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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 92 (June 19, 2006)

Monday, June 12: Had an email from Jacques Pauwels regarding planning for next May's wine tour of Bordeaux, Loire and Cognac. He signed off as follows: in vino veritas – in aqua bacteria! Cute. Had to stay home for the air condition guy to come to check out the system. Spent most of the day preparing for a wine tasting at Queen's Park to thank the Liberal caucus for passing Bruce Crozier's private member's bill to create Ontario Wine Week. I brought down four cases of wine for the tasting, knowing that politicians get thirsty. Too bushed to cook, so Deborah and I picked up Chinese food at 9 pm and hadn't the strength to open a bottle of wine. Pinot the Wonder Dog has been keeping us with an upset stomach. Whining at the bedroom door to go out to eat grass in the middle of the night. I took her out to the garden and she immediately rushed into the bushes where I thought she was eating grass. When she came back I noticed a strange smell, like diesel oil. My first thought was that there had been a leak in the air conditioning, since the smell seemed to be all over the house. We put in an emergency call to the company who serviced it in case we were going to be poisoned in our beds while we slept. It turns out Pinot the Wonder Dog had been skunked; but it didn't smell like a skunky smell to me. "It must have been a young skunk," said Deborah, "who didn't know how to do it properly."

Tuesday, January 13: Today is the Trade and Consumer tastings for the Ontario Wine Awards, held in the Fermentation Cellar at the Distillery District. There is a press conference at 11:30 am to launch a map of Ontario's 10 sub-appellations commissioned by the Wine Council of Ontario from artist Heather Cooper. Each of us who attended was given a print, which I shall have framed.

The whole map:

Presented in three more legible slices:

Following the unveiling of the map, restaurateurs, sommeliers and the wine press were invited to a blind tasting of nine Rieslings from several of the sub-appellations conducted by Szabo & Szabo (John and Zoltan), who did a slide presentation of the characteristics of each of the designated sub-appellations. Riesling was a smart choice because it is the variety that most represents to terroir in which it is grown.

The wines turned out to be:

  • Stoney Ridge Kew Vineyard Riesling 2005
  • Cave Spring CSV Riesling 2004
  • Château des Charmes Riesling 2004*
  • Henry of Pelham Speck Family Reserve 2004*
  • Flat Rock Cellars Nadja's Vineyard 2004*
  • Vineland Estates St. Urban Vineyard 2004*
  • Inniskillin Schuele Vineyard 2004

Felt very pleased with myself, as I identified blind the wines with an asterisk. Then on to the Trade tasting organized by the Wine Council that precedes the Consumer tasting which Forefront Communications organized. The Fermentation Cellar is a great space for wine tasting. Basically an industrial space, it had been beautifully decorated with flowers and potted trees and coloured lights. The problem is getting the licensees out to taste Ontario wines, but the consumer event was packed. David Rose and Sandy Kurbis at Forefront had to stop selling tickets after 550. I was meant to do a special tastings of six wines for the winners of a NOW magazine competition (NOW sponsored the Small Crush Award for both red and white wines). A representative from the magazine showed up with her partner but the winners didn't – so we had an intimate tasting of Creekside Estate 2004 Pinot Gris Reserve, Huff Estate South Bay Chardonnay 2004 (from Prince Edward County) and Flat Rock Cellars Nadja's Vineyard 2004; followed by Creekside Estate 2002 Lost Barrel Red, Creekside Shiraz 2004 and Konzelmann Cabernet Merlot Reserve 1998. The evening was a lot of fun, although standing on concrete all day was exhausting. Was very impressed by Natalie Reynolds' 2005 single-vineyard Rieslings at Thirty Bench, Jean-Pierre Colas's 2003 Peninsula Ridge Reserve Chardonnay and all the wines from Mountain Road. Deborah had washed Pinot the Wonder Dog in some concoction she bought at Bark & Fritz to mitigate the smell of baby skunk. The dog now smells of diesel oil and orange peel.

Wednesday, June 14: Mercifully, a quiet day at home, writing a piece for on the upcoming Wine Access International Wine Value Competition coming up in ten days time in Calgary. Also trying to set up a meeting and wine tasting for the landmine committee of Rotary International to see if we can work together in fund-raising. Last night, incidentally, the proceeds of the raffle went to Grapes for Humanity. Tonight, a dinner at Canoe for the Junior Diabetes Foundation.

