A Wine Lover's Diary, part 24 (February 28, 2005)
Monday, February 20: A heavy snow day,
and I have to drive up to a country home near Orangeville to assess the
condition of wines in a flooded cellar for an insurance company. A burst
pipe that resulted in 14 inches of water flooding the basement while the
owners were away. The owner, I'm told, was more concerned about the fate
of his wines than the structural damage to the house. Now there's a sense
of priorities I can relate to. This evening a dinner with the Washington
Wine Commission, whose representatives are in town for a series of promotional
tastings. Our party: Director Steve Burns, Export Manager Colleen Redfield
and their PR company reps from Vancouver, Chriss Coletta and Justin Schofield,
with my colleagues Tony Gismondi and David Lawarson who will be conducting
the seminars. We meet in the lounge at Luce on Mercer Street. The sommelier
here is Dan Volway. He was the sommelier at Jump, where I had my wedding
reception in 1997.
We start with a non-Washington wine for the dust of travel: Fiano di
Avelino di San Georgio 2002, a lovely crisp, minerally, dry peachy wine.
Colleen had brought along some bottles from small Washington producers.
We start with Abeja Chardonnay 2003, a big mouth-filling caramel-flavoured
wine with a cashew nut finish. Next: Syncline Viognier 2003, white pepper,
floral, melon, unctuous and rich with good acidity. Then Syncline Syrah
2003, a gorgeously plump wine with mulberry and iodine flavours melded
with vanilla oak. Next a wine I brought (since to my horror I found I
had no Washington State wines in my cellar must remedy that), Lord Neethling
Pinotage 1999 from South Africa. It was like sucking on leather but
good leather. The stars of the evening for me were the two wines made
by Bob Betz. Clos de Betz 2002, a Merlot-dominated Bordeaux blend with
succulent blueberry flavours and well-integrated oak, an elegant wine;
and Betz Père de Famille 2002, in which Cabernet Sauvignon is the preponderant
variety. This wine is much tighter and still somewhat closed, but the
taste of blueberry pie is so pervasive that in a couple of years this
will be terrific. We also tasted Antinori's co-production with Chateau
Ste. Michelle, Col Solare 1999, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot
with some Syrah and Malbec, definitely in Old World style with a restrained
elegance and charm, lovely spicy blackberry and savoury notes. David Lawrason
had brought along a bottle of Cascade Cliffs Petite Sirah 1996, which
was drying out with a lean, resiny, minty flavour. We ended with Abeja
Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 from Walla Walla dense purple, thick and firm
on the palate with sweet blackcurrant fruit and chocolate flavours with
a lively spine of acidity. A terrific wine.
Tuesday, February 22: Anther days working
on the British Columbia wineries' entries for the atlas. Also inputting
the data for the Ontario Wine Awards. The wineries always leave it to
the last moment. Today I got the wine entries for Jackson-Triggs and Tawse.
This evening is another Tuesday Tasting with Tony at grano. The theme
is Chilean wines. Some really interesting wines to show.
The reception wine, Errazuriz Sauvignon Blanc 2004, everyone loved. The
tasting proper began with Miguel Torres Santa Digna Sauvignon Blanc 2004,
which was much more in Loire style, very fresh with grassy, gooseberry
flavours. Gooseberry is one of those descriptors that very few Canadians
relate to, since gooseberries are not that popular. It really is an English
thing but perfectly captures the flavours of Sauvignon Blanc grown in
a cool climate. Montes Alpha Chardonnay 2002 followed: a really robust,
mouthfilling wine. Then the reds Carmen Reserve Carmenere/Cabernet Sauvignon
2002, Concha y Toro Trio Merlot 2003, Errazuriz Max Reserva 2003, Penalonen
Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 (the favourite of the evening with its concentrated
blackcurrant flavour) and ending with Montes Alpha Syrah 2002. Chile continues
to make rich, fruit-forward wines at bargain prices. The Concha y Toro
Merlot 2003 at $13.95 is a knock-out wine at the price. It's made by Ignacio
Recabarren, probably the best winemaker in Chile.
