A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 560: Charlevoix Flavour Trail

Thursday, August 27th: Up early to catch a 9:30 am flight from the island airport to Quebec City. Rented a Mazda 5 and drove to the hotel that Jean-François Bergeron reserved for us in Saint Foy – Le Quartier. Had lunch next door in the St. Hubert BBQ and then drove into the old city.

Rene Levesque’s house in Quebec City

Walked around, mainly in the rain, and saw the house where René Lévesque lived. Then stopped in at a shopping mall in St. Foy. Met Jean-François for a drink and he recommended we have dinner at Bistro Boulay (1110 Rue Saint-Jean, in the old city). We eventually found the restaurant in a cobbled street full of restaurants and funky shops. The executive chef, Arnaud Marchand, is 24 years old with an impressive CV. He grows all the herbs he uses in the kitchen on the roof of the restaurant. Deborah ordered Arctic char carpaccio, boreal marinade with elderberry vinegar and organic canola oil, cattail hearts, milkweed pods, herb emulsion. I ordered scallop marinated in organic blackcurrant balsamic vinegar served with corn. With these dishes we had a glass of Domaine Coulon Viognier 2013. Deborah had Angus beef hanger steak, boreal compound butter, pont neuf fries, mixed vegetables and cooking jus and I, the “bistro’s blood pudding duo: my father and Marcel’s cabbage and leek blood sausage, the traditional black pudding with boreal spices, potato purée and roasted apples.” We had a glass of Château de Puy 2010 with the main course. The restaurant comped us dessert – a slice of sea buckthorn berries (grown on the roof) and meringue pie, pine forest spikenard crème anglaise with a glass of Domaine la Branche Vin d’Érable Liquoreux from Montérégie, Québec. A memorable meal.

Friday, August 28th: Up at 7 am to drive from St. Foy to Baie-Saint-Paul. Just before Ste. Anne de Beaupré we passed a bee museum. Our first visit along the Charlevoix Flavour Trail – though we got horribly lost thanks to the GPS – was to Domaine de la Vallé de Bras – the world’s only producer of tomato wine. Pascal Miche and his wife Lucie have been producing wine by fermenting tomatoes for five years using a secret recipe from Pascal’s Belgian great-grandfather. His name was Omer and the brand is Omerto in homage to him. They make four different products from three varieties of organically-grown tomatoes – Dry, Sweet, Semi-Dry aged in acacia wood, and a sweet version aged in cherry and chestnut casks.

The world’s first tomato wines

They have 4,000 tomato plants in their “vineyard” and they produce in toto 15,000 litres. The tomatoes are harvested in mid-August to the mid-September at 25–26 Brix and have to be chaptalized to get the “wine” up to 16% alcohol. The fermentation takes five months. It’s very much a hands-on operation with five people involved in the harvesting, crushing, fermenting, filtering, bottling and labelling of the bottles. They now export to Hong Kong, Japan and the US.

Deborah and I tasted through the range and we were very surprised by the quality. The dry “wine” tasted like sake with no suggestion of tomato flavour. The sweet version has a nose of orange blossom, honey, melon and lychee. The acacia-aged version has a malt whisky character and the chestnut/cherry-aged wine smells of rose petals and cherries. Pascal says that his wines – which are vintage-dated – can last for 20 years!

Auberge Chez Truchon

We bought a half bottle of each product and then drove on to La Malbaie, about 45 minutes north, to have lunch at Auberge Chez Truchon. Chef/owner Dominique Truchon prepared a special lunch for us, beginning with duck from La Ferme Basque in torchon style, crème brûlée of grande glace cider, duck heart confit, dried breast, bun and vinegar from Balconville. With this dish, a glass of Bodegas Lacus Inédito 3/3 from Rioja. The main dish: Grilled gigot d’agneau de Charlevoix with a sauce of dried tomatoes and basil, French fries cooked in duck fat and summer vegetables. For dessert, molten chocolate cake, black cherries, Amaretto ice cream, almond crumble. Another great meal.

Gigot d’agneau and fries in duck fat

Drove back to Baie-Saint-Paul to check into our hotel, Le Germain Charlevoix. The hotel is extraordinary – set on the site of an old farm formerly owned by Les Petites Franciscaines de Marie (the farm complex burned down in 2007 with only one small building remaining. There’s a model in the hotel’s courtyard showing what the farm looked like in its heyday (if you’ll forgive the pun). It was the largest wooden barn in Quebec.

Germain Hotel Charlevoix (formerly La Ferme)

Model of La Ferme before the fire

The only way I can describe the architecture of the hotel is as “industrial-pastoral.” The out-buildings are named La Bergerie, Le Moulin and Basse-Cour (the building in which we are staying). The hotel has won numerous international awards, including the best designed hotel in the world in 2013. All the rooms are farm-themed and the furniture, linens, towels, lighting and appurtenances were either made locally in the province or by Canadian manufacturers.


In the afternoon we walked around Baie-Saint-Paul, visiting a great art gallery. In the evening we dined at the hotel’s restaurant, Les Labours. We sat at the bar overlooking the rectangular kitchen, watching Chef Sylvain Derivieux and his staff preparing dinner. Sylvain chose our menu: blood pudding with a horseradish foam and a glass of Domaine L’Ange Gardien Rosé 2014; veal sweetbreads with a cream of corn sauce; Arctic char with almonds and edamame beans, with a glass of Thomas Batadière L’Esprit Libre Chenin Blanc 2013; roast lamb, smashed potatoes with wild garlic, beets and broccoli, with a glass of Château Mirebeau 2010; dessert – chocolate with a mousse of passionfruit, raspberry with almond-flavoured ice cream.

Les Labour’s sweetbreads in a cream of corn sauce

Saturday, August 29th: Went for a coffee and croissant at a local coffee house and then were given a tour of the hotel by Ann Pepin, who told us the history and showed us a couple of rooms. Then we drove to the ferry at Isle-aux-Coudres to take the 20-minute trip to the island (free!). We drove around, stopping at Boulangerie Bouchard (established 1945) to buy lunch – tourtière turnover and a smoked salmon wrap (as well as a blueberry pie for our hosts tomorrow). Then on to Cidrerie Vergers Pedneault, where we sampled various ciders and fruit wines. Purchased at bottle of Le Pedneault Ecume de Mer. Final stop before taking the ferry back to the mainland: Les Moulins de l’Isle-aux-Coudres. This museum houses a fully functional watermill (1825) and windmill (1836), as well as a miller’s residence. The mill stones still grind wheat and buckwheat here.

