Whisky school desks
Monday, October 9th: Spent Thanksgiving Day opening boxes and filling my new 500-bottle cabinet with wine. Found all kinds of hidden treasures which I will drink before they get over the hill. Tonight, with grilled salmon, Babich Pinot Noir 2004 from New Zealand (still very much alive).
Tuesday, October 10th: Worked on my Quench magazine article, about screw caps. For dinner, Moon Curser Tempranillo 2010 from the Okanagan.
Wednesday, October 11th: After unpacking more boxes, got down to writing an article for Lexpert Magazine on becoming a wine importing agent – as an amateur. In the evening, a conference call with the Board of Directors of Grapes for Humanity in Toronto to discuss next year’s program of events. For dinner, with grilled Salmon, Eral Bravo YBS 2005 (Mendoza, Argentina – Year’s Best Barrels: 60% Malbec, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah). Delicious.
Thursday, October 12th: More unpacking. It’s like the myth of Sisyphus – the more boxes we empty, the more appear. Still can’t find the kitchen radio and the paper tray of the printer. Received a copy of my friend Raymond Blake’s new book in the mail: Côtes d’Or – The wines and winemakers of the heart of Burgundy. Raymond is a leading wine writer in Ireland who has bought a house in the Côtes d’Or (lucky fellow). Am looking forward to reading it – once I can find a chair to sit down in.
Friday, October 13th: My wine writer colleague who lives in the ‘hood picked me up at 6:30 am to get to the Vintages tasting at the LCBO. We drove to the Burlington GO station and took the train into Union. Committed a faux pas by laughing out loud in the Quiet Zone on the upper level – so we moved to the basement after I was chided by another passenger. Didn’t realise it was a serious business, riding the GO. After the tasting of a 158-product release for November 11th, Michael and I dropped into TNT grocery store before returning to his house in High Park. Ros, Michael and I went for dinner at their favourite Chinese restaurant on Spadina, New Ho King. Slept over at Michael’s house.
Saturday, October 14th: Today is the sponsor tour of Niagara. Up at 7:30 am to take the subway to Yorkdale, where the Niagara Air Black Bus will meet us. I have to pick up coffee and muffins and croissants for ten at Starbucks, plus bottles of water.
We leave at 9:30 am. Our first stop is No. 99 Wayne Gretzky Estates, where Peller Estates head winemaker Craig MacDonald (whose birthday it was) tours us around the winery and the distillery. We are greeted with a glass of Magnotta Blanc de Blancs Chardonnay sparkling wine before touring the operation with its amazing collection of Wayne Gretzky memorabilia and videos of his hockey triumphs.
A sparkling greeting
Much taken by the spirits classroom with rustic desks that open up to reveal sample glasses. Craig tells us the two biggest sellers here are Wayne Gretzky Baco Noir ($15.95) and Wayne Gretzky Cream Whisky ($34.95). A tasting of Pinot Grigio 2016, Estate Series Shiraz Cabernet 2015 and Vidal Icewine 2016, followed by samples of Wayne Gretzky No. 99 Red Cask and Ice Cask Whisky. Then the Cream Whisky that tastes rather like Bailey’s Irish Cream.
Gretzky eaux de vie
Wayne’s World of Spirits
Our group of 12 walks next door to Trius for lunch. The accompanying wines: Trius Barrel 12050 Chardonnay 2013, Trius Showcase Clark Farm Pinot 2014, Trius Showcase Clean Slate Wild Ferment Sauvignon Blanc 2015. Emma Garner, “Ontario’s Riesling Queen,” joins us briefly at lunch and the staff pours her delicious Trius Showcase Ghost Creek Riesling 2016.
Sponsor tour menu at Trius
Manitoulin Island Trout
Our final stop: 13th Street, where they make THE BEST BUTTER TARTS IN THE WORLD. We tour the winery and the impressive sculpture garden with the elevated mound before settling in for a tasting of 13th Street Brut, Chardonnay 2015, Gamay 2016, Pinot Noir Essence 2011 (I bought two bottles on the way out) and Cabernet Sauvignon 2015.
Doug Whitty, owner of 13th Street and this year’s Ontario Grape King
Welcoming sparkling rosé
Barrel room art at 13th Street
Also picked up a dozen butter tarts and six to the people returning to Toronto on the bus. Deborah had joined us for lunch at Trius and drove me home.