Craig Pinhey’s mini-bio

Craig Pinhey is a food and beverage columnist for the New Brunswick Telegraph Journal & is a regular columnist for TAPS Beer Magazine,  Progress and East Coast Living magazine. He was a major contributor to the 2014 Maclean’s Wine Issue.

A certified Sommelier and BJCP Judge, Craig has judged at the Canadian Wine Awards, International Value Wine Awards, All Canadian Wine Championships, Atlantic Wine Awards, Moncton’s World Wine Expo Awards, PEI’s Wine Show Awards, the Canadian Brewing Awards and Atlantic Canadian Beer Awards. He is part of the judging team for the WineAlign.com National Wine Awards of Canada and World Wine Awards of Canada.

Craig designs wine lists, does restaurant service training, and conducts wine and food events.

He covered the Atlantic Canadian wine scene for Wine Access Magazine for 7 years, including writing the entire Atlantic section of their Canadian Wine Annual. He was also CBC Radio’s Shift Sommelier for 5 years. 

Craig had his booze epiphany circa 1985 with his first pint of Ginger’s Best cask conditioned real ale at the original Ginger’s Tavern in Halifax. This led him to a lifelong love of quality wine, beer and spirits.

An Engineer by education, Craig worked 12 years in the steel industry in Ontario – developing his love for local wine and craft beer during his time there – before moving back east to New Brunswick to start a writing career.

Craig graduated as a Certified Sommelier in Halifax in 2000, finishing with the top marks in Canada in the Canadian (now International) Sommelier Guild program, and is a member of CAPS (Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers). He lives in Rothesay, New Brunswick with his wife and daughter, and travels regularly in the region, and around the world, hunting for great food & drink, and stories.

Craig’s Top Ten of 2006 – Matched with drinks

[here] Beer, Booze & Bars, Dec 28, 2006
Pet Sounds
Craig’s 10 Favourite Records of 2006, Paired with Suitable Drinks

Here I sit watching Canada’s best soccer player’s team on TV, thinking about my favourite records from 2006. Owen Hargreaves is a star for Bayern Munich in the German Bundesliga, was England’s best player in this year’s World Cup, and he’s Canadian. Is he a traitor, an opportunist, or just managing his career? Actually, at the moment he is but a lame duck, sitting out with a web injury…

It makes me think about my “best album” choices for 2006. Am I disloyal for not picking any New Brunswick bands? Should my list be All Canadian?  I’ve been in several online arguments – well, discussions – over the past while regarding music. Specifically, is there anything wrong with your favourite music coming from away? Some think we owe it to our local music scene to support it above all others. There’s merit in this, but music is very personal, and anyone who is a serious fan of music, a collector, knows that, when you hear the right sound, you must buy it, regardless of origin. Some of us find those sounds easily, on commercial radio, as backing tracks to favourite TV shows, in a bar, or at a friend’s house. Others search far and wide, using the Internet as a valuable tool, to find that certain aural satisfaction that we just can’t adequately describe to nonbelievers.

However you find your muse, it can be rewarding to share with others.  Or not. When you list your favourite records, your Pet Sounds, you are to some extent laying your soul bare – giving others insight into your most personal and perhaps political thoughts. “If he likes that,” they think, “he must be ignorant/gay/uneducated/a communist/misogynistic/a psychotic loner/insert your own psychiatric assessment here.”

Well, I’m willing to take that chance, just in case one of you finds your own pet sound amongst my picks.

So, here they are, my top ten from 2006, with drinks to match.

1. Sloan – Never Hear The End Of It
30 tracks of diverse music from four singer songwriters with wide ranging influences, this was a welcome relief after their disappointing Action Pact. From Beatlesque pop to jangly, tuneful, retro rock, psychedelic angst, radio friendly ballads and hard rock/punk, Sloan does it all. It would be a great album to retire on – a “magnum popus” of sorts – but I sure hope they don’t.

A Favourite Line: “I’m unable to tell if I know who I am. A modest success, a shill or a sham.”

