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Robert Dwyer RSS Feed (Wellesley, MA)
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Kindle Fire (Previous Generation - 1st)
Kindle Fire (Previous Generation - 1st)
241 used & new from $54.49

2 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Why I'm Returning the Kindle Fire, November 23, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
When Amazon announced the $199 Kindle Fire, it was the first time I was intrigued by a tablet other than the iPad. I'm a big fan of the Amazon value proposition and I was impressed with their focus on content consumption at a reasonable price.

I didn't have any disillusions about the device being an iPad replacement. I had plans for it being two things: A kitchen counter web browser usable by everyone in the family -and- a replacement for our portable DVD player.

But as it turns out the device doesn't provide a very satisfying web browsing experience and (due to the fragmented content marketplace) it's not a very good value as a portable video player.

APPS

Leading up to the device's release there was a lot of information swirling around about which Android apps would be available on the device. By default, you purchase apps through a special section of the Amazon App store, and there are indeed a number of apps there.

But as you push forward and attempt to make the Kindle Fire perform like your iPhone or even your iPod touch you start bumping into limitations. Read this article to get a sense for what it's like install non-approved Android apps on the device. Within an hour of opening the box I'm wandering around the web learning about .apk's, sideloading, and rooting. The fragmented app situation on the device is a total mess.

WEB BROWSER

Amazon made a big deal about the "Silk" web browser when they announced the Kindle Fire. It was said to speed download times as it predicted where you were going to browse next. My complaint isn't so much with the time it takes pages to load as with the lousy overall experience of navigating web pages on the device.

Often you have to tap on hyperlinks several times to be effective, Apple's brilliant "double-tap" to fit a column of text gesture is missing, and some pages don't function properly. I thought the larger screen size would enable the Fire to be a usable web browser, but on the contrary, the device is slightly worse than a 3 year old 2nd generation iPod touch - which has a much smaller screen - in terms of web browser usability. Browsing the web on an iPhone 4S is a much more pleasant experience than on the Kindle Fire due to the iPhone's speed, excellent page rendering, responsive touch screen and intuitive and effective gestures.

Since web browsing was one of the primary things I was looking for in the device it's a big disappointment.

BOOKS

I've never owned an e-ink Kindle, but so many people say they love theirs, I figured this device was a good time to get in on that experience. Unfortunately I'm not feeling the magic. I thought it was pretty nice that I could borrow "Moneyball" for free from the Amazon Lending Library with Amazon Prime, but I find the experience of reading on the Fire a little awkward given how heavy it is.

Compared to an e-ink Kindle, the battery life of the Fire and lack of 3G connectivity is also a concern. I think I'd be better off getting an entry level Kindle e-reader - they start at $79now.

VIDEOS

Next to the web browser this was my second area of interest and also a big disappointment. Video playback looks great and purchasing/renting content from Amazon is a breeze (if you know what you want, navigating the Amazon store for free content is still a bit of a morass in my experience).

My beef is with the still-fragmented market for digital content. It's still often cheaper to buy a hard copy than it is to rent or buy. Take for example Rio. $8.99 to buy the DVD (free shipping with Prime) or $14.99 to buy the digital copy. Cars 2 isn't available for purchase - you have to rent it at $3.99 a pop. I see similar with books.

I can guess why this is, but it doesn't make me any more enthusiastic about accepting it. Until it's more convenient and affordable to buy digital content it feels like digital just doesn't make sense yet.

Ripping DVDs for playback on the device is also a complicated mess. After experimenting for a day with the best file format and resolution I still can't get a video to make use of the full screen. It's a total pain in the neck.

MAGAZINES

The magazines I want to read (for example Wine Spectator) aren't available. I want a model where I pay one price for a subscription and I can consume it any way I want to. Print, online, on the go. I don't think this is any better elsewhere but it's certainly not good on the Fire.

CONCLUSION

It's not so much that the Kindle Fire is a lousy product. It's that Apple spoiled us and Amazon is doing the best they can within the confines of the ecosystem they're operating within.

