Wine Transportation June 11, 2008
Throughout the year I have used various tactics to ‘smuggle’ bottles of Californian wine back to Dublin. You see, I have a huge problem of not having access to my favorite Californian wines that were so readily available to me in the States. The wine shops across Ireland have heaps of good wine from Old World regions and from the New World regions of Australia, Chile and South America. However, when it comes to importing wine from the States, the Goliath’s of the wine industry: Gallo and Kendal Jackson, dominate the US selection.
The inventive wrapping forms I have used to transport wine across the Atlantic have included sweaters, towels, plastic bags, socks and t-shirts. I wrap the bottle(s) in these items and when I check my luggage at the gate, pray that they don’t bust and leak all over the contents of my suitcase. NOW, I have found an invention to resolve my wine packing needs. No, it is not drink it and transport it in my belly. It’s called Wine Skin (http://www.ftscontent.com/) and is a custom-made bubble wrap for wine bottles. At $10.99 for a 5-pack, I think it’s not too bad a deal considering how much it costs to ship wine through USPS.
It works fairly simply – insert wine bottle, seal end, and wallah – your wine bottle is protected. Also, if the bottle happens to bust, the contents of your suitcase will be safe from deep red wine stains. I guess a simpler and perhaps cheaper method would be to just use duct tape and bubble wrap, but the handy shape and seal makes this little invention quite appealing.
Burren Yoga Experience June 7, 2008
Following my trip to Connemara and Galway City, I headed down to Cappaghmore for a Bikram Yoga retreat. I haven’t practiced much Hot Room Yoga; I usually do Vinyasa Flow/Ashtanga yoga, so I wasn’t sure how I was going to be in +100 degree temps. When the cab driver pulled up to the location, I could tell this was going to me an amazing experience. I was greeted by the owner of Burren Yoga, David, who showed me to my room. Right away I was enthralled with the woodwork. There were three bunk-beds in my room, each handcrafted with these unusual wood panels that enhanced the pure and back-to-nature but also very comfortable feeling of the whole place.
Friday night was very restful, but come Saturday, we had two pretty intense yoga sessions with a lovely hike in the middle of the day. I won’t drag on about the details of the yoga, but will sum it up by saying that I don’t think I ever sweated that much in my life. When they say hot yoga, don’t misinterpret that for ‘warm’. It is going to be hot – really, really hot. My warning for anyone thinking about doing Bikram yoga – don’t sit by the stove oven – it will just make it that much hotter for you.
In addition to the fantastic yoga and incredible vegetarian meals (don’t worry my Midwestern family – I haven’t turned vegan), the afternoon hike up Abbey Hill was a bonus to the whole weekend. You can see from the pictures below. It was a little difficult getting back into school mode after such a fantastic weekend retreat, but I only have one more week to go!
Western Ireland: Coonemara, Galway and The Burren May 28, 2008
Since I had a break from classes last week. I set out for Western Ireland to experience the beauty of the West I had only seen pictures of. Luckily, my friend Kieran was heading out West for business and gave me a guided car ride from Dublin to Connemara and then on to Galway City. We took the long way around to Leenane, which is in Coonemara, so I could see more of the countryside. From the pictures below (I forgot my camera so these are courtesy of John Miranda http://www.johnmirandaphoto.com/index.html – an amazing photographer I found on the web), you can see why I was so happy we took the scenic detour.
We made it to Leenane, where we saw the famous bridge that got washed away and left people from ‘civilization’. In fact, it is a pretty tiny bridge that you could almost jump over, but apparently because the of the ruckus people raised, a temporary bridge was put up quickly after it got destroyed by the landslide.
After enjoying the small town of Leenane, I moved on to Galway City for a few days before heading to the Burren for a Bikram (Hot Yoga) weekend retreat. Though I didn’t do much in Galway, I had a lovely time walking around the town and enjoying the coast. When I arrived in Galway City, I discovered that the big European Soccer Finals were on between Manchester United and Chelsea. I had never watched a soccer match before, but headed into town to watch the match with the locals at Murphy’s pub. It turned out to be a fantastic match, going into overtime and penalty kicks. Though MU is my alma-mater, I have a new respect for the meaning of MU.
Friday finally came and I caught the bus to Gort and made my way to Cappaghmore for a weekend retreat at the Burren Yoga and Meditation Centre. That experience deserves its own blog entry, so watch for details in a few days. To find out more about the program, visit their website at www.burrenyoga.comand photos on their flickr site at http://www.flickr.com/photos/burrenyoga/.
