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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 114 (November 27, 2006)

Monday November 20: David Lawrason and Doug Towers are here for another tasting. Tasted 32 wines. Some of Ontario's 2005 vintage which were very appealing. For dinner a bottle of Jackson-Triggs Okanagan Chardonnay 2005. Interesting that Bruce Nicholson, J-T's head winemaker in BC, will be coming to Inniskillin here.

Tuesday, November 21: A pre-lunch tasting with winemaker J.-L. Groulx of Stratus 2004 wines which are about to be released.

Stratus White 2004 (a blend of Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Riesling given two years in oak): Deep gold colour; ripe spicy white peach, fennel and toast on the nose; full-bodied, tangerine, peach, apricot with a grassy note; lovely mouth feel, beautifully balanced with great length to a dried apricot finish. (J.-L. says it has a seven-year ageing potential. Maybe. Certainly the best Stratus white I've tried so far.) *****

Stratus Cabernet Franc 2004: deep ruby colour; cedar and spicy oak on the nose, still tight and not showing a lot of fruit; dry, savoury, red berry flavour with a firm sour cherry and pomegranate flavour with a floral top note on the finish. Soft tannins, Loire style. ****

Stratus Red 2004 (A blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gamay, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Syrah!): dense ruby colour; cedar, pencil shavings, vanilla oak, plum and milk chocolate on the nose; full-bodied, red currant, cherry, cranberry flavours; well balanced with lively acidity, clean, elegant lines; soft tannins with a firm finish. ****½

Stratus Riesling Icewine 2003 (200 mL): old gold colour; intense, ripe peach and honey, spicy; full-bodied, but very elegant, dances on the palate, sweet but not cloying, graced by cleansing acidity that carries the toffee flavour to a lingering finish. *****

J-L tells me that Stratus will be releasing a 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon and a 2004 Petit Verdot in the new year. By the time we had reached the Icewine the cooking smells from the kitchen were overpowering. As a pre-lunch aperitif we tasted the 2002 Stratus Chardonnay – a very Burgundian nose with barnyard notes mingled with apple and spicy oak; full-bodied sweet fruit with lively citrus acidity. The alcohol is a little high which gives the wine a hot finish. ****

With the first course of Miso-Marinated Black Cod with Mushroom Broth a glass of 2002 Stratus White: old gold colour; mature, aromatic, spicy peach and lychee nose; full-bodied, soft mouth feel with the Gewürztraminer singing through. Great length, reminding me of a white Rhône. ****½

With the Entrecote of Beef with Northern Woods Mushrooms, a glass of 2002 Stratus Red: deep ruby with a lovely nose of red berries, red currant, cedar and vanilla oak; medium-bodied, very Bordeaux in style with lively acidity. ****½

We finished with a plate of artisanal cheeses paired with 2003 Stratus Riesling Icewine.

J.-L. Groulx tells me that Stratus has planted Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Mourvèdre, Tannat and Marsanne in their vineyard. I guess they're banking on global warming.

After lunch I had to dash home to take Pinot the Wonder Dog to the vet because she was constantly licking and worrying at her front paws. It turns out they are cut and bleeding. She has to wear a collar to stop her from licking them once we've applied antibiotic ointment and administered antihistamine and antibiotic tablets.

Dinner at Mike and Heather Mandel's house in Scarborough. I brought along the Charles Baker Riesling 2005 and Osoyoos Larose 2003 (which is drinking beautifully now, much more evolved than I remember it from my trip to BC in the fall. If Thomas Bachelder is making Canada's best Pinot noir at Le Clos Jordanne, then Pascal Madevon is making Canada's best Bordeaux-style red out in the Okanagan. Vincor's co-ventures with Le Groupe Taillon in BC and Boisset in Ontario have really paid off, setting the bar for quality for the rest of the industry).

In addition to these wines we had a Cave de Viré Crémant de Bourgogne (which Mike pronounced sour), a half bottle of Veuve Clicquot, Santorini Assyrtico 2005 and Leon Beyer Gewürztraminer 2004. A great evening of food, wine and conversation, as well as a video of Mike's professional act as a hypnotist.

