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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 47 (August 8, 2005)

Monday, August 1: What a way to start the week. Pinot has constipation. The vet says this can happen after the fixing operation. The weather has turned hot again and even with the overhead fan and the noisy air-conditioner my office is stuffy. Guy needed to go to IKEA to return some wall mirrors. The place was mobbed because they were giving away pieces of furniture. Guy tells me the owner of IKEA is the second-wealthiest man in the world, after Bill Gates. Maybe he should increase the size of his parking lot.

Tuesday, August 2: The heat continues and I am beginning to get office fever (cabin fever in an urban setting). It seems my days are linked to the computer, which is beginning to do strange things. It spontaneously flutters through a series of screens and then settles down. I have switched it off and on again and gone through the tests for viruses but still it persists. Maybe I'm just hallucinating. Still working on the rewrites of the Ontario chapter – which is long. There's a new winery I hadn't heard about called Hidden Bench. It certainly hid well. Am trying to contact the owner, a lawyer named Harald Thiel. Dinner wine, Gallo's Turning Leaf Merlot 2004. It tastes more like a Syrah but delicious for the price ($11.95).

Wednesday, August 3: How much longer can this heat last? Spent the day working on Ontario then a meeting with Arlene Willis and Sam Sarick about Grapes for Humanity. Our AGM is coming up next month and members of the American board are coming to Toronto for it. Arlene always serves champagne at these meetings, which makes them go very smoothly. After the meeting I dropped in on Guy to see his new mirrors on his living room wall. He did a great job mounting them just like the IKEA catalogue. Deborah was entertaining her prayer group to dinner when I got home. I joined them for a glass of Sandhill Pinot Gris 2004 from BC and the Boekenhoutskloof Syrah 2003 I like so much.

Thursday, August 4: Finished the Niagara Peninsula section of the book, apart from Hidden Bench. Got to speak to Harald Thiel, who promised to answer my questionnaire and send me a label of Hidden Bench. This will have to be the last new winery that goes into the book because of my deadline. A young man, a civil servant, came over to talk about the wine industry. He wants to get out of government work and get into wine. We drank a bottle of Jackson-Triggs Sauvignon Blanc 2004 from BC with some Camembert and cheddar as we talked. It was much easier when I started thirty years ago, but I tried to encourage him. I love what I do and spend a lot of time doing it. It occurred to me that the reason people have hobbies is because they can't stand what they have to do from nine to five... Pinot is now big enough to reach the counter and had her way with the hamburger meat defrosting there. For dinner: Kacaba Cabernet Merlot 2003.

Friday, August 5: A Vintages tasting today, a huge release for September with lots of 2002 Burgundies. Spent the afternoon working on the book. My daughter Annabel arrives from Vancouver tonight. Her flight gets in at 11:30 pm, which means we won't get back here until 12:30 am at best. I used to see if the flight left on time (it was 45 minutes late). This is a great site for tracking where a flight is in the air and its scheduled arrival time. Deborah and I are being packed up tomorrow morning at 8 am to drive down to Colio's winery in Harrow (a four-hour drive). I'm conducting two wine tasting sessions in the barrel cellar.

Saturday, August 6: Doug Beatty, Colio's VP of Marketing, picked us up and we drove to Brantford, where he linked up with Doug's wife, Patti, at the Tim Horton's there. I bought a coffee and a doughnut. I never eat doughnuts, because I know they sit on my stomach like lead, but once a year I do. It's like cigars. I love the smell and taste of Cuban cigars, but if I smoke one I wake up next morning with a throat that feels like the bottom of a bird cage. It's been many years since I visited Colio. The South West Ontario wineries are holding their annual festival today. There are about a dozen wineries involved. Local restaurants do the food and there's a brass quintet. This gives me the opportunity to try the wines of some new wineries like Viewpointe, Aleksander, Smith & Wilson and Erie Shore. Lake Erie North Shore is beginning to get a critical mass of wineries and will soon be attracting agri-tourism business. We took the ferry from Kingsville to Pelee Island, where we are spending the night at a B&B called Blueberry Hill. The proprietor, Frani, is not in when we arrive and the door is unlocked. There's the note welcoming us, saying "I'm out gallivanting," and inviting us to have a glass of wine from the bottles left on the kitchen counter. We go looking for the ruins of Vin Villa, the first commercial winery in Canada. After a few misdirections we find it on private property in a wooded area at the north end of the island. The ivy-covered ruins make it look like a monastery. I was surprised how moved I was by seeing it. We dine at the Anchor & Wheel nearby, a buffet. Doug has brought along a bottle of Colio CEV Signature Meritage 2002. They have T-Shirts with a map of Pelee Island on the back and on the front the legend: "A great little drinking town with a fishing problem."

Sunday, August 7: Frani gives us a tour of the island after breakfast. She's been on the island for seven years and can stay open 10 months of the year. Her busy time is the pheasant shoot in May. There's a pheasant farm that raises 20,000 birds, which are let loose for hunters. There are no cows, no deer and no skunks on Pelee Island but an amazing amount of birdlife, especially waterfowl. The roads are actually on the top of dykes (the island is saucer-shaped, with the vineyards in the middle). There are 18 B&Bs on the island. It has a resident population of 275, which swells to 1000 in summer (lots of Americans own property here). Canada's Best Kept Secret they call it, and it's true. For dinner, a bottle of Vineland Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2003.




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