Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Report from … The Tawse Tasting in Downtown T.O. – May 3, 2010

The spot chosen was probably not the best place to hold a tasting, the Queen and Beaver pub in downtown Toronto was a little cramped for so many, people congregated at the bar without moving on and the kitchen smells wafted through the small space getting up your nose and skewing the wine smells in the process (were they cooking bacon or is it in the wine?).  Not sure the choice of this downtown bar was the best place to showcase these high-end Ontario wines (ranging in price from a $14.95 Rosé to a $58 Meritage).  With 15 wines on display I’ve picked out the top 3, with one that I think is bubbling under for a top spot.

The Top Three of the Tasting …

Tawse 2007 Van Bers Cabernet Franc ($47.95) – see full review here … my top wine of the evening is one you have to try. (*****)

Tawse 2007 Meritage ($57.95) – see full review here … a little bit of bottle inconsistency, but when the good bottle came out it was hard to deny this one a spot on this list. (****½)

Tawse 2009 Sketches of Niagara Riesling ($17.95) – see full review here … this one has whopping, mouth bracing acidity, great for summer sipping. (****½)

Make it Four …

Tawse 2008 Laidlaw Vineyard Pinot Noir ($39.95) – many in attendance talked about the drink-ability of the “Lauritzen” Pinot Noir, but I liked the Laidlaw version because of its ageability and future potential.  Cherry and other good red fruits, there was even some black cherry that showed up, mineral notes and good tannins with cellaring potential of 5+ years and very good mouth feel.  If I’m gonna pay 40+ dollars for a wine I wanna know I can pick my time to drink it, not the other way around. (****) 

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Report from - Dinner at Chanoso's in Windsor, All Canadian Wine Championships - Night 2 ... May 18, 2010

It's the second night of the All Canadian Wine Championships - the last night actually - and the farewell dinner.  Tonight we are at a trio of restaurants known locally as the 255 Downtown (on Ouellette Ave): Chanoso's / Oishii / Catering - for an Asian/Fusion dinner, complete with wines from around the world.

Let's start with the wines:  
I tasted about 6 wines tonight starting with my own donation to the cause a Juan Gill 2008 Wrongo Dongo from Spain - a juicy red and black fruit wine with big alcohol (15%), big fruit and white pepper - a spectacular pairing with the steak main course.  The Domaine Schlumberger 2007 Pinot Gris "Les Princes Abbes" from Alsace (France), a lovely apple fruited slightly sweet wine that paired well with the sushi.

Guillaume Turpin, a sommelier from Montreal, brought a stunning bottle of Jean Foillard 2007 Cote du Py Morgon, this is a beautifully concentrated piece of Gamay winemaking.  The vines are about 60+ years old, farmed organically, and has lovely cherry fruit with just a hint of white pepper - the wine is unfiltered so it's a bit cloudy but that takes nothing away from the beauty of the fruit in this wine, and adds to the longevity that it could be laid down for.  Guillaume admits it is a little expensive but well worth it once it gets into the glass.  Probably one of the best wines of the evening.

Not to be outdone another French wine turned some heads, the Foncalieu 2007 La Reserve du Crouzau St. Gervais from the Rhone.  Big juicy fruit, another big 15% alcohol wine with good tannins and chocolate liqueur and sweet licorice notes - on the palate there's black fruit and cracked pepper.
Not all wines can be winners and two really proved they were not up to the challenge of being tasted tonight, or any night. A Sandhill 2002 Barbera (Burrowing Owl Vineyard) was too simple with red fruit to be impressive.  The Bel Colle 2004 Nebbiolo d'Alba Bricco Reala was part of the 'dead leather office', with absolutely no fruit ... yuck.

Tonight's Food ...
We started with a tray of sushi ...

Then a plethora of avocado egg rolls and traditional spring rolls ... the spring rolls were a real hit with the unknown brown sauce ...

Then there was a choice of steak or pickerel - both locally sourced ...

Finally, dessert was another egg roll of sorts, a banana, walnut and chocolate egg roll.

