A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean

There is a host of things that I want to rant on.  As a matter of fact, I’m pretty pissed off right now in general, it’s kind of an underlying life theme right now.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WINDtlPXmmE

However, there are also a lot of good things going on and I am a lucky dog.  So today we’re going to talk about a couple of recent adventures.  There are some more coming up too, so I have some great stuff going on.

A couple of weeks ago I got invited up to Hahn Family Wineries for the Pinot Smackdown.  This was Twitter event.  I’m not on Twitter so much any more, so the invites are slower than they used to be, but I am a fan of Hahn Family Wines and I got to hang.  They rolled out all of their Pinots, or at least it seemed like they did with a nice selection of crackers and cheese.  Actually that little fact is what cancelled out the vegan thing.  I can’t live without cheese.  My life is perfect if there is a soft French cheese in it.  One of the problems with living out in the ‘burbs is the lack of cool cheese stores where I can go in and sample different cheese and pick out something wonderful I’ve never had before.  I don’t know if the place is still up in the upper Fillmore, maybe on California but I used to love that place.  Anywho, at Hahn they also had another cheese that was dusted in truffles with a hint of I believe nutmeg in the rind.  Really ridiculously good.

There was a great mix of people, including Alan Kropf the editor of Mutineer Magazine.  Alan was just picked by Wine Enthusiast as one of the 30 under 30 in the beverage business.  I love this guy.  He’s the one that called the Jordan Cabernet a street fight in a glass.  He brings a brilliant fresh outlook to the beverage business and wine in particular.  Although he can cocktail with the best of them.

Hahn Family Wines doesn’t make a bad Pinot, they make varying degrees of good heading to spectacular in several instances.  I’ve talked about Paul the winemaker before.  He’s a surfer dude who makes wine, like Oded of Longboard.  I think that combination of interests makes for a very talented winemaker.  Perhaps it’s the understanding of the spirituality of the ocean that translates into the spirituality of the terroir, I don’t know for sure, but it works.  Unfortunately they served up so many Pinots that I’ve got nothing beyond “there isn’t a bad one in the bunch”.  I’d never had the Lucienne line before.   I don’t even recall what was what specifically, but I can tell you that Lucienne Pinor Noir is really something.  Hahn Family wines has something like seven or eight labels.  The Lucienne seems to be their higher end or maybe it’s just how they put it together.  It’s amazing.  They’ve also added a Hahn Estate SLH that I don’t recall seeing previously.  SLH Santa Lucia Highlands.  These guys just do a great job of putting out wine after wine that’s priced well and never hurts your tongue.

One of the other people I met there was Linda Cordair of Cordair Gallery in Napa.  She told me about this project that Chef Robin White had going on the following week, Cold Soup Week.  She had seven days of soup recipes and seven days of wine pairings starting that Sunday.  From Robin’s website:

What is it? “Soup Week” is an online event. For 7 consecutive nights, (August 21 – 27) Chef Robin White will host a LIVE twitter conversation around her 7 original soup recipes and wine pairings for 7 nights in a row!

Another twitter event, fair enough.  Check out the recipes, really good stuff.  Then halfway through the week came an invite from Linda to the finale at her gallery in Napa.  Oh hell yeah.  Chilled Heirloom Tomato Soup with a Caribbean Style Lobster Salsa.  Oh hell yeah.  I had seconds.  Given the opportunity I would have done with it like the guy in Sideways.

The soup had this spicy sweet thing going on all at once, it was just amazing.  I’m going to work through the other recipes just because it’s so damned good.

Flora Springs was there pouring their 2010 Syrah Rose.   It’s a nice crisp rosé.  It’s not sweet, which is everybody’s bitch about rosé.  It has a hint of strawberries and spice to it.  Perfectly matched with the acidity of the tomato soup and Chef’s sneaky spicy pop on the back palate of the soup.  Cordair Gallery has some beautiful art in there as well.  Just made for a nice stop.

I don’t know what’s next up, it might be a rant.  Stay tuned.

