A Wine Lover's Diary, part 6 (October 25, 2004)
Monday, October 18: Dentist at 9:30 am.
My dentist makes grape juice, for God's sake. He has me at a real disadvantage
with my mouth filled with equipment while he goes on about grape juice.
I had an Italian barber in Spadina Village a few years ago who made his
own wine and brought it into the shop around Christmas. He wanted me to
critique it. I'm under the sheet and he's armed with scissors. What am
I going to say?
One of those messy days spent making phone calls, answering emails and
queries from the site. There was a portfolio tasting of Halpern wines
at the Drake Hotel for the trade at 1 pm. Would have liked to have
attended (Halpern brings in some stunning wines) and I haven't seen the
Drake Hotel yet but the piece on Recline Ridge (Canada's most northerly
winery in British Columbia) I emailed to the Wine Spectator arrived
with some weird formatting which I couldn't get rid of. I had to type
the 1500 words over again which killed most of my afternoon. Then settled
down to write some Christmas drink recipes for a Granite Club tasting
Tuesday, October 19: A tasting of Chilean
wines at Crush restaurant in the basement. They're preparing to shoot
a movie upstairs. I spoke to a gaffer in the toilet and asked him what
the movie was. He didn't know. Who's starring? He didn't know that either.
He just puts up scaffolding, he says, and then leaves. I thought everyone
on the movie business was crazy about the industry.
The Chilean tasting followed a pattern that the Californians started
here a blind tasting of several flights of wine served by varietal.
The first flight was Sauvignon Blanc and the first wine was mildly corked.
Not an auspicious start. But it got better. I liked the J. Bouchon Sauvignon
2004, which sells for $8.85, and the Santa Rita Reserva 2004 ($12.45).
The Errazuriz 2003, usually my favourite Chilean Sauvignon on the general
list, was a little off. Could have been cork taint. (After each flight
they gave us a list of wines we had just tasted. I like that. No preconceptions
about the wine you're tasting.)
The three Chardonnays that followed the Sauvignons were lacklustre. It's
almost as if the Chileans are losing interest in making Chardonnay.
Flight three was a mix of reds the best were Carmen Reserve Merlot
2001, a beautifully made wine at its peak now, deeply coloured, vanilla
and blackcurrant nose, lovely pure fruit flavours, great balanced
you won't find a better wine for $17.95 in the New World, or the old one
for that matter and (a name new to me) Ventisquero Yali Carmenere
Reserva 2002 (not yet in our market, projected price $11.95). Deep purple
in colour, it had a smoky, eucalyptus nose that suggests Maipo Valley
to me; sweet blackcurrant fruit, firm structure and well balanced.
Flight 4: Cabernet Sauvignon, the most successful flight in terms of
overall quality. My top wines Perez Cruz Reserva 2003 (very elegant, floral,
blackcurrant flavours, $13.95) and J. Bouchon Reserva 2002 (again that
eucalyptus cassis nose, very fresh and lively fruit, a steal at $9.90).
The final flight was more Cabs. The first one in the flight turned out
to be Concha Y Toro Marques de Casa Concha 2002, another terrific wine
for the price ($17.95 in Vintages), wonderfully balanced fruit and oak,
very succulent. But the wine of the tasting was the last of the flight,
which was head and shoulders above everything else. And so it should be:
the 2001 Sena, a product of Caliterra and their erstwhile partner Robert
Mondavi. What a graceful wine with rich blackcurrant flavours and a velvety
mouth feel. No price given, but I think it was $60 a bottle. As parting
gift we were offered a taste of that other ultra-premium Chilean Cabernet
Alma Viva, a co-production between Concha y Toro and Mouton-Rothschild.
I didn't see the vintage, but it was much tighter structured and my notes
say "Bordeaux-style" before I learned what it was. Needs time.
But then don't we all.
My new laptop arrived. Yeah.
Wednesday, October 20: Trying to get
in the habit of getting up before 7 am, three times a week, run to
the gym (six minutes jog), work out for 45 minutes and jog back for breakfast.
As with this diary, it's a discipline I'm trying to impose on myself.
