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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

World's Lurchest Wine Writer - The Gangsta of the Grape - The Sultan of Shiraz - The Buccaneer of Burgundy - The Prince of Pinot Noir - Yellow Tail's Bane - Locus of the Ladies' Focus - Wielder of the trousered Hammer of Thor - I have arrived to rescue the wine world from overly-serious, rigid, deconstructionist, rooster juice peckerwoods who'd never dream of gettin' a tattoo or crackin' a smile. I am without a doubt, the smartest, funniest and toughest sumbitch in the entire wine industry. And I aint goin' away. All disputes will be settled bare-knuckled in the Octagon. You heard me. Oh, and by the way...Bite me crank!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Deacon, the Distillery District, and Jack the Ripper!

Transcript of the Sworn Testimony of one
Deacon Dr. Fresh AKA " The Deacon"
given at Toronto Police Service - 51 Division
11:58 PM, Wednesday November 28th, 2007

(Italics are the voice of Inspector Gregson of Homicide.)

Deacon Dr. Fresh's deposition begins:

I arrived at 55 Mill Street in the Distillery District at approximately 5:20 PM, by taxi. It was already dark, and damnably cold, and I began to search for Building 4, the location of Gibsone Jessop Gallery where the Foster's Wine Event was taking place. It was getting damp, and I pulled my Inverness cape tightly about me in defense against the wretched chill. Call it a premonition if you like, but I shivered as I opened the door of the hansom cab and then the driver made an odd comment just as I was climbing down to the kerb. He said "Perfect night for a murder."
He said that to you?
I think so. But I didn't hear him clearly as his horse neighed at that moment. I suppose he might have said "Step carefully sir". He was very colourful though.
Are you saying he was a black fellow?
No, he was just colourful. You know...dressed in festive harlequin clothing as one sees so much these days.
Is that when you found the body?
No. I began looking for the gallery where the wine tasting was to take place. It was very deserted though, and I felt like I'd stepped into the 1880's, the era of the Whitechapel murders. It was especially eerie in light of the driver's comment when I paid him the 8 shilling fare.
What did he say then?
Hard to be sure, really, what with the noise of the wind. It was either "Try not to get your jugular vein slit, governor!", or it might have just been "Good night sir!"
What occurred next? Is that when you found the corpse?
No inspector. It took me awhile to locate building 4 as I mentioned. It was really quiet though. Just the sound of the wind and the usual cackling call from the prostitutes that one typically encounters in the Distillery District at that hour.
So what happened next?
Well...I was just turning the corner of one of those restored liquor buildings, and then I saw it.
What specifically?
There on the ground, next to a few rubbish bins was a decrepit old slag dressed in cheap black lace - she looked like a street walker with all that makeup - and she was crumpled in a heap with her throat slit from ear to ear.
Was there any blood you could see?
Well that's the strange thing. With such an affront to the throat, one typically expects to see a lot of both bright arterial and darker venous blood. Also, I would expect some degree of post-mortem lividity, depending of course on how long the corpse has been lying there. But there was none. No evidence of blood anywhere near the body at all.
How do you explain this?
Well...I knelt down under the gas lamp for a better look. That's when I realized I was looking at a burlap sack full of bottles that had been left next to the dustbins. It must have fallen over. Then the absence of blood made complete sense.
I'm sure it did. So you didn't see any dead bodies yet?
Not yet, no. Instead I found the gallery and was glad to get inside. I felt like it was a real relief getting indoors and all.
Because you knew there was a murderer about?
No, it was just a lot warmer inside.
Who was there at the Gallery?
Rama Zuniga, the woman who sent me the invite from Foster's Wine Estates Canada...Beppi from the Globe and Mail...Also Dean Tudor and Michael Pinkus, the wine writers, who were seated at a table crowded with glasses half-full of red liquid.
Are you referring to drinking different blood types?
No. Just some Californian and Australian red wines.
Californian reds. I thought Foster's ran the event...They're supposed to be Australian...
They did run the event, and they are an Australian Company. But Foster's handles some good Californian wine, including Beringer, among others. I quite liked the '05 Stag's Leap Napa Valley Chardonnay...
Because of the Stag's mythical connection to the horned god of witchcraft?
No, not at all. It was just a nice wine...but as I was drinking the super-mellow '03 Stag's Leap Napa Valley Cab Sauv, the California Connection suddenly hit home...
What did you realize?
I looked around the brick walls and at the smiling servers, all doing their best to act so natural, and I realized that the Zodiac killer's reign of terror was in San Francisco...California. He was never caught, was he?
No. He wasn't.
That's what I thought. And when you add the fact that Jack the Ripper was never caught either, it all started to make a terrifying sense. Another reign of terror, or in this case a "reign of terroir" was about to take place.
Is that when the murder happened?
No, not yet. More of the attendees kept arriving, and I began sampling some more of the wines with Dean Tudor and Michael Pinkus, including "The Grange", Australia's most famous red wine. Then things got both strange and dangerous.
How specifically did things get dangerous?
Well...Pinkus swirls his wine a little too vigorously. Think of a combination of a blender, a cement mixer, and that Rotor ride at the CNE. He wobbles it while he swirls, and he doesn't look at the glass either, because he's too busy talking. I couldn't help thinking that someone was going to get wine all over them.
Red red...blood...
Yes. And when you factor in the way the earth will wobble when the Mayan calendar ends on December 21st 2012, it all gets so terrifyingly clear. I noticed too that the walls were made of rather old granite. I couldn't help but think how dangerous one of those blocks would be in the hands of a killer. You'd just have to rip one out of the wall, approach a victim quietly and use it to smash in his brain pan.
Indeed. What was Tudor doing at this point?
