Deacon Dr. Fresh Wine Newsletter

A Wine Newsletter With An Edge - Definitely NOT your typical white bread, mofo, cracker, peckerwood, jank, peckercracker wine newsletter! If this info is too advanced for you, check out my other newsletter: Wine for Dix at

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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!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Billy's Best Bottles Book is Back!

Greetings Fanz and Foze!

 Is it just me, or is time passing faster than ever? The Deaconess says that Christmas follows Labour Day, and it appears that she's correct. It's actually a series of four rapid impacts: Labour Day, Thanksgiving, Hallowe'en, and then Christmas; each one hitting faster than America can attack deserving Middle Eastern nations that need to be be bombed and annihilated into freedom and democracy!

Endless war is awesome!

But I digress...On a better note, my friend Billy Munnelly has just released his 2012 edition of Billy's Best Bottles - just in time for Christmas, or to celebrate the immanent attacks on Iran's nuclear  programme, even though the Persians have not attacked anyone in the last 300 years.

Oops...there I go again...

Anyway: Despite the fact that Orwell was prescient and the world has gone mad, Billy has given us another reason to go on living, namely the best wines at the best prices. If you haven't purchased his fine book before, you need to go here and order it immediately. His method of choosing wine by mood rather than varietal, makes so much sense, you need to adopt the system, as I have. It seems the Common Man is catching on, and Billy's seminars are always sold-out at the Gourmet Food and Wine Show; something the deconstructionists and complicators need to take note of...This fabulous little book fits in your back pocket and will effortlessly guide you through the labyrinth of the Lick-Bo and safely bring you out the other side, with money in your wallet and wine that will perfectly match the way you feel. It's a real bargain too, so stock up on several copies. They make great hostess gifts or stocking stuffers for the winos on your list.

And while we're on the topic of books, check out Starlight Books in Newmarket. It's a nice Sunday afternoon jaunt from Toronto and well worth the trip. If you're still able to read anything other than texts or tweets, Starlight will have a book you'll love. It's well laid-out and there's a British Food shop in the plaza just behind it, so you can store up on Pontefract Cakes, tubes of Coleman's mustard and Worcestershire Sauce flavoured potato chips. Those who enjoy this sort of shop will find it to be just the sort of shop they enjoy.

Deacon Dr. Fresh

Awaiting the End of the World

Friday, November 04, 2011

The Deacon in Scotland!...Well...almost...

What a frickin' time I've just had! My head's just shrunken sufficiently to climb off the couch and write this blog as I listen to Canadian tenor, Peter McCutcheon singing Scotland the Brave.

Last weekend your Humble Deacon attended (as a competitor for Team Thurles) the World Bocce Championships at Allen's. Although we didn't actually win, we played so well that we would have won, if the other teams, most notably the team captained by one Jono Kuhling wasn't just a little bit better on the day in question...

Well today your Deacon was back at Allen's in response to an invite by Toronto's best-loved bon vivant, John Maxwell. John set up an amazing whisky event, by arranging lunch for 3 of us with Ian Millar, the Glenfiddich Global Brands Ambassador and Distiller, the other 2 attendees being Grano's Roberto Martello and Whisky Maestro Mark Bylok, from Spotlight Toronto. We began promptly at 12:30 with splashes of scotch (and yes I've forgotten which one) followed by flutes of McEwan's Scotch Ale, to prepare us for the incredible onslaught to follow. Now you need to understand; Although your Deacon is the World's Foremost Authority on the combination of wine and hand to hand combat, whisky is an unknown and unexplored territory. At least until today, in which I got the education of a lifetime...

