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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 266 (November 23, 2009)

Monday, November 16: Lunch at Grano with David Autrey, the winemaker-owner of Westrey Wine Company in Oregon, and Scott Wilson, who is back in the wine business. It was Scott, my former squash buddy and French horn player in the Toronto Symphony, who introduced Ontario to the wines of Oregon. We tasted through a range of Westrey wines matched with breaded calamari and squid ink risotto.

  • Westrey Pinot Gris 2008: straw coloured with a preachy nose; very fresh and lively on the palate; full in the mouth, driving acidity. (89)
  • Westrey Pinot Noir 2007 (Willamette Valley): light ruby, minerally nose of sweet black raspberry and cherry notes; firmly structured, velvety mouth-feel and ripe tannins. A delicate, lacy Pinot. (89)
  • Westrey Pinot Noir 2008 (Willamette Valley): tight and firm with a minty note along with black cherry flavours; good concentration, youthful and powerful, more muscular than the 2007. (88)
  • Westrey Pinot Noir Reserve 2007: light ruby; very elegant, red berry flavours; beautifully balanced, in Burgundian style with a delicate, lacy mouth feel. (91)
  • Westrey Oracle Vineyard 2007: light ruby, sweet mulberry nose, firmly structured with lively acidity and very well balanced. (91)
  • Westrey Abbey Vineyard 2007: could be mistaken for a Côte de Nuits in a warm vintage; a nose of black raspberries and violets; great balance with a velvety mouth feel and a creamy oak note; amazingly powerful for the colour. (92)

Later in the afternoon I drove over to meet Rose Reisman at her new restaurant, Glow. Rose has a new line of Personal Gourmet frozen dinners coming out soon. Wandered around the Don Mills shopping centre, dropping in to Mark McEwan's new food store and McNally Robinson to sign copies of my new book.

For dinner, Barone Ricasoli Campo Ceni 2007 with pasta.

Tuesday, November 17: Lunch at Didier's with Sam Sarick and Todd Halpern to discuss new directions for Grapes for Humanity. A green salad and Didier's steak tartare and French fries (still the best in the city). The bottle of Latour Corton Charlemagne 2002 was corked so we had a glass of Pol Roger instead, followed by a glorious bottle of Mugnier Musigny 1998. Wrote a commentary for Tidings how Generation Y is becoming Generation Why-Read-Wine-Writers-When-We-Can-Twitter-Our-Own-Preferences.

Wednesday, November 18: Spent much of the day preparing a dinner party for Steven and Paula Elphick, Sheila Swerling-Puritt and James Harbeck. Defrosted the Arctic Char I caught last August. A bottle of Pol Roger with smoked salmon and guacamole as appetizers (Chris Churchill, who imports Pol Roger, suggests you try the champagne with fresh Parmesan as they serve it to guests at Pol Roger). The first course was my home-made hummus (the secret is the toasted pine nuts and chopped cilantro with Frescobaldi Laudemio olive oil), served with Stoneleigh Marlborough Chardonnay 2007 (toasty, smoky, apple nose; mouth-filling sweet fruit with lively acidity (87)). Our oven has been on the fritz for a week as we await Whirlpool for deliver a part and fix it, so we had to cook the fish in foil on the BBQ, or rather Paula did because I've never cooked a big fish like this. Accompanying vegetables: boiled potatoes and French beans. The accompanying wine was Burrowing Owl Chardonnay 2007 from the Okanagan (minerally, citrus and apple nose; full-bodied, richly extracted apple and caramel flavours; great length (89)). With a selection of cheeses, a wine James brought, Château du Perier 2005, a cru bourgeois from the Médoc. For dessert, apple crumble and ice cream and then a Martell XO cognac.

Thursday, November 19: Bought my diary for 2010. I like to see my week spread out on two pages. Began filling in dates and deadlines for next year. In the evening a corporate tasting at Stratus on the 36th floor of the TD building for a financial company and their clients. Interesting format. The chef David Ross had prepared 8 small dishes, which we had matched to a wine from the restaurant's cellar.

Maple and brown sugar cured salmon in a muesli crouton with candied lemon, served with Masson-Blondelet Pouilly-Fumé 2006

Mango and goat cheese stuffed quail in a port reduction, with Lafond Pinot Noir 2007 from California

Peking duck stuffed black tiger shrimp with a sweet chili sauce, with Forrest Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2007 from New Zealand

Leek and woodland mushroom tart, with Salvalai Amarone 2005

Cognac marinated foie gras terrine with a huckleberry compote, with Fielding Riesling 2006 from Ontario

Mini caribou burgers on brioche with Oka cheese and seed mustard aioli, with Penley Estate Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Warm Canadian goat cheese encrusted with pistachio nuts, with Quinta do Ventozelo Port

Passion fruit crème brûlée, with Fielding Estate Vidal Icewine 2006

A great evening.

