A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 533: Flag Photo

Thursday, February 12: Back to freezing cold weather in Toronto. Busy day catching up on emails and writing my Post City Magazines column.

Friday, February 13: My son Guy’s 40th birthday. He’s celebrating in Las Vegas while we’re freezing here at minus 33 Celsius with the wind chill. In the morning went down to Maple Leaf Gardens to participate in a photo to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Canadian flag. 2015 people all dressed in red tops stood on the red parts of the flag at centre ice. I was standing at the extreme left of the maple leaf, one in from a bald guy who said that he was in the original photo taken at Beaverton in 1969 outdoors in winter. It was a very moving experience.

Filling in the Maple Leaf at the Gardens

Wrote my On the Go column and then got down to some tasting:

  • White House Wine Co. Riesling Pinot Grigio 2013 (Niagara Peninsula – $12.95): old gold colour; peach and citrus nose; dry, unctuous mouth-feel, white peach and lemon flavour. Touch of bitterness on the finish. (86)
  • Sue Ann Staff Fancy Farm Girl Frivolous White 2012 (Riesling – Niagara Peninsula – $14.95): pale straw colour; minerally, grapefruit nose already developing petrol notes; ripe and full on the palate with pear and lime flavours and a touch of honey. Good tension between sweetness and citrus acidity. (87)
  • Miguel Torres Las Mulas Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2014 (Chile – $12.95): light straw colour; struck flint, minerally, green bean, leafy nose; crisply dry, tart gooseberry flavour; more in Loire style than Chile, brisk lime flavour. Good length. Good value (87)
  • Henry of Pelham Chardonnay 2013 (Niagara Peninsula – $14.95): straw colour; minerally-yeasty nose of apples; dry, light to medium-bodied, dry, apple and citrus flavours; moderate length. (87)
  • Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc Cellar Selection 2014 (Marlborough, New Zealand – $19.95): pale straw colour; grassy, gooseberry nose; medium-bodied, crisply dry with flavours of gooseberry, passion fruit and lemon. Beautifully balanced with great length. (90)
  • Kim Crawford Pansy Rosé 2014 (Merlot – Hawke’s Bay, $17): deep salmon colour; raspberry and cherry nose; dry, medium-bodied, well extracted fruit, well balanced with acidity with a lively citrus-laced raspberry candy finish. (88)
  • Sue Ann Staff Fancy Farm Girl Flamboyant Red 2012 (Cabernet/Merlot – Niagara Peninsula – $14.95): light ruby colour; minerally, Cabernet Franc nose or leafy, redcurrant and tobacco leaf; light-bodied, easy drinking with surprisingly high alcohol and a lovely floral note in mid palate. (88)
  • Silver Bay Pinot Noir 2013 (Niagara Peninsula – $14.95): ruby colour; earth, cherry pit nose; dry, light-bodied, lean and rather short on fruit. (86)
  • Pedra Cancela Winemaker’s Selection 2010 (Touriga Nacional, Alfrocheiro, Tinta Roriz – Dao, Portugal: $13.95): deep ruby colour; smoky, earthy, minty nose; dry, medium-bodied, mouth-filling, minty red berry and plum flavours; firmly structured, lively acidity with ripe tannins. Good value. (88)

Had the opened bottle of Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc with mushroom and ricotta cheese ravioli. Delicious.

Saturday, February 14: Wrote a 300-word piece on what makes a great sommelier for Jacob Richler’s new book, 100 Best Restaurants in Canada. Steak for dinner with Lailey Cabernet Franc 2010.

Sunday, February 15: Deborah’s sister Suzanne was meant to come to dinner but cancelled at the last minute. We had prepared Moroccan chicken soup and grilled salmon. I opened a bottle of Domdechant Werner Domdechaney Riesling Trocken 2009 – a sensational bottle of wine, very rich with tropical fruit flavours, mango and lime, just a delight. Suzanne missed a great wine.

A great  bottle of wine

Monday, February 16: Family Day. Wrote my 680News wine reviews and walked Pinot in the park. It’s still brutally cold. Got notification of a traffic violation in Verona. Apparently when I was there in November I drove on a restricted street. 42 euro fine which was applied to the credit card I used to rent an Avis car. Bummer.

Tuesday, February 17: Went down to the Toronto Reference Library for a press conference held by Xavier de Eizaguirre, Chairman of the Board of Vinexpo. I’ve known Xavier for many years, since he was the Chairman of Mouton-Rothschild. He delivered a lot of data about wine consumption around the world. The US is now the top wine-consuming nation in volume terms, followed by France, Italy, Germany and China. Spain is the top producer followed by Italy and France. Canada has seen a 23.7% growth in consumption in the last ten years. We drink 13.6 litres a head, 60% of which is red wine. By 2018 they are projecting 15.3 litres.

At 2:30 a film crew came to the condo to film me giving a tribute to Geddy Lee and Rush for their charity work. The group is receiving the Allan Waters Humanitarian award at this year’s Junos. Geddy is a director of grapes for Humanity and he and Alex Lifeson have conducted three VIA tours to wine country, which have raised over half a million dollars for the foundation. Pasta for dinner with Château des Charmes Gamay Noir 2012.

Wednesday, February 18: Dropped off Deborah and Pinot at the groomer’s on Bathurst and then drove to the Rogers to record my 680News wine reviews. Arrived late because of the construction along Eglinton. Meeting with Forefront Communications to discuss the Ontario Wine Awards.

Thursday, February 19: Getting bored with the continuous cold weather. A tasting for winerytohome.com at Doug Towers’s with David Lawrason. Received a cheque for Grapes for Humanity for $60,000 from the eBay auction sale of Rush memorabilia. Those guys are sterling and really do deserve the Allan Waters Humanitarian award. The money will go to a project in Cambodia for children’s education.

Friday, February 20: A tasting to the first March release of Vintages products, 128 wines and spirits. Not an easy job. Got through 58 of them and then went home and promptly lost my gloves on the bus (I was engrossed in a book and missed my stop. Got up suddenly and they must have dropped on the floor.)

Saturday, February 21: Fresh snow in Sherwood Park. Deborah and I walked Pinot there after the bank (for some reason she likes going to the bank). In the evening, to Rodney’s Oyster House for my son Guy’s 40th birthday dinner. Ordered a bottle of Hirsch Grüner Veltliner 2013 with a dozen oysters and pasta with scallops.