Drink?
Sloan demands four drinks for four unique performers. For Chris: Black Sheep English Ale, for his introspective Lennonish-leanings. For Patrick:  Black & Tan, radically opposite, like his pop ballads and hardcore punk.  For Jay: something classic, a Manhattan. For Andrew, how about some mushroom tea of the wild variety?

2. Elvis Costello and Allen Touissant – The River In Reverse

Arguably one of the most important urban American releases of 2006, The River in Reverse was missed by many, perhaps because a cocky white Brit was involved. The fact that soul legend Allen Toussaint would work with Costello to create this poetic response to the flood may surprise some, but not anyone familiar with both artists. Some noticed. It is up for a Grammy, in a category with some of the worst culprits in mass-marketed American crap. To see the hot touring band, complete with New Orleans horns, check out “Hot as a Pistol, Keen as a Blade,” a concert DVD released in time for Christmas.

A Favourite Line: “Wake me up. Wake me up with a slap and a kiss. There must be something better than this. But I don’t think that it can get much worse. What do we have to do to send the river in reverse?”

Drink?
Classic N’Awlins: coffee made with chicory, or a Hurricane: lots of rum and fruit juice, bought and drank on the street.

3.  Lloyd Cole – Antidepressant

This 45 year old Scotsman – living in New York — continues making fabulous records in the moping, manic depressive singer-songwriter style, along the lines of Bob Dylan consorting with John Lennon. Ever a critic’s darling, Lloyd sells few records. I find this depressing.

A Favourite Line: “I said I’m trying to write my novel. She said Neither am I.”

Drink? Vodka and Valium, hold the vodka.

4. Hawksley Workman – Treeful of Starling

Hawksley took a major turn from Lover/Fighter, which had some folks comparing him to Bono (not me), and released this gorgeous, intimate folk-pop record. It’s perfect music for lazy relaxation, on the grass under a tree in the summer.

A Favourite Line:  “And in ten thousand years time, when we’re found there, still entwined, in a near eternal kiss, that would impress the scientists.”

Drink? Homemade lemonade.

5. The Nines – Calling Distance Stations

I’m not sure why it took me so long to buy a Nines record. They’ve been touted as a fave of XTC’s Andy Partridge and Jellyfish’s Jason Faulkner (who both guest on the new album), they are Canadian, and lead singer Steve Eggers does a dead-on McCartney.

A Favourite Line: “All of the things I could have said, I kept it all inside my head instead. So long Mary-Jane.”

Drink? Great Ontario wine: Henry Of Pelham Non-oaked Chardonnay.

6. Nine Horses – Snow Borne Sorrow

Everything David Sylvian touches is golden. This new CD also features his brother and ex-Japan co-member Steve Jansen, and other guests including the legendary Ryuichi Sakamoto. Enjoy ambient, haunting melodies, anchored by Sylvian’s deep, silky voice.

A Favourite Line: “God bless amnesia, and the things I’ve suppressed. I can reframe the image, I can discard the rest.”

Drink? Herbal tea of your choosing, or opium.

7. Andy Partridge/XTC – Fuzzy Warbles 7&8 + Box

Andy completes his epic cataloguing of rarities, assembled in his garden shed/recording studio. Fuzzy Warbles concludes with volumes 7 & 8, and a bonus CD, “Hinges”, included when ardent fans purchased the Collector’s Album, perhaps the most original and brilliant piece of CD packaging ever. It’s like a big, happy stamp album!

A Favourite Line: “I’m unbecome. I dissipate. You are the fresh bread upon my plate. Oh, what’s to be done? My heart was cloud light but now it weighs a ton.”

Drink? In Swindon, where Andy lives, typical ale on cask would be a Bitter from Archers, a local brewer. Stuck here, I’ll drink Picaroons or Pump House.

