Thursday, April 30, 2009

Daydreaming

The work week's still not over yet, so why am I already thinking about the weekend?

Going downtown, for the first time in what seems like months. Heading to Holt, to meet that personal shopper. I'm not a chick and I don't like randomly shopping around. I want a peacoat for fall, and a trenchcoat for spring. It's pretty simple, so hopefully Jill can take care of that for me. Also, need to make a trip to Williams Sonoma and The Wine Establishment. What, you think I wrote about stems earlier for nothing?

Dinner will be in the Distillery District. Just aching for great seafood.

And finally, haircut on Sunday. Desperately need to go in, because it's been 2 months and I look exactly like a poor immigrant. Not a good look.

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Worked out like a beast today. Mr. Filipino gives me a new routine every 2 weeks, and today's was just brutal. I was literally dripping sweat everywhere in the gym. Still working on that 8-pack.

Skipped releases

LCBO skipped a release this month. There was supposed to be on last Saturday, but it's now scheduled for this weekend. And now, it looks like the next one will be 3 weeks away as well. Dropping the ball guys, dropping the ball.

But I should be happy. Along with my new resolution to taste more New World wines, this is forcing me to make better buying decisions. I'm buying to drink, instead of to store.

Nose and palate

I'm working hard at improving my palate. How? Lots and lots and lots of tasting different wines. I want palate sensitivity to increase, obviously - sensitivity to the nuances in wine are what sets apart the enlightened tasters from the casual quaffers. But palate isn't like a bicep - do enough barbell curls and you'll notice muscle mass increasing. How do you tell that your palate is improving?

To put it another way, how do you ensure that your tasting methods improve your palate? You could very easily be drinking without thinking, and really get nothing out of it except a raging hangover.

Have to make sure that I'm improving and not adjusting. Some people can't stand the bitter taste that some tannins can have, but slowly develop a taste for it. That's not improving. That's just adapting.

If there's an exercise you can do to improve the palate, let me know. I'd totally be willing to do anything to gain whatever advantage I can.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Niagara Tour - Le Clos Jordanne

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Le Clos Jordanne, Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard

Le Clos Jordanne. It's been more than a month since our visit - one that made me the target of more than a few ornery comments. Yet I learned more about the potential of Niagara terroir after this visit than from any other tour. I know I didn't make myself very popular with all the posting in early March. Everyone's a critic.

It's taken me so long to put this down in print because I needed more time to reflect. Le Clos Jordanne isn't just about making high quality wines - it's about an ideal, that Niagara can produce the greatest pinot noir and chardonnay outside of Burgundy. There is a responsibility here, to finally solidify Niagara's international standing as a serious wine region.

Great wine terroirs are great not because they produce stunning wines in excellent vintages, but because they can achieve greatness in difficult vintages as well. In difficult years, the winemaker has to have a heavier hand in the process, but that doesn't refute the fact that great terroirs will consistently produce excellent wines. That is why the focus here will be on pinot noir, from the 2008 vintage.

As Ontarians know, 2007 was a legendary vintage. Dry, hot weather, breeding wines of immense concentration, density, and ripeness. But 2008 was a different matter. Cold winter, leading to late flowering. Heavy rain falls, during the growing season and harvest. In a word, disastrous. There were expectations that the wines were going to be nothing more than thin, insipid, and green. I wanted to see how Le Clos Jordanne coped with this vintage, as it would be misleading to judge them purely on the blockbuster 2007's.

Le Clos Jordanne has 4 distinct terroirs - Talon Ridge, Le Clos Jordanne, Claystone Terrace, and La Petite. Scattered throughout Twenty Mile Bench in west Niagara, they have a commonality in that they all occupy the highest land. This elevation is what sets them apart. Higher elevation means better drainage, and better sun/wind exposure. Mix of clay and sand on top of limestone. I've always felt that Twenty Mile Bench and Beamsville Bench produced the most elegant wines, with the ability to age. Le Clos Jordanne's sites are clearly the premier vineyard sites in the area.

The epitome of Burgundy is the wine's ability to distinguish different terroirs in the glass, sometimes dramatically. Parcels just metres apart can taste significantly different. And that is what I found in Le Clos Jordanne. To put it simplistically, Talon Ridge showcased lots of red fruit, with a lovely balance of big tannins and big acidity. Claystone Terrace was brawny - meatier, gamier, and reminiscent of dried fruits and roses. La Petite Vineyard was just ultra-elegant - silky weight and texture, lots of rose petals and a finish that just dances on your palate. Timeless beauty, in vinous form. Le Clos Jordanne was clearly the powerhouse. Seamless texture, but on a stern foundation. Lots of freshness - fresh roses, cranberries, cherries. A darker, more brooding wine with lots of layers and depth. This showed the mystery that Burgundian wines have - there's an aspect of its character that is undefinable, but so intoxicating.

I absolutely fell in love with La Petite Vineyard. It's situated on a very high slope, like a glistening ruby in the crown of Niagara's escarpment. The sheer elegance was absolutely stunning - I've never drank a more weightless, silky wine. Absolute sophistication and grace. Perfectly balanced, subtle - I remember standing there speechless, and all I could manage was, "It's so beautiful!"

There's not a doubt in my mind that Le Clos Jordanne is world class. To my palate, the 2008's are superior to the 2007's. While not possessing the same density and tightness, the 2008's demonstrate perfectly the seductiveness and great class of pinot noir. As the vineyards age and their root systems become more ingrained, the minerality present in these wines is only going to increase. In 10 years time, we are really going to see these distinct terroirs flourish and showcase their unique characters. Will these wines age well? I don't know, and it seems Le Clos Jordanne isn't clear either. That will take time. I have a feeling that the wines will easily hold for 10+ years. Excellent balance and acidity is not a problem in these wines.

This piece does not do Le Clos Jordanne wines justice. It's just my impression, and as you can tell, I was floored and amazed. Running out of superlatives. I would like to extend my gratitude and appreciation to the kind lady that took us around, and explained Niagara terroir to us.

I'll be following these wines with great interest. I've fallen in love, for life.

Pee pee

Urine test

So, as part of my insurance, they need a urine sample from me. Just to make sure I'm, you know, insurable.

A nurse came in, very nice gentleman. He gave me this package. Had no clue what I was supposed to be doing - you want me to pee into those tiny test tubes? I mean, my pinky is bigger than that, and I don't exactly have bear paws.

No, you're supposed to pee into the big beaker, then carefully fill up the test tubes. Notice the little spout. I almost giggled out loud when he told me to "start filling up mid-stream". There was even a tablet in the green vial to "keep the urine fresh". Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't being warm guarantee freshness? I mean, it should at least be 37° right?

There was some spillage. I assure you, I washed my hands. I hope my urine passes the test.

California

Not finished yet. I've always had a negative attitude towards American wines and palates, and particularly against California. Some bad early experiences that shut down my interest. This is the wrong approach. I'm rectifying it.

You can't call yourself a wine lover if you ignore entire swaths of the New World. I keep telling others that, so why can't I practice my own philosophy? I declare, from this day forward, to conscientiously search out and taste Californian wines.

Paso Robles syrah, Carneros chardonnay and sparkling wines, Russian River Valley pinot noirs, and Ridge wines. There's a huge variety, and unless I taste my way through all the AVA's, how can I form a credible opinion?

This week's release will be a good start.

Beer

Summer is arriving soon, and continuing on a theme from last year, it's time for more beers. Specifically, pale ales, India pale ales, pilsners, and stout.

Beer is every bit as complex and intellectual as wine. Its image has just been ruined by the callow palates of mindless, douchebag college students, binge drinking because they've never tasted alcohol before, and that somehow its socially revered to puke until you black out.

I'll always remember that Boddington's pale ale I drank in a downtown pub a few years ago. Very complex, with sweetness from the grain, and bitter character from the hops on the finish. Delicious.

Check back, much more beer will be featured here soon!

1986 Rheingau

1986 Balthasar Ress

1986 Balthasar Ress Riesling Spätlese, Hochheimer Kirchenstück, QmP Rheingau.

The wine for my birthday dinner. As I said earlier, this year was no time for celebrating with Champagne. This isn't a bad alternative, though. Even though it's still just Balthasar Ress.

A vertical of these wines came up a few months ago. Snapped some up, because when you're the one starting a cellar, you have slim opportunities to drink older wines. All up to yourself.

Black, moldy cork, although it drew out easily. Luminous golden, but not dark at all. Holding onto its saturation. Just a beautiful colour. Intense, oily nose with lots of apple and minerality. What's fascinating about this wine is that in the mouth, the minerals and slate follows, but on the finish, just a resounding lanolin character. Lanolin cream. Yes, it just tastes like a sheep. Beautiful. Long, long finish.

By no means, a life-changing riesling, but a very, very good wine. Remarkably fresh for a 23 year old white wine, although acidity is losing its grip. Perfect amount of residual sugar, just equilibrium, vinified.

