Monday, July 26, 2010

Report from … 2nd Annual Pine Island ‘Scotch on the Rock’ Tasting – July 25, 2010

The day after the Pine Island tasting is now deemed Scotch tasting day. My cousin Jim, who does enjoy his wine, also enjoys Scotch; his buddy Roger, who also enjoys a good glass of wine (or two) is also a Scotch drinker … last year in response to two happenings they decided it was time to get a Scotch tasting together: 1) they both really enjoy Scotch and 2) I don’t and they were determine to turn that around.

Last year, Jim assembled 8 Scotches, which we tried and ranked – I was not a fan of any. This year he assembled 10, mostly single malt (though he does throw in a few ringers just to see how they stack up) and once again we sat around and talked about them, ranking as we went. This year I found three that were of interest, or, with a little water or an ice cube or two I could actually settle into a chair at the end of the night and enjoy instead of gagging and wishing I were somewhere else. Below a listing of the 10 “Scotches” – in the order we tasted them – from this year’s “Scotch on the Rock” (as it has now been christened) tasting and my notes on each. Remember that I am not a Scotch drinker, nor would I say I am a Scotch taster - I’m in this to learn and have fun:

1. Oban 14 year old – aggressive

2. Dalwhinnie 15 year old – smoother with a sweeter nose than the Oban

3. Glenkinchie 12 year old – sweet palate with a complex nose

4. Islay Mist 8 year old (blended) – smoky and peaty with a nasty aftertaste; I learned last year that I am not of fan of this kind of Scotch

5. Bushmills 10 year old (Irish Whiskey) – smooth, creamy mouthfeel with a sweet vanilla finish

6. Speyside 12 year old – a cross between the Dalwhinnie and Glenkinchie, smooth with a bite on the finish

7. Glen Breton Rare 10 year old (Canadian) – this is “North America’s only single malt whiskey” and it’s located in Cape Breton, I found it to be aggressive, harsh and characterless

8. Glenmorangie Single Highland 10 year old – this one said it is “bottled straight from the wood” and has an alcohol of 57.2%: the nose is butterscotch, orange peel and caramel; the taste is like a slow burning fire in your mouth, smooth on entry then it builds to a crescendo of a burning finish which is long and interesting

9. GlenDronach 12 year old – smooth right thru to the harsh bite at the end, leaves the mouth feeling violated, not a fan

10. The GlenLivet 18 year old – smooth, a touch creamy with just a hint of bite at the end

My top three …

After much discussion the boys and I ranked the bottles in order of preference – my top 5 were the same as their’s (which is nice to know that a novice, like myself, could pick out a good Scotch with some veterans); rounding out the top five were the GlenLivet and the Dalwhinnie, but the top three in my book looked like this:

Most Interesting (and the one I would most like to revisit):
Glenmorangie Single Highland 10 Year Old

Easiest to Drink:
Bushmills 10 Year Old (Irish Whiskey)

Tasty and Noteworthy:
Glenkinchie 12 Year Old

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Report from ... The 3rd Annual Pine Island Tasting - July 24, 2010

The annual Pine Island tasting centered around Italian wine this year.  I have cousins that own an island on Lake Nippissing and every year I come up to host a tasting.  Our first, held three years ago, was Ontario, followed by California last year and now it was time to go a little old world with Italian wines.  A record number of attendees (18) showed up for this years food and wine extravaganza, to taste 9 wines and my cousin Rhonda’s fabulous cooking (which includes Jim’s BBQing) and a host of desserts brought by those in attendance.  The two wines most enjoyed by those assembled were the Farnese 2008 Negroamaro and the Zonin 2007 Valpolicella Ripasso.  The Negroamaro is suppose to be “black and bitter” according to its name, but this one has all kinds of ripe and luscious fruit, a big hit for this crowd.  I also poured two Ripassos, the original Masi 2007 Campofiorin and the Zonin 2007 Ripasso – the Masi shows it rustic, yet elegant, side that will see it age for a decade or more; the Zonin is more new world in style with its delicious chocolate, blackberry, plum and vanilla, the acidity is toned down so that its drink-now factor is double that of the Masi, but with toned down age-ability, this one should drink comfortably over the next 5 years.

With the tasting over antipasto and dinner was then served.  I found a couple of Aussie wine fans in the crowd and opened for them a bottle of Mitolo 2008 Jester Cabernet Sauvignon, a jammy, black fruit number with lots of alcohol (14.5%) – a quintessential Aussie Cab.  I also crack the cap on a Nepenthe 2004 Tryst, a blend of “Cabernet / Tempranillo / Zinfandel”, this wine was still nicely fruited and smooth, especially taking into account that it was 6 years old; the last bottle of this I had was tired, but this was robust and vibrant, lively even.