My son Guy and his girlfriend Sasha

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 532: Guatemala

Monday, February 2: Up at 5 am to a huge winter storm. Minus 26 C with the wind chill. Pinot had a great romp in the park, bounding through the deep snow. Input my reviews of the February 7th Vintages release, answered a slew of emails and did some tasting:

  • San Raffaele Monte Tabor Soave 2013 ($13.95): pale straw colour; minerally, citrus and white peach bouquet; light on the palate, crisply dry, lemony, green peach flavour. With a touch of bitter almond on the finish. (88)
  • Nobilo Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($16.95): pale straw colour; minerally, grapefruit with a floral note on the nose; fresh, gooseberry and green bean flavours; dry, medium-bodied with a touch of bitterness on the finish. (88)
  • Wynns Coonawarra Chardonnay 2013 ($17.95): pale straw colour; minerally, pear with a light oak note; dry, medium-bodied, fresh pear and citrus flavours. Good length. (88)
  • Noblio Icon Marlborough Pinot Noir 2013 ($28.95): ruby colour; spicy black raspberry nose with a vanilla oak note; light and playful on the palate, soft mouth-feel; flavours of raspberry and redcurrant; well balanced and lingering. (89+)
  • Costa Mediana Vaplicella Ripasso 2011 ($16.95): deep ruby-purple colour; spicy, raisin and plum nose; dry, spicy, cherry with a minty note; fresh acidity. (88)
  • Santa Alicia Reserva Carmenère 2013 (Maipo – $12.80): deep ruby colour; smoky, minerally, blackberry and currant flavours; dry, medium-bodied with a coffee bean note. Nicely balanced with a savoury finish. (88)
  • Wynns Coonawarra Shiraz 2012 ($22.95): dense purple-ruby colour; cedar, blackberry nose; sweet, spicy, mulberry flavour; fruit driven with balancing acidity. (88+)
  • Wynns Coonawarra Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($27.95): dense ruby-purple colour; cedar, blackcurrant nose with an oak overlay; medium-bodied, dry, surprisingly lean and elegant with a floral lift on the finish. (89)
  • Pascual Toso Malbec 2013 (Mendoza – $12.95 until March 1, then up $1): dense purple colour; cedary, herbal, red berry nose; dry, full-bodied, charred oak and spicy black fruit flavours, soft mouth-feel, easy drinking with mellow tannins. (87)
  • Pascual Toso Malbec Limited Edition (Mendoza – $15.95): dense ruby-purple colour; smoky, minerally, red berry nose; full-bodied, dry, soft and unctuous on the palate with well integrated oak. Nicely balanced. Good value. (88)

Tuesday, February 3: A doctor’s appointment to check on my PSA. Packed for our trip to Guatemala to be present at the opening ceremony for a middle school in La Union that was funded by Grapes for Humanity. In the evening, a meeting with a director of Grapes for Humanity to discuss a fund-raising dinner in October with Gaia Gaja. For dinner, steak with Fielding Cabernet Sauvignon 2007.

Wednesday, February 4: Pinot sensed Deborah and I were going away and barked like crazy before we left at 11:30 am for the airport. Pinot will be looked after by her dog-sitter, Valerie, who will take her to Innisfil. Our group, led by Adrienne Rosen and Myra White, met at the airport and flew UA to Houston and then onto Guatemala City. Overnight at the Radisson Hotel.

Thursday, February 5: Woke up to find the lobby teeming with Miss Teen Universe contestants ready for the paparazzi.

A bevy of Miss Teen Universe contestants

Adrienne drove the bus with suitcases lashed to the roof. We passed by fields of pineapple, sugar cane, stands of rubber trees and palm oil plants. The traffic was slowed by huge trucks piled high with cut sugar cane. We stopped in Mazatenango for ice cream before proceeding on to Coatepeque. A four-and-a-half-hour drive.

Adrienne Rosen at the ceremonial opening of the middle school at La Union

A quick change at the Hotel Residentia before driving on to La Union for the school opening ceremony. Our group of Canadians was applauded as we entered the open area with white tents for the parents and officials while the school kids stood around the walls. A local band played, the kids sang “O Canada,” and then the speeches started – the Minister of Education, the Mayor and various school officials. Adrienne, whose foundation, Access Education Guatemala, was honoured with a scroll proclaiming her to be an honourary citizen; and she and I (representing Grapes for Humanity) cut the ribbon. We toured the classrooms and the computer room (donated by Telus) and climbed to the second storey to see where the next phase of construction will be.

Students try out their new classroom

Plaque thanking Grapes for Humanity for funding the building of the school

On the drive back to the hotel Adrienne was stopped by the cops. She showed them her scroll as an honorary citizen and they embraced her and sent us on our way.

Before dinner Adrienne and I drove over to the Central Commercial mall to buy some wine at the Paiz supermarket – mainly Chilean and Argentinian wines on the shelves. Dinner at La Rueda restaurant, a steak house. Santa Rita Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2010, Casillero del Diablo Shiraz 2012 and Luiz Felipe Edwardes Cabernet Sauvignon 2013.

Friday, February 6: Slept till 8:30 am. Deborah and I walked through the local cemetery that was like a village of mausoleums. Watched a woman making torillas in what looked like a garage, then back to the hotel for a traditional breakfast of eggs, black beans and tortillas.

Woman making tortillas in Coatepeque

Packed up the bus with the luggage and set out for Lake Panajachel, through the mountains. Passed through a series of Mayan villages. The village of San Marin has a Mayan cemetery with mausoleums painted in vivid colours. We’re told that political parties will pay for the painting of your house if you paint it red, green or blue – the colours of the three parties. The same colours are painted on the rocks by the roadside as you go through the mountains.

Xelapan Café’s baked goods in Xela

Drove through Quetzaltenango and stopped for lunch in Xela at Xelapan Café, a bakery with a restaurant in the back that faces the Central Square. A Suzuki motorbike convention was being held here and we waited for the parade of bikes to pass.

Mountain view of Panajachel on Lake Atitlan

We continued on through Solala and eventually arrived at our hotel in Panajachel – Hotel Atitlán, a beautiful property above Lake Atitlán sent in formal gardens with caged toucans and a huge parrot. In the dining room is a glassed-in aviary with love birds. The common parts of the hotel are full of antiques and local handicraft masks, figurines and wood carvings of saints. From the gardens you get a magnificent view of the three volcanoes across the lake, Atital, Toliman and San Pedro.