Delicious, and very memorable. I'm firmly convinced that Spätlese is the way to go.

On stems

Wine drinkers don't needs lots of equipment to practice their hobby. Really, we just need a clear head and great stemware. Ahh, but that's just the thing - with so many brands, so many styles, how do you know which one to buy?

All this nonsense about having to match varietals with their specific glass shapes is just marketing theft. You're being robbed if you believe the idea that you should drink pinot noir only in Burgundy glasses. What you do need are crystal glasses. That is very important. Only with crystal do you get absolutely transparent glasses, with very thin rims and a very light weight.

I use Riedel and Spigelau. Of course, if I had the means, I would drink exclusively Riedel stems. The design, the feel of the stem in your hand, and the sensation when you swirl the wine - Riedel just feels right. Of course, a set of those Zalto Champagne glasses would be delicious as well.

It's always a problem, dealing with your glasses. It's inevitable that you break them - no matter how careful you are, crystal is crystal. I love Max Riedel's quip, that you shouldn't wash glasses the night that you've been drinking because, "the sink can appear very small and the glass very big." Storage is also an issue. Just don't have the space at home to keep a lot of different glasses, because I always try to buy 8 or 12 of the same glass. Looks better when you're entertaining a larger group. Don't want to have mismatched stems.

My everyday drinking glass is my Riedel Vinum Zinfandel glasses. I know, it's called Zinfandel, but I don't mind it. It's perfect for red and white wines, with a generous bowl and narrow rim. Really shows off all the wines very well, so far.

I also use my Spigelau Rheingau glass often. Mostly for rieslings, of course, but they also work well for cognac and other eau de vie.

There are two more glass types I would like to add to my collection. First would be tasting glasses. Very small glasses, that would work great for Champagne, Sauternes, and just about any other wine for those times when I want to be more focussed on tasting. Second would be Riedel Burgundy glasses. I used them when we tasted at a Niagara winery, for their spectacular pinot noirs, and just fell in love. Shows off the aromas and seductive perfumes of pinot noir perfectly.

So, to sum up: I don't believe you need 10 different glasses, but there's no doubt in my mind that the right stem takes your wine experience to a completely different level.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

April 28, 2009

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I turn 31 23 today. Doesn't feel like it. Don't exactly feel celebratory.

What have I accomplished in 23 years? I spent my birthday last year in Tokyo, which was exciting enough. A lot's happened in a year, but there's been lots of uncertainty and loads of stress. Will being 23 be any different? I don't know - but if this year is going to be a repeat of 2008-2009, at least I'll have a few cases of wine to fall back on.

Didn't do anything special today. I thought about it, but today wasn't appropriate for Champagne. Had a riesling instead, albeit an old and very special bottle. It wouldn't be right to be celebrating hard. When you lose someone in your family, the least you could do is show restraint.

Many thanks to everyone who sent their best wishes. I appreciate and value all my friends, and this year I'm making a more conscientious effort to see everyone more often.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Kaboom!

Ok, so I didn't exactly represent myself very well with those last 2 comments. But, they've been deleted, so that's the end of that. I need a cooling off period of at least 10 hours after someone comments, or I'll just sound like the biggest f*cking asshole.

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I did something really stupid today. Not my finest moment. Heated some hard-boiled, shelled, eggs in the microwave (yes, I know, I've done many times safely). It was fine out of the microwave. I didn't try eating it until after at least a minute. The minute I bit into it, the damn thing just exploded. Like, bits of egg white and yolk flying everywhere. All I felt was a huge *pop*, a hiss of steam, and a massive wall of shame and hurt.

I burned the tip of my tongue really bad, as well as my left thumb. Learned my lesson. After you heat eggs, make sure you let them sit for a while. Those little f*ckers are just ticking time bombs.

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Absolutely balmy outside, isn't it? Beautiful. Ahh...my last day of being 22. Sigh.

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Read this little anecdote:

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn4946-microwave-ovens-should-warn-of-exploding-eggs.html

The Exploding Egg!
Wed Nov 14 03:01:29 GMT 2007 by Ok
I can't believe I found this. This is crazy. People should know about this silebt killer. This morning, I microwaved a peeled hard boiled egg that was in the fridge for about 40 seconds. I took the egg out of the microwave and about a minute later sat at the table and biit into the egg. It exploded in my mouth. There was egg all over the place, up my nose, on the floor and all over my dogs. It wasn't just a small explosion, it was like an M80. It was a loud bang. My lip is fat, my gums are bruised and I have a ringing in my ear. This is crazy. Peopl need to know about this silent killer.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Zzz

I'm tired and in bed. Just want to sleep and wake up naturally, without having to mind that hellacious alarm clock. Ahh, the carefree days of university...

My mother asked me why I don't go out more. It's true. Havn't seen my friends in what seems like a long time. I guess my answer would be.........I'm tired. I feel beat up sometimes at the end of the week, and I just want to sleep.

Of course, this approach does my social life no favours. I'll be the 40 year old who ends up alone, with only his dog and wine to keep him company.

Good night!

2003 Sauternes

2003 Chateau Roumieu

2003 Château Roumieu, AC Sauternes.

The third wine of Friday's dinner, this one takes me back. I can't even find an entry for this wine in my cellar book - I must have had it for at least 3 years. When I bought this wine, I must have only tasted about 2 or 3 Sauternes - I think I paid $25 at most for this bottle. Its been through many moves and changes along with me, so I only thought it appropriate to open it alongside the 2003 Château L'Arrosée. Also, I don't think the 2003's are meant for long aging.

Deep golden colour, still very yellowish. Thick nose of apricots, long-an, and dates. Very fresh fruit. Develops a chlorine-like minerality. On the palate, it is very viscous, thick and heavy. Honeyed fruits, sludging into a long finish. Very sweet. Extremely low acidity. This is cloying, and although some may enjoy this style, it tastes unbalanced to me. Far too much sweetness, sticking to your mouth. Minerality comes through - this wine has good complexity, but they were not able to work around the extremely (over)ripe grapes of 2003.

I won't complain, because I'm very happy every time I get the chance to drink Sauternes. Glad I opened this bottle, and got it out of the way. Can't wait for the 2007's to arrive.

Painting

When I was young, I learned Chinese calligraphy and watercolour painting. I loved it. Looks simple, but the technique and skill required is extraordinary.

I'm ashamed to say I havn't practiced in many years. A lot of things contributed to my negligence. My former teacher may have something to do with that. He was a bastard and a swine of man, but his artistic talent was undeniable. He also had a propensity for unsavoury sex with married women, but that's another story.

I want to begin painting again. Something that doesn't so much adhere to strict tradition, but is rather an expression. We'll see how things go. Maybe I'll even post a few up!

Weekend of work

This weekend has not been a restful few days of fine drinking and dining. I was a road warrior yesterday, and it seems that it's the same today as well. Driving to the airport this morning, I was yawning the entire way. Driver's fatigue. Had an appointment with my Chinese herbal doctor today. Will end the day with a meeting with my agent.

Maybe its the weather. Rainy, grey weather just is the perfect weather for a nap.

My goal this week is to get back on schedule. Mr. Filipino thinks I can't do three sets for the workout he designed for me. I'm going to prove that meathead wrong. This might be wildly successful, or very painful if I pull a muscle. But...no rest for the hard-working.

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Still have some things to catch up on. The piece on the Sauternes I drank coming soon, and finally, a spectator's commentary on Le Clos Jordanne.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Wallowing

I think Deron Williams is my favourite point guard to watch. A 200+ pound man that can switch directions like that? A stud. Just watched LA tear the Jazz a big, new one.

Still drinking that last glass of Sauternes. Will write about it tomorrow, when I've had a night to reflect on it. Initial thoughts? Far too sweet. Needs more acid. Not that you should acidify a wine. A true reflection of the vintage, whether that's good or bad - that's what I enjoy.

I'm tired. Driving makes you mentally fatigued. Unfortunately, won't be able to sleep in tomorrow either. Heading to the airport, yet again.

2003 Saint-Émilion Grand Cru

2003 Chateau L'Arrosee cap

2003 Chateau L'Arrosee cork

2003 Chateau L'Arrosee


2003 Château L'Arrosée, AC Saint-Émilion Grand
Cru

This wine is very near and dear to my heart. A Grand Cru Classé of Saint-Émilion. this property has put out several excellent, rejuvenated vintages of late. Good, because I've bought every vintage of this wine since 2003.

The first time I drank this wine was at a friend's house. He opened a bottle of 1992 for us, and I was struck by the dense, nutty nose, and absolute elegance of the palate. Been thinking of this wine ever since. For 2003, the blend is comprised of 60% merlot, 20% cabernet franc, and 20% cabernet sauvignon. A lot of cabernet sauvignon for a Right Bank wine. My first wine of the night.

