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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 115 (December 4, 2006)

Monday, November 27: Deborah and I had lunch at Auberge du Pommier with Miguel Torres, Torres's export manager in North America Juan-Ramon Pujol, and David and Ilza Wright. David was Canada's Ambassador to Spain and knows Miguel well. I do too since we went through an earthquake in Chile together in March 1985. A scary time. And the wine we were drinking was Torres Bellaterra Sauvignon Blanc. We started the lunch with Vina Esmeralda 2005, a blend of 85% Moscatel and 15% Gewurztraminer, a very refreshing, aromatic wine. Next came Fansola 2005 (95% Sauvignon Blanc with 5% Parellada from the Fransola vineyards) – peachy, grassy, gooseberry flavours, very clean and long. Then, Salmos Priorato 2005 (dense purple; spicy black fruits; dry, rich plum flavour with lively acidity – 60% Garnacha plus Syrah, Carignane and a little Cabernet Sauvignon). Next, Celeste 2004 from Ribera del Duero (100% Tempranillo – dense purple; vanilla oak, perfumed, creamy blackberry, dry and savoury with a firm structure). Then the wine of the meal, Mas La Plana 2003 (100% Cabernet Sauvignon aged 18 months in new Troncais and Nevers – very claret-like, cedar and blackcurrant, violets, tobacco on the nose with licorice and pencil lead notes on the palate). With dessert we had Moscatel Oro, but I couldn't stay for Jaime 1 Brandy. The lunch went longer than I expected and I had to rush downtown to Amadeus restaurant for a tasting of Austrian wines.

I arrived as the group had finished their first flight of three Sauvignon Blancs. Flight 2 was Grüner Veltliner, which included the Schloss Gobelsburg 2005, the wine my daughter Annabel and I had at Vij's Indian restaurant on November 12. Flight 3 was Riesling, including a delicious Proidl Riesling vom Urgestein Ehrenfels 2005 (minerally, peachy and lime flavours, very crisp and very elegant). Flight 4 was a mix of varieties, including Stadlmann Mandel Höh Zierfandler 2005 (a gorgeous off-dry wine with lively acidity). Apparently there are only about 500 acres of this spicy grape grown worldwide. The tasting ended with three dessert wines, the best of which was Bründlmayer Muskateller Eiswein 2005, an intense wine with honeyed peach and orange blossom flavours with sudden startling acidity. I also enjoyed the Kracher Cuvee TBA 1 with its Botrytis note and marmalade and burnt brown sugar flavours. From this tasting I hurried over to the Ontario Club to conduct a blind tasting of Ontario and British Columbia wines for the Ontario Wine Society. Here are the wines in serving order.

  1. Trius Riesling Dry 2005, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario. LCBO #303792, $14.95.
  2. Inniskillin Okanagan Vineyards Pinot Blanc Reserve 2004, Okanagan Valley, BC. CSCP 989228, $13.49. Availability: contact the winery,
  3. Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2005, Niagara, Ontario. $18.95. May still be in Vintages; sold out at winery.
  4. Henry of Pelham Chardonnay 2005 Barrel Fermented CSPC $19.95, Niagara, Ontario. Available at Vintages in the near future.
  5. Mission Hill Family Estate Chardonnay 2004 S.L.C. (Select Lot Collection), Okanagan Valley, BC. Availability: Contact the winery,
  6. Hawthorne Mountain Vineyards Gewürztraminer 2005, Okanagan, BC. $12.86 Availability: Contact the winery,
  7. Creekside Estate Winery Meritage 2002 Reserve VQA, Niagara, Ontario. $34.00 Availability: Contact the winery,
  8. Jackson-Triggs Merlot 2002 Proprietors' Grand Reserve, Niagara, Ontario. Availability: Contact the winery,
  9. Sumac Ridge Estate Winery Merlot 2003 Black Sage Vineyard, Okanagan Valley, BC $17.95 Available at Vintages.
  10. Jackson-Triggs Shiraz 2004 Proprietors' Reserve, Okanagan Valley, BC. $19.99. Availability: contact Stephen Brand, 250-498-4500.

Popcorn for dinner, and two shortbread cookies; no wine.

Tuesday, November 28: Had a call from a man who has a magnum of Brights Champagne which his wife gave him 40 years ago. They were going to open it for their first grandchild. Nine grandchildren later and they still haven't opened it. He wanted to know if it was still good and did it have any auction value. I told him to keep it as an artifact. Caught up on the wines I had missed from the last tasting of Vintages' December release. I have this nightmare vision of what the LCBO is turning into: I see the general list becoming all tetrapaks, every store stocking nothing but yards and yards of cardboard cartons of wine. And Vintages giving up on esoteric, costly, small production wines and stacking their shelves with bottles that used to be good sellers at LCBO stores. Endless rows of Yellow Tail, Yellow Label and Pinot Grigio. For dinner, veal chop with rice and spinach with Gallo Sierra Valley Zinfandel 2005. Can't beat the price. ($8.05).

