Friday, July 31, 2009

Clivia orange, again

My clivia orange is in bloom again, the 2nd time in as many months. It's never happened before, and I think it's due to a combination of the weather, its maturation, and my special attention. Let's try photos again - is there improvement from last time?

Clivia orange 2

Clivia orange 2

Clivia orange 2

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And done for the month of July. No more blogging - I hope everyone has a great long weekend. Good luck once more to my homies still in school. Going to enjoy my wine now.

Warm, outside and in

Does temperature affect how you taste wine?

It's getting much warmer. Finally, Toronto is getting its summer. Humid and hazy, with a touch of trash in the air, as the city begins to recover from its workers holding the city ransom going on strike. Of course, I'm not bitter and unsympathetic at all about people grovelling for extra benefits amidst the worst economic crisis in decades, when ordinary folks are losing their jobs left and f*cking right. Not bitter at all. Let's be honest - you pick garbage, what do expect......an $80K salary?

Getting way off topic. As the weather warms up, I'm finding myself drawn more and more to beers. There are many refreshing wines to drink, but when I drink wine, I'm always savouring each flavour, each texture. I drink wine far too slowly for it to be refreshing, no matter what bottle I have in front of me. Drinking beer is far more relaxed, in that I can gulp. After all, beer is only so complex.

So, what to drink? I have a lot of ales lined up for this weekend, which should be very interesting. I wonder what's going to fly out the window first - my palate or my sobriety. But getting drunk over the long weekend is nothing to be ashamed about. And of course, mojitos. Mint kind of rots if you don't continually pick it.

For tonight, I have a few bottles planned, starting with the Central Otago pinot noir I'm drinking now. A little bit of age on it, and made in a restrained, balanced style. This is the kind of wine I'm looking for, from the New World.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Edinburgh Ale

Caledonian Brewery 80

Caledonian Brewery 80/-, Edinburgh

Another ale from Scotland, and from the same brewery. An interesting fact I learned from the name is that 80/- means 80 shillings. In Scotland, tradition holds that beer was categorised by the amount of tax charged per hogshead (504 pint barrel of beer), in shillings. 40/-, 50/-, and 60/- were fairly light-bodied and mild in taste, while 70/-, 80/-, and 90/- were richer and fuller.

Deeper colour than the Deuchars India Pale Ale - almost amber. Beautiful, rich nose of caramel, floral, and some fruit. Touch of mocha as well. Much heavier in the mouth, with good, hoppy character. Delicious mocha on the finish.

A beautiful beer. Rich, but the bitterness from the hops makes it refreshing. This is a real beer!

Ratification

People have this need for approval in wine, no? It's like I need you to approve of the wines I drink, because it gives me credibility as someone who knows about wine. This is ridiculous, let's stop it. I have no credibility, and am not fishing for any. What I drink is my own preference and my own taste - I could care less what anyone else thinks.

I'm not trying to influence you, or to persuade you to drink as I do. Friends like to label people, it's true. We have a photography guy, a car guy, a food guy...but that's just silly. I'm NOT the wine guy, nor do I ever want to be known as one. Don't ask, 'What should I drink?' Why the f*ck would you want anyone to tell you what to drink? As long as it's not poison, drink whatever the f*ck you want.....as a somewhat mature adult, aren't you capable of making those decisions yourself?

Getting approval isn't necessary for happiness. Do whatever makes you happy, man. If you enjoy white zin, go for it. Of course, don't try to convince others that that's what they should be drinking. Be your own person, in wine, and otherwise.

On the menu

Look, there's still a day left, but I'm already thinking about what to cook over the weekend. Having some friends over, and totally, totally getting buzzed out of my mind.

You think I was writing about cheese for no reason? Rushing out Saturday, first thing in the morning, to pick up some baguette and brie. Simple. Working on some beef as well as a simple pasta. Lots of beer is going to be served - I have a few ales I want to taste this weekend.

There's a release this weekend. Some rieslings shown, as well as a Greek wine. Exciting! How many bottles can I finish? I should explore the possibility of a breakfast and wine pairing.

So, unfortunately, not able to go out to Muskoka with my homies but this might not be so bad.

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To all my buddies in Waterloo and Cambridge, good luck - the term's winding down, true crunch-time. Knock it out of the park, and we'll celebrate when y'all get back.
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Sore cheeks

Wow, I'm sore all over. ALL over.

Come on guys, you're killing me. Double digit hits for nearly 20 days and I just get murdered on what is normally a good day for me. Come on guys, we can do better.

Content's been a bit dry these past few days, but I assure you, I'll have plenty of fresh material after this weekend. And video as well.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cheesy

I have a fickle relationship with cheese. Sometimes I can eat only cheese (and wine) for dinner. Other times, I recoil at the smell. There's only one explanation - it's not a childhood food, and that's why eating it is more of a conscious decision (cheese fits in nicely just before dessert) instead of a natural one.

I didn't grow up eating cheese. Chinese people don't touch that stuff. At least if you're from the south. Which is why I have this mental block preventing me from eating anything stinky. No blue, no Roquefort, no sheep's milk cheese. Although there's this sheep's milk cheese that you crumble over a salad that I find absolutely delicious. Feta? But I remember this chunk of oka that was especially pungent. Like a foot. Like someone else's foot, because of course, you enjoy your own brand.

Oh, but I love brie. Brie of all kind. Soft, runny, a bit pungent, with a minty herbal note. Delicious on bread, slightly toasted. Delicious.

The stereotypical food/wine pairing is wine and cheese right? But I find that pairing exceptionally hard. If it's not done properly, the wine can easily taste bitter and unpalatable. Sweet wines work. Colheita port works especially well. Of course, there's the Sauternes/Roquefort match. I'll face blue cheese again, to try that pairing. When my Sauternes are mature....yes, when they become ready.

In palate we trust

I splattered oil all over my left hand today, searing some lamb. I look like I have the Big Dipper tatooed on my hand, in big, angry-looking red blotches.

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What is the value of the idea that you should trust your palate preference over anything else? There's this movement going on, spearheaded by Gary Vaynerchuk, that the best wine critic is yourself, and personal taste overrides all.

There's some truth in this, but only to a degree. I fully concur that you should never completely base your purchase and drinking decisions on what the critics say. No two palates are alike, and you should never drink something that you don't enjoy yourself. It is one of the few freedoms we have left - I will not put anything in my mouth that I don't find delicious. I fully support any movement to help people develop their palates, and keeping an open mind about wine. What I don't tolerate is this reverse-snobbiness. There's this prevalent idea that anyone who won't touch mass-market wines (YellowTail, Gallo, etc.) is full of themselves and is not a true wine drinker. Apparently wine drinkers should be willing and happy to drink anything closely resembling wine.

I don't tolerate this. If your palate dictates that you prefer YellowTail over, say, Beaucastel, good for you. I can respect that - I respect people who are sure of their own taste. What's unfortunate is that all too often, people are close-minded. They enjoy YellowTail, and it's the only thing they'll drink - they base their entire palate perception on what YellowTail tastes like. To them, that is what red wine should be. And that is very unfortunate. Give them a glass of say, Nuits-St-Georges, and they turn their nose up. Why is that? Have an open mind, folks.

Trust your own palate, but understand that there's a huge universe of wine, and what you find delicious does not dictate what other people find tasteful. And keep an open mind! There's much more to red wine than Australian shiraz and Californian cabernet!!

I don't mind these debates in wine at all. If you find that a wine I enjoy is not to your taste, let's discuss - we all might learn something new. What's unacceptable is trying to argue that your taste is the right taste.

Gary's doing good work at bringing wine to the masses, but the key, as in all things, is to teach people to understand that wine is too vast to be close-minded.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Romeo y Julieta Habana

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Romeo y Julieta Edicion Limitada (2009)

A very generous friend brought these out for boy's night. Smoking isn't exactly a mentionable hobby, but I excuse myself on the basis that I smoke less than 3 times a year. And I don't touch cigarettes. Anymore. There's nothing that makes you feel so manly as sucking on a smoking stick of stinking tobacco. Even though you end up smelling disgusting and girls find you totally unappealing.

I don't like to cut a lot off the tip of the cigar - certainly, you should take care not to damage the cap. Nothing sucks like an unraveling wrapper as you, well, suck on the cigar. So, about a 2mm cut. Slowly lit, this cigar starts quite easily. Maybe it was due to the fact that it was quite dry. Very subtle smoke at first. Develops some richness, some fig-like aromas. A friend noted chocolate. Maybe. Draws quite nicely, no harshness at all. Burns quite evenly as well, with an acceptable level of ash. Becomes sharp and bitter about 3/4 of the way through.

A nice smoke. Maybe could have benefited from more humid storage, but in any case, a good smoke. Cigars are just as much about the experience of smoking as they are about taste, and this was very enjoyable.

Many thanks to our friend for a great time. Apologies for the awful photos, but I need to include photos of myself puffing away. This looks bad, but we weren't smoking in the parking lot like high school punks sneaking a puff. At this point, it was about 3am and we were gently ushered out of the patio we were sitting in. We smoked for about an hour, so I don't blame them for wanting to close up.

