Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Moonshiners



This is legitimately the best show Discovery Channel has ever aired. Appalachia suddenly jumped into the list of places I want to visit. Bluegrass and hooch ... and overalls coming back in a BIG way. It's all a bit of drummed up drama - running around in the woods, hiding your distilling equipment from the police. Maybe the bigger (and more important) question is why moonshine operations are illegal. America needs to get over itself with alcohol. Really, it's almost a joke that so much effort is expended to catch a few moonshiners, and all the while, they have their own tv show. Come on guys, it's just a little booze. And as dangerous as hooch can be, watch the series, especially the bit about how they find the best water for brewing the mash - these are hillbilly artisans.

DF

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

looking for some sunshine

DSC_0871
2009 First Press Cabernet Sauvignon | Napa Valley

We were lucky in Toronto - intense wind and rain last night, but nothing too catastrophic from Post-tropical storm Sandy. Was looking at pictures of New York, and they've been hammered. Hope my buddies in NYC and Chicago are ok ... stay dry and safe my friends.

I don't drink much Californian wine. Price certainly has something to do with it, but it's also that much of what I drink seems to be so boring. Yes, we all know how much Americans like fruit in their wines, but really, by that logic, they would just as be well served by drinking juice. Wine is wine only because it expresses something a bit more than middle-of-the-road, clean fruit flavours. Oak and alcohol are always going to be obnoxious issues to talk about in American wine, but in this wino's opinion, it's how they choose to express their fruit that turns me away from these wines. Of course, I'm generalizing here, as you could make the same claim for any new world wine.

I like First Press a lot. Maybe it's just me, but it's always these sub-$20 wines that seem more interesting. A little less ripe, a little less showy - simply more drinkable, pleasant wines. This cabernet, showing all the slightly jammy fruit that reminds you of its origin, but with this subtle stemminess that holds onto that bit of varietal character. Alcohol a bit high, but balanced, and altogether, a very agreeable wine with dinner. Now why can't more new world wines be like this? I mean, is it so painful for people to pick just a bit earlier, and hold back just a bit on the extraction?

Eventually, I think all the worst excesses of this whole high alcohol, macerated fruit nonsense will be reined back, at least in America (the Australians can keep their syrup wines). But as consumers, we have to send a message that what we're looking for is elegance and balance - true balance, with acidity - instead of a wine that's constantly shouting and trying to prove how impressive it is.

DF

Monday, October 29, 2012

a rainy, fall weekend

UntitledUntitledUntitledUntitled

So amidst all the work and stress and all that, we still have to make some time for fun, right?  RIGHT??!!  Absolutely.  Even if there is a Frankenstorm heading up the East Coast, threatening $1 billion in damages.  We all need to keep a sense of humour about these things, after all.  So in between worrying about my next set of applications, my pretty lady and I ventured out in the rain and wind for some food and culture.

Friday night was spent experiencing the tasting menu at Yours Truly Restaurant on the Ossington strip, because tasting menus aren't just meals - no, ma chérie, it's an event. A few standouts for the evening were the raw scallops, beet salad, and seared halibut. To drink, a 2011 Ciù Ciù Oris | DOP Falerio dei Colli Ascolani, a blended white (Passerina, Pecorino, and Trebbiano) of Marche. The server really didn't have a clue what it was beyond oh, it's light and refreshing, so I went with my gut because, and how do I put this delicately, my gut is always right when it comes to wine. Fresh and vibrant, with a steely minerality and a beautiful acidic structure. Proof that with multi-course, multi-textured meals, young white wines with high acidity are always winners. I'm really beginning to feel these obscure Italian whites. There is a very confident chef working this menu here. Lots of simple plating, the basics really - protein, sauce, and (one) garnish. But it's the execution that makes the meal. The beats were beautifully fresh, with the most amazing concentrated sweetness. A thick chunk of halibut, cooked perfectly. Some courses (devilled eggs, cod) a bit of a head-scratcher in terms of conception and place in the menu. But once again, tasting menus are experiences - take it as an evening of adventure, where the dinner conversation with your lady is completely devoted to the food, and you should have a good time. In and out in a tidy 3 hours.

