Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Hope for 2008's

So, important news. If you like wine, you should be interested in the fact that the 2008 Bordeaux En Primeur campaign has begun. Everyone's gone to southwest France to taste through the 2008s in barrel, and hopefully, confirming that this is indeed a fine vintage.

Here's the problem - who will buy, and at what price? I know what I want to pay. After being horribly disappointed by the 2007 levels, I want to see at least a 30% average decrease in price. I'm feel sorry for the Bordelais, especially if quality is high, but at risk of sounding like a broken record, prices need to go down. For Bordeaux proprietors to have any more credibility with the public, this is what needs to happen.

Having said that, I did buy a fair amount of 2007. Against better judgement, and what the critics said, I added to my vertical of La Lagune and L'Arrosée, but most of my order comprised of Pessac-Léognan whites and Sauternes.

For the 2008's I think this year might be a good one for buyers. Of course, with the assumption that prices return to 2002 levels, or even 2004 for that matter, this will be a year to go after the First Growths and super-Seconds. I still don't think I will, but if prices are right, I'm willing to put some money into this year.

We'll see En Primeur prices in about 4 months. Looking out for:

La Lagune
Pontet Canet
Smith-Haut-Lafitte
Carbonnieux
Latour
Ducru Beaucaillou
L'Arrosée
Figeac
Canon-la-Gaffelière
Angelus
Gazin
Doisy-Daëne
Guiraud
Doisy-Vedrines
de Fargues
Suduiraut

We'll see how charitable the Bordelais feel this year.

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On a completely different note: Just got a bizarre call from a complete stranger. She was sobbing audibly, and clealry upset about something. She was looking for a Steven, and completely convinced that I was him. How do I know she was upset? I kept asking her who she was, and she kept replying, "Stop it, you know who this is."

Sweetheart, I don't know. Sorry for the misunderstanding - wasn't trying to mock you. And Steven, shame on you, whoever you are. Apologize to this poor girl, and give her a call. Shame on you.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Payoff

Well, I guess this blogging business has its benefits. Out of nowhere too. I'm not really at liberty to divulge exactly what, but..........it's exciting stuff. Beer tasting, anyone? Glamour and style?

I promise, more later. Much more later, with full explanations and invitations to all my glamorous friends to follow.

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I'm in pain right now. Worked out like an animal today. Serious leg spasms - couldn't even stand up from my chair. Just collapsed on the stairs, completely lost all power in my right leg. But then no pain...........................

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Soul

Wow.

I'm listening to Lights right now. Caught her winning a Juno for something. Mesmerizing singer out of Toronto - I've heard her on the radio numerous times, but was never able to catch her name. Lights.

This is blowing my mind:


2003 Ribera del Duero

2003 Marques de Velilla

2003 Marquès de Velilla, DO Ribera del Duero.

Ribera del Duero is always a treat to taste. After all, it was the wine that broke in my Riedel glasses.

Deep purple, beautiful saturation to the wine. Just a gorgeous deep colour, especially when you shine it over candlelight. Good green characters in the wine, lots of brambles and this almost sandy quality to the bouquet. Great ripe fruits, instantly recognizable as tempranillo. All layered on top of a base of understated vanilla. Develops a graphite minerality. Nose just goes on and on - a fascinating aroma.

Great acidity in the mouth, with a filmy texture. Ripe red fruits, vanilla, with very finely grained tannins. Stiff structure, but tannins are so well integrated that its very elegant. Silky.

A perfect show of tempranillo. Less fruit-forward than I would expect from a Ribera. More of a Rioja character, but that's the genius of tempranillo. Great ripeness, excellent oak use. Tempranillo is just all love, in all its expressions.

2006 Bierzo

2006 Luna Beberide

2006 Luna Beberide Mencía, DO Bierzo.

After reading Asimov's piece about Bierzo, I was aching to taste. My first bottle of Bierzo, with high expectations.

In a word, disappointed. Big, hollow, confected fruit. Vulgar. Promises a lot, but completely dumps you. A whorish wine, but without the charm.

These producers that try to make fast money, by producing these wines in an 'International Style', are setting up for failure. These over-extracted, manipulated wines are everything that's wrong with the wine world. Awful.

Won't scare me away from trying more Bierzo, but I am really, really disappointed that Internationalism has reached what I thought was an ancient, tradition-bound region.

A day of rest

It's been a slow day, but I'm not complaining. Watching 'Kings' right now, writing in between the breaks.

Slept until almost 1:30pm today. Went down dizzy as hell, and woke up with a slight headache. All fine, after a lot of water. Ahh, getting tipsy only means you've been drinking right. And no hangover means that the wine was of good quality. If I had yakked though, that would have been a different explanation.

Went out to Costco, and for some strange reason, that warehouse lulls me to sleep. By the time I walked up to checkout, my feet were dragging and I had an inclination to climb into one of the sofas on sale and doze.

Weather seems to be warming up. Good.

I need to recuperate a bit from all the food and wine this weekend. It's work, digesting all this fineness. But I'm ready for more.

Earth Hour

Earth Hour

Marked Earth Hour for the first time. It's a noble initiative, not for the fact that it saves light for an hour, but that it makes you think. Think about what you can do to conserve on a daily basis.

It made the food better. More emphasis on taste. I cooked - salad of orange peppers and strawberries over balsamic vinaigrette, paired with a 1994 Schloss Schonborn Riesling. Followed by braised rabbit in oyster mushroom sauce, paired with a 2006 Luna Beberide Mencia, and a 2003 Marques de Velilla Crianza. Wasting nothing, all the rabbit bones went into a simmering pot, to make a delicious broth. Finished with a strawberry chocolate mousse cake and vanilla ice cream.

Eating over nothing candlelight makes the flavours more intense, more warming. And it makes everything so romantic.........great to be in the dark, all snuggled in close. Nice. We should have Earth Hour more often.

Lights off

Seeing some negativity and skepticism about the purpose of Earth Hour. I totally, and unequivocally disagree. This is a positive step, and one that we all should participate in. Doing something is better than the status quo. Get out of your comfort zone, and contribute to conserving energy. No one needs all the lights blazing in homes.

We shut off all out lights all night. And this, during a dinner for my friends. It would have been easy if it was just myself alone at home, but my friends were gracious enough to support my environmentally-conscious beliefs. More tomorrow. And photos as well. Shut off your damn lights if you don't need them, it's really not that hard........

