Monday, June 25, 2007

Pity the GM, some baseball musing and a Californian Pinot Noir of note

Pity the poor General manager, well poor might be the wrong term but you get my drift. On Friday John Frerguson Jr. (JFJ), the GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs, traded away the 13th pick in the upcoming draft, along with a 2007 2nd rounder and a 4th round pick in 2008, for Vesa Toskala and Mark Bell and was quickly proclaimed an idiot by "The Press".

From my point of view JFJ addressed a team need, goaltending, and got an enigmatic but gifted power forward in return for the 13th pick and 43rd pick in a mediocre draft plus a 4th rounder (crapshoot at best). Toskala is 30 years old and well regarded in the NHL, many feel he is at least as good as Nabokov the goalie San Jose chose to keep. Toskala is also under contract for $1.4 million this season and while Mark Bell is apparently a whack-job he's also 6'2", 220 pounds, 27 years old and only one year removed from a 25 goal season.

The pundits however decry JFJ's actions as more indication that "he has no plan", "he's making up for last year's mistake (acquiring Andrew Raycroft)" and "The Leafs continue to trade away the future". These same pundits however praise the Florida Panthers for trading away a 1st round pick plus two 2nd rounders for a 30 year old goalie (Tomas Vokuon) a year after they traded away All Star Roberto Luongo for 3 magic beans.

Ferguson, quite frankly, can't win. He is the General Manager of the most closely scrutinized franchise in the NHL and his hands are tied by an ownership that is at least as interested in the bottom line as in success on the ice.

Toronto could, and in fact may have at times, fielded a team of 19 rhesus monkeys on skates and people would still fill the rink. Ferguson's boss Larry Tannenbaum is the personification of smarm, and keeps poor JFJ twisting with one year extensions all the while pressing him to respect his wishes. I can imagine the scene below being played out.

Larry calls JFJ to his office with the following request:

"John, I'll tell you what you can have a five year extension and free rein over hockey operations if you can get me a magical flying horse and the ring of true power."

JFJ: "Sure Larry, I think I've got some tape of that horse playing in the Ukraine".

On a totally unrelated subject: Why do I have to tidy up the house before the cleaning lady comes over ?

Another thought: How big is Frank Thomas' head ?
I can't look at him without thinking of So I married an Axe Murderer.

Matt Stairs is third in the Canadian Home Run Derby, only one behind Jason Bay, with 11 dingers. Has there ever been a ballplayer who was so obviously Canadian looking as Matt Stairs ? I can't believe he's not wearing a John Deere cap out there with a "go cup" beside 1st base .......... I love Matt Stairs.

Magglio Ordonez has 34 doubles through Detroit's first 74 games, this pace would see him hit 74 doubles for the season and eclipse Earl Webb's major league record of 67 doubles hit in 1931. No major league hitter has posted 60 doubles in a season since 1936 yet I have not heard one mention of this on a website or sports show.

Had a nice Pinot Noir last night Castle Rock Sonoma County 2005, not cheap at $25.95 but given the price of Pinot Noir these days pretty fair value. Lots of bright fruit flavours and good tannins, it will cellar nicely for a year or two. It is widely available in the BCLDB as part of their new Californian Wine promotions - CSPC#316687.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Random Thoughts: Beer, Good Wine, 5 Day Weekends and Mr. Carol Alt the 2nd

My last post solicited some strong reactions regarding the beer I left off my Top 10 list so I will amend the list to add Heineken, Stella, Czechvar, Becks, in fact anything not made by a major North American Brewery in a tie for 11th place and therefore end any bad feelings.

I have had a very good run on wine lately and have some recommendations:

1) JimJim Shiraz, McLaren Vale, Australia - defies my normal parameters because it has an animal on the label (the eponymous JimJim the Dog), new world in style but not over the top fruit, decent balance with lots of plum and blueberry. A good match for whatever is coming off the grill. Not a BCLDB listing it was a "host gift", retails in Alberta for $18 so I can't really call it great value but it's solid.

2) Chateau du Taillan 2003 Haut Medoc - the last vestige of the venerable Cruse family who once were among Bordeaux's most important producers. This is Bordeaux the way they should be making it, mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with a touch of Cab Franc (not mentioned on the label) then barrel aged for 18 months. The resulting wine has a bit of earthiness on the nose but follows through with nice cedary, black and red fruit flavours and drying tannins to be a great compliment to beef or lamb. 2003 was a very good vintage and at $23.95 this wine is good value for now, or a 2-3 year stint in the cellar, BCLDB #143404, limited distribution with only 30 cases showing in the system.

3) Palo Alto Reserva, 2006, Chile - in one of those fateful moments I actually opened this wine to have with Sundays' leg of lamb but thought better of it, re-corked and poured with Mondays' pork tenderloin. The decision was good because I really enjoyed the Chateau du Taillan with the lamb and the Palo Alto, as a more fruit driven selection, was perfect with the pork tenderloin. The Palo Alto is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere and Syrah and has a rich red berry nose followed by a medium mouth feel and decent finish, while certainly new world in style it has reasonable tannins and held well with the sweetish flavours of the pork. The winery is owned by the massive Chilean producer Concha y Toro, BCLDB #24059, $14.99 with wide distribution.

