12 September 2014

Notes from Toronto International Pinotage Tasting

Ontario was enjoying a heat wave during my time there, and I’d taken cold weather gear. 

Toronto’s South African Wine Society organised a unique tasting of 13 Pinotages from five countries plus three US states. It had taken six years to gather them all and on Tuesday 26 August 2014 a keen group of members and interested guests gathered tfor a tutored tasting in the splendid Wedgwood Blue Room in the Toronto University Faculty Club, a 1920’s ivy-covered mansion towered over by the recent modern architecture of university buildings.
Faculty Club

Tasters in the Wedgwood Blue Room (photo by Eleanor Cosman) 

Speaker in full flow (photo by Eleanor Cosman)

I was presenting the tasting and unable to take notes so I am indebted to committee member Jon Whitteker for permission to use his.

Topper’s Mountain 2010 wild ferment – Australia / New England NSW  (non grafted vines, 7 years)

—good initial impression, excellent fruit flavours, med. depth & length, plum & red fruit / held up well over 1-2 hours / very good on its own and with food.

Melrose Vineyards 2009 – USA / Oregon  (planted 2005)

—lighter style, short finish, easy drinking but lacking interest.

Barkan Reserve 2010 – Israel / Judean Hills  (8 year vines / started planting in 1995)

—good darker fruit flavours / medium finish / different, non typical flavour profile / pleasant but not compelling.

Lake Breeze Seven Poplars 2010 – Canada / B.C.  (14 years)

—forward, open bouquet / excellent black fruit / impressive with a solid backbone, very good depth and length / a serious wine that will improve with age / goes very well with food.

Stoneboat 2010 – Canada / B.C.  (12 years)

—similar in structure to the Lake Breeze but not the same weight / very good fruit, good length / very good with food.

Lovingston 2011 – USA / Virginia  (vineyard planted in 2008)

—good open nose, very good fruit, different flavour profile but very drinkable

Fort Ross 2007 – USA / California  (root stock imported in 1995)

 . good nose, excellent fruit, very good length and balance / sweeter initial impression which moderated over time / developed more flavour complexity as time progressed / silky tannins in the finish.

J Vineyards Estate RRV 2010 – USA / California (vines from 1994 and 2001)

—very good fruit / more Pinot Noir like initially on the palate / very good length / sweeter initial impression which moderated over time / developed more flavour complexity as time progressed / silky tannins in the finish.

Loma Prieta Winery 2012 - Estate Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mtns (California) … (Second vintage)

—good fruit, sweeter entry, medium-light length, smooth, very pleasant / sweeter initial impression which moderated over time / developed more flavour complexity as time progressed / silky tannins in the finish.

Soljans 2011 – New Zealand / Gisborne

—lighter appearance but abundant strawberry fruit / good length and finish, very drinkable

Muddy Water 2011 – New Zealand / Waipara  (non grafted vines, 18 years)

 —excellent, dark fruit, has good balance and length / has depth & complexity to develop further with time / soft but noticeable tannins enhanced the overall impression.

Black Elephant The Back Roads 2012 – South Africa / Wellington  (old vine, single vineyard)

 —dark, rich fruit / excellent depth and length / lots of potential for the long haul / pronounced but pleasant tannins indicate it age very well and further develop / very impressive.

Swartland  Bush Vine 2010 – South Africa / Swartland  (bush vine blocks, 15 – 37 years)

good fruit, medium length, pleasant, not overly complex, enjoyable but not compelling.


Wine was served in 1.25oz (37ml) pours in ISO glasses. Wine was opened and poured 1 to 1½  hours before tasting. Wine was re-tasted up to 2 hours after the initial tasting. Food was served halfway through the tasting and again after the last wine was initially tasted.

After the tasting I spent time in Ontario's wine region to visit wineries and to taste their wines.

I sent my last  day in Ontario as a guest of Peter Laidlaw who farms Fieldmouse Vineyards near Jordan Village, featured on page 183 of my book PINOTAGE. 

Peter planted an experimental row of Pinotage in 2001 and on my last visit in 2006 we harvested the first vintage. Tragedy struck shortly afterwards with the sudden illness and later death of Peter's wife Susan. The vineyards suffered lack of attention aas a result, and no more Pinotage has yet been planted.

I am glad to say I found Peter in good cheer. He has remarried and is very happy. We sat at a table placed among the vines drinking a bottle of Fieldmouse Pinotage (not commercially released) and devouring a delicious Vietnamese feast prepared by Chi Laidlaw and her mother.

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