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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 120 (January 15, 2007)

Monday, January 8: A tasting this morning at Ki Restaurant of South African wines. Niël Groenewald, the chief winemaker at Douglas Green Bellingham, and a group of wine writers went through nine white wines – six Sauvignon Blanc, two Chenin and a Chardonnay. I was very impressed with Bellingham Sauvignon Blanc 2006 for the price ($11.95). I'll make it a Wine of the Week. Sent out some emails soliciting donations to Grapes for Humanity. I don't know how successful this approach will be, but I have to try. We can't keep going back to the same people asking for wine donations and money. I know when the phone rings and someone says, "Is Anthony there?" that it's someone asking for money. Only my sister calls me Anthony. For dinner, Fincha Flichman Experience Reserve 2004 from Argentina (60% Shiraz, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon), dense purple colour, chunky blackberry and chocolate flavours with a rose petal note; full-boded, soft tannins.

Tuesday, January 9: A meeting at 10 am with Marc Dorfman, the banquet manager at The Four Seasons, to discuss arrangements for the Grapes for Humanity dinner on May 10th. We're using the ballroom, which means we have to sell at least 120 tickets to make it look interesting. Jackie Davies, another director of the foundation, was with me. Jackie, who has loads of experience as an event planner, will be running the evening. In the afternoon I wrote my monthly piece for Post City magazines. They wanted a Valentine's Day column. I hate these annual Hallmark celebrations. I've been writing what to give your lover/wife/mother on Valentine's Day for over 30 years. I think I'll write about what to drink if you're splitting up/separating/getting divorced. Champagne, I guess. A telephone interview about Icewine production in Ontario by Margaret Webb, who is writing a book about food in Canada from field to table. For Ontario, she's chosen Icewine. Still no snow here. The later the freeze happens the less Icewine (too much drying and brittle stems could cause the bunches to break off) and the less quality the product. For dinner, Ardent Estates Chardonnay 2005 from Australia, with tilapia. A very flavourful wine that went very well with the sautéed fish.

Wednesday, January 10: Had a call from the St. Catharines Whig Standard. It appears that Royal DeMaria has sold a 375 mL bottle of its Chardonnay Icewine 2000 to a Saudi businessman for $30,000. They wanted a quote. I said: Good for them but not great for Ontario Icewine. Joseph DeMaria predicts that the last bottle of this wine (he has 31 left) will sell for $500,000. And you know something? He'll probably get it. There are enough mega-rich people around who would be amused by spending half a mill on a half bottle of wine. Recorded my reviews for 680 NEWS. A listener had asked me why I always recommend wines in the $10–15 range, why not something more expensive. I said because this is there most people shop. But this week I added in a Masi Amarone that sells for $35. Dropped off the six wines for the Tony Aspler Bind Tasting Award to The Wine Establishment. Had a call from Ann Tudor, who has a friend who is a "dog communicator." Would I like to have a session for Pinot the Wonder Dog? Well, I'd sure like to know what's in Pinot's mind, and if a dog whisperer can tell me that would be great. Deborah is very excited about the prospect. The thing is, how do we break it to Pinot without her getting all twisted if she thinks she needs professional help?

Thursday, January 11: Doug Towers and David Lawrason are here for another tasting. Some really good 2005 Rieslings. A quick walk for Pinot then down to the Wine Establishment to set up the blind tasting. Thirteen people from the wine trade took up the challenge but only eleven turned up finally. Here are the wines they had to taste blind.

  1. 2004 Silverado Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc (Napa Valley)
  2. 2003 Studert-Prum Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese (Mosel)
  3. 2004 Tohu Pinot Noir (Marlborough, NZ)
  4. 2005 Sanford Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills (Santa Barbara County)
  5. 2004 Huff Estate South Bay Cabernet Merlot (Prince Edward County)
  6. 2003 Scali Pinotage (South Africa)

The Scali Pinotage was a real stumper. It does not have that characteristic smoky-iodine nose and taste of most South African Pinotage. Most people identified it as a Barossa Shiraz. The winner, when the dust settled, was Aaron Shaw of Lifford Agencies. He will be presented with an engraved decanter at the Ontario Imported Wine Spirits and Beer Association dinner next month. After the tasting I raced over to Canoe to have dinner with four Barolo producers – Manuel Marchetti of Marcarini, Davide Mozzone of Cascina Bongiovanni, Guido Fantino of Conterno Fantino, Matteo Sardagna of Poderi Luigi Einaudi, and their importers, Russell and Jason Woodman. Russell wanted me to taste some wines from an event I was unable to attend (because of the blind tasting) as well as some other vintages. We started with a bottle of Tawse Chardonnay 2003, which surprised the Barolo producers, who were unaware that Ontario can make fine Chardonnay. Since it was Guido Fantino's birthday (he speaks no English, so we conversed all night in French, which gave me a headache), Champagne was ordered – Billecart-Salmon. I am a great fan of Billecart-Salmon rosé but this was the first time I have tried their Brut. It was delicious. The 2003 Barolos are very forward and approachable now. The Conterno Fantino is old-style Barolo that needs lots of time. I was particularly taken with the Cascina Bongiovanni 2003 with its ripe cherry and earth flavours peaked by a note of violets. With the dinner we had the 2001 vintage of Marcarini La Serra, Luigi Einaudi and the Einaudi Costa Grimaldi.

Friday, January 12: Deborah's birthday, but first I had to do the second half of the Vintages release tasting for February. A load of red Burgundies and Pinot Noir, which made it interesting. Took Deborah to Fat Cat on Eglinton for dinner. Brought along Sumac Ridge Pinnacle 2004 (white) and Château Rayas Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1998. Chef Matt Sutherland prepared a gorgeous tasting menu for us. The wines were fantastic, especially the Ch. Rayas.




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