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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 204 (September 2, 2008)

Monday, August 25: Spent most of the day catching up on emails. This evening, the first of three dinners this week at Lai Wah Heen in the Metropolitan Hotel with Henry Wu, Chef Patrick Lin, Canson, the restaurant manager and two other staff members to determine what wines go best with dishes from a traditional 9-course Chinese banquet. To do this we will be sampling a variety of dishes to deconstruct the flavours. Since we are concentrating on barbecued food tonight I order a bottle of Drouhin Côtes de Beaune Villages 2005 from the wine list. We start with jellyfish salad that would be served with suckling pig, then slice barbecued pork with a honey glaze, followed by soya chicken with licorice, cardamom, ginger and other spices, Peking duck, suckling pig, deep-fried chicken and then salt-baked chicken. My job is to suggest a series of wines for each of these dishes based on their spicing and preparation.

Tuesday, August 26: Met with Roberto Martello at Grano to discuss Guy's engagement party, the food and wine for 50 of his and Laura's friends on October 11th. Then a meeting with Arlene Willis to discuss Grapes for Humanity business. A second meal at Lai Wah Heen. Tonight we concentrate on shark's fin and abalone dishes. I order a bottle of Leon Beyer Riesling 2006 from Alsace for the following dishes: double boiled superior shark's fin in supreme soup, braised superior shark's fin in brown sauce, duck meat soup with dried sea scallops, seafood soup, stewed abalone slices with oyster sauce, braised fish maw in superior oyster sauce, braised sea cucumber, sliced canned abalone, steamed conpoy (dried sea scallop) in vegetable marrow ring.

Wednesday, August 27: A bad night's sleep. Must have been a reaction to MSG. At 10 am Thirty Bench's winemakers, Natalie Reynolds and Emma Garner, come to the house for a tasting of their 2007 wines. My notes follow:

Thirty Bench Winemaker's Riesling 2007 $18
Colour: pale straw, lime tint
Nose: minerally, grapefruit, white flowers, honeyed note
Taste: tart, green plum and grapefruit flavours with a lively acidic finish; touch of bitterness on the finish
Drinkability: now–2012

Thirty Bench Small Lot Wood Post Riesling $30
Colour: pale straw, lime tint
Nose: minerally, grapefruit, spearmint note
Taste: light-bodied, elegant, citrus, green apple flavours; honeyed note on the finish; sustains well on the palate, good length
Drinkability: now–2012

Thirty Bench Small Lot Steel Post Riesling 2007 $30
Colour: pale straw, lime tint
Nose: minerally, lime, honeyed with a mealy note
Taste: lime, full on the palate, medium-bodied with lovely citrus fruit flavours; great length. Very Mosel in style
Drinkability: now–2012

Thirty Bench Small Lot Triangle Riesling 2007 $30
Colour: pale straw, lime tint; deeper in colour than the other single vineyards
Nose: more intense than the other vineyard selections; pink grapefruit, tropical fruit aromas with a honeyed note. Already developing petrol
Taste: fuller and broader on the palate, more robust, fleshy with a sweet grapefruit flavour; lively acidic finish
Drinkability: now–2012

Thirty Bench Small Lot Pinot Gris 2007 $30
Colour: straw
Nose: white peach, peach blossom, hint of oak
Taste: spicy, peach, full on the palate; good clean fruit; mouth-filling sweet peachy flavour that holds on the palate
Drinkability: now–2009

Thirty Bench Small Lot Gewürztraminer 2007 $30
Colour: straw
Nose: spicy, light and ethereal lychee and rose petal
Taste: more intense flavours on the palate than the nose delivers; unctuous sweet and savoury; fleshy and full-bodied lychee taste. Alsace style.
Drinkability: now–2009

Thirty Bench Meunier Rosé 2007 $22
Colour: light ruby
Nose: raspberry with a mineral note
Taste: dry, medium-bodied, clean, fruity (cherry-red berry flavours) with good energy and just firm enough to give it structure. Good acid balance
Drinkability: now–2009

Thirty Bench Winemaker's Red 2006 $22 (40% Merlot/32% Cabernet Franc/28% Cabernet Sauvignon)
Colour: ruby
Nose: dry cranberry, red currant; touch of oak
Taste: dry, medium-bodied, cranberry flavour; firmly structured, Petit Château style; tannic lift on the finish
Drinkability: now–2010
***½ (**** with another year in bottle)

This evening I'm leading a dinner tasting for a corporate group at Jamie Kennedy's restaurant in the Gardiner museum. We begin with a sit-down tasting of three Ontario wines:

  • Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catherine Brut
  • Hidden Bench Roman's Block Riesling 2006
  • Peninsula Ridge Vintner's Private Reserve Merlot 2002

Hors d'oeuvres are passed (smoked whitefish canapé, curried lamb croquettes and green pea and basil arancini) and then we move to the dinner table for the following menu:

Vegetable Broth with Summer Vegetables and Monforte Cheese Ravioli, served with Tiefenbrunner "Castel Turmhof" Goldmuskateller 2007

Summer Vegetable and Crab Risotto, with Terra d'Aligi "Terre di Chieti" Pecorino 2007

Confit Albacore Tuna with Nicoise Olives, Oven Roasted Tomato, Arugula and Skordalia, with Leth "Scheiben" Roter Veltliner 2006


Roast Venison Chop with Cabbage Roll and Wild Rice Spaetzle, with Castagna Vineyard "Sauvage" Shiraz/Viognier/Sangiovese 2003

Artisan Canadian Cheese with Local Greens, Buller "Fine Old Muscat" Trio of Ice Creams, with Domaine Gardiés "Flor" Muscat de Rivesaltes

Thursday, August 28: Picked up the Special Occasion Permits from the LCBO for the two Grapes for Humanity events and purchased wines for two upcoming tastings. The final dinner at Lai Wah Heen. Tonight we concentrate on fish and seafood dishes. I order a bottle of Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio 2006 from the Alto Adige. The dishes to deconstruct are steamed black grouper, steamed grouper with Yunnan ham and vegetables, stir fried sea bass, braised grouper back fin, steamed lobster with garlic, stir fried lobster with scallions and ginger, deep fried crab claw with red vinegar dip, stir fried crystal prawns, wok-fried sea scallop with candied walnuts. We finish with a dessert of almond syrup soup.

Friday, August 29: Drive down to Niagara for a tasting at Tawse Winery with Moray Tawse and his winemaker, Paul Pender. We start in the cellar with a barrel tasting of five different Pinot Noir 2007 from different sub-appellations which show distinctive terroir differences. Then four Cabernet Franc 2007, a Merlot from David's Block on the estate and a single-vineyard Syrah (destined for the Echos Red 2007). Next, the Chardonnays, one from the Quarry Road vineyard and the other from David's Block. These 2007s are really very good, dense and concentrated. No question that 2007 is the annus mirabilis for Ontario wines, particularly for the reds. Upstairs we sat down to a tasting of wines in bottle.

Tawse David's Block Merlot 2006 ($45): Dense purple ruby with a nose of vanilla oak, blueberries and toast; firmly structured, finely honed, dry and tight with a slightly stalky finish. Needs more bottle age. ****

Tawse Meritage 2006 ($48): 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc. Dense purple-black cedar and blackcurrant nose; elegant, medium-bodied, redcurrant flavour; firm structure with good length. Very good for the vintage. ****

Tawse Cabernet Franc 2006: The most successful of the 2006 reds. Deep ruby with red berry and red pepper notes on the nose; lovely red berry character, firmly structured with redcurrant and cranberry flavours. ****

Tawse Sketches Chardonnay 2007: Straw colour; vanilla and sweet apple nose; soft mouth feel, with a sweet apple-pear flavour. ***½

Tawse Robyn's Block Chardonnay 2006 ($48): Straw colour; spicy, barnyard nose with vanilla and apple notes; rich mouth-feel, well balanced butter, lemon and mineral flavours; great length with a macadamia nut finish. ****½ (The hand of consulting oenologist Pascal Marchand is evident in the style – much more Burgundian that past vintages).

Tawse Echo Riesling 2007 ($18): Pale straw with lime tint; petrol developing on the nose; apricot and honey aromas. Drier on the palate than the bouquet suggests with tart lime flavours and tangerine peel. Good length and good value. ****

Tawse Wismer Riesling 2007 ($25): Pale straw; petrol, citrus and mineral nose; firmly structured, honeyed lime flavour and a note of peaches. Medium-bodied with good length. ****

Tawse Cabernet Sauvignon Icewine 2007 ($35 for 200 mL): Pale tawny ruby; stewed strawberry and rhubarb nose; medium sweet and very elegant with a nice tension between fruit and acidity. Great length. ****½

Moray Tawse took us to lunch at About Thyme Bistro in Vineland. A great new restaurant for the area that serves only wines from the Lincoln Lakeshore sub-appellation. John Howard, owner of Cellars of Distinction (Megalomaniac label), was also lunching there. I'm beginning to sound like Shinan Govani!




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