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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 110 (October 30, 2006)

Monday, October 23: Training session at the gym this morning which set me up for a tasting at 11 am with Doug Towers and Margaret Swaine for Doug's international division of Lunch at Tula with Silke Rudelbach to discuss the possibility of wine dinners at Tula. Then walked over to the King Eddie Hotel for a Port and Douro Wines tasting. At 4 pm a meeting at the Gardiner Museum with Jamie Kennedy to discuss a dinner in December for museum members; the price of admission includes a copy of the wine atlas. Got a peek at a new exhibition in the process of being mounted: Paul Day's ceramic bas relief commemorating The Battle of Britain. This was the ceramic model of a work that was executed in bronze and placed on the Embankment wall in London, on the north side of the Thames with London Eye as a backdrop. It is a remarkable piece work of art, capturing the history of the battle. I met Paul Day, who told me that his studio is in Burgundy. He lives in Auxerrois.

Tuesday, October 24: A meeting with Peter Morrison and his colleagues, who have a film production house to talk about a possible series on wine. Delivered books and a case of wine to Grano for the launch party for The Atlas of Canadian Wines. About 150 people turned up. We sold 75 books, which is amazing. Steve Elphick had hung his vineyard photos on the walls and had virtually emptied his cellar of Ontario wines for the event. Deborah and I stayed on for dinner.

Wednesday, October 25: An email today with the story by Jane Anson from Decanter's website.

A French tasting jury tried to overturn the Paris Tasting but the results did not conclude what they had hoped for.

Californian wines have once again beaten their French counterparts in a blind tasting – judged this time by a group set up expressly to challenge the 'Americanisation' of taste.

The Grand Jury European is a collective of international wine experts with comprehensive - and lofty - ideals. Its founder Francois Mauss had an epiphany when he saw Parker scores in a Paris wine shop and vowed to start a European tasting panel that 'would have power over what Europeans buy'.

Its latest tasting – the Judgement of Sauternes – aimed to right the wrongs of Stephen Spurrier's recent Re-Judgment of Paris.

Chairman Francois Mauss declared he was unhappy with Spurrier's celebratory recreation of the Judgement of Paris tasting in May this year, claiming dual locations and an unfair selection of vintages and tasters discredited the results.

At this month's tasting all wines were from the 1995 vintage, which Mauss told, was 'an excellent one for California, and a very good one for Bordeaux – chosen to be fair to both, but so we can't be accused of being biased towards Bordeaux'.

In a tasting that cost US$20,000 to put together, Mauss gathered experts from all over the world, including France, the US, Italy, Spain and the UK. Jurors included regular GJE members such as Neil Beckett and Olivier Poussier, and visiting 'big beasts' such as Jeff Leve, a colleague of Robert Parker.

Of the top five chateaux, the first three were Californians. The winner was Abreu followed by Beringer and Pahlmeyer. Of the Bordeaux wines, Valandraud came in at number four, just ahead of Chateau Latour.

Even more surprisingly, when results were separated into scores awarded only by the usual GJE jury, 8 Californians wines came in the top 10.

Xavier Planty of Chateau Guiraud, where the tasting was held, had one theory as to why California won yet again: 'When tasting wines from your own area, the critical part of your brain is switched on, when tasting from another area, the pleasure part is switched on.'

(All 1995 Vintage)

1 Abreu (Madrona Ranch)
1 Beringer Private Reserve
3 Pahlmeyer Propriatory Red
3 Valandraud
5 Latour
5 Shafer Hillside Select
7 Arrowood Cabernet Sauvignon Special Reserve
7 Ausone
9 Leoville Les Cases
9 Phelps Insignia
11 Mouton Rothschild
12 Mondavi Reserve
13 Cheval Blanc
13 Palmer
15 Staglin Family Vineyard Cabernet
16 Trotonoy
17 Araujo
18 La Jota Anniversary Reserve
18 Le Bon Pasteur
20 Pride Reserve
21 Haut Condissas
22 Spring Mountain
23 Petrus
23 Rollan de By
25 Chateau Montelena
26 Mouton Rothschild
27 Monte Bello Ridge
28 Cheval Blanc
29 Dominus
30 Colgin
31 Margaux
32 Spotteswoode
33 Le Tertre Roteboeuf
34 Haut Brion
35 La Mission Haut Brion
36 Croix de Labrie
37 Screaming Eagle
38 Harlan Estate
39 Diamond Creek Volcanic Hill

I remember Bruno Prats (who owned Cos d'Estournel and Petit Village at that time) telling me in 1982 that California might have won the 1976 tasting, but what would you rather drink with a meal? A fruit-forward, jammy, concentrated Cab from California that would bore you after one glass or an elegant, harmonious claret that you could enjoy throughout a meal? Sounded like sour grapes then.

