Monday, December 30, 2013

Report from ... Ornellaia 25th Anniversary Lunch at Barbarian Steak House - November 26, 2013

The line-up of wines for today's Ornellaia lunch
Ornellaia is a small property in Tuscany that has made a big name for themselves, it is located in an area called Bolgheri which was a region best known for Rosato of Sangiovese.  The first Cabernet Sauvignon was planted in the region in the 1940's.  

Ornellaia was the second estate to be established in the region in 1985 ... they have a 90 hectare property made up of 65 plots that are farmed individually consisting of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Merlot; according to our host, Mr. Alessandro Lunardi, director US and Latin America, "each expresses a character we would like to translate into Ornellaia."

At Ornellaia the key to all their wines is balance: "if a wine starts off in balance and harmony then it will remain that way." (Alessandro Lunardi)

All the wines are aged in oak individually before the blend is determined.

Lunch was being held in the wine cellar of Barbarian Steak House in dowtown Toronto ...
Looking down from above at the cellar
the tasting included 5 wines: 4 back vintage and the current release

... 1998 ...
this wine garnered the #1 wine of the year by Wine Spectator Magazine
acidity still pretty high on this one
nose is smoky with dried red berries, cedar and forest floor notes
palate is smoky with wood character, comes across a little hot with alcohol
... 2001 ...
nose has lots of red berry mixed with blackberry
palate is a nice balance of juicy, smoky and spicy
chocolate notes kick in near the pretty and elgant finish
... 2005 ...
One of two favourites of the tasting
this marks the first year that Petit Verdot found its way into the blend (4%)
nose has cherry, chocolate, cassis and blackberry
palate has great cherry, chocolate, and raspberry
fruit is up front with a big tannin hit, also has well-balanced acidity
... 2007 ...
My other favourite of the tasting
this one has a hard palate, much too young for drinking now,
but shows great potential for the future
fruit is black and massive, tannins are also big and chewy
but it show really great balance
... 2010 ...
the '10 seems softer than most of the others
fruit is the star here, it's more delicate (especially when compared to the '07)
vanilla, cinnamon and clove while the spice seems more approachable
though there are still quite a bite of tannin on the finish (****+)
Our starter wine: 2011 Le Serre Nuove
Ornellaia's second wine, which helps to reduce the amount of the big wine,
cutting it in half - the label was started in 1997
for this wine they are looking for more approachability sooner
this 2011 is blackberry, black cherry and quite spicy (****+)
The Lunch ...

lunch included a Caesar Salad
and although it's a steak house I gave the salmon steak a try - nice

Report from ... Cono Sur Dinner at Far Niente Restaurant - October 24, 2013

Tonight at Far Niente restaurant in Toronto, Matias Rios, winemaker for Cono Sur, hosted a dinner (with Cono Sur's Ontario agent, Authentic) - one that featured a myriad of Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs, plus a couple of other special wines ... but the focus was on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay - here's a look at the wines and the evening ...

Our host from Cono Sur, Matias Rios (winemaker)
the tasting gets set up
Our pre-tasting wine was this Cono Sur Sparkling Rose ($16.95 - #365205)
made from 100% Pinot Noir in the Charmat method, four months in tank;
strawberry, raspberry nose is followed on the palate and is delightfully
playful on the tongue with a nice hit of acidity (****)
The White Wines of Note ...
"With our wines we are always looking for the drinkability factor." - Matias Rios, winemaker

Cono Sur 2012 Bicicleta Pinot Grigio ($9.95 - #366344)
This is the first vintage of Pinto Gris for Cono Sur,
I say say Gris because it is not in the Grigio-style:
lots of tropical fruit and floral notes; fresh and fruity (*** 1/2)
Cono Sur 2012 Bicicleta Chardonnay ($9.95 - #321448)
the Chardonnay for this wine comes from three different areas of Chile,
fresh and fruity with melon, pear, hints of apple and good acidity;
this is a very easy drinking Chardonnay (*** 1/2)

Cono Sur 2012 Chardonnay Reserva Especial ($12.95 - #270066)
35% of this wine is barrel fermented and aged for 5 months, then blended in;
tropical notes of grilled pineapple on the nose and palate, there's also grapefruit pith
hints of vanilla and a touch of minerality that comes through in the mouth (*** 1/2+)
Cono Sur 2013 Single Vineyard Chardonnay ($16.95 - Private Order)
Matias called 2013 the coolest vintage in the last 5 years ...
40% of this wine was aged in French oak barrels, ony 7000 cases have been made
Nose of honey dew, pear, vanilla, melon, pineapple and banana chip - great aromatics
Palate just as delightful, peach, vanilla, grilled pineapple and honeydew with mineral freshness
amazing drink-ability and a long pineapple-vanilla cream finish (****+)
Cono Sur 2012 20 Barrels Chardonnay ($24.95 - Private Order)
spending 8 months in barrel this Chardonnay has both a creamy and spicy element
nice apple and pear notes that take in the oak with a nice balance of each (****)
The Red Wines of Note ...

