Saturday, February 26, 2011

Report from … Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake Days of Wine & Chocolate – February 2011

I come to the Days of Wine & Chocolate event, put on by the Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake, as a chocolate fan, I love the stuff: milk, white, dark, semi-sweet, 65%, 75%, 85% cocoa bars, you name it I like it (though I admit I draw the line at 90% - too chalky for my taste).  So when the month of February comes rolling around I get excited for the weekends I can drive around sampling wine and chocolate (two of my favourite food groups).  But as the years pass by and more and more wineries are added to the passport program (as more wineries join the organization - now at 25 and set to grow for the next event), I have to agree with my wife (which may or may not be a good thing) that while still excellent value, by the mid-point I was getting all chocolate–bon-bonned-out (something I never thought I would say).

Let’s give a little background about the Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s events.  They put on three a year that involve a passport-style tasting tour: you drive from winery to winery sampling inspired food and wine pairings.  In November, it’s Taste the Season, foods are inspired by the holidays, this is my favourite of the three.  Then in May it’s the Wine And Herb Festival, where the food served must incorporate and feature a different assigned herb in the recipe, inspired by spring and the time for planting gardens; this is my second favourite.  The third event, which takes place in February, is the Valentine’s Day inspired chocolate and wine pairing, here you travel from winery to winery getting served a bite of chocolate with a paired wine.  My third favourite of the NOTL events, and while it is still in the top three it sits at the bottom of the list.

This year, although we now live in the area, we decided to do the event like tourists, all in one weekend.  But by the end of the first day, and having hit only 9 of the 25 possible wineries, we really were all-chocolated-out.  Sure there were some nice chocolates: Cattail’s white-chocolate-raspberry and Jackson Triggs’ milk chocolate-caramel comes immediately to mind, there were still some that were boring, bland, and well … uninspiring.  Sure they looked good on paper:  white chocolate pistachio, milk chocolate cashew and dark chocolate almond raisin, and sounded like they’d be well worth tasting, until you got them in your mouth and realized no raisins, no cashews and the pistachio one … well, not to get too graphic here but it looked more like a piece of poop than a chocolate.  And while I know Willow Pastry (in NOTL) is doing the best they can, not all chocolates are winners … thankfully gone this year (for the most part) were the rock-hard, break-your-teeth chocolates of years past.

Has the Wine & Chocolate fest run its course?  Many winery workers I spoke with said that visitors dropped off with each passing weekend (my stats are up to the 3rd weekend) … it was also pointed out to me that there was a snow storm on each weekend in February – so maybe Mother Nature was also trying to tell organizers something.  This year I found the event uninspired and uninspiring.  But all is not lost, and I think I have the answer.

I look back at what I like about the Wine & Herb and Taste the Season and it’s the variety, the interesting recipes and food ideas that surround the event … while there is only so much you can stuff into a ball or square of chocolate, think of what you could do with a recipe that incorporated chocolate.  It’s time for the wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake to put their cooking and baking hats on and think outside the box of chocolates to cakes, pastries, pies, brownies, tarts and tortes.  Instead of chili with chocolate try chocolate in chili.  Peanut butter cups, white chocolate mousse cake, caramel chocolate torte, white-dark- and milk chocolate brownies (ooo that sounds good), the possibilities seem endless.  Treat chocolate like the food it is, not just the boring confectionary aspect of it, but celebrate it in all its forms.  “Milk chocolate almond” turns into milk-chocolate-almond-brittle; “white chocolate pistachio” turns into white-chocolate-pistachio-cake; and dark chocolate almond raisin … well the possibilities seem endless with that one.