Wednesday, February 23: Scott Wilson
invited me to lunch at Prego to meet the winemaker from Gordon Brothers
in Washington, David Harvey. I turned the invitation down, pleading pressures
of work and looming deadlines on the book, but Scott said I had to eat
so why not break off for an hour. Defeated by logic, I agreed. I didn't
know that Myron Redford from Oregon's Amity Vineyards was also at the
lunch and he had brought along three of his Pinot Noirs. Michael Carlevale
joined us and he brought out of his cellar a Cave Spring Chenin Blanc
2002 to go with the deep-fried calamari and clam (the wine showed good
varietal character honeyed quince with lively acidity but that browning
apple on the finish suggested some oxidation). Then we had the three Amity
Pinot Noirs 2002, the 2002 Estate and the 1999 Estate. The '99 was all
sweet black cherry with a minerally note. It looked so deep that it could
have been the youngest wine on the table. Michael Carlevale disappeared
and returned with a bottle of Myron's 1985 Winemaker's Reserve Pinot.
The Amity '85 had real Burgundian character, very elegant, dry cherry
flavours still solid and tannic with great balance and finesse. I remarked
that it reminded me of Volnay. Myron said more like Chambolle-Musigny.
So Michael disappeared again and returned with a bottle of Roumier Chambolle
Musigny 1990 and a Dangerville Volnay Clos des Ducs 1995. Of course, we
had to try them. I still maintained it tasted like Volnay but Myron stuck
to Chambolle-Musigny. The Gordon Brothers Merlot 2001 is a full-bodied
wine, sage leaf and blackberry on the nose with a beguiling lavender top
note; well extracted fruit and forward oak. I preferred David Harvey's
Syrah 2001, a rich, smoky, jammy blackberry wine with licorice and roasted
fruit flavours and that particular medicinal note I find in good Syrah.
Accompanying the wines we had duck proscuitto, pasta with black trumpet
mushrooms and a beef tenderloin. The food at Prego is impressive.
I left the table at 4 pm. So much for a short lunch. Just enough time
to get home and prepare for a Shiraz tasting I was leading at the Albany
Club for members of the Australian Wine Society. The wines, all from the
exceptional 1998 vintage, were:
- Vasse Felix, Wilyabrup, Margaret River Region, Western Australia
- Hugo, McLaren Vale, South Australia
- Hamilton Centurion, Willunga, McLaren Vale, South Australia
- Pikes Reserve, Seven Hill, Clare Valley, South Australia
- St.Mary's, Coonawarra, South Australia
- Mitchelton's "Thomas Mitchell," Nagambie, Victoria
- Charles Melton, Tanunda, Barossa Valley, South Australia
- Rosemount Hill of Gold, Mudgee Region, New South Wales
The Hamilton Centurion from 100-year-old vines was the group favourite,
a really intense wine. I also liked the Pikes and the massive Rosemount
Hill of Gold.
Thursday, February 24: Drove to Niagara
with Deborah for a meeting of the advisory board to the Ontario Wine Awards.
We discussed restructuring some of the categories. This took much of the
day and left little time to work on the atlas, especially since we had
been invited to dinner at our friends Ladka and Gerry Sweeney in the Annex,
where we always get caught up in the one-way street system.
Friday, February 25: This morning is
the memorial service for Deborah's mother, held in the chapel at her residence,
St. Hilda's. I read a passage from Ecclesiastes, "There is a time
for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven..."
and Deborah gave a very moving eulogy about her mother. I was very proud
of her. My son Guy and his girlfriend Tanya were there. Marie was very
fond of Guy; they used to smoke on the balcony together. Tomorrow there
is another service at the funeral home. Marie was cremated and we plan
to scatter some of her ashes in Ireland when we go there in May.