Today is the party at Sam and Esther Sarick's to celebrate the publication of the wine atlas. I brought over four cases of Ontario and BC wines. Signed 30 copies.

Paolo di Marchi, winemaker/ proprietor of Isole e Olena

Thursday, October 26: A meeting of the volunteers for Grapes for Humanity's Cos d'Estournel dinner on November 2nd. This evening is the Grand Cru tasting at the palatial home of a businessman who lives off Post Road. Todd Halpern, who does everything in a big way, had got the Bowmanville Zoo to have two elephants stationed in the driveway to greet the 350-odd guests. Wine tables had been set up in the vast foyer of the house and in its inner courtyard which had been tented over for the occasion. Represented were: Antinori, Burge Family, Cantine Marchesi Fumanelli, Castello di Ama, Ceretto, Champagne Gosset, Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet, Chateau Latour, Clark-Claudon, Cliff Lede, Domaine Carneros, Domaine de Montille, Drei Dona, Dujac, Faiveley, Fuligni, Hugel, Isole e Olena, Jaboulet, L'Aventure, Pascal Jolivet, Planeta, Poggio Antico, Remoissenet, Sette Ponte/Fuedo Maccari and Silver Oak. My favourite wines were the Dujac Meursault 2004, Burge Family, Olive Hill Shiraz-Grenache-Mourvedre, Cliff Lede Poetry 2002, Hugel 1001 Gewurztraminer Vendange Tardive, L'Aventure Optimus 2004, Planeta Segreta Bianco 2005, Poggio Antico Brunello di Montalcino 2001. Called Deborah at 10 pm and asked her to pick David Lawrason and me up – so that she could see the house.

Me and the lion cub
Pierre Rovani

Friday, October 27: Lunch with Bill Whiteacre at the Arts & Letters Club to discuss a tasting I'm doing for members next month. Then over to my friend Garrett Herman's office to sign 50 copies of the atlas as corporate Christmas gifts. This evening Todd Halpern is having all the winemakers, the board of directors for Grand Cru and the 25 donors who are having fund-raising dinner parties in their homes to his house for a mammoth wine tasting. There is a lion cub (from the Bowmanville Zoo) at the door as we arrive. Todd's New York friend and business partner, Eddie Milstein (they jointly own Remoissenet with Eddie's brother, Howard), was seated at a table within striking distance of Todd's cellar and would disappear every few minutes to pull bottles. Pierre Rovani, one of Parker's tasters, pronounced on the wines as they were being liberally dispensed by Eddie. It was the vinous equivalent of speed dating. In the three or so hours I was standing at that table I tasted the following wines:

  • DRC Montrachet 2000
  • Remoissenet Corton-Charlemagne 1997 (magnum)
  • Le Bon Pasteur 1982 (magnum)
  • Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle 1978 (magnum)
  • Harlan Cabernet Sauvignon 1996 (magnum)
  • Groth Cabernet Sauvignon 1985
  • Heitz Martha's Vineyard 1974
  • Chateau Rayas Reserve 1990 (magnum)
  • Chateau Rayas Reserve 1989
  • Lynch Bages 1961 (magnum)
  • Leroy Richebourg 1975
  • Remoissenet Richebourg 1957
  • La Mission Haut-Brion 1975 (magnum)
  • Chateau Beausejour 1990 (magnum)
  • Bize-Leroy La Romanee 1962
  • Mouton-Rothschild 1982 (magnum)
  • Latour 1961
  • La Mission Haut-Brion 1961
  • La Mission Haut-Brion 1959

At that point I cried "Uncle" and left. God knows what they opened up after that.

Saturday, October 28: Tonight Deborah and I have been invited to Bernie Gluckstein, Paula Seligman and Joel Swarz's Grand Cru dinner in aid of the Toronto Generla and Western Hospital Foundation. Brad Long, chef at the Platinum Club Lounge, Air Canada Centre, is cooking and the Faiveley wines are presented by Christophe Voisin (who speaks perfect English, since he took a degree in Forestry in Thunder Bay!). The meal:

Puree of Sunchoke with puffball dumplings, matched with Faiveley Mercurey 'Clos Rochette' 2003 (a superb Cote chalonnais white)

Wilted Winter Grees with quail on cep and corn pudding with Ladoix 2004

Roasted Breast f Pheasant on white truffle spatzle and brussel sprouts with Gevrey–Chambertin 'Les Cazetiers' 1998 (spectacular)

Wild Rice and Lion's Mane Risotto with artic musk ox sausage, with Corton 1998

Caribou Scaloppini with Portobello and sorrel brown beurre, with Nuits St. Georges 'Clos de la Marechale' 1993

Lemon and dark chocolate, with Zind-Humbrecht Gewurztraminer Selection de Grains Nobles 1986

Local and Quebec cheeses with Cognac Frapin 'Chateau Font Pinot' X0




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