Espagnol

Oh, Spain. How you tickle my sense and make me fall head over heels in love. Why is it that this is the only country who's wines seduce me like this. Sexy and sensual. The absolute goddess of grapes, the regal tempranillo. In all its forms and styles, tempranillo captivates and evokes emotion like no other.

Late night

It's late, and I'm tipsy. Good. Havn't felt like this in a long time, and it's great to drink to satisfaction.

My friends have gone, but the spirit lingers. Wish it was like back at campus, where we can chill all night, but no matter - I cherish all the time we spend together. Wow, I'm drunk, I should stop before I write something I'll regret later on. More lucid comments when I sober up, Sunday. Good night.

Friday, March 27, 2009

2003 Mosel-Saar-Ruwer

2003 Zilliken

Ahh, the 2003 Zilliken Saarburger Rausch Riesling Kabinett, QmP Mosel-Saar-Ruwer.

I tasted a 2002 Zilliken last year, and absolutely fell in love with this producer. This wine is from a different vineyard, Saarburger Rausch, and from a vintage that's.............unpredictable. Stereotypically, it's a hot and overripe vintage across much of Europe, but I have no doubt that Zilliken was able to produce a wine of balance and finesse.

A deeper straw than the Schloss Schönborn. A spicy nose, of minerals and exotic fruits. Lots and lots of depth - its incredible, like looking over a boat into the ocean, and not being able to see the bottom. The aromas of this wine have such depth, that its really pointless to try to pinpoint it. Such incredible, I'm speechless.

Good sweetness in the mouth - a symptom of the vintage, no doubt, but also keep in mind that it only carries 9% alcohol. I applaud Zilliken for allowing the vintage to speak for itself. Very round in the mouth, there's good weight, but the acidity cleanses everything so wonderfully. Sweetness isn't cloying at all, which makes the wine perfect with food. Lots of pure fruit and mineral elements on the palate, although I suspect with some age, we'll start to see more of the slate and rocks coming though.

Purity and density. Very very pure fruit in this wine. Incredible balance, although without the acidic bite and minerality of the 2002 Zilliken, from the Ockfener Bockstein vineyard. But no matter, it's a true representation of its terroir. This bottle does it - Zilliken is my current favourite riesling wine, without a doubt. I have another bottle of this, although I suspect this vintage may not age as well. No matter, it's an absolute joy to drink now.

Oh, and just to share what we had for dinner - steamed fish (I don't know its English name), Chinese celery, fresh jellyfish, beef tendon in a spicy broth, and finished with a freshwater fish soup. Quintessential Shanghainese food, but more importantly, my comfort food for when I've had a rough week.

1994 Schönborn

1994 Schloss Schonborn

1994 Schloss Schönborn, Hattenheim, Rheingau.

This is the second time I've tasted this wine. The oldest riesling I've ever had the privilege of drinking. I absolutely love this wine, and this time, it seemed more vibrant, more complex than ever.

Tonight, we were all having a great time during dinner, so I wanted to try two rieslings side by side. This was actually the second wine of the night, the first being a 2003 Zilliken. Finished half the bottle - who will have the pleasure of tasting with me tomorrow night? I think I have a few girls in mind.........

Light straw in colour. Extremely complex nose - lots of citrus underneath lanolin, minerals, and a pungency that only riesling brings with age. Lovely. Lots and lots of acidity, minerals, and lime in the mouth. So complex.

For an older wine, the cork stood up very well. Very well, in fact. No streaking at all, still intact. Impressive.

Old rieslings are really one of the greatest white wine experiences in the world. To me, this is the greatest value in wine. Mature wines with more than a decade of bottle age, being sold for less than $20. Complex, transparent, and absolutely pure wines that speak so much of the slate and cool climate they come from.

Is it time to drink riesling regularly yet? What a fantastic start to a spring and summer of amazing rieslings!

Wow...speechless

I just finished one of the most phenomenal dinners I've had in the last 6 months. The food was perfect, the wines were complex and pure, and the combination of the two married like a dream.

I'm completely speechless - I need to finish this wine before I feel like I can write about it. It's an absolutely stunning wine. And I'm at that perfect mellow drunken stage, not yet tipsy. Tonight's a good night. Riesling is just..........the most alluring, the most pure, and the source of my greatest wine learning experiences. Wow. I feel I should drink these wines on bended knee, with great reverence and respect.

Totally picked up my mood, after I lost half my work today because the damn USB key crashed. Wasted 3 hours of work.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Wine service

When a restaurant decides to offer a wine list and charge people for that service, shouldn't a basic set of rules and etiquette be followed? I have yet to dine at a restaurant who's servers truly understand how to serve wine, without the heavy-handed clumsiness so prevalent in North American purveyors of fine cuisine.

I don't usually have an issue with recommendations, because I don't eat often at those types of restaurants with the leather bound wine catalogue and snooty sommelier roaming the dining room. And most often, I have a good idea what I want to drink. No, choosing a wine isn't a problem, unless the wine list is shit awful.

The issue I have is mostly with how they present and serve the wine. Firstly, I want them to give me the damn cork. I don't need to sniff it, I just want to see it. I want to be able to match the branding on the cork to the label, and want to see if there's any discernible flaw visible. You know, to make sure that it's not moldy and streaked with wine, especially if its a young wine.

Second, I want them to pour at most 3 ounces. It's absolutely ridiculous when they fill up half the glass, in this cheap attempt to get you to drink faster so you'll hopefully order another bottle. Absolutely ridiculous. It's gotten bad enough that I've put my hand over my glass to stop these maniacs. You don't need to refill someone's glass after every sip. Really, there's no need to do that.

Finally, the temperature. Same old problem - whites are served too cold, reds are served too warm. I don't want an ice-cold bottle of white wine served. You can't taste anything if it's icy - the Chablis I drank last week was the most recent example where I couldn't even tell that it was wine. Just awful, especially when you're charging $12 per glass.

There you go. My peeves with wine service. It's not complicated, it's not about being difficult. Learn how to serve wine properly, and it will reflect positively on the entire dining experience. I order wine in restaurants because I want to taste wines that I may not otherwise think to buy myself. When it's not served properly, it completely ruins the experience. Might as well stick to water. Good old, tap fresh water.