The Art Gallery of Ontario is showing an exhibit of the works of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. So inspiring, and personally, I have a newfound appreciation for Frida's genius. She was an absolute master of capturing human expression, especially in the eyes. Rivera's murals are impressive and all, but as a history guy, knowing that he spent the entire years of the Mexican Revolution eating, drinking, and banging his way through Europe, only to return triumphantly as some of kind of socialist hero to the people is a bit of a joke. Frida's work is deeply personal, as if she's healing her trauma through her work. From her polio to her trolley accident, to even her miscarriage - she's so eloquent at depicting (personal) suffering, more intimately than I think any artist I've ever seen. And the way she paints eyes ... simply captivating. Left the gallery a bit quiet, a bit contemplative. Quick hangout at O&B Canteen at TIFF Lightbox for a coffee, before scurrying over to Khao San Road, one of those Thai dives off of King St. that all the locals seem to know. Packed and all, but the food was the real deal, and a bottle of Singha was a good way to end the day with my pretty lady.

This is going to be a busy week. Right. And once again, back to work. Hope everyone had a great weekend Hallowe'en partying.

DF

Friday, October 26, 2012

whispering to Marcel

2010 Marcel Lapierre Morgon2010 Marcel Lapierre Morgon
2010 Marcel Lapierre Morgon
2010 Marcel Lapierre Morgon
2010 Marcel Lapierre Morgon

Can you get to know someone through their wine? I mean really get to see the winemaker's personality - dare I say soul - come through in the glass? I think so. Wine, and terroir, after all, are simply a reflection of what the people who bring them to life. And this one made my head spin - all speechless and red in the face. I actually got emotional from it, as silly as that sounds. Well, considering that it's me, maybe not so silly.

Lapierre Morgon is one of those wines that every true wino knows about. I don't care much for the 'natural wine' label - what's so special is how the biodynamic viticulture and winemaking has shaped how the wine makes you feel. Simply talking about aroma and flavours feels completely inadequate, doesn't it, especially for a wine like this. Even more meaningful, considering Marcel's passing in October 2010. Even though his son Mathieu had taken over winemaking for a few years, the man's soul never left these wines. And that's what comes through - a vinous expression of joy and character.

I drank my first bottle of Lapierre Morgon in Paris last year, in a little bistro called Philou. It was, in a word, magic. So when I saw a case of the same vintage come for sale, there was absolutely no hesitation ... this was going to be the first case of wine I ever bought. With another year in bottle, the wine feels a bit more open, more pure in fruit. That same inimitable depth - the wine feels so in tune, like it just runs through you effortlessly. So silky, so weightless. Achingly beautiful.

So what does this wine teach? I think it teaches that wine can sometimes transcend simply flavours. True wines make you feel something, physically and yes, emotionally. We share something, the winemaker and the wino. From the vineyard, into the bottle, into the glass - it's all life flowing through, and as a wino, if we listen carefully, maybe the clouds will part and we'll see a bit of soul. After all, wine shouldn't be fetishized. It shouldn't be worshiped, it shouldn't be placed on an altar. No, it should be shared and drunk over an honest meal, with the people you love. And if you're lucky, sometimes the wine's so exciting, it just might take you over the moon.

DF

Thursday, October 25, 2012

him and his nephew

DSC_0864
2009 Max Ferd. Richter Riesling Kabinett | QmP Wehlener Sonnenuhr | Mosel

The familial resemblance is uncanny. I've had Max Ferd. Richter's 1992 Mülheimer Sonnenlay riesling spätlese twice, in 2011 and this summer, and this Wehlener Sonnenuhr kabinett shares some of the same traits. The wines are never really powerful, which I initially thought was because of age. No, even when young, the wines rely more on finesse than concentration and extract, and while it certainly doesn't impede its ability to age, it does lack a certain impact on the palate.

I was talking to a friend recently, about drinks (naturally), and she casually remarked that some drinks are just stereotypically girly. I'm not sure I agree. Of course, the term implies something that is fruity and sweet, and that horrible expression easy-drinking. I think it's a bit of an insult to automatically label any cheap, sugary concoction a girly drink, as if to imply that females naturally have a more infantile palate. Why can't we just call those drinks what they are - alcohol for people who don't know any better - and wrap our heads around the fact that the simple presence of sugar doesn't imply anything.

