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Thursday, November 29, 2007


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The Time and Date: Monday, November 5, 2007 11 AM to 1 PM

The Event: A horizontal tasting of Amarone della Valpolicella conducted by
Emilio Fasoletti (President of the Consortium of Valpolicella, now for 30
years) and David Lawrason (wine writer, now for over 20 years).

The Venue: the "stage" of Roy Thomson Hall.

The Target Audience: wine press and sommeliers.

The Availability/Catalogue: all the wines had agents, but availability is

The Quote: "Amarone has a DOC, but it still hasn't got a DOCG."

The Wines: we tasted six Amarones -

- Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2004 (Begali Lorenzo, 15.20 Euros FOB,
Regazzi agency): fresh, perfumey, youthful approach, ripe, but hot finish,
cherry-plum axis, some drying out on finish. 15.85% ABV.

- Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2003 Calcarole (Guerrieri Rizzardi,
34.50 Euros FOB, Vinexx): 16.99% ABV. Portly from a ripe year, but not a hot
finish, not a sipper.

- Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2003 Campo dei Gigli (S. Antonio, once
at Vintages for $79.95, Prevedello & Mathews): single vineyard, elegant, hot
year, great finish, 16 %ABV.

- Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2003 Case Vecie (Brigaldara, 25 Euros
FOB, Rogers and Co.): low nose, hot year, hot finish, 17.5% ABV, portly. 18
months in wood plus long term storage in wood. Some merlot and sangiovese
added for fruit (5% each).

- Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2003 Capitel Monte Olmi (Tedeschi, 38
Euros FOB, Noble Estates): 15.4% ABV, traditional amarone style, cru
quality, dried fruit nose, elegance upfront, hot tannins to resolve.

- Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2000 (Bertani, 34 Euros FOB Select
Wines): 15% ABV, dried fruit, sour cherries, good depth, aging well.

- Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico

The Food: bread and water.

The Downside: it started 20 minutes late.

The Upside: it was instructive, and showed us where Amarone was in 2003.

The Contact Person:

The Effectiveness (numerical grade): 90.

The Time and Date: Tuesday, November 6, 2007 3:30 PM to 4:30 PM,

The Event: a vertical tasting of Masi Costasera Amarones with Gordon Coutts,
Regional Manager of Masi Wines for Canada.

The Venue: Vaughan Estate

The Target Audience: wine press, private clients, sommeliers.

The Availability/Catalogue: some of the wines are private import, others are
consignment, and one is a General List.

The Quote: "This is the THIRD Amarone tasting in a month! It has been about
ten years since any other Amarone tasting in Toronto."

The Wines:

-Masi Costasera Amarone Classico 2004 (+317057, $36.15): working its way
through the system, with some 2003 still remaining. 15% ABV, light nose,
light body, fruity, simple, off-dry, will be more complex later in life.

-Masi Costasera Amarone Classico 2003 (+317057, $36.15): very Euro elegance,
with backbone, underbrush, cherry-choco tones, some spicy leather, nuts.
Dense, good length, needs some time, resolved tannins on the finish.

-Masi Costasera Amarone Classico 2001 (private order): good fruit from the
year, some tannic complexity evolution, resolution of tannins in evidence,
lingering tastes, delicious finish.

-Masi Costasera Amarone Classico 1997 (consignment, $450 for case of six):
gets better with age, more typical of Amarone. First year it is called

-Masi [Costasera] Amarone Classico 1995 (consignment, $450 for case of six):
good aged complexity, a bit fragile, losing fruit.

-Masi [Costasera] Amarone Classico 1993 (consignment, $450 for case of six):
rich, rounded, still developing, my fave of the tasting.

-Masi [Costasera] Amarone Classico 1990 (no longer available): a classic
aged Amarone, all that it should be. This vintage year was rated Five Stars
by everybody.

The Food: water and bread (the latter arrived just as we were finishing!)

The Downside: we started late and had to finish on time because there was to
be a pinotage tasting in that same room in a few minutes. Thus, we were a
bit rushed.

The Upside: a great opportunity to taste Amarone.

The Contact Person:

The Effectiveness (numerical grade): 89.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

NOVEMBER: 12th Annual Italian Trade Commission Wine Tasting, Toronto

The Time and Date: Monday, November 5, 2007 1:30 PM - 5:30 PM

The Event: the 12th annual Italian wine and grappa tasting, organized by the
Italian Trade Commission.

The Venue: Roy Thomson Hall Lobby

The Target Audience: wine media, buyers, and sommeliers.

The Availability/Catalogue: as usual, the Italians listed every single wine
available in all of Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal, along with
grape varieties and vintage. But, as usual, no prices or availability.
Agents were listed for each province, where appropriate. For some reason,
the catalogue was printed on clay-coated paper stock, which added to the
weight: it was exactly one pound. The catalogue also said that the Consulate
General of Italy supported the show in Edmonton, but the rest of the book
said that the wines were poured in Calgary. That's a long way to pour wine;
they must have used an oil pipeline... Only four producers brought older
wines with them, and they were phenomenal (see below).

The Quote: "There are very few white wines here. Is there no longer a push
on pinot grigio? Proseccos were in abundance."

The Wines: I did not taste every wine, and I did not taste any grappa (for
the 12th year in a row) since my palate was fatigued near the end.

