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Sunday, September 30, 2007

TRADE TASTING: Australian Regional Heroes Wine Tasting of September 27, 2007.

The Time and Date: Thursday, September 27, 2007 1:30 PM to 5 PM

The Event: Wine Australia Presents Regional Heroes.

The Venue: Design Exchange

The Target Audience: wine press, LCBO, sommeliers.

The Availability/Catalogue: the theme this year was to push decently priced
Australian wines from some of the 63 distinct regions. 55 wineries
participated (out of 2,000 possible in Oz). Wine Australia has been
marketing Oz wines in four categories: Regional Heroes, Brand Champions
(mainstream), Generation Next (new wines), and Landmark Australia (expensive
limited productions). We didn't see any of the latter, unless you'd include
Brokenwood Graveyard Shiraz 2005 ($80), Katnook Estate Prodigy Shiraz ($69),
O'Leary Walker Reserve Shiraz 2004 ($100), or Parker Coonawarra First Growth
Cabernet Merlot 2004 ($66.95). There were a few wines around $50, a few more
at $40, and then even more under $30. The vast majority was under $20. The
cheapest was probably Runaway Bay Chardonnay and Shiraz, at $11.55 each. The
catalogue was laid out by name of the winery, with table numbers, names of
agents upfront, regions, name of wines, LCBO numbers (unnumbered wines were
either private orders or consignment), and retail prices - although some of
the prices were wrong.

The Quote: "They managed to fix the lighting in the Design Exchange: I can
see everything now. But I can also see that there are not too many people
here at the trade show! Where is everybody?"

The Wines: We began with a seminar, which started a bit late: I left early
to take in the wine show. John Szabo, MS, moderate a panel of visiting
Australian principals who spoke to their wines (all were in twist top). The
stress was on terroir. Skillogalee Riesling 2006 ($22.95, Worldwide Cellar)
was bone dry with some of that Alsatian character, medium finish. Katnook
Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2006 ($22.95, Charton Hobbs) was Euro style, elegant
with minerals, very ripe. Redbank Sunday Morning Pinot Gris 2006 ($24.95,
Charton Hobbs) was 14.5% ABV, pear tones dominated, longer finish than most.
Jacob's Creek Reeves Point Chardonnay 2004 ($34.95, Corby Distilleries)
showed toasty wood on both the nose and palate, some butter, slightly bitter
toward the finish, persistent fresh citric finish, a definite food
chardonnay. It was one of a few chardonnays in the show: what's happened to
Oz chards? Bay of Fires Pinot Noir 2006 ($38.95, Churchill Cellars) was
plummy with North American appeal in the nose, too young, solid cherries and
most MVC character. Brokenwood Indigo Vineyard Pinot Noir 2006 ($35.95,
Mondia Alliance) had little MVC, very shy and closed, 14% ABV. Yering
Station Pinot Noir Reserve 2005 ($43, Trilogy Wines) was rich and elaborate,
earthiness, developing, strong persistence, will continue to age well and
turn into a burgundy style wine. Cumulus Climbing Cabernet Sauvignon 2000
($18.50, Authentic) had 14 months in French and US oak, good berry
complexity, some mintiness, depth and development, firm tannins, needs time,
but good price. Mount Langi Ghiran Shiraz 2004 ($42.95, Kylix) was 15% ABV.
It was their first vintage under a twist top. Rich, dense, extractive but
with a soft finish. From the wine show itself, I enjoyed (but I did not
taste all the wines) in the whites -- Boggy Creek Chardonnay 2005 (Merchant
Vintner) was not yet available for sale; the sample tasted well-rounded and
well-priced for an elegant chardonnay from Australia. D'Arenberg The Olive
Grove Chardonnay 2006 (+702845, $16.95) was comparable in its completeness.
Hamelin Bay Chardonnay 2006 (Thompson, $24.95) was elegant, twist top (as
were so many wines today), French wood, lemons, pears, and a Gold Medalist.
Hungerford Hill Dalliance Sparkling 2002 (+39354, $22.85) convinced me
enough to dally for a second sample; it's a pinot noir (2/3) and chardonnay
blend. Hungerford Hill Tumbarumba Chardonnay 2006 (+15479, $22.95) was a
nicely balanced wine, perfect with food. Kangarilla Road Viognier 2006
(+908011, $21.75) was simply smashing in its fruitiness, twist top, 14.5%
ABV. Margan Semillon 2006 (+961516, $17.95) showed that Hunter Valley style,
although it was still a young wine. McPherson Marsanne Viognier 2005 (Kylix,
$18.95) was 87% marsanne; it had that south of France ripeness. Pikes
Viognier 2006 (Authentic, $19.95) was very aromatic. Xanadu Chardonnay 2005
(+27888, $20.95) was another twist top wonder, 14% ABV. Yalumba Eden Valley
Viognier 2005 (+954644, $22.95) was both aromatic and fruity. The Yalumba
Wild Ferment Chardonnay 2006 (+39271, $17.95) remains one of the best deals
at Vintages. For the reds - Alkoomi Blackbutt Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
(Thompson, $49.95) was very silky and oaky, delicious. Barossa Valley Estate
Ebenezer Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 (+39537, $39.95) was minty and deep.
Gemtree Uncut Shiraz 2006 (+627844, $26.50) was better value than Gemtree
Obsidian Shiraz 2004 (Vergina, $45.90) which was basket pressed and 36
months in new French oak. Both wines, of course, were no slouches.
Leasingham Bin 56 Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 (+39545, $25.95) was very minty
and toothy. Margan Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 (Small Winemakers Collection,
$20.75) was still tight, but showed a mouthful of fruit later. Parker Terra
Rossa Merlot 2004 (+678581, $36.95) showed very intense but soft fruit.
Parri Estate Pinot Noir 2006 (+17293, $19.95) was a huge wine showing some
dried fruit of raisins. Plantagent Shiraz 2004 (Small Winemakers Collection,
$32) was 14.5% ABV, but exceptionally smooth and fruity. Rymill Cabernet
Sauvignon 2001 (Small Winemakers Collection, $31.95) tasted ripe and
well-aged. Shingleback Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 (+662957, $28.95) was a good
solid food wine which I enjoyed. Stella Bella Shiraz 2005 (+48553, $22.95 in
February 2008) was a good Euro style wine from Margaret River. St. Hallet
Old Block Shiraz 2003 (Select Wines, $54.95) was a top of the line goody,
dense in its complexity. St. Mary's Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 (Lamprecht,
$22.99) did not have ML, and hence showed some apple complexity. Tatachilla
Foundation 2001 (Select Wines, $39.95) was deeply rich, and well-aged for a
shiraz, verging on being a knockoff of something from France. Tidswell
Jennifer Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 (Wineworld, $45) was a classic, with mints,
mocha and some anise. McPherson Basilisk Cabernet Balzac 2005 (Grape
Expectations, $16.05) is unique in that it has some grape called balzac (not
in Robinson's book); it is a dark wine with menthol, anise, black fruit and
some French oak.

