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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 175 (February 11, 2008)

Monday, February 4: Last night at dinner I opened a bottle of River's Edge Pinot Noir 2004, which I enjoyed mightily. It comes from Marlborough in New Zealand and I went back to the press release to find out some technical details. I quote the winemaker's note: "The colour is bright and lustrous and the aroma rises sweet and familiar with wild blackberry and juniper melding into more complex notes of freshly bailed hay, coffee grounds and the hint of an RM Williams shoe box. As the young wine breathes its first, it opens in the glass to divulge roast pine nuts and a little caramel. On the palate, rounded fleshy fruit floods welcomingly across the tongue and is held aloft on an intricate structure which is Lego rather than cast iron. The influence of toasty French oak imparts a nice presence and the wine has a fine balance of a monkey on a high-wire. While the overall impression is one of smoothness it has an exciting roughness of edge which will remind you of that boy your mother never wanted you to date."

I want some of what he's smoking. The wine, incidentally, costs $30.70 at Vintages.

Wrote my monthly commentary for Tidings, suggesting that Canadian vintners should concentrate more on making sparkling wines.

Tuesday, February 5: A make-up tasting at Vintages, about 30 wines I had not tasted two weeks ago. This evening I conducted a tasting for the Sunnybrook Foundation. The wines were chosen from their own cellar.

Wednesday, February 6: Recorded my 680News reviews and then drove down to The Wine Establishment to pick up the engraved decanter for Eugene Mlynczyk of Vincor Canada. I'll present it at the Ontario International Wine Spirit and Beer Association dinner on Friday. Dropped into the LCBO to research wines under $10 for a Post City Magazine article. A heavy snow storm today – 15 cm – and Deborah and I are going to see a production of Tosca at the new opera house. I don't know what I'm more excited about – the opera or the venue. In spite of the horrendous weather virtually every seat is taken.

Thursday, February 7: This morning David Lawrason and Doug Towers were here for a tasting. Then Deborah dropped David and me down to the Summerhill liquor store, where Steven and Prue Henschke conducted a tasting of Henschke wines.

Julius Riesling 2005 (Eden Valley): bright straw, already developing petrol notes; oily lime flavour, firm structure. ****

Julius Riesling 2002: pale straw; fuller on the palate than the 2005 with a grape seed oil note. ****½

Tilly's Semillon Chardonnay Sauvignon Blanc 2005: straw coloured; minerally, oily, green bean, green apple nose; tart acidity, fresh and lively on the palate. ****

Lenswood Carolinga Sauvignon Blanc 2006 (Adelaide Hills): pale straw with a nose of nettles, cut grass and gooseberries; very elegant, medium-bodied, fresh and lively with an elderberry flavour. ****½

Lenswood Giles Pinot Noir 2005: raspberry nose and vanilla oak; lovely mouth feel, fresh raspberry-cherry flavour; firm finish. ****

Henry's Seven Shiraz 2004 (co-fermented with 5% Viognier and blended with 30% Grenache and Mourvedre): deep ruby; smoky blackberry nose with vanilla oak; ripe raspberry, lively acidity. Great balance, finishes firmly. *****

Keyneston Estate Euphonium 2003 (70% Shiraz, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot and 6% Cabernet Franc): dense ruby; smoky blackberry and blueberry nose; sweet chunky fruit with lively acidity and a dry finish. ****

Mount Edelstone Shiraz 2003 (90-year-old vines in Eden Valley): dense purple; intense blackberry and smoked meat nose; sweet fruit with dark chocolate notes, firm structure with fresh acidity. ****½

Mount Edelstone Shiraz 2002: dense purple colour; spicy, rich, intense nose; lovely blackberry fruit with a smoky note; beautifully balanced with great length. A joy to drink. *****

Hill of Grace 2002 (140-year-old vines): dense ruby-purple; still tight on the nose but showing concentrated blackcurrant fruit with spice and chocolate notes. Very stylish. *****

Dinner with Philip Mirabelli and Max Giacomini of Cavit from Trentino at the National Club.

