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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 272 (January 4, 2010)

Monday, December 28: The year is winding down and I have no work this week, so I decided to look at my January deadlines and work on those. Today I wrote my monthly Commentary for Tidings magazine on Sherry and how it is the most misunderstood of alcoholic beverages. My friend Barry Brown, founder and president of the Spanish Wine Society, whom I called for his input, said if in the next James bond movie 007 were to order a Fino Sherry – chilled but not iced – instead of a vodka martini the good folks of Jerez would be laughing all the way to the bank. But it won't happen. Pity.

For dinner, Drouhin Côte de Beaune-Villages 2006 with grilled lamb chops.

Tuesday, December 29: An email telling me about the world's first whisky menorah, which made its debut on the third night of Hanukkah at the Chabad-Lubavitch centre in Buckhurst Hill, England. "The seven-foot-high menorah, built with clear tubing, was filled with 65 liters of single malt donated by Tullibardine Distillery. Rabbi Odom Brandman said in an e-mail that he initially mentioned the idea 'almost as a joke' but got serious about it on a visit to Scotland. His first Highlands distillery stop, Tullibardine, offered a cask of 17-year-old to fill the menorah. About 200 Chabad community members showed up to toast Hanukkah with swigs of the Scotch, Rabbi Brandman said." Surely that must be a fire hazard.

Wrote my monthly column for Lexpert magazine on vintage reports and how the winemakers or growers "rescue" catastrophic harvests with euphemisms. Lunch with Marc Nadeau at The Homeway. Marc is recovering from a harrowing bout of cancer. There was a question whether he would ever be able to drink wine again but the diagnosis proved otherwise. So we polished off most of a Closson Chase Chardonnay Aberdeen Vineyard Chardonnay 2007 from the Beamsville Bench. Marc, who has drunk a lot of fine wine, was as impressed as I was. Then we got into a bottle of Osoyoos Larose 2006 from the Okanagan.

Sent off emails to a dozen wine writers inviting them to be judges at the 2010 Ontario Wine Awards competition. This will be our 16th year. For dinner, Deborah had invited her sister Suzanne with her artist friend Ion, her colleague at work Paul and his partner John. We started with samosas and hummus before the meal with Luis Pato Casta Baga Brut from Portugal and Grange of Prince Edward Brut 2007, their first sparkling wine (a remarkably good effort). The first course was salmon on arugula with Ganton & Larsen Prospect Winery "The Census Count" Chardonnay 2008, followed by pork loin stuffed with prosciutto, served with Marynissen Barrel Select Merlot 1999 and Quails' Gate Merlot 2006. Cheeses followed a hot and cold chocolate dessert that is, according to the recipe book, the Aga Khan's favourite dessert.

Wednesday, December 30: This evening Deborah and I are invited to dinner at Laurie and John Nadeau's in Burlington. When we arrive, Donald Ziraldo and his wife Ana and dog Mozart are there, having popped in a for a drink on their way to Toronto. John has prepared a Beef Wellington and we drink Closson Chase Chardonnay 2007 and Creekside Reserve Merlot 2005. With dessert, KrimSekt 2008, Ukrainian semi-sweet sparkling wine made from Cabernet, Merlot and Saperavi, and Wayne Gretzky Shiraz Icewine 2008. Chatting after, John opened a bottle of Creekside Meritage 2006. He tells me that he and Laurie now only buy Ontario produce.

Thursday, December 31: New Year's Eve. Deborah and I had decided ten days ago that we weren't going out on New Year's Eve, having had disastrous evenings in the past (although 13 years ago I proposed to her at the Metropolitan Hotel). So we rang around a bunch of friends to see if anyone was at a loose end. We ended up with eight other couples and decided to have a dinner party. Pinot the Wonder Dog (whose fifth birthday is tomorrow) is ecstatic – more people to French kiss at midnight. Spend much of the day preparing the room and the food. I had picked up from Costco frozen samosas, frozen falafel, frozen sushi, tzatziki with cut-up vegetables for dipping, cole slaw, and home-made hummus. We drank two bottles of Domaine de la Vougeraie "Le Clos Blanc de Vougeot" 2006 and a bottle of La Bascula "The Charge" Barrel Fermented Viura 2007. Then I opened a magnum of Tawse Pinot Noir 2006. At 10:30 we brought out a large pot of boeuf bourguignon and boiled potatoes, which I served with a magnum of Shafer Sunspot Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2001. Just before midnight I opened two bottles of Veuve Clicquot Brut. The only damage – one Riedel champagne flute.

Friday, January 1: Had an email telling me that Gabe Magnotta, the founder of Magnotta Winery, had passed away. He had suffered from Lyme disease for seven years. Gabe was a maverick. He brought wine to the people and ruffled the feathers of the LCBO and his competitors by selling wine out of his own stores at low prices. An inveterate competition-entrant, his trophy room at the winery is amazing, with over 1,800 awards. Magnotta produces 150 different products and is the third largest winery in Ontario. Gabe did it without access to LCBO shelves (except for his Icewine). He will be missed.

A party at a former neighbour on Craighurst Avenue. Brought over a bunch of food that wasn't consumed at our New Year's Eve dinner. Then went to the movies to see Invictus.




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