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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 178 (March 3, 2008)

Monday, February 25: This is My Week of Eating Dangerously. A Wine Writers Circle meeting at the LCBO's flagship store at Summerhill this morning. We meet in the demonstration kitchen. Larry Paterson, the Little Fat Wino, a great champion of Canadian wine, has brought along nineteen Quebec wines for us to taste. They are not met with much approval apart from the Geisenheim Icewine 2002 from Ste. Agnes and La Mission Vidal Icewine. Bottega Distillery has provided us with a series of its grappas for the members to taste. Having just visited the distillery, I give short introduction to them. Worked on the cellar book. This evening I'm conducting a cheese and wine tasting at the home of my friends Jim and Kathleen Penturn – an item won by four couples at the Toronto French School auction. Jim has generously raided his cellar for the wines.

Chèvre accompanied by Sancerre Paul Jolivet Grande Cuvée 2002

Epoisse accompanied by Domaine Etienne Sauzet Puligny-Montrachet Hameau de Blagny 1er Cru 2003

Münster accompanied by Domaine Zind Humbrecht Gewürztraminer 2005

Migneron de Charlesvoix accompanied by F & L Pillot Pommard Clos de Verger 2002

Aged Mapledale Cheddar accompanied by Tedeschi Amarone Capitel Olmi 2000

Parmesan accompanied by Corino Barolo 1999

Blue raw cows' milk cheese accompanied by De Bortoli Noble One 2003

Tuesday, February 26: Lunch with Bessie Seyffert at The Miller Tavern to discuss the Grapes for Humanity event on September 8th. Our foundation is the recipient of wines from Santé and we will be auctioning them off. Tonight I am invited to Senses in the Soho Hotel to sample the new fusion menu prepared by Chef Patrick Lin. There are seven women food writers and Soho's public relations director, Trina Hendry. I am the only male. As the meal progresses and the wine flows they seem to forget I am there. The conversation turns to relationships with men. I have enough material for a new novel. This was a real insight into the female psyche. The food was delicious too. Here's the menu with the wines served very competently by Fritz, the sommelier, under the watchful eye of the restaurant manager, Chris Saxton, who is also a sommelier. In explaining the menu Chris came out with a worthy quote: "The first duty of the sommelier when matching food and wine is like the Hippocratic oath – 'Do no harm.'"

Chef's selection of appetizers: BC spotted prawn in endive parcels & exotic fruit salsa, seared fresh scallop on asparagus slices, geoduck clam carpaccio & baby cucumber. This was served with Morworth Sauvignon Blanc 2004 from Marlborough (crisp, grassy, gooseberry and elderberry flavours). A perfect match.

Foie gras: house made Icewine foie gras terrine, seared foie gras & poached in Peking Duck consommé, served with Malivoire Gewürztraminer 2005.

Steamed Big Mouth Bass fillet & balsamic & honey-glazed cod: bass with julienne vegetables, cod glazed in 25 year-old balsamic & wild honey, apple confit & butternut squash mash, wokked pea shoot and shiitake mushroom, served with Moët & Chanson Rosé N/V. Again, a great match but you can't go wrong with champagne.

Truffle spaghettini, lobster bolognaise, fresh Perigord truffle, with Henry of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Chardonnay 2004. A dish to die for.

Roasted crispy duck breast, fig purée, king oyster mushroom, natural jus, with Melville Pinot Noir 2005 from the Santa Maria Valley. (Lovely raspberry and pencil lead flavours). Great match.

Dessert: A Taste of Chinese Sweets, served with Castelnau de Suiduiraut 2003 (the second wine – with an intense orange marmalade and honey flavour).

This was one of the best meals I've had in Toronto, made all the more enjoyable with the Dear Abbey conversations.

Wednesday, February 27: Recorded my 680News reviews, picked up wines for tonight's tasting and raced over to One Restaurant in the new Hazelton Hotel for a tasting of Mayacamas Vineyards Chardonnays and Cabernet Sauvignons led by Bob Travers' son Chris. The wines are represented here by Rob Groh of The Vine. I have always liked Mayacamas as one of the few California wines that can age well. Two thousand feet up Mt. Veeder with volcanic soil and some of the oldest Chardonnay vines in Napa helps.

