Sunday, December 8, 2013

Simple Winemaker's Dinner Recipe: Filet Mignon, Potatoes, Tomatoes, Asparagas

Filet Mignon, Medium Rare. Pair it
with Blue-Merle Winery "Merleatage."
I have been serving this meal since I graduated from high school. Easy enough for a young bachelor to make. The first occasion was a slide show for my friends after my first trip to Europe. The recipe is a filet mignon - Béarnaise sauce optional - a potato dish, asparagus and a tomato dish.

Start with the potatoes. Peel them then slice. Slice an onion and place on top of potatoes in a cooking pan and add beef bouillon. Cook until done. Then, sprinkle Gruyere Cheese on top.

The tomato dish is also simple. Start with large beefsteak tomatoes. Slice in half, add a pat of butter on top of each tomato-half and drizzle with olive oil. Dash with dill if available. Cook until tender. Salt and pepper to taste. I would now recommend Hawaii Kai natural sea salt. A sprig of parsley. Ready.

The easy way for me to prepare asparagus is to place in pan, dash with olive oil, and then a bit of water. This will steam / boil the asparagus slightly to soften it up - then finish sautéing in olive oil, and if you're feeling decadent some butter. I love to finish off this dish with fresh lemon juice - which we have the luxury of picking from our orchard - and of course a little Hawaiian sea salt.

The fastest to cook of these dishes is the filet. I set the oven to broil. Place the filets on aluminum foil. Drizzle with oil. And place under the broiler. Cooking time will depend on the thickness of the filets and how you prefer them. For us, medium rare, sanglante. When finished, sprinkle a little Hawaii Kai sea salt on top.

Back in the day when I first made this meal I was a French wine aficionado, and would have served a Bordeaux. The most versatile wine we have for this meal is our 2009 "Merleatage," a blend of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Petite Sirah - in equal amounts - and then some Cab and a touch of Tempranillo to spice. The food brings out the fruit in the wine, which is easy to drink and has a nice structure, tannins and spice. The Petit Verdot provides a floral nose.

Writing this is making me hungry. Bon appetite!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Always Be Writing Your Next Love Letter

This week is Papa Jack's birthday. I suppose he would have been 90. Jack McGinn was born in Savannah and after The War settled in North Carolina. He was a member of "the greatest generation" and defined it. He was a war hero. He was my hero. He and his family were our neighbors when we moved to Greensboro, NC and after our family moved to Connecticut we stayed in touch. When I moved back to North Carolina to attend college, Jack and Marjorie became my 2nd parents.  Papa Jacked passed away on Christmas Day, 2011. Although the Roman Catholic Church may not agree with this statement, he is my "Godfather," and he took me to mass every Saturday evening when I was in town. You would have loved him.

We attended his grand-daughter's wedding in May of this year, and his son Tommy shared Papa Jack's advice about maintaining a long, healthy marriage.  It was simple, powerful and true:

 "Always be writing your next love letter."

I'll be raising a glass of Jack Daniels this week toasting the memory of Papa Jack.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

How Do You Get A Rattlesnake Out of the Birdnet?

Snake caught in bird netting to
protect grapevines.
Neighbor Merlot Mike gave us the dormant vine cutting 7 years ago. We planted that stick as the cornerstone to our vineyard along the fence at the edge of our property and it’s now the largest vine in the vineyard and the Vineyardista asked me not to trim the vine this year because I broke her heart last year when I cut it back so we could use the gate door of the back fence.  The vine stretches over ten feet along the chain links and is loaded with Merlot clusters.

A Southern Pacific Rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus helleri) became tangled in bird netting under the mother-lode vine at the corner of our property and the snake seems about as long as the vine.  There is always a serpent in the Garden of Eden. Always.

How do you remove a live rattlesnake from bird netting without a shotgun, 22 or shovel? Death was not an option. “Don’t kill it,” the Vineyardista pleaded. “The last time you killed a snake the princess became ill.”  Is not killing the rattlesnake you captured like pissing into the wind? After you let it go, what are the odds that it will come back to bite you (or worse, your dog)?

First,  I loosened  the net from where it was caught at the bottom of the fence, to Ms. Snake’s hissing and rattling. I could see a way to cut the net to free her, but it became clear she was tangled and would not be able to wriggle free. So, I called the SnakeBusters, aka our neighbor Steve who is something of a herpetologist with a naturalist’s respect for God’s great creatures, among which he includes snakes. When Steve arrived with a hoe this is what we did:

Releasing Tangled Rattlesnake From Bird Netting
1.       Cut netting around snake.
2.       Before cutting the final strands of net, Steve attempted to pin the snake’s head to the earth, so we could trim the net closer to the body. As the snake was on a steep slope of decomposed granite, traction was poor, and there was a chance Steve –could slip and fall onto the snake. (This California SnakeBuster works in sandals.)
3.       We cut the snake free of the snags and she crawled to lower ground.
4.       Steve climbed around the vines to level ground, met the snake, picked it up with his hoe and brought her to the dirt road by our shed. (Nothing like carrying a snake along a thin, steep path of grapevines. He could have easily slipped.)
Snake on ice.
5.       With Steve pinning the snake’s head down, we cut more of the net from the body.  Up close, we could see she was still tangled in net and potentially constricted.
6.       With darkness falling, we decided to bring the snake to the animal shelter in the morning, where they had the proper gear to take care of her.
7.       I picked out a wine fermenter (aka, 24 gallon Brute container). Steve lifted the snake into the container, and we put on a lid – leaving a crack for air. (Hint: Don’t knock over a  Brute container at your neighbor’s house in the country at night because you never know what’s inside.)
8.       In the morning, I checked on Ms. Snake. She was quite “genki” and still very pissed. I pulled the container to a shady area and she rattled at me.
9.       Back at the house, I tweeted and called the wild animal rescue shelter. I never got through.  Not seeing anything on their website about snake rescue, Steve and I discussed plan B.
1.   This was plan B, which in hindsight should have been plan A.
1.   After work, I bought two 10 lbs. bags of ice at the Deli.
1.   Got home, and carefully poured the crushed ice into the container. The first bag covered most of her. The 2nd bag covered her completely. The snake was iced at 6:30 pm
1.   At 8 pm, Steve came over with his hoe (his favorite snake tool).
1.   We dumped the container, with the snake emerging on the top of the ice.  She was moving slowly, but I would say not immobile by any means. Ideally, she would have been on ice a few hours. Instead, it was 90 minutes.  Still, she was moving much more slowly than the day before.
Southern Pacific Rattlesnake on Ice.
1.   Steve pinned the head down and I started cutting the net, which was flush against the skin at the tangled part. I apply enough pressure to get the blade under the net, without slicing the skin and wounding the snake. As I’ve had experience cutting out birds tangled in net, I feel I have the skill to do this.   I’m having trouble reaching the other end of the snake so with one hand on the hoe Steve grabs the other pair of scissors and we’re both cutting away. At last, Ms. Snake is net free, and she poses for a photo on ice.  Steve picks her up with the hoe and puts her back into the Brute container and advises, “He’s too cold to let go tonight. Some predator or coyote will get him when he’s all cold like that.  Let him thaw out overnight in the container and release him in the morning.”  We put the top over the container and pull her back.
1.   Steve calls Ms. Snake “him” but I’ve had experience with 1,000 year old cultivated snakes in China and I know that this is a snake princess from the Middle Kingdom who is seeking her revenge on me.
Steve manages the snake with his hoe.
1.   In the morning, I carry the container down to the open space canyon adjacent to our property, kick it over and out comes Ms. Snake, angry as ever. When I’ve let smaller snakes go in the past, they quickly scurry away, but Ms. Snake just sits there. I take “our favorite tool” (a stick we use to hang bird neck) and prod her down the hill as she rattles at me. I tell her the same thing I tell the birds I free from the nets: “Don’t come back.”