It's been magical watching our kids intuitively navigate their way around the iPod touch and iPhone. The Kindle Fire has them peppering me with questions about why things don't work. "You've got to tap it a few times sometimes," says our 6 year old. The iPhone found the perfect intersection of being intuitive, looking gorgeous, and being immensely effective.

About the only thing I like about it is the random high resolution images that greet you after waking the device. Unfortunately, the novelty wears off as soon as you swipe your finger across the device and you're reminded of the laggy, herky jerky responsiveness you experience last time you touched it.

My experience playing with the device the past few days has made me appreciate what a breakthough device the first iPhone was. And what an amazing device the iPhone 4S is. The core interface of the iPhone hasn't changed much since it was released - it's just gotten better and better. Will Amazon be able to pull the same trick? Release a valiant 1.0 and continually improve it through software updates? We'll see, but I don't think I'm going to be along for the ride.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 24, 2011 4:01 AM PST


Summer in a Glass: The Coming of Age of Winemaking in the Finger Lakes
Summer in a Glass: The Coming of Age of Winemaking in the Finger Lakes
by Evan Dawson
Edition: Hardcover
32 used & new from $4.99

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive Storyteller, April 27, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
You know a book is good when you're bummed to be deplaning a cross-country flight before you've finished reading. But that's what happened to me with Evan Dawson's Summer in a Glass: The Coming of Age of Winemaking in the Finger Lakes recently.

The book tells the stories of 13 winemakers in the New York State wine region, each extensively researched and told in a narrative non-fiction format. I found the approach particularly effective in conveying each winemaker's story and raising their wines to a higher level of understanding and potential enjoyment. On several occasions I found myself wanting to seek out specific wines described in the book.

If the idea of reading winemaker stories leaves you uninspired I think I might know how you feel. For me, most winery stories sound similar: Guy makes boatloads of money in a non-related industry, dumps it into the sexier wine trade and is now producing wine made with unparalleled standards at unbelievably high prices. That said Summer in a Glass succeeds by relating stories in a way the winemakers themselves might have trouble conveying with a similar level of intrigue.

Perhaps that's because the author is a storyteller by trade anchoring the news desk at Rochester's ABC affiliate. He's also a wine writer who contributes regularly to online wine publications - primarily the highly regarded New York Cork Report. Dawson is the kind of writer I find interesting regardless of the subject he's writing about -- whether it's migraines, Barbaresco or Finger Lakes Riesling.

Impressive On a Number of Levels

First and foremost there's the undeniable charm of being transported to a region like the Finger Lakes. Given its duration and intensity, winter in the Finger Lakes makes summer all the more appreciated and Dawson captures the essence of each season beautifully. It's never in your face with metaphors but the notion of how special warm summer nights are comes through brilliantly.

At its best Summer in a Glass weaves chapters together in near-cliff hanger style showing the interconnectedness of winemakers in the region leaving the reader wondering how each winery will fare.

The work Dawson put into researching the stories relayed is evident and pays dividends. Dawson's wide-open, inclusive personality comes through brilliantly as he embeds just enough of himself in the story to draw the reader in.

One of the most difficult things to do as a narrative story teller, I think, is convey a story about the less-likeable character. It's relatively easy to tell the story of a gregarious German like Anthony Road's Johannes Reinhardt but revealing the essence of a highly regarded but not-so-collaborative winemaker like Hermann Wiemer is a different challenge. As an author you know the subject will read what you've written - and might not be happy with it - but Dawson finds a way to find the best lighting for each personality while painting an accurate picture.

Conclusion and Recommendations

After reading Summer in a Glass in some ways I regret not visiting the region already. But at the same time I feel I now have a reliable guide pointing me some of the best producers in the region and an interest in tasting the wines to compare notes with what's described in the book.

If you're a content creator you might find yourself wondering as you read the book: Could I write something on par with this about another wine region? Regardless of the answer the fact the book has you asking that question is, I think, an inspiring achievement in itself.

I highly recommend Summer in a Glass for anyone interested in good stories about wine, especially in the Finger Lakes, and especially if you're headed there for a visit any time soon.


