Monday, November 30, 2009

Like a pirate

I love drinking Chinon, but you know the problem with drinking well-structured, dense red wines? Your teeth, lips, and entire mouth stain like a motherfucker. Kind of like you just slammed your face into a pile of shit. Never drink these wines in front of your beloved. You're liable to get dumped like last week's garbage.

DF

2006 Chinon

2006 Couly-Dutheil

2006 Couly-Dutheil 'La Baronnie Madeleine', AC Chinon

I've tasted vintages of this cuvée before, the 2003 and the 2005. Impressed everytime. Chinon is so different that it's always a treat when the weather cools down to have a bottle with your meat dishes.

I decanted this bottle just after lunch, and over the next 11 hours, slowly drank the entire damn thing. This bottle was off - excessively oaky, cedar aromas completely obliterating the fruit. Develops some sweetness, and a faint minerality, but this bottle did not show well. Maybe it's at an awkward time, maybe there's something more serious - who knows. But, it does have good structure, with coating tannins, and nice balance. This will age.

Let's see if the other bottles show better with some age. Although with my past experience, I have no worry that they will.

DF

Vintages, vintage

LCBO Paper

Yet another sign that you should not buy wine as a dinner gift - the ancient paper bags you put the bottle in. The bag on the right is true vintage LCBO, back when they used to slip a plastic green net over your bottles to protect the glass. Vintage, from a good 5 years back.

Don't presume to buy a wine lover a bottle of wine if you have no clue about wine yourself, and have no idea of their palate preferences. The end.

DF

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Chugging

I stopped buying clothing years ago. All the sweaters I'm wearing right now, in all seriousness, are from either when I was in high school, or were gifts. Everything's starting to get small. Tight at the shoulders, short at the arms, inching higher above the waist. I look like I'm wearing my 10 year old brother's clothing. Not sexy at all. Clearly unprofessional.

Who else, but my wonderful Aunt Michie to offer to buy me clothing. Living in Tokyo has its benefits. She spent but two hours shopping, and my winter wardrobe's pretty much dealt with for the next 3-5 years. The problem is getting them from Tokyo to Toronto.

My aunt's company is the largest manufacturer of air-conditioning units in Asia. She wanted to send us their newest model heater, perfect for Canadian winters. This thing's apparently powerful enough to heat up 2 stories, without drying out the air. Perfect opportunity to send it over with my clothing. By sea. And I just learned how long it'd take. We're looking at about 50 days in transit. Fifty.

I'm sorry, is the boat coming over the Pacific hoisting fucking sails? Are there hairy slaves below deck manning the oars? I just can't twist my mind around the fact that we're almost a decade into the 21st century and it takes nearly 2 months to ship a 10 kg package, regardless of distance. We're not shipping to Antarctica!

I guess my wee sweaters will have to suffice for now. No laughing.

DF

2008 Vinho Verde

2008 Adega Cooperativa de Ponte de Lima

2008 Adega Cooperativa de Ponte de Lima Loureiro, DOC Sub-Região do Lima

The wine I served for dinner last night. Not a lot of weight, crisp, clean, with even a bit of frizzante. Worked well with the mostly traditional Shanghainese dishes. Loureiro, as opposed to alvarinho, has less of a richess. Vinho verde should really be only drunk in the summer, I've learned. Helped me frame an extra dimension of my understanding of vinho verde. So it wasn't all a waste of time.

DF

Ungrateful

Bad gifts

At risk of sounding like an ungrateful prick, here's a tip: don't buy a wine lover wine. Unless you absolutely know for sure that they'll appreciate a certain bottle, don't ever, ever presume to buy them a random wine you think is impressive. Never works.

Yeah, I'm an asshole. I say thanks for the thought, but look at these two bottles? What the fuck am I going to do with some random icewine (made in the freezer, with grapes from who the fuck knows where) and a bottle of South Australian plonk? Huh? South Australia comprises about half the goddamn country. I'd hesitate to cook with this shit.

So please, please - do yourself a favour this holiday season. Don't waste your money, don't buy true wine lovers wine. Get a gift certificate, bring a special dish over for dinner - anything but yet another bottle of junk.

DF

Ordeal

So dinner is done. My mother had her friends from church over today. I had to be there, as the faithfully family-oriented child. Right. I'll be honest, dinner was mediocre. Not my mother's best efforts. I poured a Vinho Verde. In those fucking hideous cut crystal glasses. They were church friends. Not real friends. Nice people though.

It got a bit interesting, when one of the couples began talking about their experiences of the June 4 Movement - professors in Beijing during this incident, in the very prestigious university at the centre of the entire student movement. They were in Tiananmen Square on June 2, about 24 hours before the troops moved in. I was completely riveted. They talked about how the entire mood of the city changed, when the troops came into the city. Loudspeakers began blaring, in the stern monotone Communists are renowned for, telling citizens to go home and vacate the square. Clearly, the Party leaders were losing patience. These two people were there the night the troops began firing, seeing and hearing the gunshots. I learned a bit later that the lady was a Communist Party member. Her husband described how absolutely scared they were, and expressed sympathy for the students, but said that everyone that night understood one thing - there was absolutely no way that the students' agenda would succeed against the Party. All expressed disgust at how the student leaders were the only ones who fled away safely.

Just an amazing experience. Truly living through a history-changing event. Too bad today's Chinese are so caught up in iPhones and Armani. Will this generation ever demonstrate the courage of those students 20 years ago? If my cousins are any indication - we're fucked indeed.

DF

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Waiting

Waiting for dinner guests to arrive.

DF

A look back

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Feeling nostalgic about our days in university residence. When we were carefree, and drank whenever. When girls were much easier to understand. Yeah. Nostalgic. This was January 2008? Mussels, fresh from Sobey's. Finished with many, many glasses of gin/tonic. Good times! As always, photos courtesy of ROKChoi.

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DF

In the mood

At what point do we disregard responsibility and financial prudence? When do we just sigh, go all hell with it, and be selfish for once? I'm an immigrant, and we have this ingrained sense of frugality - we treat one dollar like it's two, and we save money for the sake of saving. It's a sensibility that is often restrictive to us doing the things that make us happy.

