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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 94 (July 4, 2006)

Sunday, June 25: Flew to Calgary with Gordon Stimmell of the Toronto Star and Claudius Fehr, newly retired buyer for Vintages. We're joining other wine judges here for the Wine Access International Wine Value Awards. The judging starts tomorrow. We're met at the airport by Sid Cross from Vancouver and Rod Phillips from Ottawa. At Toronto airport they are selling T-shirts with wine themes: "I wine a lot. It makes me feel better," "Up Shiraz," "I enjoy the wine regions of my house" – under which is a trail marked Porch, Bedroom, Dining Room, Kitchen, Bathroom, Basement, Deck, Yard. A long white limo takes us to the Hotel Arts, a former Holiday Inn property that has been given the boutique hotel upgrade. We have been asked to bring a bottle of wine for the dinner tonight. Mine is Anthony Road Riesling 2004 from the Finger Lakes. Before dinner I walk around to find The Cellar, purported to be the best wine shop in Calgary. I get there at 6:10 pm. It closes at 6 pm. I am panhandled at every corner. And at every corner it seems that someone has thrown up. The judges (12 of us and backroom elves) gather in the dining room for dinner. The donated wine list is impressive:

In no particular order:

  • Domaine du Treginier Cuvée d'Octobre 2001 (Collioure)
  • Nicolas Potel Vosne-Romanée Les Petits Monts 2003
  • Belle Gros Pinot Noir 2001 (Santa Maria Valley)
  • Paul Hobbs Magdelena Toso Malbec 2002 & 2004
  • Florio Taga Marsala Riserva 1997
  • Santa Rita Medalla Real Cabernet Sauvignon 2003
  • Ch. La Lagune 1983
  • Ch. Léoville Les-Cases 1982
  • Domaine de Bellevière Le Rouge-Gorge 2003 (Coteaux du Loir – made from Pineau d'Aunis)
  • Errazuriz Don Maximiano 1989
  • Montes Folly Shiraz 2002
  • Domaine de L'Ameillaud Cairanne 2003
  • Fréderic Mabileau St. Nicolas de Bourgeuil 2002
  • Conterno Faustino Mon Pra Rosso 1999
  • Coco Farm Winery Muscat Bailey A 2002 (Japan)
  • De Bartoli Deen Vat 8 Shiraz 2003
  • Francois Cotat Sancerre Les Monts Damnés (? vintage)
  • Anthony Road Semi-Dry Riesling 2004
  • Frecaciarossa Sillery Pinot Nero 2004 (a white wine)
  • Imagery Viognier Artists Collection 2002
  • Torres Nerola 2003 (Xarel·lo and Garnacha)
  • Canoe Cove Chardonnay 2004
  • Graham's LBV Port

Monday, June 26: At 9 am the judging takes place in a large room of the hotel. There is a financial seminar going on next door and we can hear the leader addressing his audience. He sounds like Dr. Phil. I wonder what we sound like to him. We have been divided up into three panels of four. I am on the same panel as David Lawrason, Gordon Stimmell and a local Calgary wine merchant, Richard Harvey – Legacy 2002 and Hartford Zinfandel 2003. In the morning session we taste 20 Oaked Chardonnays, 19 Pinot noirs, 11 Cabernet Franc/Carmenère. After lunch, 11 Sparkling wines, 13 Shiraz-Cabernet and 22 Merlot. This is followed by a reception by the pool at which dozens of the opened wines are served before we walk over to dinner at the Chop House. The chef is Ned Bell, who used to cook at Peninsula Ridge before moving to Calgary. The dinner is sponsored by the California Wine Institute. Rick Slomka, the director, has flown out to join us. We drink California wine prior to dinner. I'm sitting at the same table as Nick Bevan, the general manager of Summit Wines in BC, who phones for some top Jackson-Kendall wines to be brought to the restaurant.

Tuesday, June 27: This morning our panel tastes 16 Aromatic Varietals, 23 Syrah/Shiraz (the best flight I tasted during these two days), 11 Unoaked Chardonnay and 13 Zinfandel. We have lunch by the pool and I have a couple of Grasshopper Wheat Beers with my sushi rolls and Chicken Vindaloo curry. The same white stretch limo takes us back to the airport and the plane back to Toronto.