Upcoming wine

It's been a very stressful week so far, but dealing with it by thinking about the wines and food that I'll be enjoying this weekend. And the friends I'll be seeing again. Missing out on another dinner, but no matter - the host rarely serves more than mediocre wines. It's not so much an indictment on the wines as it is on his stinginess. Sorry.

Drinking a very old riesling tomorrow, with steamed fish, shellfish, beef tendon, and assorted greens. Following that with a duo of Spanish wines, from Ribera and Bierzo. Maybe toss in Brouilly or cognac in the mix. Exciting!

Release this weekend, featuring tempranillo and Burgundy. I would love, love, love to get my hands on some of the Burgundies, but just not prepared to spend $60 on wines that I'm not familiar with at all. Getting there though, just being patient. In the meantime, sticking to Premier Cru Chablis.

March is going by fairly painlessly, no? April coming up, my favourite month of the year. Winter, winter, go away...................

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

2007 Sicilia

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2007 Cusumano Insolia, IGT Sicilia.

Brand new wine experience! I absolutely adore Sicilian red wines, nero d'avola among others, but this is a real treat. I've never drank a white wine of Sicilia, never mind one made from insolia grape. Come to think of it, I don't drink many Italian white wines at all, which is a shame. Really should be making an effort to try more than the usual riesling, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, etc...

This is the wine which featured the glass stopper that impressed me so much. After tasting through this wine, I had a few questions about the philophy and image that the producer was trying to present.

In summary, this wine was voluptuous, but sinewy. Light golden colour, beautiful. Nose of citrus and herbs. Very rich in the mouth, but the acidity is what makes this wine spectacular. So well-balanced, perfect with the mostly vegetable and tofu dishes we were eating.

If I was tasting this blind, I would definitely have mistook this for a white Burgundy. No doubt. It's the creaminess and the incredibly vivacious acidity that makes it so special. No evidence of overt oak use, which is wonderful. Which leads to my question. If this producer is so forward-thinking and adventurous in terms of closures, then wouldn't that spirit carry over to how they grow and make the wines? I don't see a avant-garde, heavy-handed manipulation of the wine to suggest that this is made in the International Style.

That's a good thing, to be clear.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

CB?

Did anyone know that Chris Bosh had a daughter? He's done a great job of keeping that a secret. This does not look good for him - don't want to judge if this woman is trying to extort some money or whatever, but it's not a good situation.

Did anyone read the story from the Star? Feschuk is like a salivating dog coming off a 2 week fast in his nonsensical indictment of Bosh as a "deadbeat dad". What an absolute imbecile. And to suggest that Bosh's inconsistencies are due to "off court issues"? Sigh. The Toronto Star just keeps shooting itself in the foot, and hastening along its own demise into irrelevance by keeping these pseudo-journalists on the payroll. Bosh is inconsistent? Right.........averaging 20 and 10 for three straight years is a sign of inconsistency.

Feschuk must have been brushed off by Bosh when he was trying to ask a question, or must have been teased - if not, why the obvious contempt? Be professional, and learn how to put a story together with some degree of journalistic integrity, little boy. Your current writing style fits tabloids like the Sun perfectly.

A bland cognac

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Cognac is one of those drinks that is so misunderstood, much like Champagne. I hear far too many people refer to it as just, "X.O.", as if it qualifies you as some sort of authority on the matter by referring to it as such. It's a product of X.O. usually being in the largest font on the bottle label, and people automatically assuming that that's what it's called. Shameful.

Having said that, cognac isn't my eau-de-vie of choice. Maybe I havn't been drinking enough cognacs, but most likely, I havn't been drinking the right ones. It's like drinking Yellow Tail chardonnay all your life, but not truly understanding the chardonnay grape until that first taste of Chablis. I'm still looking for that transcendant cognac experience that truly expresses what cognac can achieve.

Pictured above, I'm currently drinking a Remy Martin V.S.O.P. Cognac. It's a fine eau-de-vie, just completely without personality or any other identifying cognac characteristic. Creamy weight, yes, but what tells you that this is a cognac? I taste lots of wood, but if I want wood, well........you know my thoughts on that.

Too bad. These huge companies in cognac, pumping out this bland version of what should be a noble and important distilled spirit. Too bad. Good, small producers of cognac are available, but the very limited quantity and resultant price are just too restrictive. It's such a shame. Until I have the means to be able to drink these great cognacs, like Paul Giraud Grande Champagne, I think I'll stick to single malts from Islay.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Normalcy

Since last Monday, and up to tomorrow, my schedule's abnormal. But getting back to normal soon. Some things to look forward to.

Birthday dinners! Starting this weekend. Lots of great food and of course, bottles and bottles of wine. Some Bierzo coming out, which is very exciting. Unknown wine regions are always extremely exciting, and always opportunities to learn.

Tried to do some electrical work yesterday. The light and fan switches in the bathroom need to be separated, so that the light doesn't need to be switched on along with the fan. Waste of electricity. Learned very quickly that rewiring switches is very, very complicated. Shocked myself badly too, when my hand brushed against the plate. Scared the shit out of me because I heard a zap. That's the last time I'm attempting anything electrical. Plumbing, I can handle. Electrical, liable to kill me.

Worked out today. Getting stronger, feeling real good. Only hard part is willing myself to drive to the gym, but once I get there, I go hard. I owe my new found confidence in training to my trainer. And I want an 8-pack by July.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Kings

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Watching "Kings" on NBC. New show, watch if you're in front of the tv. Sundays, 8 to 9pm.

It's completely different from anything else. A modern retelling of the biblical story of King David, set in an alternate universe. Look for Ian McShane as King Silas. Amazing.

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Episode 3 was fantastic. Introduced some new characters, new storylines. Apparently, a few as-yet-unseen characters that were placed in exile. And still unclear about the "promise" between Silas and Michelle. Great start to the series. This is honestly the first tv show that I look forward to every week. Highly recommend it.

Ville-Marie

...or Mont Réal. Whatever you want to call it, its a magical town, and one of my favourite cities in North America.

People describe it as the most European city in this part of the world, but it works because the culture and atmosphere here is genuine. No faux-Euro façades here. The people here are just more genteel, more cultured, and have a truer joie de vivre. That's what I think anyways.

And the girls here know how to pronounce Chablis perfectly. It's almost enough to make you weak at the knees.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

To serve or not?