**** Four Stars (90 - 93 in Quality/Price Rating terms):

-Caldora Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2006 (Appellation Wines)

-Collemassari Montecucco Vermentino Irisse 2005

-Collemassari Bolgheri Vermentino Grattamacco 2006,

-Allegrini Amarone 2003

-Allegrini Valpolicello Classico 2006,

-Donnafugata Sicilia Sedara 2005 (Nero d'Avola) (Maxxium)

-Castello di Nieve Barbaresco 2004. (Brunello)

-Donnafugata Contessa Entellina Mille e Una Notte 2004 (Maxxium)

-Masi Toscana Rosso Poderi del Bello Ovile Serego Aligheri 2004 (Maxxium)

-Castell'n Villa IGT Santacroce 1997.

-Castell'in Villa Chianti Classico Riserva 1986

-Tenuta dell'Ornellaia Toscana Le Volte 2005 (Authentic)

-G.Cesari Amarone della Valpolicella Bosan 2000 (Mondia Alliance)

-Eredi di Settimo Aurelio Barolo Rocche Riserva 1999 (VinVino)

-Tenuta dell'Ornellaia Bolgheri Le Serre Nuove dell'Ornellaia 2005

-Tenuta dell'Ornellaia Bolgheri Ornellaia Superiore 2004 (Authentic)

-Cinzia Binda Moscato d'Asti Bosio Bosco dei Signori 2007 (really fresh!)
($16.95, La Vita)

*** Three Stars (86 - 89 in Quality/Price Rating terms):

-Val d'Oca Pinot Grigio Marca Trevigiana "Pigia" 2006 (Brunello)

-Alessandria Fratelli Barolo San Lorenzo 2003

-Ampeleia Maremma Toscana 2004 ($35, Kylix)

-Valle dell'Acate Insolia Vittoria 2006 Sicilia (Brunello)

-Planeta IGT Merlot 2004 Sicilia (Halpern)

-Roberto Sarotto Barolo Briccobergera 2003

-Roberto Sarotto Barolo Riserva Audace 2000

-Sella & Mosca Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva 2004 (Majestic)

-Masottina Prosecco Spumante di Conegliano e Valdobbiadene Extra Dry 2006
(TWC Imports)

-Planeta IGT Chardonnay 2006 Sicilia (Halpern)

-Badia a Coltibuono Chgianti Classico Cultus Beni 2004 (Halpern)

-Barale Fratelli Barbaresco Serraboella 2004 (Marco Taloni)

-Cascina Gilli Malvasia di Castelnuovo Don Bosco 2006 (sparkler)

-Valle dell' Acate Il Frappato Vitoria 2006 (Brunello)

-Valle dell'Acate Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classic 2005 (70% Nero d'Avola, 30%
Frappati) (Brunello)

-Domodimonti Picens Marche 2004 (Brunello)

-Domodimonti Il Messia Marche 2005 (Brunello)

The Food: roast beef on crostini with sauces, gourmet potato chips, mushroom
risotto, Parmigano Reggiano wheels, prosciutto, roasted peppers, artichokes,

The Downside: very crowded with more than the usual gawkers and
gatecrashers: who ARE these people?

The Upside: a good range of red wines were presented.

The Contact Person:

The Effectiveness (numerical grade): 88.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007


The Time and Date: Thursday, November 1, 2007, 1 PM to 5 PM.

The Event: VIP Reserve Wine Tasting of Halpern agency wines from 80 global
vintners. The event is part of Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation's
Grand Cru fundraiser, helmed as always by Todd Helpern.

The Venue: Muzik, 15 Saskatchewan Road, Exhibition Place.

The Target Audience: private clients, sommeliers, news media.

The Availability/Catalogue: there was a catalogue labeled "Portfolio Wine
Tasting" which listed all the wines available for tasting, along with
extensive provenance notes for each bottle. CSPC numbers and prices were
missing; there was a separate sheet for those.

The Quote: "Everybody is here: where do I start? Antinori? Biondi Santi?
Burge? Ceretto? Chapoutier? O'Brien? Badia a Coltibuono? Firestone? Hugel?
Gosset? Isole e Olena? Jaboulet? Jordan? Maculan? Nonino? Planeta? Prunotto?
Remoissenet? Silver Oak? Let's play spin the wheel..."

The Wines: I did not taste every wine, just some that I felt I could handle
in a two hour period. I did a lot of walking around, back and forth, here
and there, hither and yon, etc. Here's my list, with some modified "Parker

**** Four Stars (90 - 93 in Quality/Price Rating terms):

- Jordan Chardonnay Sonoma 2004 Russian River ($42.90 Lic)

- Chapoutier Hermitage Monier de la Sizeranne 2004 ($134.64 Lic)

- Biondi Santi Brunello di Montalcino Villa Poggio Salvi 2001 ($66 Lic)

- Chateau Haut-Brion 2001,

- Domaine de Montille Pommard 1er Cru Les Pezerolles 2004 ($115.56 Lic)

- Domaine de Montille Chateau de Puligny-Montrachet 2003 ($81.29 Lic)

- Maison Deux Montilles Soeur et Frere Meursault Les Casse Tetes 2005
($75.08 Lic)

- Rolf Binder Heysen Shiraz 2005 ($61.71 Lic)

- Hugel Gewurztraminer Selection Grains Nobles 1999 375mL ($65.84 Lic)

- Isole e Olena Cepparello 2004 ($73.81 Lic)

- L'Aventure Syrah 2004 Paso Robles ($59.68 Lic)

- Maculan Fratta 2003 ($74.80 Lic)

- Burge Family Olive Hill GSM Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvedre 2005 ($56.93 Lic)

