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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 267 (November 30, 2009)

Monday, November 23: I'm flying to Vancouver this morning for four days to promote the cellar book. I'm staying at the Westin Bayshore, where my daughter Annabel works as Convention Services Manager. The plane gets in at 1:35 pm local time and at 3 pm I'm meeting Rasoul Salehi, Executive Director of Enotecca Winery and Resorts, to taste the wines of Le Vieux Pin and La Stella. The wines are already in my room when I arrive.

Rasoul, a young man of 26 with an Iranian background, tells me how he got into wine. His father gave him a Rémy Martin XO Xtra cognac and the bouquet that kept changing got him hooked. We started off with La Stella Vivace Pinot Grigio 2008 (pale straw colour with a minerally peach pit nose; medium-bodied with a sweet white peach flavour, clean and pure driving acidity, 89). Then we open Le Vieux Pin Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (straw colour; grassy, guava and green pineapple nose with a light oak note; full on the palate, lovely rich mouth feel and great balance; finishes with plum and green apple flavours, 91), Le Vieux Pin Pinot Noir 2006 (ruby colour; high toned, spicy black raspberry and violets on the nose; muscular, firm and sturdy with ripe tannins; a bit rustic but tasty, 88) and La Stella Allegretto Merlot 2006 (dense purple-ruby; creamy, coffee bean, blueberry and vanilla nose with a cedary note; full-bodied and powerful, well extracted fruit – sweet blueberry and blackcurrant flavours; well balanced an firm, 91+).

Meet Annabel in the lobby at 5 pm and she drives me to her new condo. As a moving-in gift I've brought six bottles of wine for her wine cabinet and a toilet roll holder from Restoration Hardware. Annabel gives me a tour of her new place, which is twice the size of her other condo and looks terrific. We have a glass of the La Stella Vivace Pinot Gris and Le Vieux Pin Sauvignon Blanc before walking over, in the rain, to Vij, which is a few blocks away. Annabel's boyfriend Ian will join us there. But Vij, which takes no reservations, is full with loads of people waiting in the bar. The hostess tells us it will be at least an hour, and since it's already 9:30 pm my body time, I'm not prepared to wait. So Annabel suggests another Indian restaurant that's a few blocks away, Maurya on West Broadway. The place looks like a mausoleum and our waitress is the dourest soul I've ever encountered in a restaurant. But the food is excellent, accompanied by a Lake Breeze Gewurztraminer 2008.

Tuesday, November 24: Breakfast in Currents, the hotel's restaurant, with Chris Coletta and Leanne Clemens Froese, from Coletta Associates, who have the Constellation account. We gossip about the industry and are joined by Annabel before I have to go to my room to take the first interview of the day. It's a live phone-in show on CFAX in Victoria. The host, Joe Easingwood keeps giving the title as Tony Aspler's Cellular Book. Some interesting questions from listeners, though.

At noon I'm picked up from the hotel by Tina Kam of MMC & Associates Publicity Services, who escorts me to the CBC Radio Building for an open-line interview on BC Almanac with Mark Forsythe. After this phone-in, Tina drives me to Langley for an interview with Randall Mark at Joy TV for a show called People, Places and Perspectives.

Then back to Vancouver before being picked up by a new handler, Andrew Keeton, a South African, to go for a book signing at Indigo in Surrey. Arranged to meet my old chum Tim Pawsey at Nook, an Italian restaurant on Denman Street, after the event. It's raining heavily and there's lots of traffic. We leave Vancouver at 5:30 pm, get lost and have to ask for directions from a Sikh gentleman in a private house. He must have had pause for thought when opening the door to be confronted on a dark, stormy night by a 6-foot-4 South African. We arrive at Indigo at 7:05 pm, five minutes after the event is scheduled to start. The store has been partnered for this evening with the Surrey Board of Trade and they have invited their members to a "Love of Reading Fundraiser for Ecole Riverdale." Fifteen percent of all book purchases tonight will go to the charity. A local Fraser Valley winery, Domaine de Chaberton, is pouring their wines and a local restaurant, U Lounge, has provided sushi and finger food. I have been asked to speak about cellaring wine. There is a pile of thirty copies of the cellar book on a table and also a pile of The Wine Atlas of Canada, which I wrote three years ago. I sign one copy of the atlas and five copies of the cellar book.

The drive back to Vancouver takes 45 minutes. It's still raining. Andrew drops me of at a small Italian restaurant called Nook on Denman Street. There are people lined up for a table but Tim Pawsey is already there drinking wine. I order a bottle of Allegrini Valpolicella but the waitress tells us they just sold their last bottle. She suggests we try Cantine Sociale Maria La Palma Alghero "Le Bombarde" Cannonau 2008 (a Grenache from Sardinia), which turns out to be delicious with a clovey raspberry flavour. We order a plate of crostini and mixed salami. I realize I haven't eaten since breakfast and it is now 9:30 pm. It tastes like a feast, even if Tim and I can't hear ourselves talk over the din in the restaurant.

Wednesday, November 25: Awoke at 6am and tried to get back to sleep but the mind is racing. I could not remember the difference between hypnogenic and hypnagogic. One refers to the state between sleep and waking, if I remember correctly, the other between wakefulness and falling asleep. At 8:20 am Andrea Oberdieck meets me in the lobby to drive me to Shaw Television for a live interview at 9:30 am with Fanny Keifer on a show called Studio 4. This is followed at 10 am by a phone interview with Joseph Planta of Andrea, who is a twin and left-handed (her sister is right-handed), and I break for a cup of tea at Musi before heading out, in the rain, to Global TV studios in Burnaby for an interview of the Noon News with Randene Neill. We're through by 12:45 pm and Andrea drives me back to Vancouver and drops me at Vin de Garde wine cellars at 112 West 2nd Avenue for a tasting of CedarCreek wines.

