Thursday, October 30, 2008

Wines from the Loire Valley

Wednesday evening I had the privilege to attend a wine seminar held by the good folks at Wine Merchant's Gourmet. The topic was one of my favorite regions, the Loire.

Also known for its historic castles and rustic landscape, the Loire is also home to France's 3rd largest AOC (appellation d'origine contrôlée) wine region. The primary grapes grown in the Loire region include Muscadet, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc and to a lesser extent, Pinot Noir.

The region is easily split into three regions:

The western Loire, around Nantes, is the home of Muscadet. This is an area of low, sandy hills and the climate is cool.

In the middle Loire things heat up a little, and the climate is mild with moderate rainfall. The west of this area has a tendency towards the noble rot, and is capable of making some great sweet wines.

The upper Loire is to the extreme northeast of the valley. A more continental climate, summers are hot but short. The soil is a mixture of limestone, sand and chalk, known as "Tufa".

Whew, okay. Now that you know about the Loire, we tried the following wines:

Flight One

Domaine de la Fruitiere Muscadet Petit M 2007 $12.99
Domaine de la Fruitiere Chardonnay 2007 $12.99
Domaine des Huards Cheverny Blanc 2005 $15.99

Flight Two

La Craie Vouvray 2006 $15.99
Viking Vouvray Sec Tendre 2004 $22.99
Laureau Savennieres "Les Genets" 2004 $27.99

Flight Three

Domaine Vacheron Sancerre 2007 $29.99
Le Paradou Blanc Viognier 2007 $11.99
Le Paradou Rouge 2007 $11.99

Flight Four

Clos Delorme Valencay Rouge 2006 $18.99
Noblaie Chinon "Les Chiens-Chiens" 2005 $17.99
Domaine des Roches Neuves Saumur-Champigny 2006 $22.99

Flight Five

Louis De Grenelle Brut Saumur Rose NV $19.99

I should point out, these wines were produced on small family estates, and were not treated with synthetic chemicals. I looked forward to the event because Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc are some of my favorite varietals. I was intruiged; however, to try the other varietals that the Loire is known for. At the end of the day, it was not the stalwarts of my palate but the newcomers that stole the show. I particularly enjoyed the Domaine de Huards Cheverny Blanc, whose crips vegetal nose threw me for a Sancerre. Better yet, because the Sancerre rolled in at $29.99. Yikes! If you have not had a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand or another cool climate region, I highly recommend it. The crisp vegetal flavors of the varietal make it a great food wine.

Next up, I must admit I was rather ignorant of Vouvray up to this point. While not my ideal choice for wine, the high acid/high sugar content is a fun and exciting style. Especially paired with your favorite offal and rich meats and cheeses. My personal fav of the three: Viking Vouvray Sec Tendre 2004. The acid attacked my tongue straight out, there was an obvious balance of sweet and acid in this wine. Pair this one with your favorite sweetbreads...and I ain't talkin' about cake. :)

The Le Paradou Blanc Viognier 2007 was one of the better Viogniers I have tasted. Complex with flavors of white pepper and mint, these grapes are nestled at higher altitudes keeping the body lean and allowing flavors to develop. There was a slight grassy finish. Probably my 2nd favorite white after the Cheverny Blanc.

One thing I was not expecting from this tasting was disappointment from the reds. While there were a few that I enjoyed. Overall, I have to admit the selections of the evening were lackluster. The first, Le Paradou Rouge, was a Grenache/Syrah blend. Oddly it was the first red we tasted and these varietals were missing their trademark weight.

Next up, the Clos Delorme Valencay Rouge 2006. Another new wine experience. A blend of Pinot Noir, Cab Franc, Malbec and Gamay. I liked the texture and flavor of this wine, but the first sniff and each thereafter reaked of sulfur, making it tough to get past.

I did enjoy the Noblaie Chinon "Les Chiens-Chiens", but outside of being a 2005 (a perfect vintage) this wine had nothing to make it stand out from the rest.

Finally, the Louis De Grenelle Brut Saumur Rose NV was a refreshing take on Cabernet Franc. A crisp bubbly, it made a nice finish. Light rose in color, bright red fruit flavors and light toast. This might sound weird, but the "toasty" flavor came through like the smell of a hot curling iron. I enjoyed it.

