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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 168 (December 24, 2007)

Monday, December 17: Gurth Pretty and I appeared on Rogers TV promoting the cheese and wine cookbook, which took up virtually the whole morning. Picked up dog and cat food, a major operation given the bulk. This was the most exciting thing that happened all day. Otherwise, answering emails and doing some banking for Grapes for Humanity – wiring funds to Cambodia.

Dinner, mushroom risotto with Sandhill Petit Verdot 2006.

Tuesday, December 18: I find I have about five deadlines before January 15, which means my holiday time will be truncated. Wrote an email letter inviting the judges for the 2008 Ontario Wine Awards – two sessions, on March 22nd and March 29th, two consecutive Saturdays at Crush Wine Bar. There is some debate among members of the Wine Writers' Circle as to where we should have our annual Christmas party. Usually it's in a restaurant and we bring our own wine. This year the idea was floated by Alex Eberspaecher that we hold it in a pub. This set off a flurry of emails, generally in favour, and Jesuitical debates as to the merits of various beer parlours around town. I opted for Allen's, but the matter has yet to be resolved. There seems to be some objection to noise levels and the need for a pool table. Samples for tasting have been piling up in the kitchen, so Stuart Piggott and I got down to tasting the following wines:

  • Mouton-Cadet Reserve 2005 – fleshy and generous red berry flavour.
  • Domaine de Sérame Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2005 – corked.
  • Lindemans Bin 45 Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 – oaky, woody, sweetish black cherry; simple.
  • Wolf Blass Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 – spicy blackcurrant with a minty-eucalyptus note; well structured, sweet fruit, good acidity.
  • Oyster Bay Merlot 2006 – cedar, red berry, dark chocolate flavours with a tannic lift on the finish.
  • Gallo Family Merlot 2006 – plum jam; sweetish, soft, inoffensive.
  • Gallo Family Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 – creamy, mocha, red berry flavours; short with a bitter finish
  • Errazuriz Carmenère 2006 – intense blackcurrant, green leaf nose; vanilla oak, flavourful and full-bodied with smoky blackcurrant and iodine notes.
  • Errazuriz Max Reserva Shiraz 2005 – full-bodied, blackberry, peppery; short on the finish.
  • Errazuriz Max Reserva Merlot 2005 – cedar, blueberry and vanilla nose; full-bodied, dry, well extracted fruit, firm structure with a tannic finish.
  • Bollini Pinot Grigio 2005 – white peach nose, clean, well made, easy drinking with good acidity.
  • Gallo Family Sauvignon Blanc 2006 – not a lot of varietal character, tart acidity.
  • Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2007 – intense gooseberry, asparagus and green tobacco leaf nose; rich guava flavour, well extracted.
  • Santa Rita Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2007 – sweaty, flinty nose; smoky gooseberry flavour.

We also tried 20 Bees White in tetrapak, an Ontario wine. Stuart said it was the worst wine he has tasted in years. I had to agree.

We recorked the bottles and took them over to a party thrown by the artist Ian Amell, who was moving out of his studio the next day. The building had been sold. It was Stuart's last night in Toronto so Deborah and I took him for dinner to Matahari on Baldwin Street, where we had an excellent meal with a bottle of Vina Porta Pinot Noir 2005 from the Bio Bio Valley in Chile.

Wednesday, December 19: Lunch with Steven Campbell of Lifford at Boba's to discuss the grapes for Humanity dinner scheduled for October 20th, 2008, at The Four Seasons that will feature Jadot Burgundies. Pierre-Henri Gagey will fly over for the event. Steven ordered one of the wines he imports – Il Poggione San Leopoldo 2004. Delicious.

For dinner, roast beef with a bottle of Evesham Wood Pinot Noir 2002 from Oregon.

Thursday, December 20: Wrote an article on Israeli wine for Tidings magazine. The more I think about that trip the more I'm impressed by the wines I tasted. I keep recalling what Avi Feldstein, the winemaker at Segal, said to me as we stood in the Dovev vineyard within sight of a former Hezbollah outpost on the Lebanese border: "A Katyusha rocket will take out forty vines." For dinner Hedges Three Vineyards Red 2001. Great wine which I purchased at the winery on my last trip to Washington state.

Friday, December 21: Today is my friend Frank Daley's birthday and Deborah and I are invited to his daughter Rachel's and son-in-law Edward's condo for a dinner party. I'm bringing along Flat Rock Nadja's Vineyard Riesling 2006, Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve Pinot Noir 2005 and Red Rooster Pinot 2006 from BC. Edward had already opened a Latour Puligny-Montrachet Les Chevenottes 2004 and a Léoville-Barton 1998. In addition we opened Mararromera Tinta Crianza 1996, a Tempranillo from the Ribera del Duero, and Château de Pez 2003.

Saturday, December 22: Drove my son, Guy, and his girlfriend to the airport for their flight to Vancouver. It's a full moon tonight and the drivers are nuts already. Add to this the hysteria of Christmas shopping and Toronto is an open-air asylum. Dinner tonight with my wine writer colleague Gordon Stimmell and his wife Carol, who live in the Beach. They have also invited two other couples, neighbours. Gordon called in the afternoon to see if I had a bottle of Southbrook Framboise to go with Carol's flourless chocolate cake. To my amazement I found I did have a bottle. I also took out a bottle of Sarras Azeitao 2000 from Portugal, a delicious white blend. Dinner is a moveable feast, starting next door to the Stimmells with Canadian cheeses matched with the Azeitao and Peninsula Ridge Fume Blanc 2006. Then back to the Stimmells to witness Gordon shucking 36 oysters to go with Cloudy Bay Chardonnay 2004 and Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2006. Gordon BBQ'd steak and served a series of red wines: Saltram Marme Brook Shiraz 2004, Rodney Strong Symmetry 2000, a Bordeaux blend, Rodney Strong Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 (corked) and Château Coucy 2003. Then back to the neighbours for dessert – the chocolate cake with the Framboise and Lang Sämling Trockenbeerenauslese 1994 from Austria (that tasted like an old Tokaji – marmalade, green tea and dried apricots). Danced to 1970s and '80s music. Then cabbed home.




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