Welcome to my silly life

Hello Kittens!  Bonus drive by today.  It’s 16 days until the AIDS ride.  13 days until my broker’s exam and the day before I do a rescue presentation at the NorCal Doberman Pinscher Club’s Specialty in Vallejo.  The good news, I got a couple of buyers into their homes.  The bad news, I’ve barely cracked a book for the broker’s exam and that’s not going to bode well for me.  Somehow it looks like I’m going to get through this May after all.  God williing with my broker’s license.  But that’s the one that’s really worrying me.  Once I get through Saturday I’ll be banging the books until June 1.  Saturday is our last long ride before the AIDS ride and then it’s taper, which is good.  My body is exhausted.  I haven’t been on the sunny side of 4:30am for a month now.  I’m not sure why I’m up now.  I missed a workout yesterday just because.  No reason.  I just couldn’t.  So I didn’t.  I’m not missing cycling work outs.  I was out in the sideways rain on Tuesday.  Weightlifting I’ve given myself a break on.

Yesterday turned into an accidental day off.  I wasn’t completely off, but I sure as hell didn’t do much.  I had a closing and managed to get all of the disclosures to my transaction coordinator by about 5pm yesterday.  I went up to Mutt Lynch Winery, a great little family owned winery who does great things, Bubba got to go for that ride.  They donated a nice package for the silent auction at the show tomorrow, I went to pick it up.  Of the thousands all the wineries I asked, Mutt Lynch did not hesitate to step up and help Doberman Rescue.  They make some very nice juice, I’ve reviewed it here before.  Give them the nod, they’re the real deal.

I came back and wanted to work for the two hours before my haircut but Healdsburg is almost 2 hours each way.  I was beat and dozed off in my chair after lunch.  Except every time my phone got an email it said “Droid” and Ike lost his mind, which involved banging into my chair, trying to crawl under the chair and generally making himself über obnoxious.  Nap aborted I got Rita and headed for my haircut.  Rita was invited because the next stop was the vet.  The glop in her eyes had turned from the normal grey goop to wads of white and yellow ick.  Somehow they know when I get paid.  A c-note later she’s got antibiotics and her eyes are already clear this morning.

The final screw around of the day was some wine fueled jackassery.  About two weeks ago a friend of mine asked if I wanted to be involved in a Twitter Taste Live.  I said yes, but didn’t know if I’d be able to or not.  Little did I know this was a special invite and they SENT ME THE WINE!  UPS shows up on Monday with a bottle of Peter Lehmann Wines 2008 Barossa Shiraz.  I didn’t have to order it or pay for it.  So there’s your disclosure, somebody gave me this wine for free.  I don’t really know who.  That being said, I had to show up and drink it with them and tweet about it.  It always starts out serious with wine notes and then moves on to jackassery.  I will say this Shiraz was wild.  It’s a screw top, that’s ok.  Easier to close since I really don’t drink a whole bottle in a night.  Lots of chocolate on this one.  Others had chocolate in their house and they said it was very good with a 72% chocolate.  My original plan was to make a Farro risotto with asparagus and fava beans since my fava’s are ready to pick.  By 4pm when I still didn’t know where to find Farro, it had become apparent that the dish was to be saved for another day.  Sadly the pairing would have been amazing.  I still might try today to pick up some farro.  Back to the wine.  Tart plums on the front palate which became riper on the back palate.  Chocolate on the finish.  The winemaker, Ian Hongell participated from Australian and the whole thing was part of the thirstygirl project with Leslie Sbrocco.  You may have seen her on the Today show.  Or not. Anywho this Shiraz has a lot of high heat that calms with food.  It’s a lively wine with a lot going on in the glass.  Did I like this one?  You bet Shiraz!

Rode in on the Greyhound, I’ll be walkin’ out if I go

I was going to rant today.  I’ve been on a bit of a roll.  And then I thought “Self, let’s talk about wine.”  After all I have been referred to as a “Wine Blogger” and that moniker has gotten me some amazing access, which I most certainly appreciate.  So the least I could do is to write a little about the juice.

My pals at Pleasant Hill Wine Merchants, who’ve gotten their ass handed to them by this economy but are still fighting on, came up with a good little wine a month or so ago.  This little sweetheart retails for about the same as a sixer and a bag o’ chips.  It’s a Lodi wine, which of course you cannot mention Lodi without me singing, albeit off key.  I have no idea who makes this stuff. Oops!  Hello The Google.  Delicato Family Vineyards.  Funny, they had a highly rated Merlot a number of years ago that was selling for like $6 a bottle. I thought that one was green.