Cono Sur 2012 Bicicleta Shiraz ($9.95 - #64295)
Labelled as Shiraz this is most definitely a Syrah, but some are labeled as Syrah;
floral, violet and white pepper; good drinkability (*** 1/2)
Cono Sur 2012 Reserva Especial Pinot Noir ($14.95 - Private Order)
100% of this Pinot Noir spends 10 months in oak, 15% of which is new;
Aromas of sour cherry and raspberry lead to a palate of white pepper,
spiced black cherry, spiced raspberry - plenty of fruit and finesse (*** 1/2+)
Cono Sur 2012 Single Vineyard Pinot Noir ($18.95 - Private Order)
100% of this Pinot Noir comes from a single block and spends 11 months in oak;
aromas are strawberry and raspberry with white pepper, violets and clove,
palate has a lovely fruit base with nice concentration of spice and fruit:
cassis, black raspberry and peppered strawberry - nice long finish (**** 1/2)
The aftermath of the tasting
this single block series of wines from Cono Sur are amazing,
both in terms of value and what's in the bottle

the 3 top wines of the night, plus the sparkling rose, which is a real treat
The Dinner ...
Surprising to me, the Far Niente menu had a "pre-appetizer" section
Caesar Salad
Creme Brulee

Friday, December 27, 2013

Report from ... The Great Estates of Niagara FAM tour - September 19, 2013

Today we got to tour the three Great Estates of Niagara (Jackson-Triggs, Inniskillin, and Le Clos Jordanne) and a number of their vineyards ... below is the pictorial story of the day's events.

Boarding the bus for the day trip around the Great Estates of Niagara
properties, producers and vineyards
First stop, Montague Vineyard, when we try the newest edition of the
Inniskillin 2012 Montague Vineyard Chardonnay ... right in the middle
of this vineyard made up of Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay
And witness the grapes hanging before harvest (pictured: Chardonnay) -
which would happen very soon - as you shall see
and Pinot Gris
and the Pinot Gris is exceptionally 'gris' this year
Our next stop is the Brae Burn Vineyard -
where harvest is in full swing
Where we'll be sampling the new
Inniskillin 2012 Reserve Viognier
Stacey Mulholland does her best Vanna White impression
showing off the wine
While chef David Penney prepares the oysters to match -
yup, oysters in the vineyard at 11am - life's pretty good!
And Inniskillin winemaker, Bruce Nicholson, checks grape data
(at least we assume he is checking on grape data this time of year)
Bruce Nicholson gets us together to talk about his picking regime:
"I wanna pick when I want to pick, not when the weather tells me"
A look at the Viognier grapes of 2013 -
Inniskillin uses only the grapes from this 2 acre plot
- Viognier grapes #2 -
Bruce looks for 23 brix to get the
characteristics he wants in the wine
Debi Pratt listens in over the vines
A look out over the vineyard to the Inniskillin winery in the distance ... our next stop
Where we are greeted by Errol at the weigh station, where we are shown
how grapes are brought in and measured for brix levels with a large
refractometer (accurate to .1 degrees)
And here is my gratuitous dog shot, Errol's dog Penny, who kept to himself in the shade
Next stop was the cellar at Inniskillin
where we'll have a mainly Pinot Gris tasting

Four of them to be exact - highlights include the
2012 Discovery Series P3 and the 2012 Reserve
the 2009 Legacy Pinot Gris (aged 3 months new French oak)
tall with Icewine-esque flavours without the sweetness -
this was a library wine showing that Pinot Gris can age,
under the right circumstances (****)
It wouldn't be a trip to Inniskillin without Icewine being on the menu -
here is the new 2012 Cabernet Franc Icewine (****)

And the inaugural 2012 Cabernet Franc Sparkling Icewine ...
another beauty and a welcome addition to the Inniskillin line-up.
Interesting fact: Inniskillin Icewine is in 75 countries
Now it's off to the Delaine Vineyard where Jackson-Triggs winemaker,
Marco Piccoli, met us to discuss two of J-T's flagship wines

The Delaine 2012 Fume Blanc
Marco, as it turns out, is a huge fan of Sauvignon Blanc
I told you harvest was happening
and where once Marco stood, the harvester came thru
and deposited it's load of Sauvignon Blanc
The stars of the Delaine vineyard ...
are these Syrah grapes - and they make this ...
Delaine Vineyard 2011 Syrah
Marco on Syrah:  "hang Syrah as long as possible because we don't want to
harvest green Syrah ... it's not an easy varietal"
The wines made from the Delaine Vineyard are
Chardonnay / Pinot Noir / Cabernet-Merlot / Gewurztraminer / Syrah / and Fume Blanc
From there we head to Jackson-Triggs winery where we'll have the pleasure
of dining on the Amphitheatre stage

There were plenty of wines served, but the highlight is always
Sparkling wine, Jackson-Triggs makes these three
"One of the greatest wines coming out of the region is sparkling" - Marco (Sept. 2013)
One of our own, Michael Vaughan, wine writer of some acclaim and
of some age (70) celebrates on the stage and with a cake ...
thanks to Debi Pratt and The Great Estates
A view from the Amphitheatre stage
The day's last stop, Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard, the warmest of the vineyards
in the Clos line-up and the first to be picked
Where we met up with Le Clos' new winemaker Sebastian Jacquey
While there we were given Le Clos Jordanne outback-style hats ...
here Frank Baldock shows the proper way to wear it
While Alan McGinty shows the wrong way

We tried 3 wines, all Pinot Noirs, and all a sneak peak of the new vintage
My top two were the 2011 Le Clos Jordanne
And the 2011 Claystone Vineyard
The day ended with those sips and then it was back onto the bus and back to whence we came ... a big thank you goes out to the Great Estates of Niagara for a wonderful day in the vineyard.