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Being critical

The wine critic. So important, but whose role I feel is harmful to people who are just beginning to learn about wine. Harmful? A bit melo-dramatic, but nevertheless, I feel like critics are useless to all but 1% of the population.

We have to define some parameters. There are many so called wine critics in the world, but there are only 3 publications that matter: The Man (Robert Parker), The Establishment (Wine Spectator), and the old British standby, Decanter. I'm leaving out many writers that I admire, such as Jancis Robinson and Eric Asimov, but these 3 wine personalities are tops in influence and reach.

Parker, who writes the Wine Advocate, is the most influential man in the wine world. Period. The man still moves markets, as we've witnessed when he released his scores for 2008 Bordeaux. The Wine Spectator speaks to the masses, and when your masses encompass the entire demographic spectrum of the United States, what you put in your pages packs a mighty punch. And of course, Decanter. Simply a well-written, thoughtful publication that caters to tasteful palates (i.e. Europeans).

Ok, so why are critics harmful? Because we don't use the information they provide properly, and as a result, critics aren't as inclined to produce their best work. What do critics provide? Tasting notes and scores. Only, no one pays attention to notes - it's just the score that draws attention. Seeing a score of 95 against an 81 speaks much more to the average consumer, no doubt products of a North American education. And that is a mistake.

We need to pay attention to notes. Notes are what is objective, relative to scores. Notes reflect more or less the objective taste sensations the writer experiences, while scores reflect a personal preference. Why would you score a wine you enjoy drinking lower than one you do not, regardless of how you analyze each flavour profile?

Scores are useless. They are useless because they are merely a personal scale, used by the taster to rank wines according to preference. And you don't need me, or anyone else, to tell you that taste is personal. No two palates are alike, and even if Parker gives a wine a 98, it is no guarantee that you'll enjoy it. It's a simple concept - why is this so hard to comprehend?

The age of the critic is ending. It must end. With the coming democratization of wine, and its acceptance by all and any, the critics' power must wane. Why would I buy wines according to what the critics recommend, instead of what I personally enjoy drinking?

Now, for the person just starting to experience wine, there has to be someone to turn to, for guidance. I understand, and wish I had such a figure to turn to when I began. The key is not to turn to a critic - the key is the retailer. Respectable retailers should be knowledgable enough about their wines to make informed recommendations to their customers, according to each person's tastes. This is why personalities such as Gary Vaynerchuk are so valuable. The passionate retailer can introduce the consumer to an endless variety of wines, whilst also encouraging them to develop their palate and taste preferences. You can't get it from flipping the pages of Wine Spectator.

Maybe I'm biased. Well, of course I am - why else would I write this. I never regard what the critics say. They don't provide valuable advice - everyone experiences tastes differently. What Parker calls pain grille, I call obnoxiously toasty new oak. The insight I do enjoy, such as aging window, or comparison to past vintages, is sadly lacking. But then again, isn't it all about the score?

Sadly, the LCBO doesn't provide much in terms of recommendations. The consultants in the stores...........maybe I shouldn't say anymore, before something regretful spills out. That's doing a disservice to the consumer, when all that can be relied on is what an anonymous critic writes.

Hey, if you're looking for someone to write reviews of Vintages releases...

Edinburgh India Pale Ale

Deuchars IPA

Deuchars IPA

Caledonian Brewery Deuchars IPA, Edinburgh

This is one of the beers I bought on Sunday. In 50 cL cans. This India Pale Ale is from a Scottish brewery that I've never heard of, but really want to taste. Ok! I love India Pale Ale. Usually with a more hoppy flavour profile.

Look at the beautiful colour. Deep amber at the core, with a lovely head. Very aromatic nose - lots of yeasty perfume, citrus, and clean herbal notes. Very clean. On the palate, the citrus/orange peel flavour reveals itself more. This beer has a round texture, silky and smooth. Deliciously bitter, hoppy finish.

A very refreshing beer, with great complexity and elegance. Wonderful with food, although the bitterness may turn some people off. I find it very appetizing, but it does need food.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

R&R

Many, many things happened this weekend. Got my head shaved again today, quite extreme. I discovered that my skull protrudes a bit at the back. I'm 23 and I've never realized my head was shaped like that.

The weather's been a bit turbulent, so outdoor stuff, like washing the car, seems pointless. Anyways, my Clivia is blooming again. Two times in less than 8 weeks has to be some kind of record.

Dropped by LCBO today, to pick up an order, and also to look around the new beer releases. It's summer, and LCBO's promoting this new Discover the World theme for premium beers. Found a lot of ales from Britain, Germany, and various other places. Picked up a few cans, and I'm excited to be tasting through them.

The vast majority of beer drinkers are, quite unfortunately, drunk louts satisfied by any cheap, mass-market brew. Buzz off, I freely admit to being a snob. But I believe that there are people who are serious about finely crafted brews, and who flee from Coors as much as I do from Yellow Tail. This is an area that I'd really like to learn more about. Enjoying beer occupies a completely different space compared to wine - the language used to describe beer is really fascinating.

Cheers, to learning more about beer!

The next day

So, all things considered, I got up at an acceptable hour with all body parts still attached. Yes, it was a good night.

Thunderstorm gently woke me up this morning. The greatest morning wake up call is to hear the pitter-pattering of rain on the window. If everyday could be like this, I'd be a very happy man.

It looks like Colangelo signed Rasho to a one year deal, at $1.9M. I think it's a fantastic addition to the team. Rasho probably won't complain about coming off the bench, but I remember him playing better as a starter. With Bargnani getting a new deal, it's inconceivable that they don't start him. Great move. I can't believe we'll have to wait 3 more months until we see this team in action. If TSN2 pulls any of its shenanigans again like last year, I'm going to lose it.

I'm starting to look like a Chia pet. Cha-cha-cha Chia!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Trouble

Heading out at 10....oh boy, this is going to get me in trouble. Oh boy.

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Back, at 3:22 am. All I can say is.......I have no self-control, and tonight was a good night.

Kings, for the final time

nbc_kings_header

Blogging the final Kings episode. This is very sad, but I hope things end on a high note. And my Saturday night is just beginning! Some buddies coming over later, let's see what they have in mind for tonight.

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Explosive start as usual. Silas going on air and basically telling everyone that they're f*cked when he gets back. It's hard to compare this with the actual Biblical text. From what I remember, David is made king and makes war with Saul. Saul is then killed by his own soldiers, who go to David asking for a reward. They are then killed by David for their treachery.

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I love these subtle references to God. Jack wants to be king so bad he's willing to be a puppet. And he's trying to convince the Reverend to bless him? OMGOMGOMG! He just executed that minister!! In front of his court, just bam! Wow.

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Ian McShane is such a wonderful, multi-faceted actor. He asks God to show him a sign. David replies, ''Maybe he doesn't talk to bastards.'' Silas understands how little he is - how much he has wronged David and how he can never become the man he is. Wow. So God did tip the glass over. I love how this series is so sympathetic to Silas. He never got that kind of treatment in the Bible. An incredibly conflicted, complex character.

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I am positively sweating. Silas leading a squadron of Gath tanks into Shiloh? I was not expecting him to just stroll up the street. But was there any doubt? There was no way the soldiers would fire on their king. This is a man who's been through countless wars - there is never doubt of any fear. Just wow. And the Queen stealing the real crown? Is he really going to kill his son? I don't see David allowing that to happen.

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David's doing the right thing by leaving. And he doesn't even know that Michelle is pregnant. What does Silas have planned for Jack? A fate worse than death? What, like making him bang a woman? For a second, I imagine that Andrew would say that he placed a bomb in his father's jet or something. Ridiculous. So he wants to be the crown prince? Macaulay Caulkin is the damn creepiest man I've ever seen in my life. I don't see Silas letting any of his ministers live.

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What a wonderful soliloquy by Silas. For the first time, we see that God speaks directly to Silas. And now Silas understands that God means for David to be monarch. This is a much more wiser version of Silas. He understands God's meaning, and seems to be willingly stepping aside.

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Such a powerful scene. Silas unleashing his paranoia and jealousy. Did David just kill him? And I just thought Silas was listening to God's will. So this is true to the Biblical turn. Silas is unable to let go of his jealousy of David - how could he...David is a younger, better, wiser version of himself. Power corrupts and consumes until the strive to maintain and control it eats up all of your humanity.

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So the Reverend's risen from the dead. David fleeing to Gath - I see where the parallels with the Bible begin. David must lead Gath against Gilboa and eventually swallow it. The issuances against Jack and Michelle are perplexing. Jack being forced to produce an heir that he then must give up to Silas is indeed a fate worse than death. Michelle being exiled is for the best - I think it's Rose protecting her from any retribution for carrying David's child. Reverend Samuels hovering in like an apparition is a bit unsettling, but he gets his (and God's) message across quite clearly. And Silas has completely forsaken God.