I know it’s named 181 for the clone of Merlot.  It’s a nice little cheapo Merlot that didn’t go see Sideways.  (This is why I can be called a wine blogger).  The 181 is a ballsy Merlot.  Miles would have approved.

It’s got deep dark fruit, vanilla, sultry spices and a nice tannic finish.  All for around $12 a bottle.  I know what you’re thinking and you’re right.  Even your broke ass can afford this one.  And that’s why I’m drinking it.  It’s a wine my broke ass can afford of remarkable quality for the price.  And finding a great underspriced wine is so much better than not drinking.

They also make a 337 Cabernet Sauvignon.  It’s also a cheapo Lodi wine and it’s also of exceptional quality for the price.  I’m not going to lay this bad boy down for 7 or 8 years, but for $11 a bottle, I’m going to stay pleasantly numb.  This one needs a little spin through the Vinturi but after that it’s got a rich balanced attack on the palate.  It’s got a little sweetness on the finish that will trick you, a little like a Zinfandel, but really kind of typical for Lodi wines.  It’s got ripe cherries on the front palate, then it visits a little cedar and vanilla as it finishes with that surprising hint of sweetness.  At $11 a bottle I can drink this one all night every night.

And then last Saturday night I lost my mind and reached into the Wine Dog Cellar and out I came with a 2002 Rombauer Proprietor’s Selection Merlot.  Actually, I’d lost my mind when I decided to leave that or lose that in the cellar for this long.  Rombauer’s style of big fruit forward wines don’t lend themselves normally to long cellaring, not that 9 years is normally considered long.  It’s ions in Rombauer wines.  I got a pleasant surprise.  First, I hadn’t lost it.  It was still alive in spite of most recommendations that it is to be consumed prior to 2010.  I don’t think it had much more life in it, but it was still alive.  It had a lot of high heat that I know it didn’t have back when I bought it in 2004.  It still had nice plums and a hint of vanilla, but had now developed a nice finish that isn’t so typical of Rombauer wines.  I’m glad I opened it, I should have done so about 4 years ago, but it was a nice change up to my steady diet of cheap wine these days.

All I’ve got, I had to steal

The wine industry has no idea what they’re in for.  I know.  I’ve been preaching the gospel to deaf ears.  I will find no solace in a “I told you so”.  Wine will be changed forever and not in a good way.

Wine Enthusiast just awarded Bill Foley Man of the Year.  My personal disappointment in this decision runs so deep it’s palpable. OK the fact that Wine Enthusiast thought that calling him “humble as he is an established leader” makes me want to vomit.

Foley is raiding the wine industry just like he raided Carl’s Jr. way back when and the title industry in the mid 80’s.  Consider this, in the mid 80’s the real estate industry was in the crapper and Foley bought Western Title, the benchmark for title insurance in California at the time.  Then he continued his raiding ways and built Fidelity National Title.  How many thousands of qualified title and escrow professionals are out of work because of his management style?  How many thousands were laid off, stripped of their benefits and then brought back at a third of the salary with no benefits to their old job?  You are all out there.  I know that.  How many times do I have to tell the same goddamn story to the wine industry?  By the time y’all hear me it will be too late.  It makes me sad for California wine.

Three days later Fidelity National Financial announced their earnings.

2010 was a successful year for FNF on a number of fronts. The Title business experienced strong refinance volumes due to the low mortgage interest rate environment, and we continue to closely manage our expense levels, producing our strongest title earnings and pretax margin in a number of years. The fourth quarter was particularly strong, with a 13.8% pretax margin. The strength of our 2010 earnings allowed us to set our annual 2011 common stock dividend at $0.48 or $0.12 per share per quarter based upon a 2011 dividend payout ratio of 30% of 2010 earnings. We remain the largest and most profitable title company in the country and despite a potentially more challenging environment, we are focused on producing strong title insurance earnings in 2011. ~Bill Foley

I bet it doesn’t feel that way for the poor schmucks that are grinding out a living working for that guy.  Not counting the 300 people who are going to lose their jobs, probably right about now.  We all remember that Foley’s compensation went up 171% in 2009.  Wonder what his increase was last year.

