Autumn 2003:

Nov. 3: Italian Trade Commission tasting, 416/598-1566

Nov. 5-9: Cornucopia: Whistler Village, festivals@ tourismwhistler. com

Nov. 7: Graham Beck winemaker’s dinner, EPIC, Royal York, 416/860-5097

Nov. 7-9: Ottawa Wine Show, 613/567-2718, Nov. 8-9: Vintages Wine Auction, 416/364-1864, ext. 230

Nov. 12: Australian Chardonnay, Dr. WineKnow, 416/261- 0855

Nov. 19: Vintages Young Winemakers/ Chefs, Distillery Complex, 416/365-5928

Nov. 20-23: Gourmet Expo, Convention Centre, 905/522-6117, ext. 306.

Nov. 27: Beaujolais Festival, Inter-Continental, 416/205-9820

Nov. 27: Pinot Noirs, Australian Wine Society,

Dec. 3: Wine Aid: VQA Toasts Ontario, Royal York, 416/864-6772

Jan. 15: Wine Aid: France Toasts Ontario, AGO, 416/864-6772

Ch. 'Uddersfield One Hot Vintage
Paul Rogers has a flourishing minivineyard in his garden at Hallas Rd., Huddersfield, Yorkshire. His Silvaner vines, after a scorching summer, have produced grapes good enough to create Château Huddersfield. "It's as good a proof as you would want that the climate is changing," he says.

Clean Sweep!
Assuming they were too old to be drinkable, cleaners tossed out 2,000 vintage wines, and Cognacs, from Nicolae Ceausescu's private cellar at the People's Palace in Bucharest. The mistake was found when employees went for 621 bottles to be sold for 45,000 euros to a collector, and found only buckets and mops.

Weapons of...Malt Destruction
US agents (bless 'em) are monitoring a tiny distillery on the island of Islay (pop. 200, 18,000 sheep) for chemical weapons.

Much hilarity has ensued at Bruichladdich whose webcams show Internet whisky buffs the distillation process, after the Defense Threat Reduction Agency demanded to know why one camera was no longer working.

Say the spooks: "...we are committed to monitoring commercial facilities where they would be able to make chemical weapons." "Bizarre!" says Bruichladdich's boss Martin Raynier.

Vintages just released his 15-year-old single malt, free of WMD but packing explosive flowery, seaweedy, salty, peaty flavors (92) $99.95.

Younger & Wiser
You are what you drink, thanks to William Younger's beer, courtesy of Scottish & Newcastle Breweries, and to Wiser’s Canadian Whisky, surging past the half-million case annual sales mark this year.

Younger's is a youthful taste flashback and Wiser's at almost 150 years old, is really going strong...and smooth. Loyalty’s clearly no problem for Wiser's, a very Canadian success.

Canadian whisky dates back to the 18th century. Before that, demon rum ruled.

Grains of corn, barley, malt and rye are milled, mashed, fermented, distilled, and matured in charred white oak casks, Wiser’s De Luxe for 10 years, Very Old for 18.

"Horses should hurry, but whisky must take its time," pronounced J.P. Wiser, way back when. Today's master blender Mike Booth makes Wiser's the same careful way. No slouch, he's also had a hand in shaping Canadian Club, Ballantine's scotch,Tía María, Kahlua and Malibu rum. "Full-flavored taste is what Wiser's is all about," says Mike.

Pitching Their Own Wines
English ex-cricketers Ian Botham and Bob Willis are joining the growing celeb lineup launching their own wine brands, with help from Oz winemaker Geoff Merrill. The Cab Sauvignon and Chardonnay will sell through Tesco labeled Botham Merrill Willis or (naughty!) BMW for short.

Another new wine, honoring the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia, is being bottled at Clos du Bois in Geyserville, Sonoma.

Kick Back and Pour...
Canadians' ultimate wine/food fantasy is (by a vote of 39%) lobster and Chardonnay, or a juicy steak with Cabernet Sauvignon (31%). Most would enjoy them at dinner with friends and family, on a deck watching the sunset, or (in California) at a San Francisco wine bar. Most enjoy wine a couple of times a week, spending $10-$20 a bottle. Almost 3,000 Elm Street readers participated in the Redwood Creek Wine Lifestyle Study.

Crushing Blow for Kiwis...
UK distributors are pressing NZ wineries to drop prices, because of the rising kiwi dollar, competition, and a flood of Sauvignon Blanc.