This follows the plot of the Bible. David flees into Gath, where he will find allies who will help him overthrow Silas. Silas will be assassinated by his own soldiers. And David will finally become king.

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What an amazing series. I am completely disillusioned with the state of today's networks. I've said so many times - the networks have no courage. How can you not support such an innovative, creative, and thought-provoking show? I just cannot understand how feces like the America's Got Talent is still on the air in place of this absolute jewel.

My goodness. Please, please, bring this masterpiece back.

2004 Côtes du Rhône Villages

2004 Perrin & Fils Vinsobres

2004 Perrin & Fils Vinsobres Les Hauts de Julien, AC Côtes du Rhône Villages

I bought this wine in December 2006, without really thinking. At $45, I grossly overpaid for it. And I bought 2! Not my brightest moment.

Perrin & Fils is a major producer in the Rhône, but this cuvée, Les Hauts de Julien, has the highest reputation among its Vinsobres wines. Well, at least Parker seems to like it. Vinsobres is a village in the Côtes du Rhône, and has been awarded its own AOC status.

Deep purple colour, excellent saturation. Looks very, very young. Intense nose of jammy red fruits. Lots of deep, rich cherry and raspberries. Very rich. Develops an almost savoury meat character. On the palate, a thick, silky texture, initial sweetness, and great fruit. Spicy on the finish, and a reemergence of fresh red berries. Finish lingers, but drops off. Firm structure, but very ripe, sweet tannins that are well-integrated in the wine.

This is a simple wine, and needs more age. Far from ready to drink. But, it's absolutely delicious in its simplicity, its texture, and its ripeness. Very balanced as well - a listed 14% alcohol, but none of it is discernible. That is the pedigree of French wines - the French understand how to handle the alcohol. The quality of the fruit is so high that it integrates the oak and alcohol perfectly. Very excited to see how this will age.

I drank this with pan-seared lamb loin. Salt/pepper to season. Hot pan, olive oil, crushed whole garlic cloves and rosemary. Sear the lamb on both sides, basting with butter. Oven for 3 minutes, to get a perfect medium rare. The fruit of the wine married so beautifully with the lamb. Just a profound food/wine pairing.

I still think I overpaid for the wine. However, it is extremely well-made, and I'm looking forward to drinking my last bottle in 5-7.

Truth in taste

When I refer to tasting wine, I should clarify what I mean. Tasting is fundamentally different than drinking. Drinking satisfies a physiological need to slake thirst. Tasting occupies an entirely different spectrum of experience - one of intellectual and sensual stimulation.

I try to approach a wine the same way, regardless of pedigree or reputation. Who says there can't be profound $15 wines? Colour, bouquet, palate, finish - all of these tell me the conditions of the wine's terroir, as well as how the winemaker has shaped the final product. And all of these bring me pleasure. Whether I find the taste pleasant is minor relative to detecting subtle differences against past wines.

We associate tastes to memories of what we have experienced in the past, and those associations bring great pleasure when you taste a wine. Wine, to me, is about understanding why a pinot noir growing in Central Otago tastes different than a pinot from Burgundy, and how a hot vintage affects a wine differently than a cool one. I will enjoy a distinct and unique wine, regardless if I find the taste pleasant or not.

That's what people are confused about, I think. The wine lover will rave about a distinct wine, even though it may not be a taste that they prefer. If I were to drink only wines that I find tasty, my wine list would be quite short indeed. The point of wine is to always try new regions, new vintages, new varietals. By opening yourself to the vast amount of different wines being produced, you not only develop your tasting abilities, but also find wines that you develop a taste for. An example for me is German riesling and the wines of Southwest France.

Truth in wine is the idea that wine lovers are looking for a wine that is transparent. We look for wines that speak directly of where they come from, and wines that have a clear identity. We care little for wines that are ambiguous - a New Zealand pinot noir that tastes the same as its Oregonian counterpart, for example. We admire and appreciate a wine's soul and song, even if we don't particularly favour that particular style.

Like people, wines would be very boring indeed if they (and we) were all alike.

Connoisseurship

What makes you a connoisseur of wine? The image of one is of course, a bespectacled, white, older gentleman, preferably English, wearing tweed, a cardigan, and a pocket watch. Of course, that idea is so outdated, it's no longer relevant. But, the idea of a young generation (under 30) that's serious about wine still invokes disbelief.

I'm not trying to make a case for myself. I don't consider myself a connoisseur. A connoisseur is a wine lover who has a vast experience drinking the wines of the world. It is someone with a developed palate, who can distinguish all the aspects that go into making a wine taste as it does. It is someone who appreciates uniqueness, and individuality of each bottle.

Age has nothing to do with it. Nor does money. Rarely is the man with 50 year verticals of First Growth claret the one with taste. And who says a 50 year old is more of a connoisseur than a 25 year old, simply on the merit of age?

Experience trumps age, always. Volume drinking counts for nothing. A 50 year old may have been drinking wine for 3 decades, but if it consists of cheap alcoholic fruit punch, he has learned nothing. Wine experience requires a focused, and methodical approach to tasting each and every bottle. Volume drinking is just that - drinking for the sake of drinking.

So don't be quick to dismiss the opinions of a 20 year old wine lover. No one has a choice of when they're born. As in all things, experience is what counts.

Just go

The mutual fund industry, and the Canadian economy on a whole, is in shock. That was my first line. I can't disclose for what, but it was my first, and most important, line.

Everyone understands how bad of a situation we are in now, but we still need to go about our business and just keep................living. The key is happiness right? I always say that money has no bearing on how happy you are - though it may help. What makes it depressing is that I'm not taking my own advice.

I don't spend money. No clubbing, no shopping for clothes, no daily coffee - I bring my own lunch. But I do buy wine, responsibly. However, as I referenced in Vintage Port, 2007, there are many, many wines that I simply can't buy. Not in the sense that I don't have the money - I do, but somehow, spending without thinking in this kind of climate seems reckless and incredibly irresponsible.

Which is similar to how I feel about travelling. I keep telling myself that it's going to happen, that once I save up enough, I'll go travelling the world and see all the things I've dreamed about. I'll go to Galicia and experience the terraced vineyards and salty air. I'll go to the Mosel and see the steep vines and sundial of the Wehlener Sonnenuhr. I'll go to Vatican City and marvel at St. Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel. I'll go to the Cote d'Or and experience the spirituality of the Vosne-Romanée. I'll go to Santorini and marvel at how the assyrtiko vines crawl over the island. And I'll go to Otago, and experience the energy and character of pinot noir on volcanic soils.

Maybe I go alone. Maybe I'll go with someone. But the point is, I'm lying to myself when I say it'll eventually happen. That I'll go when I'm ready.

Why do we do this to ourselves? I'll buy all these fantastic wines when everything's perfect - I have enough money and a proper cellar. I'll go travelling when I've saved enough and I've got stability at home.

Ridiculous, right? Shouldn't we just be able to go for it? Why do we feel so tied down to the mundane realities of work and home? When are you going to be truly ready to do these things? With that attitude, I don't think I ever will be. And that's very sad.

Wines over an open fire

This summer hasn't been the best for hardcore bbq-ers, no? Cool, rainy weather, especially of late. But, we'll find a way to make it happen.

I personally don't love to bbq. It's just as much work as cooking over proper heat, except with 1/3 the elegance and flair. Come on, I'd like to think that we've kind of advanced past cooking over an open fire. In any case, bbq offers a chance to eat outdoors, which is always wonderful, as is relaxing with friends and eating with your fingers. Sometimes, the food can be pretty good too.

So, what to drink with bbq? For wines, I don't like delicate white wines. A good riesling is wasted when paired with this kind of food. Brawnier wines do better, with lots of fruit, and polished tannins. My favourite is Rhône Valley wines, preferably with a primary blend of syrah. This whole debate about top Rhône varietals is interesting, because there are so many - something like 22 different grapes. I'd have to say, for black grapes, my preferences are syrah, mourvèdre, and then grenache. Syrah for its peppery complexity and juicy fruit, and mourvèdre for its structure and animalistic character. To me, syrah works well young or mature, but mourvèdre definitely needs age. Many of the wines show brettanomyces, which to many shares similarities with the bottom of a porta-potty. I personally love the rustic aromas, but with age, these wines are sublime.

Of course, of course, good beers always work well, with any kind of bbq food. Ales are my preference. I like bitter things. Of course, a refreshing pilsner on hot days. Lately, I've really been into Pale Ales, India Pale Ales, and similar brews. Good stuff.

I have yet to fire my bbq this year. I want to use charcoal, and bbq the proper way - gas is for the palate-less. But, we tossed out the charcoal grill last year, so I'll have to figure out a way. Finally, getting set to have some friends over soon - the preparation starts now. Seafood, syrah, and soul...

Special Pale Ale

Wellington S.P.A.

Wellington Brewery Special Pale Ale, Guelph

I don't pretend to know anything about beer, but I do enjoy drinking finely crafted brews, especially in the summer. This is a pale ale I picked up when I was returning empties, from a small brewery in Guelph.