Dear Wine Industry, WAKE THE HELL UP!

A girl in trouble is a temporary thing

Miss me?  Yeah, I missed me too.  I’m still missing me.  When everything is all said in done I will have something to say about the largest banking institution in this country.  I promise it will be one of my more blistering commentaries.  And Old Repulsive should duck and cover because they’ve got some culpability in this one too.  For now, I just want my poor client into her new home.  This has been dragging on for 73 days so far.  Last night she lost her mind and became that pissed off drunk.  I jokingly asked her if her boyfriend would be better off staying out here with me and she replied “No, he’s trying to keep me from burning down Berkeley tonight.”  Yeah, it’s time to quit fiddle farting around and close the deal.  She also told me she was going to micromanage the transaction from here on out.  Welcome to my hell.

But a girl in trouble is a temporary thing.  Last December I got a twitter follow from @beathirstygirl.  I had to read it about five times to figure out it said Be A Thirsty Girl.  I thought the website was cool and who doesn’t love their tag line “Life.  Drink it up!”  I’ve been watching them since then and really was pretty jealous I couldn’t go out and play.  They were all over the country but never here.   Actually the founder, Leslie Sbrocco is a regular on the Today Show.  Kind of like a female Gary V only not obnoxious.  (In reality Gary is a good guy, Hi Gary!)  They’ve been on a 30 city tour and now they’re coming to Treasure Island this Thursday night.  Their sponsors, Glorier Ferrer, Matua, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Cambria, LaCrema, Ravenswood and Clos du Bois will be paired with local cheeses, chocolates other other tasty treats.  You can come out and hang with the Wine Dog too.  And various in sundry winos.  I’m a little fired up, I think it’s going to be a fun event.  One of those things that in restrospect you wish you showed up for.  I don’t usually announce where I’m going to be before I get there, (I want the Police to have to do their homework) but in this case, they asked me to.  They invited me and they asked me to tell y’all I was going to be there.  It’s not my nature to follow direction but I do take requests and this one seemed to be a win win.  Here’s the link for the event.  A portion of the proceeds go to Dress for Success, certainly a worthy cause. Apparently there’s a shuttle from the Ferry Building.  I’m a little concerned that the shuttle is a boat. I should probably investigate that.  And look!  No wine from the Burgermeister!  Win!  Drink up girls this one is going to be fun!

