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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 55 (October 3, 2005)

Monday, September 26: A meeting this morning with Lisa from Sequel restaurant to plan the dinner for Leonardo de Frescobaldi for October 16th. Frescobaldi is the featured winery at Grapes For Humanity's fund raising dinner the next night. Did a little more work on the book before going down to Queen's Park to do a TV interview about the short crop in Ontario and the government's decision to allow wineries to bottle up to 99% off-shore wine and label it "Cellared in Canada." I sympathize with the wineries having very little wine to sell this vintage, but this will be very confusing for the consumer. Norman Beale, the owner of Peninsula Ridge, was putting the Wine Council point of view as its chairman, but I felt his heart wasn't in it, since his winery will only market VQA wines (that is, 100% Ontario-grown wines). This evening is the 20th anniversary dinner of the Wine Writers of Canada. Twenty-four of us are gathering in the back room of Grano for a tasting and dinner. We were all asked to bring along a bottle of 1985 vintage. I had none, so I brought a Grivelet Chambolle-Musigny 1973, which was very well received (still going strong). We started with a tasting of New Zealand reds – the best was a Seifried Pinot Noir 2002 – and then a toast with Krug 1988. At dinner we tasted each other's wines, an ounce each. I didn't take any notes, but I do recall Carpineto Brunello di Montalcino 1985, Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle 1985, Chateau Cheval Blanc 1985, Chateau Haut-Batailley 1985, Michel Couvreur Beaune 1985, Sandeman Vintage Port 1985 and another '85 port.

Tuesday, September 27: I received in the mail a new style of pump to remove air from bottles of wine. It's made by Trudeau and comes in a little black coffin with two rubber plugs. Unlike other air removal devices, this one is not an up-and-down pump action but a lateral squeeze like a new-fangled pepper grinder. I'm looking forward to trying it. The only problem is I rarely have any wine to keep once I open the bottle. Today is the Australian Wine Fair, held this year in the National Trade Centre at Exhibition Place, which is not the easiest place to get to by public transport. At 1 o'clock the press were allowed to taste selected wines in a room off the main corridor where all the tables were set up. There were over 415 wines set out for tasting. I was very impressed with the wines from Parri Estate in McLaren Vale, especially their Viognier Chardonnay 2004, a ripe peachy wine, very elegant, and their Shiraz 2003, which reminded me of a St. Joseph, very Rhône in style. The wine that really caught my attention was Zilzie Viognier 2004, like biting into a succulent ripe peach. Their Sangiovese 2004 was intriguing for its Muscat note. Other top wines for me were Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 2002, Petaluma Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2001, Rosemount Balmoral MV Syrah 2000, St. Andres Shiraz 2001 and St. Hallet's Gamekeeper's Reserve Shiraz/Grenache 2004. I must have tasted more than I thought I had, because Deborah and I had tickets for the opera and I fell asleep during the entire first act of Verdi's Macbeth.

Wednesday, September 28: The front page of the National Post this morning tells me that Constellation, the world's largest wine company, has made a hostile take-over bid for Vincor, Canada's largest wine conglomerate. This will set the cat amongst the pigeons. There is enough anti-American sentiment in this country and this will only add pour alcohol on the fire. What does Constellation want with such companies as Inniskillin, Sumac Ridge and Hawthorne Mountain? If the deal does go through, I can see those wineries buying their way out. But it does cause me extra work on the book. How do I write about Vincor as a Canadian company? And what will happen to the Frank Gehry winery for Le Clos Jordanne? Will it ever be built? Today is the Spanish Wine Fair at Hart House. Again a huge number of wines – 328 in a catalogue, but several didn't make it in. The most impressive wines were from a small company called Spain Only One – Bodega Finca La Estacada Syrah 2003, an amazingly creamy, blackberry and rose petal flavour and Rauda Crianza 2001, very elegant black cherry flavour. The range of wines from Solar de Urbezo for the DO Carinena are terrific. Beautifully made wines with pure fruit flavours: Dance del Marr 2004, Vina Urbezo 2004, Urbezo Crianza 2001, Urbezo Seleccion 2000 and Urbezo Reserva 2000 – I loved them all. Also very drinkable was Bodegas Montecastro 2000 from Ribera del Duero (creamy blackberry flavours). Came home, walked the dog and went downtown again to attend a tasting at the Fine Wine Reserve put on by The Vine, the agency run by Rob Groh, who is now partnered with Eric Calladine, who brings in top California and Washington State wines. My favourite here was Kalin Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 1996 from Potter Valley, an amazingly full, spicy, peach- and caramel-flavoured wine, beautifully balanced. Le Macioche Brunello di Montalcino 1999 (lovely and fleshy with dried cherry and leather flavours), Von Strasser Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 from Diamond Mountain (ripe, rich blackcurrant, firm and lingering), Arns Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 (richly extracted, pure and sweet, a dream of a wine). At home. made myself a bowl of Italian Wedding Soup (this is weird, the Italians have never heard of wedding soup) and a banana and answered emails until Deborah got home at 10 pm.