Cidreie on Isle-aux-Coudres

Back in Baie-Saint-Paul we visited the Art Symposium in the local hockey rink. Twelve artists were invited to work on an art project for a month and interact with the public as they did so. We were very taken by an artist from Halifax whose hobby is creating wooden models of every merchant ship that he records passing through the St. Lawrence. His focus for the Symposium was ships that passed Baie-Saint-Paul. Then we revisited Gallerie d’Art Yvon Desgagné, where we bought a small oil painting we fell in love with – by Jean-Claude Roy, a French artist who painted Newfoundland landscapes.

The J.C. Roy painting we bought

Dined at Mouton Noir, a bistro at 43 rue Saint-Ann in Baie-Saint-Paul that backs on to the Gouffre River. Chef Thierry Ferré comes from Brittany. Deborah ordered rouleaux of duck and escargot salad followed by scallop, shrimp and salmon with lobster sauce, and I chose the squid and peach salad, followed by a pork dish that was like pot au feu with a pastry shell. The sommelier recommended a bottle of Domaine Labet Pinot Noir 2013 from Corsica. Too full to order dessert.

My pork pot-au-feu pie at Mouton Noir

Sunday, August 30th: On Sunday mornings there’s a market in the Germain Hotel Charlevoix courtyard with stalls selling fruit and vegetables, honey, soaps, handicrafts and jewellery with musicians playing on the lawn. Took to the Flavour Trail this morning after breakfasting in the hotel.

First stop: La Ferme Basque, a producer of foie gras using the traditional Basque method of gavage. Isabelle Mihura and her partner Jacques Etcheberrigaray keep 4500 ducks – Mulards for foie gras and Muscovy ducks for meat. Apparently, only males are force-fed for foie gras. The females are kept for their eggs.

Isabelle Mihura and her duck products

Ducks at La Ferme Basque

Next stop Centre de l’Émeu, where Raymonde Tremblay keeps a flock of over 400 emus from which she produces emu oil, soaps and assorted butchered and prepared meats. Emu chicks grow to six feet in a year and are ready to breed when their necks turn blue (male and female, no kidding!). They can run at 70 kilometres an hour but can’t walk backwards. Raymonde sells jars of her own recipe spaghetti sauce made with emu meat as well as emu cassoulet.

Emu at Centre de l’Émeu

Raymonde Tremblay and friend

Next stop, Maison d’Affinage Maurice Dufour, an award-winning cheese producer. We sampled six different cheeses, Le Migneron, Le Ciel de Charlevoix, Le Secret de Maurice, La Tomme d’Elles, Tomme de Brebis de Charlevoix and Le Bleu de Brebis de Charlevoix. They also make a white, red and rosé wine. We got to sample the white called Le Charlevoyou 2014. A bit foxy.

Award-winning cheese

Le Charlevoyou

Next stop, Boulangerie La Rémy, an early 19th-century watermill where local organic wheat is milled into flour for its onsite bakery. Lunched outdoors at Laiterie Charlevoix Economuseum, finishing up with their delicious cheesecake ice cream.

Laiterie Charlevoix

Checked out of the hotel to drive to Stoneham, where we spent the night with our friends Jean-François and Hélène Bergeron. A wine-filled dinner with their family members, starting with Jacob’s Creek Moscato 2014 as we sat outside looking at the lake. Then Paul Buisse Crémant de Loire with smoked salmon. Barbecued steak, potatoes and Greek Salad with Paolo Conterno Barolo “Riva del Bric” 2009 and Clos de las Siete 2009. With the assorted Quebec cheeses I brought out a bottle of the tomato wine I’d purchased at Omerto – Omerto Moelleux Aperitif Tomato Wine.

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 559: A Short Week

My daughter Annabel and grandson Declan

Sunday, August 23rd: Vancouver. Took my daughter Annabel to dinner at Vij. First we went for a glass of wine because the restaurant opens at 5:30 pmand we had time, we thought, to sit and chat. We arrived at the restaurant at 5:20 pm and there were some 60 people in line ahead of us. We had to wait 75 minutes for our table (no reservations at Vij, not even for the Queen of England). But so much food came around as we waited to be seated that we really didn’t have to order dinner.

West Broadway brewery sign

Monday, August 24th: Visited my ex in hospital and took her sushi and a bottle of CedarCreek Viognier 2014 (floral, peachy, full-bodied with balancing acidity – 89). In the evening I was picked up by Pam and Pat from a coffee house on West Broadway and driven to Vaughan and Marie’s for dinner. They are all members of our annual wine tour. We were joined by Carleen, who is also a Pauwels Tour alumna. Great meal of gazpacho, brisket, peaches and ice cream. The wines: Pol Roger Rose 1996, Leroy Auxey Duresses 2006, Château Beaucastel Châteauneuf du Pape 2001, Turley Petite Sirah 1994, Leonetti Cabernet Sauvignon 1995 and Niepoort 1992 Vintage Port. The evening inspired the following limerick:

What a pleasure to dine alfresco
On smoked nuts, gazpacho and pesto
Great brisket and gravy
Enough wine for a navy
But being with friends is the best-o.

Tuesday, August 25th: Picked up a sandwich at Bastardo for the Air Canada flight back to Toronto. Took a limo from the airport and arrived just in time to see Pinot the Wonderdog being picked up by Valerie (the dog sitter) to be whisked off to Innisfil for a week.

Wednesday, August 26th: A meeting with Greg Owen, who is organizing a tour of Champagne and Burgundy in October. Spent the rest of the day clearing my desk, as Deborah and I leave for four days in Quebec to do the food route. In the evening, down to Allen’s to see my friend Leonard, who is in town from Belgium. He brought with him a couple of Belgian wines, which weren’t bad at all.

