Sunday, September 30, 2012

simply being what you are

2007 G.D. Vajra Barolo
2007 G.D. Vajra Albe | DOCG Barolo

What do we want most out of a wine?  Is it to taste good?  Puff up our ego, because drinking wine makes us look so classy-like?  It's not.  And if you think it is, I probably don't think much of you.  No . . . above all, we want wine to be honest.  Whether it's a simple, humble wine, or a grand wine of nobility, a wine has to be honest with itself.  After all, you can present a turd on the most expensive china, seasoned and garnished, but in the end, it's still a fucking turd.

In the sort of Burgundian model, Barolo producers produce various cuvées, starting with what is essentially a blended village wine, and then bottling their best vineyards separately.  These entry-level Barolos aren't particularly exciting, in that they're simply very solid introductions to the region, and to nebbiolo.  Usually less structured, less complex, but good wines to drink over dinner.  This one, the Vajra Albe, is that kind of wine.  Googling around, I found a pretty interesting piece written by Jeremy Parzen, about the meaning behind Albe, and a bit about this producer's other wines.  It's a good Barolo that doesn't promise too much, but there's a certain charm about its simplicity.  A bit coarse at the moment, but I'd be very happy with it in 3 years or so.  Big wine though, at 14.5% abv, and you feel every bit of it.

It's Sunday!  And wow, September is over.  I've been working on the applications for Berkeley Haas, which is the next deadline coming up.  Difficult - still stuck on the first essay question.  They ask you to write about a song that expresses who you are.  I have a clear idea of which song . . . it's just writing how it expresses me that's proving to be much, much more challenging.  This whole process is kind of showing me that really, my head can be so empty sometimes.

Anyways, next steps, because we always need to be thinking about next steps.  Three more schools to go, and although I'm struggling to focus, I'm still aiming to stick to my original choices.  No backup plan, no safety net, nowhere to go if this fails woooo!!  Shellfish is coming into season, which is very, very exciting.  Clams and oysters and abalone and crab - all sorts of goodies.  And now that it's getting chillier, time for more roasted and braised meats.  The wines?  We have to follow the season, so we'll be putting the rieslings away for a bit, and turning to something a bit heavier, a bit more warming.  Vintages just released their October Classics catalogue, and as usual the Burgundy/Bordeaux selection is shockingly expensive.  I mean, when did 2008 Pétrus start costing $1995?!  Some interesting Rioja though, which I'm keeping an eye on.  This summer (at least the beginning) was a good one for drinking.  Pulled a lot of bottles from the cellar that I've been holding onto, and really, every single one has lived up to expectations thus far.  Still have a few that I'm sitting on - some Bandol, some old Niagara cabernets, some Rioja.  Champagne standing by . . . for when there's something to celebrate.


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Because there will always be more wine...




I buy a fair amount of wine on my (very) limited budget.  Actually, it's pretty much the only thing I spend my disposable income on, along with shellfish, steak, and the odd night out.  So basically just food and booze.  Priorities right?  Over the years I've been buying, I've only bought one single case of wine - this 2010 Lapierre Morgon - that I bought the day before taking my GMAT.  Premature celebration, maybe, but also some extra motivation to kill the exam.  Mission accomplished.

I'm slowly coming to the realization that I hoard wine.  My cellar is small, about 550-600 bottles, and it's all in small orders - 2 bottles of this Bordeaux, 3 bottles of this Mosel, a single bottle of this Barolo.  So with 12 bottles of one wine, I almost don't know what to do with myself.  Do I just start drinking?  Buying in limited numbers is encouraging this hoarding behaviour - if I only have 2 or 3 bottles of something, I can't really afford to just drink one.  No, being my typically serious, humourless self, I have to let the wine mature, or at least come around a bit, before I even think of opening it.  And then when is the perfect occasion to do so?  Dinner with friends?  Holidays?  Birthdays?  No, somehow no occasion ever seems appropriate enough for that bottle I've squirrelled away since 2nd year university.

They say the first step to recovery is recognizing that you have a problem.  So what is it when I recognize the problem yet still choose to do nothing about it?  I have every intention of drinking every single bottle in my cellar before death takes me.  No guarantees that tomorrow I'll still be able to put on the pants I've taken off tonight, but for now, I'm planning on uncorking everything.  Every bottle has its time and place - I just suppose the exact details are a mystery.  Choosing a wine isn't supposed to be an exercise in logic or reason.  No, fuck scientific food and wine pairings that rob this beautiful elixir of all romance and charm.  Choosing a wine to drink is about feeling and emotion, and understanding that wine is as much about satisfying an intellectual curiosity as it is about delivering unabashed, all-encompassing pleasure.