Then why is it that everytime I send out a big wine order, I feel a twinge of guilt? I picked up an order today, and the entire time I was at the store, I was staring at the receipt and wondering what possessed me to buy a $119 bottle of Pomerol, and an $85 half bottle of Mosel Riesling Auslese, as delicious and wonderful of a wine it was. Why do I do this to myself? Really, the true question is - why am I saving so much money and not just enjoying myself? Huh? It makes no sense.

12 months ago, I was unemployed, desolate, and more than a little desperate. This year...this year I'm taking no prisoners. I'm single-handedly going to spur on LCBO's holiday sales, however reckless that may be. Ahh...that's the spirit.

DF

Friday, November 27, 2009

UGC in January

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The Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux is holding an event in Toronto, January 24. The tasting will showcase 2007 Bordeaux. And I'm attending - just bought tickets for myself and some buddies. I'm excited - I bought quite a few bottles from this vintage, especially dry white Bordeaux and Sauternes. So definitely, we'll be heading to those tables first.

Exciting stuff! The first industry tasting I'll be attending. Palate, notebook, camera - going full force. There will be no spitting!!

DF

Last one of the year!

The holidays must be here - LCBO will unleash it's final retail release of 2009 on December 5, while there will be an online release on December 9. Last chance to pick up some fresh wines for holiday entertaining. Looking forward to it. Looking forward to spending my money like I stole it. Why do I care? Because I follow these things religiously, that's why.

Something more interesting - 2005 Château d'Yquem will be released at $595. For a half bottle (37.5 cL). Reckless holiday spending for the win!

DF

2007 Minervois

2006 Chateau de Gourgazaud

2007 Château de Gourgazaud, AC Minervois

Profound wines are what everyone chases after, but sometimes I'm just as happy drinking simple wines that have a personality and regional character. I've been repeating that ideal for quite some time now, but it's a philosophy that needs to be on everyone's mind when they're drinking wine - if a wine is not true to where its grapes are grown, then it is not a great wine, and it does not possess the true taste.

Colour is never a problem with these wines. Minervois, in the south of France, about 30 km north-east of the Spanish border. Deep, dense fruits, with a surprising elegance. Hefty, meat character, finishing with a scent of wild herbs. Beautiful with steak au poivre. Perfect on an otherwise unremarkable evening.

DF

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Nov. 21 Tasting the Wines of Portugal

After a short break, we moved on to the wines of Portugal. This country has a magnificent terroir, as anyone who's experienced the wonders of a well-aged Colheita or Vintage Port can attest to. In a brutal climate, the Douro Valley somehow manages to produce wines of both great concentration as well as balance.

2008 Aveleda Follies Alvarinho

2008 Alveleda Follies Alvarinho, Vinho Regional Minho

Same grape varietal as our Spanish white, close in geographic proximity to Rias Baixas - we want to compare apples with apples, to properly gauge the character of each wine. Lighter in colour, but shows a much fuller bouquet. Palate is a bit crisper, with an aggressive acidity - this is, after all, a vinho verde.

2006 Burmester, Douro

2006 Burmester, DOC Douro

No question, this blogger had the shakes at this point - was this going to be another Internationally-styled bottle? I can't say it wasn't, but it did show some good fruit characteristics. More structure as well, with a pleasing tannic grip. This is the bottle that had tasters the most excited. When you expect a wine to be $30-$35, but it's only about half that, that's what you call finding value.

2005 Quinta do Vale da Perdiz Reserva

2005 Quinta do Vale da Perdiz Reserva, DOC Douro

This wine showed quite well, in my opinion. Rich, fruit-forward, but with structure and grippy tannins. This is more of what I had in mind. Of all the reds, this is the bottle that I would recommend. Slightly chilled, with a beautiful piece of beef or lamb - wonderful for a cool autumn night.

DF

Nov. 21 Tasting the Wines of Spain

We begin with the Spanish wines. Spain before Portugal because, in my opinion, Portuguese wines can be so concentrated that they'll obliterate anything coming after them. In general, tasters enjoyed these wines. While drinkable, this blogger feels that more traditional examples of Rioja would have served to present a more accurate picture of what a Spanish wine is. The albariño, as is often the case, was delicious.

2008 Salterio Albarino

2008 Salterio Albariño, DO Rias Baixas

Always a source for value-driven wines with great expression, wines from Rias Baixas combine ripe fruit with minerality and balance. All the ingredients to a versatile white wine which shines on the table. While still very young, this wine shows purity of fruit, with spice and just a hint of saline minerality beginning to show. The touch of sweetness is perhaps a bit more prominent now, but 2-3 years of further age will calm it down. Retains a high acidity, and is extremely fresh and lively on the palate. Delicious, with a spicy, lingering finish. I was happy to see many tasters who were not familiar with Rias Baixas, or this grape varietal. I prefer not to have tasters rank the wines - there is a time and place for all wines. Hopefully, this bottle will have inspired our tasters to seek out Spanish white wines in the future, in place of the regular standby.

2008 Palacios Remondo La Vendimia

2008 Palacios Remondo La Vendimia, DOC Rioja

As a student of history, I like devoting a few minutes before tasting to discuss the historical significance of the wines before us. Rioja has a rich tradition of keeping wines in the estate for years before releasing for sale. However, the bottle we were tasting was made in a modern style - the 2008 being released already. Fruit-forward, soft, plushy, round, confected - all the hallmarks of a modern wine. Which isn't to say that it's a bad wine. Just a wine that this blogger finds...inauthentic to Rioja, if I'm to be diplomatic. But, my opinions aren't important - several of the tasters, especially the gentlemen, loved it. And if this is a means for people to begin paying more attention to Spanish wines, and be directed towards traditional Rioja, then I think we've made our point.

2004 Castillo Labastida

2004 Castillo Labastido Reserva, DOC Rioja

This was the bottle I had hoped showed more regional typicity. Being a Reserva (minimum 1 year in oak, 3 years in winery), and a bottle with some degree of age, I had high hopes. But alas......alas.....a modern wine, with this one showing a bit more warmth, more jam, and even more softness. Where is the austerity of tempranillo? Where are the angles, and the sharp, sharp edges?