The same thing he always does: eating... really, really well. He has a knack for finding the best food. It's almost supernatural. I mean, he'll pick up a piece from a rack of lamb and through some legerdemain, he manages to get 2 of them, stuck together. It's uncanny how he does this...
Are you saying he's a high-ranking Satanist who has sold his soul to the devil in return for some sort of occultic gustatory dining power?
No. I think he's probably just got big hands. Plus he's been to a lot of these events and knows how they work.
What happened next?
Well...I recall sampling some beautiful Wolf Blass Platinum Label Shiraz that tasted like pepper and blueberry juice. It was quite delicious. Just then, a man with glasses who must have worked for the gallery, glared at Pinkus and gave him a really dark look.
Are you saying the man with glasses was a black man?
No. He was just angry. I think he thought Pinkus was going to splash wine on the artwork. Did you ever see that movie where the man goes insane in an art gallery and splatters blood all over the paintings?
The Remains of the Day?
No, I can't remember the name of the film. Anyway, this would have been just like that if Pinkus' glass had been filled with blood and he'd been swirling even harder and had managed to get past the staff and stand really close to the paintings. It struck me as being an incredible coincidence...
The film you're referring to...Were there lions in it that wandered away and then came back?
No...I think that was Born Free.
So what occurred next?
Well like I said, I was sipping this incredible Wolf Blass Platinum that probably goes for forty pounds a bottle, and I began to feel really dizzy. Everything began to spin and I saw Pinkus grinning at me through a shimmering miasma of purple and black.
So Michael Pinkus is a coloured chap?
No the miasma was purple and black. I remember thinking just before I lost consciousness that this was the end. I recognized the unmistakable symptoms. I'd been slipped laudanum and would be found in the alley with my own carotid severed, surrounded by Zodiacal symbols, written on the ground in chalk.
But you didn't die...
No. It turned out that I wasn't even blacking out. I'd just consumed a lot of wine and was feeling it a bit when we walked around the room. But then it happened...
What happened?
More and more people kept arriving and there were a lot of canapes circulating, and a huge amount of high-cholesterol cheese - brie and such - on the table. It suddenly struck me that in such a crowd, if the Ripper was present and was carrying one of the skewers from the tikka chicken and had dipped the tip in cyanide or ricin, he could easily mingle and stab people at his leisure. By the time we noticed people collapsing around us in agonizing death throes it would be too late and he'd get us all. At this point, I took to standing with my back to the wall to better defend against a ricin attack.
Is that when the murder happened? Did the killer use this moment to strike?
No. Although a very frightening thing happened just then. Pinkus had taken to swirling his wine even more violently and I suddenly noticed a man staring downward, but in Pinkus' direction. He was holding a Taser, getting ready to shoot him. I grabbed a metal tray from a waiter and thrust it between them to deflect the high-voltage darts.
But he must have missed Pinkus though, because he's unharmed.
Yes, he's actually fine. It turns out it wasn't a Taser at all. It was just an old-style cel phone and the man was staring at the keypad as he made a phonecall. He just happened to be facing Pinkus at the time.
So what happened then? was getting a bit stuffy and so Pinkus and I decided to go for a beer and some food - you know; a sit down dinner. There'd been a lot of great appetizers and the event was a huge success, but it was just time to leave. On our way out, the organizers gave us each a black paper bag with some items in it. A sharp corkscrew, a Christmas CD, a small plastic penguin and a bottle of red wine. It was all very Gothic and terrifying. Especially the black bag. I kept thinking of charred bodies and dental records. Then I realized that all the attendees would get identical "gifts" and we'd have 60 drunken wine fanatics, wandering the Distillery District in the dark with miniature, symbolic black body bags containing razor-sharp corkscrews and plastic penguins. I had a really horrible feeling about the way the evening was headed.
What about Dean Tudor?
Well...he was still eating...a lot...but I thought he'd join us for dinner.
But he flatly refused?
Yes. I remember thinking how extraordinary it was that he'd eat continuously from 2 PM, but then wouldn't come out for dinner.
How did he seem? Frightened?
No, not frightened. More...preoccupied. Like he had another appointment that he couldn't talk about...It was very odd.
What about Michael Pinkus?
He was all for dinner and really went out of his way to make Dean welcome. You know...we wanted him along. He's got a tremendous sense of humour. He can be quite dark!
Are you stating for the record that Dean Tudor is a black man?
No... He's white...I think he's related to the Kings of England...Henry the Eighth, I think...
Where did he go?
Well...The three of us headed out into the night...into the dark... As we made our way through the damp, cobbled streets, naturally I was on full alert. In the pocket of my Inverness, I cradled my Webley Break-Top revolver. If the Ripper and Zodiac were creeping about, I was going to go out in a blaze of glory. That's when the three of us, walking together through the cold wind, suddenly reached the crossroads.
Like Robert Johnson. The black chap who sold his soul to the devil to be able to play the blues?
No. Just the crossroads of Mill Street and Trinity. Then we found the Mill Street Brewery. Michael Pinkus said something about us being the three musketeers. I jokingly said something like: Yeah, Mickey, D'Artagnan, and Darth Vader. It seemed hilarious after all that wine.
What about Tudor?
That's when we separated ways. There was a sprinkle of snow in the air and a snowflake made my eye tear as Dean walked away into the darkness. I can still hear his feet clattering on the cobblestones. I never saw him again.
That's when he was murdered?
No...I expect he just went home on the streetcar. Lucky thing really, when you consider what a bloodbath it could have been.
Thank you for your testimony.
My pleasure, Inspector Gregson. Always glad to help the police.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Those Amazing Szabos...and more!