All the noise, noise, noISE, NOISE

I was looking for advanced quiet. I wanted to escape the frenzied, masturbatory noise of election season. I had just turned 47 and the Giants were on the cusp of a world series. I decided to take a drive up to Healdsburg (no speeding alleged or actual took place during this day trip).
Lack of disclosure time; No one gives me nothin’! I don’t identify myself as anyone but a vino dilettant. I haven’t been asked to give a qualified accounting and you should probably disregard anything that follows.
I’m happy to report the state of the grape is good. The juice in bottle and juice in the fermenting tanks were all anyone wanted to talk about; that was like a prescription. Fruit in the tank: the 2010 growing season was weirder than the political season. We had a long cool summer and few scares. You’d think that’s good. When I asked the growers in Dry Creek and Russian River how the harvest went, they got all perplexed. They talked about some cluster shatter and they talked about rapid sugar spikes. They talked about the threat of mold and they talked about the threat of dilution (due to the grapes soaking up the rain water). They talked about low, difficult harvest yields. I heard from two different growers that stems had shut down prior to full veraison (veraison is the process where the grapes mature and develop sugar). The stem works like an umbilical cord; it delivers water and energy to the maturing grapes. If the stem shuts down, the grapes start to decay.
Why did I say the state of the grape is good then? Because no one knows what this harvest will be like. No one can remember a growing season like this one. I hope the complexity of the season will be evidenced by the complexity of the resulting wine.
In the bottle; We stopped by Thomas George, Arista, Lambert Bridge, Quivera, Preston of Dry Creek, Ferrari-Carano/ Lazy Creek and Longboard.
Pinot was uneven. The fruit at Thomas George was intense. Great berry, anise, flint all stacked on awesome acid. Arista had some elegant Pinot, too. However, they had a berry bomb of a Zin and a perfectly dry Gewürztraminer. I LOVE dry Gewertz ala Alsace. This one has 0% residual sugar. It blooms as it warms with aromas of lychee, honeysuckle, peach and spice. They made it with the help of Rod Berglund of Jospeh Swan. Rod was the first winemaker that I’m aware of who has successfully taken Gewertz to 0% residual. The fruit was from Anderson Valley, near Booneville. It was a treat (for a real treat, go into Booneville and Philo. Taste the Gewertzs Navarro, Toulouse, Breggo and Handley produce. They’re spectacular).
Lambert Bridge has followed a trend into being a small, expensive producer. They try to sell all of their wines through the tasting room, exclusively. They specialize in Bordeaux blends. Their Sauvignon Blanc wasn’t too hot. It lacked acid and the gooseberry fruit and pungent cat pissyness that I enjoy in SB. They had elegant Cabs, Merlots and Meritage blends. They were aged beautifully. They were soft and complex. They were expensive! They have a 2 year old St. Bernard who looks like a bear skin rug, with a pulse.
Quivera was the stop of the day. They changed ownership a couple of years ago. The new owners have changed wine making staff and I’m here to tell you this is Change you can believe in! They produce Mourvedre, Grenache, Sauv Blan, and many other varietals. The staff was great. The wines are lovely and priced well.
Preston’s LP is gorgeous. It is velvety and full of mature berry. It is a Rhone blend so it features Syrah, Cinsaut, Mourvedre, Carignan, Viognier, Roussanne and maybe some Grenache. Matt, the wine maker did a great job of blending the 08 vintage. Their Zin was great example of Dry Creek zin, too. Not too ripe, great acid and luscious fruit. If you’re up there on a Sunday, they have a 3L jug. Lou pours it out of the barrel and into the jug, while he chats you up (at least as much as Lou chats). The 09 is a very nice mix of red wine. That’s it. You can taste some of the elements of the LP plus a big helping of the zin. It’s $30, so it’s a great value, too (that’s the equivalent of 4 750ml bottles).
Longboard had the best Merlot. Their 08 Dakine Merlot is spectacular. Forget Sideways. This Merlot is worth tasting. It’s soft with good acid and abundance of dark berry.
The drive back over the Golden Gate was highlighted by the Orange erection propped up in the middle of the city. Coit Tower was lit orange in support of the Giants. We went to the base of the tower and snapped some pictures. Even under threatening skies, this was the perfect day to get away close to home.

