How do you select your wine?

Recently I noticed that many of the wines I get excited about and that I tend to choose and buy are based more on a memory or experience that I associate with the wine than any other reason.  What about you?  Do you have a fond memory of a wine you enjoyed that special someone or at a great party or for just about any other reason?

My choices are definitely associated with wines I’ve come across while traveling locally and internationally.  But it’s more than just the travel that has made these wines special to me.  It’s the entire experience that surrounded my introduction to that wine.  I know I should probably want and enjoy a wine because it has more of oak taste or hints of berries or the influence of the soils, but for me it can be as simple as a memory that goes with the wine.  Now I’m not saying I’m going to drink a crappy wine just because the memory was awesome, but for me that has rarely happened.

Let me share some of my memories and wines that go with them.

Most recently my sister and I were at the Gourmet Food and Wine Show in Toronto and we were walking around hitting the wine regions that we normally enjoy.  Then as we headed down one of the aisles we were pleasantly surprised to see the winery Between the Lines from Niagara, Ontario.  We almost ran over to their booth to see if they had the wines that we had tried and enjoyed while on a wine tour in Niagara a few years ago.  This winery was the last of our tour that day and it was one of the best.  Their Cabernet Franc and their unique Lemberger really stuck with my sister and I.  These wines were great, but it’s that memory of spending the day with my sister, just the two of us doing something we enjoy together, that our father introduced us to.

Another great memory that has brought me to, what I feel are, some great wines was a recently trip to the southern hemisphere.  Specifically to New Zealand.  Now I’m already a lover of new world wines from South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, but it was this trip that gave me a very unique experience and introduction to great wines and wineries.  I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts and in some videos that I got the opportunity to meet with some winemakers one on one for a wine series I was working on.  It was those meetings with wonderful people, the atmosphere, the day, the trip and so much more.  Those wines I learned about and tasted have really stayed with me.

When I walk into the LCBO and see bottles of the Trinity Hill Syrah on display in the front of the store, I pick up a feel bottles to enjoy and share with friends.  I apologize to those friends if I bore them with my stories about the wine, the winery and memories of the trip, but to see the label, read the name and taste the wine bring me back to a wonderful place.

Or as I sit at a restaurant in Toronto and see on the menu Mapmaker from Staete Landt Vineyards I immediately order a glass so that I can be transported back to that gorgeous day in the Marlborough region of New Zealand, where I met the most lovely team at the Vineyard.  They made the experience so memorable, that just a sip sends me right back.  And I remember that they told me that many of their wines can be found in restaurants in Canada and less of them in the LCBO.   So it was my lucky day to find it on this side of the world.

There are many more memories, but I would love to hear how you choose some of your wines.  Is it based on a memory, a varietal, or something far more fancy?

Guest Blog – Vancouver and Victoria thru the eyes of a 10 year old.

Please welcome my guest blogger, my 10 year old niece.  She enjoyed a trip to BC for the first time earlier this summer.  This is Vancouver and Victoria through her eyes.  Enjoy!

I went to Vancouver for the first time!  My dad took me and my aunt and cousin came with us. My first full day was July 1st and we went to Steveston.

 

 

For lunch my dad and aunt had salmon, but of course it was a salmon fest! After lunch we went to the Gulf of Georgia cannery, it was cool. My cousin and I each made a Ukrainian Easter egg.  It was a lot of work but worth it.

 

 

July 2nd, we went to Stanley Park. First we went to the Vancouver Aquarium. We saw the dolphin and beluga show.

 

 

 

Then we went to an aboriginal village. Finally we went to see some totem poles.  Here are some of my favourites.

 

July 3rd, after breakfast we did a tree top canopy walk and it was a lot of fun. Next stop was Granville Island. We also went to the Museum of Anthropology.

 

July 4th,  we had to get up early because we were going to get on the ferry to Vancouver island! The ride was cool because I have only ever being on the ferry to Centerville. Then we were off to see some friends.  After our visit we had some yummy fish and chips at Fish on 5th. After lunch we went to the Salish Sea Aquarium.  It had a touch tank.  Then we stood in the Sidney Opera House . We stayed at the UVIC Student Residence.  Oh by the way in Vancouver we stayed at UBC Residence.

