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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 259 (October 5, 2009)

Monday, September 28: This morning a tasting of Ontario wines for Winerytohome with David Lawrason and Doug Towers. Lots of 2007 wines – what a great vintage that was. At 5 pm down to the Avenue bar in the Four Seasons hotel to test chocolate martinis with Garrett Herman, Rudi Blatter and Gary Prouk. We're serving chocolate martinis at the Grapes for Humanity dinner on October 8th. The chocolate base is Guianduia Crema, a chocolate grappa. Sandro Bottega sent me a recipe that calls for 1 part chocolate to 4 parts vodka. The bartender made up a batch with this ratio but it wasn't chocolatey enough, so we asked for a 1:3 ratio. He used Belvedere Vodka straight from the freezer. The second batch was delicious. Rudi suggested a Lindt orange ball on a cocktail stick instead of an olive – and that's what it will be: a Chocolate Lindtini.

Tuesday, September 29: Wrote a piece on Champagne and other sparklers for the BC liquor board's magazine, Taste. Dinner at Biagio's. Jim Savone of Brunello Imports invited me along with a few other food and wine writers to taste an all-pasta dinner featuring Rusticella d'Abruzzo products. We drank Val d'Oca Prosecco di Valdobbiadene before we sat down to Chef Tommaso Lepore's five-course pasta dinner:

  • Tagloiolini rapida con aglio e olio (one-minute pasta in traditional garlic and olive oil sauce), served with 2008 Barberani Oriveto Classico Superiore "Castagnolo"
  • Linguini con ragi de pescatrice (linguini tossed in monkfish ragout), with 2007 Dorigo Pinot Grigio and 2008 Val d'Oca Pinot Grigio "Pigia" (I had tasted the 2006 vintage of this very tasty wine with Jim Savone last November)
  • Pappardelle con salsiccica e porcini (the broad noodle with a sausage and porcini mushroom sauce – my favorite of the dishes), with 2007 Cantina Parroco Langhe Nebbiolo (a great match)
  • Scaloppa di vitella con salsa ai piselli e pennette ai pomodorini di pachino (veal in a sweet pea, bacon and sweet Pachino tomato coulis), with 2004 Castello di Nieve Barbaresco
  • Dessert: Pastiera dolce di spaghettini con uvetta pinoli e salsa crème inglese (pasta with raisins and pine nuts in egg custard)

I've never eaten so much pasta at one sitting, but it was delicious.

Wednesday, September 30: Went to Brassaii for a tasting of 64 Australian wines that are currently at Vintages or will be released in the coming months. An awful lot of Shiraz that tasted alike. But was impressed by two Rieslings I gave 90 points to – Skillogalee Clare Valley Single Vineyard Riesling 2008 and Tamar Ridge Devil's Corner Riesling 2008 from Tasmania. My highest marks (91) went to Glaetzer Anaperenna Shiraz Cabernet 2007. Also 90-pointers were Coriole Mary Kathleen Cabernet Merlot 2005 (St. Emilion-style), Grant Burge The Holy Trinity GSM 2004 and Shaw and Smith Sauvignon Blanc 2008. Best value wines there (both at $14.95) were d'Arenberg Stump Jump Lightly Wooded Chardonnay 2008 and d'Arenberg Stump Jump Red (GSM) 2008. In the evening I walked over to Lai Toh Heen with Deborah to have dinner with Henry Wu and a journalist and his wife from Montreal. It was the same menu we had in August.

  • Crackling pig pieces of rice flat bread, hoisin sauce & sugar, with Cave Spring CSV Riesling 2007
  • Peking duck – first course: sliced duckling on warm rice crepes, hoisin sauce, with Scott Cellars Pinot Noir 2006 (Santa Barbara)
  • Peking duck – second course: Stir-fried minced duckling with diced vegetables served in a lettuce leaf, with Scott Cellars Pinot Noir 2006 (Santa Barbara)
  • Wok-fried jumbo prawns & scallops with pine nuts and sugar snap peas, with Domaine du Petit Coteau Vouvray 2007
  • Braised supreme broth, choice of shark's fin or spaghetti squash, with William Fèvre Chablis 2007
  • Braised dried abalone, with Kim Crawford Pinot Noir 2008 (Marlborough)
  • Steamed whole black bass with scallions and coriander sprigs in a light soy blend, with Bouchard Père & Fils Pouilly-Fuissé 2007
  • Chinese sweet petits fours, with Inniskillin Vidal Icewine 2006

Thursday, October 1: A day of South American tasting. An early morning start to get down to Calibrium's offices on Atlantic Avenue for a tasting at 10 am of Bodega Catena Zapata wines, conducted by Laura Catena. "If you think too much you don't make good wine," she told us as she introduced us to the top end of the company's portfolio.

Tony with Laura Catena

Catena owns 500 hectares (5 vineyards) in Mendoza planted to Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay at various elevations. The wines were amazingly good.