Anyways, what was my point . . . right, so I bought a full case of this wine, and pulled a bottle out, before placing the other 11 bottles away.  But it's been sitting in my closet since June, sort of waiting for its time.  I opened it last night, for our Mid-Autumn Festival dinner.  Wine doesn't mean much unless you uncork the bottle and share with loved ones - and besides, the longer you hold onto something, the more unreasonable your expectations become.  There will always be more wine.  Unless the earth comes to a fiery, cataclysmic end, there will always be another spring, another harvest, another vintage.  So we need to express the finest lesson that wine teaches us: the spirit of honesty, integrity, and generosity.


Friday, September 28, 2012

late nights and chill


2009 Domaine Bernard Baudry | AC Chinon

Toronto's been seriously cooling down lately, so I've been trying to get outside and run while the temperature's still in double digits.  Shorts and all, but I do have to wear a long sleeve top.  Also, warm ups now seem more important than ever.  And suddenly we're in October.  Mid-Autumn Festival coming up this weekend, for all my Chinese comrades.  Family dinners and stuff - I think we're keeping it simple this year.  Thinking about opening a bottle of Lapierre Morgon.

Bernard Baudry makes some great Chinon, but I always think the mark of a good producer is how they handle their most humble wines.  This here is Baudry's entry level blend, the basic Chinon.  There are certain expectations with cabernet franc from this part of the Loire, and really, if the wines aren't vegetal, what's the point.  This is very ripe, with concentrated black fruits . . . minerally with that greenness peaking out.  Long and fresh.  A delicious wine, and perfect in the fall.

I've been living bottle to bottle recently.  In fact, I've been drinking less wine too.  Something about trying to put some money away so I won't starve when I go to school.  Or have to live under a bridge.  Having to really budget does have one advantage though . . . it really makes you choose purchases carefully.  In this case, I've been going back to what's familiar - the wines I know I'll enjoy.  And sometimes I forget that, amidst all the personal preferences are irrelevant when you're learning about wine, sometimes all you want is a good drink.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

the humble, the understated


2010 Paolo Conterno Bricco | DOC Barbera d'Alba

When I can't afford to drink good wine, I try to go for the next best thing - find a good producer and look for their cheapest bottle.  Works like a charm, most of the time.

Humility is a virtue.  No, it might not necessarily make you stand out, but I believe that truly confident, successful people are also very humble, down-to-earth people.  I can share a personal story.  Many years ago, I met the great cellist Yo-Yo Ma.  He was giving a performance in Toronto, and I waited backstage for him, with his relatives.  Coming down the line, he was giving big hugs and back slaps to everyone, asking everyone how they were doing, and seeming to remember little details like, How was your vacation?  How's your niece doing?  Had any good wine recently?  When he finally got to me - a 12 year old kid, clearly star-struck - all I could manage was to ask for a photo and for him to sign my program.  And he actually took the time to talk to me, to ask what instrument I played, and if I'd be attending the opening of the Toronto Music Garden the next day.  It was his sincerity, and generosity that still stands out in my memory of that evening, nearly 15 years later.  One of the greatest living musicians in the world, if not THE greatest musician, was taking time to actually talk to me.  I mean, this was someone who performed for JFK, who's called upon for countless Inaugurations . . . President Obama even gave him the Presidential Medal of Freedom for chrissakes.  And yet he took the time to speak genuinely to a 12 year old boy who he didn't know, and really, didn't need to care for.

This single vineyard Barbera d'Alba from Paolo Conterno is an example that even the most humble varietals can yield fascinating wines.  At once coarse and wild, with lots of twiggy berry aromas.  Mineral and all that, but the most interesting thing was how it evolved over the 3 days I had it open.  Becoming more refined, more focused with air.  Tightening up a bit, but clearly showing an ageability as well as a great drinkability.  Barbera will never be mistaken for a fine wine - some varietals were never meant for more than simple table wines, and that's perfectly alright.  We need more of these wines, that give pleasure on the dinner table, and prove that true wine, like people, comes from a place of humility and understatement.

