Tag Archives: Wine writing

Stop everything

I’ve decided to stop writing about wine until I catch up on my shovelling.

This winter has totally ceased to be amusing.

Speaking of “ceased” – maybe I’ll open a bottle of wine to ease my seized back.  After I write a brief letter…

Dear Weather Network,
I hate you.


P.S. How  do I have more snow than Wawa?

Wine Lesson Number Two

I had a great childhood – my Dad taught me how to start a chainsaw, shoot a puck, and fillet a pike.  That’s a good Canadian education – experiential learning that you don’t get in regular school.  I am slowly learning how one gets an experiential education in wine – and it’s not about drinking. It’s about embarrassing me again.

I went to wine school a couple of times in the summer of 2008. My earlier post Wine Lesson Number One recalls how I embarrassed myself trying to “parlez vin” with a Frenchman – the story of Wine Lesson Number Two is a little easier on my ego.

Wine lesson number two also happened in Antibes, this time in a small wine store. My teacher was an aspiring négociant named Alexandre.  I insisted that he speak to me only in French until I didn’t understand anymore (which happened often – a reminder that knowing 15 words doesn’t make me bilingual).  It was exciting to be in France and try its great wines.  I was even ready to spend too much money.  After a lengthy conversation (he seemed to enjoy practicing his English when I “let” him) I left with a local $10 red wine.  This would suffice until I thought about my serious purchases overnight.  I would buy some great wines tomorrow.  Alexandre would be impressed by my purchase tomorrow – none of this “local wine for the tourist from Canada” stuff.

Of course the wine was fantastic and the next day I purchased more wines from Provence.  What did impress Alexandre was my appreciation for the local wine. I had learned wine lesson number 2 – that the local wines from Provence were way too good to pass up.  They weren’t expensive and they were fantastic.  Each day after that we talked about Provençal wines.

When I came home I started looking for wines from Provence on the LCBO and Vintages list – there really aren’t any.  After my initial disappointment I realized that I hadn’t really learned the lesson that Alexandre taught me at all.  What he was trying to teach me was that the local wines are what I want to drink.  I only live 140 kms from Niagara and some great wine!  Alexandre taught me that being a locavore (I need to come up with a cool word like that) is wine lesson number two.

I hope Alexandre comes to Canada some day – I have some learning to share with him.

Of Course I’m a Wine Snob

First of all, everybody is a snob.   In fact my whole family is a bunch of snobs. My wife is a bathroom snob.  She is also turning into a cheese snob. This is the girl that in college kept a can of spray cheese under her car seat. When we told our daughters this they exclaimed, “You can get cheese in a spray can?”  They are not cheese snobs.  They are stuffed animal snobs – all Webkinz, all the time.

Secondly, a snob is not a jerk. A snob is simply somebody who will not accept sub-standard.  In fact they are intentional about their standards.  Couldn’t we use more of that in our world?  People who put forth that kind of effort are worth more of  my time.

Personal wine standards have to start and stop somewhere. I, for one, won’t drink a wine that includes a pun in its name (see A Wine by any other name) or that comes in an aluminium haggis.

Some people just happen to be wine snobs and I’m not sure why people don’t appreciate that more.

I know a wine snob.  In fact one of the things that I love about her is that she is a wine snob.  She is the only person who attends my Beaujolais party and doesn’t like ANY of the wines.  This year I gave her Mill Street beer.  It’s a level of snobbery a little higher than I am comfortable embracing, but I can appreciate the effort. I’m going to thank her for it tomorrow.

Best of 2009

Admittedly I have only been blogging for 5 weeks so it’s a little misleading to have a “Best Of” posting.  However, as anyone who knows me will attest to I have talked about my blog so much that it seems that I must have been blogging all year.

I have learned much during the past 5 weeks.  I have learned that I can become obsessed with my own writing – as a PE teacher I love it when people in my English department give my writing a passing grade and I stay awake most of the night if they give me anything higher than that (Billy Munnelly and Natalie MacLean’s online comments kept me awake for a week).  Also,  I don’t care if my editor Andrew Douglas has hit my blog site for half of the 600 hits that I’ve received, his good opinion is worth it even if he is stalking me.

I read the other day that top 5 lists are all the rage, replacing the top 1o list – that says something about our attention span and busy lives doesn’t it?  If you do make New Year’s resolutions then make one to slow down and enjoy your glass of wine while doing nothing else.  Don’t computer surf, watch TV, or read a magazine – allow yourself only the distraction of another person’s company.

I have listed my top 5 postings  for 2009.  Click on the title if you want to go back and read some of my favorite earlier posts.

1. Say it out loud – make sure you click the Germans who say nice things hyperlink, it makes my wife giggle

2. Wine Lesson number 1 – it’s always fun to write about something stupid that you did

3. A Case of Champagne please – my favorite wine writer Billy Munnelly wrote me after this one and called it BRILLIANT , the most encouraging email I’ve ever received that wasn’t from my mother. My favorite line – “that’s a level of snobbery that I am interested in”.

4. A wine cellar this Christmas – “keep something French and white in your cellar and I don’t mean a mime” – Andrew, Anne, and Doreen all wrote me within 10 minutes of this posting telling me they loved the mime reference.

5. Beaujolais Nouveau Party – because my blog’s first comment was from Doreen who knew that Carolyn did pooh pooh the wine and drank beer instead

Thanks to my school’s Co-op department for listening to me talk about my blog everyday, to Andrew for hooking me up with wordpress, to my brother in Spain and Rob & Carolyn for inspiring me, to Shelley for letting me write and pick wines for the Red Brick Cafe (the finest cafe in Guelph), and to Danielle whose company is my only distraction when enjoying a glass of wine.