July 5th,  first we did a tour of parliament in Victoria. After our tour we went to fisherman’s wharf where we watched some kids feeding the harbour seal.

 

 

 

Then we were off to miniature world at the Empress. My cousin, aunt and I went to Butchart gardens. I got to take pictures because my dad did not come in, it was beautiful. Finally back to the ferry and back to Vancouver. When we got to our hotel my cousin and I got to go swimming.

 

 

July 6th, my dad and I had to get up early because we were going home. We got to fly in a new plane but there were NO TVs it was terrible but we had this very nice lady beside us so it was not that bad. And that is all I have to say about my trip to Vancouver!!!!!!!!

What an Olympic experience!

Today was the last full day of my incredible London 2012 Olympic experience. And boy was it a full day! Along with all the other wonderful events I’ve been too this week, the big goal all along was to get to events at Olympic Park, the centre of it all.

Once I knew I was going to the Olympics, I worked all my connections and social media savvy to find tickets to events at the park. I ended up pretty successful with 3, almost, back to back events. The day started with a some great women’s basketball games in the Basketball Arena. France vs. Russia (France won) and the Czech Republic vs. Angola (first time in the Olympics) where the Czech Republic won fairly easily. The games and atmosphere were great. Plus the temporary venue was perfect. And we had awesome 8th row seats!

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Following that it was off to the world’s largest McDonald’s for my second McD’s of the day. Check out this line up. But only took about 15 minutes.

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After a well balanced meal, getting caught in the rain, running into my friend’s sister (Canadians can find each other any where) it was time for some Water Polo. Now I knew nothing about this sport, but it’s all part of the experience and it too was incredible. Some really energetic fans. But how the heck do these girls play this sport. It seems so tiring.

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First it was the big water polo national of Hungary vs. Russia, then Australia vs. China which went into double overtime and a shoot out (Oz won). That meant a hustle over to the Aquatic Centre for the Women’s 3m Springboard Diving final. With flag and flag head band in hand, and on head, I made it over to the one place I had really been wishing to see, the Aquatic Centre. What an incredible venue. I could just imagine the crowds cheering on Michael Phelps or Ryan Cochrane.

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Sadly our Canadians didn’t win a medal, but the diving was incredible. To see the Chinese divers live, was amazing.

After having some trouble saying goodbye to the Olympic Park, it was time for me to leave and end my Olympic journey. But not before noticing again, just how well organized this entire event is. Congratulations London, you have done an incredible job!

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But who do I cheer for?

As I wrap up day two of watching the games live, I must say it’s been quite a day. First off the big things: our first Gold, an awesome silver and a wonderful bronze for Canada on super Saturday. Glad to know of the 25 Golds given out today that one went to Canada. Fantastic. Go Canada Go!

But what have I been up to today you may ask? Today was my Beach Volleyball day, all right in the heart of London at the Horse Guards Parade near the palace. So amazing to be sitting watching this very modern sport surrounding by all this history, greatness and plus some modern architecture.

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We were lucky enough to catch a men’s and women’s match. In the men’s, Germany played Latvia and in the women’s it was Brazil vs. the Czech Republic. Since neither my home or birth country were playing, the question comes up who do I cheer for? One or the other or everyone? The top seed or the underdog? Or the one everyone else is cheering for? I didn’t know. Most of the time I go underdog. But today, it ended up that I cheered for the higher seeded team of Germany for the men and the underdog of the Czech Republic for the women. Couldn’t really tell you how I came to that decision, but I’m sure many of us couldn’t explain what we do when we don’t have a team affiliation.

Here is team Latvia.

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Team Czech Republic

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Germany won and the Czech republic won, so I guess I chose well.

But what a great atmosphere and energy. The music, the fans, the volunteers. Incredible. I can’t say enough about how well organized these games are. Tomorrow will be the big test as I head to Olympic Park for my 3 event day.

Again no idea who to cheer for. But it looks like at my last event of my Olympic Experience I will be able to wave our flag and be a crazy Canuck as I watch the women’s 3m springboard diving final where we have 2 awesome Canadians who qualified. I’m so pumped. Go Canada Go!

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But my question is to you, who do you cheer for when you don’t really know who’s playing?