We sat down for lunch as soon as Ian arrived, and it was served with the usual attentive perfection of Allen's remarkable wait staff. We began with a bottle of Grant's Best Procurable Scotch Whisky, circa late 1930's. Yes, my friends, it was over 70 years old! John Maxwell took it from his formidable personal collection, and Ian Millar ascertained the age from the style of the label and cracked it open. It was insanely good. Not being a Scotch drinker, I knew I was doomed. It was like taking your first drive in a Lamborghini Countach. You know damn well that every other car you drive, no matter how good, will be a let-down in one way or another. Then we got into lunch. We started with Roasted Root Vegetable Soup with South Asian Spices, paired with an 18 year old Glenfiddich, which was a flawless combination. Then it was on to Linguine with Lemon Zest, Chardonnay and Cream, served with a Jean-Pierre Colas 2009 Sauvignon Blanc Essence; probably the best SB I've ever had anywhere. Here's a winemaker with all the savvy in the world, who can make world-class wines when he's let loose. Bravo, Jean-Pierre, you've got the New Zealanders running scared with this magnificent white. Then it was the next course: Filet of Angus Beef Poached in Grant's Family Reserve Whisky with Turned Potatoes and Carrots, so tender you could cut it with a spoon. John gave us another magnificent VQA wine with this course; a Cabernet Merlot Misek Vineyard 2002 Malivoire.  A warm, lush red, It turned out to be a perfect pairing again, and prepared us for more Glenfiddich from various years, and I was astounded to discover how different they all were; including the rare Snow Phoenix, and a $1,000.00 bottle from 1974. We ended with Whipped Cream, Toasted Oatmeal soaked in  Glenfiddich 12 Year Old Whisky. Unbelievable. And all through this near-cosmic feast, Ian regaled us with fascinating whisky trivia and the amazing history of the Grant family and their remarkable brand.

Then it was on to coffee, served with a teaspoonful of Glenfiddich 12 year old and we retired to the bar for more whisky as we prepared for the trip home. Thank God none of us were driving. We ended with another dram of the 70 year old Grant's Best Procurable, and I bid farewell to my brothers in arms, and dragged my enormous head out the door of Allen's and out onto the hyper-reality of Danforth Avenue, having had possibly the best lunch of my life.

Here's my conclusion: Scotch is awesome! Especially Glenfiddich, and Ian Millar is the perfect spokesman - erudite, encyclopedic and engaging. And John Maxwell is still the Undefeated Greatest Host in the Effing Universe. The man is so gracious, generous and genuine, this city is not worthy of his magnificence.

Thanks for the invite, John. We love and appreciate you.

Deacon Dr. Fresh
Back to wearing a kilt

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Deacon's Back from the Emerald Isle!

Hey Peckers!

I was going to write this posting earlier, since we returned from Ireland more than a month ago, but had to wait until now to fully gather my thoughts so I could let you all know that you missed out on a Once In A Lifetime trip.You simply do not have the schema to conceive of how incredible it all was, from Chef Patti's flawless and gorgeous meals,

to the mist over the green fields and the moon over Lisheen Castle; our home for 7 glorious nights of feasting, laughter, music, drinking and camaraderie.

And we did it all...Cork Market; lunch on the cliffs overlooking the Irish Sea; eating Cashel Blue cheese with the cheesemaker; Guinness and more Guinness; local pubs and traditional musicians; Jameson's Distillery; fabulous breakfasts; comfortable coach rides through the Irish countryside, with our driver, Tony; endless wine and wine tastings, a phenomenal Awards Banquet, seeing Mary Coughan live in Cashel; winning at the dog races (the best day of Chef Patti's life); Limerick contests;

Your Deacon reciting pseudo Shakespeare from the battlements above his 4 star suite; peat fires; hurling;

soccer on our 15 acres of castle lawn; late-night dance party; fashion contest with The Deaconess winning the Colleen Award; Alice and I victorious in the 2011 Lisheen Castle Turf Bocce Tournament;

laughing like lunatics with Ken and Nicky; cooking lessons with our Chef; Tipperary scarves; drinking Kilkenny in Kilkenny; cheese and bread and butter beyond belief; the recitation of The Bastard Poem; afternoon tea and then opera sung by gorgeous Emily from the balcony of the St. Anne mansion; gallons of cider; enormous dinners, wonderful conversations by the fire; nightly King and Queen events; endless battles with the ghost, who insisted on opening our doors when we were downstairs; the Knighting ceremony complete with sword, etc., etc., etc.

