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Cover Image of The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood published by Anchor Books
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Wine & Book Group Pick for Jul-Aug '08

abstract:I've always been a fan of Glen Gould. His playing of Bach and particularly the Goldberg Variations is like trance for the piano—starting at the first variation one is swept away in space and time. I always imagine that my math skills are subliminally being enhanced just by listening to the contrapuntal melody. The other fascination I have with Gould is hearing the stories of his unusual personality quirks. Declared a child prodigy by age three when he demonstrated perfect pitch, it is said that he could read a music score through just once and play the piece perfectly from memory. He had an obsession with his hands. He always wore gloves, even in summer, and never shook hands with people. He would stand for long periods of time at the sink running warm water over his hands. This month I'm recommending the Wine & Book Group pick-up a new book about this fascinating musical genius. (Your dinner conversations will sparkle and entertain even the most die-hard pop or rock fan.) A Romance on Three Legs: Glenn Gould's Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Piano borrows heavily on a previous biography on the artist, but it also tells the story of Gould's relationship with a particular piano and the blind farm-boy technician he relied upon to keep the instrument tuned to his grueling specifications. See what you think as you read further, and download Gould's music from iTunes as a wonderful accompaniment. For wines to go with this selection we've chosen a few delicious ones from the Niagara escarpment wine growing region of Ontario. (Gould was a native of Toronto, not far away.) The area is as physically beautiful as this love story and the music. Enjoy!


July 01, 2008

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  • The added bonus of this month's selection is that the author, Katie Hafner, is a New York Times correspondent capable of great story telling skills and the ability to pull together interesting new aspects of Gould's unusual life. This is not an easy task given the superstar popularity of Gould that endures legendary status today. People seeking the definitive work on him would consult Kevin Bazzana's biography, "Wondrous Strange: The Life and Art of Glenn Gould" published in 2004.

    The quest for perfection is always a page-turner. Gould searched for years for the piano that would become his constant companion. He discovered it by chance in the Eaton's department store sixth floor. CD 318 had the particular lightness of tone and immediate responsiveness of the keys that he preferred for the music he played. As it turns out, he had played this instrument once before, "His ears now remembered its refined sound: the lovely, singing treble and clean, taut bass. And his fingers recalled its extreme responsiveness." The makers at Steinway had been tearing their respective hair out trying to meet his exacting standards, and A Romance on Three Legs: Glenn Gould's Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Piano will educate you on the namesake manufacturer located in New York city.

    But the most unlikely third leg in this wonderful story is the piano-tuner himself. A musician with such incredible ear and technique required an equally gifted technician to keep his instrument performing to his obsessive standards. A Steinway piano is made of over 50 different types of wood. When instruments are moved the humidity and temperature changes play havoc on the strings and the sound board. This task fell to a near-blind farm boy from Saskatchewan named Edquist. His disability afforded him the exquisite tone distinction required for the job, but his other qualities kept him firmly planted in the triangle.

    As an added bonus, watch the trailor and purchase the DVD of "Note By Note" a movie about the making of Steinway Piano L1037.

    Purchase the CD or download the MP3 The Goldberg Variations - Glenn Gould Plays Bach

    Fall For These Wines From Niagara

    Twenty-five vineyards dot the landscape just 15 to 20 minutes outside Niagara Falls in quiet and charming Niagara-on-the-Lake. Remarkably, the entire Niagara wine region-the peninsula along the shores of Lake Ontario-is home to over 50 wineries. Familiar names like Inniskillin, Jackson-Triggs, Magnotta, Peller Estate and Reef Estate Wines are just a few.

    Chateau des Charmes was founded in 1978 by Paul Michel Bosc, a fifth generation French winegrower who came to Canada in the 1960's. Situated against the backdrop of the Niagara Escarpment, in historic Niagara-on-the-Lake, set in the immaculate 35 hectare (85 acre) St. David's Bench Vineyard, Chateau des Charmes was designed to provide an unparalleled wine experience for the visitor.

    "Considered by many to be the finest winery in the country, Château des Charmes produces wines that are nearest the French style. Winemaker, Paul Bosc, has been described by Leon Adams, the doyen of American wine writers, as the best winemaker in Canada."

    Tom Stevenson - Sotheby's World Wine Encyclopedia, London, England

    2006 Chardonnay Musqué, Estate Bottled
    (V.Q.A. Niagara Peninsula)

    Chardonnay Musqué is a unique clone of Chardonnay that was pioneered in the Niagara Peninsula by Château des Charmes’ founder Paul Bosc. 2006 Chardonnay Musqué is pale gold in colour with a wonderful aromatic bouquet of spiced fruit and honeysuckle. This full bodied Chardonnay is non-oaked in order to allow the wine to fully express it’s unique musqué characteristic. 486 cases produced. Harvested October 10, 2006.

    2006 Sauvignon Blanc, Estate Bottled (V.Q.A. Niagara Peninsula)
    Château des Charmes Sauvignon Blanc was sourced from grapes grown exclusively in our own vineyards. Bright, light gold colour with pronounced flavours of gooseberry and citrus fruit and a clean lingering finish. 1074 cases produced. Harvested September 20, 2006. “A pleasant nose of soft citrus and melon fruit. The flavours are bright, refreshing and vibrant on the palate with plenty of zippy lemon and grapefruit flavours.” – Rick VanSickle, Toronto Sun, June, 2008

    Previous Book & Wine Picks

  • May The Cellest From Sarajevo set in the Sarajevo
  • March Cellophane set in the Peruvian Rainforest
  • January Eat, Pray, Love set in New York, Italy and India
  • November Madonna:Like an Icon,
  • October Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, set in New England
  • August On Chesil Beach, set in England
  • July The Last Chinese Chef, set in Shanghai
  • June The Birth House, set in Nova Scotia
  • May Water for Elephants, set in Depression-era America
  • March-April Snowflower and the Secret Fan, set in China
  • February Cloudstreet, set in Perth, Australia
  • January The Good German, set in Berlin
  • December The Historian, set in Eastern Europe
  • November One Good Turn, set in Edinburgh
  • September Lost in the Forest, set in Napa Valley
  • August The Hummingbird's Daughter, set in Mexico
  • July The Devil Wears Prada, set in NYC
  • June Woolf in Ceylon, set in Ceylon
  • May Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living, Australia
  • April The Mermaid Chair, set in South Carolina
  • March Memoirs of a Geisha, set in Japan
  • February Get a Life, set in South Africa
  • January In the Shadow of the Wind, set in Barcelona
  • December Pride and Prejudice, set in England
  • November Beyond Measure, set in Renaissance Italy
  • October Breakfast at Tiffany's, set in New York


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