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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 80 (March 27, 2006)

Monday, March 20: Last night Deborah and I dined with our friends the Willises. I brought over a new wine gadget to try out. It's called the BevWizard Wine Enhancer and it was invented by Dr. Patrick Farrell, a Master of Wine and inventor who lives in California. It looks like a pouring dome that you slip on top of a bottle. Inside is a powerful magnet whose high-intensity field apparently changes the molecular structure of the tannins and makes them softer. We experimented on a bottle of Santa Margherita Refosco Peducolo Rosso 2003. We each had a glass poured without the magnet and tasted it against one that was poured through the device. The unanimous decision was that the Bev Wizard made the wine smoother and softer. Whether I would put a young Lafite to the test I don't know. (For more information visit Sadie Darby came over for lunch to help me sort out which panels judge which flights on Saturday, the first day of tasting for the Ontario Wine Awards. There are a lot of last-minute adjustments in terms of the configurations. A meeting with Pauwels Travel to firm up the winery visits for the Italian wine tour in May. So far we have 17 people signed up. Bava in Piemonte, Masi and Serego Aligheri in Veneto and Isole e Olena in Tuscany are on the itinerary. Dinner: Lindemans Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2003.

Tuesday, March 21: Spent the morning on the phone to Ontario wineries to get wines for my seminar on Sunday at the Wine and Cheese Show. The theme is gold-medal Ontario wines. In the afternoon I dropped into Churchill Cellars' portfolio tasting at St. Lawrence Hall. They have a new listing for a California winery called Twin Fin (as in surf board). The label shows a surf board sticking out of a convertible with the top down. Looks rather phallic – at least it's not another critter label. The Pinot Noir for $13.95 is really good and is one of my "Wines of the Week." This evening is another Tuesday tasting at Grano – with a French theme:

  • Veuve Amiot Crémant de Loire Brut
  • Henri Bourgeois Sancerre Les Baronnes 2004 (Loire)
  • Chartron et Trébuchet Santenay 2002 (Burgundy)
  • Comtes d'Isenbourg Gewurztraminer 2004 (Alsace)
  • Domaine de Grand Clos Bourgueil 2003 (Loire)
  • Château Roque Le Mayne 2003 (Côtes de Castillon, Bordeaux)
  • Guigal Côtes du Rhône 2003

The wines showed very well, especially the whites, with the Santenay being the crowd favourite. The Roque Le Mayne 2003 was very dense and concentrated, New World in style. For consumers who come to claret in the hot 2003 vintage, subsequent years will be a shock.

Wednesday 22: Martin Malivoire has invited me to taste a range of his wines at Gamelle restaurant at 4 pm. He tells me he is cutting back on the number of labels for general distribution. In future he will focus on 5 wines – Estate Chardonnay, Gamay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Rosé. Malivoire will still make other wines in 50-case lots for loyal followers of his small-batch wines. I have always contended that Ontario wineries make far too many wines and are loath to give up any of them. By now growers should know what does best in their vineyards and concentrate on those varieties. Inniskillin recognised this some time ago. I didn't realise that Martin had matched a series of wines with Gamelle chef Sean Moore's food because I had to go out for dinner after this tasting.

This is what we had:

  • Melon 2005 with New Brunswick oysters. This Muscadet wine is made for crustaceans – fresh, citrus peel flavour with tart, racy acidity. The whole consignment is sold to Oyster Boy and Starfish, apparently.
  • Pinot Gris Laundry Moltiar Vineyard 2004 (the vineyard owned by winemaker Shiraz Moltiar and his wife) – very pale, peach pit nose; minerally and very hefty, mouth-filling, dry with good length. I found the alcohol a little high on this wine.
  • Estate Pinot Gris 2004 – deeper in colour with a sweet peach and mineral nose with a hint of white pepper, nicely balanced, A lovely wine.
  • Unoaked Chardonnay 2004 (available for licensees only – a blend of four vineyards) – medium straw colour; minerally apple nose; very rich for an unoaked wine, full-bodied with pineapple and citrus flavours, well balanced with good length. This was served with hake in a blood orange sauce. A perfect match.
  • Estate Chardonnay 2004 (39% barrel-fermented, 61% stainless steel) – straw colour; apple, caramel nose; full-bodied, rich caramel and citrus flavours with a vanilla note; good length.
  • Moira Chardonnay 2003 – straw colour; spicy, lychee, toasty nose, high-toned; full-bodied with a firm acidic spine, bold flavours. This was served with roast pork in veal stock sauce.
  • Vin Gris Pinot Noir 2004 (made from juice bled off from Pinot Noir production to intensify colour and extract for the red wine) – served with rabbit rillette. Eye of partridge colour. Light flavours of raspberry and sour cherry; delicate, cherry pit finish.
  • Estate Gamay 2004 – served with duck confit. Ruby colour, peppery black cherry, fruity and fresh, full in the mouth with lively acidity.
  • Gamay Courtney Block 2004 – dense purple, ripe black cherry, concentrated, spicy vanilla; more Pinot Noir in character than Gamay; medium-bodied black cherry flavour with a firm structure and plushy tannins. A terrific wine. Ontario should be growing more Gamay and educating the consuming public to buy it. Thirteenth Street, Chateau des Charmes Gamay Droit, Cave Spring and Henry of Pelham are all making superlative Gamay. And it's a very versatile food wine.
  • Old Vine Foch 2004 with lamb and a mint infused reduction – these vines were 31 years old and this, says Martin, may be their last year. Pity. Dense purple colour; spicy coconut, vanilla and blackberry nose with a minty, medicinal note; ripe fruit, gutsy, full-bodied with a toasty oak finish. Remarkable for a hybrid.
  • Cabernet Franc Icewine 2004 and Gewurztraminer Icewine 2004 – served with foie gras pâté. Cab Franc: deep pink, strawberry compote nose; not too sweet, medium-bodied, well balanced and fresh. Gewurz: old gold colour; intense, spicy, honey with a Botrytis note; very ripe and luscious, rich, thick and unctuous with orange, peach and honey flavours.