It's no secret that I love German riesling. Most of the wines I drink from here are sweet, although Germany does also produce dry (trocken) rieslings. But you see, it's not trying to be a sweet wine, so much as it simply being what it's supposed to be. The residual sugar balances the acid and minerality - without it, the wines would be painful to drink. And anyone who has some experience with these wines will immediately recognize that if anything, these are inherently masculine wines. Like steel beams and cables, held in tension.

Drinking old wines always teaches you what the true character of the wine is. The 1992's were getting a bit tired, but showing that beautiful, pure, mineral expression of the middle Mosel. But it's also useful to taste the same wine in its youth, to see the starting point of its evolution. Granted, the two wines I'm talking about are from different vineyards, and therefore are different wines - but made with the same hands, you definitely see a resemblance. There's almost a fragility in both wines, particularly the way the acid breaks on the palate. Great purity of fruit, and the wine never really gains or loses in weight - it's almost as if it's able to maintain that level of texture as it ages. Very interesting indeed, a wine to think a bit about.

Well, what of my friend? I don't think I was able to convince her of my point above, but we'll drink some interesting wines and see if I can change her mind. What can I say, I'm a charmer with a corkscrew and a stem.

DF

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Catch the Wave, October 17, 2012

UntitledUntitled
There's been a dearth of Vintages tastings this year, so I was all over this one - Catch the Wave, described as new sophisticated wines from 40 top Australian producers at a casual, waterfront tasting event. I was looking forward to really wrapping my mind around what Australian wines were, outside of Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale, and more importantly, to see if there were going to be any surprises beyond that stereotypical Aussie style of wine.

Sadly, there were no surprises - not with the red wines at least.

The reds, whether a varietal shiraz, some blend of grenache/shiraz/mourvèdre, cabernet sauvignon, petit verdot, or pinot noir were all utterly devoid of character. Certainly sticking to that Australian style of nuked fruit (wayyy past overripe), high alcohol, no structure, no acid ... simply flaccid, boring, completely uniform wines. They didn't really need to name the varietal - a simple "Australian Red" label would have sufficed. And that's either indicative of the Australian palate preference, or a really sad lowering of expectations about what red wine should be among New World wine drinkers. Judging by the prices some of these wineries are charging, dead wines obviously still hold some kind of appeal.

But it wasn't all gloom and doom. The chardonnays were wonderful. Many possessing great balance and finesse, and if not showing a degree of complexity, then at least showing a certain charm. Acid, ladies and gentlemen. It doesn't matter WHAT wine you're talking about - it's the acid that's the most important determinant of complexity, ageability, and drinkability.

Overall, the event was a lot of fun. Great venue, at Corus, right on Toronto's waterfront. I was with 6 other friends, a few who had never been to one of these tastings before. Going with a large group does mean that I can't be so intense about tasting everything - but it was fun to hang out a bit, relax, and taste together. Notes below, by region. Apologies if the shiraz notes are similar to each other, each more curt than the next.

Canberra District | New South Wales

2010 Clonakilla O'riada Shiraz: cooked fruit, really nothing here

Sunbury | Victoria

2010 Galli Estate Winery Camelback Chardonnay: buttery, rich, obvious chardonnay; focused palate, very good indeed

Yarra Valley | Victoria

2011 Oakridge Wines Over The Shoulder Chardonnay: slightly closed, leesy, citrus fruit, fresh lean palate, good energy
2010 De Bortoli Wines Gulf Station Chardonnay: bit tight, lean and closed, some leesy quality on the palate
2010 Oakridge Wines Pinot Noir: overripe, jammy, what's the point?!
NV De Bortoli Wines Deen Vat 10 Pinot Noir: delicate, but even then it's ripe and to the Aussie style

Mornington Peninsula | Victoria

2010 Stonier Wines Chardonnay: open nose, good richness, young at the moment, showing some bitterness on the finish
NV Yabby Lake Vineyard Cooralook Pinot Gris: soft and pleasant
2010 Yabby Lake Vineyard Single Vineyard Chardonnay: focused nose, leesy, some oak, but no palate
2010 Stonier Wines Pinot Noir: nondescript, an overripe mess
2009 De Bortoli Wines Riorret Merricks Grove Vineyard Pinot Noir: quite a delicate nose, good fruit, linear, slightly smokey