I recently took a Five Day weekend to escape from reality and I highly recommend this for everyone, in fact I'm going to commit myself to installing the 2 day work week nationally.

The New York Islanders recently made the decision that they are better off to pay Alexei Yashin not to play for them, to the tune of some $25 million. The Islanders are now able to spread 2/3s of the remaining money, roughly $17 million, over 8 years against the salary cap and put the disaster of Yashin, and his 10 year $87.5 million contract, behind them. Yashin will have to console himself with all the money plus Carol Alt - life truly isn't fair. Of course there is always the chance that somebody will look around and say "Hey, we can change him" and toss another couple of million at him for another contract.

Gary Roberts has proved that you can be a locker room cancer without even being in the room. Rumours persist that John Muckler's recent firing in Ottawa stemmed, in a large part, from his inability to acquire Roberts at the recent trade deadline. Since all Roberts is capable of these days is standing beside the net or hitting guys from behind I fail to see how he would have helped Ottawa beat the Ducks, but hey I'm not an NHL owner.

To my great delight the Yankees have closed to within striking distance of the "We win Championships every 80 or so years but Our fans talk like we are the greatest Team in History",....... sorry Boston Red Sox. While most teams would be happy with an eight game lead in June Red Sox Nation now have 3 1/2 full months to look over their shoulder for the shadow of Bucky Dent. Cue the Theme to Jaws.

Lamb sausages are to be purchased at Tenderland Meats on Granville Island, not "the other butcher".

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Summer Begins and thoughts of Beer

The first wave of Summer has had the Pacific SouthWest basking in sunshine for the last 10 days or so, you know summer has hit Vancouver when:

1) People start complaining about the heat after 8 months of complaining about the rain

2) There is media coverage of either impending water shortages or impending floods

3) People you haven't seen in the restaurant since October start showing up and acting like they own the place (again)

4) I start drinking "Dark and Stormys"

For many people summer is "beer season" but in truth, for me, every season is beer season. Beer is the world's oldest (dating back to at least 3500 BC) and most popular alcoholic beverage, and one of the simplest requiring only water, starch, hops, yeast and a refrigeration source - actually it doesn't need refrigeration but I really like it that way.

Beer Geeks are every bit as weird, passionate and ridiculous as wine geeks, but they don't get anywhere near the respect. I drink it all year long and my consumption really doesn't go up much in the summer, but the overall sales spike by about 20% in June, July and August so somebody's crackin' more bottles in the summer.

Beer was always the drink of choice of my father and his friends and I have clear memories of backyard events when I was a toddler with large tubs full of ice and brown bottles of beer. German neighbours made their own and as a young boy it was considered ok to have half of a beer at an afternoon event. The women drank beer in those days and many do today as well, but when I was a student it was rare to see girls drinking beer. One of wife's very few flaws is her inability to appreciate a hoppy pilsner but she will toss back a Coors Light on a hot day so I guess I'll keep her.

I am an equal opportunity Beer drinker, though my preference runs to the above mentioned pilsners, some dark British brews and IPAs, I have rarely met a beer I didn't like (although I made a mistake with a lavender ale once that I choose not to speak of). Beer is the lingua common of my industry, after work you don't "go for drinks" you "go for a beer" and "a beer" is rarely one, in fact I have a patent pending on the "real man's guide to beer calculation" which I will now relate to you:

"One" is two

"A couple" is three or four

"A few" is four to six

"A bunch" is more than six
, as in "I'm not feeling great, I had a bunch of beer(s) last night.

Note that the plural of beer is beer but I have no problem with those who add the "s" on the end.

I keep my beer glasses in the freezer because they are more important than most food items and it is a rare night indeed when I come from home from work and do not "crack a beer" within 10 minutes of arrival. Beer is known by many names:

A cold one
pops - and the lesser form "wobbly pops"

I went to University with a guy who told time in "beer" as in "Oh geez I don't have to be in class for another 2 maybe 2 and a half beers".

Like many things we remember the beer of our youth more fondly, it was colder, crisper had more flavour and it was definitely cheaper. In University we drank "Cinci", "Old Vienna", and "Black Label" all brands either dead or dying, Molson also made a Blue and maybe they were no better than today's Kokanee or MGD but in my eternal memory they were.

Travel in Europe after my third year of university not only opened my palate to food and wine but also to the depth and breadth that beer had to offer, from a "Kolsch" in a test tube glass on tap in Cologne to a an ice cold bottle of Sagres on the beach in Portugal.

This blog would not be complete without a listing of my Top Ten Beer

1) Pilsner Urquell

1A) Guiness

3) Grolsch

4) Bass Pale Ale

5) Nelson Brewing "PaddyWhack" IPA

6) Bellhaven "Wee Heavy"

7) Dos Equis Clara (Lager)

8) Marston's Oyster Stout

9) Hoegaarden (hot day only)/Radeberger Pils/Konig Pils

10) Old Vienna - circa 1978

All this beer talk has made me thirsty so ..............