Mastering life’s courses for running, wine, and business school

Life experiences and interests from abroad

Wine Transportation June 11, 2008

Filed under: Wine — emccan2 @ 5:00 pm

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. 

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Tasmanian Pinot Noir – An Irish Recommendation May 3, 2008

Filed under: Smurfit MBA,Travel,Wine — emccan2 @ 4:31 pm

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.

 

At The Sweet Spot – New Zealand Wine Travel March 30, 2008

Filed under: Travel,Wine — emccan2 @ 4:54 pm

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.

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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:

  1. Amisfield
  2. Herzog
  3. St. Clair 
  4. Rockburn 
  5. Waitiri Creek

Top 5 Sauvignon Blanc

  1. Vavasour 
  2. Wither Hills 
  3. Alan Scott Wines
  4. Amisfield – Lake Hayes
  5. Seresin

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.   

 

The New World of Wine in New Zealand March 22, 2008

Filed under: Travel,Wine — emccan2 @ 6:40 pm

The diversity in activities as well as wine are clear as one travels through New Zealand’s south island from Nelson to Queenstown.  After just one week in the south island, I have enjoyed gorgeous weather, spectacular landscapes, and magnificent wine and cuisine.  The Nelson region provided a much more relaxed atmosphere where I kayaked along the Abel Tasman National Park, starting at Kaiteriteri bay.

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The water was so clear and blue and the view up to the mountains was particularly beautiful.  More outdoor adventurous are soon to come in the adrenaline-rushed town of Queenstown.

As for my wine experiences thus far, I visited two major wine regions near Nelson.  One is just west of Nelson and the other is due east in Marlborough.  According to NZWine.com, “The longer, cooler growing conditions in the Southern regions promotes stronger and more vibrant fruit flavors together with higher acidity levels. Well over two thirds of Sauvignon Blanc vines are to be found in Marlborough.” To the east, I stopped at Neudorf and Himmelsfeld.  cabsav2001sm.jpgBoth produced excellent Sauv. Blancs, but Himmelsfeld’s wines in particular showed unique, aromatic characteristics that are the outcome of care and consistency of the winemaker, Elizabeth Eggers.  Beth was kind enough to give us a tasting of her range of wines, which included a “cool climate” Cab and Chardonnay unlike any I’ve ever tasted. 

To the east of Nelson, in the popular region of Marlborough, there were far more stops on the wine trail on the drive to Christchurch.  Focusing on recommendations and notable vineyards in this region, there were 5 cellar door stops including: Allan Scott, Hanz Herzog, St. Clair, Cloudy Bay and Huia.  All of Herzog’s wines were splendid, including their Pinot Noir, which was unexpected for the region.  My favorite Sauv. Blanc from this mix was Huia, but could have tied with St. Clair.  Since Marlborough is know for their Sauv. Blanc, it was hard to distinguish a clear favorite when all of them are so good.  What I consistently found, aside from Herzog, was that most of the Pinot Noirs were a little too tannic for my taste and tended to be more earthy and burgundian than the California Pinots I love.  However, I am yet to explore the Central Otogo region, which is known for their Pinots.  From the few I have already tried around Queenstown, I have a feeling that I will find some new gems in the Central Otogo region I will need to keep my eye out for when I get back to Ireland.

 

A Dynasty Uncovered March 16, 2008

Filed under: MBA,Travel,Wine — emccan2 @ 12:52 pm

I’ve made it out of Shanghai and am enjoying the warm weather of Byron Bay, Australia.  Tomorrow, I head out for New Zealand, where a world of new Pinots and Sauvignon Blancs are soon to be discovered.  The trip to Shanghai was unbelievable – beginning with the speedy magnetic train that gets you from the airport to the center of Shanghai – to the smog filled sky that blocks the beauty the country is developing.  During the trip, my classmates and I enjoyed excursions to various global companies and spent an afternoon with Communist leaders at the China Executive Leadership Academy Pudong (CELAP). CELAP is a Shanghai-based national institution that assists in developing China’s senior leaders and executives across the government and state-owned enterprises.  The building itself is breathtaking, having just finished construction in 2005. 