Before we sat down we were treated to a glass of Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs 2002, a delightful sparkler made by the champagne method.

Mayacamas Chardonnay 2001: golden colour; caramel, oak and lemon butter nose; great balance with driving acidity. Grand Cru Chablis style but with a richer mouth-feel and tangerine acidity. *****

Mayacamas Chardonnay 2003: golden colour; ripe peach, spicy vanilla oak; again with the driving acidity with a rich middle palate of green pineapple, lemon and minerals and spicy oak. Great length. *****

Mayacamas Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 (with 10% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc): deep purple colour; floral, blueberry, currants and vanilla oak nose; Bordeaux style, firmly structured, redcurrant and red berry flavours, soft tannins with a lovely fruity finish. ****½.

Mayacamas Cabernet Sauvignon 1995: deep purple ruby; violets, cassis and warm earth bouquet; elegant, black cherry flavour, firm structure, mouth-filling. Very Bordelais in style with lively acidity. *****

Mayacamas Cabernet Sauvignon 1994: deep ruby and holding colour; cedar, vanilla, mocha nose; still tight and youthful like a St. Julien, a touch of greenness on the finish but delicious. ****½.

Walked pinot the Wonder Dog before going to The York Club, where I am presenting the wines during a dinner billed as "Exploding the Food Myth with Dr. Elaine Chin, Co-Founder of Scienta Health." The menu has been chosen to be as healthy as possible and Dr. Chin has restricted us to a 1½ oz. pour of wine. How healthy can that be!

The reception wine is William Deutz Brut Classic, a special selection for The York Club, served with Grille Curried chicken in a cucumber and Smoked Salmon Tartare with Crème Fraîche.

The dinner menu:

Steamed Halibut over Braised Bok Choy, Glazed Shiitake Mushrooms, Charred Scallion Drizzle

Palliser Estate Pencarrow Sauvignon Blanc 2006

Lemon Grass and Miso Broth with Morel and Chicken Mousse

Peninsula Ridge Viognier 2006

Citrus Granite

Roasted Venison Loin with Red Currant Jus

Steamed Snap Peas, Haricot Vert, Roasted Red Peppers, Parisienne Potato

Domaine de Viaud Cuvée Speciale 1998 (Lalande-de-Pomerol)

Grand Marnier Macerated Raspberries, Blueberries and Lemon Curd Parfait

Thursday, February 28: Worked all day on the cellar book, which will be my fate for the next six to nine months I guess. In the evening a car picked me up to take me to the inaugural dinner tasting of The Robert Home Smith Private Wine Society, a group of six friends and their wives who live in west end of Toronto. The name honours the founder of the Old Mill Inn restaurant. The host and hostess prepared the meal and I brought the wines.

Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc 2006 served with appetizers

Red Lentil Soup spiced with cumin, thyme and a lemon drizzle with Martin Ray Chardonnay 2005

Roasted beets with almonds, Asian pear topped with mashe and a red wine vinaigrette, served with Tandem Auction Block Pinot Noir 2002 (Sonoma Coast)

Roast beef tenderloin with wasabi cream, mashed potato infused with parsnip and leeks, stir fried bok choy and garlic, and Robert Mondavi Merlot Private Selection 2001 and Terra Valentine Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 (Napa Valley)

Assorted artisanal cheeses with Treana Red 2003 (Paso Robles)

Poached pears with chocolate mango sauce set on a sponge cake and warm vanilla ice cream served with Mountain Road Vidal Icewine 2002 and 2000