In all, I was glad to attend and learn more about the Loire. Although my experience with the wines was not outstanding, I will; however, check out more whites from this region.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Autumn: A Photo Blog

With the onset of Autumn, I was tasked with taking some pictures at work this week. Landscape shots are difficult, because scenery may be awe inspiring, but it is impossible to capture it all. When you get home, your photos never stack up to the way it looked through your eyes. Therefore, you have to find something in the scenery and frame it to best capture the beauty of a place. Behind the lens, I was not all that impressed with what I took, but now looking at them on the computer. I am slightly less disappointed. Here are some of my favorites.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Google Maps Offers Marketing Opportunities

I may be the last person on earth to know about this, but Google Maps allows you to put together custom maps. Since I've just discovered it, I'm sure you can pretty much do anything, but I used it today to create a visual representation of customers from one of our most recent festivals.

We know where most of our target market is coming from, but you never really know until you actually see it. Sometimes it's easy to forget what towns are near which, but Google Maps to the rescue!

This also let us see how effective our newspaper advertising was. I can match up the locations of respondents with the areas where ads appeared.

These responses represent only about 10% of total attendees. This map represents individual responses. A blue dot is one person. A red dot is 5 people. For my purposes alone, I could also use this map to gauge incomes of our clientele, or even figure out which locations spend the most money on average and overall. There are many other uses, just be creative! Best of all, it's FREEEEEEEEE.

Has anyone used this? What did you use it for?

View Larger Map

Monday, October 13, 2008

Another Stock Pick for 2009

Pay no mind to the optimism from today's market leap. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is just a sampling of 30 companies from different sectors in the market, giving an easily quantifiable stock market indicator. A more accurate indicator of the state of the economy can be found in the LIBOR unit, or the London Interbank Offered Rate.

Another financial sector that shows promise for 2009 is Healthcare. Politics aside, the health care industry is in need of a massive overhaul. Malpractice suits and insurance premiums are sucking the blood out of Americans, not to mention the obesity epidemic and prescription drugs.

I am recommending this sector as an industry to watch in 2009. The industry as a whole is still ahead of the curve--it has lost less than the S & P 500--but is still off almost 25% from its peak growth in 2007. This industry will also reap benefits brought on with the coming election, no matter which candidate wins.

Pfizer Inc. (Public, NYSE:PFE)

Pfizer is a well-known company, and is ripe for the picking. Stocks are at almost $17 a share.

Merck & Co., Inc. (Public, NYSE:MRK)

Merk is another well-known druggist offering solid dividends and rings in at $29.00 a share.

And finally, Medical Equipment and Supplies. This sector would most certainly benefit from a nationalization of the health care industry, as machines make comprehensive care quicker and easier if there will be millions lined up for subsidized care.

Do your homework!

Monday, October 6, 2008

T Bag's Stock Picks for 2009

Well, the DJIA is back below 10k; the first time since 2004. Although record breaking losses abound and chaos seems imminent, buying opportunities are emerging over the horizon.

Capitalism works because it doesn't work, and since the stock market has hit rock bottom...'s time for T Bag's stock picks for 2009.

1. Green Energy
There are plenty of companies hawking green energy these days, and many of them have nowhere to go but up. Buy these with little to no risk.

Check out:
Evergreen Solar, Inc.
Earth Biofuels, Inc.
(Public, OTC:EBOF)

2. Drinks
Consumer staples are a good hedge, look for them to come down due to tightening budgets and increasing fuel costs. That will make for a good opportunity to buy in later in the year when the dust has settled. It's said that alcohol is a recession-proof industry.

Check out:
The Coca-Cola Company
(Public, NYSE:KO)
PepsiCo, Inc.
(Public, NYSE:PEP)

3.General Motors
I'm going out on a limb on this one. GM is at its lowest level in more than ten years, and fringing on bankruptcy. At $4.89 since a share, a great deal. I feel like there are two camps as far as environmental change is concerned. There are those that call for immediate change, and those who call for a balancing of the energy portfolio. As with most trends, there are different classes of people. You remember this from marketing 101: they are "Early Adopters, the mainstream and laggards."