I bought this wine for Christmas, of 2006. After more than 2 years, many moves and temperature fluctuations, I had my suspicions about the health of this bottle. Cork protruded a bit, which only added to my worries.

Although stained about a quarter inch from the bottom, the cork drew out easily. Holding onto its colour nicely - bright red, just the slightest clearing at the rim. Luminous.

Initial bouquet of ground coffee, mulch, and wet earth. Some dark fruits, but the merlot is really hidden. With lots of air (about 4 hours decanted), it develops a warmth and a creaminess. Builds power, with booming mocha. On the palate, my initial reaction was a disbelief of how weightless the wine was. Just absolute air in the mouth, absolute silkiness and elegance. Tannins are present but extremely well hidden. Just a stunningly elegant, pure wine.

As dinner went on. the wine displayed a characteristic sweetness of great claret. Becomes so sweet on the palate, layering into spicy notes on the finish. Very, very harmonious, finishing with fantastic length.

The cabernet influence is obvious. A very understated wine, given the extremely hot vintage of 2003. It's a 13% alcohol wine, for crying out loud - very restrained.

I definitely opened this one too soon. But - I'm turning 31, so the occasion called for it. To be clear - I was underwhelmed by this wine, given that I paid $65 for it. Or maybe I just don't like cabernet sauvignon. I have one more bottle. We'll see in a few years. I have to make a major decision in a few months whether to continue buying this estate's wine or not.

2004 Lalande de Pomerol

2004 Chateau de Bel-Air

Château de Bel-Air, AC Lalande de Pomerol.

I bought this wine more than 2 years ago. I love the 2004 vintage in Bordeaux, and I love searching for great values in the satellite appellations of the Right Bank. I think I've found one here. 75% merlot, 15% cabernet franc, 5% cabernet sauvignon, 5% malbec.

The second wine of Friday's dinner. I wanted another Right Bank wine to accompany the first wine, for comparison purposes. Also interesting, because this wine was about 1/3 the price.

Dark red, great saturation to the rim. Lots of graphite minerality, fragrant black fruits, earthy and pure. Elegant texture, instantly recognizable as a claret. Velvety, and develops natural sweetness as it oxygenated, over 24 hours and decanted. Sweet on the palate, transitioning into a bitter and spicy finish.

I taste more of the malbec, over anything. Interesting. An understated wine - the structure is present, but unobtrusive. The pedigree is there, but lacks the concentration and complexity of a grand wine.

I'm doing an injustice to this wine by opening it so early. Nevertheless, it shows the archetype of Bordeaux. Maybe not Right Bank claret specifically, but the cabernet influence of this wine is very apparent. I keep saying it, but an interesting wine. Learned a lot tonight.

455.3 km

That's how much I drove today. To London, round-way. Lower back a bit sore, but otherwise, arrived alive.

It was great to walk around Waterloo campus again. Completely empty, except for a few loners students still hanging around. Not even Tim Hortons was open. Too bad. I still have a bit over $9 on my Watcard, and I wasn't able to use it. Still screwing me over financially, after all these years...

I took my mother through some of the classrooms. When you walk through campus, it's a funny feeling - when you point them out, it seems like you've had classes everywhere. Which is true, if you add up each term. There was an event going on in AL. Lots of toddlers.

A bit wistful - has it really been a year since I've graduated? Going back to visit high school was one thing, but returning to your university has a different aura to it. I feel old, and decrepit, and disillusioned with post-academic life.

Otherwise, today was fine. Beautifully warm outside. Getting very windy, but the rain held off until we arrived home. Still remember the road to Waterloo like the back of my hand, but I don't think I'll be returning again.

Friday, April 24, 2009

On the road

Driving out to London tomorrow. To be truthful, it's a pain in my ass. Sometimes, I just want to scream and shout for people to take care of their own shit. In any case, it is what it is.

Up at 8am. On a Saturday. It's not right man, it's just not right.

I don't understand this sudden fascination with Twitter. I heard about it when it just came out. I thought it was stupid then, and I still think it's stupid. Blogging in 140 words or less? Doesn't work that way. Can you really articulate properly in that short of a message? Or is the point of Twitter just to share mundane details of what you're doing. Kind of pathetic, no? Do people really need to know every idiot thing you're thinking, every 30 minutes? Comes off as tacky. Hypocritical, coming from a blogger.

Sipping on a Sauternes right now. Not a great wine, but drinkable. Will post about tonight's three wines tomorrow. It's been an eventful week.

1987 Rheingau

1987 Schloss Reinhartshausen

1987 Schloss Reinhartshausen, Riesling Kabinett, Hattenheimer Wisselbrunnen, QmP Rheingau.

Stunned to see an 80's wine being offered by LCBO. Riesling is my wine of the season - I'm drinking a lot of riesling, and I don't think I feel like trying anything else.

You never know what to expect out of a white wine with more than 20 years of age on it. But then, wine needs to be exciting, no? Always a question of, is this wine still drinkable?

Cork looked fine - a little black and moldy, but came out easily. Beautifully deep golden colour, and clearing slightly at the rim. The bouquet on this wine is explosive - intense green apple, developing into slate, oily honey, and stewed pears. Quite a rich palate, with lots of apple and pear character, on a long, minerally finish. Acidity is quite significant though - puckerish.

An interesting wine, lots of character, but thinning out. These kabinetts seem to begin losing weight after 10 years. Not quite enough body to balance out the acidity.

I shouldn't be complaining though. I'll take a 20 year old riesling, anytime.

CSC, earned!

So, before I get into tonight's wine, I have to do some chest-thumping.

As I said before, it's quite clear to me now. I am the greatest...indubitably, the greatest. When it comes to exams, to pressure-situations, I have no conscience - I just get shit done.

I passed my CSC, Exam 2 with flying colours, only only 5 days of work. What else needs to be said....I'm the greatest.

But in all seriousness, as the title says, I earned it. I did it the hard way. No cheating, no short-cuts. Just a lot of concentration, with lots of reading and tons of practice questions. My mother asked me why it seemed so painful to do exams, but it is my way. No rest for the hard-working.

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Had a long dinner tonight, with some great wines. I feel a hangover coming on tomorrow.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Maintenance

It took a long time today, and lots of clicking, but all the post labels have been entered. If you look on the left, on the sidebar under the Blog Archives, you can see all the labels. Click on Wine Experience, and you see all the wines I've written about. France takes you to all the French wines, Germany to German wines. Makes everything much easier to see, so there's no guessing from the blog titles what the content is.

My mouse wrist is sore now.

Dropped into LCBO, they finally have that bottle of grillo I was looking for. Walked around a bit, really wanted to buy some of the Ridge wines, but........it's been too long since the release. Next time, for sure. Monte Bello, I'm coming for you!

Posts have been a bit dry lately, I know. I know. Content will be jacked up starting tomorrow, when a trio of grand wines will be opened, drunk, and remembered...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Champagne stopper

Champagne stopper


I bought a new Champagne stopper. Now I can finally stop worrying about having to drink an entire bottle of sparkling wine in one go. Sometimes a wine needs a day, opened, to develop, but it's not possible to experience it if the bubbles fizz out.

It's a heavyweight, there's good feel to it. Which should be good, especially if you're trying to keep something pressurized. The only thing now is to test it out. Champagne, anyone?

Finished labelling everything, I think. Just have to redo some of the formatting, then we're good to go.

I have a single bottle of Champagne in the house, and I think I have a plan for it...

Labelling

I'm in the process of putting labels on my posts. Grouping together posts, so it's easier to look things up. Topics such as "Wine Experience", or "Niagara Wine Tour". If only Blogger was a better platform - I'm having a hard time making sure all the format remains unchanged. It's going to take a while, but it's important for LCF to be organized.

I apologize for the negative, curse-filled posts of late. That's not who I am, and that's not the image I want to present for LCF. Maybe the stress is getting to me. Maybe because I just havn't been drinking enough wine.

Couldn't sleep last night. Tossing and turning for hours, which gave me time to think about how I can improve this blog. I'm thinking of adding video. You know, something interesting. See if I have an engaging personality in front of a camera, like Ziya. I'm watching her right now, and she looks stunning in red, with only a touch of muted makeup.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Starved

A bit starved for wine. No, that's the wrong word - thirsty's more like it.

I'm suffering from the most appalling thirst. Havn't been in the frame of mind to really enjoy a glass (or five) of any wine. That's going to change soon.

LCBO skipped a release this week. I feel like I've been really disciplined, really havn't bought anything in the last month. Will begin looking to buy and taste different wines.

I think I should try drinking more New World wines. Chile, Argentina, New Zealand, Oregon, and yes, California and Australia. Ironic, isn't it - I bitch and moan about how the Americans are ruining wine with their bad taste and high prices, but I still really want to try their wines because I think there is such a thing as a terroir-driven American wine. And I think there are American producers who understand and make the wines that I love.

