Kurtis Kolt and Jake Skakun

12
Mar 2013
Wine by 
Kurtis
  at 12:40 pm | No Comments »

You know, we’re both so incredibly busy that getting back to blogging just seems like a chore. Hardly a good time or reason to keep the thing going. We’ve decided to keep the site up though, for reference, for kicks, and so links from Google stay alive. And also to document a lot of the work we did for a few years over a crucial point in both of our careers.

Do stay in touch! Both of us are on Instagram and Twitter at @JakeSkakun & @KurtisKolt.

Thanks so much for reading, commenting and cheering us on over the years.

Best to all!

KK/JS




15
Sep 2012
Wine by 
Kurtis
  at 10:25 am | No Comments »

Probably a fair assumption that there’s a little inspiration from the wildly successful Old Spice campaign (“I’m on a horse,”) Paso Robles Wine Country releases one of the most punchy, effective wine marketing videos I’ve seen!

Well done!

(via BM)




7
Sep 2012
Wine by 
Kurtis
  at 9:02 am | No Comments »

Tired of repeatedly buying the same bottle of wine because you’re intimidated by the vast selection on liquor store shelves? Know someone who laments their minimal wine knowledge, looking to step it up?

This November I’m teaching two introductory four-week wine courses via the AMS Mini-School at UBC, and it’s just $85 (or $65 for UBC students!) for the whole she-bang!

Available Monday or Thursday nights, you can get more information at the UBC AMS website right here. Come on out and get your swirl on!




5
Sep 2012
Wine by 
Kurtis
  at 11:56 am | No Comments »

Tired of your room-mate/spouse/friends/drunken-self getting into your the stuff? Franmara comes to the rescue with their new Wine Bottle Lock! For just $14.49 you can enjoy the peace of mind that only the combination-holder will be able to pop that cork! (via HuffPo)

(Just in case there’s any confusion, I’m not seriously endorsing this. I think it’s stupid.)




28
Aug 2012
Wine by 
Jake
  at 12:24 am | 4 Comments »

A heads up for anyone looking for professional wine storage at a great price. Pull those dusty boxes from your much too warm and slightly too dry bedroom closet and give those bottles a fighting chance to age. I’ve just handed over some of my wine and I don’t think there’s a better price in town.




18
Aug 2012
Wine by 
Kurtis
  at 8:49 pm | No Comments »

Rob Van Westen tending his Naramata Cabernet Franc

This website began in 2008 as Jake & I were taking the Intro to Winemaking course through UC Davis and were looking to get a little hands-on winery experience. Our friends Tammi & Rob of Van Westen Vineyards were very hospitable in having us to their home and winery, Rob showing us every step of the winemaking progress along the way. Some photos of our antics are here.

Rob and Tammi are wonderful folks who are also cherry farmers, which ended up being quite the rough go this year.

The story of what has happened to them over the last few weeks is pretty tragic and important to me, so I shared it in this week’s Westender:

After his annual hiring of over a dozen farmhands to aid in the cherry harvest this year, the unexpected happened. A glut of American cherries flooded our market, resulting in the pendulum of supply and demand swinging the other way. Prices plummeted and the local co-op was unable to fairly compensate farmers for their fruit, leaving Rob and many colleagues in a tough spot.

The price they began to receive from the co-op wouldn’t even cover their labour, never mind other costs. The harvesting of this fruit had already put them in debt, being paid a mere five per cent of what they’d spent in labour alone for one week’s harvest. With tears and hugs from Rob and his wife Tammi, the workers (many hired annually, almost extended family) had to be laid off, with acres of trees still full of fruit.

You can read my whole column here…




12
Aug 2012
Wine by 
Kurtis
  at 9:46 am | 1 Comment »

A quirky personal essay from Scott Hutchins in today’s New York Times on his brief flirtation with being a wine writer:

He looked puzzled, but explained that his label was trying to build brand loyalty. A newsletter was a strategy to make purchasers identify as drinkers of his brand.

