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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 260 (October 13, 2009)

Monday, October 5: This is the fifth anniversary of A Wine Lover's Diary and I coincidentally celebrated it with champagne: a tasting of Veuve Clicquot non-vintage wines that had been assembled specially from the company's reserves with the newly appointed cellar master Dominique Demarville at the Avenue bar in the Four Seasons. He told me that he and his team of 8–10 oenologists tasted 1000 vats to get the final selection down to 64–65 wines for the final assemblage of the non-vintage champagne. The wines, with my notes:

  • Veuve Clicquot Brut Carte Jaune – assemblage base 2007
    Pinot Noir 52%; Meunier 19%; Chardonnay 29%
    Reserve wines: 29% of years 2006, 2005, 2004, 2001 and 1990
    Number of crus: 65
    Lemony colour; a nose of fresh baked bread; minerally, crisp, green apple flavour; very fresh, clean and elegant.           
  • Veuve Clicquot Brut Carte Jaune – assemblage base 2006
    Pinot Noir 55%; Meunier 18%; Chardonnay 27%
    Reserve wines: 28% of years 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001 and 2000
    Number of crus: 64
    White flowers, apple blossom, honeyed nose; softer and fuller on the palate; apple flavour with great length.      
  • Veuve Clicquot Brut Carte Jaune – assemblage base 2004
    Pinot Noir 52.5%; Meunier 19%; Chardonnay 28.5%
    Reserve wines: 22% of years 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000 and 1999
    Number of crus: 59
    Mature, yeast nose with ginger and white pepper notes; dry, apple flavour, elegant and mouth-filling with great length.    
  • Veuve Clicquot Brut Carte Jaune – assemblage base 2001
    Pinot Noir 55%; Meunier 15.5%; Chardonnay 29.5%
    Reserve wines: 27% of years 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997 and 1996
    Number of crus: 56
    Green apple nose with a herbal note; lighter bodied with a minerally, crab apple flavour but very similar in style.
  • Veuve Clicquot Brut Carte Jaune – assemblage base 1990
    Pinot Noir 57%; Meunier 13%; Chardonnay 30%
    Reserve wines: 28% of years 1989, 1988 and 1987
    Number of crus: 55
    Deeply coloured; honey and toasty nose; rich and full on the palate with lemon and apple flavours; mature, winey. A good food wine.       
  • Veuve Clicquot Brut Carte Jaune – surprise
    Pinot Noir 50%; Meunier 17%; Chardonnay 33%
    Reserve wines: 33%
    Number of crus: 37
    This champagne was served blind. I guessed it was 1961 but it was 1953 – a magnum of that vintage. A small cache of these wines had been lost in the cellars for years.
    Deeply coloured old gold; nutty, toasty with the Chardonnay coming through; rich and mature, with a suggestion of oak; beautifully balanced like an old Meursault; great length. 

Dominique Demarville's choice for the best vintages of the 20th century: 1928, 1955, 1985, 1990 and 1996.

In the afternoon I picked up Executive chef Ashley James and pastry chef Frederico Fernandez (both from the Four Seasons Los Angeles) and drove them down to the Toronto Four Seasons. They will be preparing the chocolate dinner for the Grapes for Humanity fundraiser on Thursday. For dinner, pasta and tomato sauce with Sartori Valpolicella Ripasso 2006. Perfect match.

Tuesday, October 6: A meeting with Diane Watts, her fiancé Nigel and Robert Millbourn to discuss a wine project for Toronto. Lunch at Le Paradis. Ordered liver, which I never cook at home, and a bottle of Mas Amiel "Le Plaisir" Rosé 2008 from Roussillon. Le Paradis offers the best value in the city. In the afternoon wrote my Post City Magazines column on ten new wines under $20. For dinner, grilled haddock with Thirty Bench Small Lot Riesling Steel Post Vineyard 2008.

Wednesday, October 7: This morning a tasting seminar on Chilean wines, conducted by John Szabo MS and a panel of Chilean winemakers at a restaurant in the Distillery District. The first flight of 6 wines – Sauvignon Blancs, Chardonnays and a Pinot Noir: best wine – Vina Undurraga Terroir Hunter Lo Abarca Sauvignon Blanc 2008 with Vina Luis Felipe Edwards Gran Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2009 a close second. Second flight 8 Carménère: top score to Vina Ventisquero Yali Three Lagoons Carménère 2007. Third Flight 9 Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet blends: Top wine Vina Sena Sena 2006. One point behind, Vina Nativa Gran Reserva Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 and Vina Veramonte Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah/Merlot/Carménère 2006. Final flight 4 Syrah and Syrah blends: Top wine Vina Montes Folly Syrah 2006 along with Vina Carmen Winemaker's Reserve Syrah.

The event was beautifully organized by Forefront Communications, who also mounted the trade and consumer tasting that followed in the Fermenting Cellar. The wines I enjoyed most at this tasting (although I only sample about 25) were Tamaya Reserva Syrah 2008, Terra Andina Reserva Carmenère 2007, Vina La Rosa Don Reca Cuvée Grand Reserve Red Blend 2007 and Vina La Rosa OSSA Icon Red Blend 2004 (with a sticker shock price of $164.95). For dinner, Deborah and I went across the road to The Homeway. I had a bottle of Kaiken Malbec 2008 from Mendoza, which is a delicious wine but really overpowered the pasta dish I ordered. Larry, the owner, gave us a glass of Sabor Real Vinas Centenarias Tempranillo 2005 that my pal Barry Brown (president of the Spanish Wine Society) put him on to.

Thursday, October 8: The Grapes for Humanity chocolate dinner has finally arrived but I have a Vintages tasting this morning. Deborah and her volunteer committee are already at the hotel when I get there in mid afternoon. The silent auction has been set up around the room and we have 113 guests in total. Here's the menu that we had signed by both executive chefs and Jean-Charles Boisset:

The event went extremely well. Ken Shaw was a terrific MC and we raised $55,000 from the silent and live auctions. This figure (plus ticket sales once expenses are deducted) will be donated to HALO for their work with landmine victims in Angola and matched by the Julia Burke Foundation in California. A great evening. The Chocolate Lindtini was a big hit.

Friday, October 11: Another Vintages release tasting today – a huge amount of wine for November 21st. Got a copy of my new book, Tony Aspler's Cellar Book, hot off the press. I'm very pleased with how it turned out. Pub date is October 27th.

For dinner, butter chicken curry with a bottle of Fielding Riesling 2008 from Ontario.




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