Gordon Fitzpatrick, the president of the company is there and so too is my old buddy Jurgen Gothe, who has brought along from his own cellar a bottle of CedarCreek Merlot Reserve 1992, which is still holding up well. The wines that are available for tasting are:

  • CedarCreek Reserve Pinot Noir Block Four 2005 (high toned, alcoholic, a little closed on the mid palate, 87)
  • CedarCreek Estate Select Syrah 2005 (floral, blackberry nose, sweet fruit with a cedary note; beautifully balanced with good length, 91)
  • CedarCreek Platinum Reserve Merlot 1998 (still hanging in with ripe blackcurrant flavours, 89+)
  • CedarCreek Platinum Reserve Merlot 2002 (rich blackcurrant flavour, firm and still youthful, 92)
  • CedarCreek Platinum Reserve Meritage 2002 (elegant, black fruit flavours, firmly structured, still youthful, great balance, 91)
  • CedarCreek Platinum Reserve Chardonnay 2007 (toasty oak, pineapple and orange flavours; full-bodied with a fresh acidic spine, 90)
  • CedarCreek Platinum Reserve Pinot Noir 2006 (cherry flavour, full on the palate, evident oak with a tannic finish, 89)
  • CedarCreek Platinum Reserve Merlot 2006 (very elegant and beautifully balanced yet powerful and seductive, 92)
  • CedarCreek Platinum Reserve Meritage 2006 (high toned, warm, meaty nose of blackcurrants and oak; lively acidity; not quite together yet, needs time, but will be terrific, 90)
  • CedarCreek Platinum Reserve Syrah 2007 (very elegant, Northern Rhône style, blackberry and currant flavours with a tangy, herbal note, 91)
  • CedarCreek Platinum Reserve Malbec 2007 (minty, red berry flavour, firm structure, alcoholic, 89)

Winemaker Tom DiBello's real strength is Merlot.

Taxied back to the hotel to prepare for this evening's event at Salt Cellar in Gastown's Blood Alley with Barbara-Jo McIntosh, who owns Books For Cooks. It's still raining, heavily now, and the taxi can't get near Blood Alley because of the closed-off streets. Vancouver is virtually under construction for the Winter Olympics and the traffic is terrible. Get wet feet walking to Salt. The restaurant has no kitchen, specializing in charcuterie and cheeses. They have a first-class wine list and a terrific selection of sherries – "the best in the city," says the general manager and wine director, Kurtis Kolt. He offers me a glass of Fairview Two Hoots Cabernet Merlot 2007 as we wait for Barbara-Jo and the 20 guests to arrive. The price of entrance also includes the cellar book. Each participant has a plate of cheeses (Taleggio, Keen's Cheddar and Saint Agur) with Rippon Jeunesse Young Vines Riesling 2006, Monte Antico 2006 and Pentâge Show Vineyards Icewine 2007 (a blend of Chardonnay, Muscat, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Viognier).

Thursday, November 26: Up at 6 am to pack and get ready for the car at 8:20 am. Meet Annabel for a cup of tea before I leave. The driver is a Swede who has been in Canada since 1973 and today he realizes, as we talk, is the day he arrived. He now finds his adopted homeland "dreary" and is very vocal about the Québecois insisting that everyone speak French. At the airport the security is over-zealous. The guy with the electronic paddle takes five minutes to scan me. The metal studs on my jeans set of his alarm and he has to pat me down. Buy a ham and cheese bagel and a doughnut at Tim Horton's because the pizza I had on the Air Canada flight coming was inedible. Watched a movie, The Time Traveller's Wife. Halfway through it cut out. Good to be back in Toronto, where there is not rain. Celebrated with a bottle of Rosehall Run Vineyard Pinot Noir 2007 from Prince Edward County, a lovely wine, very delicate with a ripe raspberry flavour, well balanced and soft tannins. Very Burgundian in style.

Friday, November 27: Lunch at One in the Hazelton Hotel with Patrick Burroughs, Michael Beckley and Steven Murzda. Steven, the co-owner of Coyotes' Run, has developed a product made from Icewine juice that is evaporated to half its volume to create a syrup. It's called Ice Syrup and there are currently two products, one from Vidal and one from Cabernet Franc, packaged in 200 mL format. A photo of Chef Susur Lee is on the box in which the bottles come with his endorsement. Steven gives me a bottle of each to experiment with in the kitchen. Tried Coyote's Run Black Paw Chardonnay 2007 and Black Paw Pinot Noir 2007, both really fine wines, a testament to what Ontario can do with these two varieties. At 6 pm down to the Avenue bar in the four Seasons to have a celebratory drink with Garrett Herman and Rudi Blatter to wrap up the Chocolate dinner event on October 8th. It's taken us this long to get together with everyone's travels. Drank a Bloody Mary while we waited for Rudi, who graciously ordered a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Rosé. For dinner, Deborah prepared lamb chops on the BBQ with which we drank a bottle of Ghost Pines Winemaker's Blend Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, a blend of Napa and Sonoma fruit. A perfect match.




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