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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 59 (October 31, 2005)

Monday, October 24: From the look of my diary, this is going to be a busy wine week. Recorded my six items for 680 News this morning and then returned home to answer e-mails before going to the dentist (a filling had to be replaced). My mouth was all frozen up when I attended the port tasting at the King Edward Hotel. They were showing the 2003 vintage (Quinta do Noval was amazing). I started with the table wines but had trouble spitting because of the freezing. Eventually it wore off and I could taste. Three really impressive wines, all from the Douro – Quinta do Vale Meao Meandro 2002, Niepoort Redoma 2002 and Quinta do Vale Perdiz Cistuns Reserve 2002 (all imported by FWP Trading). Really enjoyed Quinta do Infantado 10-Year-Old Tawny. For dinner, lamb chops with Willow Springs Baco Noir 2003.

Tuesday, October 25: Wrote a piece on the wines of Tuscany for a travel company, then to lunch at Chiado with Huyshe Bower of Taylor's. We tasted four ports after the lunch, but with the meal we had Esporão Reserva 2003 from the Alentej and Niepoort Vertente 2000 from Douro – both really delicious wines. Huyshe introduced the three wine writers there (Konrad Ejbich, Frank Baldock and me) to Indulgence, a ruby port, he said, that was specifically designed for women. A dangerous concept in these days of Political Correctness. Indulgence is a lighter style of port, sweet and jammy with very soft tannins. The brandy was very well integrated into the wine. A good value at $16.75. In the late afternoon I dropped into a cocktail party at Random House's offices for the book festival. For dinner, hamburgers and Angus The Bull Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 from Australia, a fitting wine for the dish.

Wednesday, October 26: Spent the day making final corrections to the manuscript. Steve Campbell invited Deborah and me to dinner at Harbour 60 to meet Georges Haushalter, who represents AXA Insurance wineries. He's the managing director of Compagnie Médocaine des Grands Crus. He brought along "S" de Suduiraut 2004, a dry Sauternes with a wonderful mouth feel – all grapefruit, gooseberries and cut grass (60% Semillon, 40% Sauvignon Blanc). Next, Jardin de Petit Village 1998, a second label of that Pomerol château – real tobacco pouch nose, meaty, spicy blackcurrant but a little short on the finish. Then came the 1998 Ch. Petit Villages, which was everything you want in a claret: deep ruby colour, cigar box nose, cedar, rose petal with elegant blueberry-blackcurrant flavour, very elegant, medium-bodied with soft tannins. Then Ch. Canuet 2000, the second label of Cantenac Brown, deep ruby-violet, blackcurrant, fruity, cedar, firm and succulent with a firm finish. This was followed by the 2000 vintage of Cantenac Brown, still tight and rigorous. The fruit is forward on the nose and sweet on the palate with ripe tannins; a more traditional style of claret. The Les Tourelles de Longueville 2002 (second label of Pichon-Baron) was corked, unfortunately. The 2001 Pichon Baron that followed was quite Burgundian in style rather than Bordeaux, still tight with a great balance of acidity. Will be terrific in 5 or so years. (The wines were wonderful with my New York striploin done as I like it, flared and rare, which I learned is called "Pittsburgh style.") For dessert, the second wine of Suduiraut, 2002 Castelanu du Suduiraut (barley sugar, orange, honey, good length with a toffee finish, firm, medium-bodied, lovely balance. No as sweet as most Sauternes and light Botrytis flavour. Then the 1999 Suduiraut – classic Sauternes: bronze colour; burnt orange and toffee nose, intense, concentrated and creamy; not overly sweet with an orange marmalade finish.

Thursday, October 27: An 11 am interview with Angelo Gaja at Il Mulino restaurant for the Chinese magazine Fine Wine & Liquor, published in Chinese. I brought him a bottle of Colio Vidal Icewine only to learn that he imports Colio into Italy. The interview is prior to a lunch tasting. We start with 2004 Rossj Bass Chardonnay (Rossj is a nickname for his younger daughter whose name is Rosanna). Rich pear and vanilla flavours with lemony acidity, medium-bodied, great length. Next, 2003 Ca'Marcanda Promis (Merlot, Syrah, Sangiovese blend from Tuscany) – blackberry and orange peel flavours with a kiss of oak, medium-bodied, great balance. Then Sito Moresco 2003 with a Langhe denomination. Langhe is Piedmont's wild west where you can do just about anything and still get a DOPC appellation. This wine is 35% Nebbiolo, 35% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon (minerally, chocolate, sour cherry, great finesse and length). With the main course (roast veal tenderloin) we had two Barbarescos – 2001 and 1989. The 2001 has great extract, spicy, licorice and dried cherry flavours; dry and majestic with exquisite balance. The 1989 Barbaresco was showing age at the rim; leather. Soy and dried fruits on the nose but what elegance on the palate and a lovely soft tannic finish. The wine of the tasting. With the cheese course we tasted 2000 Sperss (94% Nebbiolo, 6% Barbera, Langhe DOC). Licorice, violets, very elegant with a warm finish. The great thing about Gaja wines is their purity of flavours and their restrained power that gives them such finesse. In describing the difference between Cabernet Sauvignon and Nebbiolo, Gaja said the Cabernet is like John Wayne who stands in the middle of the room, eminently approachable, while Nebbiolo is like Marcello Mastroiani, who lurks in the corner and needs to be coaxed out of it.

