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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 71 (January 23, 2006)

Monday, January 16: Another day spent going over galleys, writing captions. This evening I'm conducting a blind tasting for the Ontario Wine Society at the Ontario Club, pitting BC and Ontario Cabernet/Merlot blends against Bordeaux. (For a highly entertaining account of the evening from a participant, see This is a reprise of the tasting Larry Patterson put on in Ottawa and in his own basement last December. My role is to introduce the evening, let the 140 members and guests taste the wines and rank them and then give my notes. My best advice for blind tasting is to go with your first impression. Your gut instinct is probably right rather than second guessing yourself. Here are the wines:

    British Columbia
  • Mission Hill Family Estate Oculus 2001
  • Sumac Ridge Pinnacle 2001 Merlot 38% Cab Sauvignon 38% Cab Franc 21% Syrah 3%
  • Colio CEV Merlot Reserve 2002
  • Lakeview Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 1998
  • Southbrook Winery Triomphe 1999
  • Stoney Ridge Cellars Founder's Series Signature Collection Meritage 2002
  • Chateau Puyfromage 2003
  • Chateau Segonzac 2000
  • Chateau l'Hospital Veyret Latour
  • The ringer: from New Zealand, Newton Forrest Cornerstone 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Malbec Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay, a Trophy and Gold medal winner Air New Zealand Awards 2005

I ranked Newton Forrest first, followed by Mission Hill and then Colio. The Bordeaux did not show very well at all. The most claret-like were the Southbrook and the Lakeview. The Segonzac was so New World in style it could have been BC.

  • 1st - Newton, Forrest Vineyard Cornerstone, 2002, New Zealand ($42.75)
  • 2nd - Stoney Ridge Cellars, Signature Collection Meritage, 2002 Ontario ($34.95)
  • 3rd - Sumac Ridge, Pinnacle, 2001, BC ($50.00)
  • 4th - Colio Estates, CEV Merlot Reserve, 2002, Ontario ($24.95)
  • 5th - Southbrook Winery, Triomphe, 1999, Ontario ($39.95)
  • 6th - Mission Hill Family Estate, Oculus, 2001, BC ($50.00)
  • 7th - Chateau l'Hospital Veyret Latour, 2002, France ($27.95)
  • 8th - Chateau Segonzac, 2000, France ($32.95)
  • 9th - Lakeview Cellars, Cabernet Sauvignon, 1998, Ontario ($25.00)
  • 10th - Chateau Puyfromage, 2003 France ($13.65)

Tuesday, January 17: Worked on the Introductory chapters, cutting them to fit the design, updating information, etc. Tonight is a Tuesday Tasting with Tony at Grano (I seem to be living there). The theme is New Zealand and, thanks to Robert Ketchin, who represents NZ wines, I've got a great selection for tasting. Thirty-three people are booked but the weather is bad (freezing rain) so I don't know how many people will show.

Reception wine: Sherwood Stratum Riesling 2004, Waipara


  • Seifried Sauvignon Blanc 2004, Nelson
  • Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2004, Marlborough
  • Kim Crawford Pinot Gris 2004, Marlborough
  • Voss Chardonnay 2004, Marlborough
  • Hunter's Pinot Noir 2003, Martinborough
  • Babich Reserve Merlot 2002
  • Gimblett Road Vineyard, Hawkes Bay
  • Trinity Hill Syrah 2002, Hawkes Bay
  • Unison Syrah 2004, Hawkes Bay

It turned out that 33 people had booked and 34 turned up. The consensus was Unison was Nº 1, followed by Hunter's Pinot Noir and Wither Hills Sauvignon. I also enjoyed the Stratum Riesling.

Wednesday, January 18: A dull day, worked out as is my routine (Monday, Wednesday, Friday). Walked Pinot a few times. Wrote a letter for Random House that will accompany the BLAD. This was a term new to me – an acronym of Book Layout and Design – a ten-page pamphlet that publishers send around to give prospective buyers a flavour of the book. Seeing the pages come together in colour makes me excited again about the project that I have lived with for longer than I care to remember.

Thursday, January 19: Up early to drive down to St. Catharines to participate in the Cuvée tasting. It's an exercise for the Ontario winemakers to choose the wines (blind) that will be poured at Cuvée. An independent review panel, made up of Linda Bramble, Chris Waters, John Szabo, Bill Munnelly and me, under the leadership of Gary Pickering of Brock University, has to retaste the wines that the winemaker panels have rejected in case they really are up to standard and somehow got overlooked. Not much fun spending the day tasting flawed wines, but we did get a chance to sample those that were in the running for medals. Just as Bill and I were leaving the hotel in St. Catharines, Stephen Harper and his campaign bus pulled into the parking lot.

Friday, January 20: A tasting down at the LCBO of newly listed products (God, they're dull) and 20 wines from Vintages' February 4th release that were not put out two weeks ago. Then lunch at Bardi's Steak House with Tony Hirons, The Merchant Vintner and the managing director of Nepenthe, James Treadwell, whom Tony represents. (One of the wines I had tasted this morning – a Brouilly – has a back label that says they are represented by "The Merchant Winter.") On a trip to Australia about seven or eight years ago I went to a tasting put on by Nepenthe in Adelaide (the winery is in the Adelaide Hills). They are one of the few producers who make a Zinfandel and they were putting their wine blind against several California Zin producers as well as Cape Mentelle in Western Australia (which Tony Hirons also represents). Treadwell brought along a bottle of Nepenthe The Rogue 2003 – a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz, a good value wine for $17.95 with a minty, blackcurrant and vanilla nose, well extracted, well made, that will benefit from another year in bottle. Nepenthe Zinfandel 2002 ($27.95) is a stunning wine with spicy blackberry and blackcurrant flavours, sweet fruitcake flavour with a floral grace note, lovely mouth-feel – just a delight. Went beautifully with the New York Striploin, Pittsburgh style. There are a few bottles left in the system apparently, so I'll have to track some down. Dinner, Chinese dumplings, spinach, spaghetti squash with a bottle of Chateau St. Jean Chardonnay Robert Young Vineyard 1999.




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