The Place has Character

In my last post, I was able to introduce you to Oded Shakked of Longboard Vineyards. There are many characters who make the Russian River, Dry Creek and Alexander Valley appellations great. Rod Bergland of Joseph Swan is a francophile wine nerd who is a warm patient teacher. Ask Rod about where a wine is, (in its maturation) or about high alcohol wines or how dry is a dry Gewurztraminer and you’re going to get a lesson that you never saw coming. Rod is married to Lynn. Lynn is Jospeh Swan’s daughter. If you seen Rod and Lynn you’d assume they’re a couple of hippies hangin’ in the wine country. Great folks.
Lou Preston and his wife Susan own Preston of Dry Creek. Lou loves natural processes. He bakes bread (without yeast; wheat and yeast makes beer not bread, according to Lou). He cures his own olives and makes wonderfully pungent olive oil. Lou used to make 20 different varietals and his production must have been around 80K cases. Within the past 10 years he decided to go smaller. He decided to return the land to the way he found it. He found it supporting pigs and cattle and goats and wheat and olives and grapes. He felt the land was in balance when he bought it (and the surrounding farms were owned by generations old Italian families who welcomed him and taught him, sometimes implicitly, how to farm in balance.). Two years ago, when Lou slaughtered his first pig, he wanted to smoke ham, bacon and sausages they made from the pig. Their smoker was much too small. One of the guys, a man from El Salvador (I think) who worked in the vineyard, had the solution. They repurposed an old, wooden outhouse. They cleaned it out and mounted it over a hole stuffed with a stove pipe (pointing up through the crapper). The upturned pipe led to a pit filled with wood that was slowly burning. The smoke flowed without the heat. Beautiful natural process. Lou knows growing nothing but grapes is unbalanced. He did something about it. He grows grapes, olives, wheat, livestock, veggies and roses organically and sustainably. When you talk to him you don’t get a warm feeling. He’s curt, but he’s genuine.
Nicolai at Woodenhead is warm and gracious. Guy Davis of Davis Family Vineyards works his ass off. He harvests grapes in New Zealand, when it gets too dull down on the ranch. Ed Sbragia is regal. He earned his status after crafting some great Cabs at Beringer.
Seghesio Famly Winery is one of my favorites. Rachel Ann Seghesio died last week. She was married to the founder’s son, Pete. Her son, Pete, runs the winery with his cousin, Ted. Rachel Ann was the daughter of a grape grower (Passalaqua). Many of the Italian winemakers had come over to work the Italian Swiss Colony. The colony had a program where the immigrant workers could live cheap and either send the money home or save it. Mr Seghesio saved. He hoped to bring his love, who was still in Italy, to America. By the time he had saved enough the managers at Italian Swiss Colony (yes, the same winery Matthew Perry’s father used to advertise for) convinced him that his one true love has probably given up hope and married someone else. He was convinced to court Angela, a local Italian woman. Angela became Rachel Ann’s mother-in-law. Rachel Ann lived the post prohibition history of wine. If you tasted at Seghesio’s family table, Rachel Ann would come in with samples of her mother-in-law, Angela Seghesio’s, lace work and many family pictures. She would walk you through 60 years of the Dry Creek wine business. Rachel Ann was at all the winery events and she’d greet you by name. She remembered where you were from and she’d ask about the weather or the beach or a favorite dining spot. She was from my parents generation and she loved her parents generation. She loved her grandsons hanging on her hem, too. She is what the mega winery conglomerates (read Foley wine) can never become; a human face in front of a human business. The Seghesios have neighbors; the Raffanelis, the Rochiollis, the Parduccis, the Pedroncellis, the Teldeshis and I’m sure there are others who I’ve forgotten. Rachel Ann will be missed although the tradition of family owned and operated wineries lives in Sonoma County (not so much at Chalk Hill Winery, or Sebastiani winery, however). A little more on Rachel Ann can be found at;
http://www.seghesio.com/
http://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/20101002/ARTICLES/101009872/1033

Everything’s a little clearer in the light of day

I think I’ve mentioned that I turned off my cable at the beginning of the year.  At the time it was a matter of expense.  Cable was expendable.  Since then I’ve found that life is better without cable.  Much better.  I think I’ve also mentioned that I’m working with a business coach, he’s a Buffini coach and they have a certain way of doing things.  When I went down to Monterey to see Brian Buffini he said “Turn off your cable, get rid of it.  If something big happens, somebody will tell you”.  And for the most part I’ve found that to be accurate.  I can watch a lot of stuff online.  Hulu.com is good for that and the big news stations all have their shows online either in real time or moments later.  If something happens that interests me I’ll go take a look.  I listen to NPR in the car and there’s a lot less noise, and no commercials on that station.  If I’m driving and the Giants are on I’ll listen to the game.   I listened to the 9ers game the other day.  I hear there are a few teams in Oakland. 

I hear there’s an election going on.  I just went through Garamendi’s mailer.  Here’s one that matters.  H.R. 5793, the Make It in America Act.  You’d almost think that his people were reading PBE.  Oh yeah, they are!   It closes the nine corporate loopholes that I’ve been complaining about that allowed our jobs to go to…let’s see, where was it?  Oh yeah BANGALORE!   And what the hell is “Customer Delight“?

The key to this economy is getting everyone back to work, but not just back to work as a barista at Starbucks but back to real jobs.  And the real jobs back to the real salary.  Seriously.  We can’t give you a raise or we’ll have to lay you off.  Really?  Why then isn’t Bill Foley out of work?  He got a 171% raise.  You teabaggers want to protest something?  Protest that.  There’s the true injustice in this country.  FNF employees being laid off and then brought back as temporary workers at 30% of their salary with no benefits while Bill Foley buys another winery.  Obama ain’t doing nothing to you clowns but getting you health insurance and a job.  Bill Foley is bending America over a barrel and we’re saying “Thank you sir may I have another”.  Enough is enough with that guy.  Add Chalk Hill to the boycott list -the deal went through.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K6eE3ydPdDc

Good luck getting that out of your head today.