A friend asked me, “How long is she?”  Answer: “I don’t know – we were too busy to measure.” And we still didn’t measure her the 2nd day.  I would say she was big enough and she commanded our respect. Steve called her a beautiful specimen.

In hindsight, plan B would have been a good plan A. After we had trapped the snake the first night, that would have been the time to put her on ice (making sure there wasn’t so much ice she would drown when it melted) and to ice her “overnight.” A few more extra hours of cooling would have made her a bit easier to handle. 

Born Free.
In the back of my mind during this adventure is the story of the Texan who caught a snake during a rattlesnake round up and put it into his freezer.  He took it out several months later (presumably to cook) and when it thawed it bit him.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

How Do You Train A Dog To Sniff Out Scorpions In The House?

What's the best how to train your dog to search and destroy scorpions in the house? The princess says she found one in her bed this morning. A new twist on the tale of "A Pea And The Princess." How did our daughter manage to wake up with a scorpion in her pajamas and not get stung? Welcome to country living. I think she's ready to move to downtown San Francisco.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

"The Dogfather" Part I

Scene from "The Dogfather"
In scene 3 of "The Dogfather" Part I, Bluey (aka, Dogfather) discovers a bird of his flock has turned stool pigeon and is embezzling from the Family's property (grapes from the vineyard). Before the bird sings like a canary to bring in the Feds to investigate The Bootlegger's Express, Dogfather orders the hit. After the deed is done, Bluey utters these lines in the studio released version of the film: "Leave the nets. Take the cannoli." In the Director's cut, soon to be released on DVD, the Dogfather says: "Leave the bird. Take the grapes."

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Say Hey To The 2011 Wines: It Was A Pretty Damn Good Year After All!

The Blue-Merle label features
a photo of the Cellar Master.
Blue-Merle Winery, a San Diego County ultra-boutique winery with production of 200 cases per year, has released three 2011 estate wines: a Tempranillo; a Petite Sirah, and a "Four Friends" blend of Grenache (50%), Tempranillo, Petite Sirah and a bit of Carignan. "They are all my favorite," said Craig Justice, Blue-Merle Winery's winemaker. "It's a good thing we produced a barrel of each wine - it would take me almost 3 years to drink them all at the rate of a bottle a day. This means there will be wine available for the public."

We featured the 2011 wines Saturday at the annual "San Diego County Wine Festival" a wine tasting event where over 20 San Diego wineries poured. Judging by the number of people who came back for 2nds and 3rds who said "Your wines are my favorite!" and "May I have a double?" and "May I hug you?" I would say the initial reaction has been favorable. (Attendees were limited to 12 tastes of the 50 or so wines available.)

The Cellar Master keeps watch over
Tempranillo grapes during veraison.
"I'm amazed they taste this good," said Jim K., wine manager of Escondido's Holiday Wine Center, referring to the young age of the wine.  His favorite (and that of his staff) is the "Four Friends" Grenache-blend which was aged in a new, hybrid American-French oak barrel, giving it stronger oak finish than the other wines, with hints of caramel and smoke.  The other two wines were aged in French oak barrels, so the oak flavors are lighter and more subtle (a style preferred by the winemaker).

Kelly Jones, the New York parfumista and the Scent Sommelier of Kelly & Jones fragrances said after trying a bottle of the 2011 Tempranillo, "This wine has changed my life." Tweeted Whitney Bond, author of the Little Leopard Book, "My new favorite wine @bluemerlewinery Tempranillo!  Minorly obsessed!"

"The 2011 Tempranillo is the best Tempranillo we've made so far," Justice said. "These wines represent everything we hoped for when we planted our vines in 2007," he said. "The good news is the 2012 wines aging in the barrels are tasting as good as the 2011 vintage."

What made the 2011 edition of Blue-Merle's wines better than previous years? "New barrels and battonage," said Justice, referring to a French term for stirring up the sediment at the bottom of a wine barrel to improve flavor and mouth-feel. "And, after 10 years of winemaking, we've finally figured it out," he said. "One other thing: it's the first year Stephanie and Sadie, two of our grape pickers, jumped into the pick bin and stomped the grapes."

