A Wine Lover’s Diary, part 343: Farewell to Ted Turner

Monday, May 9: Wrote my Commentary column for Tidings magazine based on the Mayan prediction that the world will end on December 12th, 2012, and what to do with your cellar to prepare. My son Guy has set up a Facebook page for Pinot (Pinot T. Wonderdog). Picked up wines from Dean Tudor for Grapes for Humanity’s auction on June 6th.

Tuesday, May 10: A Greek wine seminar conducted by John Szabo and Dominque Rivest and Sofia Perpera in the ballroom of the Metropolitan Hotel. Ten wines, nine of which were from indigenous varieties only. This was followed by a walk-around tasting two floors below. Very impressed with Alpha Estate Malagouzia 2010 and Alpha Estate Red 2007 (Syrah, Xynomavro and Merlot), Domaine Gerovassilou Viognier 2009, Kir Yanni Diaporos 2007 (Xynomavro, Syrah), Papaionnou Estate Microclima 2003 (Agiorgitiko), Skouras Megas Oenos 2007, Tselepos Mantinia 2010.

Best value: Boutari Moschofilero 2010 at $11.95. Most interesting wine discovery was a very rare variety grown only by the winery that makes it. George Soleas put me on to it: Brintziki Tinaktotogos Bio 2010 – fascinating grape that tastes like a cross between Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

In the evening, down to the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre for a seminar on Ontario wines put on by Vintages and presented by Ian D’Agata with a panel of ten Ontario winery personnel. The event was called “Somewhereness – Taste Ontario Terroir.” The wines were Cave Spring CSV Riesling 2009, Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling 2008, 13th Street Winery Essence Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Malivoire Wine Company Mottiar Chardonnay 2009, Flat Rock Cellars Reserve Chardonnay 2007, Norman Hardy County Pinot Noir 2009, Tawse Winery Growers Blend Pinot Noir 2009, Hidden Bench Vineyards Felseck Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008, Stratus Red 2007, Southbrook Vineyards Poetica Cabernet/Merlot 2007. This flight of wines showed how good Ontario wines have become. The seminar was followed by a walk around table-top tasting of these wineries wines (4 or 5 products each) which the participants could order.

Wednesday, May 11: Wrote my columns for Post City Magazines and On The Go magazine. A corporate wine dinner at 1 King Street West, the old bank building. The menu – crab cakes, goat’s cheese salad, filet mignon and a chocolate mousse dessert. The wines:

  • Bottega Vino dei Poeti Prosecco
  • Huff Estates South Bay Vineyards Chardonnay 2007
  • Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc 2010
  • Ca’ del Baio Asili Barbaresco 2007
  • Henschke Keyneton Euphonium 2008
  • Graham’s 10 Year Old Tawny Port

Thursday, May 12: My birthday. A 10 am tasting at Select Wines for a new line of Concha y Toro products called Serie Riberas, vineyards on the slopes of river banks which they started bottling in 2008.

  • Concha y Toro Gran Reserva Serie Riberas Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (Rapel Valley): pale straw, minerally, herbaceous, grapefruit nose; crisply dry with fresh acidity, green plum and citrus flavours; medium-bodied with good length (88)
  • Concha y Toro Gran Reserva Serie Riberas Chardonnay 2010 (Rapel Valley): medium straw colour with a green tint; spicy, apple and citrus nose; mouth-filling, dry, apple and pear flavours, very fresh with a good balance of oak and fruit (89)
  • Concha y Toro Gran Reserva Serie Riberas Merlot 2009 (Maule Valley): dense purple colour staining the glass; vanilla oak, spicy blackberry and black olive nose with a light floral note; dry, well structured with dark chocolate tones; well structured, full-bodied with a lead pencil note leading to ripe tannins (90)
  • Concha y Toro Gran Reserva Serie Riberas Malbec 2009 (Colchagua Valley): dense purple colour; dried flowers, black plum, pencil lead and cedar nose; broad, black cherry, black plum flavour; full-bodied with a warm alcoholic finish (87)
  • Concha y Toro Gran Reserva Serie Riberas Carmenere 2009 (Cachapoal Valley): dense ruby-purple colour; spicy, cedar, currants with a sweet berry note; ripe fruit, mulberry, dark chocolate and licorice flavours; firmly structured with great balance. One of the best Carménères I’ve tasted from this vintage. Great value (91)
  • Concha y Toro Gran Reserva Serie Riberas Syrah 2009 (Maule Valley): dense purple colour; white pepper, blackberry, pencil lead nose with a jammy note; dry, savoury flavour, spicy black fruits with a firm tannic finish; good mouth feel with a drying tannic finish. Hold for a ear or two (89)
  • Concha y Toro Gran Reserva Serie Riberas Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (Colchagua Valley): dense purple-ruby colour; vanilla oak, cedar, black fruits, cassis nose; lovely mouth feel; rich and compelling flavours of chocolate and dark fruits; great balance and great value at $16.95

At the end of the tasting Bill Haddleton opened a bottle of Casillera del Diabolo Brut Chardonnay NV for my birthday: fresh crab apple flavour, fresh, dry, clean with an active mousse for a Charmat product (88).

Home for a quick pizza then down to the Design Exchange for the New Zealand Wine Fair beginning with a Walk-through self-pour tasting of Riesling (3), Pinot Gris (3), Gewurztraminer (3), Hawkes Bay Syrah (4), Gimblett Gravels Syrah (2) and Waikehe Island Syrah (1). I was impressed by two of the Rieslings – Mt. Beautiful Cheviot Hills Riesling Canterbury 2008 (90) and Carrick Riesling Central Otago 2009 (91). Didn’t care much for the Pinot Gris. The best of the Gewurz was Spy Valley Gewurztraminer Marlborough 2010 (89). Best of the Hawkes Bay Syrahs was Sacred Hill Deerstalkers Syrah 2007 (89). Gimblett Gravels Villa Maria Cellar Selection Syrah 2008. But the best wine of the tasting was the final wine: the Northern Rhône style Man o’ War Dreadnought Syrah Waiheke Island 2008 (91).

