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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 118 (January 3, 2007)

Monday, December 18: Today is our Saintsbury Society annual Christmas lunch. Tony Hirons and his son Nick, Irvin Wolkoff and I met at Grano, each of us bringing our own wine. Here's what we drank with lunch:

  • Bava Bass Tuba Moscato d'Asti 2004
  • Zind Humbrecht Herrenweg Turkheim Gewurztraminer Vendanges Tardives 1989
  • Il Conventino Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva 1998
  • Wolf Blass Black Label Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2001
  • Dr. Unger Neuburger Eiswein Sprizenberg 2001

As a result I didn't get much work done today, so I took Pinot the Wonder Dog to the park. For dinner, pork chops with Groth Cabernet Sauvignon 2003. What a terrific wine.

Tuesday, December 19: A meeting with Anne Collins of Random House and my literary agent Dean Cooke to discuss a new book project. Anne is pleased about how well the atlas is selling. Then on to Grano (again!) for lunch with Ron Fiorelli of the German Wine Information Bureau. Ron is arranging the annual Ontario importers' dinner in February and selecting wines of members from EU countries. On the subway, I was seated opposite a young woman who made was making up her face. She then took out her cell phone and took a photo of herself. I'm amazed what you can do with phones nowadays – take photos, download music, surf the net, text message. For dinner, stir fry with Wolf Blass Shiraz Grey Label 2004.

Wednesday, December 20: Worked on the LCBO article and then down to the Italian Trade Commission to pick up a couple of bottles for a tasting. Then on to lunch at Didier's with Arlene Willis and Natoya Husbands, the administrative assistant for Grapes for Humanity. Had a glass of Domaine Barmes Buecher Gewürztraminer 2003. With steak tartar and frites, a glass of Peninsula Ridge Merlot 2004. Had to take the car in to the body shop to repair a dent in the bumper. The Greek owner presented me with two bottles of homemade wine. He tells me that back home in Greece the way to measure the amount of sugar in the juice is to float an egg in it. The amount of egg shell visible on the surface shows how much sugar there is. I still don't get it.

Thursday, December 21: Received this email, taken from

Wine as class in French schools!

France plans to stop the downward trend in wine consumption by introducing the topic of wine in schools.

The French ruling party UMP has decided to introduce wine to school curricula. They intend to introduce the topic to the consumers of tomorrow, as this is becoming less and less popular with young people: only ten per cent of young French people below the age of 25 regularly consume wine. Overall, there has been a drastic decline in per-capita wine consumption in France over the past few decades. In future, teachers are not only meant to speak about the history of wine, but also to point out the dangers of alcohol.

I can't see this happening in Canadian schools somehow. A party tonight in Caledon East to celebrate my friend Frank Daley's birthday. For dinner, Ardent Estate Shiraz 2001 from McLaren Vale.

Friday, December 22: The first day of winter and still no snow. Predictions are for a green Christmas. Paul De Campo came by to trade some of his homemade Berkshire pork sausages for a bottle of wine. My end of the deal is a bottle of Peninsula Ridge Syrah 2000. Guy is coming to dinner with his new girlfriend, Laura. I'm serving all BC wines – Hawthorne Mountain Pinot Blanc 2005, Jackson-Triggs Meritage 2004 and 2002.

Saturday, December 23: Today a party for Spiro, Deborah's brother-in-law, who turned 80 a few days ago. She is working, so I drive alone up to Caledon. At dinner drink Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc 2005.

Sunday, December 24: John Szabo is having some friends over for drinks this afternoon. He pulls out some great wines, some of which we have to taste blind. The first turns out to be a half bottle of 1960 Pinotage. We all thought it was an old Cabernet Sauvignon. I guess it was a 1968 Napa Cab. Very old red wines lose their varietal character and all begin to taste alike. The second one I got right. An old Tokaji 5 Puttonyos.

Monday, December 25: Back to Caledon again to spend Christmas with Deborah's family. My job is to act as sommelier and to carve the turkey. We brought Pinot the Wonder Dog along but Pinot, we have discovered, has agoraphobia and is unhappy being in other people's houses. She began barking to go home and wouldn't stop. She was also upset by two of the dogs there. So we drove her home and came back. What we do for our pets! The wines I brought included Black Opal Chardonnay 2005, Fielding Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2004 and a lovely Clos du Val Chardonnay 2004, which went perfectly with the turkey.

Tuesday, December 26: Boxing Day. I am being interviewed by Peter Shurman on CFRB 1010 today. They have asked me to bring in a couple of Canadian wines. I chose Sumac Ridge White Meritage 2004 from BC and Mastronardi Cabernet Franc 2004 from Kingsville, SW Ontario.