Here's a picture of Kato, Billy and Chef Patti:
 It's astounding that the very trip that some of you said we wouldn't like, turned out to be not just a phenomenal vacation, but the very best week of our lives.

Thanks Billy and Kato! You are the consummate tour guides! Put us at the front of the line for the next one. Tell me when you need the deposit and I'll drop it on down to you...

Nobody does it better.

Deacon Dr. Fresh
Born English - Now Irish

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Greetings fellow head-bangers! I return today with news that is beyond wonderful. An event has transpired that is greater than the discovery of fire, and equal to the multiple thefts of Munch's The Scream. I am speaking of something more vast than the Harappan Indus Valley civilization ever aspired to be, and of greater didactic import than the Analects of Confucius. Yes, dear friends...something more brilliant than Sirius, more ingenius than the fake moon landings and more powerful than HAARP. Yes, I'm talking about my two favourite things in the world: Wine...and AC/DC! Naturally, those of you still caught between the vacuous pseudo-social concern of Bono and the pristine plastic package of Justin Bieber, will have difficulty ascertaining the particular impact of this news. Nevertheless, let's skip the usual rant and commence...

A few days back I got an email from the Hungarian 007 and my partner in crime, Zoltan Szabo. He alerted me to the arrival (in Australia at least) of 4 splendid new wines that bear the AC/DC name and Imprimatur. The significance of the amalgam of the Thunder From Down Under with Oz vino was not lost on Zoltan; who might just be the second foremost Acca Dacca fan on the planet. Here we have arguably, the greatest live rock band of all time, aligning with the formidable Australian wine industry to create a music and national product union that could only be equaled if hip-shaking Shakira put her name to Colombian cocaine.

Now I know there will be the compulsory gainsayers who will claim the Rolling Stones are "The Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World". This leads to a very simple refutation: Count them. Back when there were 5 Stones, they were very good. But how and why has a 5 piece rock band morphed into a 12 piece orchestra? There are only 4 original members, which means 8 other people! No further questions, Your Honor.

So what are these 4 spectacular wines, that promise to rival the finest Burgundy, Bordeaux and Champagnes? Well...there's Highway to Hell Cabernet Sauvignon, You Shook Me All Night Long Moscato, Hells Bells Sauvignon Blanc, and the one that intrigues me most: Back in Black Shiraz. The plonk hails from Warburn Estate, and features an album cover shot on each label, as you can see in the picture.

Sadly, the super-premium wine is not available in Canada...yet...although
Zoltan is trying to get his capable Hungarian hands on a case...

I'll let you know what happens, but it seems like the rest of the wine world has finally caught up with your humble Deacon. I've been invoking AC/DC in this wine blog for 6 years and I've been vindicated at long last.

You heard me.

Deacon Dr. Fresh
Soon to be Ireland bound...

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

In Defense of Toronto...

Greetings All and Sundry...

Once again, it falls upon me to drop the brigand persona to deal with a matter of sufficient import to warrant a more serious posting.

It's become de rigueur to lambast our fair city, particularly if one lives in BC; especially Vancouver, where it has nearly become a pathological art form. But rather than dignify their rancor with a line by line explicative response, I will instead stand in defense of Toronto the Good by stating the positives, because I love this city. I came here in 1957 as an immigrant from Britain, and although I've returned to the UK a dozen or more times, I've never regretted my late parents' decision to relocate us in downtown Canada. Permit me to elaborate...

Culture, anyone? Toronto has world class theatre, including it's own Fringe Festival, is home to The Canadian Opera Company, The Toronto Symphony, and numerous other concert, comedy, and cabaret venues. The best International artists and acts eventually wind up here. From AC/DC to Keith Jarrett, Yo Yo Ma to UFC, they all pause and perform within our city limits.

Add to that, our restaurants provide every conceivable type of food, our parklands are vast, our Islands welcoming, the bluffs breathtaking, and our transit system largely efficient and safe. Our airports provide easy access to both coasts as well as our neighbour to the south, and if you don't like flying, there's always VIA Rail.

