See the smoke, start to shiver

Some days, it’s just great to be the Wine Dog. Today was one of those days. An offer went out two days ago to come to Hahn Family Wines to watch their falcons work. Say what? Thanks Philip! Yep, they are a biodynamic, green, blah blah blah you know the drill farm and they manage the vineyards, with among other things, a company of trained falcons. Now if they’d been using trained falcons up at the Pinnacles there wouldn’t have been a fire today.


The big problem is starlings. Apparently in the bird world, they’re kind of smart. So setting off explosives to deal with them will work in the short term. Or burn up the mountain if you screw it up. The falcons fly sorties over the vineyards several times a day. These bird actually have to be kept in shape, as they are in captivity. It’s like a work out for them. When they came back in they were actually panting. They respond to a whistle and a lure. When they come back they hit the lure and are rewarded with bits of dead things.




The first one is Webster soaring with the starlings, who wish he’d just go away, the second is Webster coming in to hit the lure and the third is Webster getting is dinner of dead goodness.

How awesome was that? Yeah, it was really cool in person. The local news gal was there doing a story and spent a lot of film interviewing Jim the Falcon Dude. He was smart, funny and just awesome to hang out with. Then she got to play falconer.


Basically, Webster is saying “Screw up that line one more time and you’re dinner”. She was really nervous when Jim first handed Webster to her, but once she relaxed, he relaxed. It was a trip to watch the bird just settle down with her. I suppose knowing he was about to get to eat something dead probably helped.


If you look closely at these grapes you can see the ones that the starlings got. They go in and take the seed and leave the fruit to mold on the bunch. It can destroy a whole row. Today I learned that Yellow Jackets actually have a place in the ecosystem. They eat the berry so the bunch doesn’t rot. Pretty cool eh? See the bee up in the upper right hand corner? That’s a real bee not a Yellow Jacket, but he gets to co-exist peacefully in Hahn’s biodynamic operation. They just got their “Green” certification too. And we all know that I think the best wine begins in the field.

We had lunch with Andy and Paul, their Vineyard Manager and Winemaker respectively. Great guys. Really great guys. Paul got to talking about smoke taint and veg. Veg is that green pepper or green olive kind of fore palate you get in wine. I hate it. Paul hates it too. I love Paul for hating veg.


He took us around the vineyard on an ATV, because he can. Actually he was pointing out where he’d like to have hiking trails and mountain bike trails at the vineyards. See? You like Paul too. He picked some Merlot grapes from one of the blocks and we could taste the green pepper in the berries right off of the vine. Very interesting. I didn’t know that was a mistake that happened in the field. I assume mistake because who wants to make wine that tastes like green peppers? Anyway after our ATV adventure we went back to his hovel where he makes wine and he let us taste a lot that had smoke taint. Holy crap! This one had like the lowest measurable level there was and the finish was like drinking wet cigarette ashes. Really amazing. Paul has a great dog named Parker. Of course he does. He and Parker discuss the options and solutions to smoke taint.


Really, I think Parker and Bubba were separated at birth. Thoughts?


When the fireflies are dancing and the moon comes out

We all know I love Chappellet’s wines.  Chappellet is actually the reason I got in to wine.  When I was down in Santa Barbara working diligently at misspending my youth, I used to go to a liquor store by my house.  They were a lot more than a liquor store though.  I can’t remember the name of the place and I googled and it’s not there any more.  It was on Chapala right around Carrillo or Canon Perdido.  They had an amazing selection of beer and wine.  The wine was in a temperature controlled room.  I knew a lot about beer but I didn’t know shit about wine.  It was the early 80’s and there was no  internet for me to google something and figure it out.  So I’d walk into the temperature controlled room and just look at stuff and end up buying a six pack of some Dutch or Belgian beer.  (My favorite was a Belgian brew called “Brand”.  It came in white bottles, but I digress)  Once a week the San Francisco Chronicle (which beat the crap out of reading the LA Times) did a wine page or section, can’t remember which.  Nowadays it’s a section but it might not have been that much back then.  I started reading it at lunch which I normally spent at Andersen’s Bakery on State Street, having a sandwich reading the paper.  Then I started looking for the wines they were talking about and seeing if I could figure out what they were talking about. 


