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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 142 (June 25, 2007)

Monday, June 18: A quiet day, mercifully with only one wine event in the evening. A Champagne and sparkling wine reception to launch a new condo next to the CBC building on Front Street called the Residences at the Ritz Carleton. The event was held outside at the lower level of Roy Thomson Hall by the pond. The wines served were Veuve Clicquot, Pol Roger Brut Extra Cuvée de Reserve, Chandon Brut Classic from California, Nino Franco Prosecco Brut and Faive Rosé and Pillitteri Duemila. I stuck to Champagne although I did try an interesting red, Langhorne Crossing Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 from Langhorne Creek – ripe blackcurrant and leather flavours.

Tuesday, June 19: Recorded my 680News reviews. In the afternoon there was a huge storm. The wind brought down many tree limbs in the neighbourhood and streets were blocked off because of downed power lines. It cleared up by the time I left for a meeting at the Toronto General for this year's Grand Cru fund-raiser in November. Todd Halpern has convinced Robert Parker to come up for the event. For dinner, salmon done in honey, soy and sesame (a Bonnie Stern recipe) with Durban Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2006.

Wednesday, June 20: Arranged to have Flat Rock Pinot Noir for the Pinot Days Conference I'm attending in San Francisco at the end of the month. The winery is packing it up – 6 bottles – so that I can have it shipped with me on the flight. Proofread the galleys for Gurth Pretty's new book on Canadian cheese recipes for which I supplied the wine pairings. My old friend John Harrison Brown drooped by with a brochure from our mutual friend Philip Holzberg. In 2001 Philip and his wife Sophie purchased a 25-acre vineyard 12 km east of St. Emilion in the Côtes de Francs, Bordeaux's smallest appellation. (Deborah and I visited him in May when we were in Bordeaux.) Philip's property is Château Franc-Cardinal. He has come up with a plan to raise money so that he can afford new equipment. He's leasing rows of his vineyard. Quote from the brochure: "A row in the vineyards is 150 metres long and holds 150 vines. Each vine produces just under a bottle of wine, for a total of 120 bottles or ten cases per row per year. We are proposing that for a one-time cost of $8,400 (Canadian) the holder of the lease will be entitled to 10 cases of wine per year for a period of ten years." The price of the wine amortizes out at $8 a bottle over the course of the program. You pay the shipping fees and taxes, which Philip works out at $8 a bottle (into Ontario). For dinner, hamburgers with Lungarotti Rubesco 2004, An old style Umbrian wine (Sangiovese) that goes spectacularly well with salami.

Thursday, June 21: Went to the doctor after a sleepless night with back pain. Turns out I've pulled a muscle or a disc or something and need anti-inflammatory pills. Great. Tomorrow I'm down in Niagara for the first Niagara Wine Auction. Started work on an article for Pure Canada Magazine on my five favourite Canadian wines. That's a touchy one. Whom to leave out. Barry Saslove is coming to the house with Paul Lokash for a tasting of Barry's wines. He makes them on Kibbutz Eyal in Israel's Sharon region, sourcing his grapes from the Upper Galilee and the Judean hills. He also owns vineyards in Marlborough, New Zealand, where he makes Sauvignon Blanc. We opened a bottle of Saslove Reserved (sic) Cabernet Sauvignon 2003. Deep ruby in colour with a spicy floral, concentrated blackcurrant and licorice flavour; full-bodied with an initial dry, savoury taste that opens up to sweetness with a little air. A very impressive wine Barry is formerly from Ottawa and established his winery in 1998. I finished this bottle with pasta and meat sauce while watching the Blue Jays take a thumping from the L.A. Dodgers.

Friday, June 22: A limo to Niagara-on-the-Lake for the kick-off of the first Niagara auction (modeled on the Napa valley auction) in aid of Toronto's Sick Kids Hospital. Dan Aykroyd is the patron and he was addressing the crowd on the common opposite the Prince of Wales Hotel in Niagara-on-the-Lake when I arrived. Late, because of an accident on the QEW held up the driver for 45 minutes. I got an interview with Aykroyd for Decanter magazine's website about his new wines and the winery to be built in his name.

Me and Dan Aykroyd – the Booze Brothers?

