Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

2006 Jackson Triggs Proprietor’s Reserve Meritage

February 24, 2010 Leave a comment

2006 Jackson Triggs MeritageI was in Osoyoos a few weeks ago visiting some family, and wanted to visit at least one of the wineries while I was there.  Given that it is February, most were closed.  So, I picked one of the very few wineries in the Oliver-Osoyoos area that I had not already been to: Jackson Triggs.  When you first drive up, the winery looks like a warehouse (the facility houses the Vincor offices and distribution center for western Canada).  However, once you get up the driveway, it is actually quite a nice facility.  The lady who served us was incredibly friendly and quite knowledgeable.

In the past, I have avoided the big wineries for the reason that I can always find their wines back in the lower mainland.  In other words, I usually focus on the small wineries and the wines that I won’t be able to find anywhere else.  But this trip was worth the effort.  I enjoyed every wine I tasted and bought two bottles, including the 2006 Jackson Triggs Proprietor’s Reserve Meritage.

I opened the bottle this past Saturday and shared it with some friends.  As expected, I greatly enjoyed the wine.  It was not as strong as I expected, but a very smooth wine.  Overall, excellent.


Kobo Books and eReaders

February 12, 2010 Leave a comment

Kobo BooksOver the last year or so, I have been experimenting with eReaders and eBooks on my BlackBerry.  While at first it definitely took some getting used to, I feel quite comfortable reading on my device now.  I will admit that on a cloudy day at home, nothing is better than real book in your hands.  However, the convenience of having my book in my pocket all day is something else.  I can even read on my lunch break at work without having to carry a book around with me all day (I’m already carrying my phone so it’s no extra baggage).

Initially, I downloaded the BlackBerry app from, primarily because it was the first eReader app I found for BlackBerry.  I definitely liked their app and their online selection was great.  No complaints whatsoever.  My only drawback is that is owned and operated by Barnes & Noble.  Barnes & Noble is a great company, but they’re not Canadian.  Another eReader option that everyone is familiar with is Kindle (Amazon’s handheld device).  Now, Amazon has definitely brought eBooks into the mainstream, so we can thank them for that.  And they have released an app for the iPhone so Apple lovers can partake in the fun.  However, Amazon has not released an app for BlackBerry, or any other device for that matter, yet.  And also, not Canadian.

But just this past November (2009), without much fanfare, Kobo Books was launched, backed by Indigo Books & Music.  Now, I have always been a fan of Chapters and Indigo.  Especially because they are a Canadian company in a time when US companies seem to be swallowing up every successful Canadian company.  That, and who can complain about having a fresh Starbucks with you while you peruse the store.  And when purchasing online, I’m always slightly more comfortable when I know it’s with a reputable Canadian company.

Kobo has a good, and always expanding, collection of eBooks available online.  And according to their website, part of their mission is “assembling the world’s best catalogue of eBooks, no matter which device [their] customers use.”  Fantastic!  Additionally, their eBooks are also available without any digital rights management.  Meaning that you can download these books to any device you choose.  They provide apps for PC and Mac, BlackBerry, iPhone, Android, Windows Mobile devices, Symbian (Nokia), and other devices.  And you can even download your purchased eBooks to a Kindle Reader or a Sony Reader if you happen to have spent your money on one already.

One of the other reasons I like Kobo, as opposed to, is that they have a lot more Canadian-published eBooks available.  And for most books, you can preview the first chapter or two before you buy – just like being in the store.  They also have a decent selection of free classics that you can download to test things out before shelling out any cash.

I only found out about Kobo earlier this week, so I installed it on my PC and BlackBerry and have been trying it out for the lost couple of days.  So far, I love it.  Both the BlackBerry app and the PC application (Adobe Digital Editions) are free and work exactly as expected.  I will post an update once I’ve had a little bit longer to get accustomed and put some more mileage on it.

To download the BlackBerry app in App World, click HERE or you can find it on the Kobo website HERE.

Update Feb 18: Today Amazon released Kindle for BlackBerry; however, only to people who live in the US (i.e. still not available to Canadians).  So, I guess Amazon is almost there as well.  But, I am more than pleased with how Kobo is working, so Amazon is a bit too late on that one.