And now I have to dine at the National Club. Philip Mirabelli of Noble Estates has invited a few LCBO buyers and consultants and some wine writers to try the wines of Rasteau, a progressive co-operative in the southern Rhône. Rasteau makes very drinkable wines at an affordable price. Their Côtes du Rhône Villages Traditions at $14.95, a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre is a bargain. My favourite wine was Les Hautes du Villages 2001 (40% Mourvèdre, 30% Syrah, 30% Grenache), dense purple-ruby in colour with an earthy, blackberry, herby nose; sweet jammy fruit, full-bodied and firm that opens on the palate to a floral raspberry flavour, very elegant. Philip is the agent for Coopers Creek, the New Zealand winery that produces Cat's Pee on a Gooseberry Bush Sauvignon Blanc. He tells me the LCBO is considering Cooper's Creek's latest offering, a Gisbourne Cabernet Sauvignon with a bunch of chickens on the label. It's called Mother Clucker Red. It will fly. My son will buy it, I know. (Somehow managed to pack more food into me because it was delicious, especially the rack of lamb.)

Thursday, March 23: A quiet day of writing. For dinner, a bottle of Ardent Estates Cabernet Franc 2001 from McLaren Vale. I can't remember the last time I had this variety from Australia. The wine is fruity with lively acidity, medium-bodied with a blueberry flavour; it finishes with firm tannins.

Friday, March 24: Every Friday this month there is a Vintages tasting. This one is for new LCBO general list releases and some Vintages April 29th release wines that were either corked or missing from the tasting two weeks ago. This evening Janet Dorozynski, who works for the diplomatic service in Ottawa choosing Canadian wines for our missions abroad, is coming to dinner. Janet is one of the judges for the Ontario Wine Awards. Deborah makes a mushroom risotto. I serve a Sandhill Barbera 2003 from BC and a bottle of Escudo Rojo 2002 from Chile. This is a Baron Philippe Rothschild wine made in the Maipo Valley. It combines New World richness with Old World elegance. The name translates as Red Shield (as does Rothschild). A great wine for the price ($16.95).

Saturday, March 25: Today is the first day's tasting for the Ontario Wine Awards. This is the second year we are holding it at Crush. The wines are stored, sorted into flights and numbered at the Fine Wine Reserve a few doors away on King Street. The day went well, finishing at 4 pm, when we had to vacate the basement room for another booking. Deborah and I made a Boeuf Bourgignon for tomorrow's dinner. I didn't have any marc de Bourgogne so I used grappa. Jacques Marie, whose recipe it is, would roll his eyes if he knew. And that instead of a bottle of Red Burgundy I used a Jackson-Triggs Pinot Noir. So it's an Ital-Canadian French beef stew.

Sunday, March 26: The Wine & Cheese Show. I am conducting a seminar on Ontario's Golden Wines (wines that have won gold medals in competition). I have chosen Coyote's Run Chardonnay Reserve 2003, Hernder Chambourcin 2002, Creekside Merlot 2002, Pillitteri Family Reserve Cabernet franc 2002, Konzelmann Riesling Traminer Late Harvest 2002 and Inniskillin Vidal Icewine 2004. Tonight, Doug Frost, John Szabo and Igor Ryjenkov are coming to dinner, and so is my son Guy. Doug is a Master Sommelier and a Master of Wine from Kansas City. John is a Master Sommelier and Igor is a Master of Wine (the first resident MW). We open lots of wines: Chateau des Charmes Gewurztraminer 1998 (still very much alive and kicking); Burrowing Owl Chardonnay 2000; Domaine du Closel Savennières Cuvée Spéciale 1992 (fabulous); Etienne Sauzet Puligny-Montrachet Champ-Carnet 1996 (also fabulous); Inniskillin Pinot Noir Founders' Show Reserve 1995; Norman Hardie Pinot Noir 2004; Cayuse Vineyard Syrah 200 from Walla Walla (unfortunately corked); and Jackson-Triggs Grand Reserve Riesling Icewine 2004.




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