I continue to be a dumb fuck.  I tell my piano students all the time that when I criticize, it's to help them avoid the mistakes I made, and to get them to that point quicker and easier.  But of course, they don't listen.  And they shouldn't.  Everyone likes to give advice, but who really takes it.  I mean, really trusting the person critiquing you and adopting their experiences as your own.  So we make the same mistakes over and over again, but until you actually make that mistake and experience it for yourself . . . no, I'll have a hard time simply listening to what I should/shouldn't do.  So I let my students make mistakes, with the understanding that the important thing is to examine it, and learn from it.  My friends worry about me, and try to guide me on the straight and true path.  I've been so stressed lately from work and applying for school that I just don't know really how to deal with it.  Alcohol?  Running?  Punching things?!

The thing about me is that I, I makes mistakes but I never make the same mistake twice . . . I make it a hundred times.

- Marco Pierre White, Marco cooks for Albert Roux, 1989


That high lonesome sound

The Stanley Brothers with Man of Constant Sorrow.  Well then, what is bluegrass?  As one of its pioneering artists, Bill Monroe, tells it:

Scottish bagpipes and ole-time fiddlin'. It's Methodist and Holiness and Baptist. It's blues and jazz, and it has a high lonesome sound. It's plain music that tells a good story. It's played from my heart to your heart, and it will touch you. Bluegrass is music that matters.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

a little meander from white to red, and back


So you go through wine (and life) and have these phases, all these different phases.  School, work, love, heartbreak, depression, hope; white wine, red wine, oaky wine, dirty wine, fruity wine, to finally, beer.  And sometimes, if it all shits on you particularly hard, you go through several all at the same time.  It all works to toughen you up a bit, harden you, mold you, and ultimately, make you a wiser and better person.

I don't relate to people all that well sometimes.  I'm often in my own world, daydreaming . . . fine if I'm actually alone.  Not so much in the middle of a conversation, or dinner with someone I'm actually starting to really care for.  But I can't help it.  Here I am, in my mid-twenties, trying to figure out what kind of career I want (finally!), and suddenly, a grenade gets tossed in the middle of it all.  It's just very overwhelming when you're trying to get your (professional) shit together, and your personal life suddenly feels wanting of some attention too.  I dream a lot, but sometimes, it's hard to dream when it increasingly becomes apparent that it takes an extraordinary amount of hard work and courage to get the ball rolling, on what you really want to do.

My drinking started early.  I was practically weaned on hard Chinese liquor, sitting on my grandfather's lap, as he'd stick a chopstick dipped in a fiery baijiu in my mouth.  Allowed to sit at the adult's table during family dinners, beer came first - a bottle, at most, in one sitting.  Then slowly, a bit of wine.  But it probably wasn't until I was 15 or 16 that it really clicked; that clouds parted, sun shone through moment in wine.  I pretty much started devouring any and all wine-related writing: books, magazines, newspapers, online publications.  It wasn't for a few more years that I could buy wine on my own . . . but I was already well on my way to becoming a wino.  A preference for white wines came first, then a sudden change to brawny wines from the south of France: Rhône and all that.  Then came Germany and the wines of Mosel, and I was truly off into the wonderful world of European wines.

These phases are cyclical.  Happiness, sadness, despair, then joy.  It all tends to balance out.  I drink more Old World wine, but in terms of a specific genre, it all seems to rotate on a carousel.  And that's the whole point, right?  You can't always just drink riesling or cabernet, just like you can't always be happy, or always be upset.

My old roommate's favourite saying was hey, shit happens.  Not particularly creative, but it's incredibly useful.  Shit does happen, and you realize you have very little control sometimes, even in your own life.  You don't know who you're going to meet at a friend's usually uneventful birthday party.  You don't know why you start getting all hormonal about her.  And suddenly, even though the timing just isn't right, you realize that yeah, maybe she's what you've been looking for.

We meander and stumble around, and while there is no real clear path, it's important to recognize and capture opportunity.  I make a fool of myself on a regular basis - why should my dating life be any different.  My friends try to steer me straight and true, but really, maybe I just want to fucking torture myself.  Truth in wine, and in all things.  So as long as we're truthful and honest with ourselves . . . our messy lives just might start to untangle a bit.


