Sunday, September 06, 2015

Too Good to Last

So I would apologize for my lack of posting but really you should have expected this.

Sadly I have gone back to work full time, and really full time, so I simply haven't had the time to think let alone collect any thoughts and write about them. I have taken on the task of reopening a wine store after having to physically move all the stock and fixtures some 40 kilometers. The packing and moving took four full days and then the construction in the new location has taken essentially another 10 days, followed by rebuilding the store layout and shelving the stock all the while trying to find staff. Just prior to the move I was crunching numbers and learning the company systems as best I could so it's been a long tiring experience.

The end result has been roughly three weeks of working 10-12 hours daily six days a week all the while commuting 45 minutes each way to the new location. With any luck, and we haven't got much so far, we should be able to actually open the store this week and my time requirements will be slightly less and then by around the first of October I should be settled into a routine of five day weeks. At that point I will make every effort to post weekly but until then things will be sporadic at best.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Wine Buys for August

Okay so I'm much more prompt with this month's recommendation of what's on sale at the BCLDB this month. All the wines listed below will be on sale through Saturday August 29th, and all feature a price reduction of at least $2 a bottle. Remember prices listed are pre-tax so the final ticket will be 15% higher + 10 cent deposit , for example a wine listed here at $11.29 will end up costing you $13.10 after tax, deposit and rounding.

Assuming the weather stays good that means lots of grilled foods in my house and the necessary juicy wines to accompany, some of these are more fruit forward than I normally drink but they fit the season. There's a lot on sale this month but I'm going to limit the list to six whites and six reds, once again there are no rosé that fit the criteria.

White Wine Bargains

Sumac Ridge Private Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, Okanagan Valley, reduced $2 to $9.29 - it doesn't scream Sauvignon Blanc but it is varietally true, on the softer side it works well with grilled fish or veggie kebabs

Errazuriz Estate Sauvignon Blanc, Chile, reduced $2 to $10.29 - for an extra buck it's a lot more Sauvignony than the Sumac and I recommend it a lot.

See ya Later Ranch Riesling, Okanagan Valley, reduced $2 to $11.99 - I've not always been fond of See ya Later's wines but this is a very good example of Okanagan Riesling, lots of crisp fruit and melon with a touch of sweetness and enough acid to balance well with shellfish or spicy chicken.

Villa Maria Private Bin Pinot Gris, New Zealand, reduced $3 to $13.49 - I'm not a big fan of Pinot Gris/Grigio but this is a nice example of the style, it still lacks the acidity I like but it's a good quaffer and works fine with appies.

Edna Valley Vineyards, Chardonnay, Central Coast, California, down $2 to $15.49 - this is old style California Chardonnay, and I mean that as a compliment. Too many Californian Chards are over the top fruit and butter but this wine has the tropical fruit/pear/apple component and enough minerality to accompany salmon or tuna off the grill, really nice and a good value.

Sokol Blosser Evolution, Oregon, down $2 to $15.69 - this is a blend of nine different grape varieties that creates a fruity, dry white wine that is great just for back porch sipping and a great partner to spicy seafood .

Red Wine Bargains

Nederburg Shiraz, South Africa, down $2 to $9.29 - the South Africans still have enough of their feet stuck in the old world to give their wines more acidity than often seen from the Southern Hemisphere, this is still soft approachable Shiraz but has enough character to carry the burgers or back ribs off the grill.

Santa Rita Reserva Merlot, Maipo Valley, Chile, down $2 to $11.29 - few places do juicy, ripe Merlot as well as the Chileans, this is a reserva wine with the fruit from Maipo Valley and while it is still fruit forward there is enough lead in its' pencil to go with chicken or beef off the grill and the fruit works well if there's some heat in the sauce.

Santa Carolina B Blend, Cachapoal Valley, Chile, down $3 to $11.29 - this is a blend of Carmenere, Grenache and Merlot from the coastal part of the Cachapoal Valley, the wine is surprisingly refined for this price point and pairs well with red meat, chicken or sausage off the grill.

