Sonoma-Cutrer (SC) Late Harvest Chardonnay

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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.

FTIL 16 – Bhambi Laws

bhambiOnce you’ve had a set of threads custom tailored, it’s hard to go back to the off-the-rack routine.  WSJ recently published an article on the finer points of alpha dressing where a banker had the inner pocket of his jacket precisely dimensioned to fit his choice of smart phone brand.  Little over the top if you ask me but you get the point…

One of the more respected establishments in North America for custom tailoring is Bhambi’s located on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.  For almost half a century, they’ve been dressing celebrities, CEOs and politicians.  When Watch! Published an article on the operations that a father and son team runs, I had to write about so called The 22 Bhambi Laws of men’s couture.

  1. Know yourself.  Then get dressed.
  2. Quality is just important as the fit.
  3. A cheap suit fits no one.
  4. Every man alive is too young to smoke a pipe.
  5. A man looks better in a suit than anything else in his wardrobe.
  6. Even Ned Beatty looks good in a black turtleneck sweater.
  7. Act your age, not your collar size (not sure if I get this one).
  8. Jacket sleeves are tailored so that half an inch of the shirt cuff shows when your arms are at your sides (I think this rule is somewhat regional).
  9. Pants are cuffed so that no sock shows while you walk.

10. Your collar should complement your face.

11. Black shoes, black belt.  Brown shoes, brown belt (for extra style points, match belt buckle with band on your watch).

12. On jewelry: one ring.  One wristwatch.  You are done (cannot agree more).

13. One pair of top quality shoes is better than 10 cheap pairs.

14. Denim is for weekends.

15. That said, with a good white shirt, navy blazer and sharp pair of jeans, you can go just about anywhere.

16. Gray flannel pants are the navy blazer of cold weather.

17. A Crisp white dress shirt is the gray flannel pants of shirts.

18. The cheap suit is fused; the strong suit is stitched.

19. Just as important as the clothes; fresh haircut.

20. Your exterior side pockets remain sewn shut.

21. Unless you’re being financially compensated for it, wear no visible logos.

22. Business casual is no longer about Khakis.

There are lots of wisdom in these words…   Here’s to finer things in life.

FTIL 15 – Buying your own island (Part 3 of 3 part series)

Lanai

Leave it to Larry Ellison, the billionaire founder and CEO of Oracle, to make the news with trophy acquisitions – trimaran (and bankrolling the entire team) that won the America’s Cup; a fully functional fighter jet; Japanese-style personal estate in Northern California; etc.  While his recent endeavors to purchase a professional basketball team has hit a few snags, the Maui News reported that he has closed a deal to purchase 98% of Lanai for 500~600MM from an entity controlled by David Murdock (I actually had no idea that Lanai is privately owned until now…)   I guess 780 acre James Island for sale by the McCaw family is not splashy enough for the 3rd richest person in the US.   Neil Abercrombie, the state’s governor commented, “it is my understanding that Mr. Ellison has had long standing interest in Lanai.  His passion for nature, particularly the ocean is well known specifically in the realm of America’s Cup sailing.”  Well, let’s just hope Ellison does not close down pineapple plantations in favor of real estate developments like Murdoch did…

FTIL #14, Going Organic – Produce: What, When & Where

Buying Organic Produce NaturallyWhen our son was born, my wife switched everything to organic – sugar, shampoo, milk, blankets, etc…  Yes, she bought organic cotton blankets for their soft, supple feel…   I am certainly not against buying organic food, but with the average cost of feeding a family of four exceeding $1K per month according to the USDA, is there any room to still economize while “going organic”?

Do we really need to buy everything organic when it comes to fresh produce?  Various public health advocacy organizations recommend buying the following twelve fruits and vegetables from the organic aisle, based on review of USDA’s pesticide data: apples, peaches, imported grapes, strawberries, imported nectarines, domestic blueberries (my son’s favorite), celery, potatoes, spinach, bell peppers, lettuce and collard greens.  When it comes to other fruits and vegetables such as watermelons and mushrooms, you are better off saving a few pennies.  But if spending a few extra bucks gives you a piece of mind for your family, I’d say go organic even for blankets.  Here’s to enjoying the finer (organic) things in life!

