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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 97 (August 1, 2006)

Monday, July 17: A blistering hot day – 33°C when I took Pinot the Wonder Dog to the vet (an eye infection). My daughter Annabel is in town from Vancouver for a high school reunion, so I didn't do much work today. Finished inputting the reviews for the site – Vintages' August release. Packed for the annual fishing trip. We leave for Montreal on Thursday and then fly north the next day. Can't wait to get away. For dinner, pasta with Italian sausage and a bottle of Fielding Estate Meritage Reserve 2004. A good wine with a lively raspberry and currant flavour, but why do they call it Meritage Reserve? To the best of my knowledge they don't make a plain Meritage.

Tuesday, July 18: A meeting this morning with David Rose and Sandy Kurbis to plan the 2007 Ontario Wine Awards.

Wrote an editorial for Tidings magazine suggesting that BC and Ontario should narrow their focus in the number of wines they produce. Awaiting hate mail. For dinner accompanying a cheese soufflé, a bottle of William Fèvre Chablis Champs Royaux, a lovely wine that is in danger of being delisted. This would be a crime.

Wednesday, July 19: An early breakfast with Tim Hanni, MW, at the Sheraton Hotel. Wrote my Wines of the Week reviews for the next two weeks, as I leave for the annual fishing trip tomorrow. In the mid-afternoon I drove over to Doug Towers's house for a tasting of Ontario VQA wines with David Lawrason for We stayed for dinner and we were joined by the Szabo boys and their partners. Did not keep track of the wines we had.

Thursday, July 20: Ordered a limo to pick Art and me up with our luggage to get to the airport. We met up with Steve, Sam, and Leo. Harold, who comes up from Sarasota, will join us in Montreal. I have been fishing with these guys for seven years, the rookie of the group who have been going annually to somewhere in northern Canada for over twenty years. This year it's the Tuksukatuk River Lodge in northern Quebec. Whenever we fish in Quebec we overnight in Montreal, have lunch at the Snowdon Deli (great smoked meat, pickles and French fries) and dine in a BYOB. But first we have to augment our supplies, which means a trip to the Rockland SAQ store (picked up a bottle of Pascal Jolivet Sancerre 2004, two bottles of Dow Vintage Port 1985 and a 40 oz. Smirnoff Vodka), then to Loblaws to buy limes, herbs, crackers, Worcestershire sauce and cheesecloth (to filter the port). None of us know what cheesecloth is in French. It turns out to be étimane. At the check-out counter Art berates Steve loudly for having picked up large packets of cheesies and other junk food. "How can you buy that crap?" he bellows. Art hasn't noticed the divider. The junk food belongs to the woman ahead of us. She gives Art a dirty look. We return to the Airport Hilton, where we're staying overnight, for a glass of Abelour a'Bunadh single malt that Harold bought on a recent trip to New Zealand. Turns out we saw it at the SAQ for less than he paid for it. We dine at Les Infidèles on Rachel, a BYOB French bistro. We all take the prix fixe menu. A great meal accompanied by the Pascal Jolivet Sancerre and two magnums of red, Drouhin Clos des Mouches 1997 and Jaboulet Crozes-Hermitage Vieilles Vignes 1996 (mildly corked, unfortunately). In bed by midnight.

The guys: (standing, l. to r.) Art, Harold, Steve; (sitting) Leo, me, Sam

How we got there
Denis, the camp cook
The fishing camp

Friday, June 21: Up at 5:30 am to get 14 pieces of baggage, including three rod cases, over to Air Inuit for the flight on a Dash 8 to Puvirnituq (population 1,500). Harold is given a hard time by airport security because he has a reel of fishing line in his carry-on bag. We stop in La Grande Rivière to refuel, then on to Puvirnituq. We assemble at the co-op hotel for a glass of single malt. Here we meet Denis, a French Canadian who has lived in the north since the 1980s. "I'm the camp cook," he says, "not a chef. You want sugar pie? That's why I've got a big belly." He prepares us lunch: smoked char on a bed of iceberg lettuce decorated with diced orange pepper and capers, a trencherman portion. Then spicy vegetable soup, breaded chicken and rice. After that, back to airport to take a Twin Otter south to the fishing camp, about 15 minutes away. We fly over scrub and rock and endless lakes. There are no trees, only tundra. I share a cabin with Sam and Harold. Steve, Leo and Art share another. Dinner in the dining room with two bottles of Domaine Roger Perrin Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1998 and Clark-Claudon Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 (Napa). The cabin we share is rudimentary, with an oil-fired heater and cardboard over the windows to keep out the morning light. We set up the rods for the morning.

