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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 233 (March 23, 2009)

Monday, March 16: Pinot was diagnosed with pancreatitis and had to stay two nights under observation at the vet's. She was dehydrated. The inflammation of the stomach was presumably caused by something she ate. Twelve hundred dollars later she seems fine and back to her old self, ravenously hungry.

Rewrote the final chapter in the cellar book. The cellar in the basement is now finished and looks terrific. Had an email about a New Zealand winery called Sandihurst in West Melton who poured about 35 tonnes of crushed glass at the base of their Pinot Noir. It all started with the idea that the sun reflecting off the glass mulch would produce better tasting grapes and better yields, so a pilot project was created to prove it. Sandihurst Canterbury Pinot Noir 2006 won gold in New Zealand and was selected as one of the Top Ten Pinots in NZ and as one of the top twenty NZ Pinots in the UK.

Jean-Francois Curie of Drouhin

Tuesday, March 17: St. Patrick's Day. A massive Burgundy tasting at the St. Andrew's Club, titled "Terroirs et Signatures de Bourgogne." Forty-two producers showed their wines. Very taken by Domaine René Bouvier Marsanny and Fixin, two communes that don't get the respect they deserve. Domaine Henri Delagrange Volnay Vieilles Vignes 2007 and their Pommard Les Bertins 2007 were both terrific. Other wines that I enjoyed were Domaine Michel Juillot Mercurey Les Vignes de Maillonge 2007, Domaine Albert Morot Beaune Les Aigrots 2007, Bourgogne Parent Beaune les Epenottes 2002, Domaine Michel Prunier Auxey-Duresses Clos du Val 2006 and Domaine Taupenot-Merme Nuits-Saint-Georges Les Pruliers 2006. Interviewed Jean-François Curie, Commercial Director of Joseph Drouhin, about the state of Burgundy today, especially Beaujolais.

Deborah and I took Michael and Bonnie Drobot to dinner at Loire on Harbord Street to thank them for all the work they did on my wine cellar. I ordered a bottle of Château Gaudrelle Vouvray 2006 and brought along a bottle of an amazing Chilean Pinot Noir – Casa Marin Lo Abarca Hills Vineyards 2006 – that I brought back from Chile in December.

Pierre Sparr Pinot Gris Reserve

Wednesday, March 18: Recorded my 680News wine reviews and then went to lunch with Bernard Sparr of Pierre Sparr in Alsace at Mengrai Thai Restaurant on Richmond Street – a former Hamilton Lager Company warehouse. He tells me that Jacques Lurton has been consulting to his winemaker. We tasted a range of Sparr wines (that went beautifully with Mengrai's food). Started with Pierre Sparr Marquis de Perlade Blanc de blancs Brut (Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Macabeo and Pinot Blanc; a champagne method sparkler from three different French regions): white honey, citrus and melon flavours. (88)

  • Pierre Sparr Riesling Extrem 2007: pale straw colour; petrol, white flowers, citrus and green apple on the nose – flavours that follow on the palate to a crisp, lingering finish. Good value at $15. (88)
  • Pierre Sparr Alsace One 2008 (oddly named since it's a blend of Sylvaner, Muscat, Riesling and Pinot Blanc): medium straw; aromatic, spicy, easy drinking – an Old World Conundrum. (89)
  • Pierre Sparr Riesling Reserve 2008: citrus, minerally, lively acidity; bone dry with a grapefruit flavour; elegant finish. (89)
  • Pierre Sparr Charisma Pinot Gris 2007: medium straw colour; peach, pear and marshmallow nose; spicy on the palate with a dry finish. (87)
  • Pierre Sparr Pinot Gris Reserve 2008: peach pit nose, elegant and well balanced white peach and citrus flavours. A terrific food wine. (90)
  • Pierre Sparr Pinot Noir 2007: light ruby colour; wild strawberry nose with minerality; light, elegant with soft tannins. (89)
  • Pierre Sparr Gewürztraminer 2007: spicy, rose petal and lychee nose; beautifully balanced with great length. Good value at $16.10. (90)
  • Pierre Sparr Gewürztraminer Reserve 2008 (tank sample): tighter than the '07 and better balanced; with a year of bottle age when the nose develops this will be a stunning Gewürz. (91)

Bernard Sparr signing a bottle

Thursday, March 19: My old friend Carmen Castorino, Gallo's director of Communications, is in town for a tasting of Gallo wines with Hillary Forbess, Gallo Family Vineyards' winemaker. The lunchtime tasting is at Reds. The wine press gathering is greeted with a glass of Barefoot Bubbly Pinot Grigio (minerally peach flavour with a touch of sweetness (87)), which is coming in June at $12.95 and will fly off the shelves as a summer sparkler.

The Gallo Family Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, both 2007, are great value wines under $10. Wasn't crazy about the Sauvignon Blanc 2007, which lack defined varietal character. Gallo Family Vineyards Two Rock Vineyard 2005 (89) is more focused than the 2004 (87), getting back to Chablis style, which is what it should be. The best white was the Gallo Family Vineyards Estate Chardonnay 2004 from Northern Sonoma (straw colour; caramel, butter, citrus with toast oak (91)). The reds were impressive, including the $8.95 Gallo Family Vineyards California Cabernet Sauvignon 2007. The Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 has a lovely cinnamon note behind the blackcurrant flavour; firmly structured (90). My favourite was the Gallo Family Vineyards Frei Ranch Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 from Dry Creek Valley (vanilla oak, spicy fruit cake and floral nose; elegant, beautifully balanced blackcurrant and blackberry flavours (92)). Also enjoyed the Ghost Pines Merlot 2006 and the Mirassou Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands 2005.

Had to leave early to get to the International Centre by the airport to do a couple of wine tasting seminars at the Home & Garden Show ("Tasting like a Pro"). Served Jackson-Triggs Sauvignon Blanc 2007 and Colio Cabernet Franc 2007.

Friday, March 20: Began work on Post City Magazine's annual Best of the Year in wine feature. My daughter Annabel is in town from Vancouver and she is dining with Deborah and me tonight. Gave her a tour of the wine cellar and she was suitably impressed. Opened a bottle of Sumac Ridge Pinnacle Sparkling Wine 2001.

My new cellar(waiting to be filled)

Booked a table at Mengrai, since Annabel likes Thai food. Ordered a bottle of Kuhlmann-Platz Riesling 2007. Walked out with enough food left over for two more meals.




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