 

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http://smbmatters.wordpress.com/2012/06/25/ftil-11-breath-of-fresh-air/

Putting On the Good Linens – FTIL #13

linen style

I love linen pants.  Stronger than cotton and guaranteed to wrinkle, it is the most perfect summer trouser for men when neither shorts nor jeans fit the social agenda and khakis and dress slacks appear to be over-done.  I’d wear linen all year long if I could – well, maybe except for during Chicago winters…  Spun and woven from the fiber of the flax plant, linen is one of the oldest textiles made (ancient Egyptians dressed their nobility and wrapped their mummies in it) and seemingly has never gone out of style…   And it is making a splash of recent with new color palette, straying away (successfully I might add) from the usual white and beige standards that hang in my closet.  Look for a full spectrum of color offerings, as well as a choice of textures.  Some of my favorites: orange sherbet pastel from Zegna; light navy blue tint from Canali; and Brooks Brothers linen pleats.

Here’s to staying cool and looking good while you do it!

FTIL 12 – Buying Your Own Island (Part 2 of 3 part series)

This is a follow-up to FTIL #7 published back in April. The McCaws of cell phone fame (Craig McCaw founded McCaw Cellular and Clearwire) have listed the family’s 780-acre private island also known to the locals as James Island off the coast of Vancouver, BC for a mere… drumroll please, 75MM. The island among other things, used to host a former WWII-era dynamite plant and at one point had population of 800+. For the hefty price tag, amenities are aplenty…

  • Four-bedroom, 5K sq. ft. main residence
  • Six guest cottages
  • Gym, store, staff accommodations
  • Airstrip
  • And most importantly… Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course

The family explained their motivation for the sale – “they have the perfect storm of kids’ activities and no one wants to be left behind.” Huh? Anyway, does anyone have spare $75MM to make the purchase? Especially given the current economic conditions, there’s room to negotiate… Happy hunting!

James Island

FTIL #11 – Breath of Fresh Air

Many of my friends know that I have somewhat of a green thumb.  One of my prized growth is a simple moon flower that I had purchased as a sapling at a local grocery store that grew into a 3’ cornerstone in my living room with proper care…   Soil, organic compost and Beethoven (not a typo…   Symphony #9 works the best).  Fern, ivy, money tree, you name it – they are all over my condo.  Many of them, aside from adding accent as a décor, also serve as nature’s air purifier.

Below are a few of my favorites –

  • Devil’s Ivy – you can find these at any Home Depot.  Broader leaves are more aesthetically pleasing than it distant cousin, English Ivy.  Known to suck in carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and benzene in the air.
  • Flamingo Flower – again an easy find in many grocery stores.  Nature’s vacuum cleaner for many airborne contaminants such as toluene and xylene emitted from everyday household products.
  • Peace Lilly – doesn’t the name even sound soothing?  Sucks up emissions from household cleaning (and beauty) products and building materials such as acetone, n-hexane and methyl alcohol.
  • Here’s to abreath of fresh air and finer things in life!
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FTIL #10 – Everyday Power Foods

I’ve seen trends in the rise and fall of power foods.  In the 80’s it was all about aloe pulp (still remember taking a spoon full of that stuff every morning), then came flaxseeds, acai (even has its own .org site), chia seeds (Ravens running back Ray Rice made headlines for eating this stuff instead of his morning cereal during the playoffs), etc…  But what about the stuff we can find every day at Dominick’s or Jewel Osco?   Are there power foods disguised as aisle 10 staples that we should pay more attention to?  According to nutrition researcher Tia M. Raines, there are, and below are my son’s favorites from her list –

  1. Bananas – this portable fruit supplies energy and replaces lost electrolytes, great pre-game eat.  Something I did not know – opt for less ripe variety since its carbs digest slower in the human body.
  2. Eggs – opt for free-range or Omega-rich eggs, certainly worth the extra bucks.  Great source of A, B, D and E vitamins.  It contains polyunsaturated fat shown to lower blood cholesterol.
  3. Yogurt – aside from bacterial cultures that help to keep your colon healthy, it is easier to digest than milk, so even the lactose intolerant folks can have it all.
  4. Salmon – great source of Omega 3 fatty acids with low-mercury (if you are concerned about that – can’t remember when’s the last time I had meaty swordfish steak).
  5. Blueberries – Brandon’s favorite.  High concentration of antioxidants, blueberries work to  boost your immune system.  It’s even claimed to fight cancer.

