November 21, 2015 § Leave a comment
One of the things I truly love about my journey through the world of wine, is having my ‘knowledge’ challenged. It seems that as humans, in order to form an opinion we must collect a few seeds of ‘solid’ knowledge on a subject. From these seeds grows our beliefs of what is true. This was my introduction to the grape Graciano. It was early on in my journey and the seeds planted were from the proprietor of Rioja based winery.
Rioja is a region in the north of Spain and is certainly world renowned. The wines are governed by the rules of Denominacion de Origen Califcada (DOC) and at the time to be called Rioja the wine must be a blend of Tempranillo, Mazuelo and Graciano, with Tempranillo making up at least 60% of the blend. Graciano traditionally made up a fraction of the blend. Why? Well as the proprietor told me Graciano on its own “tastes like wet woolly socks at worst and dry wooly socks dipped in plum juice at best.” It has been almost 20 years since then, but I have continued to hold true that Graciano was nothing to get excited about. That was until last week.
I was happily walking through one of my local stores looking for the unusual, the lesser known, because my experience has always told me that this is where you find the best deals. A very nice staff person that I trust to point me in the right direction suggested that I try the Rio Madre 2012 Rioja Graciano.
Price Paid: $14.99
Notes: Pleasure is part of the fabric of being who we are and thus as our lives weave the tapestry that will be our story, different things provide pleasure. I have spent the last couple of years shedding the shackles of the expected and making a living by changing longstanding truths and behaviours. In other words life has been a wild, fully flavoured ride. As good as this sounds, a wild ride doesn’t always meet ones needs or desires.
I pulled open the cork and let the wine breathe for about 15 minutes and poured a generous glass – it had been a wilder day than normal – and I immersed myself in the aromas. There is indeed a wildness to the wine, but also a timeless, natural beauty. Aromas of black fruits, plums and floral tones blend with the untamed spicy essence of drylands.
The body of the wine is rich but balanced. As the wine washes over your tongue you will get the sense of wild fruit like blackberries found in the back woods at the end of a long dry summer, combined with refined layers of plum, spice and a hint of hickory.
I really really enjoyed this wine and highly recommend it to others, especially those feeling a glint of excitement from the wild side of life.
Rating: 8.25/10 ~ Over Delivers
Purchased From: BC Liquor Stores
Section of the Store: Spain
If you happen to try this wine, please let me know what you think, and if you have any questions or want a specific wine researched, drop me a line.
November 2, 2015 § Leave a comment
In Episode 2 it is all about Halloween- what wines & beers pair with classic Halloween fare (from the Candy/Chip Bowl), a Halloween Punch, some great conversation with our Craft Beer and Cocktail Correspondents, and, of course, the week’s Best Buy.
Click here to listen to Episode 2: Halloween
Wine Pairings For Classic Halloween Treats
Skittles – Gewurztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio depending on how sweet, spicy and crisp you like your wines.
Sweeter/Spicy wine = Gewurztraminer (Recommendations Under $20: Tinhorn Creek, Cono Sur Bicicleta)
Crisp/Full Flavoured = Sauvignon Blanc (Recommendations U$20: Lurton Les Fumees Blanches, Oyster Bay, Casa del Bosque Reserva)
Fresh, Fruit Forward = Pinot Grigio (Recommendations U$20: Mezzacorona, Prospect Winery, Ca’ Montebello [private stores only])
M&M’s/Snickers Bars– Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Grenache/Garnacha depending on how soft, juicy, spicy or silky you like your wine.
Juicy/Spicy = Tempranillo (Recommendations U$20: Masia F [private stores only], Lopez de Haro Crianza [private stores only], Torres Coronas}
Silky = Sangiovese (Recommendations U$20: Giacondi, Gabbiano Chianti, Antinori Santa Cristina)
Soft/Juicy = Grenache/Garnacha (Recommendations U$20: Borsao, Le Paradou [private stores only] Rosemount Grenache Shiraz)
Reeses Peanut Butter Cups – Sherry, Tawny Port depending on whether you favour the nutty side or chocolate side of the Peanut Butter Cup.
Nutty Side – Amontillado Sherry (Recommendations U$20: Emu Amontillado, Alvear Medium Dry)
Chocolate Side – Tawny Port (Recommendations U$30: Penfolds Club Tawny Port [private stores only], Warres Optima)
Candy Corn and Rockets – Prosecco, Chardonnay or Moscato depending on whether or not you prefer sparkling wines, fruity or sweeter lighter alcohol wines.
