Tasting notes, varietals, grapes - anything related to wine
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Tran Bronstein
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#1 Post by Tran Bronstein » February 29th, 2020, 8:45 pm


Last night in Toronto, board member Dylan Provencher and his wife Chelsea hosted a large Toronto contingent with a perfect theme for a -15 Celsius evening with snow squall warnings in effect – California wine night potluck. Nothing like some big Cali reds and some fresh hot homemade food prepared with care and love to warm up the frigid night. While big reds naturally dominated, there were several whites including sparklers and even some dessert wines that made an appearance. Plus some awesome food. Let’s fill our glasses and dig in:

SCHRAMSBERG 2008 BLANC DE NOIRS – During the record-setting 117 email long thread organization leading up to the evening, fellow attendee, board member, diva and princess Jay Shampur noticed that there were no sparkling wine a mere couple of days before the event sending it into a tailspin and causing reorganization of contributions. I’m sad to say I am grateful to His Royal Highness because it ended up resulting in what was for me the easy runaway WOTN. Absolutely delicious sparkler with a rich creamy mouthfeel and nicely balanced red apple and brioche flavors. Very much the equal of any Blanc de Noirs Champagne I’ve ever had and certainly better than a few of them. I overheard many others commenting on their enjoyment.

Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs

2011 DOMAINE CARNEROS BY TATTINGER – 50% Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. In contrast, this had less fruit and much more brioche flavor. The fruit was definitely green apple and unripe pineapple indicating the presence of Chardonnay in the blend. Emulates the rich style of Champagne nicely. Tasty, but I was far more enamored of the Schramsberg.

Domaine Carneros by Tattinger

RODNEY STRONG 2018 SAUVIGNON BLANC – Fruit forward with nice hints of white grapefruit pith and grassiness, this was a dense Sauvignon Blanc that I find typical of the Cali style. I much prefer the crisper New Zealand style myself but this was still pretty good. Just note it will be less acidic and more fruity than you might be used to if you prefer cold climate Sauvignon Blanc.

Rodney Strong Sauvignon Blanc

TALBOTT 1996 CHARDONNAY – I was lucky to get a glass of this because people blew right through this and rightfully so. My note to myself was a simple two words: creamy perfection. However you feel about Cali Chard, take all the typical notes – buttery, vanilla, big oak, baked apple – and then blend and age them to perfection and this is the wine you end up with. Stunning and gave the Schramsberg a run at WOTN and I’m betting it absolutely was for a lot of people. There was an empty bottle of 2013 I only noticed later on in the evening. Too bad I missed out, it would’ve been great to compare them against each other. Instead I had to settle for...

KISTLER 2001 HYDE VINEYARD CHARDONNAY – Very mild nose almost non-existent nose that completely contrasts with the super big brioche, butter and green apple flavors on the palate. Creamy body. Per Mike Grammer, this has seen lots of oak.

Kistler Chardonnay

CHALK HILL 2010 CHARDONNAY – Smooth and buttery texture, baked green apple fruit, well integrated. Both this and the Kistler were delicious. For some reason, I was really digging what I call the “baked apple pie” style of California Chardonnay tonight. With this said, I can see why Burgundy purists scoff as I’m now experienced enough to see the marked difference between Cali Chard and crisp Chablis and bold Meursault which are my two personal go-tos for white Burgundy. Burghounds should definitely beware of these two.

Chalk Hill Chardonnay

TOM EDDY 1997 CABERNET SAUVIGNON – This was a trophy magnum bottle that showed seepage in the cork and caused great worry. So I made sure to try it promptly after it was opened. And honestly if I’d waited a few minutes longer, there would be no note because it descended into corked bad enough that Dylan simply took the bottle away.

There was definitely a slight corkiness on the nose but on the palate, at least at the time that I got to it, there were still quite strong tannins and the evolution from fruit to umami was just starting. Pairing this with smoothed it out and it was actually quite beautiful with our charcuterie appetizer. As it warmed up and the chill came off of the bottle, however, everyone told me that the cork taint magnified with it and it was toast. This isn’t the first time I’ve had a wine that is just barely passable but then ends up destroyed by taint before an evening is over. I wonder if a lower temperature holds some of the effects of cork taint at bay before it fully blooms and ruins a bottle.

