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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 161 (November 5, 2007)

Monday, October 29: Worked on news items for Tom Stevenson's Wine Report. Dinner this evening at Chez Victor in the St Germaine Hotel with Miguel Torres Jr. He looks and speaks just like his father. Torres wines had been paired with the menu:

Seared Scallops with Shaved Cabbage, Carrots, House Pickles and Creamy Mustard Seed Dressing (who thinks these descriptions up? There must be a poetry course in chefs' school) with Miguel Torres Santa Digna Sauvignon Blanc 2006.

Victor Cured Venison Pastrami with Wild Blueberry Compote and Wheatberry Blinis with Marimar Estate Chardonnay "Don Miguel Vineyard" 2004 from the Russian River Valley.

Berkshire Ham and Organic Potato Casserole with Riopelle Cheese and Pine Mushroom, with Torres Mas Borras Pinot Noir 2006.

Hazelnut Crusted Bison with Sweet Potato Gratin and Aromatic Cream, with Torres Mas La Plana Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 (just a delight).

Cedar Smoked and Glazed Duck Breast with Wild Rice Yorkshire pudding and Brussels Sprouts, with Torres Salmos 2005 from Priorato. This wine was served as they dimmed the lights by waiters dressed as Carthusian monks with a tape of monastic chants in the background. Apparently, Carthusian monks first planted the vines in Priorato in 1095, eventually abandoning them in 1835. Torres has used this story to create a mystery "treasure" hunt through the region encoded on the wine's back label. In 1996 Torres bought 150 acres of the abandoned vineyards and planted Garnacha, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cariñena grapes, all of which go into Salmos. (The wine has a spicy black raspberry flavour, forward fruit that's firmly structured with a good acidic spine.) Torres also is expanding into Rioja, having purchased a 5 hectare vineyard.

Tuesday, October 30: A meeting this morning with Richard Henley of Silks Media about the possibility of writing a wine column in the company's new magazine, Thoroughbred Style. This evening, a launch party for The Definitive Canadian Wine & Cheese Cookbook at Gurth Pretty's house. Gurth had prepared several of the recipes from our book, which were paired with wines kindly donated by Henry of Pelham (Riesling, Gamay, Baco Noir – and a bottle of Cuvée Catharine Brut for Gurth and me to toast the new publication).

Wednesday, October 31: Wrote my reviews for 680News (8 of them instead of my customary 6 since I shall be traveling to Israel on November 23 and have to stockpile). Drove up to Thornhill to the house of an Italian contractor who showed me his cellar and wants advice on when he should drink the wines he has laid down and what to serve them with.

Todd Halpern invents the extreme sport of elephant busting

Thursday, November 1: Today is the first day of Grand Cru, a fund-raiser for research at Toronto General Hospital and Toronto Western Hospital. It starts with a portfolio tasting of Halpern Enterprises wines and an auction. The tasting was held at Muzik Club in Exhibition Place. Todd Halpern had elephants from the Bowmanville Zoo outside to welcome guests. Robert Parker was on hand for his auction lot (Lot 19 – Dinner for 10 with Robert Parker in Washington. Private jet included. Travel from Toronto to Washington and back on a private jet. Enjoy dinner prepared by award-winning chef Frank Ruta at Washington's famed Palena. Savour fine wines from the cellars of Robert Parker, Pierre Antoine Rovani and Todd Halpern).

My auction donation was a little less ambitious: Lot 33 – Dinner by North 44, wine tasting with Tony Aspler, Todd Halpern wines, for 12 people in your home. Host a wine tasting and dinner for 12, with wine critic Tony Aspler. Indulge in a selection of fine wines from Halpern Enterprises portfolio and savour a dinner prepared in your home by renowned chef Mark McEwan. Valid until November 1, 2008. It eventually sold for $15,000.

Etienne Hugel and me at the Halpern tasting

There were 58 wineries present at the tasting, many represented by their proprietors or winemakers. Impossible to taste everything – I only got to about a third of the number – but I made a beeline to some of my favourite producers. Memorable moments were Burge Family Olive Hill Grenache Shiraz Mourvedre 2005, Ceretto Bricco Rocche Brunate Barolo 2003, Haut-Brion 2001, all the wines of Domaine de Montille, especially Pommard Les Pezerolles 2004 and Maison Deux Montilles Soeur et Frere Meursault Les Casse Tetes 2005, Rolf Binder Heysen Shiraz 2005, Hugel Gewurztraminer Selection Grains Nobles 1999, Isole e Olena Cepparello 2004, L'Aventure Syrah 2004 from Paso Robles, Maculan Fratta 2003, Russiz Surperior Colio Sauvignon 2006 and Conakilla Shiraz Viognier 2006 (and their Viognier 2006).

