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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 169 (December 31, 2007)

Monday, December 24: My printer is on the fritz. It keeps telling me there's a paper jam when there isn't. Maybe it's just fed up with all the work it's had to do lately. So I am buying a new one. I have to drive to Mississauga to pick it up. Worked on the final draft of the Canadian chapter for Tom Stevenson's Wine Report 2009. Tonight is Arlene and Michael Willis's annual Christmas Eve party. Every year they hire a Jewish piano player named Bernie to play Christmas carols and we all stand around him and sing "On the first day of Christmas..." With pipes well lubricated with Lanson Black Label champagne I enjoyed singing – the only time of year that Deborah allows me to do so in public (or in private for that matter). Somehow Christmas carols can't really be murdered.

Tuesday, December 25: Christmas is a traditional meal up in Caledon at the home of Deborah's niece, Nadine, and her husband, Gary. Pinot the Wonder Dog, who doesn't like the car, is left at home and will be walked by our neighbour Betty. I have put together a case of wine that I have to sample:

  • Gallo Family Chardonnay 2006
  • Jackson-Triggs White Meritage 2006 (Ontario)
  • Mad Fish Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2006 (Western Australia)
  • Colio Estate Merlot Reserve 2002
  • Fielding Estate Meritage 2005
  • Jackson-Triggs Delaine Vineyard Syrah 2005
  • Sauris Patagonia Select Malbec 2005
  • Sauris Pinot Noir 2005
  • Peller Estate Cabernet Merlot 2006 (BC)

My sister-in-law Suzanne, a compulsive champagne-saberer, tells me that when she tried to return sabered bottles to the Beer Store they would not accept them. Be warned.

There was an email waiting for me from Los Angeles when I got home:

Dear Tony,

A writer named Miles Lambert Gocs sent Will and me a copy of his book, "Desert Island Wine" for us to review in our various outlets. I was just about to put on the shelf when a (book jacket) comment caught my eye. Tony Aspler – you must be the Tony we met in Lindos. When I looked up your website (wow are you busy!) and saw your email address, I was sure it was you.

That was 33 years ago when I vacationed on the island of Lindos with my first wife Brenda and our daughter Annabel, who was nine months old at the time. The internet is amazing.

Wednesday, December 26: A PhD student from McGill, my alma mater, came to the house to interview me about the Canadian wine industry for a thesis she is writing. Worked on the "Who's Who In the Canadian Wine Industry" piece for Wine Business International. For dinner, Ironstone Old Vine Zinfandel 2006 with tourtière.

Thursday, December 27: I was meant to record my 680News reviews but my producer was sick. Although I was sorry for his discomfort, it was just as well because the Wine Business International piece is taking longer than I thought – shuffling through all the survey results. A case of wine arrived at the door from Mountain Road Wine Company. I'm a great fan of Steve Kocis's wines because he holds them back to let them age in the bottle before releasing them. His barrel-fermented Chardonnays, when they have bottle age, are terrific wines. Deborah is out for the evening so I consoled myself by opening a bottle of Evesham Wood Pinot Noir 2002 to go with the remains of last night's tourtière.

Friday, December 28: Today it was announced that I am to receive the Order of Canada. I have known about it for six weeks and have been bursting to tell my friends and family. The citation reads: "For his contributions as a leading authority on Canadian wines who has been key to the development of the Canadian wine industry." I wish my parents were alive so that I could tell them. They were worried about my choice of career. They wanted me to be a lawyer.

Deborah and I have a 50th birthday party to go to tonight – within walking distance of our house. I thought I would do double duty by tasting a lot of wines and bringing the opened bottles to the party.

  • Santa Rita 120 Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (Rapel Valley): ruby colour; red berry, leather, green pepper note on the nose. Dry, black cherry, black olive flavour. Good value.
  • Mountain Road Baco Noir 2003: dense purple-ruby; high toned, inky, minerally black plum; dark chocolate flavour with a lively acidic finish.
  • Mountain Road Red 2003 (Marechal Foch, Gamay Noir, Baco Noir): deep ruby; vanilla, mocha, cherry; mouth-filling, spicy Italianate flavour with a medicinal note; lively acidity.
  • Cave La Domaine Venus Laurée Côtes du Rhône Villages 2005: ruby; spicy raspberry with a mineral note; sweet fruit that finishes on a savoury note; good acidity. Medium-bodied with a firm finish.
  • Oracle Shiraz 2006 (Stellenbosch): ruby; smoky, tarry blackberry; sweet fruit with a charred oak note on the finish.
  • Arniston Bay Shiraz Merlot 2005 (South Africa): rustic, smoky, tarry, earthy.
  • Mountain Road Chardonnay Unoaked 2005: medium straw colour; spicy citrus and green apple.
  • Mountain Road Chardonnay Barrel Fermented 2004: straw coloured; spicy, oaky, apple; ripe fruit, sweet oak and apple; good acidity with a toasty, nutty finish.
  • Trius White 2006 (Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Gris and unoaked Chardonnay): medium straw; aromatic, peach and red grapefruit nose with melon notes; touch of residual sweetness in the lychee and peach flavours; well balanced, good length.
  • Peller Estate Chardonnay 2005 (BC): corked, unfortunately.

Saturday, December 29: A dinner party tonight to celebrate my award. Our friend Anthony and Penny Bourne and Norman Hardie and his wife Heidi are the guests. Norman has brought along his 2006 Chardonnay. I've pulled out eclectic stuff from my cellar.

We start with Codorníu Non Plus Ultra Brut Cuvée Maria Cristina, an excellent cava, followed by Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Rosé Brut with an appetizer that Norm had brought – shrimps on guacamole on a rice cracker. A little miscommunication here since Deborah had prepared a spicy shrimp dish on chopped up arugula as a starter. With this we had William Fèvre Chablis Bourgos 2004 and Norm's Chardonnay. The main course was leg of lamb with boiled potatoes and bok choy with Schug Pinot Noir 2003 from Carneros, Tim Knappstein Shiraz 1996 and Reno Farina Monte Fante Amarone 1998. For the cheese course I opened a bottle of Château de Coucy 2003 because the bottle of Delaforce Vintage Port 1997 was corked. Deborah had made an amazing sticky toffee pudding with dates. With that, a bottle of Reif Vidal Icewine 2003.




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