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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 58 (October 24, 2005)

Monday, October 17: A meeting of the Santé advisory board this morning to work out the seminar topics. I shall be conducting one on "How to prepare a dinner party." Lunch at Barberian's with Beth Novack Milliken, the proprietor of Spottswoode in St. Helena. There were about a dozen of us at the table, including Aaron Baberian, who told us about the renovations he's doing, increasing the seating capacity by 40 per cent and building a two-level wine cellar. Barberian's, a steak house, has one of the best collections in the city. We started off with Spottswoode Sauvignon Blanc 2004 (60% Sauvignon Musqué and some Semillon). It's a wonderful wine, fresh and spicy with a fleshy green plum and cut grass flavour. Then the 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon – a dense purple-black wine with a rich, sweet blackberry and vanilla oak nose, lovely sweet, velvety fruit but firm with lively acidity. 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon – my favourite of the first flight: floral and cedary, elegant, spicy blueberry flavour with great balance. 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon: black olives and dark chocolate, a little short on the finish. 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon: youthful, creamy nose with an iodine note, very fresh and lively. 1994 Cabernet Sauvignon: my favourite of the second flight – a seamless wine, beautifully balanced, lovely red berry fruit (the star of the tasting). 1991 Cabernet Sauvignon: disappointing; good colour, black olive nose with cedar but short with a green tannic finish.

A meeting in the afternoon with Duncan McEuen, the Christie's auctioneer, who is trying to get a South African wine, Long Neck, into our market (to go up against Yellow Tail). It's line priced at $9.95. Dinner at Epic with Peter Gago, Penfolds' chief winemaker, whom I have not seen since the Banff Springs Wine Festival last year at this time. We started with Yattarna Chardonnay 2002 – straw colour, pineapple, nutty, spicy vanilla oak nose; toasty, full-bodied with lively acidity. Then the reds: St. Henri Shiraz 2001, spicy blackberry, redcurrant and leather note; sweet fruit, a little jammy with a medicinal note. Magill Estate Shiraz 2002, dense purple, oak dominant, spicy, lead pencil with a floral note; peppery chocolate flavour, full-bodied, lovely and juicy with a vanilla finish. RWT Shiraz 2002: full-bodied, cedar, brambleberry, cinnamon and cocoa flavours; soft tannins with a mocha-like finish. Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 – my favourite of the evening: dense purple colour, spicy blackcurrant and cedar nose; lovely fresh fruit with well integrated vanilla oak, lively acidity with a mocha and vanilla oak finish. The Grange 2000 was unfortunately corked. 60A 1962 (a blend of Coonawarra Cabernet and Shiraz): tawny ruby colour; coffee bean, leather, soy and toast on the nose; mellow with great balance, elegant with a firm structure and a lively acidic finish. Showing its age but still delicious. 60A 2004: dense purple, stains the glass; cedar, vanilla, spicy oak dominating the fruit; not together yet but a rich sweet core of fruit that will express itself with bottle age. Kalimna Cabernet Sauvignon 1996: mature ruby; sweet nose, very elegant redcurrant and raspberry flavours; firm structure with great length and dusty tannins. A lovely wine. Block 42 Cabernet Sauvignon 2004: dense purple; intense dark chocolate, blackcurrant and mulberry nose with a touch of cocoa; sweet and firm, spicy oak and vanilla with great length. My second choice of the tasting. With dinner we had Penfolds Eden Valley Riesling 2003, followed by the Yattarna Chardonnay, then Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz 1998, billed as a "Baby Grange," followed by Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon and finally Grange 1996, a big powerful wine but remarkably elegant for its intensity (still a baby).

Tuesday, October 18: A tasting this morning with Doug Towers of 13 imported wines for his Winerytohome e-commerce site. Dropped into North 44 for a press conference to launch Grand Cru, Todd Halpern's three-day fund-raising event for Toronto General Hospital. Then down to the Carlu to watch Penfolds' recorking clinic. Collectors with old bottles of Grange and other Penfolds wine could bring them in to have them assessed, recorked if they needed it and certified. Peter Gago presented me with a bottle of St. Henri Claret 1985 so that I could see the procedure. First he considered the fill, which was pretty good, high enough above the shoulder but half an inch below what it would have been when first bottled. Then he took off the capsule and studied the cork, which was stained up most of the barrel. A sure sign it needed to be recorked. He removed the cork using two helixes from Screwpulls to ensure it did not shatter. When Peter took it out it broke easily in his hands, another reason to recork. He poured a couple of ounces and studied the colour. It was showing a touch of browning. Then he tasted it and so did I. The wine was mature but holding, showing tobacco and cherry flavours, still firm. He had put some nitrogen into the bottle and stoppered it with a temporary cork while we were discussing the condition. Peter referred to The Rewards of Patience, a book that gives tasting notes on old Penfolds wines. He then topped up the bottle with a St. Henri 2002, certified it, recorded the number and wrote "Good example" on the sheet. This information would subsequently be entered into the computer. The bottle was them recorked with a cork branded "Penfolds 2005 Recorking Clinic" and recapsuled. He signed the certificate and stuck it to the bottle. Peter told me that 5–10% of the wines that were brought to the recorking clinic were not certified but were marked with an ignominious white dot. A collecter from Michigan had flown up to have six bottles of Grange recorked. Penfolds has been running this clinic since 1991, during which time some 70,000 bottles have been recorked. Today in Toronto they did 200. "This takes the bad wines out of the system," Pete Gago told me.