Hotel Atitlán wood carving

Garden of Hotel Atitlán from our terrace

Sunset over Lake Atitlan

A couple of glasses of Concha y Toro Frontera Sauvignon Blanc 2013 in the bar before dinner. I ordered black bean soup and a dish called Camarones Atitlán. The accompanying wine: Cono Sur Merlot Reserva Especial Merlot 2011.

Saturday, February 7: After breakfast our party drove into Panajachel where we took a boat across the lake to an artists’ town, San Juan.

Panajachel dock for boats to San Juan (Toliman volcano)

Tuktuk – the local taxi

Our first stop, transported by tuktuk (the local three-wheeled taxi that seats three), was Casa Flor Ixcaco, a women’s weaving co-operative where they take raw cotton, spin it into thread, dye it and weave it into traditional patterns. We were treated to a lecture on how they did each step. The dyes are all natural, made from flowers, fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices.

Spinning cotton to thread at Casa Flor Ixcaco, the women’s weaving co-operative

Weaving the fabric

Next we visited another women’s co-operative, The Association of Medicinal Plants, and were shown a range of herbs that are used for homeopathic remedies as well as products such as face creams, soaps and shampoo. Then we toured an art gallery with works by local artist Angelina Quic.

Boy with firewood

Back on the boat for lunch at Club Ven Acá on the north shore of Lake Atitlán. Deborah and I took a dip in the hotel hot tub before settling down for lunch. I ordered pulled pork with a bottle of Torres Viña Sol 2011. The wind came up and the boat-ride back to Panajachel was an adventure, especially the docking and disembarking procedures.

Club Ven Acá on the shore of Lake Atitlán

Dinner at Restaurante Hana in Panajachel, which is owned by an American, John, and his Japanese wife, Mihoko. The walls are decorated with old photos of Mayans. John cooks “gringo” breakfasts here and Mihoko takes over in the evening to prepare a Japanese menu. I brought along a bottle of Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc 2013 and Stoneleigh Latitude Pinot Noir 2012 (Deborah and I had carried them in our luggage). The menu: pickled green beans and carrots, salad, miso soup, sushi, vegetable tempura and Jamine tea. For dessert, chocolate pudding.

Mihoko and John, owners of Restaurante Hana, Panajachel

Sunday, February 8: Our group drove up to Chichicastenango, a Mayan town nearly 2,000 metres in the mountains that has the largest and oldest market in South America. The town has two mayors, one Mayan who holds the position for life. We were introduced to him, Tomás Calvo Mateo, who greeted us in the local Mayan dialect.

Tomas Calvo Matea, Mayan mayor of Chichicastenango

The covered market at Chichicastenango

Maya masks in a market stall

The steps of Santa Sophia Church, Chichicastenango

There are two churches at either end of the market in Chichicastenango. The more important is Santo Tomás with its 18 stairs leading up to the door, each standing for one month of the Mayan calendar year. The church, founded in 1540 by the Spanish, is built on the site of ancient Mayan shrine. Between the two churches, in the centre of the market, is a 30-foot pole. The Mayans believed that your life is predetermined but you can change its trajectory when you reach the age of eighteen by climbing the pole and swinging down on a rope, expiating your character flaws. To preserve your anonymity you hide your identity in a costume with a monkey mask.

The Catholic priests appropriated Tomás and made him a saint because the Mayans worshipped him as the god of the sun. The indigenous population celebrates Santo Tomás between December 17 and 25, dressing up in elaborate costumes with wooden masks. We visited an artist’s studio where they make the masks every year and another atelier where they create the elaborate costumes. We watched a ceremonial dance in the courtyard.

Ancient wooden masks

Ceremonial costumes to celebrate the annual festival for Santo Tomás

Then our guide led us up to the cemetery where a female shaman blessed us (for a fee) – a ceremony which involved the lighting of yellow candles, incantations, smoke to carry the message to the gods and stroking our bodies with a bunch of herbs.

Mayan cemetery, Chichicastenango

Female shaman invoking a blessing

Street food, Chichicastenango

Lunched at the Mayan Inn, the oldest hotel in Chichicastenango, built like a Spanish hacienda and owned by an American. Drove back to the Atitlán Hotel bouncing over tumulos, the “sleeping policemen” to slow traffic. We heard that the Fuego volcano near Antigua had erupted and caused a change in the weather, bringing a heavy downpour.

Dined at the hotel after a glass of Undurraga Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 in the bar. Ordered a dish called Kakik de Pavo – a huge bowl of spicy turkey soup with what looked like half a turkey in it. The wines: Torres Viña Sol 2013, Concha y Toro Trio Reserva Merlot Carmenère Syrah 2013 and Mapu Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2011.

Monday, February 9: Packed up and left the Hotel Atitlán for Antigua, to visit Guatemala’s only winery, Chateau DeFay, a three-hour drive. The winery is located in Santa Maria de Jésus on the eastern slope of the Agua volcano. A sign painted on a rock in the village says it’s 6 kilometres away. What it doesn’t say is that once you leave the village the road is unpaved and you pass a garbage dump that is on fire. You drive up a 650-metre tree-lined driveway and are confronted by German shepherds (six of them). On your right is a bedraggled vineyard that looked as if it’s incapable of delivering fruit. Then you see the house that would not be out of place as a small château in Normandy.

Chateau DeFay

Guillermo Alvaro, the manager of the estate, told us the history of the property – how a French banker named Jacques Defay fell in love with Guatemala and in 1996 determined to create the country’s first winery – against the advice of the Ministry of Agriculture. He bought land, hired a Californian winemaker, Bruno Coppola (distant relation of Francis Ford Coppola), who selected 25 varieties from Washington State and Napa for his vineyard. But in May 2010 Tropical Storm Agatha flooded the vineyard and they have made no wine since – at least we didn’t get to taste anything later than vintage 2009.

The lunch was overcooked – probably because we arrived half an hour late – and then we tasted through the range. They should have listened to the Ministry of Agriculture. I wrote the following limerick in memory of the experience:

Our visit to Chateau DeFay
Took us somewhat out of our way
Their lunch was inedible
The wines were “incredible”
My only review was “Oy vay!”

