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(brillig's note: I've turned over the diary portion of my traditional Tuesday evening slot to Guest Host cohenzee. Enjoy and I'll be back for the Tops!)

With the “holidays” just one week away, we are close to entering the annual week of depression culminating with a massive day of drinking known as New Year’s Eve.  In honor of that, I’ve chosen to write about two of my favorite things, wine and hockey, which ironically can compound one’s state of depression.  Luckily, they normally don’t.  Follow me below the Vines of Kos for the rest of “the period” after a word from our sponsor...

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Our story begins about five years ago when I attended my favorite hockey team’s summer development camp.  During these camps the NHL teams bring in all of their young players who are in the system but do not yet have a permanent spot on the big club.  They are held either at the team’s arena or their local practice rink.  Many of the teams open some events to the public so the fans can watch and meet the players and the players get a chance to meet some of the fans as well.  It was during one of these development camps that a ritual was born.  At this particular camp something unexpected occurred.  My favorite team had scheduled the entire week’s events to consist of morning practices and afternoon scrimmages and allowed the public to attend all sessions.  Now that, in and of itself, is not very unusual.  Many teams allow the public to attend all of their on-ice events.  What was unusual was the team did make not the few of us who didn’t want to drive home and back leave between the sessions.  Since there was some down time for the players during their lunch break, some of them would come and chat with those of us hanging around.  Because of the time I spent with a few of the guys, we became good friends.

I have always loved traveling to Canada, but at this point I had only been there about five times.  I was looking for a reason to go more often.  Hockey seemed like a solid bet.  Ya think, right LOL.  Having just recently converted my sister into a hockey fan due to taking her to a few live games when I knew there was a high likelihood of a fight breaking out.  (She loves seeing guys beat the crap out of each other.)  I decided the two of us should take a trip to Canada together (she had never been) and see some hockey.  As it turned out, three of the guys I became good friends with all played for the same the OHL team, the Sarnia Sting.  I looked up their schedule to see if there was a weekend they were playing either back-to-back games at home or one at home and one in driving distance from Sarnia.  Luckily one weekend in December, they were playing a game at home and a game in London, about an hour’s drive.  We had such a great time we decided to make it annual ritual.

Now I know what you must all be thinking, “He titled this diary Hockey & Wine Edition, so where the hell is the wine?”  Hold your horses: it’s coming now.

I happen to live not too far from one of the most underrated wine producing areas of the US.  At least twice a year, I travel out to the East End of Long Island to go tasting and touring and to restock the cellar.  A couple of years ago I was able to sample some ice wine from the Niagara region of Ontario.  As a person who loves sweet wine, I was instantly hooked.  Around the same time, I discovered that a couple of Long Island wineries were starting to make their own icewine although not in the traditional way since it rarely gets cold enough here to have 72 straight hours below -7 Celsius, the minimum for wine making.  While the flavor is decent, it doesn’t live up to its traditional cousin.  Therefore a trip up to Niagara had to be planned.  The only problem was I can only make one trip to Canada a year and I couldn’t give up my annual ritual.  Now, I know what you’re thinking, “There’s hockey all over Canada and Niagara is only about 90 minutes from Toronto.  What’s the problem?”  Well, to answer your question, a lot.  There are a couple of requirements to satisfy the annual hockey trip ritual.  One, we have to see either a college or a Major Junior hockey game.  That can be either American (USHL) or Canadian (one of the CHL leagues).  Two, there must be an opportunity to see at least 2 games because who wants to travel a long distance just for one game.  And three, at least one of the teams must have a prospect that is in our favorite teams’ prospect pool.  Numbers 1 and 2 are fairly easy to accomplish whereas number 3 is not, as most teams only have about 15 prospects that fit the bill at any one time.  

I am happy to say that last year our favorite team happened to draft two players that played for the Niagara IceDogs, who play in St. Catherines, ON, only about 15 minutes from Niagara-On-The-Lake.  The stars had aligned for us.  Now we could make the trek up to Niagara and combine our love for hockey and wine.  After checking the IceDogs schedule, I saw they were playing back-to-back games (requirement #2 if you were paying attention) over Veteran’s Day weekend, one game at home and one game in Brampton, about 45 minutes away.  Veteran’s Day also happens to coincide with my sister’s birthday which helped kill two birds with one stone for me as the hockey tickets could double as a birthday present.  When I travel to Canada, I usually do the B&B route.  After doing a ton of research (I have an obsession with researching stuff; it’s a sickness lol) and sending out emails, I settled on a recently opened B&B in St. Davids.  The couple who owned it was very helpful even before I had decided on a place to go.  I like that; it shows me that you really want my business.

