Wednesday, April 1, 2015

change and renewal

It's April.

My favourite month of the year. And you know why? Nah son, it's not just because it's my birthday, but because of what this beautiful month brings. Growth. Change. A start of something new.

It's semana santa again ... and let me tell you something. I'm the only person in our class who hasn't been back home this entire time. I don't feel homesick, I don't feel like I missed out on anything. What is there to miss out on? The snow? The routine? The depressingly sameness of it all, the fact that nothing ever changes?! I mean, the decided mediocrity of it all is just ... check it out, Europe and Spain, they certainly aren't perfect. But it's been a thrill to be here unlike any other. Whether they like it or not, I'm of Catalunya now. Deal with it.

I can't afford a gym here. And even if I could, I can't afford the proper food to keep on those gains. So what can be done then. In a word - run. I've got a route that I've been running for more than a year now. The exact same steps, facilitated now that I'm living in Gracia. Down to Diagonal, west to La Marina, straight south to Torre Mapfre ... east to Barceloneta, up Laietana, then onto Pau Claris all the way back home. A clean 10 km. Easy-peasy. A lot of sweat equity expended on this route ...  many, many hours and kilometres. It gives me peace, it gives me a lot of joy. I'm a little at the point now where big, life-altering decisions have to be made because like it or not, the MBA is done in a month, and well, what's next? Where do we go? All questions keeping me up at night, especially tonight. Not a wink of sleep, but guess what - will get some eggs, some milk in the system, and yes, go for a run. Clear the head a little, get focused again.

After all, it's April.


Monday, March 30, 2015

L'Anima del Vi, delivering truth in wine

T: 2007 Coll de Sabater | DO Conca de Barberà
B: 2012 Lapierre Morgon

It's been a rough week.

There was a wine trade show last week in Düsseldorf called Prowein. I really wanted to go. And if I went, I would have most likely taken a Germanwings flight. I've flown with them before. It's a good airline, and although we are very used to these types of carriers here in Europe, I think it needs to be made clear for my fellow N. Americans that low cost carriers are in fact extremely safe, and (generally) very pleasant to fly with. As more details come out, this whole event becomes more and more unspeakably horrific. It hits close to home, and not because of me - because of the many German classmates I have, who I know have been affected by what happened. 

Monday's news hit like a thunderbolt. On Thursday I was hit by an earthquake. My neighbour (from back home) of nearly 20 years, has been given 6 months to live. He beat cancer once. It came back last summer, and now the doctors have stopped treatment. I don't know what to think. I don't know what to say. He is a good and kind man and doesn't deserve this.

With so much death and suffering around ... I can't handle it. I'd like nothing more than to get out of Barcelona for a few days, go to the beach, get some food, some good drinks ... but that doesn't make this past week make any more sense to me. No enlightenment possible, why these things happen. So I suppose we keep going, keep putting our heads down and charging forward. The only way to go.

L'Anima del Vi is one of my favourite wine places in the world. Yes. Todo el mundo. It's not particularly cozy, it's not totally comfortable, but it's totally honest, and totally unique. The man in the middle of it all? One of the greatest people in wine I've ever met, and someone I'm proud to consider a friend - even if we don't sometimes understand each other. The homie, Benoît, a Frenchman in Spain, bringing in some of the shining lights of biodynamic and natural wine, from his homeland and his adopted country. A while back, when my brother was visiting me over the summer, I took him here, for one boozy evening. We started with a Spanish wine, the Coll de Sabater, a Bordeaux style blend that was at once concentrated and rich, yet harmonious and pure. And then I had to show him the Lapierre Morgon (and share a few glasses with Benoît). Such grace and precision, reminding me why my life will be devoted to this magical, ethereal, mysterious nectar.

It's been a rough week. None of it makes sense. There are no words of comfort, no solace we can find. So for me, I go back and find inspiration in the things that mean the world to me. There is still good in this world, I'm sure of it. Just a little hard to see at this moment.


Monday, March 9, 2015

being a cowboy in Barna

I've been away. 