8. Elvis Costello Live with the Metropole Orchestra – My Flame Burns Blue

Although mainly Costello classics reworked for a jazz orchestra, some of these tunes sound completely new with the treatment. Reviews from fans have been mixed, but people seem to like it at our dinner parties. Hora Decubitus alone is worth the sticker price. This opening track is a Mingus tune with Costello penned lyrics, which he practically scats.

A Favourite Line: “The score is obscure, the melody fractured. It went by my window, refused to be captured.”

Drink: Martini. Dry. Gin. Two olives.

9. Danny Michel – Valhalla

One of the best live shows in New Brunswick was Ontario’s Danny Michel at Sessions Café in Rothesay. This CD captures the intense feel of his stripped down live act. If you haven’t seen him – do!

A Favourite Line: “When your heart is soaked in gas and someone fumbles for a match, you’ll be rescued by the wind.”

Drink: Straight whisky or whiskey, depending on your mood.

10. Roddy Frame – Western Skies

Aztec Camera frontman Frame makes easy listening music for intelligent adults, which sounds vaguely insulting, but these are remarkable songs, beautifully sung, and the guitar work is fantastic.

A Favourite Line: “I’ve wiped my phone and I’ve grown my hair, and I’ve thrown away the things we used to share.”

Drink: Gin & Tonic – relaxing and very British.

Note: I haven’t heard Tom Waits’ new 3 CD Box Set yet (“Orphans”), hence it’s absence here.

Craig Pinhey still listens to LP’s. Yes, he’s old. Visit him at www.frogspad.ca.

Craig’s Top 10 of 2007 – Matched with Drinks

[here] Beer, Booze & Bars, Dec 27, 2007
Drink’N’Music
Craig’s 10 Favourite Records of 2007, Paired with10 Favourite Tipples

It is very difficult to pick 10 records and 10 drinks in a world where everyone and their cat (and the cat’s mice, and their fleas…) can release a CD, and the selection of wine, beer and spirits on the ANBL shelves is ever increasing to the point where I don’t know what to buy anymore. In the face of this veritable tidal wave (admittedly strewn with garbage)  of content, the natural reaction is to hole up with your all time personal favourites.  But with risk there is reward, and that’s why I almost always check out recommendations from friends, whether it’s a quick visit to myspace or youtube, a nip with friends at your favourite pub or wine bar, a loaned record or emailed “flac,” a wine and food dinner at a friend’s home, or even a full evening out to see a few local bands.

This year I decided to make it more difficult. I’ve picked 10 of my favourite locally available drink selections, and matched them to 10 favourite albums. It puts restrictions on my choices, but I’m up for the challenge.

MUSIC
1. Apples In Stereo – New Magnetic Wonder: bright & cheery ELO & Beatles influenced pop, with plenty of single-worthy tracks. Right from track 1 “Can You Feel It,” this LP has you smiling. It’s almost too happy to listen to the entire album in one sitting.

Matched with…2006 Santa Carolina Sauvignon Blanc Reserva, Rapel Valley, Chile, $13.99
Fresh, vibrant, fun & exciting – I’m talking about the Apples in Stereo AND this new Sauvignon from Chile, which has fast become one of the best sources for good value Sauvignon Blanc in the world.

2. Any Trouble – Life In Reverse: classic pub rock, clever lyrics, hum-able tunes, with neat little guitar solos and Clive Gregson’s perfectly clean voice.

Matched with…2006 Gaspereau Riesling, Nova Scotia (500 ml, $18.99), available at the Gaspereau winery – could be sold out by now but we are awaiting the 07. Like Any Trouble:  light, clean, and friendly, but with subtle complexity. My comments: “floral and citrus notes, and lots of minerality – wet stone – as well as a crisp, clean finish, with great acid.”

3. Graham Parker – Don’t Tell Columbus: a Brit who adopted the USA, and made it his own. Gruff and tough folk and roll with the usual acerbic lyrics. Hailed by critics and fans as a new classic Parker LP.