We drove on to Antigua and checked into the Porta Hotel. Dined at Casa Santo Domingo, a huge former monastery now spectacularly redesigned as a hotel with a first-class restaurant. We had their 9-course tasting menu:

Salad with marinated watermelon, palm hearts, avocado, granny Smith apples, pineapple and smoked pineapple foam.

Pumpkin cream and red bean soup with caramelized curry pumpkin seed, beet foam and small cilantro tamales.

Tuna tartare with baby capers, red onion, cilantro, tomato, avocado arugula emulsion served over mango, brunoise and carbon fried yucca chips, chile guaque oil.

Phyllo pastry rolls filled with shrimp and Napa cabbage served with peach sauce, Thai barbecue and soy-ginger mayonnaise.

Apple sorbet.

Sautéed salmon with guajillo chili “abado” served with sugar snaps, edamame and bok choy, pineapple and fennel purée and carrot chips.

Short ribs sous vide with broccoli purée, caramelled onions, ravioli filled with potato-garlic, confit, ratatouille, crimini mushrooms & reduced veal with Oporto.

Sautéed tenderloin with two varieties of potatoes, cauliflower-asparagus purée, teriyaki-blue cheese cream.

Mini pastry delicates.

The wines: Trapiche Chardonnay 2003 and Undurraga Merlot 2013.

Sautéed salmon with guajillo chili “abado”

Tuesday, February 10: After breakfast our group was treated to a walking tour of Antigua, a World Heritage site, by a local guide, Elizabeth Bell, who has lived in Guatemala for 46 years. She showed us the volcano that had erupted and was still spewing smoke and ash (“Guatemala snow,” she called it). She gave us 6,000 years of Mayan history in eight minutes.

The town, once the capital of Guatemala, was destroyed by an earthquake in 1776, and rebuilt in a grid system with cobbled streets. Antigua has become the destination wedding centre of Central America, apparently.

Cathedral ruins, Antigua

We visited a jade factory where I learned that according to the Mayan calendar, my birthdate has me born under the sign of the armadillo.

Polishing jade in a jade factory

Baby Jesus figurines in the museum of Casa Santo Domingo, Antigua

Pre-Columbian sculpture in the Casa Santo Domingo museum

Next we toured the Casa Santo Domingo’s pre-Columbian art and sculpture museum. Lunched at Doña Luisa Xicontencatl (panaderia y pasteleria). Ordered chili con carne and a hot chocolate. After lunch walked around town visiting shops and picked up some chocolates as gifts.

Guatemala’s best rum

Wine bar sign in Antigua

Dined at Hector’s Bistro, a tiny place. Our party of six had to wait half an hour for a table so we sat on a low wall across the road from the restaurant and drank Viña Bujanda 2011, courtesy of the owner. He also gave us a plate of grilled tomatoes with cheese. I ordered Portobello mushrooms in olive oil and balsamic, jumbo shrimps in a spicy sauce and a passion fruit crème brûlée. The wine: Infinitus Cabernet Sauvignon Tempranillo 2012.

Wednesday, February 11: Up at 2:30 am with Montezuma’s Revenge. This morning we drove to the airport in Guatemala City and took the UA flight to Houston, followed by the flight to Toronto. Back to the cold weather.

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 531: Amarone in Verona

Monday, January 26: Final preparations to leave for Verona via Frankfurt for Anteprima Amarone 2011. I tried to get an aisle seat on the Lufthansa flight but ended up in the middle of the first row behind First Class. The flight attendant said it had more leg room. She lied. And the seat didn’t go back so I didn’t get much sleep. Watched a bad movie called The Drop with James Gandolfini, the Soprano guy.

Tuesday, January 27: There must have been one hell of tail wind because we arrived in Frankfurt 50 minutes ahead of schedule. Am sitting in the airport in Frankfurt having already walked 16 miles and haven’t yet reached Terminal B but there is free wifi – whoopee!

City gates to Verona

An hour-and-fifteen-minute flight to Verona over the Alps. Picked up by a bus with Michela Morris from Vancouver and Tomasz Prange from Warsaw. We’re staying at the Bologna Hotel in the centre of Verona at the end of the street I walked to get to the arena in Piazza Bra when I was here in September. From my window I can see the arena 100 yards away.

The arena in Piazza Bra

Four-poster bed at Hotel Bologna

Continue reading

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 530: Wine Writers at Play

Winewriters at Barberian’s

Monday, January 19: Spent much of the day inputting wine reviews and working on the wine list for a corporate event on Wednesday – another Executive Wine Experience seminar. In the evening Deborah and I took the TTC down to Barberian’s for the Wine Writers Circle annual Christmas dinner. Each of us – some 24 including spouses, partners, friends, etc. – was asked to bring a bottle. Here is a list of the wines that ended up on the table in the underground wine cellar (I brought the Two Sisters wines):

  • Dry Sack William and Humbert
  • Bottega Prosecco Vino dei Poeti (2 bottles)
  • Soalheiro Alvarinho 2011 (2 bottles)
  • Segura Viudas Brut Reserva
  • Hayman & Hill Reserve Selection Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley 2004
  • Two Sisters Winery Riesling 2013 VQA
  • Two Sisters Winery Cabernet franc 2010 VQA
  • Two Sisters Winery Merlot 2010 VQA
  • Two Sisters Winery Eleventh Post 2011 (Bordeaux blend) VQA
  • Punset Barbaresco 2008
  • Domaine de Beaurenard Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2010
  • Domaine Raphael Chopin – La Ronze – Regnié 2009
  • Beaujolais Nouveau Chateau-Cambon 2014
  • Luis Canas Reserva 2009 Rioja
  • Vina Real Crianza 2010 Rioja
  • Molino di San Antimo Brunello di Montalcino 2007
  • Chenas 2013 Pascal Aufranc
  • A Geofroy Chablis 1er Cru Beauroy 2012
  • Stonefield’s Puligny Montrachet, 2005, Remoissenet et Fils
  • Quintarelli Rosso Ca’ del Merlo 2004
  • Megalomaniac Eccentric Savignin 2011
  • Chateau Villemaurine 1985 St. Emilion Magnum
  • Chateau Chasse-Spleen 2000 Magnum
  • Trius Red 2005
  • Trius Red 2007
  • Trius Red 2010
  • Lailey Chardonnay The Blend 2013 Wild ferment
  • Domaine Baud Pere & Fils Vin Jaune, 2005, Chateau Chalon AC
  • Paolo Bea Pagliaro Secco 2006, Sagrantino di Montefalco DOCG
  • Vidal Icewine, 2006, Pillitteri
  • Merlot, 2013, Charles Shaw
  • Freisa de Langhe, 2012, G. Borgogno
  • Fikardos Marathefiko, 2008, Pafos, Cyprus
  • Sangue del Diavolo Raboso del Piave, 2010, Ca di Rajo
  • Chateauneuf Du Pape, 2010, Beaurenard
  • Barbarseco, 2008, Pusset
  • Morgon Cote du Py, 2012, A Auceur

So, a fine night was had by all.

