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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 76 (February 27, 2006)

Monday, February 20: A dental appointment this morning for tooth cleaning. The hygienist kept up an non-stop one-way conversation for 45 minutes. She asked me what I did and what my hobbies were. Hobbies? The nearest I come to having a hobby is walking Pinot, the Wonder Dog, and working out three times a week. I told her my work is my hobby, I love it. It occurred to me that people took up hobbies because they're bored or unfulfilled by what they have to do in their working lives. The world of wine has so many facets, embraces so many disciplines and is such an endless source of amazement for me that it is my hobby. Wrote up the Wines of the Week. Received in the mail an advance copy of Death On The Douro published in large print by the Linford Mystery Library in London. Yeas ago they published Blood Is thicker Than Beaujolais. Maybe they'll get around to doing The Beast of Barbaresco. For dinner, a bottle of Lindemans Bin 65 Chardonnay 2005 with roast chicken. This is always a very reliable wine for the price – $10.60 (buttered popcorn flavour, very Oz).

Tuesday, February 21: A morning tasting at the LCBO's flagship Summerhill store. Alvaro Palacios is in town with his wines. He is one of Spain's most interesting vintners, making wine in Rioja, Priorat and Bierzo. This last region is on the French route to Santiago di Compostela, about 200 kilometres before the cathedral at the end of the pilgrim's journey. Here they grow the Mencia grape, whose flavour reminded me of Tereldego Rotaliano from Trentino.

  • Bodegas Palacios Remondo La Vendimia 2004 (Rioja – 100% Tempranillo)
    Deep ruby with an earthy black cherry nose; medium-bodied, dry, spicy black cherry flavour; very elegant with a firm structure. Great value at $15.95. ****
  • Remondo La Montesa 2003 (Rioja – 40% Garnacha, 40% Tempranillo, 10% Mazuelo, 10% Graciano)
    Deep ruby colour; floral, earthy, raspberry nose; spicy sweet fruit, great balance, great length with a firm finish to soft tannins. $21.95. ****½
  • Remondo Propiedad 2003 (Rioja – 45% Tempranillo, 40% Garnacha, 15% Granciano and Mazuelo)
    Ruby colour; vanilla, meaty-minerally nose; richly extracted with sweet, spicy fruit; lovely velvety mouthfeel; firm finish. $39.95. *****
  • Descendientes de J. Palacios Petalos del Bierzo 2004 (Bierzo – Mencia grape)
    Deep ruby; smoky, earthy, sour cherry; lively acidity, medium-bodied with a tannic finish. $22.95. ***½
  • Alvaro Palacios Les Terrasses 2003 (Priorat – 60% Carinena, 30% Garnacha, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah)
    Deep ruby; oaky, pencil lead, cedar and smoky black fruits; lush dark chocolate flavour, beautifully balanced with great length. $41.95. ****½

Tony Hirons and Philip Holzberg met me there and we went to lunch at Le Paradis. Philip was glum because Claudius Fehr had turned down his Château Franc-Cardinal 2002 for Vintages. I had tasted this wine and thought it was pretty good for $15. Philip was even glummer when he looked at Le Paradis' wine list and couldn't find a single Bordeaux in what is ostensibly a French bistro. To add insult to injury, all the wines were listed by varietal. I asked him if he would ever bottle his wine under screwcap. Never, he said, but he hoped a lot of other people would so that he could get better cork. We drank a bottle of Guy Sarget Touraine Cabernet Franc 2004. Very forward and fruity. Had to leave before coffee because I had a meeting at Random House regarding the promotion of the atlas. It appears the publication date has been set for mid-October. There were 8 Random House employees at the meeting from various departments, so I guess they're taking the book seriously. Tonight, my monthly tasting at Grano. The theme is Australia.

  • Reception wine: Tamar Ridge Riesling 2003 (Tasmania)
  • Grant Burge Kraft Sauvignon Blanc 2004 (Barossa/Adelaide Hills)
  • Hungerford Hill Sauvignon Blanc Chardonnay 2003 (Hunter Valley)
  • Knappstein Hand Picked Riesling 2003 (Clare Valley)
  • Hardy's Tintara Grenache 2002 (McLaren Vale)
  • Yalumba Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 (South Australia)
  • Zilzie Buloke Reserve Petit Verdot 2003 (Victoria)
  • Tatachilla Shiraz 2001 (McLaren Vale)

Wednesday, February 22: A day spent doing all those boring little things prior to leaving the country for a week – cancelling newspapers, recording a new message for the answering machine, making an out-of-office notice on my email – as well as getting up to date on my weekly chores: Wines of the Week for the website, Top Picks from Vintages' March release. Also trying to raise finds for the Institute of Masters of Wine. Two donors in Britain have pledged £100,000 each if the Institute can raise matching funds. To do this, MWs are putting together auction lots, "including once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to bid for dinner at Chateau Le Pin, Chateau Palmer and Chateau d'Yquem (inter alia) in Bordeaux, and other exciting visits including Champagne, the Rheingau, South Africa and Austria." These will be auctioned in the autumn through Christie's in New York and London, and on-line through Langton's in Australia.

An attack of food poisoning just as I am about to go to the airport to fly to Argentina and I am out of action. The last time I had food poisoning was in Istanbul when I was twenty-one. I thought I was going to die there (sweating, throwing up, aching and shivering). Unable to fly, I have to miss the trip. This would have been my first visit to Argentina. Bitterly disappointed.

Thursday, February 24: Spent the day in bed recovering, sleeping mostly.

Friday, February 25: Moped around the house, trying to work but feeling lousy. The only thing that cheered me up was a glass of Château des Charmes St. David's Bench Chardonnay 2001. I bought a case of this wine when it was first released. I should have held on to some bottles because it has aged beautifully.




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