Maybe I was a cloistered monk in another life. If I was, I probably a
Cistercian, since they had the best track record with vineyards. Spent
the morning making up quiz questions for the site before rushing off to
two meetings down town. Lunch at Hy's Steak house with the insurance company
rep who sold me liability insurance for the wine tastings I conduct.
In the evening I went to the Granite Club for "Spanish flight night,"
an interesting concept. The dining room offers four Spanish wines by the
glass to complement a Spanish menu. My role is to explain the wines to
the diners at their table. Felipe Gonzales of Gonzales Byass was there
with his sherry products and his venenciador, who showed the members how
he can pour sherry from the cask into a glass from a great height without
spilling a drop.
Thursday, October 21: Wrote my monthly
commentary for Tidings magazine on the subject of Reserve wines
(a baffling term that needs some legal definition because it's used nowadays
in the New World as a marketing tool.) Also wrote 15 wine reviews for
the magazine. In the evening I conducted a tasting of four wines at an
office opening party. The caterers Stuart + Saladino provided the finger
food, which was matched to the wines. The microphone kept howling back,
which made it really difficult, but the guests seemed to enjoy themselves
since there was sufficient wine. We started off with Seaview Brut from
Australia, the best bargain in sparkling wines at the LCBO. If you want
to marry off a daughter cheaply, that's the wine for you. The following
- Cave Spring Riesling Reserve 2003 (Ontario)
- Cape Mentelle Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2003 (Western Australia)
- Chateau St. Jean Pinot Noir 2002 (Sonoma)
- Robert Pecota Syrah 2000 (Napa Valley)
The wines showed very well and they were distinctively different enough
that they could be identified blind.
Friday, October 22: The tasting for the
second half of Vintages' November release. The room where we taste looks
like a lab all white and stark with table tops running along three
walls and an island in the middle supporting two rinse basins. The glasses
(ISO) are hung from two levels of racks around two walls. The bottles
are placed in a line along the walls, usually about 7080, and there
are metals spittoons that look like cocktail shakers in a cupboard. The
first wine I saw on entering was a bottle of Krug champagne. "What
a great way to start the morning with a glass of Krug!" I
exclaimed. My fellow wine writers jeered at me because I had missed the
sight of several tiny pink tin cans standing beside the Krug bottle. These
were 4-packs of Sofia Mini Blanc de Blancs, a sparkling wine produced
by Neibaum Coppola in California. The cans, with their straws on the side,
were named for Sofia Coppola, the Oscar-winning director of Lost In
Translation. This product should have been lost in transportation.
Stick to movies, girl. November's release features Ontario Icewines, eleven
of which were here for us to taste. I find Icewine is terribly tiring
to taste (sorry for the alliteration but there's no other way to put it.)
In the evening, Deborah accompanied me to a tasting of Austrian red wines
at YYZ wine bar and restaurant on Adelaide St. just east of Spadina. Started
off with two whites that are listed at the LCBO, Servus (a Gruner Vetliner/Riesling/Pinot
Blanc blend, $8.80) and Winzer Krems Gruner Veltliner, $10.45. (The latter
is a very interesting food wine with its fresh lemon peel and white pepper
nose, light pear flavour and fresh acidity). There followed 14 reds in
four flights, the first based on Zweigelt (a crossing of Sankt Laurent
and Blaufrankisch), all from Burgenland. These were fruity and Beaujolais-like.
Then three Sankt Laurent, a grape with more character, and a Pinot Noir
imported by the Opimian Society (somewhat cooked). Next came three Blaufrankisch
(aka Lemberger). The Rotweingut Iby Chevalier 2002 was my choice
all ripe black cherry and fleshy. The final flight consisted of 3 blended
wines based on Zweigelt, Sankt Laurent and Cabernet Sauvignon, the most
interesting and the most expensive wines of the evening running to $6065
a bottle. I liked the Weingut Feiler-Artinger Solitaire 2002, which reminded
me of claret. The meal that followed was terrific. Don't miss YYZ.