So that's the plan - more New World wines this summer. How can I call myself a wine lover if I only drink the wines of France, Germany, Spain, and Ontario?

The Grapes of Math

Watch this video, before you read on.


Ziya sounds like an insider. I have an issue with two things mentioned, both having to do with the manipulation of wine that's le style Californie.

Two issues.

1. Irrigation

So many people offhandedly mention "watering the vines" as if it's needed to create great wines, like it's a normal practice. Let's be clear - the great wines of the world are not the result of irrigated vines. When you water your vineyard, you create a style. Wine is not created, it is what it is. You can't tell nature what to do! By doing this, you create wines that are homogenous, that are uniform, and that have no soul. Would you force your daughter to go on a diet at age 9 so that she grows up thin? Would you force your toddler son to lift weights, 3 hours a day so he'll grow up stacked? Of course not. So why would you force your vineyard to produce fruit of a certain style, instead of expressing something unique and natural?

2. Micro-oxygenation

I don't give a f*ck how trendy you sound by calling it "micro-ox". It's a load of shit, and wines produced in this method are guilty of fraud. Winemakers using this method are creating a fraudulent product, one that simulates age and maturity, without any nuance or sense of terroir. Listen to what the jackass says in the film - that he needs to micro-oxygenate because the wines are so hermetically-sealed, so starved of oxygen, that you need to do it. What a f*cking load of shit.

You micro-oxygenate for one reason, and it's not to make better wine. It's to make wine more acceptable for International tastes, which is a euphemism for over-ripe, overoaked, obese, whore wines. This process makes the wines softer, lusher, and sweeter. You sell more wines this way, because let's be honest, the vast majority of Americans have cheap, callow, uneducated palates. When will this trend end?

This problem isn't isolated in America. Just look at the damage Rolland is doing in Bordeaux. Honestly, I can't wait for this character to roll over and die, so grand estates like Kirwan and Pavie can return to their former glory, instead of their current, sad state.

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Those are my peeves with the video. It presents a view that technology is responsible for better wines. It's not. You make better wines because you're honest with yourself, and the land your vineyard is on. You don't push too hard, and ask for more than what nature will give you. Instead of trying to make blockbuster wines every year, why not aim for nuanced, individual wines, that have a sense of place and presence? Whore wines are fun, but never fondly remembered

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In any case, I didn't think it was possible, but Ziya is smoking in this video. Pretty girl, talking and drinking wine - what can be better?

Finished?

Exam today. Got a bit lost, but not far off from my mark. Arrived 20 minutes early - I hate waiting for an exam to start. Just want to get in, start immediately, then get the f*ck out.

Finished the 100 question M/C exam in about 90 minutes. Unsure about a lot of them. What else is new. When have I ever been supremely confident about an exam?

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Will be waiting anxiously for the results. In the meantime, can finally start to relax, and think about other things. Big weekend coming up. Lots of grand wines will be opened and drunk. Also, a trip up to Waterloo and London, to take care of some things.

Cleaning sea cucumber today, for Friday's legendary dinner. You have to remove all the membrane inside, or else you'll stink up the whole dish. Now I smell fishy.

Why does the week feel like its over already?

Plopp

I'm bored as all hell, but got through those 200 questions, plus another go-around at the 100 questions posted on the CSI site. Battle plan? Shower, then redo all 400 questions.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Plump

April showers. Resting a little before getting back to studying. Just have, oh, 200 questions left to do, and then a redo of all 4 exams. Nice. Should be able to sleep by 5am tonight - I think.

Watching, ah yes, Daily Planet. Ziya is awesome. I'm jealous of her job and her co-host (how do you get a job like that?) And who knew I would be so interested in a science show? Ziya!!

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In no mood to be thinking of birthday festivities. I have in mind the wines I want to drink, but......something's not right. Just doesn't feel right, like we shouldn't be celebrating in a time like this. In any case, I will be drinking Right Bank claret and Sauternes with my parents, Champagne with my friends.

I've been seeing a traditional Chinese doctor, who's prescribing weekly herbal medicines for me. Nothing's really wrong, but if the purpose of Chinese medicine is to correct chemical imbalances in your body. And yes, I do feel unbalanced. His orders are to stay away from spicy food, late nights, and, gasp, any kind of alcohol.

Plunk

Dammit CSC. Damn you. Damn you for making me miss this, as well as LA/Utah:


Plop!

And off to bed!

250 practice questions completed. More bitching and moaning about the exam tomorrow, stay tuned!

Good night, and may this be the last time I have to cram like this, this year.

Pooped

I feel mentally nauseous.

Been wasting a lot of time today staring at my books, my computer screen, without actually accomplishing anything.

Ocean, thanks for dropping by with the Tavel - it's sitting in my closet now, waiting to be opened for a nice summer dinner (bbq?) with lots of seafood. Enjoy your trip back to HK.

I'm getting increasingly frustrated at all this shit that's messing up my schedule. I had it nicely worked out too - go to gym everyday after work, sleep/wake up early, contribute regularly to my savings account, etc...but somehow, it never falls into place for more than a few days. Life just loves to toss shit at me, to see if I manage to duck.

I don't want to say it, but my life isn't fair. Why can't I too live a life of luxury, opulence, and carelessness?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Study habits

This is how you should be studying for your Canadian Securities exam.


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Morning after

Well, I finally finished reading. 11 chapters, in about 10-12 hours. Don't know how much I absorbed, but really, who reads a finance textbook word by word?

My mother has a guest over, so I'm camped upstairs. She chastised me all morning, because my appearance on Sundays is always uncouth.

Just havn't been in the mood to go out and do stuff. Need to finish this damn exam, pay off that personal training bill - maybe then will my load be lightened. Been so stressed, I've literally only had about 2 glass of wine for the past 2 weeks.

Hardly seems like it's going to be my birthday soon. But then, turning 31 isn't really something to get excited over. Do have some wines ready though. Bordeaux, 2003 - Right Bank and Sauternes. See how out of it I am, I havn't even made plans to get together with friends...

At some point during my studying today and tomorrow night, I know I'm just going to go: f*ck it - I'm done.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Fat man, bloated ego

Wow, I've just lost all respect for Parker. Not because I question his tasting ability, or the accuracy of his notes on Bordeaux, but because of the people he associates himself with, and who he employs for The Wine Advocate.

Read this, courtesy of Dr. Vino.

Didn't realize the wine world places such insecure, bitter personalities on high pedestals. As I commented, how long will Parker still be relevant for? The day he retires, or dies, is when the era of the wine critic finishes. These clowns - Miller, Squires, et al, will no longer have careers.

People stereotype Parker's palate as favouring high-extract, high oak wines - I've read Miller's tasting notes, and he's worse. But in all seriousness, is this the face of a true wine connoisseur??


jmill

He certainly hasn't shied from the dinners that importers and winery owners have given him. Just because it's free, it doesn't mean you gorge yourself silly everytime, man.

I fully expect to get bitched at for attacking the man personally, but let's be clear - I'm a nobody in the industry, and I really have to nothing to lose (or gain).

When have I felt this before...

...not since last April, when I was the last one in residence, preparing for an exam on the last day, in the last possible time slot. Yeah, thanks Professor Redekop, you cracked up, f*cking bastard prick. Thanks for that very first lecture, when you so eloquently told us, "Don't bother coming to class, just read the notes yourself." Thanks for insisting on posting all your notes on the most retarded platform ever, Math Viewer, forever screwing up my computer. Thanks for charging money for the course notes, because it was impossible to read them any other way. Thanks for making the course so convoluted that I didn't know whether I was taking a liberal arts finance class, or a graduate level statistics course. Thanks for giving us your shitty attitude every week, as if we weren't worth your time. Thanks for taking all those cigarette breaks, but refusing to allow students to walk out to take a piss.

Thanks for never returning emails. Thanks for taking your sweet ass time marking the finals, and keeping me on edge about whether I'd be able to get the credit or not the entire time I was in Japan.

Yeah, thanks you f*cking loser. Milk the university for all you can, before someone fires your ass for being the most incompetent, anti-intellectual academic in Canada. I hope you choke on your cig.

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Oops, wasn't supposed to go there. Of all the people in academia I've met, I can't recall anyone else so uninterested in his work. Un-f*cking-believable.

Back to studying my CSC. The warm breeze is calling me to go out for a jog............

A dream, vanished

I had the most spectacular dream this morning. One of those dreams where you wake up smiling, like literally having all your dreams come true. Sadly, I was rudely awakened by my mother telling me to get the f*ck up because I was already running late.

Just finished reading 2 more chapters. Skimming is probably a more accurate description - I can't be bothered to read this junk. Honestly, who the f*ck really needs to know how to calculate a Sharpe ratio?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Wines, moved in

I am utterly exhausted, but relieved that all my wine is finally in what should be a long-term storage place. From one gracious friend to another, I hate imposing on people, but this is the best solution. Many thanks.

