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My Wine Journey – Friday September 29th, 2006

July 26, 2008

It's too early to have a drink and I felt like writing a column so I decided to talk about my journey to find good wine.


Of course I like Riesling and Gewürztraminer the most. I started drinking the German varieties and as I was young I liked the sweetness and easy drinking. This was during the evil times when I was with the Prussian Princess. Of course I joined the German Wine Society and was forced to learn some German. This, I purposely butchered just to bug her. Well I guess I was partially responsible for that one going up in flames "Which is a good thing". Surprisingly, I still really like good German wine. In its best it is pure beauty, but unfortunately we get so little of the good stuff here we think all of it is liefraumilch and that is not a good thing.


Well after university I moved to Toronto to make my fortune. Don't ask if I succeeded cos I'm back here. While there I was broke like all my friends. We discovered the wonders of Eastern European wine. This was before the breakup of the Soviet Union so we got to enjoy the fruits of a variety of worker's paradises. Well paradise didn't taste too good but at least they were cheap. It became a game to find something good and we laughed at the bad ones and congratulated ourselves on the good ones. Man we drank some awful wine. I particularly enjoyed the wines from Yugoslavia as they were of decent quality, kinda Germanic in style and of course very cheap. I traveled all the way to Bulgaria and enjoyed many visits to Hungary. I was getting so good at it that the little Hungarian restaurant on Hayden Street was convinced that I was a Magyar. Well you can see most of my choices tended to white wine. Yes, I rarely drank red and still today tend to whites over reds.


This may be due to the fact that I really never ate a lot of red meat. I almost only ate fish and chicken in my early days (when I cooked). With this I drank alot of whites. The lack of reds was probably is due to all the really bad reds I drank in my youth. Seemed that cheap reds were very very bad back then. I still dabbled in Tuscans and Burgundies, but they were out of my price range and cost me about the same as a good one today. As my wages increased so did my visits to the Rare Wine Store (Vintages was just starting) and I fondly remember a fight I had with the manager of the Bridle Path store when I asked him if they had any Single Malt Bushmills. He was adamant that it didn't exist and I countered with – then what did I pay sixty bucks for downtown that said Single Malt on it. He thought I was an idiot and I thought he was. I've mellowed a little over the years. But anyways, that's about when I discovered Portuguese wines which, damn, I wish I found them years earlier, but good is good.


While up there I met this ‘wonderful lass' from England. We fell in love and well her idea of good food was chicken wings and wine wasn't her thing. She followed me to Windsor and I spent several years cooking to her whims. Red wine was out of the question as she threw them up, pasta was worms, but Cajun was king. Lots of beer and hot stuff. I was to the point where I took Mr. Patak's Extra Hot Curry Paste and added hot peppers. I had several cayenne plants and got into Scotch Bonnets too. It's really bad when your dinner guests are afraid/can't physically enter the kitchen due to the chilies.


Let me say that when she left my life, I instantly bought pasta, Tuscans and enjoyed reds again. I became a disciple of Mario Batali, bought good olive oil and learned the beauty of veal. This was around the turn of the century and I began drinking a lot of sangiovese's from Italy, Australian's, and Californians.


I went to school with Steve Brook and he really guided me thru the journey to really start ‘getting' wine. I was still a Riesling fanatic and he was able to expose me(though I had huge bills at the licbo) thru the various styles and I was able to really nail what I liked. Then of course I really started drinking some good Tuscans.


When Steve started Grape Tree I was really happy for him. It is so unfortunate that his venture failed. But in retrospect, it was me going to try to find his winery that began my exposure to the local product. I like many people felt that you can't make good wine here. We're industrial not artisinal, this is Essex County not Napa. All the awful stuff we've been taught about ourselves. I would go to Kingsville to buy my herb seedlings then of course I had to go to Pelee Island. I felt that their wines were ok as I had them in the licbo, BUT I discovered their good stuff. Pinot Noir down here and it was good. Pinot Gris and it was excellent. How could this be. So from buying basil and getting lost looking for Grape Tree I discovered good wine. (note to self– gotta get to Pelee soon)


And there my journey came to where it is today. I look at my larder and it is at least 50% local. Of course I still have my Tuscans and Alsatians, Chilean Carmanieurs, Argies and South Africans but I am really getting into the locals. And guess what, they are getting better every day. And more Pinot is coming!!!!!

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