It’s time to consider making the Days of Wine & Chocolate event more like the other two – a fun mix of food and wine that people want not only to come out for, but want to go home and emulate.  That would make the day a whole lot more interesting and fun.  All I ask is that when the Days of Wine & Chocolate turns into the “Days of Wine & Chocolate Desserts and Then Some” … you remember where the idea came from and keep in mind I’m a starving journalist – I’ll take my 5% like any good agent would.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Report from ... Cuvee Media Preview Tasting - February 9, 2011

Here I sit tasting the wines from the fruit of the labour of Ontario winemakers for the 2011 Cuvee media pre-tasting ... It is here we taste what the competition organizers and judges have deemed the best.  Actually let's get more specific, before us is one wine from each winery that entered the competition and we are told "These wines represent each participating winery's top scoring wine from the Cuvee judging held in January".  In other words these are the top scoring wines from each individual winery's submission ... 62 wines in total.  In and amongst these wines are wines I have previously tasted and/or reviewed, while there are also some new wines and many are very good.  The wines I was most looking forward to were some of the Cabs and blended reserves from the 2007 vintage, sadly at least 5 were loaded with volatile acidity (a nail polish-like smell).  The ones that were clean were beautiful, including a Vineland 2007 Reserve Cabernet Franc, a Thirty Bench 2007 Small Lot Cabernet Franc, a Peller Signature Series 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, a Jackson Triggs 2007 Delaine Syrah and a Henry of Pelham 2007 Reserve Cabernet-Merlot ... these were fantastic, well made wines worthy of their price (especially the Pelham which was an absolute steal at $24.95).  But then there were others, whom I will not mention here by name but instead by price: a $45 Reserve Cabernet Franc, a $45 Cab-Merlot, a $55 Red Blend, a $40 Reserve Franc and a $35 Red Blend, that should all be ashamed of themselves for unleashing sub-par quality at astronomical prices.  I'm talking about sub-par wines at above par prices for what the consumer is getting.  This is not just about hurting the individual winery's reputation but also, as one colleague pointed out to me, Ontario's reputation as a whole.  It's time to stop trying to get all your money back at one shot - this is a long term investment people, and a tough one at that.

Some wineries have told me that Cuvee does nothing for them. Sure they still enter (while some others don't), but they really see no benefit to their business, no up-tick in sales, no busting down the door or ringing off the hook of the phone to get the wine(s) that win.  As I sat at my table sipping the best wines of each winery - I began to see why not.  And while it is true what the French say: "chacun a son gout", some of this stuff really was just that, "goo".  Another winemaker, told me confidentially, "These winemakers are judging my wines, while some of the wines they submit are dreadful and loaded with faults.  How can I take this seriously?"

As for some of my highlight whites: Five Rows 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, Pondview 2009 Bella Terra Chardonnay and 20-27 Cellars 2009 Foxcroft Riesling.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Report from ... My Lunch with Andrzej - January 17, 2011

Earlier in the week I accepted an invitation to lunch from Ontario's Roaming Winemaker Andrzej Lipinski ... I dubbed him that in a review I wrote a few weeks ago and I think Andrzej wanted to set the record straight.  Andrzej has quite the interesting story to tell of a young man coming to Canada in the early 90s and getting his start at Vineland Estates ... interestingly enough he was not a winemaker by trade, but in fact an auto mechanic - though he did grow up in a town that had the only wine festival in Poland.  But the wine industry has a lure and Andrezj was soon working in the cellar of Vineland before he became the assistant.  The rest of the story is one of a man who won awards, made a name for himself and has really been looking for a proper fit ... Now I won't start getting into the misunderstood artist toiling at his craft story that you've heard a thousand times before, and I don't think that fits Andrzej anyway, but I will tell you he has some pretty interesting wines being made at the two wineries we visited, and that's really what this story is all about.
Starting my day in Niagara-on-the-Lake's newest addition to the winery landscape, Colaneri, we began our tasting at the tasting bar with some of their current releases:

2009 Riesling "Stellucha" (Little Star) - $15.95 ... 30% of the fruit comes from Colaneri's own vineyard, the other 70% from John Howard on the Beamsville Bench.  The nose is peach and pear with a nice hint of something sweet.  The palate shows lime, apple peel with a nice sweet sensation though well balanced and with a good medium length lime finish.  This'll be a hit in the summer for those hanging around a deck, dock or patio.  Interesting to note that the grapes for this wine were harvested on December 21, 2009; "I like a long hang time," said Andrzej.  (****+)