Matched with…Garrison IPA – coming soon to the ANBL if not already here. Here’s another  Brit(ish beer style) adopted by Americans. Canadian Beer of the Year, at the 2007 Canadian Brewing Awards. Bitter and bold, like Parker,  super hoppy, aromatic and strong, with a bittersweet finish. To quote a famed beer geek, it tastes “moreish.”  A new Canadian classic.

4. Joel Plaskett – Ashtray Rock: A hook and riff-ridden rock opera about Joel’s days in a Halifax high school, his band and “the girl.” This is fun, singable poprock. Fashionable People gets my nod for single and local video  of the year.

Matched with…Pump House SOB or Picaroons Best Bitter. These bitter yet balanced craft ales are, like Joel and his band, dependable local favourites.

5. Spoon – Ga Ga Ga: minimalist guitar-bass-drums-keys rock, with odd, interesting lyrics. This is new rock music that actually feels fresh. I don’t see how they do it, given the simplicity of their shtick, but they do.

Matched with…2005 French Tom Chardonnay, from Barton & Guestier, VdP D’Oc, France,  $15.99.
Like Spoon, this is straightforward but more than the sum of its parts. It’s a round, smooth, oaked French Chardonnay, but possessing class and elegance beyond it’s price tag.

6. Nick Lowe — At My Age: gentle country swing and jazz ballads by a man who’s aging wonderfully.

Matched with…Johnny Ziegler Senior, 10 Year Wood-Aged Apple Brandy – a fine spirit made locally, at Winegarden Estates. You can buy it there or order it from them, very fairly priced at $25. As with Lowe, age has brought smoothness.

7. Buck 65 – Situation: this wordy rapper’s partnership with Skratch Bastid proves a bit more old school than his last 2 records, and his rapping and wordplay is as sharp as ever.

Matched with…Champagne Henriot Blanc Souverain, $64.29 at ANBL.
It may seem cliché to match Champagne and rap, but this applies doubly since this one comes only from white grapes, Chardonnay specifically. Henriot bubbly is exhilarating and decadent, leaving you breathless, just like you’d be if you tried to rap along with Buck 65…

8. Prefab Sprout – Steve McQueen Reissue (8 new acoustic tracks): a reissue of one of the best albums of the 80’s, with now-hermit Paddy McAloon reprising 8 of his favourites on acoustic guitar and harmonica. Pristine, sensual and thoughtful pop.

Matched with…2005 Henry of Pelham Reserve Pinot Noir ($35.98 at ANBL):
Pinot Noir is a difficult grape, just like Paddy, who has spent the last few years in near obscurity with a rare illness. But, when given the chance to shine, Pinot makes excellent, elegant & sensual wines, like this award winner, displaying minerality, earthiness and ripe cherry fruit.

9. Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True Reissue with New Live CD from 1978.
I’ve been burned by being forced to purchase yet another Costello reissue; meanwhile he’s in the media saying he doesn’t feel the need to record another record, suggesting we should come to his live shows to hear his new songs (!). Still, I can’t deny the excitement of the newly released live album included here. It’s the best live recording of the Attractions in existence, to my ears.

Matched with…Las Moras Reserve Tannat, Argentina, $12.49:
Like Elvis, Tannat is more comfortable, and even popular, across the pond than where he grew up. South America is a second home for Tannat, which originates from France. This is a power red for the price of plonk. It has big fruit and tannins, and goes well with red meat.  I don’t know if it will age as well as Elvis, who celebrated the 30th anniversary of My Aim Is True in 2007 with the re-release.

10. Robbie Fulks – Revenge (Live 2CD)
Fulks is bold, odd, hilarious, irreverent, and real: all the things I love in music.  This is strong throughout, but worth it for two tracks alone: His cheeky cover of the Cher hit “Believe,” and “I Like Being Left Alone,” an autobiographical song about fame’s pitfalls.

Matched with…2005 Chateau Ksara Reserve Couvent, Lebanon, $18.49:
This Fulksian (odd) Rhone-style blend of Syrah, Carignan and Cabernet Sauvignon is full and tannic, with a portion of the grapes undergoing oak aging for 12 months.  Lebanon has a long history of winemaking from Rhône grapes. Like Robbie says in his song, “I like being left alone. I like chocolate pie,  a clear blue sky, and a glass of Côtes du Rhône.”

