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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 112 (November 13, 2006)

Monday, November 6: My daughter Annabel's birthday. The Italian Trade Commission's annual tasting at the Carlu is unpretentiously named "A Tasting of Wines & Grappa from Italy." There are 101 producers represented. It would take weeks to do them all justice and I had only a couple of hours. Delighted to discover a Sardinian producer named Feudi della Medusa who makes bold, intriguing reds from local varieties such as Bovale Sardo, Cagnulari (I'd never heard of them) and Cannonau, as well as whites fro Nasco and Vermentino. My old friend Primo Franco introduced me to his new spumante Faive Rosé (60% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc), which was delicious. Ornellaia's Bolgheri Superiore 2003 and their Toscana Le Volte 2004 were lovely. But I had the most fun at the table of Michele Satta, the Tuscan producer. I tasted his Bolgheri Rosso I Castagni 2001 and Rosso Cavaliere 2001, Bolgheri Rosso Piastraia 2002, and the amazing Bolgheri Rosso Michele Satta 2004. The best wines I tasted all day. Drove to Burlington to conduct a winetasting dinner featuring Ontario wines for the clients of a financial company. The wines:

  • Reception wine: Seaview Brut, South Eastern Australian Sparkling Wine
  • Inniskillin Chardonnay 2005
  • Creekside Sauvignon Blanc 2005
  • Cave Spring Gamay 2004
  • Inniskillin Cabernet Franc 2004
  • Jackson Triggs Cabernet Sauvignon Proprietors Selection (NV)

I didn't know until I arrived that the Creekside and Jackson-Triggs were off-shore blends from the restaurant's wine list; otherwise I would not have had them in the tasting.

Tuesday, November 7: An early flight to Montreal this morning. Set the alarm for 5 am but was up every hour watching the clock. As it happened, the alarm did not go off because I had the device on the 24-hour clock. Luckily I woke up on time. Then Pinot the Wonder Dog woke the neighbourhood by barking at the limo driver. Hank Schaffer, Random House's local rep in Montreal, met me at the airport and we battled the morning rush hour traffic to get across town to Global TV for a 4-minute interview on This Morning Live at 8:40. Hank dropped me at the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth so I could check in. I asked if my friend Robert Mercure was still the General Manager. No longer. He's the GM in Monaco. Hank came by at 10 am to take me to Chapters, Indigo and Paragraphe to meet the bookstore managers and sign copies of the atlas. At Paragraphe I did a phone interview with CBC Radio's Quebec AM. Then over to CTV for an interview with CFCF TV 12's Noon News. The interviewer looked bored throughout. Michael Ignatieff was also on the show; he's barnstorming across the country in his bid to become the next leader of the Liberal party. I had asked Hank if we could go to Schwartz's on the Main for lunch. We queued up for fifteen minutes to get a seat. The waiter told me that they do about 3000 covers a day, more on weekends. Hank and I both ordered a smoked meat sandwich (medium fat), fries, a Black Cherry soda and a dill pickle. My smoked meat was a bit dry but delicious. After lunch we drove to the CBC building for an interview with Marc Montgomery for RCI's Canada Now. Marc had asked for us to bring along a couple of Canadian wines and was a little disappointed that we brought Quebec wines, Domaine l'Isle de Bacchus Le 1535 and Domaine Ridge Clos du Marechal. We opened them on air and just as we were leaving the studio a tour of some twenty seniors was walking by. Marc and his assistant had the open bottles and glasses in their hands. The seniors were most impressed. But then, this is Quebec, not Ontario. Hank and I had a coffee in the canteen as we waited for a 4:30 pm interview on CBC Radio 1's Home Run with Bernard St. Laurent and his regular sommelier guest, Normand Belanger. Normand had brought along a bottle of Osoyoos Larose 2003 which we duly opened on air (delicious). Arrived half an hour ate for a tasting event at Bon Appetit Book Store on Victoria Avenue in Westmount. Michelle York and her husband John had invited some 30 patrons for a small wine tasting with finger food. The wines: Black Prince First Blush Vidal 2004, Inniskillin Pinot Noir 2004, Mission Hill Merlot Five Vineyards 2004 and an Iced Cider from Domaine La France. After this I returned to the hotel, exhausted, ordered a club sandwich and watched the Canadian Women's hockey team beat the US.

Wednesday, November 8: Took an early taxi to the airport.