Report from … Grandi Marchi Tasting Event – May 3, 2010

I’ve been to some tough tastings before, but this one …  Tough tastings are the ones where you have trouble picking out a few good wines to talk about – but this one was the other way around, there were so many good wines it’s hard to know where to begin.  I’m talking about wines from such famous, or is that infamous, Italian houses like Antinori, Michele Chiarlo, Biondi Santi, Donnafugata, Masi and a dozen more.  From drink now wines to ageable beasts that’ll take many years to soften, this was a very exciting, interesting and eye opening tasting … after my two hours in the room tasting and taking notes I can say with certainty that the Italians still got IT.

Table 1 – Antinori …
Each table had at least 2 wines, Antinori had 4.  One of the most interesting was Achelo Cortona Syrah 2007 ($19.00), black fruit and chocolate with a touch of tannins and spice (****½).  Another good wine here was the Santa Cristina Chianti Superiore 2008 (****)

Table 2 – Biondi Santi …
Another table of 4 wines and here the Villa Poggio Salvi Brunello di Montalcino 2005 ($25.00) took top billing with supple red fruit and spice, drinks nicely now with leathery spice, which surrounds that red fruit – the finish is also quite leathery and spicy.

Table 3 – Ca’del Bosco …
The Franciacorta Cuvee Annamaria Clementi 2002 ($109.00) – a six-year on lees Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc blend of beautiful bubbly – very toasty and tasty (****½).  Another good one at this table was the Maurizio Zanella 2003 (****)

Table 5 – Michele Chiarlo …
Two wines that were hard to pick between:  Nivole Moscato d’Asti ($11.95 / 375ml), which was fragrant and spicy with ginger ale and orange peel notes (****), and the La Court Nizza Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2006 ($44.00) – leathery, black cherry and baking spices. (****)

Table 6 – Donnafugata …
Ben Rye Passito di Pantelleria 2007 ($35.00 / 375ml) – beauty of a smooth, succulent sweetie with apricot, pears and honey; lovely palate with all the above mentioned and some sweet orange. (****½)

Table 7 – Ambrogio e Giovanni Folonari …
Campo al Mare 2007 ($32.00) – a blend of 70% Sangiovese and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, a nice peppery, spicy wine with good fruit and cocoa interwoven between the tannins and hints of leather. (****)

Table 8 – Jermann …
This all white table featured another two ‘wowies’ … Pinto Grigio 2008 ($29.00) – lovely white fruit with a touch of citrus, apple, pear and peach (****).  Dreams 2007 ($59.00) this wooded Chardonnay on the table had vanilla, butterscotch, butter on the nose and flavours of caramel apple on the palate. (****)

Table 9 – Alois Lageder …
Krafuss Pinot Noir 2006 ($45.00) – a blend of sour and red cherry with good acidity, a touch of earth and a long finish. (****)

Table 10 – Lungarotti …
Rubesco Vigna Monticchio Riserva 2004 ($42.00) – blackberry, pencil lead and wood tannins. (****)

Table 11 – Masi …
Campolongo di Torbe Amarone della Valpolicela Classico 2004 ($99.95)- a beautiful single vineyard Amarone with lovely plum, black cherry and chocolate on the nose, the palate shows spice with a juiciness of plum and the deliciousness of chocolate. (****½)

Table 12 – Mastroberardino …
One of the nicest rosé’s I have tasted: Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio Rosato 2008 ($17.00) – lovely cherry-raspberry on the nose; a berry bowl of red berry flavours, vibrant and juicy – not too sweet along with a dry finish – very refreshing. (****½)

Table 13 – Pio Cesare ...
Barbera d’Alba 2007 ($22.00) – soft and juicy with red berries and a touch of spice and red licorice, all with a delicious supple and lengthy finish. (****)

Table 14 – Rivera …
Volente Nero di Troia 2007 ($15.00) – great value here on a grape you’ve probably never heard of (Nero di Troia) and one I am slowly beginning to enjoy (having tasted a few lately) – this one has blackberry, cassis, wood, spice, and a juicy palate that has cinnamon and nutmeg as an added bonus. (****)

Table 16 – Tenuta San Guido …
The winery of Sassicaia fame brings us a wine that is well-priced and delicious: Le Difese 2008 ($25.00) – a 70% Cabernet, 30% Sangiovese blend; a lovely red fruit nose with spice and red fruit on the palate, there’s some ageability to this wine, say 5-7 years, but it also drinks well right now. (****½)

Table 17 –Umoni Ronchi …
Jorio Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2007 ($15.00) – a wine that came thru Vintages in November with little to no fanfare.  The palate is juicy with blackberry, black raspberry notes hints of vanilla and spice – a delicious 15-dollar bargain. (****½).  Currently in Vintages for $16.95, limited supply.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Report from ... Dinner at Mazaar in Windsor, All Canadian Wine Championships - May 17, 2010

It's night one of the All Canadian Wine Championships held in Windsor.  I can't tell you too much about the wines I tried today but I think Ontario will be very excited by the Sparkling wine awards.  My panel tasted through 185 wines this afternoon from Meritage blends to Chardonnays under $25, fruit wines and sweet wines ... palate fatigue finally took hold this evening at dinner.