The Food: cold cuts for bun sandwiches, cheeses, crackers, condiments. But
somebody made the egregious error of putting out too hot salami, which
effectively killed your taste buds for about 15 minutes. Not refreshing at

The Downside: where was Foster's? They were announced, but they were not in
the catalogue, nor were they present. Just wonderin'

The Upside: I am not sure why, but some 11 wines were allowed in under the
rubric "Brand Champions" (mainstream blended wines from larger regions, such
as South Eastern Australia and South Australia). Another seven, while coming
from a more delimited region, were focused as "Generation Next" (newer wine
styles). No wines were labeled "Landmark Australia".

The Contact Person:

The Effectiveness (numerical grade): 84 - could have been higher if more
trade people had attended.

Dean Tudor

Saturday, September 29, 2007

AUDIOBOOK REVIEW: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (Kingsolver)

ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MIRACLE; a year of food life (HarperCollins,
2007, unabridged, 14.5 hours on 12 CDs, ISBN 978-0-06-085357-0, $49.95
set) is by Barbara Kingsolver, an American poet, novelist and creative
non-fictionist. This is the audiobook version of the printed book
released in the Spring of 2007. Academic parts of this book have been
written by Steven Hopp, an environmental studies teacher, who is
Kingsolver's partner. Personal, diary-like entries come from Camille
Kingsolver, her teenaged daughter. All three of them read their own
writings on this audiobook. The basic premise of the book is: you are
what you eat, and you need to put the kitchen back at the centre of
family life. The family has moved back to Hopp's Kentucky farm full-
time. Previously, they were there just during the summers, and rented
it out for the other months. Now, they will be raising their own food
on their mixed farm, doing without the civilities of convenience foods,
junk foods, etc. etc. This work has been described as part memoir and
part journalistic investigation, with diversified farms at the centre
of the American diet. It goes the 100-mile diet one better: this is the
100-yard diet. The recipes are part of CD number 12, and you can print
them out (it's a PDF file, 28 pages long).
Audience and level of use: environmentalists, foodies, farmers.
Some interesting or unusual facts: there is an author interview not
found in the book.
The downside to this book: the book itself lacked an index, which I
found extremely annoying since I wanted to refer back to some points
and to Hopp's notes. The audiobook also has no index. There is also a
list of resources (organizations, bibliographies) which is not on the
The upside to this book: glory be, there ARE chapter designations and
descriptions and timings on the CD labels, so the listener can get his
bearings (e.g., Looking for Mr. Goodvegetable 10:27 timing, part of
Chapter 20).
Quality/Price Rating: 92.