There was a Spanish wines tasting but I had to miss it. Instead I went to Grand Cru, Todd Halpern's mammoth tasting of 96 of his principals' wines, held at the National Club. There were rooms to visit on three floors. I got there at 3 pm, when it was to start, and already it was crowded. It was good to see Fausto Maculan and Paolo de Marchi, whose wineries Deborah and I visited on our honeymoon in 1997. Great to taste Domaine A Pinot Noir 2003 from Tasmania (I love their Sauvignon Blanc) and Tarra Warra Pinot Noir 2002 from Yarra Valley. Enjoyed Burge Family Semillon 2004 from Barossa and Michel Gassier Lou Coucardie Blanc 2002 (Roussanne, Viognier and Grenache Blanc), but the wine of day was Dujac Morey St. Denis 2002. It was a magnificent effort to get all these producers together in Toronto for this fund-raiser. Robert Parker was meant to attend, but Todd Halpern showed me an e-mail he received from Parker saying that he had put his back out. I only wish I had more time to taste the wines because I had to go back home, change quickly and be down at Verity to conduct a tasting for the Toronto chapter of the Mount Allison alumnae association. Here's the line-up:

  • Reception wine: Codorníu Brut Classico (Spain)
  • Wildass Stratus Riesling 2001 (Ontario)
  • Hunter's Sauvignon Blanc 2004 (New Zealand)
  • McManis Chardonnay 2003 (California)
  • Henry of Pelham Pinot Noir 2003 (Ontario)
  • Castle Rock Merlot 2003 (Napa Valley; Columbia Valley fruit)
  • Piramimma Shiraz 2002 (Australia)

My wine of the night was the Hunter's Sauvignon Blanc 2004 – quintessential New Zealand Sauvignon.

Friday, October 28: A story in the National Post this morning about Robert Parker not show up to the tasting. The reporter described him as owning The Wine Spectator. That's not going to please Marvin Shanken. A Vintages tasting morning for the December release wines. There were 100 wines set out for us to taste. I shared the burden with Zoltan Szabo. Didn't have a chance for a nap, as Deborah and I were invited to a Grand Cru dinner at the home of Dr. Elise Stanley and Dr. Lyanne Schlichter – one of 25 such dinners that were being conducted around the city to raise money for the Toronto General and Western Hospital Foundation. Each host was allotted a vintner and a Toronto chef to prepare the meal to match the wines. We lucked out with Etienne Hugel and Ryo Ozawa, the chef at Edo. We started off with Gosset champagne. The menu was delightfully headed Air Course, Sea Course, Land Course and Dessert.

  • Air Course: Lobster chawan-mushi bisque, steamed light egg custard soup, black pepper and tarragon-flavoured and vegetables in season (accompanying wine Hugel Riesling 2003.
  • Sea Course: Red snapper and scallop mousse caspienne, "Mozuku" white wine sauce and Beluga caviar (Hugel Jubilee Riesling 2001 – stunning).
  • Land course: Pinot Noir-braised Kobe beef, Japanese renkon (lotus), gobo (burdock), sato-Imo (taro), edamame pommes purées, sauce (Hugel Pinot Noir 2001).
  • Dessert: Sake Mash Blancmange Mousse, Shyu à la crème, Maccha flavoured Japanese cream puff soy milk custard and Tofu Cream Cheese tart with orange sauce anglaise and triple berries (Hugel Pinot Gris Vendange Tardive and Gewurztraminer Selection de Grains Nobles "S" 1989).

An amazing meal and good company.

Saturday, October 29: Deborah dropped me down at the Heritage building in the Exhibition grounds to attend the Grand Cru auction. Todd Halpern (who owns a piece of the Bowmanville Zoo) had brought along two elephants with signs on their backs to help us find the way to the hall. A raft of wines was set out for tasting a couple of hours before the bidding started (to get the crowd loosened up – not that the attendees needed it, because they were in the mood to bid high and often). I had evaluated the wine lots and the hammer price was eight or ten times my evaluation. By my count they raised over $1 million from the 53 lots. To boost the prices, the vintners came up on stage and vied with each other as to who could add the most enticing invitations that went along with their large format bottles. Dinner at home: Vineland Estate Cabernet Franc Reserve 1999 (with some of the steak he couldn't finish at Harbour 60).




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