Saturday, September 22, 2012

HBS application, submitted


My hands are still shaking a bit, and I feel queasy, but I just submitted my application to Harvard Business School.  It's been a long 2 months, but finally, I got my first one done.  Many thanks to friends and family who've given advice, support, and encouragement throughout this long, tough process.  I can't thank enough the ones who were so kind to give their time and help edit my essays and write recommendations.  Much appreciation.

So now we wait.  Will all the patience and hard work be rewarded?  Or will the path be a bit different than intended?  Whatever happens, I'm filled with gratitude for the loved ones I have in my life, who've always had my back.  Now . . . let's go have a drink!


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

young and angry


2007 Gemma Barolo | DOCG

This one is a bit coarse, a bit angry. If fine single vineyard Barolo is a projection of nobility, then this is the brash 20 year old prince who's high off of their power and money. No sense of duty or purpose, but whatever, they were born right and therefore have the (divine) right to flip off the rest of the world.

Late last Friday, alone in the house, I opened a bottle of Barolo and drank in silence. It wasn't particularly refined, nor was it pleasurable, really. But we're not in this just for pleasure. The wine had life, had a pulse, had a personality. This is the basic cuvée, made from grapes from Serralunga d'Alba vineyards. A rough wine, needing time to unwind, but never really coming together. You get more character on the nose, that slight rose petal, the tarriness of nebbiolo, but one gets the sense (and the palate confirms this) that this will never be mistaken for a fine Barolo.

What can I say, my life is a bit of a shitstorm right now. Just getting tossed around and trying to hang on. Another late night for me last night, just writing and rewriting, and re-re-rewriting the same goddamn passage. And with no guarantee that my unqualified ass will even have a shot of getting into these schools . . . what am I doing again?! What can I say, even when I'm sober, I don't know which way's up sometimes.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

keeping promises and finding purpose


I miss my grand old man so much.

I'm not religious so I don't pray; a constant point of contention with my devout non-denominational Christian parents, but it's not something that can be forced. I do, however, have conversations with my grandfather. They're mostly one-sided, but occasionally, I'll hear him reply. I imagine he'll tell me to shut up and stop complaining; to just get the job done. To always be a careful and responsible person. So I was out running on Sunday, doing uphill sprints and stair climbs, as is my usual weekend routine. And just as I was feeling hammered and completely spent, I kind of heard him in my ear, telling me I couldn't quit halfway through. And so I listened, and finished my laps - painful, but I stopped complaining, and got the job done.

I'm about 2 days away from submitting my first business school application. Tired of hearing me moan about it yet?! It feels like a big step because 8 months ago, I had no idea I was even going to pursue graduate school. Things have been slowly moving along, but now comes the ultimate test, to see if this will all work out. I don't know, man, I simply do not remotely have any idea about my chances of getting into these schools. A smart person would have backups ready. Just 2 more months to go of this horrible, horrible process. Is this all worth it? I made a promise once, that I was going to make something of myself; success defined as being able to take care of my family. I was taught never to make idle promises. And suddenly, answering the question Why am I going for an MBA? becomes so simple.

Thinking of my old man helps - I give a tap to my heart, finger point to the sky, and somehow I feel him there. He's always in my thoughts, in my purpose for everything I do. And above all else, I want to make him proud of me.


Monday, September 17, 2012

the taste of a past lover


2008 Château Cesseras Rouge | AC Minervois La Livinière | Midi

My ears are still slightly ringing. In the immortal words of Roger Murtaugh: I'm getting too old for this shit. But what am I saying - it's not about me. My friend was celebrating her birthday at the Drake Hotel, and I was happy to sacrifice my hearing for a night of clubbing, because she had a great time, and that's all the matters.

Right. Old lovers. Not a lot of fun to revisit, because really, no one really ever stays friends. But with time, memory becomes selective, and as a matter of principle (to stay care-free), I choose to only remember happy times. What am I talking about? As if I have a well of experiences to draw upon . . . if it's not apparent yet, with nearly 5 years of LCF in the books, I don't. So I'll stick to wine, because unlike women, there's meaning beyond all the madness behind wine.

Cesseras means a lot to this wino. As a young fella a few years ago, Cesseras was my introduction to the wines of South France. Those big, rich, alcoholic bombs that seduce you and leave you dizzy and completely fucked up the next day. The 2002/2003 and the 2006. Excuse the writing - I did say I was a young wino at the time. These wines made such an impact on me, and above all, taught me that texture in wine was possibly one of the greatest determinants to enjoyment and pleasure. That silky thickness, running down the throat. This 2008, showing all that heat, with a certain savouriness. Rich, sweet fruit, somewhat simple, but drink it for what it is - a simple, summertime pleasure in a glass.

