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Everything posted by jmcnally

  1. My wife and I spent the weekend in Ottawa for the National Capital Marathon (we ran the 5K race and both set new personal bests!). I had been looking forward to the weekend for a long time, because not only had we reserved a table at Beckta, but my employers had prepaid the entire meal as a thank-you for some overtime work I had done. Normally, I feel terribly guilty spending money at restaurants so this was a huge relief. Though I wasn't really worried, the amount of hype and good press Beckta has received was a little daunting. Could they live up to my expectations? Well, the short answer is yes! The long answer follows: My wife is a very conservative eater, and to a lesser extent, so am I, but I wanted to try something new, and so for an appetizer I ordered the Pan Seared Quebec Foie Gras ($16). She ordered the Local Teenage Lettuces ($10). The foie gras, served with Ontario rhubarb chutney and a few potato chips (!) was interesting, though I found it a bit too salty. The chutney helped, though. My wife's salad, which she allowed me to try, was sprinkled with delicious spiced pecans. I should mention that I work in the wine business and had been attracted by Beckta's great wine list, with a good selection of wines by the glass. This was important to me since my wife doesn't drink. I also appreciated the two different sizes available (3 oz. and 6 oz.), which allowed me to sample a number of wines. I began the meal with a 3 oz. glass of the "Steve's Blend" Riesling 2000 ($4), which Steve Beckta creates in association with Ontario's Cave Spring Cellars. It was a nice refreshing way to start the meal. I followed it with a 3 oz. glass of the Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc 2002 ($4), which was delicious with the appetizer. For the main course, I was sorely tempted to order the lamb, but was frightened by the presence of olives, so I took the safe route and ordered the Beef Tenderloin ($34). Served with Raclette Cheese-Mashed Potatoes, Charred Tomato Relish, Haricots Verts, Fresh Horseradish and Roasted Garlic Bordelaise, it was perfectly prepared. The green beans were tiny and perfect and crisp and more flavourful than any I've had before. My wife had the same thing, and though she orders her beef well-done, it wasn't dried out at all. My wine choice was the Minervois "Grande Reserve" Domaine Pujol 2001, first a 3 oz. glass ($5), and then, my choice confirmed, a full 6 oz. glass ($10). This is a delicous Rhône wine, mostly Syrah, that was very low in tannins and delicious on its own as well as with the beef. My wife had been anticipating dessert from the time we sat down, her eyes eagerly following the plates as they were dispatched to the tables around us, and so she ordered the signature dessert, "Steve's Gone Bananas" ($11), which consisted of bananas prepared several different ways. Caramelized Banana Bavaroise, Banana Gelato, Torched Banana and Banana Chip. It was more subtle than I expected, and I actually preferred it to what I ordered, the Molten Chocolate Fondant ($12), which was prepared to order and took 20 minutes. Bing Cherry Sauce, Gold Leaf and Home-Made Rocher were just a little too sweet for my tooth, but my wife enjoyed it! Accompanying our dessert were first a 2 oz. glass of Sauternes Château Partarrie 1999 ($8), which was nicely acidic, and then a 2 oz. glass of our local Cave Spring "Indian Summer" Late Harvest Riesling 2000 ($8), which seemed just a little cloying with the chocolate fondant, but which I've enjoyed on its own previously. After some coffee, my wife declared solemnly that this was the best meal she had ever eaten. I haven't even mentioned the fabulous service. Discreet, transparent, but friendly and knowledgeable, the team of servers put us at ease and answered any questions we had. There were other small touches like the caramelized butter offered as a choice with the bread selection, and the dainty chocolates served just before the bill arrived. As well, the foie gras mousse and pear jelly served on crackers that arrived within minutes after we were seated. All in all, just a fabulous evening, and one that I hope to repeat again soon, even if I have to pay for it myself! P.S. Also dining at Beckta that night were Diana Krall and her band.
  2. jmcnally

    pHat Wines

    I am the web guy for a wine agent in Ontario, and when I created our web site, I made the decision to include as much technical information on each wine we sell as possible. Therefore, pH, Total Acidity, Residual Sugar, if the producer supplies it to me, I make it available to our customers. Even if you're not "our" customer, since this is available on our site for many wines, it may be useful to you no matter where you live. (http://www.liffordwineagency.com/)
  3. jmcnally

    Virginia wineries

    My wife and I also visited Oakencroft and Williamsburg Winery, and found both of these to be worthwhile stops. It's exciting to see Virginia developing into another quality wine region. It's also a beautiful drive, visiting wineries in between the plantations!
  4. Thanks a lot for the review. It actually has me salivating in anticipation! My wife and I will be in Ottawa next weekend and are dining at Beckta on the Saturday evening. I'll be sure to post a dinner review. (Hope I remember!)
  5. jmcnally


    If I'm interested in the subject, then the longer a documentary is, the more I like it. Especially on DVD, when you can watch it in pieces. I for one am looking forward to seeing this. By the way, I just finished reading the long piece on Parker that William Langewiesche wrote for The Atlantic Monthly back in December 2000 (it was called "The Million-Dollar Nose"). I wonder if Nossiter got the idea for the film after reading this fascinating article.
  6. I live right down the street and have enjoyed their croissants, baguettes and pains au chocolat. When they first opened, you'd have to call ahead to make sure they weren't already sold out of bread. Haven't been to the restaurant yet, but heard good things.
  7. jmcnally


