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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 20 (January 31, 2005)

Monday, January 24: A meeting with the publisher of the atlas project, Sara Angell. She wants me to expand on the regional descriptions of Nova Scotia. My deadline for the manuscript is the end of March. I'm not exactly panicking yet but I shall have to cut down the number of tastings to devote more time to the book. Tonight is the annual Wine Writers Christmas dinner. This year at Biagios. We all bring a bottle (or two). Here is what wine writers bring to the party:

  • Thirteenth Street Funk Rosé 2002 (sparkling)
  • Crossing Vineyards Chardonnay 2002 (Pennsylvania!)
  • Boira Pinot Grigio 2003
  • Domaine Sequinot Bordet Chablis Vieilles Vignes 2002
  • Masi Soave 2003
  • St. Hallett Poacher's Blend White 2003
  • Twotone Chardonnay 2002 Napa
  • Wolf Blass Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc 2003
  • KWV Chardonnay 2003
  • Wolf Blass Riesling 2003
  • Gisselbrecht Pinot Gris 2002
  • Chateau Carbonnieux 1990
  • Uitytk Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 1999 (mine)
  • Vergelegen 2000
  • Cline Ancient Vines Carignan 2001
  • Quinta do Cotto 2001
  • Clay Station Petite Syrah 2001
  • Dom. Barrai Faugeres 1998
  • Santa Rita Rosé 2003
  • Dievole Dievolino Sangiovese 2003
  • Bodegas Palacio Vina Portil 2003
  • Alaiara 2000 Chile
  • Chateau Canteloup Cotes de Blaye 2002
  • Blewitt Spring Shiraz 1999
  • Pillitteri Riesling Icewine 1998
  • Chateau d'Arche 1975
  • Chateau Ste. Michelle Late Harvest Semillon 1992 (mine)
  • Rochefort Coteaux du Layon 1979 (corked)
  • San Giorgio Dolce
  • Pillitteri Forte

A good time was had by all. I think.

Tuesday, January 25: A meeting with Walter Cheung, Food & Beverage Manager of The Granite Club, to discuss up-coming wine events... A Tuesday tasting with Tony at Grano this evening. The theme is Austrian wines. The room is sold out. I suspect some of the participants misread the ad and thought it was Australian wines. Here's the line-up.

grano, February 17, 2004

  • Reception wine: Schlumberger Blanc de Blanc Sekt Brut
  • Allram Grüner Veltliner Strasser Gaisberg 2003
  • Machherndl Grüner Veltliner Federspiel Kremisia 2002
  • Dr. Unger Grüner Veltliner Classic Ried Oberfeld 2002
  • Kurt Angerer Donatus Riesling 2003
  • Machherndl Riesling Steinterrassen Smaragd 2000
  • Iby Zweigelt Classic 2003 Burgenland
  • Hans Nittaus Zweilget Golser Luckenwald 2002
  • Gesellmann St. Laurent 2003 Burgenland

The wines of the evening were the first and last, according to the group, though I liked the Kurt Angerer Riesling very much. Charlie Deacon picked me up from Grano at 9 pm to attend a Tequila dinner at the Granite Club. His family is involved as agents for Tequila La Quemada. The meal was already underway, with tequila served with various courses, ending with white chocolate truffles spiked with the La Quemada Blanco. This is the first time I've had tequila in pill form, not to mention the first time I've had tequila served throughout a meal. I arrived in time for the main course, filet steak with the Reposado (aged 60 days in white oak) followed by a candied lime tequila soufflé with the Añejo (aged for at least one year).

The products are beautifully packaged, and the Mexican consul, Carlos Pujalte, said that he would be the first customer when the consignment arrived in Ontario. The owner of the company, Hector Galindo Miranda, is a delightful man with an ever-present smile on this face. And a real evangelist for tequila, which he professes will not give you a hangover "as long as you don't mix it with beer."

Wednesday, January 26: Worked on the atlas and then drove down to Niagara. I'm sleeping over at Ken Douglas's house so that I can be a judge at 8 am at the annual Cuvee awards tasting. A group of us drove across the border to Niagara Falls to eat pizza at La Hacienda (great pizza and tripe in spicy tomato sauce) washed down with Masi Valpolicella 2002. I had told Ken about the concept I'd read about removing cork taint from wine by putting it in a plastic bag. We decided to try it when we got back to the house (Incidentally, Ken's house on Creek Road is one of the oldest in the province, dating back to 1805. One of the few that was not burned by the Americans during the War of 1812.) Ken, a lawyer, a winemaker and one of the founding partners of Thirteenth Street Winery, had a corked bottle of his Syrah on hand. We poured a glass and covered it with Saran wrap and then poured the contents into a ziplock bag, leaving both at room temperature.

