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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 312 (October 12, 2010)

Monday, October 4: This is the sixth anniversary of my weekly wine diary. In the afternoon, an Amarone tasting put on by Vintages, featuring 12 producers who were all on hand to pour their wines. Sandro Boscaini of Masi introduced me to Stefano Cesari of Brigaldara, whose wines I had not tasted before. His Brigaldara Case Vecie Amarone 2005 was my top wine of the tasting, followed by Brigaldara Case Vecie Amarone 2006. Other stand-outs were Masi Campolongo di Torbe Amarone 2004 and Allegrini Amarone 2006. Best value: Tedeschi Amarone 2006.

My friend Pooch was in town from California and I asked Charton Hobbs, the importing agents for Santa Carolina wines, if Pooch could join me for dinner with the winemaker Andres Caballero at Donatella's. We arrived 45 minutes late because a woman went through a red light as we were heading south on Jarvis and Pooch T-boned her car in an effort to stop. Nobody was hurt but it took about an hour to sort it out with the police. We tasted through a range of the Santa Carolina wines and I was impressed by the high-end Carménères (Santa Carolina Reserva de Familia Carmenere 2008 at $17.95 and the top-of-the-line Santa Carolina Herencia Carmenere 2007). Also enjoyed Santa Carolina VSC 2007 (a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Petit Verdot).

Tuesday, October 5: Spent part of the morning writing my speech for Grapes for Humanity's dinner on Thursday. This afternoon to the Royal Ontario Museum for the annual Wines of Chile tasting. A good venue for tasting since there's lots of light. Sixty wineries were pouring and I concentrated on the Syrahs. My top scores for Syrah went to Geo Wine Chono Reserva Syrah 2008, Mont Gras Antu Ninquen Syrah 2008 and Concha y Toro Maycas del Limari Reserva Especial Syrah 2007. Best value Syrah: Cono Sur Bicycle Shiraz 2009 ($9.95) and San Esteban In Situ Syrah Winemaker Selection 2008 ($11.95). Other top scoring wines: Santa Carolina Sauvignon Blanc 2009, El Principal 2006 (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carmenère and Cabernet Franc – this got my highest score of the tasting) and La Rosa Don Reca Cuvee 2008 (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Carmenère).

At dinner at home I tasted Niagara College Teaching Winery's Pinot Noir 2009, a really fine effort in a tricky vintage. (Solid ruby colour with a minerally, raspberry nose heightened with vanilla oak; medium-bodied, well extracted raspberry flavours with a lingering fruity sweetness; soft tannins, well integrated oak and good balancing acidity. (90)).

Wednesday, October 6: Delivered the wines for the dinner and the auction to the Four Seasons Hotel. Which took virtually all morning since it involved nearly fifty cases of varying sizes. They had to be transported from my cellar in the parking lot of the condo to a secured room on the fourth floor of the hotel.

In the evening, a dinner for members of the wine press at Colborne Lane with Roederer Champagne's export director, Frederic Heidsieck (who will be coming to tomorrow's Grapes for Humanity dinner, since his company donated the champagne for the reception). I wasn't aware of just how many wineries Roederer owns: Roederer Estate and Scharffenberger in California, Champagne Deutz and La Maison Delas in the Rhône, Ramos Pinto and its vineyards in the Douro, Domaines Ott in Provence, Châteaux de Pez and Haut Beauséjour in Bordeaux (Saint Estèphe) and Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande (Pauillac) and Bernadotte (Haut Médoc). The first time I visited the Roederer cellars in Reims was in 1976, where I met a young Anthony von Mandl, whose uncle Joseph Miltz represented the house in Canada at the time.

We started off with Louis Roederer Brut Premier. First course: yuzu vinaigrette, pickled ginger, cucumber black sesame, shiso, accompanied by Champagne Louis Roederer Cristal 2004 (which turned out to be the best wine of the night – very elegant, white flowers, lemon, honey, green apple flavours, very lively and fresh on the palate – 93).

Second course: seared scallop, coconut milk, sweet chilli, citrus fruit, Thai basil, crème fraîche (not a happy dish to match the Champagne Louis Roederer Cristal 2002. The wine is broader on the palate than the 2004 but tighter, more minerally and acidic. Needs time – 91). Third course: rock hen, heirloom carrots, squash stuffing, confit potato, served with Champagne Louis Roederer Cristal 2000 (very delicate, and floral, more like the 2004 in style – 92).

Cheese selection, with Château de Pez 2005 (55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Merlot – dense purple, cedar and black fruits on the nose; great extraction, dry and supple with round tannins – 89+). Dessert: Chocolate Bar, Hazelnut, Huckleberry, Malted Milk, with Ramos Pinot Quinta de Ervamoira 10 Year Old Tawny (a perfect match).

Thursday, October 7: Down to the Four Seasons to unpack the wines with a group of volunteers (Glen Seigel, Graham Duncan, Julian Hitner, Meagan Groves, Joanne and Sam Paradiso). First we had to put all the wines into lots for the live and silent auctions and then transport them from the set-up room to the Windsor room where the dinner will take place. At 6 pm, changed into a suit and tie for the Louis Roederer Champagne reception in Truffles. By 7:30 pm the guests moved up to the Windsor room. Michelle Chaplin of BRAC, the NGO that will be the recipient of the proceeds from the event, has flown up from New York to speak. Esther Sarick presented Todd Halpern with the Grapes for Humanity Humanitarian Award (a champagne sabre) and the live auction began during the main course.

Dinner Menu

Smoked Ontario Kolapore Springs Speckled Trout with Celery Root & Cranberry Remoulade, Green Onion Aioli
Goat Cheese Beignet, Chestnut & Pear relish

Remoissenet Chassagne Montrachet 2006
Remoissenet Puligny-Montrachet Referts 2006

Slow Roasted Venison, Pumpkin Puree, Sauteed Wild Mushrooms, Truffled Brussels Sprout Salad, Confit Shallot Jus

Remoissenet Chambolle-Musigny Echanges 2006
Remoissenet Clos Vougeot 2007 


Lemon Almond Saverin with spiced Apple Compote and Lindt Orange Chocolate

Domaine Pinnacle Ice Cider

Coffee, Decaffeinated, Tea

Remy Martin Cognac XO.

We raised just shy of $48,000 from the live auction. Proceeds from the silent auction and the sale of the Screwpull centerpiece have yet to be calculated. A very successful evening.

Friday, October 8: A tasting for the Wine Writers Circle of  48 sparkling wines. Followed in the early afternoon by a "Discovery Tasting of Port and Douro Wines" at the Berkeley Church Heritage Event Centre. My top scoring wine here was Quinta do Vallado 10 Year Old Tawny. Came across a new producer called Marka (an amalgam of the names of the mother of the winemaker Carlos Agrellos (MARjorie  KAthleen Durham Agrellos)). Marka Colheita Tinto 2008 and Marka Reserva Tinto 2008 were fruity and well balanced and not as rustic as most Douro reds. Also memorable were the Quinta do Crasto reds – Crasto and Flor de Crasto.

In the evening I had to drop the wines that Arron Barberian had bought at last night's auction to his restaurant. He invited me in to meet an Italian producer, Alberto Gianotti, owner of Diadema, whose Swarovski-crystal-encrusted bottles are much sought after. Happily, the quality of the contents lives up to the glittering package. Gianotti also produces champagne and olive oil and owns a beautiful Tuscan hotel complex called Relais Villa l'Olmo.




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