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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 25 (March 7, 2005)

Monday, February 28: On Saturday we had the second memorial service for Deborah's mother, at the funeral home. A very different service from the one at St. Hilda's on the Friday. Very spiritual rather than ritualistic. I have always thought of myself as a spiritual person. I worship at the Church of Dionysus. It's not a church. All you need is a corkscrew, a glass and a bottle of wine. On Saturday evening, I conducted a tasting dinner for a couple who won it at a charity auction. On Sunday Deborah and I picked up the wheaten terrier puppy from the breeder in Acton. We were trying to think of names. Everyone expects us to give it a wine name, like Chablis or Champagne. The cats are Nancy and Tanya (named after the skaters – and that was a self-fulfilling prophecy! Tanya gives Nancy a swat whenever she's in range). I'm leaning towards Pinot. That evening (Oscar night) I had to conduct another charity tasting – fittingly four Pinot Noirs from Inniskillin. Almost everyone had seen the movie Sideways... The puppy, eight weeks old, is like a new baby. Deborah was up with it twice in the night, taking it outside to pee. The cats don't know what's hit them. Nancy is more accepting than Tanya but they seem to sense this is a non-threatening small person. Today the puppy is caged and has been yapping for half an hour while I'm trying to work. It took me all day to write my monthly column for Post City magazines (on organic wines). For dinner, lamb burgers with Rosemount Merlot 2002. Worked well together.

Tuesday, March 1: It snowed all night and is still snowing. The puppy wakes up at 6 am and needs to pee. Deborah has been up twice in the night. It's like having a baby. I worked on the atlas all day, entering Ontario wineries. The puppy still does not have a name. I suggested Nipples but that didn't fly. Deborah wants to call her Chablis but I'm not going to call her in the park by that name. Maybe we should call her Stella so I could stand in the park in an undershirt and do my Marlon Brando imitation. Had an email from a visitor to the site who wanted to know if there was such a thing as a red Riesling. He recalls seeing one in Germany many years ago. I've never seen one but I know there is a Schwarz Riesling (in the US they call Riesling White Riesling which suggests that there is a red)... Steak for dinner tonight with a bottle of Thomas & Vaughan Marechal Foch 2002 – a really concentrated, flavourful wine.

Wednesday, March 2: Recorded six items for the 680 News radio spots and then to Truffles in the Four Seasons for the test dinner for the Santé gala in May. Here's the menu with the wines – minus the Canadian cheese course with Hillebrand Trius Riesling 1997.

Santé 2005
Gala Menu Tasting

Goat Cheese Roulade with Artichoke Barigoule
Watercress Seedlings with Toasted Pistachios

Champagne Georges Gardet Brut Spécial
"Georges Gardet" France

Miguel Torres Santa Digna Sauvignon Blanc
Curicó, Chile 2004

"Surf and Turf"

Olive Oil Poached Ahi Tuna
Tapenade and Pickled Honey Mushrooms

Braised Veal Cheeks
Celery Heart Salad and Smoked black trumpet mushrooms

Rust En Vrede Merlot
Stellenbosch, South Africa 2002

Henry of Pelham Chardonnay, Speck Family Reserve
Niagara 2002

Roast Rack of Western Lamb
Shallot Purée, Wild Leeks and Buckwheat Spaetzle

McWilliams Shiraz, Stentiford's Reserve
Coonawarra, South Australia 2000

DogRidge Vineyard Shiraz DV7
McLaren Vale, South Australia 2002

Apricot and Vanilla Terrine
Gingered Lemongrass Mille Feuille

Willow Heights Vidal Ice Wine VQA
Niagara 2002

Truffles' Executive Chef Lynn Crawford and Chef Jonathan Gushue have done a terrific job in matching the wines we chose for the event. James Chatto, Steve Thurlow, Gord Stimmell and I offered some minor tweaking to make the matches as perfect as possible. This is going to be a great meal. If you like good food, don't miss it (May 11, Four Seasons)... This evening Stephen Campbell of Lifford Agencies is holding a tasting of 2003 Jadot Burgundies (along with several 1999 vintages) at the York Event Theatre on Eglinton. Ten per cent of the proceeds from the wine sales are going to Grapes for Humanity. Steve is a great supporter of the foundation. (We're directing these funds to Tsunami relief.) Jadot's Export Director Marc Dupin told the guests that 2003 was the hottest year since 1976 and the earliest harvest since 1370. Yes, 1370. He called it a legendary vintage. "While others picked we waited for rain," he said, to bring the grapes back in balance. The reds had incredible depth of colour and tasted more like Oregon than Burgundy with their concentration of fruit and supple tannins. My favourite was the Clos Vougeot, real blockbuster wine with sweet fruit and pencil lead flavours but silky tannins. I also liked Beaune Boucherotte (also great in 1999). But the real surprise was a Moulin-a-Vent, Chateau des Jacques Clos de Rochegres 2003. I have never tasted such a full-bodied, powerful Beaujolais – all sweet black cherry – with more tannin than the Clos Vougeot (so good I ordered 6 bottles). The whites were impressive too. Santenay Clos de Malte was all pineapple and citrus fruit, sweet and forward. Meursault-Charmes and Corton-Charlemagne were also terrific. But my favourite white was Puligny-Montrachet, spicy caramel with great length and a nutty finish.

