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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 98 (August 8, 2006)

Monday, July 31: 34° Celsius today with a Humidex in the low 40s. A good thing Pinot The Wonder Dog has her summer cut. She enjoys chomping on ice cubes on days like this. Here she is in all her shorn glory.

Looks like I might be out of a job soon. This story came over the wires: "Japanese scientists have developed a robotic wine taster, which they claim can correctly identify the unique organic components of 30 popular wines within 30 seconds, reported Indo Asian News Service.

"Engineers from the NEC System Technologies laboratory and Mie University, both in Japan, developed the robot called Wine-bot. It is about twice the size of a three-litre wine box and consists of a microcomputer and an optical sensing instrument, reported the online edition of New Scientist. For analysis, a five-millilitre sample of wine is poured into a tray in front of the machine.

"Light-emitting diodes then fire infrared light at the sample and the reflected light is sensed by an array of photodiodes. By identifying the wavelengths of infrared light that have been absorbed by the sample, the wine-bot is capable of distinguishing between 30 different varieties or blends of grape correctly within 30 seconds."

Reviewed a Master of Wines thesis on Long Island as a wine region. Good stuff. The candidate deserves a pass. Wrote my 680 news wine reviews. Dinner – with spicy pizza, a bottle of Château Lamargue Costières de Nîmes Rosé – a lovely dry rosé with a wild strawberry flavour at a bargain $10.90.

Tuesday, August 1: Even hotter today. On our deck at the back the thermometer showed 44° C. A record high temperature for Toronto and a record use of electricity they say on the radio. Went to the doctor because my right leg was bothering me. Pulled muscles from too much casting last week. Recorded my 680 NEWS reviews. An afternoon meeting at Sam Sarick's for Grapes for Humanity. Arlene Willis, the co-founder of the charity, is stepping down from the presidency of the Canadian board to concentrate on the American arm of the foundation. Reluctantly, I am taking over from her. The time commitment is heavy but the cause is so worthwhile I couldn't say no. For dinner, with pasta, a bottle of Calona Artist's Series Merlot 2004, which tasted a little flat. I think it was marginally corked, not enough to give it an off nose but sufficient to flatten the flavour.

Wednesday, August 2: A meeting with the publicist at Random House to go over details for the promotion of The Wine Atlas of Canada (to be released at the end of October). Then I drive down to Niagara to attend a meeting of the advisory committee for the Wine Discovery & Education Centre at Niagara College. But before that I drop in at Peninsula Ridge to taste Jean-Pierre Colas's 2005 Sauvignon Blancs. His oak-aged Fumé reminds me of a Graves, a very rich wine that I intend to buy once it is bottled. Then on to see my old friend Thomas Bachelder, the winemaker at Le Clos Jordanne. Thomas gives me a barrel tasting of the 2005 Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Thomas is Burgundy-trained and he aspires to make Burgundian-style wines in Ontario. If anyone can do it, he can. "We've been given the liberty to make the best Burgundian-style wine," he tells me, "and that means using Burgundian techniques to express Niagara terroir. We have a chance to make Old World flavours."

Thomas Bachelder in his cellar

He takes me through the 2005 Pinots from three vineyard blocks. Each one speaks of the soil in which it grew. Chudzik West is all plums and cherries, spicy and intense; Chudzik Centre-South tastes of very ripe cherries, sweet with a soft mouth-feel. Chudzik East is peppery, very firm and structured. Each individual wine expresses its own terroir. Then on to the Neudorf Vineyard – minerally, ripe plum flavour with sweet tannins. Bowen Vineyard is almost Gevrey-Chambertin-like, delicious flavours of cherry and black raspberries; Bowen West is more assertive, more powerful. More Morey St. Denis in character. These are brilliant wines. They will show the wine world that Canada can make great Pinot Noir. Thomas just got back from the International Pinot Noir Conference in Oregon, where his 2004 Grand Clos Pinot Noir caused a minor sensation. Then we move on to the Chardonnays, Chudzik, Bowen East, Bowen West, finishing with Le Grand Clos. These are intense, concentrated wines with flavours of pineapple and caramel laced with minerality and given structure by a fine spine of acidity. Came home after the meeting at Niagara College and watched the Blue Jays get crushed by the Yankees. No wine tonight.

Thursday, August 3: Wrote my Wines of the Week for the site and took the subway downtown to have lunch with Norman Hardie at George restaurant. Norm has brought up three of his 2005 wines from Prince Edward County – a Riesling, his first County Pinot Noir from three year old vines, and a Cabernet Franc. The Riesling is pale straw with a leesy-floral nose underscored by limestone minerality; the nose opens to a honeyed note. The style is Alsace meets Mosel – power with racy acidity masked by the ripe fruit. The Pinot Noir (the first crop from the vineyard) bodes well for the future. The colour is deep ruby; the nose, violets, cherry and cherry pits. It's light and spicy, with a sour cherry flavour softened with creamy oak; firmly structured with good length. It shows that Prince Edward County can produce top notch Pinot Noir. The Cabernet Franc is more in Bourgeuil style than Bordeaux – bright fruit – plums and cranberry with a tobacco leaf note and a bitter chocolate finish, very clean but a little short. After lunch, a meeting with Arlene Willis to talk about the hand-over of the Grapes for Humanity presidency. David Beauroy dropped by the house for a chat with a bottle of St. Urbans-Hof Riesling 2005. Just the job for a hot summer night.

Friday, August 4: A Vintages release tasting today for September release. Lots of Italian wines. I find out there is no truth to the rumour that the LCBO plans to outsource its Infoline for consumer calls to India. My Palm has jammed open and I can't retrieve any of my phone numbers. Bad day at Black Rock.




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