Wednesday, December 27: Wrote a piece about Burgundy for a magazine in China, Fine Wine & Liquor. Dinner with Deborah at our friends Shirley and Gordon Pape. Gordon opened a bottle of Marc Colin St. Aubin 1998. With coq au vin we had Mommessin Gevrey Chambertin 1990. In 1980 I had given Gordon a bottle of Yquem 1967 as a thank-you gift for inviting the family to his fishing club. He opened it for the Stilton. I remember it cost $50 in 1980. When this vintage was first released in Ontario (on the LCBO's general list!) it cost $17.95 a bottle. Today it must be about $2000. The wine was a brownish amber in colour with an intense nose of marmalade and barley sugar. The balance between sweetness and acidity was perfect. Needless to say, the four of us finished the bottle.

Thursday, December 28: For the last ten days my box has been flooded with emails exhorting me to enlarge my penis, buy Viagra and join sexaholics in my neighbourhood. What the hell is going on and who is sending this stuff out. I am getting at least fifteen of these things a day. A meeting with Jackie Davies and Frances Walshe to plan Grapes for Humanity's next diner and wine auction (May 10th, Four Seasons Hotel). We'll be serving the wines of Champagne Henriot, William Fèvre Chablis and Bouchard Père et Fils.

Friday, December 29: I'm the house guest on CBC Radio's Here and Now. Karen Gordon is the host. I brought along a bottle of Château des Charmes Riesling Icewine 2002 and my attaché case of tasting glasses. But the producer, on advice from management, says we can't open it and drink wine on air. No wonder the CBC is in trouble. How prissy can you get. When I produced The Eric Friesen Show back in 1977–1979 the last hour on Fridays used to be "Breakfast with Friesen." The guest would be served champagne, bagels and smoked salmon at 8 am. The producer is Michael Smee and it turns out I knew his uncle, another Michael Smee, when I was working for the BBC in London in the 1960s. Tonight Deborah and I are invited to Steven and Paula Elphick's for dinner. Steve took all the photos for the Wine Atlas of Canada. He's a great cook and the meal is spectacular – as are the wines:

  • Mumms Napa Rosé (with smoked salmon)
  • 13th Street Blanc de Blancs 1999 (Ontario)
  • Zind-Humbrecht Herrenweg Turkheim Gewurztraminer Vendanges Tardives 1989 (with potato and cauliflower soup, garnished with caramelized onions and shrimp drizzled with truffle oil)
  • Woodward Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon 1997 (with beef Wellington)
  • Black Hills Nota Bene 2002 (BC)
  • Tawse Chardonnay Bench Reserve 2002 (with the cheeses)
  • Reserve de Gassac 2003
  • Allesverloren 1998 "Port" (with chocolate dessert).

Saturday, December 30: Deborah's sister Suzanne and her husband, Richard (who lives in Paris), came for dinner. We started with Jackson-Triggs Proprietors' Grand Reserve Méthode Classique 2001 sparkling wine, then Trius Brut sparkling wine. With the tomato & bocconcini on salad greens, Sumac Ridge Black Sage Vineyards 2005 (very white Bordeaux in style). With the roast chicken, Inniskillin Okanagan Zinfandel 2004. With mince tarts the bottle of Chateau des Charmes Riesling Icewine 2002 I had wanted to open on Here and Now.

Sunday, December 31: We are having a dinner party at home to see in the New Year. Our guests are Gordon and Carol Stimmell, Irvin and Carol Wolkoff, Peter and Barb Halsall. They are invited for 8:30 pm. Pinot the Wonder Dog goes nuts every time to front door bell rings so we have to bribe her with treats to calm her down. Before dinner we sit in the living room drinking Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Rosé Brut with Medjool dates stuffed with Roquefort and warmed in the oven, tiny bite-sized quiche and smoked Arctic char that I brought back from James Bay on my fishing trip last August. Next we moved on to Pol Roger 1993 Brut Chardonnay and Duval Leroy Brut 1996. For the first course of duck breast on arugula I served Tawse Chardonnay 2002 and 2003. I bbq-ed (in the rain) sirloin steaks and opened two bottles of Closson Chase Pinot Noir 2004. Deborah wanted something with more oomph, so I opened a bottle of Frescobaldi Lucente 1999. For the cheese course (Pinot managed to snaffle the Camembert – I'd put the plate too close to the edge of the table) Serego Aligheri Vaio Armaron 1999 and Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1998. For Deborah's lemon tart I opened Palatine Hills Vidal Icewine 2003 and their Gewürztraminer Icewine 2004. To see in the New Year the Champagne, courtesy of Gordon Stimmell, was Dom Perignon 1990. Got to bed at 3 am.




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