It was quite a process, getting everything out of the first house, transporting, then putting everything away. About 28 boxes in total - I couldn't believe it. It never seems so much, when you accumulate one or two boxes at a time. Really, really can't purchase anymore.

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Had a glass of very old riesling kabinett today. Good complexity, but thinning out on the palate. Puckerish.

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Sigh...still a lot of studying I have to do. Panicking a little, because I think I'm going to fail. Full day tomorrow as well. Taking in my Civic to the dealer, to switch out my winter tires and get an oil change.

Why does all this madness have to converge on one weekend?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Moving day

So, the great rape move is tomorrow.

Chug over in 2 cars to House 1
Load up the cars
Give effusive thanks to the hosts
Drive (very slowly and carefully) to House 2
Unload cars
Organize boxes according to region
Set up thermostat
Give effusive thanks to the hosts
Go home and soak in epsom salts

I'll try not to throw my back out and break any bottles. However, should that happen, I'll be liable to drop on all fours and slurp off the ground.

In love

Two questions, one conventional, the other kinky.

1. Can you fall in love with someone you barely know?

2. Can you fall (truly) in love with an inanimate object? Refer to this article: Woman Proves Love for Eiffel Tower with Committment Ceremony.

It's called objectum sexuality. That shit's just crazy man. I hope her parents are proud of her. Did she consummate the marriage with Eiffel?

I love my wines, but they'll never take the place of a human relationship - that's just odd.

Health

Health is important, I'm realizing now. It's wrong to think that being thin translates to being fit. I still face the same risk of heart disease as anyone else. So, I'm taking steps to change that.

I told my trainer, Mr. Filipino, very clearly that my goal for working out wasn't to build bulk. I don't want arms that look like thighs, and that perpetual slouch you get when you have over-developed back and shoulder muscles. I want strength, endurance, and shape. Plus, I'm far too pale to see definition clearly. Do I look like someone who'll tan for muscles to look bigger?

He's putting me on this pretty intense program - lots of sets, no rest, and lots of free weights. Mr. F told me he doesn't want me to go for the huge weights, but that with his program, I'll be able to bench press with the best of them. Ok sir, my body is in your hands.

Insurance

Talking about insurance and illness or death is infinitely depressing. I don't like thinking of insurance as an investment - what good is an investment if I don't get to see any of its benefits? I mean, the only way you get a return on your money is if you die.

Anyways, in an effort to be more financially responsible to both myself and my parents, I'm diving in, head first. So, after this amount, health insurance, RRSP, taxes, gym membership, savings deposit, and Sick Kids Foundation withdrawals, I have oh, the disposable income of an 8 year old.

Ahh, the joys of growing up!

Legacy

I came across a list of tasting notes of Chateau Lafite, mostly written by Michael Broadbent. What made this list special was that it featured very, very old vintages of Lafite stretching from the late 18th century up to the early 21st. An amazing list, all the more remarkable because Broadbent notes how many times he's tasted each vintage - often, it's half a dozen or more.

The list, Great Antique Lafite Collection.

Just remarkable. I really would like to know more about the original owners. Was it intentional, to just buy these wines and not drink? Was it meant to pass on to their offspring? Or were these wines just forgotten? It's sad, to think that people would buy these fantastic clarets and just let them sit there for a hundred years. I refuse to believe that wines with more than a century of age on them, however reputable the estate, are any more than interesting curiosities. Can a 150 year old wine still be profound? Can it even resemble wine, beyond a common liquid state?

This goes back to the issue of collecting. I don't want to be a collector - I simply don't have the deep pockets required, but even if I did, it's such a depressing thought that you're amassing wines simply for that fact. Like Bill Koch, who made a $550M sale of his stocks and proceeded to snatch up all the fine wine he laid eyes on. Is he going to drink it all? Let's put it this way - if he drank, conservatively speaking, 2 bottles a day on weekdays and 3 on weekends for the rest of his life (assuming he lives above the average male life expectancy), he would barely go through 5% of his current cellar.

Is that a source of pride? Announcing to everyone how big of a cellar you have? As if having thousands of bottles amounts to an insinuation of connoisseurship, or taste. I would rather have the opposite. I want to be a connoisseur with a small cellar (<500 bottles), with a plan for drinking each and every bottle with friends and family. Simple, really.

Post No. 601

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600 posts. It's been quite a few months. Niagara trip, my best tasting trip ever. Le Clos Jordanne - I still have to do a writeup, 1.5 months after. Spring here. A stressful few months, but I survived, and am looking forward to the summer.

The wine situation at home's been strange. Drinking some things out of the cellar, but for the most part, just going from release to release. Have to remedy that situation, but at least Vintages has been releasing a lot of stunning rieslings.

A great summer to look forward to. Having some old rieslings soon, alongside great food and friends. Bordeaux En Primeur as well, which I've been breathlessly writing about lately. The great beer event as well.

So, to another 100 posts of great wine, great dinners, and sunshine!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Oops...

Oh shit. This does not look good.

I completed Exam 1 towards my CSC designation in November. I've been putting off Exam 2. Anyways, for some reason, I booked the exam for April 21. Wanted to switch it today to May 1, because, well, havn't studied. Guess what - CSI charges a $165 fee if you don't switch exams 14 days in advance. With tax, that's a bit more than $173. So...obviously I'm not going to pay.

Come on, I can buy lots of great wine for that much money. So, I have about 6 days to study and basically, I have to learn the whole course in that amount of time. I've done crazy stuff like that before - nevertheless, broke out in a sweat when I realized how little time I had, but I'll manage. I'm a warrior. I'll keep y'all posted on how I do. Pretty sure I'll be panicking by the weekend.

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Mouton Rothschild released prices today, at €100 per bottle. Not a bad price actually. As it should be, the Bordeaux wine trade is a gentleman's business, and this year, it's being conducted as such. The First Growths are keeping to their word of cutting prices, although the reductions could certainly be more substantial. Let's see if there's a trickle effect on the rest of the classified wines. Léoville-Las-Cases, I'm counting on you!

Decanter has conveniently placed all the latest prices on the same page: Latest Bordeaux 2008 Prices.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Ahh, Chateau Latourrrrrrrrrrrr

Ratatouille 1961 Latour


Chef Skinner purrs in Ratatouille, "You would be an idiot of elephantile proportions, not to appreciate a 1961 Chateau Latour". This scene gives me the tingles because I think this year might be the only chance for me to own some bottles.

Latour isn't as marketed as the rest of the First Growths, but possibly enjoys the highest esteem. How do you achieve that? Make the most evocative wines, year after year, bien sur.

Decanter article, Chateau Latour releases at €110.

If this is indeed a 45% decrease from 2007 prices, then we're looking at around $300? Not impossible. I've started lobbying my mother to contribute to this year's En Primeur purchase.

A legendary wine, and one to pass onto the next generation.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Dreaming of Bordeaux

I had a dream the other night. Couldn't remember any particular details, except that it involved, very distinctly, Chateau Leoville Poyferre of Saint-Julien. I don't know why it was this particular estate - I've never even seen a bottle, let alone tasted it. Funny.

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I'm watching Discovery Channel, Daily Planet. This new host is amazing - Tong Ziya. Combining stunning beauty and an engaging on-air persona. My new favourite show, since NBC can't get its shit together and looks to cancel Kings.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Photos of my friends

I love portraits, and it's the skill I want to learn the most. There's something so dynamic and so dramatic about catching people in action - every photo tells a story, and that's what I want to achieve. I don't enjoy photography that's too artistic - it's just so contrived. There's no spontaneity, no excitement in something that's so carefully constructed. In any case, here are a few photos I took at dinner. Still playing around with getting the lighting right - I don't know why the photos pick up so much red. But, relatively speaking, I'm pleased with the results. At least they're in focus. I havn't edited them in any way - not even cropping.


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Moving my wine, yet again

This is getting ridiculous. I have to find a new home for my wines, again. This is what, the 4th move in 18 months? My goodness.

This is nothing against my friend, who's been providing a home for my wines for the past year. They've been very gracious in providing a space for me, without charge. I'm more upset with myself. Disappointed that I can't even work out something as basic as storage, after all these years of amassing my wines.

In any case, I think I've found a more long-term solution. Another friend has very kindly offered to provide sanctuary for my collection. A bit further away, but I went to see her storage room today, and it was perfect. I think the move will be soon, before it gets warm.

I want to do it at night. Load up my car at the current location, drive over to my friend's house, then unload. Three hours maybe? I'm not so worried about what all the boxes will do to my back rather than what the move will do to the wines. All the jostling, all the temperature changes, the agitation. I feel really bad about it, but that's the situation.

2006 Brouilly

2006 de Pierreux

2006 Château de Pierreux, AC Brouilly.

About 18 months ago, I was mad for cru Beaujolais - just couldn't get enough of it. Bought a lot of it, because I knew it could age. My last bottle of Beaujolais.