Sparkling Wines – Prosecco (Recommendations U$20: Nua [private stores only], La Marca, Villa Teresa)
Fruit Driven & Dry – Chardonnay (Recommendations U$20: Grove Ridge [private stores only], Wente Morning Fog, De Martino Limari)
Sweeter & Fruity: – Moscato (Recommendations U$20: The Tapas Collection, Ca’ Montebello [private stores only], Ogio]
Doritos – Barbera, Gamay Noir or Bonarda depending on how heavy, grapey, juicy, floral or spicy you like your wines.
Grapey/Juicy/Medium Bodied – Barbera (Recommendations U$20: Ca’Montebello [private stores only], Ricossa Barbera D’Asti, Briccotondo Barbera D’Alba)
Juicy/Floral/Light Bodied – Gamay Noir (Recommendations U$25: Desert Hills [private stores only], Duboeuf Beaujolais)
Grapey/Spicy/Medium Bodied – Bonarda (Recommendations U$20: Argento Bonarda [private stores only], Tilia Bonarda [private stores only]
Popcorn – Chardonnay or Viognier depending on how fruit forward and unctuous you like it.
Fruit Forward/Creamy/Rich – Chardonnay (Recommendations U$20: Grove Ridge [private stores only], Wente Morning Fog, Lindemans Bin 65 Chardonnay)
Cheetos/Cheesies – Sauvignon Blanc (Recommendations U$20: Seven Terraces, Oyster Bay, Les Fumees Blanche)
Classic Potato Chips – Sparkling Wine is the best choice and there are lots of great choices depending on your budget.
Over $40 – Veuve Cliquot, Tattinger, Bellavista Franciacorta
$20-$40 – Blue Mountain Brut, Mumm’s Napa Prestige, Paul Zinck Cremant D’Alsace
Under $20 – Jean Louis Blancs de Blancs [private stores only], Cristalino Cava, Hungaria Cuvee Brut
BBQ Potato Chips – Pinot Noir, I guess the good news is that Under $20 there are only a coveted few to recommend.
Under $20 – Simple Life Pinot Noir, Casa Viva Pinot Noir [private stores only], Unduragga Sibaris Pinot Noir
Skittles – Pale Ale
M&M’s/Snickers Bars- Porter or Brown Ale
Reeses Peanut Butter Cups – Chocolate Stout
Candy Corn – Witbier or Weizen
Rockets – Sour Beers
Doritos – Witbier or Weizen
Popcorn – ESB
Cheetos/Cheesies – IPA or Stout
Classic Potato Chips – Belgian Dubbel
BBQ Potato Chips – Porter
Pumpkin Beer Recommendations – Jami Wood, Craft Beer Correspondent
Lighter Bodied Beer – Nelson Organic Pumpkin Ale
Medium Bodied Beer – Central City Red Racer Pumpkin Ale
Full Bodied Beer – Howe Sound ‘Pumpkineater’ Imperial Pumpkin Ale (available in most liquor stores)
Halloween Punch – Shawn Soole, Cocktail Correspondent
Cocktail Recipe for Fernet Branca – Toronto (What is Fernet Branca?)
Dash of angostura bitters
Shawn’s book Cocktail Culture can be found at Munro’s, Bolen’s and through this link to Amazon.ca
This week’s Best Buy: Simple Life Pinot Noir
November 22, 2014 § Leave a comment
This weeks announced changes to the liquor industry in B.C. will go into effect on April 1, 2015, but already their impact is being felt.
Social & traditional media has been jammed with calculations, prophecies and conjecture and, full disclosure, I have been apart of it to. However, after a Facebook conversation this morning I took a step back to get a broader perspective.
We have to remember that none of these changes will change the size and value of the market. If anything all they will do is divide the ‘pie’ into more pieces and shift value around.
It is no secret that BC Liquor Stores have been losing share to private stores each year for the last 10 years. Creating a level pricing field is likely the only way that this trend could be reversed using legitimate means. I expect that BC Liquor Stores will start to act like a large grocery concern and leverage their position to either mitigate costs or corner the market on certain products. This could mean disaster for many of BC’s private liquor stores who rely on price and product agility combined with well oiled marketing machines, but it won’t mean any more money into government coffers.
The other big announcement leads to further splintering of the market. Allowing liquor in grocery stores, no matter how it is done, will not lead to any greater revenues for the province or any increased sales for suppliers. It just means that there are more places for consumers to buy booze.