DF

Nov. 21 Wine & Photography Experience

Wine & Photography @ Anita's

As alluded to earlier, DF and ROKChoi collaborated again for a wine & photography event this past weekend, November 21. These events are always fun. What we offer is a guided, structured tasting of wines, all documented on camera in a studio environment. Candids, portraits - any kind of shots our guests prefer. The theme for the tasting was the wines of Spain and Portugal. Certainly, themes are absolutely fluid - the joy of tasting is in its variety. We can do wines by region, by vintage, by varietal, by style...anything you'd like, mes amis.

The event went well. These things always go well when you bring together a group of people that are open-minded, enthusiastic, and eager to participate. I love it. It's a joy, and a learning experience for me as well to hear different perspectives. Many thanks, from both of us, for a great afternoon of tasting. I hope we've given you a different look at wine, and please...nothing would make us happier than for everyone to be inspired to taste different wines and approach each bottle with a sense of joy and adventure.

In my next two posts on the wines served - Nov.21 Tasting the Wines of Spain and Nov. 21 Tasting the Wines of Portugal - I refer to our guests as tasters. In wine, tasting implies a full utilization of our senses. And we need to taste wine, not merely drink it.

DF

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Stop it

Americans are having their Thanksgiving, and the holiday season is coming up, so I have to get something off my chest. Can wine writers and bloggers please stop writing about, "What wines to drink with Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Years", and, "How to choose the perfect bottle as a gift".

Please, can we please stop with these tacky, kitschy, lazy pieces of writing? Come on guys...really...it's not like you're coming up with something profound every year. It's the exact same shit every year and frankly, it's making my eyes bleed. Choose your wines, enjoy them with dinner, write about them after - just stop with all this tutorial shit. It doesn't help anyone, it's redundant, and if you still don't get my point by now, piss off.

What happened to the days when people would just drink wine?

DF

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Post No. 1201

Profile - Colour

October was spectacular, for me at least. An eventful trip to Niagara, a few dinners, a few wines...simple things make me happy. Already planning my next trip down to Niagara, to take a look at the rest of the 2008's being released.

There's no way around it - these posts are self-congratulatory and are more to satisfy my ego. But really, who pumps out 2-3 posts daily? 1200 posts deserves a little recognition. Hope y'all have enjoyed the past two months. If you haven't already, take a look at my October Niagara trip. Or the 10-course dinner I hosted.

December should be a fun month. Always fun to get to the holidays. Also, a new project we've been preparing to unveil. I suppose now is when I should be asking if there's anything I can improve on, and what you'd like to see on the blog.

DF

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Sensualist

Questions have come up regarding how I started in wine. I direct you to this piece of literature, found in the September 2004 issue of GQ Magazine. A Wine Worth Fighting For, Elizabeth Gilbert. One of the finest, most soulful accounts of wine tasting I've ever read. Beautiful. This is the article that inspired me to discover and learn more about these evocative wines. And this is the article that shaped my philosophy on the concept of a great wine.

Funny, huh...it wasn't a piece on French wine (although the influence is clear), or any other European wine. It was a Lebanese. I have a bottle of 1999 Château Musar...somewhere. Eagerly waiting for future releases. A wine of the earth, made by a man of the earth. A true wine.

I am going to take you on a journey of taste. I will teach you about wine, and you will become captivated and subjugated by this topic. You will discover the hidden dimensions of all your senses, and you will have the possibility to become realized, to skip many steps on your way to understanding God. And all of this will come to you from my wines. You will taste and you will ask yourself, Can this be possible? - Serge Hochar

You ask me what I want to be - an expert, a connoisseur, an oenophile?

No.

We have to learn from Mr. Hochar's example. To be a sensualist - that's all I ask.

DF

2007 Vinsobres

2007 Perrin & Fils

2007 Perrin & Fils 'Les Cornuds', AC Vinsobres

Ahh, back to France. You know, whenever I lose faith in wine, say, after a string of mediocrity, I turn back to France, to regain confidence. Vinsobres, one of the Cru of the Côtes du Rhône. One of my favourite villages in the area, whose wines show great density and balance. No one needs an introduction to the wines of Perrin & Fils. This cuvée, Les Cornuds, is the entry level, with Les Hauts de Julien being the more upscale. I have vintages of both, and it'll be interesting to see if the wine that costs thrice as much will offer 3X the pleasure.

Take a look - 2004 Les Hauts de Julien, and 2006 Vinsobres.

An honest wine. Ripe fruit, that characteristic savoury quality, and an elegance that sometimes is lacking in hotter vintages. Wines from this area can have a savageness, which I absolutely adore - 2007 shows a bit more of a refined character. A beautiful wine, balanced and showing wonderful regionality.

DF

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Late night

Lamb

Never resting, never settling. It was late at night, but I wanted to try something. Cooked some lamb loin, seared with rosemary and whole garlic cloves. Still developing in terms of getting temperature correct in the oven. I prefer my lamb pink on the inside, as you can see below. I understand how some people won't accept it. Regardless of temperature, lamb retains a succulence much better than say, beef, and this dish was delicious. Paired with a wonderfully restrained Vinsobres, showing fabulous regional character. Good night.

Pink inside

DF

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Check

Wines, check.
Stemware, check.
Corkscrew, check.
Tasting cards, check.
Notes, check.
Bread, check.
Palate, check.

I think we're ready to do a wine tasting.

DF

Tasting

Have an exciting weekend lined up. Putting together a structered tasting of the wines of Spain and Portugal tomorrow. Doing these formal tastings are always fun. Fantastic opportunity to show different wines to people that they've never tasted before, as well as sharing your experience and passion. Wonderful. Been looking forward to this event, and should be a lot of fun. Stay tuned for photos and a report on how it went.

DF

Friday, November 20, 2009

On being organic

Organic wine

It's by coincidence, (or Providence), that the last two wines I drank were organic, and from the south of France. I'm not the type to insist that all viticulture should be organic - no, I dislike extremes, and am not naïve enough to think that this is feasible for all. Not that I don't believe you shouldn't take a non-interventionist approach to your vineyard; on the contrary, I strongly believe that taking care of the health of your vines and land is the most important task for producers. What I'm uncertain on is this insistence from the left-wingers that a wine grown through organic/biodynamic principles reveals the terroir better.

This is tricky. I admire the producers who use only natural fertilizers, and definitely no chemical herbicides or insecticides. But walk a vineyard, and see for yourself - what do you do when you see rot, or mold, or mildew, but to spray? It's a business after all - rigid moral principles or not, you have to take steps to protect your crop.

