October 16, 2011
Every time I go to a restaurant, nice or not, I look at the wine menu and there are all of these choices. Not being a connoisseur, it is always incredibly difficult to pick a glass of wine – ok I know when to pair with white or red, but I don’t know which grapes to pair with what food and what will a few extra bucks or a different country get me?
It’s almost an intractable problem (and I’m glad when there is a house wine), which got me thinking – why does it pose such a challenge? I guess I’m not educated enough but I don’t think I’m much less educated than your typical wine wannabe, so I’m sure other people have this problem! To go on a tangent for a sec, I am under the impression that specific years from specific wineries are good, so even if you knew a 2008 Gewurztraminer from a specific winery in NoTL was good, a restaurant probably wouldn’t have it in stock anymore! How do you know which wines on the menu are good? Are you supposed to have ever wine review memorized?
This problem got me thinking, in what other market is there so much (too much) choice for a consumer? The only one I could think of is the car industry. You can buy a compact, sedan, SUV, truck, convertible; from manufacturers like Toyota, Ford, GM, Chevrolet, KIA, etc. And then there are other distinguishing characteristics like colour, style, cost. But typically it’s not tough to figure out what car you want. Why is that? I can think of a couple of reasons:
- The price is usually the determining factor
- The feature set and comparables between each car is clear
- The manufacturers spend a lot of money on advertising and building up a brand if the car is available in your market.
With wine, I don’t think the first two points are differentiators, every glass is still within the $10 to $15 range and I don’t know enough (nor can I taste) the specific tones in the wines. I wonder whether the problem with wine could be solved if wineries did a lot more marketing. With the branding in the vehicle industry, I would never consider buying a car from a manufacturer in Chile or France (assuming they can be serviced properly once bought). If Inniskillin or Jackson Triggs bought advertisements on HNIC or Oprah, would consumers go into restaurants and just order glasses of wine by seeing their names? Certainly that would solve the problem that I have at restaurants.
April 27, 2011
The Lords of Rikers
A look inside Juvenile detention in NYC:
Among the kids that Robinson hung around with in Brooklyn, Rikers is a kind of finishing school. A rough streetwise kid from the projects expects to be sent there, hears the stories, learns the jail’s rituals from older boys. And for Robinson, Rikers ran in the family. Israel Rivera, his father, spent time there on the way upstate for a murder he’d committed at age 15, two months after Christopher was born.
“When I was growing up, when a dude went to jail, it was the thing to do,” Rivera tells me. “You was a somebody. To be a man, you had to go to prison.”
Dan Rather: Inside Mark Cuban’s Gilded Cage
Dan Rather is no longer with CBS but at age 79 he is still reporting “for the love of the
game art” at a small cable outlet owned by Mark Cuban. This article looks a bit at Cuban and a bit at Rather.
Where Have the Good Men Gone?
This one is about the “Knocked Up” generation – not pregnant women, but the immature man-child who just bums around with a couple of other single friends and never grows up.
If you have a lot of money and a guy then your next monetary arms race might be in building an aquarium.
Why You Should Care About Cricket
Although this article is published on ESPN and is ostensibly about cricket, it is also a lot about India and how both are changing. A good read.
“The aggression, the brashness,” says Bhattacharya, the cricket writer turned novelist. “It’s now something which Indians see that this is what we have to do to assert our place in the world. We’ve been f—ed over for thousands of years. Everyone has conquered us. Now we’re finding our voice. We’re the fastest-growing economy in the world. We are going to buy your companies. Our cricket team is like going to f—ing abuse you back, and we’re going to win and we’re going to shout in your face after we win. People love that.”
The Assassin in the Vineyard
The story of how a celebrated vineyard in Burgundy very easily came under attack from a blackmailer.
Can Rob Kalin Scale Etsy?
Rob Kalin was one of the founders of Etsy, and has grown it into a business pretty well. But can he grow it into an empire?
February 18, 2011
When I get lazy with blogging, I just post links to some neat stuff around the web:
- Want to learn some new slang? Here’s what researchers learned from Twitterers of certain US geographics.
- All of Iceland’s literature to be put online? Well one, they mean all Icelandic books and not just “classical literature” I think. Also, there’s only 50,000 works!
- Some good advice on being
an adult grown up.
- More advice, this time of the wine variety. If you’re looking to pair a grape with food, print out this handy chart.
- this could almost be a parody, but it’s not. This is how the rich act, which is difficult to connect to:
After she has worn a gown once, Ms. Chiu says she stores it at her California home. “Sometimes I’ll donate them to charities, but I would rather buy them new clothes than give them my old clothes,” Ms. Chiu said.