Thursday, November 9: Another early morning to catch an 8:10 am flight to Halifax for more book promotion. I'm met at the airport by Keith Jollymore, who tells me he is a ninth-generation Nova Scotian. His ancestors were Huguenots who settled the region when the Acadians were driven out. It is raining horizontal rain, rather like the last time Deborah and I were in the province. A tractor-trailer has swerved off the road in from the airport and dumped its trailer across the two lanes so we are delayed getting into Halifax. My first interview is with CBC's Information Morning show with Don Connolly. A pre-taped session for tomorrow's show. Don shows me a clipping from the Chronicle Herald about Michael Howell, owner of The Tempest restaurant in Wolfville, who also happens to be the son-in-law of my friend and fellow wine writer, Dean Tudor. Deborah and I had eaten in his restaurant when we were in Wolfville two years ago. It turns out that Howell is Keith Jollymore's best friend. The story in the paper concerned a fire Howell had had in the restaurant last month that had destroyed $10,000 worth of wine; but this setback did not prevent him from going ahead with tonight's dinner at the James Beard House in New York, showing off Nova Scotia food, wine and art. The wines he will be serving are Benjamin Bridge Vintage Reserve Sparkling 2002 (not yet available for sale), Blomidon Estates Nova Scotia Chardonnay 2003, Domaine de Grand Pre L'Acadie Blanc Reserve 2004, Gaspereau Seyval Blanc 2004, Jost Eagle Tree Muscat 2004, Domaine de Grande Pre Marechal Foch Reserve 2000 and Benjamin Bridge Vidal Icewine 2004.

I hadn't had any breakfast and by 1 pm I'm ravenous but I have to do a pre-interview with CBC Radio's The Current about global warming and its effect on the wine industry – this prior to the real phone interview on Monday at which time I shall be in Vancouver. They want studio quality, which means I have to be in studio at 5 am to go on live. Great.

Ate a bag of pretzels from the mini-bar in my hotel room to stave off hunger. At 1:30 a phone interview with The Kentville Advertiser. Their reporter Wendy Elliott turns out to have been living in London when I was there and was the nanny for the daughter of my old CBC Radio boss, Frank Stolley, in the 1970s. Sadly, she told me he had had died of cancer eighteen months ago. I managed to grab a plate of fried eggs and bacon in a coffee shop before my next interview – with Bill Spurr of the Chronicle Herald at my old friend John Stuart's wine store, Bishop's Cellars, where I am to sign books. John Cookson and his wife Michelle turned up. I had not seen them since 1959. John, a mining engineer, and I used to play rugby for McGill. Today they are both retired and sell their paintings. Then on to Chives Canadian Bistro for a dinner with several Nova Scotia winemakers – Hans Christian Jost, Jurg Stutz of Domaine de Grand Pre, Gina Haverstock from Gaspereau Cellars, Suzanne Corkham of Ste. Famille wine grower Chris Naugler and some wine agents and restaurateurs. We began with Gaspereau Vineyards Muscat 2005. The menu:

  • Roast Celery Root Soup with maple balsamic drizzle, served with Petite Riviere Cotes de Lahave Sur Lie 2003 (a blend of L'Acadie Blanc and Seyval Blanc made by Ben Swetenam)
  • Organic Greens & Grilled Pear Salad with blue cheese, spiced nuts and buttermilk dressing, with Domaine de Grand Pre L'Acadie Blanc Reserve 2005
  • Bacon Wrapped Double-Smoked Pork Tenderloin with Swiss pan potato tart, caramelized baby onions and fennel bbq jus, with Jost Vineyards "Trilogy" 2003 (Baco Noir, Marechal Foch and Leon Millot)
  • Annapolis Valley Apple Tart "Tatin" with vanilla bean ice cream, with Ste. Famille Vidal Icewine

Friday, November 10: Walked from the hotel along Water Street to Bishop's Landing for a pre-taped interview with Breakfast Television at Bishop's Cellar. A taxi to the airport, more expensive than to any other airport in Canada, I suspect ($53). I am traveling with an overnight bag which I intended to take on board the flight. At the departure point the attendant asked me if I had any bottles. I told her I had a bottle of Chardonnay that Chris Naugler had given me. I couldn't take it on board; the case had to be checked. So I go back to the check-in desk and the attendant there suggests I put a "Fragile" label on the case. I have to sign a form releasing Air Canada from any liability should the bottle break (it's wrapped in my shirt). Then I have to take it to a special screening device. The over-zealous attendant there decides she wants to search the bag once it has gone through the X-ray machine. Then she runs a swab over it to detect explosives. No satisfied, she calls over her superior who takes about five minutes to arrive, by which there are two uniformed RCMP offices with side arms who have taken an interest in the situation. The point person arrives and she puts the bag through the machine again and her assistant gives it another going over with the swab. All of this takes about 20 minutes and when I tell them to take the damned bottle if it's causing so much trouble, another woman attendant who has secured my boarding card so I can't leave, says to me when I'm anxious to get going, "Your flight doesn't leave until 1:50." I told her that I had work to do. Thank you, Bin Laden. You have made flying the most miserable part of anyone's day.




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