Nagambie Lakes | Victoria

2008 Takbilk Cabernet Sauvignon: good freshness, alcohol comes up, but good fruit and structure
2006 Tahbilk Eric Stevens Purbrick Cabernet Sauvignon: deeper, darker fruit, alcohol rises, dense palate, good texture

Strathbogie Ranges | Victoria

2011 Fowles Wine Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch Wild Ferment Chardonnay: quite sweet fruit, leesy, good thing the name is interesting

New South Wales

2008 De Bortoli Wines Noble One Botrytis Semillon: good acid, apricots, much more like an old, slightly oxidized icewine than any Sauternes

Margaret River | Western Australia

2011 Fraser Gallop Estate Chardonnay: yes, the region I was most looking forward to; fresh, quite subtle, oak comes up on palate, elegant and very young, some bitterness on the finish

South Australia

2011 Yalumba Organic Viognier: soft fruit, pleasant, a good fruity wine that goes down easy
2009 Penfolds Yattarna Chardonnay: oak and all that, big chardonnay but focused on the palate

Adelaide Hills | South Australia

2009 Hardys Heritage Reserve Bin Chardonnay: leesy, down the line fruit, obvious chardonnay

Eden Valley | South Australia

2006 Peter Lehmann Wines Wigan Riesling: petrol, oily nose, that old fashioned New World style; if you tell me it's riesling, I'll believe you, but what's the point?!

Barossa Valley | South Australia

2006 Massena The Eleventh Hour Shiraz: jammy, rich, that soft fruit, from 100 year old vines
2008 First Drop Wines Fat of the Land Ebenezer Shiraz: rich and ripe, big fruit but otherwise balanced, dried on palate
2010 First Drop Wines Half & Half Shiraz/Monastrell: ripe, slightly overdone, but palate tightens up
2010 First Drop Wines Pinot Tempranillo: jammy, no varietal character
2008 Langmeil Winery Blacksmith Cabernet Sauvignon: super ripe, soft, but pleasant
2009 Langmeil Winery The Fifth Wave Grenache: overdone, macerated, hollow middle on the palate
2008 Henschke Wines Tappa Pass Vineyard Selection Shiraz: ripe, almost immediately forgettable; and you pay $112 for the privilege
2008 Henschke Wines Mount Edelstone Vineyard Shiraz: high alcohol, jammy, nondescript, macerated, almost like a burnt aroma; will cost you $119 for the pleasure
2009 Rusden Wines Black Guts Shiraz: at $99, nothing but alcohol and macerated fruit, forgettable
2009 Teusner Wines Avatar GSM: that southern French blend, alcohol on the nose, dried out fruit, some juiciness on the palate though

McLaren Vale | South Australia

2010 Paxton Vineyards AAA Shiraz/Grenache: some reduction here, ripe fruit underneath, but otherwise nondescript; awkward
2008 Pirramimma Wines Old Bush Vine Grenache: good focus, complex, earthy fruit, but overtly sweet palate destroys its charm
NV Pirramimma Wines Petit Verdot: a biodynamic vineyard, fat and all but showing better focus on the palate
2009 Mollydooker Wines The Maitre D' Cabernet Sauvignon: harder, ripe fruit, almost slightly stemmy, but overdone and completely macerated on the palate
2010 Mollydooker Wines Carnival of Love Shiraz: overdone palate, jammy palate, very cooked and boring at $99
2009 Mollydooker Wines Velvet Glove Shiraz: the most shocking wine of the tasting at $211; soft, jammy, overdone, limp, dead; everything a red wine shouldn't be

DF

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

change in temp

Untitled

We've been getting lots of rain in Toronto lately, just that grey, cold, constant drizzle.  Temperatures have been ok, around the mid-teens, but they're predicting a colder than usual winter this year.  So what do we drink in this kind of weather?  Our wines need to get heavier, our beers need to get darker ... and in terms of local craft brews, few make a better stout than McAuslan St-Ambroise.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that this is one of the finest stouts I've ever tasted.  Aroma, texture, concentration, and finish - it has it all.  And really, with braised dishes, beef or pork, few things bring as much pleasure as a good stout.