Thursday, March 3: This was one of those days that wine writers hate, but when you tell people about what you did, they say, Where can I get a job like that? Dan Ruddick, timpanist with the Toronto Symphony and wine importer (Allegro Wines), invited a bunch of wine writers and sommeliers for a tasting and lunch at Jamie Kennedy's to meet Jean-Nicolas Méo, winemaker of Méo-Camuzet in Vosne-Romanée. He is making some wonderfully affordable Burgundies in the Hautes-Côtes de Nuits, both red and white. The whites come from the Clos Saint-Philibert Monopole. 2002 was minerally with a crisp green apple and lime flavour, very fresh and lively. "It's been a challenge for me to make a white wine, being a red wine maker," he confessed, but his whites are delicious. Then we had his simple Bourgogne 2001 (lovely ruby colour, surprisingly deep; minerally, barnyard nose with a floral grace note, medium-bodied, firmly structured). The 2002 that followed was very pretty, light and approachable with a raspberry flavour. The 1996 Clos Saint Philibert had a lemony, custard apple flavour but was showing a touch of maderisation. Three Méo-Camuzet Clos Vougeot wines next, 2001, 2002 and 2003. The 2001 was fine boned and elegant, deeply coloured with black cherry and violets on the nose; firmly structured. 2002: again pretty with raspberry and floral notes, sweet, engaging and forward and quite fleshy in the hips. 2003: very dark, rich and concentrated, full-bodied, black fruit flavours, intense and fat. (I'm afraid that anyone who comes to Burgundy for the first time and tastes the 2003 vintage will get a very wrong impression of what Burgundy is and will be disappointed in 2004 and on. The 2003 are freakishly un-Burgundian. They are more California Chardonnay and Oregon Pinot Noir.) The last wine was Corton Clos Rognet 1993: a majestic older wine beginning to dry out with minerally, raspberry and violet flavours – very elegant flavours wound around a fine spine of acidity with a finish of plums.

Then I had to dash north to an IT company in Richmond Hill to conduct a wine and cheese tasting for their staff and clients.

Reception Wine:
Henry of Pelham Cuvee Catherine Brut (Ontario)

Cantal is one of the oldest French Cheeses, predating both Roquefort (11th Century) and Livarot (13th Century), semi-hard with an intense finish.
Chateau des Jacques Moulin-a-Vent (Beaujolais)

Buche de Chevre
Goat's milk cheese from Poitou in the Loire Valley. It is sharp and tangy near the rind and gets progressively richer and creamier toward the center. When enjoying this cheese, you savor a delightful combination of flavors and textures in each bite.
Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc 2003 (New Zealand)

This cheese has a pungent aroma and rich, creamy interior. Epoisses has an edible reddish-brown crust with a creamy, pale interior. The entire cheese is bathed in a light liqueur that adds extra flavour.
Roger Belland Chassagne-Montrachet Morgeot-Clos Pitois 2002 (Burgundy)

Agour Ossau-Iraty
Sheep's milk cheese from the Pyrenees, with a slightly dry texture gives way to a creamy, buttery quality in the mouth, and the flavors hint at both herbs and fruit, with slightly nutty undertones.
Jadot Beaune Greve 2002 (Burgundy)

Asiago d'Allevo
Hard cheese from the Northwest of Venice, with a slightly fruity flavor with an engaging Aroma
Mount Adam Shiraz 2001 (Australia)

Piave Vecchio
Cheese from Veneto, Italy, with the texture of a young Parmigiano-Reggiano and a toasted Walnut character of Gruyere with a hint of Caramel.
Tedeschi Amarone 2000 (Veneto)

This event ended at 6 pm. I raced back home and Deborah dropped me down at 2 Rosehill for a dinner tasting of Chilean wines chosen by my old friend Hector Vergara. Hector, a Master Sommelier, left Toronto in 1991 to relocate in his native Chile and has become the man for Chilean wines. He owns a couple of stores called Vino del Mondo (or is it El Mondo Vino?). Anyway, he is back in Toronto to promote his country's fine wines. Nº 2 Rosehill is an event space owned by Tony Loschiavo, who runs Paese restaurant on Bathurst north of Wilson (great wine list). Tony wants to make this Yonge & St. Clair location a destination for wine people – toastings and other wine-oriented events. The tasting of the wines below was set up on the bar. I arrived just as it was finishing, but in time for dinner. Tony kindly allowed me in the kitchen to taste most of these between courses. I had to make my notes (in brackets) quickly, so they are mere thumbnail impressions.

