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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 108 (October 16, 2006)

Monday, October 9: A day at home. Wrote my Tidings commentary and wine reviews for the December issue. Deborah and I took Pinot to the park, a gorgeous fall day. Lots of Wheaten terriers for her to play with. Dinner, stir fry vegetables with tilapia and rice. The Wyndhams Chardonnay Bin 222 I opened was corked so I tried a Chateau des Charmes Riesling 2003.

Tuesday, October 10: Spent most of the day at the Fairmont Royal York at a group tasting of Ontario wines to be selected for the hotel's Epic wine list. Fairmont Royal York has the best VQA list of any hotel. We started off with 16 Chardonnays served blind. When they were revealed at the end I liked Chateau des Charmes Musqué 2005 and Henry of Pelham Chardonnay Reserve 2005. Next a flight of Gamay and Pinot Noir (8 wines). Cave Spring Gamay 2004 and Creekside Pinot Noir 2004 were my choices here. After lunch we tasted Cabernet Franc (disappointing, a lot of green flavours) and eight Riesling Icewines. Dinner at the National Club. Philip and Debra Mirabelli of Noble Estates were entertaining the winemaker from Coopers Creek (the folks who brought you Cat's Pee On A Gooseberry Bush and Mother Clucker Chardonnay). Simon Nunns makes very clean wines. I was intrigued by his Arneis "Little Rascal" 2006 from a single vineyard in Gisbourne. This is New Zealand's first Arneis, a Piedmontese varietal. He also makes a Marlborough Pinot Gris 2006 called "The Pointer," which has good varietal character – but who needs another Pinot Gris. We also tried his 2006 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, which is available as a Vintages Essential ($16.95). Lovely guava and passion fruit flavours with gooseberry and redcurrant notes, very complex. This contrasted mightily with Coopers Creek's 2006 Reserve Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, the first crop off a single vineyard – altogether richer and fatter with a smoky gooseberry and nectarine flavour. 2005 Hawkes Bay Swamp Reserve Chardonnay followed (spicy, smoky, sweet pineapple, full-bodied with lively citrus acidity) and 2005 Reserve Marlborough Pinot Noir. A huge wine. Simon confessed that he made an error by over chaptalising one tank. But when he blended it it came out just fine. Black cherry flavour with an engaging floral note, rich and full-bodied. The final wine was 2004 Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet Franc (with a little Malbec).

Wednesday, October 11: Wrote a short piece on good value wines for Wish Magazine. Emails kept me from anything constructive. Just to get away I walked Pinot the Wonder Dog in the rain. She hates that even when I put on her coat. A meeting for Grand Cru, the annual wine event in aid of Toronto General and Western Hospital Foundation. The line-up of winemakers who are attending dinners in private houses is impressive. Last year Deborah and I attended a dinner in Cabbagetown for Etienne Hugel prepared by the chef at Edo. It was amazing. This year we've been invited to my old friend Bernie Gluckstein's, where the winemaker is Christophe Voisin, who is the export director now for Faiveley. I find that he has a degree in forestry from Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, in 1981, and enjoys spending time in Toronto. I'll have to resist the temptation to say, "Hi, neighbour." A dinner of something left over in the fridge that Deborah made, with a couple of glasses of Colio CEV Merlot 2004.

Thursday, October 12: A tasting this evening at the Monte Clarke Gallery in the Distillery District for a law firm catered by Opulence Events. Here's the line-up of wines.

  • Reception wine: VILLA SANDI Prosecco (Veneto)
  • TERUZZI & PUTHOD Terre di Tufi 2004 (Tuscany: San Gimignano)
  • D'ANGELO Canneto 2001 (Basilicata)
  • LUIGI NERVI Gattinara 2000 (Piemonte)
  • LAFITE/CASTELLARE Le Sughere di Frassinello 2004
  • (Maremma, Tuscany)
  • CASTELLARE I Sodi di San Nicolo 1999 (Tuscany)
  • SPADAFORA Schietto (Syrah) 2002 (Sicily)
  • MAGNOTTA Riesling Icewine 2002 (Ontario)

Friday, October 13: The second half of the Vintages November release tasting. Ninety wines. Then I met up with Harry Drung of HHD Import and my old friend Ben Howkins from London. I first met Ben ... it must be 20 years ago when he published his book on port. He is now in partnership with Hugh Johnson in the Royal Tokaji Wine Company. We lunched at 360 in the CN Tower. Tasted Royal Tokaji 2000 (5 Puttonyos) and the company's dry wine, Furmint 2005 (spicy, star fruit nose, green pineapple flavour with lively acidity; good length). The Tokaji 2000 has a nose of dried apricot, spice and toffee; it's very intense with an orange marmalade flavour and barley sugar; clean with lovely balance. Dinner at Celestin. I had a snail dish with Henri Bourgeois Sancerre 2004 and duck confit with a Gigondas which I confess I did not record.

Saturday, October 14: Drove down to Niagara with David Rose, his wife Marni, and Sandy Kurbis to entertain the major sponsors of the Ontario Wine Awards and their guests. We were thirteen in all since four people cancelled. We started off with a sparkling wine reception at the Pillar and Post (Hillebrand Trius Brut) and then had lunch – Poached Pear and Cambozola with Walnut Toast, Frisée and Reduced Poaching Liquid, served with Vineland Estates Pinot Gris 2004. Main course: Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Braised Red Cabbage, Sweet Potato Hash and Cinnamon Jus, served with Inniskillin Pinot Noir 2004. We would have dessert at the Prince of Wales with Icewine after the winery tours. We took the trolley to Strewn, where Joe Will, the proprietor/winemaker, gave us a tasting in the barrel cellar: Riesling Terroir 2004, Chardonnay Terroir 2004, Strewn Three 2001 and a barrel sample of Cabernet Franc 2005. Then on to Konzelmann, where Bruno, Herbert Konzelmann's son-in-law, gave us a tasting and showed us the new construction – a cathedral-like entrance way. We sampled Konzelmann Pinot Blanc 2004, Riesling Grand Classic Reserve 2003, Chardonnay Grand Classic Reserve Barrel Aged 2003, Zweigelt Reserve 2004, Pinot Noir Barrel Aged 2003 , Merlot Reserve Barrel Aged 2001, Select Late Harvest Riesling-Traminer 2004 and Vidal Icewine 2004. Then back to the Prince of Wales for dessert, a cold mango pudding with lychee ice cream. We tasted Konzelmann Select Late Harvest Vidal 2004, Royal De Maria Sauvignon Blanc Icewine 2004, Hernder Vidal Icewine 2004 and De Sousa Vidal Icewine 2002.

For dinner: spaghetti with a bottle of Mountain Road Baco Noir 2002 (delicious match). Steve Kocsis at Mountain Road Winery is an under-appreciated winemaker.




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