Sunday, 29 August 2010

miles 28.36; Bike Miles 1 (!); Units 22

You may initially be impressed by the mileage, and think that it is nipping back up again. Alas I must explain that this is an 8-day period, and thus contains two long run. I see this as entirely fair, largely because I had to postpone my Sunday long run to the Monday. Janet and I took a 5-day break, and packed a lot of room painting into it - so, I decided to run on Monday so as to get a few coats on. Unintentionally it turned into a chunky 15-miler at a fair old pace. On my return I weighed back into eggshelling galore - foolish boy! - so by Monday night I was cream crackered and glad to get back to work for a rest!

The one, solitary bike mile is because it was tipping it down on Wednesday so I didn't ride into work. I was determined to have at least one ride a week, so this is a measly cycle into Waitrose!

Winewise, we drank pretty well to compensate for the hard work, including a silky-smooth Volnay vielles vignes (old vines) by Potel from the 2005 vintage (not widely available) - just a simple villages burgundy, but for all that a pleasure to drink, all straberry fruit and earthy chunkiness. Also a rather toothsome bottle of Oyster Bay Pinot Noir 2009 (Waitrose, Majestic £9.99) which was elegant cool climate pinot noir at its best. Fragrant, soft and flavourful with aromas of ripe cherries, plums and gentle sweet fruit tannins - good stucture, ood length, perfect for something mid-weight like chicken, omelette, duck, asian food - that sort of thing. And, the weekend was also punctuated with the odd glass of Hidalgo's La Gitana Manzanilla (Waitrose £6.99) - just fresh, salty, and marvellous with some dolmades from Romsey market. So it was not all work work work you see..)

Happy days!

Sunday, 22 August 2010

miles 18.85; Bike Miles 13; Units 22

Technically three runs this week - though one of them was a feeble effort after cycling back the longer way from work. Not having taken part in a triathlon before, I have not appreciated the learning curve when you do what is called a 'brick' session ie leaping straight off the bike and going for a run. The legs just do not work! I felt like I was starting to get back into the swing of things, though my Sunday run was not up to par. Perhaps it was just 'one of those weeks'.

Delighted to have booked my first race since the Marathon - the Hursley 10k. I ran this a couple of years ago, as a preparation for the Clarendon half. It is a treat of an event. The atmosphere is great, as it is organised as fundraiser for the village school in Hursley. The course is trail/woodland/track, taking in parts of the IBM Hursley estate , which is off limits other than this one day a year. The great thing about running on trails is that you get a bit less worried about exact times and PB chasing. Hursley is also well known for the variety of chimneys on old estate houses - all a bit different.

This is my last week in my current role - 4 years in Operations is plenty of time to gain sufficient experience. I am returning to a role not a million miles away from the one I left in Supply Chain - a development role. I'm looking forward to getting back into the project world, and, quite honestly, something I understand. There's an element of safety, for sure, and right now I need that. What comes after that is still to be seen!

Wine of the week is an absolute belter - a SuperTuscan called Flaccianello della Pieve 2001 by Fontodi. This wine is from the heart of the Chianti region, but, as it is pure Sangiovese - yes, the Italian's own grape - it cannot be called Chianti! The regulations insist on blending, and yet do not insist on blending with other Italian grapes - so you can have a Chianti with a healthy dollop of the French grape merlot, but a pure Italian wine has to take a more lowly classification of IGT. Mad rules, mad Italians, don't you just love them!

Anyway, back to the wine, which had an intense, pure blackberry nose, and on the palate, oh my Lord, soft tannins, succulent acidity and cherry and herb flavours. Everything was clean, well integrated and juicy, and with undercurrents of smoky ash, plums and orange peel. This is a lovely wine. Not a massive length, but good enough. Not cheap either - around £50 a bottle for the 2001, £40 for the current 2005 vintage. The bottle suggested a 2 hour decant, which makes real sense. I was delighted with this wine, as I bought it some years ago on its reputation, and was therefore more disappointed to try the 2007 at a recent tasting - really let me down. Clearly it is a wine which repays cellaring. And, for once, a big name that deserves its reputation. My faith is restored.

Happy days.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Miles 20.15; Bike Miles 10; Units 27

"Get a bicycle. You will not regret it if you live." (Mark Twain).

So, here I am commencing my first week of my 40th year with a bicycle - a present from Janet, and what I really wanted. I last owned a bike in my 2nd year at University, which was of course a "Brideshead Revisited' type bike (did you expect anything else?) with wicker front basket and 3 Sturmey-Archer gears. It satisfied a need to throw coursebooks in the basket, don the cycle clips on my tweed suit (yes I did sometimes used to wear a 3-piece green tweed suit and tie at Uni...oh help me someone...) and then afterwards partake of a glass or two of Shepherd Neame's finest on the way back home. I seem to recall that I sold it to my landlady for £15 when I moved out. Since then I have eschewed the 2-wheeled form...though I have always been keen to get back in the saddle.

My, how bikes have moved on! So, this 'city hybrid' model, as they call it, is made of oh so light aluminium, 21 gears with paddles for up/down, and a rock solid seat! It has very direct steering and feels nimble. My commitment was to ride to work one day a week provided the weather was ok (I'm not mad) and to use it to pop into town and the like. Hence, 10 bike miles, 5 each way to work, on Wednesday. A little scary but we made it! The sense of freedom and exhilaration is intoxicating, I think I'm going to like this. The jury is still out on the saddle..