Past experiences and relationships shape who we are today. That's a truth of life. So abandon this silly notion that you need to save great wines to drink later on, when you have a better idea of what you're doing. No matter what stage of winedom you're at - as long as you concentrate and focus and be fucking true to yourself - it's never a waste to experience a grand wine. If anything, your knowledge and appreciation for the good drink will increase exponentially. And some people wonder why when I do my wine dinners, I only invite certain friends? It's about an understanding that we all have, that we're being serious about food and drink, and it's not just about having a good time. Besides, wine is fucking expensive. And I'm cheap. Sorry, but this thing about any random (friend or otherwise) getting a drink out of me? Not happening.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Learn English with Ricky Gervais

This had me tearing up from laughter. The I can't breathe, I'm gonna die kind of laughter. The head like a facking orange bit was classic, but Gervais' back, crack, and sack bit completely did me in. Can't wait for a full season of this.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Bordeaux 2011 En Primeur full price list released


Vintages released its final price list for its 2011 Bordeaux Futures offer. Not many surprises . . . First Growths still hideously priced, and likewise for the Top Pomerols and St-Émilions. Anyone just so tired of these campaigns anymore?! I think I'm having some serious Bordeaux fatigue. See, that's why when you start any hobby really, you need a mentor who's willing to share wisdom, and start you off right. Otherwise you end up spending lots and lots of money on wines that you don't really want in your cellar 20 years later.

I didn't have a mentor. Not a real one anyways. My neighbour is an old wine guy, the old Bordeaux/Champagne/Burgundy kind of drinker. But he's a tightwad. You can only talk so much about wine . . . what good is it to someone who wants to learn about wine if you don't actually open a bottle to drink? As in most things, talk is so cheap.

So I taught myself by reading everything and anything I could find about wine, and really tasting. And yes, I read many, many books on how to taste wine. I fell in that trap most people do - that when you begin building a cellar, you start with red Bordeaux. I enjoy the wines, I really do . . . but I should have tasted around more first, before committing SO MUCH to claret. I'd say at the moment, about 60% of my cellar is in Bordeaux (red, white, and sweet), 20% Ontario, with the remainder split between Chablis, Champagne, Mosel, Rioja, and Barolo. And of course, the odd one-off bottle.

If given the gift of hindsight (and about $30,000) to redo my cellar, I'd focus on Barolo, Champagne, and both red and white Burgundy. Then, to a lesser degree, Mosel, Bordeaux (equal parts red and white), and Ontario. I'd also really like some Tokay, northern Rhône, and Bandol. But it's not too late . . . come on, I'm only about 7 years into seriously buying wine.

So what's stopping me from buying the wines I actually want? The number 10. I have a twitch, this almost OCD thing about wine that once I start with a certain producer, I HAVE to have 10 vintages of it on the shelf. Certain wines are worth it . . . 2, 3 times over. But other ones? It becomes a problem. At the moment, I've got 2 Bordeaux producers I'm working on - La Lagune, a 3rd Growth from the Haut-Médoc, and L'Arrosée, a Grand Cru Classé from St-Émilion. My first taste of both these wines were courtesy of a very, very generous family friend with a very deep Bordeaux collection. 2011 will be my 8th vintage of both, so I'm getting there. All I want is to see 10 years on the shelf, and then I'm out . . . or I might run out of money once I start school, whatever comes first.

I'm not suggesting that you need to be opening wines for anyone who asks, but really, if you have a chance to mentor a young person in wine, do it. You're going to make a difference in a young wino's life, and trust me, once that wino grows up, you'll get to drink all the wines you helped them put together. That's what I call a win-win.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

the weird and the wonderful from the Jura


2009 Rolet Père & Fils Blanc Naturé Savagnin Ouillé | AC Arbois


2005 Fruitière Vinicole d'Arbois Vin Jaune | AC Arbois

In order to develop an appreciation for wine - a true appreciation - one must taste all sorts of different wines. Yes, we need to taste from the well-known regions, to develop a certain benchmark, but we also need to experience things that really push our understanding of what we think wine to be. Unbelievable, that sounds so pompous and up the ass. But it's true.