I remember the first one I found was the Freemark Abbey Edelwein.  It was the 1976 vintage.  Back then they made it in a 750ml.  Nobody puts a wine like that in a 750ml these days.  It’s been years since Freemark Abbey put theirs in a 750ml.  It wasn’t cheap but on a pay day I bought a bottle of it.  It was everything they said it was.  I could taste the peach and the honey.  I had no idea what to do with it besides just drink it, but I’d learned something.  Later I learned that it was a dessert wine and that’s what you did with it, but that was later.  Another time they did an article about the up and coming women in the Napa Valley.  Women in wine.  That sounded very interesting to me.  The woman they were spotlighting was Cathy Corison.  At the time she was the winemaker at Chappellet.  I kept that information and once back in Northern California I tracked down Chappellet and made an appointment for a tasting.   Until recently Chappellet has had a lot of rules for doing a tasting up there.  Only recently have they had weekend tastings.  You still can’t just drop in, but that’s actually ok with me.  On the day of the tasting, I wound my way up their hill and parked. Their facility really hasn’t changed much since 1987.  They still do tastings where they store the barrels.  I’ve spent a lot more time up there recently, but it hasn’t changed at all.  I walked away with a 1984 Signature Cab.  I think I paid a whopping $22 for it.  They said I could hold it for 20 years or more.  I held it for just around 20 years.  One day I was googling around and put in Chappellet 1984 Signature Cab.  They were selling on the internet for $220 per bottle.  I drank it that year.   (good thing, the value has dropped considerably, I assume it’s in the winter of its wine life)  And through all of these years, I have remained a fan of Chappellet and Freemark Abbey.

Saturday night I opened a 2006 Chappellet Zinfandel with dinner.  Phillip Titus is the winemaker there now.  He worked with Cathy Corison and took over when she moved on.  For the most part, the style of their wine remains unchanged.  There is a little something in some of their wines that I don’t get.  The Zinfandel is one of them.  They get a lot of high heat.  They totally need food to calm them down and a lot of air.  Over time this disperses but the newer wines will sometimes knock you over as if you were sniffing brandy.  You can’t even tell what’s on the nose because it’s so hot.  On Saturday it had a lot of jammy fruit and pepper on the palate, but it really needed the food to calm it down.  Last night, I went for the leftovers.  I found something completely different in the glass.  The high heat had mellowed, there was a weird banana essence on the nose, I figured it was still going to be too hot.  Wrong.  The fruit came out boldly with black cherries and ripe plums.  There was an essence of mocha in the mid palate and it had a nice peppery finish.  They say that wine is alive and this Zinfandel was Exhibit A for that argument.  I think held for a few years it’s going to be a great one.  If you’re going to drink it now it needs a little special handling but with the correct care, it’s a damn good Zin.

We’re all humanary stew

How about a little photojournalism? Glad you asked. Today amongst about 75 other things I did, I headed out to Oakley to pick up some river rock from one of my clients. I have two more loads to get. I load until my truck gets down on it’s springs and thats that. Well today I went to the dump first just to drop off a couple of things. They used to charge by weight. Now there’s a minimum charge of $22. I had a chair and a medicine cabinet. Both were brought over here by somebody else who left them here thinking that I wanted them. I didn’t. I sure as hell wasn’t going to spend $22 getting them out of here. So off I went looking for an opportunity at a dumpster. I was in Pittsburg and those guys know better. I considered stopping by a house that I knew wasn’t trashed out but that’s really border line so I didn’t do that either. I decided to put the medicine cabinet inside the cab of the truck and the chair on top of the river rocks and just break the stuff down and put it in the trash when I got home. Traffic was stopped on the 4, (what a surprise) so I stayed on surface streets. I looked up and there was the 19th Hole. For those of you in the know, next to the 19th Hole is Duane’s Meats. Duane’s is well known on the raw dog food circuit. He’s got the best deal on bones. And a dumpster that’s locked. I got 10 pounds of bones for the Hellhoundz and headed to Oakley to get my river rocks.



