My apologies for the long absence since the previous posting. I have been frantically busy for the last year, witness to some fascinating gastronomic moments which I will attempt to share when a quiet moment arises in the weeks to come. There will be more such moments now that Toronto Life and I have parted company. A couple of days ago, the magazine’s editor, Sarah Fulford, asked me in to the Verity members’ lounge for an espresso and explained that she was redesigning Toronto Life in time for the August issue and that I no longer fitted in with the plans. In truth, I have felt uncomfortable there for quite some time, the magazine’s current editorial tone not really in tune with the way I like to write. But it was a good run – 23 years as a columnist, writing about Toronto restaurants, a subject I love, for some extraordinary editors, starting with the incomparable Joseph Hoare.
Next day I was back in the same building for a happier occasion – a brilliant lunch in the private room at George with Paul Pontallier, general director of Château Margaux, and various illustrious colleagues. We tasted some delectable things, including Ch. Margaux 1996 and 2004, the latter a super wine with all the elegance, finesse, grace, perfume and balance of a great vintage but lacking only a modicum of extra intensity to be a great vintage, according to Pontallier. He made the wine sound like a dazzling beauty who can’t quite keep up with the conversation. As if anyone would really care…
To begin we tasted the white wine produced at Château Margaux, Pavillon Blanc 2008. This is a spectacular treat, first produced in 1920 and from 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc. The selection process is meticulous, with 60% of the total crop rejected in 2008 – even more in 2009. Ripe Sauvignon Blanc from this obsessively cherished vineyard tastes different from the varietal wines we’re typically used to – none of that shrieking vegetal character – especially when it has been flattered by a priceless oak program that encourages and educates the fruitiness and the floral aromas without leaving any obvious wooden mark. You would swear there was Semillon in there, but there isn’t. They only make about 800 cases of this white and it sells for around $400 a bottle, mostly to Japan and Russia. Interestingly, it is a much more robust food wine than one might imagine. Chef Lorenzo Loseto challenged it with a brilliant amuse of smoked black Alaskan cod over crushed shiitake mushrooms, a cube of rich cauliflower mousse, a little structure of white asparagus and orange fruit with a very tart vinaigrette – an intelligent and piercing cross-examination. The wine responded gracefully but firmly, never nonplussed.
I’m starting a new book that will attempt to describe all the most delicious things I have eaten and drunk in my life so far. I think the Pavillon Blanc will make it into the ms. As will Château Margaux 2009, still in barrel, if I ever have the opportunity to taste it. Paul Pontallier told us he had never seen a vintage like it – so fine – such tannins but such soft tannins – so elegant but also the most concentrated wine Château Margaux has ever made… And it’s still a baby, a long way from even being bottled. Something to dream about.