The trip went off without a hitch.  We had a great time.  We spent all day Saturday going to wineries tasting and doing a couple of tours.  Icewine was our focus and boy did we drink a lot of it.  Due to the expense of it, we limited ourselves to two bottles each.  For just 200mL, it was $30C and that size was only sold at one of the wineries we visited.

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These two pictures are from our tour of the Hillebrand Winery.

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This is my favorite icewine.  It's Inniskillin's 2009 Riesling Icewine.
Included in the picture are two Riedel Icewine glasses.  They are designed to the shape of your mouth and fit over the tip of your tongue.  This allows the wine to bypass the tip of your tongue where you taste sweet giving the icewine a much different taste.

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This is my sister favorite icewine.

The nights were spent focused on hockey.  I had arranged prior to the trip to interview the two draftees for the Booster Club’s newsletter.  The two players were very nice and accommodating answering the questions I posed.

That brings us to 2012.  During the most recent NHL draft, my team, surprisingly, drafted a third player off the IceDogs.  In an even more bizarre twist of fate, the player drafted happened to be the one that stood out to my sister when during the home game we watched.  This made it pretty simple to plan where we wanted to go this year.  And due to the fact that I was positive a lockout was going to occur (that was the lamest prediction I ever made in my life), I knew all three players were going to remain on the IceDogs.  This time after checking the schedule I saw that the team was playing back-to-back games over Thanksgiving.  And the trip was set.  Due to how wonderful the B&B was, we booked it again.  Since it was Thanksgiving, I asked them if they could make a baked good with pumpkin since I thought we were going to be missing out on Thanksgiving dinner.  Pumpkin pie is must for me at Thanksgiving.  I actually thought about asking to have that for breakfast but figured that might be a little ridiculous.  Dodged missing Thanksgiving dinner after I rechecked the schedule and noticed I had my dates wrong.  You can’t even begin to understand how mad I was at myself that I missed that particular item originally LOL.

After setting everything up, I got an email from them about an event that happens in NOTL every November called Taste the Season.  Every weekend many of the wineries there offer a wine and tapas pairing.  We decided against it last year because we wanted to go to Niagara Falls.  But this year we were bringing a designated driver along, so the wine could flow.  At each of the participating wineries, you get 1oz of wine (some gave more) and  small snack that pairs well with the wine you were sampling.  The best pairing was at Strewn Winery.  They were sampling a 2006 Late Harvest Riesling and a sweet and savory trio.  The trio was a Greek olive & almond tapenade, apple pecan chutney on a slice of sharp cheddar cheese and a caramelized onion with a beet & red onion marmalade.  The three items were to be eaten in the order I wrote them with a sip of wine after each.  The different items allowed for the different flavors in the wine to present themselves in unique ways.  An excellent and well thought out pairing.  It was so good I purchased the wine.  We made it to about 18 of the 28 wineries listed.  A large majority of them on Saturday.  And of course, we picked up a lot of icewine, mostly from Inniskillin.  The picture of the wine with the glasses above was purchased during this trip.  At Sunnybrook Farm, where they were sampling an Iced Apple Wine, I indulged in my love for hard cider by picking up a four pack.  I should have bought two, but I guess you live and learn.

Of course we cannot forget the hockey.  Again taking two games, this time both at the IceDogs home arena in St. Catherines, we were treating to two very exciting games.  The first game was a romp from beginning to end for the home team with the draftees from my team picking up 3 goals and 2 two assists.  They set the tempo and never let up.  The second game was perhaps the most exciting live game finish I can remember seeing.  The good guys had played an awful 54 minutes of lethargic hockey and were not helped by some truly awful goaltending.  With about 8 minutes to go most of the crowd had left due to the team being down 5-1.  At about the 14:30 mark of the third period, the IceDogs opponents, the Sudbury Wolves, took an ill-advised Too Many Men on the Ice penalty.  The IceDogs only needed a few seconds to score on the ensuing power play.  From there the IceDogs would go on to score three more goals, the last coming with just 7 seconds left to tie the game with my team’s first round draft pick from 2011 assisting on all three goals.  YAY!  Even though only half the crowd was left, the noise was deafening due to the smallness of the arena (seats 2800 with 350 standing room).  The IceDogs would be handed a golden opportunity in overtime when the wolves took another penalty.  Unfortunately even though they had good opportunities, they failed to score.  The game would go to a shootout to find a winner, and again our guy came through scoring the game winner.