- Ceretto Bricco Rocche Brunate Barolo 2003 ($90.48 Lic)

- Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 Napa ($127.60 Lic)

- Russiz Surperior Colio Sauvignon 2006 ($34.87 Lic)

- Conakilla Shiraz/Viognier 2006 ($84.32 Lic)

- Conakilla Viognier 2006 ($61.66 Lic)

*** Three Stars (86 - 89 in Quality/Price Rating terms):

- Antinori Tignanello 2004 IGT Tuscany

- Backsberg Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 Paarl South Africa ($18.37 Lic)

- Chain of Ponds Amadeus Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 ($32.12 Lic)

- Clark-Claudon Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 Napa ($96.58 Lic)

- Clark-Claudon Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 Napa ($104.56 Lic)

- Faiveley Corton Clos des Cortons 2001 ($130.08 Lic)

- Gravitas Pinot Noir 2006 Marlborough ($41.36 Lic)

- Hugel Muscat Tradition 2006 Alsace ($24.26 Lic)

- Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle 2004 ($168.19 Lic)

- Jaboulet Hermitage "La Petite" Chapelle 2004 ($79.15 Lic) - second wine

- Maculan Torcolato 2004 Veneto 375 mL ($36.63 Lic)

- Massolino Barolo Vigna Rionda Riserva 2000 ($105.22 Lic)

- Remoissenet Puligny Montrachet 2005 ($65.01 Lic)

- Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 Alexander Valley ($78.54 Lic)

The Food: for the trade, from Pusateri -- cold cuts, cheeses, breads, nuts,
dried fruit, etc.

The Downside: some of the cold cuts were too spicy for this tasting.

The Upside: a chance to meet and greet Robert M. Parker, Jr.

The Contact Person: Todd Halpern

The Effectiveness (numerical grade): 94.

Friday, November 16, 2007


...all reflect a boom in the cookbook publishing business. A paperback
reprint will lower the cost to the purchaser, and also give a publisher a
chance to correct egregious errors or add a postscript. Some will reissue a
book in paper covers with a new layout or photos. Others will rearrange
existing material to present it as more informative text while keeping the
focus tight. Here are some recent "re-editions"...

THE COOK'S BOOK; concise edition. (DK, 2007, 496 pages, ISBN
978-0-7566-3231-1 $36 hard covers) has been compiled by Jill Norman,
renowned award-winning UK cookery author and editor (she did Elizabeth
classic cookbooks, and is now responsible for her Estate's writings). It was
originally published in 2005 at $65 for 648 pages. The concise edition is a
bit smaller in physical size (only 7 5/8 inches by 9 ¼ inches) and the
number of pages. It originally had 18 contributors, but now it is just 13.
And there are no explanations either. Rick Bayless (Mexican food) is gone,
as is Ferran Adria of El Bulli; he has taken his 12 pages of foams with him.
This cooking resource details about 350 techniques through individual
chapters crafted by cookbook authors Ken Hom (Chinese), Charlie Trotter
(fish, vegetables), and 11 others in 19 chapters arranged by course and
product and region. There is only one woman, Christine Mansfield, from
Australia. 1600 colour photos accompany the text and the almost 600 recipes,
and they take you step-by-step through the processes. Most of the food is
Oriental, French, Italian, and Indian. Both US volume and metric
measurements are employed in each recipe, a decided plus and a definite
improvement on the original book. You can try pan-grilled mackerel with
orange romanesco; chilled Moscato-pineapple zabaglione; hare in red wine;
eggplant and zucchini and Parmigiano tortino. Quality/Price Rating: 89.

WINDOWS ON THE WORLD COMPLETE WINE COURSE, 2008 revision (Sterling, 2007;
distr. Canadian Manda Group, 340 pages, ISBN 978-1-4027-5141-7, $29.95) is
by Kevin Zraly, an award winning wine expert and long-time sommelier of that
late, lamented restaurant atop the World Trade Center. This has been newly
revised and expanded, with 16 pages of new material on how to taste wine.
Indeed, it has even come down three dollars in price! It has frequently been
revised since its first edition in 1985. Now it has been redesigned in
layout, and with more recommendations in his tour of the latest vintages.
Over 20,000 students have taken Zraly's courses and workshops. This is the
text that comes with the courses, and as such, it serves as a suitable book
for almost any introductory wine course. It certainly does address the needs
of students and beginners: the style-format is "question and answer", on
what wine is, tasting wine (how to taste wine over sixty seconds), wine
service at home and in restaurants, storage and cellaring. He avoids the
markup controversies in restaurants; however, one can compare a number of
different sections and conclude that he

favours 3 to 4 times the wholesale price. The bulk of the arrangement is by
"classes", with ones for white wine, red wines, champagne, fortified, and
wines from outside France and the United States -- still in the Q & A
format, augmented by a continuous stream of sidebars and tidbits which
extend the answers. Throughout, too, there are full-colour reproductions of
wine labels. The book concludes with a glossary and a pronunciation key, as
well as bibliographic notes for further reference reading. Quality/Price
Rating: 90,

THE DEVIL IN THE KITCHEN; the autobiography (Orion Books, 2006, 2007; distr.
McArthur, 309 pages, ISBN 978-0-7528-8161-4, $18.95 paper covers) is the
life story of Marco Pierre White, the first of the bad boy chefs, and a
virtual unknown in North America. There are claims that he made cooking
sexy, he had a legendary temper in the kitchen, and some of his customers
were thrown out of his restaurant. In general, he was described as "rude".
That's putting it mildly. He was the first British chef to win three
Michelin stars. A compelling point in his life was the death of his mother,
when he was just six. There's enough stress and toil in this book to avoid
reading it while eating or trying to fall asleep. Certainly not while on the
potty. You need to read what he has to say about restaurant reviewers and
critics. There is, amazingly enough for this type of book, an index, a few
black and white photos, but no recipes - just the kitchen stories. This is a
good read. Quality/Price Rating: 89.