Long story short, with different kinds of zeal for the environmental movement, someone is going to break the internal combustion barrier. I'm placing a bet that GM is going to be the one and then my stock is going to be gold. Rumor has it they have a revolutionary new hybrid vehicle still in development that is soon to be revealed.

I'm just saying.

General Motors (Public, NYSE:GM)

Stocks to avoid:

The following sectors and commodities should be avoided as they are at the center of the problem we are facing now and will be volatile as they sort themselves out. These should be obvious:


I would also recommend avoiding technology, but now might be a good time to invest in some of your favorites, namely Google and Apple, who have lost more than 50% of their former value. Although still pricey, represent a solid opportunity. The question is, just how many good ideas to they have left up their sleeves?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Stop Watching Fucking Lost: Branding in Web 2.0 is a Gold Rush

I've been working on this one for a while. Gary operates a wine vlog, is a personal branding maven; and because we share the same industry, is one of my professional role models.

It's easy to feel gullible when you get motivated by a keynote speaker, but Gary Vaynerchuk is no buffoon. After taking over his family's New Jersey liquor store, Gary worked to rebrand the business as Wine Library, also a web store. He was able to grow the business from $4 million to $45 million within 5 years. He has since appeared in, on and with Conan O’Brien, Ellen Degeneres, NPR, Nightline, Mad Money with Jim Cramer, The Big Idea with Danny Deutsch, Slate Magazine, the Washington Post and Men’s Health Magazine, all without the help of PR. Read Gary's full bio here.

To help grow the brand, Gary pioneered the video blog format for wine, with his blog Wine Library TV. He left behind his CO position at the company after the aformentioned period of growth to start the blog. For 17 months, Gary watched the company's profits dip as he performed the show 5 days a week, exposing new, different and very affordable wines for the everyday consumer, which he ultimately hoped would grow his business even more.

Gary spoke of his experience with the Javits Center crowd at the Web 2.0 conference in NYC, held the last week in September. Gary points out what it takes to be successful in this revolutionary medium; most of his advice you've heard from your granddad a thousand times. The two Ps: Patience and Passion; not to mention, working hard to get what you want. (Gary exemplifies his patience and passion by talking about his experience starting Wine Library TV.) The reason this simple strategy works in Web 2.0, is because it is still wide open, as Gary zealously emphasises. "Look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself what you want to do every day for the rest of your life...I promise, you can monetize that shit." But this advice is not without warning, "If you for a second...don't believe what in what you're need to get out now!"

From a PR standpoint, he refers to Wine Library TV as "becoming part of the community," emphasizing communication with your userbase, which is an integral part of the Web. Communication with the creators of media is like never before. With Web 2.0, direct, almost instantaneous communication with content creators is the norm, instead of distant admiration with more traditional media. One of Gary's goals is to meet every person on earth.

Gary has turned down 40 television deals, because he is "waiting for a bigger opportunity." "The gatekeepers are no longer in control," Gary argues as to why he should publish his own content.

Back on a PR rant, Gary emphasizes brand equity. And the best way to build brand equity, he says, is "to do what you love." One downside to new technology is that our lives are completely transparent.

There is currently a gold rush of branding in the new Web arena. In the old days, brands needed alot of traditional media. Now, one only needs to be the first to carve out a niche. "Niches can go crazy."

So what's an entrepreneur to do? "Position yourself to your 9-5 (gotta have cash flow); then 7-2 is enough time to "kill it." "Stop watching fucking lost. If you want bling bling, if you want to buy the jets, if you want to do"


In a lapse of maturity, I am glad that this video is relevant again. At least for a little while..

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Article I: Amendments to "Things I Hate"

I can't believe I forgot this one:

Curve cologne. This stuff makes me want to throw myself into a grave. It's been a while since I have smelled this stuff, but I'm sure I would know it when, and if, I do. I kind of want to smell it again for the sake of this blog so I can try to describe it. Does anyone out there actually like the smell of this stuff? Let me know. I'm willing to hear your arguments.