Tonight's dinner was held at Mazaar, a Lebanese restaurant on Ouellette Avenue, just minutes away from the hotel we are staying at.  The wine flowed fairly freely but I have to admit that things tasted more tannic than they probably were.  The Italian Vinicola Rovera 2004 Cappellacio Aglianico Riserva was all leathery, spicy and bitter; the Cova dels Vins 2006 Ombra from Spain was blackberry, peppery and woody; while the Monte Antico 2006 red blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot had some red fruit smoothness, herbs and a bit of spice. The wine that most impressed was the Domaine Puig-Parahy 2007 Georges from the Cote du Roussillon (Rhone) in France.  This wine is a blend  Grenache, Syrah and Carignana with smells of violets, black fruit, nice spice and pepper notes, palate has much of the above and also supplies some pencil shavings, cinnamon, nutmeg and red fruit on the finish, and as it opened.  Of course the wine would be nothing without some food to go with it, and Mazaar sure gave us plate after plate of interesting and tasty foods ... now I have to admit I did not catch the name of half of the stuff that was layed down on the table so I had to consult the Mazaar webste:

We started with hummus and fresh pita - made in-house (no picture, too busy enjoying that) - then we were given a plate of CHEESE SAMBUSSIK (pictured above) which are pastry shells stuffed with a salty cheese.

Next up a plethora of seafood: shrimp and calamari (pictured above) ... then a Fattoush salad (fresh mix of greens, tomato, cucumber and deep fried pita bread chips in our signature fattoush dressing - not pictured) to clean the palate for the next course - which kept being promised as something special ...

... And it was.  Out came the CHEF’S PLATTER - tenderloin shish kabob, shish tawook, shish kafta and chicken breast shawarma served with traditional rice.  A carnivore's paradise.
Dessert ended up being frozen chocolate-walnut loaf with whipped cream ... decadent and delectable.  Sheila Swerling-Puritt, a fellow judge, had brought along a special dessert wine from Brazil: Reggio di Castela Moscato Giallo "Mistela" - a 17% alcohol sweetie that had the flavours of baked cinnamon apple and poached peaches and pears ... paired very well with the chocolate and the baklava (not pictured)


Report from … New Zealand Wine Fair 2010 – April 29, 2010

The New Zealand Wine Fair started with a Do-it-Yourself seminar featuring Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, broken down into wines from South and North Island to show the difference between the two areas.

South Island Chardonnay …
3 wines here, each from a different part of the island: Nelson, Marlborough and Central Otago – and each had a different flavour and mouthfeel.  The best of these three was the Waimea 2008 Chardonnay from Nelson ($19.99); nice creamy vanilla on the palate with a touch of apple and caramel, finishing off with good acidity.  A conversation with the winemaker later in the day enhanced my knowledge of the this wine and a re-taste confirmed that I really liked this one, a lot: 12-18 year old vines, 9 months in barrel with 10-15% new French oak – and only wild yeast used for fermentation.  Very nice. (****½)

Lower North Island Chardonnay …
A showing of two Chardonnays from Wairarapa/Martinborough and Hawke’s Bay … The Hawke soared highest here on my scorecard with the Crossroads 2008 Chardonnay Hawkes Bay ($19.95) – a very exciting wine with good fruit, sight vanilla and fresh clean acidity. (****½)

Upper North Island Chardonnay …
Another two (and the last two) Chardonnays, these from Gisborne and Auckland/Waiheke Island … my palate swung to the Coopers Creek 2008 Unoaked Chardonnay from Gisborne ($16.95) – this one had a pineapple-grapefruit mixture with a nice finish. (****)

