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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 279 (February 22, 2010)

Monday, February 15: Spent the weekend in Sarasota, attending a wedding Long Boat Quay. The weather was terrible. The ceremony had been planned to be on the beach but was moved into a tent in case it rained. The poor bridesmaids were shivering in their bare shoulders. A great wedding though. The Veuve Clicquot flowed like Veuve Clicquot should. Arrived back in Toronto at 5 pm. Pinot the Wonder Dog, who had spent the weekend with the dog walker, was very pleased to see us.

Tuesday, February 16: A meeting with Barbara Stuart, Ivan Landers and David Reilly to discuss the concept of cooking show. At 5 pm I was on John Tory's Newstalk radio show, being interviewed about my cellar book. Watched Canada thrash Norway at hockey.

Wednesday, February 17: Recorded my 680News wine reviews. Received an email from the National Lighting Bureau in Maryland with a press release that reads:

Lighting influences how wine tastes and how much consumers are willing to pay for it, the National Lighting Bureau reports, citing conclusions drawn from a series of three German experiments in which more than 500 people tasted white Riesling wines. The study report – "Ambient Lighting Modifies the Flavor of Wine" – was published in the December 2009 issue of Journal of Sensory Studies.

According to the Bureau, the only significant variable in the experiments was the ambient lighting in the spaces where study participants sat. Researchers used a series of fluorescent lamps that produced red, blue, green, or white light. People rated the wine's quality higher, in general, when they drank it in a room whose ambient lighting was red or blue versus green or white. They also found the test wine much sweeter and fruitier when sampled in a room illuminated by red-tinted fluorescent lamps, and were willing to spend more for it.

The first experiment involved 75 male and 75 female visitors to the Allendorf winery in Oestrich-Winkel on the Rhine River. The 150-person sample tasted Allendorf Festival 2004, a dry Riesling from the Rheingau region, in a specially designed, windowless tasting room. The tasters sat facing a wall illuminated by the special fluorescent lighting system and sampled four 100 mL pours served in opaque black, lidded glasses that obscured the wine from view. On average, the participants liked the wine better when they drank it under the influence of red or blue light rather than green or white.

In the second experiment, 69 male and 66 female subjects – mostly students at the Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz – sampled eight 50 mL pours: four each of two Allendorf wines (dry and semi-dry Rheingau Rieslings). Participants perceived a wine to be spicier when they tasted it under blue or green light rather than red or white. Interestingly, blue lighting made the wine taste bitter, but subjects nonetheless liked the wine more under those lighting conditions. About six of every ten participants (58.5%) thought they tasted more than two wines. About two in ten (19.3%) said (correctly) that they had tasted two wines. The rest thought they had tasted one wine.

The third experiment involved 84 male and 146 female participants, each of whom tasted 100 mL of a dry Rheingau Riesling served 50 mL at a time in two lidded, black glasses labeled "1" and "2." The researchers used three ambient colors – blue, red, and white – and randomly assigned each participant to one of the six possible sequences of two colors. For example, if assigned to the color sequence blue-red, the participant tasted the first glass of wine under blue lighting and the second under the red. Participants evaluated each wine based on its aroma and taste. They rated the wine much fruitier when they drank it under red light.

Guess I'll have to repaint my condo red. For dinner, Charles Baker Riesling 2008 with chicken sir-fry. A terrific wine.

Thursday, February 18: They're testing the fire alarms in the building, which means a workman goes from unit to unit and holds a hair drier at full blast near the heat detector until it starts sounding. Which it does throughout the entire building every two minutes or so. Pinot is going nuts with the noise so we've put cotton wool in her ears ad we're walking her a lot. A tasting at down at the Fermenting Cellar in the Distillery District of Foster's Estate wines – 75 of them. I concentrated on the red wines. My top scoring wines were Stags' Leap Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, Penfolds Grange 2004, Penfolds St. Henri 2005, Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz 2006, Rosemount Show Reserve GSM 2006, Saltram No. 1 Shiraz 2006, Taz Goat Rock Syrah 2006, Sbragia Home Ranch Merlot 2006, Souverain Winemaker's Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley, Chateau St. Jean Pinot Noir 2007 and Cinq Cépages 2005. Best value: Meridian California Cabernet Sauvignon 2007.

Dinner at Wildfire to celebrate my son Guy's birthday. I brought along a bottle of Clos Jordanne Vineyard Pinot Noir 2006 ($35 corkage charge) and my pal Zoltan Szabo had a arranged for a bottle of Skillogalee Sparkling Riesling to be sent to the table.

Friday, February 19: Drove down to Niagara at noon for meetings at COOVI and Niagara College to discuss the possibility of setting up Grapes for Humanity bursaries for deserving students in the winemaking program. Then to the Fallsview Casino Resort for Cuvée. Presented my annual award to Jon Ogryzlo "for spearheading the creation of the Niagara College Wine Visitor & Education Centre." Here are the results of the Cuvée Awards, judged by winemakers.