Craig Pinhey spends too much time listening to music while drinking. And not enough. Visit him at www.frogspad.ca.

Fringe and True Blood Are Better Than Election Coverage, October 2008

I’ve watched so much pre-election coverage in the past 2 months that it has cut into my “TV for entertainment” time, and that’s no good. In between watching McCain grimace, Obama frown, Dion choke, and Harper do as he always does (pretend to smile while impersonating a Siberian Husky-eyed robot), I have managed to keep up to speed with the new seasons of my usual shows – Dexter, Supernatural and Californication – while also picking up two new favourites.

Thank the TV gods for Rogers On Demand!

The only new Fall shows that intrigued me, and also delivered, are Fringe and True Blood.   Both those show themes could be applied to recent election activity, as in “Green is just a Fringe party” and “Only Liberals have True Governing Blood (even though The Green Shift Plan sucks like a vampire)” but I’m more interested in fantasy than reality in times like these.

Fringe

Fringe is the new show from Lost creator J.J. Abrams, and I like it a lot better than Lost. Fringe is a show about unexplained, or perhaps explained, phenomena, which doesn’t make it special at all. Those kind of shows are ubiquitous to the point of annoyance (see Jennifer Love Hewitt’s Ghost Whisperer). What I’m really loving about Fringe is the writing and the acting performances.  Dawson Creek’s Joshua Jackson (can that be his real name?) is admirable as Peter Bishop,  who becomes entangled in an FBI project dealing with these nasty happenings. He helps enlist the assistance of his seemingly crazy dad, Dr. Walter Bishop, a brilliant scientist who had been institutionalized. John Noble as Dr. Bishop is the highlight of the show. He’s funny, nutty, ridiculously intelligent, and – most importantly – highly entertaining. You may remember him as the insane Denethor, Steward of Gondor, in the Lord Of The Rings movie. Anna Torv is adequate as FBI agent Olivia Dunham who works with the Bishops.

Thus far the show has dealt with several creepy culprits in a very X-Files manner, but I hope it doesn’t degenerate into a similar big conspiracy theory web. That would render the show redundant.

Watch Fringe on FOX or CTV on Tuesdays at 10:00 PM. It premiered September 9, 2008, but you can catch up  for free by watching online at CTV.ca.  It is a bit choppy on my iBook, but if you have a faster computer it might play smoothly.

True Blood

If you are easily offended by free flowing blood and simulated violent sex, then I’d steer clear of HBO’s True Blood until it is eventually cleaned up for regular cable, but if that stuff doesn’t scare you, tune in to True Blood for  one of best vampire stories yet to be onscreen. The premise is quite different from other bloodsucking chronicles, in that vampires are an accepted (well, in the same way that we accept other races)  part of society, and live amongst us.

Created by Alan Ball, who gave us the excellent Six Feet Under, also on HBO, the best part about True Blood is the writing and acting, and the strong use of humour to cut through the tension created by the horrifying vampire footage. Based on the novel series Southern Vampire by Charlaine Harris, True Blood is set in the southern US, where folks are known for their tolerance. It tracks the growing relationship between telepathic barmaid Sookie (Anna Paquin, a Winnipeg born but New Zealand raised actress best known for winning an Oscar as a young child, for her role in The Piano) and the simply named Bill The Vampire (shouldn’t his name have been something exotic or gothic like Zoltan or Ezekiel?), played by Stephen Moyer, who I don’t recognize at all (he’s British). They both do an excellent job, but the early part of the season has largely been stolen by Sookie’s horny brother Jason, played by Brad Pitt lookalike Ryan Kwanten. The scene where he takes too much vampire blood (Viagra X 100)  is particularly memorable…

I can’t wait to see where True Blood takes us. Apparently it has already been renewed for a second season, so be prepared for plenty more blood and sex. Just like the Election coverage.

