Boston Wine Expo Recap

It has taken a few weeks to get around to doing a recap of this, but back on January 29th, I went to the 15th annual Boston Wine Expo at the World Trade Center.  As usual, I tried some fantastic wines and in order to both share them with everyone and simply as a means of getting them somewhere that I can refer to, here are my favorites.  Fancy tasting notes are stolen from notes taken from the distributors/wineries serving. (like I am going to remember what everything tastes like after five hours of drinking wine nearly a month ago…) 

Mavrodaphne of Patras – A full bodied red dessert wine from Greece with a rich yet delicate taste and port-style aroma

Royal Oporto 10 Year Old Tawny Port –

Quinta D’Aguieira Touringa Nacional – A very nice wine from Portugal

Casa Garcia Vinho Verde – Another excellent wine from Portugal.  They were quite impressive, even without the high end ports

Earth, Zin & Fire Front Row Zinfandel, Jessie’s Gove Petite Sirah and Jessie’s Grove Westwind Old Vine Zinfandel – Three wines from Lodi, California that I really liked.  Web site at

Incognito Viognier and Earthquake Zin – Another Lodi wine, this one from Michael-David Vineyards (which produces the 7 Deadly Zins wine).  Viognier is becoming one of my favorite wines – you can usually get it for a steal on wine menus in restaurants too.  The Zin is everything a Cali zin should be… spicy, juicy, full bodied… good stuff.

Trimbach Pinot Gris 2002 Reserve – From Alsace France, this is a remarkably well-balanced wine.  Highly recommended.

Herdade Grande Red Wine blend – From the Alentejo region of Portugal (I told you – the Portuguese wines were fantastic) by Herdade Grande vineyards

Santa Vitoria Red Wine – Also from the Alentejo region of Portugal, this is a combination of trincaderia, Aragones, and Syrah. 

Nobilis Wines – Three wines from Vini Nobilis, all of which were quite good.

Maria Schneider Jazz (2004) – A medium-dry Riesling wine from Reichsrat von Buhl that was very enjoyable.

Balduin von Hövel (2004) – Another very good fruity Riesling from von Hövel winery in the Saar valley of Germany.

Jean-Baptiste Riesling Kabinett (2004) – One more Riesling, this one off-dry, and rated 87 points by Wine Enthusiast magazine.

(please note about the above wines: I actually like German wines and enjoy sweeter wines.  I also like very dry wines, but I am a fan of sweet, fruity and dessert wines.  I don’t think a wine should be written off just because it comes from a country or because it is sweet.  You don’t have to peel off layers of skin in your mouth with tannins in order for a wine to be good!)

Sa Prüm Essence Reisling and Blue Slate Reisling – I have nothing on these other than some scribbles that say it was good.  Must have been towards the end of the day…

Burmester 20 year tawny port – Yeah, 20 year tawny port. Saying this is good is like saying "Godiva chocolate is tasty."  LOL  Burmester also had a very tasty 2000 vintage port.

Ironstone Xpression and Obsession Symphony – Both from Ironstone Vineyards.  The Xpression is a red Cabernet Franc blend.  The Obsession is made from the Symphony grape, which is a cross between Muscat of Alexandria and Grenache Gris.

A few Spanish wines – I wish we had taken better/clearer notes on this.  One says Urbina Idras (Ahiego) and the other says Seleccia especial & crianza berengue.  I have no idea what this means.  Look for a Spanish wine under the name "Urbina" think.  LOL 

Which brings me to my last point… I’m sure that these companies make major investments in being at the Wine Expo.  I’ve done enough events to know that it isn’t cheap to do and would imagine that the Wine Expo is a lot expensive than sampling milk at a kid’s fest.  You would think that with that investment more companies would invest a little more in take-aways for people to remember what wines they liked.  I would rather have more of those and less of a big heavy program that you’re supposed to write in (there’s a joke, as you’re jostling around a glass of wine and a goodie bag among the throngs of people). 

Just little cards – half 3.5 x 2.5 (half of an index card) with the basic info of the wine on it… maybe what distributor so that the public could ask for it from their favorite wine retailer.  With the thousands of people who pour through there (pun intended), wouldn’t help to make a better return on investment for everyone involved?