Red Wine: Inniskillin Wines Reserve Series Cabernet Franc 2007 GOLD

Limited Edition Red Wine: Niagara College Teaching Winery Dean's List Pinot Noir Canadian Oak Project 2007 GOLD

White Wine: Flat Rock Cellars Reserve Chardonnay 2007 GOLD

Limited Edition White Wine: Creekside Estate Winery Reserve Viognier 2008 GOLD

LCBO Red Wine: Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Winery Proprietors' Reserve Meritage 2007 GOLD

LCBO White Wine: Creekside Estate Winery Pinot Grigio 2008 GOLD

Sweet Wine: Konzelmann Estate Winery Vidal Icewine 2007 1ST PLACE GOLD
Strewn Winery Vidal Icewine 2006 2ND PLACE GOLD
Reif Estate Winery Vidal Icewine 2007 3RD PLACE GOLD

Limited Edition Sweet Wine: Mountain Road Wine Company Vidal Icewine 2004 GOLD

Sparkling Wine: Hillebrand Winery Trius Brut Rose NV TIED FOR 1ST PLACE GOLD
Maleta Estate Winery VIEW Old Vines Dry Sparking Riesling 2007 TIED FOR 1ST PLACE GOLD
Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery Cuvee Catherine Rose Brut NV 2ND PLACE GOLD
Cave Spring Cellars Dolomite Brut 2006 3RD PLACE GOLD

Chardonnay: Flat Rock Cellars Reserve Chardonnay 2007 1ST PLACE GOLD
DeSousa Wine Cellars Chardonnay Reserve 2007 2ND PLACE GOLD

Riesling: Thirty Bench Wine Makers Small Lot Riesling "Steel Post Vineyard" 2008 1ST PLACE GOLD
Rosewood Estates Winery Natalie's Riesling Süssreserve 2008 2ND PLACE GOLD

Gewürztraminer: Rosewood Estates Winery Gewürztraminer 2008 GOLD

Sauvignon Blanc: Creekside Estate Winery Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2007 GOLD

White Assemblage: Legends Estates Winery Diva (Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc) 2008 GOLD

Viognier: Creekside Estate Winery Reserve Viognier 2008 GOLD

Cabernet Sauvignon: Kacaba Vineyards Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 1ST PLACE GOLD
Hillebrand Winery Showcase Cabernet Sauvignon Clark Farm 2007 2ND PLACE GOLD

Cabernet Franc: Inniskillin Wines Reserve Series Cabernet Franc 2007 1ST PLACE GOLD
Tawse Winery Van Bers Cabernet Franc 2007 2ND PLACE GOLD

Meritage: Thirty Bench Wine Makers Small Lot Benchmark Red 2007 1ST PLACE GOLD
Vineland Estates Winery Elevation Cabernet 2007 2ND PLACE GOLD
Southbrook Vineyards Poetica Cabernet Merlot 2007 TIED FOR 3RD PLACE GOLD
Wayne Gretzky Estates Estate Series Cabernet Merlot 2007 TIED FOR 3RD PLACE GOLD

Pinot Noir: Tawse Winery 17th St Pinot Noir 2007 1ST PLACE GOLD
Cave Spring Cellars Pinot Noir Estate 2007 2ND PLACE GOLD

Gamay Noir: 13th Street Winery Sandstone Vineyard Old Vines Gamay Noir 2007 GOLD

Merlot: Peller Estates Winery Signature Series Merlot 2007 GOLD

Red Assemblage: Wayne Gretzky Estates Estate Series Shiraz Cabernet 2007 GOLD

Syrah/Shiraz: Fielding Estate Winery Syrah 2007 TIED FOR 1ST PLACE GOLD
Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Winery Proprietors' Grand Reserve Syrah 2007 TIED FOR 1ST PLACE GOLD

Toney Aspler Cuvée Award of Excellence: Jon Ogryzlo, Dean, Food and Wine Sciences at Niagara College "for spearheading the creation of the Niagara College Wine Visitor & Education Centre."

Cuvée Award of Excellence in Viticulture: Albrecht Seeger, Seeger Farms

Cuvée Gold Awards

Sweet Wine
Château des Charmes Wines Cabernet Franc Icewine Estate Bottled 2007 GOLD
Dan Aykroyd Wines Signature Vidal Icewine 2006 GOLD

White Wine
Mountain Road Wine Company Reserve Chardonnay 2006 GOLD
Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery Reserve Chardonnay 2007 GOLD
Strewn Winery Chardonnay Barrel Fermented Amalgam 2007 GOLD

Red Wine
Kacaba Vineyards Proprietor's Reserve Syrah 2007 GOLD

Saturday, February 20: Had a great room at the Fallsview Hotel on the 23rd storey overlooking the Falls. This morning is Cuvée's Experts' Tasting at Brock University. The theme is terroir and sub-appellations. We tasted four flights of wines blind under imaginative titles:

Flight 1: Physical Attraction: Riesling Bares Its Soul.

Flight 2: Shockingly Cook Chardonnays (playing off "Bottle Shock").

Flight 3: Capricious and Fickle Niagara Pinots.

Flight 4: Cabernet and Merlot – Niagara's True Heartbreak Grape.

The fifth flight was the traditional Wine Options Game where you are given four or five answers to a question about the wine and have to select the correct one. More difficult than it sounds.

Then a lunch at Mark Picone's Culinary Studio in Vineland (where Charles Baker gets his Riesling grapes) with the Governor General's husband, Jean-Daniel Lafond, to discuss parameters for the Governor General's new awards for "The Nation's Table." The meal prepared by Mark Picone was one of the best I've had in a long time. We started with 13th Street Cuvée Rosé. First course: Cro Farm quail, caramelized squash, Tree & Twig organic sprouts, served with Charles Baker Riesling 2006 and 2008. Second course: lightly smoked salmon, toasted quinoa, Meyer lemon relish, with Hidden Bench Chardonnay 2006. Main course: veal tenderloin, risotto of shiitake mushrooms, heirloom beets, triple crunch jus, with Stratus Vineyards Gamay 2007. Dessert: Grimo Farm chestnut chocolate pave; quince frangipane tart, homespun sorbet, with a selection of Stratus Icewines.




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