Château Bon Baron 2013
Belgian red

Domaine Crutzberg Chardonnar 2013
Belgian Chardonnay

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 558: Anniversary Dinner

Fogo Island crab kina on pappardelle

Monday, August 17th: Today is Deborah’s and my anniversary. We share it with two other couples and every year for the past twelve or so we have celebrated over dinner in one of our homes. This year is our turn to host. After writing my 680 NEWS reviews and another chapter of the novel I got down to preparing the dinner with Deborah. Billecart Salmon Rosé Champagne and Benjamin Bridge Méthode Classique Rosé to start, with grilled asparagus wrapped in prosciutto and hummus and olives (Pinot, we found out, loves olives – she snaffled a few from the coffee table when we weren’t looking), followed by shrimps in a spicy tomato sauce on a bed of arugula with Black Hills Estate Alibi 2014. Main course: barbecued butterflied leg of lamb with fingerling potatoes and salad with Château Lascombes 1982 and Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf du Pape 1983. Dessert, Deborah’s lemon pie.

Tuesday, August 18th: Spent the day working on the novel. What a pleasure it is to write fiction. The book is set in the Second World War so there is a lot of research required. The internet makes it so easy. I think back to the number of hours in I spent in the Toronto Reference library when I was writing Titanic.

Wednesday, August 19th: Recorded my 680 NEWS wine reviews and talked to Rogers about our data plan. Spending too much money on it. Lunch at Oliver & Bonacini Grill to meet Dave Edmond, chief winemaker for Nobilo in New Zealand. The lunch was prepared by a New Zealand-born chef, Tom Riley.

Smoked tomato soup with miso crème fraiche, served with Nobilo Regional Collection Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (pale straw colour with a green note; green passionfruit and elderberry nose; medium-bodied, crisply dry with green plum and green pineapple flavours (88) and Nobilo Regional Collection Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (tank sample – paler in colour than the 2014; grassy, grapefruit and green melon and green fig nose; soft mouth-feel, crisp lively acidity. I preferred this vintage but will wait till it’s in the bottle to score).

Fogo Island crab kina (sea urchin) with butter, pappardelle and preserved lemon, served with Nobilo Icon Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (very pale colour; grassy, gooseberry nose; medium-bodied, lovely mouth-feel; crisply dry. Beautifully balanced with green plum and fig flavours, lively acidity with a thread of minerality and great length (90)).

Roasted lamb rump with minted Potatoes, peas and saffron labna, with Nobilo Icon Pinot Noir 2010 (deep ruby colour; high-toned black cherry nose; firm and full-bodied and still tight; chunky on the palate with black cherry and plum flavours (89)); Nobilo Icon Pinot Noir 2013 (deep ruby colour; earth, cherry nose with vanilla oak and a hint of violets; elegant and firmly structured with a black raspberry flavour (89)); Nobilo Icon Pinot Noir 2014 (deep ruby colour; high-toned nose of black raspberry and leather; medium to full-bodied, dry, fruity and well balanced. Tight at the moment but should develop well (90-91).

Dessert: Passionfruit and vanilla cheesecake with strewed tamarillo, served with Nobilo Regional Collection Sauvignon Blanc 2014.

Nobilo lineup

Came home to do some more wine tasting; the samples are mounting up.

  • Boekenhoutskloof The Wolftrap Viognier Chenin Blanc Grenache Blanc 2014 (South Africa – $13.95): pale lemon colour; pear skin and grapefruit rind nose; dry, medium-bodied, soft mouth-feel with an Asian pear and citrus flavour. (87)
  • Wild Oats Mudgee Pinot Grigio 2014 (Australia – $15.95): very pale colour; minerally, peach pit nose; dry white apple and quince flavours with a touch of sweetness in mid palate. A little bitterness on the finish. (86)
  • Bellingham Berry Bush Rosé 2014 (South Africa – $10.90): pale salmon colour; minerally, smoky, redcurrant nose; raspberry flavour with enough acidity to balance the residual sweetness; round on the palate. (86+)
  • Fuzion Shiraz Rosé 2014 (Argentina – $7.95): deep pink colour; watermelon and white pepper nose; strawberry and pear flavour with a touch of sweetness, finishing with a red cherry note. Easy drinking. Good value. (86+)
  • Carpineto Dogajolo Rosso Toscana 2013 (80% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon – $15.80): ruby colour; tobacco, red berry bouquet; medium-bodied, dry, well extracted redcurrant and plum flavours with cocoa powder-like tannins. (87)
  • Marchesi Frescobaldi Nipozzano Rieserva Chianti Rufina 2011: dark ruby colour; cedar, cherry and dark chocolate nose; sour cherry flavour with lively acidity and pillowy tannins. (88+)
  • Antonin Rodet Côtes du Rhône 2013 ($13.95): deep ruby colour; herbal, black raspberry nose with an earthy note; medium-bodied, dry, somewhat green fruit flavours with a tannic finish. (86)
  • Ventisquero Root: 1 Carmenere n/v (Chile – $12.95): deep ruby colour; smoky, cedary, blackberry nose with hints of vanilla oak and pencil lead; mouth-filling, sweet blackcurrant and plum flavours with soft tannins and bright acidity; a coffee note on the finish. (88)
  • Fairview Goats Do Roam 2014 (South Africa –Shiraz, Grenache, Mourvedre, Petite Sirah, Carignan and Cinsault – $12.95): deep ruby colour; savoury nose of blackberries and smoky oak with a note of tar; sweet and savoury, herbal, black fruit flavours with a smoky note. (87+)
  • Fairview Goats in Villages Shiraz Pinotage 2012 (South Africa – $12.95): dense purple-ruby colour; cedar, oaky, herbal nose with a black licorice note; medium-bodied, dry, plum and licorice flavours with lively acidity. (88)
  • Boekenhoutskloof Porcupine Ridge Syrah 2014 (South Africa – $14.95): deep ruby colour with a violet rim; a smoked meat nose, herbal, blackberry notes; rich and savoury with blackberry, dark chocolate and an iodine note; well balanced and lingering. Good value. (88+)
  • Boekenhoutskloof The Wolftrap Syrah Mourvèdre Viognier 2014 (South Africa – $13.95): deep ruby-purple colour; smoky, cedar, herbal, black licorice nose; medium-bodied, dry, blackberry and toasted herb flavours. (88)