    Agent: Connexion Oenophilia
    • Sideral 2002 (meaty, muscular, tannic)
    Agent: Noble Estates
    • Carménère Single Vineyard 2003 (not tasted)
    Agent: Diamond Estates
    • Alcance Carménère 2003 (a touch corked)
    Agent: Hobbs Wines
    • Sauvignon Blanc Cipreses 2004 (intense, grassy, gooseberry)
    • Pinot Noir 2003 Lo Abarca Hills (sweet, minerally, smoky; delicious)
    Agent: Churchill Cellars
    • Gran Reserva Shiraz 2002 (not tasted)
    • Gran Reserva Carménère 2002 (green pepper nose, Bordeaux style, dusty tannins)
    • Quinta Generación Red 2002 (elegant, firmly structured, claret-like)
    • Colección Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 2003 (not tasted)
    Agent: Lorac
    • Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2004 (lovely perfume; elegant, passionfruit, gooseberry, fresh, great length)
    Agent: Diamond Estates
    • Sauvignon Blanc, Single Vineyard 2004, Casablanca Valley (not tasted)
    • Carménère, Single Vineyard 2003 (not tasted)
    • Cabernet Sauvignon, Gran Familia 2002 (vanilla, sweet damson, firm structure)
    Agent: Barrique Wine Imports Ltd.
    • Shiraz Reserva 2003 (my favourite of the night: lovely Cote-Rotie style)
    Agent: Woodman Wines & Spirits
    • Character Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 (struck flint/animal nose; rustic, firm and tannic)
    No Agent
    • Sauvignon Blanc 2004, Garuma Vineyard (sweet fruit, well balanced)
    • Pinot Noir 2003, Lot 21 (not tasted)
    No Agent
    • EQ Sauvignon Blanc 2003 (cat's pee nose, sweet pea flavour)
    • EQ Chardonnay 2003 (not tasted)
    • EQ Syrah 2003 (dense purple-black colour; smoky, tarry, medicinal, sweet blackberry; wonderful)
    Agent: Charton-Hobbs
    • Cot Reserva Limited Edition 2003 (vanilla, blackberry-blueberry, elegant, great balance)
    Agent: Halpern Enterprises
    • Domus Aurea Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 (blackcurrant, eucalyptus flavours)
    • Stella Aurea Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 (vanilla, concentrated blackcurrant – best Cab of the night)
    Agent: Connexion Oenophilia
    • Reserva Shiraz 2003 (not tasted, but others were raving about this wine)
    Agent: Jeffrey Ward and Associates Inc.
    • Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2003 (sweet blackcurrant, firm structure)
    • Malbec Single Vineyard 2003 (dense purple colour, full-bodied, firm structure)

The dinner menu:

  • 1st course
    herbed scallop and caramelized potato napoleon with green apple, citrus crème fraîche reduction
  • Matetic • EQ Chardonnay 2003
  • 2nd course
    5-spice cedar plank cooked Chilean salmon tournedos with lime cilantro chili oil
  • Casas del Bosque • Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2004
  • 3rd course
    grilled duck magret with berry reduction
  • Leyda • Pinot Noir 2003, Lot 21
  • 4th course
    tapenade basted colorado rack of lamb with oven roasted plum tomatoes, rosemary cabernet sauce
  • Quebrada de Macul • Domus Aurea Cabernet Sauvignon 2001
  • 5th course
    dark chocolate and white chocolate layered mousse served in a glass vase with pirouline cookie

Friday, March 4: It's been decided. The puppy's name is Pinot... Today is a tasting for the April Vintages release. I had to walk over to the Wine Establishment to pick up the engraved decanter for the winner of the Tony Aspler Award of Excellence at Cuvée. This is given to the individual or institution that has done most to further the Ontario wine industry. Traditionally His Excellency John Ralston Saul has presented the award, but this year he has a previous engagement in Quebec City. So I have to do it. (The award is now in its 6th year. Previous winners have been Peter Gamble, former executive director of the VQA, Don Triggs of Vincor, John Ralston Saul (for his turning Rideau Hall's cellar to an all-Canadian collection), Karl Kaiser of Inniskillin and Paul Bosc of Chateau des Charmes.)