2009 Pinot Grigio "Cavallone" - $25.00 ... the 12 hours of skin contact has given this wine a pretty peach colour, then it aged for 7-8 months in old 225L barrels - and, interesting to note, 20% of the grapes were dried in a tobacco kiln (this is a practice that Andrzej is using more and more).  The smell is a oxidized apple and red apple skin; but it's the flavour that is really the best part here: apple and pear with good acidity to balance and a bite that grips the tongue long after your swallowed, giving it quite the long finish.  I know it's not a textbook 'Pinot Grigo', but the owners are Italian, so they stick to their roots on this one. (****)

2009 Gewurztraminer "Mistera" - $25.00 ... this one saw 12 hours on the skins of the grapes too, but 50% of the fruit was dried in the kiln, then aged 7-8 months in old 225L barrels and came up with a whopping 14.3% on the alcohol scale.  The nose is soapy with a lychee-mandarin fruit quality.  The taste starts with orange zest and moves its way to a soapy finish; very intense.  It has a real zing on the finish that I attribute to acidity and spice.  (*** 1/2+)

Moving down into the barrel room we tank and barrel sampled some nine different wines.  We started with the 2009 Chardonnay (release scheduled for summer 2011), the nose lures you in and the palate seals the deal on this one.  Andrzej says it is ready for bottle but I will wait to give a full review once it has found its way there; but so far the buttered toffee, vanilla and baked caramel apple are a huge selling feature.

We tried the 2010 Fume Bianco (still in barrel), with 30% of its fruit dried in the kiln, it's been in barrel since November and has developed a good tropical nose with hints of grassy and grapefruit, the palate has vanilla and grapefruit ... an obvious integration of the fruit with the barrel.  Should come out in the next 3 or 4 months.  The 2010 Pinot Grigio has got lots of fruit character: sweet peach and pear along with apple, tropical pineapple and a definite punchy finish of Bosc pear (another 4 months to go in barrel).  

I got a tasting of the 2009 Ripasso ("Corposo") right from barrel.  A wine that will sell for $18.95 and will soon be released (half of the wine has already been bottled).  A blend of 60% Cabernet Franc and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon that spent 14 days on Amarone-style dried skins and 25 days on its own skins.  Now 13 months in barrel, of which 50% were new.  This one should fly off the shelves with its very ripe cherry, vanilla and milk chocolate on the finish.  Looks like I'll have to wander back to try this one again, once the bottle shock has worn off.

Half of the Barrel Cellar at Colaneri
Also tried from barrel: 
2009 Cabernet Franc (50% dried fruit) - lovely red fruit dominated and a sweet perfumed nose.
2009 Syrah (50% dried fruit) - violets, floral, white pepper, and a smoked meat quality on the finish.
2009 Merlot (50% dried fruit) - smoky raspberry with a touch of choco-cherry.
All of the above reds have been in barrel at least a year and have alcohol levels of 14%+, but they do not have that hot taste associated with high alcohol, Andrzej says it is due to the high natural acidity we get in Niagara - "I love acidity," he chimed over and over.

2009 Red Blend is a mix of 33% Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, of which the Merlot and Syrah had a 50% dried fruit ratio and the Cabernet Sauvignon was 100% dried (Amarone-style) ... a nice blend of cherry, raspberry, chocolate and pepper.

Finally, the full monty for Amarone fans 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon 100% dried fruit (Amarone-style), this one borders 15% alcohol and is loaded with smells and flavours.  It spent 40 days on its skins fermenting.  smoked cherry, chocolate, raspberry, licorice (both red and black) and spice ... this is going to be a beauty upon release.

Andrzej also let me try some of the 2010 reds that have just gone to barrel - tastes like a good vintage in the Colaneri cellar.

Lunch ...
From there we went to lunch at the About Thyme Bistro, chef Ryan did himself proud again with a great Roasted Sweet Potato Soup that was thick and rib sticking (to bad it wasn't colder outside) and the 'Big' Pork Sandwich on a 9 Grain Ciabatta Bun (I thought it was going to be pulled pork but it turned out to be cut pieces of pork loin ... delicious).  All paired well with an Organized Crime 2008 Cabernet Franc ($34 at the winery and selling out quickly).   Now it was off to see what Andrzej has been up to with the Crime family.

The scene at The Crime
The Organized Crime Winery ...