They were a big hit to say the least. Rita is still entertained. Bubba is asleep in the doorway. Life is good. I head out to Oakley, pull the chair out of the back of the truck and put the medicine cabinet inside the cab of the truck. My client and I loaded up the truck until it was down on the springs and I headed back to Concord. Upon my arrival, I moved some cars around and started unloading the rocks. By now my back is toast so I’m moving pretty slowly. I’m doing other tasks in between to keep my lower back from freezing up on me. I take the chair out of the truck and disassemble it and put its parts in the trash. I go and get the medicine cabinet out of the truck and start disassembling it. I take off the lower hinged door. I take off the two front doors. I unscrew the front from the back but it won’t come off. So I turn it over and this is what I found.


This is the first one I have seen at this property. There are 19 trees on this property. I’m not an idiot. I know there are thousands of them here. I know there are probably brown recluses too. I found a tarantula at my last house. There are tons of wolf spiders here. Those guys travel in pairs across the living room floor. Still in two years this is the first one of these I’ve run across. More over, this morning when I read this article on Claycord, I prayed this didn’t affect my area. Dammit.

And for those of you who have been asking, last week I went back to the vet. She was perplexed that Rita was still leaking too. Quite honestly, her condition is one that is ALWAYS cured by acupuncture, so I was shocked that she wasn’t responding. The vet gave her a prescription for Cystolamine and things have been wonderfully dry around here. It should not be working but it is and that’s good enough for me.

Hands in their pockets feelin’ cheated


Good thing the Evil Empire is keeping quality staff onboard. Not so much. Wonder if she’s still the Manager of the Bellevue, Washington office…And the creditors in the Ted’s Excellent Title Adventure bankruptcy case want to cut the attorney’s fees. I’m sure it’s a very complicated case that requires hours of really smart guys pouring over it but check it:

The creditors question requests for more than $3.8 million in fees and expenses from four law firms and one financial advising company for work done from March 1 to May 31, according to court documents. Two of the firms — McGuireWoods and Tavenner & Beran — are from Richmond.

Nice work if you can get it. On the upside, the IRS is exploring methods for “providing relief” to the customers of the LandAmerica 1031 Exchange Services, Inc. Apparently some members of Congress have gotten involved and asked the Treasury Department to see what can be done. Their shit has been tied up in bankruptcy over 180 days and that’s not going to look good on next years return. With all this legal wrangling going on, you’ll be pleased to know that the former top legal dog at LandAmerica (also known as the assklown that put all this shit together that ultimately ripped off all those consumers) has taken a job at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. Fox. Hen house. Nice work if you can get it.

And back over at the Evil Empire, net income last quarter was $91.9 million! At what point do they stop beating their remaining staff like a bunch of bad dogs and start rehiring some of the laid off staff so they can at least service the business they have? And at what point do they start restoring the deeply cut salaries of the staff who weathered all this bullshit out? Yeah, I’m watching you.

Speaking of the Evil Empire, once again I’m being forced over there on an escrow. This time my client asked me to check rates with other companies. My deal (if it goes) is a little piddley POS condo. No one, including the buyer gives a shit about this thing. Fees at the Evil Empire where we will be forced are $1500. Fees for the exact same product from Old Repulsive? $1100. Think this is going to be a class action eventually? You betcha. One of these days some high end attorney who knows what he or she is doing is going to pick up an REO and look at the addendums and say WTF? And then the fit is going to hit the Shan.

Throughout the Coconut Telegraph we’re hearing there’s another moratorium on foreclosures. Right now the market is stupid tight and everything is getting bid up. If the banks artificially slow up this market, what does that do to the next market? Exactly. How did I manage to figure this out with my high school education and all those Harvard MBA’s can’t get this right?

