Thursday, January 29, 2009

Riesling? You Talking About Riesling? Riesling?

Wednesday nights for me are pretty much set.  A local restaurant has a wine 'class' each Wednesday where everyone tastes 5 different wines from the same varietal.  I guess they do this to get everyone to eat at the restaurant afterwards, which we are reminded of every 5 minutes.  Each week the class displays a different varietal, which happened to be riesling this past Wednesday.  Up to this week, all the wines tasted had been pretty disappointing.  The sauvignon blancs were bland and I'm not fond of chardonnay.  I had high hopes for the riesling.  I figured we'd see two from California, one from Washington, one from Germany, and one from Alsace.  I wasn't expecting anything too great as usually the high retail value of the wines is $20 (not that price is an indicator of quality, but Nashville doesn't get the highest quality of wines, even in the $20 value).  

The first wine had a nice citrus aroma, but was very one dimensional on the palate.  I sensed a little chalk with a very little finish.  This was a medium-dry riesling, definitely not over the tope sweetness.  On a second taste after I had tasted the other wines, I actually bumped it up a couple of points when I got a little cherry sweet-tart action.  I still didn't like it enough to buy it.  The wine turned out to be Jed Steele's Shooting Star Riesling.  Eh...  13/20.

Second wine was, for my palette, not good at all.  Ug.  This wine had aromas of wet rock, petrol, and moss.  I know moss because my parents have mossy rock in their house, which if you spray with water, is the best smell EVER.  Taste was a little better than awful.  It was confusing, with little fruit components.  This was a dry wine with a very bitter finish.  Not good.  Wolf Blass Riesling from Austrailia.  Ug... 11/20.

The third wine was very getting better.  I had some green apple on the nose, with some more citrusy fruit, mainly grapefruit, on the nose finish.  This wine was dry with the same citrus flavors on the palate.  This wine would be great with some food as it was very acidic.  Not a bad effort.  Not my favorite, but up there.  Pacific Rim Dry Riesling.  

The fourth wine was my favorite of the night.  The initial aromas had some orange peel with some more grapfruit and peach.  I love me some peach action.  Favorite fruit of all time.  This was the sweetest wine of the night.  I just had lunch with a friend who put down the riesling varietal because they are 'too sweet'.  I had to explain that the riesling varietal is one of the most versatile grapes out there because it can be very dry or can have some residual sugar and be very sweet.  Well, I must have had a sweet tooth, because I was in like with this wine.  Not love, but like.  I guess it would be a 7th grade girlfriend.  16.5/10.  Rhein River Riesling from Germany.

The last wine was my favorite dry riesling of the night.  Citrusy fruit on the nose with some chalk action.  I found some kiwi and grapefruit aromas, which I like.  A little old world, so a little tough to get anything on the nose.  Palate showed some nice peach flavors, with a medium-dry mouthfeel.  Pretty nice.  A little oily, but not bad.  16/20.  Hugel Riesling from Alsace.

Overall, these wines weren't that bad, with the exception of the Wolf Blass.  Not a big fan of that one, sorry.  I will try to get some rieslings in my cellar as I have exactly zero.

Next week is 'alternative' whites.  He promised me an albarino.  I'd better get it. 

Oh, and Vandy lost to South Carolina.  I could hear Amy celebrating from 4 blocks away.

The Raiders took the interim tag off of Tom Cable.  As coach of U. of Idaho he went 0-3 against Montana.  Just sayin' he might not be the best hire.  

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Training Runs and Bad Vandy Basketball

Whenever you plan your marathon training, it seems as if everything is set in place for you.  I've been following Hal Hidgon's marathon guide and it's nice because every single run is planned out for you.  All you have to do is run.  That's it.  Dummy proof.  Well, this plan doesn't take into account when college friends come into town.  They pick one football game and one men's basketball game to attend each year.  The past couple of seasons, they have come into town when Vandy plays our hated rivals, the Florida Gators.  Gross.  

This puts a strain on the running schedule because my friends and I like to have a good time, which means we like to go downtown, stay out late, and have some adult beverages.  This isn't conducive to a good workout the next day.  This time, however, I told them that I have my first training run (14 miles) with the Nashville Striders on Sunday, so Saturday HAS to be tame.  I also flip flopped my off day, so I ran my pace run on Friday and took Saturday off.  This meant that my Friday night would be the crazy night.  Well, it was, and I'm glad I had all day saturday to recuperate.  Saturday I took it easy, had a nice Noshville breakfast, played some apples to apples with my friends, and went to an Eric Brace show (lead singer from Last Train Home) at Station Inn.  I didn't necessarily get to bed as early as I should have for a 7 am start in East Nashville, but I wasn't hungover for the training run either.  

