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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 291 (May 17, 2010)

Sunday, May 8: Took the train to Belleville. En route I wrote my Decanter piece on Canadian entries to Decanter World Wine Awards. I was picked up at the station by Myrna Mather of the Quinte Arts Council, who drove me to Huff Estates, where the judges for Artevino are staying. Dropped into the winery for a quick tasting.

  • Huff Estates South Bay Vineyards Chardonnay 2007: pale straw colour; Burgundian nose – minerally, undergrowth, apple and green pineapple; impressive acidity and great length (90).
  • Huff Estates South Bay Vineyards Merlot Cabernet 2007: ruby-purple; cherry, blueberry and redcurrant notes on the nose with a touch of oak; good tension between fruit and acidity with a tannic lift on the finish (88).
  • Huff Estates First Frost 2007 (Vidal – 2/3 fermented dry, 1/3 of juice from late harvest grapes): off-dry, honeycomb nose, peachy flavour with good acidity (87).

Then dropped in to Oeno Gallery adjacent to the winery. A fascinating space with an interesting collection of art.

Oeno Galley at Huff Estates

Met up with the rest of the judges, who had been touring the County – David Lawrason, Michael Pinkus, Konrad Ejbich, Billy Munnelly, Shari Darling, John Szabo and Remy Charest, a wine writer from Quebec. We were all ferried to the East & Main Bistro for dinner. We started with a glass of Huff Estate 2006 Cuvèe Peter L. Huff, then sat down to the following menu:

Steak tartar on Jerusalem artichoke chips, served with Black Prince Pinot Noir 2007.

Seared scallop, pancetta, asparagus & tarragon beurre blanc, with Rosehall Run 2000 Chardonnay Rosehall Vineyard.

Duck 3 Ways – duck terrine & pinot noir mustard, foie gras torchon & baco noir jelly, smoked duck breast and caramelized mission fig, with Norman Hardie 2007 Pinot Noir, Rosehall Run 2005 St. Cindy Pinot Noir.

Rack of boar, pork belly confit, braised red cabbage, caramelized onion & shiitake mushroom grits, dark cider & maple gastrique, with Grange of Prince Edward 2007 Trumpour's Mill Cabernet Franc, Huff Estate 2004 Merlot Reserve.

Port poached pear, Fifth Town "Operetta" goat cheese, truffle honey, macadamia nut tuile, with Huff Estate First Frost.

David Lawrason had brought out a bunch of County Pinot Noirs from 2007 and 2008 and some older ones. Best wine I tasted was Geoff Heinrick's Little Creek Keint-He Pinot Noir 2007. Bought two bottles of it.

Geoff Heinrick with his Keint-He Pinot
My favourite Monday Pinot

Monday, May 9: After a solid breakfast of pancakes, French toast, maple syrup and bacon, sat down to the judging. We began with three sparkling wines, followed by 11 Chardonnays and 9 various whites. Then 6 Rosés and 6 Pinot Noir before breaking for lunch (sandwiches and salad). After lunch, 10 Riesling & Gewurztraminer, 7 Cabernet Franc, 4 Cabernet Blends, 9 Gamay and St. Laurent, 5 hybrids and sweet whites. Then we judged the best 5 whites and the best 6 reds for the Best of Show. Over all I found the Sparkling wines, the Chardonnays and the Pinot Noirs the best (which, given the climate and terroir, should be what it is).

Judges Shari Darling, Billy Munnelly, Michael Pinkus, John Szabo, Remi Charest, David Lawrason

Then most of the judges made their way to David Lawrason's house for a BBQ and more wine. I brought along Ridge Lytton Spring 1993 (which turned out to be corked) and Sandstone Gamay Reserve 2002 (which was still very much alive). On the train at 9 pm to return home.

Tuesday, May 10: A meeting with David Rose of Forefront Communications to discuss the design for the Grapes for Humanity dinner invitation on October 7th and the program for the wine auction. Dinner at Tappo Wine Bar in the Distillery District to taste the white and red Burgundies of David Butterfield, a Torontonian who now lives in Beaune. He makes really tasty wines. His village Chardonnay and Bourgogne Pinot Noir are great value.