For this bottle, a 2006 Bergerac, the producer's website states:

This method uses only organic and mineral fertilizers. The plentiful natural flora in the soil is maintained by adding humus and by working the soil with specific equipment all year round.This organic farming excludes the use of chemical weedkillers and fertilizers. The only treatments we use are:

- white oil to keep the branches healthy in late winter.

- copper and sulphur for mildew, oidium and excoriosis

- rotenone in combination with sulphur against leafhoppers

- bacillus thuringiensis against grape-worm

Winemaking is also conducted without the use of synthetic additives and we use temperature control techniques during fermentation; the wine is clarified without ferrocyanide, simply by fining and filtration.This organic method has been used at Château Le Barradis since 1968 and brings us very close to the way wines were made in the past; the absence of residues and low SO2 content make ours a wine of quality (cf the oenological studies).

So the question remains - does a wine made through organic farming reveal the terroir in a clearer sense than a wine made through interventionist (modern, chemical) farming? And is there a significant difference in the taste between the two? The only way to determine the difference, I suppose, would be to taste the two wines together. Same wine, same vintage; different farming methods. While the piece listed on their website (in italics) shows only farming technique, another factor in an organic wine happens in the cellar. Using indigenous yeasts, being judicious with oak, and disallowing all enzymes or additives (tartaric acid, for example), also aid in amplifying the voice of the terroir.

In the end, despite my skepticism, I'm a believer in non-interventionist farming. I believe that using only natural products and letting the land replenish and nurture itself is the only way to profoundly express terroir, in its truest sense. I'll continue searching for these wines, in hopes that these questions can be answered in the glass. Now, is there anyone brave enough in Niagara, to not only commit to this philosophy, but to also be a proponent for it?

One hopes, for wine's sake.

DF

2006 Bergerac

2006 Chateau le Barradis

2006 Château Le Barradis, AC Bergerac

Trying different things. I'm intrigued with the wines of Bergerac - an old wine region, and one of the first wines that was imported to the British Isles. The old kingdom of Aquitaine. Another organic wine - will there be parallels between this and my previous (organic) wine?

Look at the stunning colour. Just breathtaking in its luminosity, its shine, its sparkle. Just the most amazing bright red, illuminated in all its glory. Decanted. Initially, quite a distinct juiciness, reminiscent of pomegranate and cranberries. Develops a darker tone. Lean in the mouth, with a curious green element - unripe? Or just a byproduct of the farming techniques? Shows some sweetness, but otherwise unremarkable.

I'll have to drink more Bergerac to get a better sense of this region. Not a bad wine - stunning colour, interesting bouquet. Very different than what you'd expect from a Bordeaux-style blend (cabernet sauvignon & cabernet franc 28%, merlot 52%, côt rouge 10%). A transparent wine, but perhaps a bit too feeble? Thin? Soft?

DF

Thursday, November 19, 2009

To serve a President

I've been waiting for someone to post about this. What exactly did comrade President Hu JinTao serve U.S. President Barack Obama on his first state visit to the People's Republic of China? Jim Boyce, a great blogger writing out of Beijing, reports here on his blog, Grape Wall of China.

Simple dinner. We're learning a more Western style of entertaining foreign heads of state. A dinner of just 4 main courses and a soup. I guarantee you - 20 years ago, it'd have been 40 dishes at least. I'm disappointed with the wines - Great Wall? I've tasted that wine and from what I recall, referring to it as "wine" is being quite optimistic.

Do you know what I'd give to have a seat at that table, with both Presidents? I'd even tolerate a glass of that shit.

DF

2007 Côtes du Rhône Villages

2007 Domaine de la Grand Bellane

2007 Domaine de la Grande Bellane, Valréas, AC Côtes-du-Rhône-Villages

With the weather cooling quite significantly this week, time to get begin warming up with wines of the Rhône Valley. I love these wines with all my heart, and not only for sentimental reasons - these are profound, terroir-driven wines balancing subtlety and great richness.

This is an organic wine, of equal parts syrah and grenache. From the town of Valréas, one of the 'Villages' indicated in the appellation name. Decanted, this shows beautiful colour, deep and saturated. Rich nose, almost jammy, but develops a characteristic meatiness. Lovely, savoury aromas. These wines are fantastically balanced in the mouth, although perhaps showing the difiiculties of the vintage. Interesting. Lean, but interesting and quite approachable now.

DF

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Lounging with a glass, in peace

Many books I have yet to find time to read. Why is it that whenever I feel in the mood to settle down with a book, someone/something always appears to kill the fun? Huh? Answer that for me, please. And why is it that it always happens the minute I flip the book open??

Questions of Taste
Émile Peynaud's Le Goût du Vin
Nixon in China
The Kissinger Transcripts
Kissinger's Diplomacy

And still waiting on Amazon to send me Jonathan Nossiter's Liquid Memory.

I need a weekend of solitude this winter, sun light, my red armchair, and a bottle of good Côtes du Rhône. And no fucking interruptions!

DF

On note-taking

Wine notes

I'm not obsessive about many things, but wine really brings out those tendencies. Good stuff. I've been feeling nostalgic recently, going through my old wine stuff. Especially my wine notes. I've been taking tasting notes for 5 years now, and am on my 3rd notebook. Records show entries for every single bottle of wine I've drank over the last 60 months, including all the wines tasted on my Niagara trips and during travelling.

Notes are important. I insist on note-taking, especially for people beginning to be more serious about wine. You can boast about how great your palate memory is, but once you taste a few hundred wines a year, you need something written down to accurately recall a certain bottle. That's just the truth, and whoever says otherwise is just foolishly ignorant.

I'd show you the contents of my notebook, but that information is reserved for my closest friends. I guard my notes zealously, and only a select few people have been allowed to take a peek. Yeah - you have to earn it. Or just get me really, really trashed and mashed.

DF

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Jin Jun Mei

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Jin Jun Mei

I'm having difficulties inputting the proper Chinese characters. A friend from Fujian sent us another package of tea. Jun Mei, which is a tea native to Fujian, is grown on Wuyi Mountain. Arguably, the greatest tea terroir in the world. This tea has several grades, with this one, Jin (Gold), being the highest.

