JULIAN HITNER TORONTO WINE CONSULTANT

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JULIAN'S FINE WINE BLOG

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A Champagne Tasting, Media Style

Posted by hitnerwine on March 31, 2009 at 3:57 PM Comments comments (0)

Tasting the Heidsieck Houses

On March 31, 2009, a respectable number of Toronto's distinguished wine journalists (such as it is) gathered together at Veritas Restaurant at 234 King Street East in downtown Toronto. Our purpose? To sample the wares of Heidsieck Champagne houses Piper and Charles, presented under the helpful guidance of International House Communications Sales Director Christian Hothausen.


To be honest, I usually dread these particular kinds of media tastings, which are oftentimes overly atmospherically straight-jacketed for my liking (*how's that for alliteration*). I wish my sommelier-friends from George Brown College were there --- more fun!


Moving on, it goes without saying that this particular Champagne tasting was gastronomically solid. With seven Champagnes to try, one was easily provided with an adequate perspective of both houses' approaches toward making Champagne at various levels of quality.


For my part, my favourite Champagne was definitely the Charles Heidsieck Blanc de Millénaires Brut Vintage 1995. With intense exotic fruit (my first impression) giving way to more 'temperate' green apples and Bartlett pears, I became enamored with the wine's overall fragrance, as well as with its floral overtones. Offering structured fruit and a tight finish, all very firm and clean, this was an excellently balanced wine. Stylish and delicious! I only wish I could afford it, as it fetches $174.80.

Burgundian Brilliance

Posted by hitnerwine on March 19, 2009 at 1:41 PM Comments comments (0)

The Burgundy Road Show at the St. Andrews Club in downtown Toronto

On March 17, 2009, private agencies of Ontario joined together on the twenty-seventh floor of 150 King Street West to host of wine tasting that featured the Burgundian wares of their respective portfolios; and some of Toronto's most famous wine commentators and sommeliers were on hand to enjoy the show.


For people who adore Burgundy, little effort was required for the task.


From a personal point of view, I thought the whites (Chardonnay) stood out a great deal better than many of the reds (Pinot Noir), in large part because of a faulty temperature system that made all three tasting rooms overly warm (the whites were at least kept on ice, at least most of the time). It also didn't help that it was such a warm, gorgeous day outside.


From Domaine Louis Moreau, some magnificent Chablis wines were to be found, particularly their '07 Vaulignot Premier Cru label. Bright and beautifully scented, it carried complex notes of quince, fresh apples, sea pebbles, ferns, even a touch of 'mist' (albeit intangible); with steely, tingly fruit on the mouth and finish. Truly, a characterful wine with lovely finesse.


From Maison Joseph Drouhin, a sommelier-friend and I exchanged thoughts on the always-intriguing Clos de Mouches (Blanc), this particular bottle's contents hailing from the magnificent '05 vintage. With delicate hazelnut-like scents, mingled with hints of butterscotch, 'temperate' fruit, and a touch of vanilla, no self-respecting enthusiast of subtle wine would ever call this a 'blockbuster.' Still very young, mind you, both of us were fascinated by its crisp-yet-smooth mouthfeel and finish. A complex wine, to say the least.


From Maison Louis Latour, I was privy to enjoy a (less-than-healthy) sample of their '06 Corton-Charlemagne (Grand Cru). An excellent wine from a moderate vintage, many of its primary components were still largely derived from barrel aging, from intense toast and vanillin eventually giving way to bosc pears and light tropical fruit, quince, and fresh nuttiness. Complex even in infancy, one would be hard pressed to deny this wine its rightful pedigree, which is readily apparent especially on the finish. An excellent wine.


And so, it's times like these I wish I was rich --- fine Burgundy is really expensive!

Trying '86 Lafite

Posted by hitnerwine on September 4, 2008 at 5:15 PM Comments comments (1)

I really enjoy the good stuff:

I make no denials: I adore top-quality wine!


Over the last few months, I've been fortunate enough to sample a few of the greats, and the most remarkable was the 1986 Lafite Rothschild, from Pauillac, Bordeaux, France. Such grace and charm! With sweet-fruit, mocha, and cigar box scents, the wine still had a lot of vibrancy for its age.


Actually, I sampled this wine with my classmates at George Brown College, and most of them did not seem as enthusiastic about it as I was. Oh, well --- more for me!

Tasting a few of the best wines in Australia

Posted by hitnerwine on April 16, 2008 at 11:23 AM Comments comments (0)
My compliments to the following wineries:

(1) Torbreck (Barossa Valley, South Australia)
(2) d'Arenberg (McLaren Vale, South Australia)
(3) Jim Barry (Clare Valley, South Australia)
(4) Vasse Felix (Margaret River, Western Australia)
(5) Leeuwin Esate (Margaret River, Western Australia)
(6) Kay Brothers Amery Wines (McLaren Vale, South Australia)
(7) Two Hands (Barossa Valley, South Australia)

If I were to select the winery that was the most generous and welcoming during my time in Australia, it would have to be Torbreck. From the lovely person behind the counter, I got to try the 2004 and 2005 'RunRig' Shiraz. On the market, each of these bottles sells for more than $200.00, and both were indisputably brilliant wines, made from vines a great deal older than one hundred years of age.