Finally!  We get the official answer about Cliff Johnson…  I caved and sent an email to the Hard Rock Cafe customer service department and within an hour got a response back as stated:

Dear Derek,

Thank you for contacting Customer Care and for your inquiry. Cliff was one of our Hard Rock’s beloved Directors. The pin proceeds benefited his family he was survived by.

Please feel free to contact us again if we may be of any help to you in the future.

Love All Serve All!
Customer Care Team
Hard Rock Cafe

So there we go.  Not a lot of detail, but at least it is an answer. 

Cliff Johnson Update

So we’re making some sort of progress, but not a lot….

Meghan found out that there was a Cliff Johnson who was a retired veteran broadcaster for CBS radio, whose career began in 1934 at radio station KSOO in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

However, the general consensus seems to be that the pin must be for a manager of the Hard Rock Cafe in Memphis and/or Indianapolis.  This article mentions his name. 

What I can’t find out is why he has a pin… I’m assuming he had an untimely death since Erock sent this link on the Hard Rock web site stating that the proceeds go to a foundation for his childen.

I’m Going To Ring Your Neck

I was at a seminar on communicating on Friday, and at the beginning, the speaker asked that all cell phones be put on vibrate, as speakers normally do. 

About an hour later, what happened?  A cell phone starts to ring.  Of course, it was in the woman’s purse that was under her jacket on the back of her chair.

Question: what the hell is wrong with you people?  Someone specifically asks that you perform this very simple task of putting a cell phone on vibrate and you don’t even have the common decency – the common sense – to do it? 

The process of putting a cell phone on "silent" or "vibrate" isn’t usually tough – hold a button down, flip a switch…  and it takes about a second to do it.

As someone who has given presentations to various groups of people before, a cell phone can prove particularly distracting when you’re trying to make a point.  It is rude enough to have it happen period, but to have it happen after someone ASKS you to put it on vibrate is just inexcusable.  If I was a conductor of a symphony and a cell phone went off in the middle of a performance, I think I would chuck my baton in the person’s eye and stab it forcefully.

People who don’t put their cell phones on vibrate when they have been reminded to do so should be punished.  I propose that after two offenses (since people can make mistakes, and I’ve thought I had my phone on vibrate, but didn’t), they should be locked in a room with a 1,000 ringing cell phones all playing "The Mexican Hat Dance" all slightly off from each other. 

If, for some godforsaken reason, you don’t know HOW to turn your phone to silent/vibrate mode, please learn how.  There’s probably this little book called a "manual" or "owner’s guide" that came with your phone.  Look it up.  Google it.  Or take it to the retail outlet of your cell phone provider and ask them to show you how to do it.  PLEASE, for the sake of common decency, PLEASE do it.

Its On!

Well, almost… one little snag involving the hotel that I’m pretty confident I’ll be able to clear up, but otherwise, the second annual Great Lost Weekend® is planned.  Me, John, and Erock, in Chicago, March 30th through April 2nd.  I think we got about as good of a deal on the flight as we can get considering the time constraints we have and got a hotel with a great location.  More to come I’m sure!

Ready To Jump Off A Cliff

Meghan came back from her trip to Amsterdam, Paris and Rome this weekend and I was lucky enough for her to actually still like me enough upon her return that I got a few new Hard Rock Cafe pins.  In addition to pins from each of the cities, she also got me one that says "In Memory of Our Brother Cliff Johnson."

I’m a pretty knowledgeable guy when it comes to music and music history, but this one is throwing me.  The pin is pictured below. 


The best I have been able to find is some references to a Rockabilly musician that has a total of two listings in, one here and here.  However, there is basically no information for him in the rest of

One would think that someone who warrants a Hard Rock Pin might have a bit more information availble about him online.  If anyone can help, please give me a few ideas!!

Number One With A Bullet

A while ago I had put up a random list of my favorite female celebritiesScarlett Johansson was on that list, but was at number 9 out of 10.  However, last night I went to see Match Point and after seeing her in that film, I will gladly move up up…. to the number one position!  She is officially my new female celebrity obsession!!  If you need proof, just see her in Match Point.  The movie is very good, and she looks amazing throughout the entire film.  (the title of this post is also a bit of inside joke for those who have seen the movie)

Stupid Stock Market

A few months ago I bought my first stocks that weren’t part of a retirement plan or employee stock program.  Since I am such a huge fan of the service, I bought some shares in XM Radio, which at that point had been on a slow slide and was under $30 with a target price of $39 over the next year.  I figured I’d take a chance on it. I also figured that I’d throw a few dollars at Sirius radio as well, figuring that there might be a end-of-year/start-of-year bump thanks to the start of Howard Stern on Sirius.