WORLD ATLAS OF WINE. Completely revised and updated, sixth edition (Mitchell
Beazley, 2007; distr. Canadian Manda Group, 400 pages, ISBN
978-1-84533-301-0, $75 hard covers) is now by the team of Hugh Johnson and
Jancis Robinson. It first came out in 1971, and the latest edition in 2001
brought Robinson on board. Sales have exceeded four million copies, and it
is available in 13 languages. It has been the most successful of all wine
books of all time. The six years between editions have seen immense changes.
There are now 48 extra pages, 17 new colour illustrations, 20 new maps,
and - for the first time - double page spreads and full-page photos in the
atlas section for "maximum visual impact". New World coverage has been
extended for both Australia and South America. BUT -- B.C. continues to get
a couple of hundred words and a sketch map, and Ontario still gets its own
page. Ontario was called "Canada" in the last edition, but the entry really
only covered Ontario. B.C. was sited with the Pacific Northwest, where it
still remains. So what are we, chopped liver? Icewine? What's that?? Still,
the book is a must buy. Quality/Price Rating: 92.

EASY BREAKFAST & BRUNCH; simple recipes for morning treats (Ryland, Peters &
Small, 2007; distr. T. Allen, 240 pages, ISBN 978-1-84597-485-5, $24.95 hard
covers) is a collection of 124 recipes culled from various food writers in
this publisher's stable: Louise Pickford, Fran Warde, Linda Collister, Elsa
Petersen-Schepelern, and 13 others. There are a slew of 23 photographers
too. It is all matter-of-fact, emphasizing the easy, being one of a series.
The emphasis is on "lazy weekends", so you might not want to get up early
during the weekdays to try many of these dishes. Chapters are labeled fruit
and oats, sweet treats, easy eggs, fresh from the oven, perfect preserves,
delicious drinks. Not much text: just the recipes, with a table of metric
equivalents. Quality/Price Rating: 85.

THE MARTHA STEWART LIVING COOKBOOK; the new classics (Clarkson Potter, 2007,
704 pages, ISBN 978-0-307-39383-8, $44 hard covers) is from the magazine of
the same name as the title. It is a companion volume to the first book, "The
Martha Stewart Living Cookbook; the original classics". As a bonus, the
current book includes an index to BOTH volumes. It presents more than 1,200
of the "best" recipes that have appeared in the magazine since 2000. So
"new" in this sense means new to publication, not "new dishes" or new
cutting edge recipes. As an all-purpose book, the range is broad, from
casual to formal, from two to 10 diners. There are plenty of variations and
substitutions here. The editors have 22 categories of recipes, from starters
to cookies and candy. As well, there are drinks, sauces and dips, and basic
material on techniques, health choices, pantry and equipment. There are
photos of techniques, glossaries, food and equipment sources, a directory of
stores, and the combined index (two colours for the font, one for "original"
and one for "new". Quality/Price Rating: 89.

OLIVE OIL; from tree to table (Chronicle Books, 1997, 2007; distr.
Raincoast, 167 pages, ISBN 978-0-8118-6176-2, $24.95 paper covers) is by
Peggy Knickerbocker, a longtime San Francisco and Paris-based food writer,
and author of cookbooks. It was originally published in 1997, and is now
available as a paperback. It covers Greece, Italy, North Africa, and
California, with little on Spain or Portugal - two countries what have grown
immensely in the past ten years. Still, the book is a trasure trove of ideas
with 112 recipes utilizing olive oil. US weights and measures are employed,
but there are metric conversion tables. She has all the basics (buying,
storing, tasting olive oil, cultural history, and so forth). Some preps
include pinzimonio (fresh veggies dipped in olive oil), Provencal garlic
soup, North Beach baccala with potatoes and red onions, fettuccine with
asparagus and fava beans, and dried fig breakfast bread. There's a
bibliography (not updated) and a sources of supply list (which may or may
not be updated; I don't know because it is all American). Quality/Price
Rating: 86.

THE EVERYTHING BARTENDER'S BOOK, 2nd ed. (Adams Media, 2007; distr. Canadian
Manda Group, 307 pages, ISBN 978-1-59869-590-8, $11.95 paper covers) is by
Cheryl Charming, a bartender with a prolific writing pattern about
cocktails. This book is described as "700 recipes for classic and mixed
drinks, trendy shots, and non-alcoholic alternatives". It was first
published in 1995. So it has now been revised, updated and expanded. There
are 150 new recipes and a drink index. The price has not gone up in 12
years. The basics here include the history of the cocktail, Bartending 101,
equipment (glasses, tools) and mixers, and a FAQ for the designated driver.
Quality/Price Rating: 88.

MADE IN ITALY (Ecco, 2007, distr. HarperCollins, 623 pages, $59.95 hard
covers) is a fat book by Giorgio Locatelli (with Sheila Keating) of UK's
Locanda restaurant. It was originally published in the UK by Fourth Estate
in 2006; this is its North American debut. This is part of the Slow Food
movement, with traditional recipes (about 200 of them) using DOP and IGP
food where possible. The introductory text has material about the state of
Italian food today, and there are full-size portrait pictures of farmers,
chefs and cooks. Two ribbon bookmarks complete the package. Quality/Price
Rating: 85.

