Canada, the final day

Hidden Bench

While it is still fresh in my mind, I must finish my series of Canadian-themed blog posts by summing up the final day. Actually, this post encompasses Saturday and Sunday morning, which more or less merged into one, in an exhausting but fun fashion.

Let me begin with the lunch at Hidden Bench winery, on the Beamsville Bench. Harald Thiel, proprietor (and also the overall director of the cool climate chardonnay conference) was quite rightly a bit distracted when I arrived: he had been without power from the previous evening, and had 115 guests descending for a high-end lunch, prepared by the crew from Toronto restaurant Splendido. I guess also weighing on Harald’s mind would have been that the weather was still looking a bit dodgy, and the signature event with 1000 attendees was only six hours away. There was no back-up plan!

Marlize Beyers

I began with a tasting of Hidden Bench wines, hosted by the very smart Marlize Beyers, winemaker here. We had some cool wine geeky discussion as I tried the wines. I was impressed by the range, with my particular favourites being the Felseck Pinot Noir and the Roman’s Block Riesling. Hidden Bench is a serious outfit.

Egg, chanterelles, spinach, garlic and truffles

Then it was time for lunch, and I had to lead a panel discussion. It went really well, largely because the panel of winemakers made it very easy: Elizabeth Grant-Douglas (La Crema), Clive Jones (Nautilus), Norm Hardie, Matt Chittick (Roche de Bellane) and Marlize Beyers (Hidden Bench). Lunch itself was superb, especially considering there was no power. Victor Barry and his team from Splendido did really well. We tasted (drank) 12 different Chardonnays through lunch. The picks? Maison Roche de Bellene Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru Chenevottec 2011, Kistler Vine Tree Hill Chardonnay 2011, and Cave Spring Cellars Chardonnay 2011.

A quick turnaround, and then off to the evening’s festivities. The Cool Chardonnay World Tour tasting and lunch, at Vineland research centre. I gatecrashed a Wine Align Chardonnay boot camp, compered by David Lawrason and John Szabo, and then it was time to taste. There were a lot of people, and so time was split between tasting and chatting, before we all moved up to the dinner. This was a jolly affair, and carried on until about 11 pm with the aid of some excellent beer from Oast, before we hatched a plan to extend the evening.

Me with Andrew Rastapkevicius of Lifford

It was off to Jordan, to a bar, where we drank beer and Jaegermeister. A jolly crowd of some 20 or so. This finished, so we walked to Pearl Morissette for a pool party. No photos or videos of this. It was such a cool evening, and I ended up on a sofa, waking after a few hours’ sleep to head straight to Ravine, for a tasting with winemaker Peter Gamble, along with other journalists. Ravine was one of the highlights of the trip, with incredibly pure, elegant, balanced Cabernet Francs. Quite superb.

Peter Gamble

Steven Spurrier and Christy Canterbury

This was followed by the final event of the weekend: the Brunch. Laid back, great food, great wine. I didn’t have long here, because it was soon time to leave for the airport, via a quick stop at Pearl Morissette (Steven Spurrier, who was travelling to the airport with me, hadn’t visited yet; for me, a great chance to visit for the third time in a week). The Pearl Morissette wines are just fabulous. I said goodbye to the pigs, and to Canada. What a trip! Till next time.

See a short film of the last two days:

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