North Island Pinot Noir …
This time the wines were broken down into three regions instead of a mixture of regions (see North Island Chardonnay): Hawke’s Bay, Wairarapa and Martinborough … some at the tasting cooed over the Martinborough offering but it did not thrill me as much as the two from Hawke’s Bay and Wairarapa.  Vidal Estate 2008 Pinot Noir Hawke’s Bay (no price given) was a fruit driven number with black cherry and a touch earthy, good mouthfeel, some lively acidity and a long finish. (****)  But the one that thrilled me the most was the Borthwick Vineyard 2008 Pinot Noir, Wairarapa ($34.95) – this one had a nice balance between earthy and fruity with blackberry and black cherry dominating the mid-palate with nice tannins on the finish. (****½)

South Island Pinot Noir …
Final flight had the most wines in it and the most regions represented:  Nelson, Marlborough, Waipara, Waitaki Valley and Central Otago … while their was more choice, there were also tougher choices to be made, but I narrowed it down to the ones from Waipara and Central Otago.  The Waipara was the Pegasus Bay Winery 2007 Pinot Noir ($47.95) – it wasn’t typical Pinot Noir, but that’s what I liked about it: sweet plumy fruit, lush strawberries, good acidity and a nice minerally-spicy finish (****½).  The other Pinot Noir that was impressive was the Felton Road 2008 Pinot Noir – Central Otago ($66.95) – this one delivered lots of strawberry and other red fruit, though it also had a nice mineral seam and good acidity – very tasty (****½).

New Zealand - some thoughts about the tasting …
New Zealand definitely doesn’t suffer from an identity crisis, they know exactly what does well for them, namely Sauvignon Blanc (their mainstay) and Pinot Noir – but what made them great also gives their tasting an element of sameness – you know you’re going to get a lot Savvy B. and Pinot; which is why the seminar took the focus off of the grassy, grapefruit of the Sauv for an hour and placed the white focus firmly onto the Chardonnay grape. 

But that’s not all the New Zealanders want you to focus on, they have too many stories to tell … the way the country acts as one is awe-inspiring, from their near universal use of screwcap to their commitment to sustainability by 2012 for all New Zealand wineries (they are already 75% there).  For any country that wants to get their wines onto the world stage, New Zealand should be their model for a unified front.

By the Numbers …
New Zealand is all about growth over the past 5 years:
In 2005 there were 516 wineries, in 2009 (the most recent numbers) there were 643.
Over the same period production area has increased from 21,002 hectares to 31,057 hectares.

As for grape varieties planted this should come as no surprise:  Sauvignon Blanc makes up 63% of plantings in New Zealand followed by Chardonnay (12%), Pinot Noir (10%) and Merlot (4%) … Riesling also factors in at 2%.  As for this day of tasting there’s no surprise here either, of the 50 wineries present, only 7 did not have a Sauvignon Blanc to pour and another 7 didn’t have a Pinot Noir at their table - it was one or the other, never both – unless you count Vinoptima, who had only Gewurztraminer at their table.

Another interesting number is the number of wineries from the Marlborough region, 37, which means only 13 had no Marlborough connection whatsoever.

The Wines: the best of the rest from the tasting …

Te Awa 2009 Left Field Chardonnay ($19.95) – lovely wine, this is an unoaked version of Chardonnay:  it gets 5 months of lees contact and spends time in stainless steel barrels. Good fruit, pear, a touch of peach and some really nice pineapple … tropical and delicious, and speaking of delicious, for a wine this good the price is great. (****½)

Spy Valley 2008 Gewurztraminer ($19.95) – this one has the Gewurzt character you’ll recognize with spicy and floral notes, very palate friendly. (****)
Envoy by Spy Valley 2007 Gewurztraminer ($31.95) – the reserve line of Spy Valley shows an intensity of fruit with a touch of sweetness and intense acidity on the finish. (****)

Pinot Gris:
Envoy by Spy Valley 2008 Pinot Gris ($29.00) – ripe delicious apple, touch of peach with a bit of that fruity sweetness that makes this one very enjoyable. (****)