Menu Winebreather Carafe
Menu Winebreather Carafe
Offered by Modern Everyday
Price: $50.46
7 used & new from $49.99

27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Effective and Quick Full-Bottle Aerator, December 9, 2010
This review is from: Menu Winebreather Carafe
A few weeks ago I received a sample of a new type of wine decanting product - the Menu Wine Breather. It's a hybrid sort of device that combines characteristics of single-serving active wine aerators (like the Vinturi and the Soiree) with characteristics of an old school passive wine decanter. The net result is a device that promises to aerate an entire bottle of wine in a couple of minutes. I used it for all the wines I served on Thanksgiving so while that experience is fresh in my head I thought to share my thoughts on it for you holiday shopping consideration.

There's a video on the manufacturer's website that demonstrates how the product works. I'd recommend having a look at that:
[...]
DESIGN

The first thing I noticed when unboxing the product is its contemporary Danish design aesthetic. It's got a Breaking Bad chemistry lab kind of feel to it, and the fit and finish is thoughtful and high quality. I was a little confused how the three pieces on the top of the device go together but after some experimenting and an E-mail to the manufacturer I was able to figure it out. The part that confused me is a rubber gasket that remains on the vessel after you remove the pourer.

USABILITY

Once I rinsed the product off and put the top on I was ready to decant my first bottle of wine. From watching the video I understood how the device was intended to be used. The fact that it aerates an entire bottle all at once makes it a good match for holiday gatherings. On a weeknight when you're having just a glass or two you probably don't want to decant an entire bottle. But when you're serving a few bottles in succession to a group, the Wine Breather's ability to aerate an entire bottle in just a couple of minutes is very useful. A traditional decanter would be sitting there full of the first bottle of wine for an hour or more and subsequent bottles likely wouldn't have time for more than a splash decant (where you purposely pour the wine into the decanter such that it splashes on the bottom of the vessel and aerates the wine a bit in the process) and some aggressive swirling around in the vessel and each glass.

It's a little nerve wracking at first when the bottle is mostly full and it's completely inverted on top of the Wine Breather. I kept a hand on it to make sure it didn't topple over. Guests and kids were quite fascinated by yet another wine contraption I've busted out over the years. Never discount theatrics as a means for getting people interested in a wine accessory.

I like that I can pour the wine into the vessel and let it sit for a few hours if I have the time. Or, if I'm in a hurry I can quickly pour it back into the bottle (for a so-called "double decant"). I prefer pouring wine from the bottle it came in rather than from a decanter because people can see the label of the wine -and- decanters can be tricky to pour from (the last glass in a bottle especially).

One minor issue I had with my test unit is that the silver part of the pourer separated from its black housing. This makes it a little difficult to remove the pourer from the neck of the vessel for cleaning the device:

HOW IT WORKS

The Wine Breather reminds me a bit of the Soiree because of the way wine cascades along the sides of the glass and exposes the wine to air in the process.

I used the device on three bottles for Thanksgiving. For each, I tasted the wine directly from the bottle to get a feel for how much decanting it seemed to require and then based on that I'd more or less aggressively use the device.

The first bottle was a 2005 Cakebread Benchland Select Cabernet Sauvignon. At 5 years old, it was quite open aromatically with soft tannins. It didn't need a great deal of decanting so I poured it into the Wine Breather, let it sit for an hour or so and then poured the wine back into the bottle and served it from there. Nice wine - good result.

The next bottle was a young 2008 Sea Smoke Southing Pinot Noir. The wine was very limited aromatically and although it showed promise on the palate needed some serious encouragement to come out of its shell. I decided to double decant it with the Wine Breather and then taste it. It seemed to help a little but I thought it could still use more decanting so I did another pass through the device and then back into the bottle. A quadruple decant! The wine was still pretty bashful and tight aromatically but its flavors were more apparent on the palate and its finish was impressive.