I truly hope that the quality of liquor retailing in BC will improve and I hope that these changes will instill a spirit of continued improvement, however these changes will not change the fact that we pay the highest prices in the country, and it is certain, that they will only mean the pie is divided in more ways.
I would love to hear your comments and feedback so please engage.
I will also be writing a piece specific to Wholesale Pricing so look for that.
May Quality Be Ever In Your Glass
September 28, 2013 § Leave a comment
The only real competitive edge that private liquor retailers have in BC is their product selection. The absolute risky-est position to be in is having a photo-copy of a government store in terms of selection. As a private liquor retailer I have found that the only way for me to best maintain my market share, or to make it grow, is by walking the fine line between listed and spec products.
By having about 40% (and growing) of the products on our shelf that are only available at our stores or in other private retailers, allows me to 1) clearly distinguishes me from government stores, 2) have more control of my margins while maintaining price confidence with the customer, 3) Allows me to focus on customer service in the form of product knowledge, 4) means I can truly say we are professionals.
Why do you choose the lawyer, doctor, dentist, accountant, personal trainer, hair stylist, plumber, etc. that you do? Part of the answer comes in your belief that they are qualified professionals that have spent hundreds of hours being an expert at solving problems that you have in their area of expertise. Chances are you have found them by referral or by meeting them. They conveyed an air of professionalism and confidence that you have come to trust and that trust has always been vindicated. For us in private liquor retail it is no different. What kind of confidence will your customer have in you if your selection says ‘I don’t know anything about this beer/wine/spirit and I don’t care, I just want you to buy it. All I know is that someone told me it sold well”? You need to be their ‘doctor’ of wine, beer and spirits. Your selection should say “in your case I would I’m going to prescribe this wine over that one. That one will work for you to but I think that for today this is the best choice.”
Customer loyalty comes from developing personal relationships and sharing your customers day to day successes and failures, feelings of confidence and defeat, feeling great or suffering from a cold. By saying “I know just the perfect comfort food wine for you, you can’t find it everywhere, but I loved its depth of flavour and boldness of body” you are telling your customer that you care about them. The old saying “I don’t care what you know until I know that you care” is so true when comes to developing lifetime customers in our business. Your selection is your customers silent witness to how much you care about them.
There are hundreds if not thousands of items available right now that offer 40% and 50% margins, are priced for the average joe and blow the doors off the leading brands in terms of quality. It takes work and dedication to find them, but the work and time pays off 10 fold.
Someone I admire once told me to focus on the critical few and forget the trivial many. When your selection says you care, you can then spend most of your time focussed on customer service. This means staff education, product knowledge and engagement, developing better hiring practices, improving the flow of the store, keeping the store clean and having truthful and informative signs on products throughout the store. This is one of the ‘critical few’ and is perhaps the one that delivers the most tangible and intangible positive results in your business.
Start to pare down the ‘me too’ items and replace them with ‘I love this and will stand behind it’ items and your business will be far more secure and fun to operate… no matter what happens with the Liquor Review.
September 27, 2013 § Leave a comment
Dear Importers, Agents an Sales Reps;
Save your money!!!!
Most new product pitches that come across my desk are heavily leveraged against the tasting of the product. In BC this is ridiculously costly and doesn’t get nearly as many sales is it should and can.
Smart buyers understand that the taste of the product solves a couple problems, however these problems can only be solved if the business needs of the deal are met first. Tasting/Sampling only serves to provide staff education for those on the floor and to convince me, the buyer, that the product will sell more than once to a customer.
First things first is how does this product solve my business problems? Does this fill a hole in a price and margin segment? How seamless is distribution? Is it a year round proposition, seasonal or one time buy? Does it represent a category I’m lacking in? Do you have the codes necessary for our POS system to accept it?
Lastly what benefits does the consumer realize from this product/proposition. This is almost never answered and it is far more key to the success of the product than the taste.
Most pitches are laden with a long list of features. I call these meetings show up and throw up meetings. The presentation leaves it to me to assume what the benefits to me and the consumer are and this is where the presentation gets tripped up. It is better for the sales rep to answer objections to stated benefits than to argue the validity of a feature of the product.
Sampling should be treated like the subjects to buying a house. It is a condition of sale, but one of the last conditions that need to be met. Furthermore once met, the deal should be closed. So save your money and use sampling tactically.