Terrazze della Luna Pinot Grigio 2006 (fresh, peachy, easy drinking)

Terrazze della Luna Pinot Noir 2006 (fruity, raspberry flavour with a touch of oak, well balanced – again an easy drinking wine)

Bottega Vinaia Teroldego Rotaliano 2004 (dry, sour cherry flavour)

Bottega Vinaia Lagrein 2005 (red berry flavour with vibrant acidity; a good food wine)

Quattro Vicariati Rosso 2004 (only made in good vintages): Bordeaux blend – dry, full-bodied, petit chateau style

Friday, February 8: A Vintages tasting for the March release. Lunch at Jamie Kennedy's to meet Jean-Michel Deiss of Domain Marcel Deiss in Alsace. Jean-Michel has a unique philosophy: "A single variety is racist"! He divides his wines into styles: Les vins de Fruits (fruit wines – wines for the moment), Les vins de Temps (Wines that take time – Wines that require patience: Vendanges Tardives, Selection de Grains Nobles) and Les vins de Terroirs (Terroir Wines – a reflection of the landscape that are named for the parcel of vines from which they are made). We start with Pinot Gris Bergheim 2002 (intense, deeply coloured, rich peach and mineral flavours). This is served with Smoked Ontario Lakefish with Buckwheat Pancake.

Englegarten 2004 (Riesling, Pinot Gris, Beurot, Muscat): spicy, floral, very elegant with great length.

Served with Seared Scallops with House-made Bacon, Fingerling Potatoes and Smoky Paprika Sauce.

Burg 2004 (All 13 Alsace varieties): exotic, spicy, racy and very exciting)

Mambourg 2004 (Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Blanc, Beurot): deeply coloured, rich and spicy, black raspberry flavour

Served with Rustic Berkshire Pork Terrine.

Altenberg de Bergheim Grand Cru 2004 (all Alsace varieties including pink Chasselas!): Jean-Michel calls this a "Baroque wine" – it has an amazing range of flavours from cherry, to spring flowers to pink grapefruit. Very decadent.

Served with Entrecote of Beef with Northern Woods mushrooms.

Berlenberg 2003 (Pinot Noir and Beurot): oaky, rich, well extracted black cherry flavours.

Served with Raw Milk Munster with Wild Rice Crackers and Quince paste.

This evening is the 29th Annual OIWSBA (Ontario Imported Wine-Spirit-Beer Association) Awards dinner at the National Club. The host country is South Africa, so the menu and the wines all reflect the county. Deborah and I missed the cocktail reception because I forgot to put the engraved decanter and certificate in the car and we had to turn around halfway to the hotel and go back to fetch the bag. As is the custom at these dinners a lot of product is served (17 in all).

With the appetizer of Seared Dayboat Scallop on Buttered Spinach with Citrus-Vanilla Sabayon, Durbanville Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2007 and Springfield Estate Life from Stone Sauvignon Blanc 2007.

Afrikaner Sweet Potato Soup with Beef Boerwors with Waterford Estate Pecan Stream Chenin Blanc 2006 and Meerlust Chardonnay 2006

Lamb Bobotie with Puffed Funeral Rice with Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 2005 and Newton Johnson Pinot Noir 2006

Honey and Orange Sorbet

Roasted Rack of Venison with a Shiraz-Merlot Roasted Plum Gastrique (?!) and a Wild Mushroom-Brandy Cream Sauce with Bellingham Shiraz-Viognier 2005, Coleraine Estate Fire Engine Red Shiraz Merlot 2005 and KWV Cathedral Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon 2003.

Artisan Cheeses with Boekenhoutskloof "The Chocolate Box" 2005

Dessert – Amarula Liqueur Crème Brûlée with Banana Crisp with a choice of Amarula Cream, Graham Beck Rhona Muscatel 2003, Van Ryn's 10-Year-Old Brandy or KWV Paarl Five Star VSOP Brandy. I opted for the Van Ryn Brandy.

The evening ended with a surprise. I was awarded the OIWSBA Achievement Award (a very attractive Inuit sculpture of a seal).




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