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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 146 (July 23, 2007)

Monday, July 16: These are the dog days of summer. It's hot at the top of the house and I have procrastinated pulling out the air condition and setting it up in the window. The neighbour's car alarm is going off every hour, which doesn't improve matters. Spent much of the day arranging winery venues in Florence, Barcelona and Palermo for a Mediterranean cruise in September 2008 I'm working on with Jim Richardson, a Carlson Lit cruise specialist. Joel Payne, the editor of Wine Business International, wants up-to-date statistics for a wine sales in Canada, domestic and imported, for the article I wrote for him. It goes to press tomorrow! Then worked on the entries for Le Cordon Bleu World Food Media Awards. I'm one of the judges for the Best Wine Magazine Award and the Best Drinks Photography Award. For dinner, tilapia with Magnotta Pinot Gris 2006.

Tuesday, July 17: Recorded my 680News reviews. Spent about 45 minutes on the phone with Bernie Hadley-Beauregard, the Vancouver-based designer and marketer who has revolutionized Canadian wine labels. He is responsible for such wineries as Blasted Church, Dirty Laundry, and many others. I interviewed him and will write a piece for someone. Went to the press reception for the ROM's launch of its two restaurants – Food Studio, the cafeteria in the basement, and C5 (Crystal Five) Restaurant. The food in the cafeteria looks very appetizing and well priced. The restaurant, with its black marble bar furnished with black leather sofas, looks very cool and elegant. Chef Ted Corrado has George and Rain on his resumé. For dinner, pasta with Beringer Napa Valley Merlot 2004.

Wednesday, July 18: A meeting with David Rose and Sandy Kurbis to plot the future of the Ontario Wine Awards and "sip Ontario," the consumer event at the Distillery District featuring the award-winning wines. This event kicks off Ontario Wine Week, which needs to be promoted much better. I have contacted various MPPs whose ridings include the vineyard areas of Niagara. For dinner, Raimat Abadia Crianza 2003 with pork loin.

Thursday, July 19: A guy who has signed up a few wineries and would like to become an agent came by for some advice on how to get listings at the LCBO. I told him he should try to associate himself with an existing agent because it is becoming increasingly hard for the small, independent importer to work with the LCBO. Unless the winery has a large promotional budget and is willing to put a great deal of money behind the brand you can virtually kiss your chances goodbye of getting a general listing. And even getting into the Consignment warehouse program is getting harder. Even if a winery gets an order from Vintages there's no guarantee that there will be a follow-up order even if the product sells out in a few days. Today the dog trainer comes back to give Pinot The Wonder Dog a refresher course (or maybe Deborah and me). Pinot goes ballistic whenever the front door bell rings and jumps all over the visitor trying to French kiss them into submission. Dinner, Dancing Bull Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 with steak.

Friday, July 20: Nancy, the cat, has been banished to the downstairs toilet until she learns to pee in her own toilet and not on the Persian rugs. This afternoon, Deborah and I drive to Cobourg to stay the night at the Woodlawn Inn so we can make an early start to Oak Heights Estate Winery, a half-hour drive away in Warkworth. It takes us three and a half hours to get there because of the traffic (it should take 90 minutes). Our friends Ladka Sweeney and Tina Moorey have opened up a gourmet food shop that sells prepared and packaged foods on George Street. Their shop is called On The Side. Ladka tells me that she and Gerry get up at 5 am in their cottage in Hastings to open up the place and bake for the day. We have dinner at Oasis on King Street in Cobourg – with a bottle of La Palma Chardonnay 2006. Deborah orders the shrimp in coconut and I, a pizza.

Bill Davis, Deborah and me

Saturday, June 21: Up early for breakfast and the drive to Oak Heights Estate Winery. Ian Fraser, the proprietor, has asked me to give the speech at their grand opening. When we get to the winery Ian tells me that his old friend Bill Davis, the former Premier of Ontario, will introduce me and that we will arrive in a horse-drawn caleche. He expects 1000 people at the opening and the proceeds will go to Grapes for Humanity. Ian bought the farm ten years ago and planted a few acres of grapes three years later – 70% of which he lost in the first winter. He has remodeled an old post-and-beam milk barn as the winery and tasting room. His winemaker is Mike Traynor, formerly with Willow Springs north of Toronto and Huff Estate in Prince Edward County. Mike uses only Canadian oak, surely the only winery in the world that can make this claim. The idea is to plateau at 5000 cases and move slowly into a Champagne-style sparkling wine. Currently the winery produces Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc and a white and red blend under the Covert Hill label. Mike Traynor gave me a tasting in the cellar from barrels of his Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon (fruit purchased from Kevin Watson in Niagara). His best wine is his Cabernet Franc, which has a raspberry flavour with lovely floral note and a velvety mouth feel. It costs $19.95. The Chardonnay 2006 has a nose of oak, apples and coconut, soft on the palate with a spicy oak finish. The weather is perfect for the opening and it's impressive to see how many people have turned out to welcome the first winery in the rolling Northumberland hills. We drove back to the city in 90 minutes to have dinner at home. Ava, Deborah's sister's friend, is cooking Thai green curry chicken breast. I'm serving Laurent Miguel Nord Sud Viognier 2006 from the Pays d'Oc and Lorentz Gewurztraminer Vieilles Vignes 2002 from Alsace. What a stunning wine this is. Its touch of residual sugar goes perfectly with the Thai curry.




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