A Wine Lover's Diary, part 23 (February 21, 2005)
Monday, February 14: Valentine's Day.
Spent the day writing a commentary for Tidings magazine on the
Sideways Effect how the movie has spurred sales of Pinot
Noir in the States and had a dampening effect on Merlot sales (after Miles'
disparaging remark: "If anyone orders Merlot I'm leaving.")
It was rather like the French Paradox segment on 60 Minutes fourteen
years ago and how it jump-started the sales of red wine... Deborah has
requested champagne for dinner by the fire with the tourtière she
made over Christmas. Champagne goes with everything except when
I went to the cellar I found we only had sparkling. So I opened a bottle
of Ca' del Bosco Franciacorta, which was smashing.
Tuesday, February 15: This morning the
Wine Council of Ontario is holding a tasting of 49 wines that are in line
for the annual Cuvee awards on Saturday March 5th. The event was held
in the demonstration kitchen at the LCBO's Summerhill store. These stand-up
tastings are hard on the back. Writing notes is difficult and just getting
to the tables through the other guests is a pain. The whites were at room
temperature, which didn't help, but some of the wines shone through in
spite of it all. I was mightily impressed by Ridgepoint Riesling 2003,
Cave Spring CSV Riesling 2003, Coyote's Run Reserve Chardonnay 2003, Jackson-Triggs
Proprietors' Grand Reserve Meritage 2002 and Peninsula Ridge Cabernet
2002. The only sweet wine I tasted was Flat Rock Vidal Icewine 2003. I
was curious about it because it's the first Icewine I've seen that is
bottled under screwcap. It tasted just fine. Good on them for having the
courage. Kathy Guidi, the cheese lady, was there serving five Canadian
cheeses Mi-Carême, Grande Délice, Saint-Damase and
Le Cru du Clocher Cheddar Reserve from Quebec and São Miguel, a
Portuguese-style cheese made in Ontario. Kathy has set up the Cheese Education
Guild, the first certified cheese product knowledge program in Canada.
(For course details, see www.artisancheesemarketing.com.)
Kathy is also instrumental in setting up the Ontario Cheese Society (www.ontariocheese.org),
which I'm going to join for $40. Love cheese... Back home to work on the
atlas, trying to pull the BC section together. For dinner with lamb chops
and a lovely bottle of Boekenhoutskloof Porcupine Ridge Syrah 2003 from
South Africa. And if you can say that after half a bottle you deserve
Wednesday, February 16: Worked out at
the gym. They're remodelling and switched the men's and the women's dressing
rooms. There were signs posted but at 7 am I don't read anything.
I walked into the women's dressing room. A startled woman, full dressed)
stood looking at me. "You're in the wrong room," I said. "No,
you are!" she replied and I was. When I finished showering
two women walked into the men's so I felt better. Down to Rogers 680 News
to record the first series of wine spots, which will start on Friday...
Doug Towers and David Lawrason are coming at 2 pm for another tasting
of Ontario wines for www.winerytohome.com.
Twenty-four in all and then I have to high-tail it down to the new women's
club Verity on Queen East to conduct a tasting of varietal wines for their
- Cave Spring CSV Riesling 2003
- Chateau de Sancerre 2003 (Sauvignon Blanc my sample was corked)
- McMannis Chardonnay 2003 (Sonoma)
- Penley Cabernet "Phoenix" 2003
- Jeanneret Shiraz Clare Valley 2002
- Maison Mallard Gaulin Cote de Nuits-Villages 1998
Then Barbara Barde, a member of the wine committee, took me to dinner
in the club's restaurant George. Great food (little dishes) and a very
competent sommelier, Kim.
Thursday, February 17: A busy wine day.
Lunch at Frisco with the director of Red Wines for Gallo, Tony Vleck,
a Canadian who used to work for Andres in BC. He led the group through
a series of Gallo's 2003 Sierra Valley wines, priced at $8.95 (White Zinfandel
at $7.95). Very good quality for the price best of which were the
Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot. The wines were served with a series of two-bite
morsels onion tart, smoked salmon on a puff pastry tart, grilled
vegetables, sautéed tiger shrimp, roasted chicken breast with pomegranate
glaze, roasted scallops with caper-raisin sauce; followed by Roquefort
and walnut crostinis, mini beef filets with roasted mushrooms, double-baked
potatoes with prosciutto and parmesan, black peppercorn-coriander crusted
Ahi tuna. This seems to be the trend in Toronto restaurants these days
small but many. No doubt reflecting the city's ethnic mix... Then
to George (again!) for a tasting of the 2003 vintage of Bouchard Père
& Fils white and red Burgundies and William Fèvre Chablis.