It's hard to spend time on LCF when I feel like there's a million other more pressing things to apply myself to, but as we heard from the head of marketing of Haribo, there is time to do everything. Ok. Let's give it a shot.

He's right, you know. We do have time - maybe not to do everything, but at least enough time to do things we really care about. Do I really care about LCF? Perhaps not as much as I once did, but it's important to spend some time, in regular intervals, to do a bit of writing. Just for myself. 

So shit, what's been going on? Plenty of cool things, actually. Man, I will miss IESE - in a flash, it's been 18 months and suddenly, we have graduation rehearsals coming up Thursday. Having just wrapped our best party of the year in #MultiCulti2015, I'm not ready yet. I know it's time to go, time to move on and do other things, but I'm not ready yet.

Bourbon. We take it for granted in North America ... the selection, the availability. And then you come here to Spain, land of gin and terrible beer, and everything else becomes an afterthought. Will you ever reach the level of desperation needed to go for JD? I never imagined I'd be so happy to see Bulleit. Tears weren't necessarily shed, but I did stand in the middle of El Corte Inglés with the biggest shit-eating grin. Embarrassing, but when you deprive a man of bourbon, well, all bets are off, as they say.

What is it about bourbon? For the moment, forget about the actual drink. It could be that most cowboy of drinks, the mighty Old-Fashioned, a mint julep, or even a whiskey sour, but in whatever iteration, the character of that sweet, sweet nectar comes through. Siempre. Bulleit has that spice, that touch of honey, that big boom of alcohol. The bee's knees. This wino is grateful for a little taste of home, that reminder that while gin is dope, bourbon is the one and only for the throwback's soul.

At the Haribo session, our guest speaker continued. Did you know they managed to create a whole market for soft candy in Spain? That they not only built a brand here, but in fact changed consumer behaviour? Proving that people are endlessly malleable, despite protestations to the contrary - you just have to know which buttons to press. 9½ weeks left before I graduate as an MBA. 


Saturday, January 31, 2015

beginning the last chapters of IESE

After 35 days on the road, I'm back in Barcelona. A little weary, a little wary ... a little more grown up. A winding road that took me through Porto, Aveiro, Praja de Barra, Batalha, Lisbon, Cologne, Vienna, Friesach, Salzburg, Berlin, Frankfurt, and Shanghai. At times it was difficult. But it's been an absolutely unforgettable month of my life. And now we're back. 

The IESE schedule makers are trying to kill me ... 10 hours of class everyday, no lunch break in between. But before I start grumbling too much, I'm reminded that in a few months, I'll be reminiscing about this place. And I've been enjoying the classes - innovation, negotiation, project management, brands - great insights, all. I think this is it for me. I think this is the last time I'll ever be in a classroom like this for a formal degree. A masters degree is my upper limit, academically speaking, but the learning continues. The learning always continues.

So, here's to the final term, the final few months of being an IESE student. What comes next, I have no clue, but I remain hopeful and excited.


Saturday, December 20, 2014

7 years of LCF

DF Profile - BW
So I've been missing. But LCF turns 7, so a quick update. Been busy, been doing some things. More or less keeping out of trouble, but as they say, it's not creepy if she likes it. 

Man. 7 years. I'm too tired, too drunk at the moment ... too disinterested for reflection, so let's move onto something more interesting. Classes finished last week, but DF never stops hustling. Working with my professor to finish the business case we started writing this summer. A winery in the north of Catalunya, in the mountains and the winds and the sea. Really not that much time to slow down, relax a little, as we finished 4th term. Damn son, only a few more months left. Only a few more months left before we're ejaculated out into the real world, but you know what's funny - that's not even giving me the most anxiety. What's messing with my head most now is this sudden realization that while I'm here in Barna having the time of my life - learning and experiencing all these new things - everything back home has been the same. Things haven't changed, while take it however way you want, I'm a new goddamn person. I don't fit in anymore, at least not back to that life. None of us do, for better or worse, so what now ... what next?

