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A Wine Lover's Diary, parts 67 and 68 (January 3, 2006)

Monday, December 19: These days leading up to Christmas, it's hard to concentrate. I'd rather be walking Pinot. Still working on the maps. I'll be glad when this is over but it will be worth it, as the book is coming together very well. Learned that Southbrook is moving its winemaking operation down to Niagara for the next vintage with Ann Sperling as winemaker. This means that I have to move the Southbrook entry from the North of Toronto section to the Niagara Peninsula section – which in turn means a design change. Dinner with the Willises tonight. Michael has brought out some Tignanello 1985 and some Las Cases '85 to match.

Tuesday, December 20: Today is our annual Saintsbury Society Christmas lunch. The members – Tony Hirons, Irvin Wolkoff and I – meet at Grano. Tony's son Nick has joined us as the designated driver. I can walk, since it's only twenty minutes by foot and I will need the air. The wines we have brought along are Bava Bass Tuba Muscato d'Dasti 2004 (Roberto Bava once lent me his fountain pen to write a wine note at VinItaly. The ink looked suspiciously like wine. "It's my Barbaresco," he said. "I tried to use my Barolo but it clogs the pen."). This was a delicious start to the meal, very light and grapey. I brought a bottle of Jadot Clos de Rochegeres Moulin-a-Vent 2003 (a huge wine, 14.5% alcohol and very concentrated cherry flavour). Irv brought Titolato Baggolino Chianti Colli Fiorentino 2001 (very floral and light) and Tony brought a Pinot noir from Patagonia he represents, Malma Pinot Noir 2005. We were seated in the back room, where I usually do my monthly Tuesday tastings, because the entire restaurant had been booked by Maple Leaf Foods for 133 people. We got our order in early. That evening I conducted a tasting for an investment baker firm in New York, entertaining their Toronto clients. The event was held at the National Club. Here are the wines:

  • Peninsula Ridge Inox Chardonnay 2003 (Ontario)
  • Hunter's Sauvignon Blanc 2002 (New Zealand)
  • Waipara Pinot Noir 2002 (New Zealand)
  • Rodney Strong Merlot 2002 (California)
  • Rymill Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 (Australia)
  • Charles Melton Shiraz 2002 (Australia)

Guess which was the wine everyone liked? Yes, it was the Aussie Shiraz.

Wednesday, December 21: Got an email from my old friend Tim Heald in England. Tim was one of the founder members of the Crime Writers of Canada. His website,, speaks of his exotic adventures. Tim has a vivid imagination and I wondered if he had actually experienced his trip under sail from Singapore to Phuket. It put me in mind of Joris Karl Huysmans' anti-hero in Against Nature, a seminal book for me. Des Esseintes, the decadent aristocrat, never leaves his room but imagines travel. I googled Des Esseintes just to remind me of a certain passage (I thought I had a copy but I must have lent it to someone) and was alarmed to see that Huysmans died on my birthday (May 12) in 1907, as did Baron de Forrester (in 1861). The passage that always intrigued me was the following: "Indeed, each liquor corresponded in taste, he fancied, with the sound of a particular instrument. Dry curaçao, for example, resembled the clarinet in its shrill, velvety tone; kümmel was like the oboe, whose timbre is sonorous and nasal; crème de menthe and anisette were like the flute, both sweet and poignant, whining and soft. Then to complete the orchestra come kirsch, blowing a wild trumpet blast; gin and whisky, deafening the palate with their harsh eruptions of cornets and trombones; liqueur brandy, blaring with the overwhelming crash of tubas, while the thundering of cymbals and the big drum, beaten hard, evoked the rakis of Chios and the mastics." I am going to email this to Roberto Bava, who names his wines after musical instruments (see above).

For dinner with lasagne, a bottle of Quinta da Cabriz 2003.

Thursday, December 22: Another day of dealing with maps. Robert Ketchin and his partner, Roberta, are coming to dinner. Robert represents both New York State wines and New Zealand wines in Canada. I've known him since his Baby Duck days at Andres (he introduced this pop wine in England in the 1980s). He's brought along some wines with him. The first comes from my cellar – Jackson-Triggs White Meritage 2004 from the Okanagan, which is very good, if not quite as good as Sumac Ridge's. Robert opened a Staete Landt Marlborough Pinot Gris 2004 with duck pâté. Then we had (with the braised beef) Voss Estate Martinborough Pinot Noir 2002, followed by Craggy Range Merlot Gimblett Gravelly Vineyard 2002. Robert lives in Collingwood. He has a vineyard there and is making wine in partnership with Murray Puddicombe (whose daughter Leslie makes the wines in Niagara). He left me a bottle of Georgian Hills Vineyards Blush 2004.