Wednesday, June 28: A maddening number of emails from my Nigerian friends, all offering me million of $$$ for access to my bank account. Spent the morning erasing them. Sometimes I wish that the delete button had the power to give the sender an electric shock next time they touched their computer. Wrote Wines of the Week for the site – cool summer wines. A delivery of two sets of wines in tetrapaks. My worst nightmare is to receive Australian Sparkling Shiraz in a tetrapak. Dinner at Biagio to meet David Prentice, the export director for Vina Casa Silva in Chile's Colchagua Valley. Ted Robinson of Churchill Cellars, the importing agent, has brought along seven wines. The quality across the board is very high for the price.

Casa Silva Viognier Lolol Vineyard 2005: Straw gold colour; peach and honeysuckle nose; full-bodied, ripe fruit, touch of sweetness in mid palate with a fine macadamia nut finish. A lovely wine.

Quinta Generacion White 2004 (a blend of Viognier, Sauvignon Gris and Chardonnay): Straw gold colour; waxy, sweet grass and pineapple nose; full-bodied, lovely mouth feel, great balance with a note of toasty oak on the finish.

Reserva Merlot 2004: Dense purple; chocolate and blueberry nose with vanilla oak; rich and full on the palate with pure fruit flavour, unctuous and velvety with soft tannins. Great value at $14.95, though not here yet (coming to Vintages Feb. 3, 2007).

Reserva Shiraz 2004: Dense purple-black colour; blackberry, herby, floral nose with a wisp of smoke; rich and full-bodied, great extraction of fruit; a Rhône Syrah in New World style. Amazing wine for $14.95 (coming Feb. 17, 2007. Put it in your calendar).

Los Lingues Carmenère Gran Reserva 2004: Dense purple-black; a nose of smoky black fruits with a roasted note; sweet black plum, smoky, earthy; powerful with a dark chocolate and cocoa-like finish and soft tannins. Without the weedy green pepper notes usually associated with this varietal. Winemaker Mario Geisse is to Chilean Carmenère what Beyers Truter is to South African Pinotage – simply the foremost exponent of these signature grapes. Amazing value at $19.95 but not available as yet.

Altura 2001 (Carmenère, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot): Casa Silva's top wine. Expensive at $87.20 (Classics Catalogue, August 6th) but worth it. Dense purple black colour that stains the glass; a nose of cedar, blackcurrants and vanilla; full-bodied and plush with sweet, perfumed plum and blackcurrant flavours; beautifully balanced and supple with great length. A pleasure to drink.

The rain began coming down in buckets, which allowed David and me to talk cricket. He played county cricket for Somerset. The restaurant offered me a pink umbrella. Ted said I couldn't walk the streets of Toronto under a pink umbrella and went to his trunk for a Hardy's umbrella in black.

Thursday, June 29: A meeting with David Weinberg for a presentation of his kiosk system that he hopes to install in LCBO stores. Purchasers scan the bar code on the bottle they've chosen and information comes up on the screen about when to drink and what food to serve with the wine. If you swipe your credit card you can type in a greeting that prints out on a neck tag. Sounds like a great idea. Had lunch with Bruce Walker, a VP at Vincor. He's an old friend going back to the late 1970s. Tried to pump him for news of what Constellations intends for Le Clos Jordanne (whether they would build the Gehry-designed winery). He's as much in the dark as the rest of us. In the evening, an invitation to the annual party of friends on the street. I brought over a case of wines I have to taste. Having tasted them all, I drank Steam Whistle beer.

Friday, June 30: A Vintages tasting day. Another huge release. Exhausting. With dinner, a bottle of Bouchard Père et Fils Beaujolais-Villages 2004 to match the pork stir-fry.

Saturday, July 1: Canada Day. Dressed Pinot the Wonder Dog in her kerchief decorated with Canadian flags. Watched England lose to Portugal in a penalty-kick shoot-out. Wayne Rooney blew it for England for kicking someone in the groin. Soccer hooliganism is alive and well on the field as well as off. An impromptu dinner party tonight. Deborah and I invited our old friend and neighbour from Claxton Boulevard days as well as Sheila Puritt. I bbq-ed the trout that Deborah caught. The wines were Val d'Oca Prosecco Brut as an aperitif, followed by Mission Hill Chardonnay Reserve 2004; with the cheeses, Burrowing Owl Pinot Noir 2000 and Calona Vineyards Cabernet Merlot Artist Series 2004.




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