I'll tell you what. I try not to plan anything beyond the next 3 days. That's my trick, to keep me sane. So for now, for the meantime ... I'm focusing on enjoying my holidays. Flying out to Portugal on Monday. Porto for a day, to visit some port producers and taste some things. Driving down to Lisbon to spend Christmas with a buddy's family. Then off to Vienna on Boxing Day, where we'll hopefully get to hit some hot springs, and I get to drink some legit Austrian whites. New Year's Eve at another buddy's cabin, deep in the Austrian forest, before we head to Salzburg - been practicing Edelweiss - and then ending this go-around in Berlin. One night back in Barcelona, before a long flight to Shanghai, where I'll be taking 1 week of intensive courses at CEIBS, and 1 week of family time. Back in Barcelona on January 25th. About 35 days on the road in all. I feel ready. Mind and spirit, body and liver. 

7 years of grind and hustle, leading to this moment. 


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

on a hiatus

I'm still alive, in case anyone's worried. Just on a (not-so-brief) hiatus.

Travelling, mostly. Drinking, definitely. Making the most of the few months I have remaining as an IESE student, I suppose. Seeing new things, new places, but most importantly, spending this time with people I've come to deeply, deeply care about.

So. Bordeaux and Sitges in September. Munich, Islay, and Morocco in October. Alella in November, what figures to be a soft month because after all, we still do have classes to attend to. Still planning, but the north of Spain, Portugal, Austria, Germany, and the Czech Republic for the holidays. And in January, as Heineken so helpfully suggests, Shanghai.

It's good to still be alive.  


Monday, October 20, 2014

crowns at Château de Fargues

And so I ended my trip through Pessac-Léognan and Sauternes here, a true jewel of the region.
The slow drive into the property was beautiful, tranquil and calm ...
... noble and old.
And while they are currently remodeling and remaking anew ...
... some things are better left untouched.
Sometimes, the old ways remain the best.
That's it, ladies and gentlemen. This row and the row to the left. That's all there is of the 2013 vintage. A difficult, challenging one. As I learned, quality is a virtue that one fights for - that one commits to. It's not the grand vintages that make the estate ... it's the ones that keep you up at night that forge true character. 
What a wine. A grand triumph of balance, nobility, strength, and character. What a wine.
And how else to end this trip but to say goodbye to Philippe de Lur Saluces in front of the vineyards of Fargues. Inimitable charm, and a great ambassador of Bordeaux. What a trip!

Tasting notes:

2009 Château de Fargues: Great spicy notes, complex, and purity. Incredible depth, like staring into a dark well. What a gorgeous mouth - unbelievably spicy, with great length, tension, and extract. Complex, open, structured, and muscular - a powerful yet agile wine for the ages.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

the Château Coutet of my dreams

You walk in, and immediately feel a sense of serenity. A truly grand estate, history and heritage. Beautiful. Sun shining, birds chirping, as they say. 
I've been an admirer of Coutet for a long time. The wines always show well at big tastings - rich and creamy, great depth and presence. A family-owned business, the new generation is doing a great job bringing the estate (and Sauternes) into new markets, new times.
It was a great privilege to visit. I got out early, making the nearly hour long drive from Bordeaux into the tiny commune of Barsac.
Like many of their neighbours, the sauvignon blanc is close to harvest. Production volumes will be low again this year, following a challenging summer (cool and wet), but Coutet is anticipating good quality. Botrytis coming along nicely, and as long as the sunshine and mild temperatures continue, this could be a very good vintage.
Barriques being quietly filled with sweet nectar. What a great privilege to finally visit Coutet, finally see the property I've dreamed of visiting for so long.

Tasting notes:

2012 Château Coutet: A big nose, ripe fruit, with lots of botrytis character but restrained. Mineral and very pure. Great freshness on the finish, very young and needs to settle down. Linear and extracted. A beauty.