Tom Eddy Cabernet Sauvignon

RAMEY 2002 DIAMOND MOUNTAIN DISTRICT CABERNET SAUVIGNON – Second oldest cab of the night, this one has much less plum flavor than the younger cabs and is more savory, but has not yet started the transition over into umami territory yet. Very smooth texture.

Ramey Cabernet Sauvignon

2005 THE HATTRICK CABERNET SAUVIGNON – Rich purple plum nose and flavors with a nice undertone of coffee. In fact, that made it play a bit unusually more like a Cali Zin than a Cali cab. Nice wine.

2015 STAGS' LEAP PETITE SYRAH – Young, still quite tannic but very fruit forward with cherry and raspberry flavors and surprisingly high acidity and a lighter body than you would expect. Delicious.

Stags' Leap Petite Syrah

ALPHA OMEGA 2010 PROPIETARY RED – By far the biggest wine of the night, huge but delicious plum and cherry flavor with big tannins. You know exactly what you’re getting with an Alpha Omega and it delivers in spades.

Alpha Omega Propietary Red


Rivers-Marie vertical

2007 SUMMA OLD VINES PINOT NOIR: And now we switch to the other big Cali red, of course the Pinots are up. Fragrant “pencil lead” nose with flavors of ripe red cherries and rosewater. A slight touch of salinity. Smooth completely integrated tannins. Very good structure.

2017 OCCIDENTAL RIDGE PINOT NOIR: Obviously this is quite younger than its predecessor, and it shows in the far more intense cherry fruit. Smooth texture as well, no detectable tannins.

KUTCH 2013 MACDOUGALL PINOT NOIR – Young and strong, typical pencil lead nose and intense fruit that leans slightly more towards plum than cherry. Interestingly the tannins are detectable despite being aged more than the Rivers-Marie 2017. Could use more time but this will be excellent for sure.

Kutch Pinot Noir

2014 TALBOTT PINOT NOIR -- Easily the most delicate in body of the Pinots, almost but not quite approaching Burgundy structure. Besides that, strong cherry fruit and pencil lead nose and flavors.

Talbott Pinot Noir

CARLISLE 2016 ZINFANDEL – Sweet and fruity with tobacco accents. Tannin completely integrated. Interestingly, though, the fruit becomes lost when paired with food and even becomes a tad bitter. Much better on its own which indicates to me it needs some time to evolve.

Carlisle Zinfandel

LILLIAN 2011 NO 01 SYRAH -- POWERhouse Syrah with Bing cherry, black pepper and sea salt flavor. Really young and strong and needs both time and food. Mike Grammer says it was much more approachable towards the end of the evening when it had a lot more air.

Lillian 01 Syrah

CAIN FIVE VERTICAL -- The first of the evening’s double main event was a vertical of Cain Five, a well regarded California Meritage blend wine. We took on 96, 99, 09 and 10 vintages:

Cain Five Vertical

1996: Smooth body, a touch savory with rich blackberry, plum and black pepper flavor typical of Bordeaux. There seemed to be a little controversy as I have a note that Peter says it was corked but I didn’t really detect any taint. This is approachable but not mind blowing, I think it’s reached its peak.

1999: The 99 has a bit higher acidity than the previous bottle and is less savory but slightly fresher.

2009: Interestingly, I detected some pencil lead on the nose I usually detect with Cali Pinot. This was the most tannic of the vertical and I felt it was not approachable and needed more time. Actually, so did Walter who was doing the serving and he actually served the 2010 before this one.

2010: Despite being a year younger, this was much more approachable than the 09. Smoother in body, only a slightly sandy feel to the tannins and a noticeable hint of vanilla from the oak.

BERINGER NIGHTINGALE VERTICAL – The namesake wine of the late Myron and Alice Nightingale, who pioneered the use of botrytis in California and really brought it to the forefront when they joined Beringer in the 70’s. If you’re unaware, the method the Nightingale’s pioneered was to pick ripe California semillon and sauvignon blancs and lay them in trays. But instead of drying the grapes, they sprayed them with botrytis spores and placed them in a humid environment. This unique hybrid appasimento/botrytised method earned them acclaim, a rightful place in California’s wine history, and a famous namesake dessert wine. Walter generously provided the 94, 02 and 06 vintages.