File this one under “When smart people do stupid shit”

Or stupid is as stupid does. I was out working in the yard Wednesday night. Moving river rocks and clearing the front yard for the onslaught of Hispanic day workers who I will bring in over the weekend to clear the weeds and maybe even break up the walk way in preparation for making my house look less like a foreclosure house and more like it belongs in the neighborhood. I discovered there was no cold beer so I threw on in the fridge and one in the freezer. I cleared several wheelbarrows full of rocks and then got stupid. Apparently I didn’t want a beer any more. And forgot I had put one on rapid chill. Fast forward to last night. I put on my boots to go clear some rocks and then a lightbulb went on in my head.


And finally, because we haven’t done this one in a while, may I present to you, The Google Keywords of the Weak Week.

lambros gianos (what?)

foley wine group (yeah the boycott is still on)

alliance title company california (at least someone still remembers)

cocaine enraged bunnies (ok this is funny but I don’t know how that all went together)

german candy that looks like a butt with ears (this might be my all time favorite)

fatco the hungry bear

deformed ballet bunny (that’s up there with the Donnie Darko bunny)

Whew!  That’s like an adventure through the Looking Glass with Alice.  And Grace Slick.  In 1969.

[youtube s2XFA7MU9jg]

Ahhh, the 80’s.

One last chance to be your clown

A Rosé by any other name


The Rosé Avengers must love my ass.  Ever since I got a taste of that I’M Rosé up at Folio Winemakers Studio I have been an avenger on my own.  That was a year or so ago.  The rest of the world is catching up to me.  And Isabel.  I had dinner with a friend last week at Prima’s in Walnut Creek. That’s one of the places on the Tour.  Prima’s, Lark Creek, Va da vi, Metro in Lafayette, Patrick David’s in Danville and occasionally Bing’s.   The economy has greatly curtailed The Tour, but every now and then I get out.  I had dinner with an old friend.  Prima’s has a tasting menu where they pour three “tastes” based on a theme.  I went with the pink theme.  There was a Charles & Charles, a Chateau Somethingorother and a Rosato.  Unfortunately, I can’t find my notes.  I do know the Charles & Charles was way too light and really not a lot going on for me. A little too delicate, a little too light, at least it was dry.  The French one was better.  A nose full of minerals, but nice forward and back palate on it.  The essence of honeydew without the sweetness.  Definitely a good one, I just can’t remember the name, or find my notes.  I’ve got nothing on the Italian except it was the meatiest of the three.  After that I asked the waiter to bring me an interesting Cab in a glass.  My dinner was gnocchi with sausage and clams.  I probably should have gone with a Super Tuscan, but the food hadn’t arrived yet.  So the guy brings out the most expensive by the glass Cab on the menu.  It was the Veraison Stagecoach at $22 a glass.  Dude, any moron could have done that.  I said interesting.  It was way too tight, never did open up, and the food didn’t calm it down.  I don’t know how Wine Spectator gave it a 93.  Ultimately, I think it will settle into a pretty nice elegant wine, but it was way too early to drink that glass he brought to my table at $22 a glass.  Not to mention you can get the whole bottle for $55 at KL Wines.  Fail boys.  Still, I love seeing my friend, the poor woman gave birth to the child that I should have had and now she has to raise her.  That makes me laugh.

Saturday the Tour of Bad Ideas continued.  We pick up with our heroines on the Drink, Drank, Drunk leg of the Tour of Bad Ideas.  First stop, Clos Pegase for their barrel tasting event.  On one hand I’m glad I’m a club member and didn’t have to pay.  On the other hand, that 2008 Pegaso is going to be off the hook.  The charge for non-members was $25 which really seemed like a lot to me.  Granted I’ve been down in their caves numerous times, but it seemed to me there should have been a better lay out of food and pairings or something with that sort of charge.  Maybe that’s just me.  As usual, their wines are amazing, but I’m noticing the charges are remaining the same for these events and the spreads are being dialed back considerably.

