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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 106 (October 2, 2006)

Monday, September 25: This morning I was picked up by Peter, the staff photographer for Hello magazine, and their writer, Derek, for a visit to Niagara. The magazine is doing a feature on wine travel. We are to visit three wineries and to interview Tony De Luca, the chef-owner of a new restaurant in the Oban Inn. We begin at Tawse, where Brad puts on a tasting of the Robyn's Block Chardonnay 2003 (which is so good I buy two bottles even though the price is a hefty $48 each) – deep straw colour; spicy, ripe pineapple nose with a minerally note; full-bodied, sweet fruit, fleshy but great balance. Next the 2003 Beamsville Bench Chardonnay – more Burgundian in style, leaner but still full-bodied with livelier acidity, orange and nectarine flavours and a nutty finish. Next, Cabernet Franc 2003 – Tawse is the best producer of this variety. Lightish colour, red berry, redcurrant, ripe, nicely balanced with a red pepper note. Next, the Beamsville Bench Chardonnay 2004 that had been bottled two weeks ago, showing the same orange and nectarine flavours as the 2003 but not quite together yet. Followed by the Robyn's Block Chardonnay 2004, which was showing more bottle shock and is a still very tight, though ripe tropical fruit and caramel flavours are showing and better acidity than the 2003. Then Pinot Noir 2004 – minerally, raspberry, still tight with soft tannins and remarkably approachable. Next Cabernet Franc 2004, again showing bottle shock. Into the barrel cellar to taste from the barrels: 2005 Quarry Vineyard Chardonnay, sweet fruit, very fleshy. Pinot Noir 2005 from the Laundry Vineyard (owned by the winemaker at Malivoire Shiraz Mottiar and his wife) – watch for this one, it's going to be terrific. Finished with the Estate Pinot Noir 2005 and the Cabernet Franc 2005. Then on to Cave Spring. The only wine tasted here was their Select Late Harvest Cabernet 2005, a sort of red sister to Cave Spring Indian Summer Riesling. It's all strawberry jam but with enough acidity to bring it into balance (a bargain at $21.95 when you look at the price of Icewine). Lunched at Cave Spring's Jordan Inn, up the street from the winery (ham & cheese sandwich and fries). Then on to interview Tony De Luca and take photos before dropping in on Pillitteri on the way home. Dinner: Deakin Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2005 with tilapia, rice and broccoli, then cheeses.

Tuesday, September 26: Spent the morning proofing the wine list for Amadeus and writing my wine reviews for 680 NEWS. Took Pinot for a walk in the park, where she got covered with burrs from running in the bushes. Then down to the Gardiner Museum for a tasting of Portuguese wines.

Tonight is the last Tuesday Tasting with Tony at Grano – Italian wines with Italian cheeses. The cheeses are:

  • Friluano
  • Auricchio
  • Caciocavallo
  • Smoked Mozzarella

The wines:

  • Prosecco Astoria La Robinia
  • Masciarelli Trebbiano d'Abruzzo 2005
  • Rocca delle Macìe Chianti Classico 2003
  • Montezovo Vinaio Ripasso 2003
  • Montezovo Vinaio Amarone 2003
  • Rivera Aglianco 2001
  • Vallone Salice Salentino 2001

Wednesday, September 27: Received the following email from a sommelier who was a contestant at the Canadian finals of the "The World's Best Sommelier" competition in Montreal. The winner will go on to represent Canada in the final in Europe.

Listen, did you hear about the Canadian SOMMELIER competition last month? Contestants from across the country were told, just as they were about to write their exams, that the entire competition would be given in FRENCH only... (the event was held in Quebec).

Since none of the contestants outside of Quebec spoke French, none of them made it past the morning session.

Many theories abound as to why this occurred, the strongest being that a female competitor from Ontario was unbeatable and that because the competition was being held in Quebec, CAPS (Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers) might be able to get away with holding the competition in French. Isn't this somehow unconstitutional?

CAPS is refusing to hold a re-test and the contestants I know are absolutely devastated. I don't know if there is anything you can do Tony ... trust me – this is NOT sour grapes ...this is about fairness. Is it possible for you to look into or investigate this situation? The reputation of the organization depends on it.

My colleague Dean Tudor scoured the net and sent me the entry rules – thirteen pages of them. Here are the relevant paragraphs:


For each candidate, the mother tongue (language at birth) and the other language in which he wishes to compete, either English, French or Spanish, must be specified. Candidates will be allowed to write their responses in the chosen language different from the native tongue.


Art. 11

All questions posed to candidates during written examinations will be composed by the members of the Technical Committee, who will select the final questions used for the Competition.

The questions and answers will be prepared in the three languages chosen by the A.S.I., these being French, English and Spanish.

The questionnaire will be presented to the candidates in one of three languages used by the A.S.I. (French, English and Spanish).

