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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 45 (July 25, 2005)

Monday, July 18: I read that the Liberal government has rejected the main recommendations of a task force it set up to look into the future of beverage alcohol distribution and sales in Ontario. The government says it will not privatize the LCBO as the report recommended. It cost tax payers $600,000 for a shelved report. What are they thinking? And what a great time for LCBO employees to think about striking. What are they thinking? I'd like to see a mixed system. Keep the LCBO but let regions who want to open their own stores to do so. There could be a California store, a German store, an Australian store, etc. run by the trade commission or interested importing agents that would offer consumers a range of wines beyond those the LCBO brings in. It doesn't even have to be bricks and mortar – it could be a virtual store supplied from a warehouse. And importing agents should be allowed to warehouse their own wines and sell them direct to restaurants and consumers. The concept of control with a capital C is out of date. Time for a change... Worked on Nova Scotia. It strikes me that the future for that region lies in sparkling wines and top-flight rosés. The whites with their high acidity go very well with the local seafood and fish but would have a hard time competing with other New World whites. For dinner: Gallo's Red Bicyclette Syrah 2003, produced and bottled for them by SICA Caves du Sieur D'Arques in the Pays d'Oc, with a vegetable pasta dish (really it needed meat).

Tuesday, July 19: Pinot found a cherry I had thrown into my waste basket in my office. She managed to spread it over my carpet. Worked on Nova Scotia. It's amazing how wineries are spring up all over Canada. You have to admire the courage of these growers and vintners who take such a risk in places like Marble Mountain, Cape Breton. There's something madly Quixotic about challenging the elements like this... A meeting with Paul Lokash to discuss a fund-raiser wine tasting at Casa Loma on November 1st. The charity is the Canada-Israel Institute for Sports and Health Education and all the wines to be tasted will be from Israeli producers. During the meeting, we tasted five wines: Ella Valley Chardonnay 2003 (very Burgundian), Ella Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 (somewhat green, from young vines), Karmei Yosef Bravdo Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 (a very distinguished wine, elegant, well made with sweet succulent black fruit), Sea Horse Winery Camus Syrah 2003 (good varietal character, peppery with lively acidity) and Saslove Aviv Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 (red berry, vanilla oak, high acidity and a little short). Should be a good tasting, although there will be other wines in the lineup... For dinner with tilapia, a bottle of Calona Vineyards Pinot Blanc 2004, their Artist Series Reserve, from BC – a real well-made, impressive wine with a sweet peachy flavour and fine balancing acidity.

Wednesday, July 20: Another day working on the Nova Scotia section of the atlas. The heat wave continues. My vine is looking in very good shape. I've netted it against the birds. At 6 pm I went to a reception for a new condo development at Bayview south of Lawrence. I had an invitation because they were serving champagnes. I don't really know why I was invited, but I felt I deserved a glass or two of champagne. It turned out that they were serving Moet & Chandon, a Prosecco and a California sparkler. Mark McEwan of North 44 and Bymark was catering (he was there in his white chef's jacket), so the finger food was terrific.

Thursday, July 21: After a day of working on Nova Scotia (the chapter is finished and ready to send to the publisher), Ralph Weil phoned today to tell he has sold The Toronto Wine & Cheese Show to the Toronto Star... Deborah and I went over to Todd Halpern's house to hear his plans for a huge fund-raiser for three Toronto hospitals in October. Over a bottle of Faiveley Puligny Montrachet 1996, Todd outlined his plan to invite all his suppliers for a huge portfolio tasting, followed the next night by dinners in private homes with the winery principals. Todd's dog knocked over a Riedel Sommelier glass with his tail. Ah, the joy of pets. Then Deborah and I drove to the Acura dealership out by the airport to test drive the 2005 TL. The lease is up on our current TL. This will be the fourth Acura we've owned. We pick it up on Wednesday. It's got a GPS system so we'll never get lost again. That's if we can learn to use it. Picked up Chinese food on the way home from Peter's Chung King on College. Opened a bottle of Vineland Estate Rosé 2004 with it.

Friday, July 22: The heat wave continues. It was meant to break today, but weather forecasters are about as reliable as economists. Down to the LCBO lab this morning for a tasting of 20 new releases for the general list. One of them was, God help us, a Pinot Grigio flavoured with vanilla. BBQ-ed lamb chops for dinner with a bottle of Sandhill Cabernet-Merlot 2003 from the Burrowing Owl Vineyard. Howard Soon does a great job with fruit from that vineyard.

Saturday, July 23: Today I was picked up in a white stretch limo at 10 am to join my wine writer colleagues Sheila Swerling-Puritt, Gordon Stimmell and Dean Tudor for a drive to Festival Buckhorn, north of Peterborough. I've attended this event for the past four years and have always enjoyed it. The limo was courtesy of Colio, whose wines we tasted as we drove. Carlo Negri was voted "Winemaker of the Year" at the Ontario Wine Awards in April. His wines showed very well, particularly the CEV Merlot 2002. Buckhorn is one of the most relaxed wine events going. Everyone is in cottage attire and very relaxed. I did a seminar on "Tasting Like a Pro," which was very well attended because it suddenly started to rain. The rain finished just as I did. At 4:30 pm we were taken to taste at Kawartha Country Wines, a fruit winery. They make a range of wines, including one from pumpkins! I'm not a great lover of fruit wines, which started me thinking what other wines I did not particularly care for. The only one I came up with was Sparkling Shiraz (sorry Australia). After that we visited a food-store-cum-catering operation in Lakefield called In A Nutt Shell which prepares "gourmet to go" for the local cottagers. Chef Brian Henry cooked a series of delicious appetizers for us as we sat around a table in the kitchen. He told us his life story, which included opening a restaurant in Huntsville at the age of 21, chasing The Grateful Dead around in a bus equipped with a pizza oven and learning to cook Mexican food from the natives. On the drive back to Toronto we got caught in traffic coming from the Beaches Jazz Festival and it took forever to return home.

Sunday, July 23: Today is the annual Wine Writers Circle BBQ. Rain is threatened. Traditionally, it has been held in Steve Elphick's garden in Weston. Each of us brings a dish (I'm bringing hummus and pita) and wine. I've chosen a dessert wine from Recline Ridge (Canada's most northerly winery) – Perle 2002 – and a wine I picked up in a London supermarket when I was there in April: It has a skeleton of a dinosaur on the label and it's called Curious Grape Flint Dry 2001 New Wave Wine From England. It's a blend of Müller-Thurgau, Reichensteiner, Bacchus and Schönburger. Can't wait to try it. Actually, it wasn't bad.




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