An annual attendee, Roger, who last year brought a vintage port, decided to raid his cellar for a 1971 Langenbach & Co. Wormser Liefrauenshift Kirchenstuck Riesling Auslese Eiswein (I took this right from the bottle).  Imagine if you will honeyed-rotten-fruit, you could see where this wine once was but it wasn’t there anymore.  Interesting to experience, not very pleasurable to drink – past its prime, so to speak.  Roger redeemed himself by also bringing a bottle of Messias 10 Year Old Tawny and some Stilton Cheese - that went over well with both Port and cheese lovers.

Next year the vote is for New Zealand and Australia … lamb and shrimp will be schedule to hit the hot side of the bar-be and who knows who’s wine will make an appearance; but you’d better believe that someone will bring something of interest, a wine will win the hearts of the crowd and the food will be excellent.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Report from ... Hillebrand 21st Anniversary Jazz Festvial – July 10, 2010

Attention Hillebrand Shoppers ... at this year’s Jazz Festival (their 21st) Hillebrand had some exciting news to tell.  As you may, or may not, know, 5-year winemaker Darryl Brooker has headed off for the desert of British Columbia; so Hillebrand was left looking for a winemaker to fill some pretty big shoes.  Today it was officially announced that the multi-award winning winemaker Crag McDonald, long time winemaker for Creekside, would be filling those shoes.  In this season of free-agent signings (a reference for all you hockey and basketball fans) this is a coup – it’s like trading one franchise player for another.  Craig takes over the role in late July.  Now on with the rest of the show …

Who Was Playing …
This year’s Hillebrand Jazz Festival had quite the line-up: the performers, the food and the wine were all top notch – a real trifecta for a great afternoon.  On the bill this year were: the Jake Wilkinson Quintet, the Richard Underhill Quintet, Denzal Sinclaire and Emilie-Claire Barlow – if you’re a jazz fan, like my mother is (she accompanied me this year) then these names mean something to you.  If you’re a casual music fan, these names would have meant nothing, but fans and casual listeners were treated to a fantastic afternoon of music that everyone could enjoy.  Hillebrand always seems to amass a great line-up for this event.

The Wines …

Before, and during, the performance, there was a free flowing of recently released, soon-to-be released and even some barrel and tank sampling of wines.  From tank we tried some Artist Series Limited Edition Gewurztraminer and Pinot Gris, both from the ’09 vintage; and from barrel we got a taste of 2 single barrel Showcase Chardonnays that were in the works.  A barrel-aged icewine finished off our tour of the subterranean level.

Up top, in the winemaker’s tower, the award winning Trius Rosé Brut started us off, then an array of white and red wines were poured.  First, there were six pre-lunch wines and then six more with the meal.  My top three selections were the following:

Previously Reviewed Wines Also Poured and Not to be Forgotten ...
the 2007 Showcase Cabernet Sauvignon – Clark Farm … previously reviewed and drinking beautifully; and the new Trius 2009 Sauvignon Blanc ... also previously reviewed and a real summer time treat.

The Menu …

Chef Frank Dodd outdid himself again this year, coming up with a menu of delicious local and seasonal ingredients – and I have the pictures to prove it:

Once again another fabulous day of wine, food and song … and that’s the politically correct trifecta these days – the other way is chauvinistic – although we did have a fine Woman of Song in Emilie-Claire.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Report from ... Huff’s 6 Barrels for 6 Chefs – July 8, 2010

“We read your blog today about the 2007 event to find out what to wear,” the man in the long khaki pants told me, the woman with him, in a black knee-length dress, nodded in agreement.

“Had I known it was gonna be this hot I would have told you as little as possible,” I responded.  It was a hot evening here in the County, where Huff Estates Winery welcomed 6 chefs to pair food with 6 barrels of new unfinished wine.  For the record, I was dressed in shorts, a golf shirt and sandals.

“We’ve gone from one extreme to another,” said owner Lanny Huff, referring back to last year’s torrential downpour, “but it adds a different dynamic every year.” 

This is the fourth year that Huff has hosted this fabulous In-the-Vineyard walk around dining event for wine and food lovers.  The concept is simple:  Huff invites 6 chefs from different parts of Ontario to match a dish with 6 unfinished, still in barrel, County wines – 3 Chardonnays (Huff) and 3 Pinot Noirs (Norman Hardie).  It’s an informal walk through the vineyard dine and drink event.  Followed by dessert and coffee back on the winery patio.  This year’s dessert was supplied by The Bloomfield Carriage House Restaurant (Gooseberry Turnover with Elderflower Cream along with Fifth Town Cheese (who brought three varieties along) and all were paired with Huff’s 2007 First Frost ‘dessert’ wine.  What a decadent night, and all without having to put on a tie and dress pants.