“I can tell you what I love to read,” I said. “Stories about the actual production of the wine. The grapes ripening in the field, the level of sugars in them, the assessment of when the time is to pick. We could follow the production of the wine from first flower to the grapes being crushed. Then the aging and the bottling.”

“Our customers have zero interest in production details.” He pressed his index finger to the table. “Zero.”

Read the whole thing here…




7
Aug 2012
Wine by 
Kurtis
  at 8:38 am | No Comments »

Good ol’ Slate.com offers a generous smattering of magazine articles about wine as part of their partnership with Longform.org. Pieces dug from their archives include a 1934 look at whether wine can become an American (post-Prohibition) habit from Fortune, last year’s Vanity Fair coverage of Burgundian vineyard sabotage and an Atlantic profile of Robert Parker from 2000.

Dig in right here.




31
Jul 2012
Wine by 
Kurtis
  at 10:59 am | No Comments »

Thanks to the good folks at Niche Wine Company for alerting me to this! (Graphic courtesy of these guys at Wine Folly!)

Click to enlarge!




24
Jul 2012
Wine by 
Jake
  at 12:12 am | 8 Comments »


Brad and a big ass bottle of Bergstrom at Pinot Camp.

I feel like corkage is all I’ve been talking about since Thursday and even saying the word is starting to give life to a lump of anxiety in my chest (I must have said the word ‘corkage’ this weekend more than in all the previous ten years). Some restaurant owners are embracing it, and others are terrified of it – unjustifiably worried that no one will ever buy wine off their list again. Debates have sparked about fees and what people think are reasonable and others feel are outrageous. All should agree that it’s a good thing. Questionable laws and policies are relaxing which is giving wine lovers more freedoms. People are talking about wine and getting excited about wine and all this will grow our fickle, yet improving, wine culture.

Corkage should not be feared. It will help the small ‘cheap eats’ restaurants without the best beverage programs attract dinners. At most places, once diners settle in and everyone forgets there was a time corkage was forbidden, it may only mean four or five bottles on a busy night. If you set your fee to a level that is appropriate for your style of restaurant, it shouldn’t mean much, if any, of a revenue loss.

Since announced on Friday that the corkage floodgates had been released, to the absolute surprise of nearly EVERYONE I should add, I’ve opened seven bottles. That’s over four nights of busy dinner service. All of the bottles were high-end and some of them had obvious sentimental attachments with the guests. This is a testament to how great our clientele is, but so far there hasn’t been a single bottle that I’ve had any qualms about being seen on a table in our dining room.

I want to sum up my stance and rationale behind our corkage policy at L’Abattoir with a letter exchange I had after a Globe and Mail reader saw a quote that he/she disagreed with and it just so happened to have my name attached to it.

_______________________________

Greetings!


I noticed that one of your sommeliers, Jake Skakun, was quoted in the Globe and Mail as saying that your corkage fee was likely to be $25.  Having spent a large part of my life living in the San Francisco Bay Area, where the ability to bring your own wine has long been a norm, corkage fees rarely exceed $20, and in most cases are closer to $10 per bottle.  This allows patrons to buy a good bottle of wine — not “the cheapest bottle they can get their hands on”.  Most people who are interested in fine dining have no interest in accompanying their meal with plonk, but neither are they interested in paying $100 for a bottle that retails for $40.  I hope that Mr. Skakun’s estimate proves to be a very high, off the cuff remark and that your corkage fees wind up being much lower than that.

Wishing you all the best,

X

_______________________________

Hi X,

Thank you for your message. It seems that you have strong feelings about corkage in BC, which is great, and as it happens, I do as well.