Friday, February 29: An 8:30 am meeting at the Radisson Hotel, Victoria Park, with Andrew Lyons, vice president of Halo USA, the landmine clearance people. He's in town to address a meeting tomorrow night at the Armenian Centre on the problems in Nagorno Karabakh, which he says has the highest per capita casualty rate from landmines, even worse that Afghanistan and Cambodia. In 1988 this small Armenian enclave in the Caucasus voted to secede from Azerbaijan and join Armenia. The resulting conflict lasted for sixteen years before a ceasefire was brokered. Then down to George Brown to drop off five boxes of wine books (part of the zenning out operation prior to moving to the condo in September) and picking up the engraved decanter from The Wine Establishment for tonight's presentation. Deborah and I drove down to Niagara Falls for the 20th Annual Cuvée Gala Awards. It snowed all the way and the journey to the Fallsview Casino Hotel took two and half hours. Konrad Ejbich, who left Toronto twenty minutes after us, took five and a half hours because of three accidents along the way. Before the gala John Nadeau of Creekside invited me to a tasting with winemaker Craig MacDonald to show me their new wines. We drove over to the Sterling Inn & Spa – a new boutique hotel that used to be a creamery. The dominant feature of this monochrome grey building is a large milk bottle. But the inside has been beautifully redesigned. The tasting was held in AG restaurant.

Creekside Butler's Grant Sauvignon Blanc 2007: pale straw colour; minerally, sweet grapefruit nose; medium-bodied, grassy, guava and grapefruit flavours; full on the palate with a sweet core but finishes dry. ****½

Creekside Butler's Grant Riesling 2007: light straw colour; spicy, minerally, tangerine and peach notes; soft mouth-feel; tropical fruit flavours. ****

Creekside Butler's Grant 'Close Planted Riesling' 2007 (2/3 barrel fermented, 1/3 tank fermented): light straw; still tight but its aromas showing through – peach and apricot with a honyed note; light spritz, fleshy on the palate that thins out on an acidic spine to fresh off-dryness. ****½

Creekside Butler's Grant Gewürztraminer 2007: golden straw colour; spicy, soft lychee and honey flavours with a warm alcoholic finish. ****

Creekside Reserve Chardonnay 2006: straw colour; Burgundian nose – apple and spicy oak; full-bodied, leesy, lemon and apple flavours; firm structure with a nutty finish. ****

Creekside St. David's Reserve Viognier 2006: old gold colour; honeysuckle and peach nose also showing oak; full on the palate, dry with lively acidity. ****

Creekside Broken Press Shiraz 2005: deep purple ruby: floral, blackberry nose with tobacco and vanilla oak notes; spicy and rich with a fine spine of acidity; full-bodied with enough tannin to give it structure and age-worthiness. ****½

Mike Weir Cabernet Shiraz 2005 (75% CS/25% Shiraz): deep purple-ruby; cedar, blackcurrant and vanilla oak on the nose; full-bodied, spicy blackcurrant and white pepper flavours; firm structure with soft tannins. The best wine under this label yet. ****½.

Creekside Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve St. David's Bench 2004: deep ruby colour; cigar box, cedar, red berry nose; elegant redcurrant and vanilla flavours; medium-bodied, petit château style, firm structure. A lovely wine. ****½

Creekside Reserve Meritage 2004 (55% CS/45% Merlot): dense ruby; pencil lead, vanilla oak, red berries; full-bodied, dry, Bordeaux style; tight, needs time; green tea leaf note on the finish. ****

Wayne Gretzky No. 99 Shiraz Icewine 2006: tawny orange colour; spicy honey and toffee nose; sweet red berry fruit, elegant, well balanced, not too sweet with honey and strawberry flavours. ****½.

Then quickly back to the hotel to change into black tie for the Cuvée awards. The press release from the evening reads:

His Excellency Jean-Daniel Lafond, who was named Honourary Patron of Cuvée in 2006, attended the Gala with Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada.

The Cuvée Wine Awards are the only awards in Canada where the winning wines are chosen by the winemakers, and the judging process upholds strict criteria for the award winners and the wines selected for pouring at the Gala. This year, 44 winemakers tasted over 180 wines from 55 wineries to determine the winners. Each participating winery enters its three best wines into the competition and can also present two wines distributed through the LCBO to compete in the General List Red Wine and General List White Wine categories.

A singular winner was awarded in each category. In addition, during the judging process, judges were asked to indicate if wines merited a Cuvée Gold designation, demonstrating international standards for excellence in quality. The Cuvée Award Winners are provided on the attached sheet.