Key steps used in the Blue-Merle's winemaking process include:

* Inspecting every grape cluster before harvest.
* Harvest at a minimum of 24 brix (and not much higher to keep alcohol at or below 14%).
* Foot stomping (very therapeutic for the winemakers and grape pickers)
* Cold soaking for three days after harvest and crush to extract wonderful fruit flavors and color from the must (without hard tannin extraction).
* During cold soak remove every stem (which contains harsh, astringent tannin) from the grape juice.
* Press gently by hand using a ratchet press, so as not to extract too many harsh tannins.
* Malolactic fermentation is induced after pressing.
* One to two months after the wine has settled, the gross lees (sediment) at the bottom of the tanks is stirred up to improve flavor.
* After the wine has settled, racked into new oak barrels (using softer French oak or hybrid French-American oak barrels).
* Not filtering the wines.
* Bottling using a small, gentle Enolmatic bottle filler.

The end result: "Our best wines yet."  So much so, the Blue-Merle Winery has entered them into the Sommelier Challenge, a prestigious wine competition organized by the Wine Guru Robert Whitley.

Editor's note from April 27th, 2014. These wines have been aging and getting better!

Here are the winemaker's notes about each of the new wines:

2011 Estate Petite-Sirah
Yummy purple! The 2011 Petite-Sirah is a delightful balance between fruit, acid and tannins with beginning, middle and end.  A big wine yet at only 13% alcohol still easy to drink, enjoyable with or without food.  Deep purple, opaque color, tastes of currants, plumbs. Bulk aged sur lees with battonage for 20 months in new French oak barrel. Unfiltered, only 24 cases produced.  One of the winemaker’s favorites.  If you’re a Petit-Sirah fan, this wine is for you. 

2011 Estate Tempranillo
Cherries!  This is the best Tempranillo we’ve produced and everything the winemakers dreamed about. Classic Tempranillo nose with a bite of cherry fruit, balanced acid and tannins, an enjoyable, lingering finish. Bulk aged 19 months sur lees with battonage in new French oak barrel.  Unfiltered, only 24 cases produced.

2011 "Four Friends" – A Grenache Blend
A delicious, delightful Rhone-style blend, 50% Grenache, blended with Tempranillo, Petite-Sirah and Carignan.  All of the grapes estate grown, except for the Carignan which came from the next valley over. Aged in a new hybrid French – American oak barrel 14 months, notes of caramel, smoke, cherries.  Another terrific wine from the 2011 vintage!  May be enjoyed with or without food.
The retail price of each wine is $35 and may be purchased direct from the winery (online, via email or over the phone) or if you live in San Diego they are available at Major Market (Escondido) and the Holiday Wine Center (Escondido). 

For additional information, Blue-Merle Winery's website is and the winemakers may be contacted on Twitter @bluemerlewinery or Instagram @bluemerlewinery .  You may email the winery at bluemerlewiner at  If you're interested in trying wines grown and made in San Diego Country and supporting your local winemaker, be sure and try Blue-Merle Winery.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Question of Life or Death

The "Squirrelinator"
Is it ethical to shoot a ground squirrel who eats your grapes? When you're driving down the road alongside your property and you see that same grape-eating squirrel in the road is it ethical to run him over with your car? Who decides what lives and what dies? Who decides who lives and who dies? Isn't this a question for God? By taking the life of a squirrel is there a slippery slope to a hell where giants 100 feet tall are constantly trying to stomp me?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

When A Dog Catches Gopher That's Like a Guy Catchin' What?

Intelligence photograph depicts
enemy infiltration. Source: CIA
Despite the Obama Administration's intensified drone strikes, the Gopher-ban regrouped during the winter and formed an alliance with the Paka-Squirrelies (aka "Squirrels") to launch a spring offensive discovered in the Tempranillo zone by local intelligent assets on the ground.  The Squirrel-tribe possesses biological weapons of mass destruction including rabies virus and plague virus. Intelligence photographs of the site show enemy penetration threatening soft targets. A person of interest code-named "Mr. Gopher" was identified. Assets were deployed to render, capture or eliminate said Mr. Gopher "with extreme prejudice."

Assigned to the mission was a canine asset code-name "Bluey." When I gathered the tools I would use for the mission (a shovel, gopher trap, and latex gloves to protect me from the biological viruses), Bluey became as excited as a marine on leave walking through a red light district. We studied the photographs and set our traps where we expected Mr. Gopher to strike. Day 1, Mr. Gopher approached target, found our trap and disarmed it. Day 2, Mr. Gopher found our reset trap and disarmed it. Day 3, Bluey went on reconnaissance to the trap area, took up position and waited as I went on a search and destroy mission in the area to clear out enemy combatants (namely Mr. Mildew, an ally of the Gopher-ban).

"Bluey" waiting for "Mr.
When I returned to the Tempranillo block I saw Bluey with a prisoner, taken alive. To my surprise, it was a member of the Squirrel tribe and not Mr. Gopher. Since Abu Ghraib, we've been cautious about photographing enemy combatants and their treatment.  To protect his cover and recriminations from  ACLU lawyers, Bluey was sent back to his handler and I dealt with the prisoner, who now, according to his faith, is surrounded by a harem of squirrel virgins in heaven, while his earthy, headless remains have been shoveled into the squirrel caves, as a warning to other squirrels who would trespass on our lands, steal our grapes, steal our avocados and dare align themselves with the Gopher-ban and organize safe havens for rattlesnakes.

When you take a dog out to hunt gopher and you catch a squirrel, that's a pretty good day.

Once a dog has tasted gopher, he's just a guy out hunting for pussy.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Aglianico or Ugly Hanako? Help Us Name That Wine.

2009 Aglianico wine. Label from
a 2001 portrait.
The grape is called Aglianico and it's originally from Italy where it's a noble grape and you can find Aglianico wines on wine lists at Italian restaurants in and around New York City that typically sell for $75 or more. We planted Aglianico vines in our vineyard when we couldn't get Nebbiolo the king of Italian grapes.  Sam from Nova Vines (the vine nursery that supplied our certified vines) recommended it and we had tasted Aglianico from Baja Mexico which was good so we said why not.  It's not something that everybody grows and there's nothing wrong with having a niche when it comes to marketing. The Aglianico grape produces a very deep dark rich purple juice, one of the thickest, purplest, chewiest wines you'll every see, at least as it grows in our vineyard in San Diego County. Sam at Nova Vines had it on a moderate root stock that would in theory control vigor because the soil where we were planting it looked pretty fertile and we wanted to slow down the vine's growth. It turned out the soil was not that fertile; it was sandy decomposed granite without clay and water doesn't hold and since the root stock is not aggressive the Aglianico vines have not matured fast.  On the other hand the Aglianico block at the top of the hill is the most tame part of our vineyard and we like the vines which is more than I can say about some of the Tempranillo vines planted over the leach field which are growing out of control into a jungle.

