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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 75 (February 20, 2006)

Monday, February 13: Guy's birthday. It's a tradition in our house that the birthday boy/girl gets to choose the restaurant where they want to celebrate that night. Of all the restaurants in Toronto Guy chose Dipoma because he loves their ribs. Spent the days writing the 680 News wine reviews, delivering books to Scotia Capital for tomorrow's Valentine's Day tasting event. At dinner Deborah and I had a glass of Long Flat Shiraz with our ribs. Dominic gave us a complimentary Booker's Bourbon and Talisker Single Malt to finish the meal.

Tuesday, February 14: Recorded my six reviews for 680 News, walked Pinot and then started on the outline for the wine DVD. I'm trying to make it as interactive as possible so that the viewer can taste along with me. At 4:00 pm subwayed down to Scotia Capital to prepare for the tasting. The guests (clients of the company) were invited for 5:30 pm. On entering the 63rd floor of Scotia Plaza they will have oysters (Raspberry Point, PEI, Mystic Select from Connecticut and Pebble Point, Nova Scotia, from Rodney's) with Louisiana Wild White Shrimp. I paired this with Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Brut. In another room were four food stations: crispy duck with a salad accompanied by either Pierre Labet Clos de Dessus des Marconnets 2002 or Quartz Reef Pinot Noir 2003 from Central Otago. An adjacent table had Beef Tenderloin with roasted winter vegetables paired with Château Fortia Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2003 (very forward and ready to drink). There was a selection of artisanal cheeses, Riopelle, Tomme du Maréchal, a lovely mild goat's cheese, Baluchon – all from Quebec, Brillat-Savarin (like butter) from Normandy, Torta del Casar, a Portuguese mountain cheese from sheep's milk and Rassembleu, a Quebec blue cheese. For these I chose Framingham Sauvignon Blanc 2004 from New Zealand to add to the white Burgundy and the Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The cheeses were supplied by Shay Cheese – Andy Shay puts together a monthly selection for sending to his customers. I'm getting on his mailing list at Signed 113 copies of my wine murder mysteries for the guests who obviously needed late Valentine's gifts.

Wednesday, February 15: Frederic Picard, the winemaker from Huff Estate in Prince Edward County, is coming over for lunch. He wants me to taste three of his wines. Frederic is Burgundian. He first worked at Peninsula ridge under Jean-Pierre Colas and then joined Huff. He tells me that they are going to plant Frontenac Gris outside the winery, a winter hardy hybrid that Alain Breault brings in from Wisconsin. Huff's main vineyard is in South Bay, where the microclimate is warmer. We start with Huff Lighthall Chardonnay 2004 (one-third fermented in new French oak, one-third in one-year-old and one-third in stainless steel). The wine is pale straw in colour with a nose of fresh apples and touch of vanilla oak; the favour reminds me of tangerines with a lemony zest, very elegant and minerally in Chablis style. The price is $29.95. Aggressive pricing here. Next, Huff South Bay Chardonnay 2004, made from third leaf vines, 100% new oak. Straw coloured with an oaky, toasty, vanilla nose overlaying caramel and citrus notes. Lovely mouth-feel, medium-bodied, very Burgundian with a lively acidic finish ($34.95). We finish with South Bay Cabernet Merlot 2004, again 100% new oak. Light ruby in colour with a nose of vanilla, leather, cherries and a floral note; elegant, clean, well balanced with fresh acidity. The greenness of young vines is apparent, but it augurs well for the future when the vines mature ($29.95).

One final go through the atlas galleys for corrections Random House wants. This should be the last time I see it until the bound copies arrive. I can't say I'm sorry to see it go. Paul Lokash, who imports Israeli wines, came over to discuss a tasting in the fall for his charity. We talked over a bottle of Chateau Fonreaud 2003 from Listrac with cheese. Very good it was too.

Thursday, February 16: The Wine Council of Ontario is holding at tasting for the wine writers of wines to be poured at Cuvée on March 4th. They chose a single wine – the top-scoring wine – from each winery at the winemakers' tasting on January 19th. Interestingly, of the 48 wines, six of them were Rieslings, and as a flight they were the best of the morning in terms of overall quality. Ontario really does Riesling well; it's a pity consumers don't buy this varietal. Cave Spring CSV 2004 and Ridgepoint 2004 were the standouts. Other top scoring wines were Vineland Estates Sauvignon Blanc 2004, Reif Gewürztraminer 2004, Niagara College Pinot Noir Reserve 2004, Stratus Red 2002, Konzelmann Vidal Icewine 2004 and Lailey Vidal Icewine 2004. Started writing my commentary for the May/June issue of Tidings on the Canadian reds versus Bordeaux tasting. Dinner at Art and Ellie Silver's, who live around the corner from us (mercifully, since it was a filthy night). Art is one of my fishing buddies. Steve Cohen, another of the fishing group, and his wife Roz were the other guests. Art served Seresin Sauvignon Blanc 2004 and Kilikanoon Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 and that Clare Valley producer's Oracle Shiraz 2002, both very concentrated, chunky, flavourful wines.

Friday, February 17: A tasting morning at Vintages for new LCBO releases and some of the wines from last Friday's Vintages March 18th release that were corked or missing. The best of the new releases is a Jackson-Triggs Okanagan Cabernet Sauvignon 2003. Good to see some BC wines coming in. We have Free Trade with the US and Mexico but not between our own provinces. This evening we've been invited to a screening of the New Zealand film, The World's Fastest Indian. There's a reception before the film at Pangea. Deborah and I have a glass of Cumbrae Sauvignon Blanc 2004 and Babich Pinot Noir 2003. The movie stars Anthony Hopkins obsessed with establishing a world record on his ancient motorbike. Very enjoyable.




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