Saturday, September 19, 2015

Report from: A Meeting with Paul Hobbs - June 11, 2015

Do you know this man???
Let's assume for a moment that you have never heard the name Paul Hobbs - if that is indeed the case I'll bet you know some of the wineries where the wines have bore his signature: Robert Mondavi, Opus One, Simi, Peter Michael, Fisher, Lewis, Catena and a multitude of others. Some of these wines he has made directly, others he has consulted on the making of.  He event has his hands here in Ontario (Stratus) - Paul's reach and influence is felt everywhere.

His past is what made him today and his most famous story is how he came to work with Catena: he started consulting in 1989 and Nicolas Catena helped Paul start his own winery in California: "he was a great businessman," said Paul of Nicolas, "I was the wine guy; he helped me with the business side, I helped him make wine."

Today there is the winery that bears Paul's name, his Argentine project, Vina Cobos, and his newest project in his home state of New York with 65 acres on Seneca Lake (opening soon).

Today during the lunch and tasting we tasted wines from the two major Hobbs projects (California & Argentina) and hopefully, the next time he comes through town, he'll have stuff from New York ... Here we go:

We have come to the church of Paul Hobbs let us pray:
Today's Five Wines ...

Paul Hobbs 2013 Crossbarn Chardonnay ($29.95)
80% tank fermented / 20% in neutral French oak
Despite the majority of tank Chardonnay it's rich with a touch of spice on the finish;
creamy with spiced-apple, peach, hints of vanilla cream and lemon drop, good acidity.
Rating: ****
Paul Hobbs 2013 Russian River Chardonnay ($54.95)
12 months French oak, 47% new
Delicate vanilla cream, lemon drop, good acidity, and creamy mid-palate;
a lovely sipper: soft and silky on the finish.
Rating: ****+
Vina Cobos 2013 Felino Malbec ($19.95)
100% Malbec from a semi-desert climate
Aromas of blueberry and cassis; Palate is smoky with black currant,
vanilla and spice - needs time to smooth out those harsh edges.
Rating: *** 1/2+
Paul Hobbs 2012 Crossbarn Cabernet Sauvignon ($54.95)
20 months in French and American oak; 14% new
There's a nice sweet raspberry and cherry smell; palate is rich and succulent
with blackberry, red and black cherry, mocha, spice; slight chalky intensity to the finish.
Rating: ****+
Paul Hobbs 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($99.95)
95% Cabernet Sauvignon / 3% Petit Verdot / 1% Malbec and Cabernet Franc
Aged 20 months in French oak, 65% new
Aromas: sweet red and black fruit with chocolate and vanilla;
Palate: dark fruit with rich robust tannins; touch smoky-vanilla, blackberry,
cassis and a spicy long finish --- this wine has a long life ahead of it and
is one heck of a mouthfilling wine with lots of flavour; what a tasty wine.
Rating: **** 1/2
And he rests his case ... can I here an "Amen"

Report from: Primium Familiae Vini Lunch - April 23, 2015

Is there any possible way to put into words the amazing wines and breadth of history that packed the room on this day, as the Primium Familiae Vini (PFV) came to Toronto to wine, dine and ... for lack of a good rhyming word ... impress the hell out of all in attendance.

These are all names you'd recognize, no matter what level of wine drinker you happen to be.  Names like Pol Roger, Drouhin, Muller, Torres, Antinori, Perrin, Rothschild and more: 11 in total, and the experience and history was enough to put one in awe.  So instead of waxing poetic about the what and who let's take a simultaneous look at the lunch (held at the Four Seasons Hotel) and the wines (one from each family).

You know it's gonna be a good party
when this is the appetizer wine:
Pol Roger 2002 Sir Winston Churchill
biscuity, sour apple, almondine along with
notes of toffee and butterscotch

**** 1/2

The Look of Lunch ...

Foie Gras
Brioche, Laroda Plum, Lamb's Lettuce
Kumquat, Baby Leek, Caviar
Cavatelli Pasta
Rabbit Confit, Preserved Tomato, Olives
Braised Bison Short Rib
Spring Carrots, Pommes Dauphines
Stilton Cheese
Fig, Walnut Crostini, Red Watercress
Wine a Little - Cause there's a lot of them ...
Many of the wines we tried today are no longer in the market place for purchase so no score will be given.

Famille Hugel 2010 Riesling Jubilee
wine made from top Crus
quite lovely with hints of elegant petrol
Joseph Drouhin 2012 Chablis Grand Cru 'Les Clos'
made from a 1.3 hectare parcel in Chablis
creamy texture, apricot, peach, nice minerality
with a hint of oxidation

Egon Muller Scharzhof 1994 Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett
the house of Muller dates back to 1797
stunningly young in both colour and freshness
Torres 2010 Mas La Plana
represented here today by Miguel Torres - 5th Generation
100% Cabernet Sauvignon - started making this wine in the late 60's
lots of dark fruit and spice; great complexity with power and heft