Campo Viejo, Rioja Tempranillo, Rioja, Spain, reduced $2 to $12.79 - this is text book entry level Rioja at a great price, the wine shows all the beauty of Tempranillo and it's mix of red fruits, leather, vanilla, tobacco and spice. This is a very dry wine and is a great match to cured meats, pizza or spicier grilled meats.

Donna Paula Estate Malbec, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina, down $2 to $15.39 - get the steaks,or lamb leg,  pop the cork 30 minutes before dinner to blow off some tannin and then serve this beauty with that charred rib eye, Malbec and red meat are a great match and this is good Malbec at a very fair price.

Chateau de Pierreux, Brouilly, Beaujolias, France, down $2.30 to $16.99 - not easy to find, there are only about a dozen cases in Vancouver, but worth seeking out. Cru Beaujolais used to be a great value but then like all things French and winey it jumped the shark but this is really good value. This wine has all the red berry component you expect from Gamay but a nice minerally seam and some good tannins, tough enough to handle the red meats off the grill but with the fruit it's just awesome with grilled salmon.

Well that's it, hope you enjoy and happy quaffing.

Monday, July 27, 2015

My highly personal list of the best TV series of all time - part 2, the British Invasion

In this post I'm going to talk about my favourite British TV imports. I was first really introduced to British television by American public television in the 1970s. For many years PBS was the go to location for British television and in many ways it still is, the major American networks have over the years co-opted many British programs and given them American twists, almost always producing an inferior product, but PBS has remained true it's vision of providing the originals. Here in Canada the Knowledge Network is a good source for original British programming .

When trying to create my listing of my favourite British television shows I came up with a very long list and then agonized over cutting it down to workable top ten, there were some obviously incredible shows that didn't make the cut and I'm sure there will be howls of "How could he leave off Downton Abbey or The Office or Poldark or Upstairs Downstairs or Dr. Who ......." . The answer is simple, the list is, as the title states, My highly personal list . Please feel free to comment on your own choices but this is mine, so here are my top 10.

Monthy Python's Flying Circus 1968-74

It was a surprise to me, given the brilliance of British comedy, that so many of my selections were dramas. Monthy Python was simply brilliant, as with all comedy they missed on occasion but rarely and when they hit they were huge hits. The list of Python sketches that were legendary is just too long to cover, but must include "The Spanish Inquisition", "The Dead Parrot" and "The Argument". It was black comedy and satire at it's best and spawned a couple of great films and an ongoing musical, despite going off the air over 40 years ago it can still be enjoyed today, and that's incredible for comedy. Available on DVD.

The Sweeney - 1974-78

A ground breaking show The Sweeney was the first "gritty" police drama to air in England, starring John Thaw, who will show up again later on this list, the show portrayed London policing as a dog eat dog procedure. The show aired at a time when the police force it portrayed, London's "Flying Squad" were under siege for bribery and violence, just the type of actions the show featured. Almost 40 years later the show is still very watchable. Available on DVD

Fawlty Towers - 1975 & 1979

Twelve episodes, that's it, and yet Fawlty Towers is stamped indelibly in the minds of a whole generation. The show, all 12 episodes, was named by the British Film Institute as the best British television show of all time.......just think about that, all told it's just a shade over six hours of running time yet it was judged the best television series ever made in Britain. The show was written by, and stars, John Cleese and his real life wife at the time Connie Booth, along with Prunella Scales as Cleese's wife on the show with the absurd brilliance of Andrew Sachs as Manuel and portrays the life of running a hotel in the seaside town of Torquay. It's brilliant and if you haven't seen it I don't want to hear from you until you have. Available on DVD

Minder - 1979-94

How to describe Minder ? Well it's a comedy/drama set in the world of the London's small time criminals. It is ostensibly about an ex-con and former boxer who with limited employment options comes to work protection and odd jobs for a small time crook, con man and used car broker, but it's really just a chance to revel in George Cole's performance as Arthur Daley, the small time crook in question. Daley is one of the great characters in television history and watching him is always a great pleasure. Available on DVD.