Sunday morning was a pretty cold morning, with the starting temperature at about 20 degrees.  I struggled with my decision as to what I should wear.  I opted with a long sleeve running shirt with my SportHill InFuzion top.  I didn't wear long spandex, and when I arrived at Bongo Java in East Nashville, I saw I was the only one not wearing them.  I guess that's the Montana in me.  

This was my first training run with the Nashville Striders, and I was nothing less than impressed.  We had at least 150 people ready to run the 14 miles, and the group had water/gatorade stations at 3, 5.5, 9, and 11.5 miles.  Everyone was very friendly and was very happy when I saw some bagels, bananas, and fluids at the end of the run.  I will definitely be attending the rest of the Striders' training runs.

The run itself went really well.  The route was most of the first half of the Country Music Marathon, which is fairly hilly and challenging.  The plan was to run with 9 minute splits, which is 50 seconds more than my predicted marathon pace.  The legs felt great even when heading up a 2 mile hill from miles 3 to 5.  The pace was fast slow enough I could talk, yet fast enough to let me know we were running.  I really had no complaints, but I did have to stop a couple of times because my running partner Amy had some stomach issues.  Twice we had to stop for a few minutes, the first of which I stood outside and got a little chilly, but the second time we stopped in McDonalds, so I was out of the elements.  The one time I felt a little frustrated was at the end of the run when Amy said 'I think the end is at that red light'.  Well, the red light seemed like a mirage, everytime I thought we ran for a few minutes, I'd look up and it seemed like we didn't get closer.  Eventually we made it and now I feel optimistic about how the marathon in St. Louis is going to turn out.  

Oh, and Vandy lost by 25.  

Friday, January 23, 2009

What I Think About When I Run

When you're training or a marathon, you have a lot of free time on your hands to do nothing but think about stuff.  So today during my 7 mile marathon pace run, (8:04 splits...pretty happy with it) I tried to make a mental note of everything I thought about.  Kinda like a mental inventory.  Let's see how it worked out.

  • Damn, 7 miles at marathon pace is gonna kick my ass
  • Why do I live at the lowest elevation on my runs?
  • What the f*** is that guy doing?  A**h*** almost ran me over!
  • Damn, am I at a mile yet?  Gotta remember to record my splits
  • God, I love when I finally hit Wedgewood.  Good downhill bit coming up!
  • I wonder if my bosses are going to see me running while they are heading to lunch.  Better not run into them.
  • Where are all the Vandy kiddies on this beautiful day?  Probably drinking already.
  • 2 miles down.  When am I 33% done?  Oh yeah, at 2.33333333.... miles.  I'm a nerd.
  • I HATE red lights.  I wish I had that radar thing an ambulance has so I could change red lights to green whenever I want.
  • I HATE traffic.  21st during lunch hour sucks...AND I have to cross w/o a light.  
  • Almost halfway done!  DAMN, that is one ugly dog.  Is that a dog?  Wow, weird.
  • How're the splits going?  Hmmm...seem like they are going alright. 
  • Why are girls bat shiat crazy sometimes?  I mean they are all a little crazy, but some are WAY out there.  (sidenote, there isn't a run long enough for me to answer this question, sorry ladies.  I know we men have our problems too)
  • Alright, 4 miles down, almost to Belmont.  I'll be heading back soon!
  • Great day, 55 degrees, awesome!  Crap, I just stepped in dog crap.  WTF???  Please PICK UP AFTER YOUR DOG!
  • I don't fit into the Belmont U. crowd.  
  • Why does every person think that someone running is the best person to stop and ask directions.  If I hate stopping at red lights, I sure as hell don't like stopping for you...unless you're cute, then I'll probably stop.
  • 1.4 miles to go!  Mostly downhill from here.
  • The girl that just passed me smelled like candy.  I think sweet tarts.  That's not even fair smelling like sweet tarts, especially when I'm training for a marathon.
  • Damn, a lot of homeless people at the shelter today.  At least it's nice out for them.
  • What am I going to do with my friends all weekend?  How am I going to keep up my healthy, non-drinking regiment while they're in town.  I must be strong.
  • DONE!  Whohoo.  7 miles done, 56 minutes to complete.
  • I need a beer.
There it is.  The depths of my mind.  I don't really know what to make of it.  Do you?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Pinotage Anyone?

I was perusing through a local wine store this past weekend with no intent on buying anything.  I just wanted to see what their selection was since I had never been to this particular merchant.  Now, in my very small history with wine, I've actually tasted quite a few varietals, but pinotage had been passed over every time.  Most wine stores here have one, maybe two, pinotage labels on their racks.  This store had exactly two labels, one of which was an organic variety.  I asked the sales person which one she would buy (both were $11.99, and she liked them both), and she replied, 'Well, this one is organic...'.  Hippie.  I went with her selection.  I mean it would have been rude of me to not take her selection.