Thursday, April 20th: Wrote my Lexpert column on Michigan wines. Then got down to more tasting:

  • Trail Estate Riesling 2014 (Prince Edward County – 10% Gewurztraminer: $21.95): pale straw colour; aromatic, grapefruit nose with a touch of spice; dry, grapefruit and grapefruit pith flavours, touch of bitterness on the finish. (86+)
  • Domaine La Haute Fevrie Muscadet Sèvre-&-Maine Sur Lie 2014 (Loire – $13.95): pale straw colour; minerally, acacia flower with a green nut note; crisply dry, light-bodied with a slight spritz, lemony, green apple flavour. (88+)
  • Black Hills Cellar Hand Free Run White 2014 (Okanagan – Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Muscat and Pinot Gris – $15.90): pale straw colour; spicy, pear and grapefruit bouquet; medium-bodied, off-cry with a pronounced Muscat flavour of peach and cardamom. An interesting blend with a touch of bitterness on the finish. (88+)
  • Ménage à Trois Moscato 2013 (California – $12.95 til Sept. 19 then $14.95): light straw colour; perfumed, cardamom and orange nose; off-dry, mouth-filling, intense and exotic peach, orange and spicy flavours. Clean finish with a good mouth-feel. (88+)
  •  DuBoeuf Morgon Côte du Puy 2011 (Beaujolais – $17.95): deep ruby colour; black cherry nose with a minerally-terroir note; dry, light to medium-bodied with a cherry and cherry-pit flavour and a floral top note. Dry and fruity with a touch of tannin on the finish to give it interest and lively acidity. (89+)
  • Georges DuBoeuf Morgon Domaine des Versauds 2011 (Beaujolais – $16.95): deep ruby colour; earthy, black plum and cherry nose; rich and full on the palate, dry black cherry flavour with balancing acidity. (88)
  • Georges DuBoeuf Rochegrès Moulin-à-Vent 2011 (Beaujolais – $19.95): deep ruby-purple colour; cherry, graphite nose; sturdy and structured, medium-bodied, dry with black cherry and white pepper flavours with a firm finish. (89+)
  • Trail Estate Baco Noir Unfiltered 2014 (Prince Edward County- $25.95): dense purple colour; peppery, blackberry with a kirsch and chocolate note; rich and full on the palate; fruity-savoury, plum flavour with lively acidity and a light veneer of vanilla oak. Chalky tannins on the finish. (88)
  • Colio Hat Trick Cabernet Merlot 2014 (Ontario – $14.95): purple-ruby colour; cedar, red berry nose; medium-bodied, dry, red and blackcurrant flavours; moderate length to a firm, blunt finish. (86)
  • Black Hills Cellar Hand Punch Down Red 2013 (Okanagan Valley – $24.90): a blend of 45% Syrah, 28% Merlot and 27% Cabernet Sauvignon. Deep ruby colour; cedar, herbal black fruit aromas; medium-bodied, dry, toasted herbs and blackberry flavours with creamy oak and lively acidity. Evident green tannins on the finish. (88)
  • Châteauneuf-du-Pape Galets Blonds 2012 ($56.95): deep ruby colour; garrigue and blackberries on the nose; full-bodied, generous with licorice and black fruits and plum flavours; dry and savoury, firmly structured and resonating on the palate. (91)
  • Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo Shiraz 2013 (Chile): deep ruby colour; minty-eucalyptus nose of blackberries and vanilla oak; medium-bodied, dry, savoury blackberry flavour with tinged with green herbs. (86+)

Friday, August 21st: A Vintages release tasting this morning. Packed for my flight to Vancouver tomorrow. For dinner, pasta with chicken in tomato sauce with CedarCreek Pinot Gris 2014 (pale straw colour; a nose of white peach with a light mineral thread; medium-bodied, dry, peach and peach pit flavours. Well extracted fruit (89)).

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 557: LENS Wines

Saturday, August 8th: Flew from Billy Bishop airport to Windsor. The first time I had used the under-channel walkway to the island airport. Very convenient. Cost of a sandwich in the airport canteen, $11 and change. I told the woman at the cash it was highway robbery. She asked me if I wanted a receipt.

At Windsor airport I was met by Suzanne, the owner of North 42 Degrees winery in Colchester who drove me to the B&B, La Roos (where I had stayed last time I was in Lake Erie). Since no-one was home we visited CREW – Colchester Ridge Estate Winery, which is owned by Suzanne’s relative, Bernie Gorski. All the winemakers are talking about the two terrible winters they have suffered through and the resulting crop loses for the cold and the rain. Tasted through a series of wines with Bernie.

  • CREW Flagship Chardonnay 2013: pale straw colour with a lime tint; apple nose; medium-bodied, dry, well balanced with apple and pear flavours. (88)
  • CREW Riesling 2013: very pale colour; minerally nose, developing petrol notes along with aromas of line and grapefruit; off-dry with a honeyed note in mid-palate. Good length and good vale at $15.00. (89)
  • CREW Posh Cuvee 2013 (a blend of Chardonnay, Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Vidal): lemon yellow colour; aromatic, mineral nose; soft mouth-feel, off-dry with grapefruit and honey flavours. Nicely balanced. (88)
  • CREW Red Sky At Night (Merlot) 2013: deep salmon colour; redcurrant and cranberry nose; medium-bodied, dry, redcurrant and pomegranate flavours with good length. (87)
  • CREW Cabernet Franc 2011: ruby colour with a tawny rim; spicy, cedar and cherry bouquet with a light floral note; medium-bodied, dry, spicy red berry flavour with a firm tannic finish. (87+)
  • CREW Merlot 2011: ruby colour; barnyard note, oaky with a floral grace note on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, black cherry flavour; full in the mouth with enough tannin to give structure. (88)
  • CREW Cabernet Sauvignon 2011: deep ruby colour; sappy, vanilla oak nose of blackcurrant with a floral note; medium-bodied, dry with savoury blackcurrant and licorice flavours. Finishes firmly. (88+)
  • CREW Meritage 2010: ruby colour; blackcurrant and redcurrant nose; medium-bodied, sweet currant fruit, full on the palate – blackcurrant and plum flavours. (89)

Next stop, Muscedere Vineyards in Harrow, where Rob Muscedere conducted an impromptu tasting for me and Suzanne.

