What would happen if I collected two bottles of wine every week and I tasted one of 'em and stuck the second in a cellar...?  Come the end of 2014, if all goes well, (ie: I'm able to generate more interest and sponsorships to make this worth my while), what if I held a draw?  What if one of The Grape Trip's followers from the GTA (Greater Toronto Area), Central Ontario or regions south of North Bay would be GIFTED the lot of 'em?  Fifty-two bottles of vino, just in time to ring in another New Year.


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Cheers! :^)
Greetings and a hearty Thank You for stopping by our blog!  It's been a busy time for Baillie-Brown Communications, so I've taken to posting on our Facebook page for the time being.  Please join us!  The more, the merrier - PLUS the odd contest and surprise giveaways!  

You may follow the fun at Facebook.com/TheGrapeTrip.  

Cheers to Spring! :^)

I've been just a weeeee bit preoccupied these past several weeks.  Late January, my family decided to step up and adopt a pup.  

I've always wanted a Weimaraner.  I fell in love with the breed well over a decade ago.  After years of, "NO, we're not getting a dog," and "The last thing I want is to come home from work and have to walk a dog" speak, SOMEONE finally buckled.  

Late January, word that my local SPCA had sheltered a few of THESE poor dogs.  The next thing I knew it, I was snuggling in their offices with this shaky little pup.  And, unbeknownst to us, he was a local celeb!
"Pluto" was originally named by Robyn, a local radio DJ (he's pictured on their Facebook page on Robyn's lap), but we thought "Walter" better suited our boy and the rest is history.  Except for one thing.  Apparently, he's MY dog.  Weimaraners have a reputation for bonding with ONE person per household.  So, while he'll tolerate everyone else, he promptly decided that he is MY dog.  Thus, the reason for my sudden disappearance.  I've been tending to my neglected little pup.  More HERE from CTV News on my now 5-month-old pup's rescue.

When we first adopted Walter, he was a very nervous little fellow.  And our once malnourished rickety little man had picked up a couple of parasites.  He was already sixteen weeks old so we'd missed out on a lot training and promptly snapped to work.  We registered Walter for obedience classes, vet checks, and restructured our day to revolve around HIM.  Crate training has been a real chore because of his previous care.  He's terrified of pens or cages, but I've finally convinced him that twenty minutes (it's a start!) in a crate really isn't quite so bad.  End of the first week with us, Walter was trained to sit on command.  By the end of his second week, he could lay down and would go to the door to go out.  He still has the occasional accident, but our house training seems to have worked.  And when visiting Grandma's house, he knows he's to stay on his own special blanket.

Now, the fun part.  I'm back to blogging.  And I'm back - hopefully - to tripping.  Just that looks like a four-legged person might be tripping right along with me.

To Walter,
This evening, sometime shortly after 11:00, I'm expecting a phone call from one of the kindest souls I have ever met.  We met just over a decade ago at a seminar in Toronto hosted by the Writer's Guild of Canada.  Over the years we've met on occasion for coffee in the city to discuss our respective projects.  We offer each other opinion, information and advice on all things writing.  The best part?  Neither one of us takes anything personally.  In fact, I welcome her criticism!  I'm grateful for it!  She makes my writing better, tighter, and smarter. :^)

Point being, IT'S MY EDITOR'S BIRTHDAY!  Tonight, I am officially "tasting" my first wine EVER to celebrate!  She's picked up a Shiraz and I've picked up a bottle of Muskoka Lakes Winery's Cranberry Wine.  Word is, THIS is how all of this fancy "tasting" business is done.

Not sure if this stuff will have any legs or not (no grapes in the wine that I'm tasting).  Not a clue how my olfactory bulb will respond during the sniff stage (will it do the funky chicken or fan itself and swoon?).  I'm pretty confident orthonasal refraction will be able to tell this stuff is made out of cranberries because that's what it says here right on the bottle (if they're not in there I'm in trouble).  Sure can't wait to find out if my mucus covered olfactory nerves are working!!!

For those of you who'd like to better navigate the process, more in-depth info on "tasting" wine found HERE.


PS - Looking for something fun to do this winter?  Check out Muskoka Lakes Winery's generous 2 for 1 offer.
You may find our Facebook page HERE.

For more information on Theobroma Fine Chocolates International Inc. and their signature icewine truffles, please visit their website HERE.

Thank you and good luck!

Truth be told, this isn't even remotely close to what I was really looking for.  Apparently we have these fancy things called wine caddies.  You know, in the event some would rather sit their wine aside vs. cracking it open.  Call me crazy, but I thought that's what fridges, and wine racks, and cellars were for.  I guess I have a whole lot more to learn about wine than I thought I did.