Friday, December 23: At breakfast this morning, a phone call from Steve Elphick, the photographer on the atlas project, informing me that Philip Wamboldt, the owner-winemaker of Petite Riviere Vineyards, had been killed in a car accident. Philip was one of the most talented of Nova Scotia winemakers. This will be a great loss to the industry. I couldn't concentrate on my work; I kept thinking of Philip and his wife Carol and how they had built their small winery themselves. It looks like a chapel. Steve came over in the evening to go over the captions for the Quebec images. I opened a bottle of Chakana Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 from Argentina while we talked. Guy came to dinner – beef stir fry – and with that we had a bottle of Calona Pinot Noir 2004 from the Okanagan.


Monday, December 26: Boxing Day. And it's raining. The house smells of wet dog. Yesterday, I brought a half case of wines up to Deborah's niece Nadine and her husband Gary, who live in Caledon. The wine most appreciated was Casillero del Diablo Carmenère 2004 from Chile. Carmenère was thought, for years, to be Merlot until in 1994, using DNA mapping, Professor Jean-Michel Boursiquit of the Montpellier School of Oenology proved that much of the "Merlot" planted in Chile since the 1850s was really Carmenère and was identical to ancient vines still grown in Bordeaux. There is an enormous amount of confusion over the spelling of this variety. The press release sent to me by the importing agency in the headline spells it Carménère and so does the bottle shot with the label. I have seen it spelled Carmeneré but the official spelling according to the bible of Bordeaux wines, Féret's Bordeaux and its Wines, is Carmenère.

Tuesday, December 27: Spent the day cutting lines of the BC chapter to fit the page designs. This is like giving blood for me. For dinner, a bottle of Château St. Germain 2003. It was really concentrated and rich, and unlike other vintages of this wine. 2003 was a magnificent year but it will also offer false hope for wine drinkers who will imagine that this is what Bordeaux wines will taste like in future. It was a freak vintage, the earliest in living memory (mid-August) because of the heat wave in Europe.

Wednesday, December 28: Another day cutting lines and grumbling about the work I had done that now ends up on the cutting room floor. Pinot has a problem with her eyes. She's discharging mucus. I'll take her to the vet tomorrow.

Deborah and I went to see King Kong. A raging comic book of a film, with a great dinosaur stampede scene. The actors looked as if they had a lot of fun making the movie.

Wednesday, December 28: The vet says Pinot has conjunctivitis and needs antibiotic drops. The two cats are on thrombosis medicine for life, Tanya's applied locally in her ear as an ointment, but Nancy has to swallow a pill, which is a major struggle every day. The vet bills are mounting. The animals are going to have to get a job. Frank and Patti-Ann Daley came over for lunch. We had decided to go to the Catherine the Great exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario but when we got down there the place was mobbed and we were told we would have to line up for two hours. Decided to go to a movie instead – Munich. I had read George Jonas' book many year ago. The movie took a lot of liberties but it was well made. I would have liked to know what became of Avner, who headed the team of Israeli agents hunting down the terrorists who killed the Israeli athletes at the Munich Games. The Daleys stayed for dinner – pasta and meat sauce, cheeses, cake. We opened Long Neck Shiraz 2003 from South Africa's Western Cape and Les Salyens Cairanne 2000 from the Côtes du Rhône.

Thursday, December 29: Pinot's eyes have miraculously cleared up thanks to the drops, but I have a wretched cold. Wrote up the Wines of the Week and researched an article on Chenin Blanc which I believe will be the coming grape and will spotlight South Africa and the Loire. Tonight we have been invited to dinner at Irv and Carol Wolkoff's. Steve and Paula Elphick and Sheila Swerling-Puritt are the other guests. Steve picked up some goose foie gras in Quebec and is preparing it for the first course (served with Hugel Gewurztraminer Selection de Grains Nobles 1989). With the beef dish, Oyster Bay Pinot Noir 2004.

Friday, December 30: My cold has got worse. I decided to work out in the hopes of sweating it out, but that didn't work. My doctor, naturally, is on holiday; so is Deborah's doctor. So I went to a walk-in clinic and waited for two hours. Gave me time to read the novel Middlesex, which I have been enjoying intermittently when I get time to read. The doctor, young enough to be my son, gave me a prescription for a strong cough medicine to help me sleep and one for antibiotics if my sputum turns green! Deborah and I shopped for our New Year's Eve dinner party tomorrow.

Saturday, New Year's Eve: Spent the day cooking and feeling lousy. Our guests are Shirley and Gordon Pape, Carol and Gordon Stimmell (who took over the wine column in The Toronto Star from me), and Sheila Swerling-Puritt (who is preparing the first course – angel hair pasta with a spicy sauce like "puttanesca"). The main course is filet of beef with sliced potatoes baked with lemon and black olives, fennel and chestnut, followed by a selection of cheeses and Deborah's Christmas cake with hard sauce. The wines:

  • Chateau des Charmes Brut sparkling wine
  • Grove mill Sauvignon Blanc 2002 (with the pasta)
  • Pillitteri Trivalent Cabernet Merlot 1998 (showed very well)
  • Moillard Bonnes-Mares 1989 (wonderful – from Gordon Pape's cellar)
  • Hudelot-Noellat Clos Vougeot 1990 (unfortunately corked, so I brought out a wine from the cellar that we could drink slightly chilled – Chateau des Jacques Clos Rochegrès Moulin-à-Vent 2003)
  • Gould Campbell Vintage Port 1983

At midnight we opened a bottle of Pol Roger Brut Chardonnay Champagne 1993.