Wednesday, November 22: Spent the day working on the Canada section for Tom Stevenson's annual Wine Report. In the evening, I conducted a blind tasting at the National Club and sold copies of the wine atlas. Sommelier Brian Perry had put together a devilishly tricky selection of wines from the club's cellar for the members to identify.

  • Pinard Cuvée Flores Sancerre 2005 (Loire)
  • Nautilus Sauvignon Blanc 2005 (New Zealand)
  • Domaine St. Claire Chablis Brocard 2005
  • Peninsula Ridge Inox Chardonnay 2003 (Ontario)
  • Arrowood Grand Archer Chardonnay 2000 (Sonoma)
  • Amiot Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2002
  • Six Foot Six Pinot Noir 2004 (Australia)
  • Château Monlot Capet 1999 (St. Emilion)
  • Hawequas Mont du Toit 2004 (South Africa)
  • Caves des Papes Crozes-Hermitage Les Brunelles 2000
  • Craneford Shiraz 2001 (Australia)
  • Trentham Petit Verdot 2004 (Australia)

Brian Perry said he would resign if anyone got the Petit Verdot right. His job is safe. Nobody did.

Thursday, November 23: A meeting with Chris Churchill to discuss the possibility of the Icon group of wineries participating in a Grapes for Humanity event next year. We had lunch at a new restaurant on King Street East called Weezie's. I only hope this isn't a condition of the chef's. My pasta dish was very good. At 3 pm, a phone interview with the Kelowna Daily Courier that I missed when I was in Vancouver. Then to George for a corporate wine tasting for a financial institution and a group of bankers. The premise was to select five red wines, four of which were in the $20 retail range and one was $100. The participants were to taste the wines blind and choose their favourite wine. Trust the bankers, the majority chose the $100 bottle.

Friday, November 24: A phone interview with CJAD Radio in Montreal then a visit to the vet to see how Pinot the Wonder Dog's paws were healing. (They looked much better but she's getting wary of the vet because they put a muzzle on her for the examination.) Drove up to Bracebridge for a dinner tasting at the Riverwalk restaurant. Chef David Friesen had prepared a six-course tasting menu for thirty people. We began with a Nino Franco Faive Rosé Brut from Veneto with Spiced Sweet Potato Bisque Shooter, Seared Foie Gras Risotto Spoons and Yukon Gold Flat bread with Wild Mushrooms for the hors d'oeuvres. Then we sat down to Atlantic Lobster and Herb Stuffing Fritters with panko crust and grilled pineapple salsa, served with Conumdrum 2004. Second course: Warm Pumpkin Salad with thin slices of house smoked duck breast and sweet red onion jam, with Kenwood Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2004. Then a sorbet: Fall Harvest Apple, Lemon and Rosemary Ice. Main course: Oven Roasted Ontario Rack of Lamb with sunchoke mash, onion and bean succotash and sweet corn sauce, with Milpara Park Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 from Australia. Cheese course: a selection of artisanal cheeses served with Peninsula Ridge Sauvignon Blanc 2004 and Fielding Estate Cabernet/Merlot Reserve 2004, both from Ontario. Dessert: Apple Soufflé with caramelized apples and ginger sabayon, with Santa Barbara Winery Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc. My friends Stephanie and Ian Watt had invited me to stay the night at their house in Bracebridge on the river. Their other house guest was an actuary and his wife who went round the table at dinner having everyone write down their birthday. He had made a bet with Stephanie that among the 30 people there would be two who had the same birthday. He said that, with 30 people or more, this happens about 97 per cent of the time. It happened this evening too.

Saturday, November 25: I had to be on the road early this morning to get back to Toronto for the Gourmet Wine & Food Show at the Convention Centre. I am to sign books at the Wine Establishment booth and conduct a tasting of Ontario wines for the Independent Wine Education Guild. Got home about 8:30 pm. Deborah had prepared tilapia, asparagus and rice and I opened a bottle of Château des Charmes Aligoté 2004 – a perfect match for the fish.




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