The Dork UnCorked
June 4, 2012 § Leave a comment
I started reading Jason Ripley’s study as the feasibility of privatization in BC. A couple of stats jumped out at me. The first was the number of transactions. He estimates about 38m transactions per year. The second was the value of health care costs that are not covered by current LDB income and are a direct result of irresponsible liquor consumption. I’m not clear, I will have to re-read the section, how he was able to state that $60m were not covered by the current net income of the LDB, regardless I might have an answer.
In the study he notes the positive effect that minimum pricing, if at the correct level, has on irresponsible consumption. He also notes on a number of occasions that problem consumption is attributed most at the low end of the price scale. Specifically the highest alcohol for the lowest price.
Here is the solution. The caveat is that it will require government to directly feed the income from this proposal to cover excess health care costs. Something, that up until now, they have been reluctant to do.
$60m divided by 38m is $1.58/ transaction. Apply this to every separate transaction and have the funds go directly to health care. This would be a flat charge that is applied to every transaction no matter the value.
I wonder if a study can ever be done on the unintended positive effects of moderate consumption.
May 23, 2012 § Leave a comment
Isn’t interesting how powerful an idea is. I remember working as a waiter back in the 80’s and 90’s. That was a time when wine consumption was the realm of celebrities and the French it seemed.
It was also a time when wines Schloss Laderheim, Black Tower, Blue Nun, Mateus and the like. As you remember these were are relatively sweet. Yet in the ‘it’ circles and amongst connoisseurs you were only accepted if you drank dry, specifically dry white wine. If I had a dollar for every time someone came into the restaurant and asked for a glass of dry white wine, I would be a rich man today. However when I served technically dry wines they were often met with not so happy faces, yet when what I served was technically off-dry it was loved unconditionally. The lesson I learned is that people love sweet wines, they just don’t like to be told about it.
Fast forward to today and look at the success of wines like Layer Cake (yup the whole line up), Apothic, Colby and the list goes on. Each of these is a juicy red California blend that has a lot of what we call in the industry, residual sugar. But that isn’t the perfect formula, what you need in addition to a load of residual sugar is vanilla flavour. This comes from ageing the wine in either American Oak barrels or ageing the wine with American Oak chips.
The best way I can describe these wines is that they remind me of a pin-up girl that has tons of make-up. Once you remove the make-up and photoshop there isn’t much attractive there.
They aren’t my cup of tea but they sure seem to sell well so what do I know.
September 25, 2011 § Leave a comment
This weekend my wife and I stole away to Tigh Na Mara for our anniversary weekend. Just the two of us for a couple of days of R&R. Of course that meant some great food and great wine. I approached the wine selection much like a casting director would a film. I cast specific wines for specific roles. If they performed their roles really well they would go on to test their versatility in other roles, if they did fine, they maybe be set up for a life as a character actor, and lastly some would simply be a pretty face that was able to pull off the role in a convincing way. Let’s face it I think most people purchase their wine kind of like this. You can’t separate the quality of the wine from the experience. Only cork dorks, like myself, have the opportunity to sit down at huge tasting tables to compare wines of similar ilk and pontificate as to their quality and value… in that experience.
There were 5 wines involved in our weekend (no we didn’t finish every bottle). Corte Giara 2004 Amarone (2nd label of the famed Alleghrini winery in Veneto, Italy), King Estate 2008 Pinot Noir (Oregon), Rosemount Estate Shiraz (Southeastern Australia), Moreau 2008 Chablis (Burgundy, France), & Cassini Cellars 2010 Pinot Noir.
Rosemount Shiraz was chosen as the wine for departure. You know the night before you go somewhere when you pack, eat a light meal, bath the kids and check twice that you have everything.
Moreau 2008 Chablis was chosen to be the ‘warm up band’ wine. The wine we drank when getting ready for or preparing dinner.
King Estate 2008 Pinot Noir was chosen off the list at the Cedars to go with both of our choices of meals (Wild Mushroom Bisque, followed by a mixed Seafood Grill for Ange and a full Rack of Lamb for me).
Corte Giara 2004 Amarone or the Cassini Cellars 2010 Pinot Noir would be chosen for the dinner we prepared in our room on Saturday night. As it turns out we went with the Corte Giara as we had a meal of various cheeses, some smoked salmon, olives, bread and bruschetta. That took the pressure right off the Cassini Cellars who will live to perform in another post.
With all the wines put into their roles, the only question left was did they meet the expectations of their roles.
To my palate the wine that exceeded my expectations for the role it was given was the Rosemount Shiraz. Granted there wasn’t a lot of pressure in its role, but that’s why I decided to try it there. Rosemount Shiraz has been around for a number of years and as such has been overlooked and almost forgotten by me. For the $16 I spent it was okay if it let me down.
