Saturday, January 30, 2010

My January Barometer

It's already the day before the last day of January 2010, a month that has flown by the way this year is sure to fly by. But I'm happy to report that it has been a great month for me, full of fun and good things, and with that, if I am to predict how this year will go based on how this first month has gone, I would have to say, it's gonna be a great year.

January was a busy month for me, but it didn't have any of the hectic feeling of an overwhelming month. It was full of good things, well timed, and well executed. Among them:

1. Our friends' wedding. As pictured above, aren't they a gorgeous, happy couple? To protect their identity, I won't mention names, but they were married this month in our city, and it was a beautiful affair.

2. Work trip to Northern California. As I mentioned in the previous post, that was a highlight for me this month. While it was unfortunate that it was rainy, I felt good that I was unstoppable, and still made the most of it. That gave me some of the good feelings I used to have when I was super adventurous, like when I drove to Los Angeles from Vancouver back in the old days (the late 90s) and had to endure rain and all sorts of precipitation, especially though the wetter states of Washington and Oregon (they aren't green for no reason).

3. Johan's birthday. We celebrated on the Saturday evening after his birthday at a restaurant somewhat new to us - Bistro LQ. We had been to the French restaurant that used to be at this location, and I'm not sure but I think that the owners are actually the same, but the concept changed. Bistro LQ is still French, but more modern and adventurous. We loved our meal there. In particular, we were impressed by my main dish, the Lamb Composition. First off, what a great name. Second, it was basically lamb in all its glory - a lamb chop, lamb tongue, lamb sweetbreads, lamb kidneys, and some braised lamb. Yum! All done expertly in a delicious brown sauce (not heavy), served with a side of fennel or some vegetable - what fun. My appetizer was almost equally impressive - foie gras three ways - seared, on a French toast; and two cold preparations, one with truffles, the other, a terrine. Johan had for his appetizer venison tartar, and for his main dish, veal sweetbreads and kidneys - I had a taste of the kidney and it was good - a nice crunch in the texture and a delicate flavor.

If you are an adventurous foodie and love French cuisine, you have to try Bistro LQ!

4. We also celebrated the evening before that dinner on Friday - the plan was Champagne but unfortunately our bottle was corked - we ended up having 2006 Clos Pepe Pinot Noir which was more terrific than I remembered it, as well as 2006 Deux Montille Pouilly-Fuisse which of course was also delicious, along with some dried salami I brought back from Sacramento, and some cheeses Johan bought and some pate..... we stayed up late and watched Julie and Julia, and it was a great deal of fun.

5. Work has been good. I predict good economic recovery this year. Much better than 2009. Based on what I have seen so far in 2010.

All in all, good things. I hope you all have been having a good to great January as well.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Wet Week in Northern California

So I was up in the Bay area last week, and when I was there, I could not help but to think that I picked a helluva week to start working up here - it was as timely as when I started working commission-only as a wine rep back in September 2008 - when the market fell off a cliff, the economy took a nose-dive, and all hell broke loose as people started mimicking the media's choice of words, such as "bail-out," "the Great Recession," and "my 401K is now a 201K." Yep, that's what it felt like last week up in San Francisco, where I am sure it nippy in the winter typically, but I'm not sure it is usually the deluge that it was.

On the plus side, I was not missing much in the weather department down in my home area of Southern California. Both Northern and Southern California were being brutally hit with repeated storms, wind and rain of the variety to which Los Angelenos are not accustomed.

But my week was fully booked, and I was determined to see every customer that was expecting me. After a bumpy ride on my JetBlue flight up to Oakland, I found my way to the car rental office, and soaked myself running to my pale blue Ford Focus - my car of the week.

The plan was the first two days in the city of San Francisco, followed by two days on the east bay, with some detours up to the Napa Valley, followed by Friday in Sacramento and Davis. And a nice, easy drop off of the car at Sacramento airport, followed by a smooth flight home from there.

I'm happy to say I was successful in implementing this plan! Even in torrential rains, with high winds blowing while I drove across tall bridges, I got to all my appointments, even the ones in the countryside (Napa Valley), and met some of the most wonderful people. Well, at least 90-95% of the people I met were super terrific, and that's a high percentage. In total, I would say that the wine people I met, in restaurants and wine stores, were knowledgeable, friendly, enthusiastic, and intelligent, and they were genuinely interested in wine from all over the world, and they were not defensive about wine, ie. they were not strictly all about California wine, though of course they were very knowledgeable about it. In fact, I would almost say that those far away from California's most prestigious wine region (Napa Valley) are most defensive about California wines, preferring this style to the exclusion of other styles, while the Bay area and its neighboring wine country is actually very open minded and not at all exclusive in their taste for quality wine around the world. Go figure.

