JULIAN HITNER TORONTO WINE CONSULTANT

"For love of everything that is wine"

JULIAN'S FINE WINE BLOG

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Meyer Family Vineyards: Part II

Posted by hitnerwine on December 22, 2011 at 2:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Several nights ago, I finished up a bottle of the Meyer Family Vineyards 2009 McLean Creek Road Vineyard Pinot Noir (89/100, $40). For the most part, I was impressed with its overall potency and balance, though one could tell that the grapes were extracted as much as possible; and because the vines probably aren’t that old, the wine seemed a tad ‘stressed.’

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But this isn’t to say the wine doesn’t have good potential. Why, if Jak Meyer and Janice Stevens keep up their good work, I’d say future vintages hold remarkable promise. The next bottle I’ll open up will be the 2010 vintage of the same wine. We’ll see how it compares.

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In the meantime, Christmas is just around the corner, and I have recently published yet another huge list of wine picks on my homepage. If you still haven’t bought all your wines, be sure to check it out!

Going to the LCBO? Read this first

Posted by hitnerwine on December 18, 2011 at 12:10 AM Comments comments (0)

Province-wide, collectors are heading to Vintages sections of LCBO outlets to buy wine for Christmas. Aside from 24 December (Christmas Eve), the next two days will be among the busiest of the year!

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About a month ago, I blogged some good words of advice on how to survive the rush, the usual platitudes about preparing lists and seeking the advice of product consultants. But the latter will be hounded by dozens of customers, so you’ll probably be on your own; or you will have to wait your turn, which could take awhile.

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For my part, I have posted dozens of wine picks, which you can view on my homepage. There should be something for every collector; but in case you don’t see what you want, visit my Wine Picks Archive to check out more wine picks.

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Also, when visiting LCBO stores, especially the big ones, better be prepared to wait for a parking spot. To make matters worse, plenty of patrons park illegally, which is something that irritates citizens like me to no end. Seriously, let’s all behave courteously and wait our turn!

Group tasting at the Fine Wine Reserve

Posted by hitnerwine on December 15, 2011 at 2:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Sometimes, the best group tastings are those with just a few people and several bottles of wine. That way, you can really get to know each wine as best as possible, as well as everyone’s opinion on it. Much more effective than tasting too many wines with too many people. Just another way of looking at it, I suppose.

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Yesterday, a few friends and I got together at the Fine Wine Reserve in downtown Toronto to do just that—to enjoy three bottles of excellent wine, albeit with one past its prime, in one of the nicest tasting rooms in the city.

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The wines? 1990 Château Ducru-Beaucaillou, 2001 Quintessa, and 1990 Simi ‘Centennial Edition’ Cabernet Sauvignon. The participants, other than my self? Jeffrey Silver and Manol Manolov, both serious fine wine collectors. Collector Venc Smitkov later joined us at dinner (more on our dinner wines in a moment).

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Now, since I will be typing up formal notes on all of these wines in just a few weeks, there would be no point in my talking too much about them at present. Suffice it to say, the Ducru was incredible; Jeffrey was initially concerned that it might have been past its prime, but such concerns were quickly assuaged: a long-distance runner with so much life, even youthful vitality, left. One of the best, most reliable non-First Growths of the vintage, in my opinion.

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The Quintessa: a silk-glove wine with an amazing velvety grip and possessor of excellent power; a Cabernet-blend, maturing very slowly, unbelievably tempting now. Manol’s contribution, and an enormous hit!

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The Simi: out of breath, it conducted itself like an old warhorse, still standing up, indulgently cedary, or ‘seasoned’ as would seem more appropriate, yet having clearly seen better days behind it. My personal contribution, it was like saying goodbye to an old friend.

