A Wine Lover's Diary, part 263 (January 2, 2010)
Monday, October 26: Lunch in Barberian's amazing wine cellar with Sandro Boscaini of Masi. Over oysters and steak and chips we talk about Amarone, one of the world's oldest wines. Sandro is "Mr. Amarone" and will soon publish a book on the subject of appassimento – the drying of grapes before fermentation. We taste Masi Campofiorin 2006 and Masi Costasera Amarone 2006. Sandro is convinced that 2006 is the best for these wines in the last 50 years – a 5-star vintage, which he designates on the label. The other 5-star vintages were 1997, 1995, 1990, 1988, 1983 and 1964.
- Masi Campofiorin 2006: a ripasso Valpolicella with great depth of colour; a nose of black cherries, graphite and vanilla oak; very rich on the palate with lively acidity and a lovely mouth feel. Great structure. The best Campofiorin I've tasted in many years (90).
- Masi Amarone Costasera 2006: dense purple-ruby colour; spicy blackcurrant and black cherry nose with notes of licorice and malt; sweet and savoury on the palate, full-bodied with a silky mouth feel and lively acidity. A very elegant wine (92). Sandro calls it "a postmodern Amarone."
Our group leaves the dining room overlooking the cellar and descends to a table where five older vintages have been set out.
- Masi Campofiorin 1997: ruby, holding colour; spicy cherry and leather nose; sweet cherry flavour with a herbal note and lively acidity. Very elegant (90).
- Masi Campofiorin 1990: ruby with a brick-coloured rim; high toned, dried cherry and soy nose; beginning to dry out but still showing lively acidity (88).
- Masi Amarone Costasera 1997: deep ruby; sweet plum and lead pencil nose; rich and youthful with plum, prune and chocolate flavours. Powerful and still youthful (91).
- Masi Amarone Costasera 1995: mature ruby; very Burgundian on the nose with mature cherry and leather notes; silky mouth feel, powerful but elegant with great length and balance (90).
- Masi Amarone Costasera 1990: amazing depth of colour; intense tobacco, strawberry, cherry and licorice notes; firmly structured and still very youthful with sweet fruit matched with fresh acidity but beautifully balanced and firmly structured (93).
Had to skip dessert because I was late for the Napa Vintners Show at the ROM. Forty-three wineries showing their wines. Tasted as many as I could, given the crowds around the tables, concentrating mainly on reds. My top scores went to Cliff Lede Cabernet Sauvignon Poetry 2006 (93) and Cliff Lede Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (92), Caine Concept 2001 (91), Stag's Leap Cabernet Sauvignon Cask 23 2006 (92), Heitz Martha's Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 (92) and Heitz Trailside Cabernet Sauvignon 1998 (92), Pahlmeyer Merlot 2006 (91) and St. Supery Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (90). But the wine I enjoyed most was Spring Mountain Rare Wine Selection Cabernet Sauvignon 1987, which tasted like a mature old claret.
For dinner, a wine of more
modest cost, Bodegas Castano La Casona Monastrell Old Vines 2007 ($8.95), with pasta.
Tuesday, October 27: A tasting at noon at The Chef Upstairs, a cooking school on Mount Pleasant. Winemaker Sebastiano Rosa led a group of wine writers through a tasting of Tenuta San Guido wines, including Sassicaia, over lunch.
Served with an appetizer of aged prosciutto, pecorino and artichoke heart with an olive oil and oven dried tomato compote topped with white anchovy filet (the most unfriendly wine food imaginable), Tenuta San Guido Le Difese 2006 (70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Sangiovese): dense purple colour; spicy cherry nose with cedar and vanilla oak notes; dry, medium-bodied, elegant and firmly structured with a savoury, herbal flavour and a fine spine of acidity (89).
Next, fresh tuna brochette with an arugula and fava bean mix with Tenuta San Guido Guidalberto 2006 (60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot): dense purple-ruby; cherry-red berry nose with notes of vanilla and cedar; medium-bodied, rich mouth feel with flavours of black fruits and licorice; firmly structured with an elegant dry finish and evident tannins (90).
