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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 130 (March 29, 2007)

Monday, March 19: Spent the day on Ontario Wine Awards, entering wines on the data base. Started my monthly Post City Magazines article. This is the annual "Best of..." piece. They want 25 items, best of wine experiences, etc. I was wrong in my speculation that the LCBO is going to make money on the bottle return deposit. I'm told it's the Beer Store that will make money and the LCBO is not happy. Consumers who bring bottles back to the Beer Store might take the opportunity to buy beer instead of making a wine purchase. My informant, Shallow Palate, tells me that the Ontario government was pissed off with the LCBO's initiative on tetrapaks. They went ahead with the project without consulting with the Ministry of the Environment. For dinner, Concha y Toro Trio Sauvignon Blanc 2005, a blend of three vineyards in the Casablanca Valley.

Tuesday, March 20: A preview tasting for the California Wine Fair at Far Niente. Wine writers tasted nine flights of varietals, all but two blind. My top wines were Gallo Laguna Vineyards Chardonnay 2004, Landmark Grand Detour Pinot Noir 2005, Far Niente Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, Renwood Old Vines Zinfandel 2005. An early dinner at Le Select with James Ryland of Andre Lurton. I wasn't aware of the extent of Lurton's holdings in Bordeaux. James tells me that Andre Lurton is the largest estate owner in Bordeaux, with some 320 hectares of vineyard. He owns Château Bonnet, La Louviere, Château Couhins-Lurton, Château de Rochemorin, and Château de Cruzeau and he has a management contract, now overseen by his daughter Christine, for Château Dauzac. He also as a 50% interest in Château de Barbe Blanche in Lussac St-Emilion. Le Select is an ideal restaurant in which to try Lurton wines, being an authentic French bistro, more French than the French. We started off with Ch. St. Bonnet Blanc 2005, a really first-class white Bordeaux for the price (its sales are borderline and the LCBO is making noises about delisting it, which would be a crime). This was followed by Château Cruzeau 2004, all Sauvignon Blanc – very fresh, minerally, grassy, smoky with guava-like flavours. The first red was the Ch. St. Bonnet Reserve 2003 (little flat), followed by Cruzeau 2003 and La Louviere 2003 (lovely mouth feel, cedar, pencil lead and currant flavours; very tasty).

Wednesday, March 21: A photographer from the Toronto Star came over to take photos of the house for an article ("My favourite room") to be published in May. Pinot the Wonder Dog insinuated herself into the session. My favourite room is the dining room, where we entertain, although we haven't been doing much these days. Life seems to be frantic. I blame it all on emails. Dinner at Biagio's to meet Guy Anderson, the British wine merchant who created Fat Bastard, Mad Dogs & Englishmen, and Le Freak. Guy's speciality is to find little-known regions and create very drinkable, commercial wines that have package appeal at point of sale. He told me how Fat Bastard came to be named. He had been blending Chardonnays for Calvet in Burgundy before traveling down to the south of France to taste his winemaker-partner Thierry Boudinaud's Chardonnays. "This is as good as the Burgundies I've been tasting," he told Thierry, who replied, "It's not Batard-Montrachet but it's a fat bastard." The name stuck. The Fat Bastard label has been sold to the Click Group in Seattle. I heard their ad on 780 the other day. We tasted the El Burro "Kickass" Garnacha 2005 from Campo de Borja (I can't keep up with all these new D.O's in Spain. Every day there seems to be another one). The wine is easy drinking, lean, a little on the green side. I preferred Le Freak Shiraz Viognier 2005 from the Pays d'Oc and the Mad Dogs & Englishmen Monastrell Shiraz Cabernet 2005.

Thursday, March 22: The annual Bouchard Père & Fils tasting at the RCYC. Every year Luc Bouchard brings out the new vintage of BPF Burgundies and William Fevre Chablis. This year the magnificent 2005 vintage. The wines are very concentrated, even at the village level, ripe tannins and lots of extract. Particularly taken with the 2005 Beaune Grèves Vigne de l'Enfant Jésus, Volnay Clos des Chênes, Gevrey Chambertin Lavaux Saint-Jacques and Clos Vougeot. Of the whites, I loved the Meursault Genevrières, Montagny and the Corton Charlemagne. The 2005 William Fèvre Champs Royaux is more like a Côte de Beaune than a Chablis. What impressed me was the Bouchard Père & Fils Petit Chablis 2005, which reminded me of what Chablis used to be – fresh and steely with racy green apple flavours. Luc Bouchard hosted a winemaker's dinner at Epic in the Fairmont Royal York. We started with the Champs Royaux Chablis 2005 before sitting down.

Appetizer: Citrus Marinated Florida Red Snapper, Crushed Fave Beans, a Confit of Baby Leeks, Lemon Thyme jus, served with Meursault 2004.

Middle Course: Mango & Ahi Tuna Ravioli, Asian Vinaigrette, with William Fèvre Chablis Beauroy 2005.

Main Course: Morel Mushroom Crusted Venison Loin, Fondant Potato, Spicy Dark Chocolate Sauce (!), with Beaune Clos de la Mousse 2004 and Beaune Grèves Vignes de L'Enfant Jésus 2004.

Cheese Course: Époisses and Affidelice Aged with Chablis with Roasted Pear and Truffled Candied Walnuts, with Nuits Saint Georges Les Cailles 2004.

Friday, March 23: A mammoth Vintages tasting. They put out about 115 wines. Since I have to do a seminar on wine and cheese with Gurth Pretty at the Toronto Wine & Cheese Show this evening, I only taste half of them. Tasted a really interesting wine from Georgia at the show: Tamada Mukuzani 2003 – a very oaky, dry red with lots of personality. A bargain at $13.15 at the LCBO. The seminar went well, more thanks to Gurth who is a consummate showman and passionate on the subject of cheese.

Saturday, March 24: The first day of judging to the Ontario Wine Awards. It went very smoothly, although a case of wines from Flat Rock Cellars did not show up in the consolidated shipment. Some interesting results that will be released at the gala dinner on April 21 at Queens Landing in Niagara-on-the-Lake. The host is Mike Mandel, whose alter ego is Deacon Dr. Fresh, the zany wine rapper. Tonight, the annual wine dinner for our fishing group. Steve, who does all the cooking on our trips, has prepared an amazing menu: Vietnamese wrapture (spiced duck with mint in a wrap), confit of arctic char, rack of lamb Asian style with Chinese greens, king oyster mushrooms and roast potatoes followed by Port poached pears, cheese and biscotti and ice cream roll by Ellie (Art's wife). The wines: a magnum of Charles Heidsieck Champagne 2000, Clos Jordanne Village Reserve Chardonnay 2004, Kistler Dutton Ranch Chardonnay 2002, Beaucastel Chateauneuf-du-Pape 1990, Bacio Divino Cabernet Sauvignon Sangiovese Petit Sirah and 1970 Taylor's Port.




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