Watch True Blood on The Movie Network on Sundays at 10:00 PM. It premiered September 7, 2008, but you can catch up using On Demand or some other technology, if you have it. You can probably download it too, if you are a copyright criminal.

Craig Pinhey voted strategically and is not happy. If Obama wins, he’ll feel a bit better. Visit Craig at www.frogspad.ca.

All About The Value, But Here’s The Score On Wine

Good Drink July 11,  2008

By Craig Pinhey

I was in Alberta last week judging the Wine Access International Value Wine Awards (IVWA), and, although I can’t reveal any official results yet, I did get a chance to taste many wines that are available in our market. All were judged blind in sub-categories of like wines, so this makes the impression different than if someone just poured you a glass of wine and asked “What do you think?”  Many wines in the $10-25 range are very good, and some grapes seem to be universally good (Malbec from Argentina & Spain’s Tempranillo, for example) but it is interesting how some wines show up as so much better than their peers when tasted in the blind format.

It is interesting to consider what value means to one person versus another.  I used to say under $15, then it crept up to the teens, and now I’m not sure that under $20 is even high enough. Certainly some of my favourite value wines have crept over the $20 barrier.  Has your salary grown fast enough to keep up with wine prices?

This said, there are still some under $15 wines that impress, and a handful of under $10 “steals.”  Rather than talk strictly price it is good to measure wine quality, like at the IVWA, where scores are given by qualified judges. This enables us to attach a Quality/Price ratio to a given wine.   If you score on the 100 point scale, most commercial wines score in the 80-90 range, which is actually misleading, because the 100 point scale has this major flaw: it is really only a 10 or perhaps a 15 point scale. Most magazines don’t bother mentioning wines scoring under 80 (who wants a B+ wine?) and judges seldom give wines above 90, and almost never above 95. This results in a tight scoring range, where 79 or under is wine I wouldn’t recommend, 80-81 is an uninteresting but drinkable wine,  82-83 is quite drinkable but plain, 84-85 is a nice little wine, 86 is pretty darn good, 87 is very good, 88 or 89 is borderline excellent, and 90+ is excellent.

This reveals a huge jump in perceived quality from 84 to 87, when in high school grading (where, let’s face it, all of us got to know the 100 point scoring system, and not just 10 points of it), 87 versus 84 is pretty much the same.  Add in price, though, and the scoring system gains merit, although it needs some sort of sliding scale. If an 80 point wine costs $10, it is a good value. At $15 it is not.  Similarly, an 85 point wine for $15 is pretty good value, whereas a $25 wine should really score higher than that.  Continuing on this argument, any time you get an 88 point or higher scoring wine for under $20,  it is fantastic value.   And a 90+ wine for under $30 is certainly a great deal, even if not all consumers can take advantage of it.

Where’s the value these days? Well, Spain is a hot bed for value reds, and the Campo Viejo brands are perfect proof. The $14.79 Crianza (minimum 2 years aging, with a minimum of 12 months in wood) and Reserva (minimum of 3 years aging, with a minimum of 12 months in wood) mainly Tempranillo-based reds from Rioja are excellent value, even if the Reserva has crept over the $20 line to $20.49. I don’t normally score wines in my column, but, if I had to, I’d score these wines both quite high, somewhere in the 87-89 range. So that makes the Crianza excellent value and the Reserva very good value. Both have good minerality, lots of plummy fruit, and classic tobacco herbal notes, good body and firm tannins, as well as some aged complexity.

Perhaps the Reserva has more tannins and will age better, but the Crianza is drinking better for the price right now, and I’m all about the value.

Craig Pinhey is a writer and Sommelier, available for private tastings. Visit him at www.frogspad.ca <http://www.frogspad.ca> .

Çraig Pinhey

“Atlantic Canada’s Wine, Beer & Spirits Writer”

Sommelier, wine consultant and educator, booze & pop culture columnist

www.frogspad.ca

frogspad@nb.aibn.com

506 647 8466