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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 21 (February 7, 2005)

Monday, January 31: Came home to a pile of emails, one unfortunately reporting the death of Jonathan Welsh at the age of 57. Geoff Heindrich, out in Prince Edward County, where Jonathan had bought a vineyard property, tells me he died in his sleep. Debra Marshall emailed that he had visited Long Dog Winery the day before. Jonathan helped popularize wine through his TV series. Four years ago he was the Master of Ceremonies for the Ontario Wine Awards gala dinner at the Royal York Hotel. He's the only MC I know who answered his cell phone on stage in the middle of his presentation. God bless him... I'm still feeling the effects of that mammoth tasting in Dallas – wine is a diuretic. I was up three times in the night to pee.

Tuesday, February 1: This afternoon, a tasting of Portuguese wines at the University Club. The dining room was far too small for the number of people who attended the table-top tasting of 150 wines, some ports and Madeiras. Negotiating the catalogue was difficult, since the wines had been listed in alphabetical order by company, except the labels had different winery names. I didn't end up tasting many wines, maybe a a dozen because I just couldn't find them in the catalogue. The ones I did taste I enjoyed, especially those from the Alentejo, a region that is making some terrific wines. Very taken with Cortes de Cima Touriga Nacional 2002, a rich peppery-blackberry flavoured wine with a real terroir taste. It's made by Hans Kristian Jorgensen. His simpler Tinto 2001 has a raisiny, plummy taste and is very intense. Other Alentejo wines I liked were Marques de Borba Reserva 200, Quinta da Terrugem 2001, and Quinta do Zambujeiro Terra do Zambujeiro 2001. From Estremadura, I was impressed by Qunita de Pancas Tourga Nacional 2001 Special Selection and, from the Douro, Quinta do Cotto Douro 2002. The problem with these wines in our market is the difficulty with the names of the wineries and the grape varieties and the unfamiliar regions. Finished up with some Quinta do Noval 10 Year Old Tawny Port, their unfiltered LBV 1998 and a Justino 10 Year Old Malmsey – all first rate. For dinner opened a bottle of Burrowing Owl Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 from BC. Jim Wyse had sent me two bottles of his wines and this one had arrived with the cork half way out and wine stains down the label. It had been frozen en route. I was dubious about the condition, given that wine had been able to get out of the bottle, which meant that air got in. But it was terrific – rich and chocolatey, very concentrated.

Wednesday, February 2: I worked on the New Brunswick wineries for the atlas today. Didn't realize that there are three wineries and four fruit wineries there. Took a break at lunchtime to participate in a research project involving a new government website. Good to know that they're consulting the users before they unveil it. Wiarton Willy didn't see his shadow today, which means Spring is not far away (if you believe in the Tooth Fairy). A bottle of Château des Charmes Cabernet-Merlot 1999 for dinner.

Thursday, February 3: Trying to clear my desk (metaphorically speaking) before I leave for Sonoma tomorrow on a 9:05 am flight. It's ankle deep in paper, not that I get up on it to step dance. I wish I was one of those people who could file everything away and have a clean desktop. A meeting with 680 News Radio to discuss a wine spot which will begin later this month. ...I've started reading a great fat book (445 pages with the index) entitled North American Pinot Noir by John Winthrop Haeger. The blurb says he "taught Chinese language and Chinese history at the Claremont College," which is as valuable an experience for coming to grips with the globe's most tendentious grape as any. It's a scholarly work which (from the first thirty-odd pages) tells you more than you will ever want to know about Pinot Noir. But I am indebted to Haegar for this quote, attributed to Andre Tchelistcheff: "God made Cabernet Sauvignon whereas the devil made Pinot Noir." I'm taking this book along with me, heavy as it is, on my trip to Sonoma, where I will be sniffing out Pinot Noir in all the right places... A tasting at Grano this evening for a winery that wants to get into the market here. Aziendo Agricola Tintero is a 60,000 bottle winery in a village called Mango, a village of 1000 souls west of Alba in Piemonte. Marco Tintero , the commercial director, was representing the family (his brother Paolo is the winemaker). Their labels feature an oak tree which Marco says is 250 years old and takes two men, arms extended, to measure its girth. We started with a unique wine, a blend of Favorita, Arneis and moscato called 'Sulet' - a crisp, dry, aromatic wine. Next we had the Arneis 2004 (lemony, crab apple flavour with a bitter almond finish). Then, Langhe Nebbiolo 2003 made in stainless steel (sour cherry pit, flinty with a floral note, zesty and gulpable with a peppery finish; easy drinking with soft tannins.) Then came the wine of the night, Barbera Superiore 2002, earthy and floral on the nose with a lavender and cherry flavour, very elegant but well structured. The following wine was the 2001 Barbera that had been given oak treatment and was still at odds with itself. Needs a year or two to come together. The Barbaresco 2001 that followed was more like a Valpolicella with Ripasso. The final wine was their Moscato d'Asti, which was delicious. Too often these light, frizzante Muscat wines have a soapy taste, but this was pure fruit, sweet and raisiny with enough acidity to give it balance and length. This wine and the 2002 Barbera deserve to be in our market.




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