I suppose it does help make for a much nicer presentation.  You know, for the odd retirement gift, birthday present, or the man who has everything (I believe today these guys are better known as "Hoarders").
Makes perfect sense to pick up a Drummer.  In fact, you could pick up a Drummer, a Fiddler, an Electric Guitar Player, a Sax Player and a Piano Player and have the makings of a really nice little band!  Don't forget to pick up a Jet and a Pharmacist.  I hear all of the better bands usually need those.  Might be a good idea to pick up a Paramedic, too.  You know, just in case.

They are really very lovely pieces of art.  The designer, Guenter Scholz, has a whole lot of talent.  For a better set of examples, see H & K Steel Sculpture's inventory HERE.  

Photo source:  DetailsArt.com
If you're like me, you've probably figured wine is pretty much just made from grapes.  Take some grapes, add a little water and stir in some sunshine, maybe the occasional frost, stomp on them, stick them in a barrel, hammer a cork into it and Bob's your uncle.  One day, someone comes along, there could be a tap or some tubing involved, and the wine winds up in a bottle.  Maybe a cork comes next, could be some wax or a screw top lid, and maybe some foil.  ...Right?

The more digging I do to educate myself about wine, the more "What in the?" moments I seem to be having here in my office.  For others like myself who might not be so experienced in wine, believe it or not, some wines are made with animal products.  Here's the rub.  

Some wines are made with what they call finings.  Finings are things added while brewing wine to remove organic compounds.  This process can improve the clarity of a wine, or alter it's flavour or fragrance by helping eliminate things like, among others, proteins, polyphenols, and sulfides.  Sulfides, for example, can cause bad odours.  Most of these things, including the finings, wind up in a sediment that's tossed out once this process is finished.  Unfortunately, they can't remove all traces of the finings.  For a closer look at finings, you have to check THIS out.

What are these animal-related finings, exactly?  Not all of the below ingredients appear in every single wine, and keep in mind a lot of finings used today come from plants or other compounds.  If you have some concerns regarding your diet, really helpful information HERE from the Vegan Wine Guide.

Warning:  If you're a vegetarian, or a vegan, maybe a little sensitive, you might want to throw up a little bit in your mouth right now.

Some animal-related finings:
  • Blood ("Sangre de toro" means "bull's blood," for example).  Animal blood has been outlawed in the US and France.
  • Egg whites (or dried albumen).
  • Milk (or proteins from milk called caseins).
  • Fish swim bladders (or isinglass), typically from sturgeon.
  • Gelatin (extracted from boiled cow or pig hooves and sinews or tendons).
How to find a suitable wine without any animal products?  Check the Vegan Wine Guide or you can simply Google vegetarian or vegan wines for other directories, recommendations, and listings.  

All creatures great and small,
Photo source:  Wikipedia
Launch ceremonies for new ships have been celebrated as far back as ancient times.  Thing is, ceremonies back then were very different than today's.  Good thing, too.  I can't imagine Princess Catherine slaughtering a sheep or a lady-in-waiting to launch an ocean liner or a cruise ship today.  Certainly not in her condition.

Long before the days of popping corks and marching bands, before any flag waving and all of this Mickey Mouse stuff, our ancestors dreamed up all sorts of interesting ways to launch their boats, including human sacrifice. 
(Kinda makes you wanna cut Tinker Bell to get the whole thing over with, doesn't it?)

That's right.  At one point in time people would kill to launch a big new boat.  The Vikings and folks in the Pacific Islands were known to offer up human sacrifices when they launched their dragonships, longships, and war canoes.  They'd rub their offering's blood on the bow of their boat before it hit the water to please the gods of the sea.  Word is the Turks sacrificed a sheep and used its blood while Babylonians offered up an ox.  With the rise in Christianity, human and animal sacrifices became a thing of the past.  Instead of sacrificing slaves or POWs, or common barnyard animals, some ceremonies began revolving around red wine.

In jolly old England circa the 17th Century, crews began celebrating ship launches with royalty or nobles on hand and what they called a standing cup ceremony.  The celebrant would take a sip from the chalice and the remaining red wine, possibly a symbol of blood, would be poured on the deck and down the bow of the boat.  Afterwards, for whatever reason, this fancy cup would be tossed overboard into the ocean.  Because the cup was made of precious metals, this started to become too pricey.  They eventually replaced the standing cup ceremony by simply smashing a bottle of red wine across a ship's bow.  I would imagine this process would be a whole lot more civilized, too.  I bet a fellow could only stand for so long shivering in the cold on deck or dockside while a haughty official, with a big ornate golden chalice worth more than this poor sod's house, droned on and on and on.  Imagine it.  One poor officer standing there after one standing cup ceremony too many, you know he's bound to snap.  "For God's sake, man!  We're all freezing here!  Just use the bloody bottle!"  