Since then, I have watched these stocks do some of the weirdest stuff I’ve ever seen stocks do.  Though they were my first owned stocks, I’ve watched various stocks over the years and it apparent a bunch of lunatics have invested in these companies along with me.  Even with analysts saying "buy" or "hold" the stock continues to go down.  XM has gone down about $8 a share since I bought it.

Yesterday XM Radio held their 4Q review call and while they continue to lose money and had a board member quit with a warning of a potential cash crisis, they came very close to the analysts projections and said that they would be cash flow positive by the end of the year.  They missed their 2005 subscriber target by a matter of days, ending up with their projected 6 million by the first week of January ’06. 

However, the key to the entire satellite radio industry is long-term potential.   XM was the first to launch, broadcasting nationally in late 2001, with Sirius following a few months later.  By the end of 2006, will have over 15 million subscribers, with predicitions of over 55 milllion subscribers by 2010.   Right now the cost is $12.95 a month, but that’s certain to go up and other options added on (right now, I believe the only additional subscription available on either service is a $1.99 subscription for the Playboy channel on XM Radio).

I’m not going to get into a discussion of market capitilization and P/E ratios and all that techincal stuff that analysts like to dig into.  Rather, I’m looking at what the long-term potential and viability is of these two companies, and I think it is remarkably good. 

Just in the next year, XM radio will begin broadcasting a station from Oprah Winfrey and her collection of talk personalities, as well as new shows hosted by Bob Dylan and Dale Earnhart Jr. (no, not together, though wouldn’t that be a hoot?).  They also have an exclusive partnership with Napster which allows them to integrate the techonologies and allow listeners to download the music they heard on the radio.  They have the most innovative radio technologies out of the two and have the popularity of Major League Baseball, as they will enter their second year carrying every single game played, from spring training to the World Series.

That is a pretty impressive line-up, and Sirius has their own powerful crew: the obvious one is Howard Stern, who accounted for many of the new sign-ups for Sirius over the last few months.  In addition, they have the NFL, the NBA, the NHL (though I’m not sure what’s going on with that, since XM has it too) and will soon have NASCAR.   The ability to hear your team play anywhere in the country in crystal clear audio is a pretty attractive benefit to a lot of consumers.

ANYWAY – so what’s the point of all this?  Investors are driving down the stock value of these companies based on short term losses and aggressive spending to gain subscribers.  However, any companies with 9  and 6 million subscribers (XM and Sirius’ predictions for the end of ’05) paying $13 a month are pretty attractive companies.  Let’s say that these companies act like a bunch of idiots, tryign to outspend each other and go bankrupt, but have these huge bases of subscribers?  Do you not think that a Viacom or ClearChannel or Comcast is going to pick them up in an instant?   Exclusive content deals, paid subscribers, unique technology, access to broadcasting satellites….  these companies are worth a lot to themselves and to other people.

I hope that investors realize the long-term outlook for both of these companies and help to boost the stock price of both companies, not only for my own selfish reasons, but also for the sake of this growing technology.

Mmm…. salt

Does anyone know what the hell to do with Eurasian Black Salt? 

A few weeks ago I bought a sample shaker of Dave’s Gourmet Salts (that’s a good review of it, but you can buy it here).  In case you haven’t heard, gourmet salts are the hot thing right now – using different varities of salt to lend different flavors in cooking can be found in all the gourmet cooking magazines.  We’re not just talking about sea salt vs. table salt, it weird stuff like Hawaiian Red Salt, and hand-harvested Fleur de Sel.  I’ve tried only 1 or 2 so far, and there is definitely a difference between them.

However, there is one salt in the shaker that goes by the moniker "Eurasian Black Salt" and I don’t know what to do with it!  It has a very heavy sulfur smell and taste and I’m having a hard time trying to figure out what it would be good on!  If anyone know anything about this, it would be appreciated, since believe it or not, an internet search came up empty!