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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 126 (February 26, 2007)

Monday, February 19: The French Trade commission is holding a tasting for producers who are looking for agents in this market. It's at the Ontario Club. I'm taken by a claret from Chateau Roc de Levray 2004 but unfortunately the owner is not there to tell me about it. Remi Ballarin has never flown before. He made the trip from Bordeaux to Paris by plane but was so agitated by the thought of seven more hours flying the Atlantic that he phoned and apologized for not coming and took the train back to Bordeaux. I can sympathize. The other wines I enjoyed were Champagne Blin Brut 2000, Domaine Henru Schoenheitz Gewurztraminer "Holder" 2005, Chateau de Suronde Quart de Chaume 2001, Domaine Joseph Mellot Quincy "Le Rimonet" 2005, Domaine de la Bastide Blanc 2006, Chateau Desmirail 2004 and Liversan 2003. Then scooted over to the Gardniner Museum, where Leo Baduria was holding a portfolio tasting of the products he imports (his company is actually called Portfolio Wines & Spirits). Discovered a new Greek winery that's making very interesting wines – Pavlou-Kagas. Popped into Didier's restaurant on Yonge, where Trudeau (the Montreal-based company that makes corkscrews and kitchen utensils) was holding a promotional event. I had time for a glass of pink sparkling wine.

Tuesday, February 20: I had to do a make-up tasting at Vintages because I missed an earlier one by not putting it in my diary. The lab was crowded with LCBO consultants, since they taste on Tuesdays. I felt badly because I had to reach over bodies for the bottles. The LCBO should make a decent tasting room where you can sit down in peace rather than standing two deep at a counter that reeks of bleach. Heaven knows they can afford it with all the profits they boast about in their annual reports. Lunch at Auberge du Pommier to taste Louis Latour wines. Louis Latour is back on form, making very solid wines now. At 5 pm, a meeting of the Grand Cru board to discuss this year's fund raiser for Toronto Western Hospital. The goal is to raise $2 million.

Wednesday, February 21: Vincor is holding a massive tasting of Le Clos Jordanne wines at The Four Seasons for the press and LCBO employees. These wines, five Pinot Noirs and four Chardonnays, are great. Thomas Bachelder shown that you can make world-class Pinot Noir in Ontario and Chardonnay too, wines that can stand next to Burgundies without a blush. Then on to the annual Portuguese trade tasting at the Fairmont Royal York. Best wines – Luis Pato's Vinha Pan 2003 and Vinha Barrosa 2003. I'm impressed that Portuguese producers can make wines in the $8–13 range that are really tasty – wines like Quinta da Aveleda Charamba 2004, Caves Aliança Foral Reserva 2005, Vista Touriga Nacional 2004 and J. M. da Fonseca Periquita Tinto 2004, for example. At 6 pm down to Joe Badali's Ristorante Italiano on Front Street to speak to the wines at a Toronto East General Hospital fund-raiser. Six Ontario wineries – Angels Gate, By Chadsey's Cairns, Closson Chase, Huff Estates, Lailey Vineyard and Mountain Road Wine Company – are pouring their products to match dishes prepared by Bob Blumer, The Surreal Gourmet.

Thursday, February 22: Recorded my 680 NEWS reviews and then drove to Churchill Cellars' office on Queen Street East for a meeting with Shelly Saxena to discuss the possibility of Constellation Brands' Icon Estates participating in a fund-raiser for Grapes for Humanity at The Miller Tavern in October. For dinner, with lamb chops with Sandhill Cabernet Sauvignon Syrah 2004 from the Okanagan (smoky blackberry and chocolate flavours with lively acidity).

