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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 60 (November 7, 2005)

Monday, October 31: began researching the Israeli wine industry for a tasting I'm doing tomorrow night at Casa Loma. It's a fundraiser for the Canada-Israel Institute for Sports & Health Education. When I was in Israel in 1967 as a volunteer after the Six Day War there were three wineries. Today there are 102. Lunch with my friend Luiz, who runs the Port Wine Club ( We ate at Cataplana, a Portuguese restaurant on College. Sea bass on a spinach risotto with a bottle of Quinta dos Quatros Ventos 1999 from the Douro. I love the fact that the Portuguese drink red wine with everything. A meeting with Paul Lokash to go over the wines for tomorrow's tasting. He has had major difficulties getting them into the country. One winery sent them by mail. The Post Office confiscated them, telling him he had to get them through Customs. The Customs told him that it was the Post Office who had to release them. Back and forth he went and still no resolution. A the joys of living in province where beverage alcohol can be held hostage by bureaucrats. Tonight is Hallowe'en. Pinot freaks out and barks furiously every time the front door bell rings. The kids will earn their treats. For dinner with steak, a bottle of Jackson-Triggs Sun Rock Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 (very concentrated and rich fruit flavours).

Tuesday, November 1: We are left with an enormous amount of candy. I think Pinot scared away a lot of kids. A meeting with Rosie Schwartz to discuss a possible wine and food tour of Israel. Very apposite, since tonight I'm conducting a fundraiser tasting for the Canada-Israel Institute for Sport and Health Education at Casa Loma. The reception wine was a 1997 Yarden sparkling wine – quite tart but well made. Then four reds: Saslove Aviv Cabernet Sauvignon 2003, Saslove Aviv Marriage 2002, Karmei Yosef Bravdo Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 and Seahorse Camus Syrah 2003. The wines were surprisingly good. The star was the Bravdo Cab, which had tremendous depth of flavour yet great elegance. I wrapped up as early as I could because Deborah and I were invited to celebrate our friend Sam's 75th birthday at Didier. The dinner party, in a private room, was in full swing when I arrived in time for the Caribou course. The line-up of wines was impressive. The star was the '82 Ducru Beaucaillou (but then my license plate is CLARET).


Tartar de Dorade
New Brunswick Village Bay Oysters
Chilled White Shrimps
Pol Roger "Chardonnay Reserve" 1996


Seared Quebec Foie Gras, Caramelized Fig
Hugel Tokay Pinot Gris "Selectionne Par Jean Hugel" Vandange Tardive 1976

Wild Arctic Char, Fennel Puree
Domaine Louis Latour Chevalier Montrachet "Les Demoiselles" 1995

Pithivier de Caribou, Sauce Poivrade
Château Ducru Beaucaillou 1982

Les Fromages Français
Richebourg DRC 1988

Pear Tatin
Cockburns Port 1963

Wednesday, November 2: Spent the day writing a 500-word piece for Wine & Food magazine in the States on Canadian wine. The problem was to distil down the industry to this word length. Attended a tasting at the Fine Wine Reserve put on by Vineland Estate, Flat Rock and Tawse. Quite simply, it was the most impressive tasting of a group of Ontario wines I have ever attended. The quality across the board was very high.

Vineland Estates St. Urban Riesling 2004: pale straw colour; grapefruit peel nose; minerally, racy, lime and dried apricot flavours; medium-bodied, very fresh and lively (very Mosel in style) with a clean long finish. ****½

Flat Rock Riesling Nadja's Vineyard 2004: This wine won the Canadian Wine Awards top Riesling prize – and it deserved it. Pale straw colour; minerally-floral nose; full on the palate with tart lime and green apple flavours; lovely mouth feel with great length. *****

Vineland Estates Rosomel Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2004: This wine won the best Sauvignon Award at the Canadian Wine Awards. Very pale colour with a concentrated grassy, nettle and gooseberry nose; intense, Sancerre style, well made with lively acidity. The touch of barrel ageing really fills out the middle palate. ****½

Flat Rock Rusty Shed Chardonnay 2004: Named after a rusty shed at the bottom of the vineyard (Ed Madronich says he called it Rusty Shed so he wouldn't have to paint it). Medium straw colour; spicy vanilla and apple nose; medium-bodied, toasty-spicy green pineapple, apple and lemon flavours; lingers on the palate. Will age nicely. ****½

Vineland Estates Chardonnay Reserve 2002: Straw colour; buttery, creamy, vanilla and caramel notes on the nose; full-bodied, caramel, toast and candy apple flavours that persist to a nutty finish. ****½

Tawse Chardonnay Beamsville Bench Reserve 2002: Golden straw colour; very ripe, melon and white chocolate on the nose; full-bodied and mouth-filling, rich, spicy, minerally caramel flavours; intense and concentrated with well integrated oak. ****½

Tawse Chardonnay Robyn's Block 2002: Straw colour, more restrained and elegant than the Beamsville Bench Reserve; toasty, tangerine bouquet; full-bodied, great balance with buttery, melon, pineapple and toast flavours that linger to a roasted nut finish. *****

Flat Rock Pinot Noir 2004: Madronich showed us four wines, three Pinot Noir clones – 667, 777, 115 – and winemaker Darryl Brooker's final blend of the three clones. My favourite was the clones by themselves was 115, which was the most Burgundian. The final blend called Gravity will be delicious. ****½. Flat Rock plans to market a four-pack of these wines.