Friday, November 2: Today I tasted more fine wine than I have ever tasted in my life. It began with a $10,000-per-person wine tasting at Sopra led by Robert Parker followed by a lunch prepared by Chefs Daniel Boulud and Massimo Capra. There were 26 people tasting two bottles or a magnum of each wine. I was sitting next to Prince Robert of Luxembourg, whose Chateau Haut-Brion was the first flight served. Pierre-Henri Gagey of Jadot was on the other side of me. Robert Parker said the value of the wines served was over $250,000. "Nobody on the planet," said Parker, "is drinking as well as we are this morning." He also predicted that First Growth Bordeaux will soon be starting at $20,000 to $25,000 a case.

  • Haut-Brion 2000, 1989, 1982 (the best was '82)
  • Lafite-Rothschild 1995, 1990, 1988, 1996, 1982, 1970, 1909, 1908, 1900, 1899 (again '82 was my top wine)
  • Margaux 1966, 1982, 1989, 1990, 2000 (1989 was my choice)
  • Mouton-Rothschild 1989, 1986, 1982, 1970, 1928 ('82 again)
  • Latour 1975, 1996, 1990 (1966 was amazing)
  • The last wine was a mystery wine – Haut-Brion 1926 in magnum (unfortunately corked).

The revelation was the 1900 Lafite, still very much alive with sweet fruit, and the '28 Mouton.

The lunch that followed:

  • Pâté en Croute of Duck Foie Gras with Figs
  • Risotto à la Massimo with Red Wine
  • Roasted Sea Bass with Porcini Mushrooms, Salsify and Truffled Spinach
  • Chuck Short Ribs Braised in Barolo with Porcini
  • Cookies, Ice Cream and Chocolates

The wines:

  • Château du Puligny Montrachet 2005 Meursault Les Poruzots
  • Rolf Binder Veritas Hanish Shiraz 2004

At 5:30 pm went to the Canadian Culinary Book Awards at the Delta Chelsea Hotel. My old friend Jurgen Gothe was emceeing the event. The Wine Atlas of Canada was up for an award in the Special Interest category. It didn't win. Carol Off's Bitter Chocolate took the gold. I was delight to see that Vikram Vij won the Best Cookbook award (his Indian restaurant in Vancouver is the best in Canada.) The Atlas got an Honourable Mention. Close but no cigar. So I went to Todd Halpern's birthday party at the Capital Theatre to drown my sorrows. Matt Dusk and The Midnight Band were performing and Todd's friend Eddie Milstein from New York (who had lost his voice) was dispensing fine wine in a corner of the room. People were crowded around like birds waiting to be fed. I managed to scrawl down the names of the wines that I got to taste:

  • Dujac Clos St. Denis 1985 (double magnum)
  • Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle 1990
  • Phelps Insignia 1997 (magnum)
  • Remoissenet Batard-Montrachet 2005 (magnum)
  • Alvaro Palacios L'Ermita 1999 (18-litre bottle)
  • DRC Grand Echezeaux 1971
  • DRC La Tache 1966
  • Beaucastel 1990 (magnum)
  • Remoissonet Richebourg 1969
  • Atardi Vina El Pison 2001 (magnum)

And then I went home to bed.

Saturday, November 3: Tonight, the final act of Grand Cru: 25 dinners in private homes around the city. Deborah and I are invited to the home of Larry and Sally Brenzell. Larry is a hobbyist wine importer who brings in, amongst other wines, adult movie star Savannah Sampson's Sogno Uno. The chef for the dinner is Robert Bartley, executive chef at the Four Seasons Hotel, and the vintner is Paul Jaboulet Ainé represented by Nicolas Jaboulet. Also present is Piernicola Leone de Casteris from Puglia, whose wine we will also be sampling.

The menu:

  • Seared Sea Scallop with Curry Creamed Salsify, Lemongrass Lobster Foam served with Jaboulet Hermitage Le Chevalier de Sterimberg 2004 (a fabulous white)
  • Cider Glazed Veal, Thyme Crusted Sardine, Quince Confit (a weird combination that did nothing for the wine, La Petite Chapelle Hermitage 2003)
  • Chanterelle Risotto and Potato Gnocchi covered with shaved white truffles, with Jaboulet Côte Rôtie Les Jumelles 1995 (we also tasted Leone de Casteris Dona Lisa Riserva 1995 – a Negromaro and Malvasia Nera blend; lovely blackcurrant flavour with lively aicidty)
  • Roast Rack of Venison, Hazelnut Roasted Squash and Wild Blueberries, with Hermitage La Chapelle 1991
  • Muscat and Honey Poached Forelle Pear, Epoisse Cheese and Pinenut Brittle with Vanilla Sabayon, with Muscat de Beaumes de Venise 2005

I don't think I'll eat for a week.




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