2009 Riesling - $21.00 ... you can smell the acidity here but it is so much more than that.  The nose is lime and talc while the taste has got apple core style sweetness and good minerality.  It enters the mouth sweet but finishes dry, showing a great seam of acidity and terrific flavours.  This one hits the right notes.  (**** 1/2)

2009 Fume Blanc - $28.00 ... made with 85% Sauvignon Blanc (of which 50% was dried in a tobacco kiln) and 15% Viognier (of which 100% was dried) then aged in older barrels for 7-8 months.  The nose is tropical and vanilla while the palate is where the fruit comes shining through with a balance of lemon and lime, nice acidity and a long lemony finish. (****)

2008 Gewurztraminer - $22.00 ... a lovely Gewurzt nose with lychee and spice, the palate picks up on this and gives lots of lychee and spice to the tongue, it also has a bit of that Thrills gum soapiness that is fun to find in Gewurzt.  (****+)

2008 The Download - $36.00 ... for a red made in a 'bad' vintage this is one good wine; it really shows you what can be done with blending and proves why the Bordelais have been doing it forever.  This is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Cabernet Franc, 20% Merlot and 7% Petit Verdot aged 18 months in oak.  The nose is pretty simple with lots of raspberry nuances, but the palate delivers much more.  Sour cherry, tobacco, vanilla and spice with a decent amount of acidity to keep everything in check and a wine to pair well with food. (****)

2008 Cabernet Sauvignon - $35.00 ... the quality of this wine comes from vineyard management, in 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon would have been a tough slog, but the Organized Crime folks thinned the fruit to one bunch per shoot on the vine, thus limiting what the vine had to concentrate on making.  The nose is dark fruited with spiced cherry; the palate has dark cherry, touches of spice with a cherry finish, hints of wood and nice minerality.  Simple but very drinkable and surprisingly good considering the vintage.  Drink now and over the next 2-3 years. (****)

Barrel Room finds at Organized Crime ...
Another marathon of tasting from barrel to tank and back to barrel and then another tank.  Andrzej is proud of all his wines from all his wineries and it is the kiln dried wines that makes him, not only unique in what he is doing to advance Ontario winemaking, but almost giddy with excitement.

Tank Samples:
2010 Riesling ... pretty, tropical, pear, delicious apple, good acidity mixed with the sweetness.
2009 Gewurztraminer ... lovely tropical notes, nice mouth presence, 50% dried fruit, barrel aged 7-8 months in old barrels - acidity screams but the fruit sings.
2010 Gewurztraminer ... only 3 months in barrel here, lovely lychee and perfumed notes.
2009 Pinot Noir ... hits on all the right Pinot notes: black and sour cherry, nice spice and hints of cinnamon, first Pinot in Niagara region to use the new 828 clone.  Aged 13 months in oak.

Barrel Samples:
2010 Viognier ... to be blended into the Sauvignon Blanc, there isn't enough to make a varietal wine.  100% dried, currently in barrel for 3 months, still retains the tropicality of the fruit with vanilla and enhanced pineapple notes.
2010 Sauvignon Blanc ... interesting on its own, but then I asked for a mix of the two based on what Andrzej sees as his final blend (85% Savvy heavy) and it truly was something special.
2010 Cabernet Franc ... fresh red fruit, young wine in old barrels, still has plenty of time to age and develop.
2010 Cabernet Sauvignon ... darker and more concentrated fruit than the Franc
100% Dried Fruit (Amarone Style) - from barrel ...
2010 Cabernet Franc ... raspberry, cherry fruit with nice tannins, very mouth filling.
2009 Cabernet Sauvignon ... big ballsy red to be.
2010 Merlot ... this one is chocolate all the way thru, and a killer at 15.4% alcohol, without the tell tale signs of big alcohol.
2010 Cabernet Franc ... an even bigger 15.9%, the most prominent smell and taste: tobacco.
2010 Cabernet Sauvignon ... dark chalky fruit.
2010 Petit Verdot ... black licorice dominant with lots of cherry and hefty tannins.