Some of my favorite appointments included Ame at the St. Regis, a restaurant I want to dine at the moment my hubby will join me in SF; The Boulevard, Waterbar, and the Slanted Door, all restaurants in the Embarcadero area of San Francisco. This is an area that has a great view of the Bay Bridge, a majestic structure that lights up at night and is so quintessentially SF.

In the Napa Valley, I particularly enjoyed visiting Auberge du Soleil, a little inn and restaurant tucked into a hill in Rutherford, off the Silverado Trail, a place I had never been; Ad Hoc, a restaurant next to and related to the French Laundry, which is very nice and modern and chic; and Carneros Inn, a group of brightly painted farm houses off Highway 12 that have been gutted inside and have modern innards that feel beautiful and make me want to make dinner reservations there very soon.

There were many, many other positive, fun experiences.... some were as simple as walking for a bit between rain showers in that clean, fresh air.... or having dinner by myself after a long day of work, listening to the couple at the next table argue loudly..... driving and learning how the streets go in the city and out on the east bay.... having split pea soup in my car while parked in Berkeley, feeling like a drowned rat..... missing my appointment by 30 minutes, and being able to make it up the very next day..... sitting with a new customer for 30 minutes while he slowly leafed through the catalog, me, wishing I didn't have to sit there... until he placed a $1000 order..... ah, the joys... I felt a lot like the Ratatouille rat Remy when he had to go through a wet yucky sewer, with that icky water dripping on his head, but when he got through it, the town was ..... Paris .... and it was beautiful.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Germany Part III, Here I Come!

It is confirmed - in February, I will be going to Germany with the company to taste the 2009 vintage in barrel/tank. It is the first preview of the new vintage, and we'll be there for 12 days to visit all the estates represented by Rudi Wiest Selections.
It will be my third time visiting this part of Germany, my second time there in the winter, and also my second time as a Rudi Wiest employee. It will be interesting. Interesting not in the way it would be if I were headed next month to a wine region I had never been to, such as Burgundy, Bordeaux, Loire, or Tuscany, but interesting to see what else I can learn about German wine culture on a third visit. Last year, I learned how different a feel it is to go there in the winter. Being in the countryside gives me a definite feeling that these are the months Persephone spent with Hades in the underground. The ground is red-brown, the vines are brown sticks in the ground devoid of fruit and leaf, the air is frigid in that cold way that doesn't feel like the coldest I have ever experienced (no, that would be Edmonton, Alberta in Canada), but in a dormant, coolish way that means this is not the best time to visit the Mosel and the Rhein, unless you were doing the important work of finding out first hand how the vintage was.
It will be indeed interesting to find out what I can learn now that I will be going the second time in a row in the winter. I will know what to expect weather-wise and landscape wise; I won't be so shocked that the plump, gorgeous green vines with their heavy, juicy fruit will be mere shells of themselves, the river and the sky grey. The locals will be huddled in their homes and wineries with thick clothing and a layer of heavy cloth covering the doorway to block the draft, instead of outside inviting you for a walk or a climb through the vineyard.
I will keep my eyes, ears and mind open to the German vineyard and cellar in the wintertime. I look forward to good photos, great wines, and lively discourse.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

San Francisco, here I come

Thank you for all the positive comments on my last rather ho-hum blog post. The comments were encouraging to read, especially the good wishes for my territory, San Francisco. Well, I wanted to give updates on that - and the update is - it is looking really great! I am headed up there soon, and so far I have many appointments booked already. People sound very positive and happy to see me and taste the Rudi Wiest wines, which is all very good news. I'm looking forward to being up there.

San Francisco is an interesting place. Last month, I did a short visit up there with my bosses, Rudi Wiest and his wife Erna, and during that trip, the city reminded me of other times I had been there, and gave me new inspiration. We actually started out east of the city and worked our way into the city, and on the east bay, I visited some towns that I had never really been to - Walnut Creek, Alameda, and Berkeley, just to name a few. I was a little surprised that I had never been to those places, but I guess I didn't have much reason to go. It did surprise me how scenic and beautiful some of these places were. There was a back-drop of mountains, and at the time, they were covered with new fallen snow. In Berkeley, we visited a small town within called Kensington, and driving there, we were treated to gorgeous views of ocean as we ascended to some older neighborhood that was perched on some heights. I was impressed with the views, to say the least.

Driving over the Bay Bridge into the city gave me the feeling of going into a big city... like New York or something (a place I have never been but have many impressions of in the mind). When we were in the Ferry Building meeting with the buyer at the Slanted Door, I felt like I was in Vancouver... the cold weather that day helped with the image, but it was more the view of the water from the restaurant's huge windows that reminded me of being in a similar restaurant in Coal Harbour in Vancouver's downtown.