Orange-tinged colour, quite light amber. Lingering foamy head. Quite a complex nose - yeasty and hoppy, with an almost fruity aroma. The palate is much simpler. Finish is adequate, but the hops found on the nose don't appear in the mouth. Initially just a touch sweet, which thins out. Slightly bitter.

This is a refreshing beer, but not an excellent one. Disappoints a bit in the mouth, because it doesn't correspond to the bouquet. However, as a friend remarked, beer isn't to be contemplated as much as wine is - it's ability to refresh is just as important as its bouquet/palate. Well said. But until I learn beer jargon, I'm still going to evaluate beers as I do wines.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Shipoopi

Hey now...looking at the calendar is depressing, with July almost being over. My summer's been uneventful, to say the least. But, who knows what will happen.

Had a great dinner. Drank an absolutely delicious wine, that married so well with the lamb I cooked. I'm not a huge fan of lamb, but I'm warming up to it. Fantastic wine and food pairing tonight though.

Going out to see some friends tonight. Hopefully there will be some excitement.

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Tired, but still heading out. Can't let my friends down, you see. Even though I might be slightly blowing over. Shhh......

Thursday, July 23, 2009

2001 Rioja Gran Reserva

2001 Rioja Bordòn

2001 Rioja Bordón Gran Reserva, DOC Rioja

Spain produces a lot of wine that I love. One of the wines I love the most is Rioja. It combines pure fruit with mature characters, as well as an almost perfect integration of oak.

This bottle is classified as Gran Reserva, meaning that it spends a minimum of 5 years in the bodegas before it's release - 2 years in cask, and 3 years in bottle. That's one of the great appeals of this wine - it's unique in the wine world in the amount of oak age it sees. But, these wines are anything but oaky. Very little new oak is used, and all you get is a soft vanilla creaminess on the nose.

As usual, this bottle of wine was opened on a whim. Light red robe, although it's turning an almost tawny shade. Losing a bit of its luster. Typical Rioja nose, which is wonderful. Just like a good hug with someone you particularly like. Red fruits, some dried dates, as well as earthy tones and some subtle oak on the nose. Sour red berries as well. On the palate, this is quite a lean wine, with lots of sour red fruits. Mature fruit character, with mocha and crystalline minerality. Lingering, soft finish. Great texture.

Not a profound wine, but a very true example of what Rioja can deliver. Perfect for the occasion.

Don't kill heritage

There's a chipmunk scampering around my backyard. Cute, stupid little animal.

What's this talk about University of Waterloo changing its seal? What sort of nonsense is this? The school is barely 50 years old and you want to change its identity already? Vice-Chancellor Johnston, protect whatever little heritage you have! You're a man I admire tremendously, and you have to be against this. This.......this is irreverent.

uw

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

On gardening

My mint garden is doing well, in spite of the weather. Just ridiculously cool weather we're seeing, no? I mean, it didn't even feel like it hit 20° today.

Mint needs moderate sun, but heat is always beneficial. We don't get a lot of light out back, which makes the heat even more necessary. They're becoming more fragrant, but still lacks the vigour I'd like. Some heat would also do my bamboo wonders.

This weather is ruining my summer. Just a little. I'm drinking less mojitos, less beers, and less sparkling wines than ever. This is a travesty, last summer was kind of awesome in comparison. Not having a job, sleeping until noon, and drinking yourself stupid every night was magical.

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Omg, I'm watching Wipeout right now, how could you NOT find this stuff funny? Jill is looking mighty fine, think that was planned?

All love, all love

I just recovered from having a fish bone stuck in my throat. What am I, 9? Of course, I tried the classic Chinese remedy of swallowing a large mouthful of rice. No good. But, with a bit of coughing, massaging, water, and willpower, I forced the sucker down. Great success!

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Kings - wine

My respect for Kings leaped with this past episode. King Silas has an exchange with Abedon, and out of nowhere, a dissertation on wine!

Abedon: What's this?
Silas: Incentive. To see if the tongue relied upon contains all its faculties.
Abedon: Chocolate. Cassis. Vines grown on clay, roots at the surface. Mmm...mmm! Oak there...2 years to mellow...Ivano '61?

Now, a made up wine for sure, but everything else is pure joy for wine lovers. First impressions - he's talking about Bordeaux, clearly, most likely Left Bank. First Growth of Pauilliac? Chocolate and cassis are very common flavours found in Left Bank claret. Vines grown on clay - that sounds more like Right Bank. 'Roots at the surface' is the only thing that doesn't make much sense - great wines come from vines with a very deep root system. You would be able to detect deep roots if the wine shows a lot of minerality...but this is not a discussion found in tasting notes. How deep the roots are is something that's undetectable on taste. 2 years in oak is also questionable - Bordeaux is rarely aged that long in barriques. 18 months would have been more believable.

The name kind of seals it as a Bordeaux. Ivano is a fake name, but 1961 is one of the marquee vintages of 20th century Bordeaux.

Now, if they had proposed a real bottle of 1961 Bordeaux, that would have sent me into the stratosphere. Perhaps a Latour, or Margaux, Petrus, or Cheval Blanc. But, let's not be too greedy.

The greatest drama ever shown on TV! What a shame that it's all ending this weekend. The networks have no courage.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pumping it

Had a great boost of confidence today. At the gym, I sat down to do some shoulder presses. This big guy sat down next to me - tall, white, about 6'2'', 200 lbs. And he struggled to lift the same weights as me.

That's right...he struggled at half the number of reps I was doing. Roar baby, roar!!!!!!!!

Vintage Port, 2007

Why is everyone so excited about this solar eclipse? THere was one last year, there will another one next year. Are we f*cking fire worshipping heathens? Does everyone think that the Sky Dog ate the f*cking sun??? Why all the excitement?

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Aside. Does anyone drink Vintage Port? Let me rephrase - does anyone under the age of 40 still drink Vintage Port? It's an old British thing, it's an old white man's delight......but you can't deny that Vintage Port is absolutely delicious. Lots of fruit, but also structure and more importantly, uniquely Portuguese. Although, to be clear, Vintage Port is a British invention. Ahh, good old colonialism!

If the wine press are to be believed, vintage port is on its way back. As the name suggests, Vintage Port is not made every year; very similar to vintage Champagne, it has to be declared by Port producers. Of course, the governing body certifies whether the quality of a vintage merits a declaration. 2007 was such a year, and its already reputed to be excellent. Vintage Port is never a very forward wine - the tradition was for you to purchase for your grandchildren, because Vintage Port was never to be drunk before 30 or 40 years. However, as all wine is becoming more and more drinkable early, old traditions are changing. Vintage Port 2007 is apparently very accessible now, with all the concentration to last decades.

A very interesting proposition, for people to begin putting away. LCBO recently is offering 2007's: 2007 Vintage Port Special Offer. I really wanted to pick up a few bottles. 6-12, maybe. But, looking at the prices versus current finances.........can't do it.

Story of my life. Find something I want, but can't go for it. This is bullshit. So I can't make good, responsible purchases because he can't get his shit together, but somehow he feels he has the right to govern how, when, and where I drink the wine that I've paid for? And you wonder why I blurted out for him to go f*ck himself?

Wow, this post went downhill fast.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Pale and pretty

What a beautiful colour. More, later.

Wellington S.P.A.

Auslese my friends, we need more Auslese

Didn't I promise not so long ago that I'd put a ceiling on my wine purchasing? Well, that doesn't apply to Mosel wines. Not one bit. I know I keep boring by writing about Mosel instead of actually drinking it, but...............it's coming, it's coming.

Thought it over, and decided that I wanted a few more bottles of this wine released on VintagesOnline a few months ago. 1995 P.S. Bäumler-Becker Erben Riesling Auslese, QmP Wehlener Sonnenuhr. It's just too irresistible. Especially when you understand that this producer is shutting down. Apparently, the proprietor is retiring and there's no one to take up the responsibility. Such a shame, especially if this family's been doing this for 200 years. A damn shame.

So, looking out for these wines. I have a 2001 sitting somewhere as well - it'll be interesting to taste them side by side.

It's going to happen soon, promise.

Just at it

Fourteen of them. So ends a weekend of prolific blogging. You're welcome.

If you haven't already, read the two posts on (bad) restaurants, and wine service. We're going to shame them into changing their ways.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Video: 2006 Château Pindefleurs

I looked so suited up. I like this look - I'm sticking with it. Aquascutum jacket, Franco shirt, Paul Smith silk handkerchief, and undisputed swagger. Featuring the 2006 Château Pindefleurs, which I tasted with friends last week. Reactions were muted. That means the wine was mediocre at best. I trust my friend's judgements, and if they don't like it, I don't like it. And that's the way it is. As always, comments are welcome, and appreciated.

My Gullwing

My Gullwing

I love cars, as we all do. I have 3 dream cars, all of which are probably out of my reach, in this lifetime at least. But, I did myself a favour - if I work really, really hard, and get really f*cking lucky, maybe I'll have a shot at one of them. My 3 dream cars: BMW M Coupé, Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic, and Mercedes Benz 300SL, as shown above. I just fell in love with the BMW the first time I saw it. If you disagree with the Bugatti, you have no taste. And the 300SL - the Gullwing is just the dream.

