A Wine Lover's Diary, part 307 (September 7, 2010)
Monday, August 30: Recorded 8 wines reviews for 680 News (a month's worth) since I shall be travelling to Greece in September. Lunch with my friend Joe Canavan at The Boulevard Club. We sat on the terrace looking out on the moored yachts and Lake Ontario. I told Joe the story of walking Pinot in the pitch darkness at a cottage and falling into a swimming pool, ruining my cell phone. He told me I should have immediately put it into a bowl of rice to dry it out. Too late.
For dinner with pork loin, a bottle of Kir-Yanni Ramnista 2007, an elegant and beautifully made Xinomavro by Yiannis Boutaris in Naoussa. Whenever I tell people about going to Greece they immediately bring up Retsina. That's the problem with Greek wines – a perception that they only make Retsina (which is an anagram of "nastier"). There are some terrific wines coming out of Greece these days, both white and red.
Tuesday, August 31: A brutally hot day. Today Wendy Gamble of Notch Creations and I took a group of thirty staff members of Tourism Toronto on a "fam" trip to Niagara. Half of the group flew Cameron Air from the Island Airport to NOTL/St. Catharines Airport, and the other half (including me) took a Global Alliance bus. We all linked at Flat Rock Cellars for a tasting of:
- Flat Rock Twisted 2008
- Flat Rock Unplugged Chardonnay 2008
- Flat Rock Gewurztraminer 2008
- Flat Rock Riesling 2008
On the tasting room tables were beakers of the three wines that are blended into Twisted – Riesling, Gewurz and Chardonnay. The participants had to create their own blend as near as they could to the finished product they had tasted. Then on for a tour of Malivoire, where Martin Malivoire and winemaker Shiraz Mottiar conducted an outdoor tasting of Moira Vineyard Chardonnay and Pinot Noir:
- Malivoire Moira Vineyard Chardonnay 2009
- Malivoire Moira Vineyard Chardonnay 2007
- Malivoire Moira Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009
- Malivoire Moira Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009
A boxed lunch on the bus prepared by Presidential Gourmet. Next stop: Southbrook Winery, where Bill Redelmeier and his wife Marilyn and winemaker Ann Sperling greeted us with a glass of Southbrook Fresh 2009, one of the best Vidals I've had in Toronto. Unfortunately now sold out. Bill had to buy a few bottles back from the LCBO that morning. Here we tasted:
- Southbrook Whimsy Chardonnay 2008
- Southbrook Whimsy Cabernet Franc 2007
- Southbrook Cabernet Sauvignon Lot 19 2007
Down the road to Stratus, where we were given a tour of the winery and then seated in the Vineyard Tasting Room, where I conducted a tasting of three vintages of the winery's blended red and white wines.
- Stratus Red 2007
- Stratus Red 2006
- Stratus Red 2005
- Stratus White 2007
- Stratus White 2006
- Stratus White 2005
These are impressive wines. Over to Jackson-Triggs next door for a glass of Jackson-Triggs Proprietors' Grand Reserve Methode Classique sparkling wine before touring the facility. At each point there is a glass of wine to taste. In the Atrium surrounded by stainless steel tanks we tasted Jackson-Triggs Silver Series Sauvignon Blanc 2009 with oysters. In the Tasting Gallery overlooking the vineyard, Jackson-Triggs Delaine Vineyard Chardonnay 2007 with a seared scallop; down to the barrel cellar for Jackson-Triggs Delaine Vineyard Syrah 2007 with a slice of flank steak (delicious – a great match); and finally to the Estate Lounge for a Jackson-Triggs Gewurztraminer Icewine. Our last stop was Inniskillin. When we stepped off the bus we were handed a glass of Inniskillin Sparkling Icewine. Then we tasted:
- Inniskillin Winemaker's Series Pinot Gris 2009
- Inniskillin Winemaker's Series Chardonnay 2009
Then we settled in the tasting area outside the Riedel Room for a tasting of Inniskillin Vidal Icewine 2009 from an ISO glass and the Riedel Icewine glass specially designed for Inniskillin. Finally a cooking demonstration of filleted quail by the estate winery chef David Penny. Then the group split up again for the flight and the bus drive back to Toronto. A long but inspiring day.
Wednesday, September 1: Went to the Platinum Lounge at the Air Canada Centre specifically to taste L'Essence de Couvoisier, a cognac that will sell for $3,200. Now, you don't just open a cognac like that – you have to lead up to it by having the assembled wine press and sommeliers taste through the Courvoisier range, beginning with a couple of Courvoisier-based cocktails. Pierre Szersnovicz, Courvoisier's Global Brand Ambassador, took us through Courvosier VS, VSOP, Exclusif (a VSOP blended for making cocktails) and XO. (I had difficulty pronouncing Peter's name even before I had sampled two cocktails and five cognacs before lunch.)
L'Essence de Couvoisier comes in a sexy black box with a mirrored-back interior and battery-operated Paris lights. Szersnovicz put on a pair of white gloves like a magician before handling the Baccarat crystal decanter. The tear-drop-shaped decanter
(700 mL) is suspended in a metallic gold frame. The cut crystal stopper is engraved with a Napoleonic symbol ("N" mounted by the imperial crown), which apparently is the same design on the rings the Emperor gave to his favoured generals. The cognac is a blend "of over 100 rare 'eau de vie' from Grande Champagne and the Borderies." Fifty bottles have been made available for Canada, 15 allocated to Ontario. The two-ounce measure that I consumed must have cost $921. Is it good? Yes. Is it worth $3,200? Is anything that passes through your kidneys worth that?
In the afternoon I interviewed Moray Tawse by phone for an article in Wine Access magazine. In the evening, drove down to High Park to pick up wines that my wine writer colleague Dean Tudor has donated for the October 7th Grapes for Humanity wine auction. For dinner with lamb chops, Black Hills Estate Carmenere 2008. This is a lovely wine that is more in the style of a Syrah from the Northern Rhône than a Chilean Carmenere.
Thursday, September 2: Spent the day writing the piece on Tawse winery. For dinner, BBQ hamburgers, Château des Charmes Generation Seven Red 2009, a light blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot "and a hint of Gamay." A fruity, easy-drinking red in Beaujolais style. Perfect for burgers.
Friday, September 3: A Wine Writers Circle meeting to discuss code of ethics and other constitutional matters, followed by a tasting of wines Southbrook's winemaker Ann Sperling has made at her family farm in Kelowna, BC. The Sperling family has farmed the same land since the 1880s (on the other side of Lake Okanagan from Quails' Gate). Grapes had been planted since the 1960 and Ann brought along raisins made from Himrod vines. She showed us Sperling Vineyards Old Vines Riesling 2008, Sperling Vineyards The Market White 2009 (Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer and Riesling), Sperling Vineyards Pinot Gris 2009, Sperling Vineyards Gewurztraminer 2009 and Sperling Vineyards Marechal Foch 2008. Like the tart Rheingau-style Riesling very much. These are well-made wines, though in very limited quantities.
Lunch at One Restaurant with Doug Birrell of Canadian Niagara Hotels. Caught in a downpour. Soaked shoes. Had to surrender my jacket. At an adjacent
table Donald Ziraldo was entertaining the Hong Kong agents for his new Icewine, called Ziraldo.
Began writing my Tidings monthly commentary on corkscrews and the number I have had confiscated at Toronto airport. For dinner, with Epoisses and old Cheddar, a bottle of Oyster Bay Merlot 2009. They're doing a good job with this bargain-priced brand.