With A Splash Of Cranberry May 26, 2008
Last Friday marked the last ‘real’ exam of my MBA program. I still have some things to tidy up with my company-sponsored project and a few last electives that will go through the middle of June, but with this exam out of the way, it’s the home stretch for me now. I decided to ride my not-so-trusty bike to the exam because I didn’t want to mess with the traffic and wanted the flexibility to shoot off straight after I handed in my exam.
I stopped at the supermarket to pick up some food for the week and proudly crammed everything into only 2 plastic bags. (I’m trying to be somewhat conscious of the environment. Well, actually, they charge 22 cents per bag and I hate buying them every time I go to the store.) I conveniently attached the two bags to the back of my bike on the bike rack and headed home. I was about half way home when I heard some strange sweeking noise. I pulled over to check to make sure the bags were still there and everything looked fine, so I kept peddling.
It wasn’t but 20 seconds later that I heard something catch and then felt an explosion of liquid all over the back of me. I screamed and pulled over and couldn’t help but laugh at myself as the poor box of cranberry juice lay victimless in the middle of the road. My bananas were also caught in the mess and stuck in the back tire. Fortunately, I salvaged some, but was left stuck carrying a can of strawberry jam in one hand and balancing one completely overstuffed bag on the back of the bike. There were a few snickers and stares as I made the rest of my journey home, and I was right along with them, laughing at my silly-looking self.
Having been hit by a car, run up against a stone wall, and fallen numerous times, you would think that I’ve been through it all with my bike. But no, the bike strikes one more time just for good riddens and used my food as a weapon against me.
Tasmanian Pinot Noir – An Irish Recommendation May 3, 2008
This week I have been traveling around southern Ireland with my classmate, Jenny, to interview store owners as a part of our final project for the MBA. For our project, we are analyzing the current state of a 52-store franchise business of off-license stores across Ireland. Our recommendation, which is due on May 17th, will provide the headquarter office with methods to improve their buying power, overcome IT challenges, adjust staffing responsibilities, and improve marketing and promotions for stores. To help with our analysis, we decided to conduct one-on-one interviews with various store owners to understand how they are or are not benefiting from being a part of the franchise.
This week, we traveled through Wicklow to Waterford and ended our trip in Cork. I decided to stay the night outside of Cork in a town called Ballincollig while Jenny set off to spend the weekend with family.
Why Ballincollig? Well, since I will be doing a lot of touristy things in Galway in a few weeks, I decided to skip kissing the Blarney stone and checking out the city so that I could relax at a nice hotel called the Oriel House. The hotel was running a promotion with a hot stone massage, so I decided this was the ideal place to spend in Cork.
I went venturing into the village of Ballincollig and being the wine lover that I am, stopped into several off-licenses. There was one in particular, O’Sullivans, that carried several Pinot Noirs, so I decided to pick up a bottle to open that night. When I went to purchase what I thought was a nice bottle of Pinot Noir from New Zealand, the store owner asked me to wait a second and consider another option. I am always in favor of a new Pinot experience, so I followed the owner to the New Zealand selection and listened intently as he offer some other suggestions. His last suggestion was Devil’s Corner, a 2007 Pinot Noir from Tasmania for 11.99 euros. My previous experience with Tasmanian Pinots has not been that great, so I was hesitant to get steered into this direction. However, when the owner described the wine as one that is silky, elegant and fruity, I had a feeling this bottle was going to be different than the others I had tried.
And yes was he right! This Tasmanian Pinot was just what he said it would be – very light in color, silky smooth tannins and a great deal of fruit. It’s incredible that in such a small place as Ballincollig, a town many will never have reason to stop in, did I find such a delightful wine lover to discuss our passion for Pinot Noir. Though I didn’t catch the store owners name, I must send a big thank you from Dublin for helping make my stay far more relaxing and enjoyable I could have imagined.
Duke Rugby World Cup Tournament April 21, 2008
Every April, Duke University’s MBA class (Fuqua) hosts an annual Rugby Tournament that brings schools to Durham, NC from all over the world. The women play touch rugby (non-contact or somewhat like flag-football for my American friends) and the men play full contact rugby with shortened halfs. Beyond that, I don’t know much more of the rules or terminology.
In November, when our MBA class began organizing our teams for the tournament, things were looking a little uncertain, especially for the men’s team. The reason was that many of my male classmates had never played rugby before but still wanted to play. The efforts in organizing the practices, finalizing the teams, getting sponsorship, and arranging the logistics for travel were a bit of a nightmare. Though thanks to a lot of hard work and effort, especially at the end, we managed to send 46 Rugby players overseas for one weekend of a lot of fun and competition.
