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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 277 (February 8, 2010)

Monday, February 1: Tonight is the annual Wine Writers' Circle of Canada Christmas dinner. Since December is our busy period we postpone it until quieter times. We are allowed to bring a partner/guest and a bottle or two each for everyone to share. This year the dinner is at Sette Mezzo on Eglinton West. I made a list of the wines I sampled. There are spittoons on the tables so we usually spit.

  • Bottega Il Vino dei Poeti Prosecco Brut
  • Viewpoint Riesling 2005 (from Lake Erie North Shore)
  • Road 13 Jackpot Viognier 2007 (from Okanagan Valley)
  • Long Flat Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2008
  • Bernat Syrah 2005
  • Ruffino Tenuta Lodola Nuova Vino Nobile 2005
  • Guerrieri Rizzardi Villa Rizzardi Amarone 2003 (the wine of the night)
  • Mission Hill SLC Merlot 2004
  • Jackson-Triggs Proprietors Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (Ontario)
  • Summerhill Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 (Okanagan, in magnum, unfortunately corked)

Then into the sweet wines for dessert:

  • Wegeler Rüdesheimer Berg Rotland Riesling Spätlese 2003
  • Taylor 20-Year-Old Tawny Port
  • Frazitta Zibibbo Vino Liquoroso

The menu, prepared by Chef Salvatore Spina, began with thin-crust pizzas as we milled about. First course: antipasto, followed by pasta (risotto with wild mushrooms and truffle oil and penne gnocchi). Main course: seared veal tenderloin with Madeira wine sauce, veg and soft polenta. Dessert: chocolate brandy crème brûlée. A fun night with my colleagues.

Tuesday, February 2: Recorded my 680News wine reviews and then drove over to the Royal Conservatory. It took me 25 minutes from Church Street to Avenue road along Bloor. Insane traffic. Met up with Jackie Davies to scout out a venue for the October 7th Grapes for Humanity wine auction. The lobby of the new Koerner Hall will be perfect. Will try to get Mark McEwan to cater the event, as one of the hall's preferred caterers. Then I drove out to the West Mall for a meeting with Transat to discuss the possibility of a Mediterranean wine cruise in October. My son Guy came over for dinner – chicken stir-fry with a bottle of Lindemans Sauvignon Blanc Bin 95 2009.

Wednesday, February 3: A 9 am meeting with Wendy Gamble of Notch Creations and Christopher Barry of Tourism Toronto at The Homeway to discuss wine tourism for conventioneers. Then downtown to First Canadian Place for the annual Cuvée tasting of Ontario wines. There were 56 wines put out, one from each winery participating in Cuvée – the top scoring wine from each winery at the winemakers' tasting earlier in the year. My top scoring wines were Grange of Prince Edward Dianna Block Pinot Noir 2007, Closson Chase Chardonnay S. Kocsis Vineyard 2007, Flat Rock Cellars Chardonnay 2007, Frogpond Farm Organic Cabernet Franc 2007, Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Proprietors' Grand Reserve Syrah 2007, Niagara College Dean's List Pinot Noir Canadian Oak Project 2007, Peninsula Ridge Reserve Chardonnay 2007, Thirty Bench Small Lot Benchmark Red 2007. Best Icewine: Sue-Anne Staff Estate Winery Riesling Icewine 2007.

Drove out to Whitby with Deborah to have dinner at a restaurant called pimentos that will reopen in March as a tapas wine bar called Mojo Vino (rack of lamb with Hunter's Pinot Noir 2007).

Thursday, February 4: A 9 am meeting with Forefront to decide where this year's Ontario Wine Awards ceremony will be held. One more visit to the venue in Toronto before we make a final decision. Also discussed who will host this year's event. Then to Loire restaurant on Harbord Street to taste two new wines from Inniskillin. Winemaker Bruce Nicholson was there with his assistant winemaker Marc Pistor to explain the wines. These will be Inniskillin's flagship wines, taking over from the Founders' Series (since Donald Ziraldo and Karl Kaiser are no longer associated with the winery). The name is "Legacy" and in vintage Bruce will choose "the most outstanding varietal of the vintage." In 2007 it was Cabernet Franc, 2008 Riesling. In 2009 "Pinot Gris is in the running" and there could be a Pinot Noir from the Montague Vineyard.

Inniskillin Legacy Series Riesling 2008 (213 cases produced from the Cooper Vineyard Will sell at the winery for $29.95): Straw colour with a minerally, floral, peach and grapefruit nose; lovely balance of sweet peach and apricot flavours carried by lime acidity; a touch of sweetness in mid palate with a mealy note, reminiscent of a Rheingau Riesling Spätlese. Good persistence with a lemon-lime finish. The best Riesling I have tasted from Inniskillin in a long time. (91)

Inniskillin Legacy Series Cabernet Franc 2007 (236 cases produced from the Oppenlaender Vineyard; aged in 70% French/30% American oak barrels for 16 months. At the winery $39.95): Deep purple-ruby colour; a nose of cedar, blueberry, black cherry and a touch of oak; creamy, ripe fruit; medium-bodied with a sweet core, firmly structured and nicely balanced with a dry, toasty finish. Warm vintage Loire-style Cab Franc (90).

After we tasted the wines, they were served with lunch prepared by Chef Jean-Charles Dupoire: braised pork belly and sea scallop, preserve plum, grapefruit and bean sprout salad, followed by Szechuan peppercorn dusted Ontario venison, rutabaga-maple purée, honey mushroom, rosehip jus. I couldn't stay for the dessert of poached pear belle-Hélène, chocolate sauce, almond cake and vanilla ice cream, served with Inniskillin Cabernet Franc Icewine 2007.

In the evening I went to Bymark for dinner – a charity event. I was hosting a group of eight. I was asked by the charity to choose a white and a red, as inexpensively as possible without being insulting. It was Winterlicious and Bymark was packed and noisy. I was expecting an older group an in walked four 30-something guys accompanied by four long-legged blondes. Having tasted the Rabl Grüner Veltliner Spiegl 2006 one of the guys told me that his favourite wine was Montrachet and could I look at the wine list. He was prepared to pay for extra wine. I ordered a Groth Chardonnay 2008 and when he tasted the La Palma Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 from Chile, he asked if there was any Cheval Blanc. I ordered a bottle of Léoville-Les-Cases 2003 (which was delicious).

We all had the tasting menu. First course: Northwood Farm mushroom risotto with shaved black truffle or Romaine hearts with Caesar vinaigrette, honey smoked bacon, buffalo ricotta and oven cured crostini. Second course: sesame crusted yellow fin tuna sashimi with Niagara apple and miso mustard sauce. Third course: Alaska black cod with beluga lentil ragu. Fourth course: roasted Cornish hen with roasted Brussels sprouts, potato gnocchi and natural reduction. Dessert: trio of desserts served with Jaboulet Muscat Beaumes de Venise 2005. I left around midnight and they were still enjoying the party.

Friday, February 5: This morning is the AGM for the Wine Writers' Circle. We have a new president. John Szabo MS takes over from Sheila Swerling-Puritt. We taste the 35 Chardonnays that have been selected to be flown to London for a tasting at Canada House in May. Then David Lawrason and I go over to Doug Towers for our monthly tasting of Ontario wines for Dinner: BBQ steak with DeLoach Cabernet Sauvignon 2006.




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