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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 19 (January 24, 2005)

Monday, January 17: Yesterday the Wine Writers' Circle met at the Summerhill liquor store, in the test kitchen. After the business meeting we tasted the Quebec wines I had accumulated on my travels for the atlas as well as some forty-odd wines submitted by agents. The Quebec wines are what the French call "special" given the climatic conditions in which they have to grow, so the general response was less than enthusiastic, although there were some very drinkable wines, especially the sweeter wines... Today I wrote my monthly column for Post City Magazines on the coming of BYOW – "bring your own wine" to restaurants. I called the Ministry of Consumer and Business Services to find out when this would start (the legislation passed the house in December) and how much would licensees have to pay for the endorsement to their liquor license to participate. The guy who took my call said he didn't know anything about it and that I should phone the Alcohol and Gaming Commission, the government body that regulates beverage alcohol. Which I did. My first effort, after an interminable list of recorded options, ended when I finally spoke to a human who could not answer my questions but would put me through to someone who might. Immediately the line was disconnected. I called again and this time bypassed the recorded menu by pressing zero. The operator put me through to a woman who did not know when the scheme would start and how much it would cost. A half hour of my life wasted... For dinner with pasta and meat sauce, a bottle of Henry of Pelham Baco Noir Reserve 2002. A good match, the Baco winning in the tenth round on points.

Tuesday, January 18: It is minus 33 with the wind chill outside and my office at the top of the house is cold. I am researching Vignoble St. Edouard on the net – the first winery in New Brunswick to produce a grape wine. On their site are pictures of sandy beaches in summer. My daughter Annabel returned to Vancouver yesterday, where the crocuses will be out in a couple of weeks. Why am I living in a refrigerator? Because I love Toronto, I guess... A meeting with David Rose and Sandy Kurbis of Forefront Communications to discuss the Ontario Wine Awards, our 10th anniversary competition. Diner, a bottle of Château des Charmes Cabernet Franc 1999 that's coming out in Vintages on February 19th. Shows very well.

Wednesday, January 19: At 12:10 am the phone rang. It was the hospital calling to say that Deborah's mother had passed away. She had been hospitalized since December 1st for a bowel operation and then developed complications, including Clostridium difficile infection for which she had been in an isolation ward for several days. When Deborah saw her yesterday she had been in a coma. We dressed and drove to the hospital. Under the bridge by Union Station we were pulled over at about 12:30 am for a RIDE inspection. Ironic, since I'd been speeding to get to the hospital. She looked very peaceful. Later this morning we went to the funeral home to make arrangements for her cremation. The TV show Six Feet Under doesn't seem so funny when you're actually going through the business of arranging for funerals. I wrote the following notice that will be in the Toronto Star on Saturday.

Benoit, Marie Marthe – passed away peacefully after midnight on January 19th at St. Joseph's Hospital, aged 87. She fought the good fight till the end. She would have loved a glass of red wine and a cigarette but, alas, her condition no longer allowed her these simple pleasures. She is mourned by her daughters, Suzanne and Deborah, her brother Jacques and sister Giselle, and her sons-in-law, Richard and Tony. Marie was small in stature but she moved regally through life, a strong and determined woman whose French Canadian flair never deserted her; nor would her Irish temperament countenance defeat. The family would like to thank the staff at St. Hilda's who cared for her in her latter years and the nurses at St. Joseph's who made her last days as comfortable as they could.

The phone has been ringing constantly as friends offer their condolences. We didn't feel much like cooking so we had pasta with the meat sauce Deborah had made. The accompanying bottle of Winzer Krems Blauer Zweigelt St. Severin 2003 was very welcome.

Thursday, January 20: A bitterly cold morning as I jogged to the gym, minus 30 with the wind chill. Spent the morning rewriting an article for The Wine Spectator on Recline Ridge, Canada's most northerly winery. David Lawrason and Doug Towers arrive at 2:30 pm for another Winerytohome tasting. That lasted three hours. Tim Sellers came over at 6:30 to try and put the new data base for the Ontario Wine Awards on my PC. Nothing about computers is easy. The idea is that the programmer Jeff Baker in New York can feed the program in via the net if he has my IP number. Now I don't know my IP number but eventually we find it by going to a site called Brilliant. Then it worked. Tim stayed around for a glass of wine and regaled us with stories about the trapeze school he wants to start up and how hard it is to get liability insurance. I have enough trouble trying to get liability insurance for wine tastings. God knows how difficult it must be to get coverage for a trapeze school!

Friday, January 21: Another bone-chilling day. Had good intentions about working out but stayed in bed for the extra hour. A tasting day for LCBO new releases and some Classic Catalogue wines. I stopped by Rogers & Company on Yonge Street, the importing agent for Shafer in Napa Valley. One of the great things about being a wine writer is that you get included in a lot of celebrations. Shafer is celebrating their 25th anniversary and to mark the occasion they bottled a very limited edition of Shafer 25th 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon Sunspot Vineyard in magnums. Less than 500 cases were made. John & Doug Shafer sent me a bottle with a letter that says "This Cabernet will be enjoyable with up to 30 years cellaring." I think I'll open it before then... Worked on the atlas most of the day, writing a piece on the history of BC wine. It all began with Catholic missionary planting a vineyard near Kelowna in the early 1860s. We owe the Catholic church a great debt of gratitude: it was the church that kept the vineyards alive during Europe's Dark Ages and spread vineyards around the New World with the scriptures... Meant to drive down to Inniskillin in the morning to sign copies of my wine murder mysteries but there is a storm warning. Will decide in the morning. Loin of pork for dinner with a bottle of Noemie Vernaux Beaujolais 2003. On the thin side for the vintage.




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