We have great libraries, a phenomenal museum and, since the reno, an excellent art gallery too. Add to the list: Caribana, Gay Pride Day, Yonge Street, the Eaton Centre, Toronto Indy, the Annex, the Beach, the Maple Leafs, the Blue Jays, Raptors, etc. We are a diverse and tolerant city, with something for everyone, and by and large, live and let others live. Which brings me to a comparison...

A few weeks back, I was in San Antonio, the home of the Alamo, on business. I have visited Texas a few times and have always loved the warm, generous people and the massive steaks and breakfasts. San Antonio is a beautiful place. A river runs through the downtown core and creates a below street level promenade that's cool and gently lit in the evenings. There are minorities, of course, like my Algerian cab driver, who was thrilled that I understood his French, but the city primarily consists of two cultures: Texan and Mexican, who co-exist very happily. In fact, everyone in San Antonio seemed friendly, optimistic, and big-hearted; all that is best about America.

After the compulsory Alamo visit, to pay homage to my favourite knife-fighter Jim Bowie, I took a cab to the airport for my flight to DC and then home to Toronto. It was at the airport that I noticed something unusual...

I was seated in the waiting area with several hundred other travelers, when a Middle Eastern couple arrived, along with their three children. They were obviously well to do, and the kids, ranged from a tiny little girl with large dark eyes, to a boy of about 5, all the way up to the eldest, who was another boy of about 8 or 9 years of age. The kids were happy and well-behaved, and obviously enjoying the journey. The parents were what I call semi-Westernized. The father wore shorts and a ball cap and the mother wore a long robe with a beautiful, multi-coloured, striped scarf around her head. They were a good looking family, and I smiled back as the little girl smiled at me. I always smile at people, especially children, because with buzzed hair, ear-rings and 10 tattoos, I can sometimes resemble an older skinhead. Still smiling, I glanced around at the other passengers in the lounge, and I noticed that none of them would look at the Middle Eastern family. Instead they looked past them or through them, as though they were invisible. It wasn't as though the family was disliked or mistrusted as terrorists. Instead they were completely dehumanized; being treated as though they didn't even exist. It sickened and horrified me.

I plugged in my iPod and listened to Glenn Gould and when I looked up again, the parents smiled at me, and I assumed it was because I looked at them instead of through them, but it wasn't until we boarded the plane that I realized why they had connected with me from 10 feet away. Over the next half hour, the lounge filled up with more and more passengers, and the family became more and more dehumanized. It was as though everyone in the airport had been trained to ignore them.

Eventually they called the flight to Washington DC, and after the Continental Gold Club travelers had boarded, I grabbed my shoulder bag and went through the gate. I had to pass through Business Class to reach my seat, and I saw the family again, as we stopped in the aisle to permit someone to access the overhead bin. I was standing next to the father and he smiled up at me again, as did his wife, who was seated behind him. She gestured to her wrist and then pointed to my arm, and it became clear. There, emblazoned on my left forearm in large, black, in your face Arabic script, was one of my favourite tattoos.

"Hurriah" she said.

Yes, I responded. Hurriah. Freedom.

"Thank you" she said. "Thank you for that..."

No problem. No problem at all.

My wife, who is wiser than me by light-years has a wonderful rule to live by:

I will not fear, and I will not hate. Bravo, my love. Neither will I.

Add to that: I will not ignore or dehumanize. 


And that brings us back to Toronto: the greatest multi-cultural city on earth. We are hundreds of nationalities and ethnic groups; Italian, Guyanese, Mohawk, Swedish, Thai, Ecuadorian, Persian, and just about everything else. We interact, buy, sell, rub shoulders in the subway, play music and cook for each other. We really are The World.

And I still love it here.

Deacon Dr. Fresh

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Real Men Wear Pink!