Doubly proud of myself for a 'brick' session, as the triathletes have it. I jumped off the bike on Wednesday and ran just under 5 miles. That is a strange feeling. The legs, unused to this style of exercise, are a bit jelly-like and uncertain. I don't yet believe I am ready to embrace fully this world of multi sport. Still unfinished business in running for me...London 2011 maybe?

Wine of the week would have to be another excellent bottle of the Hess Allomi Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2005. A classic bordeaux blend, but with that much bigger fruit of the US of A. All ripe blackcurrants and green wood. Lovely!

Sunday, 8 August 2010

miles 4.44; Units too many (bad hangover on Sunday)

A pitiful week on the running front - largely because the weekend was taken up with my 40th birthday tasting - yes, indeed, your author has indeed reached that auspicious landmark in his life. In consequence of which, no more about running, and instead on to the tasting...

I could not resist posting this picture of my youthful encounter with the juice of the grain Doomed, clearly from an early age.

Well, what a week for wine! On Saturday, a group of dear friends joined us for a 'best of the cellar;' tasting, in which we took a lively canter through the wines that constitute my favourites. Also, a great chance to try some wines that I had long cellared for this occasion.

So, here we go..

We started with the excellent Pol Roger Brut NV, always a delight, and a homage to our wedding wine. Of course, also Winston Churchills' favourite, so we were in good company! That went down very well, a tribute to the lovely extra bit of bottle age that the 'White Foil' offers. In quick succession we tackled Knappstein Ackland Watervale Riesling 2008 (petrolly, limes, dry, oily - well received), Falanghina Feudi di San Gregorio 2008 (a real winner with the crowd, such a lush body and texture) and a Chablis Vielles Vignes Vocoret 2008 (classic but perhaps not enough of the 'cut' you expect. Good though - and on its own you'd be pleased).

Then with a buffet supper (excellently prepared by Janet) a lovely Spanish wine, Albarino Martin Codax 2009, very much the grape du moment in the polite circles. Dry, with a chalky, deep finish. I pulled a random unplanned bottle of Fiano from the 'fridge which ended up being white of the evening for many..

..and then the reds..

Firstly Volnay 1er Cru Clos Chapelle 2002, N. Potel, which I can't deny was a bit disappointing. Yes, it was medium weight, good fruit, but it lacked..presence. After that another shock - the Chateau Talbot 1996 was corked - or faulty, anyway. Very disappointing. Last of a case I bought 10 years ago - the others had been lovely, Cellared too long, I wonder?? Anyway, I spotted it before pouring so it became an 'educational' bottle.

Now it started to step up a gear with Brunello di Montalcino 1999, Brunelli. Oh yes - rich, warm, that lovely wash of sangiovese. Tuscany come to us please! We hurtled on to Cote Rotie Cordeloux 2004, Benetiere, a great example, with the weighty syrah balanced with a touch of viognier. Truly lovely. Finally, for the chunky red lover, a Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel 2004, looking remarkably good. The reds did me proud.

Janet wheeled out a fantastic lemon pudding, which was perfectly balanced by Chateau Rieussec 1996, Sauternes, from a case bought at Christies about 15 years ago I reckon. Not perhaps the greatest Sauternes, but pretty good.

And finally, with cheese, a wine I bought about 5 years ago with this in mind, Taylor’s 1970 Vintage Port. The debate was - which is holding up better after 40 years - me or the wine- and the wine won that contest! Truly excellent..

..and thus ends a great birthday tasting. My deepest thanks to Janet, and to our dear friends for joining us - and a call out to those that could not attend - we will make amends!

Dear reader, my apologies for the delay in the posting.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Miles 23.28; Units 24

A modest week, all told, what with travelling and the like. Managed what now seems the usual week of 2 runs, 2 exercise classes. Another week also flows by without setting a clear goal to aim for. I am keen for the work situation to settle down more clearly before I commit myself to a challenge. At the moment the likelihood is to aim for a half marathon in late September or early October, and probably not to train too specifically for it, and see what happens. It will be a useful gauge of performance when fully trained as opposed to partly trained.

I alluded to the work situation last week - so, all is settled, and I am now moving to work for the Value Chain team, in a development role. I am pleased about this, I think it suits my style more, and will I hope give me a bit more consistency so I can get back to running again. Is it my dream job? Well, no, however it is pretty good! I am mindful of the phrase from Thoreau "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them" and am certain that this will not be me..I can perhaps use the time wisely to work out what is really me, what is my true voice, and how that can be my paying work. In the meantime, I can afford to keep the good wine flowing...

..which is a neat segway into wine of the week, which is a real corker. Casa Sola Chianti Classico Riserva 1999, a truly fabulous bottle. Purchased some years ago from the Wine Society, this has been a bit of a sleeper in the cellar, and once again reminds me how sensational Tuscan wine can be, especially if you get the 'sweet spot' for cellarage, which in this case I most certainly did. Lovely, rich, succulent strawberry and vanilla, with a hint of plums on the palate. Not a hint of out of balance acidity or tannin, just everything in perfect harmony. The joy of Sangiovese is when married with a little bit of Mammolo, Colorino, and Canaiolo - or, nowadays, a bit of Merlot, adding fruit and richness, or Cabernet Sauvignon, which contributes power and dark fruit flavours. Altogether gorgeous!

Posting next week from my 40th birthday wine tasting - might be a bit late as the wines of the week will be many and various!