The chefs in attendance this year were Michael Potter (Picton), Ryan Crawford (Niagara), Steve Mitton (Ottawa), Chris McDonald (Toronto), Bryan Steele (Strafford) and Hiro Yoshida (Toronto).  The wines were pulled out of different barrels with different toast levels, of different ages and from different cooperage houses – but all were French – and all were meant to show the difference a barrel makes on the same wine (all the wines were from the 2009 vintage and all were made using 100% County fruit).

The Food …

Highlights of the night included Ryan Crawfrad’s (Stone Road Grille) Pan-fried Wild BC Halibut with Ndjua sauce.

And Bryan Steele’s (The Old Prune Restaurant) Roulade of Northern Pike and Georgian Bay Lake Trout.  Both fish dishes tied for a very respectable third place for best food of the night.  All the fish course were superb and paired well with their respective Chardonnays.

Second place, food-wise, was the melt in your mouth Crepinette ham hock terrine with pork liver spaetzle and smoked trotter broth (in case you were wondering ‘trotter broth’ is made from pig’s feet).  This dish was cuttable with your fork though it began to melt before it even got to your mouth (and not because of the heat) – delicious.  Prepared by Steve Mitton (Murray Street Restaurant).

This brings me to the number one food-stuff of the event.  As I said, all the fish dishes were excellent and the best of the night was Hiro Yoshida’s (Hiro Shushi) Assortment of Sushi served rockside (Tuna, French Mackerel and Butterfish – all smoked) – absolutely worth going back for seconds, thirds and quite possibly fourths.

The Wines …

Speaking of fourths, I must have had four tastings of the 2009 South Bay Chardonnay (Dargaud, Medium Plus toast, Les Bertanges forest – France, 2006 barrel) – beautiful fruit flavours and smells with a wisp of smoke, there was vanilla, pear, melon rind and great balancing acidity – this wine was really stunning, and worth every sip.  Balanced with full-on fruit and hints of oak nuances.  Best of all it paired so well with the Hiro Yoshida sushi, or just sipped on its own.  The pairing of this Chardonnay and the Yoshida Sushi was the pairing of the night, they just melded so well together.  Frederic Picard is doing a fabulous job with County Chardonnay, and the accolades are now starting to come in, having just won two major awards for best white (Ontario Wine Awards and Artevino).

On the Pinot Noir side, Norm has done a wonderful job with his ‘09s; the one that really stood out was the 2009 Pinot Noir (Mercurey, Grand Cru toast, Mixed forest – France, 2009 barrel); this just had so much going for it with its’ violet/floral nose, sweet cherry fruit and high acidity – this was a delicate and pretty wine worth sipping on; it worked very well with the Mitton Hock.

Another exciting Barrel/Chef outing showcasing both County wines and local Ontario culinary achievements.  Bravo.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Report from ... 13th Street / Schott Zwiesel / Treadwell Dinner - May 28, 2010

What a great time, great food and great wine, and even more exciting was my shock to find out that the event was featured in the Globe & Mail on July 2nd by Ian Brown.  Now since Ian has done such a wonderful job talking about the event I feel it is my duty to put his words into pictures ... Below are the pictures I took at the event.

Before everyone comes the glasses are polished and laid out on the table.

James Treadwell prepares for the big night - first time him and father/business partner Stephen have appeared at at off site event together ... ever.

A little pre-tasting of the wines - see the reds shimmer.

All set and ready to go ... Look right and you can see Peter Bodnar-Rod surveying the scene.

Nothing beats the look of a table with all those glasses, knowing that soon they will be filled.

Mmmm, Mmmm, Good

A guest shows off the Treadwell in-house-made charcuterie

Peter prepares to slip me some scallops.

Meat is wonderful, meat is good - I really feel sorry for you if you are a vegetarian ... Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Ending with a choice of cheese, selected by Peter B-R himself - perfect end to a perfect meal.

Report from ... Lailey Barrel Burning BBQ - July 3, 2010

The annual July 1st Lailey Barrel Burning BBQ was held on July 3rd - don't ask, but I did show up originally on the 1st.  No new wines to report but there were some really good sausages from a place called RJs.  Two barrels were set ablaze and close to 200 sausages were consumed ... I do have pictures of the event to share, and here they are: