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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 264 (November 9, 2009)

Monday, November 2: This morning a seminar on "The Wine of Sicily Through History and Mythology" at Roy Thomson Hall prior to the annual Italian tasting. The seminar was conducted, in Italian with simultaneous translation, by Attilio Scienza, a professor of viniviticulture in Siena. Sicily, he told us, "is more a continent than an island" in terms of its microclimates, with as much vineyard surface as Australia and twice as much as Piemonte. Sicily has grape varieties you don't find anywhere else in the world and these are ancient varieties. David Lawrason commented on the ten wines we tasted.

  • Trapani Vento del Sud Grillo 2008
  • Casa Vinicola Savaia Zefiro Inzolia 2008
  • Cantina Sociale Dell'Alto Belice Trerre Catarratto 2008
  • Cusumano Angimbe 2008 (Inzolia and Chardonnay)
  • Planeta Cometa 2008 (Fiano)
  • Casa di Grazia Emiryam 2007 (Syrah)
  • Feudo Disisa Tornamira 2006 (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah)
  • Fuedo di Santa Tresa Cerasuolo di Vittoria 2005 (Nero d'Avola, Frappato)
  • Patria Co-op Etna 2006 (Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio)
  • Abraxas Scirafi Passito di Pantellaria 2007 (Muscat of Alexandria)

The upstairs to the atrium for a stand-up buffet lunch and 99 Italian producers showing their wines. I concentrated on the wines of the 17 producers from Sicily, since many of the wines were new to me. Enjoyed the wines of Donnafugata, especially the Passito di Pantellaria Ben Rye 2007. Loved the Patria Etna Rosso Torrepalino Riserva 1996, which comes on like an old Barolo, and Planeta La Segreta Bianco 2008, a blend of Grecanico, Chardonnay and Fiano that tasted of fresh pineapple. But the wine that really rang my bell was Tasca d'Almerita Lamuri 2006, 100% Nero D'Avola with its bright blackcurrant flavour and floral grace note. Also enjoyed the powerful Valle dell'Acate Moro Nero D'Avola 2007.

That evening we were invited to dine at Eight Wine Bar in the Cosmopolitan Hotel by the sommelier Zoltan Szabo and his wife Johanna. Zoltan told us about his "Buck An Ounce Fridays" promotion, where more than 20 wines are available for $1 per oz. Eight Wine Bar has an amazing wine cellar and Zoltan was determined to show us some of the off-beat products he had. We started with the delicious wild strawberry-flavoured Janz Brut Rosé from Tasmania. This was followed by Terre di Orazio Venosa Rosato 2007, a rosé from Basilicata which we drank with a plate of charcuterie. Next, Santa Giustine Ortugo 2008, a frizzante wine froim the little-known Ortugo grape from Liguria, which I had never tasted before. With the braised veal cheek ravioli we had Nichols Chardonnay Paragon Vineyard 2001 from Edna Valley, a very rich, deep wine with caramel and spice flavours carried on lovely acidity. With oven roasted duck breast we had Erath Pinot Noir 2006 and Tscharke The Potter Garnacha 2008, a huge beefy wine from the Barossa Valley. Unfortunately, no room for dessert, although the dessert menu looked stunning, (Note to self: next time, start with dessert).

Tuesday, November 3: Lunch at Crush with Neil Empson. A quick bowl of pasta with his Bollini Pinot Grigio 2008, which was the first Italian wine to be bottled under screwcap. This wine from Trentino has more extract than most Pinot Grigios since he insists on lower yields. (Straw coloured with a fresh peachy nose and flavor with lively acidity (88)). He also said that he coined the term "Super Tuscan" in 1975 when he first tasted Sergio Manetti's Le Pergole Torte, a 100% Sangiovese, which was not permitted under the DOCG regulations. A New Zealander, Neil called the wine "super." Then I tried his Monte Antico 2006 (Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon – deep purple-ruby colour with a nose of vanilla oak and blueberries; fruity, dry and easy drinking with plum and pencil lead flavours). Toscolo Chianti Classico 2006 (ruby colour; dry cherry, earthy nose with a note of pencil lead; dry, firm structure, lively acidity with soft, supple tannins (88)). At 3.:30 pm, over to Doug Towers for a tasting of Ontario wines.

Wednesday, November 4: Recorded my 680News reviews and then dashed down to Nota Bene, where Peter Gago was conducting a lunchtime tasting of Penfolds wines.

