Continuing my quick look back at the past year, here are the rest of my most memorable wine experiences, in no particular order:
6. La Paulée de Meursault: A friend is a member of the Toronto chapter of the Confrèrie des Chevaliers de Tastevin, a rather exclusive Burgundy-lovers’ group, which shares uncanny similarities with the arcane rituals of Fred Flintstone’s Water Buffalo Lodge. I suspect, however, that the food and wine is better here than in Bedrock. This dinner featured the wines of Meursault, and was a great opportunity to taste some older vintages as well as the amazing 2002s.
7. The Point: For my birthday, my wife took me to our favorite resort, the Point, in upstate New York. Formerly the Rockefeller family’s Great Camp, it is an elegant retreat in the middle of the woods, on the shores of Saranac Lake. Best of all, they take their wine program very seriously, and have an impressive cellar.
8. California Wine Fair: I was invited to speak at the trade luncheon at this year’s California Wine Fair in Toronto, and was reminded once again how the wine business is like a friendlier music business—where big business meets small artisans, and also where an even bigger, assembly-line mentality cranks out products of mixed quality. And, how occasionally, the big producers can still put out crowd-pleasers that remind people how quality and accessibility need not be mutually exclusive.
9. Delmonico Steakhouse, Las Vegas: One of the greatest perks of being asked to do this blog has been the opportunity to meet Kevin Vogt, master sommelier and wine director for Emeril Lagasse’s Vegas properties. I had the chance to have a spectacular dinner and some even better drinks with Kevin when we played Vegas. He’s a wealth of knowledge, a great guy, and not a bad blackjack player, either!
10. 1985 Bollinger: Along with all the good nights this year, others were bittersweet. We shared this bottle with our friend Roger Wils, the chef and owner of Toronto’s Café Brussel, on its last night on earth, to celebrate 21 amazing years in business.
When we moved into Toronto’s Riverdale neighborhood, we discovered Café Brussel at the end of our street. It was a quaint little Franco-Belgian bistro with a great list of Belgian beers and some decent wines, mostly from the Côtes-du-Rhône and California. We became friendly with Roger, and on his Monday nights off, we would get together and taste wine. With Roger, my wife and I grew our love of wine, and, together, we learned about different regions, styles and producers, especially Champagne.
We watched his restaurant grow in popularity until eventually he moved into a bigger, beautiful room around the corner, which he renovated in impeccable Art Deco style, with his own hands. His wine list grew; his Champagne list became the best in the city. Wine Spectator gave him the Best of Award of Excellence. But after 9/11, SARS and the decline in the tourist trade in Toronto, Roger found it increasingly difficult to make ends meet.
He went out with a bang—the food was as good as it had ever been—but I miss the restaurant. It was my local; it is where my children learned the joys of fine dining; it’s where I expanded my palate for wine, and I have so many fond memories of evenings spent there with friends and family, not least Roger Wils. We wish him the best in whatever he chooses to do next, and we wish all of you a happy and healthy 2007!
Ian Tarrant — Ontario, Canada — December 30, 2006 4:33pm ET
Kal Tobias — December 31, 2006 11:01am ET
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