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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 230 (March 2, 2009)

Monday, February 23: A meeting with Forefront to discuss the upcoming Ontario Wine Awards. We're thinking of moving the sommelier blind tasting award to sipSavour Ontario so that the consuming public can see the competition in real time at the Fermenting Cellar, Distillery District on June 16th.

Down to the Fine Wine Reserve in the afternoon for a tasting of wines brought in by Bernard Stramwasser's Le Sommelier importing agency. Two very impressive wines from F. X. Pichler in the Wachau region: F. X. Pichler Grüner Veltliner Federspeil Loibner Klostersatz 2007 (peachy, white pepper flavours with a lovely mouth feel – 91) and F. X. Pichler Grüner Veltliner Smaragd Urgestein Terrassen 2007 (rich, more tropical with lively acidity running through mango and white pepper flavours – 90). Both wines are available at Other noteworthy wines at this tasting were Nichols Chardonnay Paragon Vineyard Edna Valley 2002 (rich, full-bodied, toasty pineapple flavours with a long, dry finish – 90), Piero Busso Barbaresco Santo Stefanetto 2004 (quintessential Barbaresco, truffle and roses with raspberry flavours, beautifully balanced and elegant – 92), Ciu Ciu Oppidum Rosso Marche IGT 2002 (rich, full-bodied and firmly structured with black cherry and dark chocolate flavours and dusty tannins on the finish – 92) and Nittnaus Chardonnay Premium Trockenbeerenauslese 2005 (a mouthful of sweet, honeyed pineapple – 92). An evening meeting with my webmasters to discuss the new iWineandDine website. For dinner: Chakana Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve with lamb chops.

Tuesday, February 24: Received the following email: "My father-in-law has a bottle of Chateau Gai Champagne that was purchased by his father for his mother when he was born... he is now 81. We are going to have a family reunion in June and he wants to open it and drink it. I have two concerns. One that it may be bad and should not be consumed OR that it may be actually worth something and should not be opened and consumed. Can you tell me what you think or who I should contact about this?" I had to disappoint the sender on both accounts. Chateau Gai Champagne was, coincidentally, the first Canadian wine I tasted. In 1975 I was living in London and had been invited to the Canada Day (Dominion Day as it was back then) luncheon at the Canadian High Commission. I was seated next to a British diplomat. The loyal toast to the Queen was done with Chateau Gai Champagne. I asked my neighbour what he thought of the wine. "Fine, dear boy," he replied, "for launching enemy submarines."

This evening there's a get-together for our condo in a restaurant across the road. We've taken the whole place over. The chef has prepared turkey and roast beef. I order a bottle of Château Prieure Borde-Rouge Rubellis 2006 from Corbières.

Wednesday, February 25: Spent the day making final edits on the cellar book. A car is coming to pick Deborah and me up at 5 pm to take us to the Home Show. I am conducting a wine and cheese tasting for 20 winners of a 680 News contest. Peller Estates has supplier a Chardonnay 2007 and a Cabernet Merlot 2007 for the tasting.

Thursday, February 26: Today I wrote the Acknowledgements and the bibliography for the cellar book. Still haven't got a title fixed. My friend Gordon Pape suggests Wine Cellars for Everyone. Mulling that one over. At 2 pm to Wychwood Artscape for a portfolio tasting of Rob Groh's The Vine agency. The first time I've seen this facility, a refurbished streetcar yard which makes an ideal spot for table-top tasting. Lots of natural light and lots of space. Rob Groh specializes in Italy and California. Top wines from this very extensive tasting (I could only manage 22 wines) were Justin Isosceles 2006 (92), Capoverso Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (91), Hartford Land's Edge Pinot Noir 2006 (91), Plumpjack Cabernet Sauvignon Estate (91), Whitehall Lane Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (91), Virna Borgogno Barolo 2004 (91) and Seven Hills Syrah 2005 from Washington (90). At 4 pm, down to the Delta Chelsea, where Pascal Fernand from Montreal is holding a tasting of French wines for producers who want to get into our market. The whites were superior to the reds, especially those from the Loire Valley. Domaine de la Poultière Tuffo Sec Vouvray 2007 and the Demi Sec 2007 from the same producer were stand-outs. Also terrific was Domaine de la Garenne Les Sens de la Garenne Sancerre 2007 and Domaine de St. Pierre Sancerre 2007. For dinner, sautéed shrimp on rice with a bottle of Gallo Two Rock Vineyard Chardonnay 2004.

Friday, February 27: This evening it's Cuvée at the Fallsview Casino in Niagara Falls. I am presenting my annual Tony Aspler Award of Excellence and this is its tenth year. The recipient tonight is Darryl Brooker, Hillebrand's winemaker – "who raised the bar of quality for Ontario wines by bringing his extensive experience of winemaking in Australia and New Zealand to Canada and sharing it magnanimously with his peers."

I have to write my keynote address for the Experts' Tasting tomorrow at Brock University. The theme is sparkling wine in Ontario. I'm going to lead off with that email about Chateau Gai Champagne and the fact that I made myself very unpopular with the Ontario wine industry in 1987 when I appeared as an expert witness for the French in their court case against seven Ontario wine producers over the use of the term "champagne" on their sparkling wine products. I did not believe we should be trading on another region's appellation. The judge ruled that the term "Canadian Champagne" did not violate the Institut National d'Appellation d'Origine regulations. And nobody was going to mistake Brights' President Champagne for Krug. The irony is that today the Ontario industry finds itself in the position of defending the trade mark of Icewine against counterfeit products being sold in China.




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