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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 330 (February 14, 2011)

Monday, February 7: Bitterly cold today, minus 27°C with the wind chill factor. Pinot the Wonder Dog objects to her blue balloon boots but she might stick to the sidewalk without them. Wrote my wine reviews for Post City magazines and On the Go Magazine.

Guy and his girlfriend Sasha came over for dinner. I prepared tomatoes and bocconcini on a bed of arugula with toasted pine nuts drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, served with Meyer Family Chardonnay Micro Cuvée 2009 (a new BC winery doing some very tasty Chardonnay and Pinot Noir). The BBQ steak, cauliflower with cheese sauce, with Oyster Bay Pinot Noir 2009 followed by cheeses and Dufflet Carrot Cake.

Tuesday, February 8: Lunch at Nota Bene with Seaton MacLean, co-owner of Closson Chase. He brought along three wines, all of which had been turned down for VQA accreditation by the LCBO panel. He asked me to taste them before he told me their fate.

  • Closson Chase Chardonnay Sans Chêne 2010: Straw colour; fresh, lively nose of apple; crisp and elegant on the palate with lemony acidity, great length. Chablisesque in style. (This wine used to sell for $25 but because of the lack of a VQA label, it's $19.95 at the winery. A great buy.)
  • Closson Chase Rosé 2010: From Pinot Noir – pink with a blue tint; high toned nose, dry and rustic with rhubarb and strawberry flavours (87). (The touch of volatile acidity may have been the reason for rejection, but it wasn't offensive and gave the wine a lifted nose. Again reduced in price to $19.95.)
  • Closson Chase Pinot Noir Watson Vineyard 2010: Ruby-coloured with a turbid note from being unfiltered; high toned, barnyard nose, dry Burgundian style (Côtes de Nuits), minerally, black cherry flavour (89). (The panel may have objected to the funkiness of this wine and its turbidity, but as an unrepentant Burgundy lover I like this wine. Now priced at $39.95.)

In the evening, down to Jamie Kennedy's Gilead Café for a tasting of two Sokol Blosser wines. This small restaurant is in a laneway, Gilead Place, and is the devil to get to. The tables had been taken out for the occasion to allow for the press to try the wines and taste Jamie's food. Alex Sokol Blosser flew in from Oregon to explain the wines, which are currently on the LCBO's general list line-priced at $19.95. Both are non-vintage blends based on the Australian model of taking wines from different regions. Evolution is a blend of nine (!) white grape varieties – Muscat Canelli, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Sylvaner, Chardonnay, etc., etc., -  providing an off-dry, aromatic wine ideal for Asian cuisine. Peachy flavour with orange blossom notes. Easy drinking (87). Meditrina Red (named for the Roman goddess of "health, longevity and wine" – I'll drink to that) is an unoaked blend of 23% Oregon Pinot Noir, 52% Columbia Valley Syrah and 25% Zinfandel from Paso Robles. A good introductory red wine – fruity and juicy with rounded edges, not very complex but gulpable with pizza or hamburgers (86). The two wines were served with Jamie's menu:

Hors d'Oeuvres:

Smoked Duck Breast & Pickled Wild Leek Rollups
~ Meditrina

Grilled Lamb Cevapcici
~ Meditrina

Smoked Whitefish Canapé
~ Evolution

Turned Potato with Lakefish Roe
~ Evolution

Passed Plates:

