A Wine Lover's Diary, part 12 (December 6, 2004)
Monday, November 29: A morning directors'
meeting of the Independent Wine Educational Guild. Frank, an accountant
who has looked after the Guild's books for years and in whose office we
meet, smokes like a chimney. I'd forgotten what it's like to sit in a
room with an active ashtray. At noon the VQA held a press conference to
announce the establishment of eleven sub-appellations in the Niagara Peninsula
region. Dr. Tony Shaw of Brock University told us the boundaries were
drawn on the basis of climate, topography, soil and geology. I fear that
this will only confuse the consuming public more and will lead to higher
prices when you see Beamsville Bench or Niagara River on a label.
From that press conference in The Tastings Rooms I rushed over to Hart
House for a bizarre tasting of Spanish wines wineries looking for
importing agents in Ontario. Each producer has a curtained-off area, a
table and a couple of chairs so that they could speak confidentially to
prospective agents. Their wines were also on display for sampling at a
long table down the centre of the room. It was rather like a vinous bordello
you found something you liked and you disappeared into a cubicle
to further the negotiation. All very confusing.
Dinner at Piatto in Mississauga, where Fernando Garcia is the executive
chef. He has an importing company called Spain Only 1 and was holding
a dinner for the International Marketing Director of Grupo Yllera, Sandrine
Castels. Ther guests had all been told different times. I arrived with
Fernando's partner keith Gilbert at 7 pm; others arrived at 7:30
and at 8 pm. I liked the Bracamonte Trempranillo Crianza 2000 from
Ribera del Duero and the Yllera Reserva 1998 from Castillo y Leon. With
all this Spanish wine I'm getting into the mood for a trip there next
Tuesday, November 30: Was meant to have
lunch at Jamie Kennedy's with Norman Hardie, the winemaker at Carmela
in Prince Edward County. He called to cancel, saying he had lost his footing
while pouring the last of the Vidal into the press and smashed his knee,
broke some teeth and had to be taken to hospital for emergency dentistry.
Winemaking is an extreme sport. I nearly bought an eight-acre parcel of
land in the County three years ago, but it was sold from under me when
I went to the real estate office at 8:30 am put down a deposit. I
think God was telling me not to become a grape grower... Deborah is on
at me to do something about the number of bottles which I am meant to
taste that are collecting on the kitchen table. So I spent the evening
opening wine and making notes until she got back from work. I dropped
off a few bottles to neighbours. We polished off the Magnotta Sparkling
Vidal Icewine, which is very good. Actually, Magnotta deserves the credit
for having been the first to produce this wine; now at least half a dozen
wineries are making it. Talking of extreme sport, I think they should
have an Icewine treading competition put the frozen grapes in a
lagar, as they do in the Douro, and let the lads go at it.
Wednesday, December 1: It was hard running
in the rain this morning at 6:30 to work out. Thank heaven for Gore-tex.
A meeting of the advisory board for Santé, the week-long wine festival
in May that used to be sponsored by Toronto Life and has been taken over
this year by the Bloor-Yorkville Business Association, who were involved
with the event at the beginning. One of our jobs as advisors is to select
the wines for the gala dinner from all the wines that are featured in
the festival. Some fifty-three wineries from around the world are involved
in a variety of tastings and seminars, lunches and dinners as well as
wine tastings in local stores. Santé is modelled on the annual
Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival which, over some twenty-odd years, has
developed into the most prestigious international tasting event in Canada.
The idea is that the winemakers or winery owners have to pour their wines,
not the local agent or export director.
Thursday, December 2: Sent out the invitations
to judges for the 10th anniversary Ontario Wine Awards. Judging will be
on two consecutive Saturdays, March 26 and April 2. I will need at least
a dozen judges.
An interview this morning at 8 am with CBC Halifax for a documentary
they are doing on Nova Scotia wine. Tried to get down to the atlas again,
but there were too many interruptions emails, phones ringing and
Tanya the cat wanting to sit on my lap. A telephone conference with the
Wine Council and various Ministry of Agriculture guys about a video tasting
of Icewine for media and trade in Shanghai next Thursday. The industry
is concerned about the alarming growth of counterfeit Icewine in the Far
East. Lunch at Hannah's Kitchen with Eric Wright, my old Crime Writers'
of Canada buddy. We talk about the books we are reading (in my case A
Sunburned Country), movies we have seen, other crime writers. Eric
is recently back from England, where he goes every year. He enthuses about
a travelling opera company performance of La Bohème he and
his wife Ann saw in Cheltenham. Am having high speed put in on my computer.
At the moment I can't get a connection, but the Bell man says I should
be connected by 5 pm. Every time I have tried to get high speed in
the past it's ended in disaster with me calling the company in frustration
and telling them to take their equipment away.
Friday, December 3: Flying to Quebec
this afternoon and there are dozens of details to wrap up before I leave.
I need an evil twin. Lunch with Norm Hardie at Jamie Kennedy's. He's the
winemaker at Carmela Estate in Prince Edward County and will open his
own winery next year. He has brought along two Carmela wines, a Riesling
2003 (with 25% fruit from Niagara) and a first vintage of Cabernet Franc
from Carmela's three-year-old vines. Both very encouraging the
Riesling is very Mosel in style, tart grapefruit, green plum and lemon
flavours. The Cabernet Franc is in Bourgueil style sour cherry
with a wisp of oak. Norman has made wine in Oregon, South Africa, Burgundy,
New Zealand and California. He is bullish on the potential of the County
"the best combination of soils for growing Pinot Noir outside
of Burgundy," he says.