Tuesday, January 20: Wrote my 680News wine reviews and then down to Houston’s for a lunch tasting of Errazuriz wines.

  • Errazuriz Max Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2013 ($15.95): straw colour; grassy, green bean nose with ripe grapefruit and lime flavours with a mineral-salty note and a cisp finish. (88+)
  • Errazuriz Sauvignon Blanc Aconcagua Costa 2014 ($23.95): straw colour; grassy, minerally, green fig bouquet; medium-bodied, fresh, beautifully balanced and spicy with long, crisply dry finish. (90)
  • Errazuriz The Blend 2012 (50% Marsanne, 38% Roussanne, 12% Viognier): straw colouw; lifted, floral, honey nose with an aged Riesling (!) note. Soft on the palate, full-bodied with a crab apple flavour and a nutty finish. (89)
  • Errazuriz Pinot Noir Aconcagua Costa 2013 (wild years ferment – $24.95): deep ruby colour with an ose of black cherries, wood spice and vanilla oak; medium-bodied, with succulent black cherry fruit and a note of clove; dry fleshy but elegant with lively acidity and a firm tannic flourish on the end taste. (90)
  • Errazuriz Max Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($18.95): dense ruby-purple colour; cedar, blackcurrant and spicy oak on the nose; full-bodied, richly extracted black fruit flavours with tobacco and licorice notes. (89)
  • Errazuriz Cabernet Sauvignon Aconcagua Alto 2012 (with 15% Cabernet franc – $19.95): purple-black in colour with a nose of blackcurrants, cedar and pencil shavings; ripe fruit with an earthy note, well-structured and richly extracted with grainy tannins on the finish. Hold 2–3 years. Good value. (90)
  • Errazuriz Don Maximiano 2011 (75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Carmenère, 10% Petit Verdot, 5% Malbec – $89.00): dense purple colour with a nose of tobacco leaf, graphite, chocolate and vanilla oak. Full-bodied, richly extracted black fruit flavours, ripe tannins with a firm structure. (91)
  • Errazuriz KAI Carmenère 2012 (with 5% Petit Verdot, 22 months in French oak, 47% new – $160): dense purple-black colour; spicy, creamy, black cherry nose with pencil lead notes; great concentration of fruit with lively acidity. Lovely mouth-feel and beautifully balanced with a firm finish. Still very youthful. (91) I had this wine with chicken curry and it matched beautifully.
  • Viñedo Chadwick 2011 (100% Cabernet Sauvignon grown on the family’s former polo field – $249): dense purple-ruby colour with a nose of cedar, blackcurrant, vanilla oak with a creamy note. Elegant with a lovely mouth-feel, firmly structured, dry but succulent fruit, beautifully balanced with a firm finish. Needs time. (91–93)

Errazuriz tasting

For dinner with pasta, Boschendal Chardonnay 2013 (South Africa): deep straw colour with a buttery, ripe pear nose and a touch of oak; full-bodied, spicy flavours of peach, melon and green pineapple. (89)

Wednesday, January 21: Spent the morning printing off material for this evening’s Executive Wine Experience seminar for a large Toronto company.

Wine and Food pairings

Champagne Cattier Brut with Salmon Tartar Cup

Ghost Creek Riesling 2012 (Ontario) with Poached Cocktail Shrimp

Leyda Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (Chile) with Grilled Asparagus

Jadot Bourgogne Chardonnay 2013 with Smoked Chicken

Remoissenet Clos Vougeot 2007 with Camembert Cheese

Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 with Lamb Loin

Domaine Terlato & Chapoutier Shiraz-Viognier 2012 (Australia) with Manchego Cheese

Henry of Pelham Vidal Icewine 2013 with Apple Caramel Pie with maple sugar crust

Château des Charmes Cabernet Franc Icewine 2012 with Fruit Tart

Executive Wine Experience dry wines

Thursday, January 22: Recorded my 680News wine reviews and then to my doctor to have the first of three Hepatitis A and B shots. These are for our trip to Guatemala on February 4th to attend the opening of a school that Grapes for Humanity funded. Apparently Deborah and I need three shots, next one in a month and a third after six months – at $75 a shot! But they say it’s good for life.

Wrote my Quench commentary and then got down to some tasting.