Especially with the development of a new one. Edmunds Inside Line reviews the 2010 Mercedes Benz SLS AMG.

So. Will driving one of these make me more attractive? Say yes, say yes, say yes, please!

Cause I'm leaving on a jet plane...

...don't know when I'll be back again.

I've stopped going on Facebook. Except to post links from this blog, of course. But I've stopped caring what other people post on their pages. Really, how many of these tacky status updates can we take? Do I sound like a jackass? I'm not even warmed up yet.

What aggravates the most is that every other day, someone has posted pictures from their trips, as if we're supposed to be dazzled and impressed. Come on. If you really want to show off, put together an album with at least 30% of the images sharp.

For certain, this is part bitterness, part jealousy, because while I claim to love traveling, how much of it have I done in the past 12 months? No, going to the Finger f*cking Lakes doesn't count. I'd love nothing than to drop everything and just go somewhere, but.........

Man, this is getting ridiculous. You know the best thing I have to look forward to? It's a family trip back to Shanghai. Shouldn't really be complaining, because the trip is important, but traveling with your mother isn't really a recipe to find yourself.

The point is....my frustration is kind of simmering at the moment, but if one day I disappear and end up in Galicia.................

Oh, and please stop posting your stupid, shitty, blurry photos on Facebook. Your clichéd, witless commentary at the bottom doesn't help either. Unbelieeeeeeeeeevable.

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I apologize, sincerely, to anyone visiting from the Finger Lakes tourism board. Middle-aged tourist getaways just aren't my thing.

In the mood

Upright

Like all the great maestros, Tchaikovsky's work is sensual and appeals to your heart. His work is calming, serene.....what we all need, from time to time.

A day of rest

It's 1pm, I'm up, I'm up. And no hangover!

Looks grey outside. Perfect for a quiet nap in the afternoon, or lazily dozing off on the sofa, glass in hand...

I actually want to accomplish a lot today. Lots of housekeeping to do. Next week is going to be interesting. You know, as a younger lad, I would take silly frivolities like clothing seriously. I think I just stopped caring. I'm been wearing pajamas all weekend. And a t-shirt with many wine stains on it. Hair unkempt, unshaven - this is what happens when you spend 80% of your time awake thinking about wine because when you think about wine, you'll eventually open a bottle, and once you start drinking, you stop thinking about going out.

I think I'm starting to forget my friend's faces. Terrible. I see them and I always say, 'Let's have dinner', but the onus always seems on me to organize, and eventually, cook everything. But then again, I deride places like Jump for not understanding food, so I think I bring it on myself. Still - it'd be nice to be cooked for. A few friends have completed their CA exams, so we should be celebrating. I blame it on the weather.

The palate itches for another bottle to be opened. But another wine may be excessive, even for me. Maybe a pale ale instead?

All-nighter

To all my friends slaving away at school, but mostly to the ones stuck in Waterloo - good luck. Sometimes, I envy you. I envy the freedom of being up at 2am, and just saying, to hell with it, I'm opening another bottle and chilling with my roommates.

So goes another uneventful weekend. Caught up on some things though. At least the wines were good. No video this week, I don't think....at least, nothing new.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Late night drink

Wine always tastes better late at night. I'm drinking a delicious Rioja - not a perfect wine by any means, nor a profound one. Just a true wine, with personality and character.

Watching CNN, which is airing a show on Walter Cronkite. I harboured dreams of going into journalism once, if just for an instant. Mr. Cronkite would be my model. A gentleman in every sense of the word. The way he conducts himself is something everyone should learn from. He reminds me of my grandfather. We don't have grand old men like that anymore. I can only hope to eventually embody those qualities.

I'm finishing this bottle. And I'm becoming wiser as I sniff and swirl and swallow. I'll become very wise over my last glass. Yes, wise and drunk, how sexy is that?

2008 Twenty Mile Bench

2008 Flat Rock Cellars

2008 Flat Rock Cellars Pinot Noir, VQA Twenty Mile Bench

The busted screwcap, as referenced earlier. I stumbled at the front door, and the bottle hurtled cap-first into the ground. As you can see, the screwcap warped, and wine started leaking. Guess I wasn't meant to put another bottle of this away.

Light colour, beautiful. This might read like my last post on this wine. Great intensity on the bouquet. Lots of fresh plump rose petals, herbal notes, earthiness, and sour cherry/cranberry character. Some mocha from the oak. Very expressive and developed.

Lean on the palate, with lots of fresh fruit and rose petals. Exceptionally long finish. Lingering and delicious. Quite austere, but with the openness and generosity of the New World.

Again, I can't emphasize this enough - the finest wine ever produced by Flat Rock.

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Moral of the story: screwcap is all good and great, but this shit wouldn't have happened with a cork. Make sure you have a good grip on your liquor bag.

Different old wines

I have a love/hate relationship with the LCBO. As we all do, with many things.

LCBO just doesn't offer enough older wines. I understand that the market dictates all, and the market demands young, easy-drinking, fruity alcoholic kool-aid. Such is the North American palate. What do you do.

Of course, the obligatory mature, overpriced Bordeaux is offered. No older Burgundy, no older Champagne, no older Brunello or Barolo. Such a shame. Is there a wine retailer with a mind other than on making money? What happened to offering consumers the best wine experiences? Damn. Everytime I walk into LCBO I feel like I should be keeping a hand on my wallet.

What they do offer is older Rheingau rieslings. Which is great - there have been opportunities to buy rieslings from the 1980's, especially in the last few months. What would be fantastic - for me - would be if older Mosel-Saar-Ruwer rieslings were released as well. Lots of younger stuff available, but in terms of mature examples.............

Until that happens, I guess I'll have to do all the cellaring. Right. Now, all I need is a proper cellar, 10 years, and few bills lying around. Simple, so simple.

Wine service

No, I'm not done yet. Jump's food was horrendous, but what was more shocking and unacceptable was how they serve wine.

I know how it looks. A group of Chinese in their early 20's shows up, they couldn't possibly know a damn thing about wine right? Why would you give them the proper glasses?

Wrong glasses to start. I ordered a 2006 13th Street Sandstone Estate Chardonnay, and if the servers were really educated on wine, they would know what glasses to provide. And even if they didn't know, don't they hire a sommelier-type? For such a rich, powerful wine, the glasses we were given were a disgrace. Small bowl, cheap, with a lip that just splayed open. No way to swirl the wine without splashing yourself, your tablemate, and possibly the people sitting behind you. Error number one.

The wine was served far too cold. Iced to shit, robbing the wine of any nuance or charm. The one redeeming thing our server did was leaving the bottle on the table, without an ice bucket. Still, for 45 minutes, I didn't know if I was drinking a chardonnay or a lemonade. Error number two.

******The most egregious behaviour came next. And this is something I want everyone to notice the next time you order wine in a restaurant. It's the thinly-shielded ploy of restaurants to fill your glasses to the brim, so that they can empty the bottle in 4 pours. The idea is that when the patrons see an empty bottle, they'll be embarrassed into ordering another bottle. You see what I mean when I say theft? This is a completely unprofessional, lowbrow method for restaurants to steal your money.

Our server filled our glasses to the top, leaving only about an inch of wine left in the bottle. My friend took a sip of his, and immediately, another server came from nowhere to refill his glass!!! Just appeared out of nowhere, and before anyone could react, his glass was topped up once again. Ridiculous. This clown came back 3 more times over the course of dinner for the express purpose of filling our glasses. I wanted to fling my f*cking glass at him. If the wine wasn't bad enough, we had to deal with this wine Nazi.

So here's what you do. You tell your server to stop pouring once your glass is 1/3 full. And if they come back to refill, you physically place your hand on top of the glass and say no. You have to be abrupt to these jackasses, or else they won't get the point. You have to be firm.

This appalling behavious must be stopped. We have to shame these people into providing the proper wine service. So here it is. Never order wine at Jump Cafe and Bar if you want to enjoy your wine. And the next time you experience this nonsense, don't be afraid to tell them to back off.

Here's what other prominent wine writers think about this disgraceful practice:

Eric Asimov: Decisions, Decisions
Christopher Hitchens: Wine Drinkers of the World, Unite

Waterlicious

Last Saturday, I attended Summerlicious with friends at Jump Cafe and Bar, in the heart of downtown Toronto's financial district. I was hesitant when I found out that our reservations were here. Jump is the type of yuppie, faux-classy establishment that somehow manages to attract the city's biggest douches (male and female).

I should preface by saying that restaurant reviews are restricted to the food and wine. My judgement is not affected by the service we were given, nor the restaurant's ambience and environment. Just the food and wine.

Summerlicious isn't exactly known for providing profound cuisine. Nevertheless, it's a snapshot of a restaurant's flair and style, and should entice you to return once the promotion ends.