AMBITIOUS BREW; the story of American beer (Harcourt, 2006, 2007, 432 pages,
ISBN 978-0-15-603359-6, $16.95 paper covers) is by Maureen Ogle. It was
first published in 1006; this is the paperback reprint. Ogle is an historian
who has written other books. The history ranges from the autocratic Germans
Pabst, Schlitz, and Busch to the microbreweries of yesterday. Along the way
there is material on the temperance movement and Prohibition, as well as
historical archival pictures and advertisements. This is a straight ahead
account, along with sourced end notes and extensive bibliography.
Quality/Price rating: 90.

HOLIDAY CELEBRATION COOKBOOK; complete menus and easy recipes for a full
year of festivities (Shady Oak Press, 2002, 2007; distr. Canadian Manda
Group, 176 pages, ISBN 978-1-58159-346-4, $17.95 paper covers) is a
collection of 20 complete menus, with 100 recipes. There are also
instructions on how to make decorations. The major holidays include Hanukkah
and Valentine's Day, as well as Russian Easter, Halloween, a kids' Christmas
party, and a make-ahead holiday buffet - good for any time of the year.
Quality/Price Rating: 85.

VEGETARIAN COOKING FOR EVERYONE (Broadway Books, 1997, 742 pages, ISBN
978-0-7679-2747-5, $50 hard covers) is by Deborah Madison. It was originally
published in 1997, and it had won both a Beard and a Child book award. This
is being promoted as its "tenth anniversary edition". Nothing has changed,
although the food world has changed in the past 10 years. Madison
acknowledges this in a brisk introduction. If you have the original book,
then there is no need to buy this one, except as a gift or replacement copy.
The price has gone up $2 in ten years, but it may drop since the US dollar
is now at parity and the price was announced back in April. And you can
always buy it online at a cheaper price, cheaper than ten years ago.
Quality/Price rating: unrated, but 94 for first time purchase.

THE COMPLETE BORDEAUX: the wines, the chateaux, the people (Mitchell
Beazley, 2007; distr. Canadian Manda Group, 720 pages, ISBN
978-1-84000-980-4, $69 hard covers) is by Stephen Brook. Most of the text
was released last year in the "Classic Wine Library" series, at $46, and
with no pictures, in 528 pages. This library format is quite well-known by
now: a basic layout of serviceable sketch-maps, no pictures, and lots of
capsule histories and tasting notes for each property described. But the
publisher has seen fit to reissue that text on Medoc and Graves, added
material on the Right Bank (Pomerol and St.Emilion, more material on
Sauternes, and even more material on the satellite areas around (the various
Cotes, Entre deux Mers, etc.). Plus, of course, some plates of coloured
photographs. Here is insider information on Bordeaux, The introductory
material includes chapters on the land (terroir), grapes, and wine styles.
The main arrangement is by region. The directory data includes names and
numbers, websites, owners, size, production and grape varieties. Then, the
narrative style embraces a mini-history with tasting notes. There is an
appendix with comments on the various vintages, 1961-2006, a glossary, and a
bibliography. Quality/Price Rating: 90.

SIX THOUSAND YEARS OF BREAD; its holy and unholy history (Skyhorse
Publishing, 2007, 399 pages, ISBN 978-1-60239-124-6, $17.95 paper covers) is
by H. E. Jacob, and it was written in 1944. This is a chronology of bread
and its role through time in politics, religion, technology, etc.
Award-winning baker and author Peter Reinhart contributes an essay which
places it all into context. There is a bibliography, but it only goes up to
1943, of course. Reinhart describes the work as anecdotal; I could also call
it engaging, and well-worth the reading. Questions: did bread cause the
defeat of Napoleon? What was the importance of the Greek bread goddess,
Demeter? How did bread contribute to the outbreak of WWI? Quality/Price
Rating: 86.

REAL BARBECUE; the classic barbecue guide to the best joints across the
USA - with recipes, porklore, and more! (Globe Pequot Press, 2007; distr.
Canadian Manda Group, 331 pages, ISBN 978-0-7627-4442-8, $21 paper covers)
has been collated by Vince Staten and Greg Johnson. This is a part travel
guide and part recipe book, with details about 100 or more BBQ joints across
the USA. The first edition of this book was in 1988. Each place gets a
description, black and white photos, a rating, location and website. It is
arranged by region, beginning, of course, with the US South, and then moving
to the North, the Midwest, and the West. There is a section on BBQ
festivals, types of grills, backyard BBQ, 11 secret sauces (but no dry
rubs), and side dishes. Unfortunately, none of the recipes or ingredients is
indexed, but they can be easily perused. Scattered throughout are tidbits
about pork (called "porklore").The book concludes with a list of mail order
sources. The authors claim to have visited over 700 BBQ spots in the US -
that's a lot of eating. Quality/Price Rating: 88.