Meunière of Whitefish
~ Evolution

Cape Vessey Gnocchi with J.K. Tomato Sauce
~ Evolution

Wild Mushroom Toast with Soubise
~ Evolution

Tourtière with mustard Pickle
~ Meditrina

Braised Oxtail with Marrow Toast
~ Meditrina

Grilled Sausage with Red Cabbage
~ Meditrina

Wednesday, February 9: At 10:30 am the annual pre-Cuvée tasting at First Canadian Place on the 68th floor. There were 57 wines, one from each winery that had scored most points in the blind tasting by winemakers to determine which wines will be shown at Cuvée. Icewines always score well – my top marks went to Chateau des Charmes Riesling Icewine Paul Bosc Estate 2007 (93), Inniskillin Riesling Icewine 2007 (93), Pillitteri Riesling Icewine 2008 (92), Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery Cabernet Franc Icewine 2008 (92), Strewn Riesling Icewine 2008 (91). Best value Icewine: Caroline Cellars Vidal Icewine 2007 (90 – $25.75 for 375 mL at the winery). Top scoring table wines, all with 90 points: Henry of Pelham Reserve Cabernet Merlot 2007, Jackson Triggs Delaine Vineyard Syrah 2007, Niagara Teaching College Dean's List Chardonnay 2009, Thirty Bench Winemakers Small Lot Cabernet Franc 2007, Tawse Winery Cherry Avenue Pinot Noir 2008 and Creekside Queenston Road Vineyard Reserve Viognier 2009.

In the evening, down to Earl's for a pre-opening press event. Started with their signature Margarita and then sat down a ten-course meal, each of which was matched by a wine deftly chosen by Tony Gismondi. The dishes are all from Earl's regular menu.

Rocket Beet and Pear Salad with Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc 2010

Clam Chowder with Whatchamacallit Chardonnay 2006 (Kendall-Jackson)

Bronx Burger with Fries, with Albino Rhino Pale Ale

Spicy Seafood Linguini, with Antinori Toscana Santa Cristina 2009

Jeera Chicken Curry, with Joel Gott Zinfandel 2008 (Joel Gott was there, sitting opposite me)

By this time I'm getting pretty full but the food was delicious so I soldiered on.

Ribs & Cajun Chicken, with The Show Malbec 2009 (Argentina) made by Charles Bieber, who was also in attendance

Salmon with Brown Sugar & Mustard Glaze, with La Vieille Ferme Rosé 2009 (the only match that really didn't cut the mustard)

Porcini Crusted 7 oz Filet with Truffle Butter, with Errazuriz Merlot Estate 2010

Sticky Toffee Pudding, with Mionetti Il Prosecco

After the meal we tasted Joel Gott Alakai 2008 (a Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah blend) and Gott 7 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon 2007.

Thursday, February 10: Wrote my 680News wine reviews and worked on the consolidation points for entries to the Ontario Wine Awards. This evening a surprise party for my friend Stephen Pauwels's 40th birthday at Sopra. Steve's wife, Cathy, had asked me to recommend an inexpensive bubbly. I chose Mumm Cuvée Napa.

Friday, February 11: A Vintages tasting for the March 19th release. 106 wines. This evening the 32nd Annual Awards Dinner for Drinks Ontario at the National Club. The host county is Chile. As we milled about chatting we were offered glasses of Cono Sur Sparkling Brut NV, 35 South Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (killer), Vina Caliterra Tributo Cabernet Sauvignon and Torres Santa Digna Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2008.

At the table the menu began with Avocado Soup Purée with a Crab, Avocado and Corn Relish, with Errazuriz Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Emiliana Adobe Sauvignon Blanc 2010. Pan Seared Chilean Sea Bass with Santiago Sabayon served with Hazelnut Beurre Blanc, with Maycas del Limari Reserva Especial Chardonnay 2007 (the wine of the night) and Casa Tamaya Viognier/Chardonnay Reserva 2009.

Braised Beef on a Soft Polenta with Potato and Butternut Squash, served with Cabernet Essence, with Valdivieso of Chile Single Vineyard Reserve Malbec 2008, Vina Sena Arboleda Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 and Botalcura La Porfia Gran Reserva Carmenère 2006 (imported by Harry Drung, who was sitting at our table).

Dessert & Cheese: Apricot Meringue Andes Cream with Roasted Slivered Almonds, and Caramelized Walnut Layered Torte and Fresh Berries; a cheese tray of South American and Canadian Cheeses with Dried Fruit and Nuts, with Casa Silva Quinta Generación Red 2007, Concho y Toro Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 and Montes Late Harvest Gewurztraminer 2008.

After dessert, the presentations. I presented the Tony Aspler Blind Tasting Award to Eugene Mlynczyk, suggesting that he buy some vowels. I told the audience that Deborah and I were in Chile a month ago and that people there were talking about the Mayan Calendar prediction that the world would end in 2012. They said two things would survive the end of the world – the Elqui Valley and the LCBO. Bob Peter, the President & CEO, appreciated that.




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