A Wine Cellar This Christmas

Why not ask for a wine cellar this Christmas? I have a modest wine cellar in the basement cold room and I love it – maybe even obsess over it a little. It’s sad to think that many of my friends don’t have a wine cellar this Christmas – too sad to think about sometimes. Now is the time to start a cellar.

There are no rules to starting a cellar.  Just ask yourself, “What do I like to drink?”   I have almost half my cellar in Spanish wines –  my brother does live there – and a quarter of my cellar in Australian Shiraz.  That’s not really very balanced but it’s what I like to drink.

Now that I said there are no rules – here are the rules.

Rule 1 – If you don’t have French wine and Italian wine in your cellar then I think it best that you refer to it as “some bottles in my basement” because without these Old World classics your cellar is just a wannabe.

Rule 2 – It’s a good idea to replace a couple of obligatory bottles of Champagne – and you are obliged – with Cava from Spain and then spend the extra money on a Barolo, or a Chateauneuf du Pape.  Could somebody remind me why the Pope needed a second home? I’ll bet it was to because he got tired of drinking Chianti all the time and wanted some of the good French stuff.

Rule 3 – Even if you don’t usually drink white wine you really should have something white and French in your cellar – and I don’t mean a mime.  I would have a couple of Chablis on hand and pay the extra money for a Premier Cru.

Rule 4 – I guess this really should be a warning.  Once you start a cellar it is likely to grow in size. My friends Rob’s cellar of 500 bottles gives me cellar envy, except when I get a bottle from him as a gift.  Maybe rule 4 should be that it is a good idea to have friends with higher level of wine commitment than you have. It makes for great drinking.

Rule 5 – If you need to convince someone else in your house that starting a cellar is a good idea then consider using the term “investment” frequently in the conversation – just don’t let the conversation steer in the direction of the actual meaning of that word. Don’t let the facts get in the way of a strong argument.

A Wine by any other name …

Personally I hate it when wines are marketed by using stupid names.  Maybe it’s a sign that my wine snob meter is going up – I don’t know, but here’s a couple that really bug me.

Cono Sur Wines.  I’m sure the Cono Sur Viognier (connoisseur, get it?) from Chile is delicious. Viognier really is one of my favorite white varietals.  However, I feel like I need to have this pun approved by my school’s English department before serving it – and from my experience they don’t easily approve puns. 

 I do think they would approve of a nice Viognier if properly named. Yalumba winery in Australia is known for making great new world Viognier.  They usually name them “Viognier”, “Hand-Picked Viognier”, or something like that and chances are your Vintages section will have one. 

Goats do Roam? Vintages carries several wines by this name. I know it sounds like “Cotes du Rhone” but please stop! I’m embarrassed for all the South African wine makers that had nothing to do with this.  This name is insulting to the French and to be fair, when have the French ever been known to insult anyone?

If you want a nice wine that rhymes with “Goats do Roam” then try Guigal Cotes du Rhone -LCBO 259721- or La Romaine Venus Cotes du Rhone Villages – LCBO 28779 –  at $12.95 it tastes like $30.

Fat Bastard Wines. As a PE teacher I have a very healthy BMI, I think I’m a nice guy, and yet Tony once bought me a Fat Bastard Shiraz for my birthday.The  Shiraz is great but that’s not the point.  “This Fat Bastard is dry with a tannic finish”, is not a conversation I want to have over wine.  It is however, one that Tony wants to have. 

I think there are many suitably named Shiraz at the LCBO.  Long Flat for one – LCBO 536763 – is a good name and is a great everyday wine. It was our house wine last year. 

For the record, Yellow Tail is not really a stupid name – it just started us on a bad trend of cute wines named after cute animals that taste like bubble gum (the wines taste like bubble gum not the kangaroos). I am hoping that Kangaroo Springs Shiraz is really from a winery near a healthy natural water source, but I have my suspicions.

Now having said that, if a wine tastes good then it’s worth buying and drinking.  Bonny Doon’s Cardinal Zin is one of my favorite American wines and my favorite Zinfandel. I guess I can overlook the name after all.

Wine Lesson Number 1

Sometimes the best lessons we learn are learned “the hard way”, which is a nice way to say that we learned them “because of something incredibly stupid that we did”. 

So it’s Christmas time in my house – actually in many other places as well – and the decision of what is the best wine to drink for Christmas dinner was on my mind.  As I pondered, I realized that I forgot wine lesson number 1 – a lesson I learned the hard way.

While visiting France two summers ago I engaged Roger  in conversation. Roger is a Parisian, a man who has lived through a coffee shortage in WWII, married well (a beautiful Brazilian professor),  is smart enough to now live in Antibes, and of course is an expert in all things French.  As we were talking  I thought that I might impress him and get some information at the same time. 

“What is your favorite region of Beaujolais?” I asked, thinking myself clever that I know a little about the wine regions in Burgundy.  Roger paused (sighed), looked at me closely (too polite to spit at me), and with a slight tilt to his head (instead of shaking it) replied, “It depends on what you are eating”. 

It depends on what I am eating. For me, time stopped as wine lesson number 1 slowly worked its way through my brain. I wanted to raise my arms, look heavenward, and scream out loud “Of course it depends what I’m eating!”. 

The French are well-known for their patience with stupid foreigners, and yet Roger graciously allowed the conversation to continue.   The sumac encrusted frenched lamb chops that I was going to make would require a Fleurie – of course I wanted a Fleurie! – but what I really wanted was to go back about 5 minutes ago so that I could stop myself from asking a stupid question.

So what did I learn?  Don’t try to impress a Frenchman with a wine question, a lesson I will do doubt forget before my next visit.  Also, that I wanted a Fleurie.

Come to think of it, for Christmas this year I want a Fleurie.