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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 133 (April 16, 2007)

Monday, April 9: Not much going on today but am trying to clear my desk. Last minute stuff for the Ontario Wine Awards – a biography of the Winemaker if the Year, technical data on the Wine of the Year (highest aggregate in the scoring), bio of the sommelier who won the Blind Tasting Award, etc. This evening Mike Mandel and his wife Heather came round to discuss Mike's hosting duties at the awards dinner. David Rose dropped by and we got through a bottle of Château des Charmes Chardonnay 2004 St. David's Bench Vineyard and a bottle of Konzelmann Cabernet Merlot Reserve 1998. The latter wine is standing up really well and tastes like a mature St. Julien. Mike has some off-beat ideas for his role as MC. It will be interesting to see how the crowd reacts to a gangsta rapper wine writer.

Tuesday, April 10: Wine writers get asked a lot of questions, but this is the strangest one I've had. I received the following email out of the blue from someone I do not know:

Dear Mr. Aspler,

I was wondering if perhaps you could help me to help a friend, by answering a rather strange question:

Do you have any advice as to how I could go about finding a man, aged 30–39, living on his own vineyard in the south of France, who is looking for a partner with whom to start a family?

I know it's a rather odd question, but I figure it doesn't hurt to try, right? I ask because my friend, a young executive type living in the fast lane, has decided it's time to slow down and realize her dream of having a family and living on a vineyard or farm in the south of France. I want to help her to make her dream come true.

My friend is blonde, slim, beautiful, sociable, multi-lingual and intelligent-- basically a dream come true from the perspective of many men-- it's just a question of finding the RIGHT ONE for her.

Could you please help me to help my friend? Do you know of any resources I could use to help me find a partner for my friend as described above?

Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.

I really don't know how to respond to this so I call my friend Craig Miller, who is co-owner of Crillon Le Brave, a Relais & Chateaux hotel in Provence for advice. I first thought she should volunteer to work in a winery during harvest – that would tell her if she really wanted the life of a vigneron. Craig suggested that she go to tastings at Vergers du Pape or speak to the North American sommelier at a restaurant in Avignon called Christian Etienne who knows everyone in the region. I replied accordingly and await news. This afternoon, a tasting at Philip Warton's house on Henry Street, just around the corner from the restaurant he used to own on Baldwin Street, La Bodega. Philip has gone into the importing business as the Mani Agency and represents several Italian wineries. Some really interesting wines: Statti in Calabria makes some good value wines; I especially like the fragrant, minerally Greco Lamezia Bianco 2005 and the Arvino Calabria Rosso 2004. The best wine from the Ribero del Duero, Finca Helena 2001, gamey nose with richly extracted black fruit flavours, wonderful balance. Not cheap at $98 but a lovely drop of wine. Baglio Hopps in Sicily makes a rich, full-bodied Grillo 2004 with a lovely white peach flavour. I also like the Baglio delle Cicale Merlot 2002 – very New World style, rich and spicy, velvety, sweet blackberry fruit. I realized I had tasted the 2002 vintage of this wine on February 28th. Another agent was involved with that label. Have to find out who is representing them in this market. For dinner, a bottle of Daniel Lenko Cabernet Franc 2004, a big smoky wine with lots of extract, ripe fruit without that pervasive green pepper note in most Ontario Cab Francs.

Wednesday, April 11: Kathryn Kates, who is writing a piece about our house for her Toronto Star column, phoned today and interviewed me about my favourite room. Which is the dining room, where we entertain. The piece is to be published on May 26. I wonder what Deborah will say when she reads my descriptions of our wall colours. This evening, a dinner in the Print Room at Truffles in Four Seasons. Signornello Vineyards in Napa and Snake River Farms in Boise, Idaho, teamed up for a Kobe & Cab dinner. Jay Theiler's company, Snake River Farms, breeds Kobe beef and Berkshire pigs. Ray Signorello was there to present his wines. Ray has an interesting concept for bringing wine into the city. In North Vancouver and Phoenix he has established wineries that vinify grapes from Napa Valley. The wines are only available to members of the club and are not sold on the open market. Members have to buy a barrel of wines. Corporations use it as gifts or for their private dining rooms apparently. The dinner started with Signorello Seta 2005, a blend of Sauvignon and Semillon which I thought was Chardonnay since it had been oak aged and didn't have much Sauvignon character but was delicious anyway. We had this wine with sea scallops, smoked mushrooms and salsify ragout. The next course was skate wing poutine with Kobe beef cheek and Époisses gravy served with Signorello 2005 Chardonnay. The following course was slow-roasted Kurobuta pork (what the Japanese call Berkshire) with choucroute of young leeks and mustard sauce, with Edge Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 (a new line for Signorello). The main course was Snake River Farms Kobe Gold Ribeye with potato lyonnaise in Cabernet sauce served with Signorello Cabernet Sauvignon 2003. The meat was the best beef I have ever tasted. The final course was artisanal Canadian cheeses with rhubarb chutney and raisin walnut crisps with Signorello Padrone 1999. Ray Signorello tells me that the reason they started a winery in 1985 is because they couldn't sell their grapes.

Thursday, April 12: David Lawrason and Doug Towers came over for a tasting on Ontario wines for Then David and I took the subway down to the Carlu for a tasting of 30 French wine producers who are looking for agents in this market. I wasn't terribly systematic in my tasting, having already done 32 wines at home, but I did enjoy the following: Château de Braude 2004 from Haut-Medoc, Château Saint Roch Côtes du Roussillon Villages Kerbuccio 2004 and Vin Doux Naturel Maury Le Maury Blanc 2002, Domaine des Quarres Anjou Blanc Les Pierres Noires 2005 and their Coteaux du Layon Faye La Magdelaine Prestige 2003. I was impressed by the wines of Graham Nutter at St. Jacques D'Albas in the Minervois. Lots of extract and flavour and well priced. Especially the La Chapelle 2003. These wines are available through Arthur's Cellar Wine Club ( For dinner with roast chicken, Chakana Malbec 2005 from Argentina, a big, chunky red with dark chocolate, black fruits and earthy flavours. Too big for the chicken but what the hell.

Friday, April 13: A Vintages tasting day for the May release. A lot of New Zealand wines and many that scored well. Trying to clear my desk because Deborah and I leave tomorrow evening for Portugal. For dinner, Graham Back Railroad Red Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 2005.




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