I have survived. There is nothing to say, beyond I have survived the greatest overwhelm of hospitality that any wine writer has ever had to endure in the history of the planet. Yes, my dear friends, despite the concerted and stalwart attempts of Billy Munnelly, John Maxwell and the sterling staff of Allen's to kill your humble Deacon with crushing kindness, exceptional ambiance, fantastic friends, stalwart service, wonderful wine and fabulous food, I have lived to tell the tale...and what a tale it is, dear friends, worthy of the spiritual offspring of Wordsworth, Chaucer and Johnson, which I am.

Men in Pink is an annual celebration of the best VQA rosé wine Ontario winemakers have to offer. Co-chaired by bon vivants His Grace Billy Munnelly (a perennial favourite of the Deacon) and Toronto's reigning Hospitality King, His Excellency John Maxwell; I had turned down two previous invitations due to pressing work demands. Now that the Second Great Depression has arrived full Force 10 (despite near-universal denial and the printing of untold trillions of dollars in quantitative easing) at least I have the time to go to a few more events before the sky falls completely, the Aliens arrive, or the Mayans prove to be correct. Well this time, I got to go, and arrived at Allen's on Wednesday at 1:10, which was unfashionably early for a 1PM event. To my shock and surprise, the place was already rocking; many attendees had apparently arrived on Sunday and had been drinking ever since. We were all decked-out in full regalia, our entry tickets consisting of all things pink; shirts, ties, hats and in at least one case, a pink sports jacket. I was immediately greeted by His Worship, Tony Aspler, resplendent in trendy new glasses which were not rose-coloured, although Billy's were; an enormous pair in fact, that Sir Elton John (not in attendance) would have been proud of. I quickly connected with all the old boys, including Don Len Pennacetti, Count Rob Power, Prince Jono Kuhling, Marquis Jean-Pierre Colas, Baron Charles Baker, His Holiness, Pope Paul de Campo the Fifteenth, and about 40 others.

What an event! I nearly did a Michael Henchard and almost auctioned off the Deaconess to John Maxwell for 5 guineas...The rosé - about 20 types by my reckoning - flowed like serum and lymph from a tropical ulcer, and there were some amazing ones, but I quickly gave up all hope of documenting them, once Tony Aspler bought me a pint of Spearhead, the Gewurtztraminer of beer. I'm not kidding! Things became a bit vague after that, but we were suddenly all seated for a full lunch at a long table, decked with bottled water and about another 40 bottles of rosé. We were initially going to have light appetizers in the courtyard, but the weather didn't co-operate, and John Maxwell and his stellar staff made a seamless transition to a sit-down lunch for 45, including chilled cucumber soup with radishes, followed by salmon, then tenderloin of beef and a gorgeous baked apple dessert. You've gotta love Allen's, as did the other Toronto Uberhost, Don Roberto Martello, the proprietor of Grano, looking mega-lurch with a tie the colour of a sockeye salmon.

I sat near Billy and Tony, in my usual seat on the end, just in case we came under terrorist attack and I had to rescue everyone and have a huge budget film made about it. To my right was Baron Rodney of Rodney's Oysters fame, and he regaled us with a wonderful story of a professional oyster shucker who shucked too fast and managed to sever his glans. Later, seats were shifted and I got to hang out with Rory Gallagher, the amazing dead guitarist, now reincarnated as Manager of Mildred's Temple Kitchen.

At the end of the day, John Maxwell poured me a flute of Guinness, and ran outside with me as the Deaconess arrived in the pink Bentley. What a day among the Royalty of wine!

So here's your call to action:

We've got some real heavy-hitters in the Ontario food and wine industry and it's getting better all the time. Maybe you didn't get an invite to this amazing event, but you can still be involved and show your support. You can buy Billy's iPod app and Tony's books, and drink a few dozen bottles of prime VQA rosé. Visit the dozens of great wineries in Niagara, Lake Erie North Shore, and Prince Edward County, come back and shuck oysters with Rodney, grab gnocchi at Grano, and end up at Allen's for a late supper and a pint of Spearhead under John Maxwell's mantle of hospitality.

You'll thank me...

Deacon Dr. Fresh
Because real men do wear pink...


