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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 256 (September 14, 2009)

Monday, September 7 (Labour Day): Worked the whole day, which I guess is only fitting since it's Labour Day. Started a piece about my fishing trip for Post City Magazines, then wrote up my 680 News reviews. Tasted three wines from a Sicilian winery called Icone, who label their wines i.c.One.

  • Icone Solemio Grillo 2008: straw colour; minerally, pineapple and peach nose whose flavours come through on the palate with tangerine acidity. Full-bodied and flavourful. Very impressive (89).
  • Icone Syrah 2006: dense purple black: blackberry, dark chocolate, licorice and black olive bouquet; thick on the palate and full-bodied, porty flavours with soft tannins (88).
  • Icone Dolce Vita 2007 (Nero D'Avola/Syrah): deep purple colour; earthy, herbal, plum bouquet; showing a little volatility with a pruny note on the finish (87).

Tuesday, September 8: A photo shoot in the grounds of Maclean House for an article for the Acura magazine, Expressions, about my having purchased five Acuras in a row since 1992. Drove Deborah to the airport for her trip to Paris where she will spend a week with her sister Suzanne. So it's just me and Pinot the Wonder Dog for the next seven days.

Wednesday, September 9: Recorded my 680News reviews and then drove over to Marty Goldfarb's office on Spadina, from where we walked to Il Posto for lunch. Ordered liver, which I never have at home, and a glass of De Bortoli Pinot Noir 2007. Scrambled to make my deadline for Post City Magazines.

Thursday, September 10: Spent the morning working on the dinner program for Grapes for Humanity's Chocolate & Wine Fantasy dinner on Thursday, October 8th at The Four Seasons. Here's the invitation:

At 11:15 am, down to Le Select for a tasting of François Lurton wines from France, Spain, Portugal, Chile and Argentina. His wines are easy drinking and straightforward for the most part. And usually good value – especially Les Fumées Blanches Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (Vin de Pays du Comté Tolosan): grassy, gooseberry nose with a floral note; light on the palate, tart gooseberry flavour with lively acidity and good length. Lurton makes 4 million bottles of this wine, which sells at the LCBO for $11.45. My top wines were La Récaoufa du Château des Erles 2004 (Corbières) (dense purple; a nose of plums, herbs and minerals; thick on the palate with meaty, dark chocolate and coffee bean flavours; dry and savoury with an earthy finish (89); Campo Alegre 2007 (Toro, Spain, which he makes with Michel Rolland): deep ruby, peppery, raspberry, elegant and well structured; more complex, subtle and balanced than Lurton's other wines (90); and Gran Lurton Corte Friulano 2007 (from the Uco Valley in Argentina) – a blend of Tokay Friulano, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Torontes. This wine is in the Conundrum style: straw coloured; aromatic, spicy, oaky , imagine Chardonnay with a Muscat note; nicely balanced and delicious (90). The tasting started at 11:30 am and by 2 pm I had to leave before lunch was served.

In the evening over to a private house to lead a tasting of 10 Bordeaux from the extraordinary 1961 vintage – all from a single private cellar (the tasting was an auction item from the Toronto Symphony auction last year). There are 22 people altogether at the tasting and we start with Pol Roger Winston Churchill 1996 to get us in the mood. Amazingly there was not a corked bottle among the wines (2 bottles of each and one magnum). The colour of these '61s is still holding. These are tremendous wines. I introduced the evening by saying that this is a once in a lifetime tasting of the 20th century's greatest vintage. Some say 1929 or 1945. I've only tasted two 1929s and six 1945s but am very familiar with 1961. The first case of this vintage I ever bought was Gruaud Larose 1961, which I picked up in 1964. Fool that I was, I drank it all within two years. I asked the group to think back to what they were doing in 1961. To help their memories I gave them a list of some key events:

In world politics, the construction of the Berlin Wall was started. Britain applied for membership in the Common Market. President Kennedy was sworn in as US President in January. Princess Diana was born. The Beatles performed for the first time at the Cavern Club in Liverpool. The number one song in September 1961 was "Wheels" by The Stringalongs. Paul Anka had the No. 2 song, "Dance On Little Girl." Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth's home run record with his 61st homer. The average cost of new house was $12,500.00. The average income per year, $5,315.00. The top films were:

  • The Guns of Navarone
  • The Parent Trap
  • The Absent-Minded Professor
  • The Alamo
  • Swiss Family Robinson
  • 101 Dalmatians
  • Breakfast at Tiffany's
  • El Cid
  • West Side Story

What was happening in Bordeaux? On May 29th there was a wicked frost that killed 75% of the buds, but the rest of the summer was brilliant, perfect weather which resulted in highly concentrated sugars and acids. When the wines were released in New York two years later the price of Château Lafite was $10 and the trade was concerned the consumer would balk at it.