More reviews at

Thursday, September 27, 2007

TRADE EVENT: Restraurants at the ROM

The Time and Date: Tuesday, July 17, 2007 5 PM to 7 PM
The Event: the launch of the ROM's new dining destinations C5 (fifth
floor; 120 seats) and Food Studio (lower level; 325 seats).
The Venue: the ROM, in Michael Lee-Chin Crystal section.
The Target Audience: food and wine media. I counted about 60 people,
most of whom I did not recognize. There were a few wine writers, but I
gather that many media were on holidays. In the Food Court, we mostly
noshed and drank and talked to each other, although a brief tour was
promised - did it ever happen? I was there at 5 sharp, and was told
that we were mostly to be in a holding pen until moving upstairs to the
higher level. There was a great display of VQA full and half-bottles on
ice. I wondered when they were to be poured, and I was told that they
were just on display. So was the food: just on display. When the wine
came around, we were not informed of the name of the winery, and the
wait person had to check. This prompted a visit from a publicist, who
also produced a wine list but only after I asked for it. Chardonnay was
confused with off-dry riesling.
The Availability/Catalogue: ten VQA wines are on the wine list. We
sampled two wines plus the one I requested.
The Quote: Bill Thorsell (ROM) and Dick Cattani (Restaurant Associates)
spoke about food at the ROM. Catering will be a big feature, and
members of the ROM are encouraged to support the ROM by having catering
and lounge activities done by the ROM, who would get a percentage of
the fee. Restaurant Associates is an operating division within Compass
PLC, the largest foodservice company in the world. RA manages
foodservices at major cultural museums and galleries, presumably with
the same licensing arrangements.
The Wines: Pelee Island Merlot showed up rather well as a walk around
red, but the Vineland Estates Semi-Dry Riesling was a better quaffer
and went with more of the food, especially the food that was offered
for the first hour and a half. I had to ask to see the bottles since my
servers did not know who the producers were.
The Food: we all sampled upscale fare from C5 (Crystal Five) and
regular fare from Food Studio. The latter samples embraced mini-
pizzette (mostly cheese) and dim sum in a spoon. The C5 offerings
included several seviches (octopus, scallop) and a fantastic grouper
eschevitch (preserved), all served with Peruvian potatoes. Best
offerings included a smokey gazpacho with yellow tomatoes and cheese,
and a striped bass tempura with caviar on its spine. Other dishes - all
pass rounds by wait staff - were mini-burgers on pastry, foie gras
mousse covered in chocolate, and several desserts (mini-custards with
raspberries, mango chocolate tart).
The Downside: it was hard to discover what wines were being served.
Some of the servers did not know their names, or were ill-informed. The
semi-dry riesling was quoted as a chardonnay. Personally, I was
disappointed that only two wines were served. I knew that this was not
a wine function, yet still many wine writers turned up, and I know that
some were disappointed that there were not many more VQA wines to
taste. I had to ask for the chardonnay to be opened, since they
themselves had brought up the name.
The Upside: no Museum admission is required to access either
restaurant. It was a great opportunity to sample what RA can do, to
view the menu and the wine list. It was all extremely well-polished.
The Contact Person:
The Effectiveness (numerical grade): 87.

More trade notes at

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink

Press, 2007, 693 pages, ISBN 978-0-19-530796-2, $64.95 hard covers) has
been edited by Andrew F. Smith who teaches culinary history and
professional food writing at the New School University in Manhattan. He
has written several books on food, consults to a wide ranging group of
food media (University of Illinois, Food Network, History Channel),
and, more importantly, also edited the two-volume "Oxford Encyclopedia
of Food and Drink in America" upon which this one volume Companion
builds. The basic definition for inclusion here is: food and beverage
consumed in the US. So there is nothing here for Canada or Latin
America, except for what creeps across the borders. There are 1,000
articles, mainly popular material, with hundreds of historical photos
(many in colour). Over 200 contributors wrote for this book; all the
articles are sourced by author. Smith himself, as most editors do,
wrote about 150 articles. Types of entries include political and social
movements such as temperance, Prohibition, vegetarians, organic food,
and slow food (covered, of course, as Slow Food USA); chronological
surveys of US history; product entries on a specific food or drink;
contributions of ethnic groups; biographies of 58 important people
(chefs, inventors, restaurateurs, scientists); and corporate histories
of commercial products (including junk foods and fast foods). All of it
formatted in dictionary A - Z arrangement. There are even some recipes
for food and drink. Thus, you will find material about vichyssoise,
macaroni and cheese, hush puppies, chitterlings, American chop suey,
Central Asian food, Tupperware, anadama bread, wedding cakes. This is a
typical Oxford Companion production which sells quite well at this
price level (it is cheaper on Amazon.Ca, with free postage).
Audience and level of use: foodies, libraries, curious.
Some interesting or unusual facts: The entry for U is for Uncle Ben,
plus some cross-references. The entry for Z is Zombie (the drink). The
entry for Y has Martin Yan, yeast, Yum! Brands, yummasetti (now a baked
Amish casserole).
The downside to this book: nothing on Canada, which is okay since it
falls outside the scope of the book.
The upside to this book: there is a topical outline by subject, and an
index. The book is easy to read in its three column layout. The paper
is heavy and substantial to feel. There are plenty of cross-references
and bibliographies.
Quality/Price Rating: 95.