Thursday, September 29: Finished off the editorial rewrites for the BC chapter. A meeting this afternoon with Bruce Pickett of Brampton CruiseShipCentres. On his card there are no gaps between the words of the company name. Is this what email is doing to the language? We discussed the possibility of a wine cruise out of Seattle next October to visit Washington wineries. Dropped in to the Portuguese wine tasting at the Windsor Arms Hotel. Billed as the G7 Portugal, it featured the "Seven top wineries of Portugal" who have come together in a group to promote Portuguese wineries worldwide. They are Caves Aliança, Quinta do Aveldea, Bacalhoa, Vihnos de Portugal (who have a half interest in Colio wines), Fingara – Herdade de Esporao (one of my favourites), Jose Maria da Fonseca, Caves Messias and Sogrape. The tables we sent into alcoves around the main dining room of the hotel, which made access to the wines difficult. By the time I arrived the tasting had been in progress for some time and a party atmosphere prevailed. Portugal makes some good quality wines under $10. I didn't taste all 50 wines on show, but I liked the Fingara – Herdade de Esporao Vinha da Defesa Red 2003 (Aragonea and Castelao grapes) – rich, full-bodied, sweet blackberry flavour – and the J. M. Fonseca Quinta de Camarate 2001 (Castelao and Touriga Nacional) (earthy, mulberry flavour with a floral note). This company I have found makes wonderful wines across its whole broad range. In the evening Deborah and I were invited to attend a Tribute Concert at Roy Thomson Hall in honour of the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson. Peter Oundijan conducted the TSO. The solo for the Chopin Piano Concerto No. 1 in E Minor was the 23-year-old Chinese pianist Lang Lang, who gave a magical performance. The Rachmaninoff Symphony No. 2 in E Minor that followed was good but something of a let-down after the virtuosity of the piano concerto. I managed to stay awake for both the concerto and the symphony in spite of the Portuguese tasting. It could have been my interest in watching my friend Dan Ruddick, wine importer (Allegro Wines) and the TSO's percussionist, playing the cymbals, wondering if he'd miss his cue. Or if he'd ever dropped a cymbal during a performance. We had been invited to an after-concert reception at Massey College, but we opted to get home and walk Pinot, who was very happy to see us as always.

Friday, September 30: A Vintages tasting day for the October 31st release. There were 87 wines out for tasting. Zoltan was there to divide the load, thank God. For dinner, a bottle of Franco d'Asolo Pinot Nero 2004 from the Okanagan, a new winery.

Saturday, October 1: I conducted a tasting at Kingbridge Estate in King City for delegates to an International Baccalaureate Organization conference of teachers from Ontario. The wines were:

  • Trius Brut Hillebrand Estate
  • Chateau Bonnet 2003 Entre-Deux-Mers
  • Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc 2004
  • Hillebrand Trius Chardonnay 2002
  • Georges Dubœuf Beaujolais-Villages 2003
  • Caliterra Merlot 2003
  • Rosemount Estate Shiraz 2003




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