A dream realized…Olympics

I never thought that the day would come that I would get a real chance to attend the Olympic Games. I had dreamed it for as long as I could remember. Actually, I think I can remember exactly when it became my dream. It was the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics when Alex Baumann won his gold medals. From that moment on I wanted go and compete for Canada in swimming. That dream never materialized, but then the next dream of competing for Canada as a rower crept in my head when I took up competitive rowing. Sadly that was not to be either.

Then Vancouver 2010 happened and I will always kick myself for not going to those games. So when the opportunity came up to attend the London 2012 games, I couldn’t pass it up, no matter what the cost.

So this past Tuesday I began my journey to London for the games. The bad weather tried to me down, but I finally arrived on Wednesday and it’s been go go go since then (all fun). From picking up my tickets to trying to catch up with friends who’s schedules are also filled with watching events, its been a whirl wind.

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Today I got to attend my first event. And what better to start with than Rowing. It was incredible. From the shuttle bus to the volunteers to the incredible organization of it all, it has all been done right over here. And the rowing itself was great. Sadly it was not a big day for Canada but I did get to see the men’s pair race and I could almost reach out and touch them.

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My next few days are filled with so much more, that I will share with you as it happens. I just can’t wait and also have trouble believing this is all really happening. Pinch me, it is! Go Canada Go!

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I will say one last thing, I do miss the CTV coverage of the Games. Can’t say that the BBC style is for me. But still great to watch it in real time.

Glory Hole Doughnuts…..Mmmmmm!

A few weeks ago I got introduced to Glory Hole Doughnuts through a crowdfunding program they were running through Indiegogo.  The story of this up and starting company interested to me.  And the fact that they were working towards opening their first store front in my area of town, was also very enticing to me.  I was thrilled to help support a local business in the Parkdale area of Toronto.

As part of my contribution, I was rewarded with a dozen of the extremely yummy Glory Hole Doughnuts.  They are not your regular doughnuts.  These tasty treats have been created to be unique and can mimic the flavours of other tastes you love.  Like Butter and Toast, Banana Cream Pie or Lemon Meringue.

I knew that I couldn’t accept these dozen doughnuts at a time that I would be the sole person responsible for eating them.  As I really don’t think that is part of my Weight Watchers plan.  So I decided that I would get them to enjoy with a big group of friends at weekend away.

Glory Hole Doughnuts

I received this big box of doughnuts from the business owner/doughnut creator, Ashley Jacot De Boinod, on Friday morning.  I tempted my co-workers with these gorgeous looking and smelling doughnuts.   Then they began their trip on the train to visit my friends.

Our box of treats consisted of:  Butter and Toast, Banana Cream Pie, Lemon Meringue, Chocolate & Pistachio and Yogurt & Granola (this one definitely had to be good for me, right?).  In order to make these last and so that everyone could try each of them, we had to cut them up into smaller pieces (plus these doughnuts are a good size).

Every single doughnut was a big hit.  Some liked Butter & Toast better, others fell in love with Banana Cream Pie.  The look of the Lemon Meringue was intriguing and didn’t disappoint when it came to flavour.  My favourites were definitely the Butter & Toast and the Chocolate Pistachio, but I enjoyed each of them.

The overall review of the doughnuts was how fresh they tasted and how the flavours were just so true to their names.  You really did feel that you were eating pie or toast.  So often you try a doughnut and the flavour doesn’t match then name, but not in this case.  You get exactly the flavour your are expecting and more.

I cannot wait for the store to open in Parkdale on Queen St. W, near Sorauren.  I will definitely be stopping in for a treat and sharing them with my friends!


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Moms and Butterflies

Happy Mother’s Day to all the wonderful mothers out there enjoying today and the ones that only fill our memories now.

I wanted to share a story about my mom, who passed almost 6 years ago, and how she continues to show up in my life.  The day that my mom died in September of 2006, was a beautiful sunny and warm day.  Exactly the day it should have been, as she was the most sunny and warm person I’ve ever known and probably will ever know.  Everyone who ever met her or knew her would say the exact same thing, it’s not just daughter bias.  But, on that day as the last minutes were passing and passed, we looked out the window at the hospital and all we could see through the sun were beautiful monarch butterflies.  The sight of those butterflies really made an impact and memory for my sister and I.  There was something about those graceful and gorgeous butterflies that made us think about my mom and made us wonder if her spirit became one with them.