The third and final bottle was a 2006 Leonetti Merlot from Washington state. This wine presented a unique challenge in that it had silty sediment in the bottle. However, it was quite Bordeaux-like in style (graphite and tar on top of powerful fruit) so I thought it would be a good idea to run it through the Wine Breather. It ended up jostling the fine sediment quite a bit and each glass was quite murky. This particular style of wine would be better served by traditional decanting for the purpose of letting the sediment fall to the bottom of the device and gently pouring off wine from the top. Lesson learned, but this an objection many will raise about wine accessories that involved inverting the bottle for optimal effectiveness.

BLIND TASTING

I'm a firm believer in using blind tasting to assess the effectiveness of products like these. What I'm looking for when tasting is more pronounced aromatics (as opposed to being closed), rounder flavors (as opposed to being sharp), and a smoother finish.

The first test I did was a head to head blind tasting of a glass of wine that was poured right out of the bottle vs. one that went through the Menu Wine Breather. For this test I used a 2007 Brancaia Toscana Tre - a well regarded quality-price-ratio favorite that seems to catch a lot of comments on CellarTracker that it needs air. I couldn't tell the difference between the glass passed through the Menu and the one that was not. Tie.

I thought - hmm. I need to create a situation where there is a control sample (pop 'n pour) and a should-be-good sample (decanted a couple of hours in a traditional decanter) and then see how the Menu does compared to these other two. For this test I cracked open a bottle of 2006 Produttori Barbaresco - young for a Barabresco - and invited a friend over. I then poured the wine 3 ways for him and vice versa.

We both preferred the decanted wine over the pop 'n pour wine however we disagreed on whether the Menu was better or worse than the other two wines. My result:

1st: Menu
2nd: Decanter
3rd: Pop 'n Pour

My friend's result:

1st: Decanter
2nd: Pop 'n Pour
3rd: Menu

Hmm - where to go from here? I did another 3-way test myself with a 2008 75 Wine Company "The Sum" - fairly big, bold and young Napa Cabernet. The result:

1st: Decanter
2nd: Menu
3rd: Pop 'n Pour

CONCLUSION:

For me, the Menu performed well in blind tasting overall. It performed as good or better than pop 'n pour in each test -and- it produced similar results to a 2-hour decant in 2 out of 3 tests. I like the way it can quickly aerate an entire bottle of wine, and if I feel like a wine could benefit from more air it's easy to run it through the device multiple times back and forth between the bottle and the Menu Wine Breather.

STRENGTHS:

* Provides an easy way to double-decant a bottle of wine
* Can achieve aeration results similar to a decanter in a fraction of the time
* Easy to decant multiple times quickly for accelerated aeration
* Relatively compact for a full-size decanter
* Modern "chemistry lab" styling

WEAKNESSES:

* Works best when decanting an entire bottle - not so well for single pours
* Operates based on inversion which potentially stirs up sediment in some wines

If you have questions or comment leave them here and I'll be happy to respond.

Cheers!
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 26, 2011 3:26 AM PDT


Wine Enthusiast Microfiber Wine Glass Towels, Blue, Set of 4
Wine Enthusiast Microfiber Wine Glass Towels, Blue, Set of 4
Offered by Wine Reserve Inc.
Price: $14.95
8 used & new from $14.95

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Leaves fibrous lint on glasses, October 26, 2009
I evaluated this towel against other wine glass towels on the market from Wubeez and Riedel.

I had high hopes for this one. After having a bad experience with the first Wine Enthusiast towel I bought (now discontinued) leaving lint on my glasses I noticed that Wine Enthusiast was carrying this new towel.

Strengths:
-Lowest per-towel price of the group. These are sold in 4-packs.

Weaknesses:
-Poor durability, especially in conjunction with velcro items in a laundry cycle.
-Leaves noticeable fibrous lint remaining on glasses after use. The Wine Enthusiast towel consistently leaves an obvious and problematic amount of lint on the glass. The nature of the lint is different than what I see from regular kitchen towels or paper towels. The lint is small and fibrous (as opposed to more of a natural cloth-like lint). Very peculiar and definitely not good.

