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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 299 (July 12, 2010)

Monday, July 5: Brutally hot day today and it looks as if these extreme temperatures are going to last till Thursday at least. Wrote my Post City Magazines column on the London Chardonnay tasting and the reaction it has generated. Then relaxed over a glass of Crémant St-Nicolas, a sparkling light cider from Quebec – perfect thirst quencher for a hot day and only 2.8% alcohol. For dinner, Château La Raz Beauvallet 2005, a cru bourgeois claret that went beautifully with grilled lamb chops.

Tuesday, July 6: Temperature reached 33°C at Pearson Airport today. I recorded my 680 News wine reviews. Had to drink a lot of water as my throat kept closing down with allergies. In the evening, I went to Cava where chef and owner Chris MacDonald and the president of Gonzalez-Byass, Felipe Gonzalez-Gordon, hosted a pre-dinner sherry and tapas event. We tasted Tio Pepe, Alfonso Oloroso Seco, and Nutty Solera. The chilled Tio Pepe was just the thing for a hot night. The Oloroso with its raisin, prune, and nut flavours was delicious and a steal at $14.95. Every year I predict that sherry will make a comeback and every year I’m wrong. If Spain wins the world cup, then maybe it will.

Wednesday, July 7: No respite from the heat. A Vintages tasting this morning to make up for the one that had to be cancelled during the G20 meetings. Dinner at The Homeway. Brought a bottle of Skouras Saint George Agiorgitiko 2007 for my shaved beef dish.

Thursday, July 8: A meeting with Henry Wu at the Metropolitan Hotel to discuss a follow-up to the matching of Western wines with a traditional Chinese banquet. The next phase is to match wines to a set restaurant menu. In the evening, a meeting with the Grapes for Humanity board to talk about our next project. We will be making a donation to BRAC, a foundation that is providing prostheses to Haitians injured in the earthquake.

Then down to Audi Downtown for Boys’ Night Out, an annual event in aid of prostrate cancer organized by Steven Campbell and his staff at Lifford. A lot of sweaty guys enjoying different wines with meat-heavy finger foods.

Friday, July 9: Spent much of the day on Grapes for Humanity business. For dinner, ravioli with Cusumano Syrah 2009 from Sicily.

Saturday, July 10: Deborah and I drove down to Niagara to enjoy Hillebrand’s annual Jazz Festival. With wine writer Michael Pinkus and his Mum, wine writer Dan Kislenko and his wife Deborah, and Will Predhomme (who won Best Sommelier in Ontario; he works at Canoe), we started the afternoon with a glass of Trius Brut Rosé (a lovely bubbly with a nose and taste of wild strawberries and melon, dry with fresh citrus acidity (89)). Heard that Craig McDonald has left Creekside to join Hillebrand as head winemaker to take over Darryl Brooker’s position (Brooker, voted "Winemaker of the Year" at this year’s Ontario Wine Awards is now at CedarCreek in the Okanagan). Then down into the cellars to taste from the tank and barrel. Hillebrand Artist Series Limited Edition Gewurztraminer 2009 (grassy, lychee nose; good varietal expression with a touch of barrel ferment to give more body and mouth-feel (88)).

Hillebrand Artist Series Limited Edition Pinot Gris 2009 (from the tank: peach pit nose; fresh, lively with a pear and peach flavour and a touch of spritz (87)).

From the barrel (too soon to review), Hillebrand Showcase Ghost Creek Chardonnay 2009, Hillebrand Showcase Oliveira Vineyard Chardonnay 2009, and Hillebrand Showcase Vidal Icewine 2009.

Upstairs to the tower overlooking the performance stage we tasted a series of wine already in bottle: Hillebrand Artist Series Muscat 2009 (mouth-filling, unctuous, fragrant orange blossom with a honeyed note but nicely balanced (88)).

Trius Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (the first they’ve made under the Trius label: very Sancerre in style, pale, almost water white with great concentration of flavour; grassy, gooseberry and green plum taste with mouth-watering acidity. Great value at $14.25 (89)).

Hillebrand Showcase Oliveira Chardonnay 2008 (medium straw colour; creamy nose of apple, orange and toast with a barnyard top note; full on the palate with toasty, spicy fruit, nicely balanced oak and great length (90)).

Trius Red 2008 (first time with a touch of Malbec in the blend of the three Bordeaux grapes: purple-ruby colour; cedar, redcurrant nose; medium-bodied, flavours of cranberry and pomegranate, firmly structured with ripe tannins (88)).

Hillebrand Showcase Merlot Carlton Vineyard 2007 (dense ruby colour; blueberry pie nose; ripe fruit, medium-bodied nicely integrated oak, an elegant, well structured wine (89+)).

Trius Red 2002 (ruby with a tawniness at the rim; cedar, vanilla, currents and a spicy-floral note on the nose; Bordeaux style with a touch of green pepper (Cabernet Franc) and a licorice, minty finish. Still a little tannic (87)).

Then we sat down to a 6-course meal prepared by Chef Frank Dodd and Pastry Chef David Berggren.

  • Peaches and cream corn soup, snow crab slaw and Abitibi caviar, served with Hillebrand Showcase Ghost Creek Riesling 2009 (pale straw colour with a lime tint; honey and grapefruit nose; sweet and sour flavour of honey and citrus fruits, light and elegant and very refreshing. A perfect match for the dish (89)).
  • Koskamp Farm fresh buffalo burrata pizza, Gomes Farm tomato, Berkshire prosciutto, Daniel’s watercress, Pristine Farm virgin soy bean oil, with Hillebrand Artist Series Limited Series Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (sulphur note on the nose; grassy, guava flavour with an oak note. Frankly I preferred the less costly stainless steel version (87)).
  • Icewine cured and smoked salmon balik, Cro Farm quail egg, asparagus, Niagara cucumber, Eweda Sheep’s milk croquette, with Hillebrand Artists Series Limited Edition Pinot Gris 2008 (straw colour; earthy peach nose; medium-bodied with a soft mouth-feel and white peach flavour (88)).
  • Spring Creek bison ribeye, Toscano cheese gnocchi, pea, corn and rapini, house-cured pastrami, trifle crunch mustard, served with Trius Grand Red 2007 (dense purple-ruby colour; vanilla oak, spicy blackcurrant and cedar on the nose; medium-bodied, fresh and lively red and blackcurrant flavours; quite racy acidity for the vintage, firmly structured with a little harness on the finish (89)).
  • Artisan Farm House and Canadian cheeses, served with Hillebrand Showcase "Clark Farm" Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (dense ruby colour; beautifully balanced currant flavour, fresh and lively on the palate, ripe tannins and very elegant. A delicious claret-style wine (90)).
  • Dessert: cherries and Cluizel chocolate, raspberries and bacon glass, apricot tatin and vanilla gelato, served with Hillebrand Showcase Vidal Icewine 2008 (old gold colour; honey and dried peach nose, intense, sweet, full on the palate, well balanced with acidity (91)).

Our main waiter Corey started serving the meal with a full beard and mustache, and between each course he shaved a little off until at dessert he was completely clean shaven. The guy’s a riot.




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