Then on to dinner at Inniskillin. They have built a beautiful new reception centre in the old barrel cellar and a plaza, forfeiting an acre of vines. Plus a new parking area. Marc Thuet is cooking a winemaker dinner for 56 people. Our reception wine is Inniskillin Pinot Grigio 2006. Then we sit down to the following menu:

  • Chilled Ontario Heirloom Tomato Consommé served with Poached King Salmon topped with smoked tomato foam, accompanied by Inniskillin Schuele Vyd. Old Vines Riesling 2004.
  • Duo of Baa Farm Lamb served on a coulis of fingerling potatoes with Basil, Goat's cheese flan, cremolata potage, with Inniskillin Montague Vineyard Pinot Noir 1999 (showing aged, high toned, tobacco notes), Founders' Reserve Pinot Noir 2004 and – in honour of Inniskillin's new head winemaker, Bruce Nicholson, from the Okanagan – Bruce's Jackson-Triggs Estate Proprietors Reserve Shiraz 2004. For the Grand Reserve of the vintage, he won the Best Shiraz in the world. A lovely wine.

Then we tried a tank sample of Inniskillin's Oak Aged Riesling Icewine 2006, purportedly the first such wine made in Ontario (honeyed pear, minerally, spicy with a sweet pink grapefruit finish; good length with well integrated oak that's not at all intrusive but gives the wine a round middle palate.) With dessert, Symphonie de Fraise, we were served three vintages of Inniskillin Vidal Icewine: 1989, the wine that won the Prix d'Honneur at Vinexpo in 1991 (showing rather like a Tokaji now with green tea and barley sugar flavours), 1998 and 2005. Then we repaired over to the Brae burn barn for cheese and Lindt Semi-Sweet chocolate with Oak Aged Vidal Icewine 2004 and, the better match, Cabernet Franc Icewine 2005.

Saturday, June 24: A tasting of Israeli wines this afternoon in the LCBO store at Summerhill. Several of the winemakers have come over to promote their wines, which were just released at Vintages.

Vitkin Israeli Journey White 2006 (a blend of Viognier, French Colombard and Gewurztraminer): pale straw, bright with an aromatic floral nose; off-dry, spicy peach and orange blossom with fresh acidity. The Gewurz sings through; clean and well made. ****

Vitkin Carignan 2005 (Doron Belogovsky, the winemaker, champions grapes that others have dismissed. "There are no bad varieties," he says, "only bad winemakers.") This is a lovely drop of wine. Ruby-purple colour with spicy blackcurrant, vanilla and cedar bouquet that leaps out of the glass; dry and firmly structured, well focused fruit with a tannic lift on the finish and a lingering dark chocolate flavour; nicely integrated oak. ****½

Tulip Just Cabernet Sauvignon 2005: Roy Itzhaki calls his 100% varietal series Just; his blends, Mostly. This Cabernet Sauvignon shows cedar, red and blackcurrant on the nose with a green pepper note; the mid palate is sweet and flavours of dark chocolate complete the taste, but a green note runs like a thread through the entire palate. ***½ (Tulip Winery, in the village of Kfar Tikva, employs mentally challenged individuals who live in this community.)

Flam Classico 2005: Winemaker Golan Flam worked at Carpineto in Tuscany which shows in his style. This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot has a fine cedar and floral nose with mineral and mocha notes. The tannins give it structure but the alcohol is a little high. ****

Saslove Cabernet Sauvignon Adom 2004: Barry uses New World techniques on this fruit-forward wine; vanilla, cedar and chocolate on the nose with red and blackcurrant nuances, good attenuation of flavours to a pencil lead finish. ****½

Sea Horse Antoine Syrah 2004: Ze'ev Dunie, a filmmaker, made a documentary about winemaking in Israel in 1994 and got bitten by the wine bug. His passion is Syrah and Zinfandel. Having aged a Syrah in a barrel that had been used for Chardonnay, he preferred the flavours to those in a traditional red wine barrel so that's how he ages his Syrah now. The wine has a minerally, raspberry character on the nose with smoky blackberry notes on the palate; lively acidity and a firm finish. ****

Ya'ar Yatir Red 2003: (Cabernet Sauvignon with 12% Merlot) Winemaker Eran Goldwasser is a graduate of the University of Adelaide and his wine has that "hail fellow well met" style of Aussie winemakers. Dense purple with a lovely nose of tobacco, vanilla, cedar, cassis and blackberry; well extracted sweet fruit, well balanced and very elegant with a lovely floral note and cinnamon and chocolate flavours on the finish. *****

Margalit Cabernet Franc 2004: Yair Margalit, a chemical engineer, has a passion for Bordeaux varieties. His Cabernet Franc is one of the best I have tasted. Deeply coloured with a high toned nose of cedar, vanilla and red berries, it's beautifully balanced with sweet currant flavours, well crafted with just a whisper of oak. *****

Margalit Cabernet Sauvignon 2000: Mature ruby with a tawny edge, developing tertiary aromas of soy and leather; spicy, sweet plum flavours, concentrated and firmly structured with lively acidity. I would have liked to try this wine two years ago. ****½

A very impressive tasting, making me rethink all my notions of Israeli wine when Carmel dominated the market.




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