Sponsored by Scott Laboratories
WINNER: Thirty Bench Wine Makers Benchmark Red 2005 GOLD

Sponsored by Osprey Media Group
WINNER: Creekside Estate Winery Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 GOLD

Sponsored by Scott Laboratories
WINNER: Cave Spring Cellars Gewürztraminer 2006 GOLD

Sponsored by Vines
WINNER: Featherstone Winery Estate Bottled Gewürztraminer 2007 GOLD

LCBO Chair Award
WINNER: Hillebrand Estates Winery Artist Series Meritage 2005

LCBO Chair Award
WINNER: Hillebrand Estates Winery Trius Riesling 2006 GOLD

WINNER: Peller Estates Winery Signature Series Ice Cuvee Rose NV GOLD

Sponsored by Bruni Glass Packaging Canada
WINNER: Reif Estate Winery Vidal Icewine 2005 GOLD

WINNER: Cattail Creek Estate Winery Barrel Fermented Vidal Icewine 2006 GOLD

WINNER: Creekside Estate Winery Reserve Meritage 2004 GOLD

WINNER: Pelee Island Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 GOLD

WINNER: Cave Spring Cellars Cabernet Franc Estate 2005

WINNER: Creekside Estate Winery Broken Press Shiraz 2005 GOLD

WINNER: Mike Weir Estate Winery Cabernet Shiraz 2005 GOLD

WINNER: Thirty Bench Winemakers Small Lot Riesling "Triangle Vineyard" 2006 GOLD

WINNER: Jackson Triggs Niagara Estate Winery Proprietors' Grand Reserve White Meritage 2006 GOLD

WINNER: Niagara College Teaching Winery Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2006 GOLD

WINNER: Hillebrand Estates Winery Trius White 2006 GOLD

Sponsored by Tony Aspler
WINNER: Lanny Huff, Huff Estates for his leadership role in helping to establish Ontario's newest designated viticultural area.
Henry of Pelham Riesling

Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery Reserve Riesling 2006
Stonechurch Vineyards Riesling Dry 2006

I chat with Their Excellencies Jean-Daniel Lafond and Michaëlle Jean. Photo © Bob Tymczyszyn Photos

Charles Baker presents me with the Cuvee Promoting the Promoters Award for Media. Photo © Bob Tymczyszyn Photos

In his speech, Jean-Daniel Lafond promised that there would be a Governor General's Award for the best of "Canada's table" alongside the GG's literary awards. After the presentations Deborah and I toured the hall tasting the wines and grazing on the food. Then we ducked into the casino, where we lost $50 in very short order on the slots.

Saturday, March 1: Drove to Brock university for the annual Experts' Tasting. Linda Bramble was the keynote speaker. Her theme was blended wines, which was also the theme of the tasting. Flight 1 was blended whites, followed by three flights of blended reds. After the tasting Deborah and I drove over the Henry of Pelham, where Paul and Daniel Speck had invited a group of about forty people to lunch. The meal was prepared by Chef Erik Peacock of Coach House Café and Wellington Court.

At the reception we had Cuvée Catharine Brut with canapés. Then the meal, with an interesting twist – starting with sweet wines, then off-dry wines and ending with dry wines.

Pan Roasted Sweetbreads, Foie Gras sauce, Sweet potato and sponge toffee, with Henry of Pelham Riesling Icewine 2006 and 2000

Goats Cheese and Beet Salad with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds, Broken Balsamic Vinaigrette, Basil Seedlings and Duck Hash, with Henry of Pelham Riesling Off-Dry 2007 and 2002

Roasted Pickerel in Edamame Crust, Smoked Scallop Mashed Potatoes, Winter Vegetables and Red Wine Sauce with Henry of Pelham Merlot 2005 and 1998

By this time it was after 4 pm so we decided to leave before dessert (Double Chocolate Tart with Orange Salad and Crème Fraîche). Picked up Pinot the Wonder Dog from our friends who were sitting her for the night and then home. For dinner, pasta with a bottle of Domaine Lamargue Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 from the Pays d'Oc.




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