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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 232 (March 16, 2009)

Monday, March 9: Spent the morning answering a myriad emails. Read a story on the Decanter website that screwcaps now have a 15% share of the world's closure market, according to an Italian closure company, Guala.

They claim global screwcap sales have increased by 25% in the past year to 2.5 billion closures. Australia, New Zealand and Argentina are the largest users. The story suggested that approximately 17.5 billion closures are used each year. I'm glad I don't have shares in corkscrew companies. Wrote a piece on Beaujolais for Post City Magazines. For dinner, lamb chops with Peller Estate Private Reserve Syrah 2006 – good varietal character, vanilla mocha and iodine on the nose; smoky blackberry flavour, full-bodied, well balanced with a spicy finish (89).

Tuesday, March 10: Good news. Heard from Pauwels Travel that we have enough participants in the Burgundy & Rhône tour to proceed with firming up winery visits.

This evening, a pre-tasting of wines that will be offered at the California Wine Fair on Monday, April 6th, at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel. Before members of the wine press sampled blind flights of varietals, we tasted a delicious wine that isn't available in our market yet: Trinchero Family Seaglass Sauvignon Blanc 2007 (fresh, grassy, elderberry nose; very dry with crisp gooseberry flavour). Apparently it costs $14.95. A steal (89). We then tasted a flight of 5 Chardonnays under $30. My highest marks went to Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve Chardonnay 2006 and Sonoma Cutrer Russian River Ranches 2007 (two very different styles: K-J ripe and full, peachy, nutty; Sonoma-Cutrer more Burgundian with spicy green pineapple flavours).

The following flight was 6 Chardonnays, $30–$80. My top wines: Landmark Overlook Sonoma Chardonnay 2007 (caramel, citrus and spice) and Merryvale Vineyards Starmont Chardonnay 2007 (Burgundian style, nutty, orange and pineapple flavours).

Pinot Noir Flight (5): Top wines: La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2007 (well structured, sweet black cherry fruit) and Testarossa Vineyards Palazzio Pinot Noir 2007 (high-toned nose, sweet black raspberry flavour with a floral note).

7 Zinfandels (not my favourite California grape but a couple of these were enjoyable): Top wines: Bonterra Zinfandel 2007 (elegant, well structured, earthy, plum flavour) and Pedroncelli Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley 2006 (sweet plum flavour, spicy and soft with a smoky note).

5 Cabernet Sauvignons under $40: Top wines: Artesa Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2005 (cedar, pencil lead nose; sweet berry fruit, spicy, elegant, well structured) and Rosenthal The Malibu Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Malibu-Newton Canyon 2005 (meaty nose; full-bodied, fresh and lively with vivid red berry fruit).

9 Cabernet Sauvignons over $40: Top wines: Cuvaison Brandlin Cabernet Sauvignon Mount Veeder 2005 (cedary, smoky, clove and blackcurrant flavours), Heitz Martha's Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 (delicious, sweet, spicy fruit, beautifully balanced with mellow tannins) and Oakville Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (elegant, well balanced, firm structure).

Wednesday, March 11: A 9 am meeting with Jean-Charles Boisset to taste Deloach wines and discuss Boisset participation in the chocolate-inspired dinner for Grapes for Humanity (October 6th) and the group visit to Clos de la Vougeraie in May.

Deloach Merlot 2005 – ruby colour; blueberry and cedar nose; rich initial sweetness of fruit that streams to a dry, savoury finish; good length, well structured. Great value at $14.95 (after March 23rd). (89)

Deloach Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 – deep ruby colour; floral, cedar and blackcurrant bouquet; well extracted fruit, elegant yet powerful; great balanced with a firm finish. (90)

Deloach Zinfandel 2006 - ruby colour; earthy, leather, spicy, vanilla nose; soft blackberry and plum flavours with a good acidic spine. (88)

Deloach Pinot Noir Sonoma Mountain Van der Camp Vineyard 2006 – ruby with a violet rim; spicy, raspberry with a vanilla note on the nose; lovely mouth feel; sweet raspberry fruit, great balance with a firm finish. (90)

Deloach Pinot Noir Maboroshi Vineyard Russian River 2006 – ruby-purple colour; earthy, beetroot and barnyard nose; sweet black raspberry fruit; firm and tights needs time but will develop well with a couple of years in bottle. (89+ )