Pinotage was created in 1925 when the Pinot noir grape had sex with the Cinsaut grape way down in South Africa.  I was hoping this cross would take some of the 'sweatiness' away from most Pinot noir wines I've had before.  I know it sounds gross, but most of the time when I smell Pinot, I smell my old high school gym locker room after football practice.  I don't mind that smell, but it isn't the most pleasant either.  

I sat down on Tuesday night hoping to watch a Vandy win over our hated rivals, the UT Volunteers.  I figured that I could taste a grape I've never had, and if things in the game went poorly, well, I'd have an open bottle of wine.  Boy am I glad I had an open bottle.  

AP Photo.  This happened quite a bit as we could NOT stop them.  I hope I never have to post a photo like this again.

Avondale 2007 Pinotage 

I opened this bottle two hours before tasting to let it breathe a little.  On the nose, I perceived a large raspberry component.  This initial aroma disappeared and a hint of dirt and dust opened up.  Tasting this wine, the very first impression was that of dirt, which I enjoy.  This faded and the typical Pinot flavors came through: raspberry, earth, sweat.  The finish displayed a dusty, leathery flavor, which I verified by taking a leather-bound book I had laying around and licked it.  Yep, same flavor.  

Since the game was going south, I enjoyed most of the bottle (with a little help).  After getting some O2, the wine displayed a more jammy, sour cherry flavor.  I did NOT like this aspect.  Too tart for my taste.  I don't recommend letting this bottle breathe for more than 30 minutes.  Not my style.  

This bottle  It was a nice little change from the traditional Pinot, and if you aren't into the mouthfeel or viscosity of Pinot, you should give this a try.  Not bad for $11.99, but I wish I had had the other bottle.

Knee update:  Foam roller seems to be working!  No pain yet this week!

Monday, January 19, 2009

IT Band...Apparently I didn't pay the cover...

I've been pretty lucky in my running career when it comes to injuries.  My sports teams...not so much (Raiders - 1983, SF Giants - 1954, Vandy Football - first bowl win since 1955, Montana Grizzlies - 2001, San Jose Sharks - always beat the Nashville Predators in first round, but have never made Stanley Cup Finals), but I've always been injury free during all of my half and full-marathon trainings, until last August.

My recent dive into running came last July/August when I stepped on a scale and decided I needed to start working out again.  The first few weeks were fine, I started slow, kept the milage down and everything was hunky dory.  Then out of nowhere I get shin splints in my left leg.  I had a high school friend that had shin splints during every basketball season, and now I understand how painful that was.  I couldn't run at all.  I had to do the elliptical machine which is the most boring exercise I think I've ever done.  I hated it.  My college roommate gave me a great stretch to help with the splints, and I've been doing them ever since.  

A few weeks ago I started to get a little discomfort in my right knee, well, outside of my right knee.  I shrugged it off because it was more of a nuisance than a pain.  This new pain was funny because it didn't hurt when I put weight on my knee, but when I picked up my leg.  I did some research and found that I had some IT band issues.  I decreased my mileage and boom, it went away.  Let's fast forward to yesterday.  Amy and I were bright eyed and ready to run 12 miles down at the Shelby bottoms greenway (you can find her account of the run by clicking on her name).  This course is very flat and is away from the nuisances of the city, such as traffic and stoplights.  The only part of the run that is not necessarily flat is a bridge that connects the two sides of the Cumberland River.  The actual trail doesn't follow the bridge, but Amy wanted to cross it so she could 'check it off her list'.  In order to get to it, there is a spiraling trail up a hill.  Well, my IT band must be afraid of heights, because it was telling me we didn't need to go up that hill.  It was a little painful, but not so much that I'd quit my run.  We did the bridge thing and came back to finish the last 8 miles of our run.  My knee felt a little funny from miles 4-9, but he (I guess he's a male IT band) finished strong.  

I went home to watch some football and iced my knee, but after a few hours it was a little painful if I tried to get off the couch after sitting awhile.  This morning I decided to skip my easy 3 mile run and go get a foam roller to stretch him out.  I've read up on them, but I didn't realize how simple this contraption is.  It's seriously six inch in diameter, 3 foot long tube of styrofoam.  I'm guessing $1.50 to make it...I bought it at a local running store for $26.00!!!  Somebody is making money off of my IT band.  I tried it out just now, and it is painful to use to say the least.  I'm hoping this stretching will help out so I don't have to cut back on my training for my marathon in April.  

Foam Roller...nice contraption...

