J. Lohr – Estates – Seven Oaks – Cabernet Sauvignon (2007)

j. lohr estates seven oaks - cabernet 2.5 rating  (4/5) cabernet sauvignon 

Varietal: cabernet sauvignon | Price: $20.95 Cdn | Winery: J. Lohr Estates | wikipedia icon | Wine Website: Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon | Vintage: 2007 | Region: Estrella Hills, Paso Robles California | LCBO No: Vintages 656561 | Bar Code: 89121 28812 | Alcohol: 13.5%


I am not particularly a fan of cabernet sauvignon wines. This one is an exception, and one of the better cabernet sauvignons I’ve tasted. It has a nice, subtle nose. I enjoyed its intense, yet creamy, spicy, vanilla texture and taste. Like most low priced cabernet sauvignons it initially had a wee bit too much alcohol flavour in the finish for my taste. But that disappeared over time (see ‘story’ section below). According to the label it:

… has aromas and bouquets of cherry, blackberry, violets and vanilla.

The LCBO Website describes the wine as follows:

Every time Vintages released this wine, it disappeared from store shelves at lightning speed! So we decided to make it an Essential to ensure that it’s always available and you’re never disappointed. Aged in oak for more than a year, this densely coloured red is packed with intense aromas of black cherry, blackcurrant, cedar, vanilla, and spices. Full-bodied and sweet-centred, this Cabernet will pair beautifully with roasted or grilled red meats.

Note: This wine is not to be confused with the pricier $39.95 2006 vintage of the same name. I have not yet tasted it. That wine was originally sold in Toronto for $19.95 (see this Toronto Life review). Perhaps it would be a good idea to purchase a case of the 2007 vintage if the price rise for the 2006 vintage is any indication.

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How to Preserve Opened Bottles of Wine

save wine with argon gas

In a previous post I wrote about how to use marbles and the vacu vin pump to preserve open wine.  In a terrific Globe & Mail video (shown above but now removed) Beppi Crosariol demonstrates the following additional approaches:

  • image Using the Inert Argon Gas: I had used the inert argon gas method in the past with mixed results. Until I watched the video, I didn’t fully understand how to use it or why/how it worked. I didn’t understand, for example, that argon is heavier than air. It doesn’t fill the bottle. Rather it covers the wine like a blanket. Because it sinks down to the wine, you don’t need to worry about it leaking out of the top as you re-cork the bottle. Place the straw against the inside neck of the bottle. Spray for one second followed by a few short bursts. Reseal with any cork. This should keep the wine for up to three weeks. These argon bottles cost between $12-$15 ($8ish in the U.S.) and can be found at most liquor stores (click here to purchase argon gas on Amazon.com). Note: To keep the ‘blanket of argon’ over the wine (and away from the air in the bottle above the blanket), you’ll want to make sure you don’t shake/bump the wine too much while being stored – so keeping it in the fridge door probably is not a good idea.
  • Small Wine Bottles: Pour the remains of a big bottle of wine into a smaller wine bottle. Then recork. If you fill the smaller bottle, there will be no (or very little) air left in the bottle to react with the wine. The wine will keep indefinitely.

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The Intertwined History of Peet’s and Starbucks

image          image

Few people realize that the owners of Peet’s once owned Starbucks and that the Starbucks we know today was created when Howard Shultz (Starbucks current Chairman, then a disgruntled executive) bought out the original Starbucks owners (who then purchased Peet’s) after a dispute as to whether or not to include espresso bars in their coffee bean stores.

I fell in love with Peet’s coffee when I lived in Silicon Valley from 1998 to 2002. To this day I have a couple pounds mail ordered to Canada every few weeks.  Over many cups of Peet’s coffee, I took the following notes as I read Howard Shultz’s book – Pour Your Heart Into it: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time. It’s quite the interesting, intertwined history.

