Archive for April, 2008

Colina Pinot Noir 2006

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

The gardening season is upon us and this year I am so organised, I had my lawn mower serviced early to beat the rush.  Now it’s just a matter of being organised enough to be at home on one of the rare days that it doesn’t rain, so I can mow the lawn.

While I stare glumly out of the window at another English horizontal monsoon, I console myself by sampling eastern European wine.  But making decent Pinot Noir is about as Herculean a task as predicting which raindrop will win the race to the bottom of the pane.

This Romanian immigrant was part of the 2006 wine trade and smuggled in via a Sunday Times Wine Club mixed case “pure pinot noir” in exchange for a £69.99 ransom.  Not in the exorbitant price category then.

Wherefore art thou from, Colin A?


Café Istanbul, Manchester

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

Istanbul was Constantinople, now it’s Istanbul not Constantinople, but I am pleased to find it alive and well on Bridge Street.  To be fair it doesn’t look all that great from the outside.  Not very Byzantine.  Let’s open the box and go inside.

Istanbul was Constantinople, now it’s a resto…for some reason


Cross my palm with Pensilva…

Monday, April 28th, 2008

I am quietly pleased that I have finally managed to get this weblog onto a new platform, a new ISP and new publishing software.  I am still using the excellent WordPress, but have upgraded to version 2.5.1.  My previous version (2.1) was error prone and insecure – spam was starting to appear in my scheduled posts!  I strongly recommend anyone using WordPress to upgrade.

The new WordPress platform is pretty good, but it is much less intuitive than I expected.  Loading and managing pictures for example, is in theory much easier, but in practice I think there are still a few bugs that need ironing out.  I can also see that many of the new improvements have been aimed at non-technical users like me.  However, as with all open source software, it is ultimately designed by techies who don’t quite understand how us Muggles think.

As with all software upgrades in my experience, the problems arise in the database conversion.  This is something to watch out for if you are moving up several WordPress versions in one go, like I did.  I had numerous problems that a friend with some SQL knowledge kindly sorted, in exchange for a couple of bottles from my inner cellar.

Can you hit the mark?

To celebrate my new platform I am drinking an unoaked Chardonnay from Virgin Wines.  Pensilva Estate The Cross 2006 Coonawarra Chardonnay is not what I expected.  Does it hit the bulls eye or should it merely be hung out on a crucifix to die?


Searching for more wine info?

Monday, April 28th, 2008

If you are looking for more wine related weblogs, you could check out the “other good sites” list on the right of my home page.

Or you could try a new site aggregating blogs across the web  Here you will find links to the latest posts from a wide range of quality blogs including most of the ones I read regularly.

The weblog world has been accused of being unreliable, even corrupt.  The key to getting the best information is to read around and not take one person’s view as gospel.  The blogosphere, in my opinion, is no more corrupt (and may be less so) than professional journalism on average.  However, it is true that we bloggers are not held to the same benchmarks as published authors in the regular press.  This is both an advantage and a disadvantage of the blogosphere.  It enables us to speak freely without fear of advertisers pulling lucrative contracts, but conversely does sometimes allow un-researched opinion to be presented as fact, so it is worth reading around for the aggregated view.

Streamline sacked

Sunday, April 27th, 2008

Readers who idle here more than once in a Preston Guild are sure to have experienced problems accessing the website recently.  Regular “500” errors and database connection problems were almost exclusively caused by my (former) ISP,

Streamline is cheap but, as in the wine world, you usually get what you pay for.  The quality of service from Streamline has been abysmal both in database uptime, and customer service.  You can read one of my rants, if interested, at my other blog.

So I have put my metaphorical bottle of Echo Falls in the bin and upgraded to a nice Argentinean Malbec.  Well you didn’t expect me to choose an expensive French ISP did you?  Here’s hoping that the site is more reliable from now on.

Wither Hills Sauvignon 2007

Saturday, April 26th, 2008

At work, we’ve just recruited a new Director of Professional Services. Bringing new personnel into a business is always risky. Appointing someone to a key management position is even riskier. Will they fit in to the culture? Do they really have the skills? Do they have the bottle? In short, will they deliver the goods?

In this case, I am more confident than usual because I have known Neil for many years, and have worked with him before. I think he is ideally suited to the role and fully expect him to fit in and start adding value immediately. That’s the thing about good people – they add value immediately. So once you find them, you need to focus on keeping them on your side. Losing a key person to a competitor or, perhaps worse* to leave the industry, is a big threat to any business.

When I last tried Wither Hills (the 2006), I didn’t give it enough attention, although I liked the wine very much. So tonight I am trying the 2007 and hope to make up for that by giving it due consideration. But the first thing I noticed was a minor omission on the label. It no longer says “Brent Marris, winemaker”.

Wither or not to bother?


King’s Ransom, Sale, Cheshire

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

The map looked interesting.  Leaving central Manchester on the towpath of the Bridgewater Canal, we would simply walk to Sale, a brief stroll of about 5 or 6 miles.  Surely there would be friendly pubs at every bridge?  No.  Surely it would be an interesting walk through historic architecture and Manchester’s trading history?  No.  Well, perhaps a decent stroll along a pretty canal path?  Thrice no.

Fortunately the walk ended at a quality pub in Sale.  The tramstop is right opposite the pub.  Can you guess how we got back to town?

The food is cheap despite the name…for some reason


Concha y Toro Winemaker’s Lot 102T 2006

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

Why keep an online diary?  I am not Samuel Pepys.  I don’t have a burning desire to share my (albeit valuable) thoughts with the world.  I have no reason to create an alibi, or lay a false trail for the police.  I don’t have much spare time in my life, so I have to write quickly and from the gut (well, bladder to be precise).  So why do I do it?

The answer is as simple as the various thoughts that meander through my sponge-like brain.  I am exploring the world of wine and I wanted to keep a record for myself because my memory is patchy.  But even I would be bored by reading bland tasting notes, or wine ratings (no, no, no, no, no, please, wine is subjective!).  So I wrap my thoughts in inane claptrap…for some reason.  And I know it’s bad form, but when I do look back at my various posts, I sometimes laugh at my own jokes (someone has to).  Above all I recall happy things that simply would have fallen through my colandar like memory otherwise.

The imaginatively titled “102T” is not a name likely to hang around my hippocampus.  It came from the Chilean Pinot Noir case I ordered from the Wine Society for about £82 recently.

The imaginatively named 102T


Sam – put your Leeds Chop House out of its misery

Sunday, April 20th, 2008

In the restaurant world, turning a great local eaterie into a “concept” that can be rolled out across the world is a great danger.  New branches often lack the authenticity, the passion of the owners, the attention to detail and the personal service.  I have just discovered a text book example of failure at Sam’s Chop House in Leeds.

Sam’s Chop House in Manchester is one of my favourite places to eat in the whole world.  After 130 years of success, of which, before you ask, I have only contributed to 20 or so, why the owners felt the time was right to dilute their brand is a complete mystery.  Sams’ in Leeds is as far away an experience from the Manchester parent, as a wet weekend in Cleethorpes compares to a Caribbean cruise.

Er, this one was established 2007 actually…


Crémant du Luxembourg 2004 Riesling Cuvée de l’Ecusson Brut Bernard Massard

Saturday, April 19th, 2008

Blimey what a title!  As an alternative to, say, “Pol Roger Champagne” it certainly wins the verbosity battle, but is this a sparkler or a damp squib?