2009 The Download ... will now be a 100% dried fruit blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (66%), Cabernet Franc (16%), Merlot (9%) and Petit Verdot (9%) ... this wine is still resting in barrel to develop complexity and integrate but so far shows cocoa, coffee, big tanins, blackberry, cassis and plum.

Many thanks to Andrzej Lipinski for taking the time, and all the folks from both Colaneri and The Organized Crime that came by and introduced themselves.
View from the Barrel Cellar at The Organized Crime WInery

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Report from ... Wine Writers' Circle Annual Dinner 2011 - January 24, 2011

The mystery continues ... I have long wondered why wine writers bring the bottles they do to a dinner filled with other wine writers.  Tonight was our annual dinner, this year held at Tutti Matti (an Italian restaurant at 364 Adelaide Street West).  Although food was delicious and my dinner included salad (baby spinach with bufala mozerella, pine nuts, dried balsamic figs, sliced prosciutto, grilled seasonal fruit and saba vinaigrette); main (slow roasted beef short ribs, italian beer, oranges, rosemary and garlic with soft polenta and roasted root vegetables) and dessert (tiramisu - maybe the best I have ever had), it is the wine that always intrigues me.  A fellow by the name of Martin and I got into a discussion about that very thing and neither of us could explain to the others satisfaction why bottles of Le Vieux Pin (B.C.) were sitting beside Chateau Pipeau flanked by a Brunello di Montalcino which sat between a '99 Cilento and Hillebrand with some Jankris and Errazurriz Ovalle standing behind them.  Why a bottle of Isole e Olena found its way beside a Perrin & Fils, or how a rare bottle of Kruger Rumpf Pittersberg could be at the same table as a run of the mill Aussie Shiraz like The Lackey Shiraz.  The head stratching will continue, but here are some notes about the wines that found their way into my glass ...

The Best Wines of the Night ...

Le Vieux Pin 2009 Sauvignon Blanc (British Columbia, Canada) ... a lovely tropical-citrus nose was followed on the tongue with plenty of citrus and acidity but little else.  I was not overwhelmed nor was I underwhelmed, all-in-all I would say I was merely whelmed by it.

Kruger Rumpf 2006 Pittersberg GG Riesling Trocken (Nahe, Germney) ... the GG here stands (in German) for "First Growth", real lemony schist on the nose, while the palate showed a great mineral/stony quality with good acid balance and a dryness rarely seen of in German Riesling.

The real surprise of the night was a Cilento 2999 Merlot Reserve (Ontario, Canada) ... a wine made by Ann Sperling in her early days of Ontario winemaking.  Cigar and chocolate with dried cherry and blackberry, still with enough umph to last 3-4 years.

Vinedos Errazuriz Ovalle 2005 Panul Special Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Chile) ... great raspberry fruit on the nose; lovely fruit on the palate, alive and delicious, paired beautifully with the short ribs.

Isole e Olena 2004 Chianti Classico (Tuscany, Italy) ... cheery and cherry, smoothing out with a good mix of acidity to fruit to tannin ratio.  Tasty.

Perrin & Fils 2007 Les Sinards Chateauneuf-du-Pape (Rhone, France) ... a beautiful example of a Rhone blend, lots of fruit, plenty of heft and depth.

Chateau Pipeau 2003 (Bordeaux, France) ... nice balance and depth of flavour, very Bordelais, aging nicely with dried fruit, good acidity and still well structured tannins.

The Lackey 2007 Shiraz (Australia) nothing ventured nothing gained, this is a fruit forward, full bodied Aussie Shiraz with big fruit and white pepper - typical but tasty.

With ups come downs and these wines disappointed, although I started with high expectations for them ...

JanKris 2004 Crossfire (Paso Robles, California, USA) ... a Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot blend that started off well, with a fruit forward nose and a touch of mocha/coffee and licorice on the palate; it started to open up a little with peppery notes, but just as quickly a faint whiff of corkiness came by and ruined the show. Sigh, such potential.

Hillebrand 1999 Glenlake Cabernet Sauvignon (Ontario, Canada) ... this was a JL Groux creation that proved to be a heavy-handed affair.  Smoky notes dominated and so did the massive tannins and barrel notes; there was no fruit to speak of and those barrel notes won't subside to reveal any, too bad.

