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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 207 (September 22, 2008)

Monday, September 15: The raccoons have had their way with the Aspler Vineyard (two Louise Swenson vines that produced this year the equivalent of half a tonne per acre). I did get to taste a few berries and am trusting I will not contract some dread raccoon disease as a result. The berries were very sweet and augur well for the fifth harvest, although I won't be there to tend the vines, since we move on October 29th. Maybe I can impose upon the new owners to sublet the vineyard to me.

This evening a dinner at the National Club with the CEO of Sandalford Wines, Grant Brinklow, in the Margaret River region. A few wine writers were invited by Philip and Debra Mirabelli, who import Sandalford wines, one of the oldest wineries in Australia, dating back to 1840. We start with the Element Classic White 2007, a crisp, minerally wine with a bitter almond flavour. The following 2008 vintage of the same wine was much better – a blend of Verdelho, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Riesling (grassy, guava and lime flavours, fresh and lively; easy drinking). We sat down to Pan-Seared Queensland Reef Barramundi with Wakame, Roasted Peaches, Beurre blanc and Truffle Oil Drizzle, served with three white wines:

  • Margaret River Range Classic Dry White – Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2008
  • Estate Reserve Chardonnay Margaret River 2007
  • Margaret River Range Un-Oaked Chardonnay 2008

The stand-out wine in this flight was the Estate Chardonnay.

Next course: Wild Mushroom Risotto with Shiraz Braised Beef Short Ribs and Onion Cress, with three reds:

  • Protéjé Shiraz Margaret River 2005
  • Sandalford Estate Reserve Shiraz 2004
  • Sandalford Estate Reserve Shiraz 2005

The Estate Reserve 2005 shone through with well extracted, sweet blackberry fruit with a floral grace note.

Next course: Roasted Macadamia Nut-Crusted Australian Rack of Lam with Pepperberry and Cabernet Essence, Roasted Root Vegetables and Rosti Potatoes, served with another two wines.

  • Sandalford Cabernet Sauvignon 2005: Dense purple colour; concentrated blackcurrant and mint on the nose; richly extracted, medium-bodied, firm and well balanced. More elegant than Coonawarra Cabs and nicely balanced. ***½
  • Margaret River Range Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2007: Dense purple-ruby; intense blackcurrant and eucalyptus nose with an inky note; sweet, spicy red and blackcurrant flavours with lively acidity and a firm structure. ****½

Final course, a cheese plate served with Sandalford's flagship wine: Prendiville Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Margaret River 2005, named for the family who now owns the winery. This was the wine of the night: Dense purple ruby colour; cedar and spice on the nose with floral blackcurrant and red berry flavours; firmly structured, glossy with great balance and style. Very elegant. A pleasure to drink. *****

Tuesday, September 16: Spent the day chasing down a story that two BC wineries, Mission Hill and Red Rooster, got their knuckles rapped by the LCBO for shipping wines from their wineries directly to consumers in Ontario. Everyone I talked to seems to be tip-toeing around the problem as if something is in the works to resolve the issue. It's based on a 1928 law about shipping beverage alcohol across provincial borders. Stephen and Cathy Pauwels came by on their way to dinner to discuss next May's tour to Burgundy and the Rhône and to pick up the case of wine they purchased at the Miller Tavern event for grapes for Humanity. Opened a bottled of Stratus Red 2005, which is drinking very well now – and served it with a variety of cheeses. For dinner, sautéed shrimps in crushed fennel seed with rice and a bottle of Clarence Hill Chardonnay 2005 from McLaren Vale. This is a rich, bold Chardonnay, unmistakably Aussie with intense, sweet pineapple and melon flavours, subtly oaked, fleshy but well proportioned and beautifully balanced. ****½

Wednesday, September 17: Cleaning off my desk (metaphorically) to leave for London tomorrow evening. Spent an hour on the phone with India trying to find out why my emails don't get sent. The tech tells me that my Out Box is corrupted. Who corrupted it? My emails are far from pornographic. Apparently I have to re-install Microsoft Office and in the meantime send out by Office Express. Boring. A meeting of the directors of the Independent Wine Education Guild this evening. Brought along a bottle of Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (marred by a reductive note – another victim of bound-in sulphur from screwcaps) and a bottle of KWV Shiraz 2004 which turned out to be corked. All was not lost. Zoltan Fekete, the chairman of IWEG's board of directors, brought a bottle of Torbreck "The Standing" 2005, a delicious blend of Grenache, Mataro and Shiraz.

Thursday, September 18: This evening Guy will drive us to the airport to fly to London. Spent the morning working on an article for Meininger's Wine Business International on the 1928 law that prevents direct interprovincial wine sales from wineries to consumers.




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