Beringer Nightingale Vertical

1994: Dark brown color, obviously maderized quite a bit. Lots of burnt sugar toffee and dried pineapple and lemon flavors. A touch heavy on the palate due to the advanced maderization but saved by very high acidity that comes through on the finish.

2002: Much more toffee than fruit, far more advanced than it should be. Some nuttiness in there too, almost like a Vin Santo. The 96 is much better.

2006: This has the least maderization of all three bottles, but it’s still dark brown and is far ahead of where it should be. Toffee nose, toffee and dried pineapple on the palate. Acidity still very high. Actually surprisingly similar to the 94 but much fresher due to its youth. All three wines are surprisingly light on body compared to an equivalent aged Sauternes or TBA.
Last edited by Tran Bronstein on March 4th, 2020, 7:11 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Tran Bronstein
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#2 Post by Tran Bronstein » February 29th, 2020, 9:23 pm

So we had an embarrassment of delicious riches when it came to the accompanying food. We opened with a delicious smoked trout crostini, some charcuterie, prosciutto wrapped breadsticks and a pair of cheese boards as our starters.

Smoked trout crostini
Prosciutto wrapped breadsticks
Cheese board
This was followed by two different types of sliders. The first was a smoked pulled pork BBQ slider.

Smoked pulled pork sliders

The second was a California slider bar with mini-croissants as buns and all the fixings you could possibly want.


The main course was a delicious sous-vide prime rib with herbed jus and chimichurri, scalloped potatoes, a fresh bean salad and roasted chard.


Our dessert was a lemon sheet cake topped with fresh lemon curd, Chantilly cream, and brandy soaked black currants and blueberries.


A special thank you to Dylan and Chelsea for hosting and to everyone for their generous food and wine contributions. Can’t wait to do it all again as Spring approaches.
Tran's the smart one!- M Grammer

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Joel Singer
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#3 Post by Joel Singer » March 1st, 2020, 4:42 am

Tran, thanks for posting your notes and pictures. They capture the generosity of all the folks who were there. The only thing that's hard to show in a picture is the warmth and hospitality our our hosts Chelsea and Dylan who welcomed a bunch of winos into their beautiful home on a snowy night.

I continue to be amazed by the variability of people's perception of cork taint. For me, both the Tom Eddy and 1996 Cain Five were corked and undrinkable. The corked aroma was so pronounced on the Tom Eddy, that I didn't even taste it. The 1996 Cain Five was not as obvious, but one taste and there was no doubt for me that we had another corked bottle. Atsuko (Alex) Kitayama, who is also very sensitive to cork taint, had the same reaction to both wines.

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Peter Papay
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#4 Post by Peter Papay » March 1st, 2020, 7:54 am

Tran, great pictures and notes. Wonderful enjoyable evening with a greater participation of significant others.

I have to confess that I am not a big Cali fan unless the wines have some age to them. Consequently my happy meter was elevated with the 2002 Ramey, 2005 The Hattrick (its was a 2005 not a 2003) and peaked with the 1996 Talbott Chard which was stunning.

Sadly the 1997 Eddy and 1996 Cain were undoubtably corked.

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Mike Grammer
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#5 Post by Mike Grammer » March 1st, 2020, 9:09 pm

Oh, my friend. Schramsberg as your WOTN? Your journey to enlightenment remains a long one [grin.gif]. I didn't, unfortunately, get to everything.

The Tom Eddy very unfortunately corked. 96 Cain too.

Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs

Quite fruity, soft bubbles. Does have a personality, very yellow fruit. Fun drink

2011 Kistler Hyde Chard

Still very toasty nose, To taste, tinges of bitter with a pear core, this is still kinetic and very young. As always with these, I wonder whether the oak will eat up the fruit

2010 Chalk Hill Chard

Bit of flint and tinder on the nuzzie, quite smooth and leesy actually when it's in my mouth. I think this had various degrees of fandom, I liked it well enough

2005 Igor Larionov The Hattrick

Yes, Peter is correct, a 2005. First ever from the Russian hockey legend. 41% CS, 39% CF, 20% merlot. Bright-ish currants and raspberries in bouquet. Lilts on the tongue, if quite lightly. Not a lot of depth here, but it is tasty

1996 Talbott Sleepy Hollow Chard

I tend not to be a big Talbott fan and always will look for Arcadian from this site, but this wine impressed me quite a bit. Evolved nose, bit of creamy and creamed corn, but there's still requisite fruit. And while the fruit on the palate is of the dried variety--pear and apricot---there is still a lingering acidity to round things off and enough life and interest here. A real discovery

2013 Talbott Sleepy Hollow Chard

Brighter--still some pear and pineapple here. Much livelier taste, lemon candy mixes in with tropical fruit on the tongue.

2007 Rivers-Marie Summa PN

The aromatics are really concentrated Morello cherry jelly now. Edges of baking spice. And dans la bouche, it's still quite....juicy! Strawberry and raspberry but with a salivating sort of sneaky freshness. Very enjoyable 13 years out and probably my #3

2017 Rivers-Marie Occidental Ridge PN

I brought this to compare with the 07. Redolent with coriander, nutmeg and sweet raspberries. This is Sonoma for sure, with ripe fruit and a tad of cola, but also has some acid kick and spark to it--ripe and sour at the same time? I like the mouthfeel a lot, round and controlled, but plenty of activity. Real good, #4

2013 Kutch McDougall PN

I only had a quick and small taste of this, Jay's bottle, but it showed a trifle leaner and stricter than I'm used to. The berry fruit here is quite precise.

2002 Ramey Diamond Mountain Cab

Wasn't sure if this was a tiny bit corked, but it seems not. Ends up with some grassy and earthy and barnyard mixed in with some rich black cherry and some red cherry. That's neat on the palate--has old cab feel to it, but a burst of red fruit at the front too. A two-part wine.

1999 Cain 5

I haven't had a Cain 5 in at least a decade. This shows tart currant and blueberry on the nose and mouth and, unfortunately, shows the weak vintage as well. Thin and a touch acidic, has life but a definite ceiling and it's not that high

2010 Cain 5

We tried this one while the 09 decanted. Some fine cedar box scents with rounded red fruit. Even for this weaker vintage, still plenty of grip. The issue for me is that the fruit is already thinning out---this will be the 99 in just a few years.

2010 Alpha & Omega Proprietary Red

180 degree change. Bi-ig plum and roasted chestnut a bit, with chocolate in the background. You have to be someone who likes the plush supersoft style, but if you do, this is a paragon. The alcohol is beautifully melded into this wine. Just keep expecting to sink into it. In its style, excellent and delicious. #6

2016 Carlisle Papera Ranch Zin

Even more criminal than no sparkling, no one had listed a Zin, so I brought an extra. Sniffs of peppery, bramble and sure blackberry and cassis, with just a tiny hint of molasses. This actually is really nice, with surefooted mulberry and boysenberry, and it's nicely controlled. Still toddlercide, it should improve with 2-4 years of bottle age. #5

2009 Cain 5

Once this picked up some air, it was super wine--has the vintage's richness but also the structure to harness that power and I even get some copper and creosote at the back end. A ton of interest and I am a big fan. My #2 tonight.

2011 Lillian Gold Label #1 Syrah

But it wasn't as good as this. All Bien Nacido fruit, I waited for it to take on some air before pouring it in the glass. Classic light pepper, cocoa, coffee bean and blackberry in the bouquet. And it's so very beautiful--sleek, bridled power with lovely damson plum, blueberry and blackberry penetrating all parts of the mouth. This walked away with my WOTN

1994 Beringer Nightingale

I only tried this one of the trifecta. No notes but the scents were the same as I remember from my last taste about 13 years ago. The palate is a different story, as it has definitely tipped over into some dried/sherried type notes now. Still fun to try.

Huge thanks to Dylan and Chelsea for opening their home and to everyone for bringing their good cheer.

Lived Life. With Love. Full Cup

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