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After our tasting, we headed to Zucca for dinner, a great Italian restaurant a few blocks of Yonge and Eglinton in midtown Toronto. Still thirsty, Jeffrey grabbed two bottles from his cellar collection at the Reserve: 2000s Château d’Armailhac and Clos du Marquis—wines of the same vintage yet of clearly different identifiability. Combined with Venc’s contribution of a ‘95 Château Petit Village, there was no shortage of dialogue on how different these wines were.

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The Clos du Marquis (first opened): ‘chunky’ and ‘enigmatic’ were words that seemed to come to mind, perhaps slightly closed, yet unmistakably delicious, brilliantly structured, and sophisticated. A wine with many years of life ahead of it, though perhaps entering a ‘dumb’ phase.

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The d’Armailhac: textbook Pauillac aromas and texture, the most accessible of the three dinner clarets, and slightly less profound. Still an excellent wine, mind you, one with plenty of life left. From my favourite appellation in Bordeaux.

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The Petit Village: now at its peak, with all the hallmarks of proper, mid-weight Pomerol; no hard edges at all, full of elegance and clear signs of pedigree. It could probably stay for another ten years, though I don’t think it’ll improve any further.

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And so, there we have it: six very different wines sampled over the course of just about six hours. Topics for conversation while tasting? Why, all about wine of course: great vintages, trends, personal favourites, and ideas on what wines to open up at future tastings. I do believe an evening of single malt Scotch was also put on the table—so much to decide …

Other Toronto Wine Bloggers: Part I

Posted by hitnerwine on December 13, 2011 at 3:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Today, I finally decided to explore the blogs of a few general wine enthusiasts in Toronto, and I must say I am very impressed. I always knew there were hundreds, if not thousands, of persons out there madly in love with wine. I just never really took the time to read their opinions, look at their photos, or check out their wine ratings. No reason, I guess I've always been in my own little world when it comes to discussing wine with others, in that I don't do it very often, excepting a few critics at the LCBO tasting lab.

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My first stop took me to the website of Tyler Philp, whose blog is very detailed and contains many recommendations. I like the design of the website, the style of his writing, as well as the overall sense of professionalism Philp has seemed to adopt. In all, it would be a pleasure to taste fine wine with this person. It says on his blog that he tastes with fellow enthusiasts every month. Wonder if I could partake ...

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The other blog I visited today was that of Andrew Hunter, whose blog, while not nearly as developed as Philp's, nonetheless remains well worth a gander. Truly, Hunter's zest for wine is unquestionable, and I hope to see him at future tastings around Toronto.

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As for the rest (and there are a lot of them), I'll have to look them up another day when I have more time. Right now, I have too many columns to write, too many notes to type up, and too many wine books to read.

LCBO Gouging

Posted by hitnerwine on December 12, 2011 at 6:15 PM Comments comments (0)

About a week ago, I read that the LCBO has been accused of charging too much for their wares, blasted by provincial Auditor General Jim McCarter for not taking advantage of their purchasing power to provide Ontarians with better prices for wine (among other products).

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Honestly, is anyone surprised? McCarter hasn't reported anything that wine lovers in Ontario haven't known for years; that the LCBO gouges customers at virtually every turn, claiming 'social responsibility' as the impetus for their ways. But seasoned collectors know better: we buy our wine in the United States, in Europe, or anywhere else it's cheaper, and bring it home any way we can. And still, we buy most of our wine through Vintages, left with virtually no other choice.

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Will McCarter's report make any difference in the long run? Put simply, it won't.

Meyer Family Vineyards: Part I

Posted by hitnerwine on December 7, 2011 at 2:25 PM Comments comments (0)

About a week ago, I received sample bottles from Okanagan-based Meyer Family Vineyards. Starting with the 2010 Okanagan Valley Pinot Noir (88/100, $24.90, I am thus far impressed with their proper use of fruit, ripeness, and freshness. Indeed, I have been enjoying this bottle over the past several evenings (screwcap closure).