Recommendation: Not recommended.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 3, 2012 5:21 AM PDT


Riedel  Large Microfiber Polishing Cloth
Riedel Large Microfiber Polishing Cloth
Offered by The Houseware Shoppe
Price: $11.95
25 used & new from $9.99

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Large, refined and elegant: Recommended, October 26, 2009
I compared this wine glass towel to the other options I could find on the market (towels from Wine Enthusiast and Wubeez). Though it wasn't my top pick, I give this product a favorable rating and would recommend it. I don't think anyone would be disappointed with this product.

This is strong entry from the Riedel wine glass company (rhymes with needle) . The product is thoughtfully designed and marketed consistently with their industry-leading glassware products.

Strengths:
-Size. This was the largest towel of the group.
-Aesthetics. This was the most refined and elegant looking towel I evaluated. Its white background makes it easy to see when the towel has gotten dirty and needs to be washed. Its red trim with black Riedel logo look crisp.
-Pliability. The Riedel towel's silky material enables it to easily drape over and around a glass

Weaknesses:
-Absorbency. It takes me a couple of passes to dry a wet glass with a dry towel.
-Weight. Although the towel is by far the largest, the lightweight material it is made of collapses on itself when you try to bunch it up inside a large glass.

Recommendation: Recommended.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 6, 2009 8:06 AM PST


Ravi Solution Instant Wine Chiller
Ravi Solution Instant Wine Chiller
Offered by E P D
Price: $21.11
42 used & new from $14.99

51 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Effective and surprisingly easy to use, March 18, 2009
Length:: 3:41 Mins

Pros:
-Easy to Use: Although there are quite a few pieces that make up the Ravi Solution, it is actually very easy to use.
-Effective: Instantly drops the temperature of any wine by 10F-15F bringing it to a more enjoyable drinking temperature.
-Versatile: Useful in the summer months when red wines at room temperature approach 80F (to bring them down to the mid-60s) -or- if you have a single temperature wine refrigerator set at 55F to drop the temperature down to around 45F.

Cons:
-A little pricey: This is definitely a convenience item and similar results can be attained with a little time in the fridge. However, I've found it quite useful and I'm glad I own one.
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 7, 2011 5:41 AM PST


No Title Available

56 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Good Product!, January 1, 2009
Length:: 3:57 Mins

The Respirer (pronounced "res-pea-AIR") is a new entry into the increasingly crowded single-serving wine aerator market segment. Unique features:

* Cast Acrylic material is seamless, elegant and durable
* Vortex Impedance Control provides uniform aeration
* The Respirer can be placed on the bottle after use to catch drips

A minor area of improvement I mention in the video is the stand. It tends to suction to the counter when wet, and when wine drips into the stand it tends to splatter a bit.

I give the product a favorable review in this video clip. Feel free to leave me a comment if you have questions- I'll check back and follow up. Thanks for watching!
Comment Comments (14) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 25, 2011 12:30 PM PST


Soiree bottle-top Wine Decanter & Aerator
Soiree bottle-top Wine Decanter & Aerator
Offered by soireehome
Price: $19.99
19 used & new from $14.99

284 of 288 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Effective and Easy to Use, December 17, 2008
Length:: 3:50 Mins

The Soiree is an on-the-bottle wine aerator/decanter. It provides one-hand operation and aerates wine differently than competing products. Rather than passing the wine through a narrow chamber and injecting air into the wine, the Soiree achieves aeration by relying on the tendency liquids have to adhere to surfaces- effectively exposing much of the wine to air while pouring. In a 4-way blind tasting I conducted with 3 tasters of varying degrees of familiarity with wine, the Soiree finished first. Enjoy this video and let me know what you think with comments- I will check back and follow up.
Comment Comments (18) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 24, 2013 12:23 PM PDT


Vinturi Essential Wine Aerator
Vinturi Essential Wine Aerator
Price: Click here to see our price
99 used & new from $13.46

651 of 670 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty Darn Good Product, December 10, 2008
Length:: 2:01 Mins

Vinturi Essential Wine Aerator
The Vinturi Wine Aerator is the longest selling and most popular wine aerator on the market. I give this product a favorable review in this short clip.
Comment Comments (25) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 29, 2014 5:59 PM PST


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