Rob Muscedere

  • Muscedere Pinot Grigio 2014: pale straw colour; peach pit, minerally nose with a floral top note; medium-bodied, dry, white peach flavour with a thread of minerality and good length. (87)
  • Muscedere Pinot Grigio 2013: delicate floral nose, peachy flavour with lively acidity. More charm than the 2014.
  • Muscedere Riesling 2013: pale straw colour; petrol and citrus fruit nose; ripe grapefruit and lime flavours with good length. (88)
  • Muscedere Sauvignon Blanc 2012: pale straw colour; earthy, grassy, green plum nose; green plum flavour with lively acidity. (86)
  • Muscedere Pinot Noir 2012: pale ruby colour; earthy, raspberry nose with a hint of violets; ripe plum and prune flavours; well structured. (88)
  • Muscedere Cabernet Franc 2013: deep ruby colour; cedar, oak nose with creamy cherry and plum flavours; medium-bodied, dry with a rich mouth-feel and a firm tannic finish. (89)
  • Muscedere Syrah 2011: deep ruby colour; white pepper, blackberry nose with a floral grace note; dry, delicate, firmly structured; medium-bodied, savoury black fruit flavours. (89)
  • Muscedere Merlot 2012: deep ruby colour; minerally, plum and vanilla oak nose; fruity and firmly structured; dry with ripr fruit but evident tannins. Needs time. (88–89+)
  • Muscedere Cabernet Sauvignon 2011: deep ruby colour; floral, cedar and blackcurrant bouquet; richly, well extracted fruit, dry and well structured. (88)
  • Muscedere Meritage 2011 (60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc): dense ruby colour; cedar, blackcurrant with a floral top note; medium-bodied, dry, high toned fruit flavour and firmly structured. (88)

Then we went into the cellar to taste from the barrel: Merlot 2012, Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 and Syrah 2012. Suzanne dropped me back at the B&B and then picked me up along with Will Predhomme to have dinner with local winemakers at Elite Steakhouse in Kingsville. Before arriving at the restaurant Will and I visited Oxley Estate Winery in Harrow to taste a series of wines there:

  • Oxley Estate Riesling Gewurztraminer 2014: grapefruit flavour with a bitter finish. (86)
  • Oxley Estate Gewurztraminer 2014: spicy, lychee and rose petal nose and flavour. Satisfyingly dry. (88)
  • Oxley Estate Wowza 2013 (a blend of Bianca, Geisenheim and Hibernal): medium-bodied, off-dry, citrus, nectarine flavours. (87)
  • Oxley Estate Pinot Noir 2011: quite full on the mouth for a cool climate Pinot; cherry and strawberry nose and flavours with an earthy, red licorice note. (88)
  • Oxley Estate Cabernet Franc 2013: Loire style, lean and elegant. (88)
  • Oxley Estate Cabernet Merlot 2013: deep ruby in colour with a nose of currants, white pepper and mushroom. Nicely balanced with a fine spine of acidity. (88+)

Then on to Cooper’s Hawk in Harrow. In their cabinet of trophies they have a stuffed Cooper’s hawk.

  • Cooper’s Hawk Pinot Grigio 2013: pale straw colour; sweetish peachy nose, terroir driven with lively acidity. (88)
  • Cooper’s Hawk Riesling 2013: water white; floral, minerally nose with flavours of grapefruit and honey. (88)
  • Cooper’s Hawk Chardonnay Musqué 2013: sweetish, lacks acidity for balance. (86)
  • Cooper’s Hawk Merlot Reserve 2012: rose petal and blueberry nose; medium-bodied, dry and firmly structured. A well-made wine. (88+)
  • Cooper’s Hawk Cabernet Franc Reserve 2012: high-toned, smoky, toasty oak over-riding fruit. (86)

A Cooper’s hawk

Dinner at Elite steakhouse where our party of winemakers tasted the following wines: North 42 Degrees Riesling 2012, Pelee Island Barrique Chardonnay 2005, Oxley Estate Pinot Noir2013, Pelee Island Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Cooper’s Hawk Merlot Reserve 2012, Viewpointe Cabernet Franc 2008 (the highlight of the evening).

Sunday, August 9th: Visited Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery in Harrow this morning.

  • Sprucewood Shores Riesling 2014 (Niagara fruit): pale straw colour; spicy, grapefruit and peach nose; off-dry, grapefruit flavour with a honeyed note. (88)
  • Sprucewood Shores Chardonnay Unoaked 2013: pale straw colour; a nose of apple with a light floral top note; clean apple and pear flavours; medium-bodied, dry and elegant. (87)
  • Sprucewood Shores Hawk’s Flight Barrel Chardonnay Reserve 2013: pale straw colour; creamy, nutty nose; oaky apple and citrus flavours. (87)
  • Sprucewood Shores Lady in Red 2013 (50% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc): deep ruby colour; cedar, vanilla oak and red berry nose; dry, redcurrant and plum flavours. (86+)
  • Sprucewood Shores Pinot Noir 2012: tawny ruby colour; woody-earthy plum nose; dry, high-toned raisiny plum flavours. (87)
  • Sprucewood Shores Meritage 2012: deep ruby colour; cedar and red berry nose with a minty note; sry, lean, redcurrant flavour; firmly structured. (87)

Sprucewood Shores Riesling 2014

Next stop: North 42 Degrees Estate Winery in Colchester, where the 21st annual EPIC Vintage Tasting is to take place this afternoon. Will Predhomme and I tasted the wines in the tent that had been set up for the event.