  • image Alfred Peet (pictured on the right) formed Peet’s in Berkley, California in 1966. (click here for more info on Alfred Peet)
  • Originally Peet’s locations just sold beans – no drip coffee, latte’s etc.
  • While attending college at Berkley, a Starbucks Founder (I forget his name, let’s call him "SF1") strolled by and bought some beans. SF1, a native of Seattle, fell in love with Peet’s beans.
  • SF1 returned home after college and continued to purchase coffee from Peet’s by mail order (as I do today).
  • SF1 enjoyed the beans so much that he decided to open a similar bean selling store, Starbucks, in Seattle with Starbucks Founder II ("SF2"). SF2 had ran a local Seattle Coffee shop prior to that point. [I note from this Wikipedia entry on Starbucks that there were three founders, Jerry Baldwin, Zev Siegel and Gordon Bowker. I’m not sure which of these three were SF1 and SF2]

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Starbuck with Starbuck at Starbucks

Dirk Benedict (Starbuck from the 1978 Battlestar Galactica) with Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck from 2004 ‘reimagined’ series) at Starbucks 1
I thought these pictures of Dirk Benedict (the original Starbuck from the 1978 Battlestar Galactica series), with Katee Sackhoff (the new Starbuck from the 2004 ‘reimagined’ Battlestar Galactica series) at Starbucks were compelling.

I snapped these from the BattleStar Galactica Finale Special that aired on Space TV on March 20, 2009. It looks like they was taken towards the beginning of the ‘reimagined’ series given how young Katee Sackhoff is in them.

Click on the images for larger views.

Dirk Benedict (Starbuck from the 1978 Battlestar Galactica) with Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck from 2004 ‘reimagined’ series) at Starbucks 2   Dirk Benedict (Starbuck from the 1978 Battlestar Galactica) with Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck from 2004 ‘reimagined’ series) at Starbucks 3   Dirk Benedict (Starbuck from the 1978 Battlestar Galactica) with Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck from 2004 ‘reimagined’ series) at Starbucks 4

Use Glass Marbles to Save Open Bottles of Wine

marbles as a wine saverLast evening I attended a Spanish wine tasting event at Café Taste (1330 Queen St. Toronto).  I was participating in a single’s event put on by Toronto’s Meet Market Adventures.

As a single person, I frequently open a bottle of wine and drink just a glass or two. Over the years, I’ve experimented with different ways of saving the wine in open bottles. For the last couple years I’ve used the vacu vin stainless steel wine saver pump to remove air from the imagebottle to store it for another day. Unfortunately this method only keeps the wine for a day or two max. And, the emptier the bottle the less well it works.

I asked our Café Taste host, Jeremy Day (pictured below), if he had any other suggestions to preserve an open bottle of wine.  He came up with the remarkably sensible suggestion of  putting sterilized marbles into the bottle and then recorking. What a clever idea!

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Santa Carolina Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2006 – 375 ml

Santa Carolina Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2006 – 375 ml bottle 1 rating  (1/5)

Varietal: cabernet sauvignonPrice: $5.95 Cdn – websiteWinery: Santa CarolinaVintage: 2006 – Region: ChileLCBO No: 389866
Other Reviews: Toronto Life 

As a bachelor I routinely test the small-sized (375 ml) bottles of wine near the LCBO cash registers in the hopes that one day I may find a decent wine suitable for one person. When I lived in California I routinely found acceptable wines in this form factor. So far in Ontario, I have found none.

I’m not a huge fan of cabernet sauvignon. Unfortunately, I cannot give this bottle a proper review since it has been months since I took these pictures and had the misfortune to taste it – twice.  I bought this particular wine about a year ago and didn’t like it at all.  Several months ago I bought it again and disliked it just as much. All I can remember of the experience is the word “bleche”. I’m writing this post as much to remind myself never to buy it again as to warn others off it. If I have the unfortunate experience of trying it again, I’ll update this post with more details.