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As I complete the remaining wines, more comments shall follow. In the meantime, kudos to proprietors Jack Meyers and Janice Stevens for their efforts. My only wish: that I did not have a cold on the first night I opened the bottle -- at the time, it was only a sore throat ...

Christmas wine shopping

Posted by hitnerwine on December 3, 2011 at 5:05 PM Comments comments (0)

This is the time of year when LCBO stores are the most busy, with people flocking to buy wine for presents and to enjoy over the Christmas season.

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I was at the Avenue Road outlet south of the 401 this afternoon, and it was fairly busy, though perfectly manageable. The trick is to know exactly what you want to buy before arriving at the store. Some people even bring lists with them, while others prefer to simply explore the shelves. In the end, there is no wrong way to shop.

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Another good thing to remember is, when seeking out the more popular bottlings, those more likely to be sold out, head to the smaller LCBO outlets. Usually, at the big stores like Summerhill, Bayview, or Queen's Quay, they sell out right away, especially if they have been highly recommended by a wine critic. However, if you go to a smaller store, you'll have a better chance of picking up what you want.

Jamie Drummond taste test

Posted by hitnerwine on November 29, 2011 at 12:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Just read that local wine sommelier Jamie Drummond has spearheaded an examination to test peoples' sensitivity to taste.

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The test is fairly simple: you stick what appears to be a popsicle stick lined with a bitter substance on your tongue; and the less time it takes for you to detect the bitterness, the better taster you are.

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I also read that two local wine writers refused to take the test, perhaps concerned about receiving a low score.

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For my part, I was never invited to take the test, not that it matters because I also would have said no. Not that I disapprove of candid analyses, I just have trouble understanding the notion that a test can decide the extent to which I am able to appreciate a glass of Lynch-Bages. Now if the popsicle stick tastes like Lynch-Bages, then we'd have something to talk about ...

New website design

Posted by hitnerwine on November 28, 2011 at 11:40 AM Comments comments (0)

At last! I've begun revamping my website, after two years of making not a single modification to anything.

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The changes are easy to see. Many pointless features on the main page have been removed; and articles and wine picks will now be posted every week!

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FYI: most of my notes are now published on WineAlign, though old notes can be viewed by clicking on my Wine Archive.

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As for blogging on a regular basis, I don't really see the point. Most of us say too many irrelevant things already. Best leave it to the professionals.

Tokaji Eszencia: Simply Miraculous

Posted by hitnerwine on August 29, 2009 at 11:09 AM Comments comments (0)

Tasting the 2000 Oremus Tokaji Eszencia (12 August 2009):

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Within the realms of all that is magificent and pure, there is Tokaji Eszencia, one of the most glorious sweet wines known to enthusiasts worldwide.

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Incredibly rare and expensive, Eszencia ranks right up there with the most prestigious clarets and Burgundies that are often talked about by wine enthusiasts, yet seldom tasted by the vast majority of those concerned.

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At LCBO store #452 (located at 1838-1844 Avenue Road), about every month or so, the product consultants there open up a couple of very special wines for costumers to taste. With a fee of only $5.00, it seems that only a handful of wine enthusiasts are actually aware of this remarkable deal, and I am thankful to be one of them.

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For such a minor fee, I was thus able to taste the astonishing 2000 Oremus Eszencia (half-bottle).

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At only nine years of age, it remains incredibly youthful. Starbright, light orange colour. Beginning with exquisite scents of nutted orange marmelade, apricots, tangerines, and honey; later switching to more spicy aromas consisting of dried caramel, maple-amber, and a hint of fruitcake. Clean and inescapably smooth, with heavenly sweet fruit, brilliant structure, and a gorgeous, ever-lasting hint of orange maple on the finish. Miraculous in virtually every respect, this will continue to age for well beyond my lifetime. 97/100

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Sadly, there are only two bottles left in the LCBO system (online inventory checked on 29 August 2009): the price is $399.00 (#93567). For those interested in obtaining a keeper, good hunting --- both bottles are located at store #452.


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