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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 11 (November 29, 2004)

Monday, November 22: Spent the morning writing the January column for Post City magazines on my predictions for 2005 vis-à-vis wine. Once the article is published it will appear on this site. I had arranged to have lunch with Jamieson Kerr of Crush to discuss holding the Ontario Wine Awards judging in his restaurant next year – the 10th anniversary of the competition. He wasn't available, so Sandy Bavington of Forefront Communications, Sadie Darby, who runs the logistics of the competition, and I met with Crush's events coordinator Christie Penner Worden.

At 4 pm I'm to be interviewed by CHQR radio in Calgary about screwcaps. Driving back home from King and Spadina, we got caught in a traffic jam on University Avenue and I was concerned I wouldn't get home in time. But I did. Had an interesting wine for dinner – Bouchard Père & Fils Macon Supérieur 2003 – a well-made wine for $11.95 (light-bodied, dry cherry and raspberry flavours, firm and easy drinking).

Tuesday: November 23: A day spent writing the editorials on the Canadian wine scene for Tom Stevenson's annual Wine Report – a newsy book that looks at all the wine regions of the world, offering opinon, vintage notes, recommendations for the best producers, best bargains, most improved wineries, etc. Ann Sperling, the winemaker at Malivoire, has invited me to a winemaker dinner at Perigee in the Distillery district. Here's the menu:

Malivoire winery
Perigee Restaurant
"A winegrower's dinner"

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Petit gris escargot shish kebab


Roast pickerel fillet
fresh and dried date ragout
2003 estate pinot gris


pettivier of dungeness crab
and marilyn blue crab
2002 moira vineyard chardonnay


Soup, salad and a sandwich!
2003 estate pinot noir


Olive oil sorbet


Smoked bison tenderloin
salt crusted potato
barbeque sauce jus
1999 old vines foch
2002 old vines foch


Tommes de savoie
sweet pumpkin tortellini


Citrus poached apple
candied pear
late harvest vidal ice
2003 late harvest vidal

The Malivoire Ladybug Rosé 2003 has developed into a delicious wine. The Pinot Gris 2003 is less extracted than previous vintages but racier and lively in the mouth, a great match for the snails. The Chardonnay opened up nicely in the glass, which suggests that decanting it would have helped. The real surprise was the Pinot Noir 2003, a very elegant wine with a nose of raspberry and beetroot, dry and fruity in Volnay style with a spicy, firm finish. At $26 a bottle from the winery, this is a great buy for Burgundy lovers.

Took a cab home from the restaurant. The driver was an Englishman who loves cricket. We talked about the glory days of English cricket, when Hutton and Washbrook opened for England and Dennis Compton came in first wicket down.

Wednesday, November 24: David Brown, a meat consultant and BBQ expert, came to lunch. I hadn't seen him in years. Over pizza and a bottle of Sandhill Sangiovese 2003 from BC we talked about a new beverage he wants to create. This evening The Granite club has its annual wine fair, where members can purchase wines from importers who supply the club. Best wine tasted – D'Alessandro Maiestatis Primitivo 2000 from Puglia – a rich, plummy, full-bodied wine with a flavour of fresh dates (from a new importing agency called Stem, 905-417-2099).

Thursday, November 25: I read in the paper this morning that Corlies Smith, the acquisitions editor a Viking in New York, had died at the age of 75. I knew him as Cork Smith. He bought two of the political thrillers I wrote with Gordon Pape in the 1970s, Chain Reaction (about the international repercussions following the assassination of the Premier of Quebec) and The Scorpion Sanction (about the rise of a fundamentalist Islamic movement in Egypt who try to blow up the Aswan dam with a nuclear bomb). Gordon and I visited Egypt in 1978 to research that novel.

Dinner at Oro with Philip Mirabelli of Noble Estates, who imports the wines of Rasteau, a very good small co-op in the southern Rhone. The winemaker Philippe Bru was there to lead us through his wines. We started with 2003 Les Viguieres Blanc, a blend of Grenache Blanc, Clairette and Bourbulenc (a full-bodied wine with a nose of pear skin, spicy and stonily dry – a good accompaniment to the fish course). With lamb, 2003 tradition Rouge, a Côtes du Rhône Villages, mainly Grenache with 20% Syrah and 10% Mourvèdre. A very serviceable red, full-bodied, powerful and earthy blackberry fruit. Then we went up in quality to the 2001 Prestige Rouge which has 35% Syrah in the blend, a much more distinguished wine with blackberry, licorice and leather flavours. With the cheese course we were served Les Hauts du Village Rouge 2000, a more careful selection of fruit with a rich black cherry and mineral character. The final wine with dessert was Rasteau's 2000 Signature Vin Doux Naturel – a wine made from old Grenache vines and stopped during fermentation with brandy. Only 20,000 bottles were made, and Philippe Bru says they only make it one year in three. He also told me that Rasteau, aloing with Beaumes-de-Venise Rouge and Vinsobres, will be elevated soon from the Côtes du Rhône-Villages appellation to named cru – to join the other 17 village-named wines in the southern Rhone.