Vin jaune, and the wines of the Jura, are those wines that you kind of always read about, but just don't get the chance to ever taste. Well, that chance finally came last month. Vintages released this pair of wines together - a table wine savagnin, and a vin jaune. All giving us such a fabulous chance to see just how the winemaking style can transform the same grape. The vin jaune was expensive, but it's only the expensive wines (in North America at least), unfortunately, that have something real and interesting to say.

Both delivered. The Rolet Naturé de Jura, all freshness and electricity on the palate. Some rusticity showing up on the finish, that connection to the vin jaune, which was so utterly, completely different to anything I've ever tasted. The first blast just singing of fino sherry, but with more concentration, slightly more rusticity. Over the next week, as I slowly tasted a bit each day, the wine sort of focuses a bit, actually gets a bit fresher with more air. Amazing complexity. On the last day, it all begins to soften, but what a way to go.

It's almost irrelevant whether I personally enjoyed the wine or not. I can never find pleasure in sherry, so it's tough for me to say whether I liked the vin jaune. But the lessons it taught me over the 7 days I drank it, and how it's expanded my understanding of Jura wines - that's what really matters.

So tired. Only Wednesday, and yet, I feel so beat. Application deadlines just seem to be roaring at me, and I feel underprepared and completely underqualified. All stressed out and shit, breaking out, breaking down a bit. I had a long talk with a few buddies today, and they kind of put me in my place. Needed to hear that. They want to see me focus on one thing, and just that one thing - to get into school, to reach that goal. Anything else is, well, insignificant in the grand scheme of things . . . after all, it's just my future on the line.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

we anger, we rage



I'm by no means an angry individual, but I do have my moments. Anger is irrational, destructive, unproductive . . . it clouds your judgement, and generally makes a fuck up of things. But it can also be incredibly useful if it can be harnessed to refocus your energy, to find that push of motivation. I'm angry because at this moment in my life, getting into a good business school is the most important thing I need to be worried about. And yet, as usual, it's been anything but a smooth process. I knew it was going to be so challenging going in, but not like this; no, the past 3 months have just been this constant back and forth of indecision and insecurity about my qualifications and distilling me as a person. Really, who am I? And stop with this, oh DF's a good guy, a nice guy - fuck that. I'm not. Because the first rule of real life is, being a nice guy gets you fucking nowhere. Maybe I need to stop thinking in terms of is this the polite thing to do and more of will this get me to where I want to be? The nice guy can go to hell.

You know what . . . it's not even about acting like an alpha d-bag asshole. Because I couldn't even if I tried. It's about defining my attributes as a person, both good and bad. I'm on my rise, man, and at this point (more than ever) I need to surround myself with people that are going to support that. Because I'm fucking determined to make it, whatever it may be. And if you want to be a part of it, well, it's a simple question: are you fucking in or out?

Man, this year's been something else. Busy and tough and all that. I think of it as character building. And big picture, the application process is just part of what I'm worrying about. I'm shit poor, and scrambling to save up. If this all becomes reality and I end up going to America for 2 years, where's the money going to come from? My mountain of debt is going to be so high I'll need to take altitude sickness pills to get to the top. And that's not including the travel, the unpaid internships, the miscellaneous portion no school ever tells you about. Living expenses? The plan is to save enough to at least cover that, but at this point, who knows. I'm a bit aggravated about money because, well, I don't have any, and while I don't consider myself a stingy person, I HATE wasting it, or at least feeling like I'm wasting it.

I'm just feeling a bit overwhelmed right now. And my (true) friends have been very indulgent with me and have been patiently hearing me complain, moan, rant, and otherwise bitch out for the past few months. When it rains, it fucking pours . . . a few more months left to go. So we come back to the question of who am I, really? Wish I could say, with some degree of certainty - I can't. I say I'm a confident individual, a good person, sure of what I want . . . but I'm not sure I even believe that. I want people in my life who have my back, who I can rely on for unconditional support. Many thanks to my buddies who take time to talk me down from the ledge, calm me, and sometimes just listen. I'm tired, man, and this whole process has just begun.

Berkeley Haas held an admissions session downtown last evening, at RBC Centre. Attendees were the usual go-getter crowd, the ones in the standard issue suits every North American finance worker seems to own. And I show up in an untucked shirt and cardigan, green shoes and maroon socks. Since when did prospective business school students have to suddenly be boring? Right . . . it isn't about what's on the surface, it's all about what you've ACCOMPLISHED!!