To start, we began with an asparagus/endive/bacon salad and oven roasted parmesan crusted oyster mushrooms. Greasy and cold on both fronts. Why would you serve whole strips of bacon cold? It becomes leathery, instead of crispy as intended. Mushrooms turn soapy and greasy when they cool as well.

We then moved onto grilled lamb sirloin and plantain crusted cherry snapper. The lamb was cold, over-cooked, and had an odd tabasco type sauce on it. Tabasco sauce with the lamb and sautéed greens? Odd. The snapper was pan seared, and then smothered in a crumble. Greasy, and uninspired. And sticking to the theme, both dishes came out cold.

Really, is there any more point for dessert? Our coffees were the highlight of the meal. The tiramisu was not really a tiramisu. Cream and sponge don't exactly represent the taste of Italy. The chocolate mousse was a diabetic-stroke inducing mess of sugary confection.

For wine, I wanted a 2007 Lailey Unoaked Chardonnay. Of course, it was unavailable. The restaurant is called Jump Cafe and Bar right? So we went with a 2006 13th Street Sandstone Estate Chardonnay. In the typical style of this producer, a completely overblown, over-alcoholic chardonnay. Aging it on the lees until you lose all nuance does not represent terroir! If I want to drink yeast and oak, I'm not paying $45 for it!!!!!

We should have stuck to water. Waterlicious right? So that was the food. Uninspired, poorly executed, and a theft. You're charging money for this? I understand these promotions aren't exactly fun and money makers, but you need to attract customers to your food. The chef clearly doesn't care. That's what happens when these people are on salary. Why should the chef care about offering the best effort to patrons? Just uninspired. If you don't take pride in your food, change your profession.

You might be able to appease the camera-clicking slobs who fancy themselves as downtown sophisticates, but people who are serious about food are not impressed.

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Our server was fantastic. But, there's an aspect about service here that greatly upset and disturbed me. To be elaborated on, in the next post.

2006 St-Émilion Grand Cru

2006 Pindefleurs

2006 Château Pindefleurs, AC St-Émilion Grand Cru

This wine is from my 2006 Bordeaux En Primeur order. I wanted to pull a bottle, to get a sense of the vintage. Maybe I pulled the wrong bottle.

The owner of this estate also own Château Pipeau, also in St-Émilion, so the style featured can be deduced. Big, forward, plushy, modern? The taste revealed it to be so.

The assemblage is 90% merlot, 5% cabernet sauvignon, and 5% cabernet franc. Aged 12 months in 100% new oak, which is troubling. And, the greatest shock - they spray the vines with chemicals!! Oh my goodness, what happened to making wine naturally? You know, by happy peasants who sing as they tend the vines with a scraggly dog nipping at their heels? Chemicals?? Scandalous.

Dark, deep colour - blackish purple at the core, with immense saturation to the rim. Surprisingly rustic nose, with quite a noticeable brettanomyces character. Not a lot of upfront fruit - this seems a bit closed at the moment. Some earth, dark berries. The wine develops a meaty aroma, as well as subtle crystalling minerality. The oak is evident.

On the palate, this wine is clearly closed. Lots of abrupt tannins, big structure. Some confected fruit showing, but at this point, it's a crime to be drinking it. I'm judging this wine far too prematurely. A modern wine, but with some restraint. Good finish. Tannins are showing a bit bitter. Clearly not as ripe as 2005, but with impressive concentration. As I said, a modern wine in every way.

We'll see how this does in 3-5 years. Will the fruit emerge? Will the oak integrate? And will the brettanomyces recede? We'll see.

How not to

This is how you mutilate the greatest summer drink ever conceived by man. Why would you put in sugar like that? To enjoy the crunch? My goodness, simple syrup, simply syrup, simple syrup!!!! Don't put out these cocktail videos if you haven't mastered that concept yet. Damn, all that boasting about trying mojitos the world over and she still has no clue wtf she's doing. No taste at all. Simple syrup, lime juice without the lime wedges and don't crack the f*cking mint like that!!

Erratic

This week has been a strange one. My posting's erratic, random topics. Everytime I sit down to write something, I forget to write about important stuff, instead focusing on inconsequential blather.

I still have to write about this restaurant we went to last week. Priority for me, in the morning. When I've sobered up a bit. Also, more on the wines I've been drinking. And of course, putting up that video that I've been sitting on for a week.

I opened 2 bottles today. Both marvelous wines. Both reminding me that wine has that ethereal ability to lift the spirit, and create emotion. I think we get too caught up in everyday life that we forget to just enjoy things. Like just enjoying the sensual experience of wine. How a wine speaks to your soul is every bit as important as how it speaks to the palate.

We just need a reminder every once in a while.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Walter Cronkite

Walter Cronkite died today.

This gentleman is a huge inspiration to me. TV news broadcasts may no longer be relevant, but Cronkite's work lasts.

"And that's the way it is." That was Mr. Cronkite's trademark sign off. There will never be another.

S & P

Stacked and packed. This summer's weather has been wonderful. Cool nights, perfect for sleeping tight. But more importantly, having the temperature under control means that the wine I've been holding at home is doing well.

There's several wines that I've had for a few months. I feel bad trucking one or two bottles over to my friend's place, where I store the majority of my wines. It can definitely be a problem as we have an above ground basement, so temperatures can really soar. Last year, temperatures hovered around the 25-26 mark. Not good.

This year has been fantastic. Holding onto some Champagne, a lot of Mosel riesling, and some Tuscan beauties. Waiting to pair with some great food when my friends get back, of course.

Calling in a gay day

Do you think this could ever work? Hey boss, can't work today - I'm just too gay.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Taking the bad with the good

Ok, so I had a pretty rough day today. Which continued to the gym. In the gym, dickwads hide their insecurities behind big biceps and a bigger mouth. Why do you think they work out together like a giggly pubescent boy band? I don't give a shit, I'm not going to be intimidated off my workout. Yeah bitch, you wait until I'm done with the bench.

Anyways. That's not what I want to talk about. It's Thursday, so I scooted to LCBO as usual to pick up some wines. German rieslings today! Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, single-vineyard.....it really does not get any better. Wines from the Wehlener Sonnenuhr. Just fantastic. Picked up some things, as well as another bottle of 2008 Flat Rock Cellars Pinot Noir.

Which is where the fun began. I was carrying 5 bottles back in a paper bag. At the doorstep, I slip. The bottle of Flat Rock tumbles out, cap-first into the ground. Being a screwcap, it immediately sprouts a leak. Bright red wine spurts out everywhere - the ground was christened in lovely, fragrant, Niagara pinot noir.

Damn. I wanted to get another bottle to put away. But it's not to be. The bottle is now in a fridge, and I will drink it tomorrow. How could this happen? The first time I've broken a bottle - I've bought hundreds of bottles and this nonsense has never happened.

I'm a man who believes in signs. And this is a sign that now is not the time to put another bottle of this wine away. The single bottle I have sitting in my closet must suffice, for now. A sign, also, that I should visit Flat Rock again soon.

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Oh yeah, how could I not share this. I'm sitting pretty right now with a busted lower lip. When a 15 lbs cable bar slams into your face, you lose.

To Twitter?

I was surprised to see a link to my piece on 2006 Andrew Rich pinot noir posted on Twitter. Great guy, marvelous, thanks so much for spreading my work around. Thanks.

Should I Twitter? Should I Tweet whore my blog? I whore it already on Facebook and my MSN page already. I think Twitter may be too much work.

But I'm intrigued. Now, if someone would like to Tweet for me, that would work out well. How about we share a bottle of wine a week for you to Tweet at least 5 times a day for me?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Geezer

I'm watching Wipeout right now. I Survived a Japanese Gameshow is coming up next. Does no one else find this stuff hilarious?

Great to hear that everyone's receiving their Carlsberg kits. Good on Carlsberg for keeping to their word.

If anyone can find out a way to get me on Wipeout, hook me up. I'd totally do that shit. For $50K, damn......I'd do things much worse than Big Balls.

2006 Willamette Valley

2006 Andrew Rich

2006 Andrew Rich Cuvée B Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon

The big, burly Oregonian.

Continuing on this theme of tasting New World wines, I picked up another bottle of wine from an acclaimed pinot noir region. Oregon is quickly overtaking California as the premier American region for this grape. Again, I ask: does the quality match the hype? This wine, as the Central Otago I tasted, is not a profound example of what pinot noir can achieve.

Light red, which is promising. Good fruit, which is to be expected. Some pinot noir character. These wines should not be praised simply for having varietal correctness - it is a pinot noir, therefore it should taste like one. If it doesn't even taste like a pinot, why are we even bothering? High alcohol fumes on the nose. Should we even be surprised? Curt finish. Lots and lots and lots of alcohol.

Look at the glass I'm using. I never use these glasses. But anything else, and the alcohol just becomes choking. Need a really wipe open bowl, to dissipate some of it. And ice it to shit.

I'm disappointed. No soul in this wine. Clean, technically impeccable, yes - but there's no soul. And that is a shame.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Done, son

Today was a better day.