Straightnin’ the curves, Flatnin the hills

Oh my goodness!  Sometimes something happens in the comment section at PBE that I can’t hardly contain myself.  I’m going to quote this one.  It appears here.

I have read this blog on and off for the past 3 years.  I used to work for a Title Co and got laid off in 2007.  Prior to the company I got laid off from I worked for Foley.  My husband has worked in the wine industry for the past 15 years, and has been at the present winery for 5 years.  Two years ago Foley bought the winery were he works.  Now that Foley owns it we have a conversation every Friday night about who Foley fired during the week, who Foley laid off, or which employees got smart and walked out.
One of your first few lines stated that you wonder when the wine industry will find out that Foley is Satan. I guess it will take a while longer as Foley has just been nominated for “Man of the Year” by the Wine Enthusiast. They got it so terribly wrong.  I have lived in a famous wine region for all of my life (hence my name—Old Prune Picker, which is what this valley was made of before grapes). Foley knows nothing about the wine industry…he just likes to flash his money around.
So lets all Boycott anything to do with the “Wine Enthusiast”, their magazine, catalog, wine shop and website.

Word.

For what it’s worth the Chalk Hill sale went through last week.  Just another reason to hate Bill Foley and another wine to boycott.  And maybe a letter writing campaign to Wine Enthusiast.  That might be my little weekend project.  Who’s with me?

I was back up at Horse Jail yesterday.  I thought I got a great video but I didn’t.  After the kids had pony races, which is really a round of red light green light on a pony, the instructors got the kids out of the arena, took the saddles off the ponies and let them run.  And run they did.  Ponies can get up to a gallop in the arena because they’re smaller, the horses can’t.  The ponies ran laps and did jumps and all kinds of cool stuff for the kids.  I really need to read the manual on this phone of mine.  I could have gotten a great video, but I got nuthin’.

I was talking to another guy who was up there.  He’s a friend of the owner who was out of town.  His job was to be an adult and be sure that if a horse got sick the vet got called, be sure the puppy was safe, be sure none of the kids got hurt, crap like that.  That translated into hanging out and bullshitting with me all day.  The discussion started with me complaining that the ticket I got had little to do with traffic enforcement and everything to do with revenue generation.  He agreed and backed it up.  He has a friend who works in the court system who said that the Walnut Creek Police have a quota of five tickets every month they have to hit.  Their traffic commissioner is just running people over in court, just like what happened to me in Concord and they aren’t even allowing community service.  He had a friend who got a safety belt ticket sitting in the Safeway parking lot in a parking space not moving.  He said he saw the silver buckle and that’s how he knew she didn’t have it on.  She did.  He lied.  That’s what we’re up against people.

Don’t know what I want but I know how to get it

The thing about Pleasant Hill Wine Merchants is that they get stuff you can’t find just any where.  And sometimes they bring in a winemaker or an owner.  Occasionally the guy isn’t very interesting but most of the time you get the likes of Michael Keenan, Pam Starr and Billy Grant.  Who?  He’s one of the partners at Four Vines.  Christian Tietje is the winemaker and founder with Susan Mahler.  Basically three of them make this wine.  And they are all outlaws.  And you know I love an Outlaw.

Nice video that tells there story better than I could.  And these guys make great wine.  I could hang out with these guys.  But since Paso is a long haul right now, let’s just drink up at PHWM.

The 2008 Naked Chardonnay is an awesome summer Chardonnay.  You can all say this along with me, not one of those big buttery, oaky California style Chardonnays.  I should probably have an abbreviation for that one.  Maybe “not Cougar crack”.  Yeah, that’ll work.  Stone fruit on the front palate, long finish for a chard with a hint of citrus ending with a nice minerality.  Scallops, they said oysters but I’m not an oyster fan.  So scallops.  Light seafood.  A sunny afternoon.  I love this little wine.