More reviews at

Sunday, September 23, 2007

TRADE EVENT: Preview of September 27/07 Australian Wine Show

The Time and Date: Wednesday, September 5, 2007 2 - 4:30 PM

The Event: Preview press tasting of Wine Australia show, to be held Sept 27.
The theme this year is "Regional Heroes", wines from regions that express
the character (terroir) of that region. There are 63 wine regions in
Australia, but not all regions will be repped in the main show. Thus far,
about 240 wines will be in the show, from LCBO General List through to
expensive private orders.

The Venue: Kultura Restaurant, King Street East.

The Target Audience: wine press.

The Availability/Catalogue: most wines here at the preview, about 42 of
them, were available now. Some will be here soon. But my fave wine (in terms
of price and value) won't be in Ontario Vintages until 2008!

The Quote: "Canadian enjoyed 40.3 million litres of Australian wine in 2006;
Canada is Australia's third-largest export market by value - about $305.5
million CDN."

The Wines: The wines were laid out in Regional Order. I especially enjoyed
the Hungerford Hill Chardonnay 2005 from New South Wales (+15479, $22.95
Vintages), with its very good oaking, broad follow through, full, ripe and
juicy tropical fruit (twist top too). The Margan Shiraz 2004 Hunter Valley
($21.65 from Small Winemakers Collection) was tight and tannic, but with
nice leather tones and a syrah hit, 13.5% ABV. The Skillogalee Basket
Pressed Shiraz 2004 Clare Valley (+990902, $24.95) showed a sweet spiciness
in its blackberry configuration, vying with vanilla oak on the finish, 14%
ABV. Cumulus Climbing Cabernet 2005 ($18.50 from Authentic) showed some mint
and off-sweet blackcurrant fruit, a glam wine. Nugan Estate Manuka Grove
Durif 2006 South Australia (+951938, $29.95 from PMA) had lots of extract
and Rhonish complexity, elderberries, very good oaking, 14.5% ABV
blockbuster. Tiers Clarence Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 McLaren Vale
(+43729, $19.95, from Vergina) had good cabby MVC, coconut on the finish,
and 14.5% ABV. My fave of the day was Parri Estate Shiraz Viognier 2005
Southern Fleurieu (+48488, $17.95 from Airen, in Vintages in 2008 sometime)
with its very, very French style, a hit of syrah, and a bit of brett
showing. Great price too, 14.5% ABV. Nepenthe The Rogue 2004 Adelaide Hills
(+998542, $19.99 Vintages) was almost as good, with its twist top, 64%
shiraz, 20% cabernet, and 16% merlot blend. 14.5% ABV, slightly off-dry
finish, and it will carry me through until the Parri Estate is landed - next

The Food: light finger foods and snacks, shrimp, beef, cheese at room
temperature, turnovers. All went well with the mainly red wines, but there
was too much shrimp to taste against the (only) three table wines.

The Downside: where were the whites? There was just a Jansz NV Sparkler from
Tasmania with its lemon minerality, only one Chardonnay, one Sauvignon
Blanc, and one Semillon blend.

The Upside: a quiet, relaxed time with just wine writers, all spaced out,
plenty of room.

The Contact Person:

The Effectiveness (numerical grade): 87.


Friday, September 21, 2007

TRADE EVENT: Outer Limits of Ontario Wine

The Time and Date: Monday, July 23, 2 PM to 5 PM
The Event: The Outer Limits of Ontario Wine; a tasting of 100% Ontario
wine that is not currently VQA eligible from one of Ontario's
recognized areas.
The Venue: Savoy Bistro & Lounge
The Target Audience: wine trade, wine press
The Availability/Catalogue: All 212 wines from 40 different wineries
were available at their respective winery, but only a handful of wines
were distributed by the LCBO. The catalogue was a spreadsheet listing
the names and prices, websites, email addresses, and so forth, as well
as sugar levels. Each booth had further information about the wines
being tasted.
The Quote: "The paid public tasting in the evening was donated to
Grapes for Humanity which helps the victims of landmines"
The Wines: My strategy, to reduce palate fatigue, was to try just those
wines under 5 in sugar content. I also did not try grape wines I passed
on the geisenheim, the leon millot, the chambourcin, the de chaunac, or
the vidal), nor did I try blends with grapes, nor blends with spices or
chocolate. I missed a lot of good wines, but I at least had the
opportunity to leave my insulin pack at home! Many sweet wines sell
themselves. I had hoped to taste many of these sweet wines after I
tasted the off-dry ones in a pass through the booths. But it was not to
be...I began tasting alphabetically, and right away ran into some of
the best fruit wines I have ever had - from Applewood Farm Winery in
the Stouffville area. I started with their Crazy Eight Cider, a 100%
raspberry at 8.8%. The last time I had quality like this was when Lenz
Moser sent us an Austrian Sparkling Raspberry wine in the previous
century, under 10% alcohol. The intense raspberry flavours were
phenomenal, and the mousse was certainly effervescent. I was blown
away, enough to order five two-fours from

