Sonoma-Cutrer (SC) Late Harvest Chardonnay


I consider Les Pierres, The Cutrer and Russian River Valleys collections from SC to be some of the finest craft white wines in the world.  With the region’s dense, gravely soil and even growing season due to cool coastal climate, the area known as Sonoma Coast Appellation has produced award-winning earthy, yet buttery flavored white wines.  But since Brown-Forman (if you have not heard of them, they own Jack Daniels) purchased the winery and my good friend Terry Adam retired as the head wine maker about the same time, I have not paid any attention to their offerings.  Until now…  SC unveiled the first limited edition wine under its SC Winemaker’s Release Series titled Late Harvest Chardonnay.  Produced using grapes left on the vine past ripeness and aged in French oak barrels, it has a sweet (but not overpowering) and exceptionally complex taste profile that pleasantly layers on the pallet.   They are available only in selected markets – I had to ask a friend on a business trip from California to put a bottle in his check-in bag.  I believe this may be the first legitimate hit under the new regime…  Something Terry would be proud of.

Tidbits 18 – Product Review: Patron XO Cafe Dark Cocoa

As finance and accounting professional, this is probably the roughest time of the year with year-end closings, current year forecasting and other time-sensitive fiduciary compliance tasks that should have been completed yesterday.  So after another fun-filled week that entailed one all-nighter and butting heads with a former client who cannot understand why including expenses in 1099 is a wrong thing to do, I met with a friend for a TGIF suds at our favorite watering hole.  After a couple of Stellas however, we decided to switch gears.  The bartender recommended a drink that is less than a year old in the market when we requested an aperitif that’s not too sweet.  Patron XO Café Dark is essentially its flagship silver tequila with coffee and chocolate flavorings, and it certainly hit the spot.  It went down smooth without the usual agave aftertaste that even tequila diehards at times don’t necessarily care for…  Just as the bartender promised, sweet enough but not too sweet, which probably makes it little dangerous since the liqueur has the full alcohol content of normal tequila.  According to Patron’s corporate communications, 2012 sales have exceeded forecast by 20%, and it hopes to ship 50K nine-liter cases in 2013.  Its marketing director attributed the product’s success to carefully crafted tasting note targeted to specific band of consumers.  After a couple of shots (one on the house), I think Patron has developed a niche product that could occupy top shelf for years to come.    tequila

APPetizing: Tidbits #17 – Apps for Foodies

Gotta admit…   I was nowhere near close to being a foodie until I got married.  For me food was means by which we add calories to our bodies so that we don’t fade away.  And the cheaper the fuel, better the outcome…

As I’ve said before, all that changed when I said “I do.”  Now a perfect Friday evening for me is sipping a nicely chilled bottle of Sonoma Cutrer’s Russian River Valley selections with Jenna while mixing up an aesthetically (as well as gastronomically) pleasing bowl of kamut salad with fresh spinach, strawberries, blood orange and, of course, dried kamut.   So when Food and Wine magazine announced their favorite apps for foodies, I had to give their suggestions a try.  Below are my 3 favorites –

  • Intelligentsia Coffee – [Full disclosure, I am addicted to caffeine and I need to give props to this Chicago-based company.]  It’s like having your personal barista – you will always brew up a perfect cup of coffee with this app.
  • WineStein Pro – [Full disclosure, I love wine.]  It’s like having your personal sommelier.  The app provides wine paring suggestions based on ingredients in your dish.
  • Ness – [Full disclosure, I love food.]  It’s like having your personal restaurant concierge.  The app suggests RBC (restaurants, bars, coffee shops) based on your location and food preferences.


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Against the Wind – Tidbits #16

Have you ever wondered why planes at times take off and land in a seemingly less efficient direction, e.g. flying from Chicago to Dallas, a typical departure takes off to the northern runway vs. southern and lands in the same trajectory?  Asides from an air traffic controller’s prerogative to better manage the flow of the traffic, the answer is simple (without going into the details of Bernoulli’s Principle or Newton’s Laws) – wind direction.  Since wind flowing over the wing provides the necessary lift to go airborne, headwind during take-off or landing reduces not only the requirement for runway length but also the speed, according to United Airline’s pilot Captain Mike Bowers.  It’s a bit counter-intuitive but he assures, it’s all physics.

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Tidbits #15 – Happy 75th Birthday Golden Gate Bridge!

