Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Story in Pictures

By way of explanation, the other night we were getting ready to sit down to dinner, and I wanted to open something a little extra special. I grabbed our last bottle of 2002 Kunde Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County (more on that later).

After pulling a certain (large) number of corks, I give as much thought to it as I would to popping the top off a beer. Even when the cork broke in half, I wasn't concerned. I can extract half a cork almost as smoothly.

When the remainder of the cork disintegrated, profanities were uttered.

As you can see, the story has a happy ending. You just never know when those hemostats are going to come in handy.

We've enjoyed several bottles of this wine. We've enjoyed it even more because we paid $9.99, less a 10 percent mixed case discount. K&L is selling it for $29.99. How did Green's come to have a few bottles stashed away for select customers at a ridiculously low price? I didn't ask.

It's a compelling reason to be really, really nice to your local wine merchant.

I've tried to curtail the gushing about wine, but this is a wine worth gushing about. It's lush and modestly ripe with flavors/aromas of anise, mint, cassis and dried cherry, along with perfectly integrated tannins, soft acidity and a long, decadent finish. I would have gladly paid 30 bucks for it.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Lazy Christmas Day

It's Christmas Day, and we're basking in afterglow of opening presents and a simple lunch of leftovers from last night's feast.

We had E's son and his girl over for a Christmas Eve buffet that was a cardiologist's nightmare: BBQ beef brisket, country ham biscuits, mac-n-cheese, pimento cheese (recipe in this post) and Gorgonzola coleslaw. It was good to us, but not good for us.

Along with the leftovers, we're enjoying a Christmas tradition in our house -- opening a bottle of sparkling wine way too early in the day. Usually, I opt for Champagne, but this year I decided to go for something domestic. Champagne doesn't have a monopoly on fantastic bubbly.

Roederer Estate Anderson Valley Brut NV ($19.79, Green's Beverages)

For $10 less than you can touch most NV Champagnes, the Roederer is every bit as good in my humble opinion. It's a full-bodied style with flavors and aromas of apple, lemon, caramel and fresh toast. It's just the thing for a lazy Christmas Day.

Now the only thing left to do is look out the window to see if it's really going to snow.

Merry Christmas, y'all.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas With Vince

A topic I've rarely touched on is music. I can't live without music, and it's as much a part of our meals as are food and libations. E thinks of me as the house DJ, because I'm primarily the person who picks the soundtrack for our home.

My dad loves music, and I may have inherited my passion from him, although our tastes don't always match. We agree on Miles Davis and John Coltrane, but I'm not sure he shares my appreciation of Ice-T and Gang Starr. As with wine, I enjoy all different kinds of music as long as it's done well.

This holds true for Christmas music also. I know some people can't stand it, but I'm a fan. It's not Christmas until I hear Nat King Cole singing "The Christmas Song."

However, my all-time favorite Christmas album is the Vince Guaraldi Trio's, "A Charlie Brown Christmas."

Maybe it's because the television show is a nostalgic favorite ( I also love good animation) or maybe it's because the music is just so good, but this time of the year it's the first thing I put on in the morning after I've turned on the Christmas tree lights.

I might even end the night with it sometimes, a glass of wine in hand and only the Christmas tree lights left on. When you only listen to an album for a few short weeks once a year, you have to get in as many playings as you can.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Recommended Reading

A friend recommended my blog to some of his friends the other day. I’m always flattered other writers and serious readers take the time to read Brim.

Although it may not always show, I put serious thought and consideration into the things I post. I take my responsibility to my readers seriously. I don’t make my living as a writer per se, but I still think of myself as one.

On the subject of good writing, I’d like to make a recommendation to anyone who likes to read. My new issue of The Sun arrived recently. If you’re not familiar with The Sun, I highly recommend you seek it out.

While you’re at it, order a subscription (or two). The Sun doesn’t accept advertising, so it’s difficult to imagine how they still make a go of it.

While I frequently disagree – sometimes vehemently – with the editorial direction and the opinions of the writers, I always look forward to the next issue. Not an issue goes by without reading something that moves me deeply.

Speaking of liberal propaganda other great reads, E has gotten me hooked on the New York Times. A while back, I read this article in the Sunday Times Magazine, which mentioned satsumas, a Japanese citrus fruit.

Lo and behold, I ran across some at Rosewood Market on Friday. They are everything I imagined and more. Thus, today we had fresh-squeezed satsuma mimosas.