Pinot Noirs:
Gibbston Highgate Estate 2008 Soultaker Pinot Noir ($36.95) – nice red fruited Pinot that hit all the bases … raspberry, cherry, strawberry along with some nice licorice tones – delicate and fruity with good acidity and fresh fruit.  This wine spends 11-14 months in a mix of new, 2-4 and 5-6 year old oak, approximately a third of the wine in each. (****½)
Hawkshead 2008 Pinot Noir ($38.00) – nice blackberry, cranberry and cinnamon with a touch of spiced plum, good acidity and nice tannins. (****)
Mud House Wines 2008/2009 Pinot Noir ($17.95) – same wine, two different vintages will make their way into the LCBO later this year – if the ’08 is what you get then enjoy it now; if you grab a bottle of the ’09, let it rest another 18 months before consuming (the wait will reward your palate) – both are very nice. (****)
Nautilus 2008 Pinot Noir ($37.00) – smooth red fruit across the tongue with a touch of vanilla and spice. (****)
Te Kairanga 2008 Martinborough Estate Pinot Noir ($25.50) – light cherry fruit, good acidity with a nice finish – fruity and delicious (****)
Villa Maria 207 Private Bin Pinot Noir ($19.95) – good red fruit, earth and spice – this one’s really friendly on the palate and just joined it’s Sauvignon Blanc pal on the LCBO’s general list. (****)
Waimea 2008 Pinot Noir ($19.95) – a 6 vineyard picking of grapes with an average of 12-15 year old vines picked at 1.5 tons per hectare.  Good black fruit and leather on the finish with good length and nice acidity on the finish.  Aged 2 years in French oak and all wild yeast fermented. (****)

Red Blends:
Craggy Range 2007 Sophia Merlot/Cabernet Franc ($66.95) – big fruit, smoky, vanilla notes with big tannins yet with a juicy core and big alcohol to boot (****)

Konrad 2009 Bench Selection Riesling ($22.50) – nice vibrant flavour, good balance between the acid and sweetness to produce a lovely mouthfeel.  Sweet start, dry finish and only 8.5% alcohol. (****)
Sandihurst 2007 Riesling ($25.10) – I wish I could tell you the person who turned me on to this Riesling had a lousy palate, but obviously not, very nice mix of fruit (lime and apple) with mineral, petrol and a peach pit dry finish. (****)

Sauvignon Blanc:
Matua Valley Estate Paretai Sauvignon Blanc ($24.95) – this one was beautiful, nice lemon, pineapple and tropical fruit with mineral, delicious apple and lime on the palate, lot of flavour – also with hints of asparagus instead of just straight on grassiness. (****½)
Mud House Wines 2009 Sauvignon Blanc ($15.95) – coming to the LCBO in the fall, if not sooner, this is a welcome addition to the general list, lots of grapefruit, tropical and grassy notes at a good price. (****)
Te Kairanga 2008 Sauvignon Blanc ($16.50) – coming to Vintages in June, just in time for summer sipping, fresh, clean with nice lemony nuances and fresh grapefruit. (****)
Villa Maria 2009 Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc ($15.95) – nice fruit: grapefruit and tropical nose with a lovely pineapple finish, excellent value, and the best Villa Maria I have tried in a few years. (****)

Sparkling Wines:

Hunter’s Miru Miru Sparkling ($23.95) – a blend of Chardonnay (58%), Pinot Noir (33%) and Pinot Meunier (9%), crisp yet fruity with yeasty appley notes (****)

Ngatarawa Wines 2009 Silks Syrah ($19.95) – blueberry, chocolate, spice, black raspberry, spiced-plum and white pepper, it’s all in here at an incredibly god price. (****½)
Te Awa 2007 Syrah (sold out) – spicy black fruit, nice acidity and ageworthiness, there’s even a slight hint of violets on the nose; a real tease of a wine that is now no longer available. (****)


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Report from … The Annual Austrian Wine Fair – April 28, 2010

Austrian wine is so easy to spot on a wine rack, it’s the one with the Austrian emblem right on the top of the bottle … imagine how easy it would be if all countries put a miniature version of their flag on the top of their bottles – Canada would have a maple leaf, USA would have the stars and stripes, France would have “les-tri-colours”, etc. -wine would be so easy to find. But I digress.  Today is the annual Austrian Wine Fair, held, as always, at the Rosehill Event Lounge in mid-town Toronto.

