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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 10 (November 22, 2004)

Monday, November 15: Spent the morning surfing the net for information about Ontario wineries that had not yet sent back the questionnaires I forwarded to them months ago. Trying to get information out of wineries is like pulling teeth. In the afternoon, David Lawrason came over for a tasting of wines for an internet wine delivery concept for imported wines as well as five Ontario wines. One of which was a Stonechurch Vidal Icewine 1991 that tasted like a Tokaji – green tea, burnt orange peel and toffee flavours. Very good indeed. Tried Vincor's Ancient Coast Gamay Nouveau for dinner (hamburger), very light and not a lot of character (the wine, not the burger).

Tuesday, November 16: The morning spent in front of the computer again, answering emails. Lunch with Peter Jensen to follow up on a rumour I heard about Creekside bringing out a new celebrity wine (can't say here what it is – journalistic ethics – which is an oxymoron). This evening is another Tuesday Tasting at Grano – the theme this month is Sonoma and Roberto Martella tells me we have 43 people booked in his private room. I only have three bottles of each wine, but from experience I know that 43 people won't show up. We got 36 which allowed for a decent two-ounce pour. The wines were:

  • Murphy-Goode Fumé Blanc 2002
  • Rodney Strong Chardonnay Chalk Hill 2002
  • Chateau St. Jean Pinot Noir 2002
  • Sebastiani Merlot 2000
  • Alexander Valley Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2002
  • Ravenswood Vintner's Blend Zinfandel 2002

At 8.30 pm, Deborah picked me up and we raced over to the Montreal Bistro, where Corinne Kovalsky, the communications director for Mission Hill Winery in BC, had invited a group to listen to jazz and to taste winemaker John Simes' latest releases. I have never tasted wine under these circumstances – in a darkened restaurant while listening to the Mike Murley Trio and Guido Basso on flugel horn, trying to eat quietly and make notes on the wines. The most interesting wine was Mission Hill's first vintage of a Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blend barrel-fermented in French oak. Simes made 900 cases of 2003 Sauvignon Semillon Select Lot Collection. At first smell it reminded me of Hunter Valley Semillon – quince and new leather. The flavour was elderberry, passionfruit and grapefruit with spicy oak, very elegant and complex. I was also taken with the Merlot Select Lot Collection 2002, a rich amalgam of ripe blueberry, white pepper and lemon zest.

Wednesday, November 17: Spent most of the day on the Canadian wine atlas, getting details and statistics on Ontario wineries. In the evening, a Flight Night at the Granite Club. Members can purchase a flight of three wines with their meal. Tonight it's Australian wines from the club's extensive cellar, either white or red.

  • Mitchell Watervale Riesling 2001
  • Willow Bridge Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2002
  • Hollick Chardonnay Reserve 2000


  • D'Arenberg "Cutodian" Grenache 1998
  • Moss Brothers Cabernet/Merlot 1999
  • Moss Brothers Shiraz 2000

Many found the Riesling to be too much like sniffing a gas tank. Interesting how New World Riesling ages much quicker than German or Alsace Riesling, taking on that characteristic diesel-petrol note quite early. (The same comment was made about Ontario Rieslings at the Canadian Wine Library tasting last Saturday.) The hit of the evening was the Moss Brothers Shiraz from the Margaret River, although I really liked the mature d'Arenberg Grenache, which has begun to take on those tertiary perfumes of older wines – leather, soy and coffee bean. One member, who had been at the old Barolo tasting last Thursday, told me that when a receptionist from the club phoned him to confirm his reservation for that tasting dinner, she asked him if he was coming to the "Barlow tasting."

