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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 222 (January 5, 2009)

Monday, December 29: Today I handed in the manuscript for the cellar book – or rather I sent it to the editors and my agent as an email attachment. It was hard to make the key stroke that would send it off into the ether. Cutting the umbilical cord. There is still some work to be done but overall I'm happy it's done but would like to have it back to polish it. This will happen in the editing process. For dinner, I opened a bottle Château Pey La Tour 2006 – a simple Bordeaux Supérieur but absolutely delicious with lamb chops.

Tuesday, December 30: Wrote a long piece on Chile for Lexpert magazine. Couldn't open any of the CDs I got from the wineries for photos – maybe it's just me. Had to forward photos I took while I was there. For dinner, tilapia with Road 13 Jackpot Viognier 2007. The winery, formerly knows as Golden Mile Cellars, is making some of terrific wines in British Columbia. (I remember how angry Harry McWatters used to get when you called it BC. It's British Columbia, he would bark.)

Wednesday, December 31: Spent much of the day walking Pinot the Wonder Dog and hanging pictures in the condo (which is now beginning to look like a home, although Deborah and I are still living out of boxes). We decided that we are not going out tonight but will have a great dinner and watch a movie and then watch the ball drop in New York. Deborah bought two lobster tails and a sirloin steak. I opened a bottle of the Mission Hill Reserve Chardonnay 2005 for the lobster, then a bottle of Le Clos Jordanne Petite Vineyard Pinot Noir 2006. At midnight we opened a bottle of Jackson-Triggs Methode classique 2003 to say good riddance to 2008.

Thursday, January 1: I've been following the Bernard Madoff case and wondering how the Ponzi winery in Oregon is reacting to the news. The story could be reduced to a three word headline: Bernie Made Off. Didn't feel like working today.

Friday, January 2: Got a call from Glen Muir, John Marynissen's son-in-law, telling me that John had died. He wanted some information for his eulogy. John had been presented with the Grapes for Humanity Emeritus Award six or seven years ago. He was the first recipient, a lifetime achievement award. John planted the first Cabernet Sauvignon in Ontario in 1978. I remember Ken Douglas and I tasting his early red wines in his basement when he was a home winemaker. How good they were – he won many national and international wine competitions as an amateur before opening his own winery in 1991. He will be sorely missed.

Received in the mail today a copy of my wine writer colleague Richard Best's new book – The Frugal Oenophile's Winegrape Primer. It tells you what to expect in the way of wine from an encyclopedia of grapes. Small enough for the pocket or purse. It's available through

Friday, January 3: The first Vintages tasting of the year. 105 wines in the February release. Lindsay Grove shared the burden with me. Received an email from my old Toronto Star buddy, Jim White. Jim was food editor in the 1980s when I was writing the wine column. He lives in Napa now


I have been making commercial wine here for the past five years and next week, the fruits of my labor will finally be available to taste in Toronto... at Franco's new restaurant, Nota Bene, near the Opera House. It goes on the wine list at Nota Bene this coming Monday, January 5.

I teamed up with a good friend here and for the last five years, helped Rob Fanucci make his Charter Oak Zinfandel. We pick the fruit by hand, process it in small batches, inoculate with native yeast and the juice never sees stainless steel or large commercial hoses, pumps, etc. We even use Rob's grandfather's 100-year-old wooden basket to press out the fermented juice by hand... no bladder pumps, to high-falutin' machinery... I'd have to say that of the 500 wineries in Napa Valley, ours is the most original, bordering on primitive... which may be why our wine tastes so good.

I have never before used the words "elegant" and "Zinfandel" in the same sentence, let alone the former to modify the latter... but that is what we have produced with our 2006 Zinfandel... we have two cuvees... one from our winery property and the other from the oldest Zinfandel vines in America... 125-year-old vines high up in the Mayacamas range.. from the Monte Rosso Vineyard (Sonoma Side). We also make a Petite Sirah and a delicious Cabernet.

We only produce 700 cases of Charter Oak Zinfandel. Franco has taken some of each cuvee – the 2006 Charter Oak Napa Valley Zinfandel and the 2006 Charter Oak Monte Rosso Vineyard Zinfandel. The whole story... and a listing of the US restaurants where our wines are served... can be found on our website

If your readers think they might head to Napa Valley for a visit, my website,, may prove useful. I try to speak to the 4 million visitors who come to our valley annually. Last week, I had site visitors from 68 countries!


I asked him to get a sample to me. Sounds like an interesting wine.




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