The “Old Vine Cuvee” is their everyday Zin.  If you can call a wine that’s priced this well and tastes this good “everyday”.  Jumping spices on the front end, cherry cola, anise and spice on the finish.  It drops off pretty quickly but at $14 retail this is an everday Zin that will knock your socks off.  The Maverick is a fruit bomb that’s full of high heat.  I thought of sugar plums in the mid palate, the finish has some vanilla toastiness to it.  The Sophisticate is from Sonoma County.  It’s spicy, vanilla-y a little Jolly Rogers in there with a nice velvety finish.  I really liked this one.  The Biker is just what it says it is.  It’s rough and tumble, blackberries, anise, spice, vanilla, it’s rock candy baby! The Dusi Vineyards was full of cherry cola, ripe plums and spices.  They dry farm that vineyard.

Then they have a line that they refer to as their “Freakshow”.  I love a freakshow.  Actually, one time I nicknamed an employee “Freakshow”.  Yeah they tell you that you’re not supposed to do that stuff.  Well, if you’re not an asshole and you do it from a good place in your heart you can get away with it.  And MAD still answers to Mad Dog.  And when Freakshow calls, she says “Hey it’s Freakshow!”  Play to the postive.  That is all.

The Heretic.  The Heretic is a bit of a streetfight.  It’s a Petite Sirah, kind of a pedestrian blend for these guys.  Cream soda and black cherries.  Boysenberries.  Full bodied and meaty.  Anarchy.  They call it an unconventional Rhone.  Syrah, Mourvedre and Zinfandel.  Guys, it’s an Outlaw Rhone.  And the back of the bottle mimics the Sex Pistols album.  Because it wasn’t a CD back then. Hello?  This thing was full of vanilla, had some cigar box and leather on the back end and was just ridiculous.  Was it an Outlaw?  A punk rock wine?  Or Anarchy in a bottle.

The Dusi was full of vanilla coke and black cherry ice cream.  It’s the sort of Zinfandel you pair with Cuban or Cajun food.  It’ll take the heat off and finish off the complexity of that sort of food beautifully.  The Loco is a Tempranillo from Templeton.  There was a young lady from France….  High heat for a Tempranillo but I had some that had been opened for longer and it had calmed down.  This one is going to need a Vinturi or a Wine Soiree or something, maybe time in the bottle.  She’s just fighting to get out.  She’s loco.  Big with dark fruit, a long finish.   This one is one to lay down for a few years and revisit once she quits fighting with the bottle.  They follow that up with the Peasant.  This is a traditional Rhone GSM blend.  It’s smokey and earthy.  It’s the kind of wine that you want to sit down grilled steak and mushrooms.  A little licorice sneaking in on the nice finish.  And whenever there are peasants, there’s Monarchy.  This is a well structured, well balanced wine that was a lot less of an angry mob than most of their offerings.  This one is sexy and smooth.  Smooth as silk with beautiful mouthfeel.  51% Petit Verdot.  Really a special wine.  The Phoenix was cream soda and black cherries all around.  This one had great structure and I would like to revisit it next year.  Because that’s how I think.  Billy talked about how wine was a living organism.  I’ve heard a couple of wine folks give their spin on that concept.  But really it is and it changes.  It changes from when the bottle is opened until it goes into the glass, be that 5 seconds or two hours or the day after.  And some wines need more opening up time.  Because they’re living organisms.  They ended the night with their Zinfandel Port.  I am not allowed to ever purchase a bottle of this stuff.  It was straight up coconut. I’ve never had a port that had this much coconut in it.  It was silky and had a little caramel, certainly some dark chocolate and all coconut.  We all know how much I love coconut.  Yeah, you could probably roll cat crap in coconut and I’d eat it.  I love coconut that much.  That much love in a bottle that finishes with a lingering coconut?  I’d drink the whole thing and have to cut my head off the next morning.  But for you normal people, it’s a really fun port.

Two quick postscripts.

p.s. If you can and haven’t supported Ike, click on the I Like Ike tab above, it’ll tell you all you need to know.  And thank you.

p.s.s.  Don’t you read this kind of wine post and wonder why PBE is consistently snubbed by the WBC?  Me too.