Here are the wines we tasted in serving order, opened and decanted about two hours before the guests sat down:

  • Terte Daugay (magnum) – St. Emilion – mature, not a lot of concentration but still quite elegant.
  • Brane Cantenac – Margaux – lovely cigar box nose, red and blackcurrant flavours, beautifully balanced and very elegant with a peppery note on the finish. Still quite youthful.
  • Léoville Las Cases – St. Julien – soft and velvety, cigar box nose, firmly structured.
  • Cheval Blanc – St. Emilion – deeply coloured with oak, cedar notes; intense sweet and savoury flavours; good acidity and a firm finish.
  • La Mission Haut Brion – cedar, floral note with oyster shell and dark chocolate bouquet; still rich and full of vitality.
  • Montrose – St. Estephe – showing some tawnyness at the rim, lively acidity and still showing tannins but beginning to dry out.
  • Lafite – Pauillac – mature, cigar box and cedar with a floral note; elegant and ready, a wine of great charm.
  • Margaux – Margaux – cedar, lilac, blackcurrant; very elegant and feminine; great harmony and a lovely mouth-feel.
  • Talbot – St. Julien – the most youthful of the wines, surprisingly; sustained redcurrant flavour with lively acidity and firm tannins.
  • Yquem - Sauternes – barley sugar, orange marmalade and green tea flavours; drying out but still delicious, medium-sweet (not a great Sauternes vintage but interesting to taste it against the clarets).

My favourite wines were Lafite, La Mission and Brane Cantenac.

Jamie Kennedy provided the food in tapas portions which was served at intervals throughout the tasting:

  • Risotto with Wild Mushrooms
  • Braised Oxtail with Marrow Toast
  • Wagyu Slider with Caramelized Onions (like a mini hamburger)
  • Galantine of Quail with Celery Root and Squash
  • Braised Veal Ravioli
  • Lamb Chop with Garlic Sautéed Potatoes
  • Tarte Tatin with Maple Ice Cream (with the Yquem)

A spectacular evening – and it will be repeated tomorrow!

Friday: September 11: A Vintages release tasting for October. Back home to walk Pinot and then change for the second 1961 tasting. The menu is the same but there are only 15 participants – one bottle of each wine. The list varies slightly from last night's line-up.

  • Terte Daugay (magnum) – lovely redcurrant perfume, not as intense as last night's bottle, showing more acidity.
  • Cantemerle – Haut Medoc – showing its age: floral, soy and leather on the nose; ripe blackcurrant flavour but beginning to dry out.
  • Talbot – St. Julien a buckwheat note; great intensity of blackcurrant and beautifully balanced.
  • Cos D'Estournel – still very youthful; great depth of colour; cedar and blackcurrant flavours. Will go for another ten years at least.
  • Margaux – sweet fruit with tobacco and blackcurrant flavours but just a hint of cork taint, unfortunately
  • Lynch Bages – Pauillac – cigar box nose; great extract, sweet fruit, great acidity that keeps the wine fresh.
  • Mouton-Rothschild – Pauillac – austere and Italianate (like an old Barolo) compared with the Lynch-Bages; a majestic wine, dry with a rose petal grace note and peppery tannins.
  • La Mission Haut Brion – Graves – oyster shell, tarry nose; great extract.
  • Mouton Baronne Philippe (renamed Château D'Armailhac in 1989) – Pauillac – creamy nose of cassis and cedar but drying out on the finish.
  • Yquem - Sauternes – the same note as last night.

A reprise to the Jamie Kennedy menu. My top wines tonight were Lynch-Bages, Mouton and La Mission.

Saturday, September 12: David Rose brought around ten wines from the Chilean tasting I missed.

  • Viña Anakena Single Vineyard Viognier 2009 ($14.95): Very pale with a green tint; peach and honeysuckle nose; sweet peachy fruit, lively acidity. Full-bodied (89).
  • Viña Cono Sur Viognier 2008 Colchagua Valley ($9.95): Straw, peach and peach pit; sweet peach, apple, a little short but great value (87).
  • Viña Valdivieso Reserva Chardonnay 2006 Casablanca Valley ($17.95): Straw with lime tint; Burgundian nose, a touch of barnyard, tropical fruit flavour with racy acidity, brittle finish, good length (86).
  • Viña Veramonte Reserva Pinot Noir 2008 Casablanca Valley ($15.95): Tawny ruby; good varietal character, dry, savoury after its initial sweet black raspberry, nicely balanced; firm finish; medium-bodied. Belies its 14% alcohol (88).
  • Viña Valdivieso Reserva Syrah 2006 ($17.95): Dense ruby-purple; marginally corked, flat.
  • Viña Casa Tamaya Reserva Syrah 2007 ($15.85): Dense purple-black; peppery, blackberry, touch of cedar; savoury, herby, black olive, with a sweet, floral note. Very Northern Rhone in style (91).
  • Viña Carmen Reserva Carmenère/Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 ($16.90): Dense ruby; leafy, blackcurrant, vanilla oak; well made, nicely balanced, very claret-like, sweet fruit, firmly structured (89).
  • Viña Viu Manent Reserve Carmenère 2008 ($15.95): Dense ruby colour; red pepper, blackcurrant; lovely rich mouth-feel, well extracted, dark chocolate flavour with supple tannins (88).
  • Viña Seña Arboleda Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 ($17.95): Dense ruby; vanilla oak, blackcurrant, pencil lead; redcurrant flavour with racy acidity; firm structure with a licorice note; good length, a little hot on the finish (87).
  • Viña Undurraga Founder's Collection Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 ($36.95): Dense ruby colour; cedar, blackcurrant nose; lovely mouth feel, sweet, succulent fruit, elegant, well structured. Great length (90).




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