Monday, June 20, 2011

Fitness, Creekside, Chablis, and the Deacon in Ireland!

Greetings Boozophiles, fanz and friends, homeys and homettes. Your Deacon lubs you! Here's the latest from your Humble Deacon, but first the unedited stream of consciousness rant:

All the rest of you glassy-eyed, under the table texting vaccine addicts can gargle my knotted pseudo-Irish blackthorn shillelagh!

And now the fitness update: Many of you are wondering if your Humble Deacon will cut enough weight to make the Canada Day deadline for the goal of 160 lbs. Well, I'm pleased to announce, your Deacon will make the deadline! Back in April I was firmly ensconced in Fat Bastard Land, carrying almost 183 lbs on my 5' 10" frame. As of this AM, I'm down to 162.2 lbs, which means I have lost over 20 lbs and have only another 2.2 to go in about 12 days, which should be a cinch. So much for you decryers and negative nay-sayers who said it couldn't be done. You might want to examine your own mid-line rolls and write me an apology before your immanent heart attack makes it impossible for you to send me a lavishly simpering and sycophantic email.

In other news: I had the good fortune to attend an amazing Creekside wine and oyster event in the Distillery District a couple of weeks back. Winemaker Rob and his gunslinger/bodyguard Matt kept a wide variety of eksepshunal wines flowing with cheese and nearly unlimited oysters. Creekside is another one of those wineries, along with Henry of Pelham, Stratus and Penninsula Ridge, that I really Respect. A couple of years back I was saying that Shiraz wouldn't do well in Niagara as it needs lots of sun and very little snow and ice. Creekside proved me wrong and made a New World style Shiraz that blew everyone's brains out. Now they're calling it Syrah and are creating a Rhone style wine that's as awesome as a 357 Magnum in a fist fight. Creekside also produces the top tier Wayne Gretsky wines that can skate across your palate like old number 99 himself. If you haven't checked out Creekside lately, buy a case or two. Their Sauvignon Blanc is excellent too, as were all the whites I tried. Thanks for the invite, Creekside! You're makin' some lurch vino.

Then the laughs continued with a visit to the Fine Wine Reserve, where your Deacon is a perennial visitor when we judge the Canadian Ice Wine offerings each spring. I always plan on storing my wine there, but always drink it on the way over. I took the Deaconess with me for a Chablis tasting that was a rare wine treat. Artisanal Wine Imports put on the event and we got to sample some amazing steely and austere Droin Chablis, including 3 Premier Crus and a Grand Cru. For those of you who are still drinking nothing but Malbec, I'll explain further: Chablis is made from the Chardonnay grape in the North part of France. It grows in soil replete with oyster shells, which not surprisingly, makes it a perfect accompaniment for our little half-shell friends. True, you'll pay a premium price; $68.95 for the Grand Cru, but this is a wine that will age spectacularly for another 10 or 15 years. So limit your purchase to a case and then send a bottle or two to your Deacon, as an appropriate thanks for the heads-up...

Finally, let's talk about travel...

My homeboy and mentor, Billy Munnelly is actually running a wine tour of Ireland where you get to spend a week in Lisheen Castle! Yes, an actual castle with our own awesome chef! There'll be day trips, lunch on the coast and evenings in Irish pubs, etc., etc., all delivered with flawless style by Billy and Kato.

Will Billy Munnelly be providing wine?

Does Rose Kennedy have a black dress?

And your Deacon's going! That's right, me and the Deaconess are already booked on the second week (September 12th to 20th). Check out the website for this lurchest of lurch trips. If you've ever wanted to go to Ireland - and who hasn't? - there's no better way than with Billy! Act fast, because the tour's filling up now. There are two possible weeks but each one is limited to 13 people. Yes, 13 a haunted castle! How cool is that? It's an Agatha Bastard Christie novel in the making, and you get to hang with Billy and the Deacon! Book it now, crackers! And don't y'all worry about no ghost. I routinely punch out anyone wearing a white sheet...

See y'all in Ireland.

Stay lurch 

Deacon Dr. Fresh
Ireland Bound

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