Because it would be several years before our vines (planted in 2007) matured, in the year of our Lord 2009 we decided to purchase Aglianico grapes from Guadeloupe Valley in Baja Mexico because the wine we had tasted from that region was pretty good and this would allow us to begin producing and marketing Aglianico wine. When the grapes arrived I tasted them and detected salt and we discovered I was a super taster for salt. To me, the grapes from the git-go were salty and the wine was salty and I never liked the wine and we contemplated throwing it out but one day at a wine tasting I had it out there and Coyote Karen tried it and said "this is the best wine you ever made" and she said it was "very earthy" and I learned that day she likes earthy wines. I had given a couple of bottles to my ex-boss John from my daytime job who had opened one when a company president he's consulting was dining at his house and I got a phone call from the CEO who said he wanted to order a couple of cases immediately over the phone and he gave me his credit card.

This is proof that what I like is not necessarily what you like when it comes to wine and that's a good thing because instead of dumping this wine we've been selling it and people who like "earthy wines" love it.

The Princess in May, 2013.
The TTB gave us trouble when we tried to design a label for this wine. We wanted to call it 2009 Aglianico but they wouldn't let us call it that because the grapes came from Mexico.  So, we added the appellation Guadeloupe Valley to the label and that wasn't approved. Getting desperate for a label that the Obama Administration would permit I submitted a design for "Ugly Hanako" that was approved. Before there was a TV show called "Ugly Betty" there was an Ugly Hanako and we must now tell you that our daughter, aka the Princess of this blog, is named Hanako which is the most popular girl's name in Japan and means "beautiful flower child."  The vineyardista my wife decided early on to put the princess in charge of the Aglianico vines and she quickly called those vines "uglyhanako" which rhymes with "Aglianico" and reminds us of the frown she made every time we asked her to help us in the vineyard. To make the label, I took a snapshot of a portrait done of the Princess when we were in Paris in 2001 which is the time she had her first flower and was becoming a woman and the artist drew her how she would look when she was 21 although she was only 11 at the time.

How does she feel about having her picture on a wine label called "Ugly Hanako?"  I'll let her answer that. But as there was no harm meant and we know she is a beautiful person we as the parents see no harm and it's worth a good laugh and she's a good sport and seemed to enjoy pouring the Ugly Hanako in the tasting room when she came back from Africa and even autographed bottles. The label reads: "The wine is beautiful and complex just like our daughter" and that's a compliment.

The salty, earthy, briny 2009 Aglianico is almost sold out and in a French oak barrel is aging wine made from our 2010 Estate Aglianico (15 gallons of our first harvest on 4th leaf vines which was a little high in acid), 2011 Estate Aglianico (30 gallons produced from 2011, which is quite good but not enough to fill a barrel). And how did we fill the barrel?  I uncorked and poured wine from bottles and cases of the 2009 Aglianico which I didn't like and which I was ready to through away but I thought it would add some complexity to our estate grown grapes and it did. So those wines, combined with a new French oak barrel and topped with a few bottles of  rich, dark 2012 Aglianico, we have quite an interesting, powerful wine with fruit and acid and body and nose and beginning and middle and finish and it's tasting pretty good and we're getting ready to bottle it and the question is what should we call it: Aglianico? More Ugly Hanako? Something else?

Normally, I would offer to send you a complimentary bottle for suggesting a name we end up using but the last two times we did that the vineyardista ended up in the emergency room so let's just say if you have the honor of submitting a name that we use you're invited to taste it at our tasting room.  Cheers and thank you for your suggestions!

(Winemaker's note August 29 2015 - two weeks ago I opened a bottle of the Aglianico made with our "estate" grapes and my eyes were opened. It is indeed a complex wine, with fruit, acid, beginning, middle and end. At the San Diego Wineries wine tasting event this spring our good friend, mentor, and winemaking teacher Lum Eisenman had a sip, came back for a pour, then, came back for a glass. He was hooked. This wine is unique, special, good, and has grown into something that even the winemaker likes. It is living up to the same great expectations we have for our daughter - and like life itself, just as complex. Cheers!)

("Ugly Hanako" wine is produced by Blue-Merle Winery, located in Escondido, San Diego County, California. It may be purchased by contacting the winery at on Twitter @bluemerlewinery and on Instagram @blumerlewinery. As a postscript (9/22/13), the 2013 Aglianico has been harvested and the grapes were beautiful and the new wine is as dark and purple as it ever was. the grapes were harvested at 24.5 brix and we were able to cold soak the grapes for 4 and 1/2 days extracting all of those dark colors and fruit flavors, and then the wine was slowly fermented - in the cool, airconditioned winery, for another 7 days. This year, 2013, as the vines have matured, the crop yield increased. We harvested close to 1,000 lbs and pressed 65 gallons of wine, enough for a barrel. New barrels have been ordered and we will rack the wine into barrels in November, after a "battonage" - stirring up the lees -- in late September or early October. P.S.S. - the 2014 Aglianico harvest produced an amazing dark and full bodied wine. Because the yield was small - about 30 gallons - we blended it with a deep Estate Zinfandel. It's still aging, as is the 2013 as o 8/29/15.  Cheers!)

