Monday, June 4: A meeting at 10 am in the Toronto Star building with Carolyn Hammond and Konrad Ejbich to discuss a shooting script for a promo for WineFox. Wrote my Post City Magazines column and then to Doug Towers’s house for a winerytohome.com tasting with David Lawrason. Packed for an overnight trip to New York tomorrow.
Tuesday, June 5: Deborah and I are flying to New York to stay with Peter Sichel, who has a magnificent old apartment on Park Avenue that reminds me of the flat in Rosemary’s Baby. I’m to be inducted into the New York Media Wine Writers’ Hall of Fame, along with Terry Robards and Eric Asimov. The late Maynard Amerine is also being inducted posthumously.
We are flying into Newark Airport, which turns out to be a big mistake. Especially since we opt to take the SuperShuttle, which promises to drop us at our destination. With the wait and all the stops for four other groups of passengers, the trip takes two and a half hours. Peter Sichel wonders what happened to us.
Because of the traffic Peter suggests we take public transport to the restaurant where the event is being held – Abe & Arthur’s on 14th Street in the old meat packing district on the West side, basically as far as you can get from Park Avenue and 81st Street. We take a bus across town and then the subway, which is remarkably clean and efficient.
At these wine media dinners everyone brings bottles and shares them at the table, so I get to taste a goodly range of fine wines, beginning with the Gosset Brut Excellence Champagne with a choice of hors d’oeuvres. Domaine Marc Morey Chevalier-Montrachet 2000, Domaine de Banyuls Cassis Blanc 2009 with Tuna Tartare Tacos and Laurel Glen Cabernet Sauvignon 1998, Merry Edwards Russian River Pinot Noir 2008, Château Fourcas Hosten 1995, Domaine Vincent Paris Cornas 2009, Vidal Fleury St. Joseph 2007, Evesham Wood Pinot Noir 1993 with dry aged NY strip loin (enough for three people) and desserts – warm ricotta donuts & cinnamon funnel cake with Domaine et Terroirs du Sud Rivesaltes 1976 and J.J. Prum Grächer Himmelreich Riesling Spätlese 2005. To end, a small glass of Taylor Fladgate Vintage Port 1978. Had a chance to catch up with my old friends Mary Ewing-Mulligan MW and Ed McCarthy, who tells me he is currently updating their Wine For Dummies book.
Wednesday, June 6: Deborah shopped in New York and we had a quick lunch of soup at Hale & Hearty on Lexington Avenue before taking a limo to Newark Airport. We were upgraded to Business Class on the flight to Toronto. I said goodbye to Deborah because I’m flying straight on to Los Angeles for a tasting of Aurelio Montes wines. My concern about making the connection proved to be groundless because a lightning storm prevented any flights leaving. Spent the time in the lounge waiting for the weather to clear and the backlog of planes to take off. We took off two and half hours later. Sat next to a guy who looked like he played guard for the Lakers.
At the airport I was met by Bruce, a limo driver who used to be an English teacher and then in advertising. He tells me that there may be traffic on our way to the Sofitel Hotel in Beverley Hills because president Obama is in town. “He’s here for money,” says Bruce. “It’s called the Hollywood ATM.” Get to the hotel by midnight local time, 3 am my body time. The interesting thing about the hotel is that all the staff greet you in French.
Thursday, June 7: Up at 7:30 am. Came down in the lift with a guy whose cell phone broadcast the recorded message in a female’s voice, “You’ve got another fucking text message.” Breakfast of two fried eggs, bacon, pancakes and maple syrup, rolls and tea in preparation for this morning’s tasting of Montes wines in a blind tasting against top Bordeaux, Californian and Italian Cabernet blends.
The Montes tasting was held in the hotel’s private dining room. Fourteen sommeliers and wine writer/educators from Los Angeles participated. The event was inspired by a magazine quote from Jay McInerney in his Wall Street Journal column about the quality of wines coming from the Apalta region; he called them, perceptively, “Chile’s first Grand Cru.” The moderator was Anthony Dias Blue, editor in chief of The Tasting Panel magazine.
Two flights of wine are set in front of us – 8 Bordeaux-style blends all from 2004, except for one ringer, a 2007; and four Syrah/Shiraz 2004.
- Opus One 2004
- Montes Purple Angel 2007
- Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
- Ornellaia 2004
- Château Lafite 2004
- Château Haut Brion 2004
- Sassicaia 2004
- Montes M Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
The aggregate scores of the group placed Château Lafite first, followed by Montes M Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 one half point behind. (My top wine was Montes Purple Angel followed by Opus One and Montes M.)
Next the flight of four Syrah/Shiraz:
- Chapoutier Hermitage 2004
- Bonaccorsi Syrah 2004 (Paso Robles)
- Montes Folly Syrah 2004
- Penfolds Grange Hermitage 2004
The group placed Grange and Montes Folly in equal first place with 91.5 points. I placed Grange first (the best wine of the tasting) and Bonaccorsi second. A fascinating tasting and Aurelio Montes was, needless to say, very pleased by the results.
Then we all went outside to the terrace for lunch. We began with a glass of a new wine from the Montes portfolio – Montes Outer Limits Sauvignon Blanc 2011 from a new vineyard in the Aconcagua Valley.
Appetizers: Tuna Tartare. Piazza slices, Caesar salad.
Entrée: Steak frites (skirt steak with Tuscan fries) and salmon, black beans, mango salsa with red pepper oil. These were served with a series of Montes red wines:
Montes Outer Limits Pinot Noir Zapallar Vineyard 2011, Montes Outer Limits CGM 2010 (Carignan, Grenache and Mourvèdre) and Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
Dessert: Simon LA junk food platter (old favourites all grown up) – crackerjack, Rice Krispy cakes, chocolate cupcakes, candy floss, coconut creams
In the evening walked to a restaurant called Boa, a steak house on Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood. I had met the wine director, Lance Reed, at the Montes tasting and he suggested I drop by for a glass of wine in the evening to see the place. He said it was a mile away from the Sofitel so I decided to walk up La Cienega Boulevard. I passed a shop called Trashy Lingerie and took a photo (“…shop where stars like Winona Ryder, Drew Barrymore and Cameron Diaz shop for their intimates.”)
It turned out the distance from my hotel was more like three miles. Lance showed me around the restaurant, which seats 275 with a large outdoor seating area and great bar. The wine vault holds 5,000 bottles. The most expensive are Screaming Eagle 1997 at $8,750 a bottle and Lafite 1945 for $14,000. After all, this is Hollywood. Lance poured me a glass of Mica by Buccella Cabernet Sauvignon 2009. Took a cab back to the hotel. An Armenian driver who talked wistfully of his native land. Had a Quizno’s sandwich for dinner and then to bed.
Friday, June 8: At 12:30 pm the limo came to take me to the airport. The drive was a former stage manager who toured with Liza Minnelli. His wife was a dancer in musicals. Everyone’s in show business in Hollywood. Sat next to a man on the plane who is the personal assistant to a wealthy family. An interesting chat. Got in at 11:15 pm and Deborah met me at the airport. Great welcome from Pinot the Wonderdog.