Vineland Estates Pinot Noir Reserve 2003: Ruby colour; lifted barnyard, violets, tobacco leaf and raspberry bouquet with enough oak to make its presence felt (18 months in barrel). Very Volnay in style with a firm finish. ****½

Vineland Meritage 2002: Dense ruby; cedar, vanilla and red berry nose with a floral grace note; medium-bodied, firmly structured, with a racy redcurrant flavour meshed with spicy oak. Tight now on the finish but this Bordeaux style wine should mellow nicely. ****

Tawse Cabernet Franc Reserve 2002: No question, this is the finest Cabernet Franc I have tasted from Canadian soil. It shows how good this variety can be when it is rigorously cropped. Dense ruby colour; spicy vanilla and red berries on the nose; intense blueberry and black raspberry flavours, full and lush on the palate, very elegant and balanced. *****

Thursday, November 3: Worked on the insurance claim for a cellar destroyed by fire. The client was contesting my appraisal of the wines in his cellar. People always think that the wines they have are more valuable than they are. Wrote a piece about Angelo Gaja for the Chinese magazine Fine Wine and Liquor. Dinner at Wildfire restaurant with Wayne Stehbens, head winemaker at Katnook in Coonawarra, along with six of my colleagues. The wine of the night was the Katnook Estate Prodigy Shiraz 2002. Dense purple with a medicinal, blackberry nose and a flavour of crushed blackberries, spice and pepper. Katnook red wines age well. Wayne showed us a 1990 Estate Odyssey (Cabernet Sauvignon) whose colour was still dense and vivid. Cedar, plum and prune flavours predominated over some lively acidity.

Friday, November 5: Up at 6:30 am to drive Guy to the airport. He's flying to Vancouver to see his sister Annabel, whose birthday is on Sunday. A Vintages tasting day. There were 98 wines set out (plus spirits, which I didn't taste). Zoltan was sick and couldn't attend, so I had to taste them all. Halfway through I went for lunch at the Toronto Star canteen (macaroni and cheese) and then back to finish off. I got home and took Pinot for an hour-long walk and then to bed, exhausted. I do not recommend anyone to try and taste 98 wines in a day. I don't know how my colleagues do it and then go to other jobs.

Saturday, November 5: At 5 pm I'm invited to meet Jason Bowden, whose card reads "Louis XIII Ambassador." An Englishman from Manchester in his late thirties, he has been working for Rémy Martin for nine years, travelling the world now for this deluxe cognac. There are six of us and we meet in the bar at Bymark, where Charles Heidsieck champagne is served with delicious canapés. Bowden talks uninterrupted for half an hour about cognac, Remy Martin and Louis XIII and how it is served in different cultures (neat, mixed, with food, with cigars). In Moscow a "businessman" served Louis XIII with coke and vodka. Then we retire downstairs to a chapel-like room where two bottles, a 700 mL and a magnum in their distinctive Italian renaissance-style Baccarat decanters, are set on a table strewn with rose petals. "You don't choose Louis XIII," intones Bowden. "It chooses you." We are then served a glass and asked to smell some perfume sticks scented with what turn out to be myrrh (smelled like leather to me), honeysuckle (lavender!) and honey (honey). All of these scents and more we are asked to pick out of the cognac's bouquet. Bowden tells us that a renowned perfume tester in Paris had identified jasmine, honeysuckle, iris, rose, violet prunes, passion fruit, fig, prune, ginger, nutmeg and cigar box and honey-glazed sandalwood. It really is a splendid cognac with layers of nuance on the nose and on the palate, but I don't think I'll find it in my Christmas stocking at $2099 ($4399.95 for the magnum). Then out into the rain to take the subway to Bloor, where I meet Deborah on the platform. We're going to a Saintsbury Society dinner at Tony Hirons' house. The theme is Tuscany, and Tony and Diane have prepared a Tuscan menu. The main dish is osso buco with risotto. I am bringing a bottle of Frescobaldi/Mondavi Luce 1998. The guest is Alex of Bardi's Steakhouse, who has a great cellar. Irv and Carol Wolkoff and Diane's sister Cheryl made up the party of eight. Here's the line-up of wines we tasted.

  • Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Frizzante NV La Riva dei Frati
  • Falchini Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2005 "Vigna a Solatio"
  • Podere Casina Morellino di Scansano 2004
  • Tenuta di Capezzana Ghiaie della Furba 2000
  • Avignonesi "Desiderio" 1999 (Merlot)
  • Luce 1998
  • Altesino Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 1988
  • Agostina Pieri Brunello di Montalcino 1999
  • Il Conventino Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2000
  • Prunatelli Vin Santo di Chianti Rufina 1985
  • Carpazzo Moscadello di Montalcino 2000




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