I say this because it is those beautiful monarch butterflies that show up at that most interesting times.  We have seen them on the flowers at my sister’s house on anniversaries of her passing, on important days like the first day of school and birthdays.  And more importantly, on the days when you just need to know that she’s around.

Last week, I walked out of my apartment and there was one just flitting around the yard and just stopped while I stopped, smiled at it and walked on.  And one followed the family around at the park that same weekend, almost making sure that everyone was doing well.

I know that some people would have trouble believing my story, but when you’ve lost someone you just need little things like butterflies to hold on to and help remind you that you are still loved by a wonderful soul like my mother.

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother’s Day

 

Check out “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”

Just saw the documentary “Jiro Dreams of Sushi“, and now I’m definitely dreaming of sushi.  What I can say up front is DO NOT go to this documentary on an empty stomach, as you will leave with your mouth salivating even more than mine was on a full stomach.

The story of this incredible 85 year old sushi master is one to marvel at and enjoy.  From being on his own as a very young child to having a small sushi restaurant that receives 3 Michelin Stars on a regular basis.  He expects everyone that comes to work with him to put in a minimum of 10 years of learning as they start at the bottom and work their way, not to the top, but to being recognized as someone with potential to be good and maybe one day, great.

Jiro’s philosophies are definitely ones to listen to and learn from.  Even though his life has mostly been about sushi, his lessons apply to all of us and we can grow as people and in our careers by looking at the man behind the sushi, not just the man making it.

This documentary will make you want to book a trip to Tokyo and stop in to enjoy a meal at Jiro’s sushi bar.  But, reservations are expected and only accepted a month before you want to eat there.  Plus, meals start at 30,000 yen and there are no drinks and no appetizers.

It’s definitely on my list for my next trip to Tokyo.  But in the mean time, the movie is playing at TIFF Lightbox in Toronto and probably somewhere near you at a specialty theatre.


 

 

One Last Stop

I’ve been home for a few days now.  All unpacked, laundry is all done, slowly catching up on sleep, and some friends and family have already been made to look at my 650+ photos.  But, I wanted to tell you about the last stop on the big tour, Los Angeles.

Let me start by talking about Air New Zealand.  Really enjoyed their hospitality for my flight from Auckland to Los Angeles.  The flight attendants were lovely, the plane was new, the movie selection had over 50 movies from “When Harry met Sally” to “My Week with Marilyn” and one of the best things of all, they played music in the toilets.  It’s amazing how such a little thing could mean so much to me.  It made the whole experience very relaxing and the washrooms were spacious (for a plane) and decorated nicely.  One had wallpaper with a chandelier on it.  Really made you feel like you were not being rushed, like I normally do.  Thanks for the little things Air New Zealand.

But, on to the last stop of my journey.  Let me just say, I like the word journey more than vacation or trip.  Because that’s what it was, a journey.

Los Angeles, like always, was an interesting place.  It was made so much better this time with a few good friends to travel with, Joe and Stephanie.  Thanks so much for joining me.

As I’m a creature of habit, stayed in the same Holiday Inn Express (free breakfast – it’s the little things that are important) and rented the car from the same Budget.  If you’re happy with the service and experience, why change it when it’s such a short trip.  After luckily getting to check in early, it was off to Hollywood and Highland and the walk of fame.  Had to leave Stephanie there, while I headed off to a meeting.  But, quickly returned and checked out a few things.  Included purchasing a very yummy cupcake from Crumbs Bakery.  That wouldn’t be the only one I enjoyed on my short visit to LA.

After Joe’s arrival, very early Tuesday morning, and some sleep, we were off on our day of studios and tv shows.  We enjoyed a tour of the Warner Bros Studios in the morning.  I had been sad that my favourite show, “The Big Bang Theory” was on hiatus that week, so I couldn’t get tickets to a taping, but luckily we were at least able to go and check out the set.  Also, the set of “Mike and Molly” since they were also off.  All in all a great tour.

We had to then kill some time before going to “The Ellen Degeneres Show”.  Interesting though, we almost missed it.  Let me tell you the story.  We received a call on Monday night saying that the time we needed to be at the show to check in had moved from 2pm to 3:30pm.  So we showed up at 3:25pm, thinking we would be early, but not the case.  The waiting area was already full.  We headed over to a security guard, they told us we were early for our show taping and that we were in the second taping of the day, so to just sit over there and wait for this group to leave.  We did what we were told.