In other parts of the world, they'd launch ships by blessing them with good old-fashioned water.  For ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, pleasing the likes of Neptune and Poseidon was a must.  They poured water on their boats to protect their seamen before they launched.  Apparently the French launched their ships in the 18th and 19th Centuries with water as well.  Word is on Wikipedia that a godfather for the new vessel would hand a godmother a bouquet of flowers and together they'd announce the ship's name while a priest at the ceremony blessed the ship with holy water, and they lived happily ever after.

Apparently US Navy records dating back to the 19th Century indicate they christened American warships with water from significant American rivers.  Puja ceremonies in India involved smashing coconuts (I guess the pumpkins were booked?).  In Japan, they'd craft a new axe with a silver blade for luck to apparently ward off the devil.  The good luck axe would cut the ropes that tethered the ships that waited in slips that were angled on slopes that swallowed the fly that wiggled and jiggled and - whoops!  A great trove of information regarding other launches HERE.

Why champagne?  When did champagne enter the picture?  Likely with the rise of big steel American ships.  You can't watch that Disney video up above and tell me Americans don't live for show.  More expensive boats meant more expensive booze.  Give a Canadian a lawn chair, a bottle of pretty much anything, and we're good to go.  

Thinking of picking up a boat this summer and christening her yourself?  Note you can't just smack a bottle of bubbly across the bow of a recreational boat because it could do some serious damage.  Important tips HERE.

Funny thing, isn't it?  Guy builds a boat, next thing you know it he's building sacrificial alters, taking the day off work to worship some hairy old guy who lives on the bottom of the ocean, starts crafting fancy gold encrusted drinking cups and stocking up on fireworks (not to mention hiring the likes of a Lucas Arts or a Spielberg).  Woman creates a life?  She gets a washcloth on her forehead, maybe a little Tylenol, and it's back to work.

To progress,

Photo source:  YouTube
Or to ask an even bigger, burning question - What in the heck's a vintage?

In wine-speak, a vintage is a wine from a particular year or crop.  It's basically the year the grapes were harvested to make a particular wine.  The quality of the wine produced can be influenced by everything from what the weather was like that year in the area to, well...  Have you been watching the stars?

According to folklore, for generations many would look to the night sky to predict the quality of their wine year after year.  The more comets they saw per season, the more likely they would produce a premium crop.  These were called comet vintages.  Back in the day, did they draw any correlation between clear night skies and ideal weather conditions?  Did they notice the cloudier it was, the less likely they'd notice any comet activity?  Which do you think would excite someone more? A meteor shower in the dead of night or a rain shower come high noon?  

Did you know too much rain can make grapes rot and produce mildew?  Too much rain right before the grapes are harvested changes the grape's sugar and acidity levels, too.  According to THIS SITE, several weeks of dry weather prior to harvest produces a much better grape.  ...Think you'd see more night sky activity if there wasn't any rain?
One of the most expensive bottles of wine on record is an 1811 Chateau d'Yquem aka The Comet Vintage.  More on this wine here on YouTube.  I wonder what it will taste like when the buyer actually tries it sometime in 2017? :^)

Add into the mix the power of suggestion.  We're all familiar how the power of suggestion can influence so many.  If your kids know the Elf on the Shelf is watching them, you know you're going to have a easier time of it come bedtime.  They might even help clean out the dishwasher or clean out the litter box just to score brownie points.  What happens when farmers who don't have access to the type of information that we have today - meteorological maps and storm-tracking systems online and on TV - or if they don't have to contend with things like light pollution, never mind smog and haze that block the view - notice an increase in the number of comets over a season?  What happens if you witnessed a comet that was bigger and brighter than all of the others?  If you believed in comet vintages, think you'd be easily convinced you have an extra spectacular vintage on your hands that year?

So what do we do come 2013?  How do we determine if a wine from a certain area is truly worth a buy?  What to look for?  Check with Google.  Somebody out there somewhere has likely already sampled the wine that you're looking to purchase but there are a few things you still have to look for, including the power of suggestion.  That's right, it's still here.  Ask yourself where any particular critic was during a review.  Are they friendlier with one brand over another for any particular reason?  Do they travel independently?  Who covers their expenses?  

Still, if there's any hint of truth with the notion of comet vintages, check out what sort of crops we can expect THIS YEAR.  


Photo source:  YouTube.