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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 127 (March 5, 2007)

Monday, February 26: A quiet day, mainly taking care of Grapes for Humanity business. Putting together information for the dinner program, which will be 24 pages including the listing of wines for the silent auction. The rest of the day was spent inputting reviews for the Vintages release.

Tuesday, February 27: Today I'm preparing for a tasting of Israeli wines at my monthly event at Grano. The wines are from the Yarden winery in the Golan Heights. When I was in Israel just after the Six Day War in 1967 there were three wineries – one at Zichron Ya'akov, one at Rishon Le Zion, both created by Baron de Rothschild in the 1880s, and a monastery at Latrun in the Judean Hills. Today there are over 150. We start with a Yarden Blanc de Blanc 1997, a Champagne-style wine that could easily be mistaken for a mature Champagne. I joked that Moses was the first wino. What is the first thing he does when he gets off the ark? Plant a vineyard. But then he would need a glass of wine after spending all that time with those animals below decks rutting away. The tasting:

  • Galil Mountain Chardonnay 2005
  • Yarden Odem Organic Vineyard Chardonnay 2003
  • Yarden Katzrin Chardonnay 2002
  • Yarden Pinot Noir 2002
  • Galil Mountain Merlot 2005
  • Yarden Cabernet Sauvignon 2001

The Cabernet Sauvignon came on like a pretty decent St. Emilion. Deeply coloured with cedar, pencil lead and blackcurrant nose with a floral grace note; rich and spicy and very well made.

Wednesday, March 1: A meeting with Arlene Willis to get advice on how to bring off the dinner. Arlene has run many of these Grapes for Humanity events with great panache. Then a meeting with the Toronto Symphony Wine Auction committee. They have been given two very large private cellars and they want to know the best way of capitalizing on them. Drove out to the Doctor's House in Kleinberg for dinner to taste some wines from Baglio della Cicale in Sicily. Very well made wines, especially a Merlot 2003. My hosts are thinking of importing the wines and have asked my opinion of them. I recommend they bring them in.

Thursday, March 2: A really big storm is happening and driving is treacherous. I have to be down town this evening to conduct a live auction at the Fermenting Cellar in the Distillery District for Gilda's Club. I'm meant to be there at 5:30 so I leave at 4:30 pm and don't arrive until after 6 pm, a journey that would normally take 25 minutes maximum. Cars are fish-tailing all over the place and traffic is backed up for miles coming north. There are 40 lots in the auction and only about 40 intrepid souls who made it out to the event. The decision is made that I withdraw any lots that do not reach at least 40 per cent of their appraised value. Lots such as 1996 Lynch Bages, 1995 Rauzan-Segla, 1982 Mouton-Rothschild 1996 Montrose, 1970 Leoville-Barton, Leoville-Les-Cases and Pichon-Longueville had to be withdrawn – 12 lots in all.

Friday, March 2: A dental appointment at 11 am to replace a filling. My mouth is frozen up as I head down to the LCBO for a tasting of new releases on the general list. I pick up the engraved decanter for my annual Award of Excellence at Cuvée, which happens tomorrow down in Niagara Falls at the Fallsview Casino Hotel. Dinner at Opus with Peter Bognar Rod and Michael Green of Tannin Fine Wines, who are entertaining Giorgio Rivetti, the co-owner–winemaker of La Spinetta. I have always been a fan of their Moscato d'Asti, which used to be available at Vintages and if there is any justice should be an Essential. The Rivetti family owns two wineries in Piemonte and one in Tuscany. Giorgio's business card has a reproduction of Dürer's rhinoceros. He tells me that Dürer had never seen a rhinoceros but drew it from a description by a friend. Giorgio Rivetti's career is eerily similar to Angelo Gaja's in that he started in Barbaresco (where the family has three single-vineyard Barbarescos), then made Barolo and branched out to Tuscany. His Bionzo 2004 is one of the best Barberas I have tasted since Giacomo Bologna. The Sassontino Sangiovese 2003 has a meaty, black cherry nose fleshed out with the smell of warm earth; the fruit is sweet and mouth-filling, starts as black cherry and moves subtly to blackcurrant flavours; wonderful balance and length. "In 2003 (that very hot year in Italy and France) you had to work with old vines with deep roots," says Giorgio. This was followed by Pin 2004 (Pin was his father's nickname, a Piemontese nickname for Giuseppe) – a blend of 65% Nebbiolo and 35% Barbera: chocolate and floral notes on the nose, powerful yet elegant, all spice and black cherry. Next came Barbaresco Starderi 2003, licorice and raspberry on the nose, beautifully balanced with a sweetness at the core and grainy tannins on the finish. We ended with Barolo Campe 2001, a majestic wine with a nose of tar, violets and raspberries; again beautifully balanced and drinking well now but should last for another 20 years. These are very distinguished wines.

Saturday, March 2: Up early to pick up Zoltan Szabo for the drive down to St. Catharines to participate in the Experts Tasting at CCOVI. We overshot the exit from the highway but arrived in time. John Maxwell of Allen's Restaurant was the keynote speaker. He made three points that I have been hammering away in print: 1) the wineries are making too many wines; 2) blending is the way to go in our climate; 3) Gamay is a grape they should be concentrating on. Zoltan was presented with the promotional award and so, in his absence, Konrad Ejbich, for his book on Ontario wines. Donald Ziraldo was given the VIP award. After lunch I drove to Niagara Falls and checked into the hotel, changed into black tie and began tasting the Cuvée wines. At 6:30 pm the winners of the wine categories were announced, as was my award, which this year went to Jim Warren. Not having much luck with the recipients of my awards this year – Jim was away in New Zealand, and Aaron Shaw, who won the blind tasting award, had to leave the dinner before the presentations. I chose Jim Warren for his work with Niagara College, training new winemakers. He has taught over 100 graduates who now make wine around the world. The Governor General's husband, Jean-Daniel Lafond, who was the patron of this year's Cuvée, announced that next year there will be a Governor General's Award for Food and Wine as there is for literary works.




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