I highly suggest you keep tuned in to your IT band folks.  I hope you don't have the same issues I did...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Running Tunes

I'm sure I'm like most runners when I say that I run with headphones in all the time, except during races. I think this may be the only thing I have in common with most runners who listen to music, as my music taste is probably very different than most. Yes, I have a separate playlist for my workouts and yes there is some upbeat stuff, but most of my music is of the country variety. No, I'm not into the whole Kenny Chesney/Tim McGraw crap they play on the radio. Looking at my playlist, I see that the top three artists are Reckless Kelly, Merle Haggard, and Last Train Home

Last Train Home 

These artists can rock with the best of them, but much of my workout music is quite slow.  I'm huge into lyrics while feel and beat are secondary.  If a tune can reach me I'll listen to it no matter what I'm doing or how many bpm the tempo is.  

The latest Runners World had short article on the 'perfect training soundtrack'.  Now, like wine, everyone has different music taste.  There are a few I would agree with them, such as their suggestion for the halfway point of a run with 'You Shook Me All Night Long' by AC/DC.  I'm a huge fan, and my Nike+ powersong is 'Thunderstruck'.  Their other suggestions I believe are a little too clichè for a run, like 'Eye of the Tiger'.  I mean I just see Rocky training for his bout with Clubber, and that doesn't motivate me that much.  Other artists they suggest are Jet and Matchbox Twenty which are both snoozefests in my opinion.

Yes, I know my musical taste is different, and most want that upbeat stuff, but I want something that takes my mind off the road and gives me something profound to think about.  I highly suggest you take a look at your playlist and see what needs to be changed, recycles, or downright dumped.  You shouldn't have to take the time to press for the next song on your MP3 player.  

Oh, and give some old school George Jones a try... 

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Who Is This Guy? Why Is He Blogging?

Hey boys and girls.  My name is Craig and I'm new to this whole blogging thing.  I don't really have any special insight into anything, nor am I an expert in any field, but I do enjoy a couple of things: wine and running.

To the average person these two hobbies might not necessarily mesh, however I think they are in harmony with each other.  I know there are many differences between the two.  Running is, for the most part, an individual sport (and yes, running, even for fun, is a sport) while I believe wine should be shared with friends and family.  Running is 50% psychological and 50% physical, while wine is 100% psychological.  Both are much difficult, especially to beginners like me.  I've enjoyed running for the past few years, with a somewhat lengthy break in the middle.  I am very green in the wine world as a trip to Napa and Sonoma in August/September 2008 began my journey in the wine world.

I have no idea where this blog will take me.  I'm sure I'll vent about politics, Montana, sports (Montana football, all of Vanderbilt sports, Raiders football, Giants baseball...), and anything I may have seen that has made an impact on me.  I am in NO WAY an expert in running or wine, I just enjoy the two and maybe some of my experiences or insights may intrigue some of the readers.  I may taste a wine and LOVE it and you may HATE it.  I hope you comment and tell me how wrong I am.  Believe me, it won't hurt my feelings.  

So, let's get started!!!

First off, I'm training for the Go Marathon in St. Louis in April.  This will be my first marathon in 2.5 years.  It's going.  I'm sure I'll be keeping updates as my training progresses.  Since my training began, I've lost 15 pounds, while another 15 loss would be GREAT.  Eh.

I came back to Nashville this past weekend after an extended stay in Montana for Christmas.  I arrived back to my place to find that I had NO food in my kitchen.  None.  Nada.  After the trip to Kroger on Monday, I began to think about what I was going to have for dinner tonight.  I decided upon a jambalaya mix I've had in the pantry for a year with some smoked sausage for my protein intake.  While making dinner, I had to decide which wine in my cellar would go with this spicy dish.  Oh, and by cellar, I mean my 16 bottle wine fridge and the cabinet space below my kitchen counter.  I looked online, and most 'experts' said to have a zinfandel or syrah with the spicy food, but I don't necessarily go by the books.  I decided on one of my chardonnays, specifically the Franciscan Napa Valley 2007.  

Now, I'm not a chardonnay drinker.  I don't really like the texture or the oak that most have in their tasting profile, especially the California chardonnays.  This bottle: no different.  I think I may have subconsciously wanted to get rid of my only chardonnay in my queue.  It has a finely balanced nose, with citrus and tons, TONS, of pear.  I'm a fan of pear, I can deal with that.  As I taste this a 2nd time, it isn't as heavy as some of the chards I've had, but the butter and oak are very apparent.  The pear isn't as noticeable on the palate, however a new grapefruit comes on a bit.  It doesn't necessarily have the balance I would like, as it punches you in the face at the beginning but drops off noticeably right away.  High acidity.  Eh, I don't drink chardonnays that much so I'm not the greatest with this varietal, but I can say I would not buy this again.  $15.00.  Eh, maybe for $8.00.  It did pair nicely with the spicy jambalaya as it proved a nice flavor balance.  I bet I would love an un-oaked chardonnay with this dish.

Oh, well.  Swing and a miss.

On a brighter note, I just received my Smith Optics Factor sunglasses!  I actually can't wait for my morning run to try them out.  Update tomorrow maybe?