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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 83 (April 17, 2006)

Monday, April 10: Today is the annual California Wine Fair, preceded by the trade lunch, one of my favourite events of the year. Traditionally, it is held at the Royal York Hotel with a sparkling wine reception before the lunch. We all mill about and schmooze with a glass of California sparkling wine in our hands. I was seated at the Diageo table, where the wines of Beaulieu Vineyards were being poured. Every year there is a guest speaker, usually someone from the California wine industry. But this year Rick Slomka, who heads up the California Wine Institute in Canada, has invited Steven Page, lead singer of the Barenaked Ladies and wine enthusiast, to speak. Slomka informed us that Page has a collection of 1200 bottles. The singer compared his early obsession with buying CDs and records to his adult attraction to collecting wine. He also confessed that "If I had Million Dollars" was not one of his favourite BNL songs. "Just as your choice of the music you listen to, your choice of wines says something about you," he said. "I like wines that speak of where they come from rather than varietal or regional wines." With the lunch our table drank BV Coastal Estates Chardonnay 2004 (good value at $13.95 but not in our market as yet), Coastal Estates Shiraz 2003 (a little short) and the lovely Beaulieu Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 from Rutherford. We then filed into the ballroom, where 87 Californa wineries were pouring their wines. I made a beeline for the Tandem table. I'm a great fan of Greg La Follette's Pinot Noir; for me they are second only to Williams Selyem, though in a much more Burgundian style. I tasted the Van der Kamp Sonoma Mountain 2003, Keefer Sonoma County, Green Valley 2003 and Sangiacomo 2003 from Sonoma Coast – all very terroir-driven. Other wines I enjoyed were Michael-David Deadly Zins 2004 from Lodi (I had tasted the Earthquake Zin 2004 at lunch – Jamie Drummond brought over a glass from the next table), Morgan Winery Pinot Noir 2004 from the Santa Lucia Highlands, Martin & Weyrich Moscato Allegro 2005 from the Central Coast and L'Aventure Zinfandel 2002 from Paso Robles and that winery's great Bordeaux-style blend Optimus 2003. Mainly, I was tasting the new vintages of California wines that are available on the general list. Dinner, cold pork loin with a bottle Deakin Shiraz 2004.

Tuesday, April 11: Recorded my wine reviews at 680 News. After lunch, Deborah and I took Tanya and Nancy to the vet for their annual check-up. The bill was $372. They should have health care for pets.

Wednesday, April 12: This morning there is a seminar on Vinho Verde at the University Club followed by a lunch. Vinho Verde is one of those wines that only comes to mind in the summertime, and since I have never had a comparative tasting of this wine I'm looking forward to it. I was surprised to learn that Vinho Verde is the largest of Portugal's 31 regions and the oldest, with references dating back to a century BC. We tasted Aveleda 2005, followed by my favourite of the morning – Quinta D'amares 2005 (pale straw colour with a minerally floral nose, crisp grapefruit flavour, light and lively on the palate) – then Quinta do Ferro Avesso 2004, Quinta da Lixa 2005, Muralhas da Monção (a co-op), Soalheiro Alvarinho 2005, followed by a delightful rosé, Quinta de Carapeços (deep pink with a bluish tint; floral, pomegranate, pear skin and candied raspberry nose; sweetish but elegant with a spritzy, dry finish and a green banana note). More Vinho Verde at lunch, but I had to leave halfway through since it was getting late and I had to prepare for an evening charity tasting. For this I selected the following wines from my cellar:

  • Vineland Estates Dry Riesling 2004 (Ontario)
  • Goundrey Homestead Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2004 (W. Australia)
  • D'Asolo Sophia Okanagan Chardonnay 2003 (BC)
  • Norman Hardie Pinot Noir 2004 (Prince Edward County/Beamsville)
  • Kanonkop Paul Sauer 1999 (South Africa)
  • Nepenthe The Rogue Cabernet/Merlot/Shiraz 2002 (Adelaide Hills)
  • Magnotta Vidal Icewine 2004 (Ontario)

The Norman Hardie and the Paul Sauer showed beautifully. One of the lawyers present brought along a bottle of Henry of Pelham Cabernet Merlot 1995, possibly the best wine they have made. It was remarkable for its youthfulness, still dark ruby-purple holding to the rim with a lovely St. Emilion character.

Thursday, April 13: A Winerytohome tasting with David Lawrason and Doug Towers – 25 Ontario wines, followed by another 25 imported wines. Margaret Swaine joined us for this session. Deborah was concerned about the length of the tasting because we had to set the table for the 2nd Seder meal. My son Guy and Sheila Swerling-Puritt are coming to dinner. I do the Coles notes version of the service so that we can get to the meal. Guy, being the youngest (at 31), asked the questions and had to find the hidden piece of matzah. Deborah's matzah balls for the chicken soup levitated above the plate and had to be beaten down with a spoon. Cheated on the wines (sorry God). They were not Kosher le Pesach - unless winemaker Carlo Negri called in the local rabbi at the last minute: we had Colio Meritage 2004, followed by Heritage des Caves des Papes Côtes du Rhône 2004.

Friday, April 14th (Good Friday): Ran down to the gym for 7:15 am only to find that it opens at 8 am today. Ran home. Spent the day working an article about Riesling in Ontario. Tried to find who planted it first. It appears it was only planted in significant acreage in the early 1970s although I'm sure it must date back to 1946 when Adhemar de Chaunac planted the first experimental vinifera vineyard for Bright's. Called Lloyd Schmidt, who knows more about Ontario vineyards than anyone. He said he'd call around and let me know. For diner, spaghetti with meat sauce and a bottle of Westside Red 2002, a Rhône blend from Paso Robles.




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