2013 Château Coutet (barrel sample): Slightly woody aromas (for obvious reasons), already with great density and texture. Bigger than the 2012.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

tasting botrytis at Château Bastor-Lamontagne

What a great pleasure to visit Bastor-Lamontagne - the first true wino's stop of the trip ...
... Alexandre took me out to the vineyard first. Of course. We wouldn't have it any other way, would we - to be able to see the various stages of botrytis up close - in bliss.
Botrytis just beginning to develop on the larger berry, while the shrivelled one is ready to harvest. Sweet, but with fabulously crunchy acidity as well. Real texture, even in the grape. The skin is dry and flakes off easily - very little juice. 
This most precious nectar, bottled, and ready to share with the world. But first, a tasting ...
... ending with an incredible example of how sublime mature Sauternes can be. An indescribable privilege to spend time here.

Tasting notes:

2011 Caprice de Bastor-Lamontagne: A blend of sauvignon blanc and muscadet. Fresh fruit, but lacking some depth and weight. Only half-botrytized fruit. Acidity needs time to settle in.

2010 SO Sauternes: Now as of 2010. Meant as an aperitif, but a more traditional Sauternes. Really elegant here, lots of apricots, freshness - honey and bitter orange peel, very spicy. Great length. Concentration with balance. Finish is linear and extracted - gorgeous.

2009 Bastor-Lamontagne: A blend of 80% semillon and 20% sauvignon blanc. A huge nose - so much thick apricot, botrytis character. So rich, so thick and dense, but with great elegance and texture. Very long and incredibly spicy on the finish.

1989 Bastor-Lamontagne: What a treat to taste. Opened a day earlier. These indescribable notes of oxidized fruit, honey, dried apples - incredible depth and complexity. Totally integrated. Very spicy on the palate, still thick and vibrant. Perfection.


Monday, September 29, 2014

starting new rituals at Château Doisy-Daëne

"Limestone. You must understand why our wines are so unique. It's all because of the limestone." So says Fabrice Dubourdieu, member of the 4th generation of Dubourdieus running this estate.
As in the rest of Sauternes, Barsac saw a lot of rain during the growing season, but the botrytis is coming along nicely. Again, another year of low volumes, although quality is promising.
The chai was busy the day I was there. The sauvignon blanc for the dry whites had just been pressed, and a shipment of new barriques was waiting to be unpacked. There's no glamour in a working winery - just a lot of hard work and time spent on the Blackberry.
It's so peaceful in here. Just the soft sound of barrels being filled. Like music.
"You ask me how we tell the story of Doisy-Daëne and Sauternes to people who don't know us. We need rituals. If there is a ritual around drinking sweet wines - they will sell."

Tasting notes:

2013 Château Doisy-Daëne Sec: A dry white, 100% sauvignon blanc grown on limestone and bottled in early July. I tasted 2 bottles of this - one opened for 2 weeks, and one fresh bottle. The difference was remarkable. The older one was tired - still had some fruit, but otherwise a goner. The freshly uncorked bottle was tight, with slight notes of reduction. Delicate and mineral, fabulous smokiness on the palate. Plenty of dry extract and structure, finishing very dry. An exceptional wine. "Thanks to our friends from New Zealand, people now know what sauvignon blanc is." - Fabrice 

2011 Château Cantegril: Ripe, round; a simple but balanced wine. Fresh fruit, good concentration.

2011 Château Doisy-Daëne: Complex and smoky, a big, big nose. Viscous, very concentrated and dense. Lots of minerality and extraction, a little hot on the alcohol, but absolutely delicious. Needs time.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

from the vineyard into the bottle at Château de Rayne Vigneau

What a beautiful estate. Look at it. Rows and rows of green, pert and manicured. A vision of health and centuries of steady stewardship of the land. 
Rayne Vigneau sits on a plateau, looking onto the Ciron River.
They've found precious stones in the vineyards - agate, onyx, amethyst, and sapphire. How they got there is anyone's guess, but it's clear this place is special.
After a rainy growing season, September suns came, and botrytis is coming along nicely. 'Taste one', Nelly told me. A lesson in concentration - sugar and acidity. 
With the new labels. A new face on a wine that's a direct line from vineyard to bottle, despite that tired cliche. To get it into new glasses, however, cliches have to be replaced with stories. Rayne Vigneau has plenty of stories to tell. Are we able to listen?