Update Jun 1: Still use it.  Still love it.  A lot of mobile apps have a tendency to fade out of usefulness.  Thought I’d keep the records straight here.

Summer Road Trip to California Wine Country

January 21, 2010 Leave a comment

MCalifornia Statey wife and I are currently planning a summer road trip down to California wine country.  We’re planning to drive down, spend around 5 days exploring, and then drive home.

Our big decisions for now are when to go and where to spend our time.  For timing, we’re looking at May or June – better to get there early, beat the crowds (and the heat), and try to get some first tastes on new wines.

We’re considering the Calistoga region and Howell Mountain area in the Napa Valley and the Russian River area of the Sonoma Valley.   However, we have been told by a few different people that stopping for a night in Mendocino is an absolute must.

While down there, we also intend to hit a couple tours, and hopefully, a wine festival.

While I’ve been to California many times, this will be my first time going north of San Francisco (or even crossing the Golden Gate Bridge at all for that matter).  I don’t know a whole lot about this area or about California wines (I have my favourites, but that’s about it), so this entire process is going to be a real learning experience.  I’m looking forward to expanding my wine knowledge and to exploring one of the world’s most renowned wine growing regions.  And what better way to learn about something than to completely immerse yourself in it, even if it is only for a week.  I can’t wait!

As we plan and learn more, I’ll be sure to post updates here.

Poynt vs. Urbanspoon (score 1 for Poynt)

December 31, 2009 Leave a comment

PoyntI posted earlier about my excitement that Urbanspoon for BlackBerry had finally been released (see original post here).  However, I have to put a plug in for Poynt here, based on a vacation I took this week.

I took my wife to Harrison Hot Springs in south-western BC for a couple of days during the holidays.  Once we were settled into our hotel and ready to go for something to eat, I fired up Urbanspoon on my BlackBerry.  I was disappointed to see that the nearest location was Chilliwack (approximately 30 minutes drive away).  This didn’t provide us any useful information as to where to eat.  So while I do use Urbanspoon frequently in a big city, it is completely useless in a small town.

So I opened Poynt and searched using the ‘Restaurants Near Me’ feature, which quickly brought up a list of restaurants, noting each of their distances from my present location.  Poynt uses Yellow Pages listings and Open Table restaurant listings to find restaurants.  Although we could not read reviews or ratings on any of these restaurants, we could find which ones were closest, directions to get there, and an idea on what type of food to expect.

So, while sometimes I like to read a few reviews on a restaurant before dining there, in a small town with 1 sushi restaurant and 1 bar/grill, I only really need to know what’s available and how to get there.  Score 1 for Poynt!  I must also admit that Poynt is one of the most used apps on my BlackBerry.  Everything from movie tickets to a nearby liquor store or gas station can be found.  Incredibly powerful tool, I just never thought I’d also use it to find restaurants in a pinch.

Beers in Northern Europe

December 1, 2009 1 comment

In November, I spent a couple of weeks working in Europe (in the Netherlands, to be specific) and a few days visiting some friends in north-western Germany (Osnabruck area).  During my trip, I kept some short notes on my BlackBerry on some of the beers I tried.  Mostly for my own reference so next time I’m over there I can remember which beers to have again and which ones to avoid.  Some were good and others not-so-good.  In any case, thought I’d share my notes here, in no particular order.

Jupiler: This is a light lager from Belgium. It’s coined as the most popular beer in Belgium. Loved it.

Heineken: A classic light lager. Brewed in Holland. I enjoy a Heineken occasionally at home, but found this Euro version to be quite a bit smoother. Definitely better than back home.

Palm Speciale: One of my favourite Belgian beers. Nice amber coloured ale. Excellent.

Dobbel Palm: Similar to the one above but slightly darker and with a bit of a nuttier flavour. Slightly heavier than the Speciale. According to Wikipedia, the Dobbel is only sold in December to replace the Speciale. Guess I got an early edition.

Dommelsch: A very popular pilsner beer from the Netherlands. Good after a big meal, as it is quite light. Excellent.

Brand Pilsner: Good beer. Another light pilsner brewed in the Netherlands. Quite popular and easy to enjoy.