Saturday, May 18, 2013

A Laborer's Life

"Ask Fidel what he did with my loppers," she said. "He stole them from the shed."
"Yes dear."
"Ask him what he was doing in my shed."
"Yes dear."
"Take the fruit picker away from the orange tree or he'll steal all the oranges."
"Yes dear."
"Did I tell you, he's taking one ounce of pesticide from everyone in the neighborhood and using it to spray vineyards in other parts of town and charging them for the chemical."
"He's a thief."
"He took my eye goggles. Ask for them back."
"Yes dear."
"And don't let Bluey outside when he's here."
"Yes dear."  There's no use arguing with her. "Should I ask him to catch the gopher in the Tempranillo block?"
"No. He'll just pull a gopher out of his truck that he caught at Merlot Mike's and tell you it's your gopher and charge you $10 for it."
"He'll be arriving soon. Why don't you go shopping at Costco?"
"That's a good idea. If I see him, I'll get angry. Just thinking about him makes my blood pressure boil," said the woman who was hospitalized earlier this year for hypertension.
She leaves. He arrives in Mike's Gator, gets out and waddles over.
"Hey amigo, buenos dias."
"Buenos dias my ass Señor."
Craig, how's the little vineyardista?" he asks.
"Pretty good. How's your blood pressure?" He was hospitalized a month ago with high blood pressure. You'd think they would become blood pressure buddies.
"Not too bad," he said. "Craig, may I take some oranges for my wife? She loves your oranges."
Every time he says my name, I cringe. "Yes," I say.  I note he's asking permission.  "Please don't take them all."
"OK. Have you seen Pedro recently?"
"I saw him last year at the Seven Eleven. How's he doing?"
"Not too good."
"What happened."
"He went to Mexico."
"Why did he go there?"
"I don't know."
"How's he going to get back in?"
"He paid some Coyote $5,000. He's back already."
"I'm surprised he would leave."
"His mother is there, or something. He's limping and has pins in his leg."
"What happened?"
"The police stopped him when he was driving. He didn't have no papers no license no anything."
"The cop called the Border Patrol and Pedro started running."
"He ran away from the cops?"
"They chased him all over. Through peoples' backyards. Everywhere."
"When they caught up with him he jumped off a wall and broke his leg."
"They took him to the emergency room. Put pins in it."
"Did they deport him?"
"No, they were nice to him. They weren't supposed to chase him."
"He's not so young anymore. With an injury like that he won't be the same."
He went back to work and I finished up some weeding and shoot thinning and when it was time to go he pulled the Gator up to the entrance of the property. I saw a 5-gallon bucket three-quarters full of oranges.
"Did you pick some oranges?"
"Si, my esposa likes your oranges."
"So does my daughter and my colleagues at the office. You can't find oranges like that in the store. Let me have one," and I take one from the bucket and start peeling it. No avocados in the bucket today. No apples. "How's your wife?"
"She's no good. Always complaining."
"Isn't that normal?" I ask. "Isn't that what wives do? Do you have the eye goggles?"
"Si, here they are." He hands them over.
"I'll put them in the shed so you can use them next time. What about the vineyardista's loppers?"
"I don't have them. Where's your son?" he asks changing the subject. He always calls Bluey (the Australian Shepherd canine) "my son."
"He's in the house." Fidel puts his fingers to his mouth and lets out a whistle that sets the dog off barking.
"There he is," Fidel says. He waddles back towards the gator and clips the dead branch of a tree with his clippers and with oranges aboveboard and who knows what under the canvas cover drives off.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Winemaker's Dinner

As the sun set the cool marine layer slipped in up to our bones and we finished tucking the growing vines behind the top wire. There was perfume in the vineyard but it wasn't hers. The grape buds of the Grenache vines were flowering and fragrance was in the air as we nipped and tucked the fat foliage with surgeon's skill trying to prevent the onset of powdery mildew.

It has been a long day from dawn to dusk and she asks, "What's for dinner?"

"Uuhhhh..." I stall. "Wine?"

Monday, May 6, 2013

Portrait of the Actor as a Young Man: Kevin Gray, Rest in Peace

You know him as The Phantom, Mr. Saigon, Pontius Pilate, the King of Siam. This is a portrait of Kevin Gray as a young man, before all that. And perhaps some clues to the answer: What experiences forged him into such a powerful actor?

Act I, Scene I. Football Field, Coleytown Junior High School, Westport, CT.  (September 1972)

Hot, humid, muggy. Temperatures and humidity both in the high 90s, on a football field, Coach Ron Weir calls for the stick drill.  The dummies are placed 30 yards away, we sprint towards them, diving head first, face up, neck forward, grunts, face mask hits bottom of dummy, forcing it backward along the ground. "Stick!" we scream.  Next, 10 yards farther. Repeat. Next, 10 yards farther. Repeat. Next, running the full length of the field: "Stiiiiiickkkk!" Says Coach: "Good thing you're tough."  It made us all tough. Remarks Bob Wiggins, who went on to play college sports, of those practices: "They would be illegal today." On the field that day is a tall lanky kid with jet black hair and a broad white smile who would play Slot Back in the Belly Offense--Kevin Gray.
Coleytown Jr. High Football Team, 1972. Kevin Gray, # 90 (standing,
 8th from right) played Slot Back.

Act I, Scene II, The Locker Room (October '72)

We have lost another game and what promised to be a good season is very mediocre. The coaches are pissed and they show it. Fists are banged against lockers. There is one road to redemption. Win the final two games against all odds.

Act I, Scene III, Jr. High Football Game of the Century vs. Long Lots (October '72)

The Long Lots Jr. High School team was undefeated, ranked high in the State and a heavy favorite. If our school was the “freaks” Long Lots was the “jocks” and it would be an away game on their field.  During practices that week the coaches inoculate us with a positive spirit, a belief in the possibility that we can win. When the weather forecast is questionable, Coach says, “I wish it would rain – rain is an equalizer.”  He knows we need any break we can get.

On game day our team came to play and neither side is able to put points on the board.  Kevin is even taller in spikes and helmet,  mean and lean with shoulder pads.  In the huddle “Belly Right” is called. “Ready, break” the offense chants in unison as it breaks huddle and Kevin takes his position in the slot between right tackle and wide receiver. The quarterback takes the hike, pivots counter clockwise and carries the ball off tackle behind Kevin and two running backs who create a wedge in the defense. Kevin buts heads with a defender then leaves his feet to throw the “stick” block we had practiced so many times that summer. He rises from the dirt and this antelope trots back to the huddle for the next play.

