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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 113 (November 20, 2006)

Saturday, November 11: A Saintsbury Society dinner at Tony Hirons's house. The theme is Burgundy and I have brought a bottle of Bouchard Père et Fils Beaune Vigne de l'Enfant Jesus 1999. The guest on this occasion is Zoltan Fekete; unfortunately, his wife couldn't make it so we were seven at table – Tony & Diane, Irvin & Carol Wolkoff, Zoltan and Sheila Puritt (Deborah is in Las Vegas with her friend Carolina – shopping rather than gambling – so Sheila is my date) and me. We started with Cave de Viré Crémant de Bourgogne, which we drank in the kitchen. The first course:crab in a cheese sauce with Claude Chevalier Ladoix Les Gréchons 2004 and Domaine Chanzy Rully L'Hermitage 2002. Main course: New Zealand rack of lamb with Albert Morot Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2004, Jean-Marie Millot Côtes de Nuits-Villages 2002, Bouchard Père et Fils Montélie Les Duresses 2002, Claude Chevalier Ladoix 2002. For the selection of Burgundy cheeses: Albert Morot Beaune Teurons 2002 and the L'Enfant Jesus. Finished the evening with a bottle of Badaceli 2003 from Priorat.

Sunday, November 12: Car to the airport at 8:30 am to fly to Vancouver. It's raining. My daughter Annabel picks me up and I check into the Metropolitan Hotel. Spend the rest of the day with ‘Bel catching up on her life in Vancouver (she's the Conference Manager for the Bayshore Westin Hotel). I had wanted to eat at Vij, Canada's best Indian restaurant, but they don't take reservations. My publicist here tells me that even Salman Rushdie was told he would have to wait in line. So Annabel and I went to the restaurant at 5:15 pm before it opened at 5:30 pm (being on Toronto time, this was just perfect for dining). When we got there – in the rain – there were ten people ahead of us. When the staff opened the doors at 5:30 there were 50 people behind us. We had a great meal with a bottle of Schloss Gobelsburger Grüner Veltliner 2005 which went perfectly with the spicy dishes.

An early night since I have a 4:15 am alarm call. I'm doing an interview on the effect of global warming on the wine industry for The Current, the CBC Radio program live from Toronto following the 5 o'clock news. They sent a taxi to take me to the CBC building on Cambie Street. I get there for 4:45 am but there is no technician to escort me to the studio. I'm beginning to panic and I get a cell phone call from the Toronto studio asking where am I. The technician comes panting in at three minutes to five apologizing for being late. Her kitten escaped from the house and she had to chase it around the parking lot. Back to the hotel for a hour's sleep and breakfast at Senses in the Crowne Plaza Hotel next door before Margaret Mackinnon-Cash picks me up for the day's round of interviews. We get to Shaw Television at 8:30 am to be made up for an interview with Fanny Keifer. Then back to the hotel for a phone interview with Jospeh Planta for at 10:30. At 11 I'm meant to speak with Terry Spence of CFAX Radio in Victoria. When there is no phone call I call the studio at 11:05 to be told that I am not on their schedule. Margaret tells me that she confirmed the interview that morning! We drive out to Burnaby to the Global TV studios for our 4-minute interview with Randene Neill of Noon News hour and then rush back to the CBC studios again, eating a sandwich in the car, for an hour-long phone in show, BC Almanac, at 1 pm with Mark Forsythe. Only the first quarter of the program is taken up with an interview about some rare birds. Curiously, most of the questions from listeners have to do with fruit wines. At 2 pm Margaret and I visit a Chapters store to sign 35 copies of the atlas. Then to Marquis Wine Cellars on Davie Street for a radio interview with my colleague Don Genova, host of Pacific Plate. We walk around the store while he asks me about BC wines. By 3 o'clock Margaret and I are off to Duthie's in Kitsalano to sign more books and then to another Chapter's store for more signings – a total of 70 books. There was a time when publishers would not accept returns of books that had been signed, but this no longer the case. Signed books, according to the store managers, sell well, especially at Christmas. The final promotional event of the day is at Barbara Jo's Books to Cooks store on West 2nd Avenue. She has purchased a selection of wines for a tasting along with finger food prepared from Gurth Pretty's Canadian cheese cookbook. There's fourteen of us around the long table and we start with two BC sparklers – Cypes Summerhill Brut and See Ya Later SYL Brut from Hawthorne Mountain. Then two whites – Tantalus Riesling 2005 and See Ya Later Pinot 3 2004 (a blend of the three Pinot grapes). Two reds followed Château des Charmes Equuleus Paul Bosc Estate 2002 (a Bordeaux blend) and Jackson-Triggs Shiraz 2003. I signed more books here and sold 13 copies.

