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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 137 (May 14, 2007)

Monday, May 7: Running around today with last-minute planning for Grapes for Humanity's dinner on Thursday. What to put in the gift bags, names for place settings at each table, centrepieces for the tables, props for the silent auction, AV equipment for the video about coffee workers in Colombia (who are recipients of the proceeds from the dinner), frames for photos of coffee workers in action, easel for Philip Craig's painting of a Burgundy vineyard to be auctioned, guests dietary requirements, drawing up a timetable, writing my speech... I have a new respect for event planners. But I have very capable volunteers, led by Jackie Davies, GFH's administrative assistant Natoya Husbands and my wife Deborah. For dinner, tilapia with a bottle of Daniel Lenko Signature Chardonnay 2004. What a magnificent wine this is – very Burgundian in style, beautifully balanced with rich, spicy apple and pineapple flavours and great length. Ontario is making some smashing Chardonnays now.

Tuesday, May 8: Wrote up my Wines of the Week and began my July column for Post City Magazines on "10 Summer Wines." My wine writer colleague, Graham Duncan of Now Magazine, drove over in his truck and helped me load up the wine for Thursday's dinner from the French Trade Commissioner's house. We drove it over to the Four Seasons and unloaded it there. Rick Sayer, the winemaker for Rodney Strong, and Robert Larsen, Public Relations Director, came to the house for a tasting of Rodney Strong wines. Pinot the Wonder Dog, in her usual fashion, wanted to French kiss everyone, and Rick was not amused, as he was wearing white pants and Pinot was jumping up with her usual greeting. We tasted Russian River Pinot Noir Estate 2005, Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2003, Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2002, Symmetry Meritage 2001 (very Bordelais) and the Zinfandel Estate 2004. Then we tasted the Sauvignon Blanc Charlotte's Home 2006 and Chalk Hill Estate Chardonnay 2005. These are big, bold wines. They may lack finesse but they have loads of flavour. I particularly like the Alexander Valley Cab, the Symmetry and the Sauvignon Blanc (lots of sweet, gooseberry, passion fruit and mango flavours). This evening Deborah and I are invited by Steve Campbell to a box at Rogers Centre to watch the Blue Jays get trounced by Boston. Steve, the proprietor of Lifford Agencies, has several of his winemaker principals in for his portfolio tasting tomorrow. There must have been close to 100 people in the box with enough wine to obliterate what was happening below on the field.

Wednesday, May 9: After recording my wine reviews for 680 News I made my way over to Le Select Bistro on Wellington Street for a press lunch with Marc Beyer of Leon Beyer. I am a great fan of Beyer wines because they are some of the driest in Alsace and have not been compromised by the fad for residual sugar I find in many other producers. We began with the Riesling 2004, followed by the Les Ecaillers Riesling 2001 with salmon tartar and gravlax. Then Pinot Gris 2004 with roasted black cod, finishing with Gewürztraminer 2004 and the Gewürztraminer Cuvée des Comtes d'Eguisheim 2000 to accompany the cheese plate – all Quebec cheeses: Riopelle, Tomme de Grosse Ile and Rassembleu. Came home and walked Pinot before going on the Lifford portfolio tasting at the old Eglinton Theatre, now an event space. The whole floor was taken up with tables set by country and region representing all the wines that Steve Campbell's company represents. It was a huge tasting with some 55 producers. Ran into David Gleave, who was pouring Greenstone Shiraz 2005, a wine he represents, as well as Michael Hill Smith's Shaw and Smith Sauvignon Blanc 2006, M3 Chardonnay 2005 and Shiraz 2005. Since I was going to the Santé gala dinner at the Four Seasons I only tasted about 20 wines. Very impressed by Steve's latest acquisition from Spain, Abadia Retuerta Rivola 2004, Seleccion Especial 2004 and the sensational Cuvée Palomar 2003. Other top wine I would not want to have missed was Heitz Trailside Vineyard 2001. I wish I could have stayed longer but the Santé dinner was very enjoyable. Sat next to the impeccably dressed Robert Kennedy, who is the Made to Measure Manager at Harry Rosen. Felt quite shabby in my black blazer and button-down blue shirt.

Thursday, May 10: A crazy day preparing for this evening's Grapes for Humanity dinner at the Four Seasons Hotel. Graham Duncan came by at 10 am with his truck to transport all the auction items down to the hotel. We had to stop at the office to pick up supplies and then at another office to pick up wine bags, clipboards for the bid sheets, and frames for the photos of Colombian coffee workers. We couldn't get into the Regency ballroom until 3 pm because there was another function going on there. So it was a mad rush to get the auction table set up with the wines, the table placings, the gift bags for guests, etc. Mercifully, we had about a dozen volunteers who have done these dinners before. An hour before the reception was to start I couldn't find the jeroboam of Henriot Champagne that was to be part of the live auction. So I dashed home to see if it was still in my cellar. It was rush hour and the gas indicator showed one bar with a flashing yellow light. The champagne was not at home. Showered and changed quickly, filled up the car and raced back to the hotel only to find the box containing the jeroboam had been moved to the dais since it was to be a live auction item as opposed to the silent auction. Stanislas Henriot, the guest of honour, kept his remarks short and sweet, as did Michael Lundquist, the executive director of the Polus Centre, the NGO that will administer the funds raised tonight. In the end we raised close to $60,000 from the auctions. The figure may well be higher when all the accounting is done for the cost of the meal relative to ticket sales.

Friday, May 11: Clean up day. Graham Duncan and I picked up the boxes from the hotel and returned them to the offices. I brought the uncollected auction wines over to Arlene Willis' house, as Deborah and I leave for France on Monday (a group tour to Loire, Cognac and Bordeaux for 11 days). I then dropped the unopened wine over to the French Trade commissioner's house. For dinner, Cune Crianza 2004 from Rioja with spaghetti.




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