Thursday, November 18: Today is Beaujolais Nouveau release day. There are many tastings going on around town. Forefront Communications have their European Gourmet Products Project at the Stone Distillery – olive oils, regional tapas, cheeses, wines from France, Italy, Spain and Portugal. The Small Winemakers have a tasting of their imported wines at their offices; the French Trade commission has a press tasting of the Beaujolais Nouveaux at the Delta Chelsea; and there's a Grand Marnier tasting somewhere. Can only make the Stone Distillery event because I have a tasting of Henry of Pelham wines at the National Club, who have agreed to let me sell copies of the three murder mysteries there. Then a dash over to the Delta Chelsea, where Deborah has set up a table to sell copies of Blood Is Thicker Than Beaujolais for consumers attending a Beaujolais evening. The new wines can be tasted with the named village wines. I only got to taste two of the Nouveau wines, not very impressive this year.

Friday: November 19: The second phase of December Vintages release. Everyone is complaining about the number of wines and spirits there are to taste. There are some 250 products released this month. The catalogue is getting harder and harder to negotiate. Trying to find the wines in different places is trying and everyone in the tasting room gets grumpy. My top marks went to Chateau Montelena Chardonnay 2002 from Napa.

Picked up a copy of the Holiday edition of the LCBO's Food & Drink magazine. It is as large as the telephone directory for Regina – 338 pages, of which 144 are advertising. No wonder the magazine industry is up in arms. The LCBO has hoovered up all the advertising dollars from the beverage alcohol industry.

Saturday, November 20: This evening is a Saintsbury Dinner night. In 1982 Tony Hirons, the Merchant Vintner, David Rowlands, who used to own Parkes restaurant on Carleton Street, and I started a dinner club. The idea was that we would meet in each other's homes; the host would cook and invite another couple and we would all bring wines to a theme. There were only three rules: 1) a guest could only be invited once by the host; 2) we would not cut bread but pass it around the table to be torn; 3) you could criticise the wines but not the host's cooking or his wife's driving. Two years ago, when David Rowlands moved up to Collingwood, we invited a fellow wine writer, Irvin Wolkoff, to become a member of the group of three. Tonight it is Tony Hiron's turn to cook. He has chosen South of France as his theme. His guests are Sheila Puritt (who writes on cocktails for this site) and John Tait, manager of the Vintages store in Mississauga. Here's the menu with the wines.

Pissaladiere Tavel Rose 2003 Chateau de Trinquevedel
Warm Chevre Salad Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc 2000 Dom. Mathieu
Costiere de Nimes Blanc 2000 Chateau de Nages "Cuvee Joseph Torres" (first rate)
Leg of Lamb Provencal
Cheese from Southern France
Minervois "Philarmonie" 2000 Reserve de Veze Charles Frederic
"Cuvee Digene" 1997 Vin de Pays des Coteaux de Murviel Dom de Ravanes (excellent)
Madiran "Montus" 2001 Alain Brumont (also good)
Madiran 1997 Château d'Aydie
Chateauneuf-du-Pape rouge 1998 Dom. de Chanssaud (my contribution, a little on the light side. The bottle of Robert Skalli Merlot I also brought was corked!)
Bandol 2000 Dom. des Baguiers
Chateau Romanin 2000 [biodynamic] Les Baux de Provence
Basket Press Shiraz 2001 Tait (Barossa Valley) – John Tait brought this one which was meant for Tony Hirons' cellar but somehow it got opened. That's the way these evenings go...
Dessert Pears poached in red wine compote

Sunday, November 21: Grey Cup day. A meeting of the Wine Writers' Circle at the wine storage facility, The Wine Reserve, at King and Spadina. It's also the Santa Claus Parade and the subway is full of kids with their parents traveling to Yonge and Bloor. The driver is working the kids up to a frenzy at each stop by exclaiming over the public address system: "Getting nearer... Almost there..."

There were 61 wines to taste, mostly from the general list. A lacklustre bunch of wines, only three of which I would recommend: Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc 2003 from New Zealand, Beringer Napa Valley Chardonnay and Beringer Stone Cellars Merlot 2001. These will be my Wines of the Week for next week.




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