BRINGING ITALY HOME (Mitchell Beazley, 2001, 2005; distr. Canadian Manda
Group, 224 pages, ISBN 978-1-84000-921-7, $23.95 paper covers) is the paper
back reprint, now available in Canada. Ursula Ferrigno, the author, has
produced a meatless Italian cookbook, following on her successful "Truly
Italian". Traditional seafood and vegetarian recipes are sourced around the
seasons. For each major ingredient, she tells how the Italians like to
prepare it. Quality/Price Rating: 85,

TRADITIONAL BRITISH COOKING; simple recipes for classic British food
(Ryland, Peters & Small, 2007; distr. T. Allen, 240 pages, ISBN
978-1-84597-487-5, $24.95 hard covers) is a collection of 111 recipes culled
from various food writers in this publisher's stable: Louise Pickford, Fran
Warde, Linda Collister, Elsa Petersen-Schepelern, and 19 others. There are a
slew of 25 photographers too. It is all matter-of-fact, emphasizing the
easy, being one of a series. The emphasis is on "classic" or traditional
foods, thus there are plenty of hearty poultry and game, Yorkshire pudding,
rolled pork roast, bread and butter pudding, and the like. Desserts abound,
as do teatime preps and preserves. Not much text: just the recipes, with a
table of metric equivalents. Quality/Price Rating: 85.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Diary of a Mad Wine Writer

A WINE WRITER'S DIARY: a B-Team report.


Woke up this morning with a shattering headache, one I had not experienced
my college days.What was it? Why was it? Seemed like a hangover to me,
I seldom overindulge these days with alcohol. And then it hit me.A group of
were watching the DVD of "Sideways" and we all went for a bunch of garbage
bowls. It was a massive chugalug of the spittoons after a raucous evening of
taste and spit. I seem to recall that I took no notes of the aromas and
of the spittoon, but a card in my pocket said that I had won both the speed
the quantity contest. Thank god we didn't sample any merlots last time or
I'd be

The afternoon was spent prioritizing my wine and food activities for the
As a B-team wine writer, I don't get to do all the things that the A-team
(these are the writers for the dailies and the consumer magazines).
Let me see: this week there are a couple of trade shows (including one from
a B-team wine region, in desperate need of any kind of exposure), a lunch
with a
producer; a lunch with a trade commission wine guy; a dinner theatre which
some publicity (we usually call it "ptomaine theatre"), plus the
consultations/advisements on wine lists, wine clubs, etc. etc. Alas, my
spot was cancelled last week when somebody asked which wine went with pussy,
-- without missing a beat -- I gave him a choice of sparkling apricot or
riesling. The station was not amused; the next wine writer will get a five
second delay.It is a jungle out there.


Up at 5 AM to begin writing on the inside of my eyelids...I've got a few
ideas that are best processed in bed. By 7 AM I have it all laid out, and I
begin the day. I have a rowing machine, which I use when the inclement
looks too forbidding for my 10K run. Usually when I row I watch a DVD of a
silent or a foreign film: no noise, no interruptions, and plenty of reading.
Sometimes, for an English language film, I'll turn on the subtitles, still
keeping the sound off. This works wonders for many BritComs where I can't
catch the accent in time to process it before the next joke occurs. Today I
feast on the food scene in "Tom Jones"...Makes me hungry just writing about
I get a phone call from the ICE (Italy) reminding me of today's technical
seminar, and would I please be on time? Of course, I lie.These things never
start on time.

I'm off this morning to the Italian wine trade show, which usually happens
the Carlu. After we are searched at the door, we go to pick up the
catalogue. The
show is supposed to be in Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto. Consequently,
are many wines NOT available for tasting in Toronto: I'd have to go to
or Vancouver for those.But they are all still listed in the catalogue for
sake of economy. The Italians go out of their way to list all the companies,
agents, addresses galore, maps, vintage notes, technical notes, names and
vintages of all the wines, grape varieties employed and their percentages.
are starred and footnoted to indicate whether they are in Vancouver,
Montreal or
Toronto. Clay-based paper is used, and unfortunately, with all this data,
catalogue weighs 6 kilos.

I spend some time crossing off those wines not in Toronto (only to find out
later that some of them actually are here!). The technical tasting involves
range of presentations from producers in both Italian and English, sometimes
both; it is called for 10:30AM but actually starts at 11. I get there at
for a good seat, talk to B-team colleagues, start marking up my catalogue.

Lunch is a buffet, the usual standup buffet. I always wear comfortable shoes
(but see my notes for Friday). The banquet table fits my seafood diet: I see
food, I eat it. I walk around trying to taste some 220 wines, realizing that
cannot do it. The ones I do taste don't seem to be currently available, the
agent doesn't know when they will be available, nor does he know their
prices or
terms. Occasionally there will be a Principal who does not speak English, or
wine director who only knows the FOB price in Euros. Typical of most trade
shows, no matter how much the catalogue weighs or how it is laid out.I move
through the jungle.


This morning I get down to writing. Then there is a "lunch" meeting with a
producer at the LCBO's Scrivener Square Private Tasting Room. The wine press
here is a mixture of A- and B-team players. Occasionally, a Product
or staffer from the LCBO will there with us. Today we have a winemaker
about his ten wines. Three of the wines are in the General List, another two
in the Vintages system, one is here on consignment, another is being
for the General List (this one seems to have the most publicity material in
front of it), one more is coming to Vintages, one is a definite Private
(but could we please say something about it, to encourage sales?), and the
one is a new vintage (or it could be a barrel sample). This is the typical
lineup. The producer rep is accompanied by four agent reps, sometimes five.
sometimes the reps outnumber the writers. I've also been to several tastings
and dinners where I was the only writer who turned up! I hate it when "they"
outnumber me.Usually the European (or some other non-US country) producer
rep is
either an Export Director or the Winemaker. Some of the larger non-US
have Export Directors who live in California or New York City, and they come
to Toronto. It is extremely rare for a producer to come with two or more
people, since most matters can be handled by the local agent. My strategy
always been to directly engage the visitor by asking relevant but off-topic
questions. The Export Director is always talking about marketing facts and
figures; I always ask about percentages of grape varieties, winemaking
techniques, the latest vintage conditions. Sometimes they know this stuff.
Winemaker is always talking about viniculture and viticulture, the
expression of
the grapes/wine through his vision, and the like; I always ask about export
figures, where Ontario stands in the world markets, pricing policy, bottle
shapes. Keeps 'em all on their toes, especially the local agent.