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As you can see, this is a black tea, but with the most amazing copper-coloured edges. This colour disappears once infused, as the tea is well roasted.

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Brewed in a clay teapot, the tea leaves plump and enlarge, infusing a dark, amber colour. The bouquet is extraordinary - orange peel and flowers, with fragrant, dried long-an. Very perfumed, if you can say that for a tea. The tea is silky in the mouth, with no trace of tannin or any bitterness. Very sweet. Exceptional tea for a cold day. I think I'm ready for a pot right now.

DF

Monday, November 16, 2009

1992 Cahors

1992 Les Comtes de Cahors, AC Cahors

I'm embarrased that I haven't properly written about this wine, and the dinner it accompanied. Last weekend was a great, extended drinking/eating session. Two photoshoots as well! Friday, had friends over, and we continued the party on Saturday at PYeung's place, to give a proper send-off to her house before they move. Awesome.

This is her bottle, which she purchased in 1995 and has been storing ever since. Cahors. And you know how much I love Cahors, here and here. An older wine, which is always exciting. And I feel very honoured that PYeung decided to pull the cork for this dinner.

Tasting and evaluating a wine requires a complete divorce from all sentimentality, no? I kept that in mind as I was drawing the cork. This wine was stored under less than ideal conditions - on the kitchen counter, under light and heat. At least it lay on its side. The cork was predictably quite dry, and broke in the middle. No worries - I had my decanting funnel. As you can see, a browning colour, with lack of luminosity and brightness. The dull, almost amber colour, permeates the entire robe, with a clearing saturation at the rim. But the nose shows us something more. A bit reticent at first, but opening up to show an iron minerality, almost a meaty character. Red fruits linger, with an almost sweetness. Then, devolves into dried fruits, to an astringent hollowness. We saw its gradual decline over about 4 hours. While I had my doubts, the bouquet remained vigorous, showing much better than the heat-damage I thought the bottle had sustained.

Palate was a different story, as these older wines often are. Lean, with a caved-in middle. Curt, highly acidic finish, showing a bit of volatility. But drinkable. Clearly, the nose was infinitely more interesting. Temper your expectations with these older wines, and your enjoyment will be greatly enhanced. In other words, don't expect too much.

Dinner was spectacular. Authentic Cantonese cuisine, with the freshest ingredients. Started with a sweet soup seafood/herbal. Duck in a taro, soy sauce reduction. Traditional clams, sauteed in ground meat, live and savoury. Scallops, bought live in the shell, butterflied, and served with chili sauce. The skirt on the scallop was absolutely delicious, with a wonderfully firm texture. Then, an earthen pot of dried mushrooms, abalone, and sea cucumber. Decadent. Just delicious.

Paired two more wines, a Crémant de Loire and a 2005 Côtes de Castillon. I think we did ok. We sent off this house in style. Many thanks to PYeung and family for hosting. Photos, courtesy of ROKChoi.

DF

Kweichow Moutai

贵州茅台

Moutai. One of the great alcoholic beverages of China - our national drink, in fact. We poured a few glasses at dinner last Friday, after the meal. At 53%, you don't play around. A distilled eau-de-vie, from sorghum, made in the town of 茅台 (Maotai).

I personally don't enjoy this eau-de-vie, although I've seen more than a few of my compatriots down it like water. It's fiery, and oily, with a stinky, rustic nose. The fragrance does grow on you, and it has the most incredible length, but I fail to see its merits strictly based on taste. I understand the cultural significance of this drink, but I limit myself to no more than 3 or 4 sips. It's lethal. But it is the drink that Premier 周恩来 (Zhou En-Lai) served to President Nixon during the 1972 visit to China. So there you go. The drink of great men of history.

Photo, courtesy of ROKChoi.

DF

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Red

Stratford Brewery Common

So, September, huh? Yeah, September 4 it seems, when we went down to Queen Street West to attend an art exhibition. What was more exciting for me was a chance to visit Taro, a bar serving some interesting craft beers on tap. We had pints of Stratford Brewery Common, and the photo shows how wonderful the colour is. Bright red, almost dark amber. Great stuff.

Photo, courtesy of ROKChoi.

DF

White rum

Havana Club

Havana Club Añejo Blanco

Beautiful, no? This is just all sorts of awesome. All sorts. Finished the bottle.

Floral, with a lovely fruit character, very fresh and sweet. Clean, complex. And no subsequent hangover!

DF

Enjoying our last weeks together

2006 Honda Accord EX-V6

This weekend was a success. Deal, done and signed, Infiniti G37x sedan. Our lease on the current vehicle, our Accord is ending next month. It's been a fantastic 4 years. Accords have a legendary reliability, but I've been very impressed with how powerful and solid this car was. As mentioned earlier, I recently drove the 2010 Honda Accord EX-L V6. Did not feel good about it.

I've driven many, many Accords. Six, to be precise. So there's certainly a level of familiarity when I buckled in - if it feels like an Accord, then it must be one. Big windshield, lots of visibility, ample headroom, ergonomically placed controls, perfectly shaped steering wheel. But I suppose that's the problem. I know this car so well that there's no mystery, no excitement anymore. As in all things, you want a bit of drama. It's time for a change.

I've adjusted my attitude towards these kinds of things. So instead of anxiously awaiting for the arrival of our new car, I'm going to instead focus on enjoying the Accord for the few weeks that remain. It's going to a bit sad when I saw goodbye, but it'll be short-lived. Yeah. All-wheel-drive, 328 horsepower - that'll get the blood pumping again.

DF

Collaboration

This can work. Two men of taste, each specializing in different areas of interest. Recall dinner last week, Friday.

In photos, courtesy of ROKChoi

DF

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Leap of faith

I was having a nice dream this morning. We were on the top floor of a highrise, some 200 stories up. There was a ledge on the balcony, facing the ledge of an adjacent building. I was told to leap across to the opposite ledge. Very Matrix-esque. And I did it. I jumped with no fear. Caught the edge with my hands, pulled myself up. Feeling amazing, only to wake up to my mother barging in, yelling about why I was still in bed at 1pm.

