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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 247 (July 13, 2009)

Monday, July 6: Wrote my monthly Commentary for Tidings magazine on the Graycliff Hotel in Nassau, which has a 175,000-bottle wine cellar with wines going back to 1865. The inventory also boasts one of the world's largest selections of Cognacs, Armagnacs (a whole wall of vintage dated Armagnac back to 1910, each in its own wooden case) and vintage Ports. The value of the collection, I was told, is between $12 and $14 million US.

Tuesday, July 7: Worked on the material for the Reader's Digest book on wine touring in the States and Canada.

Wednesday, July 8: There is nothing boring in the life of a freelance wine writer. Today I transcribed my recorded interview with Norman Hardie in preparation for writing a profile on him for The County Grapevine Magazine.

Thursday, July 9: A tasting with David Lawrason and Doug Towers for Judy Towers prepared a delicious lunch/dinner which we ate in the garden under an apple tree. Then Deborah dropped me down the Distillery District for the annual Boys Night Out food and wine extravaganza put on by Lifford – a great job by Steven Campbell and his crew. I was part of a panel talking about Pinot Noir (with Tony Gismondi, the editor of Wine Access, Chris Waters, editor of Vines, and Nick Keukenmeester of Lifford). The guests had to identify the countries of the following four Pinot Noirs tasted blind after we had commented on them: Kooyong Estate Pinot Noir 2006 from Mornington Peninsula, Jadot Beaune Clos des Ursules 2005, Foley Pinot Noir 2006 from Santa Barbara and Carrick Pinot Noir 2006 from Central Otago.

Friday, July 10: Spent the day working on an article for Meininger Wine Business International on the Ontario wine market. Tasted the new line of VQA wines from Vincor called simply Open:

  • Open Merlot 2007 (12.1% alc): ruby colour; mint leaf, pencil lead, red berry nose; soft, not a lot of varietal character; light-bodied, commercial, easy drinking with enough tannin on the finish to give it interest (85)
  • Open Cab- Merlot 2007 (12.2%alc): rRuby colour; cedar, vanilla oak, red berry; soft, sweet fruit, easy drinking, red currant and black cherry flavours with a firm finish (86)
  • Open Riesling-Gewurztraminer 2008 (11.1% alc): pale straw colour; spicy, light lychee and grapefruit nose; off-dry, pink grapefruit, honey flavours, well balanced, good acidity; easy drinking (86+)

Saturday, July 11: A fierce storm and Deborah I have to drive down to Niagara after dropping off Pinot the Wonder Dog at a dog farm in Terra Cotta. We're going to the annual jazz concert at Hillebrand and sleeping over at White Oaks. But first we're dropping in to John Howard's new cellar at Megalomaniac. John has an open-house barrel tasting.

  • Megalomaniac Narcissist Riesling 2006: minerally, spicy, lime and honey nose; off-dry with a soft mouth-feel (87)
  • Megalomaniac Pink Slip Rosé 2008 (Pinot Noir): deep pink; minerally, cherry; off-dry. Spicy cherry flavour with a candied raspberry note; well made (87)
  • Megalomaniac Pinot Noir 2006: tawny ruby; oaky, minty nose; mature, medium-bodied, soft tannins Clos du Puceau with a cherry flavour (86)
  • Megalomaniac Cabernet Sauvignon 2005: deep ruby; floral, red berry nose; mouth-filling, firmly structured blackcurrant flavour; well integrated oak and ripe tannins (89)
  • Megalomaniac Cabernet Merlot 2006: deep ruby; light redcurrant with obvious vanilla oak; firm structure, good acidity but not much concentration of fruit (86)
  • Megalomaniac Savagnin 2007: pineapple and a browning apple finish (85)
  • Megalomaniac Chardonnay 2007: deep straw colour; ripe fruit and vanilla oak on the nose; pineapple flavour with a touch of sweetness (87)

Barrel Samples:

  • Megalomaniac Pinot Noir 2007: floral, black raspberry nose, firm structure, should develop well (87)
  • Megalomaniac Merlot 2007: high-toned volatile note, blueberry flavour (85)
  • Megalomaniac Cabernet Sauvignon 2007: deeply coloured with an elegant nose of blackcurrant with a floral grace note; firm structure (89)

John Howard also has an interest in Château Haut-Pontet in Saint-Emilion. He bought it with a talented young Bordeaux winegrower, Jean-Philippe Janoueix. Janoueix also makes La Confession and Clos du Puceau. There was a bottle of Clos du Puceau 2003 available for tasting, so naturally I availed myself of it (not for nothing is my license plate CLARET): deep ruby colour with a smoky, tarry nose of cedar and currents; medium-bodied, dry, very elegant and firmly structured (90).