The "lunch" is cheese, bread, grapes. It is sustaining. I remember being at
wine tasting at 6 PM in the Four Seasons. The agent provided nothing: no
no bread, not even water. I had to take a wine glass to the hotel john to
tap water.

This afternoon I visit a few restaurants to set up wine lists and talk about
Bring Your Own Wine program. Ptomaine theatre is also on the list. Most
restaurateurs know little about wine's selling potential: they rely on
consultants and sommeliers. I swing on a few vines through the jungle.


I'm meeting with a trade commission person responsible for wine in Ontario
his country: he is going to outline a trip for me. But I don't want to go
far, too long). He tries to convince me of the deep background, the
familiarization tour (famtour). I agree, but it is not my style. Instead, I
to persuade him to let me sample some of his country's wines. Could he not
me some cases of wine for my assessment with my own paid-for meals? He pulls
a spreadsheet which he says clearly shows that it is actually CHEAPER (for
trade commission as sponsor) to send me via air (top filling a plane), put
me up in a
hotel (top fill), ferry me about in a bus (cost spread over participants),
the winetastings and meals paid by the wineries involved. Sending me wine
can be
very expensive, with cartage and taxes. It looks convincing, but it is still

And speaking of sending me wine, the usual dribble of General List wine
arrive on my doorstep, and I store it for a neighbourhood tasting and party
Saturday) at the usual jungle location.


There is a really terrific wine trade show this afternoon, overflowing with
delicious wines and comestibles that meet my seafood diet. One problem: the
catalogue is dreadful. There are no page numbers, there is no order to the
producers, there is no listing of table numbers, there are no agents listed,
half of the wines are not here, and of the wines that are here some are not
the catalogue. The direct opposite of the ICE catalogues. One agent tells me
that he is four pages from the centre, to the left side. Okay, I can do
that.After awhile, I throw away the catalogue and just use a blank book for
tasting notes. Trade shows are not the best places to taste wines
professionally: they are actually the worse. They are crowded, there are
smells, the producers are too busy talking to one person to pour wine to a
second person, nobody seems to know much about prices or availability, there
a definite pecking order both for the A- and B-team wine writers and for
wineries, there are a lot of "unknowledgeable people" floating about, many
gatecrashers, much body odour and many perfume scents, people hang around
after they get a sample when they should be moving away, irrelevant chatter
the tasting tables, too much of a "party" feel, spittoons are always in
supply and not cleared often enough, water is missing, etc. A jungle, and
not my
favourite activity. Wines can range from 50 samples up through 600, with
three hours to sample all of them. Of course, I don't/can't try them all. So
sift through the program as far ahead as possible. At one show, the
catalogue went awry. The wines on the table were in the same order as listed
the catalogue. This was okay, if you tasted everything and shuffled along at
same speed with the guy ahead and the guy behind. It also helped if nobody
talked to the producer, thus making the line move along. But nobody wanted
try everything, and spittoons were far and few between. The catalogue soon
became useless.

I've now rented myself out as a wine trade show consultant for the jungle
it has been added to my resume.


Fridays are one of my favourite days: we get to go to the LCBO tasting lab
sample many wines and spirits, usually about 100 at a time. For two Fridays,
do the Vintages release. A third Friday is devoted to General List and (at
time until the LCBO stopped offering Classics previews) to Classics
usually about 50 wines, beers, spirits, coolers in total. Plus the Christmas
Gift Selection. The fourth Friday is also at the LCBO, but at Scrivener
for the monthly Wine Writers Circle of Canada business meeting, which is
followed by a tasting of some 50 submitted wines of all stripes and colours.
Today, though, we needed to suit up for our annual fitting.

Each year at this time the LCBO supplies us with running shoes, in order to
taste all of the wines put out that week. We'll be measured for foot length
width, and then our new shoes will be given to us next week. It is really
amazing how quickly these shoes wear out (they're made in
China, just like all the other shoes are). We really need to be light on our
toes and swift of eyeballs, for the LCBO catalogue is full of errors. It
used to
be that we had a proof copy of the Vintages magazine; now, we get a
photocopy of
the final version. So there is no opportunity for corrections to be made to
magazine as sent out to customers. Some errors are egregious, other errors
ones of judgment. Tasting panel notes can be a year old. The wrong vintage
shipped. Spelling errors and omissions happen. Unlike trade shows, the lab
is a
quiet place, well-lit, with about a dozen A- and B-team wine writers, a
place to
write notes, and a sort of casualness. Unfortunately, it is incumbent on us
actually taste EVERY wine for our readers, to have that one voice. So this
that I absorb alcohol through my gums and cheeks. I don't have a car, and I
certainly take the TTC down and back from the lab. Again, it is a jungle
we are constantly being vigilant about.