As for the women, we fared well for being out of the country for the whole month of March, but didn’t come away with a trophy. ON THE OTHER HAND, the men stole the show! With a team of mostly injured players and the will to win, the Smurfit Men defeated London Business School in the finals to claim the 5th straight victory at the Rugby World Cup.
Personally, I wasn’t sure if everyone was actually going to get up in the morning and be well enough to play the tournament because of some late evenings out. Despite my misgivings, the Irish showed their true blood and kept trucking on and pushed through some tough games while suffering from the deadliest hangovers.
Unconventional Signage April 6, 2008
I digress from the typical blog topics to share some unconventional signage in the bathrooms around Queenstown. The first is the sign for the ladies room at the Kawarau Bridge Bungy Jump site. Don’t worry, I just went to watch the bungy jumpers. Heaven forbid I get up the nerve to do such a thing. But skydiving, as you can see from my other post from today, was a different story.
The next signs are from the men’s room at the Sofitel Hotel. I didn’t just happen upon these pictures on my own. My travel companion cleared the way for me to sneak in a few pics while the stalls were not being used. To plaster these women on the walls of the bathroom in the Sofitel is quite brash for this upscale hotel chain, and I give them accolades for doing something different.
Now, to wrap in a little something about wine for this post. I dined at the Bezu, which is just behind the Sofitel on Beacon street and had the most lovely Sauvignon Blanc of the trip: Vavasour ‘Redwood Pass’. As you might have seen from my earlier post, this was my #1 rated Sauvignon Blanc of the trip.
I returned back to Dublin Saturday evening after flying for over 20 hours from Auckland to LA to London and then finally back to Dublin. I began my trip around the world on March 9th and in 21 days made a full circle back to Dublin. Here’s the details:
March 8: Dublin to London, London to Shanghai
March 9-14: Travel around Shanghai visiting businesses and sightseeing
March 14-17: Byron Bay for Ann and Adam’s Wedding
- March 17-20: Nelson, Abel Tasman, Marlborough
March 20: Christchurch stopover
March 21-26: Queenstown
March 26-29: Auckland and Waiheke Island
March 29: Fly to LA
March 30: Fly LA to London then home to Dublin
Looking through this list, it seems like a pretty intense trip, but actually it was one of the most relaxing vacations. The reason being is that no activities, other than in Shanghai and Ann’s wedding were planned in advance. This allowed for endless options and wild spontaneity – as seen in the pictures below. Next up on the travel adventures is Durham, North Carolina for the Duke University Rugby Tournament. Hopefully, this time no one will end up with any black eyes.
At The Sweet Spot – New Zealand Wine Travel March 30, 2008
To quote an article in today’s Economist, “At the Sweet Spot”, I was able to witness first hand the wine industry explosion happening throughout New Zealand. The article talks about how the New Zealand wine industry is experiencing a boom: it just exceeded the wool exports in value and is the country’s 12th most valuable export.
Over the past two weeks, I have been traveling across New Zealand along with Rich, another devoted wine lover, to discover the small production wine growers’ outstanding Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Noirs. After all the tasting, I have boiled down my top 5 Sauv. Blancs and Pinot Noirs below. This list is based on my personal preferences, not from any ratings or awards. Fortunately, for The Taste in Queenstown, I was able to sample multiple wines at one location thanks again to the wonderful Enomatic Wine machine.
Top 5 Pinot Noirs:
Top 5 Sauvignon Blanc
Alan Scott Wines
Amisfield – Lake Hayes
Other notable mentions go to Amisfeld Riesling and Rose, Church Road Chardonnay, and Moana Park Ice Wine.
While the New Zealand wine market is booming, the massive continent 1,200 miles northwest of NZ (Australia) is suffering from the worst droughts in history and are seeing acres of dried up vines. The areas hurt the most are in North-west Victoria, and of the 7,000 wine growers in Australia, it is anticipated that around 1,000 will be forced to leave the industry because of the draught. When I was visiting the wine regions in the Barossa and Hunter Valley, the drought was noticeable, but the impact hadn’t quite set in. With the drought I wonder if New Zealand will become the next Australia in terms of growth and exports. As much as I love my Shiraz and Cabernet, I wouldn’t mind seeing this trend surface and gain access to some of the smaller New Zealand wines that aren’t currently exporting their wine outside the country.