I hope no one takes offense at my next comment, but there’s a lot of sameness about the wines from Austria – but that’s not a bad thing.  When you walk in the door you know you’re going to get a lot of Gruner Veltliner and Riesling (whites) mixed with some Zweigelt and St. Laurent (reds); but mostly a lot of the whites, say 80% white to 20% red.  It’s a perfect tasting as we head into summer, for easy sipping and for light food pairings.  The only problem with so many Gruners and Rieslings is breaking out of the sameness that exists in the room – and some do, with interesting cellar work (barrel ageing, wild fermentation, etc); others by using unique varietals or combinations of varieties; while still others find interesting names for their wines that are appealing to the new world consumer.  One thing’s for sure in this room, there’s lots of acidity, and lots of cruising dentists (who will be looking forward to your next visit because they are there to drum up business, loss of enamel strength and all).

The tasting book handed out at the event describes 9 Austrian “wine style” categories … let’s see if I can’t show some good examples of each with quotes from the guide (sorry some of these wines will never make it to Canada so prices are only mentioned when and if available) …

#1 – Sparkling Wine – “… a tradition that goes back to the 19th century.”

Weingut Brundlmayer Sekt Brut – a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that was very crisp, dry, toasty and bready. (****)

Steininger – a house that showed quite a few bubblies in their line-up, all done in the traditional method:  2008 Sekt Gruner Veltliner – a sweet petrol note along with a bit of bruised apple (***½).  2008 Sekt Riesling – nice mineral note with lemon and delicious apple (****).  2007 Traminer Sekt – one to two years on the lees and in bottle, the result is a floral-spiciness that’s very pleasurable and welcoming on the tongue (****½).

#2 – White Wine – Light and Fresh – “… lively, vibrant, and fit perfectly to any season.”

Weingut Stadt Krems 2009 Lossterrassen Gruner Veltliner – green apple and peach with good citrus and tropical fruit; this one will see Vintages locations in July for a mere $13.95 … well worth it. (****)

Durnberg GmbH 2009 Blanc de Noir Select – made from Zweigelt is an almost peach juice coloured, the flavours are peach and pear oriented with a touch of spice on the finish. (***½).

#3 – White Wine – Classic & Dry – “… filled with freshness, fine acidity, great elegance and plenty of character.”

Laurenz V. 2007 Charming Gruner Veltliner – Laurenz makes three Gruners each with a very catchy name: Singing, Friendly and Charming; each year I seem to gravitate towards one over the others in the line, this year it’s the Charming because it is so very (for lack of a better term) ‘charming’ indeed.  Good lees contact creates a nice mouth feel with vanilla and a tropical tinge.  This will be released thru Vintages (in Ontario) at the end of the year, that way you’ll  be able to shovel your driveway and then deek into the house for a crisp cold glass of Gruner – or something like that … on the other hand why not just save it for next summer. (****)

Leopold 2009 Zechkumpan Gruner Veltliner – lots of grapefruit and lemon- and lime-ade with a very lovely and long finish. (****)

Loimer – two of my favourites here, not only is it good wine but the value is also very good, both wines are $17.95 and worth every penny.  Starting with the Loimer 2009 Gruner Veltliner (green label) – fresh and lively with good acidity and a nice mineral aspect on the palate (****); then there’s the Loimer 2009 Riesling (orange label) – another fresh and lively wine, this one has peach, pear and apple fruit followed by good acidity and a crisp, clean finish (****).

Nigl 2009 Senftenberger Piri Rheinriesling  - good mineral quality with limeade and apple notes. (****)

Huber 2009 Obere Steigen Gruner Veltliner – nice complexity with some prickly pear and nice tropical fruit, look for the pleasant finish to stick around a long time. (****)

Sattlerhof 2009 Steirische Klassik Sauvignon Blanc – a lovely fresh, fruity and tropical number with peach, lime and a very nice grapefruit cocktail finish – a delicious stainless steel savvy b from Southern Austria. (****)

Tement 2007 Zieregg Sauvignon Blanc – this one sees some barrel ageing and fermentation so there’s vanilla amongst the grassiness and tropical flavours – creamy on the palate, very interesting and very good. (****½)

#4 – White Wine – Powerful & Full Bodied – “… vinified dry with body and extract, opulence and concentration.”

I had no wines reviewed that fell into this category.

#5 – Rosé – Racy and Fruit-toned – “ … come from all over the country’s wine-growing areas and convey a wide range of expressions.”

Once again, I had nothing reviewed under this category.

#6 – Red Wine – Classic & Fruity – “… exude typically Austrian fruitiness … wines that reflect typicity of origin, elegance and pure drinking pleasure.”