Light red colour, decent saturation. Intense nose of earth, muddy roots, bright red cherries, and graphite/iron minerality. In the mouth, just bursts of earthy tones and red fruits, ending slightly bitter. After being opened for 24 hours, it develops even more wet earth character on the nose, but fades a little on the palate.

Great varietal character, and a great success for the vintage. An excellent wine, and clearly demonstrates how Burgundian some of these great Beaujolais can be. Fantastic example of what gamay can deliver.

After all those bottles, I am thoroughly convinced of this region's quality. People who's only impression of Beaujolais is nouveau are missing out. These are earthy, pure, direct wines of great finesse and backbone. Guaranteed pleasure at $18-21.

NYT Article

Just read a New York Times article titled: Pairing Wine with Chinese Food. No spectacular pairings were revealed in the article, except for some tired old clichés of Chinese cuisine.

I appreciate that the writer is Chinese and understands a thing or two about Chinese food, but I stop reading when I come across the horribly westernized examples of kungpao chicken and sichuan peppercorns as pinnacles of traditional Chinese cuisine. Come on - is this what you think Chinese food is? F*cking kungpao chicken with cashews? The writer writes out of Beijing, but the truth is that Sichuan cuisine is best suited for its homeland - Sichuan. People who actually live in Beijing don't eat that kind of spicy food regularly because it isn't suited for its climate. Sichuan cuisine is just like Hunan, Shanghai, Cantonese cuisine - it's very localized, and adds to the world of Chinese cuisine, but is not indicative of our food on its own. Stop writing about it for the benefit of white people, because unless we live in Sichuan, we hardly ever eat that kind of food.

Anyways. I thought some of the wines were spot on. Riesling, of course, works the best. The article simply restates the obvious - that lighter white wines, with lots of acidity, and maybe a touch of residual sugar marry beautifully with the complexity of Chinese dishes, which use quite a bit of sugar. The author is decidedly New World, which is fine.

My preference for wines with Chinese food are German rieslings, red Burgundy, Niagara pinot noir, and Champagne. But then again, the excitement in wine comes from the unexpected - you never know how a dish will marry with a wine until that first taste, when all the melodies and harmonies resolve, and inspire bliss in the mouth.

Scouting report

Just came back from a friend's home. Scouting new places to store my wine. They have a cold storage room in the basement, and I went to check the readings - perfect temperature, at about 9 degrees, although slightly low humidity. That shouldn't be a problem...a small bucket of water will correct it.

It's a nice little cement walled room, perfect for a cellar. I'm jealous. Really jealous.

Why am I moving my wine again? More, later, after dinner.

A fever called Bordeaux

Just been pouring through Decanter's website section on 2008 Bordeaux En Primeur. Really, really excited about this upcoming En Primeur campaign, and what it'll mean for my cellar. I've got the fever.

Focussing on the wines that I always buy, of course, but this is definitely a buyer's year. It's an opportunity to get wines that are otherwise priced out of reach. The high quality of the 2008 vintage is just an added plus. And let's be honest - when you talk about Bordeaux, label and brand name comes first, taste comes second.

Looking to buy a lot of Pomeral wines. St-Emilion, as well. The marquee wines? Leoville-Las Cases is on my radar, as is Ducru Beaucaillou, Canon-la-Gaffeliere, Angelus, and Latour.

If fate destines it so, I will be adding a few legendary bottles to my cellar this year.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Unfortunate

Yuck

This is what happens when a non-wine friend tries to be nice and insists on buying you a bottle. Really, could have just brought a bag of oranges or something. Now what the hell am I supposed to do with this wine? Surely, I'd lose what credibility I have by drinking a gasp, yellow tail..........

Dinner with the Five Families

Long weekend, so another fam-jam with the Five Families. Simple food this time - hearty, warm, country foods. No wine - beer was served, although I didn't drink any.

I feel tired. Did a lot of stuff around the house today, maybe that's why. I should definitely have napped today.

Starting to look a lot like shit. Something has to give - what's going on....

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday

I just came back from a Good Friday service at my parent's church. The first time I've been to one of those in........I can't even remember.

It's amazing, the power of organized religion. Just incredible - Canada fancies herself as a shining beacon of democracy and freedom, and yet, religion teaches you to prostrate yourself emotionally and spiritually in front of an entity that you can't see, hear, or feel, all in the name of faith. The central thesis of it all is to just have faith. Of course, with a healthy dose of lecturing telling you that you're not worthy and you're a sinner. Just have faith, and trust blindly in what the church tells you to believe in. Ahh, the power of organized religion!

I'm not railing against spiritual people. But you have to wonder - after seeing the pastor do his sermon - that he's no different than any other public speaker, or tele-marketer, or self-help guru. You need a presence, a charisma, and a way with words to be a successful pastor. How else are you going to sell an ideal to someone, if you can't articulate yourself clearly?

Understandably, spiritually true people may not be great orators. But are all great speakers spiritually true?

No disrespect to friends who do believe. I just have an issue with this guilt that they force on you when you attend a sermon. It's a form of masochism, minus the braided leather whips. Emotional, spiritual masochism. I have to confess my sins? Are you serious? So I have to actually sit there, and think about all the bad shit I've done?

You can't even think bad thoughts, because that counts as a sin too. So where do I begin? Let's see....I totally thought inappropriate thoughts about that chick at the gym. Is it that bad if I pictured her naked? Oops. Sorry. Umm........whenever there's good wine, I drink to excess? I think too highly of myself? Should I keep going? I have a problem with recounting all the decidedly bad things I've done, because I don't think I'm a bad person.

In any case, it's a good community. I respect that people believe in religion, and can find peace in it.

My spirituality and truth? I see it in a glass of Mosel riesling, in barrel samples of Niagara pinot noir, in classified Bordeaux. It's an idea that something greater than what we can comprehend has contributed to what I experience in the glass - that's my spirituality.

Smells like spring!

Air is sweeter, sun shines warmer - can't remember the last time I was able to just chill at home and not have to think.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Lots and lots of riesling

Been buying (and drinking) lots of riesling recently. Saw a few bottles come up, from Mosel. Good, older bottles from the Wehlener Sonnenuhr vineyard.

From what I've heard, this is one of the most acclaimed vineyards in the Mosel, and I'm definitely excited about the opportunity to taste. All the wines I've bought in the last two months, I have a feeling they won't last past June.

But that's the point right? I mean, why would you buy wine if you're not drinking it?

Investing

Had a rough workout today - Mr. Filipino really kicked my ass. One sequence, he wanted me to do crunches on an exercise ball. I couldn't even balance my ass on the damn thing, never mind get my feet up.

We did boxing. Felt great. I wanted to go straight for his head. I did well - went hard, hit hard, and grunted like my life depended on it. Mr. Filipino asked if I kick-boxed before. Either that or I was in a lot of fights. Nice. What can I say, I'm a brawler.

Made the decision to go for a year of personal training. That's $1663. A lot of money, yes. I'm going to really have to tighten the belt, but it'll be worth it. I've spent that amount of money on wine without a second thought, and this is for a much more noble cause. I'm investing in my health, which I've realized is probably pretty important to enjoy my wine.

I'm not afraid of committment. Going for the big guns and 8-pack!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Long weekend!

I think I cherish breaks like this more than I ever have. Certainly not when I was in university - let's be honest, with the exception of exams, it was a holiday whenever the hell I wanted it to be.

"Why aren't you going to class, David?"

"Because I don't f*cking want to!!!"

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Len

I learned this past weekend that my old neighbour, Len, passed away a while ago. I was stunned, because we hadn't seen him for a few years. The last time we saw him was for a Chinese New Year's dinner together with some other neighbours, and he looked fine - healthy and cheerful.

Apparently, living in a retirement home took its toll on his health. He became more withdrawn, which definitely was not what I remember him as. Sad news.

Len was a curmudgeon, an old-time Jew who lived by himself quietly. We didn't talk much, but when we did, he always had some kind of advice to dispense. Quirky, old, Jewish advice. I remember him having this big suitcase full of pens that he used to pull out whenever he saw me. "Take one, take a few!" he always used to say. When the weather was nice, he'd pull up a chair on the driveway, and read. We'd always know because he had a beautiful whistling voice, and loved to whistle old Broadway tunes.

It's been a few years since he moved out, and his old house has already seen two tenants. It doesn't seem that long, and it's hard to believe Len is gone. Rest well, old man.

Wow...quick BWI offer

Look at what we have here. A day after Chateau Angelus releases their 2008 prices, the merchants are sending out their offers. Got an email from Bordeaux Wine Investments, and if they're going by the price of £50 per bottle, then you can see they're making a tidy margin. Nice. But a bit too rushed - come on, give us some time to see the rest of the prices....no one else has released an offer yet!!