Talk about something I highly recommend. Hoo-wee.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Notes From Friday Night

We stepped out last night for some well-deserved holiday cheer. Our newest favorite place for food and drink is @116 State Espresso & Wine Bar – great food, great service and an eclectic selection of beverages.

While I was scouting the wine list, I noticed a wine I wasn’t familiar with.

Bodegas y Vinedos Ponce Clos Lojen Bobal Manchuela 2008

Just when you think your wine-geek-self knows some obscure grape varieties, one comes along and slaps you upside the head.

At first taste, this wine had a bit of carbonation. That quickly blew off and opened up into a medium-bodied, slightly earthy and complex wine with flavors of cherry, tobacco and spice. It also had acidity and tannins sufficient to stand up to our dinners of tea-smoked duck with a port wine reduction, mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach.

Okay, I’m gloating, but like I said – we deserved it.

Bobal is a native Spanish varietal. Here’s something interesting from Catavino about a documentary on bobal. Manchuela is not a region I was familiar with either. Here it is on the map. It's in the same neighborhood as Castilla-La Mancha, which I do know.

So, if I had the wine at a restaurant, how is the picture of the bottle taken at our home? This is what happens when you’re a wine blogger/geek. You take home empty wine bottles.

Cheers, y’all.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Let's Be Honest

In over three years of blogging, I’ve never written about my work. This is mainly because my job has nothing to do with the things I normally write about: wine, food, gardening and, of course, dogs.

It’s also because I might write something snarky that would lead somebody to believe that I don’t really, really appreciate my job.

I work in communications for a large company. It’s been my first experience with corporate America, and it’s made me very interested in how companies create messages – from the most basic to the most important. Lately, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how a company’s message and its actions are intrinsically linked.

The most important element of effective communications is the truth. If you say one thing and do another, people will see right through it. This should be common sense, but it amazes me how often it’s overlooked or completely ignored.

Years ago, I spent a few months working with a great group of people at an ad agency pitching a new account. They put together a presentation built around that simple element of communications – truth.

The final presentation was pretty awesome, but they didn’t win the account. However, the concept has always stayed with me. All good communication starts with the truth.

Unfortunately, as some people rise to leadership positions (or political office) they lose the desire to hear (or speak) the truth. They surround themselves with people who are adept at saying the right thing instead of what needs to be said. This creates a culture of untruth.

That’s unfortunate because you can spend millions on an advertising or public relations campaign, but if what you’re communicating isn’t true – your money is wasted.

In vino vertis. The Greek poet, Alcaeus, is credited with that little gem of wisdom. It apparently came from the idea that you can’t tell lies after a couple cups of wine.

Maybe they should start serving wine in Congress.

Although it’s possible that I’ve stretched the truth a time or so after too many glasses of wine, I do agree with the basic premise. It may explain why creative types like to do their brainstorming away from the office over some drinks.

These days, it’s increasingly difficult to hide from the truth because technology has sped up the flow of information. Why not just embrace the truth instead?

Sound naïve? Maybe it is, but research actually shows that an apology with an unqualified acceptance of responsibility makes people very forgiving. In other words, no matter how bad you screwed up, just be honest about it and most people will let you off the hook.

With all this in mind, here are my three rules for business communications.

1.) Be honest with your customers.
2.) Be honest with your employees.
3.) Be honest with yourself.

If you find any of the rules problematic, you might want to consider why you're in business in the first place.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Italian Gem

Wine shopping is something I know a little bit about. When you're working with a limited budget, you want to get the most for your wine dollars.

Being the wine geek that I am, I've learned to recognize the way that wine buyers work, especially with large retailers. World Market isn't someplace I would normally think to shop, but experience has taught me otherwise. They pick up some interesting and tasty stuff.

Exhibit A:

Cantina Zaccagnini Montepulciano d' Abruzzo "Tralcetto" Riserva 2007
($12.99, World Market)

I'm not as impressed with the 90 point rating from Bobby Parker as I am with the juice inside the bottle. This is a serious bottle of wine: silky, balanced, complex and easily mistakable for a $20+ bottle of wine.

If you can find some in your neck of the woods, buy it. You won't be sorry.


Friday, December 10, 2010

Today is a Good Day

I love the holidays.

I love, love, love the holidays.

The fact is that I'm a sentimental fool, and I have such fond memories of Thanksgivings and Christmases past. Thanks to E, I now also have Hanukkah to look forward to.