Found a great, free, online publication on Mosel wines of Germany, called Mosel Fine Wines. An independant publication written by Jean Fisch and David Rayer, it includes some great writeups of some of the top wines of the Mosel.

I love Mosel-Saar-Ruwer wines. My goodness, I love them. Which makes it a huge shame that I haven't drank any in at least 2 months. A huge shame.

This is the last bottle I drank, far too long ago. I can almost still taste its tingly, minerally essence. Almost.

2007 Scharzhof

Monday, July 13, 2009

Video: 2008 Flat Rock Cellars

I'm proud of this video. 2008 Flat Rock Cellars Pinot Noir. Maybe because I really love this wine. As always, comments are welcome and appreciated.

2008 Twenty Mile Bench

2008 Flat Rock Cellars

2008 Flat Rock Cellars Pinot Noir, VQA Twenty Mile Bench

Wow. I want to begin by proclaiming this the finest bottle of wine I've ever tasted from Flat Rock.

Surprised to see this on store shelves so soon, and I really wasn't planning on opening it so soon, but here it is. From the 2008 vintage, a rainy, humid, and generally awful vintage. Which is why it's so surprising - this wine is incredible.

Light red pomegranate colour, the lightest Flat Rock I've ever seen. Intense nose of juicy, fresh rose petals and sour cherries. Very linear and transparent. Excellent pinot noir character - all the earthiness and root character of Flat Rock, but with the rose petals of the Niagara peninsula. I've noticed this character in the best pinot noir producers in Niagara, and it's wonderful to see this in Flat Rock as well.

Fantastic palate. Lots of red fruits - sour cherry, raspberry. Rose petals follow, with a chlorine minerality on the finish. Marvelous length. I drank this in bed, and I clearly had an impression of the wine on my palate in the morning. Yes, waking up to rose petals in the mouth is one of the world's great pleasures. Just marvelous.

Perfect weight, less than, or around 12% alcohol. This is a fine, aggressive, true pinot noir. Now, I have to ask the question - because Flat Rock is known for their clonal research, in terms of vines, is this a byproduct of finding the right pinot noir clone? I can't answer that until I ask them the next time I visit. But the wine speaks for itself - there can be no doubt. This is a serious wine, and a turning point for Flat Rock.

A profound wine. Bravo, bravo, bravo!!!

Hack

I feel like I got jackhammered today.

Still feeling a bit shell-shocked, not even joking. Damn. I need a drink. There's going to be an interesting release this week. Riesling, anyone? I think I know what my next video is going to be about.

Letting out my frustrations in the gym, where I'm free to grunt and groan as much as I'd like.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Video: 1982/1994 Rheingau

A video on the pair of wines tasted last week: 1982 Schloss Schönborn Riesling Spätlese and 1994 Schloss Schönborn Riesling Kabinett.

Look at what I'm wearing. That is not a presentable look. Many apologies. Better quality, in all areas, will follow. As always, comments are welcome and appreciated.

Headphones on, at work

I've been quiet today - with 3 hours worth of raw footage to go through, I've been sitting in front of the computer all afternoon. Finished editing 2 new videos, with a 3rd one nearing completion.

A bit of a downturn, yet again. Had a great weekend - saw my friends again, after nearly 2 months....well, at least my favourite ones. And now they're all back in school, to finish the term. This disconnect between friends who are working and friends who are still finishing up school is distressing.

No one has the time to just relax and chill together anymore. And that's very sad.

Pouring a few

I love this photo. My right hand, featured.

Tasting

Cool it

Is it self-absorbed to be a bit disappointed that my page views aren't consistently where I want them to be? Everytime I feel like my readership is expanding, things fall flat. Or should I be happy that I'm getting at least one hit per day?

I'm giving myself a cooling off period of 12 hours before I write something about this restaurant that I'll regret later. We went out for dinner tonight and well.............yeah, I'm going to digest things a bit before I pass judgement on the meal.

Things were brighter after dinner. Wish we could chill for a bit longer, but everyone's busy. Pindefleurs 2006 is keeping me company tonight. Should I video myself completely sauced, or would that give the wrong impression to my co-workers? No, I should leave a bit of mystique.

We were talking about names we give to material things in our lives, like cars, laptops, phones. While we're at it, I'd like you all to now refer to me as.............the Godfather. That is all.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Tingling

This dramatic weather we're experiencing in Toronto today is making my taste buds tingle. Thunder, lightning, sheets of rain - humidity, high/low pressure, tension in the air.

I'm tingling for something with lots of drama, lots of excitement, lots of verve. Lots of talk about gruner veltliner the last few days in the blogging world. Sounds enticing. Beer is always a good option. Pale ales, pilsners - bitterly refreshing.

Is there such thing as a drink to match weather types?

A taste of summer

The first big gulp is always the most delicious. This is as fresh as it gets. Picked the mint from the garden myself.

Mojito

Taking a dump

I'm offloading these cell-phone photos all at once. Apologies for the non-existent quality.

For anyone curious, the city workers of Toronto have been on strike for 20 days now. That's all indoor and outdoor workers. Garbage pickers, daycare workers, swimming pools, etc. - all shut down. So that means we have to deal with our own garbage.

We dumped our garbage, as I reported yesterday, at one of the new temporary garbage dumps the city's opened up. They're all temporary - no one's picking this shit up, so as soon as the sites are full, they have to be shut down. This one was decent. No obnoxious people picketing, and the workers present actually do all the lifting for you.

Look at this mountain.

Toronto Strike, Garbage Disposal

Toronto Strike, Sunnybrook Garbage Dump

A ride?

Bayview Village had this antiques exhibit on Canada Day. Vendors set up in the middle of the mall, to showcase their garbage treasures.

I saw this. A rickshaw straight out of old Shanghai.

Rickshaw in the Bayview Village

Not my time of day

Someone remind me - why am I up at this unholy hour, on a Saturday? During a thunderstorm, no less, the perfect setting for slumbering peacefully in my big, comfortable, soft bed.

This Saturday is starting to suck already.

Late night movie

Just came back from watching The Hangover.

Good guy movie. Don't go with a girl. She'll get offended and think you're a git. We originally planned on watching Bruno, but it was sold out. Really, people are that eager to watch a film about a faux-fag, faux-Austrian prankster? Excuse my French.

Drank some things tonight. Will report tomorrow, although both wines are really nothing to get excited over.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Uh oh...

Oh my. Today, I gravely insulted a police officer. I may or may not have told him to go f*ck himself, the exact words escape me. But I probably did utter that exact phrase.

My mother has promised to bail me out, should I get a visit from the cops.

---

Full story:

I was driving north on Leslie, from Sunnybrook Park. I was there to dump my garbage. David Miller can go to hell. Anyways, there's a Sony building on Leslie, and apparently, there's always police there to direct traffic coming in and out of the building. There were 2 people jaywalking. Two f*ckers just taking their sweet ass time across the street. Get the f*ck off the road!!!! There are cars roaring up the hill, run that shit!! Damn, these people are just asking to get run over.

So, the cop was there in the middle of the road, hailing them across. He DID NOT signal for me to stop. I slowed down, and was about 9-10 metres away from the cop and the jaywalkers. Cop then proceeds to give me the universal "What the f*ck???!!!" gesture, and points to the jaywalkers. I guess the point he was trying to get across was, "Didn't you see the people?"

Well, I did, you uneducated, shit-brain, little f*ck. You dumb motherf*cker, what did you expect, I'd run them over in broad f*cking daylight? I responded in kind, through an open window. I screamed, among other things, "What the f*ck do you want me to do?", "You f*cking moron!!", and "Get a real f*cking job!!". Yes, I called a police officer a f*cking moron.

He kind of shrugged and walked off the road. Dumb f*ck.

I think I lost my temper a bit today. The first, and most likely the only time that I'll ever spew expletives at an officer of the law. Still, the pasty little f*cker deserved it.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Stroke of.......something

Bryan Colangelo's stirring things up. Big changes for the Toronto Raptors, let's see how this plays out. Are they bringing back Rasho Nesterovic? That would be fantastic. And did Anthony Parker really sign with Cleveland? Carlos Delfino is not a bad player, but I really like how AP fits with the team.

Hump and the Maori are gone. Please dump O'Bryant on someone else.

More, later.

Cool climate, epitomized

Toronto has been experiencing quite a strange summer so far. For the last 4 weeks, we haven't really seen temperatures rise to even 25°. I know people make cracks about Canadians living in igloos, but this is getting ridiculous. Totally uncharacteristic of even a Canadian summer.

We get a fairly short summer, but during those 3 months, we get intense heat and humidity. Yes, we do get heat spikes. This year, for some reason, we have yet to see any significant, prolonged heat.

Which is a good thing. Save electricity, money. Be more environmentally friendly. But also good in another way. 2009 will truly be a cool climate vintage. Perhaps it's a bit too early to make that judgement, but we're into July, with no sign of any increase in temperature.

Niagara benefits from a cooler, longer, dry growing season. That's why vintages like 2006 and 2008 were successful. I've really enjoyed the 2008 wines I've tasted so far because of the delicate bouquets, and incredible acidity. If 2009 continues as planned, these wines should be spectacular. 2008 was plagued by rain, a problem that we're not seeing so far this year.