Rejoice! Your Deacon has returned!

And on such an auspicious occasion (being yet another brilliant update) it is incumbent upon Yours Truly to begin this posting with a more traditional greeting aimed at the "usual shower" of gainsayers who complain about the use of argot:

Toss my caber!

...and so the wonderful madness begins...

As I write this, I'm listening to Emerson Lake and Palmer's Tarkus. How many of you are old enough to remember that one? I was looking through my enormous music collection for something appropriate and in lieu of Bela Bartok settled upon the current excellent choice. And in the usual celebration of AC/DC, which fills my every waking thought, I've added a picture of another celebrant, entirely appropriate for this posting.

How about those frickin' Szabos? Now I know I should have gotten this posting out sooner, but unlike most people in the wine industry, I actually have a job and life outside of wine, and it keeps me away from time to time. But "better nate than leather", right?

A few weeks back, your humble Deacon attended an absolutely amazing Hungarian Wine event, The Tokaj Renaissance at Chez Victor at the Hotel Le Germain. Now if you never get out of Keswick, you'll never get to highly lurch events at places as cool as this. (And if you are in Keswick, put the frickin' snowmobile away for 10 minutes and pay attention!) About 40 of us were lounging around and as the rain poured hypnotically outside, John and Zoltan, the brilliant (but unrelated) Szabo brothers taught us all about the wonderful whites of Hungary. It was really cool, as we hung out with some homeys from the Hungarian Consulate and sampled some excellent wine, including a Dry Furmint, that I really liked. John was entirely up to scratch of course, expounding effortlessly on all the nuances of Hungarian wine, with Zoltan throwing in his comments and translating everything into "Transylvanian". Think of Jim Morrison channelling Bela Lugosi, and you'll get the idea. One of the Powerpoint slides said the wine was bottled in March, although they'd used the French word. Naturally I jumped all over this and asked the mock serious question:
Don't you think the winery could save a lot of money by bottling it on earth instead of shipping it to Mars?
This resulted in the usual gales of hilariously appreciative laughter that always results when someone actually gets my comic genius.

The wines were all excellent and I learned interesting facts, for instance: Tokaj is the place and Tokaji is the wine made there. I took all my usual notes in my peculiar but useful combination of Koine Greek and Japanese to stop the peckers from reading over my shoulder and getting the jump on my thoughts. The only problem is, although I write both of those languages quite well, I can't actually read either of them, so all my notes are essentially useless after the fact.