Stilt walkers at EPIC Vintage Tasting

  • North 42 Degrees Sauvignon Blanc 2012: pale straw colour; cut grass, hay, green plum nose; perfumed, guava flavour with a lively acidic spine; medium-bodied, dry with good length. (88)
  • North 42 Degrees Sauvignon Blanc 2013: straw colour; herbaceous nose; tart gooseberry and elderberry flavour. (87)
  • North 42 Degrees Riesling 2012: straw colour; oxidative, spicy, dried apricot nose; good mouth feel. (88)
  • North 42 Degrees Riesling 2013: same flavour profile as the 2012 but without its fruit intensity. (87)
  • North 42 Degrees Gewurztraminer 2013: deep straw colour; lychee and rose petals on the nose; dry, well-balanced with great length. Varietally correct. (89)
  • North 42 Degrees Pinot Noir 2012: tawny ruby colour; raspberry and rust on the nose; firmly structured, well balanced, medium-bodied, dry with an earthy raspberry flavour and a tannic finish. (89)
  • North 42 Degrees Cabernet Franc 2012: ruby colour; cedar and red berry nose; medium-bodied, dry with a good mouth-feel. Bourgueil style. (88)
  • North 42 Degrees Cabernet Sauvignon 2012: ruby colour; blackcurrant and redcurrant nose; dry, medium-bodied, firmly structured with a tannic finish. (87)

Then I tasted other wineries I hadn’t yet visited, beginning with Mastronardi at the table staffed by Tony Mastronardi and Meagan Dimenna.

Tony Mastronardi and Meagan Dimenna

  • Mastronardi Riesling 2013: dry, grapefruit flavour, firmly structured with a touch of bitterness on the finish. (86)
  • Mastronardi Unoaked Chardonnay 2013: pale straw colour with a fresh, apple and apple blossom nose. Medium-bodied and dry with an apple flavour carried on grapefruit acidity. (89)
  • Mastronardi Late Harvest Riesling Reserve Briangë 2013: pale straw-lime in colour with a spicy, floral and citrus nose; sweet, soft on the palate with honey and grapefruit flavours. (87)
  • Mastronardi Merlot 2013: ruby colour; creamy, coconut nose; medium-bodied, dry, oak-driven, firmly structure. (86+)
  • Mastronardi Cabernet Sauvignon 2013: ruby colour; cedar, tobacco and blackcurrant on the nose; dry, oaky and firmly structured. (89)
  • Viewpointe Riesling 2011: developing petrol notes; medium-bodied, off-dry, honey and grapefruit flavours. (88)
  • Viewpointe Big Bluff White 2013 (Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Auxerrois): sweetish, easy drinking. (86)
  • Viewpointe Big Bluff Red 2011 (Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot): pale ruby with a sour cherry flavour. (86)
  • Viewpointe Cabernet Franc 2008: ripe, red cherry flavour; dry and firmly structured; still youthful with a tannic finish. (89)
  • Viewpointe Pelaire Pointe Cabernet Merlot 2005: cherry and tobacco on the nose; flavours replicated on the plate, dry and firmly structured with an earthy finish. (88)

Viewpoointe Cabernet Franc 2008

After touring the tent, I conducted a tasting of the following LENS wines:

  • Colio Lily (Riesling) Sparkling
  • North 42 Degrees Sauvignon Blanc 2012
  • Oxley Pinot Noir 2013
  • Pelee Island Island Vinedressers Meritage 2012
  • Mastronardi Syrah 2010
  • Cooper’s Hawk Riesling 2013

My tasting lineup at EPIC

Following my tasting, Linda Jones, Executive Director of the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council, picked me up at the winery and drove me across the border to Lansing. (I haven`t visited Lansing in 25 years, since my son played a hockey tournament there.) On the two-and-a-half-hour drive she explained to me about the Michigan Wine Competition that I would be judging on Tuesday with 23 other judges from across the States. Linda, her husband Mike and I had dinner together at the Kellogg Hotel, which has a spectacular wine cellar. I ordered a bottle of Leyda Pinot Noir 2011 from Chile, which was spectacular.

Doug Frost MW with the German wine he brought for dinner

Monday, August 10th: Walked around the grounds of Michigan State University, where the hotel is located. Unfortunately, the art museum was closed on Mondays. Had to cut my walk short because of a thunderstorm so returned to my room to write up my notes. In the evening the judges met for dinner. Good to see my old friends John Buechsenstein from California, Doug Frost MW from Kansas and Peter Bell, the winemaker from Fox Run in New York State.

A flight of Michigan reds

Tuesday, August 11th: Judging began at 8:30 am. We were divided into panels of four. My captain was Ellen Landis, from California. We had to come to a consensus as to whether a wine was worthy of a gold, silver or bronze medal or no award. There were 372 entries from 47 wineries (150 in total in Michigan, including fruit wineries). If all four of use gave a wine gold then it automatically became a Double Gold and would be tasted by the entire roster of judges in the afternoon for Best of Show trophies. Our panel tasted 9 Merlot, 9 Meritage, 9 Semi-Dry Red Proprietary Blends, 7 Miscellaneous Semi-Dry Whites, 7 Riesling Sweet. Then lunch. After lunch, 6 Gewurztraminer, 6 Miscellaneous Dry Whites, 5 Miscellaneous Dry White Hybrids, 5 Semi-Dry Rosés. Then the Sweepstake round followed. The results can be found at www.michiganwines.com. (They had me in the program as Wine Writer for the Toronto Globe and Mail. Don’t tell Beppi.)

The Michigan Sweepstakes winners

I was very impressed by the sparkling wines and Rieslings of Michigan. Some delicious Pinot, Syrah and Bordeaux blends too. After the competition we all went out to dinner at Dusty Cellars Wine Bar and Tap Room in Okemos. I was wined out by this time and had a beer.

Wednesday, August 12th: Flew from Lansing to Detroit and then caught the flight to Toronto. Took the UP Express from Pearson to Bloor. Didn’t realize that it was Bloor and Dundas West and not Bloor and Yonge. So I had to take the subway to Yonge and change to go north to Eglinton. Still it was an interesting ride and saved me $40. Caught up on emails and opened a bottle of Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Carte Blanche Blanc de Blanc 2010: pale straw colour with an active mousse; leesy, minerally nose of green apples and lemons with an engaging floral top note. Dry with a soft, caressing mouth-feel. (90).

Thursday, August 13th: Spent much of the day researching material for the novel I’m working on. In the evening opened a bottle of Sonoma-Cutrer Russian River Ranch Chardonnay 2013 for the chicken pasta Deborah had prepared (straw colour with a high-toned nose – forest floor and apple; medium to full-bodied, dry, beautifully balanced with just perceptible oak (91)).