For my part, I thought the '05 to be somewhat more elegant than the '04. Both were extremely young, generous wines. The '04 had thick fruit, spice, mint, tar, and light jam (in a good way) on the nose, along with a toasty-granola scent. On the palate, the '04 was just starting to develop, with great laying of fruit, tannin, and all sorts of complexities, all ending in an extra-long finish.

The '05, on the other hand, was a tad closed, but still revealed a little mint, mocha, and a fair bit of refined fruit scents. Though it boasted a huge mouthfeel, I could not easily dismiss the wine's not-unfounded elegance. As for the finish, I thought it to be merely an extension of all that I felt on the palate. Thank you, Torbreck, for pouring me such fine items. The '05 'Factor' was also rather splendid, to say the least ...

Concerning the other six wineries I mention above, there were more wines that stood out than I could possibly mention in a single blog entry.

At d'Arenberg, 'The Ironstone Pressings' (vintage 2005) was truly excellent, boasting a little game and fragrant perfume scents, continuing on the palate with light berries, along with other concentrated fruit flavours; delicious!

At Jim Barry, 'The Armagh' (vintage 2004) was glorious. Powerful and sensual, it offered notes of chocolate, spice, game, and a whole load of toast and currants. Inviting, though tight, the palate was profound and layered. At $195.00 (AU), this wine is at the top of the Aussie market, and it's quality, in my view, most certainly reflects this.

As for the rest of the wineries I mention above, quality across the board was tremendous. Each of these wineries, without exception, have a great deal to be proud of. My thanks to Vasse Felix for granting me a tour, even though I had not arranged it prior to my trip.

A tasting I don't think I'll ever forget

Posted by hitnerwine on January 25, 2008 at 2:14 PM Comments comments (3)
Tasting (most of) the 'classified growths' of Bordeaux from the superlative 2005 vintage

Before I begin, it has probably come to the attention of some of my readers (all ten of you) that I seldom add to my Fine Wine Blog.

Make no mistake, it is not because I do not sample fine wines on a regular basis that I do not make frequent postings on my blog (rather the reverse), but because most of the fine wines I get to taste are from a purely analytical standpoint, which, in my view, is only a small part of the pleasure of tasting wine.

Allow me to elaborate.

Personally, I prefer to taste wine in a more social setting, such as with family members and close friends (and even a few colleagues, such as those at George Brown College --- there are some wonderful, gifted and friendly folks in my class). Hence, though many people might have great fun at tasting countless wines at, say, portfolio tastings, I consider such exercises to be purely analytical in nature, and, thus, not wholly conducive to good cheer.

The best way to taste wine? For me, it is always with good food and fine companions, without tasting sheets and long periods of quiet examination. In addition, I believe the best way to taste wine also involves not being surrounded by hundreds of people in a large (or even a small) room, not always having to jostle one's way to the food table for a few morsels of edible goods, and not having to speak with overly-enthusiastic wine agents.

----------------

My personal tirade concluded, I would now like to discuss the marvelous tasting I attended at the Four Seasons Hotel on the evening of January 22, 2008. The tasting featured some of the greatest estates of Bordeaux (excluding the 'First Growths'), whose representatives (there were also many owners present) were pouring from the glorious 2005 vintage.

Never before have I tasted so many seemingly-perfect wines at once! The wines of Margaux were gorgeously perfumed; the wines of Pauillac were polished and powerful; the wines of St. Julien were unbelievably sensual; the wines of
St. Est?phe were reserved, yet complex and dignified ... you get the idea.

What the hell! To continue: the wines of St. Emilion were plump and forward; the wines of Pomerol were sexy and luscious; the wines of the Graves were boastful and ageworthy; and the Sauternes were balanced and beautiful.

Put simply, practically every important estate in Bordeaux seems to have made a great wine in '05. I certainly had a few favourites (that is, from what was available to taste, as there were many important estates missing at this event). In no particular order (excluding the first), here is a list of some of my favourites: (1) L
?oville-Baron; (2) Pichon-Baron; (3) Angelus; (4) Coutet; (5) La Conseillante; (6) Giscours; (7) Smith-Haut-Lafitte; and (8) Lafont-Rochet.

Next time, however, I only hope to be able to enjoy these wines without having to be so analytical about them, as well as without all those things I've already mentioned.

