Sunday, September 05, 2004

Just some random thoughts

It's been a good visit with the parents. The kids were suitably spoiled, utterly charming, and just exasperating enough that there were no surprise decisions by my folks to stay an extra day.

The baptism went off without a hitch. Even the family members who came from out of town for the occasion seemed happy to be there, and generally relaxed.

The middle child got to celebrate her birthday for the fourth time, since her grandparents couldn't make it to the three parties she's had previously (did I mention the word "spoiled"?). And this isn't just celebrate as in "here's a present." There were multiple presents, an ice-cream cake with candles to blow out, the birthday song, pictures... the works. For the fourth time.

Ah, but it's fun. I can't pretend to be such a curmudgeon that this is going on over my objection. I can't plan a kids party to save my life, but I can sure enjoy the moment. Save for the matter of sibling jealousy, kids birthdays are unadulterated moments of joy and wonder in the early years (though I'm sure the days of pouting for not getting exactly what was desired upon opening the final gift are not far off).

Couple of topics are burning to get out tonight. But I'm not sure I can do either of them justice at the moment. I'm not even sure I have a firm enough handle on them that it's a good idea to let them out yet.

So let me head into lighter territory.

It turns out that the famous (perhaps that should be infamous) Professor Bainbridge has been blogging wine reviews sprinkled among his political posts for some time now. So maybe I'm not the great pioneer I had assumed.

But let's make a couple of general observations to help the blog reader understand which site to check for the best wine information.

The Professor, being an academic-type, offers a "grade" to each wine review (except when he forgets. Drinking a lot of wine can to that to a guy. Us fellow winos will not hold that one against him). Here are a few words he offers about his grading system: scale will be based on value - perceived hedonic quality for the dollar. Finally, I believe that both Parker and the Spectator (but, again, especially the latter) have been guilty of rampant grade inflation. In contrast, I intend to be a very tough grader.

A tough grader, eh' Professor? Well let's take a lookee at the lowest graded wine you've reviewed so far...

A modest but clean red wine suitable for mid-week quaffing on a budget. A blend of almost every middling red varietal except the proverbial kitchen sink - syrah, petite sirah, zinfandel, barbera, carignane, mouvedre, malbec, and negrette. Like any mutt, it lacks the definition or character that a pure-bred single varietal might have offered. Granted, it's reasonably tasty but it's also sort of non-descript; i.e., generic red wine without any particularly memorable characteristic. Grade: C+

First of all.... one snooty wine guy to another, this quote, "Like any mutt, it lacks the definition or character that a pure-bred single varietal might have offered." elitist, ridiculous, and witty at the same time. I love the line while I simultaneously scorn its sentiment. Nice bit of writing, I'll admit.

But let's move to the heart of the matter. Mr. "tough grader," has a "C+" as the bottom of his bell curve at the moment. Is he guilty of grade inflation? Perhaps (his apparent fondness for oaky Chardonnay definitely has me leery) .

But the answer might also lie in the fact that he seems to only review pretty decent wine. What good is that?

Take the plunge Professor! Dive into the bottom tiers of the wine world and experience a real challenge! Give a "D" or and "F" now and then, and mean it!. Don't make me become the "cranky wine blogger" compared to your soft touch. God knows the tendency is there already. It doesn't need your assistance, thank you very much.

In other news, my part time job of peasantry isn't going so well. Tilling the soil, and producing your own food certainly has its charms. But it also has constant reminders of why the vast majority of people don't do it anymore.

As a reminder, heirloom tomatoes are my passion. I start them myself from seed. Even in acquiring the seed itself, I frequently go to unusual lengths to obtain a rare or hard-to-find variety. This year, I have over 50 plants in the ground.

Now tomatoes are, by origin, a tropical plant. They like warm weather; meerly surviving rather than thriving when temps don't make it into the 80's. Well this summer has been freaky cold in Minnesota. We've hit the 80's no more often than we hit the 90's in a normal summer. And my tomato harvest is suffering as a result.

This suffering is generally shared by gardeners everywhere. But for us heirloom tomatomaniacs it is heartbreaking. Our season-ending first frost may be only a couple of weeks away. And many of my plants have yet to produce their first ripe fruit. Even if the frost doesn't come, temps are unlikely to reach the 80's again, according to the extended weather forecast.

In that light, I think I'll take tomorrow to pay special tribute to those tomatoes which have favored us by producing something. Pictures... tasting reviews... the works. Bainbridge can pop a cork, but can he grow a 6 foot plant bursting with flavorful rare tomatoes?! Well, yeah, he probably can, but I'm counting on the likeliood that he probably doesn't anyway. That's what we call a "differentiator" in marketing. Movin' on up here at Bogus Gold baby!

And maybe... just maybe... one or two of those burning issues will become coherent enough to dive into as well. Like most blogs this one ought to come with a "read at your own risk" disclaimer. But I hope, like most I enjoy reading, the risk is part of the fun.


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