The email, as follows:


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2008 BORDEAUX


The fun starts here. Having only just returned from tasting the wines in Bordeaux, we hit the ground running with the first significant release of the 2008 vintage. Chateau Angelus sounds the bell for round one.


If this is anything to go by we can expect not only a very swift campaign but also a keenly priced one. Angelus is released at it's lowest opening price since the 2004 vintage. Clearly this is what the market has been crying out for so it would seem at least some ears in Bordeaux were listening! (our full BWI Tasting Report will be with you shortly):

2008 Angleus, St Emilion @ £709
2007 (90-93pt RP) was £978
2006 (95pt RP) was £1113
2005 (98pt RP) was £1565

A tobacco, berry and orange peel character. Full-bodied, with silky tannins and a clean finish. Refined and balanced. 89-92pt J.Suckling 'Wine Spectator'

Typically Angélus in style. Deep, dark hue. Spicy, cedar nose. Rich, full extract but reined in and accented towards the fruit. Polished texture. Firm finish. Big but harmonious. Drink 2016-2028. 17.5pt J.Lawther MW 'Decanter'

Monday, April 6, 2009

First En Primeur price released!

chateau-angelus-2005

Woke up today to this exciting news, courtesy of Decanter magazine.

Chateau Angelus has released their prices for the 2008 En Primeur campaign, barely days after the first barrel tastings of the 2008 wines took place. This is extremely fast for the Bordelais, who usually hold off until June.

Anyways. Angelus has high reputation, mostly due to its wine, but also due in part to its star turn in James Bond: Casino Royale. It's prominently featured in the train scene, when Bond meets Vesper for the first time. He pours her a glass, and cleverly places the bottle on the table with its distinctive yellow label turned towards the camera. Product placement 101, folks.

The price? €50 per bottle. Which is a bit over $100, but I think that's the wrong way to look at it. What price they offer the European markets is vastly different than what we will see, so I did some of my own research. The proprietor claims a 40% reduction from 2007 prices, so that'll be my reference point. LCBO offered 2007 Angelus at $225 a bottle, so 40% off that would be $135. Expensive, by any stretch of the imagination, but you're getting what you're paying for. Will I buy these wines around these prices? I don't know, but my interest has been piqued.

This bodes well. If other chateaux follow Angelus' lead, and offer similar 40-50% reductions, this will be a dream year for claret-lovers. I'm looking at a lot of wine that went for $100-$130 in 2007. With a healthy reduction, these will be extremely, extremely attractive wines.

Thank you, Angelus. Hopefully, the rest of your French francs will be as forward-thinking.

April snow



For once, the forecast didn't let us down. Pounded all day long baby, all day long. I knew it though - for all the idiots that said winter was over, guess what......Canadian springs don't start until the third week of April. I'm laying it down in print, this is the last snowfall we're going to see until October. Can't wait for the rain.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Finals

Ahh, it's that time of year again! I'm a year removed from all the madness, but everyone's gearing up for final exams. Lots of stress, lots of all-nighters - I can't say I miss all of it, or any of it. I've run through the gauntlet, I've earned the right to chill and observe the carnage.

An abbreviated week coming up. Have plans for the weekend already, hopefully involving a lot of wine.

I'm looking forward to a hard week at the gym. My 6th session with Mr. Filipino. We're doing boxing this week, and I think he's preparing to make me puke. Let's go. I'm aiming for the head, son!

Having a glass of cognac. Someone has to finish the bottle.

Out jogging

First time jogging this year! Did 10 km, and in hindsight, maybe I should have eased myself into it. Knees hurt, out of breath. Beautiful day though.

Raptors on a roll lately - what took so damn long? Bargnani's playing like a beast. I'm watching the game right now, against the Knicks. I think this is a winnable game. 69-60 Knicks, 4 minutes into the third. This one might get interesting.

Chapped and knifed

At risk of sounding like a chick, I'm going to talk about my lips.

The cold is gradually going away, and I'm happy to admit that this winter season, I didn't suffer too badly from chapped lips. Lip balm is girly, but when your lips are all cracked and bright red from the irritation, nothing feels better than slathering minty lip balm on them.

Oh, and another interesting (to me) thing about shucking oysters. Its a good story, I promise. Two years ago, I was shucking oysters in the kitchen. Not very good at it. I blame the knife. My right hand slipped as I was trying to force the point of the blade into the lip where the shells meet, and I plunged about half in inch of the knife into my left hand, just in the centre of the meaty part under the thumb.

It wasn't just blood that poured out. The flesh turned inside out. I'm ok with blood - flesh is another matter. I immediately fell faint, light-headed, and started to sweat like (excuse the tackiness) OJ in traffic. Yeah, I thought I could tough these kinds of things out - guess not. Anyways, my mother was convinced that I needed stitches, and I was almost ready to go to the hospital. After running my hand under ice cold water until it was numb, the blood stopped flowing - I have awesome platelets in my blood.

I ended up just bandaging it up really good, and I went to work for the next 2 weeks with a massive wrap on my left hand. It was fine, I still retained full function of my hand. And to think, if I had paid $55 for that really fancy knife, it'd probably have gone right through the hand, bone and all.

I'd be single-handedly blogging.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

1993 Rheingau

1993 Balthasar Ress

1993 Balthasar Ress Johannisberger Erntebringer, Rheingau Riesling Spätlese.

This producer isn't exactly what comes to minjd when you think about great rieslings. But let's be honest, it's an old riesling and it was on sale for $13. Name one other wine with 10+ years of age, under $15, that can deliver.

Very deep gold colour, looks very mature and ready to go. Intense nose of apples, minerals, and honey. Lots of wet rock, I love it! Very attractive, sweet nose. It's a big wine, and far from levelling off. Simple, but this is a perfect example and expression of what old riesling can deliver.

Elegant in the mouth, lots of sweetness. This is where the wine drops a bit. Not enough acidity - the sugar hangs on too long at the finish. Good minerality.

Regardless of its reputation, I like this wine. Maybe because I just love old rieslings period, but this is a charming wine. Proves that these wines need age, to truthfully unveil their personalities.

Les huîtres

Oysters



Oysters Shucked

I love oysters, and I try to eat as many as I can, when the opportunity presents itself. My local grocery store was selling them, 3 for $1. The season for oysters is ending, and against my better judgement, I bought a dozen. I'd tell you the exact type of oysters these are, if I remembered. No matter, they're not worth mentioning.

Small, but felt heavy. Didn't seem too bad. But, 3 of them were dead and stinky, and the rest were watery and bland. Just very unfortunate.

At least I got some good practice shucking. There's very few more satisfying things than feeling the top shell give way to your knife. There's almost that muted pop, the gentle feeling of the muscles letting loose. It's like hitting a tennis ball - it's so hard to describe the right technique, but you know exactly when you nail that sweet spot.

The Complete Cellar

In the April 2009 issue of Decanter magazine, Steven Spurrier says, "My definition of a complete cellar is the right wine for every occasion and mood..."

Very insightful. I think that sums it up perfectly - the perfect cellar isn't about having the most famous or expensive wines. It doesn't matter if you have a high-tech refrigeration system, to perfectly regulate temperature and humidity. It doesn't matter if you have custom wood frames and fancy specialized shelving. It can be cavernous, it can have an electronic inventory system, it can have all sorts of things. But none of that has anything to do with having a complete cellar.

I'm working on it. As per Spurrier, a complete cellar contains wines that can accommodate every event. Let's discuss. I have a friend who collects only Bordeaux. Great wines - grand, legendary, 100-year wines. Perfect for heavier foods, richer cuisine. But what about other foods? Chinese, Thai, Japanese cuisine? What about drinking in the heat of summer, when all you want is a nicely-chilled, high acid wine? And what about those occasions (birthdays, weddings, etc.) that require bubbly? Having only a very narrow cellar can fail you in those situations.

I'm trying to diversify my choices. The requisite, for collecting, is one or more of: Bordeaux, Burgundy, Barolo. That's the foundation, because you need ageworthy wines to build a cellar. Everything past that is up to your personal tastes.

That's a lot of pontificating. Do I practice what I preach? Let's see...I have the most of Bordeaux - Left Bank and Right Bank wines, as well as white Graves and Sauternes. Of the rest, I have more of vintage Champagne, white Burgundy, German riesling, Chinon, Bandol, and Rioja. My quirk would be Niagara wines - pinot noir, chardonnay, and riesling.

I want to develop into red Burgundy, Barolo, Brunello, and New Zealand pinot noir. As well, more sweet/non-table wines - port, sherry, madeira.

The wines that intimidate me the most are Burgundy and Barolo. Just too many inconsistent producers, and these regions will cost a small fortune, to gain very little. But............a good Burgundy touches you in all the right places - I want to be touched.

Building a cellar requires more fiscal planning than saving for tuition. I'm sure my friends aren't complaining though, when bottles magically appear on the table. Santé!