(For the final exam:)

Each candidate will be assigned to a table for two diners and, in one of the two languages set by the A.S.I. (French and English), will have to recommend the wines most suited to the international menu presented by the Chef de Cuisine five minutes before the examination, and justify those recommendations. Prepared by the Technical Committee, the menu for this examination will be written in French and in English. Each French-speaking candidate will be expected to converse in English, with every English speaker having to express himself in French.

c) Conversation examination (3 minutes).

So, it seems that contestants have to have a working knowledge of French. This should have been made clear to the contestants by the executive of CAPS who run the Canadian competition. The winner, who will represent Canada in Barcelona in March, is Veronique Rivest of Wakefield, who works as a sommelier at Les Fougères in Chelsea, Quebec.

Recorded my wine reviews for 680 NEWS and walked Pinot the Wonder Dog. (Saw a skunk costume for dogs at Bark & Fitz, a store Pinot drags me into every time we pass. This is presumably so that you can dress your dog up for Hallowe'en. No wonder dogs bite people.) Took the subway down to the annual Australian tasting at MaRS, the event space on College. Had planned to send 90 minutes tasting there before going on to dinner at the National Club with Robert Skalli. Except the train was stuck in Eglinton station because of smoke in the tunnel at the Bloor Street stop. Which meant I only got half an hour before the event shut down for the clean-up before the general public arrived. Of the wines I did get to taste, I enjoyed Alkoomi Frankland River Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 ($19.95), Hardy's Eileen Hardy Shiraz 2001, Katnook Founder's Block Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 (now on the general list at $17.95 – a great buy), Rockford Basket Press Shiraz 2001 ($61.95) and Paxton Vineyards Chardonnay 2005. The MaRS venue is good for these tabletop tastings because of the great natural light on both levels. It was good to see Robert Skalli again. He doesn't seem to age. Deborah and I had lunch with him in Paris at La Maison Blanche six years ago. We tasted a range of Fortant wines, including the St. Supery Sauvignon Blanc 2005 from Napa – my favourite Californian Sauvignon.

Thursday, September 28: A day of working at home. Deborah and I didn't feel like cooking so we went to a new Indian restaurant within walking distance on Yonge Street (used to be Assaggio). It's called Tabla Indian Restaurant and Wine Bar. The wine list is very good and well chosen for the menu. We had a bottle of Thirteenth Street Rosé 2005 that worked well with the spicy set dinner for two. Indian dinners used to be an inexpensive way to dine. Not any more, it seems. Our bill with tip was $130.

Friday, September 29: A meeting of the Wine Writers Circle at the Summerhill liquor store (which gave me the opportunity to buy wines for a tasting I have to conduct on Saturday.) After our business meeting, Larry Patterson (a.k.a. the little Fat Wino) gave us a short seminar on the use of additives in wine. Scott Laboratories sells food-grade additives such as Opti-White (yeast cells that act as an anti-oxidant) and Tannin Plus (a soluble wood tannin extracted from toasted American oak) that winemakers can add to their wines to enhance the bouquet, flavour and mouth feel. Larry had added these compounds to a neutral white wine made from Seyval Blanc. He also showed us samples that had AR 2000, an emzyme that heightens the bouquet, and Galalcool. I looked this up on the net and here's what I found at


Specific tannin for the protection and treatment of white must and wine.

Tanin Galalcool is derived from the gall nut of oak trees. It was specifically developed for addition to white wines because it is colorless. Tanin Galalcool inhibits laccase activity and is recommended for use on grapes that have Botrytis, other molds, or rot. This tannin also prevents oxidation and protects against browning. When Tanin Galalcool is used in finished wine it can add structure while eliminating protein excess.

Larry tells us that if you add Tannin Plus to the fermentation of Pinot Noir or Gamay it will give you deeper colour and, if used judiciously, will make the wine taste as if it's been aged for a long time in oak.

The samples of red wine (a "Product of Canada" Merlot magnum that had been split in two, one served without additives, the other spiked with Galalcool and Tannin Plus) tasted radically different. The doctored sample was more intense blackcurrant flavour, sweeter and altogether more velvety. Whatever happened to natural winemaking?

This evening I am conducting a tasting at a home in Thornhill for the Childhood Cancer Foundation. The wines are:

  • Burrowing Owl Chardonnay 2005 (BC)
  • Henry of Pelham Off-Dry Riesling 2005 (Ontario)
  • Chateau des Charmes Cabernet Franc 2002 (Ontario)
  • Sandhill Merlot 2004 (BC)
  • Stratus Red 2001 (Ontario)
  • Pillitteri Cabernet Franc Icewine 2002 (Ontario)

Saturday, September 30: Today I've been hired to do a birthday party tasting in Richmond Hill. The wines:

  • Malivoire Chardonnay 2004 (Ontario)
  • Travaglini Gattinara 2001 (Piedmont)
  • Château St. Georges 2001 (St. Emilion)
  • Taltarni Heathcote Shiraz 2004 (Australia)
  • Cuvaison Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 (Napa)
  • Coyote's Run Vidal Icewine 2004

Most of the 40-odd guests were in their thirties and hardly any of them wanted white wine. Their favourite – Taltarni Shiraz.




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