Friday, November 20: Down to the Convention Centre for the Gourmet Wine & Food Expo. I am speaking at IWEG's Connoisseurs' Corner about the 2007 Ontario vintage with a tasting of six wines. But first I toured the show.

My first stop was at the Great Wines of China booth, where Anna Mychal Italiano poured two of the wines she's importing: Chateau Changyu-Castel 2004 (a Cabernet Gernischt – a Chinese variety believed to be Cabernet Franc), which has a rather austere claret-like flavour, not at all bad, much better than the Chinese wines I had in China in 2000; and Great Wall Cabernet Sauvignon 1999, which Anna tells me will be listed by Vintages next May. (cedar and black and redcurrant flavours with a medicinal note (87)).

Then to the Connexion Oenophilia booth, where Martha Harrison poured me Manoir Grignon Viognier 2008 (honeysuckle and peach flavours, minerally and acidic. Good value (87)), Les Vignerons de Castelas Côtes du Rhône 2007 (earthy-herby, roasted nose, fruity blackberry and black raspberry flavour, rich and full on the palate. Great value at $13.95 (88)), Château de Fontenelles 2007 (Corbières – Syrah, Grenache and old vine Carignane – well focused blackcurrant flavour; firm structure with a tannic lift on the finish (86)) and Château Guillon 2006 (Montagne de St. Emilion – sandalwood, blueberry, oak and tannic. Needs time (87)).

Next stop: the Pelee Island booth, where I sampled their Pelee Island Gewurztraminer-Riesling 2008 (spicy, off-dry, grapefruit and lychee flavours (86)) and their new label that features a woman's high heel, Step Up To The Plate; 10% of the sales proceeds from this label will be donated to the Ontario Association of Food Banks.

At the Tre Amici booth I tasted Villa Pillo 2006 (a blend of Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon – well extracted fruit, firmly structured with a dark chocolate finish (87)), Grotta del Ninfeo Valpolicella Ripasso 2008 (fresh and lively redcurrant flavour (87)) and Pescaja Soliter Barbera d'Asti 2008 (fresh and lively on the palate with a cherry flavour. An unusual but delicious wine (88)).

Then my pal Paula Oreskovich rescued me and invited me to sit down at the California booth for Café California's food and wine matching menu nimbly conducted by Mark Donaldson. The wines were to match three courses prepared by Far Niente's executive chef Gordon Mackie. The food was amazing: Pan seared day boat scallops with house smoked bacon, buttered Yukon potato mousse and apple caramel sauce, served with Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay 2008 (spicy, pineapple nose, light and lively on the palate with apple and green pineapple flavours (88)). Then Crispy confit duck leg with beluga lentil, roasted sunchoke blonde frisée and a cherry and walnut compote, with Wente Beyer Ranch Zinfandel 2006 (spicy plum and leather with a licorice note (87)). Finally, Roasted tenderloin braised short ribs with leek risotto, sautéed mushroom and parmesan cheese, with Wente Southern Hills Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (lean cherry and cinnamon flavours back by evident oak; ripe tannins (87)).

This fortified me for my talk on Ontario's stellar 2007 vintage. The wines that had been assembled for this seminar were Château des Charmes Chardonnay 2007, Château des Charmes Gewurztraminer 2007, Norman Hardie Pinot Noir 2007, Henry of Pelham Baco Noir Reserve 2007, Château des Charmes Cabernet Franc 2007 and the wine of tasting, Southbrook Farm Poetica Cabernet Merlot 2007. Great extract here with an intensity of flavour your rarely find in Ontario reds – currants and plum backed by vanilla oak, toast and coffee bean notes, 91.

Last port of call was the Calibrium booth, where Alex Gaunt poured three wines: Alamos Pinot Noir 2008 from Argentina (a delicious raspberry and cherry flavour with a sweetness at the core, lifted with vanilla oak and a touch of spice (89)), Las Rochas Garnacha 2006 from Spain (intense sweet raspberry with an intriguing mineral thread infused with spicy oak (90)) and Argiano NC Rosso Toscana 2006 (40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Sangiovese, 20% Merlot and 20% Syrah – mouth-filling flavours of black cherry and plum, smoky oak and licorice (89)).

 

 

 

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