Then down to the main tasting, where 39 wineries were pouring their products. Made a beeline to taste the wines of New Zealand’s newest region, Waitaki Valley behind Mt. Cook on South
Island. In particular, the wines of Ostler and Pasquale. I gave 89 points to both Ostler Caroline’s Pinot Noir 2009 and Ostler Audrey’s Pinot Gris 2009. The Pasquale wines were very good, especially the Pasquale Pinot Gris 2010 (90) and Pasquale Pinot Noir 2009 (90). Other top rated wines of those I tasted were Akarua Chardonnay Central Otago 2009 (89), Astrolabe Voyage Pinot Gris Marlborough 2010 (89+), Astrolabe Voyage Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2010 (90), Giesen The Brothers Pinot Noir 2009 (90), Tohu Pinot Noir Marlbrough 2008 (89), Tohu Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2010. Deborah cooked a dinner of shrimp on a bed of rice.

Friday, May 13: Deborah and I took the train to Montreal and checked in to the W Hotel on Victoria Square. We walked around Old Montreal before taking the Metro to Snowdon to have dinner with our old friends Blema and Arnold Steinberg. Arnold, who is the Chancellor of McGill, and I share a birthday. To celebrate he brought out some great wines: Kistler Vineyard Chardonnay 2002 with sushi and a cold beetroot soup, followed by Château Latour 1961 (the first bottle was unfortunately mildly corked, so Arnold fetched another from his cellar) – this with rack of lamb and then with the dessert of chocolate-covered strawberries and ice cream with Château d’Yquem 1983.

Saturday, May 14: Raining all day. If Deborah and I hadn’t been in Montreal today we’d have been at St. Mark’s Church in Niagara-on-the-Lake for the memorial service for Ted Turner (not that Ted Turner – our friend who founded the Toronto Vintners club among other things) I asked Gordon Pape to deliver a few words on my behalf:

I’m sorry I couldn’t be with Ted’s family and friends today to celebrate his life – but my wife Deborah and I are in Montreal doing what Ted loved to do – eat well and drink fine wine.

Ted and I shared a birthday – May 12th. A typical Taurus: loyal, kind, hard working, handsome, great sense of humour, beloved of the ladies – and that described Ted too.

Our mutual birthday was also the day the Baron de Forrester was drowned in the Douro river. Ted founded a port club called The Baron de Forrester Society. Its members would meet on May 12th and roundly abuse the invited guest speaker. I had heard about the exploits of the Baron de Forrester Society and how they would bombard the speaker with bread rolls. So I came equipped with a hockey helmet and a water pistol. But somehow word leaked out and Ted had the owner of the restaurant supply the members within my pistol range with umbrellas. Notwithstanding, I dedicated my third wine murder mystery, Death on the Douro, to him. The inscription reads: “To Ted Turner who introduced me to the Baron.”

Ted was an amazing guy. With his energy and drive he created the first wine club in the city – Toronto Vintners in 1975 – and it’s still flourishing today. It is not a stretch to suggest that Ted single-handedly created the climate that allowed the wine-loving community in Toronto to grow and become educated. The industry, both for imported and domestic wines, owes him a great debt of gratitude.

Ted was a great lover of port and Madeira – and Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Nebbiolo, Tempranillo, Syrah, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Champagne and anything that contained alcohol.

He subscribed to the food-group philosophy: There are only four food groups: Alcohol Fat, Salt and Chocolate. For a balanced diet you should have them all at every meal.

My former wine writing colleague, the late Bob Pennington, once described Ted as “world traveler… head of a Toronto personnel agency, part-time actor and amateur winemaker.”

I travelled with Ted on my annual wine tour to Europe on a couple of occasions. He was enormous fun to travel with. He once had to share a room with Gordon Pape and no doubt Gordon will tell you about that adventure. And I have lost money to him at the poker table.

I miss him. I miss his friendship. Rest in peace, son of Bacchus.

After breakfast in the hotel we went shopping along St. Catherine Street. Deborah did some damage in Simon’s. We lunched with my sister Shirley and her husband Sam at L’Express on St. Denis (I ordered steak tartar and French fries). More shopping in the afternoon before changing for dinner and being picked up at the hotel by Martha Harrison, who took us to Le Local for a drink before dinner. She ordered a bottle of the wine she represents in our market, Kemeu River Chardonnay 2007. Martha drove us around Old Montreal showing us the new developments before dropping us off at Club Chasse et Peche for dinner. I ordered a bottle of Domaine des Combes Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2008 to go with Deborah’s scallops with a lemon emulsion and my braised piglet risotto with shaved foie gras, followed by Gaspé char (Deborah) and suckling pig (me). We shared a dessert of pistachio nougat ice cream with tapioca and topped with pomegranate foam. The meal was fabulous.

Sunday, May 15: Dropped our suitcase off at Central Station and had breakfast there before taking a taxi to the Montreal Museum of Fine Art. They were showing the Chinese exhibition of terra cotta soldiers which we’d seen in Toronto so we visited the Napoleon exhibition and part of the permanent collection. Then we took the metro to Snowdon to have a Montreal smoked meat sandwich and a plate of chicken soup and matzo ball soup at the Snowdon Deli. An old haunt. Whenever our group goes fishing in northern Quebec we always have lunch here on the way through. After lunch we made our way back to the station to catch the 3:30 pm VIA train back to Toronto. This is the only way to travel.

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