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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 258 (September 28, 2009)

Monday, September 21: A meeting with Garrett Herman and Rudi Blatter, co-chairs of the Grapes for Humanity fund-raiser dinner on October 8th. Ticket sales are slow. There is a Bell gala event the same night which has siphoned off some of our regular supporters. We have to make a push on sales.

Took Deborah to the ballgame, my last baseball tickets of the season. The Blue Jays beat the Baltimore, who are last in our division. Cold comfort. The best part of the game was the shrimp dish we brought with us – sautéed in butter, cream added and then tossed with rice and green peas. Delicious. It needed the Thirty Bench Small Lot Wood Post Riesling 2008 we opened earlier. Natalie Reynolds is making terrific Riesling at Thirty Bench, very Rheingau in style, great balance between fruit and acidity.

Tuesday, September 22: This afternoon a portfolio tasting of Stem Wine Group at the Eglinton Event Theatre near Avenue Road. This is one of the best table-top tastings I have attended in a long time. The catalogue was easy to navigate; the room wasn't crowded and the wines showed very well. The top wine for me was Zyme Amarone 2003, a spectacular wine reminiscent of Quintarelli in the 1990s. Also enjoyed the Mascarelli wines, Siro Pacenti Brunello di Montalcino 2004 and La Fattoria di Magliano Poggio Bestiale Rosso della Marema 2006.

Then to dinner at Wildfire to meet Kevin Judd, former winemaker at Cloudy Bay, who has started his own label – Greywacke (named for the grey stones found around Marlborough). We tasted his first vintage, Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc 2009. 15% was given a wild ferment in old barrels and blended with the stainless steel portion. The wine has an intense Marlborough profile. You're greeted on the nose by a concentrated aroma of cut grass, gooseberry and passion fruit. On the palate it opens up to more complex flavours of mango, tangerine and fennel, very ripe and intense, full-bodied with a lovely mouth feel. Lively acidity carried the flavour which lingers long on the plate; great balance, great length. A startlingly fine Sauvignon (92). It's not here yet but I'm going to get a case when it arrives.

Wednesday, September 23: Recorded my reviews for 680News and then drove to the French Trade Commission to pick up the wines for Grapes for Humanity's dinner on October 8th. Read an interview with Jean-Charles Boisset in Meininger's Wine Business International. Didn't know he is getting married to Gina Gallo. Jean-Charles is quoted as saying, "Of the 2.7 billion cases of wine produced every year, 70% are sold at under $10. Seventy percent is drunk between 28 minutes and three hours and 70% of the cost is taken up by packaging and supply chain. In the wine industry we're all selling each other landfill. It's time to change."

Then in the evening down to The Fine Wine Reserve for a tasting of wines imported by Tannin Fine Wines. The best wines were Casa Marin Matisses Sauvignon Blanc 2007 from Chile (90), Casa Marin Miramar Vineyard Riesling 2007 (89), Casa Marin Cartagena Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (88) and Clos del Rey "Clos del Rey" 2004 (Carignan, Grenache from Côtes du Roussillon) (91).

Thursday, September 24: A meeting with David Rose to discuss the printed program for Grapes for Humanity's dinner. Then to Grano for a tasting of Livio Felluga's Friuli wines with the importing agent, Bernard Stramwasser of Le Sommelier, and the winery's export manager, Matteo Burani. The wines have a distinctive label, an ancient map depicting the villages of the region with the wine name in the middle. The company owns 180 hectares of vines!

  • Livio Felluga Sharis delle Venezie 2008 (Chardonnay and Ribolla Gialla): straw coloured with a minerally, citrus peel nose and a fresh, stoney, lemony, green pineapple flavour. Good length (88).
  • Livio Felluga Pinot Grigio Colli Oriental del Friuli 2008: straw coloured; minerally, peach and citrus nose that accents the palate; dry, clean with a creamy, soft beautifully textured mouth feel; elegant, with good length (89).
  • Livio Felluga Friulano Colli Orientali del Friuli 2008 (the wine is called just Friulano but the grape is still called Tokay Friulano!): straw coloured with a nose of green nuts and herbs; dry and stoney, beautifully balanced, again with a lovely mouth feel; medium-bodied. A great food wine (90).
  • Livio Felluga Sauvignon Collio Orientali del Friuli 2008: straw coloured; floral, minerally, sweaty nose of grass and green plums; soft mouth feel with a lively acidic spine. Good length (88).
  • Livio Felluga Illivio Colli Orientali del Friuli 2007 (85% Pinot Bianco, 12% Chardonnay, 3% Picolit, fermented and aged in oak): bright straw colour; toasty, Mirabelle plum with a spicy oaky note on the nose; mouth-filling spicy tangerine and apple flavours with a velvety mouth feel; beautifully balanced, great length with a caramel note in the finish (92).
  • Livio Felluga Vertigo Venezia Giulia 2007 (60% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon): dense ruby; vanilla, blueberry and currant note; well structured, firm with savoury, green pepper and dark chocolate notes and a tannic edge on the finish (88).
  • Livio Felluga Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso Colli Orientali del Friuli 2006: dense ruby-black in colour; floral, chocolate, inky, spicy nose; dry, tannic and tight with evident acidity, gripping tannins and a bitter chocolate finish. Needs 2–3 years (89).