Deloach Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast Le Roi 2006 – ruby colour; minty, raspberry nose; powerful with good grip, firmly structured with a tannic lift on the finish. A keeper. (91)

Deloach Zinfandel Forgotten Vines 2007 – dense purple-ruby; intense, high toned fruitcake of a nose, spicy sweet plum and black cherry flavours, full-bodied with lively acidity; peppery dark chocolate finish. (91)

In Burgundian fashion we finished with Deloach Hawk Hill Vineyard Chardonnay 2006 – light straw colour with a green tint; spicy apple and pineapple bouquet well balanced with oak; elegant, Burgundian style with a creamy apple and orange mid-palate flavour and a long lingering finish. (91)

Then up to Doug Towers's house by subway to taste wines with David Lawrason for In the evening, down to The Fine Wine Reserve for the first of Sandy Ward's Wine Camp gatherings for computer techies. Sandy, whose invaluable website tells you which restaurants in Ontario and Nova Scotia allow you to bring your own wine and what corkage they charge, had asked me to give a short talk on the history of Ontario wine. For dinner, Lindemans Bin 99 Pinot Noir 2008 with pasta.

Thursday, March 12: Lunch today with John Casella, Managing director of Casella Wines, the folks who make Yellow Tail. It took only 13 months for Yellow Tail to reach 1 million cases in Canada. In 1965 John's father bought a farm in Riverina and started growing grapes. The company's first crush was in 1994, 2000 tonnes. The wine was made in new septic tanks that had been waxed on the inside. Now they crush 180,000 tonnes. The bottling line has run non-stop 24/7 for two years. They produce 11 million cases now. Over lunch at Canoe, we tasted Yellow Tail Bubbles, white and rosé, before launching into the varietals. Given the large volumes produced of these wines the consistency is impressive and so is the price/quality ratio. I wasn't crazy about the Riesling 2008 but the top-selling Yellow Tail Chardonnay 2007 has a spicy, clovey, marshmallow nose with a soft, sweetish, smoked bacon flavour (85). The Yellow Tail Pinot Noir 2008 is very drinkable for the price ($11.95 but it's not in our market yet) – plum and cherry flavours, a little lean and dry (86). Yellow Tail Shiraz 2008 is really tasty for the price ($11.95) with its smoky, iodine and creamy dark chocolate flavours (87). We tasted the Reserve Chardonnay and Shiraz, which again are good value. The company's premium wines are a McLaren Vale Shiraz 2004 I thought overpriced but the Wrattonbully Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 showed good varietal character, juicy blackcurrant flavours with cedar and vanilla notes and lively acidity (89).

The cellar is looking good. Have to investigate a security system.

Friday, March 13: Pinot the Wonder Dog threw up twice in the night and had a very loose bowel movement in the morning. We took her to the vet (not her favourite destination, especially since she hates driving; she'd rather sit in the back and bark the whole journey.) The vet took a blood test and an X-ray and wants to keep her over night because she is dehydrated. The vet told me what the cost would be. When I die I want to come back as a vet. Dropped in to The Fine Wine Reserve for a tasting put on by The Living Vine, an agency that "represents the largest selection of Biodynamic and certified Organic wines in North America." I tried 17 Bordeaux reds and four ports from Arlindo Da Costa Pinto e Cruz – Casal Dos Jordoes. Am told this is the only certified organic port producer. Excellent Tawny and 10-Year-Old Tawny. Highlights of the red Bordeaux were:

  • Château Auguste Bordeaux Supérieur 2006 (87) Great value at $15.95
  • Château Vieux Pourret 2005 (St. Emilion) (89)
  • Château Romulus 2003 (Pomerol) (90)
  • Château Fonroque 2004 (St. Emilion) (89)

The outstanding wine of the tasting was Liber Pater 2006, a 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot blend from Graves, barrel fermented. Chocolate and mocha notes leap out of the glass followed by blackcurrant and mint. Beautifully crafted wine with a hefty price tag of $169.95 (93). I tried to find this wine on the internet but could only find a cheap Ciro Rosso by that name. But an interesting fact came up in Wikipedia: "Dionysus is equated with both Bacchus and Liber (also Liber Pater). Liber ("the free one") was a god of fertility, wine, and growth, married to Libera. His festival was the Liberalia, celebrated on March 17." Did the Irish choose St. Patrick's Day for that reason?

For dinner with spaghetti carbonara, Niagara College Teaching Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2008.




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