  • KWV Chenin Blanc Contemporary Collection 2014 (South Africa – $7.45 till Feb. 1 then $9.45): pale straw colour; minerally pear nose; mouth-filling sweet pear and apple flavours, soft on the palate with enough acidity to give it structure. Good value even at the higher price. (87)
  • Durbanville Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (South Africa – $11.95): light straw colour; grassy, asparagus and kiwi nose; dry, medium-bodied, green pepper, gooseberry and grapefruit flavours. Good varietal character. (88)
  • Clos du Bois North Coast Chardonnay 2013 (California): straw colour; spicy melon with toasty oak on the nose; full-bodied, rich and full on the palate, spicy with tangerine and sweet melon flavours; good length. (89)
  • Domaine Galaman Fitou 2013 (Carignan, Grenache, Syrah; Languedoc): dense ruby-purple colour; herbal, blackberry with a light floral note; medium-bodied, dry, spicy, black raspberry flavour with lively acidity and a savoury finish. (89)
  • Cape Heights Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (South Africa – $11.95): solid ruby colour; cherry jam with a cedary note on the nose; medium-bodied, smoky, sour cherry flavour with a tarry nuance and fresh acidity. (86+)
  • Durbanville Hills Shiraz 2012 (South Africa – $11.95): deep ruby-purple colour; cedar, spicy, red berry nose; medium-bodied, mint and clove flavours (oak masking fruit flavours). (86)
  • Nederburg Winemaster’s Reserve Shiraz 2013 (Western Cape – $11.95): deep ruby colour; earthy, smoky, cherry pit nose; medium-bodied, dry, smoky-fruity, savoury black cherry flavour with a blunt tannic finish. (86)
  • Porcupine Ridge Syrah 2013 (Swartland – $14.95): dense ruby-purple colour; cedary, herb-tinged blackberry nose; full-bodied, richly extracted, blackberry and bitter chocolate flavours; nicely balanced with affirm tannic finish. Good value. (88+)
  • Café Culture Coffee Mocha Pinotage 2014 (Western Cape – $12.95): deep ruby-purple colour; smoked bacon with a tarry note on the nose; sweetish, juicy red berry, coffee bean and chocolate flavours with a clovey finish. Easy drinking. (87)
  • Thelema Mountain Red 2012 (Western Cape; 37% Shiraz, 25% Petit Verdot, 23% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 4% Grenache, 1% Cabernet Franc – $12.95): deep ruby colour; cedar, tobacco leaf, red berry with some vanilla oak on the nose; medium-bodied, well extracted fruit, nicely balanced with a firm finish. Good value. (88)
  • Clos du Bois Merlot North Coast 2012 (California – $16.95): deep ruby colour; vanilla oak, cedar, blueberry nose; medium-bodied, sweet fruit, creamy on the palate with balancing acidity and pliant tannins. Easy drinking. (87)
  • Ravenswood Vintners’ Blend Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (California – $17.95): deep ruby colour; cedar, red and blackcurrant bouquet; medium- to full-bodied, dry, spicy red berry flavour with licorice notes and a firm finish of tannin. (87)

Friday, January 23: A Vintages’ release tasting today, some 120 wines. Tasted about half of them. For dinner, chicken with Frescobaldi Luce della Vita 2007.

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 529: Amazing Dinner Party

Three great Pinots

Monday, January 12: Deborah’s birthday. A tasting for winerytohome.com at Doug Towers’s house with David Lawrason. Suffering from back spasms. Think it’s because I shifted the king-size mattress. Agony. Made an appointment with my chiropractor for tomorrow. Took Deborah to dinner at Buca. We were seated next to a couple who were also celebrating a birthday today. We shared our dessert with them – an amazing chocolate zuccotto bomb.

Tuesday, January 13: Trying to convince Gaia Gaja to spend another evening in Toronto in October so Grapes for Humanity can have another fund-raiser dinner with her. Got all my tax papers together for my accountant and then went off to the chiropractor to have my back fixed. Then did a tasting:

  • Kir Yanni Paranga White 2013 (Naoussa, Greece; 80% Roditis, 20% Malagouzia – $13.95): bright, pale straw colour; minerally, citrus nose; medium-bodied, dry, grassy, lemon and pear flavours with a stoney finish. (88)
  • Rosewood Select Series Semillon 2013 (Beamsville, Ontario – $18): earthy, pear nose; medium-bodied, mouth-filling dry, lemon and pear flavours with a lanolin note. (88)
  • Rosewood Origin Series La Fumée 2013 (Niagara Escarpment; 95% Sauvignon Blanc, 5% Semillon – $21.80): straw colour; oaky, kiwi nose with an herbaceous note; rich and spicy on the palate with a custard apple and citrus flavour; full-bodied. (88+)
  • Rosewood Origin Series Eighty-Six’d Chardonnay 2013 (Niagara Lakeshore): A wine made for Krys Roman by her brother William to mark her birth year – from a vineyard planted the same year. Vibrant straw colour; apple nose with a light oak note; full-bodied, dry with tangerine, melon and apple flavours. Rich and voluptuous on the palate, beautifully balanced, New World style with good length. (90)
  • Rosewood Select Series Merlot 2012 (Niagara Escarpment – $22): deep ruby colour; smoky, blackberry nose with vanilla oak; dry, medium-bodied, well-extracted fruit, plum flavour with a lively acidic spine and ripe tannins. (88)
  • Rosewood Origin Series Merlot 2012 (Beamsville Bench – $36.20): deep ruby colour; cedar, blueberry, oak spice on the nose; velvety-creamy mouth-feel, dry, good fruit concentration with a pencil lead note and a warm alcoholic finish. (89+)
  • Rosewood Lock, Stock and Barrel 2012 (Niagara Peninsula; 32% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc, 23% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Petit Verdot, 9% Malbec): deep ruby colour; cedar, plum, tobacco, red and blackcurrants on the nose; medium to full-bodied, dry, well integrated oak with dusty tannins. A substantial wine. (89)
  • Boutari Naoussa 2010 (Greece; Xynomavro 2010 – $13.95): ruby colour; cherry , tobacco and tea leaf with an earthy note on the nose; dry, ripe but evident tannins, black cherry flavour. Will cellar well. Good value. (88)
  • Boutari Grande Reserve Naoussa 2008 (Xynomavro – $17.95): ruby colour with a mature rim; cigar box, soy, dried red berries on the nose; dry, medium-bodied, elegant, Barolo-like, firmly structured, lively acidity. Drinking well now but will age for another five years. (90)
  • Tsantali Rapsani Reserve 2010 (Xynomavro, Krassato, Stavroto – $18.95): ruby colour; earthy, cherry nose; dry, medium-bodied, sour cherry flavour, leather flavours with lively acidity. Worthy of cellaring. (88–90)

Tuesday, January 13: A day of answering emails and working on a corporate tasting, one of the Executive Wine Experience seminars. My back still bothering me. Will have to take it to the chiropractor. Dinner, barbecued ribs with Bellingham Big Oak Red 2013 from South Africa’s Western Cape (a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz): deep ruby-purple colour; smoky, charred oak, black fruit nose; full-bodied, dry, savoury with an iodine note.(87)

Wednesday, January 14: Went down to the LCBO to select wines for a corporate tasting. They wanted Australia and New Zealand wines. Spent a boring afternoon going over my stuff for the accountant. For dinner, grilled salmon with Douglas Green Sauvignon Blanc 2014 from South Africa. Light golden colour with a gassy, kiwi nose; richly extracted passion fruit, pear and grapefruit flavours; touch of sweetness in mid-palate but finishes with fresh acidity. Great value at $10.80. (88+)

Thursday, January 15: Down to Patria at noon for a lunch tasting of Ontañón wines from Rioja and Ribero del Duero, led by Conrado Herrero. The company, he told us, produces 1 million bottles.