Thursday, January 27: Before we even had breakfast we descended on the wine samples to see if the plastic would absorb the taint. Well, it did, but it imparted such a flavour of plastic to the wine that I preferred the glass with the corked sample! We drove to White Oaks for 8:30 am, where the Cuvee tasting was set up. If someone had dropped a bomb on the place, the entire Ontario wine industry would have come to a dead stop – because there must have been forty winemakers there along with the independent panel:David Lawrason, Gary Pickering from Brock University, Linda Bramble, Chris Waters, editor of vines, a sommelier from Ottawa named Veronique. Our job was to retaste the wines that the panels of winemakers rejected as well as tasting wines they had put forward for the medal round. The scoring was based on the Roseworthy model, used at Australian wine competitions. We were to mark out of 20 and circle whether the wine "represented excellence in Ontario winemaking" and merited being served at Cuvee or not or was borderline. And we were asked if we concurred with one of the following statements regarding the possibility of the wine receiving a gold medal in international competitions: Strongly Agree, Agree, Neutral, Disagree, Strongly Disagree. Two hundred and eleven wines were entered in the competition and, as Gary mentioned to the group, "any wine that gets a medal at Cuvee will have been tasted 42 to 51 times" (by all the panels and the independent review panel). Although all the wines were served blind, we did know the variety and the vintage. I was disappointed by the Rieslings and Gewurztraminers I tasted but pleasantly surprised by the Cabernet Sauvignons, especially some 2001s which managed to escape the effects of the dreaded lady bug in that year. We'll have to wait till Cuvee on March 5th to find out the winners... Got back home at 8 pm and finished off the last glass of Mezzacorona Pinot Grigio 2003 that Deborah had opened for her book club group earlier in the week. It was still delicious.

Friday, January 28: Flying to Dallas this afternoon to judge in the Dallas Morning News International Wine Competition. The 48 judges are staying at the Adolpus hotel, named for Adolphus Busch, who invented Budweiser beer. It's a grand hotel that looks rather like a Victorian gentleman's club. We are invited to a grazing opportunity at the Dallas Convention Centre. I was told at the Hotel that it would not be wise to walk over to the Convention Centre, even though it was just two blocks away. Last year's medal-winning wines are available for tasting with food produced by ten local restaurants.

Saturday, January 29: Up at 7 am. Breakfast at the Convention Centre. A briefing by Becky Murphy, the organizer of the competition. I am on a panel with the wine educator and author Barbara Ensrud, Mike Dunne, a food and wine writer for the Sacramento Bee, and James Tidwell, the sommelier at Café on the Green in the Four Seasons. We start off with 69 Chardonnay 2002, a "retain or eliminate" round; then 2 Catawba White, 1 Sherry, 1 Tawny Port, 1 Fortified Grape Juice (Pineau des Charentes), 1 Grape Juice (!) and 1 Blackberry Juice (!!). After lunch we got into 55 Merlot 2001 vintage or earlier, 57 Syrah/Shiraz 2002 and 29 Petite Syrah. I was a complete basket case by the time we had dinner in the hotel. I don't remember much about the meal, only recall sitting next to David Lake, Columbia Winery's winemaker, and having a highly intelligent discussion about something or other. Some of the judges wanted to repair to the bar after dinner but I just went to bed at 9:30 pm and immediately fell asleep.

Sunday, January 30: 217 wines is definitely too many to taste in one day. Today is much easier, being a medal round. We had winnowed down the Chardonnays to 25, the Merlots to 17. Then we had 12 semi-dry Rieslings and 3 sweet Rieslings, followed by 25 Syrah/Shiraz and 20 Petite Syrah. To cleanse the palate they offered celery, olives and bread with the white wines and rare beef with the reds (to help with the tannins) as well as water. Our panel is unanimous about most of the wines, although there is some discussion about Chardonnay. Barbara prefers a dry style and we three guys give medals to the more robust style – a Mars and Venus thing. We're finished by 2 pm and my flight doesn't leave until 7:24 pm Share a taxi to Dallas/Fort Worth Airport with three other judges and eat a meal at the Manchu Wok because they don't serve food on the flight. Which is delayed an hour because of bad weather. Got home at 12:35 am.




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