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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 171 (January 14, 2008)

Monday, January 7: Received the following email:

Dearest Friends of Robert (Gourdin),
The Memorial Service for Robert has been scheduled on:
Saturday, January 19, 2008, 12:00 noon at:
The Cathedral of Mary Our Queen
5200 North Charles Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21210

I'm not sure if this is the Robert Gourdin I knew briefly, Moet & Chandon's travelling ambassador. Recently I wrote a piece about champagne that started:

In 1982, when I was wet behind the ears as a wine writer, I was invited to a champagne tasting at the King Edward Hotel. The host was Robert Gourdin, the traveling ambassador for Moët & Chandon, the largest champagne house. Gourdin had two party tricks – sabering a bottle of champagne and creating a champagne fountain.

Sabering champagne is the ultimate expression of Attention Deficit Disorder Syndrome. First practiced by Napoleon's victorious generals hot from the battlefield, the purpose is to remove the cork, the wire muzzle and the mouth of the bottle with a single stroke of a heavy sword.

Gourdin had constructed a conical pyramid of Baccarat crystal glasses which stood five feet high on a table. The idea was that he would pour the single glass at the pinnacle to overflowing and the champagne would cascade down filling the glasses below. After several bottles every glass would be filled and the fountain would then be disassembled stem by stem and handed to the appreciative guests. A jaded press corps, including two TV crews, had turned out in force at the thought of free champagne and the entertainment to boot.

Since Robert Gourdin had been traveling around North America with this act I imagine he got a bit bored with the repetition in city after city and he decided to reverse the order of his performance. Instead of starting with the fountain he took up his saber. A champagne bottle contains a pressure of up to 90 lbs per square inch, equivalent to the pressure in a double-decker bus tire. He adopted his sabering position, instructed the cameras to roll and with a flourish swept the blade along the side of the bottle. Unfortunately, he did not aim in the right direction: the cork and muzzle with its glass collar shot like a mortar shell across the ballroom and landed right into the pyramid of glasses, bringing them all down. A CTV cameraman who had moved in for a close-up was cut across the forehead by flying glass – and he had just returned unscathed from covering the war in Lebanon.

The diet continues. Tonight salmon with Lindemans Bin 85 Pinot Gris 2007.

Tuesday, January 8: Lunch with Paul Lokash at Grano. Paul imports several Israeli producers and he wanted to know what I thought about the Israeli wine industry. Have developed a bad cold and am not drinking wine. This evening is my annual blind tasting award for members of the Ontario Importers association. This year there are thirteen contestants. Ian Campbell, OIWSBA's Executive Director, dropped to The Wine Establishment just as the event was finishing, in time for the announcement of the winner. Here's the email he sent around to the membership.

Congratulations to the winner of the 9th Annual Tony Aspler Blind Tasting Competition held yesterday at The Wine Establishment –- Eugene Mlynczyk of Vincor Canada.

This event was created in the spirit of fun to test the palates and enhance the tasting skills of full-time employees of OIWSBA Member organizations. Eugene will be presented with a specially engraved decanter and certificate at OIWSBA's 29th Annual Awards Dinner on Friday, February 8, 2008.

Contest participants were asked to blindly identify the grape type, region, vintage and, if possible, the producer of the following six wines:

  • Weingut Langwerth von Simmern Erbacher Marcobrunn Riesling Kabinett 2004 (Rheingau)
  • O'Leary Walker Riesling 2007 (Clare Valley, South Australia)
  • Peninsula Ridge Fumé Blanc 2006 (Niagara Peninsula)
  • Castello d'Albola Chianti Classico Riserva 2001 (Tuscany)
  • Colio Estate Merlot Reserve 2002 (Lake Erie North Shore)
  • Hungerford Hill Hunter Valley Shiraz 2004 (Hunter Valley)

Tony conceded that the product selections were "fiendishly difficult." Thank you to the parties donating the wines and to the Wine Establishment for providing the venue for the tasting. And, of course, thank you to the brave souls who put their palates on the line for this competition.

Dinner, chicken breasts with Cattail Creek Dry Riesling 2006, a new Ontario winery owned by Ken and Renate Dyck. Tatjana Cuk, who has worked at Eastdell Estates in Beamsville and Inniskillin, is their winemaker. Not a bad first effort.

Wednesday, January 9: A message received from the International Federation of Wine Writers (FIJEV):

FIJEV considers unfair and dangerous the recent decision made by the Paris County Court in the case of Association Nationale pour la Prévention de l'Alcoolisme et des Addictions vs Le Parisien newspaper. This decision says editorial articles about wine must be regarded as advertising and as such, under the French law, must be accompanied by a health Warning (Alcohol abuse is dangerous for your health).

By the same logic, book and film critics are advertising book and films by writing about them; so are food critics, financial writers and anyone who comments on anything. I can understand why a temperance group would push for this, but for a court to actually agree with such nonsense is beyond me.

Today is a tasting day for Luckily, my cold has abated sufficiently for me to taste properly. For dinner, salmon. But desperately wanted a red wine so I opened a bottle of Jackson Triggs Delaine Vineyard Syrah 2005.

Thursday, January 10: Wrote my monthly column for Post City Magazines on dessert wines. Lunch at One, the restaurant in the new Hazelton Hotel, with Catherine Nugent and Jeff Lyons to discuss Grapes for Humanity's October 20th Jadot dinner. Sticking to the diet, I had a Caesar salad and ordered a bottle of Forrest Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2006 from New Zealand. Walking back to the subway I ran into Donald Ziraldo, whom I didn't recognize at first. He's grown a full beard. We stopped for a coffee and we talked about the Ontario wine industry's early days. The very first wine I tasted when I came back to Canada in November 1976 was an Inniskillin Vin Nouveau 1974. My old McGill friend Stuart Smith served it to me for dinner at his home in Burlington. Donald tells me that Linda Bramble is writing a history of the Ontario wine industry.

Friday, January 11: The second of the Vintages' release tastings for February. I managed about 40 wines before my nose gave out. I'll have to go to the consultants' tasting to taste the rest of the wines.

Saturday, January 12: Deborah's birthday. Her present is tickets for Tosca next month and my cooking her dinner tonight with her sister Suzanne in attendance. I told her that tonight the diet is off. While Deborah took Pinot the Wonder Dog to the groomer I shopped for this evening's meal. We start with Henry of Pelham Brut Rosé with Medjool dates stuffed with gorgonzola and warmed in the oven, and tapenade. First course, MacMurray Ranch Pinot Gris 2006 from Sonoma with shrimp in a light sauce made from the shells with egg yolk and cream – on a bed of arugula. Main course: Penfold's St. Henri Claret 1985 with BBQ steak, baked potato (scooped out of the skin and mashed with butter and cream, them sprinkled with grated parmesan and heated under the grill) and green beans and asparagus. Then a cheese plate. The St. Henri Claret was a revelation. Peter Gago, Penfold's chief winemaker, came through Toronto in October 2005 for a recorking clinic of Penfold's old wines. This 1985 was fresh and youthful with sweet blackberry flavours. A dynamo of a wine.




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