    Thanks for the heads-up. I'm a bit concerned because I saw the director's last film (2000's "Signs and Wonders") and really disliked it. That wasn't a documentary, though, and I think he was out of his league. At the Toronto International Film Festival premiere, where I saw it, he was so excitable (and high?) at the post-screening Q&A that he fell off his chair. Maybe he'd already been into some of Mr. Parker's recommendations by that point. Any news of a theatrical release yet?
  8. For readers in Ontario (Canada), I work for the agent for Zerbina wines, Lifford Wine Agency (www.liffordwineagency.com). We are able to sell directly to consumers in case lots, and we deliver all over the province. Please drop me a line if you're interested. Sorry for the plug, but sometimes people don't know where to find these treasures. They're certainly not widely available in our government monopoly retail stores.
  9. Interesting. I work for the Ontario agent for this wine and have therefore tasted Lots 32 and 33 (both yummy). I wonder what they've tinkered with. Since it's a non-vintage blend, you'd think they could achieve a fairly high level of consistency. That is, if they're not just experimenting with each lot.
  10. Introduction: I live in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, where our provincial government operates a monopoly (called the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, hereafter the LCBO) over the sale and importation of alcoholic beverages. I work for a wine "agent" (ie. we import but must warehouse our products with the LCBO who add their government taxes and markups) as their webmaster/consumer marketing guy (and consumer marketing is pretty constrained as there are no other places to purchase bottles other than the local LCBO stores. Consumers must buy cases. But I digress.). One of the good things the LCBO does (and there are some!) is to conduct educational courses and tastings. As a birthday/Valentine's Day present this year, my wife Brooke bought me a ticket to the Premium Bordeaux tutored tasting at the Summerhill LCBO. Being pretty close to completely ignorant about Bordeaux, I feared it might be wasted on me, but I had a good time and tasted some great wines. The focus was on wines from the right bank (St. Emilion, Pomerol). Still not sure it's worth the $125, though. Here are the wines we tasted and some of my very rudimentary observations (prices are in Canadian dollars, and the CSPC number is a numbering system used in liquor stores across Canada). We scored each of the wines personally and then Paul Farrell, the product consultant conducting the tasting, told us what Parker had given them. I'll include my scores and Parker's: 2000 Chateau Beauséjour Duffau-Lagarrosse ($139.95, CSPC 933812) — this was a very soft and smooth wine with a long finish. Not terrifically complex, but lots of fruit. (Me: 87, Parker: 92) 2000 Chateau Franc Mayne ($94.00, CSPC 995498) — I found this even smoother despite the more pronounced tannins. It felt more acidic and complex. I believe this is what critics mean when they say a wine has more structure. I could see this wine having much more aging potential. (Me: 89, Parker: 93) 2000 Chateau Rouget ($97.00, CSPC 987123) — this Pomerol wine was very distinct from the two previous wines, which were from St. Emilion. I found it sharper and more acidic while at the same time less tannic. There was more oak character but I found this wine very drinkable. If you can even use the word "value" when talking about wines of this calibre, this wine was the best value of the bunch. (Me: 90, Parker: 90) 1988 Chateau Le Bon Pasteur ($199.00, CSPC 913608) — this may be the oldest wine I've had the opportunity to taste. Though the fruit has muted with age, the other flavours (leather, wood, herbs) made this a very interesting taste experience. The tannins were still holding well, too. (Me: 90, Parker: 89) 1999 Chateau Cheval Blanc ($319.00, CSPC 742791) — this was the only wine I wrote down a note for the nose, which immediately reminded me of milk chocolate. Tasting it was a bit of a letdown, though. Despite being smooth and plush, with a long finish, it wasn't as lively as the nose led me to expect. (Me: 91, Parker: 93) 1999 Chateau Ausone ($274.95, CSPC 744151) — this was more like it. More tannic than the Cheval Blanc, but also (perhaps because of the tannin) livelier. I could taste just a bit of wood. Overall, very very nice. And this price is a significant reduction from the LCBO's regular price of $350. Still, I didn't buy any… (Me: 93, Parker: 95) I thought a good idea for the LCBO would be for them to offer attendees a 10% discount on the tasted wines until, say, the end of the month. The incentive of tasting was, alas, not quite enough to get me (or anyone else, that I noticed) to purchase any of these beauties. I'd be very interested in any of your experiences with any of these wines (or other Bordeaux).
  11. Sounds like a great time. I'm in Toronto, too. I actually work for Lifford Wine Agency, which is the agent for Phelps (and about 60 other producers) in Ontario. I've only been here a year, and still consider myself a wine novice, but my most sublime wine experience (so far!) has been tasting the 1989 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron, from just across the road from Lalande. Where did you gather, and how were you able to bring the wines in? Part of my job is consumer marketing and due to LCBO regulation, I find it hard to organize any sort of tasting without running afoul of the law...though we did host a huge tasting on May 5 that was well-attended.
  12. jmcnally

    Wine Blog

    Just discovered this! Thanks Carolyn! I work for a wine importer here in Toronto and though I have visited Napa and Sonoma before, I've never had this up close and personal look at the vine's life cycle. Keep up the great work.
  13. ozgirl06, hurry with that Beckta review! My wife and I are coming up in a couple of weeks and have a reservation there. I've heard only good things, especially about the level of service. I work for a wine importing agency and I know we sell them wine and the owner (Stephen Beckta) is a former sommelier with quite a resume. For me, anyway, part of a good restaurant experience is having good choices of wine by the glass along with someone knowledgeable to serve it. I'll let you know how our experience was in a few weeks...
  14. The article was about Walla Walla and was in the October 15 issue (with Robert Mondavi on the cover). My wife and I will be doing a week-long trip to the Okanagan (British Columbia) wine country and will be spending a few days in the Yakima/Walla Walla area as well. Any recommendations for restaurants and/or winery visits would be welcomed.
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