Monday, September 10, 2012

TIFF and a spent weekend





Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) going on here, and my first time attending a screening. Watched Pusher, an English language remake of Nicolas Winding Refn’s 1996 film. Decent, if a bit predictable. The director, producer, and one of the actors (Agyness Deyn) showed up for a quick Q&A at the end.

Eating and drinking in Toronto is expensive. We try not to frame it in terms of absolute cost, but we are looking for value for money. And with prices like $7 for a tiny glass of Asahi, or $10 for a weak mojito . . . you tell me how much value add you get for that (and you guess the two restaurants we drank each). But Bellwoods Brewery on Ossington - a winner. Starting first with a Lost River Baltic Porter, a dense, compact brew with all the bitter roasted notes you want in a true porter. And then I saw the Saison Dupont on the list. Just couldn't resist. Happiness in a glass, that citrusy, hoppy character, lots of rich, yeasty aromas, a full and round palate. For $8 and $10, respectively, a great example of real value for money.

Because in all things, when you spend money, it has to be worth it. What's your favourite value for money place?


Friday, September 7, 2012

the last meal


Question - what would you eat for your last meal? There was a piece recently about new research conducted by Cornell University on death row inmates' last meals. With the exception of Texas' inmates (who aren't allowed to make off-menu requests), most opted for meat and fried foods. These (not so surprising) results reveal a simple truth - when people are faced with their finality, they don't care for foie gras or lobster or caviar. No, when you can literally count the hours until your demise, you go back to the food of your childhood, the food so deeply ingrained in your psyche that it's just simply part of who you are. You can call it comfort food, but really, a person's comfort food is their identity, isn't it.

I love French food. I love French wine. In fact, despite all my affection for Niagara and German wines, I'd say 50-60% of all the wines I drink are French. But it's not my culture; it's not who I am, if only for the simple fact that I'm not a Frenchman. I grew up with the great food of my great-grandmother, my grandmother, and my mother . . . Shanghainese food, and food cooked in the southern Chinese style. And although I'm an immigrant and I've grown up a Canadian, my heart still thumps for the food from my motherland. Like Proust said . . .

"And as soon as I had recognized the taste of the piece of madeleine soaked in her decoction of lime-blossom which my aunt used to give me (although I did not yet know and must long postpone the discovery of why this memory made me so happy) immediately the old grey house upon the street, where her room was, rose up like a stage set to attach itself to the little pavilion opening on to the garden which had been built out behind it for my parents (the isolated segment which until that moment had been all that I could see); and with the house the town, from morning to night and in all weathers, the Square where I used to be sent before lunch, the streets along which I used to run errands, the country roads we took when it was fine." - Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time.

So what would your last meal on this earth be? I could be a smartass and say I want course upon course of every variety of seafood, to prolong the inevitable as long as I could, but really, all I would want is a heaping pile of steamed mitten crabs (大闸蟹) with bottles upon bottles of the most amazing, mature, whispering Shaoxing wine. Simple pleasures, to send me on my way.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

tasting versus drinking


NV Jean Geiler Rosé Brut | AC Crémant d'Alsace

There comes a point as a piano teacher when you have to tone down the intensity, and make sure that your kids are still having fun. As foreign as it may sound, kids need to be having fun in their extra-curricular activities - when we were growing up, that was the last thing my parent's worried about. Naw, we worked hard because piano was simply what we were supposed to do. We (and I say we because I learned along with my oldest friend) never questioned why we were sacrificing weekends and summer holidays to do seemingly endless exams and competitions and concerts . . . I think we just knew that there was a deeper purpose behind all the hard work, and we'd understand once we grew up. Or maybe just got used to my parents feeding me that line.

So it's important to me that my students understand right now why we're doing all this. And we do that by occasionally pulling out music that genuinely excites them. When I was a young fellow, I loved playing jazz and rag, that kind of old-timey love that's just worlds away from Chopin and Beethoven. What I hear most now? They want, I shit you not, Katy Perry and Bieber. But I'm a good guy, so I let them have their fun - one run-through and then back to scales and Czerny. God help us.

I drink wine nearly everyday. It's a bit tough when you're working and busy with a set routine - work, gym, then a quick dinner, before you unwind for bed. And really, a single glass just is never enough. I'd almost rather not drink than hold back, but sometimes it's what you have to do. So when I get a chance to have a glass in front of me, I'm almost always tasting. That evaluative approach, almost entirely forgoing a more sensory enjoyment of the good drink. But maybe sometimes we have to go back to why we fell in love, why we're so head over heels about wine.

