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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 276 (February 1, 2010)

Sunday, January 24: Vintages is holding a Discover Bordeaux tasting with the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux at The Four Seasons. Seventy-two wineries set out by commune (15 altogether). The place was packed and I should have headed for Lynch-Bages and Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande first, as when I came to their tables there was none left. No first growths were available, nor Palmer, Cos d’Estournel and other super seconds. All the wines were from 2007, a vintage that was rescued by sunshine in September, creating over all some very charming wines that are remarkably drinkable now. My top marks in red went to Angélus and Trotte Vieille, followed by La Couspaude, La Gaffelière, La Conseillante, Rauzan-Ségla and Kirwan. In dry whites the standout wine was Smith Haut Lafitte. Sweet whites: de Fargues by a country mile. Best value reds: La Tour de By and Beaumont. After the tasting I was invited to dine with Aline Baly, the owner of Château Coutet, who wanted to show me that Sauternes/Barsac is a wine that does not have to be matched with foie gras alone and can be consumed throughout a meal. Aline had arranged a menu at Opus to go with her Coutet 2007 and 1998. We began with sashimi of albacore tuna and big eye tuna on quince consommé gelee with smoked Spanish caviar, followed by shrimp and scallop on parsley risotto with saffron jus. Then vanilla confit'd rabbit saddle "en papillotte" with carrots, red beets and foie gras emulsion. Then squab and lobster on apple fondue with star anise parfum; and for dessert, redcurrant sorbet with strawberry tartare, raspberry puree and candied pecan. Aline had proved her point – the wines matched the dishes beautifully. Did not go to bed hungry.

Monday, January 25: Robbie Burns Day. Met with Jackie Davies to discuss Grapes for Humanity's wine auction on October 7. Started writing my Tidings commentary on the importance of acidity in wine. In the evening I conducted a tasting dinner of Israeli wines at an orthodox synagogue. This is the first time that non-mevushal wines have been served there. I was not allowed to touch the bottles, which could only be poured by observant Jews. Before the meal the guests could taste a variety of Israeli wines with hors d’oeuvres: Ella Valley Vineyards Chardonnay, Dalton Estate Shiraz 2007, Dalton Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2006, Galil Mountain Avivim 2006, Binyamina Merlot Reserve 2006, and Binyamina Zinfandel Reserve 2007. Before the dinner I tasted the group of 126 through the dinner wines – Yarden Sauvignon Blanc 2007 and Ella Valley Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2005. The meal started with pistachio crusted halibut on celeriac ouree, pickerel and whitefish parcel with orange/carrot emulsion, served with the Sauvignon Blanc. Then stuffed grilled veal chop with wild mushroom, sundried tomato and spinach in a red wine demi-glaze; sweet potato, rutabaga, carrot and turnip batons, yellow and green zucchini with red pepper diamonds, with the Cab. For dessert, lemon chocolate studded truffle, apple crumble tart topped with pistachio brittle ice cream and a mini crème brulée. This was served with Yarden Muscat 2005. I made a final toast to Rabbi Burns.

Tuesday, January 26: Emailed Ontario wineries about consolidation points for their wines entered into the Ontario Wine Awards. Input my wine reviews of Vintages February 6 release for the website. My friend Peter Edelberg came over to help me set up Skype on my laptop and to figure out why I wasn’t getting internet connections while travelling. For dinner, Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc 2007 with stir-fry.

Wednesday, January 27: Franco Prevedello came round to have a look at my wine cellar. It's always a pleasure to show it. This evening I'm off to the National Club to meet General Rick Hillier. He's signing his book A Soldier First. Grapes for Humanity will be making a donation to the Royal Canadian Dragoons, the regiment his son serves in. The money will go to soldiers wounded in action by mines and roadside bombs. Coincidentally, there was also a wine tasting of Argentinean and Chilean wines going on and Bill Morari, the club's General Manager, invited me to participate. I sat at a table with German Dominguez, Deputy Consul General of Argentina, Patricio Powell, Consul General of Chile and Thomas Noitsis, who imports the Pascual Toso wines. Brian Perry, the club's sommelier conducted the tasting of Navarro Correas Extra Brut (Argentina), the reception wine.