Weingut 2006 Durrau Blaufrankisch – wild strawberries and cranberry with a nice hint of oak and spice. (****)

#7 – Red Wine – Compact & Concentrated – “… wines of complexity, depth and long ageing potential.”

Gernot und Heike Heinrich 2007 Alter Berg Blaufrankisch – this is a single vineyard offering that has spicy oak, blackberry, dried cassis and nice tannin structure. (****)

#8 – White Wine – Fruity Sweetness & Muscular Intensity – “… in the higher Spatlese and Auslese ranges  …”  There were plenty of good sweeties in this category.

#9 – Nobel Sweet Wines – “Characteristics of these sweet wine rarities are natural residuals of sweetness and high-concentrated acdity.”

Hans Tschida KG 2004 Schilfwein Zweigelt – strawberry smell, clean on the finish with a touch of spice and raspberry – one smooth, luscious sweetie. (****½)

Two numberless wines … these wines were extras that were not categorized by the catalogue:
Meinkleng 2008 Pinot Gris – pineapple core nose, lovely Mac apple fruit mixed with mineral and peach – clean ripe fruit finish.

Meinklong 2008 Pinot Noir – lovely sour cherry fruit, good acidity with an cranberry finish.

By the Numbers …
So, you’re probably wondering how many of each category was at the show?  Well I have broken it all down, 1 thru 9, there were also some wines with the number ‘0’ beside them (they defied description – see above):

Category 1 = 5 wines.
Category 2 = 14 wines
Category 3 = 69 wines
Category 4 = 35 wines
Category 5 = 0 wines
Category 6 = 21 wines
Category 7 = 8 wines
Category 8 = 2 wines
Category 9 = 11 wines
Category 0 = 9 wines

How about the breakdown of wine varieties?
63 Gruner Veltliner, which was the most dominant, followed by 28 Rieslings (for the whites), the reds broke down like so:  Zweigelt (13), Blaufrankisch (7) and St. Laurent (4).  It was nice to see a number of Sauvignon Blancs (6) to break up the barrage of Gruners and Rieslings.  Alright so it wasn’t that many, but it was still nice to see wines from that grape by a few producers.

Report from - Why Visit a Winery with The Grape Guy ... May 8, 2010

Woo-Hoo! It's my first YouTube video shot by Suresh Doss of Spotlight ... it's not very long which means according to Warhol I still have 14 minutes and 13 seconds of fame left to come; it was shot just before my "Why Visit a Winery: What the LCBO Isn't Selling You" seminar at the Salut Wine Festival in Toronto:

Monday, May 3, 2010

Report from ... At the Table with Martin Malivoire – April 27, 2010

Irony of ironies, I was invited to a wine party last Saturday, at a friend’s home, that featured Malivoire wines … now just three days later I’m sitting across the table from Martin Malivoire himself enjoying a glass (or 4) of his new wine offerings.  I’m started off with the 2008 White ($14.95) a Chardonnay dominated wine with splashes of Riesling and Gewurztraminer – it’s lively and fruity with a slight floral nuance … it’s an all occasion white sipper for the pool or patio that’s got an extra bit of oomph than your usual sweet summer sippers.

Next up, a flight of 3 Pinots, one of the grapes Malivoire is noted for.  The 2008 Niagara Escarpment Pinot ($24.95) is mushroom and sour cherry, pretty simple really, but still nice to sip on when served with a platter of cheese and charcuterie.  The next step along this vertical of Pinots is the 2008 Mottiar Vineyard ($34.95) – this one has more edge that the escarpment offering.  Finally, Martin pours the wine closest to his heart, the one named after his wife, 2007 Moira Vineyard Pinot Noir (May 15 - $49.95; afterward $59.95) – this one really has the power of 2007 with the finesse of a cooler vintage – very nice.

The tasting ends with a pouring of 2008 Courtney Gamay – but you already know my feelings on this one; if not you can read about the first time I tried it at last Saturday’s Malivoire in-home tasting.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Report from ... Bb33 Dinner with Wayne Gretzky Estate Winery – April 27, 2010

Tonight it’s another dinner at Bb33 at the Delta Chelsea Hotel in downtown Toronto.  In attendance is the International Wine and Food Society, who are holding their monthly dinner here; tonight, the wines are from Wayne Gretzky Estate Winery and they are being represented by their Australian-born winemaker Craig McDonald, who had quite a few bon mots this evening:

The Quotes …
On the difference between making wine in Australia and Canada:  “In Australia there’s a kind of sameness to the vintages so things can get mechanical, then I came to Canada and I had to throw everything I knew out the window.”