The “other” group was getting their numbers etc.  Luckily, Stephanie decided to go and check.  After being yelled at by another security guard for not doing what he had told everyone to do by getting in line for numbers, we rushed over and got the last 3 guaranteed seating numbers.  We explained to the girl what happened and she told us that the security and the show don’t work together, so they don’t know what the security is saying.  Okay, a little confused.  The only people were saw or were able to speak to when we arrived were the many security guards, no show staff.  Might be a good idea for them to all be on the same page, especially for them to know that there is only one show taping that day.  But, I still wonder why I received a call to say come at 3:30pm, when it looked like others had been there for hours before us.

Oh well, we got to see the show and the guests were great this time around.  Jonah Hill was there talking about the new movie he wrote and stars in, 21 Jump Street.  Additionally we had a guy from “X-Factor” and this amazing guy who taps on the NYC Subway to make money for his Penn State education.  Good show!

Did I mention that all this was on my big birthday.  Awesome day.  We topped the day off with a great dinner at Il Cielo in Beverly Hills.  Check out the decor.

Il Cielo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a lovely meal with great company, it was time to call it a day on the actual birthday, but don’t worry like usual my birthday will continue for at least a few months or a full year this year.  We all deserve nice long birthdays.

Our next day was all about being tourists, doing the hop on and off bus tour.  We got down to Santa Monica where I got to stand on the other side of the Pacific Ocean.  Pretty cool to stand on so many sides of the Pacific Ocean on one trip.  Plus a few dips into it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luckily we went to Santa Monica, because we got to see our fill of C and D list stars.  Started with Kevin Sorbo shooting some movie.  Might have been this one, The Whole Banana . And then a major highlight, we saw the one and only, The Hoff.  Yes, David Hasselholf and he didn’t seem drunk or anything.  Just wearing some bad long, white socks.  We continued to hope and dream that we would see at least one A or at least B list actor, but nothing.  We do think though that we saw this guy at The Grove.

After all of our touristy stuff, it was time to pack up and head back to reality and home to see my family and other friends, plus sleep in my own bed again!  I had a wonderful home coming with my family and some friends.  Thanks for the great Arrivals welcome from my favourite girls, my sister and my two nieces.   Always, dreamed of one of those.  It is after all the happiest place on Earth, according to Hugh Grant in the movie “Love Actually”.

Will probably do one more blog post about the trip to share some interesting observations about other travelers and general over all thoughts.  Keep an eye out for that one.

 

Last days in NZ

My last days in New Zealand have been great. Things have been slowing down a bit. Not any huge adventures, but still great fun.

Because I have not treated myself enough, on Thursday I went for an aqua massage and a soak in the thermal pools at the Polynesian spa in Rotorua. That was great. I don’t think my skin has ever been so smooth. But I don’t think I will be getting the sulphur smell out of my swimsuit any time soon. Time to buy a new one.

After some more relaxing, it was off to an exciting evening with the the Maori people for a traditional Hangi. Well as traditional as you can get with about 200+ of your closest strangers. Check out the awesome food we got to eat.

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Plus so much more. They also explained the Maori culture and history to us a bit. Very interesting. Following that had a bit of Kiwi (bird) experience. They are pretty cool birds and NZ is doing so much to protect them. Impressive.

After my last bus ride it was time for my last days to be spent in Auckland. Started my trip in a big city, Sydney, and ending in a big city, Auckland. It’s a nice city and I’ve been staying with a great girl through Airbnb. Spent time just enjoying the city and the only aquarium of my trip. The Kelly Tarlton Underwater Adventure. It was filled with some beautiful and interested aquatic life. Centered mostly on penguins. Here are some pics.

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Sunday, I spent at Waiheke Island visiting another winery, Stonyridge. Impressive place and they have to be one of the coolest wineries, bringing DJs from around the world for great outdoor parties. Need to come back for one of those.

Otherwise, I’ve just been enjoying Auckland and slowing down a bit. Today I’m on the search to find something to wear to the taping of the Ellen Degeneres show on Tuesday, which coincides with the same day of my big birthday. Awesome.

Wheels up later today for LAX. Thanks so much New Zealand. See you again soon!