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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 82 (April 10, 2006)

Monday, April 3: Today I learned that Constellation Brands had finally bought Vincor for $1.48 billion. Donald Triggs is selling the Delaine Vineyard and the brand for over $7 million. I wonder what this means for the Frank Gehry design for Le Clos Jordanne winery? I can't see Constellation spending the money on this architectural fantasy. A great pity, since this would be a magnet for the Ontario region. Wrapping up the first phases of the Ontario Wine Awards, all the administrative stuff like getting the list of wines to the judges so that they can compare them to their notes once. Today is the annual Bouchard Père et Fils tasting of Burgundies at the Royal Canadian Yacht Club's land-based premises on St. Andrews. Luc Bouchard is showing the 2004s, a very different vintage from the super-ripe 2003s. This is more like classic Burgundy, the whites especially. This evening Barry Chaim has invited Deborah and me to a Stratus winemaker dinner at his restaurant, Edo. We're seated at a table with Barry, J-L Groux, the winemaker, Suzanne Janke and a Japanese couple who run a travel agency for Japanese tourists coming to Canada. Here is the menu that Chef Ryo Ozawa has put together to match the courses.

EDO on Eglinton and Stratus Vineyards present
East meets Wine


the expected array of sushi in an unexpected way


hotate shake sakura kunsei
cherry-chip smoked scallop and salmon
chef ryo's onion and raspberry dressing, yukari (red shisso) flavour


wakadori chawan-mushi bisque
steamed egg and chicken custard with black pepper and tarragon


akadai hotate tsutsumi mushi
red snapper and scallop mousse
"mozuku", stratus chardonnay sauce


ko-hitsuji nanami-zuke kinoko gohan
roast rack of lamb, japanese tandoori flavour
mushroom butter rice, sauce quatre épices "chef ryo" ohba chip


maccha gâteau chocolat
bitter organic chocolate, soymilk maccha custard sauce


J-L tells me that Stratus is planting Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Tannat and Mourvèdre to augment the Petit Verdot, Syrah, Gamay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot that go in to their Stratus Red. Why, in our climate, I ask myself.

Tuesday, April 4: The annual German Wine Fair at Roy Thomson Hall. It begins with a seminar presented by three wineries, Ligenfelder from the Pfalz, Weingut Bürgerspital in Franken and Weingut Forstmeister Geltz-Zilliken from the Saar. Each offers three wines. Rainer Lingenfelder, one of the most articulate and market-savvy winemakers in Germany, shows us his "critter box" – a collection of six animal labels, two of which we are tasting (Bee–Moro Muscat and Hare–Gewürztraminer) and a barrique-aged version of the Dornfelder (Fox) that isn't part of this collection. The Morio Muscat, at 9% alcohol, is delightful. Carina Zeitler of Bürgerspital made a big point that the flagon-shaped bottle Franken wines are sold in was not copied from the Portuguese – that the shape existed 3,000 years ago in Franken as evidenced from clay pottery shards found in the region. But you have to hand it to Mateus Rosé, who made it their own through superior marketing. Rather like Icewine. A lot of consumers think Canada invented it. The Bürgerspital 2005 Würzburger Stein-Harfe Riesling Kabinett is a lovely wine with floral, grapefruit notes. The best wines of the morning were the two older vintages from Zilliken, 1993 Saarburgen Rausch Riesling Spätlese (intense, petrol, honey and citrus nose, light and ethereal on the palate, beautifully balanced lime flavour with great concentration) and the 1983 Saarburger Rausch Riesling Auslese (very pale colour; honeyed caramel, smoky, off-dry with great acidity). The World Cup theme was much in evidence, soccer shirts and soccer balls everywhere, and Ron Fiorelli, who heads up the German Wine Information Bureau, marshalled us about with a referee's whistle.

Wednesday, April 5: Spent most of the day going over press releases for the Ontario Wine Awards, checking the final results.

Thursday, April 6: Wrote my reviews for 680 News. At lunchtime, a tasting at the LCBO's flagship store of Boutari wines. Boutari is Greece's largest producer and exporter. We tasted eleven wines, four of which were white. I liked the Domaine Matsa 2005, a blend of Assyrtiko and Sauvignon Blanc – minerally peach flavour, spicy and full on the palate. And Kallisti 2004 – 100% Assyrtico from Santorini, where they grow their vines in a circle on the volcanic soil to protect the fruit from the wind. This wine was deep straw in colour with a nutty, tangerine flavour, thick on the palate with lively acidity. The reds I found rather rustic, the best of which were Odé Boutari 2003, an equal blend of Agiorgitiko and Cabernet Sauvignon from Corinth (sweet fruit with floral and chocolate notes) and Domaine Filiria 2003 (firmly structured plum and black cherry flavours with cedar accents; full-bodied, needs time). My friend Pooch from Sacramento, California, came over for dinner (pork loin). We opened a bottle of Wolf Blass Shiraz Viognier 2003.

Friday, April 7: Invited to the launch of the Galway Arts Festival atop the Park Hyatt Hotel. Mainly travel writers there. The main attraction was Patrick McMurray from Starfish, who was the world champion oyster shucker in 2002, an event held annually in Galway at the end of September. Patrick also holds the world record of opening 33 oysters in sixty seconds. Here he was shucking Galway oysters (as big as the palm of your hand, meaty and salty, a meal in themselves) and Gigas (long and narrow and more delicate) – both of which were delicious. We watched a film about the Galway Arts Festival that runs from July 17–30. Wish I could get there. It looks like a lot of fun. Wrote an editorial for Tidings magazine about the proliferation of wineries in Canada, the thrust of which is that it's a very expensive hobby to get into the wine business these days.

Saturday, April 7: Read in the National Post this morning that a porn star, Savanna Samson, has brought out her own wine, a Tuscan red that Robert Parker rated at 91 points. She appears naked on the label. The write-up mentions that she is going to expand into champagne and Icewine. I wonder which Canadian winemaker will be the first to send her Icewine samples? Took Pinot to Sherwood Park so that she could run with the other dogs. Wanted to tire her out because we're having a dinner party tonight and Pinot has a habit of French kissing anyone who passes through the door. Spent most of the day cooking with Deborah. I'm preparing a butterflied leg of lamb dressed with a purée of sun-dried tomatoes, black olives, goat's cheese and olive oil. The first course is fresh figs stuffed with gorgonzola (lightly baked) and set in a nest of proscuitto. There's six of us for dinner, Arlene and Michael Willis (Arlene co-founded Grapes for Humanity with me in 2000) and Margaret Swaine and Bill Seigal. Arlene and Michael are wine people and Margaret writes on wine so we got through some interesting bottles. We started with Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial before dinner and for the first course we had Billecart-Salmon Demi Sec Reserve (its touch of sweetness was perfect with the fig and gorgonzola). With the lamb, a bottle of Torres Mas La Plana Gran Reserva 1987. For the cheese, Louis Latour Gevrey-Chambertin Clos St. Jacques 1978 and Alion 1995 from Ribera del Duero. Deborah had made an apple strudel for dessert. This was the first time she has worked with phyllo pastry. Luckily we ran into Lucy Waverman in the Loblaws' parking lot and Lucy gave her some tips on how to work the sheets of phyllo with butter, etc. The result was spectacular, although I keep telling Deborah not to experiment on the guests. With the strudel we had a half bottle of Louis Guntrum Niersteiner Findling Scheurebe Beerenauslese 1976. Try saying that at the end of a dinner party.




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