I had a busy weekend.  Busy week in general, in fact.  Lots of fun stuff going on, but in between, I had to attend a funeral Saturday morning.  A member of my parent's church - a great man - died after a long illness, and no matter what was going on, I had to attend.  I had a rough time dealing with it, especially after talking to his widow.  They met in 1949, in Hong Kong, marrying in 1955.  That's more than 60 years together.  A lifetime.  She's a very strong lady, but the pain must be so deep, a true heartbreak.  A reminder that we all need to cherish who and what we have in our lives now, and really enjoy every moment, not just go through the motions.  I mean, we're all just hanging by a thread here, aren't we?

DF

Monday, October 22, 2012

the Gimlet

DSC_0866
So when you have some leftover limes or lemons ...
DSC_0867
... juice them ...
DSC_0869
... add a splash of simple syrup and gin ...
DSC_0870
... shake with ice and enjoy it on a quiet night in with someone pretty and nice.

DF

Friday, October 19, 2012

Cameron's Sirius Wheat Ale

UntitledUntitled

Cameron's Sirius Wheat Ale

Cameron's sent me a few samples of their new beer, just in time for Thanksgiving.  This beer is described as an interpretation of the American wheat ale style, brewed with Canadian malted wheat, and two row (?) malted barley on the press sheet.  It all comes together to make a very drinkable brew, that clean, round profile in the mouth.  A great beer to drink with dinner, nicely supporting the food.

Wednesday night's tasting was great, lots of fun.  Tasting notes will be up shortly, but overall impressions ... whites were interesting, no surprises with the reds.  Australian red wine seems determined to be in that style, that soft, cooked fruit, with lots of alcohol underneath.  But we weren't there to critically evaluate the wines - no, we were there for a good time.  My first time tasting with such a large group of friends, so I tried to run out first and focus on the white wines before regrouping.  A great way to spend a Wednesday evening.

DF

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Catch the Wave

Untitled

Another one completed - I submitted my application to Berkeley Haas School of Business last night. I don't know whether to be happy or relieved ... to say it challenged me is a gross understatement. But it's over, and I'm taking the next few days off until the next one. Until the next one.

A really great next few days lined up, starting with tonight. We're going tasting! My first time going with a large group of buddies, so should be interesting by the 4th or 5th table down. Australian wines being shown, described as new sophisticated wines from 40 top Australian producers. Photos and tasting notes will be posted shortly! If you're attending ... please say hi! We'll be the only group of Chinese people without the Asian glow.

DF

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

taking a time-out

UntitledUntitledUntitledUntitled

You have to take your time to brew a good cup of tea. The most amazing 涌溪火青 - sadly I only have a few grams of it left. A little ritual to calm you down, refocus the mind. And dammit, this is like slow torture ... still a bit to go before I can submit that application. No one said it would be easy, but then they neglected to say it would be this tough too. 

Let the tea relax, warm up the clay teapot ... quickly pour out the first potful, steep quickly, then drain the water into a covered teacup. And for the first cup at least, forget all your problems, and take a time-out

DF

Monday, October 15, 2012

the Porsche shirt

Untitled

I'm terribly prone to bouts of sentimentalism.  Which is why I end up wearing shirts for 10 years.

Slightly gross, but this shirt means a lot to me.  And now, after many, many years of service, it's time to retire the Porsche Cayenne concept art shirt.  I got it many years ago at Toronto's Canadian International Autoshow - a family friend had given me his voucher.  That's right ... Porsche required you to present a voucher for a cotton shirt.  So I wore it through university, and the past few years, at the gym.  It's begun collecting the strangest dark spots around the collar, and really, it's just time.  Also, portions of it are starting to sag.

It's a new week, time for some new energy.  Looking to submit my Berkeley Haas application either later today or early tomorrow.  Seems like a lot of stuff going on in the next few days - my mother's leaving for Shanghai, a tasting's coming up, someone's celebrating a birthday (!).  So let's get to it, my friends.  Hope everyone has a great week!

DF

Saturday, October 13, 2012

end of the line

77640_158577494185321_148002271909510_277705_5394081_o
At LaileyUGC Bordeaux 2012

I love tasting wine.  It's all I ever wanted to do - a good stem and notes in hand, glistening bottles ready to be poured.  There's something magical about the whole process, this intense concentration when all you want to do is understand what's in the glass, calling on all your knowledge and experience.  And of adventure too, when you come across something completely unexpected and wonderful.