I'm learning to enjoy minor vintages more and more, vintages that the so called experts write off. I'm finding vintages like 2008 show so well, in terms of aromatics, balance, and subtlety. My kind of wines! 2007 was a blockbuster, undoubtedly. But these may not be the best expressions for true Niagara wines - riesling, pinot noir, chardonnay. Wines like pinot noir especially benefit from cool growing conditions. The 2008 Flat Rock I drank last week - a fine wine indeed.

So don't complain that it doesn't feel tropical this summer. I, for one, am excited to see what happens.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Poker chips in the mail?

Just curious - has anyone received the Carlsberg Poker Kits yet? They said 4-6 weeks for delivery, so it's about time, judging from when I first posted the links.

Late night poker

Easy on the wallet

Another VintagesOnline release today.

Nothing interesting, which is actually a good thing. Temptation is unavoidable, so any opportunity to save money is gold.

But seriously, I would really, really like to see more Loire Valley whites, rieslings, and Austrian whites.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

MJ

I'm watching the MJ memorial service. How can you possibly not be moved?

michael-jackson-365b062609

Monday, July 6, 2009

Building a wall

Tiles

If only I can build up a wall to keep out the pain in the ass in my life now. Or maybe if I just move out. Rocky, we're rooming after you graduate right?

Loyal, vinously

No one believes in loyalty anymore. Which is tragic.

Loyalty is what makes us civilized. What's society coming to, when people can sour relationships on a whim? Is there such a thing as loyal friendships anymore? I try to be a loyal friend. That entails a compromising and equal relationship. There are people that switch friends like panties. If you tire of people after 6 months, maybe you're not making the right friends. Loyalty.

This idea plays a big role for the wine lover, during the most important time of the year - Bordeaux En Primeur season. Bordeaux is one of those wines that you buy in large quantities, at once. I buy about 95% of my Bordeaux during the En Primeur campaign. These wines are wines to put away - definitely not for early drinking. Any other wine I can purchase on regular releases. Bordeaux? En Primeur is the only opportunity you'll get.

My buying decisions really depend on vintage conditions, but there are wines that I will purchase every year, regardless of vintage. For example - 2007 was not a great vintage for red wines, but was spectacular for whites and Sauternes. Those were the wines that I focused on. However, there are a few wines that I look to purchase every year. La Lagune, Chasse-Spleen, L'Arrosée, Poujeaux, and when I'm in the mood, Faizeau. No blockbusters, no super-expensive names......mostly due to finance, but the advances in modern Bordeaux means that the brand names no longer hold a premium on top quality wines.

Classicism - that is the key. No oaky, over-extracted monsters. Of course, I'll only be able to reap the benefits of amassing these verticals in, oh, about 10 years.

What are you loyal to?

En Primeur 2nd Offer

It's taken more than a month, and after a lot of nail-biting, the phone call came. Order, through, deliverable in 2 years.

My order shrunk this year, but picked some sparklers:

Figeac
Clinet
L'Arrosée
Poujeaux
D'Aiguilhe
Faizeau Vielles Vignes

Let's just hope that for once, the hype is true. That 2008 Bordeaux is a notch higher than 2004, with classicism and beauty.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Video: 2005 La Gasparde

The video featuring the 2005 Château La Gasparde. Still working out the kinks. Please enjoy - as always, comments are welcome, and appreciated.

2005 Côtes de Castillon

2005 La Gasparde

2005 Château La Gasparde, AC Côtes de Castillon

Getting serious. Opening a Bordeaux is always serious business.

I've been very enthused about this wine since my first taste of it, more than a year ago. So, after about 18 months of cellaring, I was anxious to see how it was showing. From the blockbuster vintage 2005, this showed very impressively in March 2008, when I last tasted. Concentrated, intense, powerful - all the attributes of a great wine. Here we go again.

Dark, deep purple in the glass, with excellent saturation to the rim. Intense fruit aromas, with lots of crushed red berries. Develops a meaty, iron character. The cabernet franc at work? This blend is about 85% merlot, 12% cabernet franc, 3% cabernet sauvignon. Crushy fruit, but with excellent balance and freshness. Extremely sweet, ripe tannins in the mouth. Silky, and very layered. Long finish.

An absolutely delicious wine. Wooly tannins, but with great density. I'm looking forward to seeing these wines age. Please take a look at my next video, which features my impressions on the 2005 vintage in Bordeaux, and on this wine.

1982 Rheingau

1982 Schloss Schönborn

1982 Schloss Schönborn Hattenheimer Pfaffenberg Riesling Spätlese, Rheingau

Opened alongside the 1994 Schloss Schönborn. The oldest white wine I've ever tasted, and it was wonderful.

Dark, moldy, stained cork. Again, still intact and drew out cleanly. Great cellars in Germany. This wine was totally different than the 1994 Kabinett. Deep golden in colour, with a luminous rim. Very open bouquet. Musky, with lots of petrol character, stewed apples, and honey. Follows through on the palate, with great balance. Sweetness holding on, counterbalancing the acidity perfectly. Very long, chlorine-like finish. Very good length.

An excellent wine, very delicious. Perfect weight, at 9.5% alcohol. Maybe could have shown better 3 or 4 years ago, but this is an exceptional wine.

Messy

Everything's kind of falling apart and going to shit, and I can't help but feel like it's a bit (or a lot) of my fault. What's going on? I'm as clueless as anyone, but I should have done something to clear up things.

I have no idea wtf is going on. Please, someone, explain the situation. Summerlicious? Who's in the reservation? What time? Place? My goodness, I have no idea wtf is going on.

Late night posting. Not going to end well. I'm a little bit drunk, a little bit irate, and a little bit tired. Good night, maybe things will look better in the morning.

---

Blogger's note: July 5, 12:51PM

Melodramatic, no? Still a bit irate, now that it's morning, but I've got a better grip on myself. Still going forward, dinner next Saturday. We see what else can happen. Earthquake takes out downtown Toronto?

Saturday, July 4, 2009

1994 Rheingau

1994 Schloss Shönborn

1994 Schloss Schönborn Riesling, QbA Rheingau

I absolutely adore old rieslings. Who says white wine can't age? Vintage 1994, when I was but an 8 year old boy.

I've drank this wine multiple times, the last time being a few months ago. I felt that it was drying out a bit, that the acidity was overwhelming what was left of the fruit. This bottle proved otherwise.

Moldy, blackened cork, but still intact and drew out easily. Light straw colour. Vivacious nose of stewed apples, minerals, and good richness. Fantastic balance in the mouth. Still holding onto its last breath of sweetness. Solid finish.

A delicious wine. Although it would have shown better maybe 5 years ago, this is still very drinkable. Great balance, that paired so well with the vegetables and steamed fish we ate. Just a great drinking wine. I drank in big gulps - at 10% alcohol, you can do that. So delicious, in fact, that I tried to slurp every last drop out of the glass.

There's nothing quite like an old riesling.

In season

So I guess it's more or less a done deal: Turkoglu's coming to Toronto.

I like Turk. He had some great games during the playoffs. A big man that can run plays, and deadly in the clutch. Like Delfino, except bigger and (much) more skilled. Marion's gone. I don't see any possible way that they can keep him, especially if he's not going to accept anything less than $10M a year. Bosh, Bargnani, Turk, Calderon. I like that.

Mr. Colangelo: Please re-sign Anthony Parker. Please sign Pops. Tell Joey Graham to f*ck off and unload his shitty game elsewhere. And please sign Rasho Nesterovic.

I really like Orlando dealing for VC. It had to hurt to deal Courtney Lee, but that Finals Game 2 miss must have factored in. You know, the one where they were tied, and Turk inbounded to Lee? Lee had a wide, wide, WIDE open look, but missed the alley-oop. VC is a shitface, but he could have made that shot half asleep.

Shaq to Cavaliers? Danny Ferry is as big of a moron as Steve Kerr was. Absolute imbecile. Lebron is as good as gone. It's going to be extremely entertaining to see them play, but New York may as well begin hawking Lebron Knickerbocker jerseys. So ridiculous. You think Ilgauskas is going to react well to coming off the bench? You think Shaq will react well to being subbed for Big Z? This is going to be interesting to watch.

Only 4 more months. Only 4 more months........

The face of Fang

I've been told that my face often shows disinterest/boredom/fatigue. I can't tell you how many times people have asked if I'm tired or if I'm bored or if I'm pissed about something.

That's just my regular look, folks. I'm not doing it on purpose. I have no idea what this 'look' looks like, so I have no idea if I'm doing it or not.

What's this ridiculousness that I have to be cheerful all the time? Maybe I don't want to around certain people. People I genuinely like know that I'm generally an optimist and otherwise happy person.

People that know me well are used to it. So please stop making me feel self-conscious about my facial expression, or lack of one. Despite the best efforts of some folks, I can't look this sunshine-y ALL the time.

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Photo Credit: Rocky413