Whites: Tabali Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (Chile), Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay 2007 (Chile), Dona Paula Los Cardos Chardonnay 2008 (Argentina), Casa Lapostolle Cuvée Alexandre Chardonnay 2007 (Chile).

Reds: Francois Lurton Reserva Malbec 2007 (Argentina), Pascual Toso Reserva Malbec 2008 (Argentina), Pascual Toso Reserva Syrah 2007 (Argentina), Casa Silva Microterroir Carmenère 2005 (Chile) , Kaiken Ultra Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (Argentina), Catena Alta Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (Argentina), Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (Chile), Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (Chile). The village cheesemonger offered a variety of their cheeses and the buffet dinner featured many Chilean dishes, which were much appreciated by the Consul General whose first Canadian winter it is.

Thursday, January 28: Down to the Cannery Room at the Distillery District for a tasting and lunch with Howard Soon, the winemaker for Sandhill in the Okanagan. Sandhill was awarded Winery of the Year at the 2009 Canadian Wine Awards, having won the most medals in the competition.

  • Sandhill Chardonnay 2007 (2/3 barrel-fermented in French oak with no malolactic fermentation): straw colour with green highlights; spicy oak and vanilla nose with peach and melon notes; well balanced, full on the palate with a soft mouth feel; good length (89)
  • Sandhill Single Block Chardonnay 2008 (50% barrel-fermented in French oak): straw colour with green highlights; minerally, citrus and pie crust nose; leaner and more elegant than the previous wine; flavours of citrus, pear and peach with lively orange acidity; medium-bodied, great length (91)
  • Sandhill Cabernet Merlot 2007 (42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc and 8% Barbera): deep ruby-purple; cedar, graphite and blackcurrant bouquet; medium-bodied with a velvety mouth feel, dry, savoury finish with ripe tannins (89)
  • Sandhill Viognier Osprey Ridge Vineyard 2008 (judged best white at the Canadian Wine Awards): straw colour; minerally, peach skin nose, floral and spicy; elegant, beautifully balanced fruit hedonistic flavours; fresh and lively, fleshy with great length (91)
  • Sandhill Phantom Creek Syrah 2007 (judged best red at the Canadian Wine Awards): deep ruby-purple; minerally, minty, floral, blackberry and vanilla oak nose; smoky, meaty, iodine flavour; savoury, dark chocolate mid palate; very elegant with great length that carries its alcohol well (92)
  • Sandhill Single Block Merlot 2007: dense ruby colour; blueberry, cedar, fruitcake nose with a floral grace note; firmly structured, sweet fruit, beautifully balanced, lovely mouth feel and ripe tannins (90)
  • Sandhill Rosé 2008 (Barbera and Gamay): deep pink, strawberry, mineral note; strawberry, pepper with a touch of sweetness. Full-bodied, great mouth feel (87)
  • Sandhill Pinot Gris 2008: medium straw; minerally, peach pit nose; fresh, citrus and white peach flavour; lean and crisp (87)

Then lunch: Atlantic smoked salmon, citrus fennel and Bermuda onion salad, chive aioli, tempura beans, paired with Sandhill Pinot Blanc 2007.

Second course: Dry aged Alberta rib eye, blue cheese, caramelized onion and Yukon pave, charred tomato and chipotle jus, with Sandhill Small Lots Syrah 2007.

Third course: Traditional vanilla crème brulée with hazelnut biscotti.

A meeting right after lunch with Barbara Stuart and Ivan Landers to resurrect a TV food and wine show idea. Dinner with Anthony and Penny Bourne at Dhaba, a great Indian restaurant on King that Josh Josephson recommended. We put ourselves in the hands of the waiter. Big mistake: dinner for four with three beers and a half litre of Masi Soave 2008 was $272 before the tip. The food was great, though.

Friday, January 29: My daughter Annabel arrives from Vancouver this morning to tell us about her wedding plans for next year. I have a Vintages' March release tasting this morning. Annabel comes over at 7 pm and we open a bottle of Huff Estate Cuvée Peter F. Huff Blanc de Blancs 2006 (a really terrific Prince Edward County sparkling wine) for the smoked salmon, sliced brie and red pepper slices before moving across to The Homeway for dinner. Brought along Opus One 1996 and Hedges Three Vineyards 2001. Ordered calamari and chorizo sausage starter and then a pizza. The Opus One was brilliant.




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