Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Sommelier in Training Wows Wine World

Sam's latest party trick...

Friday, December 07, 2007

Do you TiVo?

I've been thinking about getting a TiVo ever since Sam went to preschool and started skipping his nap (as a result, he now goes to bed at 7:00PM which gives Deanna and I some time to watch TV in the evenings occasionally provided that Will cooperates). There was an article in the Boston Globe a while back that presented a case for TiVo being good for marriages.

Given that we're very careful about our purchases, especially technology purchases (our annual budget is $0) I'm wondering: Is TiVo worth it? To further complicate the decision, it seems our local cable company has decided to offer TiVo software running on their DVR boxes. What to do?

I'm curious what our readers think about TiVo. Do you have one? Please feel free to post a comment if the answers below don't adequately describe your opinion on the matter.

Do you have a TiVo?
Yes, I Do!
No, I have a DVR from my cable company.
No, I still use a VCR.
No, I don't record TV.
I don't know what you're talking about.
Free polls from


Since this post was the most commented upon in the history of Casa Dwyer, I thought it deserved an update. Since seeking and taking the advice of our faithful readers, we've gotten a DVR from our cable company (see picture below). Installation was $17.95, and it costs $12.95/mo. How easy can you get? No work required on our part to get it up and running, no additional bills, and no commitment.

It works pretty well. Could it be better? Probably. It's straightforward and all that, but it seems to lack some of the intelligent features I've heard TiVo offers. The TiVo software upgrade still isn't available in our area, but when it is we might give that a try.

Top show recorded so far? Blind Date! This show airs at 3:30AM, yet with our DVR we get to enjoy it as soon as Sam and Will (mercifully) fall asleep. Check your local listings.

Monday, December 03, 2007

All Aboard the Christmas Train

What a busy weekend here at Casa Dwyer.

Sam's G-Pa and Sue came up yesterday and delivered the Christmas tree platform he built along with a toy train for the boys. Another great do-it-yourself project from the master (witness his previous work on our backyard shed here).

We all went out together and bought a tree from the local nursery on what was a perfectly cold day. Then last night, we had a few inches of snow! This morning it was nice to wake up, put lights on the tree, and watch Sam play with his new train:

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Cabernet Tasting Results

We had another blind tasting here at the "Dwyer Wine Bar" last night. This time, a "horizontal" tasting of 2004 California Cabernets. I chose wines with low, medium and high Wine Spectator ratings to hopefully offer differentiation.

There were some variations within individual taster ratings, but as a group the wines were "correctly" rated- or I should say "consistently" rated in agreement with their Wine Spectator ratings:

1) Turnbull 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (92pts, $45)
2) Robert Mondavi 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (88pts, $27)
3) Charles Shaw 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon California (82 pts, $2)

I asked the tasters to guess the Wine Spectator rating of each wine. As a group, the guesses were remarkably accurate. Maria (pictured below with Sam getting ready to attend a UConn basketball game prior to this tasting) did *stunningly* well. She guessed 92 points for the Turnbull (dead on), 85 for the Mondavi (3 points off) and 82 for the Shaw (dead on again). Incredible performance! She too shall be called "Wine Afficionado" along with her daughter Sarah (for those of you not familiar with the family relationships).

The "shocker" of the night came from a taster who predicted that the Charles Shaw was not only the most expensive of the group, but went so far as to hazard a guess that it was a bottle of Caymus! (arguably the most consistent Napa Cab producer for the past decade)

I also asked the tasters to guess the retail price of each wine. Notable here were the price guesses for the Two Buck Chuck: $20 and $30. WOW.

Personally, I preferred the Mondavi to the Turnbull. I've tried to force myself to like Turnbull since it is a relatively reasonably price Napa Cab for the big numbers they get from Spectator. I visited their winery a while back and bought several bottles- I didn't like them that much. Last night's tasting didn't do much to change that impression.

I thought the side-by-side tasting of California Cabs was interesting because it enabled me to taste the differences between the wines in a way that drinking different wines on different nights does not. Specifically, I smelled the Mondavi after tasting the Charles Shaw. WOW- what a difference. The Shaw was (at best) muted and unoffensive, and one whiff of the Mondavi revealed an amazingly wonderful aroma.

I think I also learned a bit about my preferences. I've been running around trying to pick up wines that have been rated highly by Wine Spectator. There is a huge difference between an 88 point and a 92 point wine in terms of availability (not to mention price). In this case, I preferred the 88 point wine to the 92 point wine. I'd like to understand better what specific characteristic of the 88 point wine I liked. Wine Spectator writes the following about the wine:

"Well-proportioned, rich and intense, with concentrated currant, loamy earth, herb and cedary oak notes. While firmly tannic, this has a seam of elegance and grace and merits short-term cellaring. Drink now."

Was it the currant I liked? I don't even know what currant smells or tastes like!

I'm left thinking about the different purposes you buy wine for. For me there's "daily drinkers", "value wines" that you might serve for a large gathering, and "special occasion" wines. Trying to figure out which wines I prefer at each level is a process I've been enjoying. There's something great about enjoying wine with friends and family.

Yesterday, Sam and I went on an adventure to pick up the wines I ordered from the holiday wine show. We brought my friend Michael along (as he was the one who invited me to the show). On the drive, I recalled the first really good wines Deanna and I ever enjoyed. While we were living in Belmont, Michael came over and brought a couple bottles: a 1997 Cakebread Benchland Select and a 1997 Groth Oakville Cab. They were amazing. As we celebrate the holidays this year, I'm reminded of his generosity. Sharing great wines with *everyone*, not only with your friends who already "appreciate" wine, can sometimes be more impactful than selectively cracking open the big bottles with your wine loving friends.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Dancing Will

It has been far too long since we've posted even a picture of young William. Here's a video of him dancing with his Aunt Sarah from Thanksgiving weekend:

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