We run the ball into the end zone and make the two point conversion for an 8 – 0 lead.  “If they score, remember you made the extra point,” says Coach. Indeed, they do score, but our defense thwarts their run for extra points short of the goal line.  We are ecstatic! We hold on to win and Kevin and our team have been part of the greatest upset in junior high school football history (at least in our minds, at least in our town). Despite the odds, we emerged victorious.  On the way back to school, Coach asked the bus driver stop at Carroll’s the fast food burger chain (there was no MacDonald's in town those days) and purchased burgers for all of us, including the driver.

Act I, Scene IV  The Jr. High Championship Game

There was one last game to play for the town championship that would pit the “freaks” against the “greasers.” As their stereotype indicated, the kids from Bedford were from the rough side of town (if there was such a thing in our suburban community just 50 miles from Broadway). Again, we were underdogs. Again we beat the odds and emerged victorious. Again, Coach ordered the bus to stop at Carrolls for another feast of burgers.

Coach instilled in Kevin and all of us toughness, confidence and the knowledge we would succeed when the odds were against us. One other memory: At the end of season banquet, Kevin’s mom made egg rolls for the team and our parents.

Act II, The Gymnastics Team (1973)

Ron Weir also coached the Gymnastics Team where the competition was against ourselves, to perform as best we could. Football was violent force. Gymnastics was strength, elegance, concentration, grace. Self-improvement and excellence required practice, practice, practice.  In the opening number, younger members of the team march in and perform simple, coordinated tumbling routines, while Kevin and the seniors walk 50-ft on their hands without losing balance.

Kevin’s main event was the pommel horse. He, my elder by one year, was the master and I the younger apprentice. “Justice, come here,” he called to me one day. “Hold your hands out with your fingers up,” he said and when my arms were raised and my hands showed 10 outstretched fingers he interlocked my hands to his and bent mine backwards into the patented “Kevin Gray death grip.”

Kevin Gray (standing, 5th from right) and the Coleytown Jr. High
Gymnastics Team (1973). His main event was the "horse."
 “Do you give up?” he asked, applying more pressure. “No,” I said defiantly. He applied more force twisting me down to the floor in agony.  I gave up to fight another day and remember telling him “Someday when you’re famous I’m going to tell everyone you used to torture me.”

I observed Kevin’s routine on the horse so many times I have it memorized. His signature move was making his body perfectly level, toes pointed. He removes weight from his left hand and while remaining perfectly balanced and level raises his left arm in the air – with all of his weight supported by one hand and his back and legs still ironing board straight. (This is not easy.) Then, he brings his left hand back to the horse’s pommel and from a level position extends his body into an erect handstand which he holds. A demonstration of strength, grace and athleticism. He dismounts to applause, one of his first acting roles.

Bobby Lyon, Co-Captain of the gymnastics team with Kevin, recalls that time: "Coach Weir recognized that Kevin was truly a performer. He was so much more than a kid barreling down the mats with reckless abandon. Coach Weir recognized the elegance that was Kevin. He saw a very modest kid who was beautiful, a body with graceful lines that he held with great posture. Kevin was steadfast and tackled things like the Horse which was one of the most difficult and disciplined apparatus. I have to give coach Weir a lot of credit, he knew about Kevin's presence."

At the end of our performances and the season we hold a celebration dinner at the Gray household. Two memories remain fresh – the sight of one team member completing 19 continuous back handsprings --  and a serving plate full of egg rolls. Kevin’s family is introduced. Is his mom Chinese?

Act III, Scene I Duke University, Branson Theater (Fall, 1978)

By coincidence or fate, Kevin and I attend Duke University and I arrive on campus 16 months after him. (I never asked him why he selected Duke? I will ask at his memorial.) He has already had a lead role in Godspell and has earned a reputation as a good actor before I matriculate. I hear he’s acting in a play set to the verses of Dylan Thomas. I go and remember seeing Kevin, whom I've always known with a gregarious Cheshire-cat smile, with an actor’s animated voice and an actor’s serious stare into the audience, frozen, as lights fade to black. He goes to London to study.

Act III, Scene II, Duke University, East Campus Quad (Spring 1979)

The Spring of Kevin's return from London I’m helping organize “Joe Baldwin Day” events, games and entertainment.  We invite Kevin to perform on the Quad and he graciously agrees. He will be singing.  I’m on stage assisting set-up and Kevin tells me he’s developed his own singing style. His performance starts and it’s not what you’d expect from a college performer. He sounds (to my uneducated ear) like a young Frank Sinatra belting out a Cole Porter tune. He’s making his own way in an era of rock and roll.

If there had been “American Idol” in those days I suppose Simon Cowell would have said, “Kevin, you have a good voice, but it sounds a little too much like Broadway for me.”

Act III, Scene III, Duke University, Page Auditorium (Spring, 1980)

Kevin Gray played Perchik in
"Fiddler on the Roof." 1980.
The Hoof ‘N Horn production Kevin’s senior year (1980) was Fiddler on the Roof. I’m friends with the director who needs a Stage Manager so I volunteer. Kevin auditions and is offered the role of Perchik - the intellectual -- which seems to fit Kevin’s sometimes brooding nature.  For most of the cast and crew, it is a tough few months as we try to balance a rigorous academic load with rehearsals and personal lives. (One of the actresses has married a Russian and was trying to get him out of the Soviet Union). The musical conductor for this production is Michael Kosarin who already seems to us to be a living legend. Everyone knows Koz is going to be famous someday. My memory of Kevin at that time are his seriousness – there are times as we near performance he spends off to the side, practicing by himself, improving, perfecting his role, getting himself into performance mode. There is one time he steps out of line – I can’t remember exactly what it was – perhaps late to a rehearsal or clowning around at an inappropriate time – and I ask myself, “Who am I to discipline my master?” I realize the best way to “manage” Kevin is to let him be, give him his space. His performance during Fiddler was strong. Everyone came through. We didn’t use microphones to amplify the performers’ voices. Kevin’s lyrics are heard at the back of the 2,000 seat auditorium. Like the victories of junior high football, the challenges and fun of the gymnastics team, and being a member of the Fiddler cast and crew, these are some of the best memories of our lives – as I’m sure they were for Kevin too.

Our adult lives were just beginning then, weren't they? The day after the last performance of Fiddler, Kevin graduated from college and we never met again. At least not face to face.