dynasty-wine.jpgOf course, I could not have gone to China without sampling their wines, so while at dinner on Sunday evening, I purchased a bottle of Dynasty wine to compliment our family-style meal.  The wine was described as a Dry Red Wine, but honestly, it was far from that.  To be fair, I will simply say that the Chinese have a way to go to compete in the developing wine market.  My friends who were brave enough to sample the wine also felt that the wine needed a little extra care and development, and after one sip, decided to stick with the Tiger Beer for the rest of the evening. 

Now that I’m on my way to New Zealand, I will be overwhelmed with fantastic wine from this relatively new wine growing region.  I hope to enjoy many Pinot Noirs, but anticipate that I’ll find some new gems as I explore around the islands. 

A quick note on the wedding festivities I have engaged in the past few days.  The wedding was absolutely breathtaking and delightful.  The setting in Byron Bay, the east coast of Australia, couldn’t have been more perfect, and the company, along with Ann and Adam’s friends and family made the experience so genuine and inviting.  It was such an honor to be part of the occasion and to see the union of two people who are meant to spend their lives together.  Once I have my photos loaded, I’ll share them some great pics of the wedding.

 

From Pinyin to Shiraz to Pinot Noir March 7, 2008

Filed under: MBA,Travel,Wine — emccan2 @ 10:30 pm

Tomorrow marks the beginning of a whirlwind tour of China, Australia and New Zealand.  The majority of the time will be split between China and New Zealand, with the highlight of the trip being a weekend in Brisbane for Ann’s wedding.  I can’t wait to reconnect with my best girlfriends from high school, Natalie and Ann, and do some much needed catching up.   

My time in China will be concentrated in Shanghai, where I, along with 60 other Full-time and Executive MBA students will be meeting with companies and exploring the cross-cultural opportunities of doing business in China.  We have some free time scheduled in, so I hope to do some exploring also.

Being the wine adventurer that I am, I will be scoping out the wine scene of these 3 incredible locations.  I was fortunate enough to tour Australia in June and visited the Barossa and Hunter Valley.  This time, however, I will be focused on the great Pinot Noirs and Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand’s wine regions.  But, I’m not going to hold off on my wine exploration until I head to Australia and New Zealand – I am going to try to make it to a wine bar in Shanghai to sample some pinyin (Chinese for wine) to see how Chinese “grape liquor” compares to my Californian standards. 

 I’ll be sure to keep the blog updates along my way.

 

Master in Disguise January 28, 2008

Filed under: Wine — emccan2 @ 10:08 am

31lchbje9vl__sx280_sh35_.jpgAfter a long, exhausting first week back at school last week, my roommates and I decided that a glass of red wine was definitely in order.  Still stocked with wine from our Thanksgiving party, I went for a blend from Wrattonbully Vineyarads in Australia made from Cab Sav, Merlot and Shiraz.  It was a 2006 vintage, and the blending of the three grapes made it so smooth and fruit forward.  There was a hint of tannins on the finish, but just enough to give it character.

Wondering what the details were of this great wine, I flipped over the bottle and saw that it was purchased from Marks and Spencer.  I have heard that M&S tends to source wine from a variety of vineyards but is able to get their “special” lable on the bottle to differentiate their wine from others.  I did a little research and discovered that the Wrattonbully Vineyards comes family of Hill Smith.  Guess who that might be?? The maker of the famous Yalumba wines.  I had tasted Yalumba wines while out in Australia last summer but didn’t find any stand out wines.  Whatever Yalumba has done for M&S has done the trick for me, so now I’ll have to go back to try some actual wines from Yalumba to see how they compare with the imposter M&S is showcasing.