Tasting notes:

2011 Le Sec de Rayne Vigneau: The estate's dry wine, 100% sauvignon blanc. Fresh and delicate, but real power on the palate. Mineral and pure, dry extract gives real density and structure.

2008 Madame de Rayne: The second wine. So pure here, fresh - apricots, soft ercolina pears. On the palate, delicious. Texture and roundness with impecable balance and acidity. Some spiciness at the end. O, this is very, very good.

2009 Château de Rayne Vigneau: So much power and presence. Dense fruit, very young. Alcohol apparent. Great texture and raciness on the palate, plenty of extract and spiciness. Botrytis character booming. What a beauty.


Monday, September 22, 2014

the crosses of Château Carbonnieux

The holy cross looks over the barrels of Carbonnieux ...
... and the library of dusty, old glories ...
... but it's always just about the wine. Always just about the wine.

Tasting notes:

2012 Château Carbonnieux Blanc: A blend of 70% sauvignon blanc, 30% sémillon. Oak here with bright fruit, minerality and that green sauvignon fruit. Lovely lift and energy on the palate. Great extract and focus.

2008 Château Carbonnieux Blanc: A blend 65% sauvignon blanc, 35% sémillon. Integrated oak, but fruit slightly dried. Subdued. Bright palate with focus, tension, and great acidity. Very elegant here, developing in a good way.

2012 Château Carbonnieux Rouge: Racy nose, dark fruits and spice. Aggressive tannins, good acidity. Very young now, but already elegant, with very obvious potential.

2010 Château Carbonnieux Rouge: Very ripe, pruney nose - quite one-dimensional at this point, but a HUGE palate. Big tannins with good acidity behind it, needs a lot of time. A crunchy, visceral wine.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

a new story at Domaine de Chevalier

I've wanted to visit Domaine de Chevalier for a long time. Because of the wines, bien sur, but also because of the man. The man behind it - what an incredible force. I've met Olivier Bernard many times in Toronto and his energy, his enthusiasm, are infectious. He simply radiates excitement when you ask about his projects. There was no doubt - I had to come see this estate for myself.
Newly installed concrete vats for fermenting the white wines ...
... followed by a slow, steady aging in cask ...
... sometimes even in the mother egg.
This is what I came for. A new story that M. Bernard is telling. A story of new beginnings, of authenticity, and of great possibilities. A 55 hectare plot of vineyards in Sauternes, producing both dry and sweet wines. Pure excitement.
DF and the man himself. Thanks very much to Veronique for showing me around, and M. Bernard for always being a source of inspiration.

Tasting notes:

2011 Domaine de Chevalier Rouge: A blend of 65% cabernet sauvignon, 30% merlot, 5% petit verdot. Inky with good depth; a fine and complex nose. Dark berries, still very young. Coating tannins, but very elegant.

2013 Clos des Lunes Blanche: The most widely exported bottle, through exclusive distributors. A beautiful nose, pure fruit with a touch of spice. Vibrant and sparkly on the palate, some creaminess. Lovely and bright, missing a bit of concentration, but a very, very exciting wine. Look out for these.

2012 Clos de Lunes d'Or: The flagship of the dry whites here. Immediate oak, great creamy, buttery notes. Bright fruit, viscosity is obvious - some alcohol showing (14% abv). Apricot on the palate, like a Sauternes, with great weight and roundness. A beauty in crushed velvet.

2013 Domaine de Chevalier Blanc: A barrel sample, but oak is very integrated. Elegant, fresh fruit, lots of dry extract and power on the palate. Pulsing with energy.

2013 Clos des Lunes Sauternes: Sulfur hits here. Apricots and freshness on the nose, but dries out on the palate. Very thick, but remains juicy. Balance is spot on ... I mean absolute finesse. Perfection here.