Saturday, March 5: The puppy woke us up at 6 am. Drove down to St. Catherines in order to make the Cuvée Expert's Tasting at 10:30 am. Deborah had to stay behind and baby-sit Pinot. Half way there I realized I had forgotten my tuxedo. I was wearing a sweater and shirt and had no jacket with me. At the tasting Malcolm Malivoire offered to lend me one of his. I just had to pick it up from him at the Malivoire winery. This year's Experts' Tasting concentrated on Sparkling wines, Rhone varieties (Viognier and Syrah), Unusual Blends and New Technologies with each topic introduced by a winemaker. Ron Giesbrecht, the winemaker at Henry of Pelham, spoke very eloquently about sparkling wine. "Good sparkling wines," he said, "are like Fred Astaire. They're light, they dance, they entertain. They are the gazelles of the animal world, the E-type Jaguar of cars..." He went on in this analogous vein, likening a good sparkling wine to Jean Beliveau and enjoined the participants to dream up their own analogies. Peter Gamble, introducing Unusual Blends, gave an impassioned and well-reasoned defence of blends, citing examples from around the world of great wines that have traditionally been blended. Not surprising, since Stratus, the new winery to which he's consulting, has a red and a white blend of great quality. In fact, after lunch I drove over to Stratus with Frank Baldock for a tour and a tasting of Stratus wines on the first day they're open to the public (just next door to Jackson-Triggs on Highway 55 as you enter Niagara-on-the-Lake). J-L. Groulx, formerly winemaker at Hillebrand, presides over the most modern winery in Canada. The wines are terrific. I bought a couple of bottle of Status Merlot 2002 (I'd mistake this for Pomerol – savoury, pencil lead, chocolate and currants, firm structure) and Stratus Red 2002 (St. Emilion style, very reminiscent of Osoyoos Larose with its cedar and chocolate and red berry flavours). Raced over to Malivoire to pick up Martin's black jacket (Valentino!), fits me perfectly. With my bow tie and black pants you'd think I was in a tux – from a distance... At the awards presentation I gave my award to Carlo Negri, who has done 24 harvests at Colio Wines. His wines get better and better. Here are the other results of the 16th annual Cuvée competition chosen by the winemakers themselves. "This year," read the press release, "36 winemakers tasted over 200 wines to determine the winning roster. Each participating winery enters its four best wines into the competition and can also present two wines from the LCBO system to compete in the General List Red Wine and General List White Wine categories. A singular winner was awarded in each category. In addition, during the judging process, judges were asked to indicate if wines merited a Cuvée Gold designation, demonstrating international standards for excellence in quality."

Cuvée Award Winners

RED WINE (Sponsored by Scott Laboratories)
WINNER: Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Winery, Proprietor's Grand Reserve Meritage 2002

LIMITED EDITION RED WINE (Sponsored by Osprey Media Group)
WINNER: Konzelmann Estate Winery, Winemaster's Collection Merlot Grand Reserve Classic 1999

WHITE WINE (Sponsored by Scott Laboratories)
WINNER: Niagara College Teaching Winery, Chardonnay Barrel Fermented/Barrel Aged 2003

LIMITED EDITION WHITE WINE (Sponsored by Vines Magazine)
WINNER: Cilento Wines, Chardonnay Reserve 2003

WINNER: Cave Spring Cellars, Cabernet Merlot 2002

Cave Spring Cellars, Off Dry Riesling 2003
Strewn Winery, Riesling Semi Dry 2003

WINNER: Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Winery, Proprietor's Grand Reserve Méthode Classique 2001

SWEET WINE (Sponsored by Bruni Glass Packaging Canada)
WINNER: Pillitteri Estates Winery, Riesling Icewine 2002

WINNER: Birchwood Estate Wines, Riesling Icewine 2003

WINNER: Creekside Estate Winery, Signature Cabernet Sauvignon 2001

WINNER: Lakeview Cellars Estate Winery, Baco Noir Reserve 2002

WINNER: Colio Estate Wines, Merlot Reserve 2002

WINNER: Creekside Estate Winery, Signature Pinot Noir 2001

Cave Spring Cellars, Off Dry Riesling 2003
Strewn Winery, Riesling Semi Dry 2003

WINNER: Magnotta Winery, Sauvignon Blanc Special Reserve 2003

WINNER: Palatine Hills Estate Winery, Gewurztraminer 2003

WINNER: Magnotta Winery, Cabernet Franc Icewine Limited Edition, 2002

Sunday, March 6: I stayed over at White Oaks and after breakfast drove with fellow wine writer Malcolm Anderson to taste the wines of Le Clos Jordanne made by Thomas Bachelder. The temporary cellar (before Vincor breaks ground for the striking original Frank Gehry design) is in the old Lakeshore Nurseries building – a low olive-green structure you can see from the QEW at Jordan as you drive towards St. Catharines. We tasted the third-leaf Pinot Noirs from the barrel. They are enormously impressive with undeniable terroir differences among the four vineyard sites. Can't wait for these wines to be bottled. The Chardonnays Thomas has made will set the bar higher for Ontario wines without a doubt. Dropped the jacket back to Martin Malivoire's house on the way back to Toronto. Pinot gave me a great welcome. I have bored all my friends with photos of her. Next week I'll bore you.




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