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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 27 (March 21, 2005)

Monday, March 14: A tasting at Far Niente restaurant for the wine press – a cross-section of wines that will be available at next month's California Wine Fair. The format is unique. The wines, 56 in all, are served blind by varietal. I like this kind of tasting because you have to park your prejudices and not be swayed by price or prestige. We began with "Other Whites," a mixed bag of sparklers, Pinot Grigios and Viogniers. DVX Mumm Cuvee Napa Sparkling was delicious with its green apple freshness. I also like McManis Family Vineyards Viognier 2004 with its ripe peach and honeysuckle flavours. Nine Chardonnays followed. The one that showed best for me was Wente 2003, one of the least costly (I hate to use the term "cheap" when it comes to wine). Interesting oaky, orange rind nose with a citrus and tangerine flavour. Eight Pinot Noirs followed. The stand-out wine in this flight was Robert Mondavi Private Selection Central Coast 2003, the least expensive wine on the flight. Very elegant with vanilla, toast and mocha flavours. Seven Zinfandels arrived. I liked the Ravenswood 2002 from Lodi (broad plum and chocolate flavours) and the Castoro Cellars 2002 (minerally, vanilla, black cherry, firm and well made). Two flights of Cabernet Sauvignon next, divided by price. My favourite wine was Beaulieu Vineyard Coastal Estates 2002, very Bordeaux in style with a fine cedar, oak and blackcurrant nose, medium-bodied, firm structure, with good length. Again the least expensive of the flight. The second flight of Cabs was really good, with many outstanding wines – Mondavi Napa Valley 2001, Shafer Vineyards 2002, Silver Oak 2000 and Arrowood Vineyards Reserve Special 2000. Finally a flight of All Other Reds. Best wine: Rutherford Hill Merlot Reserve 2000... Adriano Vicentini, general manager of Toula at the top of the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel, invited me to dinner to try a Super-Tuscan wine, Trasgaia from Villa Traqua in Castellina in Chianti. I thought it was just the two of us but when I arrived there were thirty-odd people milling about drinking Prosecco. It transpired that it was a dinner sponsored by the Club Amerigo Vespucci to honour Robert Fong, director of the Waterfront Redevelopment organisation. It was a terrific meal commencing with Podere Canneta Vernaccia si San Gimignano 2003 (minerally, white peach and passionfruit flavours with lively acidity), followed by Le Torri Chianti Colli Fiorentini 2002 (sour cherry, acidic). The Trasgaia 2000 (with a label that looks suspiciously like Sassicaia) was dense purple-black in colour with a nose of new oak and smoky black cherries; it tasted of licorice and dark chocolate, well extracted fruit, a lovely wine. (The food was good too.)

Tuesday, March 15: Today is the deadline for entries for the Ontario Wine Awards and I am up to my knees in entry forms, which I have to key into the database. The wineries always leave this sort of thing to the last moment and I am going cross-eyed in front of the computer screen. This evening a tasting of Quinta do Noval ports at Lifford's newly decorated offices on Bathurst. Honest Ed's parking lot is just behind Steve Campbell's office, so I can get in the back door. The tasting is cocktail-party-style with people all around the walls. A table in the middle with a selection of Portuguese cheeses. Quinta do Noval White Port to start. Old gold colour, sweetish nose of dried peach and nuts, rich and full-bodied. Then a Ten Year Old Tawny, unctuous, rich dried fig and nut flavour, beautifully balanced. This and the following Tawny were my favourites of the evening. 1986 Colheita – syrupy and spicy, full-bodied dried cherry flavour. Then Noval LV Finest Reserve (ripe, sweet mulberry and chocolate, intense but needs time). LBV 1998, hot. Vintage 1995, still tight, years to go. We ended with Quinta do Noval Nacional 1964, very elegant but drying out. I was interested to see that the price of the Nacional 2001 is $513.95 a bottle.

Wednesday, March 16: Spent the day inputting more entry forms. Dinner at grano with my friend Wendy Cheropita from Diageo. We drank a couple of glasses each of Anselmi San Vincenzo 2003 (the wine formerly known as Soave). What a wonderful wine it is, whatever it's called.

Thursday, March 17: I'm wearing my only green suit today, since I am more entitled than most to wear green on St. Patrick's Day. My father was Irish and I did post-graduate work in Dublin. In those days the only place you could get a drink in the city on March 17th was at the Dog Show. It was amazingly well attended. Talking of dogs, Deborah's and my conversations seem to be fixated on a single subject – Pinot's cavalier toilet habits. The house has been stripped of rugs and the cats are not amused. Pinot has been chewing the plastic capsules off bottles in the lower racks in the kitchen. Her favourite toy is a champagne cork and would rather play with this than the chew toys we have purchased for every room in the house... A tasting at the Granite Club for 20 people of Château La Nerthe. The director, Alain Dugas, who looks like a successful accountant or a philosophy professor rather than a winemaker, conducts it and I am commenting on the wines. La Nerthe makes extraordinary wines in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, especially their white wines. The region makes about 5% white; 10% of La Nerthe's production is white. We start with a fresh Tavel Rosé and then a property that La Nerthe purchased two years ago. Then La Nerthe Blanc 2002, a blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Bourboulenc and Clairette (lovely minerally, peachy wine, full-bodied), followed by one of the finest white wines I have tried this year – La Nerthe Cuvée Beauvenir Blanc 2001 from a small parcel on the property (50% Roussanne/50% Clairette) – honeyed peach and minerals with a honeysuckle nose. Then the red La Nerthe 2001 (48% Grenache, 26% Syrah, 18% Mourvedre, 6% Cinsault and other varieties) – very elegant, herby, peppery blackberry, lovely mouthfeel. The star of the evening was La Nerthe Cuvée Cadettes Rouge 2001, again from a small parcel. This is a magnificent wine with rose petal, blackberry, vanilla, pencil lead and leather notes in a rich, velvety body, very fleshy and full.

Friday, March 18: A tasting at the LCBO of new general listings and some Classic Catalogue wines, about 40 in all. The best of which was Jean-Claude Salasc Méditation Cuvée No. 1 2001 from Languedoc, a blend of Syran and Grenache (feral, smoky, iodine, blackberry and raspberry nose, very elegant and silky with a firm finish). For dinner with a BBQ steak (finally got the cover off the BBQ – it had frozen to the top), a bottle of Santa Rita Triple C 1997. I have no idea how this wine got into my cellar. There is no back label but I imagine Triple C refers to the two cabernets and Carmenère. Deborah was not keen on it but I liked its savoury blackcurrant and cedar flavour.




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