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This is from the first game (IceDogs vs. Bellville).

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This is from the IceDogs vs. Sudbury game.

Well there you have it, how to mix wine and hockey.  Now get out there are starting beating up those grapes.

Brillig's ObDisclaimer: The decision to publish each nomination lies with the evening's Diarist and/or Comment Formatter. My evenings at the helm, I try reeeeallllyy hard to publish everything without regard to content. I really do, even when I disagree personally with any given nomination. "TopCommentness" lies in the eyes of the nominator and of you, the reader - I leave the decision to you. I do not publish self-nominations (ie your own comments) and if I ruled the world, we'd all build community, supporting and uplifting instead of tearing our fellow Kossacks down.
From Gentle Giant:
I'm nominating looty's comment in the Mid-day Open Thread, commenting on Megan McArdle's column suggesting that 8-10 people should rush a shooter committing mass murder.
From blueoregon:
I'd like to nominate exlrrp's comment, in bruinkid's diary "If I only had a gun...". I was raised by a vet of WWII, worked with a lot of Vietnam vets, met a lot of vets on the streets. If i'm not mistaken, the majority of gun "enthusiasts"  haven't been in any war theater and many who have should not have continued access to military grade weapons. (That last bit is my opinion, not the commenter's, btw)
From your diarist, cohenzee:
In bruinkid's diary "If I only had a gun...", both Hugh Jim Bissell, with a strongly worded comment, and Tortmaster, with a political cartoon, explain how the NRA has become today's version of the Cigarette Lobby.  Their effort to make science persona non grata is truly appalling.
From brillig:
Mark Sumner brought us an end of the world diary. Hohenzollern brought us an official translation that brought me a smile.

Domestic Elf shares my thoughts about the importance of Teduardo's statement. Also see flitedocnm's comment in that thread.

Top Mojo for yesterday, December 17th, first comments and tip jars excluded. Thank you mik for the mojo magic!
  1) Losing tax exempt status and replacing that with by Wee Mama — 272
  2) Please. The Trayvon Martin shooting, by FishOutofWater — 154
  3) Eighty million children went to school by tb92 — 137
  4) Kids know. by zenbassoon — 127
  5) Kids buy violent games in Asia too by DisNoir36 — 126
  6) I watched his speech. Better late than never I by roseeriter — 123
  7) he's the one they are arming against by rexymeteorite — 112
  8) I wish someone would explain to me how... by Jackson L Haveck — 111
  9) They are well aware they have no power... by detroitmechworks — 111
10) But it is cutting SS Benefits. by PatriciaVa — 109
11) I'm sorry to sound like an asshole, by Silvia Nightshade — 106
12) It is cutting. It reduces payments by Faroutman — 103
13) Excellent list. by WisePiper — 100
14) Might've expected this in the article, it's their by Mother Mags — 96
15) They feel surrounded and impotent by beltane — 95
16) Stunning, but expected. by brooklynbadboy — 94
17) Tag the guns by Noddy — 93
18) Despite that, I want to send thanks by tb92 — 91
19) I just finished reading that by jaywillie — 91
20) Add liability insurance by political junquie — 90
21) Chain the costs seniors pay by FishOutofWater — 88
22) . by Scarce — 85
23) Private sale loophole. by JesseCW — 85
24) Seconded about the obnoxious sig line. eom by Naniboujou — 85
25) Thank you for this by Exurban Mom — 83
26) I know white men by defndr — 80
27) This bit you call out by ontheleftcoast — 79
28) these events by jamess — 79
29) Funny how they never shoot Corporations up. by detroitmechworks — 77
30) It is HUGELY cutting Social Security by greenbell — 73

Top Pictures for yesterday, December 17th seems to be having technical issues.  Hopefully I'll be able to update and include it when I (and by "I" we all know I mean jotter :-)) figure out what's wrong!

Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 12:53 PM PT (brillig): jotter fixed it :)

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