  • Ontañón Vetiver 2013 (Rioja): straw colour with a minerally, spicy nose of Asian pear and a light floral note. Lively acidity. (88)
  • Ontañón Clarete Rosé 2014 (Rioja): pale salmon colour with a cherry pit nose; light and elegant, dry, cherry flavour with crisp acidity. (88+)
  • Ontañón Ecologico Tempranillo 2013 (Rioja): deep ruby colour; leather and cherry bouquet; well extracted red berry flavours, full in the mouth, earthy with a tannic finish. (87+)
  • Ontañón Crianza 2010 (Rioja – 90% Tempranillo, 10% Garnacha): deep purple-ruby colour; floral, black cherry nose; medium-bodied, dry and firmly structured. (89)
  • Ontañón Teón Roble 2012 (Ribera del Duero – 100% Tinta del Pais): dense purple-black; creamy, earthy, black olive and black cherry nose with a light floral note; firm structure. (88+)
  • Ontañón Teón Crianza 2011 (Ribera del Duero – 100% Tinta del Pais): deep purple colour; vanilla, coconut nose with a floral note; dry, medium-bodied, firmly structured with black cherry flavours. (88+)
  • Ontañón Reserva 2005 (Rioja – 95% Tempranillo, 5% Graciano): dense purple, holding colour; floral, dried cherry nose with an earthy note; medium-bodied, dry, elegant and remarkable fresh and lively. (91)
  • Ontañón Gran Reserva 2005 (85% Tempranillo, 15% Graciano): dense purple colour; creamy, spicy, pencil lead and black cherry nose; chunky mouthfeel, oak dominant at the moment. Needs time (89–92).

With the lunch we tasted three older wines.

  • Ontañón Vetiver Viura 2004: this wine was a revelation. It tasted like an aged Hunter Valley Semillon: tawny colour, with woody, dried apricot flavours. (90)
  • Ontañón Reserva 1989: elegant, cherry flavour, very claret-like, still youthful and lively. (91)
  • Ontañón Graciano 2014 (Rioja): dense purple black in colour; inky, floral, reminiscent of Petit Verdot; dry, cranberry and redcurrant flavours. (88)

Another session with the chiropractor this afternoon. He gave me a set of exercises to strengthen my core muscles.

Friday, January 16: An LCBO tasting of new general list wines.

Saturday, January 17: Spent most of the day preparing for a dinner party. We had invited Arlene and Michael Willis, Arlene’s Sarasota friend Roberta and Richard Wernham and Julia West for 7 pm, warning them of Pinot the Wonderdog’s exuberant and barky welcome. The menu: appetizers – smoked salmon and cream cheese rolls, hummus dip, olives with Pol Roger Rosé Reserve 1996 and Kirkland Champagne Brut (which I bought at Costco in Florida last year for $19.99US). First course: pear and fennel salad with Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne 2005 (which Michael brought). Main course: an amazing boeuf bourguignon with boiled heritage potatoes and steamed peapods and green beans with three Pinot Noirs: Roumier Chambolle-Musigny Amoureuses 1995, Etude Pinot Noir 2010 from Carneros, and Church & State Pinot Noir Hollenbach Family Vineyard 2009 from the Okanagan Valley. Dessert: Deborah’s lemon pie with Hillebrand Cabernet Franc Icewine 2008 and ChocoMe White chocolate. Altogether, a very successful evening.

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 528: Tasting Blind

Monday, January 5: My first full day’s work of the year – spent following up on emails and phone calls of stuff left over from last year. Dug out an old children’s story I had written about Pinot the Wonderdog with the thought of getting it published. Wrote my 680News wine reviews and did a bit of tasting:

  • Silver Bay Cellars Riesling Gewurztraminer 2013 (Ontario – $13.95): pale straw colour; aromatic, grapefruit nose; medium-bodied, rosewater, grapefruit and lime flavours with a touch of residual sweetness; off-dry lychee, honey and grapefruit flavours, nicely balanced. Good mouth-feel. Good value. (88)
  • Tenuta Le Velette Rasenna Orvieto Classico Amabile 2012 (Umbria): light straw colour; honey, pear nose; off-dry, with sweet pear and peach flavours, round and full in the mouth with balancing acidity. (88+)
  • Gabbiano Chianti 2013 ($13.95): ruby colour; cherry and cherry pit nose; light-bodied, dry, sour cherry flavour with lively acidity. Somewhat tart on the finish. (86)
  • Gabbiano Chianti Classico 2012 ($16.95): ruby colour; earthy, cherry nose; medium-bodied, dry, well extracted flavours or cherry and red currant; medium-bodied and nicely balanced. (88)
  • Paso Creek Zinfandel 2012 (Paso Robles – $19.95): deep ruby colour; smoky, charred oak, vanilla oak and blueberry compote nose; full-bodied, fruity and mouth-filling with sweet, jammy blueberry flavour with a smoky oak finish. (88+)
  • Southbrook Framboise (Ontario – $14.95, half bottle): ruby colour; intense raspberry jam nose; rich and unctuous on the palate with concentrated raspberry flavour, sweet but held in check with lively citrus acidity. (87)

Tuesday, January 6: A make-up tasting at the LCBO for one of the Vintages release tastings I missed. Then a meeting downtown at the Sheraton Hotel with Stephen Pauwels to discuss our group wine trip to Portugal and Spain in May.

Wednesday, January 7: Recorded my 680News wine reviews, then on to dental appointment, semi-annual check-up and cleaning. Then a lunch meeting with Liz Gallery and Cathy Martin to discuss their next Grapes for Humanity event on May 7th – “Italy Uncorked.” They have some great fund-raising ideas.