As John and Zoltan continued their brilliant and often comedic tag team explication, I noticed a motion in my peripheral vision. It was my ace homeboy, Michael Pinkus, without whose presence, wine events are essentially devoid of hilariously obscene jokes. He had been attempting to get my attention by gesturing toward me in a fairly vulgar and vaguely Italian fashion, and with the pump thus primed, he was off and running...
Then the tables were cleared and moved aside and we began sloshing around in gorgeous whites, while the extremely attentive staff prepared to serve us lunch. Dean Tudor was there too, and we hooked up with Pinkus for lunch and the frivolity continued as we raved over the Szabos' presentation and the wines they'd selected for us. Naturally, chef David Chrystian's food was unbelievable! Berkshire Pork Terrine with Apricot Gel, Braised Lamb Shank "Paprikash" served with bell peppers, glazed pearl onions, stewed tomatoes and gnocchi....etc., etc., etc. The Deaconess feeds me well, but this was a meal fit for Vlad the Impaler! We ended with a 1999 Aszuesszencia, Pajzos (try and say that 3 times fast after a couple of 8 balls of crack!) This wine actually sells for 500 Euros for a 200 ml. bottle at the winery. I'm not making this up. It was the best sweet wine I've ever had. And at that price, it damn well better be! I ordered a couple of cases...I also want to mention the phenomenal work of Chez Victor's GM/Sommelier Mark Moffatt who's yet another frickin' star! Madame Germaine ought to give him and David Chrystian a raise, based on their sterling skills.

Kudos to the amazing Szabos for another entertaining and enlightening event. If you EVER get a chance to check out one of their wine seminars, DO IT! I'm serious when I say that nobody does it better. You'll have a blast and you'll learn a lot. Thanks John and Zoli. Your Deacon lubs you.

Now let's talk Christmas gifts...We've already had some of the white stuff, and it's snowed too! Hahaha I CRACK me up...

Here's the recommended 3 gifts for this year, and you can get them all at Chapters or

Billy's Best Bottles Wines for 2008

If you haven't bought this yet, you're either an idiot or a complete bastard or both! Billy does a great job of making wine simple, approachable and a helluva lot of fun. You can shove this book in your back pocket and take it to the LCBO with you like I do. This year, all the photos are in colour too, making it real easy to find exactly what you're lookin' for. Food and wine pairings, touring the County, great Niagara wineries, it's all here. At the end of 2008 you throw it in the trash and get the newest volume. It's inexpensive and pays for itself on your first visit to the liquor store. I read it cover to cover in one sitting, it's that interesting. Buy it! You'll love it. You can get it directly from Billy and Kato at Billy's Best Bottles. There's a discount too, if you buy in bulk like I do. These books make great corporate gifts and stocking stuffers, but most of all, remember to buy one for yourself! You heard me...

Another excellent book that you'll love is The Definitive Canadian Wine and Cheese Cookbook. This is by Tony Aspler and Gurth Pretty. As the publishers say:

Distinctive cheeses, their sources and matchings. When a cheese connoisseur and an authority on wine pair up, beautiful things can happen. This is certainly the case in The Definitive Canadian Wine and Cheese Cookbook. Gurth Pretty is the author of The Definitive Guide to Canadian Artisanal and Fine Cheese, and Tony Aspler is an international wine consultant and the author of numerous books on wine. Together, these authorities have produced the essential guide to Canadian cheese uses.

Another thing that is screaming to be on your Christmas gift list is Chotzi Rosen's amazing wine game: Cork Jester's Wine Teasers. It's a great game for any size group and is easy to play. It'll teach you about wine too, if you're not against edjukashun. Chotzi's only gonna give you the real deal, so you can be sure this game rox! Build your own cellar while raiding the other player's bottles! It's designed so anyone can play it with a chance of winning, whether you're a brilliant wine genius like me, or just Robert Parker. Click on the link to get more info. I've already ordered it, because I want it in time for Christmas.

Tune in soon for my Australian Wine Update!

OK. I gots to split for a Fosters Wine Event in the Distillery District with the Deaconess.

Y'all stay lurch!

Deacon Dr. Fresh

Smarter than plants

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Contest Winners!!!

Greetings Friends and Peckers!

The votes are in and the winners have their tickets by now. I'm speaking, of course, of my brilliant dinner party contest I ran back in October, the Grand Prize being a pair of tickets for the Gourmet Food and Wine Expo.
Here are our winners:
Derek Thorne, Helen Crowe, Rob Harvie, and Rob Lockhart.
Congratulations from the Deacon!
And for all of you who look like this Munch picture because you're so shocked you didn't win, here's an explanation: Although I received over 100 submissions to the contest, some of you received an immediate disqualification for having any of the following on your list:
Bono, Mariah Carey, Britney Speers, Paris Hilton, or Hitler.
All of the winning entries showed imagination and creativity, including such luminaries as Nimrod from the book of Genesis (Derek Thorne), Hildegard von Bingen (Rob Lockhart), Ezra Pound (Helen Crowe), and Marshal McLuhan (Rob Harvie).
Thanks to Kimberly Calderbank from the Gourmet Food and Wine Expo for providing the prizes!
Look for the next and very overdue issue "Those Amazing Szabos Again!".
It'll be out soon.
I'm flyin' out the door to the Expo VIP event as I speak...
You heard me.
Deacon Dr. Fresh
Better than Bob Barker

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