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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 101 (August 29, 2006)

Monday, August 21: Last night I opened a bottle of Torres Atrium Merlot 2004 (from Penedes) for dinner with a chicken stirfry. Buy day today. Wrote my reviews for 680 NEWS and then Deborah dropped me at the Miller Tavern for a lunch with Alistair Soper, the winemaker for Highfield Estate in New Zealand. We began with his Elstree Cuvée 2002 sparkling wine, a 50/50 Chardonnay Pinot Noir blend (elegant, lemony, green apple flavour). Michel Drappier, apparently, consults on the project. Coincidentally, it was Drappier Champagne that Deborah and I served at our wedding. Then on to Highfield Sauvignon Blanc 2005, a beautiful wine, quintessentially NZ Sauvignon – all lemon, cut grass, gooseberry and crab apple flavours, great length, clean and zingy. We finished with Highfield Pinot Noir 2004 – spicy, black cherry, sweet fruit, firmly structured with a good acid balance and ripe tannins. The lunch that accompanied these wines was Goat's cheese tart with leek, apple and peach chutney, New Zealand rack of lamb, fresh berries. In the evening I was a panellist in a seminar for IWEG Diploma students at George Brown. The theme was "Trends in the Wine Industry." My point was that we are living in revolutionary times; consumers now dictate to winemakers how they want their wines to taste, thanks to Robert Parker and the Wine Spectator. And that the critter label frenzy has democratized wine. Consumers don't have to embarrass themselves pronouncing yard-long German place names or difficult French vineyards to snotty sommeliers.

Tuesday, August 22: Recorded my 680 NEWS reviews and then took the subway down to Queen Street to a menu tasting of a new restaurant that will open in a couple of weeks on Richmond Street, behind the Sheraton Centre. Amadeus is a Viennese restaurant located in the original Harry Rosen store. The front section is a kind of Bavarian Bierstube-cum-Heurige party room on two levels. The back is a fine dining room. Chef Rudi Kitzberger had prepared ten dishes in small portions of several of the menu items paired with Weingut Stadt Krems Grüner Veltliner 2005 and Felsner St. Laurent 2001. My mouth waters as I write the menu – hunger recollected in tranquility: Gravad Lax with White Asparagus Mousse, Pralines with Amaretto and Chicken Liver served with Raisin Brioche; Roasted Red pepper Soup (spectacularly served – a hollowed-out red pepper when lifted from the plate released the soup), Sea Bass on Saffron Creamed Spinach and Poppy-seed Potatoes, Tafelspitz à la Vienna, Venison Loin with Polenta Roulade with Wild Mushrooms, Bierkutscher Goulasch – I had to leave at this point because I had a meeting at home, but the banquet continued with Weiner Schnitzel with Potato Salad and then desserts – Layered Opera Cake, Bitter-sweet Chocolate mousse with Raspberry Coulis and Viennese Apple Strudel. The reason I had to leave was because I was meeting an old wine merchant friend from London, David Gleave MW. David wrote one of the best books on Italian wine (The Wines of Italy), which I still refer to. He is now involved in wine production in Australia and Italy and brought along several samples to try before we went off the Arlene and Michael Willis' for a BBQ.

  • Alpha Zeta Pinot Grigio 2005 (Veneto): minerally, peach pit nose; fresh, lemony and white peach flavour. ****
  • Delta Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2006 (Marlborough): pale straw colour; nettles, green bean, gooseberry and cut grass nose; concentrated, ripe elderberry flavour and grapefruit flavours. ****½
  • Delta Vineyard Pinot Noir 2005: ruby colour; high toned, sweet cherry nose, hefty on the palate with lively acidity. ****
  • Delta Vineyard Hatter's Hill Pinot Noir 2005 (a selection of the best grapes grown on the highest points of the Delta Vineyard): intense, sweet black cherry fruit, well integrated oak, a beautifully balanced wine. ****½
  • Alpha Zeta Valpolicella "R" Ripasso 2004: New World style, very ripe, raisiny-cherry fruit; well extracted and fruit driven. ****
  • Lusio Nero d'Avola (Sicily): dense purple, smoky, minerally, plum nose with a floral note; black fruit and tobacco flavours, good acidity. ****
  • Willunga 100 McLaren Vale Grenache 2005: purple colour; earthy, raspberry with a touch of oak; sweet fruit with lively acidity and firm structure. ****
  • Greenstone Shiraz Heathcote 2005 (Victoria): an elegant Shiraz, more in Rhône style, good clean lines with a lovely fresh raspberry flavour, well integrated oak. ****½

Wednesday, August 23: Today is the reception for the release of Canada Post's stamp issue commemorating Canadian wine and cheese at Inniskillin. About eighteen months ago I circulated an internet petition to convince Canada Post to issue an Icewine stamp. Here is the stamp I suggested based on Steven Elphick's photo.

(See Articles – April 21, 2004: Stamp of Approval)

This is what we get to celebrate Canadian wines:

How bland and boring can you get? This could be the cover photo for a book on Bulgarian wines. What does it say about Canadian wine? I despair. Thankfully, I was not there but on Victor Priestly's boat cruising around Lake Couchiching on a Grapes for Humanity event. The cruise was an auction item at our last dinner. The food was catered by Fraiche Catering and directors of GFH supplied the following wines:

  • Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve in magnum
  • Egon Müller Scharzhofberger Riesling Kabinett 2003
  • Ramey Chardonnay 2000 (Napa Carneros)
  • Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2004
  • Drouhin Pinot noir 1990 (Oregon)
  • Sonoma Creek Pinot Noir 2004
  • Jadot Beaune Grèves 1996 (magnum)
  • DRC Echezeaux 1997 (magnum)
  • Bouchard Père & Fils Le Corton 1980 (magnum, drying out)
  • Fonseca Setubal 1934

Thursday, August 24: Wrote my commentary for Tidings magazine (based on the talk I gave on Monday for the Diploma students). A telephone conference meeting for the Masters of Wine North American advisory board. Amazing how we could all connect for a hour with members in London, California, New York, Toronto and Greece. The meeting lasted for about an hour and everyone was clear as a bell. This was followed by a lunch meeting for the Santé advisory board at Steve Thurlow's condo overlooking Lake Ontario.

Friday, August 25: A tasting this morning at the LCBO for new releases on the general list. A whole slew of tetrapaks. This must be the LCBO's Tetra Offensive, with the emphasis on "offensive." There were only two products of the ten in cardboard that I can recommend. Then lunch at Lai Toh Heen with my old friend Patrick Burroughs to discuss possible wine events at the Metropolitan and Soho hotels. I was quite prepared to stay in and have a bottle of wine with some cheese, as Deborah is away for the weekend. But I had a call from Penny and Anthony Bourne – would I like to go for Indian food? Can't turn down a chance for my curry fix. We went to Kamasutra on Bayview. Great meal with a couple of Kingfisher beers.




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