I was never taught how to taste.  So you just figure out what works, what doesn't.  It's just about working at it methodically - taking notes, reading/learning how professionals write, and developing a routine.  And of course, being patient, because it takes a long time (and many, many bottles) before you begin understanding why a wine tastes the way it does.  I've been to enough tastings to understand how fallible the palate is, how you can easily be overwhelmed after tasting dozens of wines.  It's always fun to sledgehammer through 70, 80, 90 wines in one go, but we have to be honest with ourselves, and admit that after the first 15-20 or so, our palate sensitivity and accuracy starts taking a steep dive.

It's been so, so long since I've had the opportunity to just taste.  Was in Niagara in the spring, and it was great to look at the new vintage - need to go down sometime soon to check out how the 2012's are showing, and this time, with the right tasting companion.  Want to share in all this with my friends, but for the most part, have to temper my enthusiasm, because not everyone gives a shit about the swirl, nose, and spit.  Another weekend at home, working on finishing my Berkeley Haas application.  Still waiting for that breakthrough, that moment of inspiration ...

DF

Thursday, October 11, 2012

another look at sauvignon blanc and oak

2007 R de Rieussec2007 Chateau Ferran Blanc
2009 Jackson Triggs Gold White Meritage2008 Stratus Sauvignon Blanc

So turning things around, attitude adjustment.  Constantly moping is not an attractive quality, for anyone.  Trying to think of a wine I'd love to be drinking more of (and have more in the cellar) - dry white Bordeaux, or in the New World, the oak-aged style of sauvignon blanc.

My first taste of this kind of wine was a bottle of 2005 white Graves, a simple wine I had picked up while I was still studying in Waterloo.  With no preconceptions, I was completely blown away by how unique it was - the sharp aromas of the sauvignon, the texture from the semillon, the incredible levels of extract and concentration on the palate.  A seriously impactful wine, and one that completely changed my views about how stunning oak can be, when used judiciously.

I got more of an in-depth look at these wines during the annual UGC tastings: UGC 2008 white Bordeaux, and UGC 2007.  For both these vintages, these were some of my favourites.  Racy and pure, concentrated and structured.  That oak works so well, lifting up the grassy, herbal sauvignon aromas.  And to think, only 50 or 60 years ago, some areas of Graves and Pessac-Léognan had more acreage of white grapes than black.  They drink well young, and have all the acidity and structure to age - I've put away a few bottles, starting with 2007 Bordeaux, which I think is a very successful vintage for the whites, dry and sweet.  Eric Asimov of the New York Times wrote a good article about these wines a while back - very much worth another read.

There are a few examples now coming out of Niagara that I find exciting as well.  Top of the list is Stratus, who is very faithful to that Bordeaux model of sauvignon.  Most of these wines are referred to as White Meritage here, not the Fumé Blanc the Californians use.  Whatever the name, we're looking for the same things, namely: sauvignon aroma, acidity, and density on the palate.  These wines, at their best, feel alive in your mouth, just full of tension and energy.

So why don't we drink more?  At the UGC tastings, the red wines get all the attention, followed by the sweet whites - why doesn't anyone talk about vintage conditions with respect to the dry whites?  It's almost a shame that when people think of sauvignon blanc, that taste of New Zealand's slightly sweet, almost shamelessly fruity style comes to mind.  Those are fine and all, but there are other styles of sauvignon too.  We've got to explore, my friends.  Bordeaux isn't just about expensive red wines and sauvignon blanc isn't just about lightweight mommy juice.  Really looking forward to seeing how these age - all the elements for ageworthiness are there.  In the meantime as we wait, there are lots of sub-$20 bottles that are delicious to drink now.  And now that shellfish - oysters (!) - are coming into season, what better time to start looking out for these wines.  朋友们, happy drinking!

DF

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

at my best

IMG_535312.31.2010 - 3

At my best, I'm always up for a drink, always up for a good time.  So what's happened lately?  I've been moping and moaning, screeching like a nancy.  And it's got to stop.  Seriously man, if I don't, my friends aren't going to be my friends for long.  I always thought I knew how to handle stress, but lately, it's been a bit overwhelming.  Work and applications and just a lot of personal stuff just starting to add up.  I'm having trouble dealing with it.  But it's no excuse to act like a wet mop.