Act IV, San Diego, CA "Eggroll Deja Vu"

Kevin Gray 
Over the years, I heard about Kevin’s rise in the theatrical world and many of our classmates were able to attend his performances and report back. I remember hearing about the Phantom, remember hearing about some controversy with Miss Saigon and why wasn’t Broadway using more Asians in Asian roles? Then there was a revival of Jesus Christ Superstar, and more. Life seemed to keep me from seeing him perform on stage.  I celebrated the year 2000 by making the trip back to Kevin’s 20th college reunion – to see him and his classmates I knew a year ahead of me. Yet he didn’t make it. His friends told me about his accomplishments and we were so proud of him, the man who almost broke 10 of my fingers simultaneously.

My own life journey brought me to the land of the Rising Sun and to a woman who could have been Madame Butterfly but unlike Pinkerton I married this cherry blossom and from that marriage a child was born, a 200% baby: 100% American and 100% Japanese. As she grew I encouraged her to participate in school plays and she attended college in Connecticut which was as far away from her parents in San Diego as she could get and yet Connecticut was still a home to me, as it was in ways for Kevin. Our daughter continued acting in college plays and even wrote her own and when she graduated from college she said, “Dad, I want to be an actress."  Her Asian education-mama protested and pleaded with her to  become a doctor while I advised her you need to pursue your dreams and my thoughts turned to Kevin.

The daughter is working as an intern at the Old Globe Theater in San Diego and invites the cast to our house among the vines for a party and my wife the Butterfly is sautéing the vegetables in a pan and then placing them in wrappers and plopping them into the deep fryer and when golden brown extracts them and pats the oil and stacks them, a pyramid of Egypt on a serving plate.  Harumaki in Japanese. Chun Juan in Chinese. Spring Rolls in English. 40 years ago as kids in Connecticut we called them “egg rolls” and now my wife has become the Egg Roll Mother to my daughter’s generation.   I take a picture of the spring rolls and log in to Facebook and search for Kevin Gray and send a friend request. We haven't spoken in 30 years. Kevin has just joined Facebook that week. The date is May 9, 2010. Kevin, forever gracious, accepts.

Act V "Reunion & Reconciliation"

I write to Kevin about my memories of his mother's Spring Rolls and that we have become the Spring Roll parents of San Diego and that our daughter responded to a YouTube contest by a director of Miss Saigon asking people of color to submit a video exploring “What does Yellow Face Mean to You?” 

I write to Kevin, "It never occurred to me you were partial Chinese."

"I think that's been the case for most of my life -- people being a bit surprised when they learn my background. It's an interesting issue for many mixed ethnicity young adults, and seems especially so for Asians, reportedly the least assimilated of the major races in the U.S." he wrote.

"The 'least assimilated'?" I shot back. "Certainly not in California's major cities. Perhaps that's the exception. Perhaps we will be beyond race by the end of our lifetime ...."

I reminded Kevin of that kung-fu move he performed on me that almost crippled my hands.

“Did I do that?” he writes in Facebook. “Sad.” I thought it was pretty funny, but I always had a mean streak in me.

Kevin is new to social media, a subject I know something about, and it's time for the student to repay the teacher so I encourage him to use Facebook and YouTube as a way to post videos of his performances and information about his career, so people like me who have never seen him live on stage can experience his performances and follow him.  

I make plans to attend his 35th high school reunion in 2011 to see Kevin and his high school classmates but once again life comes up and I need to leave Connecticut early and head back to San Diego so we miss each other again. From living in Japan and learning to speak Japanese and Chinese and experiencing Confucianism I have an understanding of the important relationship between “senpai” and “kohai”, between the upper classman and the freshman and to me Kevin is my senpai and I owe him and his classmates my respect.

When I heard about his passing and his memorial on Broadway I realize this is Kevin’s last performance and this one I will not miss. As a winemaker, when it comes to weddings and funerals and special occasions my gift is wine because wine is my art and it comes from my soul. I send bottles of wine to two of Kevin’s classmates (Peter Byrne & Mark Miller) who are also my “senpai” as a gesture of thanksgiving for their guidance and friendship in earlier days. I have not seen them in 30+ years and it's time to catch up. A student should always pay tribute to his master. Kevin would have understood that and if you see me in the theater with a backpack there is likely a bottle or two of wine in it and if I know you then there's a bottle with your name on it that will be delivered in the fullness of time and if we haven't met yet then life's short so let's share the wine together while we're here.  "L'Chiam to life!"


After I've suggested how he can use social media to promote his professional career Kevin writes,  “You won’t remember this, but you already helped steer my career once. We were playing football at Coleytown and I was running down field on a kickoff and you cleaned my clock. As I lay on the ground and saw you run off, I clearly remember thinking, ‘Maybe acting will work.’”

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Hidden Valley Enoteca, Blue-Merle Winery to Host Wine Tasting To Kick-Off AMGEN Tour of California Bike Race May 11 in Escondido

The Hidden Valley Enoteca and Blue-Merle Winery will host a wine tasting in Escondido, CA on the eve of the AMGEN Tour of California bicycle race. The race is viewed as a tune-up event for riders who will compete in the Tour de France. The Enoteca is a shared tasting room and culinary campus of five local San Diego wineries and to celebrate the start of The Tour the Enoteca will host wine tasting with food trucks and a band throughout the afternoon and early evening of Saturday, May 11th.

Hundreds of guests are expected according to Rosie Barnett, Enoteca's tasting room manager. "This is going to be a bid deal," she said.  The Enoteca address is: 26312 Mesa Rock Road, Escondido, CA 92026.

For AMGEN Tour of California visitors looking for a wine tasting experience of local San Diego wineries before, during and after the race, the Enoteca allows guests to taste wines from five different wineries.  "With so many different wines and winemaking styles, there's bound to be a wine for everyone," said Ms. Barnett.  There is a $10 tasting fee per person, which includes 6 tastes of wine, or $15 to try 12 different wines. There is no charge for the music and visitors on May 11th will be able to purchase food from food trucks at the facility, and to enjoy a picnic lunch on the Enoteca grounds. Bottles of one's favorite wine may also be purchased.