This afternoon I am to host my monthly street party: I gather up all the
General List products and other assorted wines, select a few for a private
tasting, and then put out the rest for my neighbours' opinions. They drift
whenever, casual, and sip on a few wines. They may - or may not - make
notes. I
make notes, I gather comments. By the end, I've got enough data, and I've
managed to send off a few half-empty bottles with those who wanted them.

And then it is off to the "Sideways" champion garbage bowl contest. Oh.I
think I
already did that LAST week.Back to the jungle of "Mondovino"; I highly
the DVD for its extras.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Tokaji Renaissance Tasting, Toronto, October 23, 2007

The Time and Date: Tuesday, October 23, 2007 11 AM to 2 PM

The Event: The Tokaj Renaissance Tasting (the group was founded in 1985)

The Venue: Chez Victor, Hotel Le Germain

The Target Audience: wine media and sommeliers

The Availability/Catalogue: varies. We tasted 10 Tokaj at the tutorial and a
variety of other wines with lunch.

The Quote: "The grape varieties are oxidative. Tokaj can have five grape
types: furmint (60% of total grown) and harslevelu (30%) dominate."

The Wines:

-Oremus Mandolas 2005 ($24.95), dry, slightly oxidative, new Hungarian oak,
aged 7 months on lees in barrel. Good acidity for food.

-Hetszolo Tokaj Harslevelu 2005: 2/3 harslevelu, Late Harvest style with
fresh aromatics, rich mouthfeel, peaches and almonds, stainless steel.

-Disznoko Tokaj Aszu 4 putts 2001 ($30): barrel aged for two years, brisk
finishing acid, very refreshing.

-Patricius Tokaj Aszu 5 putts 2002: 150 g/l residual sugar, candied nose,
okay acid.

-Hetszolo Tokaj Aszu 5 putts 2001: some wood and oxidative qualities.

-Oremus Tokaj Aszu 5 putts 2000: barrel fermented in new Hungarian oak for
60 days, aged in oak for 2.5 years.

-Megyer Tokaj Aszu 5 putts 1999: aged in Hungarian oak for 2.5 years (50%
new), made with 50% muscat and 50% furmint in the putts, with deliberate
muscat overtones. The peach elements make all the difference here. The base
wine was 100% muscat. My fave of the tasting.

-Patricius Tokaj Aszu 6 putts 2000: 165 g/l residual sugar, and with higher

-Disznoko Tokaj Aszu 6 putts 1999: aszu had 70% furmint, 30% zeta; the base
had 90% furmint, 10% harslevelu, Fermented in stainless steel, aged two
years in oak (some new). Good depth and oxidative character. My second fave

-Pajzos Aszuesszencia 1999: over 180 g/l residual sugar, excessively sweet
(needed more acid), rich but not oxidative.

Many of the other wines being served for the lunch and mini-trade show
afterwards were Dry Furmint and Late Harvest wines from recent vintages of
the six members of the Renaissance group. John Szabo has a list.

The Food: from Chef David Chrystian, to match the wines available.

-Niagara charcuterie and Berskshire pork terrine with apricot gel

-braised lamb shank paprikash (off the bone) with gnocchi and bell peppers,
tomatoes, onions

-apple and date strudel with cream cheese ice cream.

Zoltan Szabo walked around with a variety of wines to pour. The clear winner
was a 1993 Tokaj Aszu 6 putts with the lamb! Bravo!!

The Downside: we had about 24 other wines with lunch, but there was not a
list or a real sense of availability and prices. Nor were all the wines
opened at once, which made for considerable "back and forth" to sample them
with the meal.

The Upside: John Szabo described the process.

The Contact Person: John Szabo

The Effectiveness (numerical grade): 90.

Friday, November 2, 2007


GUINNESS; the 250-year quest for the perfect pint (John Wiley, 2007, 250
pages, ISBN 978-0-470-12052-1, $29.99 hard covers) is a business narrative
written by Bill Yenne, a beer journalist living in San Francisco. He has
written almost 40 books on a variety of historical topics. Plus six more on
beer. This book was originally subtitled: "the story of the world's greatest
beer", but better minds prevailed. But this book has been described as a
perfectly poured history of the world's most famous beer. And that's 2
billion perfectly poured (one would hope) pints EACH YEAR. This is a mixture
of Irish history and the biography of a family, compellingly told over a 250
year frame. Arthur Gunness became a brewer at age 30. His son and namesake
came up with the winning formula. His son (grandson Benjamin) became the
richest man in Ireland selling stout. It was Benjamin who built the family
business into the beer juggernaut, the largest single brewery in the world.
In addition to history and biography, this book is also the story of beer
technology and craftsmanship. Yenne has drawn from two basic source
documents, Patrick Lynch's "Guinness Brewery in the Irish Economy,
1759-1876" and S.R. Dennison's "Guinness 1886-1939". Particularly useful is
the story of the 1986 innovation to help form the characteristic smooth and
creamy head, for an authentic Guinness every time; it is now used in every
bottle and can sold. There is a copious bibliography and a very useful

Audience and level of use: corporate history lovers, erudite beer drinkers.

Some interesting or unusual facts: Guinness Extra Stout is the closest to
the Guinness Porter originally brewed by Arthur Guinness now available. But
it has less than five per cent of all Guinness sales worldwide. Guinness
Draught has almost completely replaced it.

The downside to this book: is "widget" the only name for the device that
issues nitrogen to preserve the draught element?

The upside to this book: there are some good black and white illustrations
from the archives.

Quality/Price Rating: 91.