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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 93 (June 26, 2006)

Monday, June 19: A meeting with Shawn Leon, who owns two resorts in Muskoka. He would like to put on wine events in his restaurants. Tonight is Deborah's book club meeting at our house. So I make myself scarce upstairs in the living room and watch the World Cup with a glass of Dog House Checkers' Cabernet Sauvignon – another critter wine.

Tuesday, June 20: A meeting with Allen Gelberg to see MaRs, the contemporary meeting facility on College. The building used to be a hospital where Banting & Best researched insulin. It would make a good location for the Ontario Wine Awards judging. In the afternoon a tasting at my house: Rosa Cardona i Valles of Rovellats, the cava house, came over with Barry Brown. We started with Rovellats Chardonnay 2005 (apple with a floral note, medium-bodied, melon flavour with a minerally finish), then Blanc de Primavera 2005 (Parellada, Macabeo, Xarel·lo with a little Chardonnay) – minerally, fragrant, green apple and grapefruit rind, fresh, grassy, nutty finish. Next a series of cavas:

  • Rovellats Reserva Brut: honeycomb and melon nose, rich, elegant, crisp with a long finish; medium-bodied
  • Rovellats Imperial (mostly Macabeo): white honey, yeasty, floral, mature, mouth-filling, toasty finish
  • Rovellats Gran Reserva Brut Nature: straw colour, honey, floral, apple, yeasty, very dry; hot finish. Liked this one a lot.
  • Rovellats Gran Reserva Masia s. XV Brut Nature 2000: honey, floral, yeasty, mature; dry, apple peel with a sweet core, full on the palate with a soft finish (with 5% Chardonnay)
  • Rovellats Rose Brut (Monastrell):deep pink, cherry, blood orange, minerally, vanilla, clean, beautifully made. Love this cava.

Then the red wine: Rovellats Bru de Tardor 2002 (Garnacha, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon) – dense ruby, high toned. Richly extracted, full-bodied, lovely mouth feel; blueberry, black cherry flavours with a floral note; firm structure. A fine red.

Invited to dinner by Debra and Philip Mirabelli at the National Club to taste the wines of Fattoria dei Barbi – led by Raffella Guidi Federzoni. Deborah and I arrived as the party was sitting down after the reception wine, Brusco di Barbi 2004. The first red (all Sangioveses) was Morellino di Scansano 2004, a lovely cherry-flavoured wine that deserves a place on LCBO shelves (served with Minestrone alla Genovese). Rosso di Montalcino 2004 – spicy, earthy, thick on the palate with chalky tannins (with Gnocchi tossed with Gorgonzola infused Béchamel sauce). Brunello di Montalcino 2000 – mature nose of dried cherries, violets, very elegant, firm structure, well balanced (with Osso Bucco all Milanese, grilled polenta, Portobello mushrooms). Cheese course: Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2000 (the wine of the night) – spicy, floral sweet cherry fruit, richly extracted, perfectly balanced. Brunello di Montalcino Vigna del Fiore 1993 – a single vineyard wine, showing notes of soy and leather on the nose; very mature but still tannic.

Wednesday, June 21: Summer's day. Picked up by a limo to join the group of wine writers who are visiting the Canandaigua Wine & Culinary Center in the Finger Lakes. We are rendezvousing in the parking lot of the Queens Quay liquor store where the bus is waiting. We cross the border, twelve of us including the bus driver, and head for Warm Lake Estate on the Niagara Escarpment in Lockport, NY – one of seven wineries in the newly designated Niagara Region, Western New York region. Michael VonHeckler started the winery in 2000 with 40 investors who put $2 million into the business plan. Michael, brave soul, grows only Pinot Noir, 45 acres. We taste first two wines from his near neighbour, Eveningside Vineyards in Cambria.

  • Eveningside Chardonnay Reserve: medium straw colour; smoky, toasty nose with tropical fruit notes; full on the palate with ripe pineapple and spicy orange flavours, lively acidic finish. A very tasty Chardonnay.
  • Eveningside Riesling 2005: pale straw, minerally, smoky, lime nose; off-dry with a lemony finish and zippy acidity.

Then a run of Warm Lake Pinot Noir.

  • 2003 (third leaf): tawny ruby; light, oaky, rhubarb and sour cherry flavours; some bitterness on the finish and obvious oak (Michael only uses new Allier and Vosges barrels, "like Romanée-Conti." He leaves the wine in barrel for 11 months).
  • Mountain Road Pinot Noir 2004 (Warm Lake's second label): very pale, tawny; light raspberry and pencil lead nose; elegant, raspberry, light Volnay style, soft tannins, acidic finish.
  • Warm Lake Pinot Noir 2004: very pale, like a tawny rosé; minerally, raspberry; fat middle mouth feel from chaptalisation, tannic with a hot finish.
  • Warm Lake Pinot Noir 2005 (barrel sample): better colour but still quite light; minerally, cherry with a smoky edge; well balanced, medium-bodied, good acidity with a touch of volatile acidity that gives the nose a lift; oak dominant at the moment, but the best effort yet.
  • Glacé Pinot Noir 2004 Oak Aged (fortified to 17% with brandy): a tawny port style that comes off like a sweet Vermouth, oxidized nose of soy and leather with a candy sweet raspberry flavour and a short finish. I'd like to come back and taste Pinot Noir here in two or three years. Michael says that many winemakers contend that their best wine is from three-year-old vines (because the fruit and the canopy are in balance). I just found it a little green.