Growing up in the East Bay area of Northern California, I cannot remember how many times I’ve crossed the bridges that connect the West and the East Bay.  But my favorite of all time is the iconic Golden Gate Bridge that connects San Francisco with the Sausalito / Tiburon area.  Aside from being a beautiful piece of architecture with its “International Orange” color, it was the first suspension bridge ever built, and a marvel of modern technology at the time.  Given all the elements the Pacific Ocean can punish the bridge with day in and day out, her maintenance crew constantly repaints the bridge from one end to the other – a time consuming process that takes 2 years to complete.  But that’s nothing like what they’re planning to ring in the Golden Gate Bridge’s 75th birthday: Its crew, for the first time ever, is going to clean, reseal and repaint the full lengths of the two main cables, a process that will take 6 years or so to complete…   Here are a few other stats you may find interesting about the GGB:

  • 7,650 feet – length of each of 2 main cables
  • 27,572 – number of steel wires in each cable
  • 250 – number of vertical suspender cables
  • 24,500 tons – total weight of main and suspender cables

“Happy Birthday” indeed to one of our great national treasures!

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Tidbits #14 – Hollywood’s Best Kept Secret

Well maybe it’s not the biggest secret…  But no one in the industry would completely admit to it…   For all practical purposes, movies have become a series of two and a half hour long commercials.   Hollywood would argue that ticket sales alone would not cut it – that commercial sponsorship is needed to generate quality content.

In reality product placement in films is roughly a $2BN industry.   Ever since Drew Barrymore enticed the alien out of hiding with Reese’s Pieces (versus Skittles), moviegoers have been bombarded with subliminal, if not overtly obvious commercial messages.   What’s next?  Comic strips?  Hmm…   Now there’s a business idea.   ;-)

Tidbits #13 – DJ Culture…

…dance with me. DJ culture, let’s pretend. Living in a satellite fantasy, waiting for the night to end…


DJ Tiësto

I will admit it – being a child of the 60’s, I was trancing to the Pet Shop Boys tunes in the80’s… Dutch DJ Tiesto above reportedly earned 20MM USD in 2011 by headlining blockbuster events. My students at Columbia College here in Chicago (I teach economics to fine arts majors) pointed out that the DJ in the latest Blackberry Bold commercial is someone named Diplo, another mover-and-shaker in the rise of the DJ culture here in North America…


DJ Diplo

DJs have always been big in Europe – I experienced it firsthand living in London in the early 2000s working in the derivatives industry. I still cannot get the snappy beats from Neutrino and Oxide’s Bound 4 Da Reload out of my head (their first hit from 2001 debut album, I believe)… Tiesto and Diplo are two of many DJs whose status now equals that of rock-stars. What led to their sudden and emphatic rise, and is there business lesson in this for us (much like SMB chief editor’s recent flammable post on the Bucket Boys and the follow-up)? From my non-artistic vantage point, there are 3 reasons:



  • Original content – in the past DJs spun someone else’s creations. Now they collaborate with big name artists to produce original tunes and sound. Before they were commodity – now the good ones are true artists up there with Usher and Beyoncé.
  • Scale – there’s only so much you can charge by spinning at nightclubs, whether the content is original or not. By choosing to headline events like Coachella and Lollapalooza instead, they are able to earn more, a lot more.
  • Approach – this hypothesis is from my students. The good ones approach every gig like it’s a business deal. They have a chief of staff, functional specialists and good advisors; they plan, forecast, execute and review what went well and what didn’t; and they keep their eyes wide open for the next big thing¸ whatever it may be or wherever it may come from…

I believe there is a business lesson in this for all of us. By the way, seeing how big they are getting, I doubt this is a passing fad – the trend isn’t likely to slow anytime soon…

Tidbits #12 – This isn’t your old bank’s free toaster.

mercedes amg gullwing brilliant silver

Get a Mercedes Benz when you open a [qualifying] new CD account!