I’ve also lived and trained in San Francisco and am familiar with operations and policies of restaurants in California. A major point to consider is this: while wine prices are painfully more expensive on wine lists than they are in California because of our taxation of wine (123%), restaurants in BC have lower mark-up margins per bottle of wine. The behind-the-scenes workings I can speak on at length from experience! Restaurants in San Fran are afforded a wholesale price and from there usually aim for a 33% cost percentage ($10 wholesale bottle costs $30 on a list). In BC, there is no wholesale price and the cost percentages range from 40% to 50% (I aim for around 45% on lower-priced wine and less on higher-end wine on our list, meaning that $10 bottle will sell for, in theory, $22). The reason I bring this up, is to highlight the fact that restaurants aren’t given as much of that little extra boost from wine sales in BC than they are much of the States. Wine and booze sales are often the bread and butter that restaurants survive on. The restaurant industry is a fierce one and long-term, or even mid-term, survival is extremely rare.

Your assertion that corkage in San Fran ‘rarely exceed $20, and in most cases are closer to $10 per bottle’ may be true when you scour accessibly priced dinning spots and little operations, yet when you’re comparing restaurants on the same tier as L’Abattoir (a casual environment with a high level of service, 80 seats with usually around 20 staff members working on any given night, and mains ranging from $25 to $30), I will confidently state that $20-25 in SF is standard (I’m comparing restaurants like Nopa, Coi, Bar Tartine, A16, Absinthe, La Ciccia, SPQR, Slanted Door (which is $35 actually!)). When you start to consider fine dining restaurants, they then range from $35-40 (Michael Mina, Quince, Benu and Gary Danko are all in this range). All of these numbers are easy to find online. Not only do I feel that it’s an uneven playing field when comparing corkage fees in places like San Francisco and Vancouver because of the completely different wholesale/distribution/retail systems and profit margins, but I can clearly see that your rosy image of corkage fees in San Francisco is fundamentally flawed.

I am a huge proponent of corkage and have been public about my stance on many other senseless laws surrounding wine in British Columbia. I love corkage, because it is a step at making Vancouver a more enjoyable and flexible place to drink wine. It will get people chatting about wine and it will advance our wine culture. Let it flow free! I am very excited to begin toting bottles of wine to my favourite hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese restaurants and Sushi restaurants, where I’d expect to and will happily pay $10 (or less even). Places that don’t invest in large, properly stored wine inventories or in expertly trained sommeliers or in high-end stemware and decanters. Let’s face it, these are the kind of places that we’ll mainly be attracted to bringing wine to, and they’ll probably benefit in traffic and in sales. Restaurants that are busy every night and sell large volumes of high-end wine, which L’Abattoir is fortunate enough to be one of, should also be an option as a place for you to bring a special bottle of wine. It can’t, however, be at a significant detriment to our margins, which are required to operate a restaurant that sells high quality food, with a high level of service and high rent. And while my comments in the Globe and Mail were pulled from a longer conversation where I did cover much of the above, I still stand by my stating that we don’t want bottles of Yellow Tail or any other bulk wine on the tables at L’Abattoir. I agree with you when you say that most diners in a restaurant like L’Abattoir appreciate BOTH good food and good wine, but I also feel that there needs to be a fee in place to set a precedent for what kind of bottles we’d like to see and not those that will clash with my vision of a wine list that I’ve spent two years creating and tweaking (one that I’m also quite proud of and has been given a Gold Award at the last two Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festivals). I also think that if our price was, say $5 or $10, and despite what I expect, it did really take off and a high portion of guests brought their own wine every night, we’d either have to close our doors, bump up all the food prices, or change our concept significantly. So I guess in short, the $25 rationale is founded on a delicate balance of protecting our margins, detouring low-end wine, and encouraging a reasonable number of special bottles each night.

This letter has become much more long-winded than I planned, yet I want you to understand how much thought and consideration was behind me deciding on a corkage fee that was appropriate for L’Abattoir to remain successful.

I invite you to dine at our restaurant and bring along a bottle of wine that you would enjoy with our food and we will charge you, what I consider to be, a very fair $25.