I think I've touched on this topic a bit. It's an interesting one, and one that gets people a bit worked up. Definitely brings up some people's insecurities. But what the hell, I like chaotic debates.

When you serve wines, should you serve them according to your guest's wine knowledge? For example, would you serve a beginning wine drinker a mature Grand Cru Burgundy that you've been saving for many years? Would you only serve great wines to like-minded connoisseurs?

My argument is yes. Never serve a great wine to someone who won't appreciate it. Someone who's used to the taste of $5 Yellow Tail plonk will be under the appreciation that wine is supposed to taste like that. They'll be used to the taste of overripe junk, smothered in vanilla and cream oakiness. They're used to drinking wines that are "smooth" and "easy drinking", with soft tannin, soft acidity, and soft personality. In other words, whorish wines that don't offer anything else beyond an initial massiveness of colour and weight. Wines with no personality, no sense of place, and not worth the effort it takes to clean your glass off after.

Forget personal palate preference, this piece will not take that into account. I'm talking only about appreciation. That includes being open to wines that are outside the realm of what you normally drink, and something that you definitely wouldn't try on your own. And that means taking the time to fully experience and taste a wine before you form an opinion. I've heard too many people tell me certain European wines are "too light", just because they don't conform to the jam and fruit punch they produce in Australia and California. It's tough, but once you take the time to experience wine with intensity instead of outright power, and appreciate the subtleties of regional and vintage characteristics, your enjoyment and appreciation of wine will improve a hundred-fold.

When we have family friends over, or when we're hosting bigger groups for dinner, I always try to gauge everyone's wine preference. None of the people we invite over, with the exception of JC and some of my friends, know anything about wine. So what do you do? I try to serve decent wines - wines that I'll be happy to drink myself, but ones that will not take more than 30 seconds of concentration. In other words, simple, food-friendly wines. Anything more, and its a waste. Our guests usually don't take time to really taste the wines. It's part of the food, and they're usually hotly debating something else anyways. Wine is just there to loosen the tongue, and aid in the party's joviality.

My friends though, that's another matter. I never pretend to be any kind of expert, but I want to share my enthusiasm for all wines with my buddies. I want to share with them amazing wines I've drank from Rioja, from Mosel, from Niagara, from Burgundy. I want them to learn, yes, but more importantly, I want them to really experience and appreciate wines along with me. And I want them to understand quality, and to stay away from plonk. That's all.

Is this an air-in-the-nose approach? I honestly don't give a shit if you think it is. Do you have to worthy for me to share a great wine with you? Yes - when I say worthy, I'm speaking of appreciation. If I open a classified-growth Bordeaux, and you tell me that you'd prefer a $10 Australian shiraz, then I'm the f*cking idiot.

Going in circles. But appreciation is so important. Maybe it's not the most important thing to be a connoisseur, to be able to detect and identify all the flavours, to rattle on and on about vinification. But if you can appreciate the nuances and significance of the wine, let's share a glass and talk.

On closures

A lot of fuss has been made about wine closures. Cork, Stelvin, synthetic, reconstituted cork.........there are a lot of options. But today, opened a wine with a closure that I've never seen before, and that I quite like. It's almost like those glass stoppers that I use to close up wines to drink another day. Photos below. My favourite closure? Corks for aging, Stelvin for drinking within a year after bottling.

This is obviously not for long aging, but 99% of people don't age wines anyway, so that's not an issue. Tight fitting - I had this bottle sideways for 3 weeks now, and it seals everything well. Superfluous packaging though - screwcap on the outside, which was completely unnecessary. Good. I think I'll keep this, it'll be useful as long as it'll fit other bottle necks.

I'll write about the wine in detail later. It's a Sicilian white, by the way.


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Friday, March 20, 2009

2004 Niagara Peninsula

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2004 Lailey Cabernet, VQA Niagara Peninsula

Dug deep into the cellar (closet) to pull out this bottle. My last one.

A bit hesitant, didn't want to expect too much out of a Niagara cabernet blend, regardless of vintage. I still firmly believe that people should stop trying to grow cabernet and merlot, and focus on pinot noir, but I hoped this one would prove me wrong.

Light red colour, beginning to brown a bit. Nose of tar, earth, dark fruits. Appealing. Lean in the mouth, no doubt. Well-balanced, clean finish. After about 6 hours of decanting, develops warm aromas of mocha and clay. Unfortunately, becomes insipid, and overwhelmed by the oak.

Lots of green in this wine. Which I don't mind. But this is not a good cabernet. And it just proves, with the exception of Marynissen, that this grape just does not grow well in Niagara. I wanted to love the Lailey, I really did. But the terroir here is what it is. Not meant for cabernet. Lailey's pinot noir, on the other hand...........transcendant!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

16 Year Islay Single Malt Scotch

Of all the eau-de-vie's, I love single malt scotch the most. Eau de vie, whether made from fruit or grains, can be tricky. They can be so distilled that they lose a lot of flavour and nuance, and often, they take on so much flavour from whatever vessel they're aged in that there no longer is a sense of place. If all you taste is the oak, then what's the difference between a whiskey from Scotland, or from Ireland, or from Canada?

That is why single malt scotch is so special, especially those from Islay. Islay gives such an intense peaty flavour and brininess to the eau de vie that its instantly recognizable. A bit more aggressive than other eau de vie's, but if you're only interested in "smooth" drinks, then you don't know a damn thing about eau de vie. Simply using the word "smooth" is vulgar. Single malts are more challenging, but they have so much character that isn't found in any other distilled spirit.

I had the opportunity to sample an Islay - Lagavulin 16 Year Single Malt, Islay. Served in a tumbler, which was disappointing, but at least they didn't dump ice in it. Lots of powerful aromas of iodine, backed up against peat and smoke. Very powerful. Fantastic roundness in the mouth, very supple. Not heavy. Develops such a wonderful sweetness and clarity. Very layered. Smoky finish that roars on and on in the mouth. Absolutely delicious, and teaches you so much about scotch. I've learned more about single malt scotches from this glass than any other whiskey I've ever tasted. Incredible - I could still detect traces of it on my palate 30 minutes later, like a lingering, comforting shadow.

When I finish the bottle of Remy Martin, these are the only eau de vie's that I will drink. From now on, it'll only be Islay, or nothing at all.