Wednesday, May 12: My birthday. Deborah has bought me a framed photo of Pinot the Wonder Dog looking very soulful. The weird thing is I guessed what it was a few days before. Recorded my 680 News reviews. Then down to the Spoke Club for a tasting of Montes wines. Aurelio Montes was in great form. We started off with Montes Cherub Rosé Syrah 2009 (strawberry red colour; well extracted cherry flavour; fruity but dry with good acidity and full on the palate (88)).

Aurelio Montes leads the tasting

Then we sat down to 6 wines from the Montes portfolio.

  • Montes Classic Series Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (Casablanca Valley): medium straw colour; grassy, passion fruit; full on the palate, well balanced with a gooseberry flavour and lively acidity; good length (89).
  • Montes Classic Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (Colchagua Valley – 15% Merlot): deep ruby-purple; cedar, tobacco, smoky black fruits; sweet plum and black cherry flavours with notes of chocolate; rich and full on the palate  with soft tannins. Great value (89).
  • Montes Alpha Carmenère 2007 (Colchagua Valley): deep ruby-purple; cedar, vanilla, currants, red pepper nose; spicy plum and currant flavours, medium-bodied, dry with supple tannins (89).
  • Montes Alpha M 2006 (Colchagua Valley –80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 5% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot): dense ruby; creamy blackcurrant, vanilla with a gentle oak note; rich, spicy, creamy blackcurrant flavour; beautifully integrated oak, full-bodied cocoa and blackcurrant finish (93).
  • Montes Folly 2006 (Apalta Valley, 100% Syrah): dense purple; spicy, peppery blackberry with a medicinal note with a vanilla note; concentrated blackberry, chocolate and vanilla oak flavours, fleshy on the palate with soft, powdery tannins. Powerful and full-bodied (92).
  • Montes Purple Angel 2007 (Carmenère with 8% Petit Verdot): dense ruby-purple; cedar, violets, sweet black fruits with powdery tannins; full on the palate with a firm tannic finish. Needs time (91+).

In the evening Deborah and I have been invited to Grano for a wine dinner with Oscar Farinetti, the owner of Fontanafredda and Eataly (a chain of upmarket food stores – 3 in Tokyo, one opening in New York).

We started off with a glass of Fontanafredda Alta Langa Contessa Rosa 2006, a really fine bubbly. Then we sat down to the meal:

Sweetbreads with pancetta & Ontario ramps, served with Fontanafredda Gavi di Gavi 2009 (ripe pineapple flavour with good balancing acidity)

"Tajarin" with cream & white truffle, with Fontanafredda Barbera Briccotondo 2008 (dense purple, sweet black cherry flavour; great extraction)

Beef tenderloin with Ontario beets, with Fontanafredda Barolo Serralunga d'Alba 2005 (deep ruby; licorice, cherry, violets on the nose; lovely mouth feel)

Fromaggi Piemontesi – Robiola Bosina, Boschetto al Tartufo and Testun di Barolo, with Fontanafredda Barolo "La Rosa" 2004 (deep ruby, very elegant, cherry and violets)

Dessert – crostata tricolore, gelato fresco, biscotto, with Fontanafredda Moscato d'Asti Moncucco 2009 (light, fragrant, sweet orange blossom and honey flavour)

Oscar Farinetti showed us the 500 mL and litre bottles he's using for his wines now.

Thursday, May 13: Wrote my Post City Magazines column on wines for the BBQ. Trying to clear my desk as I leave for London on Saturday for the Seriously Cool Chardonnay tasting at Canada House for the British wine press and then on to Spain for my annual wine tour.

Friday, May 14: Wrote up the trophy-winning Canadian wines from the Decanter World Wine Awards. The winners will be announced at the London Wine Fair on Tuesday. Tonight my friend Pooch from Sacramento, California, came for dinner. Guy, my son, joined us. We dined at Agostino's on Yonge Street. I brought along a bottle of Tawse Chardonnay 2003 and Little Creek Keint-He Pinot Noir 2007.




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