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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 18 (January 17, 2005)

Sunday, January 9: The 6th Annual Tony Aspler Blind tasting Award was held at its traditional venue, The Wine Establishment. The competition is open to wine agencies that belong to the Ontario Imported Wine, Spirit and Beer Association. There is always some reticence among the trade to put their palates on the line, but ten brave souls signed up when the contest was announced in December. But when the moment of truth came only six showed up – two called in sick and two just didn't materialize. Here are the wines they had to identify blind.

  • Wine # 1: Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Brut (sparkling, Ontario)
  • Wine # 2: Louis de Bruc Le Couvent des Dames Vouvray 2001 (Loire)
  • Wine # 3: Roberto Anselmi San Vincenzo 2002 (Soave, Veneto)
  • Wine # 4: Jackson-Triggs Meritage Grand Reserve 1999 (Ontario)
  • Wine # 5: Tedeschi Capitel Monte Fontana Recioto Valpolicella 1999 (Veneto)
  • Wine # 6: Graham's Six Grapes Ruby Port N/V (Portugal)

The winner was Scott Montgomery from Churchill Cellars. Churchill Cellars takes it very seriously; they have a taste-off in their office to choose their two representatives for the competition. This is the third time Scott has won the award and he says he will now retire his palate. Past winners:

2004 Scott Montgomery

2003 Rob Jull

2002 Paul Lato

2001 Scott Montgomery

2000 Bruce Maclean

Scott will be presented with an engraved decanter at the OWISBA annual dinner next month.

Monday, January 10: Wrote a commentary for Tidings magazine based on a quote from Bill Bryson's Australian travelogue, In a Sunburned Country – how he couldn't understand why people wanted to visit wineries. When the issue is published the piece will appear on this site. Philip Mirabelli has invited Deborah and me to attend a dinner at Toula Restaurant atop the Westin Harbour Castle, hosted by the irrepressible Sandro Bottega, the grappa producer from Veneto. Sandro is the Peter Pan of the Italian distilling industry; he never sits still and never stops talking. Ideas pop out of his head like sparks. There are twenty or so of us at table and he tells us his business is up 25% in Ontario, that he has bought a property near Conegilano with a 400-year-old villa and that he wants to restore and build a new distillery there. He's designed a new flute for his Prosecco, created a new grappa-based Amaro and a white chocolate grappa to go along with his milk chocolate grappa. He's justifiably proud of his Grappa Fume, a grappa that has been aged for 18–20 months in Allier oak. It's a lovely deep amber colour, with a nose of vanilla and tobacco leaf and very smooth on the palate with a touch of sweetness.

Toula produced an excellent meal to accompany his wines and grappas:

ANTIPASTO
Portobello, oyster and shiitake mushrooms with parmigiano slivers and fresh herbs
Vino dei Poeti Sparkling Prosecco

PRIMI
Classic risotto "milanese" with saffron
Vino dei Poeti Sparkling Prosecco DOC

SECONDI
Provimi veal chop with black Norcia truffle and Toula's roasted potatoes
Equinozio IGT "Super Tuscan"

DESSERT
Crema veneziana
Vin Santo

COFFEE, TEA, ESPRESSO
Grappa Fume
Gianduia Crema Cioccolato Gianduia e Grappa
Alexander Cognac XO

Tuesday, January 11: Deborah drew my attention to an article in the Toronto Star dated December 31 (she likes to leave her newspapers to mature). It was about hangover remedies. "Haitians stick thirteen black-headed pins into the cork of the bottle that did the damage." Or "Puerto Ricans are known to rub lemons under their 'drinking arm'." I guess it saves on deodorant... Had lunch with my old friend Patrick Burroughs at Lai Wha Heen, to my mind the best Chinese restaurant in Toronto. Patrick has a penchant for Alsace wines and although there are several on the list we stuck with tea. Cooked a turkey curry for dinner (frozen turkey left over from Thanksgiving Dinner!). Served it with Dopff au Moulin Riesling 2003 – a great match because of the touch of residual sweetness in the wine. Patrick should have been here.

Wednesday, January 12: Deborah's birthday. I bought her a Majorca pearl bracelet when I was in Spain (it went over very well). Lunch at Grano with a company that puts together wine tours. We drank a bottle of Anselmi San Vincenzo 2003 (the wine formerly known as Soave: Roberto Anselmi took the regional designation off the label because he was unhappy with much of the wine so labelled.) Worked on the atlas, then prepared an early dinner of tilapia and veggies which we ate with a bottle of Guy Saget Sauvignon Blanc 2003 from Touraine. Interesting to see a varietally-named wine from this region. After dinner I opened a bottle of Saget's Cabernet Franc 2003, which I liked well enough to make a Wine of the Week for its bargain price of $11.45.

Thursday, January 13: Sadie Darby came over today to put together a list of the Quebec wines I gathered on my trip there for a Wine Writers' Circle tasting on Sunday. There are twenty-seven in all. It's going to be a big tasting because the circle has sixty-odd other wines to taste. This evening I hosted a dinner at Canoe. A software company was the successful bidder for a wine dinner at a fund-raiser for diabetes donated by Peter Oliver and me. Peter had generously given carte blanche to his sommelier to choose wines for an eight-course meal in Canoe's private dining room. There were eleven of us at table. It was a riotous affair and the food was stunning. Here's the menu:

  • Oysters with Pierre Peters Blanc de Blancs Champagne
  • Hot & Cold Foie Gras – Huet Vouvray Demi Sec 2000 (Loire)
  • B.C. Sablefish, Oxtail, Black Trumpets & Mustard – Cedar Creek Platinum Reserve Pinot Noir 2001 (BC)
  • Semolina Pudding, Rabbit Confit, Water Spinach and Truffle – Bastianich Vespa Bianco 2001 (Friuli) (a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Picolit!)
  • Blood Orange & Campari Ice with Lemon Balm
  • Nunavut Caribou, Chocolate Walnuts and Salsify – Robert Craig Syrah 2001 (Central Coast, California)
  • Stick Toffee Pudding – Taylor Fladgate 10 Year-Old Tawny Port
  • Chef's selection of cheeses – Taylor Fladgate 20-Year-Old Tawny Port

The CEO of the company wanted to show his staff the difference between Tawny Port and Vintage so he ordered a bottle of Dow 1980. And then grappa. I left them at it by eleven o'clock (having arrived at 5:30 pm to taste the wines).

Friday, January 14: It was really hard to get up at 6:45 am this morning and jog to the gym. But I find it's good to work out before a big tasting – the second half of the Vintages February release. There has been some email correspondence among wine writers that it helps your teeth if you don't brush before a tasting. The plaque or whatever protects your teeth from acidity. I tried it this morning. Didn't like the feel of furry teeth. With dinner (Italian Wedding Soup and half a Dr. Oetker pizza) the remains of a bottle of Jackson-Triggs Cabernet-Shiraz 2002 from British Columbia. An enjoyable wine but heavy on the American oak.

 

 

 

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