Fresh Ontario lamb loin sautéed, lightly roasted, rosemary glaze, French green beans and school confit, eggplant casserole with Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia 2000 (85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc): dense ruby; warm nose of cedar and blackcurrant; beautifully integrated flavours of ripe plums and red berries; mouth-filling with great balance and length (93); and Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia 1998 (the first wine to go into space in a European manned rocket): dense ruby, holding colour; a claret-like nose of cedar and currants with a herbal note; medium-bodied with a dry, savoury taste; very elegant and balanced and firmly structured (92).
Wednesday, October 28: Began writing an article for Lexpert magazine on cork taint. A tasting in the afternoon of Bordeaux at Polson Pier looking out on to Lake Ontario. I'd never been to this venue before. It's ideal for wine tasting, with its natural light, but difficult to get to. The tasting was called "Bordeaux Under One Roof" and featured 18 tables of agents' imported wines under $30. It was a vivid illustration as to why Bordeaux is struggling in this market when you can get wines from Chile, Argentina, Spain and Portugal for under $15 that give more pleasure. My top score was 88 for Château Magnol 2007 ($30), Château Courreges 2005 ($24.95), Château Roquetaillade La Grange Vieilles Vignes 2005 ($21.95) and Château Argenteyre 2005 ($24.95).
Then off to a meeting at The Fairmont Royal York with Ed Madronich, chair of the Wine Council of Ontario, Wendy Cheropita, WCO marketing director, and David
Rose and Sandy Kurbis from Forefront Communications to discuss next year's Ontario Wine Awards over a bottle of Cave Spring Riesling 2006 (Ed's Flat Rock Cellars were not on the list).
Thursday, October 29: At the offices of Philippe Dandurand I met the winemaker from Errazuriz, Francisco Baettig, who led me through a tasting of his wines.
- Errazuriz Carmenère 2008 (with 8% Petit Verdot): dense purple-ruby; vanilla, spicy sweet blackberry nose; rip fruit, full-bodied and fruity without that green vegetal note that mars a lot of Carmenère; lively acidity with a bitter chocolate finish (88).
- Errazuriz Shiraz Max Reserva 2007 (Errazuriz was the first winery in Chile to plant Shiraz in 1993): dense purple colour that stains the glass; creamy mocha and blackberry nose; full-bodied, spicy, peppery blackberry flavour, firmly structured with ripe tannins and a fresh acidic finish (89).
- Errazuriz Cabernet Sauvignon Max Reserva 2007 (91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot, 1% Shiraz): dense purple-ruby; creamy, chocolate and blackcurrant nose; sweet cassis flavour with well integrated oak and grainy tannins; good length (89).
- Errazuriz Don Maximiano Founder's Reserve 2006 (82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot, 5% Syrah): dense ruby, spicy, cream, chocolate with red berry and cedar notes; stylish blackcurrant flavour – juicy fruit but firmly structured with a lovely mouth feel (91).
- Seña 2006 (55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 13% Petit Verdot, 10% Carmenère, 6% Cabernet Franc): dense ruby-black colour; spicy, cedar, coffee bean and blackcurrant nose with a floral grace note; elegant, dry blackcurrant and plum flavours with fine grained tannins (93).
- Viñedo Chadwick 2006 (100% Cabernet Sauvignon): dense ruby; cedar and blackcurrant, vanilla oak, graphite and a lovely floral note; richly extracted fruit, velvety and sweet blackcurrant flavour; full on the palate and beautifully balanced (94).
