stick it to the man(ual)

I failed the first statistics test I ever wrote. It was open book (insert sad trombone sound).

This is the only test I’ve ever failed. I had no excuse other than that I firmly believed the material refused to get inside my head. (IT was stubborn… not me. Of course this is not an excuse that any self-respecting professor will accept, so I do not recommend it.) In the end, I just barely passed the course, but I don’t remember the exact details of how I managed that as I’ve buried the experience pretty deep. Or at least I had. This program, and in particular this thesis, have caused many of my previous apprehensions about statistics to resurface.

Things that keep me up at night: am I actually seeing patterns in the data? Is the dataset big enough?

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slow and steady wines the race

…or so they say. Though it doesn’t feel like we’re winning any races as we wait for the grapes to ripen. (The wining, however, is well underway!)

Proof that we’ve had lots of rain this year; this data shows the rain this year (green) compared to the five year average (grey), as well as temperature ranges for this year (yellow) and the 5 year average (blue).

We’ve had a lot of rain through the summer, nearly twice as much as the average rainfall during April to August. Temperatures have been close, but not quite as hot, and the cooler days have been a little more frequent than usual as well. Fortunately for us, September is proving to be slightly drier than usual (quick, knock on wood, the month isn’t over yet!), and we’re all holding our breaths that the weather holds out long enough for the grapes to ripen nicely without any diseases. Read More

winter is coming

The other undeniable French connection with wine is just over the provincial border in Québec. There is a wonderful relationship between Québec and Bordeaux – I actually learned more about what Québec had to offer after I moved to France, as thanks to a particularly difficult inter-provincial flow of alcohol, there is little to no representation in the local monopoly stores. Frankly, it didn’t occur to me that it was even possible to grow grapes in Québec, as I assumed (as most people do about all of Canada), that it was too cold.

There is a beautiful quote that is often mistakenly attributed to Aubert de Villaine of Domaine Romanée-Conti, perhaps due to how regularly he references it:

“Il n’existe pas de vignoble prédestiné, il n’y a que des entêtements de civilisation.” – Pierre Veilletet

“There are no predestined vineyards, there is only the stubbornness of civilization.”

Aubert de Villaine, standing before the iconic cross of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. As a pioneer in biodynamic viticulture, he understands very well how to be stubborn. What else drives us to grow grapes on steep mountainsides like here in the Mosel, or in hot climates, like here in India?

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a county affair

In case you’re interested, the thesis is coming along beautifully… and when I say that I mean that local business are being well supported as I shack up to use free wifi and carve chunks out of said thesis for hours at a time. No charts or graphs to speak of yet (it is considered passé to chart someone else’s data in a scientific thesis, when one will have one’s own in short order), but I’m busily refamiliarizing myself with the statistical analysis tools I will need to understand my future results.

I need charts like this… who knows what kind of results I might come up with?!

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the french clos-nection

Once upon a time there was a winery in Niagara named Le Clos Jordanne. It was named thus as the vineyards were surrounded by walls – the French definition of a clos – and was located near the Niagara town of Jordan. Destined for greatness, it was first created as the brainchild of Inniskillin (famed for its ice wine and a subsidiary of Vincor, a Canadian wine company) and Boisset France (a large wine producer, dominant in Burgundy) in order to make world-class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in Ontario. With the earliest vineyards only planted in 2000, the winery was already winning awards by 2005 – the totally famous Judgement of Montreal (maybe only to a select few Canadians though…) awarded Le Clos Jordanne the top award for white wines, among a group of predominantly French and Californian wines. (Don’t worry Bordeaux friends and oak lovers, the 2004 Mouton Rothschild won for the reds…)

What could have been: a scale model of Frank Gehry’s design for the winery, which never came to fruition. A stunning construction, even if my nieces prefer the classic (“It’s a princess castle!”) châteaux of Bordeaux (Château Pichon Baron pictured here). We can negotiate when design for Château Cat begins.

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