Friday, February 23: Another Vintages tasting this morning. For some reason there are three releases in March. Eighty-odd wines are out for sampling but Zoltan Szabo is with me to share the load. Zoltan has been voted The Sexiest Man in Toronto by the National Post. His phone is ringing off the hook with calls for staff training by restaurants with women managers. He tells me that he has had a call from a film company that makes B movies. We might lose him to Hollywood, which would be a shame. He's a good sommelier. This evening I'm invited to a dinner party at North 44 by Colin Halpern for Marchesi Armando Fumanelli, whose wines he imports. There are 14 of us in a private room. I haven't tasted the Fumanelli wines before and I'm excited about the prospect of eating at North 44, especially since it's within walking distance to my house. We start with Fumanelli Valpolicella 2005 lightly chilled with an amuse-bouche (an egg-cup sized serving of consommé). The first course, served with Terso 2002 (an oak-aged blend of Trebbiano and Garganega), is seared yellow fin tina with tuna tartare, water born greens, Japanese pear, yuzu (whatever that is), jalapeño and coriander. A perfect match with the ripe pear and licorice notes of the wine. Second course: Squarano Valpolicella 2000 with braised oxtail risotto with shaved winter truffles and chives. Third course, 2003 Squarano Amarone with pan-seared bison tenderloin with savoury crust, squash, sweet onion ravioli, Swiss chard and Merlot shallot reduction. Dessert: Passito Bianco Le Vampadore with burnt caramel pot de crème with banana bread pudding fingers and sour cream sauce. A wonderful meal with beautifully balanced wines.

Saturday, February 24: Deborah is away at a cottage with her book club ladies so I walk Pinot the Wonder Dog to the park for her weekend romp. Then grocery shopping before driving down to The Cookbook Store, where Allison Fryer is having an open-house wine tasting to promote The Wine Atlas of Canada. I contribute a bottle of Le Clos Jordanne Pinot Noir Village Reserve 2004 and Allison has assemble a couple of cases of wines from across Canada – mostly from her own cellar – including Osoyoos Larose 2003, Norman Hardie Riesling 2005 and Pinot Noir 2004, Quails' Gate Chardonnay 2003, Stratus Wild Ass Red 2004 and Jost Baco Noir 2004. This evening I'm leading a tasting at The Original Greek restaurant in Peterborough. Every year George Anagnostou and his sister Anna, the chef, put on a wine and food matching dinner for charity. This one is in aid of Victoria's Quilts Canada (Comforting cancer patients). I stopped on the drive up for a coffee and a doughnut. A dumb move. I'd forgotten just how much food they served and each dish is large. I was seated at a table with Pavlo, who was billed on the menu as "Internationally acclaimed Greek God of Guitar." To my shame I had not heard of him but he turned out to be an engaging and fun dinner companion. He resisted all blandishments to get him to perform because he had to leave for the airport to fly to Miami at 5 am the next morning. As an aperitif we started with Domaine Luquet Roger Brut Blanc de Blanc Cremant de Bourgogne with chocolate-covered strawberries.

First course: 2006 Waipara Hills Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, with spring greens with walnuts, pomegranate seeds, poached pears in a grapefruit-strawberry vinaigrette.

Second course: 2005 Domaine Paul Zink Gewürztraminer, Alsace, with baked fillet of sole on couscous with a caramel.

Third course: 2004 Mount Oakden Chardonnay Semillon, Clare Valley, with pan-seared sweetbreads in Chardonnay cream sauce served in a pastry shell.

Fourth course: 2004 Michele Chiarlo Barbera d'Asti, Piemonte, with broiled sea bass wrapped in prosciutto and hints of mustard seeds with garlic-thyme pureed potatoes.

Fifth course: 2004 Swings & Roundabouts Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot, Margaret River, with slow-roasted ossobuco with a mushroom-sweet pepper and tomato risotto.

Sixth course: 2003 Parri Estates Shiraz, Southern Fleurieu, with filet mignon topped with blue cheese and Bearnaise sauce on a bed of buttered noodles.

Seventh course: Southbrook Farm Framboise, Ontario, with strawberry and white chocolate mousse. Just typing this out makes me feel full.

Got home at 1:15 am and woke Pinot the Wonder Dog for a walk. She was not amused.




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