importing agent, came by the house to talk about a possibility of a promotion of one of his wines, the proceeds of which would go to Grapes for Humanity. I opened a bottle of Mount Riley Sauvignon 2006 from New Zealand. He had heard my review on 680News about this wine and concurred that it was terrific. Our friends Bessie and Rod Seyffert came over for drinks prior to dinner at Tabla. This local restaurant bills itself as an Indian Restaurant and Wine Bar. We finished the bottle of Mount Riley and walked over. With the meal we had St. Urbans-Hof Riesling 2005 and La Palma Chardonnay 2006 (Deborah and I had La Palma Chardonnay at our wedding ten years ago on August 17th). Bessie & Rod share our anniversary – and so do Frank and Patti-Ann Daley, who introduced us to Rod & Bessie. We were having a dinner party at Frank's one evening and discovered we share an anniversary. Ever since we have celebrated together.

Wednesday, July 11: Wrote my monthly Commentary for Tidings magazine on celebrity wines and wineries. Ultimately, it's a good thing to bring consumers to wine who might not necessarily buy it. The name appeal might turn them on to the product. Also wrote some wine reviews for Dinner, chicken stir fry with a bottle of Valcolli Cantine Vecchi Ricordi Barbera d'Asti 2003.

Thursday, July 12: Pinot the Wonder Dog goes to the dog groomer today. She is getting matted. I interview Dan Aykroyd by phone for an article in Decanter magazine – their "A Passion For Wine" column. His desert island wine: Château Brane Cantenac. Pinot comes back from the groomer a different dog, no longer a shag rug on the move but svelte and lean and feeling very pleased with herself. Nancy the cat peed on the carpet. Perhaps she doesn't recognize her and thinks there's a new dog in the house. Ah, the joys of pet ownership.

Friday, July 13: The day that Conrad Black's verdict came down. Guilty on four counts. Someone phoned Michael Vaughan in the LCBO tasting lab (we were tasting the second half of the August release – 90 wines). Usually we razz anyone whose cell phone goes off in the lab. But this was breaking news. Graham Duncan, the wine writer for Now (which Natoya calls "that skanky mag"), came out with the best line which would make an ideal headline for the Sun: "Black Friday." For dinner, with Italian sausages, McManis Syrah 2005.

Saturday, July 14: A Saintsbury Society dinner at our house. Irv Wolkoff has phoned to cancel (not feeling well) so I have invited Konrad Ejbich and Talin Vartanian to fill the Wolkoffs' place.

Aperitif wines: Thirteenth Street Funk sparkling wine 2002 and Jackson-Triggs Methode Traditionelle 2005.

The meal:

  • Foie gras with Domaine de Baumard Quarts de Chaume 2005
  • Carrot Orange and Ginger soup with Mount Riley Riesling 2006 and Tawse Chardonnay 2004
  • BBQ steak with potatoes and corn and green beans with Bouchard Père & Fils Santenay 1999 and Volnay Caillerets 1999
  • Cheeses with Craggy Range Le Sol 2002, Bava Barolo di Castiglione Falleto Scarrone 1999, Balnaves of Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 and Tedeschi Capitel Monte Olmi Amarone 1998.
  • Konrad brought a mystery wine in a decanter which, after much mistaken guessing, turned out to be Château Musar 1977.
  • Sticky Toffee Pudding with vanilla ice cream for dessert.

I brought out my last bottle of Taylor's Port 1970 because it was the year Diane and Tony got married. It was terrific even if I did have to put it through a port strainer because of a crumbling cork.




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