Head guide Papi lunching
Aliva Tulugak, the camp's owner

Saturday, July 22: The weather is overcast. We are divided up, two to a boat with a guide. Steve and I have Papi, who has worked here for 15 years and says the water is at the lowest level he has seen it as long as he has been here. His 15-year-old adopted son, Asa, is also in our boat. We see muskrats swimming in the water and caribou on the shore. Asa shoots a Canada goose for soup. I catch twenty-four fish, mainly brook trout, in the morning, two to three pounds. We stop for shore lunch, a ritual three-bottle meal which Steve cooks (this trip he works on Coleman stoves because there is no wood, but usually he cooks on an open fire). The menu today is blackened fish with corn and mushrooms. The preparation of the fish will change each day. The wines – a German colleague of Sam's bought a winery in Baden called Weingut Heitlinger, which makes a range of blended wines. We open Heitlinger Grand Etage Weiss 1999, Grand Etage Blanc 2001 and Grand Etage Blanc 2003. (Somewhere along the line the winery went from German to French.) In the afternoon I catch 14 fish, including a 7 lb. lake trout. My back is very sore from casting and sitting for hours in the boat. Before dinner we have a glass of Glenfarclas 15 Years Old with Steve's chicken liver pâté. The dinner menu prepared by Denis: shrimps and scallops, lentil soup, turkey and sugar pie. The wines: Dauvissat Chablis Les Clos 1997, Heitlinger Grande Etage Weiss 1999 and Heitlinger Grande Etage Rouge 2001 Trocken. Aliva Tulugak, who owns the camp, tells us of an American group who come up fishing and have an annual contest – who can catch the biggest fish using a Snoopy rod.

The Sommelier Designate at work

Sunday, July 23: Every day we wear the T-shirt of the Day. The others have six of them; I only have two. So today I am wearing my Pelee Island T-Shirt with the legend, "A Quaint Little Drinking Island with a Fishing Problem." As we get into the boats at 8:30 am there is a rainbow, which promises well, but it turns out to be a rainy morning. I am fishing with Art and have only caught three fish before lunch. For shore lunch, Steve cooks beer battered fish with beans, fried onions and potatoes. The wines: Heitlinger Grand Etage Weiss 1999 (2 bottles) and a Dauvissat Chablis Les Vaillons 1996. I only catch three fish in the afternoon, but the sun comes out and we are greeted to the magnificent sight of a herd of some 50 caribou on the hill. Their antlers look like huge candelabra. Before dinner Leo prepares Bloody Marys and I, a sommelier designate, open Clark-Claudon Cabernet Sauvignon 2001, Penley Estate Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2000, Jason Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 (a Pahlmeyer wine) and a bottle of the Dow 1985. Aliva joins us for a pre-dinner drink and regales us with stories of walrus hunting. "We bury it amongst the rocks to protect it from the polar bears and leave it for ten days." Aged walrus, he says, tastes like blue cheese. Dinner: Gravad lax, goose soup with barley, T-bone steaks, baked potatoes and mushrooms. We have Stilton with the port and think of aged walrus.

Caribou herd crossing the river

We do catch fish as well

Monday, July 24: A beautiful, warm, sunshiny day. A herd of caribou come near the camp and later this morning we see them swimming across the river in front of us. We head for the waterfall about 15 miles upriver (it takes two hours to get there because the boats have to travel slowly owing to the shallow depth). Fishing with Steve and the taciturn Adamay as our guide, I catch 10 fish at the base of the waterfall. Lunch wines: Heitlinger Grand Etage Blanc 2001 and two bottles of Hugel Gewurztraminer 1997 Homage à Jean Hugel. Steve cooks wasabi-encrusted fish with fried rice. We return to the base of the falls and I catch fish or have a strike with each cast. I lose Harold's lure (a small EGB) to a really large fish but later catch a fish with a lure in its mouth that Harold lost (a gold and red Little Cleo). Gave up counting after twenty-two fish. On the way back to camp we see an albino muskrat – none of the guides have ever seen one. Dinner wines: Heitlinger Grand Etage Rouge 2003 (it comes with a glass stopper), Clark-Claudon Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 and Littorai Pinot Noir Savoy Vineyard 2001. The meal: fish balls with tzatziki, followed by caribou steaks.

