retail news in context, analysis with attitude

This week, I spent a few days on business at one of the nicest resorts I’ve ever visited - Suncadia, in Cle Elum, Washington, about 70 miles east of Seattle. It is nestled in the Cascades, and is absolutely gorgeous - and one of the nicest things about it is that about two miles from the resort is a place called Swiftwater Cellars, a spectacular working winery that sources grapes from a number of vineyards around the state, and makes some extraordinary wines, as well as featuring an extraordinary restaurant with some delicious food.

My favorites of the wines I tasted was the 2007 Proprietary Red, which is a terrific blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petite Verdot and Syrah, and the 2007 No. 9 Red, which is a blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot.

Right now, these wines are only available at the winery and via mail order, but I recommend you check them out at

I gather, from all the news coverage, that the wedding next month of England’s Prince William and Kate Middleton is sort of a big deal over there.

But I must confess that I have no idea why we’re making a big fuss about it here on these shores. They look like nice enough kids and I wish them luck, but I cannot help but think that all this attention is precisely the thing that contributed to the death of his mother - this unhealthy focus on celebrity, and the desire to know every little thing about people who are perceived as special or exalted.

I just don’t get it.

But then again, I have trouble understanding how the various broadcast and cable networks could spend so much time this week paying attention to Charlie Sheen, putting what appears to be a fairly dramatic meltdown on very public view.

Say what you will about Toyota - and the car company certainly has come in for its share of justifiable criticism over the past year or so - but my estimation of the company has gone up in recent weeks.

Twice in the past eight days I have been driving rented Corollas and found myself in the middle of an unexpected blizzard - once driving from Chicago to Milwaukee, and then from Seattle through the Cascade mountain range. And both times, while I watched trucks, buses and SUVs pull to the sides of the road, my Corolla kept plugging along, never lost traction, and I made it safely to my destination.

Which is saying something.

I don’t drink Jim Beam, mostly because I don’t drink much of the hard stuff. But there is a commercial for Jim Beam called “Parallels,” featuring Willem Dafoe, that is as good as any commercial in recent memory. (You can check it out on YouTube.) It is evocative and thoughtful, beautifully produced, and more like a mini-move than an ad for bourbon. And yet, everything about it supports the brand message - that life is full of choices, that we are defined by our choices, and that safe choices are rarely the most rewarding ones. Check it out.

My wine of the week: I heartily recommend the 2009 “Layers,” a beautifully blended white wine from Peter Lehmann Wines of Adelaide, Australia. It is made up of Semillon, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Muscat and Gewürtztraminer.

That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend...and I’ll see you Monday.

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