Thursday, January 8: Prepared for my Blind Tasting Award held this evening at The Fine Wine Reserve. Twelve members of Drinks Ontario (the association of wine, spirits and beer importers) have entered but only ten showed up. They had to blind taste six wines and record the grape variety, the vintage, the region and, if possible, the producer. The wines in order of serving were:

  • Burning Kiln Riesling 2011 (Ontario)
  • Vineland Estates Chenin Blanc 2012 (Ontario)
  • Cono Sur Bicicleta Chardonnay 2014 (Chile)
  • Farnese Fantini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2013 (Abruzzo)
  • Jackson-Triggs Delaine Syrah 2011 (Ontario)
  • Argento Malbec 2014 (Argentina)

Blind Tasting Award line-up

The ultimate winner was Greg Dunlop of Noble Estates (formerly an LCBO wine buyer). He will receive an engraved decanter and a framed certificate at the Drinks Ontario annual dinner on February 6th at the National Club. But I won’t be there to present him with the trophy as I’ll be in Guatemala with Deborah for the opening of a school that Grapes for Humanity funded.

Friday, January 9: Another Vintages release tasting today, after which I dropped into Tiffany’s to pick up a birthday present for Deborah (silver love knot earrings) and birthday cards from Pinot and from me. Then a coffee at Balzac’s in the Reference Library with Hugh Brewster, a Titanic scholar who wrote a book entitled, Gilded Lives, Fatal Voyage. He gave me a copy and I gave him a copy of my murder mystery set on the Titanic, called Titanic, A Novel.

Saturday, January 10: Last February I donated a home wine tasting to an auction that Bob Rae conducted for the Avenue Road Art School. The winning bidder finally claimed the tasting and wanted to do it blind with four other couples. It turned out to be a great evening with a magnificent catered dinner. Each couple brought a wine and the host supplied more to augment those that I had donated. Mine were all Ontario award-wining wines and it was interesting to see how well they were appreciated when served side by side with some really heavy hitters.

Proposed 6 Course Tasting Menu Wine Tasting

Hors D’Oeuvres
Roasted Parsnip & Carrot Risotto
Blinis w/ Chive “Crème Fraîche” and Salmon Roe
Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Jam Tarts

Champagne Tarlant La Vigne d’Antan 2000
Konzelmann Gewürztraminer 2011

1st Course
Poached Boca Negra** w/ Sauteed Leek
Baby Arugula, Honey-Spiced Pumpkin Seeds and Green Apple Vinaigrette

Creekside Sauvignon Blanc 2010
Château Pape Clement 2006
Vineland Estates St. Urban Riesling 2009

2nd Course
Bucatini in Winter Squash “Cream” w/ Sauteed Mushrooms, Garlic Confit and White Truffle Oil

Clos Jordanne Pinot Noir Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard 2006
Joseph Drouhin Clos des Mouches 2005

3rd Course
Single Chop of Ontario Lamb w/ Merguez Braised Neck
Roasted Sweet Turnip, Mustard Greens and Shiraz Gastrique

D’Arenberg Dead Arm Shiraz 2002
Southbrook Triomphe Syrah 2008
Elderton Command Shiraz 1999

4th Course
AAA Dry Aged Rib Eye Steak
Hand Thrown Gnocchi in White Truffled Potato Nage, Fire Roasted Beets & Sunchokes in Fresh Lemon & Sicilian Olive Oil

Ravine Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
Trius Red 2012
Pahlmeyer 2009

Sweet Endings
Baked Lady Apple Pie “Lollipop,” Balsamic Macerated Fig Trifle in Strawberry Syrup
Lemon Mousse in Tuile Cup

Inniskillin Sparkling Vidal Icewine 2012
Kiralyudvar Tokaji Aszu 6-Puttonyos 2000

The wine line-up

Altogether a spectacular night of wine and food!

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 527: Myanmar Revelation

Red Mountain Estate wines

Monday, December 29: Got the news last night that our friend Michael Carlevale had died. We will miss his acerbic wit and delightful company. Wrote my Quench column on Vermentino. Dinner with Deborah at Michael and Rosie Vaughan’s. Nicolas Feuillatte Brut followed by Cave Spring Sparkling with appetizers. BBQ lamb rack with Henry of Pelham Cabernet Merlot 1998, Gallo Frei Ranch Zinfandel  2010, Paul Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle 1998 and the star of the evening, Cos d’Estournel 1982. Then Hine Homage Cognac, Dupeyron Hors d’Age Armagnac du Collectionneur, El Dorado 25 Years Old 1980 Distillation Rum. Used Uber for the first time. Very successful and cheaper than taking a taxi from High Park to Mount Pleasant. Couldn’t remember much about the journey.

Cos d'Estournel 1982

Tuesday, December 30: Started thinking about a new wine murder mystery since there is not much going on. Put the wines for the Blind Tasting Award together. Nine intrepid contestants so far.

Wednesday, December 31: Another lost day. At 9 pm we took the (free) TTC to Bloor for a party at my literary agent, Bev Slopen’s apartment. Ran into several old acquaintances, including Peter Rehak, who was at McGill with me and edited the McGill Daily and went on to join CBC News. We reminisced about our mutual friend Gordon Wasserman, who married the late Labour politician Hugh Gaitskill’s daughter and is now Lord Wasserman. Deborah and I finished off the evening over a bottle of Wolf Blass Yellow Label Brut.

Thursday, January 1: Pinot T. Wonderdog’s birthday. She turned ten today and got lots of greetings on her Facebook page. She posted: “I turn 70 years old. But I look fantastic because I see the world through 25 year old eyes.” Wise dog. She had a long walk in Sherwood Park and enjoyed meeting other dogs.

Heard today the sad news that Serge Hochar of Chateau Musar in Lebanon died in a swimming accident in Mexico. I remember him at the London Wine Fair four years ago asking me if I’d sit on a panel with him at a seminar he was giving on his wines. I didn’t realise that he wanted me to give the tasting notes on the wines for an audience of MWs and sommeliers.

Friday, January 2: Lunch with Irvin Wolkoff and Barry Chaim, at Barry’s Edoko restaurant in Spadina Village. Barry’s son Josh, who lives in Beijing, had given him two bottles of wine from Myanmar (formerly Burma) and Barry asked us to taste them blind. They turned out to be Red Mountain Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2010 and Red Montain Estate Shiraz Tempranillo 2010. The Sauvignon tasted like a cross between a Sancerre and a New Zealand Sauvignon. The red I pegged as a South African Pinotage – because of its smoky, tarry, herbal flavours. We drank the wines with seared tuna, yellow tail salmon sashimi, lobster roll and frilled beef. The wines were a revelation. So much so that I emailed the winemaker, François Raynal, to see if he had an Ontario importer.

Edoko’s lobster rolls

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