On the Aussie wine experience: “In Australia we wanted to take the fluff out of wine and make it a lifestyle beverage.”  It was a 20-year plan that they accomplished in 7.

While talking about his days at Penfolds Craig revealed the secret to making good wine:  “It takes a lot of beer to make wine.”  He said referring to coopers in Australia.

Insights into the various kinds of American oak: “Northern American oak [ie: Pennsylvania] is a better oak for wine then Southern American oak [ie: Kentucky] – think Bourbon in the south, wine in the North.”

On the planting of Shiraz in Ontario: “Many are pulling out Shiraz, I’m planting it; it’s all about where you plant it in Ontario” … he then revealed that the Shiraz for his wines is grown on the St. David’s Bench sub-appellation, near Niagara-on-the-Lake.  It’s 8 kilometers from the lake and therefore a warmer spot.

On the early days of the current Ontario growing season: “We are 18 days ahead according to the Vineland research station.”  Putting this into a perspective most people can relate to: “the cherry blossoms are 3 weeks ahead.”

Final comments to the assembled crowd about the Ontario wine industry:  “We’ve come a long way, but we have a long way to go.”

The Wines and the Food …
Four course, five wines – the food was expertly made by head chef Gino Guercio and his staff.

Reception wine was an Estate Series 2007 Sauvignon Blanc, in fact all the wines planned for this evening were from the 10,000 case Estate Series of wines – the second tier in the Gretzky line up (the winery currently produces 35,000 cases – a majority of which is their entry level wines).  The Sauvignon Blanc was crisp and fruit driven with lime and pineapple on the palate (***½)

First Course: (best stand alone food of the evening)
Pan Seared Dill and Sancho Pepper Dusted Yellow Fin Tuna with Petit Baby Green  & Seedling Bundle / Québec Maple Syrup and Soya Glaze … paired with the Estate Series 2007 Chardonnay which was 40% barrel fermented.  Buttery, vanilla with a decent amount of acidity, good finish or pineapple core and peach pit. (***½)

Second Course: (best pairing of food and wine – best stand alone wine)
Porcini & Herb Crusted Ontario Farm Raised Bison Tenderloin Portobello Mushroom, Truffle & Yukon Gold Potato Galette Apple Wood Smoked Bacon and Organic Baby Fennel Fricassee Toasted Coriander Seed Reduction paired with the Aussie inspired Estate Series 2007 Shiraz (66%) Cabernet (34%) - $23.95 … this is quite the mouth full, a beauty of a Shiraz blend.  22 months worth of oak treatment shows on the nose but the palate shows a restrain use of oak that the 22-month regimen would not suggest – nice fruit and even better spice.  (for a full review click the wine name above).

Third Course: (cheese lovers delight)
Québec Artisan Cheese Board with Crisp Flat Breads / Fruit and Honey Compotes paired with the Estate Series 2007 Cabernet Merlot – what a beautiful spread, and what wine doesn’t go with cheese.

Fourth Course: (“Canadian wine with an Aussie twist”)
Caramelized Mission Fig & Lemon Scented Ricotta Cheese Tart Lemon & French Vanilla Bean Scented Ricotta Cheese Filling House Made Maple and Cinnamon Ice Cream / Warm Port Wine Gastric – this delicious dessert was paired with Ontario’s first commercial Shiraz icewine; while Shiraz ice has been made before, Craig explained that he’s the first to make it in commercial quantity – I’m talking about the Estate 2006 Shiraz Icewine with its honeyed cherry and apricot nose and a touch of spice on the mid-palate along with honeyed strawberries and a medium-length finish; surprisingly this wine is not too sweet and cloying and has a nice balance.  It was something unique and not to everyone’s taste, as I found out by talking around the table and around the room – definitely not your typical Shiraz in any sense of the word. (***½)

Another fantastic dinner here at Bb33, I’m gonna miss the next one being held on May 17 because I will be in Windsor judging at the All Canadian Wine Championships – it’ll be tough to miss dinner but duty calls – hopefully I’ll catch up with chef Gino and the Bb33 staff next time.