A 341 mL bottle costs a mere $2.50 (includes deposit). It'll be my
summer drink for the rest of the year. Don't tell the winery, but a lot
of their products are underpriced...Later I went back to try the Pear
Port 2002 (fortified to 18%, sugar code of 5, $12.95 for half a litre),
another phenomenal wine of intense pear flavours; it was better than my
usual all-time favourite pear sweetie, the St.Jorg Cellars Poire Royale
from California. I also enjoyed an experimental Caramel Apple, the
Strawberry Cider (10%, fresh strawberry nose and palate - not the usual
cooked jam I experienced in many other strawb concoctions; $9.95 for
750 mL), and the Mac-Meade (sparkling wine from Macintosh apples and
honey, same price). Applewood Farm Winery certainly excels at sparkling
fruit wines. At Archibald Orchards Estate Winery, I tried the Hard
Cider NV, 6.2%, sugar 3, $8.95 750 mL, off-dry in the finish, the nifty
Ida Red Oak Aged NV (12.1%, bone dry, $9.95, good oak consistency,
almost like a chardonnay; I've still got some of their 1999 Ida red Oak
Aged, which is still showing very well). The Birtch Farms and Estate
Winery Oak Aged Macintosh 2004(11.5%, sugar 1, $13.95) had less
oakiness but a more pronounced apple finish. Their Peach wine ($11.5%,
sugar 3, $12.95) was just peachy and slightly off-dry in the finish.
Their Rhubarb 2005 (one of the more difficult wines to make) was 12%,
sugar 3, $13.95, and reminiscent of a fine rhubarb jam. Coffin Ridge
makes an A Winey Pear 2006 ($14) which was made from wild pears. I also
tried Cornerstone Estate Winery's Cherry Festival 2005 (13% ABV, sugar
3, $9.50 for half-litre), with its off-dry cherry intensity. And their
Estate Apricot Wine 2004 (10.5% ABV, sugar 4, $9.50 for 500 mL) not
unsurprisingly like a fine off-dry vidal. Their Strawberry Festival
(12.5%, sugar 4, $9.50 for half-litre) was a bit light in taste, but it
certainly was not jammy. Cox Creek Cellars Black Currant Back Home NV
($13% ABV, bone dry, $11.70) was oak aged, good price, and highly
recommended - but it does need time to resolve the wood. Nevertheless,
another underpriced wine value. Downey's Estate Winery Premium
Gooseberry NV (14% ABV, bone-dry, $13.95) certainly tasted like
gooseberry without the jamminess, but it was also reminiscent of
sauvignon blanc. My fave gooseberry wine is from Hoodsport in
Washington State. Kawartha Country Wines Black Currant 2006 (14.1% ABV,
sugar 1, $14.80) showed its intense cassis nature. The Meadow Lane
Winery Black Currant NV (sugar 3, $10.95) gave it a run for its money.
Their Blueberry (sugar 3, $11.95) was fetching, but then I've never
been a fan of blueberries in any form. Their Plum NV (sugar 4, $10.95)
was more to my liking, with a great plum nose. Ocala Winery Heritage
Apple 2006 ($9.95 litre) had fresh apples on the nose and the palate,
and was good value for the price. Their Plum NV ($9.95 for 750 mL) had
plums in the nose and palate, long length, a finishing acid, not very
sweet, perfect as an aperitif. Pine Farms Hard Cider NV (7% ABV, dry,
$5.60 for half-litre) was a good cider in a manageable format for one
person. Their Macintosh Apple Wine 2006 (10.3% ABV, dry, $13.95) was
also a winner, loaded with fresh flavours. Puddicombe Estates Farms
Cranberry NV (10.4%, sugar 9, $15.20) was still refreshingly tart and
full. The winery makes 32 different wines, including a Peach NV of good
intensity and a Pear-a-dise (12% ABV, sugar 7, $18.10 for 750 mL) made
from bosc, bartlett, and sugar pears. Rush Creek Orchards Pearfection
NV (12.5%, dry, $10.25) showed remarkably good pear tones at this
level. My fave pear wines come from Bartlett Winery (the owner's name,
not the pear) in Maine; they make a variety of different styles of pear
wines, from bone dry to fortified levels. Scotch Block Elderberry NV
(11.5% ABV, sugar 1, $12.95) was a useful fruit wine, stressing the
elder fruit. Their Raspberry Rouge NV (11.5% ABV, sugar 1, $14.95) was
very good, off-dry in tone, lots of body. Scotch Block also makes a
series of currant wines, specifically Regal Red Currant NV (11.5%,
sugar 1, $12.95), Regal White Currant (11.5% ABV, sugar 1, $12.95), and
Regal Black Currant (11.8 ABV, sugar 1, $12.95). They would be terrific
to have at any kind of blind tasting. Scotch Block Strawberry Fields NV
(11.5% ABV, sugar 1, $11.95) showed ripe flavours, sweet aftertaste,
but finishes in a dry mode. As I said, I'm not a fan of blueberry but I
was blown away by the finish on their True Blue NV (11.5%ABV, sugar 1,
$14.95). Sunnybrook Farm Estate Ironwood Hard Cider (6% ABV, off-dry,
$13.15 for a six pack of 341 mL) was very fresh. County Cider Company
makes a County 2000 Champenoise NV, a cider made on the traditional
champagne method, from ida red, northern spy, and macintosh apples (8%
ABV, sugar 1, $19.95 bottle) is certainly something many fruit wineries
can aspire to. The mousse was superb, the nose all bready. My fave
raspberry wines come from Hoodsport and Paul Thomas in Washington State
(both for the bone dry wines) and Barghetto's Chaucer in California for
the off-dry raspberry. But after tasting today's fruit wines from
Ontario, I can safely say that I'll be pulling my Yankee dollars and
spending my fruit wine budget money at home. And I haven't even begun
to try the overthetop sweeties and iced wines here... I'm sorry I was
unable to try more sweet wines.
The Food: sausage cold cuts, cheeses, bread, pate.
The Downside: there were very few wine writers and sommeliers,
restaurateurs. Also, there was a hotch potch feel to the event, since
all forms of fruit wines (dry, off-dry, mixed with non-fruit,
fortified, etc.) were available, as well as some VQA grape wines
(despite the original intent of the tasting). Maybe next time we should
have three tastings - the grapes, the under 5 sugar codes, and the over
6 sugar codes.
The Upside: a great chance to get caught up with the Ontario fruit
The Contact Person:
The Effectiveness (numerical grade): 96 for me, a lower number possible
because of the lower trade turnout.