Later, at a chic seafood restaurant in the Embarcadero called Waterbar, I was stunned by the magnificent view of the Bay Bridge by night, its glistening lights showcasing the stunning structure, all visible through huge floor-to-ceiling windows.

About 4 years ago, I came to San Francisco to meet my mom, my aunt and my uncle, who had flown in from Vancouver to attend their friends' father's 100th birthday celebration. Unfortunately, it happened to be in June, right after a Rudi Wiest Rudipalooza tasting which I thoroughly enjoyed and stayed too late at....when I arrived at LAX, I discovered that I had missed my flight. I had to catch a later flight to San Francisco, which would arrive that evening, but I totally missed the dinner celebration that my mom and aunt were at. In the airport, I bought a book called the Yes! Attitude, because I was so pissed about missing my flight!

I finally did arrive there, though, and we were staying at my aunt's friends' house. Her friend's husband, Sam, came to pick me up at the airport and drove me to their home in a suburb of San Francisco. I remember there house was way, way up on a hill, but I don't remember the name of the town. We spent the weekend out and about, mostly shopping (all the ladies wanted to shop, mostly at some great mall in Stanford) and we also visited a relative in San Jose. We also ate once in Chinatown, and when I stepped our of the restaurant at night, the scene was like it was from a movie - it looked like movieland's Chinatown, with its old buildings with restaurants and storefronts on the street level and apartments above, and the hilly streets and the lights. It was just a weekend trip, but it was a fun one for me, one of those trips I got to share with my mom, her sister, and also her brother, who was there for part of the trip.

This was not the only time I went to SF with my mom - I was there another time when my mom came to visit me in LA - and we drove up to SF to see her childhood friend. We drove all the way up there and even went to Marin County to visit Mill Valley on one of my coworker's recommendation. Mill Valley was a quaint cute place, very out of the way, and it took a bit to get there, so I'm not sure I'll ever go back. But it was fun to go, and we had a nice walk around the downtown square, and this is another nor cal memory I won't forget.
Thirteen years ago, back in 1997, I drove down from Vancouver in search of work in California, and before I applied for anything in Los Angeles, I first looked in the Bay area. There was an institute that I applied at in Sausilito - it was a heart institute - Dean Ornish - that proposed a very strict low-fat diet for the treatment of heart disease. I had spoken with the woman on the phone before showing up there, and when I did walk in to meet her that day in Sausilito, I remembered that she gave me a hug. No handshake, just a warm, friendly hug. It was nice; and it was different, and that made it memorable. It didn't turn into a job, but it was a fun day in Sausilito, and yes, they do have great views of the city across the water!

I poked around at the time for other jobs, but there weren't any in my field, so I continued down to SoCal, where I had much better luck, and that's why I'm still here today. My luck brought me down here, and keeps me down here, so I go with it.

This new thing with going up to NorCal to work a week out of the month also fell into my lap and I decided to say yes to the opportunity, and so far it feels right. I'll keep you posted on the fun adventures. Though at this point, I'm kind of wishing I had a lap-top, because I won't really have computer access when I'm up there...

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Ringing in 2010

January 3 now, and it is 75 degrees in southern California, and after a short run along the oceanfront, I am sitting down to ponder the switching over from 2009 to 2010.

Much hope and optimism has been swirling around this change from the last year to this new one - and I share this also. 2009 had good times - I got to go to Vancouver multiple times, got to go to Winnipeg and meet my parents there also, went to Seattle and met up with an old friend there, went up to Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez a few times, went to Reno and even ran a half marathon there, ran a marathon in Long Beach, saw my sister get married, and spent time with my other sister here in L.A. 2010 should bring some really great, interesting times as well.
Though while I brought in the new year among friends, wine-loving friends that share their great wines (a Moncuit blanc de blancs Champagne stood out for me, as well as an aged Spanish Rueda white), I am reluctant to blog about wine.

Seems there are many other things that occupy my mind at this present time. I am thinking about dogs (volunteering at a shelter walking dogs, learning about dog behavior, adopting a dog in the future), family (enjoying the company of family), working in a new territory starting this month (San Francisco), and plans I am making with Johan in this new year - things we wish to do and places we wish to go.

Wine is still very much a part of my life, though it doesn't play as focused a role. It is there, it is my livelihood, but so many other things play a more central role.

As such, not much to write about wine currently.

This may change in February or March after my possible/probable trip to Germany with Rudi Wiest and company - I might have notes on the 2009 vintage in Germany. Until then, this blog may have very little of interest to those interested in wine.


And happy new year, may yours (and mine) be filled with accomplishment, happiness, love, laughter, joy, health, and wealth.