Then straight over to the Automotive Building at Exhibition Place for Halpern's Portfolio Tasting prior to the Grand Cru live auction. This is the kid-in-the-candy-store tasting of the year since Halpern represents some of the best producers in France, Italy and California, many of whom were there to pour their wines. Sixty-nine wineries in all. Ran into old friends – Etienne Hugel, Paolo di Marchi from Isole e Olena, Bernard Repolt at Remoissenet, Rick Burge of Barossa's Burge Family, Marchese Armando Fumanelli, Claus Burmeister, winemaker at Weingut Heitlinger, Fausto Maculan's daughter Angela, Angelo Gaja's daughter Gaia. Best wines that I tasted: Aldo Conterno Chardonnay Bussia d'Or 2005, Burge Family G3 Shiraz Mourvedre Grenache 2007, Ceretto Barolo Bricco Rocche Bricco Rocche 2004, Cliff Lede Poetry 2006, Domaine de Montille Château de Puligny-Montachet Meursault Villages 2006, Domaine Dujac Vosne–Romanée Les Malconsorts 2007,
Faiveley Gevrey Chambertin Les Cazetières 2007, Gaja Ca'Marcanda Magari 2006, Henri Boillot Volnay Les Caillerets 2007, Isole e Olena Cepparello 2006, L'Aventure Estate Cuvée 2007, Maculan Fratta 2006, Remoissenet Beaune Grèves. The best value wine there was Weingut Heitlinger Spicy Stone Pinot Gris Dry 2005.
Friday, October 30: Finished the article for Lexpert magazine and began contacting the wineries I want to visit for the wine tour I'm conducting to Spain in May next year. The tour is almost sold out. This evening Deborah and I are invited to the home of Ron and Vanessa Kimel as one of the 31 dinners that are being held around the city. These dinners are part of Grand Cru's annual fund-raising drive in aid of Toronto General and Western Hospitals. Each house has a designated winery, restaurant chef and a research scientist from one of the hospitals. The Kimels have Château Montrose, Chef Martin Kouprie of Pangaea and Dr. Andres Lozano, Chair in Functional Neurosurgery at the U of T and Toronto Western Hospital (who spoke about research in altering brain activity through electronic impulses).
We start with Gosset Champagne Brut Excellence before sitting down. I am seated between Patrick Imbert, the French Trade commissioner in Toronto, and the winemaker from Montrose. The menu:
Warm lobster salad, watercress, shaved fingerling potato and white truffle, Scotch quail egg, served with Domaine de Montille Château de Puligny-Montachet Meursault Villages 2006.
Foie gras & roasted pear, frisee salad, candied chestnut slivers with fennel dressing, with Château Montrose 2005 and Château Montrose 1990 (the wine of the night).
Chervil and crabapple ice as a trou normand followed by Cookstown lamb loin oven-roasted, cassoulet of lingot beans, duck confit, braised cabbage, chanterelles, braising juices, with Château Montrose 1998 and Château Montrose 1976.
Ontario artisan cheeses with tears of honey, with Château Montrose 2000 and Château Montrose 1959 in magnum.
Dessert: Pumpkintart with stewed cranberries and buttermilk lemon ice cream, with Schmitt Söhne Wiltinger Scharzberg Riesling Beerenauslese 1976.
And as a digestif, Leopold Gourmel Cognac Ages des Fleurs "15 Carats."
Saturday, October 31: Today is Todd Halpern's 50th birthday and since it's Halloween he's invited all the visiting vintners, the Advisory Board of Grand Cru and all the staff to a party at the Capitol event theatre in costume or in masks.
Todd's partner in Remoissenet, Eddie Milstein, comes up from New York for these Grand Cru parties (this is the fourth) and opens the most amazing wines during the course of the evening. 1929 Mouton, Haut Brion, Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle, 1928 Vieux Château Certan (magnum), 1949 Remoissenet Richebourg, 1959 Laville Haut Brion, 1961 Ducru-Beaucaillou, 1964 Remoissenet Clos Vougeot, 1959 Latour, 1978 Dom Perignon (magnum) – some of the 26 wines I recorded before I had to go and get some food. Later in the evening Jérôme Cauchard, Consul General of France in Toronto, awarded Todd Halpern the Mérite Agricole for his services in promoting French wine in Canada.
Gaia Gaja radiant
Eddie Milstein decants Mouton 1929
Todd's birthday wines
Deborah and Tony masked