Marlborough producers could lose share because customers can buy quality wine elsewhere. Forrest Estate owner John Forrest says: "The bubble has well and truly burst. It's just a question of how much it hemorrhages. I'm hunkering down. I'm one of the most cashed-up wineries in New Zealand, and I still feel frightened.

"The smart people overseas know how much has been planted here how much is coming on line, so they know if we don't discount our product, they will have an ample amount to pick and choose from." His main distributor has asked for an extra month to pay, and repricing for the 2004 vintage.

All-American List for S&W
Smith & Wollensky's ten US steakhouses are switching to an all- American wine list, offering 650 stellar verticals, cult wines, classics, and "undiscovered gems". "We took a chance with American wines in 1977 and it paid off," says CEO Alan Stillman. "Now we’re backing them 100%."

The new list has Opus, Mondavi Reserve, Harlan, Colgin, and Bryant, and comers like Brewer-Clifton, Palomino, Amuse Bouche, and Tandam. Plus a great collection of the sublime '97 California Cabs. The rollout starts from NYC through Chicago, Philadelphia, D.C., Dallas, Miami, Columbus, New Orleans, Vegas and Houston.

At the same time, author/educator, Kevin Zraly, wine director at Windows on the World from '76 to '01, joins S&W as VP, training staff and writing a new book on American wines.

[American wine sales have soared 500% since '77 and now contribute $45 billion to the U.S. economy. The US ranks #3 in world wine consumption, #4 in production].

French sales in the US have taken a beating because of Iraq, but arrivals of the superb 2000 Bordeaux vintage are tempting buyers back. Burgundy exports to the US are down 30% in volume, 37% in value in the first six months. "All French wines are in the same boat , with volumes dipping 22%- 37% and values 22%- 40%," says Burgundy analyst Frédéric Dupray.

PS. At other restaurants in the Smith & Wollensky Group - like Cité, Park Avenue Café, Maloney & Porcelli, Manhattan Ocean Club and the Post House, all in New York, the wines of the rest of the world will continue to flow freely.

The Right Note for Fine Wine
Speech is silver, silence is golden, but classical music is (credit card) platinum for fine wines. Brahms and Beethoven seduce us into buying fancy coffees, pricey wines and luxury desserts. British researchers asked a restaurant to alternate silence, pop and classical for 18 evenings. Psychologist Adrian North says classical makes us feel cultured, sophisticated, and likelier to shell out for the high life.

* Eyedropper: clumsy ophthalmologist.

The Wages of Sin?
Aimed at the young Oz crowd, Hardy's Wicked Wines line, Lust, Greed, Envy and Flirt , has expired after the novelty wore off. However, Hardy spearheaded a record 32% wine sales jump in Q2 for US giant Constellation Brands, which acquired Hardy in January to create the world's largest wine business, logging Au$1.33bn sales.

* "Alcohol is the anesthesia by which we endure the operation of life." -- George Bernard Shaw

Gift Ideas
Samuel Smith's Selection Tadcaster, Yorkshire $13.95 LCBO 1650mL Charity begins at home, with three great English beers from a revered independent brewer (est. 1758). You get: three "Victorian pints", 18.7 fl oz each (plus a glass and two coasters) of Old Brewery Pale Ale, Nut Brown and Celebrated Oatmeal Stout, from the brewery where I once lost 8 out of 30 journalists during a tour I had (ambitiously) organized. It's all very hazy now!

Bittersweet Oatmeal's a nutritious northern specialty favored by athletes and nursing moms; malty-hoppy Pale's a sparkling amber, the perfect draft bitter. Round, nutty Brown, dating from the 16th Century would be labeled 'mild' if served on draft.

All are brewed in stone/slate 'square' fermenting tanks using ancient slow-acting yeasts that add a special sparkle. The water is drawn from a 300-year-old well and, as they say in Yorkshire, the brewery is world famous around here! Serve at 55F.

* "Wine is sunlight held together by water." -- Galileo

New Concept for Wine
Wine helps women get pregnant.

Out of 30,000 women trying to conceive, moderate wine drinkers got pregnant faster than beer or spirits drinkers or teetotalers.

They were a third less likely to take over a year and 23% less to take over two months. However, more than two glasses a day reduced fertility. The Danish Epidemiology Science Centre says it could be something in the wine, or wine drinkers just have healthier diets.

Any connection here, duh? A survey of 4,500 Americans found the word most associated with wine is "relaxed". Wine Express says: Have some Madeira, my dear, I have a small glass of it here...!

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