Gordon Pape bought along a quiz based on his book Quizmas 2005 (I only got five right. I guess I'm not that into Christmas). Here are the questions, with the answers at the end:

Quizmas 2005

  1. According to PNC Financial Services Group, how much did it cost to give your true love a partridge in a pear tree for Christmas 2005?
    a. $53.42
    b. $104.99
    c. $223.30
    d. $506.75
  2. "A Visit from St. Nicholas" was first published anonymously in which newspaper?
    a. The New York Times
    b. The Boston Globe
    c. The Albany Times
    d. The Troy Sentinel
  3. In what year did A Charlie Brown Christmas first air on television?
    a. 1965
    b. 1975
    c. 1985
    d. 1995
  4. What country holds an annual Santa Claus convention every year in July?
    a. Canada
    b. Denmark
    c. Germany
    d. Sweden
  5. The Muslim holy book, the Koran, contains the story of the birth of Jesus but in a version that is very different from that in the New Testament. According to The Koran, where was Mary when she gave birth?
    a. In her parents' home
    b. In a tent in the desert
    c. On a hillside under a palm tree
    d. In a holy place in Jerusalem
  6. What does the Koran say was at Mary's feet when she gave birth to Jesus?
    a. A lamb
    b. A brook
    c. A basket of food
    d. A dove
  7. In what language were the four gospels originally written?
    a. Greek
    b. Latin
    c. Hebrew
    d. Aramaic
  8. In which city are the relics of the Three Kings believed by some scholars to be entombed?
    a. Rome
    b. Cologne
    c. Paris
    d. Jerusalem
  9. Which Harry Potter book and movie features a Yule Ball?
    a. The Philosopher's Stone
    b. The Half-Blood Prince
    c. The Prisoner of Azkaban
    d. The Goblet of Fire
  10. What does the word Lego mean in Latin?
    a. I put together
    b. Tall building
    c. Long legs
    d. Let go
  11. What were the names of the other two chipmunks who sang "The Chipmunk Song"?
    a. Alex and Andrew
    b. Simon and Theodore
    c. Sam and Sasha
    d. Tom and Jerry
  12. What is the main crop of Demre, formerly known as Myra, where St. Nicholas served as Bishop?
    a. Lettuce
    b. Wheat
    c. Tomatoes
    d. Barley
  13. What is glistening in the lane in "Winter Wonderland"?
    a. Ice
    b. A penny
    c. Snow
    d. A bluebird
  14. The Xbox 360 was one of the hottest-selling electronic toys of the 2005 Christmas season. Who makes it?
    a. Apple
    b. IBM
    c. Sony
    d. Microsoft
  15. Who teamed up with Elmo to sing a duet of "Do You Hear What I Hear?" in 2000?
    a. Rosie O'Donnell
    b. Diana Ross
    c. Ellen DeGeneris
    d. Big Bird
  16. Who recorded the album "Here Comes Santa Claws"?
    a. Jingle Dogs
    b. Jingle Cats
    c. Jingle Kids
    d. Jingle Nuts
  17. In what city were Christmas carols played on a subway station barrel organ in 2005 in an effort to keep teenage gangs from congregating?
    a. London
    b. Madrid
    c. Berlin
    d. Rotterdam
  18. Every year, the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia, sends a giant Christmas tree to the people of Boston as an expression of gratitude for what?
    a. Assistance after the 1917 Halifax explosion
    b. Rescuing survivors of a Canadian troop ship torpedoed off Cape Cod in 1943
    c. Supporting the creation of a Boston to Halifax fast ferry in 1958
    d. Sending four cargo plans of emergency supplies following Hurricane Juan in 2003
  19. In the movie Olive, the Other Reindeer, who provides the voice of the title character?
    a. Julia Roberts
    b. Catherine Zeta-Jones
    c. Renée Zellweger
    d. Drew Barrymore
  20. From the poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas," complete the line: "He had a broad face and a little round belly, that shook, when he laughed, like..." what?
    a. my old Aunt Nelly
    b. a plate of spaghetti
    c. a dog wet and smelly
    d. a bowl full of jelly

The answers:

  1. b
  2. d.
  3. a.
  4. b.
  5. c.
  6. b.
  7. a.
  8. b.
  9. d.
  10. a.
  11. b.
  12. c.
  13. c.
  14. d.
  15. a.
  16. b.
  17. d.
  18. a.
  19. d.
  20. d.




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