Best,
Jake

_______________________________

Hello Jake,

Thanks for your reply.  I certainly agree that the odds are stacked against restaurateurs here in Canada, and maybe even more so in B.C., what with the very high taxes on what I consider to be a staple of life.  And the fact that there is no wholesale price for wine astounds me — that single fact is probably the largest reason for the high cost of wine  in restaurants here in BC.

So I will try L’Abbatoir the next time I in Vancouver, and I will bring a very good bottle with me (although, having learned that I will not be able to bring bottles purchased in the States, perhaps not quite as good as I might otherwise).

X

_______________________________

Winning hearts and minds in the corkage debate one person at a time…




16
Sep 2012
Etc by 
Kurtis
  at 8:34 am | No Comments »

The brilliant and talented Frank Ocean releases a video for Pyramids. Amazing, as always (and NSFW.)




15
Sep 2012
Etc by 
Kurtis
  at 11:38 am | 1 Comment »

A third of my Holy Trinity of favourite contemporary authors (rounded out by Lethem and Eggers,) the mighty Michael Chabon has not only just released Telegraph Avenue, arguably the most anticipated book of the year, but he’ll be making a ridiculously-rare Vancouver appearance on September 26th (tickets here.)

Winning the Pulitzer for The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay in 2001, narrowly beating his pal Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, the guy can make a simple sentence into its own mini-novel and rocks out rich, layered stories that often read cinematically.

Wonder Boys, based on his novel of the same name, translated quite well to the screen:

In fact, with both his cinematic writing skill (The Yiddish Policemen’s Union is becoming, oh-so-appropriately, a Coen Brothers film,) and his fondness for superheroes — he’d been tapped to pen Spider-Man 2, only to have his role reduced (although Eggers’ McSweeney’s did publish his complete version in pdf form, a small nugget of which is still online.)

I am SO STOKED to see him later this month! He’ll have plenty to talk about.

Oh, and incidentally, it’s pronounced “SHAY-bon.” I spent many years callin’ the guy Michael “sha-BONE!”




7
Sep 2012
Etc by 
Kurtis
  at 8:34 am | 1 Comment »

A fantastic piece just published by the New York Times features two of the most notable brilliant minds of our generation; Zadie Smith (whose new novel NW just came out)  goes for dinner with Jay-Z, writing about the experience and his career.

Cool stuff!




5
Sep 2012
Etc by 
Kurtis
  at 11:41 am | No Comments »

Always a classic. I was born in a very funky year.




28
Aug 2012
Etc by 
Jake
  at 3:20 pm | No Comments »

On September 17th, we’ll see the forth studio album from Brooklyn indie rock band Grizzly Bear. I’ve been listening to the single ‘Yet Again’ on repeat and can’t get it out of my head. It’s a more upbeat of a sound than I’m used to from these guys and I’m excited to hear the rest of the album. They’re also hitting the road in September with dates in both Vancouver and Toronto. Convenient for whichever city you’ll be in…




18
Aug 2012
Etc by 
Kurtis
  at 8:05 pm | No Comments »

While I do feel bad for the poor guy just trying to get back to his seat, I love this spontaneous choreography to Kanye’s Runaway by his dancers that was posted on Stereogum last week.




12
Aug 2012
Etc by 
Kurtis
  at 10:50 am | No Comments »

I’m totally looking forward to picking up this newest collection of Adrian Tomine work, and glad that Drawn & Quarterly opted to use his best New Yorker cover illustration for the cover. In fact, a couple prints of earlier sketches that eventually became that cover currently hang on our living room wall:

He has such a warm style of illustration and can bust out a badass graphic novel as well. At a talk he gave in Vancouver a few years back, I found myself oddly starstruck and totally tongue-tied as I watched him carefully and methodically sign a copy of Shortcomings with his signature cursive lettering style:

The guy can do no wrong in my books. If you haven’t read any of his work, Summer Blonde is a good mid-career example of his style and a charming, intimate read. To find out more about this latest collection of his New York drawings (due in September,) click here.