At 5:30 pm Deborah and I drove to grano for the Frescobaldi tasting. The proceeds from this and tomorrow's dinner are going to the Gula Clinic in Uganda run by an Italian NGO, an AVSI support group. The tasting:

  • Frescobaldi Montesodi 1985
  • Frescobaldi Montesodi 1999
  • Frescobaldi Montesodi 2000
  • Frescobaldi Montesodi 2001
  • Frescobaldi Mormoreto 2001
  • Frescobaldi Mormoreto 2000
  • Frescobaldi Mormoreto 1999
  • Frescobaldi Mormoreto 1995

Best wine for me: the two 2000s.

Wednesday, October 19: Arlene Bynon came over early to record two interviews for her Saturday radio show – one on how to use your nose, the other on wine and chocolate. Pinot kept barking and had to be taken for a walk. Wrote my scripts for 680 News and the Wines of the Week for this site. This evening is the big Frescobaldi dinner at the Park Hyatt with the silent auction and a live auction conducted by Peter Ventura, one of our directors on the American board of Grapes for Humanity. Leonardo Frescobaldi has donated a 18-litre bottle of Lamaione for the auction, as well as all the wines for the dinner. He has also very graciously donated $2 to Grapes for Humanity for every bottle of selected Frescobaldi wines sold at the LCBO during the month of October. This is the menu:

Hors D'oeuvres

2004 Pomino Bianco


Smoked Salmon
Lemon Marinated Fennel, Crème Fraiche

2003 Pomino Benefizio

Rissotto with Braised Guinea Fowl
Black Truffle, Porcini Mushroom

2003 Tenuta di Castiglioni

Beef Two Ways
Grilled Sirloin with Fried Sage Leaves
Caper and Anchovy Stuffed Tenderloin with Black Olive Jus
Acorn Squash and Potato Puree
Chateau style autumn vegetables

2001 Mormoreto

Parmigiano Reggiano and Asiago
Grilled Bosc Pear, Ficelle Toast

2000 Lamaione


Dark Chocolate and Almond Praline Terrine
Amaretto Ice Cream, warm stone fruit and ricotta springroll

Grappa di Castelgiocondo and Pomino Vin Santo

Freshly brewed Illy coffee

Thursday, October 20: Spent the day working on the first part of the book and the glossary. This evening, a dinner at the Granite Club with Eduardo Chadwick, proprietor of Errazuriz, Calitera, Arboleda and Sena in Chile. The reception wines were Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc and Errazuriz Merlot. At dinner with braised striped bass they served Errazuriz Wild Ferment Chardonnay 2002 (very ripe peachy-pineapple and tangerine flavours); with duck rillette and celeriac remoulade, Errazuriz Max Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 (one of my Wines of the Week two weeks ago); Vinedo Chadwick 1999 and 2002 and Sena 2001 with Roasted Faux-Filet of Beef (whatever that is). The Sena showed very well, Chadwick needs more time in the bottle. And with dessert, semi-sweet flourless chocolate cake with macerated black Mission figs, Errazuriz Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2004.

Friday, October 21: This has been my week of eating. Time to cut back on the intake. Worked out this morning as usual – trying to keep to my three mornings a week after Pinot's walk. Spent the day in front of the computer finishing up odds and ends and writing 500 words on Tuscan wines for a travel agent putting together a trip there. Received a scam e-mail purportedly from the Royal Bank telling me that my security clearance had run out for my on-line banking and would I go to a certain website and re-register. I took a copy into my local branch to confirm it was a scam. It looked awfully real though, with the bank's logo. I'm sure there will be clients who follow through and find their accounts emptied. Studied the catalogue for Vintages' auction tomorrow. Dinner: spaghetti Bolognese with a bottle of Angus the Bull 2004. An impressive, chunky, full-blooded wine.

Saturday, October 22: Attended Vintages' auction at Ritchie's. The prices were very high, and on top of that the LCBO put on a premium and then the taxes. In the evening I conducted a dinner tasting at The Original Greek in Peterborough. A rainy drive up there. Got lost because the GPS led me to a bridge across the river that had been closed. A fun evening, though, with more dishes than I could eat. I had hoped to drive back to Toronto but the event ended at 11:30 pm so I decided to book into a hotel.




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