Interesting video I found. Exactly what I drank, and it's cool to see another perspective. Can't believe he left out the bit about iodine in the bouquet, because that aroma is the most powerful. But, just proves that everyone's palate is different, and his experience (or flavour expectation) is telling him to look for saltiness. And I don't think it's full-bodied at all. Round yes, but not a rich single malt. Believe it or not, those two qualities can be mutually exclusive.


2005 Moulin-à-Vent

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2005 Mommessin "Les Caves", AC Moulin-à-Vent

I've had this wine for about 3 years, but notice how ratty the label looks? Didn't look like that when I packed it up for the cellar.

I discovered Moulin-à-Vent a few years ago, and instantly fell in love. All the fruit you'd like in a simple wine, but with structure and earthy tones. The high acidity always makes this wine perfect with food, and it ages far better than a wine its price should.

Light ruby red colour, thinning saturation at the rim. On the nose, lots of ripe raspberries, brambly aromas of earth and herbs. Lean on the palate, with a slightly bitter finish.

This wine was delicious. At least I thought so. My dinner companions? Not so much. This wine proves the elegance and finess that Moulin-à-Vent can achieve. Gorgeous, understated wine. Something that the crass, New World boors still don't quite understand.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Endless love

Went last week to the Ministry of Health office on Lawrence and Warden to renew my OHIP card. I detest going to that part of town. I know there's trash in every city, but how come it seems that they've all been herded into Scarborough?

One burning question - why is it that magical girls always appear in the most inaccessible places?

She came in 30 minutes after me. Tall, thin, and of the most elegant and genteel flavour I've ever seen. Pretty features - porcelain doll complexion, auburn hair in a high ponytail, with the most radiant brown eyes. Plump, full lips that glistened in the cheap fluorescent government lighting.

Our eyes met, and held a long gaze. There was no more than 15 feet between us, but spiritually, we were forever estranged.

I handed them my ID, took a new photo, and left. Fate doesn't cooperate with what the heart desires.

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Went to First Canadian Place to conduct our first meeting. I felt like such an imbecile trying to figure out which bank of elevators to take to get to the 59th floor. Turns out you have to go down a level, to get to the odd-number floors. In this environment, I'd be crushed in 2 months.

Going to be in Montreal tomorrow and Wednesday. Should be fun. Montreal......sigh...the setting of yet another past heartbreak. Too sad to tell.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Wrapup

Had a leisurely day at home today. It's getting warmer out. Washed both cars for the first time this winter. Lots of dirt, but both ladies are sparkling once again.

We went out for Bebe's dinner last night. Got to meet her friends. Long wait at dinner. Restaurants like Moxie's should stick to what they do best - simple, unrefined foods that appeal to the masses. You know, burgers and fries. Ridiculous to pass themselves off as anything else. Ruined a perfectly good steak. No insult, but if you think steaks are best done on the grill, you have the palate of a donkey. Grilling chars the outside, making it bitter. Not healthy either.

But its about getting together with friends, not about the food right?

Hopefully, I'll be able to drink more wine this week.

Niagara Tour - Bottles in coolers

These are the wines I picked up on this tour. Multiple bottles of each, of course, but all of them are 2007's. Wines to put away. The reds from this vintage have quite fierce structures, and some bottle age is required.

Oh, and if you're thinking of going to wine country and planning on buying wines...bring a cooler. Cleaner and greener than getting a lot of boxes and paper bags. Keeps the wine sheltered from dramatic temperature changes in your car trunk as well.

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2007 Thirty Bench Pinot Noir, VQA Beamsville Bench

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2007 13th Street Winery, Funk Vineyard Riesling, VQA Creek Shores

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2007 Lailey Syrah, VQA Niagara River

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2007 Lailey Pinot Noir, VQA Niagara River

A note on Niagara reporting

I've written a few posts on my Niagara Tour, with many apologies for being so disjointed. In the past, I've written about everything back to back, to keep my thoughts organized. I don't know why this has been so this time around - maybe because my current tour requires a more delicate touch.

I written about 3 of the 4 properties we visited - 13th Street Winery, Thirty Bench, Lailey. The fourth one? To put it into context, it was the first property we visited, and the most important one. I've had a running argument with a few random people here on this. And I've been instructed to be discreet when blogging about the appointment. So what do I do? See how scared I am? Havn't even written the name of the place yet!

I'll let this sit for a bit longer. I definitely want to write and share the details of my visit with everyone. I also want to respect the winery, and the people we met. It's very hard not to be enthusiastic about wines that amaze, so keep checking back in the next week. A post of LCJ is coming!

NV Crémant d'Alsace

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NV Bestheim Brut Rosé, AC Crémant d'Alsace

I'm trying to uphold the noble and very French tradition of enjoying bubbles, anytime, all the time. Don't see a lot of rosé Crémant, but this is from a recent release.

Light salmon pink colour, transparent at the rim. Lively, but scattered mousse. Ripe, bright red berries on the nose. A bit sweet on the palate, develops some weight. Slightly bitter finish. A very, very simple wine, but perfectly fine with our seafood. A wine that picked up our spirits, in on otherwise ordinary Friday evening.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Prostrate

There's nothing that feels more compromising and exposed than lying flat on a dentist's chair. The smell of the anaesthetic, sound of the drill - it's all not unlike torture. And knowing that they're scraping out months worth of plaque and gunk from under your gums......just dirty.

It's almost an out-of-body experience lying on that chair. I closed my eyes, because I was getting a shower from the water gun she was using to loosen the plaque. I had the distinct feeling that my right leg was somehow shorter than my left. And I was pinching myself hard enough to draw blood, without even realizing it. And I'm paying them to do this?

Visiting the dentist is the only occasion in which I pay for a service, but hope that they cut corners. Where I hope that the dentist conveniently forgets to go onto my upper teeth. That a quick check with the little mirror pick will suffice.

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In all seriousness, dental health is extremely important. I like my dentists, they're all great people. But you kind of wonder how Chinese people managed for the last 5000 years, where dental care consisted of a rinse of green tea before and after a meal.

A quickie

What a week - it feels like it's been ages since I've been able to relax a bit. Had a bright, cheerful wine today. Maybe I'll write about it tomorrow. Maybe I won't. We'll see.