This is me and one of my "uncles" here in Toronto, my favourite drinking buddy. I like boozing with him not (only) because he drinks recklessly but because his joy is contagious.  I have a chronic issue with over-thinking the shit out of everything - as a certain zen concept teaches, you have to empty your mind to find the truth in what you're doing.  Heady stuff, but it applies here too.  I keep thinking about all the work that still needs to be done that I completely forget to live in the moment, enjoy the people I'm with now and what we're doing.  That's no way to live.  So I've got about 2 more months of this carnage left, and I'm going to live up the experience, because most likely, this will be the only time I'll ever be applying to graduate school.

I don't want to be talking about personal problems here, but hopefully, we can work things out and everything can go back to normal.  Right.  At my best, I'm the best kind of company.  Just need to remind myself of what that's like again.  When you're performing (piano that is) no matter where, concert hall or otherwise . . . you're always just wound up beforehand, all nervous energy.  Shaking even.  But there's a point after they call your name, when you're in front of the bench, looking out on the audience.  And then, just silence.  That's the moment all performers are addicted to, that moment when you know you're in control - absolute control - and you've got the audience at your fingertips.  I miss that a lot.  It's that addictive ride of nerves, calm, and adrenaline, ending with you soaking in your audience's applause and adoration.  Those days are long gone for me, but still chasing that thrill.

DF

Monday, October 8, 2012

distracted on a long weekend

Untitled
Untitled
Untitled
Untitled

And we're back to work tomorrow.

Hope everyone had a good long weekend and a wonderful Thanksgiving spent with family, friends, and the ones you love. I need to stop moping for a bit, and be thankful for what (and who) I do have in my life now. Thanks. I spent the long weekend working on applications, running, and alternating between drunkenness, raging hangovers, and general malaise. Fun. I'm far from a quitter, but I don't know how much more of this stress I can take before I actually, full-on lose my goddamn mind. I've been pretty much drinking the strongest coffee I can brew to wake up in the mornings and pound out some writing, and turning to liquor in the afternoon to take the edge off cuz I think I'm 2 essays away from a nervous breakdown.

I learned today that I may not be able to go to Shanghai this November after all.  Scheduling problems with application deadlines, and potential interview time slots.  Of course, that's (a big) if I get an interview invite. Fingers crossed.

Berkeley Haas' deadline on October 17, and that'll be a good day. I have tickets to go to a tasting of Australian wines that day. With a bunch of friends too, so if anything, it'll be a chance to unwind before the next one.  Tired of hearing me moan all the time yet? Whatever.  I'm an immigrant - if things suddenly go smoothly, we get nervous. We had a Thanksgiving meal last night with our family friends. Funny . . . all our host had in the fridge were cheap Mexican beers.  So cervezas all night, and about 8 (or 9, memory's fuzzy) bottles later, I paid for it with a splitting headache at 5 in the morning. Went out for a run today, in probably one of the last good running days of the year.  Good sun, really cold, but still able to get out in shorts. I like this time of year.  Shellfish coming into season, time to start drinking heartier red wines. Steak and braised dishes and all that.  And, time for trench coats and Chelsea boots and long scarves. Lots to do in the next few days.  Let's get to it!

DF

Friday, October 5, 2012

the sweet being the thing you take with you to bed...

2007 Chateau Soucherie Chaume
2007 Château Soucherie | AC Chaume | Coteaux du Layon

So when I poured this, I had no idea what it was, what Chaume was . . . I didn't even know it was a sweet wine.  Oops.  So I've been Googling after the fact, and found this winery profile off Chris Kissack, who has a thing for Loire wines.

Sweet wines are all too often rare dinner time companions.  Always seems like a special treat, but sweet wines are tricky to eat with food.  And really, sugar in wine is one of those things where balance is so, so important.  Sugar in wine is like making out with tongue . . . a little goes a long way.  Taste, texture, all those sensations that drive you mad.  Sweets are mostly left for the end of the meal, but that's boring now, is it.  And we're anything but boring people.  Sweet on sweet is actually tough, because one will always obliterate the other.  Sweet wines and cheese is always a winner - like the rest of life, there's lots of beauty in the bittersweet.  But in this wino's opinion, it's all about the sweet and savoury together.  That mix of flavours, that never makes sense on paper, but in practice, is a dream come true.