And the list goes on and on…   Just proves that all power (or super) foods do not necessarily have to have names that you cannot pronounce.   Here to finer things in life!

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Finer Things in Life: FTIL #9 – How to Brew the Perfect Cup of Coffee

One of my favorite java joints is Intelligentsia.  Yes, I am biased towards local craft (Intelligentsia is Chicago-based), but their coffee is really good, not to mention their baristas winning several titles in the World Barista Championships.

At Intelligentsia Coffee, in the Monadnock Bui...

As I learned, there are a few simple steps you should follow to brew up a really good cup of coffee at home.

  1. 1. Grind just before brewing – use burr grinders that use steel plates to evenly grind vs. blades that could unevenly chop the beans.  Fine grind for espresso, medium for drip and coarse for French Press.  Many recommend not storing the beans in the freezer. but as long as your seal the bag tight and put it in a proper freezer bag to avoid seepage of odor, I prefer freezer storage.
  2. Don’t skim on the amount of grind – I remember re-brewing used grind when I was a starving graduate student (come on, admit it – you’ve done it).  Err on the side of putting too much grind, if any – you can always add hot water and make it semi-Americano.  Rule of thumb – 2 tablespoons for 6 ounces of water.
  3. Use filtered water – even if you have good tap as we do here in Chicago, let the tap run about half a minute to let stale water out of the pipes.  But cold, filtered water is always preferred to get chlorine other metals out of the brewing process.
  4. Ensure the water is hot enough and “steep” – this is crucial since hot water should not just pass through the grind, rather grind should sit in hot water for a specified amount of time.  The biggest culprit in less than ideal home brews – most coffee makers do not have sufficient firepower to heat the water to the desired 200 degrees and do not steep as they should.

I currently have a Breville grinder / coffee maker combo – little expensive, but worth every penny…   Here’s to enjoying finer things in life!

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Finer Things In Life – FTIL #8: Pleasure Metrics

breguet tourbillon perpetual calendar watch

Please get your mind out of the gutter – this is a family friendly blog… :-)  No, not that kind of pleasure metrics, rather the pleasure one gets from owning watches like the Breguet Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar Model 3755pr, pictured above for cool 250K each.  I know – some are lucky enough to wear what’s equivalent to a down payment on a house on his or her wrist…

Learjet

ForbesLife recently published a quick snapshot of the 2-year inflation rate, from 2010 to 2012, in the ultra-luxury goods segment – from handbags to Learjet to watches.  While most of us certainly don’t think about dropping almost 10MM for a 2000HP speedboat, it was an interesting read.  If nothing else, it makes you think about our government’s assertion that 2% – 3% annual inflationary rates or increase of money supply in circulation represents a healthy growth.

A few indicators:

  • Slightly more affordable version of the aforementioned Breguet – Messidor Tourbillon in rose gold, from 139.9K in 2010 to 146.9K in 2012
  • Petrossian Special Reserve Ossetra (1 kilo ultra-exclusive caviar, one of the few items that dropped in price) – from 18.4K in 2010 to 12K in 2012
  • Magnum Marine 80 (2.4K HP speedboat) – 8.95MM, no change in price between 2010 and 2012, same with Rolls-Royce Phantom (380K) and Bombardier Learjet 40XR (10.61MM)
  • Hermes Kelly bag in calfskin – from 7.3K in 2010 to 7.5K in 2012
  • Courtside-seat ticket at LA Lakers game – from 2.5K in 2010 to 2.7K in 2012
  • One night stay at overwater 1  bedroom villa at St Regis Bora Bora during high season – from 1.33K in 2010 to 1.56K in 2012

krug clos du mesnil champagne

While I will not be purchasing a bottle of Krug Clos Du Mesnil for 1K anytime soon, my wife and I had the pleasure of sharing a bottle of ’96 Henriot ‘Cuvee des Enchanteleurs for our recent 10 year anniversary thanks to a dear friend and a business partner.  Delicious…   Now if only I could afford the Omega Skeletonized Tourbillon Co-Axial Platinum Limited Edition watch…   Here’s to enjoying our slice of finer things in life!

 

 

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