Tuesday, November 14: Up at 5:45 am although I had aske d for an alarm call at 6:15. Had a quick breakfast in the hotel dining room before being met at 7am by Margaret's associate, Lubica Parliakova, who drove me in her boyfriend's Mustang convertible to CityTV's studio for an interview on Breakfast Television. The guest before me had written a book on hockey terms which he had self-published. Returned to the hotel for a print interview by phone with Steve McNaull of The Daily Courier in Kelowna. But when I called him at the newspaper his answering machine said he was coming back tomorrow. My last event for the promotional tour in Vancouver is a dinner with Opimian Society members at The Hermitage on Robson. The restaurant is owned by Hervé Martin, who was once chef to the King of Belgium, so am expecting great things. We start with a white and red reception wine (all wines tonight are imported by the Opimian Society): a non-vintage California blended white, a real fruit cocktail of a wine, nicely balanced though, and Prince Pirate Rouge, a Bordeaux blend. The first course is a roasted carrot soup with honey and chervil, served, surprisingly, with Angas Vineyard Langhorne Creek Shiraz 2001 from South Australia. Salad course: Red Cabbage salad with goat cheese toast and raisin relish, with Vinas de Vila Romance Blanco 2004 from Argentina (a Chardonnay and Torrontes blend). A choice of beef tenderloin medallions (accompanying wine, Ch. Vieux Coutelin 2000, a St. Estèphe cru bourgeois) or stuffed fillet of red snapper with shrimp and asparagus with Paul Lapin Pouilly-Fuissé Les Perrières Vieilles Vignes 2004. I opt for the snapper and have a Proustian moment. The white sauce tastes just like a dish I first had over forty years ago and subsequently always ordered at Quo Vadis on Dean Street in London's Soho until I left London in 1976. The sauce is made with fish stock, egg yolks, cream and red peppers. Absolutely delicious. For dessert: Orange-scented crème caramel with Old East India Rich Cream Oloroso Sherry 2001.

Wednesday, November 15: Up at 6:30 am and finish packing. It's raining heavily outside. Borrow an umbrella from the hotel and walk to Senses for coffee and a croissant, then a cab to the airport. Back to 61 emails even though I have gone through them daily at the hotel and deleted them. Good to be sleeping in my own bed again. For dinner, a bottle of Fork In The Road Oliver Block 212 White 2004 (a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Semillon and Viognier – rather Conundrum-like. This is a new Mission Hill label). My friend Jeremy Roncoroni, the GM at the Metropolitan Hotel, had left a bottle in my room wondering if I had tried it yet. A very tasty bottle of wine.

Thursday, November 16: Recording 680 NEWS reviews this morning, then I leave for London to conduct a wine tasting and the live auction for the first London Health Science Foundation black-tie fund raiser. When I get to the hotel I find that my bow tie is missing the strap that goes around the neck. I ask the desk if they have a piece of string. The hotel offers me a sewing kit. Tieless, I arrive late at the Hunt Club to conduct a tasting that participants have paid $500 a seat for. I explain my predicament to the organizers, who hustle me into the room, saying I can pretend I'm starting a new fashion for formal wear – no tie. The line-up of wines is impressive:

  • 1996 Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste
  • 1995 Château Léoville-Las-Cases
  • 1999 Château Lynch-Bages
  • 1990 Château Margaux
  • 1986 Château Mouton–Rothschild (unfortunately corked)
  • 1997 Dominus Estate
  • 1998 Jospeh Phelps Insignia
  • 1987 Opus One
  • 1989 S. Anderson Cabernet Sauvignon Richard Chambers Vineyard

The Margaux and the Insignia were the stand-out wines.

Following this tasting I conducted a seminar on how to taste using Jadot Bourgogne Blanc 2004, Penny's Lane Shiraz 2004 and Riedel stemware. The highlight of the auction was four double magnums of Ferragamo Il Borro Toscana 2003. Salvatore Ferragamo was there to sign the bottles, which sold for $800 each.

Friday, November 17: Had to get up at 5:30 am to drive back to Toronto a tasting of wines for the Santé gala dinner in May. The tasting was to start at 9 am and I thought I'd given myself enough time for the drive from London. But the weather was foul and there was an accident on the 401 near the Allen. I got off the 401 at Eglinton and it took me ages to get home. I arrived at The Four Seasons Hotel at 9:20 am. Gordon Stimmell, Billy Munnelly, Zoltan Szabo and I blind tasted seventy-odd wines in different categories for the dinner. The menu will be built around the wines. For dinner, a bottle of Inniskillin Okanagan Pinot Noir Reserve 2005 with roast Cornish hen.

Saturday, November 18: Frank & Patti-Ann Daley are here for dinner. I'm serving the last of the Arctic char I caught in August up in James Bay. The Daleys brought a mushroom starter and I bought a President's Choice pumpkin cheesecake at Loblaws.

The wines: Château St. Jean Fume Blanc 2002, Folonari Pinot Grigio 2005, Inniskillin Okanagan Pinot Noir Dark Horse Estate Vineyard 2004, Montes Alpha Syrah 2004 (with the cheese – lovely wine) and The Ice House Winery Northern Ice Vidal Icewine 2005 with the cheesecake. Great match.




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