A Wine Lover's Diary, part 30 (April 11, 2005)
Monday, April 4: The morning spent on
Ontario Wine Award business. In the afternoon I went to St. Lawrence Hall
for Churchill Cellars' portfolio tasting of the wines the import. Having
recently acquired the Constellation Brand wines, they have burgeoned into
a large agency very quickly. They've now got Mondavi, as well as Quintessa,
Simi, d'Arenberg, Mount Veeder, Ravenswood, as well as Hardy's and Pol
Roger and one of my favourite German producers, Dr. Pauly-Bergweiler...
Came home to finish my cassoulet for tonight's competition organized by
Martin Malivoire at Gamelle restaurant. Martin had provided the beans
and had a potter make identical cassoules. I thought I'd improve on Elizabeth
David's recipe by adding a puree of white beans with stock to the finished
dish before the final baking. Wrong. When it was ready for judging it
had turned to a colourful porridge. There were seven entries, including
Gamelle's chef Jean-Pierre and Martin himself. Food critic Jacob Richler,
Sheila Swerling-Puritt, Konrad Ejbich and Steven Temkin, and Steven Elphick
were the other contestants. There were four judges, led by the inimitable
Jacques Marie, master chef and wine educator, who regaled the 25 people
there with a rant against healthy eating. I made up a poem entitled "King
of the Cassoule."
If you want to make a cassoulet
Take two ferrets and a pot of clay
Soak your beans in Chardonnay
(Moira Vineyard to be exacting)
Then drink the liquid
And crush the garlic
Add marshmallows and marzipan
Don't forget anchovies and strawberry jam
Now take a duck that's finished quacking
And some sausage should not be lacking
Add a lamb that's could be racking
Now cook the hell out of it and pray.
The tasting was blind, and when the dust settled, Konrad and Steven's
was judged best (the chef's cassoulet was voted No. 1 by everyone, but
he was disqualified because he's a chef and his came out of the oven hot.)
To wash down the seven cassoulets, Martin provide Funk Rosé sparkling
wine, Flat Rock Pinot Noir 2003, Malivoire Lady Bug Rosé 2003 and
magnums of Malivoire Old Vine Foch 2003.
Tuesday, April 5: Napa wineries come
to town once every two years, and today's the day. A lunch at Oro for
the wine press and sommeliers and celebrity enthusiasts like Steven Page
of The Barenaked Ladies and Seamus O'Reagan, host of CTV's morning show.
There was a tasting of some really high-end wines before lunch
Diamond Creek Gravelly Meadow and Volcanic Hill from 1997, Shafer Cabernet
Sauvignon 2002, Duckhorn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2001, and Hendry
Block 2B Zinfandel, among others. Guess what we had for lunch cassoulet.
Afterwards we all walked over to The Carlu for the major tasting. What
impressed me was the quality of the wines that the Napa producers had
brought along to show the Toronto market. Elan Vineyards does a very good
2001 Cabernet Sauvignon Atlas Peak and I was impressed by Hendry's Block
8 Cabernet Sauvignon 2000. Other favourites: La Jota Cabernet Sauvignon
Anniversary 2001, Saint Supery Sauvignon Blanc 2004 and Cuvaison Merlot
2001. The Shramsberg sparkling wines are a delight, especially the 1998
J. Schram... Tilapia for dinner. I had to try the 2003 vintages of Gallo's
Turning Leaf Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Well made wines and well
priced ($11.95 and $10.95 respectively.) Amazing what you can do with
economies of scale. The Sauvignon went very well with the fish.
Wednesday, April 6: Finished off my monthly
piece for Post City magazines on Zinfandel and a coda on recommended
wines for summer drinking. Phone around the wineries to order wine for
the Ontario Wine Awards gala on April 29th at Queens Landing, Niagara-on-the-Lake.
The gold medal wines are served with five courses after a sparkling wine
reception. Dinner with Arlene Willis to discuss Grapes for Humanity business.
We're meeting at Didier's. Looking forward to the meal as I've not dined
there before. Didier got rather slaughtered by the food press when he
opened but he's a great chef, one of the best in Toronto. Arlene loves
champagne (her license plate - CHAMPANE) so she ordered a bottle of Perrier-Jouet
while we discussed foundation business. With dinner a bottle of Les Brulières
de Beychevelle 2000, a wine that comes from a vineyard in Cussac outside
the St. Julien appellation and, according to David Peppercorn's book on
Bordeaux, "is sold separately from the Grand Cru (Château Beychevelle
and the second wine)." I had oeufs en cocotte (with foie gras) and
venison. A great meal.
Thursday, April 7: A mercifully quiet
day at home, divided between walking Pinot (my pockets are filled with
Kibbles and plastic bags, it seems.) Last minute stuff, setting up the
Icewine tasting at The Tasting Rooms for Sunday. Was meant to record some
voice-over items on Ontario wine for Maurice Fisher and some TV footage,
but the weather was lousy, so it was postponed. Dinner at home
a bottle of Jacob's Creek Shiraz Cabernet 2002, good value for $11.95.
Friday, April 8: Another Vintages tasting
day. There were 93 wines put out for tasting. Some really good white Burgundies
among them. Came home to prepare my notes a seminar on "Ontario's
Gold Medal Wines" at the Wine & Cheese Show. The RIDE program
sets up on Airport Road just as people pull out of the International Centre
parking lot. It's like shooting fish in a barrel.
Saturday, April 9: A full day the Wine
& Cheese Show. I had to wear a suit, as I'm going on a charity event
in Thornhill later tonight. I had two seminars today, New World Reds and
Tasting Like A Pro. I enjoy these seminars. The room is away from the
hurly-burly of the show and those who attend really want to listen
or maybe just to sit down and drink wine. Sold a lot of books today, the
wine murder mysteries. They set up a table for me at The Wine Establishment
booth, which had a lot of traffic. It was opposite a booth selling caviar.
Traded Blood Is Thicker Than Beaujolais for a caviar sandwich...
At the Churchill Cellars they told me that some clown had poured unwanted
wine from his glass into a crystal decanter that had just been filled
with a Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. The incredulous staffer
said to him, "Did you just pour your wine into that decanter?"
"Yes. So what's the big deal?"
"That's not a spittoon. I've just decanted that wine."
"Well, you shouldn't leave it on the counter," he replied,
and walked off.
Tonight 680 News is having a function for radio station winners in the
dream house in Thornhill that is first prize in the St. Margaret's hospital
lottery. Colio has supplied the wines Lily sparkling wine, Pinot
Grigio 2003, CEV Cabernet Franc Reserve 2002, and a Late Harvest Vidal.
The house is magnificent 7,700 square feet of luxuriously appointed
rooms, beautifully decorated and furnished. There are two small wine fridges
in the pantry. The basement is currently unfinished but it's as big as
a soccer field and room enough for a cellar. The cost of the house is
estimated at $2.3 million. My role tonight as 680 News' "in-house
wine expert" is to answer questions about wine for the winning contestants.
Sunday, April 10: This morning, sommeliers
are judging the 60 Icewines that are entered in the Ontario Wine Awards
at The Tasting Rooms in First Canadian Place. Tasting Icewine is hard
all that residual sugar dulls the palate quickly. I found that
slices of fresh watermelon refresh you and cleanse the palate of sweetness.
At 2 pm Deborah picked me up and drove me to the international Centre.
I have two back-to-back seminars today Old World Reds and another
session on Ontario's Gold Medal Wines. It was a long hard day. Dinner
pasta with a bottle of Patriarche Pinot Noir 2001 from the Pays
d'Oc. A great bargain at $9.95 real variety character.