This evening Deborah and I have been invited by John and Barbara Switzer of Winesights to a Portuguese dinner at the Boulevard Club. The wines are by Borges, a 125-year-old port firm who are now in the table wine business. Before we sat down we had aperitifs of Borges Gatao 2008, an off-dry rosé with a sweetish raspberry flavour and a light petillance (87), and Borges Dao Meia Encosta 2008 (Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional) (86). Dinner: grilled Mediterranean sardines in olive oil and sautéed peppers, with Borges Lello White 2007 (Malvasia-Fina, Gouveio, Viosinho, Rabigato) (87). Caldo verde (collard green soup) with Borges Reserva White 2007 from the Douro (88). Then bistretti style strip steak brushed with piri-piri served with chorizo risotto, served with Borges Dao Reserva Red 2005 (88). Dessert: caramelized flan with assorted Portuguese cheeses with Borges Tawny Port (rather dilute, 86).

Friday, September 25: A Vintages tasting this morning for November release. These tastings seem to get be getting bigger and bigger. In the evening I conducted a wine tasting dinner for a financial company at the King Edward Hotel. The wines:

  • Reception wine: Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catherine Rosé (Niagara)
  • Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc 2006 (New Zealand)
  • Justin Vineyards Chardonnay 2005 (California)
  • Flat Rock Cellars Pinot Noir 2008 (Niagara)
  • Perez Cruz Carmènere Reserva 2006 (Chile)
  • Henry of Pelham Riesling Icewine 2004 (Niagara)

Saturday, September 26: Up at 6:45 am to walk Pinot the Wonder Dog and grab a quick breakfast before taking the subway down to Union Station. Have to be there by 8:30 am for Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson's Grapes Under Pressure Tour for Grapes for Humanity.

The Grapes Under Pressure team

A series of volunteers, each wearing a wine-stained T-shirt, guide us to the VIA Rail lounge. Fifty of us are given "backstage passes" in order to board a train that will take us to Grimsby, where we are picked up by buses to drive to Tawse winery in Vineland for a harvest picnic.

The train to Grimsby

Ana and Donald Ziraldo and Melissa Prusky

When we arrive at the winery (the driver got lost) we are handed a glass of Gaston Chiquet Champagne 1999 and are given T-shirts and ballcaps with the Grapes Under Pressure logo. Moray Tawse welcomes us and introduces the group to winemaker Paul Pender and consultant Pascal Marchand. We are divided into two groups for a tour of the vineyard, where we harvested Chardonnay for Tawse's sparkling wine. The Mexican pickers who come up every year can harvest 7 to 8 11-kilo boxes of grapes an hour. When we get ours to the sorting table Morey says, "Is that all you got? 12 boxes?" We then take a turn at the sorting table to weed out leaves and unripe grapes.

Amateur sorters

Chef David Lee and Geddy Lee

A decision is taken to lunch outdoors although rain had been threatened in the forecast. A silent auction has been set up on the patio, including such items as a bass guitar autographed by Geddy, "2 hour doubles game with world No. 1 ranked doubles players Daniel Nestor and Geddy Lee," as well as a week stay for four couples at Villa Via Monte in Argentina (donated by Anne Sperling and Peter Gamble).

Moray Tawse scores an auctioned bass guitar

Alex Lifeson rapping

Over lunch, Alex Lifeson takes the mic to encourage auction bids with an impromptu and hysterically funny rap performance. Chef David Lee of Nota Bene prepared a terrific lunch: slow whole roasted vine fed Tawse spring lamb with chilled ratatouille, served with Tawse Robyn's Block Chardonnay 2004, followed by Cumbrae Farms rib eye steak with pommes purée, with Tawse 17th Street Pinot Noir 2007 and Tawse Cabernet Franc Wismer Vineyard 2007 (which had just won the gold medal at the Canadian Wine Awards). Dessert: strawberry sorbet with chilled Icewine, served with Tawse Late Harvest Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2008. Just as we are about to board the buses to take us back to Grimsby station the rain starts. The god of wine smiled on us. More 1999 champagne on the bus before boarding the train back to Toronto. A highly successful and very entertaining day.




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