Then checked in to White Oaks and joined a group of wine writers on the bus to Hillebrand (John Szabo, Rod Phillips, Dan Kislenko and Billy Munnelly and their spouses). Ensconced in the tower overlooking the bandstand and the vineyards beyond, Hillebrand's winemaker, Darryl Brooker, poured us wines from his portfolio before the jazz concert began.

  • We started with Hillebrand Sparkling Riesling 2006: yeasty, toasty lime and grapefruit flavours. Light-bodied, crisply dry and very refreshing. (89)
  • Trius Riesling 2008: almost water white; minerally, grapefruit nose; crisp and tart with a green plum flavour (87)
  • Hillebrand Showcase Ghost Creek Vineyard Riesling 2008: pale straw with a lime tint; minerally, honey nose with a floral note; light and delicate on the palate; finishes crisply dry with a crab apple finish. Very Mosel-like (90)
  • Hillebrand Artists Series Unoaked Chardonnay 2008: pale straw colour with a delicate nose of apple and apple blossom; clean, elegant and well made. Great value at $10.95 (88)
  • Trius White 2008 (Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Savagnin, Sauvignon Blanc): pale straw; aromatic, spicy, sweet grapefruit and honeyed nose; dry with a soft mouth-feel (87)
  • Hillebrand Artists Series Muscat 2008: pale colour; orange blossom and melon nose; dry, perfumed, clean and easy drinking. Good value (87)
  • Hillebrand Artists Series Sauvignon Blanc 2008: almost water white; grassy gooseberry nose; crisply dry; clean, well made (86+)
  • Hillebrand Artists Series Limited Edition Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (some barrel ageing): medium straw colour with a green tint; minerally, vanilla nose; dry, Bordeaux style; green plum and passion fruit flavours. Well made and delicious (89)
  • Hillebrand Artists Series Gewurztraminer 2008: pale straw colour; spicy, perfumed; soft melon and passion fruit flavours, light-bodied with a lychee note on the end taste (87)
  • Hillebrand Artists Series Pinot Gris 2008: pale straw colour; minerally, peach pit nose; sweet peach fruit, nicely balanced, cleanly made (87)
  • Hillebrand Showcase Ghost Creek Vineyard Chardonnay 2008: straw with a green tint; apple, citrus nose with well integrated oak; Burgundian style; peachy, lively acidity, medium-bodied, well balanced. Chablis-like (90)
  • Hillebrand Showcase Wild Ferment Chardonnay Oliveira Vineyard 2007: straw colour; apple, tangerine with an oaky, barnyard note; spicy custard apple flavour; full on the palate with a sweet core carried on lively acidity. Finishes dry (89+)
  • Trius Cabernet Franc 2008: deep purple-ruby colour; smoky, tarry, vanilla oak; fry, medium-bodied, red berry with a floral note; firm structure with soft, supple tannins (87)
  • Hillebrand Showcase Cabernet Sauvignon Clark Farm 2006: dense ruby; spicy oak, smoky, creamy blackcurrant; firmly structured, medium-bodied with a green pepper note (87)
  • Hillebrand Showcase Cabernet Sauvignon Clark Farm 2007: (barrel sample) dense purple colour; floral creamy blackcurrant with vanilla oak nose; richly extracted sweet fruit with soft tannins (89)

All of this while we were listening to Brandi Disterheft, Joe Sealy's Jazzbirds and the Shuffle Demons. We also had a great dinner prepared by Chef Frank Dodd:

  • Chilled Sweet Pea Soup with Smoked Bacon Ice Cream
  • Niagara Tomato Tasting
  • Wild Salmon and Herbs with white asparagus, Lobster, Cattails and Abitibi Caviar
  • Ted's Arctic Char, Corn, Smoked Ham Hock Broth and Wild Spot Prawns
  • Wellington County Beef Rib Eye, Foie Gras, Mushroom, Hick's Spinach in Cabernet Jus
  • Farmhouse and Artisan Cheese
  • Niagara Raspberries Picked, Baked, Churned




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