Wednesday: November 29: A meeting with Mark Cohan of Three Forks Gourmet (, a company that delivers steaks and lobsters within 48 hours. He also organizes Barbecue College, a three-day event at top resorts across Canada. We're talking about introducing a wine component. In the afternoon, an interview by phone with CFAX radio in Victoria, where it is snowing. I couldn't help taking a perverse delight in telling the interviewer that it was 15 degrees in Toronto. Dinner at Splendido with Luc Bouchard and Stéphane Follin-Arbelet of Bouchard Père. Their importing agent, Russ Woodman, was at the bar having a glass of La Ina Sherry when I walked in. I joined him and commiserated with him over the LCBO's dumb decision to delist this fino sherry from the general list. At least Vintages has had the sense to pick it up. We started the meal William Fèvre Chablis Les Vaillons 2004 (which Henriot owns with Bouchard), a beautifully crisp, clean wine with flavours of minerals and green apple. Next, Bouchard Père et Fils Corton 2003, lovely pineapple and lemon flavours. Stéphane put the 2003 Burgundy vintage in perspective by saying that the three earliest vintages in Burgundy were 1422, 1822 and 1893, when picking started on August 31. In 2003 picking began on August 19. Corton 2004 red followed – delicate, elegant raspberry flavour. Then Volnay Les Caillerets Ancienne Cuvée Carnot 2002, firmly structured, well extracted, raspberry flavour.

Thursday, November 30: Down to Rogers' studio to record six reviews for 680 NEWS. For some reason my tongue kept tripping over "Wonambi" in Heathfield Ridge Wonambi Shiraz from Australia. Stu Hammel, the technician, was very patient with me. Wrote an editorial for Tidings magazine on the Napa Wine Company and how we need such a custom crush facility in Ontario and BC. For dinner, Mommesin Moulin-a-Vent Domaine de Champ de cour 2004. Very correct wine with enough body to stand up to a roast guinea fowl.

Friday, December 1: We get snow. Pinot the Wonder Dog is delighted, using her nose as a snow plough. A meeting with a travel agent to discuss the possibility of a wine cruise in the Mediterranean next year. Sounds promising. Worked on the wine report. Emailed Joseph de Maria to see if he had sold any of the Royal De Maria Chardonnay Icewine 2000 for $30,000 a half bottle. He has 32 halves on offer.

Saturday, December 2: Jancis Robinson is in town promoting the new edition of her Oxford Companion to Wine. This edition has colour plates and looks fantastic. She is delivering a talk at George Brown at 10 am. Two hundred people show up to the event, organized by Igor Ryjenkov MW on behalf of the Institute of Masters of Wine (North America) and IWEG. Jancis talks for half an hour and then fields questions. She mentioned that she has been writing about wine for 31 years, exactly the same time as I have (my first article was a piece about Champagne for Saturday Night magazine in 1975). Some of her interesting quotes: "If we take a macro look at the wine world I don't think things have ever been better.... There is a lot of boring wine and with globalization boring wines will increase.... The quality gap is narrower than it's ever been (between inexpensive wines and the top wines) but the price gap has widened... I can't remember a time when there's been so much top-quality, mid-priced wine in the world." When asked to give a suggestion for an up-coming white and red grape she mentioned Bulgarian Rubin (a Syrah/Nebbiolo cross) and Bourboulenc from the Rhône. I presented her with a copy of my atlas and said that the only two books a wine lover needs for reference were written by her – the Oxford Companion and Vines, Grapes and Wine (which I guess puts me out of business). Went over the Queens Quay liquor store to sign books between 1 pm and 3 pm. Sold twenty copies. Then over to the Bishop Strachan School Chapel for a birthday concert by the Elmer Iseler Singers for my old BCB colleague, John Reeves, to celebrate his 80th birthday. For dinner, Deborah has cooked roast beef and I open a bottle of Ornellaia 2003. What a magnificent wine this is – 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot. It's very forward (after all, it's 2003), with rich, ripe blackcurrant fruit with notes of tobacco and coffee bean; lovely mouth-feel and drinking beautifully already. The Wine Spectator said in October that it was "‘rather coarse." Am I tasting the same wine? The only problem is the price – $139.95. But when you compare it to first-growth Bordeaux, this is a steal. Talking of steals, I got a reply from Joseph de Maria and his $30,000 Icewine:

Hello Tony, It is funny you should ask. We sold one bottle last week to a contact in New York City who was taking it overseas. I hope that you can appreciate that the client asked not to be identified. For the record, we are following up on 3 other sales for the 2000 Chardonnay Icewine. Interestingly enough, 2 of the bottles are being sold to the same area as the first and one and the other is being sold to Japan. I will let you know as these sell. As usual, when I create these series I increase the price point as the sales increase. Although the 2000 Chardonnay Icewine is at $30,000 now, I can guarantee that by the last bottle, this Icewine will have a price tag of $500,000 bottle.

Watch this space.




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