Le Vieux Pin 2006 Apogee Merlot (British Columbia, Canada) ... a younger wine then the Hillebrand with much the same result.  Big alcohol (15.1%) and wood masks any kind of fruit this wine might have; time will tell if anything will emerge, but right now it looks doubtful.

Pietranera 2004 Brunello di Montalcino (Tuscany, Italy) ... very powerful still, lots of wood, tannin rich with not much fruit, sure it stood open a couple of hours before we sipped on it, but it still did nothing for me.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Report from ... Rhone Valley Tasting and Lunch - January 27, 2011

Cel-ebrate the Rhone come on.
It's time to celebrate and have a good time ...

The Rhone just won Wine Enthusiasts magazine's "Region of the Year" award and they are thrilled. 

Fresh off the trophy presentation they made a sojourn to Toronto where a small contingent of writers and Rhone Valley principals got together to taste some wines and have a little lunch at George Restaurant on Queen Street.

The first part of the days program was the tasting of some 15 wines that represented the region, from $10 simpletons to $59 behemoths, and there were many values along the way.  I'll rank 13 of those wines below, from 3-star (good) to 4.5-star (excellent), with a few words about each.

But first, a few words, (or numbers) about the award wining region ...

The Rhone Valley is France's second largest AOC wine region in surface are and production:
77,175 hectares
6000 wineries
420 million bottles sold in 2007-2008
Exported to over 150 countries
The wine industry is the premier employer of the region

The Wines:

La Vieille Ferme 2009 Cotes du Luberon ($11.95) - floral and nicely aromatic if not simple and enjoyable (***)
Louis Bernard 2009 Cotes du Rhone ($12.15) - simple red sipper (***)
Louis Bernard 2009 Cotes du Rhone Blanc ($11.65) - tropical and grapefruit nose, fruity on the palate (*** +)
Domaine de Pierredon 2008 Cote du Rhone ($13.95) - sweet cherry smell with a sweet red fruit palate (*** 1/2)
Ogier 2008 Cotes de Ventoux Red ($10.95) - nice red fruit throughout, hint of tannins and cherry bite on finish (*** 1/2+)
Perrin & Fils 2009 Reserve Perrin Blanc ($14.95) - quiet nose leads to a tropical soaked palate, very tasty (*** 1/2+)
Jean Luc Columbo 2007 Les Lauves Saint Joseph ($31.95) - fresh fruit, lovely nose and a good mouth-feel 9*** 1/2+)
Ogier 2009 Cotes de Ventoux Rose ($10.95) - raspberry and a touch of bubblegum on the nose, a red berry bowl of flavour in the mouth (****)
Domaine Courbis 2007 Les Eygats Cornas ($59.00) - sexy and supple smells with smoked meat, nice mouth feel with licorice and smoked meat spice (****)
Domaine des Carteresses 2009 Tavel ($15.95) - lovely pink colour, floral and red berries, cherry flavour explodes in the mouth, delicious and delightful (****+)
Ferdinand De Laye 2007 Visan ($13.95) - lots of red fruit on the nose, opens nicely on the palate with red raspberry and spice (****+)
Best wine of afternoon: Chapoutier Rasteau
Domaine Autrand 2007 Cotes du Rhone Villages ($14.95) - red licorice and strawberry puree smells, palate a little rough and tumble but the black fruit and spice gives it nice flavour, good short term ageing potential (****+)
M. Chapoutier 2008 Rasteau ($17.95) - raspberry, cherry, vanilla and spice on the nose, tasty cherry, nicely spiced, good fruit and good value in a drink now or over the next 2-5 years wine (**** 1/2)

Pictures of a delicious Lunch ...

BC Rock Shrimp, Belgium Endive, Brazil Nut Curry
Duck Breast, Barley Risotto, Broccoli Confit

Beef Tenderloin, Goat Cheese Gratin, Brussel Relish
Chefs Choice Cheese Selection
Dark Chocolate filled Beignets

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Report from ... Discover Bordeaux - January 25, 2011

Bordeaux.  Bordeaux. It's off to taste we go (prolonged whistling)
Bordeaux, Bordeaux, Bordeaux, Bordeaux ...