Profile photos

I need some new profile photos for La Cave de Fang. The b&w of me looking all faux-gangsta is getting stale, no?

Need to wait until my buddy gets back from Cali, but I have some ideas. I want a few of me opening, pouring, sniffing wine. And I just saw a great photo from Krug, where he has about 15-20 bottles on a table. Something cluttered, but clean. You know, organized chaos.

Which reminds me - to my friend who's flying out to San Diego, have lots of fun. Remember, Russian River Valley!!

April

Entering April, feeling excited. My favourite month of the year. A rebirth, when the air smells sweeter, the sun shines warmer, and the soul feels regenerated.

Sigh...turning 23 in a few weeks. What have I accomplished in my 23 years of living? Does building a somewhat decent wine cellar count?

Some great things coming up this month. Heading back to Waterloo campus, and making a trip up to London. Hosting a dinner next week. Hopefully I can squeeze in another dinner with my friends before the summer term begins.

Trying to control my wine spending, in anticipation of future offers. My 2006 Bordeaux En Primeur orders will begin arriving in late spring. Have to pay the other half of the deposit for that. And of course, in August, the 2008 En Primeur offer will be released.

At least I'm not really spending on anything else. I havn't bought anything else except wine since last year. Literally. Next purchase - my Nikon.

Laizzz

I'm feeling a bit wasted. Not from wine, but just from life, generally. Need a breather. More wine?

Preparing for dinner tonight. What else am I going to do on a Saturday? Go clubbing to find cheap whorish women to grind on? Pathetic.

Seafood tonight, with an old riesling. It looks cold outside, maybe I won't chill it.

I've given up trying to be focussed in each post. Who cares, anyway? Going to be see much more crazed rambling from now on.

Friday, April 3, 2009

To start in wine

I love it when people share my enthusiasm for wine, and approach it in a humble, willing way. I can't speak for anyone else, but I feel like rehashing how I started in this whole thing, and a few things I've picked up along the way.

First book, the literature that got me intellectually hooked for life - The Wine Bible, by Karen MacNeil. This author is fantastic. An American with New World style, but Old World tastes. Lots of pictures as well!

Lets start off by saying that if you're not willing to spend time and money, then forget about wine. This hobby is all about experience, and experience only comes from tasting. You can read all you want, but it's meaningless if you don't buy and drink wines regularly.

What should you buy though? That's a common question - a lot of people just feel overwhelmed, stepping into a wine store and staring at row upon row of bottles with indecipherable labels. I like my method. I read a bit first, and came upon a region that I really wanted to try. My approach was always Old World - look at wine regions only, as opposed to a specific grape varietal. For example, I knew I wanted to try Rhone wines first, instead of focusing on syrah.

Go out, and buy 4, or 5, or 20 bottles of wine all from one region. Taste them back to back, however long that may take. Tasting wines of a same region together gives you a point of reference, since taste is all relative. It gives you a deeper understanding of the commonalities and differences that a wine region has.

That's it. This is what I'm still doing. Just going from region to region, paying attention to how vintage affects the wine. Supplemented with a copius amount of wine-related magazine/blog/print/newspaper reading. It's simply really. All you need is patience, and a spirit to learn.

Great wine glasses don't hurt either.

Oh, and take detailed tasting notes!

2005 Graves

2005 La Fleur Jonquet

2005 Chateau La Fleur Jonquet, AC Graves.

This is definitely a wine that's overlooked by most people, which is a shame. White Bordeaux is one of those wines that fulfills the times when you need a fuller, richer white wine, and want to drink something other than chardonnay.

I bought this wine last year. First thing my roommate said about it - It's so pretty! I assure you, I don't buy wines because I admire the label.

This wine gives an older name, Graves. About half each of sauvignon blanc and semillon, with 8 months in oak. It looked a lot greener last year - a bit of bottle age has given it more colour.

A nice bright golden, but by no means deep. Clears at the rim, still retains an almost greenish tint. The nose is where this wine amazes. Explosive green aromas, just a booming blast of sauvignon blanc fruit. Grass, bramble, green pepper, spice, tropical fruit, and just a hint of honey, but very pungent. Very animalistic. Very, very sauvage. Incredible how the perfume just explodes out of the glass - this wine takes no prisoners.

The palate confirms the bouquet. Lots of green, spice, grass, and lemon zest. Good weight, elegant texture, with balanced acidity. Slight bitter on the finish, to keep things interesting.

A fascinating wine. Well balanced, ripe fruit. Explosive sauvignon blanc. I have another bottle of this put away, I'm hoping that with some more age, the sauvignon recedes into the background, and the richness of the semillon comes forward. We'll see.

White Bordeaux is a fantastic wine, really worth looking out for. I'm glad - I bought a lot of white Bordeaux from the 2007 offer. Excited, and a bit impatient, to taste these wines in a more classic vintage.

Bordeaux watch

I said I'd write about the Bordeaux properties I'd be looking out for, for this year's En Primeur, right? It probably won't mean a thing to you, but it means a lot to me, so.........Here we go - all prices listed from the 2007 offer, in Canadian dollars per bottle:

**Left Bank**

Margaux:

Margaux - $575
Rauzan-Ségla - $90

Pauillac:

Lafite - $575
Latour - $575
Lynch Bages - $95
Mouton-Rothschild - $575
Pichon Longueville Baron - $119
Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande - $139
Pontet Canet - $105

Pessac-Léognan (Rouge):

Domaine de Chavelier - $63
Haut-Brion - $575
La Mission Haut Brion - $475
Smith Haut Lafitte - $82

Pessac-Léognan (Blanc):

Carbonnieux - $52
Domaine de Chevalier - $124
Haut-Brion - $895
Smith Haut Lafitte - $114

St-Estèphe:

Cos d"Estournel - $159

St-Julien:

Ducru Beaucaillou - $125
Léoville-Las Cases - $215

Haut-Médoc:

La Lagune - $69

Sauternes/Barsac:

Coutet (375 mL) - $49
de Fargues (375 mL) - $88
(750 mL) - $169
Yquem (375 mL) - $449
(750 mL) - $895

**Right Bank**

Pomerol:

Clinet - $86Gazin - $69
L'Évanglie - $195
Latour à Pomerol - $77
Pétrus - $995
Vieux Château Certan - $155

St-Émilion:

Angélus - $225Ausone - $1150
Canon la Gaffelière - $90
Cheval Blanc - $795
Figeac - $115
L'Arrosée - $60
Troplong Mondot - $115

---

Long list, yes. Expensive as well. But I'll definitely be keeping my eye on the wines that are going for $100-200. If prices will go down, as hoped, these wines will be a great buy. We'll see in a few months. I don't know how LCBO prices their wines, but I'm sure we'll get an indication as to how the structure of En Primeur will turn out judging from what prices the British are getting. This year will probably be my only chance at getting truly great Bordeaux, and I'm not letting it slip away.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Catalogue run

Returned some wine bottles today. Horribly inefficient, and I feel awkward being the only one who returns just wine bottles. No beer of any kind. You see, if we had a wider selection of lambics, that'd be a different scenario...

Ran in to get a catalogue. Saw 2001 Chateau Poujeaux on sale, $60. How come these Bordeaux releases are never printed anywhere? I had no idea of this wine, and I have all of LCBO's literature covered. Anyways, too expensive for me, although I'd love to taste. How is it that 2005 Poujeaux was on sale for $39? At least I got a few bottles of those.

Reading up on 2008 En Primeur news. Went over 2007 prices, and if reports about First Growth properties killing off prices by 50% are true, then this year will truly be a buyer's market.

Some prices from the 2007 En Primeur offer below - I'll be watching for these properties:

You fail!

You know, I thought I was having a nondescript, boring day, and then I see this:


fail owned pwned pictures

You wouldn't think there could be anything that could upstage the two queens in front, but the tightie-whities did it. You fail!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Summer Wines

It's finally starting to feel a bit like spring. Spend a winter in Canada (even if it's just in Toronto) and you'll understand why we feel emaciated come March and absolutely starved for sunshine and warmth. Spring's scent has yet to arrive, but bright days like today are encouraging.

It's time to start thinking of what to drink for the summer. Because nothing signals warm weather like racy wines that stimulate and awaken the senses.

Rieslings, definitely, from Germany, France, and Niagara. Lighter pinot noirs as well, from Niagara and New Zealand. And definitely, definitely, Champagne, crémants, and various sparkling wines. Champagne will always be a constant in my home, all year round. Bubbles anytime, all the time baby!!

Riesling though, is the big one. Lots and lots of crisp acidity, backed by minerals, slate, and wet rock. Throw in some ripe fruit, and you understand what palatable paradise is. Refreshing and cleansing, but also enough complexity and intensity to marry well with any dish. Wow, I'm tickled just thinking about it.

So now, the only question that remains is who'll share these summer wines with me? Anyone interested? I have a lot of wines and I'm lonely.....................