September 8, 2010
Once again, last weekend, we made the trip down to Niagara. It seems we always go down there! (ok I think we’ve only made 3 trips down this summer, but it still feels like a lot). What we did this time was to head over to the Riverbend Inn and Winery for lunch. Their lunch is pretty affordable and you have a choice to either sit on their patio facing the serene view of a lot of grape vines, or to sit in their somewhat classically decorated dining room. Although I guess you get what you pay for, because I thought the food was just mediocre.
After lunch, we tried to go to the Inniskillin wine tour but they were full. We ended up at the Hillebrand wine tour instead. We tasted a white, red and icewine for $10 but I think what I’ll remember is that our guide was horrible. He seemed like a coop student who was just hired and doesn’t know a lot about wine making in general. I think he would be better off memorizing his lines.
The most memorable part of the tour was a visit to their sparkling wine cellar. They had several walls full of sparkling wine bottles!
July 11, 2010
We were down in the Niagara area on Saturday and had dinner at the Stone Road Grille. We were debating whether to have dinner at a winery restaurant or not, but chose SRG as it had good reviews and was not as expensive as eating at a winery. Unfortunately SRG is popular and we couldn’t get a reservation, but we tried walking in and was able to eat at the bar.
Doing some pre-studying, the #1 thing we wanted to try was their Foie Gras Poutine. It is a weird mix of upscale and downscale food, which kind of fits for this the SRG. The restaurant didn’t seem upscale (it’s kind of like a better looking Fox & Firkin type), but it has a great reputation for its food.
It’s a strange combination but it worked. The foie gras adds a tastier flavour and accentuates the gravy, although it was not as good as the Foie Gras Parfait we recently had at Splendido. The other started we tried was the “Bacon Wrapped Scallops”. The name of the dish is in brackets, because it’s not actually bacon, but smoked duck breast.
The “Bacon Wrapped Scallops” was pretty much what it set out to be. We also had the wine pairing for this, which was a a Pinot Gris from the Calamus Estate Winery. This also happened to be the wine pairing of my main, which was the Duck Confit.
This was the other dish we wanted to try, and it was pretty good. The duck was loose, kind of like it was pulled pork. There was also a heck of a lot of duck fat, so it was tasty but could have been deadly.
Our other entree was some sort of Ragu. I didn’t take pictures of the menu because I figured that it will all be online, but they keep changing their menu and dishes slightly, and this dish was new. I believe it is the Pea and Morel Mushroom Ragu with Ricotta Gnocchi and it wasn’t particularly special. Probably because this was the vegetarian offering. We also got the wine paring with this which was a Chardonnay from the Malivoire Wine Company.
We didn’t try any of the desserts, but I noticed that you could get cotton candy as a dessert! There’s fine dining for ya.
January 29, 2010
When I get lazy with blogging, I just post links to some neat stuff around the web:
January 10, 2010
After visiting Rome, I don’t think too fondly of it. I think it is a multitude of factors; it seems overly expensive to visit (food and hotels), there are just too many people at the attractions, I don’t understand the language at all, and it’s really not that all different in lifestyle from France or England which I’ve previously visited.
It is odd though, that I could levy half of those criticisms about visiting Asia; but I guess the cheapness of travelling in Asia (short of the flight) makes up for those hassles.
Aside from the Vatican and ancient Rome, we visited a bunch of other Roman attractions such as the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, the Pantheon, Trastevere (the food is affordable here yay), Capitoline Hill, Castel Saint’Angelo, the Christmas market at Piazza Navona, and various other buildings/piazzas along the way.
The food (gelato included) was not as great as I thought it would be. It seemed like every (family-owned) restaurant had the same set of dishes; spaghetti bolognese, lasagna, grilled beef fillet, etc. Many things were also overly salty, and I don’t consider that delicious or tasty. There was wine, but it wasn’t as cheap as I thought it would be. After currency conversion it ends up being around $5 for a glass of house wine.
Right now, I don’t think I will ever go back to Rome (or Italy) by choice again, although there are still some places in Italy which still seem intriguing (Tuscany, Pompeii). It’s just there are so many other places in Europe that seem more promising.
January 9, 2010
When we were in NOTL last year, I saw some neat wine glasses/tumblers on sale. They were special because they were made from some sort of recyclable, flexible, plastic; so if they actually tumbled, then they wouldn’t shatter. I thought they were really cool (I am easily impressed by technological advances eh) but they were going for something like $20 for a set of 4 so I didn’t get them.
Later that year, we were at a Ashley-Williams sale which we had to park really far away and lined up for, and I saw this same product again. I don’t know if they were exactly the same but the concept was. Now they were ON SALE for $12 for 4. Due to a combination of 1) being on sale, and 2) having to make the trip worthwhile; I got a set.
