A Wine Lover’s Diary, part 373: Grapes for Humanity’s Year

Monday, December 12: The AGM for Grapes for Humanity is this evening so I spent much of the day working on documents, minutes, etc. It’s been a really good year for the foundation. In the last twelve months we have held two fund-raiser events – Rodney’s Oyster House in May and Geddy & Alex’s Grapes Under Pressure tour to Huff Estate in Prince Edward County in September. We raised a total of $183,000 net from our events and $87,000 in specific donations to our causes. In the past year we donated:

  • $75,000 US for HALO to provide medical and other assistance to victims of cluster munitions
  • $36,000 to build a school in Guatemala
  • $21,133 to the Lavalla School in Cambodia to purchase computers
  • $3,000 US to the Cambodian Children’s Advocacy Foundation to improve the education, nutrition and self-sustaining food sources for the benefit of children, elderly and disabled persons in impoverished areas of Cambodia
  • $20,000 to Niagara College for the Geddy winemaker scholarship (to be awarded next year) plus a further $6,500 donated personally by directors
  • And we came through a CRA audit unscathed.

For dinner, paella with a bottle of Marqués de Cáceres Rosado 2010. This Rioja rosé, my favourite pink on the general list, was perfect with the dish (crisp and dry with refreshing flavours of wild strawberry and raspberry with citrus acidity – 89).

Tuesday, December 13: Received the following email:

The Chardonnay is a wine that produced from white grapes. Traditionally it’s common to think that the Chardonnay species originated from the Burgundy wine region in France. Historical research shows that the name of this white wine comes from vines in the Jerusalem Hills. Not only because of the vines which produced the wine grow mainly in limestone and clay soil, like in the Jerusalem region, but mainly because the source of the name “Chardonnay”.

It turns out that the source of the name of white wine is in the Hebrew language and not in the French language. The first to bring the white wine into France were the Crusaders from Israel who were on leave and brought back home with them the wine whose original name in French was “Porte de dieu.” Which means in English “gate of God” and it’s a translation from the Hebrew name “sha’har-adonay”, which symbolize that they were from the holy city of Jerusalem, surrounded by gates towards God. When asking a French man to pronounce the name of the wine in Hebrew (“Sha’har-adonay”) he actually pronounces it as “Char-donnay”.

A bit of a stretch, I’d say, so I didn’t mention this at the annual Christmas reception thrown by the French Trade Commission at the Novotel.

Wednesday, December 14: The annual Christmas lunch for the Saintsbury Society. The three of us met at Le Select Bistro – Tony Hirons, Irvin Wolkoff and I – each bringing wine. Mine was a bottle of CedarCreek Platinum Pinot Noir 2008 (deep ruby colour; a nose of strawberries and spice; full on the palate with a sweet strawberry-raspberry core, beautifully balanced and mouth-filling (91)). Tony brought two wines that he is the importing agent for – Trefethen Chardonnay 2009 (very Burgundian in style with judicious use of oak (90)) and Domaine du Gand Clos Bourgueil 2007 (redcurrant and red pepper flavours, dry and lean (88)); Irvin brought a Douro red, Valle da Fonte Reserve 2001 (dry, herbal mulberry flavour, full-bodied and sturdy (89)). I ordered oreille de couchon and bison steak tartare followed by chocolate cake.

In the evening a meeting at the condo with Zoltan Szabo and Malcolm Jolley to discuss creating a tartare-off – Toronto chefs competing to see who makes the best tartare in the city, traditional (beef) and freestyle (fish and seafood). Managed to make a dent in bottles of Tenuta Ulisse Unico Pecorino 2010 and Drylands Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2011.

Thursday, December 15: Saddened by the news that Christopher Hitchens had died of cancer of the esophagus. I looked forward to seeing his essays in the National Post. I would have loved to have met him – what a dinner party guest he must have been.

There is a brouhaha in the wine writing world that I’m following with amusement. My colleague Remy Charest reviewed Natalie MacLean’s book Unquenchable on the on-line wine magazine Palate Press. Overall a flattering review but he referred to Natalie’s enthusiastic self-promotion. I had already drawn attention to this in a Tweet but the review must have struck a nerve in the wine community because the response was incredible – pro and anti-Natalie. See palatepress.com. But it’ll sell books
so Natalie must be happy.

A meeting with Paul Lokash and other to discuss the concept of setting up a barrel auction of Israeli wines in Israel.

Friday, December 16: Am reading Reginald Hill’s The Woodcutter and am so engrossed I’m taking time out of my business day to devour it. Dinner with Doug Birrell of Canadian Niagara Hotels at Scarpetta in the Thomson Hotel to discuss the opening of the Jamie Kennedy on the Falls restaurant in the Sheraton Fallsview Hotel. Projected to open in early February. We had a glass of Feudi di San Gregorio Falanghina 2010 and then a bottle of Elena Walch Sauvignon Blanc 2010 with black cod.

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