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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 286 (April 12, 2010)

Monday, April 5: Spent the morning evaluating wine for a collector. Interesting to see other people's taste in wines. This one was very eclectic. For dinner, with linguine carbonara, a bottle of Painted Rock Syrah 2007 from the Okanagan. A winery new to me. Very impressive Syrah in northern Rhône style.

Tuesday, April 6: Getting prepared for the Ontario Wine Awards judging this weekend. Each year Jeff Davis, a top tech guy who now lives in New York, updates the program he created for the competition. For dinner, with pan-fried tilapia, Closson Chase South Clos Vineyard Chardonnay 2007, a very rich wine from a warm vintage.

Wednesday, April 7: Drove down to Niagara to interview Thomas Bachelder and to taste his 2009 Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the barrel. It's going to be a fabulous vintage, amazing depth of colour and really marked terroir differences between the vineyards: La Petite Vineyard – very lacey and charming; Claystone, meaty with good grip; Le Clos, round and supple; Le Grand Clos – very much like Corton. The terroir differences in Chardonnay equally marked: Talon Ridge – spicy, lemony, minerally; Claystone, much tighter with pear flavours; the eastern block of Le Clos, chunky, caramel. Thomas calls 2009 "a leave it alone vintage."

Lunch at About Thyme Bistro in Vineland with Thomas and Dorian Andrewes, who is organizing the International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration (I4C for short) in Niagara next year. We shared a bottle of Hidden Bench Chardonnay 2006. I ordered charcuterie and grilled trout. Great desserts – carrot cake and chocolate cake.

My son, Guy, came over for dinner and signed me up on Facebook with a fan page. Guy loves Deborah's meat sauce so we had spaghetti with a bottle of Inniskillin Shiraz Cabernet 2007.

Thursday, April 8: A telephone interview with a company that has been hired to rebrand the wines of Ontario. I have never been quite sure what rebranding means, especially when it comes to wine. Ultimately, wine has to speak for itself. It's good, bad or indifferent. An entire region includes all of these possibilities. Curious to find out what they come up with.

In the evening, down to Waddington's Auction House on Spadina for an event called "A Night Divine in aid of The Alzheimer Society" – one of the charities supported by Temple Har Zion. A silent auction, a live auction and a tasting of fine wines. I had a desk to sell copies of Blood Is Thicker Than Beaujolais, with half the proceeds going to the charity. The auction prices were great for bargain hunters.

Friday, April 9: A Vintages tasting this morning. They seem to be getting larger and larger. At 7 pm down to Cava Restaurant for a winemaker dinner with Miguel Torres Jr., who manages the family winery Santa Digna in Chile. We start off with a taste of an experimental champagne-method sparkling wine called Estelado made from the Pais grape (from which Chileans make Pisco). It was very fresh and zesty, citrus and mineral flavours with a delicate floral note. Chef Chris MacDonald's team prepared a fascinating menu to match the Santa Digna wines:

Pineapple & Jicama Salada with Smoked Trout & Chichorrones (fried pork rinds), served with Santa Digna Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (dry, passion fruit and guava flavours (88))

Pork Belly Tamal with Roasted Tomatillo Sauce & Morels, with Santa Digna Carmenère 2008 (dense purple colour; spicy, cedar, black fruit flavours with a licorice note and peppery finish (87))

Venison Anticucho with a Warm Cabbage & Walnut Salad – Cava Corn, with Santa Digna Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (cedar, sweet blackcurrant flavour with a medicinal note, soft tannins (88))

Braised Veal Cheek With Black Rice, Roasted Pearl Onions & Swiss Chard, served with Manso De Velasco 2006 (100-year-old Cabernet Sauvignon vines – tasted like a Haut-Brion from a warm vintage, lovely sweet fruit, seamless and hedonistic (94))

Miguel had brought a bottle of a new wine, Empedrado Merlot 2009, from the Maule Valley he likened to the Priorat. The 364 hectare property is near Constitucion. It was a mouth-filling wine with blueberry and herbal-medicinal notes, fresh and lively with vanilla oak notes (89).

Seville Orange Semifreddo with Porcelana Chocolate & Pistachio Turron, with Moscatel Oro Floralis (a fortified Muscat, sweet orange and honey flavour).

Chef Chris MacDonald shows Miguel Torres Jr. his morels

Saturday, April 10: The second day of judging for the Ontario Wine Awards in the basement of Crush. The windows are at sidewalk level and the passers-by stare in curiously at the panels of judges with a forest of glasses in front of them.

The Icewine judges in action. Photo by Konrad Ejbich

Sunday, April 11: The judging of sweet wines for the Ontario Wine Awards. Came home to an email from Dean Tudor about taking your dog to a winery. The Kunde Family Estate in Kenwood, California, "offers a series of hikes meant to be experienced with your friendly canine at your side. Tours are conducted by Jeff Kunde, a fourth generation winegrower, and include a moderately strenuous hike from the Sonoma Valley floor up to 1,400 feet into the Mayacamas Mountain range. You and your dog will enjoy beautiful wine country views and learn about the Kunde Family Estate's sustainable winegrowing practices. After all the hard work you are rewarded with a wine tasting and a box lunch with a view. Hikes ... cost $45. A portion of the fee is donated to Canine Companions and Sonoma County Humane Society." I put the concept to Pinot the Wonder Dog but she hates driving to Niagara, let alone flying to California.




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