All of a sudden, I feel very rushed. Complete piano lesson, yes. Heading out again to haggle with Infiniti. Remember the piano performance I had to give, that I wrote about last week, and that I've been preparing for? Today. At 5. I'm going to embarrass her with my sensuality.

Here we go again!

DF

Friday, November 13, 2009

Go DF

Going for it. Watching Julie & Julia and downing Havana Club white rum like my life depends on it. Floral, with surprisingly bright fruit characters.

DF

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Blogger's note, 10:26pm

Just finished the film. Beautiful. I'm inspired to cook something. Hungry as well. More, tomorrow. Finished the rum, feeling good - DF at his best.

Routine

I've been feeling a bit ridiculous lately. Have you read my last post? Really, have you read it? Ridiculous. Pompous, arrogant, nonsensical. And I was fucking sober!!!!!

Part of my routine every 2 weeks is to go through each LCBO catalogue to come up with a shopping list. Yeah, I don't shop around aimlessly. In and out, in 20 minutes. Like in a few other things. This next release is a bit of a blockbuster...LCBO's gearing up for the holidays. Can you justify offering so many $250+ Champagnes? No you can't. Le Clos Jordanne is releasing the Le Grand Clos cuvée, both chardonnay and pinot noir. I'm hesitating because of the price - $65 and $70 respectively. Difficult. I'm not going for it. I tasted the grapes and all from these plots of the Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard, but I just don't have the money. A shame.

Waiting for my friends to come over. I don't have any energy on Fridays to do anything else but chill with some wine. Movie? Yeah, movie and a few glasses sounds like a lot of wonderful.

DF

Thursday, November 12, 2009

du vin

Corked

I've been thinking a lot about this whole thing. Why do we drink wine? Why is wine important?

I don't think I have an answer. I suppose wine is significant to me emotionally. If something makes you feel some way just by virtue of a sensory perception........that's beauty. Because wine teaches you to engage the senses and reminds you once again how to be a sensual person.

It's odd for anyone under the age of 60 to be considered a connoisseur. Wine and taste is a journey, one of experience. So until then, I'll continue to ask myself these questions. Why do we drink wine? And why is wine important?

DF

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Onto the next

So, moving on - what will our next dinner be? We've had a nice mix so far this year. All seafood, Ontario produce, Shanghainese, Cantonese dinners...what's next? I really like this idea of a dinner focused entirely on seafood. Really interesting pairing opportunities with wine as well. I think a collaboration is in order. Oysters, shellfish, fresh-water fishes - I like that. With a focus on oysters again. We need to take advantage of the fact that they're in season and at their best. A few varieties to keep it interesting - I'm smacking my lips already.

I love looking for wines to marry with oysters. So interesting - you have to either contrast or match the absolute briny minerality of the oyster with the appropriate wine. Do you go with the classic Loire white, an oaked sauvignon blanc? Or try something interesting like a Mosel riesling, or a New World sauvignon? I want to match with a Chablis. Crisp, dry, minerally white Burgundy sounds delicious. Won't experiment with red wines - no point whatsoever. If I can get my hands on more obscure whites - Greek assyrtiko, Portuguese vinho verde, Spanish albarino - that would be the dream.

Let's get to it. Time to start planning.

DF

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

NV Champagne

NV Champagne Montaudon

NV Champagne Montaudon Brut, AC Champagne

This is indulgent - my second Champagne in as many days. Opened for Friday's dinner - needed to get loose before the photoshoot. Decanted. That's right. I decanted a sparkling wine. No matter - a fine Champagne will maintain its mousse and besides, only tasteless fools need to keep seeing bubbles. This wine, I had in my cellar for about 19 months, and comprises about 50% pinot noir, 25% pinot meunier, and 25% chardonnay.

Looks deep golden in the decanter, but lightens considerably in the glass. This one doesn't yet show the depth of maturity of the J.Lassalle, but this has a freshness and austerity which is wonderful. Minerally, with succint citrus and yeast. Classic Champagne. Aggressive acidity in the mouth, with a length and precision that's wonderful.

After about 3-4 hours decanting, the acidity softens considerably. Nose opens up as well, to more graphite and autolysis. Just delicious in the mouth - and the bubbles are still there!

I'm absolutely convinced, with this second bottle, that bottle age and decanting absolutely benefit even the most humble of Champagnes. Delicious, and perfect for the occasion.

DF

NV Premier Cru Champagne

NV Champagne J. Lassalle

NV Champagne J. Lassalle Préférence Brut, Premier Cru Chigny-Les-Roses, AC Champagne

Time to celebrate! I've had this bottle for about 15 months - really trying out this theory that even nonvintage Champagnes benefit from some bottle age. About 60% pinot noir, 40% chardonnay in this grower Champagne.

Opened with a quiet hiss, revealing a deep gold/orange hue. Nose shows a lot of complexity - noticeable autolysis, sweet fruit, with a subtle minerality. The mouth is where the age shows its merit, in the richness and creaminess. Lots of ripe tangerine and citrus as well. Beautifully tiny pin-prick bubbles, fine texture, good length. Delicious.

Showed even better on the second day. Wow. So much weight and creaminess, with a depth and complexity that few nonvintage Champagnes possess. I'm convinced that these wines need at least 12 months of bottle age before consumption. If the disgorgement dates would be printed on the labels, that'd be even better. But let's not be too picky. 'Tis a beautiful wine.

DF

Photoshoot Friday

Profile

Last Friday was a big day for me. Haircut, car shopping in the morning. Then, back home to prepare for dinner. Feeling celebratory, for a variety of reasons. Prepared several wines as well. Thursday, just before I went out to attend the 2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class unveiling, I opened a bottle of NV Champagne J. Lassalle Préférence Brut. A beautiful wine, just gorgeous fruit and stone aromas. Drank half, closed the rest for Friday night.

For dinner, had friends over. Y'all have heard of my friend ROKChoi now - I asked him to come over to take some photos for us. Will post them up - no rush. We had simple, Shanghai-style food. Steamed fish, sautéed blue crabs, tofu and crab roe. Delicious, rustic foods. Opened a second bottle of Champagne, NV Champagne Montaudon. Decanted this bottle, which made a dramatic difference. Both bottles were wonderful - crisp but complex, with a richness that made them perfect for a mild autumn night. Finished the meal off with freshly made red bean pastries and a few glasses of 2000 Ferreira LBV. Wonderful.