I can't remember the last time I was truly happy.  Sure you have the odd day when the sun is shining, the wine in your glass is a little out of the ordinary, and you feel at peace.  But it's been one endless shitstorm after the other, and although that's life, it still sucks when I feel like I can't even stop to catch my breath.  Thinking about this whole what do I want to do with my life thing over the past few months has given me a different perspective on things.  It's just about finding happiness, isn't it.  Whatever that means.  Happiness can't be begged for, can't be cajoled; can't be bargained, can't be negotiated.  It just is.  Just hope it comes before my time is up - morbid, but true.

This is a powerful wine.  Lots of honey and slightly dried fruit, green apples and all that.  Minerality and a distinct richness.  Follows on the palate, with lots of weight and extract on the palate.  Knocks you out - twice.  Extremely long, with the alcohol coming up.  These chenin blanc sweet wines are stunning, but at the moment, a bit one-dimensional.  Really needs some time for the alcohol and sweetness to integrate.  The acidity and extract are there.  It's just all too young.

Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend.  Looking like another weekend alone at home, with applications and booze.  Don't know which I'm going to get to first.  Oh, and how exciting - an early morning appointment on Saturday with the doctor because I fucked my ankle and heel up again!  Good times.

DF

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Corks Wine and Beer Bar @ Longo's Leaside media event

Longo's Leaside
Cork's Wine Bar @ Longo's LeasideCork's Wine Bar @ Longo's LeasideCork's Wine Bar @ Longo's Leaside
Cork's Wine Bar @ Longo's Leaside
As part of the event held by Longo's, there was a tasting in the new wine and beer bar upstairs, Corks.  Nicely designed place, bright and airy, and with a patio too.  It looks out onto Leaside, but you can't get everything you want now, can you.  Anthony Longo kicked things off - certainly a great feeling of family, with the 3rd generation of Longo's coming up in the business.  And then we got to the food.

The prime rib roast is spectacular, just jaw-dropping in all that beefy, succulent, richness.  Desserts and all that are great, as is the chocolate from the in-house chocolatier (yes, they have an in-house chocolatier).  The cheeses were fabulous, the crown being a French triple-cream described as cheese-flavoured butter.  Wines being poured were a sauvignon blanc and merlot/cabernet from Creekside Estate Winery, and a chardonnay and pinot noir from Tawse Winery.  As is usually with the case with young Niagara wines, both white wines showed better, with the Tawse chardonnay showing lovely perfume and great extract on the palate.  Beer selection was great too.  Really going for that craft brewing, all-in kind of beer.  Corks focuses on local wines, and rotates the selections offering various price ranges by the glass. 

I'm definitely coming back for a drink and bite.  Man, I have pretty much zero sweet tooth, but the pastries look good too.  And the beef . . . if ever there was a compelling reason to ditch turkey, this is it.  Many thanks to everyone at Longo's who showed us around, and to Mansfield Communications for organizing.

DF

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Longo's Leaside

DSC_0813

DSC_0814

DSC_0809

DSC_0816

DSC_0823

DSC_0826

DSC_0818

DSC_0827

DSC_0830

DSC_0833

DSC_0834

DSC_0831

There's a new Longo's in Toronto, at Leaside, south of Eglinton just off the DVP!  They hosted a media event last week to show off the store, as well as the second floor wine and beer bar, Corks.  Lots of food and wine/beer to taste, but firstly, you've got to take a look at this building.  It was built in 1919, and was used as train maintenance facility.  That motif runs throughout the store, including the font and style of the aisle sings.  The entire building underwent a huge restoration, but the results are quite spectacular - well, as spectacular as a grocery store can be!

They kept the original wood beams for the ceiling, and the window frames - fitted with new glass - but everything else was gutted and brought to specification.  The high ceilings create this cavernous effect, but the lighting is bright and warm, and the store is nicely segmented into stations.  Among other things, there's a pizza station, vegetable prep station, pastry counter, bakery, and pharmacy.  And just look at how stunning those Frenched veal chops look.  A really enlightened grocery shopping experience - all for a price, of course.

Definitely worth a visit, if not for the groceries, then to take a look at the building.  Well, maybe for the steak too.  More photos and notes from the tasting at Corks to follow.

DF