They are made by govino which seems to make only these glasses. In reality, I don’t think they are specifically wine glasses but are just marketed that way in order to target a specific demographic and set a higher markup; so not worth the premium (even if it was on sale!!). In fact, because it doesn’t have a stem, it feels a bit wrong with wine. I use it more with mixed drinks, although you have to be careful since it is voluminous compared to a normal glass.
November 25, 2009
I’ve been using Digg as my De.licio.us (i.e., bookmark manager). It’s the easiest for me since I don’t have to write summaries or blogs about the things I want to bookmark.
But the model fails because I *am* lazy and if a link hasn’t been dugg before, I won’t go out of my way to add them to Digg. I just leave them in my open tabs for a few days hoping that the story picks up traction and someone will submit it to Digg. But if no one does, then I either decide that it’s not worth saving, or I end up blogging about it.
Which is how I ended up blogging about this story on using the seabed as a wine cellar; sometimes by accident as in the case of shipwrecks, and sometimes on purpose.
Her wreck was found in 1997, and a salvage company recovered 2000 bottles of 1907 Heidsieck & Co. Monopole. Reports from the time quote Laurent Davaine, Director of Exports at Heidsieck, saying that the Champagne still “shows an amazing balance” and “a beautiful golden hue with the effervescence still present.” As of 2008, according to Newsweek, most had already been sold at auction, but there were still ten bottles for sale at the Ritz Carlton in Moscow, priced at $35,000 each
September 12, 2009
We didn’t have plans to go anywhere far for Labour Day weekend, so we just did some day trips. On Sunday, we headed down to the Niagara Escarpment to do some fruit picking, which actual is kind of a bad excuse to go wine touring again.
Well we didn’t intend to, but it’s hard to get away from all the wineries that showed up on in your path. We started first at Puddicombe Farms. They had pears (Bartlett and Bosch) for 40¢/lb, except that you had to pay a $2 admission per person. We ended up picking about 8 pounds worth, so in total that cost us $7.20. Their orchard was pretty small, in a way it seemed like the planted it just for pick-your-own. They was also a winery on-site (how fortunate) and we tried some fruity wines.
Next, it was lunch time. We drove along the wine route, and originally headed for Eastdell (since I knew they served lunch from research on the previous trip). But there was a 1.5 hour wait for a package brunch! We drove around a bit more and ended up at Angels Gate winery.
They have a nice patio overlooking their vines and with a direct view to Lake Ontario. It was a clear day, so we were able to see the Toronto skyline in the far distance. Their menu consisted of a selection of two-person plates, we tried the Québec plate and a few flutes.
After lunch, we continued with our fruit picking expedition. The next stop was Cherry Ave Farms. This was a real pick-your-own-fruit operation, and things were a bit more expensive ($1/lb). I guess it would be fun for kids since you had to take a ride on a tractor to the orchard you were picking. They had pears and plums, but since we already picked pears, we went for the plums (and some nectarines out of season). We ended up with about 9 pounds of plums/nectarines and some free apricots.
Our last destination was to pick raspberries, but when we got to the farm, it was deserted. And the raspberries looked a bit sketchy anyways, so we headed home. But along the way, we stopped at No. 99 Estate Winery. We tried some ice wine, but really I just wanted to visit there because it’s name after Wayne Gretzky!
July 3, 2009
Last weekend, a whole bunch of us went to Niagara-on-the-lake to visit some wineries. I’ve been to Niagara Falls way too many times, but surprisingly, I have never been to NOTL! And I’ve never visited wineries before, which is a shame because NOTL is so close and the wineries are so abundant there.
We had 13 people which was sufficient for us to book our own private tours. Our first stop was Jackson-Triggs which is a huge corporate wine maker. In our one hour tour, we learned a bit about the grapes, a bit about the process, a bit about the wine cellar and finally a tasting in the cellar.
We tasted three wines, a Gewürztraminer, a Pinot Noir and an ice wine. This was the first time I tried icewine, and it really does taste like a dessert wine.
After our tour, we had a potluck picnic in the park. And then split into cars and bikes for the remainder of the day.
We didn’t have any additional tours planned, so we just went to tasting bars around the town. We went to Konzelmann Estate Winery (twice), Palatine Hills Estate Winery, Strewn Winery and Peller Estates Winery. We went to Knozelmann twice because the first time we were waiting for the bikers, and then we went once with everyone. It had the most classic building.
Although I didn’t drink much since I was driving, all the wines eventually blended together and tasted the same. Except that we now know that late harvest wines are pretty good!