Eleven of us dined in Canoe's private room on the 54th floor of the Toronto Dominion building with a magnificent view of the lake. We stated with a cocktail called Red Eye, a mix of Blood Orange Vodka, pomegranate juice and Bruno Paillard champagne, decorated with three cherries on a stick.

1st course: Spice-cured Atlantic salmon, spring radish, watermelon, yoghurt and Abitibi Caviar with Flat Rock Riesling Nadja's Vineyard 2004

2nd course: Tina's Truffle Ricotta Ravioli, globe chokes, rocket and porcini foam with Staete Landt Sauvignon Blanc 2004 from New Zealand

3rd course: Broiled BC Sablefish in Newfoundland Screech and Mustard Fruit with Bouchard Finlayson Chardonnay Crocodile's Lair 2003 (South Africa)

intermezzo: a green apple ice with olive oil

4th course:

Choice of Cumbrae Farms Beef Tenderloin, Northern Woods mushrooms, Yukon Confit and Sherry Truffle


Organic ½ Chicken, parmesan Semolina, Spring Greens and enriched Chicken Jus with Alain Graillot St. Joseph 2004

Dessert: Maria Cheung's Pre-Sweet – wild rice and vanilla pudding followed by Dark Chocolate Truffle Tart, Roasted Pinenuts and Crème Fraiche with Niepoort Vintage Port 2000.

This was one of the best meals I've had in Toronto.

Thursday, June 15: Spent most of the day answering e-mails. A conference call to discuss a wine event in November to raise funds for London Health Sciences Foundation to be held at the London Hunt & Country Club on November 16th. I've been invited to a Cheval Blanc dinner at Truffles this evening, put on by Vintages.

Château Cheval Blanc & Château d'Yquem

Dinner with Pierre Lurton

Selection of Hors d'oeuvres
Cheval des Andes 2002


Y d'Yquem 2000

Château Cheval Blanc 1998
Château Cheval Blanc 1989

Château Cheval Blanc 2001
Château Cheval Blanc 2000

Château d'Yquem 2001
Château d'Yquem 1989

Executive Chef Lynn Crawford

Loved the "Y" d'Yquem with the terrine. Cheval Blanc in the 2000s seems to be more mid-Atlantic in style. I preferred the wonderful 1989 and the 1998. The Yquem with the dessert was amazing. We should have started with that.

Friday, June 16: A tasting of new release wines on the General list. There is a depressing number of tetrapak wines on offer. Not that I'm against the format – it's just that the quality of the wines they put in these cardboard boxes with plastic lining is poor. If they really want it to catch on they should start putting some decent wine in them. As far as being ecologically beneficial I don't get it. The plastic lining is not biodegradable. After the LCBO tasting I went over to the Fine Wine Reserve for a tasting of Le Vieux Télégraphe wines. We began with Clos La Roquete White 2005 (minerally peach, full-bodied, lovely balance, firm with good length) followed by a barrel sample of Domaine la Roquete Red 2004 and then L'Accent '04, which is 90% Grenache with 10% Mourvèdre (as opposed to the La Roquete, which is usually 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 10% Mourvèdre). A lovely raspberry-flavoured wine with cocoa-like tannins. Then the 2003 La Roquete and the 1995. Then into the Vieux Télégraphe White 2004 with its note of white flowers and peach flavour, spicy and minerally. The reds followed – the grape mix is Grenache Noir 65%, Mourvèdre 15%, Syrah 15%, Cinsault, Clairette "and sundry others" 5%. 2004 barrel sample – intense, sweet raspberry, shy on the nose though at the moment.

  • 2003: herby, vanilla, floral, blackberry and chocolate flavours; very forward and intense
  • 2001: dried red berry nose, herby, lighter in style than the hot year of 2003
  • 2000: mature ruby colour, developing spicy notes; quite light for the vintage
  • 1999: inky, mature, very elegant, great balance with a green banana note on the finish
  • 1998: leather and fresh mushroom nose, sweet fruit, ready and gamey with a firm finish
  • 1994: my favourite of the tasting – floral, herby, raspberry nose, elegant and beautifully structured with a lovely mouth feel
  • 1989: lighter in style that the 1990, mature with tawny notes, drying out a bit

This evening I conducted a home tasting for an Aquarians charity auction in aid of Moorlands Camp for inner city kids. I brought along several Ontario wines – Vineland Estates Rosomel Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2004, Stoney Ridge Chardonnay Reserve 2004, Creekside Cabernet Franc 2004, Pillitteri Cabernet Franc Family Reserve 2004, Creekside Shiraz 2004 and Château des Charmes Vidal Icewine 2004.




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