It is a welled balanced fruit driven wine that showed some backbone and acidity that I don’t remember in the wines from years back. This wine was to be a comfort wine and it performed brilliantly. Conclusion: Rosemount Shiraz will move on and be placed in the ever turbulent and often cutthroat scenario of the Big Family Meal.
The next wine I really enjoyed and thought fit its role nicely was the King Estate 2008 Pinot Noir from Oregon. To recap this was not a pre-planned wine as I only saw the wine list at the Cedars once I sat down to dine. The wine had to work with the earthy savory flavours of wild mushroom bisque, but also pair with the lighter bodied, slightly sweeter context of Ange’s Mixed Seafood Grill and my heavier, more savoury meal of Rosemary crusted Rack of Lamb.
The silky texture and underpinnings of ‘fall leaves’ with bright cherry did the trick. It enhanced both the flavor and subtleties of the Lamb and caressed the gentle sweetness of the Seafood Grill. Conclusion: Met the role well, however I’m not sure this would be a sipping or comfort wine, as the price is roughly $40. I would order/buy this again when in a restaurant or at home preparing a finer meal. Character actor.
The Moreau Chablis was the set up wine or ‘warm up band’. This was the wine we used to whet our pallates before a meal. Bracing acidity, zesty lime flavors along with generous minerality insured a satisfactory on its grading, however I can find and enjoy as much, wines about $10 less for the same role. Conclusion: Pretty and decent in the role, but pretty expensive for what it could do.
The Corte Giara 2004 Amarone. I was so looking forward to this as I am lover of Amarone, Valpolicella and Valpolicella Ripasso, and it is rare that I have the occasion to enjoy Amarone due to cost. The wine was completely set up to win. Simple foods with rich flavors and body, an easy going evening, some nice cool jazz playing in the background, and a great view off our deck. I saw myself curling up in the moment, alas the wine was okay but did not fit the bill. It tasted a little to angular. Although older, it’s Amarone for god sake and it should stand up and prefer some age. Instead it showed some plum, raisin and chocolate, but the finish was acidic and short. Conclusion: Did not meet the role and will not be moving on to other roles. I see informercials and voice overs for this wine.
February 6, 2011 § Leave a comment
It has been 2 days since my last post and I am sorry about that, but I was just so damn tired yesterday.
You know how the new car smell of a new car goes away to you, yet other people get in your new car and they immediately smell it? That is what I am feeling right now.
I have spent the better part of two getting reacquainted with my bodies signals or language. At first my mind was focussed on the cravings and fighting through them as my body detoxed. Then I noticed a clarity of mind that seemed to guide me through the rough patch’s but also make many of the immediate challenges in my work and personal life that much clearer. As I got used to the clarity of mind I had a renewed energy and I harken back to the days where I was more entrepreneurial than I am today. I now find myself diving into tasks with a smile on my soul. However today I seemed to reach a plateau; the new car smell is not as present as it was two days ago. I think this is what made me so tired yesterday and earlier this evening. To continue with the car analogy, if you slow down shifting gears to a 48 hour process, I am in between gears right now and missing the torque of 2nd gear and not knowing what will happen with third gear… if I get there. It will really great if I can remain present 4th gear with out red lining.
Ange and I had a great discussion today about our eating habits. At the core of the conversation was our long term eating plan, but if flushed out the base assumption of the Paleo diet and that of diets that include the Paleo but with the addition of grains and complex carbs like yams & sweet potatoes. During part of the conversation I mentioned that I felt that my body was giving clear threshold signals. For example I can eat a bunch of carrots, celery, cucumber and grape tomatoes and they taste great and it I hit a threshold where every bite beyond has a bitter flavour. The same goes meats, even wine. Have you ever noticed when you have a few glasses that there is a little signal that goes off in your head and that next glass is not a good idea? I have really only noticed this since being on this challenge, and I really hope the signals I am receiving are my body’s way or balancing my diet and perhaps, controlling portion sizes. Am I nuts or is this just one of the ways that weight falls off and health returns when eating the right diets for you?
From a simple craving point of view this weekend is going a little more smoothly than last weekend, except for the fact that I would have killed for a glass of wine to go with lamb and leeks tonight.
Anyway that is about it for today. I will write again on Day 14 as I am going to take Sunday off.
I would really appreciate any comments that you may have. Cheers