Over dinner, Michael Thurner, managing director of the Austrian Wine
marketing board, told me about a tasting that Jancis Robinson had put
together in London: a blind tasting of three flights of Riesling from
around the world at different stages of development.
Here are the results of the 14-member panel, marking out of 20 points
and averaged. Austria, as you'll see, did exceedingly well.
Riesling Tasting, held at Groucho Club, London; 11th October 2004
Results by Vintages
Flight 13 (Vintage 2001-2003):
- Gimmeldinger Mandelgarten Spätlese trocken 2002; Christmann,
Pfalz, Germany 17.64
- Loibner Vision 2002, Smaragd, Högl, Wachau, Austria 17.39
- Riesling Vinothekfüllung 2002 Smaragd; Knoll, Wachau, Austria
- Zöbinger Heiligenstein 2002; Hiedler, Kamptal, Austria 17.29
- Weissenkirchner Achleiten 2001; Smaragd; Prager, Wachau, Austria 17.25
- Monzinger Halenberg Auslese trocken 2001; Emrich-Schönleber,
Nahe, Germany 17.18
- Rüdesheimer Berg Schlossberg 2002, Johannes Leitz, Rheingau,
- Weissenkirchner Achleiten 2001; Smaragd, Rudi Pichler, Wachau, Austria
- Riesling Nussberg 2002; Wieninger, Wien, Austria 17.04
- Riesling, Zöbinger Heiligenstein, Lyra 2002; Bründlmayer,
Kamptal, Austria 17.00
- Isolation Ridge 2003; Frankland Estate, Western Australia, Australia
- Brand 2001; Zind-Humbrecht, Alsace, France 16.96
- Niederhäuser Herrmannshöhle Spätlese 2002; H. Dönnhoff,
Nahe, Germany 16.93
- Riesling Privat 2002; Nigl, Kremstal, Austria 16.89
- Riesling Unendlich 2002; F.X. Pichler, Wachau, Austria 16.75
- Reserve 2003; Crawford River, Victoria, Australia 16.61
- Jesuitengarten Spätlese trocken 2002; Wolf, Pfalz, Germany 16.54
- Hochheimer Hölle Auslese trocken 2002; Franz Künstler, Rheingau,
Flight 45 (Vintage 1995-1997):
- Rüdesheimer Berg Schlossberg 1997; Georg Breuer, Rheingau, Germany
- Riesling Kellerberg 1995, Smargad, F.X. Pichler, Wachau, Austria 17.64
- Zöbinger Heiligenstein, Alte Reben 1997; Bründlmayer, Kamptal,
- Riesling Loibenberg 1997, Smaragd; Alzinger, Wachau, Austria 17.11
- Schlossberg Grand Cru Cuvée Ste. Catherine 1997; Weinbach-Faller,
Alsace, France 17.00
- Polish Hill 1997; Grosset, Clare Valley, Southern Australia 16.61
- Cuvée Frederic Emile 1997; Trimbach, Alsace, France 16.61
- Spitzer Singerriedel 1997, Smaragd; Hirtzberger, Wachau, Austria 16.46
- Rangen de Thann 1997; Zind Humbrecht, Alsace, France 16.46
- Riesling Gaisberg, Alte Reben 1997; Schloss Gobelsburg, Kamptal, Austria
- Riesling "Hugel" 1997; Hommage a Jean Hugel, Hugel, Alsace,
- Riesling, Von den Terassen 1997, Mittelbach, Dürnstein, Wachau,
Flight 6 (Vintage 1989-1991):
- Riesling Weissenkirchner Achleiten 1990, Smaragd; Prager/Bodenstein,
Wachau, Austria 18.71
- Clos Ste Hune 1990; Trimbach, Alsace, France 17.86
- Riesling, Loibenberg 1990, Smaragd, Knoll, Wachau, Austria 17.36
- Auslese trocken 1990; Gunderloch, Rhein-Hessen, Germany 17.25
- Riesling Vinothek 1990, Smaragd; Nikolaihof, Wachau, Austria 16.79
- Kallstadter Saumagen Spätlese trocken "R" 1990; Koehler-Rupprecht,
Pfalz, Germany 16.68