We checked into the Inn on the Lake in Canandaigua and visited the newly opened (June 17th) Wine & Culinary Center within walking distance of the hotel. The two-floor building is a modern Adirondack-style lodge. The focus is a professional tasting room and a fully equipped demonstration kitchen with eighteen stations. The main tasting room has a beautifully made cherry wood bar on three sides where you can get a tasting flight of five wines or a selection of non-alcoholic New York fruit juices. I had Flight # 3: Seventy Seven Days Riesling 2005, Heron Hill Eclipse White 2004, Macari Vineyards Oak Reserve Pinot Noir 2002 and Fox Run Cabernet Franc 2002. Then we went for dinner to in a local Italian restaurant, called Koozinas. Susan Spence, VP of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation, brought along a series of wines – the best of which was an amazing McGregor Riesling 1988 which had aged beautifully with petrol and honeyed peach and apricot flavours.

New York Wine & Culinary Center

Thursday, June 22: Breakfast in the hotel dining room. I ordered a small stack of pancakes (as opposed to a "large stack") which was so huge I could only eat a third of it. Then the group went for a sit-down tasting at the Wine & Culinary Center.

We started with seven dry Rieslings from three NY regions. The best was Dr. Frank's Vinifera Wine Cellar Riesling Reserve 2005 (rich and ripe, honeyed peach – Spaetlese quality). Then a flight of four semi-dry Rieslings 2005. Liked the Anthony Road and the Hosmer. Next a flight of five white vinifera. Good Glenora Pinot Blanc 2005 (dry, peach pit flavour) and Millbrook Tocai Friulano 2005 (sweet pear flavour). The best flight was the reds: A lovely Jamesport Merlot 2003 (oaky vanilla nose with a rich flavour of black cherry and rose petal and a firm finish), Millbrook Cabernet Franc 2004 (smoky red berry, nicely integrated oak) and Peconic Bay Merlot 2001 (mocha nose, firmly structure, cherry with a marine note, very Bordeaux like). After the tasting we went next door to the demo kitchen to cook our own lunch. We were divided up into teams and Chef Darlyn showed us how to use a chef's knife correctly. The menu was Basil Garlic Chicken Breast with Grilled Balsamic Peaches, Risotto with Spinach and Toasted Pine Nuts, Smoky Ratatouille and Caramelized in a Banana and Lime Tart. I was on dessert duty.

It took four of us to make the pie

Joanne Harricks and I make the filling for the banana pie

Here's Chrys (short for Chrystanthe – great name) Baldwin's recipe:

Caramelized Banana and Lime Tart (makes one 9-inch tart)

    For the crust:
  • ½ c. unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 Tbsp. sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1¼ c. flour
  • ½ tsp. vanilla
  • ½ c. sweetened shredded coconut, toasted in a 350°F. oven, shaking once or twice, until browned
  • 2 Tbsp. ice water
    For the filling:
  • ¼ c. unsalted butter
  • ¼ c. sugar
  • 2 T. water
  • 3 or 4 ripe bananas, peeled and cut into 1 inch slices
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1×14 oz. can condensed milk
  • 1/3 c. fresh lime juice
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (about 1 small lemon)
  1. Make the crust: Combine the butter and sugar in a medium bowl and cream until the mixture is uniform. Add the salt, flour, and vanilla and mix well. Add the coconut and water and work the dough well with the heel of your hand to incorporate the ingredients.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and roll it into an 11-inch circle. Carefully transfer the circle to a 9-inch tart pan and press the dough into the pan, making sure that the bottom is thin and that the sides are thick (this allows for some shrinkage during baking). Prick the dough all over with a fork and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
  4. Bake the chilled crust for 10 to 15 minutes, or just until golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside. Turn the oven temperature down to 350°F.
  5. For the filling: In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the sugar and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture turns a light brown, 8 to 10 minutes. It will look separated and clumpy, but don't worry; add the water – now it should look smooth. Add the bananas and toss a few times to coat with the caramel. Turn off the heat and continue to toss the bananas every couple of minutes or so until the caramel sauce becomes smooth. If there are any undissolved chunks of sugar in the caramel, pull them out. Pour the bananas into the cooled tart shell and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.
  6. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, condensed milk, lime juice, and lemon juice. Pour this mixture over the bananas, making sure they are completely covered. Place in the 350°F oven and bake until the custard is lightly set, 15–20 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature before serving.

    Chef Chrys Baldwin cuts the tart our team made

The lunch was delicious, though I have to say the dessert was fabulous.

On the way back to Toronto we dropped into Wegman's, a huge supermarket that makes Loblaw's look like a corner store. They're one of the sponsors of the Wine & Culinary Center. This evening Deborah and I drop into the Cosmopolitan Hotel on Colborne Street, a luxury boutique hotel next to the King Eddie with a magnificent zen-like spa and Japanese restaurant. We have a glass of wine, then home for pizza with a bottle of Château des Charmes Cabernet Sauvignon 2001.

Friday, June 23: Wrote my commentary for Tidings on the need for Ontario and BC to create a food and culinary centre to draw tourists into wine country. This afternoon I conducted a tasting for a group of doctors at the Royal York Hotel. The wines we tasted before an early dinner were:

  • Reception wine: Codorníu Brut Clasico Cava (Spain)
  • William Fèvre Champs Royaux Chablis 2003 (Burgundy)
  • Creekside Sauvignon Blanc 2003 (Ontario)
  • La Palma Estate Merlot 2002 (Chile)
  • Chateau de Fonbel 2001 (St. Emilion)
  • Vidal Fleury Cotes-du-Ventoux 2003 (Rhône)
  • Château Roumieu Sauternes 2001 (Bordeaux)

After dinner we all went to see Cirque du Soleil's new show, Delirium, at the Air Canada Centre. We sat in the third row on the floor, the most expensive seats in the place and the most uncomfortable. But the show was breath-taking.




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