More trade notes at

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

TRADE REVIEW: Wines of Chile

The Time and Date: Wednesday, September 12, 2007, 11A to 1:30 PM

The Event: Preview tasting of Wines of Chile, in advance of the October 3

The Venue: Boiler House Restaurant, Distillery District.

The Target Audience: wine media.

The Availability/Catalogue: the wines presented were mainly LCBO General
List, Vintages or Consignment. Prices were mostly at the lower end, the mid
teens in dollars.

The Quote: "Chilean wineries were just advised to buy as many Argentine
wineries as they could find."

The Wines: we were seated, and the wines were served blind in flights
according to varietals. 46 wines were offered through 8 flights. 25 wineries
or more will be at the show. I enjoyed the Vina MontGras Sauvignon Blanc
Reserva 2006 San Antonio Valley (+58632 General, $11.95) for it was a
bargain with its citric development, longer finish, reduced herbs, but still
a good food wine. Certainly it was affordable. Vina Tabali Chardonnay
Reserva Especial 2005 Limari Valley (+663005 Vintages $18.95) was the
standout chardonnay for the money. Vina Casa Lapostolle Chardonnay Cuvee
Alexandre 2005 Casablanca Valley was the best white, with its elegant blend
of fruit and wood, suggesting a Euro desire, but it is $32.95 (+947937
Vintages). The best value here was the Vina Concha y Toro Chardonnay
Casillero del Diablo Reserva 2006 Casablanca Valley, which delivered toast
on the nose and a smokey finish but a thinnish palate, for a mere $11.95
(+58420, General LCBO). Vina Perez Cruz Carmenere Limited Edition 2005 Maipo
Valley (+670539, $24.95) offered a Euro nose, slightly Bordeaux in
complexity, and screamed for food. I was surprised by the comparable Vina
San Esteban Carmenere In Situ Winemaker's Selection 2004 Aconcagua Valley
(+37952, $13.95 Vintages) with its broad fruit loaded with character and
also needing food. Vina San Pedro Shiraz Castillo de Molina Reserva 2004
Lontue Valley (+237800, $13.20 General) was a Euro styled syrah, good MVC
with fruit on the palate, long length, and again needing food. It is one of
the bargains on the general list; it is hard to find quality at this level.
The best red in the preview was the lovely Vina Tabali Shiraz Reserva 2005
Limari Valley (+662692, $16.95 Vintages), again with a Euro style, lovely
fruit and finish, concentrated depth, useful as a sipper or food wine.