Been going to the gym everyday. First time in my life I've worked out so hard. Had a session with my trainer on Thursday - he pushes me to the limit, but I never quit on him. He's not the kind of trainer who tries to pump you up....you know, the type that's always shouting lame encouragement into your ear. He makes you want to get stronger yourself, which works if you're worth the effort. I've never quite on a set, never whined, and always pushed through the pain. Mutual respect. Sore everywhere, and I love it!

Bebe's birthday tomorrow. Shit, and a dentist appointment. I hate dentists. One more day of rest, then a full week of running around Toronto and Montreal for work. It'll be fun though, but travelling in the last legs of winter isn't a walk in the park.

Being busy is good. Here we go again!

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Blogger's note:

This post has been edited. Original was filled with typos and clumsy phrasing. I was blogging while watching tv. In other news, page views are off the charts!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Niagara Tour - Old Winery Restaurant

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One of my favourite restaurants in the area. Fresh, seasonal foods, value-driven, excellent service, decent wine list. I really need to be more adventurous, but I find myself coming here to eat everytime I'm in the area.

We started with the carrot and squash curry soup. Perfect balance of rich sweetness and spiciness. Just delicious, perfectly preparing the appetite for our meal. We followed with Italian sausage pizza (crispy crust, tangy toppings), seafood linguine, and pan-seared rainbow trout (perfectly cooked, tender and flavoursome).

For wine, we drank 2007 Cave Spring Dry Riesling. I don't know why they'd add the word "dry" in the name - it's anything but. Of course, not cloyingly sweet, but off-dry enough to make you notice. Although a simple wine, it's well-balanced but sufficient acidity to pair nicely with everyone's food.

Niagara Tour - Photos

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Le Clos Jordanne, Claystone Terrace Vineyard, Chardonnay vines

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Le Clos Jordanne, Claystone Terrace Vineyard, Chardonnay vines

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Le Clos Jordanne, Claystone Terrace Vineyard, Pinot Noir vines

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Thirty Bench Wine Makers, oak ferment tanks

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Thirty Bench Wine Makers, Tasting room

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Lailey Vineyard, cellar

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Lailey Vineyard, Pinot noir barrels

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Lailey Vineyard, Pinot Noir 2006

Niagara Tour - Lailey Vineyard

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Ed drawing 2008 Wismer Chardonnay

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Tasting 2008 Lailey Pinot Noir

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Lailey Vineyard

Ever since that drop of 2005 Lailey Pinot Noir a few summers ago at Escabeche, I was entranced. The wine that first sparked my interest in Niagara wines, and proved to me that distinct, transcendant wine could be made here.

Ed's always been very humble and self-deprecating about Lailey wines. I admire that, because the wines speak for themselves.

We tasted a lot of wine, from barrel and bottle. The 2008's were delicious. Elegant, exceptionally delicate wines of great finesse. You would be stupid to write off this vintage, simply based on the at times awful weather we saw last year. The chardonnays were round and balanced. Pinot noirs were very fragrant, lovely roses and red fruits. The red fruits are typical of a cooler vintage, and the floral component is instantly recognizable as Niagara.

The 2007's have just been bottled, and are living up to expectations. The syrah has excellent varietal characteristics, lots of white pepper and buttery soft tannins. Pinot noirs have depth and structure, and are no doubt built for aging. Chardonnays are very refined, with layers of fruit.

This is just an overview of the wines we tasted, and were the ones that stood out. I was lucky - the 2007 pinot noirs are all sold out, but Ed found a few unlabelled ones for me. I wish they had been left bare bottled.

Again, Lailey proves that it creates balanced, terroir-driven wines of great personality and class. Maybe, like Thirty Bench, it would benefit with less varietals - strengths are clearly pinot noir and chardonnay. Really exceptional wines, that will turn anyone into a believer. Thanks Ed, I'll see you in a few months!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Need blood!

http://www.graperadio.com/archives/2009/03/12/brian-clark-injured-in-car-accident/

I know that there have been a few people visiting this page from California, so if you're in the area, please consider donating blood.

I love the work that Graperadio does, and I've followed Brian Clark's work for a long time. It's a horrible accident, and I wish I could help. So please, he needs blood, and if you're in the area, drop in to a clinic and donate some.

Spitting

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spitting wine

One of the great things I can indulge in when I'm in wine country is slurping and spitting with reckless abandon. I don't care how many people think its affected or pretentious, you simply cannot experience the entire flavour spectrum of a wine without properly rolling in your mouth, whilst sucking in oxygen.

You make a lot of noise, but you don't get the same looks of incredulity that you do when you're among non-wine lovers. Why is that? Insecurity?

When you're touring several wine producers, and tasting around 100 wines over a period of around 5-6 hours, you better spit. If I didn't, I'd be floored by the time we get to the second winery. And obviously, driving would be out of the question. Don't drink and drive. That's why I feel a bit self-conscious when I'm spitting. I've seen some great wine spitters, and it's definitely much harder than it looks. In fact, its almost a rite of passage among wine circles - the ability to spit accurately and cleanly is a very admired skill.

I've managed to be able to not dribble and generally am able to spit with an acceptable degree of accuracy. Meaning, most of it will end up in the bucket, instead of on my pants, shoes, floor.............

We were tasting in the cellars of some of the properties we visited, and this was a bit trickier. No spittoons, just a drain to aim at. That's the real test. To spit standing straight, without splashing. Alas, while I fared a bit better than my friends, more diligent practice will be needed.

Release - March 14


Ahh, new releases today! Picked up several wines that I'm familiar with, and that I'm really looking forward to. Wines to enjoy this summer, when I hope to do a mini-vertical of 10 and 20 year old rieslings. And just for fun, a rosé crémant d'Alsace.

From the top:

NV Bestheim Brut Rosé, AC Crémant d'Alsace
1995 Balthasar Ress, Hatllgartener Jungfer, Riesling Kabinett, QmP Rheingau
1987 Schloss Resinhartshausen, Hattenheimer Wisselbrunnen, QmP Rheingau
2003 Zilliken Rieslign Kabinett, Saarburger Rausch, QmP Mosel-Saar-Ruwer


I suppose the highlight is that 1987.....you just don't see such old wines being made available anymore. But I think I'm looking forward to the Zilliken just a bit more. I drank a bottle of their 2002 Riesling Kabinett from a different vineyard last summer. Very impressive.

Also, picked up an order. 1999 Charles Ellner Seduction Brut Champagne. Never can have too much Champagne at home, although I admit this purchase was a bit impulsive.