I doubt the seven dwarves ever did a lot of wine tasting, but in a room with so much of the stuff it seemed like work instead of pleasure to taste them all - until you got right into it and then the pleasure was in the following wines ...

First, a quick note about the tasting:  this was a Vintages presentation of the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux, which was established in 1973 and united 132 chateaux across seven appellations in France.  "Member estates represent over 5000 hectares of some of the best vineyards in Bordeaux, employing 10,000 workers annually.  Annual production is in excess of 230,000 hectoliters, with a total sales value of 3000 million Euros" ($415 million CAD).  There were approximately 100 wines in the room, here were the stars (and how they broke down, with selected notes):

I am using a 5-star rating system,
here’s the key to the stars:
5 = Outstanding … 4.5 = Excellent … 

4 = Very Good … 3.5 = Good

Three-and-a-Half Stars (*** 1/2)
Chateau Larrivet Haut-Brion 2008 (Pessac-Leognan)
Chateau La Dominique 2008 (Saint-Emilion Grand Cru)
Chateau Troplong-Mondot 2008 (Saint-Emilion Grand Cru)
Chateau Chasse-Spleen 2008 (Moulis-en-Medoc)
Chateau Dauzac 2008 (Margaux)
Chateau Malescot Saint-Exupery 2008 (Margaux)
Chateau Prieure-Lichine 2008 (Margaux)
Chateau Gruaud-Larose 2008 (Saint-Julien)

Three-and-a-Half Stars Plus (*** 1/2+)
Domaine de Chevalier 2008 (Pessac-Leognan)
Chateau Durfort-Vivens 2008 (Margaux)
Chateau Beychevelle 2008 (Saint-Julien)
Chateau Ormes de Pez 2008 (Saint-Estephe)

Four-Star Wines (****)
Chateau Figeac 2008 (Saint-Emilion Grand Cru)
Chateau Grand-Mayne 2008 (Saint-Emilion Grand Cru)
Chateau Pavie-Macquin 2008 (Saint-Emilion Grand Cru)
Chateau La Conseillante 2008 (Pomerol)
Chateau Lascombes 2008 (Margaux) - smooth and supple
Chateau Langoa-Barton 2008 (Saint-Julien)
Chateau Leoville-Barton 2008 (Saint-Julien)
Chateau d'Armailhac 2008 (Pauillac)
Chateau Coutet 2008 (Sauternes)
Chateau de Rayne-Vigneau 2008 (Sauternes)
Chateau Guiraud 2008 (Sauternes)
Chateau Lafaurie-Peyraguey 2008 (Sauternes)

Four-Stars Plus (****+)
Chateau Canon 2008 (Saint-Emilion Grand Cru)
Chateau La Gaffeliere 2008 (Saint-Emilion Grand Cru)
Chateau Clinet 2008 (Pomerol)
Chateau Belgrave 2008 (Haut-Medoc)
Chateau Cantemerle 2008 (Haut-Medoc) - softness of red rip berries, very tasty.
Chateau La Lagune 2008 (Haut-Medoc)
Chateau La Tour Carnet 2008 (Haut-Medoc) - lovely dark fruit dominated
Chateau Leoville Poyferre 2008 (Saint-Julien)
Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2008 (Pauillac)
Chateau Sigalas-Rabaud 2008 (Sauternes)

Four-and-a-Half Stars (**** 1/2)
Chateau Canon-La-Gaffeliere 2008 (Saint-Emilion Grand Cru)
Chateau Gazin 2008 (Pomerol) - lovely fruit, lush flavours: cherry and black currant.
Chateau Rauzan-Segla 2008 (Margaux)
Chateau Lagrange 2008 (Saint-Julien)
Chateau Pichon-Longueville-Baron 2008 (Pauillac)
Chateau Lynch-Bages 2008 (Pauillac)
Chateau Cos-Labory 2008 (Saint-Estephe)

Four-and-a-Half Stars Plus (**** 1/2+)
Chateau Angelus 2008 (Saint-Emilion Grand Cru) - big fruit on the nose which folloows on the palate with grippy cherry tannins