Tenuta San Guido 2009 Sassicaia
young by comparison, the winery was established in 1941
earthy, sour cherry, cassis - has the acidity of Sangiovese
yet the fruit and force of Bordeaux
Famille Perrin 2005 Chateau Beaucastel
dark fruit and spice; a real delicious endeavour
Antinori 2007 Solaia
name meaning "looking at the sun" - label started in 1978
this wine has an incredible power in the glass with a long life ahead
Chateau Mouton Rothschild 2005 Pauillac
Julien Beaumarchais de Rothschild had plenty of quoteable moments:
"wedding between great family and terroir"
"way beyond business puposes, it's about the soul"
As for the wine: menthol, dark fruit with oak and cassis

Vega-Sicilia 2004 Unico
"close to a perfect vintage" - 90% Tempranillo / 10% Cabernet Sauvignon
this wine is only produced in the 'great years'
a pure delight on the palate and perfect match with the short ribs -
but this one was also a wonderful wine on its own
Symington Family - Graham's 1977 Vintage Port
if there is a God and he drinks port regularly
he's got a few cases of this in his cellar

Friday, September 11, 2015

Report from ... Washington State Wines Dinner - August 11, 2015

Tonight we learned some interesting facts about Washington state:

The grape make up of Washington is 20% each Riesling, Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Syrah is the grape that is making the most in-roads in the state, and is the grape that many would consider the signature of Washington state at this time.

One of the most interesting facts about Washington is that their sandy soils help to combat phylloxera.

As far as their winery stats, they have at present approximately 870 wineries and they are growing at about four wineries per month ... where it levels out, nobody knows.

The Night in Pictures ...

Looking over the menu, while sipping on sparkling ...
this one in fact, from Chateau Ste Michelle (Brut)

The best wine of the night was this Columbia Crest 2012 Merlot,
which continued to get better the longer it sat in the glass.
One of the most popular Rieslings in the USA is part of the
Charles Smith portfolio - and the label is a big selling point
Tonight's line-up of reds ...
Proving that Cabernet Sauvignon does well in Washington State,
this Milbrandt Vineyards version really was something delicious

So is this Airfield Estates Runway from Yakima Valley
This Nine Hats 2012 Red Blend was my second favourite
wine of the night (see review below)
Dessert was this Late Harvest Riesling from Washington Hills:
sweet, delicate and delicious 

The Dinner (there was a selection - I went all salmon) ...

Double Smoked Salmon
capers, rocket, dill cream
Heritage Salmon
potato, lemon

Vanilla Panacotta
berry compote, basil

The Wine Reviews ... (click on name for full review)

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Report from ... Nobilo Lunch and Icon Tasting - August 19, 2015

Just like they do in the best regions of France, Nobilo concentrates on few varieties of grapes to make their wines; instead of trying to be everything to everybody they focus on Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc and try to make the best expression of each variety.

Today we had a chance to taste something old (2010) something new (2015) and the stuff in-between from this (no pun intended) iconic winery.

Founded in 1943 by Nikola Nobilo an immigrant to New Zealand by way of the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia (an island called Korcula); who came to his new land in the 30's.  Back in Croatia the Nobilo family had acquired some 300 years of wine making experience and tradition and with that knowledge they planted their first vines west of Auckland in the early 40's.

Today's line up of wines: 2015-2010 (3 whites / 3 reds)
And a look at the lunch menu ... more on that later
Our host, Dave Edmonds, Senior Winemaker Nobilo (second from left)
answered questions and talked about wines, vintages and regions
Chef Tom Riley, originally from New Zealand, took his inspiration
from the wines presented - fusing Canadian and New Zealand cuisine
(more like New Zealand food concepts with Local ingredients)
The whites are poured, so let's kick this thing off ...
The Wines ...

2014 Regional Collection Sauvignon Blanc ($16.95 - #415745)
Nose: grapefruit, lemon, grassy and pineapple core
Taste: seemingly sweet fruity entry lovely pith notes,
long finish juicy pink grapefruit finish and dry linger
Rating: ****
2014 Icon Sauvignon Blanc
juicy of citrus and passionfruit, soft acidity with a long finish,
there's also a mineral compenent like "raindrops on hot concrete"
softer, weightier and more mouthfilling than Regional
Rating: *** 1/2+
2010 Icon Pinot Noir
licorice-spice, high acidity, cassis and violets,
cedary-oak notes prevail on the finish, even a little smoky
I found this wine to be overtly smoky and cedary
No rating - wine is no longer available
2013 Icon Pinot Noir
Nose: nice lean fruit that's a dark and red mix with floral/violet;
showy but not flamboyant - good acidity
Taste: follows the nose, delicate yet still masculine
with a spiced-raspberry finish
Rating: ****
2014 Icon Pinot Noir
Nose: more in-your-face with red fruits and plum, real sexy fruit
violets and floral notes with hints of anise
Taste: hints of white pepper and herbal notes on the finish;
a really bold solidly good wine
Rating: ****+

The Lunchtime Inspirations ...

Smoked Tomato Soup
with miso creme fraiche
Fogo Island Crab Kina
with butter, pappardelle & preserved lemon

Roasted Lamb Rump
with minted potatoes, peas & saffron labna
Passion Fruit & Vanilla Cheesecake
with stewed tamarillo