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Yalumba Y Series Shiraz/Viognier 2006

yalumba y series shiraz viognier 2006 bottle 2 rating  (1.5/5)

Varietal: shiraz / viognier blend – Price: $15.95 Cdn – websiteWinery: YalumbaVintage: 2006- Region: South Australia – LCBO No: 624494wikipedia icon
Other Reviews: wine scamp | The WineMad Blog 

The back label says this wine is spicy, savoury and silky. I found it to be dull and limp, tasting too much of dishwater and rubbing alcohol, particularly in the tarty finish. Though it was silky! 🙂

I decided to give this  shiraz / viognier blend a try when I was unable to find another bottle of the Jacob’s Creek Reserve Shiraz that I liked so much last week. An LCBO staffer recommended it as a comparable wine that had been a recent staff pick.

I only noticed that this wine had a screw-cap (a sure sign it will disappointing) when I got it home.  How could this be an LCBO staff pick?

This is what shiraz has typically been like for me for the last twenty years and why I have always disliked it – my recent Shiraz experiences (here and here) notwithstanding. You should certainly consider my general distaste for this varietal when assessing this review.

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Birchwood Estate Gewürztraminer / Riesling 2007

Birchwood Gewurztraminer - Riesling 20074.5rating(4/5)

Varietal: gewürztraminer/riesling blend– Price: $10.95 Cdn – Winery: Birchwood EstateVintage: 2007 – Region: Niagara Peninsula Ontario – LCBO No 572156
This wine is very good – especially for the price. It is one of ‘the’ better balanced gewürztraminer/riesling blends I’ve tasted. Each varietal complements the other. The reisling tempers the sweetness of the gewürztraminer while the gewürztraminer ‘almost’ tempers the tartness of the reisling. I say “almost” because there was just a hint of a tart, dry midpalate taste that is characteristic of less-than-stellar reislings. But its barely there. I very much enjoyed this bottle.

This wine is not sweet enough to be a classic desert wine. It should go well with pork, chicken and curry dishes, or, in front of a fire relaxing with someone special.

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Jacob’s Creek Reserve Shiraz 2006

jacob's creek reserve shiraz 2006

3.5rating  (3.5/5) – another nice shiraz

Varietal: shiraz/syrahPrice: $17.45 Cdn – Winery: Jacob’s Creek – Vintage: 2006 – Region: South Australia – LCBO No. 665471 Other Reviews: Toronto Life 89 Reference: topwineries.com.au | adegga

Another earthy shiraz. Very similar to the [yellow tail] shiraz but, if memory serves, smoother. It is the boldest Jacob’s Creek wine on their wine scale. There is a less expensive ($12.45) Jacob’s Creek Shiraz (ie: non-‘Reserve’).

My good friend Don Hicks brought this bottle over for another movie night (Elizabeth (1998)). This wine is yet another shiraz that surprised me for being surprisingly good. I’m beginning to think I misjudged shiraz wines lo these last 20 years.

I haven’t yet done a taste comparison between this shiraz and the less expensive [yellow tail] shiraz. When I get a chance I’ll update this post.

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Gary Vaynerchuk’s Wine Library Reserve Podcast

gary vaynerchuk reviews a wine on the wine library tv reserve podcast


From Revision3’s stable of podcasts comes Gary Vaynerchuk’s (Wikipedia) entertaining and informative Wine Library Reserve podcast (available in HD).  Gary begins most every podcast with: "This my friends is the Thundershow, a.k.a the Internet’s most passionate wine program". He isn’t exaggerating.

Note: He also has hosts the longer form companion "wine library tv" podcast that’s only available in SD.

gary vaynerchuk uses colorful tasting metaphors on the wine library tv reserve podcast In each 5 minute episode he first ‘sniffy sniffs", then tastes, spits out and ultimately reviews three to four different wines with exuberance reminiscent of Roberto Benigni’s acceptance of his Best Actor Oscar. His descriptions are funny, provocative, entertaining and informative. Graphics are generated on the fly depicting each of the the smells and tastes he encounters along the way from the initial sniffs, to the entry, the midpalet, the finish and the length. His  descriptions range from the conventional (black current with a gary vaynerchuk - comparing wine to asphalt dusttouch of spice) to the hilarious (this tastes like pooh mixed with tar). During the review pictured on the left he likened the wine’s taste to concrete dust. 🙂 He somehow manages to get up to a dozen or so smells or tastes out of every bottle.