There were 10 cabernet sauvignons. At the high end, I had chosen Vina Casa
Lapostolle Cabernet Sauvignon Cuvee Alexandre 2005 Colchagua Valley
(+947929, $34.95 Vintages) with its elegant long length and food worthiness.
Next was the Vina Concha y Toro Cabernet Sauvignon Marques de Casa Concha
2005 Maipo Valley (+337238, $19.95 Vintages) with its Euro complexity and
lively finish. A delicious Vina San Pedro Cabernet Sauvignon Castillo de
Molina Reserva 2005 Lontue (+339176, $13.20 LCBO) in the North American
style was tied with the broad plummy flavours of the Euro-styled Vina Miguel
Torres Cabernet Sauvignon Santa Digna Reserve 2004 Curico Valley (+177451,
$14.95 Vintages) for third.

The Food: good sandwiches on buns, potato salad, green salad (undressed),
and cookies.

The Downside: I was looking forward to tasting some Chilean malbecs and
Chilean cabernet francs, but it was not to be. The pinot noirs tasted were
not interesting.

The Upside: the blind tasting format is always superb, and it is relaxing
when someone else is pouring the wine for you. It was a great chance to sit

The Contact Person:

The Effectiveness (numerical grade): 90.

More notes at

Monday, September 17, 2007

TRADE REVIEW: Wines from Brazil

The Time and Date: Friday, September 14, 2007, 11 AM to 2 PM
The Event: a tasting of wines, sponsored by "Wines from Brazil", for the
media and for the trade.
The Venue: Toula, 38th Floor, Westin Hotel
The Target Audience: wine press.
The Availability/Catalogue: superb notes from the seven wineries, all
marshaled together by the organizer Sheila Swerling-Puritt. US prices were
quoted as most of the wines were not repped in Canada.
The Quote: "It is hot as hell in here" - the air circulation system didn't
kick in for about an hour, making the seminar of chewy red wines a tough
The Wines: we started with seven wines, one from each winery, as a media
seminar. A rep from each establishment presented the wine, and was available
for questions. About two dozen wine press were there.

* Miolo Merlot Terroir 2005: this was a wine to savour and to cellar, $45 US
retail, good depth but needing time. Michel Rolland is an adviser to the
* Mioranza Cabernet Sauvignon 2005: $15 US, spicy fruit, good oaking from
six months in French oak.
* Casa Valduga Cabernet Sauvignon Gran Reserva 2004: $32 US: hard oak, red
fruit, still needed time.
* Pizzato Concentus 2004: $25 US, very good concentration, one of my top
picks of the afternoon. It was 40% merlot, 40% tannat, and 20% cabernet
sauvignon, barreled in 50 - 50 French and US oak.
* Panceri Pisani and Panceri Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2004: $18.50
US, and a bargain. Grapefruit, red fruit, oak tones, higher acid on the
finish for food. French oak.
* Boscato Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2002: $80 US. Gold medalist, oaky,
plummy, saturated, delivers the goods with flavours, but pricey.
* Don Laurindo Gran Reserva 2002: $105 US. Bordeaux-styled blend, only made
in special harvests (1999, 2002, 2005). New French oak dominates.

Other wines in the show included a variety of chardonnays (the more it cost,
the better it tasted) and sparkling wines. The sparklers were good value,
especially the Panceri Espumante Moscatel for $6 US. In the reds, I enjoyed
the Casa Valduga Cabernet Franc 2004 ($14US) and their Duetto Cabernet
Sauvignon/Merlot 2004 ($14US), Don Laurindo Reserva Malbec 2005 ($45US),
Miolo Lote 43 2004 ($35US) with its 50-50 merlot and cabernet sauvignon done
up in US oak, and both the Pizzato Reserva Merlot 2004 and Cabernet
Sauvignon 2004 ($14 apiece).

The Food: The Toronto Brazilian restaurant Caju did the catering, supplying
(at room temperature) fish balls, meat in puff paste, cheese and bacon
balls, various small empanadas. They all went extremely well with the food.
The Downside: it was initially very hot.
The Upside: a great opportunity to taste the other wines later, about 30 in

The Contact Person:
The Effectiveness (numerical grade): 90.

More trade reviews at

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Trade Tasting Reviews: philosophy

My reviews of trade events are just simply that: reviews. In fact, I review
the event and its effectiveness as a trade marketing tool, offering a mild
critique and awarding points for efficiency and overall achievement.