Time for photos. A few wardrobe adjustments, and off we went. It was fun. Comforting to know that your buddy can make you look far better than you really are. What can I say - the camera loves me. Love you too.

DF

Monday, November 9, 2009

Stepping on it

Took some time this Friday to go look at some cars. Which is always fun. Running and gunning in someone else's car is always fun. When the nice lady lets you take a 328 hp car on the 407 and says, 'The engine is really powerful', what do you do but to floor it and see how hard the g-forces go. Right. The Infiniti G37x. Beautiful growl to the engine. Clearly not tuned for subtle drivers. After driving the 2010 Honda Accord, just not feeling it. The new V6 is more powerful, yes, but let's be honest - no one really needs more than 150 hp. For the first time, the Accord feels....boring. I love Honda's - sitting in one is like hugging an old friend. But I need a bit of excitement. You can only drink the same wines for so long.

Financial negotiations bogged down a bit, but we still have some time. For documentation purposes, haircut on Friday morning. What else......yeah, this is just filler until I get the photos.

Some things coming up this week. Gathering some wines for the holiday season - it's coming soon, and it's never too early to start preparing. Ok, sorry, I'll stop.

DF

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Indian summer

'Twas a beautiful day today. Over 20° Celcius in Toronto, bright sunny skies. Beautiful. Roused myself up, shaking off a hangover to head to my gym. Leg workout today - everything feels like jello. But, hangover gone. Havana Club tonight?

Once photos come in, I'll share my great weekend with y'all.

Hope everyone enjoyed the weather today. Winter's coming...yes, it is coming.

DF

Rolling

Just came back from dinner. Had a beautiful time. Authentic Cantonese cuisine. A number of interesting, thoughtful wines. Another photoshoot. Couldn't ask for a better way to close out this great weekend. Now, tomorrow - rest and recuperation. A bit hungover, but then, I've been steadily drunk since Thursday.

Regrets...I had a few. But then again - too few to mention.

Tell me where that line is from, I'll tell you my deepest, darkest secrets.

DF

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Good times

Here we go again. Friday was as great as I had dreamed. Champagne, Shanghainese food - match made in gastronomic heaven. An impromptu photo studio set up in the living room afterwards. Lots of wardrobe changes, lots of fussing about - excellent results.

Still hungover. But no matter. A higher plane of consciousness. And the epicness continues tonight. Cantonese food, and some great wines. Will share tomorrow, after my inevitable drunkeness wears off. Good times!

DF

E-Class, on Eglinton

Right. So, being the superstar that I am, DF was invited to another private unveiling. 2010 Mercedes E-Class, redesign. Beautiful. The car is gorgeous, especially the coupe. But what was spectacular was the McLaren SLR and the 1950's 300SL. Gorgeous. Legendary. The SLR is as hard to climb in and out of as advertised, but for half a million, don't complain. The Maybach. That's what I should be riding in. Just smells like money. Driver, to the embassy!

DF
E Coupe

DF - SLR copy

RokChoi

300SL

Friday, November 6, 2009

Radiant

Finished dinner, just completed impromptu photoshoot - a great day. A great day.

DF

Fresh

Big dinner tonight. We're doing some photos. DF, looking just so fresh. Neckwear is where it's at. Drinking Champagne, and only Champagne tonight. Pop, fizz, flash!!

DF

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Done - time to celebrate!

DFTD. Done for the day. That was my Grade 12 Economics teacher's thing. Whenever we'd finish the day's work, he'd hammer out 'DFTD' on the blackboard, put his feet up on the desk. And that's how I feel today. Because today's been a fantastic day, for many reasons.

Time to celebrate! Champagne tonight, tomorrow, and Saturday. I want to be immersed in bubbles for the next 4 days. I want to drink Champagne (and only Champagne) from the moment I wake, to the moment I stumble back into bed. Hopefully not alone, but that's another story.

Mercedes event tonight. Will there by any giveaways? 3 DFTD's out of 5 say yes.

DF

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Feverish

Consistency

I've been diligently practicing my piano. I'm not getting embarrassed in front of people. In front of her. Still putting together my repertoire, but I think I know what to go for. Elegance, emotion, and honesty will always trump flashy theatrics. Yes, I'm talking about you. You, with the fake body expressions, as if swaying melodramatically to every phrase suggests a familiarity and understanding of the music.

The teachers who teach this kind of behaviour should be ashamed. Yeah you little prick, you should be ashamed. It's cheating the audience, and a complete disrespect to the maestros who gave us these masterpieces. This charade of musical expression is just a cheap veneer to fool the uncultured - true musicality is an intensely private and personal virtue.

I play Beethoven, and it makes me feel some way, much like a glass of mature Rheingau. I play Chopin and emotions rise and fall, much like a red Burgundy. What I'm saying is that music, as in all things, is meant to help you develop yourself first. It's not meant to spread your ego, to have people marvel over the way you pound the keys or sway to the melody. That is a disrespect.

But what the hell - I'm not a performer. I wouldn't even dare so much as to consider myself a pianist. What I am is a sensualist, and an ardent old guard of true musical expression.

The photo, courtesy of RokChoi. His blog, here. Indeed, those are my fingers. Clementi, I believe.

DF

In line

I renewed my license plate today. There was the usual slow, indifferent service - why include 9 stations when only 4 of them are occupied? No, I don't have sympathy for these workers who held the city of Toronto ransom for 39 days in the summer, so that they can get guaranteed contracts despite the tanking Ontario economy. Have a bit more pep in your step, smile a bit, and move everything along!

Exciting weekend coming up. Yet another gluttonous show of seasonal foods and fabulous wines. Beginning Thursday, an epic 3-day marathon of mirth and bubbles begins.

Did I mention I was invited to another private car event? DF tearing it up!

DF

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

2000 Douro

2000 Ferreira LBV

2000 Ferreira LBV Porto, DOC Douro

I may be a bit premature, writing about this bottle. Only had a few glasses for dinner - the rest in the fridge. But, 'twas a great wine, and worth noting for later if it shows differently after a few days open.

These wines are always impressive in concentration. Inky, glass-staining purple. Big nose, lots of fruit, but needs some air - we'll see if it gains more complexity. The texture in the mouth is wonderful - lots of grippy, fleshy tannins, rich fruit. Wraps around the palate beautifully. Tight without being alarming.