Enjoying a 'Second Wine' of a 'First Growth'

Posted by hitnerwine on December 10, 2007 at 11:09 AM Comments comments (0)
Drinking a glass of 'Carruades de Lafite' (vintage 2004) with my classmates

Yesterday, at a 'wine practice' at Crush Wine Bar in downtown Toronto, I was tasting wines with my classmates from George Brown College (I am currently enrolled in the sommelier course there). Seeing as how it is the Christmas season, I wanted to end off our tasting session in style; and I figured the 'Second Wine' of Lafite would satisfy such a desire.

Before continuing, however, I do feel it necessary to mention just one thing about my classmates. Without exception, they are all gifted tasters (I can tell this simply by observing the depth with which they examine their wines). And yet, most of them would be ready to admit that they are lacking in overall confidence whenever engaged in the actual exercise of analysing a wine. The reason for this, at least from what I can see, has to do with the fact that they are usually unfamiliar with the winery from which a specific wine is produced.

For my part, I believe the best way to increase one's level of comfort in examining wines is to learn more about the specific winery whose wine(s) one is tasting. And what better way to employ this manner of confidence-building than by tasting the 'Second Wine' of one of the most prestigious estates in the world?!

Needless to say, the 2004 Carraudes de Lafite was excellent. As expected, it was extremely toasty, with notes of roasted coffee beans, earth, 'small' black currants, and light smoke. A powerful-yet-elegant wine, I was happy to be told by my classmates that they enjoyed it, as well as learning a little bit of details on the estate of Lafite, itself.

I hope to sample many other such wines with these fine individuals.

Terrific old (and young) Burgundy

Posted by hitnerwine on November 2, 2007 at 10:54 AM Comments comments (0)
Exploring the cellars (and the housed wines) of Burgundy

While in France during (most of) the month of October 2007, I was fortunate enough to gain admittance to some of the most prestigious wine houses of Burgundy, from Domaine M?o-Camuzet to Joseph Drouhin (among others).

In the former house, in the course of just around half an hour, I was guided through the entire barrel range of the yet-to-be-bottled 2006 vintage. It is not often I am able to sample so many astonishing wines in one setting; and yet each wine was so brilliant and unique that it is near-firmly ingrained into my memory just weeks later. Not to brag, but I do possess an usually powerful recollection for such things as taxes and tastes.

As would be expected, the most wonderful wine of the lot at Camuzet was the Richebourg. Very closed on the nose, the palate was only starting to reveal even the minutest subtleties one associates with a wine of such wonder. I thank Nicholas for the honour of being able to sample an item that will probably cost, per bottle, more than my flight to France!

At Joseph Drouhin, the wines sampled were, not being barrel samples, much more complete and, in some cases, highly developed. My guide for Drouhin was extremely generous in opening up old bottles, and I got  to sample some superb reds and whites from as far back as 1988!

Though each wine was spectacular unto itself, my favourite of the lot was a 1990 Chambolle-Musigny Premier Cru. Dominated by white (and milk) chocolate, the wine held lovely notes of truffles, sweet-earthy scents, and magnificent personality. With the fruit still powerful, I was in awe of this particular wine's complexity. My compliments to terroir and, associatively, the human intervention of the crew at Drouhin --- double-plus good.

So what have I learned from this experience? Rich people are lucky stinking ducks!

Would you ever pay this much?

Posted by hitnerwine on September 26, 2007 at 3:28 PM Comments comments (0)
Just sampled a rum costing $2,000.00!

Several days ago, at the 'Tasting Tower' at the Summerhill L.C.B.O., I tried a small sample of a bottle of rum that costs $2,000.00. Made by Havana Club, it is called 'Maximo,' and is the most prestigious rum they produce, made from only the finest blends.

An intense golden-brown colour, this was not only the most expensive rum I have ever tried, but also the most complicated. The different sorts of aromas I discovered when 'nosing' it were sensational, ranging from caramel to leafy notes. On the palate, it was gloriously smooth (with even a tiny bit of fruit showing ... weird). As hoped for, the finish was long and delicate.

For my part, I have found most rums to be uninteresting. And though I have tried premium rums before that I've liked, they have never been as good as 'Maximo.' Does this mean the rest of the rums I try
in my lifetime (that is, other than 'Maximo,' if I'm lucky) will seem dull by comparison? I hope not!

INTRODUCTION

Posted by hitnerwine on September 11, 2007 at 3:35 PM Comments comments (0)
This is my first blog entry (I hope it isn't my last)!

I would like to comment about a premium wine I tried not long ago: Prunotto Barolo, Bussia Vineyard (vintage 1997).

Only a half-bottle, I remember buying it in 2004 (though I cannot recall the price). Ten years after the grapes were picked off the vines, it was lovely to drink. All the wine's 'parts' were in full glory, and it paired beautifully with my meal (I cannot remember the exact dish).

These days, as Barolo is at such a crossroads between what is considered 'traditionalist' and what is considered 'modern,' enthusiasts of wine only stand to benefit from all the different styles we are privy to enjoy of this prestigious type of wine. In the upcoming years, I hope to open up many more bottles of Barolo.

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