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Mug-at-a-Time Head to Head: Bodum Chambord vs. Aerobie Aeropress

Bodum Chambord vs Aerobie Aeropress - Let the Plunging Begin

In my 25 years of coffee drinking, nothing beats the Aerobie Aeropress for making an 8 oz or smaller Americano-style cup of coffee. But, I drink two 12 oz mugs of coffee each day. The Aeropress can be used to brew spectacularly good 12 oz mugs of coffee. I have used it to brew my coffee for some two years now. But, the method is tedious, clumsy and sometimes messy.

This lead me to seek out alternative one-at-a-time brewing methods (details here). After more than a full month of perfecting my Bodum Chambord brewing technique, including two weeks with a nylon fine sediment filterscreen from sweet maria’s (details here), I decided it was time to give my new found Bodum-brewing prowess the ultimate test – a head to head competition against the Aeropress.

[August 1, 2008 Update: I posted my results here on the coffee geek forum. The inventor of the Aeropress, Alan Adler, suggested I up my Aerobie Aeropress bean dosage from 2 scoops to 3.5, pass only about 4 to 5 ounces of water through the press, then top the mug up with hot water. The resulting mug was simply one of the best mugs of coffee I ever had. Details and pictures are in that thread starting here. The downside is that almost doubling the beans is a very expensive proposition. Something I can’t afford to do every day. But it does result in one easy to brew, spectacular mug of coffee.]

The Playing Field

  • Peets Arabian Mocha Sanani Identically measured (20 g – two Aerobie scoops), freshly roasted, freshly ground Peets Arabian Mocha Sanani beans (my favourite).
  • Identically filtered water, boiled to the same temperature at the same time in the same pot.
  • Identical steep times.
  • Identical Peets mugs for tasting. 🙂
  • Identically measured creme (30 ml – 2 Tbsp).
  • All utensils, mugs and equipment freshly run through the dishwasher.

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Perfecting My Bodum Chambord Brewing Technique


Coffee Geek: Bodum Chambord Reviews | How to Use a Press Pot
More than a month of testing has passed since I wrote my “Bodum Chambord – Not What I was Expecting” post. I have experimented with different grinds and techniques every day since that post.

The changes discussed below have resulted in much better coffee.I am now quite satisfied with the results I’m getting with the 16 oz (4 cup*) Bodum Chambord.

1. Slow Plunging:

Plunging Bodum Chambord French Press When doing my original tests, I had meticulously followed Mark Prince’s “How to Use a Press Pot” instructions. His instructions emphasized plunging in an ‘even, controlled manner”. He didn’t mention anything about the plunging rate.

Having used the Aerobie Aeropress for years (which provides quite stiff resistance while plunging), during my initial Chambord tests I was applying considerable pressure resulting in fast plunges (5 seconds or less).

While searching the coffee geek forums for french press brewing tips, I came across several posts like this one emphasizing the need to plunge slowly to minimize coffee bean sediment leakage around the edges of the screen.

I use a significantly finer grind than most to bring out the boldness in my coffee. It made sense then that my finer grinds could be slipping around the edges of the screen by pushing too hard and too fast. It also made sense that Mark wouldn’t have emphasized this point given that he uses a substantially coarser grind than I.

By slowing my plunge (taking up to 30 seconds), I was able to brew noticeably smoother (less cloudy/grainy) cups of coffee with finer grinds – even without the fine sediment nylon filter discussed below. But the tinny taste was still there somewhat.