Blackadder - 1983-89

Long before Mr. Bean Rowan Atkinson created the comic personas of Edmund Blackadder. The four seasons of Blackadder show four different main characters, descended from one another, in four different historical eras, the middle ages, the Elizabethan era, the Regency era of the late 19th century and WWI. Each "Blackadder" deals with social issues and while the first one is a bumbler the later Blackadder's are shrewd and cunning. The show sheds light on society in its' particular era but is mostly just a showcase for Atkinson and his comic foil played by Tony Robinson. Available on DVD.

Lovejoy - 1986-94 

Lovejoy was a six season, 71 episode, series based on the books by Johnathan Gash, a nom de plume of medical doctor John Grant. Lovejoy is the name of the main character, played brilliantly by Ian McShane, an antiques dealer with less than high ethical standards always one step away from either bankruptcy or the knick. The series taught me a bunch about antiques and the industry but as with most of the television I like was more about writing and acting. The books are more graphic in their portrayal of sex and violence, neither of which play much part in the tv show. Available on DVD.

Inspector Morse - 1987-2000 

British television does police procedurals much, much better than North American television, concentrating on procedure and characters more than special effects and shoot 'em up. There are man, many great British police procedurals but to my mind the Inspector Morse series, 33 two hour episodes based on the books by Colin Dexter, are in a class of their own. Morse is played by John Thaw and it's one of those roles that you can't imagine any one else playing, Thaw was a tremendous actor who left us much too soon at the age of 60. Morse is a difficult, sarcastic, hard drinking, condescending, anti-feminist curmudgeon but his flaws are what make him so watchable. Available on DVD.

Prime Suspect - 1991-2006

Okay so maybe Morse isn't in a class of his own, he probably shares the class with Jane Tennison, the star of the 7 mini series of Prime Suspect . Tennison is played by Helen Mirren and even within the vast scope of Dame Helen's career I think Tennison may be her greatest role. As with Morse the Prime Suspect series deals in great detail with the lead character's life and flaws and over the course of the 7 seasons, each between 3 1/2 and 5 hours in length the series deals with massive social issues like sexism, racism, paedophilia, prostitution, child abuse and alcohol addiction. Each of the seven series stands on its' own merits but I would advise watching Prime Suspect 1 first to get a fuller understanding of Tennison's character.Available on DVD

Cracker - 1993-95

Three seasons, nine cases, 25 episodes and 2 tacked on "specials" of Robbie Coltrane creating one of the most memorable characters in television history, Edward "Fitz" Fitzgerald a criminal psychologist who works with the Manchester Police. The series takes its' name from the term used to describe criminal psychologists, "crackers" as they crack cases. Fitz is the classic anti-hero, in his own words "I drink too much, I smoke too much, I gamble too much. I am too much", in addition he is foul mouthed, sarcastic in terrible physical condition and an overall train wreck but he's brilliant and unbelievably enjoyable to watch. The show deals with a wide array of issues, not the least being the human mind. Available on DVD.

Luther - 2010-13

With only 14 episodes spread over three seasons it's tough to call Luther a series but if Idris Elba never becomes James Bond he'll still have DVI John Luther to hang his hat on. Luther is a brilliant detective driven by his work, he's violent, anti-social and probably psychotic but boy is he fun to watch. Anyone with a distrust of the police should probably not watch this show as it, well let's just say it doesn't show them in a positive light. Season four has been confirmed so there will be more Luther in our lives. Available on DVD.

There were a number of series that just missed this list, notable A touch of Frost, Yes Minister, The Fall, House of Cards and The Avengers but I'll stand with these ten for now.