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A Wine Lover's Diary, part 70 (January 16, 2006)

Monday, January 9: At 1 pm I have to do an interview for Entertainment Tonight Canada on the subject of celebrities who own wineries. The piece is being recorded at Sotto Sotto, which is apt, given that Sotto Sotto for some reason is the place where film stars dine in Toronto. I have found that unless you are a celebrity here you get placed in a dark corner where you're forgotten. At 4:30 pm a meeting at the atlas designer's which turns out to be a discussion about images. Things are tense because the deadline for the book to go to the printers is looming. Steve Elphick and I leave to go to the annual Wine Writers' Circle Christmas Dinner, held in January because there's just too much going on in December. This year it's at Edo, the Japanese restaurant on Eglinton West. Each member brings a bottle and one for his or her guest. My wines were Flat Rock Riesling Nadja's Vineyard 2004 – to my mind, the best Riesling made in that vintage in Ontario – and Hedges Three Vineyards 2003, which I had brought back from Washington. Here is the menu – a spectacular meal, definitely Beyond Sushi – as presented to us:

Japanese fine dining
far beyond sushi

Welcomes the
Wine Writers' Circle of Canada

Pre-Dinner Wine-Tasting

salted organic soy beans in the pod
Nama Harumaki Yasai Shiromi Goma-e
crisp vegetables wrapped in rice paper spicy sesame sauce
2 Kinds of Chef's Special Sushi
Karashi Sumiso

seared tuna with mustard-miso vinegar dressing

Sakura Kunsei Arctic Char Yukari
cherry-smoked arctic char with red shisso sauce

Air Course
Edamame Chawan Mushi
steamed edamame custard with shrimp, chicken and enoki

Sea Course
Akadai Tsutsumi Mushi Mozuku
scallop mousse-stuffed red snapper with viognier sauce

Land Course
Wagyu Konsai-rui Shirazu Nikomi
braised Kobe beef with Japanese root vegetables, shiraz sauce

Black Sesame Mousse and Green Tea Mousse
rennyu azuki – sweetened milk with red bean

Tuesday, January 10: This morning I picked up the wines from the Australian Trade Commission for the February 21st "Tuesday Tasting with Tony" at Grano. Then on to 680 News to record my radio spots. Norman Hardie, who owns a small eponymous winery in Price Edward County, invited me to lunch to taste his newly bottled screwcap wines, a Chardonnay and a Pinot Noir, both from Niagara fruit.

Norman Hardie Winery Chardonnay 2004: deeply coloured with a spicy apple nose and a hint of oak; full on the palate with a lovely mouth feel, minerally, flavours of apple, tangerine and green pineapple; medium-bodied, very much in Maçonnais style. The oak is beautifully integrated which offers a creamy, lingering finish. (****½).The revelation was the Pinot noir 2004, a blend of four clones (113, 115, 667 and 777). Medium ruby in colour with a bouquet of violets, raspberries and minerals; sweet raspberry and cherry fruit, medium-bodied, well balanced with a soft tannic finish. Very much in Volnay style, velvety and lacy on the palate but with lots of power and energy. Quite simply, the best Pinot Noir I have tasted in Ontario. (I bought a case even though it's $39 a bottle). This is a poet's wine. (*****) Norm only made 200 cases. It's available either at the winery (613-827-1204) or the winery will deliver. Norman Hardie made his first Pinot Noir from his own estate fruit in Prince Edward County in 2005. Can't wait to taste that.

Wednesday, January 11: Worked on the appendix of the atlas. I had to write more intros. I feel I have written myself out on the project now but I know it isn't over. I haven't heard the Fat Lady's siren song. Went to Josephson's to pick up my new glasses. Josh Josephson talked me into having my old glasses fitted with lenses specifically for working at the computer. I've been getting a crick in my neck from lifting my head to the reading part of my old graduated lenses. The new ones allow me to look directly ahead. Then a meeting with Jack and Stephen Pauwels to discuss the wine tour of Italy in May. We need six more people to make it a go. The deadline is the beginning of February. My friend Gordon Pape, who has signed up, is putting it in his Internet Wealth Builder newsletter, which has a circulation of 5000 – so am keeping my fingers crossed. Dinner this evening at Grano, where Sandro Bottega, the grappa distiller, is entreating members of the LCBO, the wine press and executives from Villa Colombo and the Columbus Centre. Sandro, a distillation himself of Italian energy and loquaciousness, has donated the proceeds from the sale of one of his grappas to these charities. We started off with his Vino dei Poeti Prosecco, a very easy-to-take sparkling wine with a dry, white peach flavour. With pumpkin ravioli we tasted his Moscato, which didn't really work but it was a charming wine with orange blossom and carnation notes. Next a Chianti, Acino D'Oro 2002, dry cherry, spicy with a black olive note. We finished with Sandro's chocolate grappa – Gianduia Crema – and the white chocolate, Fiore di Latte. Intriguing products; they taste like Brandy Alexanders and go down far too easily.

Thursday, January 12: David Lawrason and Doug towers came around at noon for another tasting – about thirty-some Ontario wines. Today is Deborah's birthday and I have booked a table for three (including Guy) for dinner. I brought my own wines – CedarCreek Pinot Gris 2003 from BC, Torres Gran Coronas Black Label 1981, a gift from my friend Chuck Byers, and Donum Pinot Noir 2002 from Carneros. The restaurant charged $40 each for corkage but what really made me sit up straight was $33 a glass for non-vintage Louis de Sacy champagne. The food, though, is some of the best in the city.

Friday, January 13: And a full moon rising so there are lots of crazies on the roads. The second tasting for the February Vintages release. Spent the afternoon preparing for a dinner party tonight for our friends Ladka and Gerry Sweeney and Allison and Paul Uys. In spite of the rush to get it all together (Deborah was working until after 5 pm at Restoration Hardware), it went off very well. We started with Piper-Heidsieck Rosé Brut with homemade hummus (my speciality, laced with toasted pine nuts) and warmed figs and Medjool dates stuffed with gorgonzola. With Deborah's mushroom risotto, a bottle of Tabali Reserva Especial Chardonnay 2004 (which is coming to Vintages on March 4th – memo to self, pick a few bottles at $18.95) – a rich, full-bodied caramel and citrus-flavoured wine from Chile's Limari Valley. With the BBQ-ed filet steak, Mas d'en Gil Clos Fonta 2001, a wine I brought back from Priorat (richly extracted, intense blackberry flavours). With the cheese plate, La Nerthe Cuvée des Cadettes Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1998 (drinking beautifully now). With Deborah's lemon tart served with Sacher Torte (from the hotel Sacher – a Christmas gift from the Austrian Wine Bureau), a bottle of Jackson-Triggs Vidal Icewine 2003.

Saturday, January 14: This evening I am conducting a tasting of Creekside wines from a charity auction for the Amici Chamber Ensemble. Grano is supplying the food and I am to pick it up at 5 pm and drive to Etobicoke for the event. Among the wines Creekside has provided are the Mike Weir Chardonnay and Cabernet Merlot. Mike Weir is left-handed. So am I. That's about as far as the similarities go.




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