Thursday, December 29, 2005
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
This is related to wine in the fact that often wine is part of the product being sold in the transaction.
Since we arrived in this valley almost 10 years ago, my wife and I have noticed something peculiar that seems to be getting worse. It's what we call the Okanagan Disease.
We both came out of a food & beverage background with some hospitality thrown in for good measure. So we know our way around a hotel, a dining establishment, a bar and a commercial kitchen - more or less.
To this day it seems almost impossible to get consistent, professional service at almost any level from food and beverage outlets in the Okanagan. Primarily I'm directing this at the front of the house.
We can count on a couple hands the number of times we've received top shelf service from any number of restaurants, bars and various mixtures of both.
I can only guess at the reasons for this lack of talent. Probably it's a combination of factors.
No incentive (Okanagan residents are notorious undertippers and 8 months of the year there is a shortage of generous tourists).
In any case, there seems to be a race for the bottom. Anyplace that's merely mediocre has an advantage over the competition so why strive beyond that?
The solution is difficult. A restaurant or other establishment that wants to improve the front of the house has to attract professional staff and hold them. Frankly, that's expensive in a business that almost always starts cost cutting strategies by trimming the labour. Even if you can get and hold good people there's no guarantee the market in this valley will twig to the change and respond with the kind of return and referral business an F&B joint salivates over.
A perfect example of what I'm talking about was an after-shopping meal at the Hooded Merganser just before Christmas this year.
First of all, the room is worth a visit. It's a beautifully designed and decorated space; safe and tested details with nothing that will disturb or provoke controversy. I wouldn't go as far as to say it's dated but it's not pushing the envelope either. As such, it was a very soothing room with lighting that was both efficient and stylish.
There was about 5 tables in progress when we rolled in at about 8:45.
Our server was quickly at our table, explained a few options coherently and left us to make our choices.
So we waited. After awhile we flagged down another server to ask if ours was ever coming back.
When she did return she admitted that she had "completely forgotten about us".
Points not awarded for honesty.
We made our food choices and selected our wine from the balanced and fairly extensive list. As with 90% of the wine lists in this province, the mark-ups were obscene.
Off she went, our requests committed to memory.
She should have used a pencil and paper. Really, kids, it's no big deal to jot down a few clues for yourself. No shame at all.
My wife's wine was as orderedand delivered correctly. She loped back to our table with two bottles of wine for me to look at as she had argued with the bartender about what I wanted. I know, I know - I couldn't figure out what she meant either.
After that was straightened out we waited a short time for our meals. My wife's two appetizers arrived as her meal - just as she ordered them and I received a nice barbecued half chicken. It looked delicious. However, I'd asked for the Lamb Sirloin. Which I eventually got and thoroughly enjoyed. It had a great walnut stuffing. In the meantime we shared my wife's food (a super spinach-based salad and delicious sub-continent inspired buttered chicken) and then shared mine when it arrived.
The rest of the meal continued without any other faux pas. We did have a short and confusing discussion about why the curry flavoured butter chicken was served with sliced French bread instead of na'an or papadum. She noted the kitchen had given up trying to get papadum that would hold together. I didn't say that it was supposed to be brittle when served. She hadn't heard of papadum.
While our server acknowledged the mistakes it was as if she had no control over her own flakiness. It's as if it had started to rain at a tennis match; sorry, but, beyond my control, man!
We tipped her a minimum; about 10%. Why? Part of me felt sympathy for her and part of me thought she might get better. Forgive me if she doesn't and she works your table and fucks things up again should you ever accept an invitation to dine at the Duck in a Hat. Or the Capped Quacker. As for me I think I'll take a seat at the bar next time and enjoy the floorshow.
Think I'm a lone nutbar howling in the wilderness? Click this.
Friday, December 16, 2005
Here's a nice shot of the Okanagan Falls area from the fall. Shot by Joe Kyle one afternoon, the direction is looking northwest from the general area of Blue Mountain vineyards. The mountain is Hawthorne Mountain and in the mid-field are the holdings of Stag's Hollow, Wild Goose and Gidda Bros.
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Looks like it's going to be held in Oregon. Home to the quirkiest wine makers in North America, Oregon acheived statehood in 1859 but it wasn't until 1954 when the federal government actually told anyone. Pretty wet on the left, not bad in the middle and very dry in the east.
The jawflapping pow wow will be towards the middle.
There's a wine of the week and links to various articles in the print version magazine plus some adverts. I like it because it's honest and concise.
It's almost as good as a blog.
If you're in the market for ICE WINE check out the article here. Gosh, what a surprise, BC kicks ass. Especially Bruce down at the factory (Vincor). I bet Bruce gets so much frozen outlaw he can discard everything but the best. I don't mean discard as in 'throw away'. I mean, dump in another tank. And make it into Entre Lac or whatever box is due for bottling.
Here's yet another chance to name a winery. You can win a case of wine a year for all time!
Of course, if you live in Canada, you'll have to pay some kind of exhorbrant combination of taxes and duties.
I'm sure it's just an oversight but I didn't see my name listed as one the experts attending this event. Please use the PAYPAL donate button at the right so that I may purchase a plane ticket and appropriate black tie garb. Thank-you.
One of our fledgling wineries here in the Okanagan just released a 2003 Meritage that had to be pulled off the shelves after only a couple weeks. Customers were complaining about cloudy wine. In fact, there was a pretty dense layer of streaky, swirly goo near the bottom of almost every bottle.
It tasted great. But you can't sell wine with the bottom few inches looking like paint.
Turns out that gelatin (a common fining agent)was added to the wine shortly before bottling and there wasn't sufficient time for clarification. The wine went to bottle unfiltered.
I was asked to help with the "fix".
So it was:
ship wine to undisclosed location.
assemble crew to uncork, empty bottles, wash bottles, do not damage labels.
filter wine/adjust SO2.
filter again enroute to bottling line.
Owner of said wine hopes it will taste the same. Not much chance of that.
It will probably be better.
bottle and palletize
Sunday, December 04, 2005
Sometimes, the wierd stuff works.
Locally, the new owners of the Summerland winery formerly called Scherzinger started looking for a new name. BC winery-naming whiz Bernie Hadley-Beauregard came up with something for them called Dirty Laundry. If you haven't already heard:
1) that's really the name and;
2) it's a runaway success.
Scherzinger plodded along with it's difficult to pronounce (easy if you're from a certain part of the world) name and it's traditional labels for years. It only took a couple months after the new name (label, image, life) came on line to clear the shelves of inventory and create unprecedented demand.
Origination of name? Summerland had a Chinese laundry with a whore house upstairs in the old days. Big deal. So did most towns around here. They probably still do.
But if you put the idea on a wine label and throw in a few sketches of nude female silhouettes for titillation you suddenly have a wine that is slightly risque although nothing much has changed in the bottle.
More power to you if you can get away with it.
But instead of having to rename, relabel and rebrand - why not get it right in the first place?
Try to be a little better than - "Well, hey, there's a hill over there and a bridge over there so maybe we'll call it Bridgehill or Hillbridge."