On the way home, we were discussing where we were going to put all this wine. It's infinitely disappointing when you really have no place to store your wines. Keep looking for a good, local off-site storage facility because keeping it at a friend's home isn't the answer.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

New camera?


I really want this. Nikon D90. Rocky, need your advice. I'm hooked and want to pick photography up more seriously. Time to go get that money!

Post workout

I've been pounding the gym hard this past week. Weights and cardio everyday since Sunday. My arms havn't stopped hurting since I met my trainer last week. He's a great trainer - how do I know? The first thing he said to me was, "Out of everyone in this gym, I have the most experience." Good man.

How does wine/alcohol affect how your muscles heal? Other than the dehydrating effects of alcohol, I don't really see any detriment to drinking. Besides, I drink so much water and tea during the day.

What else........the weather's kind of flirting with us. Warm one minute, then frigid and windy the next. Have to keep reminding myself that this is Canada, and our spring doesn't really come until mid-April.

What to drink in this kind of weather? I'm still inclined to drinking heavier wines. Southern French wines, clarets, and the odd Spanish wine. Suggestions? Counting down the days until I can dive into well-chilled Albarinos, cremants, and rieslings.

Burg on sale!

I believe in fate. Especially with regards to wine. Maybe its just an excuse to justify my purchase decisions, but then, I really do enjoy drinking the wines I buy. Collecting is vulgar, and the moment I begin collecting wine is the moment that I've fallen out of love with wine.

My most memorable white Burgundy is a bottle of Chablis Premier Cru, from Montmains. Lots of tension in the wine, that resolves so harmoniously in the mouth. Such an incredible expression of richness and steely character. A wine of incredible personality and uniqueness.

Guess what? Another Bin Ends sale from VintagesOnline. Quite a significant reduction as well on this bottle. Makes me very happy. Fated to bring in a few more bottles, to see how this ages. Also, a 1995 Balthasar Ress Riesling Spatlese. Building together an interesting lineup of rieslings from the '80s and '90s to taste this summer. It's amazing how these twenty-plus year old wines are available for $15-20. Incredible. Can you imagine quality, mature, wine from any other region being sold at these prices? I love German riesling, in all its incarnations.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Niagara Tour - Thirty Bench Wine Makers

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Thirty Bench Wine Makers

It's hard for me not to get excited when I talk about Thirty Bench. This is my 3rd consecutive visit - their rieslings are just irresistibly seductive and true. I havn't made a secret of my belief that they make the truest rieslings of Niagara, and possibly one of the better New World examples of this varietal.

I ask them to pour us the 3 single vineyard rieslings everytime. I don't know if anyone else notices, but the Triangle Vineyard and Steel Post Rieslings show differently each time. I don't know which one is my favourite, because I change my mind everytime. The first time, Steel Post just made such an impression on me, with its incredible minerality and petrol notes. Last December, I fell in love with Triangle, with its weight and complexity. But this time, I wasn't so sure. Both wines weren't very expressive. Maybe an awkward time in the bottle, maybe some reduction going on - maybe just needs some age. Still delicious, but not showing their true colours.

What's interesting is that Wood Post Rieslings have always been consistent. Round, supple, silky. We were given a surprise riesling - a 2003 Dim Vineyard Riesling. They don't make it anymore, and this example was made by the old winemaker. I don't know if the folks there think of it as a good wine, but after tasting it, my appreciation of Natalie Reynolds increased tenfold.

For the first time, the pinot noir was available. 2007 Small Lots Pinot Noir, it showed the characteristics of the vintage well. Ripe, well-structured, and just hinting of developing complexity. I'm intrigued to how this will age.

An informative and enjoyable visit, as always. I'd like to see them cut down on the number of wines they make, especially the cabernet franc that thinks of itself as a syrah. It's just a dream, but why can't people focus on the things they do so well? Like rieslings? Nevertheless, an excellent producer, and one that I think is just tapping its potential. One of the most reliable producers as well, across its whole product line. Natalie Reynolds does exceptional work, and proves that sometimes, (more often than not) wine benefits from a woman's touch.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Niagara Tour - 13th Street Winery

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13th Street Winery

It's so exciting to visit a winery for the first time. I've heard a lot about their wines, and we were able to taste through a fair number. Enough to get a sense of the winery's style and personality.

We really enjoyed our time here. The lady was very friendly, and we talked about the winery, Niagara, and wine in general.

The wines are well-balanced, understated representations of what seems a sensible approach to winemaking. I can see all the wines being able to marry well with food, which is what good wine is supposed to do. Maybe won't light a fire, but they make good wines.


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My favourite was the 2007 Funk Vineyard Riesling, VQA Creek Shores. Lots of citrus and lanolin on the nose. Great balance in the mouth, ending in a refreshing, slightly off-dry finish. It doesn't shout riesling in a show of flash, but how come the majority of producers still havn't figured this out? Un-balanced wines are pointless and crude - if it doesn't go with food, then it doesn't belong on the table.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Niagara Tour, March 2009

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Niagara is a magical place. I've always known that, but everytime I go up, there's always new things to learn. As each producer makes and begins building a library of vintages, the subtleties and characteristics of Niagara's terroir begin to unveil. I believe in this region. Now, more than ever, there is a unity of place, in the wines that are being produced here. However, producers must be aware of the dangers that the globalization of wine tastes bring - we must continue to be unique. There must only be Niagara wines being made here. Wine cannot be altered to fit the trends and public tastes that are so fickle and callow. I've tasted it - there is such thing as a Niagara wine, but how many people are willing to sacrifice in order to allow the terroir to sing in all its glory?

All the people we met were as friendly and welcoming, as Niagara's wineries always are. Everyone was willing to share their knowledge of the region's wines, without hesitating to recommend other producers to seek out and try. We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly, and came away with greater appreciation for the wine, and the people. The wines we tasted were, at their best, incredibly pure expressions of fruit and earth. Of course, there were many simple wines, but even these were well-balanced, and food-friendly. Only two wines we tasted were undrinkable - a hybrid variety and an archaically made wine. There was consistency of quality, and the wines were honest interpretations of vintage and varietal. No sign of over-manipulation - the over-oaked, overripe monsters that plague so much of the New World.