8
Aug 2012
Etc by 
Kurtis
  at 11:34 am | No Comments »

At long last, the New Yorker has an iPhone app! Better yet, there’s this sweet video launching the thing starring Jon Hamm from Mad Men and Lena Dunham from HBO’s Girls (which, incidentally, I’ve just started watching and totally think it’s worth the hype!)

Navigating takes a little bit of getting used to, but after a short bit you’ll be whizzing around the issues in no time. The first one’s free, by the way. As someone who’s tried print subscriptions that tend to pile up during busy stretches and has moved to reading it on the ol’ laptop, finally being able to have the current issue pocket-sized is huge.

All the info’s here… 




7
Aug 2012
Etc by 
Kurtis
  at 8:51 am | No Comments »

A perennial favourite that I find myself watching every so often over the years, Kid Koala‘s brilliant, moody, lovely version of Moon River. I’ve witnessed this performed live with 1000 others in a sold-out Commodore Ballroom, everyone transfixed, and other than the music swelling throughout the room, you could totally hear a pin drop. Love it.

(It may take an extra second or two to load. If you’re the impatient type, click here to watch it at the source.)




31
Jul 2012
Etc by 
Kurtis
  at 11:19 am | No Comments »

What a treat to be able to read a fresh-released short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald in 2012! The VERY short story is available free for your reading pleasure on the New Yorker’s website here. A little background on how this came about is on The Atlantic’s Wire, along with some other book news, including the crazy fact that since the Cloud Atlas (awesome, awesome) movie trailer came out, the book has gone from #2509 on the Amazon bestseller list to #7!

By the way, I’m not the only one who looks at Fitzgerald and always thinks of this guy, am I?




17
Jul 2012
Etc by 
Kurtis
  at 5:45 pm | 2 Comments »

I don’t think I’ve ever been so confident in mid-July about what my album of the year is going to be. Not only is Frank Ocean’s ‘Channel Orange’ an incredible, inspired spin on contemporary R & B, but extra props gotta go to the guy for coming out with such dignity (no needless over-the-top spectacle), only to follow it with an honest and stirring performance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. If you haven’t caught that performance, it’s one for the history books- do take a few minutes for it.

His show at The Commodore last weekend (where I took the crappy photo above) showed me what a natural talent he is as well, he really made it look easy.

Out of the plethora of adoring press on the guy, one of my favourites (Sasha Frere-Jones of The New Yorker) really hits the nail on the head. You can read the piece that culminates in him saying “Channel ORANGE” reinvigorates R. & B. by flouting the rules of the genre. Like the writer Sheila Heti and the filmmaker Lena Dunham, Ocean is deciding what it means to talk about friendship, drugs, love, and sex, and is setting the parameters for shame and regret in a world in which failure is simply a way of saying hello.” right over here…




12
Jul 2012
Etc by 
Jake
  at 12:49 pm | No Comments »

Tonight, at the Rio Theatre on Commercial Drive premieres Hicks on Sticks, a documentary about a skateboard tour in the 90s and and ode to the spirit and ambition of small town youth. It’s made by a couple fellow West Kootenay boys (Soren Johnstone, who rode along on the original tour, and Mike Babiarz) and features Canadian skateboard legends like Josh Evin. It originally premiered a couple months ago at the Newport Beach Film Fest and it’s sure to be a blast.

Tonight, 7:00pm and 10:00pm. Check it out on CinemaClock.




10
Jul 2012
Etc by 
Jake
  at 9:46 am | No Comments »

Ho-lee shit this looks good.




3
Jul 2012
Etc by 
Kurtis
  at 11:06 am | No Comments »

From Designboom, Star Wars recreations of famous photographs that TOTALLY. KICK. ASS.