On the surface, this seemed to be one of the best gimmicks “promotions” to attract new customers I’ve come across in a long time…   A Florida community bank called C1 Bank with ~1BN in assets is offering 2012 Mercedes roadster to new customers with FL residence who deposit 1MM or more in a 5-year CD, in lieu of $61K in interest they would have earned with the CD.  No, it’s not the AMG Gullwing pictured above, rather a new MB roadster worth ~60K.  But before you jump at it, here are the details of the deal and caveats to consider –

  • While better than 5-year treasury rate of .82%, the equivalent annual yield rate of 1.2% is not much better
  • Current CD yield rates are near their all-time lows, and many predict that it could only go up
  • FDIC only covers up to 250K in case the bank itself goes south
  • Lastly, for some reason if you need to re-neg on the 5-year contract, you will pay 3K in penalty plus the entire price of the car when it was new

It certainly begs the question – are you better off taking advantage of 0% financing deal offered by some luxury makers and putting your 1MM away in higher-yielding but just as safe debt instruments?  One thing for sure, even for deal that seem to be no brainer, it always pays to do some due diligence.  You decide…

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Tidbits #11 – The Perfect Filet (Or is it fillet?)

McDonalds filet of fish sandwichNo, not that Filet-O-Fish but actual fish fillet…  And I will admit it – Jenna and I love winding down a long day after our putting our son to bed with a nice glass of wine and watching the Food Network.  After 10 years of blissful marriage, somehow ESPN got replaced by TFN…   Go figure…

giada delaurentis bobby flay rachel rayNo we don’t watch shows by Giada de Laurentis or Rachel Ray, rather edgy episodes like ChoppedWorst Cooks in America and No Reservations.  By the way, I read somewhere that Giada’s show is one of the most taped and watched program by male college undergrads.  But that’s for another post…

Anyway, during a recent Worst Cooks episode, a contestant displayed a look of horror when presented with a whole fish.  Her comments – Whole Foods always has fillets, I don’t know what to do with this thing.  I’ve butchered plenty of my catches in the past so perhaps I should not be writing this post, but I’ve purchased enough whole fish at Fulton Fish Market to sort of know what to do with an entire fish…  Fairly straight forward, According to Juan from the fish market.

  • Initial incision should be right behind the gills next to the collarbone.  As soon as you feel the spine, stop cutting depth-wise.
  • Run your knife along the spine all the way to the tail – while conventional wisdom says knife should not be too sharp as to cut into the spine, I’ve had much better luck with sharper knives.
  • Lay the fillet skin-side down and cut out the ribs first then followed by the skin.
  • Here is the professional’s such as Juan’s secret – run the back of your blade from nose to tail to encourage the pin bones to pop up – then pluck them with tweezers, your fingers or whatever is handy next to you.
  • Goes without saying – repeat on both sides of the fish.

My rule of thumb – unlike red meat, never take out the fat off of your fillet.  That is where all the flavors lie…   Besides, fish fat is not as bad as red meat fat (full disclaimer – I am not a doctor).  Lastly, asides from having a really sharp fillet knife, speed or lack thereof is key to good fileting, e.g. take your time.

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Tidbits #10 – A Question of North Korea

kim jong il team america deceased

Cartoon Leader (Recently Departed)

Yes, you guessed it.  My nickname is the “great leader.”  A colleague once jokingly called me as such, and it stuck…  No I am not from North Korea – I was born in Busan, South Korea; raised in California; and educated in NY and Pennsylvania.  But it happens at every business mixer, cocktail party, etc…  As soon as someone figures out I’m Korean-American (vs. any other Asian heritage), the dreaded question is asked.  “What do you think about North Korea?”  Ugh…   People, politics, blah, blah, blah…   Can’t speak for other Korean-Americans out there, but I’d rather talk just about anything else including the weather and the three-legged duck, than North Korea…

On that note, here are my thoughts on former neighbor to the north of the border that recently made yet another headline for failed launch of its long-range missile system for the 3rd time.  Bottom line – sad really…   Politics and everything else set aside, only the people suffer…  Have you seen a recent satellite picture of the Korean Peninsula at night?  South Koreans were extremely gung-ho on the promise reunification until they saw the economic toll it took on West Germany after the two Germanys reunited in the early 90’s.  Now that the generation that possesses first-hand memories of the relatives to the north, have begun passing away, it’s not clear if the topic of reunification will stay as relevant as before.

When I was stationed in the DMZ in the 90’s as a US Army officer, we had an annual exercise called Warsteed or 7-day war.  If there were ever to be a real conflict in the Peninsula, the prediction was gloom and doom – it will be over in a week, and everyone dies.  Unlike in Iraq or Afghanistan where there’s room to maneuver and fight, South Korean cities are some of the most densely populated cities in the world.

Reunification – not in our life time.  War – hopefully not.  Diplomacy – yes please…   Sad, really…

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