Friday, August 14th: Worked on a presentation I’m giving in November at the Vitinord Conference in Nebraska City, on cold-climate winegrowing. Then got down to more tasting:

  • Tinhorn Creek Chardonnay 2014 (Okanagan Valley): straw colour with a greenish hue; a nose of apple and forest floor; medium-bodied, dry, apple, pear and pineapple flavours; good length, seamless with an almond note on the finish. (90)
  • Tinhorn Creek Gewurztraminer 2014: very pale colour with a spicy nose of lychee and Asian pear; medium-bodied, off-dry, unctuous mouth-feel with an exotic Turkish delight flavour, finishing dry. (89)
  • Tinhorn Creek Merlot 2013 ruby colour; oaky, blueberry nose; medium-bodied, dry, blueberry and red berry flavours; nicely balanced and firm. (89)
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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 556: VQA Tasting

Monday, August 3th: Worked on a new novel. Really enjoyed writing fiction for a day. Rewarded myself with an evening tasting of two wines that Doug Gilmour has put his name to, produced at Karlo Estates in Prince Edward County:

  • Gilmour Orus Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Grigio 2012: very pale colour; minerally, grapefruit and white peach nose; medium-bodied, dry with a light floral note. Good length. (88)
  • Gilmour Corazon Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Cabernet Franc 2012: high toned, cedar, blackcurrant nose; medium-bodied, dry, blackcurrant and redcurrant flavoured; firmly structured with lively acidity. (86).

Tuesday, August 4th: Went to my doctor to get the results of a blood test. Spent the rest of the day working on the novel. Dinner wine with salmon: Maverick Sauvignon Blanc 2014 from BC (pale straw colour with a grassy, green plum nose and a herbal note; medium-bodied, dry, passionfruit and nectarine flavours; beautifully balanced with great length (91)).

Wednesday, August 5th: Participated in a VQA tasting at The Thoroughbred Restaurant on Richmond Street West. There were 16 of us – winemakers, sommeliers and wine writers – and we had to blind-taste four Ontario varietals (Chardonnay, Rieslings, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir, all 2014 vintage) and group them into styles. Interesting exercise. Unfortunately I won’t be there next week to see the results, as I’ll be judging in a wine competition in Michigan. Dinner wine with hamburgers: Luis Felipe Edwards Guardian 2012 (Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère, Merlot, Cabernet Franc – from Chile: deeply coloured with a nose of cedar, pencil lead, tobacco and black fruits lifted with a floral note; full-bodied, dry, savoury currant and blackberry flavours with a licorice note on the finish (89)). Great value at $13.60.

Thursday, August 6th: Wrote my ON the GO magazine wine reviews. A meeting at George Brown College to discuss the possibility of holding the Ontario Wine Awards judging and medal presentation ceremony (linked with a consumer tasting) at that venue. Then a late afternoon meeting to discuss the menu and logistics of the Gaia Gaja dinner (a fund-raiser for Grapes for Humanity) with Chef Massimo Capra. Came back home and tasted the following wines:

  • Le Clos Jordanne Chardonnay Village Reserve 2012 (Ontario – $30): pale straw colour; minerally, apple with a nutty note; medium-bodied, dry, creamy mouth-feel; lemony, green apple flavour. Lively acidity with a touch of bruised apple on the finish. (88)
  • Le Clos Jordanne Chardonnay Claystone Terrace 2012 (Ontario – $40): pale straw colour; minerally, nutty, apple nose; medium-bodied, dry, richly extracted apple and peach flavours; well integrated oak, soft mouth-feel, beautifully balanced with good length. (90)
  • Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard Chardonnay 2011 (Ontario – $40): pale straw colour; light floral nose with apple and pear notes, evident oak; medium-bodied, dry, spicy, apple and pear flavours. Rich and full on the palate with good length. (91)
  • Le Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos Chardonnay 2011 (Ontario – $65): pale straw colour; toasty oak, macadamia nut and apple nose; dry medium-bodied, vanilla oak, apple nose; richly extracted apple and pear flavours backed by creamy oak. Good length. (92)
  • Maverick Pinot Gris 2014 (BC): pale straw colour; minerally, peach nose; medium-bodied, dry, richly extracted peach, pear and citrus flavours. (91)
  • Masi Bonacasta Valpolicella 2014: deep ruby colour; cherry nose with a touch of leather and cedar; medium-bodied, dry with a lovely, fruity cherry flavour carried on lively acidity to a lightly tannic finish. (89)
  • Henry of Pelham Cabernet-Merlot 2010: (Ontario – $24.95) deep ruby; a bouquet of cedar, vanilla oak sitting on top of blackcurrant fruit; medium-bodied, dry, cassis flavour; nicely balanced acidity and tannin. Give it a couple of years for the oak to integrate. (89–90)

For dinner, I prepared a Thai green curry prawn with rice and polished off the bottle of Maverick Pinot Gris while watching the Blue Jays beat Minnesota. All very satisfactory.

Friday, August 7th: A Vintages release tasting for August 22nd.

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 555: LG Awards

Emma Garner of Thirty Bench receives her award from the Lieutenant Governor

Monday, July 27th: Wrote my monthly column for Quench (on Syrah and Shiraz) and worked on a piece for the Toronto Symphony Wine Auction catalogue – about how it came about, the first charity auction in Ontario.

Tuesday, July 28th: Deborah and I went to the memorial service for my friend Jeff Lyons, a long-time director of Grapes for Humanity. His family spoke very eloquently and movingly about him – how he called everyone “Brother,” a habit he picked up after his curiosity took him to sit in on a Baptist church service. Then Deborah and I went to the Centre Street Deli for lunch.