Here's the menu:

Roasted Halibut with Baby clams and
chorizo-parsley broth

2003 'Les Viguiers' Blanc
AOC Cotes du Rhone
13% alc./vol. Est. Retail $13.05

Onion Risotto with Infornata olive, chevre and
preserved lemon

2003 'Tradition' Rouge Rasteau
AOC Cotes-du-Rhone Villages
14% alc./vol. Est. Retail $ 15.10

Basil and Mint-Crusted Australian Rack of
Lamb with Moroccan-style braised bean and octopus cassoulet, in a spiced lemon raita

2001 'Prestige' Rouge Rasteau
AOC Cotes-du-Rhone Villages
14% alc./vol. Est. Retail $ 20.55
2000 'Les Hauts du Village' Rouge Rasteau
AOC Cotes-du-Rhone Villages
13.5% alc./vol. Est. Retail $ 27.45

Chocolate hazelnut Pot de crème with truffle ice cream
2000 'Signature' Vin Doux Naturel Rouge
AOC Rasteau
16.5% alc./vol. Est. Retail $ 27.45

Friday, November 26: A Vintages tasting this morning of new general list products, gift packs for Christmas and some Classics Catalogue products. The best wine I tasted was the Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 2000, which had a glorious nose of chocolate and cassis. The Patrice Rion Vosne-Romanée 2002 was more restrained than is usual from this house, not as forward and more cellar-worthy. I also like the Mitolo Shiraz G.A.M from Australia. The G.A.M. threw me at first – Grenache, Mourvèdre but what's the A? It turns out this is not an acronym for grapes but the first names of the owner's kids – Gemma, Alex and Marco. Dropped in to the opening of Didier Leroy's new restaurant, Didier's, at Yonge and St. Clair, where Rhodes used to be. Surprised to see so many sommeliers there – a good sign.

Saturday, November 27: The Gourmet Wine & Food Show at the Convention Centre. I am to lead a tasting called "Cabernet Sauvignon – The World's Greatest Grape," featuring six California Cabernets. The tasting before mine runs over and we have to scramble to clear the tables, set new glasses and pour six wines for 75 people. The wines were:

  • Glass Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2001
  • Robert Mondavi Private Selection – Cabernet Sauvignon 2001
  • Murphy-Goode Cabernet Sauvignon 2001
  • Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve – Cabernet Sauvignon 2001
  • Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 1999
  • E&J Gallo Northern Sonoma Estate Bottled Cabernet Sauvignon 1999

The Murphy-Goode and Kendall-Jackson were the stars. Some tasters detected a chlorine note in the Gallo, and the Beringer showed some dirty wood nuances.

The booths at this year's show were much more elaborate and architecturally interesting than in previous years – especially the Chilean section. California booth apparently had go-go dancers, which I missed but was told were very eye catching. Good legs, good bodies.

Sunday, November 28: For the past twenty-five years, cognac-lover Mendy Sharf has held a cognac tasting for his friends. I've attended about ten of them over the years. The tasting, held at 2 pm in the party room of his apartment building, begins with Tommy Schwarz singing O Sole Mio (con brio). There are four cognacs to taste and each glass is numbered. We have to state our order of preference and why we like or dislike the various brandies. This year Mendy chose:

  • Marcel Ragnaud Grande Reserve Fontveille, a Grande Fine Champagne
  • Hardy's Noces d'Or Grande Champagne
  • Rémy Martin Extra Fine Champagne
  • Marcel Ragnaud Heritage Mme. Paul Ragnaud Grande Champagne

The two Ragnauds came from New York, the Hardy and Remy Martin from Vintages.

The Fontveille was 44% alcohol and really should have been tasted last. The group rating was: first Fontveille, second Heritage, third Rémy Martin and fourth Hardy's. My ranking put the Heritage first (a beautifully balanced cognac with a spicy, oaky ethereal nose; rich and mouth-filling with great balance and a lingering finish), followed by the Fontveille, then Hardy's and then Rémy. But they were all very good cognacs. One of the tasters quoted an expression in Yiddish which he translated as "The bride only had one fault: she was too beautiful."




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