This bottle reminded me of all that.

We saw beautiful weather this past long weekend in Toronto. I was eating at home, for the first Saturday in what seems like months. And once the charcoal was red hot, we set the most amazing Angus short ribs on, with a bottle of Jean Geiler Rosé Brut on ice. I always love drinking rosé sparkling wines, but this was extra special - 100% pinot noir. I suppose I could go on and really evaluate the wine, but what's the point? It was bright and fresh and just perfect with our fatty beef and steamy weather. The wine was just so delicious and I had such a great time drinking it. Truth to the wisdom that sometimes you just need to stop thinking about things and just feel.

Learning piano is tough and the great ones, like those in any field, have to suffer for their craft. But in our constant search for greatness, we can't forget the simple pleasures that made us fall in love in the first place.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012've got to start drinking man


2008 Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling | VQA Vinemount Ridge

First day back to work, kids are back in school, and it just poured today, morning to night. I'm watching the Democratic National Convention right now, and wow, that tribute to Ted Kennedy was very well done. That last bit of him tearing Mitt Romney a new one in their 1994 debate was classic. Michelle Obama speaking tonight and President Clinton tomorrow!

We first tasted this wine way back in December 2009. Our first time meeting Charles Baker too. I've always been so impressed with this whole concept, of focusing one a single varietal and bottling specific vineyards not because it'll be an easy sell, but because the vineyard actually has something to say. Everytime I see him, he tells me I need to stop hoarding my wines and get to drinking. Niagara needs more visionaries like Charles with the talent and passion to really drive the industry forward from just making wine to making exciting wine.

And these are fucking exciting wines.

All the intensity, minerality, and dry extract you want in perfectly linear, tensile riesling. The best of the Mosel and the New World; pure finesse, but with incredible power and force behind them. Sort of James Bond-ish . . . dressed in a slick bespoke suit but he'll kill you and nail your girlfriend at the same time. The 2008 CB Riesling here still quite backwards at the moment, needing some time in the glass to uncoil. That lanolin cream minerality, those ripe citrus fruits . . . structured palate, perfect balance with just a touch of sweetness on a long finish. Just that rare touch of deftness and subtlety, but you can feel the tension behind it, waiting to spring.

Working on business school applications has been a serious exercise in self-reflection. And I'm a terrible self-reflector. Just terrible, because it doesn't help me to relive old successes OR failings. There is only the next thing on the checklist, the next thing to get worked up over. I've got, as a friend likes to say, a lot on my plate at the moment, but I was complaining when my life was boring so I sure as shit won't be bitching that something exciting is now happening. I'm no good at describing myself, what my 'identities' are. An idealist? A dreamer? Or maybe just a drunkard.


Monday, September 3, 2012

stuck in on a long weekend

Goddamn I'm tired. Brain tired. Because really, I've done jack shit all long weekend but worry about my applications, write my essays, and bitchandmoan about it all. All the while looking at the fabulous photos my friend's been sending over from his weekend spent eating his way around New York.

But it's cool. No rest for the hard working. Got to grill this weekend, drink a lot of beer, spend some time with my parents. Three weeks left before my first application deadline - can you guess to where?! Like in most things, your first time is always difficult, awkward, and sweaty. It gets easier . . . and more natural . . . after that. Maybe even pleasurable. Naw, what am I saying. My buddy and I were discussing a few weeks ago that in everything, the guy always loses. Always. So we suck it up, and hope that (most) of our decisions are the right ones, that we're not being too neurotic, not too insecure. What in the fuck am I still talking about????!!!


Saying hello to an old lover.


Lunch Friday with my mother at Fabbrica. Bread to die for, and a Kronenbourg Blanc . . .


. . . FRITTI (!!!!!!!!) . . .


. . . salad of grilled octopus . . .


. . . and bloody skirt steak!

Found you!

Starting the grilling with a Brooklyn Lager . . .


. . . a fat-bomb of an Angus short rib . . .


. . . while we sipped 100% pinot noir Crémant d'Alsace.

Brooklyn Lager

But who the fuck am I kidding. A weekend of work and not being with my girl sucks, and I require large amounts of roast duck and the greatest lager in America to get over it.