Here's a photo of the menorah I gave E for our first Hanukkah in our home. I've even learned to make a pretty mean latke.

E and I took today off so we could get a early start on a weekend trip to visit friends. The sky was glowing blue with a dusting of orange clouds when Hogan and I set off for a chilly morning walk. I love to see the houses in our neighborhood all decked out for Christmas.

After coffee and breakfast, we've got a few errands to run and some presents to wrap before we leave. One of the gifts we're taking to our friends is a bottle of homemade coffee-infused vodka.

There are some recipes here and here. It's really as simple as cracking coffee beans and soaking them with vodka and a little sugar in a glass jar. I'll be making some other infused vodkas in the future – maybe something with fruit and something savory for Bloody Marys.

Now it's time to get moving. Hope everyone has a good weekend.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010


Today is a day of remembrance for a one very big reason, but it’s a day I remember for a much different reason.

It’s the birthday of a beloved, departed friend. I can’t believe it’s been more than four years since Sully passed away. Even now, I can’t think about the night he died without tears filling my eyes, as they are right now.

That was the first time I watched the life run out of another living thing, and it had a profound effect on me. I recall thinking, Life doesn’t go on forever. You only get one ride. Maybe that sounds naïve, but at that point in my life I hadn’t met death on such a face-to-face basis.

A friend recently told me a story about his elderly mom, afflicted by Alzheimer's, who asked how old he was. When he told her, she said, “You better get to livin’!”

Good advice for anyone.

So, tonight I raise my glass to the memory of my old friend. As for me, I need to get to livin’.

Sunday, December 05, 2010


We went wine shopping yesterday at our go-to store and got talking to one of our favorite wine consultants. We were pondering the rationale of people who only drink one kind of wine – whether it’s a grape, winery or color (“I ONLY drink red”).

I’m not one to judge, but I just can’t wrap my head around that. Our cart was filled with reds, whites, bubbly and rosés – all from different grapes and different countries – because different occasions call for different wines.

I wonder if some people just don’t like change. They find something they like and think, Why look for anything else? I like this just fine. When I was selling wine, I was always surprised to see customers become distraught if we ran out of a particular wine or vintage.

There are some many great wines out there – why get upset over just one? In any case, this got me thinking about change in general.

It’s been almost ten years since I moved to South Carolina. I had lived in Greenville, North Carolina for almost 13 years and had recently been through a divorce. The time seemed right for a change.

I didn’t know a single person in Columbia, but I had visited a few times and liked what I saw. So, I found a house to rent, rented a truck, recruited a friend and drove south.

For those of you who don’t know much about the South, you’ll enjoy this story. As my friend and I were unloading the truck, the next door neighbor pulled up. He walked over and introduced himself and his sister, who happened to be with him.

I ended up becoming friends with him, dating his sister, and renting, then buying his house – the one where E and I now reside. That, my friends, is an example of why I love the South.

Moving to Columbia was just what I needed. Although it turned into a challenge financially and professionally, I met some great people, made some amazing friends and, best of all, found E.

Some of my friends and family thought I was nuts at the time for doing something so seemingly random, but I knew I needed the change.

Ten years later, I think I’m due for another shake-up.

No, I’m not going to pack up and leave town this time, nor am I going to buy a red convertible. This time I’m working on some new goals and challenges for myself.

What are they? Well, the plan isn’t finalized in my head quite yet, but it feels good just to be thinking about the possibilities. It’s easy to become stuck in a routine, but it’s refreshing to break out of it.

Whatever I decide to pursue, I’ll no doubt be writing about it. I’m still not sure what’s going to happen with Brim, but if I’m not writing here, I’ll be writing somewhere else.

Maybe a new blog will be part of the plan.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Okay, José

I'm a big fan of grenache/garnacha. An old friend introduced me to the grenache-based wines of the southern Rhone Valley many years ago, and it's been a love affair ever since.

Unfortunately, some of the newer style wines are overripe, flabby and missing some of the nuances that I find so endearing. So, I was stunned to find an exceptional garnacha that was also a real steal.

Cinco Josés "Old Vine" Garnacha 2008, ($6.99, Green's)

This is a lovely example of garnacha with flavors of dried cherry and raspberry with some nice herbal notes and a hint of white pepper.

Cinco Josés comes from Spanish Vines, which is an importer based right here in Columbia, S.C. E and I have been drinking their wines for several years now, and they are an importer to watch. If you find some of their wines in your local shop, be sure to pick some up. You'll be glad you did.