Next stop, Corison.  Whoops!  I mean next stop Cuvaison.  The Tour of Bad Ideas soldiers on.  They changed out there tasting room since last time I’d been there.  I really like the new lay out.  Generally, table service pisses me off, but Cuvaison got it right.  A very nice young man named Travis helped us out.  Things got off on the wrong foot when he tried to tell us his last name was “Tritt” and went downhill from there.  We had an awesome time!  Because I was rolling with The Somm we got the industry treatment.  It’s about the experience and Travis brought it home nicely.  My favorite was the Brandlin Cab.  It was a complex, yet elegant offering.  I got plums and black cherries  and spice on the forward palate and a nice cocoa maybe even a touch of mocha on the finish.  The tannins were nicely muted.  This wine is going to develop beautifully over time.  The other one I liked, which is subjective because really there wasn’t a bad wine in there.  They’re having a Go Big Red event with I think 30% off of their reds right now.  Anyway the other one was the Block F5 Pinot.  This was also a pretty complex wine, full of cherries and berries.  A slight strawberry on the nose and some nice spice on the finish.  Really a lot meatier than most Pinots.

Now off to Corison.  Whoops!  The Tour of Bad Ideas continues on to Benessere.  This is one of my favorite Secret Squirrel wineries.  Kini the world’s greatest wine dog lives there.  She’s a Newfie.  Big as a friggin’ couch.  Eric, a retired tech guy who’s got his Somm creds of his own was our pourer.  Once again, it’s about the experience and we truly enjoyed our conversations about wine, food, the industry and Quick Draw McGraw with Eric.  We may have solved one of the great wonderments of my world, but I’m not sure.  Remember the dog that was given a biscuit and would fly up in the air hugging himself going “mmmm, mmmmm, MMMMMM!” when given a biscuit?  Was it Precious from Adam Ant?  Or another one?  I’ve been all over youtube trying to find that.  It might have something to do with Quick Draw McGraw (and yesterday’s jackassery).  Anywho, I am a huge fan of Benessere’s BK Collins Old Vine Zin.  That’s why we went.  I taught the Somm something on Saturday and that’s unusual.  The Phenomenon is a great offering as well, but since this economic condition is a little hinky, I stick to the under $50 wines.  At least until I get stupid.  More on that later.


Now on to Corison.  Except it’s 4:20 and they close at 5pm.  Yep, we’re going to be the assholes that show up at 4:45.  Tasting room staff hate the late in the day visitors.  They tend to be drunk and obnoxious.  You can tell, the staff cannot hide their distain.  The sad truth is that the Som and me are obnoxious when we’re sober.  We actually become somewhat endearing if we’re drinking.  But the truth of the matter was that we were taking it easy and we were not too bad.  And we were on a mission to get some of that Corazon dammit.  The tasting room staff were gracious with us, and even rolled with us.  We walked out with four bottles of the 2007 Corazon Rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon, one Cab Franc and a Cabernet Sauvignon, because on the last stop of the Tour of Bad Ideas, the under $50 rule is out the window.   That Corazon Rosé is a great little Rosé.  Since I’m trying to reduce my personal footprint, I’ve been on a salmon kick and it’s going to be perfect with grilled salmon.  By the time I actually lose this 50 pounds I will have wiped out an entire species of salmon.  I should just become a Rosé Avenger.  I’m more than doing my part this year.  I also came home with a bottle of the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon.  I can’t help myself.  The wine she makes is the wine I love.  It’s been that way since she was making wine at Chapellet.  I still love Chapellet, but my heart is with the Corison Cab.  It’s got a lot of fruit on the palate, but it’s subtle and doesn’t knock you upside the head like a lot of other high end cabs.  Nice spice on the back palate and an elegant finish.  Her Kronos is the big boy of her line, but that one was a little tight for me.  I suspect it will develop very nicely over time, I just have a full wine cellar and a case and a half on the floor next to it so finding a place to store a $125 Cab didn’t make sense, even after a day of tasting with the Somm.  That’s how you know were weren’t drunk, just obnoxious.

