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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 104 (September 19, 2006)

Monday, September 11: The fifth anniversary of 9/11. A wretched day that began badly and got worse. I discovered that racoons had broken through the chicken wire and demolished most of the grapes on my Louise Swenson vines.

Deborah had to take Tanya the cat to the vet this morning because she wasn't eating and she's losing weight alarmingly. I had lunch with Ron Fiorelli of the German Wine Information Bureau at grano. We had a bottle of Belguardo Sencata Maremma Toscana 2003. When I came home we had a call from the vet to tell us that Tanya had died. Our beautiful green-eyed cat, twelve years old. She gave us so much joy.

She used to come into my office and meow to be picked up and stroked on my lap. She was the only thing that could distract me while I was writing. Apparently Tanya had cancer and died of a heart attack. I had a meeting planned at the National Club with members of the Rotary Club to talk about Grapes for Humanity at 5 pm. My heart wasn't in it but I had to go through with it. I had proposed a wine tasting before we began and had brought along Vineland Estates Sauvignon Blanc 2004, Château des Charmes Chardonnay Musqué 2004, Stoney Ridge Meritage 2003 and Sandhill Syrah Phantom Creek Vineyard 2003 from BC (unfortunately badly corked). Guy came over and since we didn't feel like cooking we went out looking for a neighbourhood restaurant. The first three we tried were closed. Eventually we ended up at Alizé and had a bottle of Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages 2004. I had mussels and frites, Guy had chicken and Deborah had pasta. A message on my phone when I got home from Donald Ziraldo. He told me that his chef, a young woman, had died. This day is cursed.

Tuesday, September 12: A training session at the gym to alter my routine. I left from there for a meeting with the owner and the chef of Amadeus on Richmond Street to consult on their wine list. Lunch with Scott Fairweather, the director of the Canadian Landmine Foundation, to talk about possible partnerships with Grapes for Humanity. He tells me he has a cat who is nineteen years old. Spent the afternoon working on a wine list for Amadeus. For dinner a bottle of Whitehall Lane Cabernet Sauvignon 2003. A lovely, restrained wine, beautifully balanced, as elegant as a Chanel suit ($54.95 at Vintages).

Wednesday, September 13: Got up at 5:30 because I couldn't sleep, thinking about Tanya. Worked on Amadeus' wine list but I kept thinking about the cat. There is a big tasting of Chilean wines at the Boiler Room in the distillery District this morning, a press preview for the event on October 4th. Forefront Communications did a great job serving nine flights of different varietals – Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Carmenere, Pinot Noir/Malbec (the weakest flight), Syrah, Merlot and three flights of Cabernet Sauvignon Blends. This evening, a dinner at Crush with Jose Roserio, export manager for Dão Sul in Portugal. We started with a glass of St. Peray 2004 before getting into four red wines:

  • Quinta de Cabriz 2004 (Alfocherio, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional from Dao): deeply coloured; minerally, blackberry, tobacco and plum; full on the palate, lively rhubarb-like acidity. ***½ (good value at $12.95)
  • Monte de Cal "Aragones" 2004 from Alentej (Tempranillo): dense purple-black; earthy, blackberry, vanilla oak; dry, firm, lots of extract. **** ($18.85)
  • Quinta Do Encontro 2001 (Bairrada): nose of raspberry jam, easy drinking, well balanced. **** ($17.95)
  • Quinta Do Gradil 2003 (Estremadura – Touriga Nacional, Alicante Bouchet and Syrah): floral, red berry, tannic finish. ***½

Thursday, September 14: A meeting this morning at the Wine Council of Ontario in St. Catharines to discuss the trade tasting day at the Ontario Wine Awards. Stayed down in the Peninsula and called into Stratus to see Charles Baker, Stratus' Marketing & Sales Director. Charles wanted to show me his own wine, made under the Stratus label – Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling 2005. Mark Picone used to be the chef at Vineland Estates and bought a six-acre vineyard near that winery. It was Charles's idea to seek out small vineyards with old vines and make small lots of his own wine. His 2005 Picone Vineyard Riesling is only sold at Stratus for $35 and it was so good I bought a case of six. (Very pale colour; honey and grapefruit nose with a floral note; lovely balance of lime and grapefruit flavours, off-dry with a long finish.) 125 cases were made.

Charles took me to lunch at the Stone Road Grille – a great little restaurant where all the winemakers eat. They serve only VQA Ontario wines. We had a terrific lunch – homemade charcuterie, onion pizza and duck confit. We drank Charles' Riesling, Status White 2000 (Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Riesling) – buttery caramel, rich toasted pineapple flavours' Stratus Red 2002 (Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Gamay – which is showing beautifully now – claret-like, cedar. Smoky, cherry and currants, lovely mouthfeel; great balance). After lunch I drove over to Peter Gamble's house to show him a copy of the atlas. He opened a bottle of Domaine de la Grange des Pères 2002, vin de pays de L'Herault. For dinner, a bottle of Lammershoek Pinotage Barrique 2004 from South Africa, a Vintages wine ($17.95) that went very well with a tomato-based chicken pasta dish.

Friday, September 15: A Vintages tasting this morning, the second half of the October release. There were 96 wines to taste; mercifully they didn't put out the ten Barolos. We'll get to taste those next Friday. Didn't get home until 3:30 pm. Took Pinot the Wonder Dog to the park. Cooked Chinese pork won ton thingies for dinner with a bottle of Chateau Ste. Michelle Chardonnay 2004 from Washington State. The last time I tried this wine I found bound-in sulphur but this bottle was just fine.




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