Wednesday, July 29th: The hottest day in Toronto so far – 33°C. Went to the Argentinian tasting at Snell Hall, St. James Cathedral on Church Street. 23 wineries showing 94 wines. I concentrated mainly on the Malbecs and I found a sameness in a lot of the wines. Best wines: Zuccardi Finca Piedra Inifinita Malbec 2012 (and so it should be at $120 a bottle), Zuccardi Q Malbec 2012 (a bargain at $16.95), Agostino Finca Malbec 2012 (the most elegant and restrained Malbec), Luigi Bosca Malbec 2012. Best value at the event: Argento Esquinas de Argento Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($11.95). Then on to Queen’s Park for the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Excellence in Ontario Wines presented by the LG, Elizabeth Dowdeswell:

  • Creekside Estate Riesling 2014
  • Flat Rock Cellars Riddled Sparkling 2009
  • Flat Rock Cellars Gravity Pinot Noir 2012
  • Hernder Estates Riesling 2010
  • Jackson-Triggs Riesling Reserve Icewine 2010
  • Peller Estates Vintage Gamay Private Reserve 2015
  • Peller Estate Sauvignon Blanc Signature Series 2015
  • Ravine Vineyard Chardonnay 2013
  • Rockway Vineyards Small Lot Block 12-140 Syrah 2012
  • Thirty Bench Winemakers Small Lot Riesling “Wild Cask” 2013

After the presentations the winemakers and guests attended a reception at which all the wines were served. At dinner, made hamburgers on the BBQ and opened a bottle of Masi Tupungato Paso Doble Malbec/Corvina 2012 from Argentina (dense purple colour; curranty nose with an earthy note; dry, medium-bodied, black plum flavour with lively acidity and a firm finish. (88)).

Thursday, July 30th: Regan Kapach, the winemaker for 16 Mile Cellar, around the corner from Creekside and 13th Street, brought her wines to the condo for me to taste. Interesting minimalist labels.

  • 16 Mile Cellar Rebel Chardonnay 2012 ($19.95): deep straw with a green tint; apple with spicy oak; medium to full-bodied, dry, minerally, apple, orange and peach flavours; beautifully balanced with lively acidity. (90)
  • 16 Mile Cellar Civility Chardonnay 2012 ($24.95): deep straw with a green tint; spicy, licorice, and forest floor bouquet; dry, medium to full-bodied, rich on the palate, focussed and precise flavours of apple and citrus with well integrated oak with racy acidity. A wine to age. (92)
  • 16 Mile Cellar Rebel Pinot Noir 2011 ($22.95): light ruby colour with brick-coloured rim; raspberry, violets with a hint of vanilla oak; medium-bodied, dry, raspberry with grainy tannins. Well balanced with good presence in the mouth. Hold for two years at least. (89–90)
  • 16 Mile Cellar Incivility Pinot Noir 2011 ($29.95): ruby colour; minerally, red berry, vanilla oak with a smoky note; dry, medium-bodied, taut and firm, well balanced with a fine spine of acidity. Volnay style. (91)
  • 16 Mile Cellar Rebel Pinot Noir 2012 ($22.95): ruby with a tawny hue; earthy, floral, strawberry nose; firmly structured, cherry and strawberry flavours with pleasing dry extract, More masculine and structured than the 2011; powerful but with elegance. (90)
  • 16 Mile Cellar Incivility Pinot Noir 2012 ($29.95): ruby with a tawny note; very Burgundian nose – minerally, raspberry with a light floral note and a touch of oak; medium-bodied, firmly structured with evident tannins; beautifully balanced but needs a couple of years to make it more harmonious. (92)

Regan stayed to lunch. I made a pasta salad with prosciutto, salami, figs, capers and basil.

Friday, July 31st: A tasting at the LCBO of new wines, then lunch at Pastizza on Market Street with Mike Richards of TSN and Scott Sutherland, a partner in Karlo Estates winery in Price Edward County. They are launching a line of Doug Gilmour wines under the Gilmour label. Picked up some mussels in the market and made moules marinière for dinner. Opened a bottle of Acrobat Pinot Gris 2013 from Oregon (light straw colour; a nose of peaches with a leesy note; medium-bodied, dry, peach flavour with a touch of sweetness on the mid-palate (89)).

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A Wine Lover’s Diary, Part 554: Family Day

Monday, July 20th: A winerytohome tasting at Doug Towers’s with David Lawrason. For dinner with grilled salmon, Joie En Famille Reserve Chardonnay 2012 from BC (golden straw colour; high-toned nose of tropical fruit and vanilla oak; full-bodied, mature, dried peach flavour, intense (89)).

Tuesday, July 21st: Wrote my 680News wine reviews and sent off my monthly column to Lexpert about atmosphere and timing being the most essential elements in the enjoyment of wine.

Wednesday, July 22nd: Went for a blood test this morning. Wrote up my Wines of the Week and sent off my Post City Magazines column (the difference between Syrah and Shiraz). In the evening, conducted a tasting for members of our condo (30 people altogether). The wines:

  • Tenuta San Giorgio Banero Prosecco Extra Dry (Veneto)
  • Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier 2014 (Chile)
  • Riverlore Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2014 (New Zealand)
  • Trapiche Malkina Rosé 2014 (Argentina)
  • Miguel Torres Las Mulas Organic Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2013 (Chile)

Thursday, July 23rd: Wrote another chapter in the new novel. For dinner, lamb chops with a bottle of Lavau Côtes du Rhône Villages 2011 ($12.90, LCBO #421024). Purple colour with a floral, blackberry nose lifted with a spicy oak note. Medium-bodied, dry and savoury with herbal, cherry flavours and supple tannins. Good value. (88+)

Friday, July 24th: A Vintages release tasting. For dinner with pasta salad I opened a bottle of Château Timberlay Merlot-Cabernet Bordeaux Clairet 2014 (Bordeaux getting on the rosé bandwagon. Pale ruby colour with a nose of raspberries. Medium-bodied, dry with raspberry and redcurrant flavours and not a suggestion of tannin (87)).

Saturday, July 25th: A family day today. My sister Shirley was in town and she wanted to meet my son Guy’s fiancée, Sasha. I took them all to lunch at Terroni on Yonge Street, along with my nephew David (who is also my godson) and his fiancée, Mary. Then in the evening Guy and Sasha had arranged for Deborah and me to meet Sasha’s parents for the first time. We had dinner at an Indian restaurant, The Copper Chimney on Avenue Road. Zoya and Valentin are Ukranian and Valentin and I spent a good deal of the time talking about our mutual passion – fishing. Only he’s crazier about it than I – he keeps his fishing tackle in a roof-rack holder for easy access. We’re going to get on well.

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