I know, I know you probably scream and cry

If you miss the comment section at PBE, sometimes you miss a lot. You’d be missing OTG and Titleslug and my pal Skippity-Do-Dah. And a lot of other folks with interesting input. Lucky for y’all, I read the comment section and sometimes a gentle reader has a question or concern. I suspect this is from a State other than California so I’m not sure of the actual terms and the law around it. That being said, here’s the question:

On the current thing with titles and foreclosure -it is o.k. for the title company to go from foreclosure notice to 3-day-move notice? I thought there was a 7 or 10 day thing required in between, but I just got an emergency phone call to come help a friend-of-friend move, after notice was received at 5PM last night. Something smells here.

If this property was in California and the notice was that the property had been foreclosed upon and the bank now owned it, it’s possible for them to immediately file a 3 day notice to quit. Except there’s a new law in effect enacted by Congress and under this law tenants have 90 days through out the country. That being said, I’m not sure how a previously lawful 3 day notice to quit plays in to the whole thing. I got a long email from my broker about it on Friday that I haven’t had time to read yet. So the two questions I have are which State is the property located in and with that information does anyone else have a good answer?

My Tour of the Napa Valley

As usual, in a fit of absolute stupidity, I sabotaged part of my ride yesterday. I carpooled to the ride with a bunch of triathletes. I am not a triathlete. I am not a competitive cyclist. I’m a Clydesdale with a bike. They were riding a Century. They assured me that they weren’t going to race it, they were all tired from other activities and they would take it easy. So like a jackass, I listened to them and made a right to the Century course rather than heading to the left and the Metric course. Taking it easy for a bunch of triathletes is probably 3-4mph faster than my normal pace. Over a sustained period of time, not good for the Wine Dog. What we did wasn’t that bad, a lousy 2000 feet of climbing. I do that every single week. I just don’t do it at that pace. Or after riding 10 miles out of my comfort zone. I spent the first 45 miles of the day pushing it a lot harder than I should have been. They promised not to drop me so they spent a lot of time easing way off of it or waiting at a hill crest. Not a comfortable way to spend your day, pushing too hard so your friends wouldn’t have to wait for you. Or in their case standing around while the sun baked the valley waiting on me. The other thing that happens when you ride that far out of your own zone is that you forget to eat and drink. I came home with 2 unopened packs of Shotbloks, three PowerBars and a full untouched container of gel. I didn’t finish the Accelerade and only drank 3 bottles of water. I couldn’t have made it up the second hill, there wasn’t enough fuel in me. After Mt. Veeder they got up way ahead of me and I missed the turn and almost road Mt. Veeder twice! My phone was blowing up so I stopped and finally answered it.

Where are you?
Let me check my iPhone
Redwood Road.
I don’t know where that is.
Where are you?
At the rest stop
Where’s that?
Off of Trower Road
I remember seeing Trower Road, this isn’t good.

Sorry, Eagle Cyclists, you did a shitty job of marking the route. All of us missed a second turn later in the day. They swore it got to 100º yesterday, but it didn’t, it really just hit the low 90’s. At 45 miles, we were about to head up Sage Canyon to Pope Valley and ultimately Angwin, Athena Springs the turnaround. It was another 2000 feet of climbing that looked just like the first 2000 feet of climbing with the tasteful addition of the Ink Grade which I knew was a soul crusher. My original plan was 65 miles, that’s what I’d trained for and I decided not to do the second 2000 feet or additional 35 miles. Smart move. As it turns out it was the quickest 65 miles I’ve ever turned and I’m sure there’s some benefit to spending 45 miles out of your comfort zone. I put that bad boy away in 4:56 with an average cadence of 74. I don’t have the other stats because one of the screw ups yesterday was grabbing the wrong chest strap so I rode without my heart meter.