2003 was a crazy vintage in France. The heat wave meant harvest was the
earliest in recorded memory (mid-August). Since the entire French population
goes on holiday in August this caused consternation. Luc Bouchard told
me that they had trouble getting pickers. There is a real quality gap
between the basic village wines and the Premier and Grand Crus. The fruit
is really concentrated in these wines but the tannins are gripping. Best
of the whites for me were Meursault Genevières 2003 and Corton-Charlemagne
2003. In the reds Vosne-Romanée Les Suchots 2003 and Nuits
Saint Georges Les Cailles 2003. Of the Chablis I liked the Fourchaume
Vignoble de Vaulorent 2003 best. That evening a bunch of the wine writers
and their partners were invited to a performance of the Soweto Gospel
Choir at the Hummingbird. Before the show Laurel Keenan had arranged a
tasting of South African wines Fairview Viognier 2003 (a little lacklustre
and overoaked), Delheim Sperling & Sperling Pinotage Rosé 2004
(this is a co-production of Ann Sperling , Malivoire's winemaker and the
Sperling family in South Africa: sweetish raspberry flavour with lively
acidity good but not as good as Ann Sperling's Malivoire Ladybug
Rosé), Kumala Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 2003, Goats Do Roam Red
2003, Goats Do Roam in Villages Red 2003, Goat Roti 2002 (and it's begun
to get the goat of the French who are not amused with these jeux de mots),
Waterford Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 (very good and coming here in September).
La Motte Shiraz 2002, Kevin Arnold Shiraz 2002 (also very good and coming
March/April) and finally Boekenhoutskloof Porcupine Ridge Syrah 2003.
I had bought a case of this wine at $12.95. The agent informed me that
the LCBO made a pricing mistake and it should have been $2 more. Excellent.
The Soweto choir was fabulous.
Friday, February 18: Spent the day on
the atlas. Finally got Eric von Krosigk to send me the information on
Adora Estate and Summerland Cellars, two of the wineries he's involved
with. I've only been bugging him every few weeks for the last five months.
Winemakers! It's like herding cats. Tonight is the annual Ontario Imported
Wine Spirits and Beer Association's annual dinner at the National Club.
This year the featured region to supply the wines is California. I have
to present my blind tasting award to Scott Montgomery of Churchill Cellars.
In my introduction I said that blind tasting is the second-hardest thing
you'll ever do in the wine trade. The hardest thing is to get your wine
on LCBO shelves. The dinner was absolutely delicious, with multiple wines
with each course as is the tradition. We all mill about before the meal
and chat over hors d'oeuvres and wine (Mumm Napa Valley Prestige Brut,
Wente Chardonnay 2002, Bonterra Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 which I
thought was Merlot before I saw the printed menu. So much for my blind
tasting abilities.) With the smoked tomato consommé they served
Gallo Northern Sonoma Estate Chardonnay 1999 (now if that was $8.95 a
bottle I'd take a few cases!) and the hefty Beringer Private Reserve Chardonnay
2000. Seared scallop and Grilled Black Tiger Shrimp (must be a lot of
that around) with Geyser Peak Sauvignon Blanc 2003 (very crisp and clean)
and Fetzer Echo Ridge Fume Blanc 2003. The main course was Bison Tenderloin
with Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon 2000, Gallo Northern Sonoma Estate
Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 and Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
1999. Mondavi starred here. Dessert a filed berry terrine with
citrus lace curl, fig and strawberry compote (no wine); finally the cheese
American Asiago, Mapledale Cheddar, Monterey Jack and Oka with
Ironstone Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel 2002 and Monterra Vineyards Syrah 2001
(not to be confused with Bonterra). Deborah won the floral centrepiece
at our table but I think in her heart of hearts she would have preferred
to win the draw for a trip for two to Sonoma.