  • Penfolds Thomas Hyland Chardonnay 2007: straw colour; ripe tropical fruit I the nose backed by vanilla oak; spicy, full-bodied, good attack and energy with a lemony finish (88)
  • Penfolds Yattarna Chardonnay 2006: straw colour; more Burgundian in character; elegant, spicy, orange, nutty nose; full-bodied with well integrated oak, fresh long lemony finish (93)
  • Penfolds Bin 138 Barossa Valley Grenache Mourvedre Shiraz 2007: deep ruby colour; concentrated black raspberry nose with a whiff of oak; full-bodied, jammy but rescued from cloying by lovely acidity (88)
  • Penfolds Bin 128 Coonawarra Shiraz 2006: deep ruby; meaty, spicy peppery nose; full-bodied minty blackberry flavour, fruity and juicy (89)
  • Penfolds Kalimna Bin 28 Shiraz 2006: deep ruby with a nose of blackberries, cedar and vanilla oak; leaner and more elegant than Bin 128; firm spicy, plummy flavour (90)
  • Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon 2006: deep ruby-purple; cedar, sweet blackcurrant nose; firmly structured with precise blackcurrant and redcurrant flavours, well balanced with a persistent tannic finish; ends on a licorice note (89)
  • Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz 2006: dense purple-ruby; creamy blackberry and currant nose with a licorice note; full on the palate, savoury and elegant with flavours of dates and black olives; firmly structured with a tannic lift on the finish. Great mouth feel (90)
  • Penfolds St. Henri Shiraz 2005 (Shiraz with 10% Cabernet Sauvignon): deep ruby-purple; spicy tobacco, currants, cedar, pepper; elegant, dry Northern Rhône style; full-bodied, blackberry flavour – fleshy and fruity but firm and beautifully balanced. Keep for 5 years (91)
  • Penfolds RWT Barossa Valley Shiraz 2006 ("Red Wine Trial" – the same name since 1997: Barossa Shiraz): dense ruby-purple; smoky, mulberry nose with notes of iodine and minerals; mouth-filling sweet black fruits, spicy, dark chocolate with vanilla oak notes; full-bodied, ripe tannins, firm but elegant with evident tannins of the finish. Needs time (92)
  • Penfolds Grange 2004 (Shiraz with 4% Cabernet Sauvignon from the "world's oldest producing Cabernet Sauvignon vines" dating back to the 1880s): dense purple-black colour; a nose of creamy oak, sandalwood, blackcurrant, bay leaf; seductive sweet mulberry and chocolate flavours, lovely mouth feel, concentrated and beautifully structured. Drinking well now but will last for 20 years. A triumph. (96)

Then we had lunch: yellow fin tuna tartare, potato chips, citrus soy, ginger, avocado, crispy shallots, served with Penfolds Bin 51 Eden Valley Riesling 2008 (pale straw colour; fresh nose of lime and green apple with a light floral note; clean and charming, beginning to develop petrol notes, good tension between sweet and sour flavours (89)). Cumbrae Farms striploin and green salad with Penfolds Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (dense purple-black; creamy blackcurrant, vanilla oak and pepper notes; sweet blackcurrant flavour, firmly structured (90)). For dessert, 3-year-old gouda with calymira figs, with Penfolds Grandfather Fine Old Liqueur Tawny (tawny ruby; high toned, raisins and figs on the nose; flavours of sweet toffee and walnuts; great length (92)).

At 4 pm over to The Homeway to meet John Nadeau, who is representing a Ukrainian vodka company. They produce two labels – Zirkova and Slava. With Sheila Swerling-Puritt I tasted them against Stolichnaya and Grey Goose. They're both well priced and smooth.

Thursday, November 5: Deborah and I drove down to Niagara College for the official opening of their newly constructed Wine Visitor + Education Centre by Prince Charles. Lousy weather, hail and rain, but the tent they had erected for the event was warm and comfortable. Culinary students from the College handed around finger food and there was enough wine. I had a glass of Flat Rock Rusty Shed Chardonnay 2008. There were speeches by Len Crispino, Chair of Niagara College Board of Governors, Dr. Daniel Patterson, President of the College, Jim Bradley, Ontario Minister of Transportation, and Donald Ziraldo, co-founder of Inniskillin Wines. The Prince unveiled the commemorative plaque and then mingled with the guests. I got to shake his hand. This year's Ontario Grape King, Lou Puglisi, was wearing his jacket with the Grape King logo on it and when he shook the Prince's hand, he proclaimed, "I'm royalty too, you know." Now that's chutzpah. The Prince was whisked away by military helicopter.

Touring the centre after the Prince left, I was amazed to see a quote of mine on the wall. I can't remember where I wrote this (after 35 years of wine writing) but I was very flattered.

Dashed back to town to co-host, with auctioneer Steve Ranger, the Serve! Uncorked Fundraiser. Conducted a noisy tasting of the following Burgundies – as they do in Burgundy, commencing with red and then tasting white.

  • Prieuré Roch Vosne Romanée Suchots 1996
  • Dujac Chambolle Musigny les Guenchers 1996
  • Armand Rousseau Charmes Chambertin 1996
  • Leroy Vosne Romanée Les Genevrières 1996
  • Ramonet Chassagne Montrachet Ruchottes 1996

Friday, November 6: A home wine tasting for the successful bidder at the Women in Insurance Cancer Crusade. The wines:

  • Willm Riesling 2008 (Alsace)
  • Mezzacorona Pinot Grigio Riserva 2007
  • Robertson Sauvignon Blanc 2008
  • Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay 2008
  • Gabiano Chianti 2008
  • Château de Gourgazaud 2007
  • Peninsula Ridge Shiraz 2008
  • Rodney Strong Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Saturday, November 7: Sheila Swerling-Puritt and I are hosting a dinner at the ROM's C5 restaurant for the successful bidder at the Ontario Hostelry Institute gala dinner auction. First we get a private tour of the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition by Julian Siggers, Vice President Programs and Content Communications. He tells us that the cabinets the ROM designed to protect the scrolls with special lighting will be borrowed by the Vatican, who will be exhibiting them next. Then up to the restaurant for dinner, which starts with a glass of Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catherine Brut.

Heirloom Beet Salad
Rabl Grüner Veltliner Kamptal Austria 2007

Papardelle with White Truffles
Jean Luc Columbo Les Gravieres Crozes Hermitage France 2006

Cashew Crusted Trout with Lobster
Malivoire Pinot Gris Beamsville Bench VQA 2008

Cumbrae Farms Ribeye
Monkfish (for guests who prefer fish)
Pétales d'Osoyoos Okanagan Valley VQA 2005

Chefs Selection of Cheese Boutique Cheese
Charles Jouguet Chenin Moelleux Loire France 2005

Chocolate Cornacoppia
Graham's 20 Year Tawny Port




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