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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 35 (May 16, 2005)

Monday, May 9: This is the week before Deborah and I leave for Ireland. My deadline to hand in the Ontario section of the atlas is Friday. I have the whole day to work on it – apart from interruptions from Pinot (who seems to be growing before my eyes), the telephone, the front door (wine delivery of some great Madeira from Miguel Jardim – Henriques & Henriques) and the fax machine. Steve Thurlow asked me to chair a seminar on cork versus screwcaps at Santé on Thursday (my birthday). I accepted because there are some interesting speakers although I really don't have the time. For dinner: a bottle of Trius Merlot 2002 with Rock Cornish hen on the BBQ.

Tuesday, May 10: Breakfast at Signatures in the Inter-Continental Hotel with Carmen Casterino, an old friend from Dallas, who has worked for 25 years with Gallo in their PR department. He tells me about Gallo's new European wines – Red Bicyclette from the Rhone, Da Vinci Chianti and a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. Dropped in to the official launch of Santé, an event held in the foyer of the Manulife Centre. Champagne (Taittinger) was sabred, there were speeches, and more speeches and wines and Canadian cheeses. I had a glass of Creekside Sauvignon Blanc 2002 and came home to write. I found an old bottle of Vineland Estates Riesling Reserve 1999 in the cellar which we opened with sautéed tilapia – absolutely delicious, developing lovely petrol and lime flavours.

Wednesday, May 11: A morning of writing the Ontario section of the atlas. Delivered the section by email to Sara Angel of Otherwise Editions, my publisher. Then a meeting at Susur's restaurant to discuss a tasting dinner for a corporate client. The problem with matching wines to Susur's food is that not everybody gets the same dish and he only tells his staff what he's preparing that night at a daily 5:30 pm meeting. We discuss with Blair, the sommelier, what the options are. He's not keen on ordering in any wine, so we have to go with what's on his list. The prices are eyebrow-raising, but Susur's got two dozen cooks working in the kitchen and they have to be paid, I guess. We finally decide on the wines based on the style of dishes. This evening is the Santé gala dinner – the meal for which our committee selected the wines in competition and then gave them to Truffle's executive chef Lynn Crawford to create a meal around. I like those priorities. She did an amazing job for 400-odd people. The acoustics in the ballroom at The Four Seasons are not great and Christine Cushing, the host of her own cooking show on the food Network, and Michael Fagan of the LCBO, did a gallant job trying to keep the attention of the crowd.

Thursday, May 12: My birthday. Annabel, my daughter, called from Vancouver, and Guy called before he left for work. It's a working day, though. I am chairing a "town meeting" seminar on Cork versus Screwcaps at Santé's trade tasting this afternoon after the lunch at Carlu. Most of the speakers are from Australia – Fred Howard of Dog Ridge, Matt Lane of Rosemount, Nathan Duggan of Tyrrells – all of whom are 100% in favour of putting everything in screwcaps. Marc Allen, an Englishman who handles exports for Louis Latour in Burgundy, represented in Old World and took a contrarian's view. I think he was playing the Devil's Advocate, since Latour has purchased a Chablis house called Simon & Fèvre where they plan to put a toe in the water and bottle some wine under screwcap. Paul Speck, president of Henry of Pelham, gave a Canadian perspective. His was the first Ontario winery to bottle some premium wine under screwcap, albeit tentatively – 200 cases of 1,200 cases of H of P's Barrel-Fermented Chardonnay 2002 were bottled under screwcap, the rest with cork. Other Ontario wineries have been more aggressive since. Malivoire has gone all screwcap and so has Flatrock Cellars. In fact, Australian Darryl Groom, their founding winemaker (now over at Hillebrand), has the distinction of bottling the world's first Icewine under screwcap.

After the seminar I did a little tasting at the booth, where 75 wineries were offering their products. I was impressed with the Mission Hill wines – Chardonnay Reserve 2003 and Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2002. When I tried to get the subway home at the College station, I couldn't get on. People were milling around the pay booths. The entire Yonge line had been shut down. Someone, apparently, had committed suicide at the Queen station. They gave us Emergency Transfers, but there were no buses to be seen. I walked to Bloor, waited for a bus there and half an hour later took a taxi home. My sister Shirley and her husband Sam are in from Montreal and have invited Deborah and me to dinner at Scaramouche's pasta bar with Shirley's sons David and Mark and his wife Dawn. We stopped at Mark's new house for a drink before dinner. He opened a bottle of 1998 Ch. Angelus. Now that's a nephew to be proud of. At dinner we drank Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 and two bottles of a very good Cornas. Can't recall the producer. Must have had a good time. It was my birthday, after all.

Friday, May 13: A Vintages tasting day. Zoltan Szabo, a very talented sommelier, is coming on board as a taster for the website. He's sharing the tasting duties today. I'm disappointed with the Loire 2003 whites, which could be from anywhere. That hot summer has erased not only terroir character but varietal character of Sauvignon Blanc as well. Guy and his girlfriend Tanya came to dinner and I barbecued steak. We drank a bottle of Jackson-Triggs Delaine Vineyard Pinot Noir 2002 (which opened up nicely after about an hour) and started on a bottle of Dog Ridge Shiraz 2003 that Fred Howard had given me yesterday. Guy was underwhelmed by the screwcap but was delighted to take the bottle home with him after he tasted it. Packed for Ireland. We leave tomorrow after my Santé seminar, Wines for Spring Romance. This is the press release I wrote for the event:

Okay. Let's get one thing straight. You can analyse a wine to death; you can rhapsodise about its colour, wax lyrical about its bouquet, get poetic about its flavour and its effects. But when it comes right down to it, wine is quite simply Sex in a Glass. Repeat the mantra: Sex in a Glass. No other beverage inspires the urge to romance more than wine at a candlelit table.

Ladies, let me give some insights into the mind of men. If you're on a date in a restaurant and the guy orders water only, this is not a good sign (he's not into you). A glass of milk won't cut it either (he may have ulcers or a mother fixation). If he orders beer – he'd rather be with the boys. Vodka, whisky, gin, brandy – he'd rather be in a bar watching hockey or basketball. But wine – if he orders wine then he wants to share the experience with you. You are the object of his attention. You have his total concentration. He will raise the glass and look into your eyes and say something that resembles a compliment. Just smile and sip your wine and enjoy the moment.

Why? Because wine is the best aphrodisiac. It breaks down barriers and allows the truth to surface in a smile. There should be warning labels on bottles for those who do not want to be approached or take the first tentative steps towards a relationship. Wine is the medium that fills silences, that speaks the words you may be reluctant to utter. The mere raising of a glass and the clink as you toast your partner is a declaration of affection. So next time you choose a bottle of wine remember there are consequences. You have been warned. The wines to be tasted:

  • Chateau des Charmes Brut Methode Traditionelle ($21.95)
  • Henry of Pelham Cuvee Catharine Brut ($27.95)
  • Gardet Georges Gardet Cuvee Saint Flavy Champagne ($37.95)
  • Taittinger Brut Prestige Rose Champagne ($69.05)
  • Sergio Mionetto Spumante ($22.00)
  • Reif Cabernet Franc Icewine 2002 ($54.95)
  • Mountain Road Vidal Icewine 1999 ($34.95)
  • Pillitteri Sparkling Riesling Icewine ($70.00)

After the seminar, Guy and Deborah will pick me up and we'll drive to the airport for a 7:15 pm flight to London.




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