Tuesday, July 25: Awoke in pain with muscles I didn't think I had in my neck and shoulders screaming at me. Took an Advil. It was so warm I fished in a T-shirt and a bug jacket. But the gods of fishing are fickle. After yesterday's embarrassment of riches I get skunked all morning fishing with Harold. Which put me in a bad mood. Papi, to cheer me up, tells me that there is one all-purpose swear word in Inuktituk. It sounds like "itigualuk." Steve prepares fish with linguine in a tomato sauce. The wines: Heitlinger Grand Etage Blanc 2003, Dauvissat Chablis Les Vaillons 1996 and Jason Chardonny 2002. In the afternoon Papi pointed out two large stone pillars set up on the top of a hill. He says when those stones are in parallax from your point of view on the water you have reach the best place to fish for Arctic Char. Except the char have not arrived and won't be there until mid-August. Did not catch my first fish until 4:30 pm and then I got eight within twenty minutes. Dinner: cream of leek soup with crumbled Stilton, caribou burgers, mashed potatoes and vegetables followed by Quebec cheeses (d'Iberville, Tome de Richelieu) and 5-year-old Balderson Cheddar. The wines: Jaboutlet Châteauneuf-du-Pape Les Cèdres 1998 (2 bottles) and Domaine Roger Perrin Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1998.


Wednesday, July 26: Another beautiful day, but the clouds suggest a weather system is moving in. Fishing with Leo today. I catch 8 fish before lunch. The wines for lunch: Dauvissat Chablis Les Vaillons 1996, Dauvissat Chablis Les Clos 1997 (2 bottles). Steve makes ceviche (strips of fish marinated in lime juice and onions). Amadmay tells me that ceviche sounds just like the Inuit expression for "I have lost my knife." We're back at the falls and the fishing is terrific again. I get sixteen, two on my fly rod – the first time I have caught fish with a fly rod. Dinner wines: Antinori Badia a Passignano 1999 (2 bottles) and Badia a Passignano 1990 with roast caribou and mashed potatoes.

Master chef Steve prepares the bouillabaisse
Leo cuts his birthday cake

Thursday, July 27: Today is Leo's birthday and I am fishing with Sam. The day starts out rainy and cold but by 10:30 am the sun has come out and the sky is blue. Caught a sucker and 5 lb lake trout at the narrows, then two brook trout at another site. I'm wearing my Frog Leap ball cap (motto: "Time's fun when you're having flies"). The bill keeps the bug jacket netting off my face. Today is the meal we all look forward to every year. Steve is cooking bouillabaisse. He brings up the fish stock, the rouille, frozen prawns and scallops and we all provide the fresh fish. The toast is made back at the camp and heated on the Coleman stoves once they have been rubbed with garlic. The guides have never tasted anything like it. All of us get skunked in the afternoon, except for Art. But it was a memorable day. Since it's Leo's birthday we add to our bottle count: Littorai Pinot Noir 2001, Clark-Claudon Cabernet Sauvignon 2001, Dominus Napanook Vineyard 1994, Turkey Flat Shiraz 2001, with a bottle of Dow 1985 to finish. The menu: Gravad lax, Goose soup, Caribou burgers with potato salad and cole slaw and cheeses to follow. Denis has made a chocolate cake for Leo with "Happy birthday, Leo" piped onto it in white icing. Art has brought up a candle that says "OLD" because the highest number the candle shop went to was 70 and Leo turns 77 today. I have made up a poem to celebrate the occasion which is too obscene to be reprinted here. Art has the satellite phone on the table because he's waiting for a call from his son Jeffrey to say he's a grandfather again. This is our last day of fishing. Tomorrow we fly home.

Friday, July 28: Slept until 7 am, had breakfast and packed up our gear. Harold and I walk the three kilometres to the landing strip, where the plane will pick us up at 10 am. We need the exercise. The others travel in the Pope-mobile, a four-wheel ATV with a flat bed at the back. As we land at Purvirnituq, Art phones home to find that he is indeed a grandfather – a baby girl named Michaela Shane. Tacked to the wall in the airport waiting room is the following notice: "The man walks into a café one morning and noticed that he was the only dark-skinned man there. As he sat down, he noticed a white man behind him. The white man said, 'Coloured people aren't allowed here.' The Indian man stood up. He then said, 'Listen, sir, when I was born I was brown. When I grew up I was brown. When I'm sick, I'm brown. When I'm cold I'm brown. When I die I'll be brown. But you sir, when you're born you're, pink. When you grown up, you're white. When you're sick you're green. When you go in the sun you're red. When you're cold, you're blue. And when you die you turn purple. And you have the nerve to call me coloured!' The Indian man then sat down and the white man walked away..."

At the Co-op Hotel we polish off the remaining two bottles of wine – Littorai Pinot Noir 2002 and Penley Estate Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 – which definitely do not go with the pickled white fish that Denis brought along. We sit in the lounge watching the large TV screen giving news of the Israeli/Lebanese situation. And we know we are back in "civilization."

What did I learn from this trip?

  • Blackfly bites are worse than mosquito bites.
  • Next year bring hand cream.
  • You can't drink beer through the mesh of a bug jacket.
  • Good wine tastes just fine out of plastic glasses, thank you Mr. Riedel.




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