ON THE NAME
When it comes to Montreal, I feel like a moth hypnotized by bright lights. . I attended last weekend's annual Passion Vin fundraising, which has now raised more than $2 million for the Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital Foundation. It featured eight major wine icons from around the world: Pommery Champagne, Joseph Drouhin, Château Gazin, Château Pontet-Canet, Château Margaux, Mas de Daumas Gassac, as well as Tenuta San Guido, producer of Sassicaia, and Torres from Spain. Meals were designed by the chefs from Leméac, Latini and Club Chasse & Pêche. Tickets went for $1,750 and all 400 disappeared instantaneously after being released.
For the first time, getting to Montreal was actually fun. Porter Airlines cut my travel time and airfare cost in half. It took less than two hours from my front door in High Park. Better yet, the stress-free business-class only-service, includes complimentary wines. The very tasty VQA Ontario white Jackson-Triggs 2005 Proprietor's Edition Chardonnay hit the spot with its lively, ripe, lemon-melon-pear flavours. Apparently the "Proprietor's Edition" is a licensee-only product. I have been told that it is identical to the untasted JT 2005 "Proprietor's Reserve" (526251) on the LCBO general list. The best deal is ten fully transferable non-prime time flights at an astonishing $1,113 taxes included (to see the Firm Porter Pass click here).
Kicking off the two-day Passion Vin fundraiser was an outstanding vertical of the Pommery's deluxe Cuvée Louise Brut Champagne led by Thierry Gasco, a leading oenologist and chef de cave since 1992. Of the 6 vintages tasted ('98, '96, '95, '90, '89 and '81), the 1989 was absolutely sublime. While there is nary a bottle of Pommery in Ontario, the SAQ offers a choice of five different editions of bubblies.
It was standing room only at the presentation by Margaux's managing director/oenologist Paul Pontallier. The exceptionally attractive Chateaux Margaux 1999 soared over the other vintages presented (2002, 2001, 1995, 1989). Only two bottles of 2003 are available at the LCBO (595850) for $945 - to see click here. This is surprising since the price in the upcoming November Classics Collection is $1,099.
From Italy, of six vintages of Sassicaia were tasted with both the 2002 and 2003 showing nicely. Alas, there's no stock at Vintages. Best old wine was the 1982 Mas de Dumas presented by the inimitable, animated, 83-year-old owner Aimé Guibert.
From Spain, Miguel Torres Jr. enticed attendees with his delicious 1999 Grans Muralles, which showed wonderful complexity with ripe plums, violets and hazelnuts. As always, service by the team of Quebec sommeliers was extremely good. My only reservation was that there seemed to be more corked wines surfacing than ever before.
Skipping the informal impromptu winemaker's dinner at Latini, I was able indulge in a great wine-free feast at a tiny, hip bistro in Vieux Montreal which opened just over a year ago. Garde Manger serves stunningly fresh seafood, including delectable oysters from New Brunswick. I had a wonderful rare tuna steak on a perfectly cooked bed of delectable lemon risotto - good to the last grain.
Forget the wine, master shucker, co-owner and chef extraordinaire Chucky Hughes has a clamato based rendition of the Bloody Caesar that is not to be missed. It features 3-ounces of vodka, an explosive hot tangy spice rim with giant shrimp and succulent crab leg perched precariously on the lip. Two of these and you're under the table. As the evening progresses, the place really starts hopping. So if tabletop dancing isn't your cup of tea, you might aim to leave by 11.
The great discovery of the trip was Le Marche des Saveurs du Quebec, an outstanding boutique beside the Jean Talon market. It opened in July 2000 as a showcase for Quebec producers. The concept was simple: allow producers to present their products on a consignement basis. It gave them a window to present their wares, interface with the public and do tastings.
Of course, we all know that Quebec cheese is world class and Marché has over 250 different Quebec artisanal selections. And what better with cheese than wine. Marché has a remarkable wine section featuring 52 producers and 265 products. Store owners Suzanne and Tony Drouin explain that the wine section is now separated from the rest of the store and that the space is leased by the MSQ directly to wine producers.
The results have been staggering. While Quebec wine accounts for less than 1% of annual SAQ sales (approximately 160,000 units) in the entire SAQ chain of 450 retail outlets, Le Marché alone sells 40,000 units in its miniscule 800 sq. ft. outlet. Proof positive that there is nothing like innovative free enterprise to help local producers reach their audience.
I managed to do a comparative tasting of Quebec's sweet liquid gold - cidre de glace. With more than a dozen producers, this stuff can give Ontario icewine a real run for the money. Of course, it's almost impossible to find the iced cider at the LCBO. My highlight was a stunningly delicious Frimas La Face Cachée de la Pomme 2004 which retails in the $40 range (per 375 ml bottle). It's simply devine. Another very sound, albeit less expensive choice (under $25), is Leduc-Piedimon 2005 Recolte d'Automne Cidre de Glace, which is made from Spartan and Empire apples. To visit the Marché website click here.
Finally, those searching for what I consider to be the best weekday
lunch in Canada are strongly advised to book a seat at classy Chez
L'Epicier, a wonderful establishment in Vieux
Montreal - 311 Rue St. Paul East. The food is truly spectacular and
reasonably priced, with a complete lunch running under $20. The chef/owner
Laurent Godbout is one of the most
talented chefs in the country. Call 514-878-2232.
- 2007 Tasting Note Database
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Copyright Food & Beverage Testing Institute of Canada