Continue reading “Perfecting My Bodum Chambord Brewing Technique”

Bodum Chambord – Not What I Was Expecting


Coffee Geek: Bodum Chambord Reviews | How to Use a Press Pot

[July 28, 2008 Update: I have had much better results with the Chambord since writing this original post. See my "Perfecting My Bodum Chambord Brewing Technique" post for details.]

After a couple years of immense satisfaction with my Aerobie Aeropress, I decided to give press pots another chance. After all, my last use of press pots (with dismal results) preceded my discovery of Mark Prince’s coffee geek website and podcast by many years. Perhaps my new-found knowledge of proper grinds, beans and brewing techniques would yield better results.

The Problem with the Aeropress

aerobie aeropress

I’ve been an Aerobie Aeropress evangelist since I first discovered it. But, I’ve become annoyed by the fact that the Aeropress is designed primarily for espresso shots and 80z Americano cups of coffee. I drink two 12 to 14 oz cups of coffee each day.

The Aeropress brews THE-best 12 – 14 oz cup of coffee I have ever had – period! But the process I use is a kludge. The Aeropress’ water chamber holds only 8 oz of hot water. After pouring the first 8 oz’s into the chamber I wait and stir and wait and stir as gravity pulls the first 4 to 6 ounces through the beans and the filter. As I wait and stir, I slowly pour, ounce by ounce, the final 4 to 6 ounces of my desired 12 to 14 oz cup into the chamber. Only then can I press the final 8 ounces through. This is tedious. And with newly roasted beans, I have to proceed even slower as the new bean bloom can result in overflow and clean-up issues.

Despite requests by Aeropress lovers, Aerobe has not yet created a larger version of its product.

Onward to the Bodum Chambord

So, with this post on the coffee geek forums I set out to explore the press pot as an alternative method to brew my one-at-at-time 12 oz cups of coffee. Since it seems that most quality French Presses are the same, I settled on the 16 oz (4 cup*) Bodum Chambord. (Thanks for the recommendation JVBorella)

While this Bodum Chambord is available to Americans for ($20ish) at Amazon.com, the best price I could find in Toronto for it was $39 at the Shaper Edge in Toronto’s Eaton’s Center. Everywhere else (Sears, the Bay, Second Cup) was charging $49.

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[Yellow Tail] – Shiraz

yellow tail shiraz - bottle


(3.5/5) – terrific every day value wine
Varietal: shiraz/syrahPrice: $12.25 Cdn – websiteWinery: Casella Wines Pty Ltd.Vintage: 2006 – Country: Australia – LCBO 624544

Spicy, rich, earthy and lovely for the price. Not too dry. A very approachable wine for most palettes. Terrific value. Best of the [yellow tail] line.

This is one of the few shiraz (also known as syrah) bottles of wine I’ve enjoyed – ever. It tastes more like a zinfandel than a shiraz. My sister Colleen introduced me to this wine and I was very surprised that I liked it. I’ve served it to several friends and family and everyone has enjoyed it.

I’ve consumed more than a half dozen bottles so far and it is consistently good. It has become one of my staples.

As you can see from the [yellow tail] home page, there is a very large selection of [yellow tail] branded wines available at affordable prices.  I’ve also tried their, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir and the shiraz-grenache and this [Yellow Tail] shiraz is the best of the lot.  The shiraz-grenache was the worst.

Other Reviews: Art of Drink | gremolata

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Washing Wine Glasses in the Dishwasher – Safely!

wineglasses in dishwasher with elastic bandBeing a bachelor, I’m averse to washing dishes by hand whenever possible. Last November I found myself searching Google for ‘dishwasher safe’ wine glasses.  I wanted to add a Canadian etailer link to my Christmas wishhh list on www.wishhh.com (check it out, you’ll like it).

It’s surprisingly difficult to find ‘dishwasher safe’ wine glasses. Instead, I found a host of wine-glass-in-dishwasher solutions like this one and this one. These  products amount to little more than fancy ways to ensure that wine glasses are secured so that they do not bounce around (or into each other) during the wash cycle.

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