Brand Dubbelbock: Quite a dark ale that is labeled as an autumn seasonal beer. I found it far too nutty and too sweet. Not for my tastes.

La Chouffe: A Belgian “strong ale”. Had a burnt nutty flavour. Again, not for my tastes.

Becks: A popular pilsner from Bremen, Germany. A staple when in Germany and one of my personal favourites when over there. However, similar to Heineken, it tasted quite different over there than it does back home. There version being the better. A great beer.

Becks Gold: Same as the pilsner, but slightly darker. I would liken the difference to Kokanee vs Kokanee Gold. But again, another great beer.

Urbanspoon for BlackBerry

November 26, 2009 1 comment

UrbanspoonI’m a little behind on this one, as I’ve been away in Europe for the last couple of weeks, where my Bell Canada CDMA BlackBerry 8330 does not work.  But here we go…

I installed Urbanspoon for BlackBerry earlier this week, and have been playing with it for a few days now.  I must admit that I have been anxiously anticipating this release ever since the first time I saw this app on a friends iPhone a few years ago.

So far, I have been pleasantly surprised with the application.  Prior to this release for BlackBerry, I have been using Poynt and OpenTable’s BlackBerry apps to search for restaurants.  Both of these apps are location-based search apps, but have their limitations.

The OpenTable app is well designed and works well, but had a couple of glaring limitations that were quite frustrating.  First, there was no way to read restaurants reviews in the application.  Therefore, it would find restaurants in my area, but other than a short description of the restaurant, offered no additional information.  Secondly, the app is limited to restaurants that sign on to the OpenTable reservation program.  So a great app, but quite limited.

Poynt is a great location-based search tool, but searches directories (i.e. YellowPages) and therefore, provides restaurant names, contact information, address, and directions, but does not provide any additional information, such as reviews or descriptions.  So while Poynt is one of my favourite and most used BlackBerry apps, it is not entirely suited to finding restaurants.

Enter Urbanspoon.  I like that it has the ability to search based on proximity, type of cuisine and price range.  The randomization (spin) feature is nice, but is purely aesthetic.  I do, however, really like that it offers ratings (% of people who like it) and reviews for each restaurant.  Additionally, the app integrates really well with BlackBerry Maps to provide navigation and/or step-by-step directions.

However, the app leaves room for a couple of improvements.  First, each time I open the app, the sound is turned on, even if my phone profile is set to quiet or vibrate.  Easily turned off, but easy to forget.  Second, the reviews open in the browser instead of in the app itself.  While still functional, would be nice to see this functionality built into the app itself.  And lastly, the app opens with a background image of a cup of french fries.  Not exactly the haute cuisine I am searching for.  If I want fries, I can always find the Golden Arches.

Overall, a great app, and it is great to see that it has finally been added to the BlackBerry lineup.  The app is available in the BlackBerry App World or from the Urbanspoon directly.

2007 Director’s Cut Pinot Noir

October 28, 2009 Leave a comment

I was in Lincoln, Nebraska for work for the last couple of weeks.  On my last night there, I went for dinner at a restaurant close to my hotel called Carmela’s Bistro and Wine Bar.  I usually visit this restaurant at least once per trip to Lincoln, so I have been here a few times.  It is a very cozy wine bar with an excellent menu.  In fact, I wish there were more places like this back home in Vancouver.  The first time I came here, I was actually quite surprised that places like this existed here.  But it seems it’s not so unusual here, and the staff are extremely knowledgeable about wine and are quite passionate about it as well.  If you ever happen to find yourself in Lincoln, Nebraska, I highly recommend visiting Carmela’s.

2007 Director's Cut Pinot Noir

Tonight I tried a bottle of Francis Coppola Director’s Cut 2007 Pinot Noir.  I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised.

It was an excellent wine.  I really enjoyed this wine!  I am always skeptical ordering a wine I have never heard anything about or read about prior to drinking; however, I was pleasantly surprised.  I will definitely look to pick this wine up again back home to make sure I have the same feelings about it the second time around.  I would love to see how this wine is in another 6 months or a year.  I did have it with a steak and potato soup for starter and a Biorsin cheese and butter seasoned filet mignon with a gorgonzola baked potato.  Absolutely excellent, and complemented the salty meal perfectly.