DF

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Blogger's note: November 6. 2009

I've finished the bottle, and am very impressed. The tannins and structure make the wine - texture is just unbelievably decadent, rich, silky, and delicious. Wonderful! Ripe fruit, rich, but perfectly balanced. Wow.

Monday, November 2, 2009

2008 Yarra Valley

2008 Yarra Ridge

2008 Yarra Ridge Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley

I've come to stop expecting greatness from Australian pinot noir. And yet I still shoot myself in the foot and pay $20+ for a bottle. The previous bottle I tasted was more of a disappointment, but this one - no, I still overpaid.

Deep cranberry red, with a more restrained nose. Red fruits, spice, brambles - more of a pinot noir character. But really spicy. Oak at play. Wood in an Australian wine - what a surprise. Shocking spice on the finish. Clipped length. Builds a bit of weight on the second day, but uninspired, with inadequate varietal character and sparse regional flair.

The alcohol is a bit lower, but still quite prominent. And that's disappointing in a pinot noir. Sigh. Come on guys, you can do better. I know it's possible for a proper wine to come out of Australia. Yarra Valley is an appellation in Victoria - I've tasted good pinot noir from Victoria. Still waiting for that second, great bottle.

DF

Beef!

I read Mike Steinberger's column regularly, in Slate Magazine. I was surprised by a recent article of his - its viciousness and bite was unexpected: What Jonathan Nossiter's Liquid Memory Gets Wrong About Wine. But maybe I shouldn't be surprised - he's always despised Mr. Nossiter (read this, on Mondovino).

Jonathan Nossiter is of course, the director of Mondovino, a wine documentary which presents the argument about the dangers of homogenized, internationally-styled wines - wines without soul or personality. It's an interesting set of arguments, whether you believe in them or not. Wine writers and press too often take the easy, commercially viable route of publishing mindless tasting notes and scores, amidst the rest of the fluffy junk masquerading as journalism. Really, do we want to read yet more pieces about fabulous and rare wines that we have no chance of ever experiencing? There seems to be two extremes - the writers who insist on writing about the aforementioned Bentley's of the wine world, or the writer with the McDonald's palate, who screeches about the virtues of Australian fruit bombs. That's why I treasure writers like Eric Asimov, Jancis Robinson, and Andrew Jefford - people who understand the true taste.

The argument that serious wine bloggers are the future to wine writing has been made before, but I think it's important to highlight the work of people like Mr. Nossiter as well. We need people to present these kinds of controversial, thought-provoking arguments, irrespective of whether we agree or not. Mr. Steinberger bristles at what he perceives as the snobbishness of this new book - perhaps, but maybe it's also an American reaction to a Euro-centric viewpoint.

In any case, I enjoy Mr. Nossiter's work. And I'm looking forward to reading his book, as well as the 10-hour Mondovino: The Series. Both have been ordered - my thoughts to follow. I'm going to dedicate an entire weekend to devour both. He presents forceful arguments that may not be entirely original or new, but creates discussion that is otherwise lacking in mainstream wine circles.

And if he's a snob along the way, I'm not complaining - just read my profile.

DF

Wine on the mind

I woke up this morning to the thought of Josh Jensen's Calera series pinot noirs. I have no clue why it was on my mind before I was even conscious. Strange.

I have a few bottles of Mr. Jensen's wines put away - a few single vineyard pinot noirs (Calera Ryan Vineyard, Calera Mills Vineyard, Calera Reed Vineyard). It's been written that these wines need some bottle age. In any case, they were rare and difficult to find, so I have high expectations. Should I? Am I just setting myself up for failure? But I seem to be particularly skilled at that, in wine and otherwise, so who knows.

We'll give it some time. Taste it with a Burgundian pinot noir, and a few Niagara pinot noirs. Who will come out on top? I think I have my pick, but yes, we'll give it a few years. Stay tuned!

DF

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Bathtime

Bathtime

I took a long, hot bath last night. Just felt sore all over and needed the water. That's what you get for busting your ass at the gym all week. Working out angry.

I found these packets, from Shanghai's Garden Hotel. The crystals are supposed to help relax muscle fatigue and stress. They're also blue. I felt like I was bathing in Kool-Aid. Smelled nice though. But didn't help the muscles. I need epsom salts.

Just wanted to share that with y'all. You know, 'cause DF's bath routine is just so fascinating.

DF

Back for seconds

It's been a fantastic Friday and Saturday, gastronomically speaking. Lots and lots of seafood. And lots and lots of wine, bien sur.

We had a nice clam spaghetti on Friday - really going for the shellfish. The season has officially begun. Not feeling very satisfied, so I went out to get some live blue crabs. Geez, grocery shopping on a Friday at 7pm is stressful. Reckless drivers, packed lots - not ideal. But we ended up getting nearly a dozen crabs. Steamed, dipping sauce of rice vinegar, minced ginger. Absolutely delicious, so satisfying to just dig into fresh crab. Delicious, and utterly Shanghainese.

My friends came over after dinner with dessert. The mango dessert was nice. Almost a reduction of mango, it was a thick purée with great consistency. Different, and a nice surprise. Of course, we had a few wines together, a few Australian (!) pinot noirs and a white port. A first time for all us to experience this style of port.

Saturday's dinner was a big production, as usual - dinner at David's is always serious. Started off with fresh, live snails today, cooked in the Shanghainese style. Green onion, ginger slices, black bean paste. Sautée snails, lid on for 45 seconds, done. Absolutely delicious - this is a dish that has a special place in my heart. I remember eating this ever since I was a boy, carefully picking out the snails from their shells with a toothpick. So much flavour, just a great dish - great that is, if the snails are at their freshest. Continued on with a fish cooked two ways (pan-seared fillet, fish broth). Then, moved onto crab.

It was a long meal. But we weren't giving out candy, so there were no interruptions. Drank a lot of wine. At one point, I felt that I was done - buzzed out of my mind and feeling full as to explosion. But, I got my second wind and continued on drinking and eating, no problem. As I said - there's nobody like me, I'm just ferocious.

Like a long-distance runner...all I need is to catch a second wind, and all the wine and food will be no problem. Cheeers.

DF