So far as I know, I'm the ONLY wine writer/critic on the planet doing this,
although there may be other blogs out there that try to perform the same
action. My writeups have been published since the year 2000 at and form the basis of a monthly email and fax newsletter,
which I actually SELL to make some money out of all this...

I date stamp everything for archival purposes, along with a notice of where
the event was held, who it was for, who the contact pointperson is, and a
listing of the wines that I cared for -- with pithy comments. I use the term
MVC a lot, which is an abbreviation for Modal Varietal Character. Why repeat
the basic description for Merlot grape/wine when you can use shorthand to
indicate what is prominent? Many Merlots do NOT have an MVC, others have a
lot. I try to indicate this.

I write up everything, even the events I don't like much. Since I write
about the event and not the wine, I feel I can leave out the wines that
don't turn me on. I throw in a quote I get from talking to people. Actually,
many people have come up to me at a trade function and tell me that they
agree (or disagree) with my assessment. It's all great fun, as these readers
get to compete with each other for a stunning quote.

I give great stress to the trade catalogue, since it is a listing of what is
to be shown. A good catalogue should be PORTABLE and easy to use with one
hand. It should have page numbers, some interior arrangement that meets the
flow of the tables, and ordering information (e.g., retail and/or licensee
price, grapes used, CSPC number, availability in the distribution channels,
etc. etc.).

This is not an easy matter to pull all this stuff together, so it takes time
to create a catalogue. I have been the victim of slapdash catalogues that
have been a house of horrors to use. I have had absolutely perfect
catalogues pitched to me. I have consulted (no charge for my time) on many
catalogues, to get them up to near perfection based on the wines available
in the room. The best catalogues have tech notes for the wine press. We eat
tech notes for breakfast....

The food: I always comment on the food, because in most cases the food is
for wine matching and pairing. It should be appropriate and serviceable.
Cheeses, no matter what the quality, should at least be at room temperature.
Yet most are stone cold from the fridge. Why? The bread should be above pain
industriel quality, yet modt times it is not, and often it is "sweet" bread,
crummy crackers, or even rye bread. Why? What does it cost to do just the
simple things?

I always leave a note on the downside, the bummer part of the show. Many
times the bad thing about trade shows is that the pouring staff (usually
agent reps, but also special purpose hirees) know next to nothing about the
wines, not even their availability. They plead ignorance, which is not
useful if they are the agent! Other times, the pourer will be from the
country of origin, and does not speak English -- and there is no agent
around at that moment. Communication fails. Sometimes these winemakers or
export directors do not want to give me an FOB price, from back home,
becasue this is privileged information NOT meant for the press...I always
leave an upswing note at the end, finding some positives about the event. I
always rate the event out of 100,
figuring that every wine person on the planet knows what THAT percentage is

So enjoy the notes that will follow in this blog...

Trade notes are also at

Saturday, September 15, 2007

For a series of interesting discussions, facts and figures, charts and
graphs, and other material that will just snow you re: Ontario alcohol
distribution systems, check out

Also on that same site, Larry Paterson will tell you all about Cold Climate
Winegrowing (others put a positive spin on the name by calling it "Cool"
Climate but Larry always gives you the honest goods and he calls it "Cold",
which is what it is in Ontario)...

And he has a whole slew of Canada vs. Bordeaux red wine tasting notes, going
back several years. He clearly shows that Ontario can make great
Bordeaux-style blended wines. Just try a blind test, and find out for


My Writing/Ethic Philosophy

It's not hard to be a wine writer: you just have to have opinions about
wines and find someone to pay you
for those opinions. You also have to recognize that there's nothing really
free, and that you're getting wine samples, invites, dinners, trips and
parties not because you're so great and so cool. You get these perks because
it serves a purpose: ultimately, it's a wine writer's job in association
with "our industry partners" to sell wine. You might even want to read
"Oxford Companion to Wine" on the differences between a wine WRITER and a
wine CRITIC.

"The secret of wine writing is not simply to share opinions, but to give
readers the confidence to have their own." -- Giles Kime.

As always, I do what I can to produce publications and data which are
pleasing in every way and devoid of error. Life, however, mocks my efforts.
Prices change, and sometimes I live to regret the clever turns of phrase
that seemed so very right at the time. I apologize for errors of fact,
ill-conceived metaphors, mistakes of spelling or pronunciation, opinions
that will come back to haunt me in years to come, and solecisms of every
description. Like you, I try my damnedest, but it doesn't always work.
Still, perhaps next time. Thanks to someone who knows what I mean and
inspired me to write this disclaimer. E & OE, and all that...

Why is there NEVER enough time to do it right but ALWAYS enough time to do
it over? Look it up, and you'll remember it longer! (Screw it up, and you'll
remember it forever....)

Dean Tudor, Wine Writer and Ryerson University Journalism Professor Emeritus