As the sub-appellations of Niagara begin to reveal their personalities and characters, there is palpable excitement in the area. This is a dramatic and important time for Ontario wine, and local wine lovers. I feel privileged to be along for the ride.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A day in the fields

I am absolutely exhausted, but so elated at the things I've seen, tasted, and learned today in Niagara. I've always enjoyed my visits up, but today was my greatest tour. Learned so much, and gained a giant leap in my wine knowledge, as well as appreciation for the region.

Need some time to sort through my notes and photos, but will begin posting tomorrow.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Questions

This week has been rough for me. It's the first time that I've experienced real negativity since I've started La Cave de Fang, and honestly, it gets to me. I won't lie, I'm human, and harsh comments hurt. But, I've put myself out on the internet, and I guess everything I post here is fair game. Be respectful. I'm a normal person, like everyone else, and being on the internet doesn't mean you can lob any kind of insult you want. Let's have a fair discussion if we disagree, instead of a pissing contest that degenerates into vulgarity.

Moving on. I've been sick this week with a cold. It's been more than a year since my last one, so it's due, but the week before I go to Niagara? Come on, man, that's just cruel. Things seem to be better, after seeing my doctor, but still not feeling 100%. The best medicine for a cold? Sleep. It's simple, no need to buy all kinds of syrups or drops or pills. Get 10-12 hours of sleep. And lots of NeoCitran.

Going on my Niagara tour tomorrow. First visit up since last June. Disappointed that I wasn't able to go last autumn, but it is what it is. Good lineup of wineries planned, and I have many things that I want to ask. It probably won't endear me to the good folks up there, but I want the honest truth, without any gloss.

I want to learn about what each winery feels about Niagara terroir, and what it consitutes. I want to know how everyone feels about wineries that try to grow 15 different varietals. And I want to know how each winery plans to expand, and build the Niagara brand as a credible wine region around the world.

Drank a beautiful wine tonight - at least I thought so. Mother didn't enjoy it so much. Tuned my palate for tomorrow. Ready for the aromas and flavours that await!

Excited, really excited for tomorrow. I'm really sorry that two of my friends can't come. Going to some new places tomorrow, tasting a lot of new things. A full day of wine, food, and friends.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Inspired

Inspiration does come from where you least expect.

Don't know the reason for these last few comments - I must have hit a nerve. But why is it that the topic of taste always brings with it an unjustified amount of cynicism and snark? Maybe its the depressing late winter weather. Everyone's a little cranky and jumpy.

Taste is subjective. I believe I have good taste. You might not think so. And if you disagree, that's fine. I have no problem being critiqued - as long as it's backed up by a discussion of your perspective and reasoning, and done in a respectful, civil way. Unfortunately, it hasn't been like that lately.

The internet brings us together, but it also provides a way to snipe at people you don't know, in the comfort of anonymity. It's revealing, when people leave comments as "Anonymous". Do you know what that signifies? That signifies that these people would shy away from saying vicious things to you in person, but have no qualms about doing it online.

In any case, this is a blog about wine. It's about sharing a love for wine, and the culture that surrounds it. Everyone has an opinion and everyone's a critic, but my objective is clear. And do you see, in any of the attacking comments written, anything pertaining to wine? No. Do you not know anything substantial, or care enough about wine to engage in a discussion with me about it? Do you have to resort to personal, irrelevant attacks to somehow assert your intellectual/moral superiority? Calling me a snob, over and over again, while you never state what exactly I've written to give you that impression? Come on, name-calling is for the schoolyard.

Let's talk about wine. I wanted to attract like-minded lovers of wine and food to this blog, and engage in debate and dialogue about our experiences. No one's an expert, and we all have much to learn from each other. In this regard, I have failed. So if you're not interested in wine, please visit other blogs. Take the bitching somewhere else, because I don't need to have to deal with you.

I try to stay humble and contrite when I write about wine, because wine and nature are too subtle and vast and ever-lasting to be fully understood. I admit that my knowledge and experience are very limited - I've never claimed otherwise. However, I can truthfully say that I appreciate wine and all it offers. I will always be honest and write from the soul, never from what convention states as fine literature. And if you disagree with what I have to say, be a grown-up, and leave a tasteful comment. And please, leave a name.


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Nose is really starting to leak today. It's too hard not to get sick - I tried to be careful, but winter is a son-of-a-bitch.

Despite all the negativity, my blog traffic has shot way up the last few weeks. There's nothing like some conflict and drama to attract curious bystanders...............

Monday, March 2, 2009

Sniffles

Woke up with a jolt this morning to a searingly sore throat. Where did this come from? I hope its the dry air, and not, you know, a cold.

Need my nose and palate in top condition for this weekend. Really can't afford to to into these places with the sniffles. Any remedies you can think of?

Oh, and Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss, my absolute favourite wordsmith!\

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I'm not ashamed to say I'm listening right now to Taylor Swift. This girl's got it goin on.

Really, if anyone has any kind of remedy to prevent/fight off an upcoming head cold, please, please, let me know!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

VickyChristinaBarcelona

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I love Spanish girls as much as I love their wines. Soulful, with great character and depth. Lots of intensity.

Greatest film I've watched in a long, long time - Vicky Christina Barcelona. I've always admired Penelope Cruz, and her performance in this film clearly demonstrates why she won an Oscar.

She doesn't appear until about 50 minutes in, more than half way. But in every scene, she throws herself in a frenzied display of love, jealousy, and fiery passion. She's the kind of woman that, when you're with her, you're in heaven - only if you cross her, you're as good as dead. I wonder what her wine equivalent would be. Just incredibly emotional, fragile, but with great power and flair.

Set in Spain, with lots and lots of wine being drunk. Perfect. Really, really, really lusting for a bright Rias Baixas.

I loved this film. Brilliant, riveting, creative. Didn't really appreciate the odd narration, but I loved the screenplay. The writing was absolutely brilliant. Lots of repitition of lines, lots of short, clipped phrases. And the version I watched didn't have subtitles. Hopefully, that was intentional. I loved that they spoke so much in Spanish, not only because it's a beautiful language, but also because the actors are able to convey so much emotion using their native tongue. Not being able to understand the dialogue makes the scenes more forceful. Brilliant!

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Had a good day today. Dropped into Goodlife - need a bit of a push, but my fitness isn't as bad as I thought. Especially considering I havn't been running since lat September. Only 3 more months until I can run outdoors again!