Those Medalling Kids

State Fair? Like Rogers and Hammerstein judged my wine?

Does this mean I get a smooch from Ann Margaret? more

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Wine, Raisins and Cyclops: Amarone

Now that's a mean drunk!

Polyphemus, Annibale Carracci more

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Drinking the Century

Actual bottle not shown: at 108, it wasn't up for a photo session

According to Decanter magazine, a bottle of pre-Phylloxera 1900 Rioja was consumed at a publicity dinner held by Christies auction house. How does a 108 year-old bottle of Tempranillo blend taste? Not bad, apparently: more

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Too Soon We Grow Old, Too Late Smart.

You have wine in different colours? Bring me some beige wine!

I get a lot of different pleasures from winemaking: the thrill of tasting a really great bottle, sharing the bounty of my cellar, learning about new grapes and new processes, and the feeling of connection I have with other winemakers that I'm privileged to meet. But without a doubt, the best thing about winemaking is teaching others. Seeing someone make their first batch and enjoy it is a great job reward.

One of the people I taught to make wine over the years was my friend Grant. He and I had made beer together before, but for some reason he had never thought about making wine. Indeed, even though he enjoyed drinking wine, he rarely bought a bottle for himself, instead he saved it for 'special occasions'.

When I started working at a home beer and wine shop I finally convinced him to give it a try. Maybe the steep discount I got him on fermenters and carboys had something to do with it! After his first kit, he was hooked, and as soon as his primaries were empty, he would start another batch and buy another carboy, eventually showing as much enthusiasm for winemaking as he had for beer.

After a few years of making wine from kits he decided to branch out into fresh juices. His results were more mixed after this. Partly his troubles were an aversion to taking measurements and keeping records, and partly his inability to allow the wine to age before tasting it. "I dunno," he'd always say, "it's more work and takes longer, and I really don't have any luck with that stuff." I tried to explain to him the cardinal virtue of winemaking (patience, of course) but it never seemed to get through–and, he was always 'out of wine'.

One evening he came over for dinner, and brought two magnum bottles of his latest batch of Washington State Gewürztraminer. Latest in this case meant he had just bottled it that afternoon, and I'd sold him the juice less than 8 weeks before! We tried it, but it was pretty sharp. I recognised the beginnings of a wonderful aroma–hints of flowers and tropical fruit–hidden behind young 'green' esters. Grant glumly concluded that it was yet another failed batch and he'd just have to drink it up and hope the next was better. We put it aside and switched to a nice Pinot from my cellar.

After he went home I hatched a plan. I carefully racked the rest of the open bottle into a sanitised 750 ml and tucked it and the other into the unheated back hall. It was November and I knew that in the cold the wine would drop tartrates and smooth out quite a bit.

A girl's best friend?

Indeed, when I checked on it in April, there was a thick crust of crystals in each bottle. I tasted the smaller one. It was fabulous. Not only had those early aromas of tropical fruit and flowers come out, it also had a luscious taste of lichee hints of red grapefruit. My wife and I enjoyed the rest of the wine and I racked the magnum into two 750's to get it off of the tartrates and tucked them in my cellar.

That summer Grant was over again with friends, and we played 'Secret Wine'. This is a popular game in my house. We blind taste a wine and try to identify the grape, the region, and when possible, the producer or estate. While it's very challenging, it's also a lot of fun and with everyone collaborating you can learn a lot about wine tasting. However, this time everyone but Grant already knew the answers . . .

I poured him a secret sample, and while he immediately identified it as Gewürztraminer, he could get no further. Was it from British Columbia? Germany? Alsace? None of his guesses were close and finally he put down his glass, "I really don't care where it's from. It's the best darn Gewürztraminer–heck, it's the best white wine I've ever tasted! Tell me where it's from, because I'm going to go out and buy a case!"

When I pulled the paper bag off and showed him the bottle, with his own handmade bottle tag on it, the room roared with laughter. I told him that that vintage was sold out, as people drank it too early–but there was one bottle left which I believed he should have.

Grant took it like a good sport, alternating between sheepish and chagrined, but from that day forward he gave his wines a chance to age before he passed judgement on them. more

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Happy Birthday Moe

Hey Moe, why did my fillin's just melt?

Born June 19th 1897, Harry Moses Horwitz is one of my favorite actors of all time. His more than 200 movies with the Stooges bring delight to this day (to those who 'get' Stoogeness). While most people know him as Moe, the meanest Stooge, he also fulfils another role as the patron saint of winemaking troubleshooting. more

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Goofy Glassware

Tastes a bit sharp, to me.

UK firm Hamilton Design has come up with a set of wine glasses depicting the seven deadly sins, superbia, avaritia, luxuria, invidia, gula, ira, acedia. For non-Catholics, the seven mortal sins were used in the early church to instruct followers on which sins were the most dangerous to their salvation. more

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Happy Bloomsday!

And then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will yes.

Happy Bloomsday! June 16th is the international celebration of the life of James Joyce, either the greatest author who ever lived, or the biggest literary pain in the neck yet conceived. For those who skipped freshman Lit, Joyce was an Irish writer who either wrote the first truly new literary form since the invention of the novel (generally thought to be Aphra Behn's Oroonoko in 1688) or perpetrated the most complex and multi-layered literary hoax in human history. more

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It's In You to Give

Red sails in the sunset, way out on the sea
Oh, carry my loved one home safely to me
She sailed at the dawning, all day I've been blue
Red sails in the sunset, I'm trusting in you

–Nat King Cole more

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Celebration and Reflection

Great? In that robe, he's fabulous!

June 11th is Kamehameha day in Hawaii. Kamehameha the Great is celebrated in the state as the great unifier of the Hawaiian Islands. Considered the 'Napoleon of the Pacific' because of his impressive military and political accomplishments, he's celebrated with a floral parade, a hotly contested Hula contest, and importantly, a draping ceremony where once a year, he gets lei'd. more

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Weekly Wined-Up

Why are the bottles always empty in all of my pictures? Because few bottles stay full in my presence. . .

A busy week has passed: a class on Winemaking Excellence 101 on Monday, a video editing session on Tuesday and now Wednesday shows up and all my regular work is waiting for me. Fortunately, there's always time for a glass of wine. more

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Back to the Future

You know, if you switched a fluorescent ball, you'd save a lot of electricity . . .

I was noodling around on Berry Bros. & Rudd's home page the other day. They're an English wine merchant that's been selling booze to the gentry for a bit (since 1698, apparently) and they're clients include Liz and Phil and anyone with rather a lot of money and a thirst. more

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All my students seem to gape in surprise, and occasionally slump over

Monday morning, and I hope somebody brings an apple for the teacher. I'll be teaching Winemaking Excellence 101 in stunning downtown Coquitlam. It's an educational program I developed as part of our Authorised Retailer Program. Since Winexpert wants every retailer to have the tools and information necessary to guarantee a good winemaking experience for their customers, we had to set standards and convey them. It's a six hour course, with six quizzes and a final exam involving wine component tastings. more

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