  • Catena Alta Chardonnay 2007: golden straw colour with a buttery, minerally nose melded with tropical fruit and an underlying oak note; full-bodied, yet elegant with lively acidity and a lengthy, dry butternut finish (92)
  • Catena Alta Cabernet Sauvignon 2006: dense purple colour with a cedary, minty blackcurrant nose; lovely mouth feel with sweet fruit, beautifully balanced with oak and an elegant, dry finish (91)
  • Catena Alta Malbec 2006: dense purple-black with earthy, spicy blackberry and leather tones; mouth-filling fruity blackberry flavour; well balanced and firm with ripe tannins (89)
  • Nicolas Catena Zapata 2005 (75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Malbec): dense purple-black with an intense creamy blackberry nose with a cedar note; rich plum and currant flavours firmly structured with a dry, savoury finish. A majestic wine that needs time (92)
  • Catena Zapata Malbec Nicasia Vineyard 2005 – 1180m elevation (18 months in new French oak): dense purple-black; blackberry, pepper and vanilla oak with a medicinal-herbal note; on the palate sweet black fruit and violets, full-bodied and velvety in the mouth. A gorgeous wine that drinks beautifully now. (93)
  • Catena Zapata Malbec Adrianna Vineyard 2005 – 1800m elevation): dense purple black; minerally, floral blackberry nose; rich and plumy with a chunky mouth feel, full-bodied with a dry finish (91)
  • Catena Zapata Malbec Argentino 2005 (sourced from Nicasia & Adrianna vineyards): dense purple-black; minerally violets and blackberries on the nose; firmly structured with fruit cake flavour that finishes dry and savoury. Good grip on the finish (91)

In the evening to Far Niente to taste the Cono Sur range of Pinot Noir with winemaker Matias Rios Langevin. Martin Prieur of Burgundy's Domaine Prieur in Meursault is consulting on Cono Sur's Pinot Noir project.

  • Cono Sur Pinot Noir 2008: a very well made introductory Pinot at $10.95. Ruby coloured; minerally cherry and red berry notes, fresh and easy drinking; light to medium-bodied. (87)
  • Cono Sur Sustainable Agriculture Pinot Noir 2008 ($14.99 in BC): ruby colour; blackcurrant and oak notes; ripe cherry flavour; lovely mouth feel and well balanced (89)
  • Cono Sur Visión Pinot Noir 2008 – 41-year-old vineyard ($16.95): ruby colour; earthy, black cherry and currant nose; good intensity of red berry fruit carried on lively acidity to ripe tannins on the finish (89+)
  • Cono Sur 20 Barrels Limited Edition Pinot Noir 2007 ($27.95): deep ruby; leather, cherry, violets and minerals on the nose; ripe juicy blackcurrant and cherry flavours, elegant and vibrant with a firm finish (90)
  • Cono Sur Ocio Pinot Noir 2007 ($59.95): deep ruby; high tined, floral, creamy black cherry nose; sweet, spicy fruit on the palate, elegant and firmly structured with grainy tannins. Needs two years. (91)

Friday, October 2: Lunch at Debu, a terrific Indian restaurant on Mt. Pleasant, with my old friend Paul Kells. A Kingfisher beer with the meal. At 5 pm down to MacDonald House for a fund-raiser for Canadian Olympic athletes organized by Adam Grant of The Monk's Table. The evening began with a series of high-end food and beverage pairings. I was one of the guest judges rating the pairings with The Honourable A. A. Coulter Osborne, Kevin Brauch from Thirsty Traveller, skater Josée Chouinard, and beer-meister Stephen Beaumont. The basement rooms were given over to beer and malt whisky. I was upstairs pouring wine – Val d'Oca Serenissima Pinot Grigio, an Australian Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz and Cantina Parroco Langhe Nebbiolo 2007. The best match was the Nebbiolo with a truffle paste cheese from Alex Farms. Met Bruce Tanton, the president of Bokkx Confectionery Corporation, who supplied the chocolates, which are amazing.

Saturday, October 3: This evening Deborah and I went to Tony & Diane Hirons' for our Sainstbury Society dinner. Tony had suggested the wine theme – magnums. The guests were David and Tara Rowlands. David was the original member of the society with Tony and me. Irv Wolkoff joined when David moved to Collingwood. Before dinner Tony opened two proseccos – Beato Bartolomeo Breganze Prosecco Marzemino Rosato and La Riva dei Frati Prosecco – which we drank in the kitchen with strawberry and watermelon on cocktail sticks and chicken liver pâté. At table Tony opened a bottle of Sonoma-Cutrer Russian River Ranches Chardonnay 2007 for the first course of smoked salmon and arugula. David had brought a bottle of Mouton-Rothschild 1985, which we drank with pleasure (even if it wasn't a magnum) with the roast pork and crackling, along with magnums of Tomassi Ripasso Valpolicella 2005 and Tedeschi Rosso La Fabriseria 2000 (a Valpolicella and Cabernet Sauvignon blend), followed by Paleo Rosso 1998 (85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc and 10% Sangiovese) from Bolgeri. With the cheese course, Morar Amarone 2003. For dessert, wild blueberry tart. A very enjoyable evening.




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