"This is a great opportunity for the City of Escondido and Escondido's wineries to showcase their offerings," said Craig Justice, proprietor of Blue-Merle Winery, one of the founding wineries of the Enoteca, which just opened its doors last September. "San Diego County is a fantastic place to grow wine," Justice said, "With its combination of bright sunshine and cool ocean breezes. The area is also a cyclist's paradise."

For more information about the Tour of California:

Here's the Wikipedia entry:
Here's AMGEN's official Tour of California website:
Here's AMGEN's Twitter account for the Tour: @AmgenTourofCali

For more information about the Blue-Merle Winery: or @bluemerlewinery

For more information about the Hidden Valley Enoteca and The Escondido Wine & Culinary Campus please visit:

How Do You Release a Live Snake From a Mousetrap?

King Snake, on the hunt for mice, finds
himself in a mousetrap.
With signs of a mouse in the garage I set traps at various points last night. This morning, when I checked the trap by the entrance - a favorite spot - it had sprung, but no mouse. I glanced under the sink and saw only the dark curved tube shaped as a U. Yellow stripes, not a rattler. Possibly a King Snake and possibly alive. How do you release a live snake from a mousetrap? P.S. Without killing the snake and without getting bit?

King snakes are our friends and have been spotted twice in the garage (7 years ago), once in the vineyard (5 years ago) and once outside the garage last year. They eat mice and are immune to a rattlesnake's venom and are said to eat small rattlers. King snakes are good to keep around. I remember our neighbor Steve the herpetologist telling me about the time he rescued a King and it bit him several times. Not poisonous, but still not his idea of a good time getting bit.  Not even a friendly King Snake knows how to say thank you. I gather gloves, some tools, a camera.

I've seen the"Crocodile Hunter" on TV, notably the episode when Steve Irwin catches the world's 10 most poisonous snakes. I've got our "favorite vineyard tool" (a 3-ft. stick we use to help hang  nets), a broom (in case I need to sweep him out), a bucket and a 32 gallon container.

It's overkill. The snake is not that big.  I use the stick to pull him out from behind the washing machine. He wriggles.  His head is pinned down.  I just pick up the mouse trap and carry it (with snake) outside to the vineyard. My idea is to hold the snake's jaws shut with one hand then use my other hand to lift the bar.  Then I find it's impossible to left the bar with one hand. Duh.  I need leverage.  Next idea, let go of the head, use one hand to hold the mouse trap, use a strong twig as leverage to open the bar of the mousetrap. As I do this the snake coils himself around the bar and won't let go. I shake ever so gently and soon he's on the ground and all balled up, like a tortoise inside his shell, trying to escape the world. He's not in good shape. I want to keep him on our property, so I find a shady spot in some ivy to let him be.
Recovering in the shade.

As I write this story, I make a discovery. The vineyardista keeps coming over to me and telling me her "honey do" list for the day and starts singing a song about why I'm wasting my time writing and she sees a picture of the snake on the computer screen, shrieks and scatters.  Peace at last.  Can I patent this new "Wife Away"?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Birds Will Play

It's Sunday morning and we pull the cords of the curtains and open the screen doors and open the screen windows to let in air. (The screen doors are important around here in summer for keeping out mouse-hunting rattlesnakes.) Then she opens the unscreened windows of the front door.  I give her a look. "I like to let the birds in.  They fly around for a while and when they get tired I pick them up and take them outside."  Bird Lady of the Vineyard. Another symptom of Crazy Lady Disease.   So this is what goes on when I'm at work during the day.
How do you train your dog not to bark when the bird chirps "cheeeeek?"

We call the bird "cheek-ey," otherwise known as a Flicker.

We have trained this dog to do "bird check" along the rows of vines after the grapes have ripened and the birds search for holes in the nets.  He's able to spot the birds who have made it through. We catch and release. At least those still flapping.

I've never seen the "cheek-ey" in the nets.  But we hear him almost every day.  His distinctive cry, which sets the dog off barking.

The temperatures warmed and the winds were blowing and it might have been a mild Santa Ana and Mr. Cheek-ey dove from the tree and sailed right into the glass window by the front door.  The explosive noise startled the Queen but the glass didn't break. Was he aiming for the hole in the door and missed? Was the light on the window reflecting so he just saw open sky?  Did strong winds blow him off course?

The Queen rushed outside and Mr. Cheek-ey didn't move and Mrs. Cheek-ey looked on from her side of the Poplar trees and cried, "Cheek."

Bluey barked. The Queen's eyes watered. Her throat tightened.
Mr. Cheek-ey

She picked up his body and wrapped it in tissue and placed it in a wine box and asked me to bury him when I got home.  I said I would do it during the light of dawn and when I did Mrs. Cheeky looked on from her perch.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Amused By Winemaking As Art & A Muse

We watched "Vickie, Christina, Barcelona" the other night and we're talking about Woody Allen. "He's a genius," she says. "You have to be a little bit okashii to be a genius."

"That's why I'm kawate-iru," I say and she can't stop laughing.

That broke the tension.  Ten minutes earlier I ask if I could move the creeping Passion Fruit vine gripping the door's screen to keep the plant from getting damaged.  Her blood starts boiling and her voice starts rising and she storms over to the vine she admires each day from the kitchen window and rips it from the door. "Isn't that what you wanted ! There!" And she yanks the rest of the vine from the wall and I say I just wanted to move it off the screen but she's not listening and says I'm killing her and if I don't find someplace else to live her brain will explode and that's going to be it and I better move. It's a minefield talking with her and I decide I shouldn't so I keep quiet to keep her calm and hopefully the blood pressure won't elevate over 150 because it's been over 220 at times this year with trips to the emergency room and I'd relax if it would decrease to 120 or lower and she'd feel better too. So I go back to bottling and just concentrate on that because bottling is the cross I bear during the Easter Season and there's nothing to do but face it and confront it head on because this 2011 Tempranillo wine is the first Tempranillo we've made from our 5-year old vines that's the whole package. The winemaker himself is pleased.  Fruit and nose and mouth-feel and tannins; beginning, middle and end -- a winemaker's trinity. Amen.

Not a word for 10 minutes as the Enolmatic bottling machine hums and bottles clank against the hand-power corker. Pull lever down to compress the cork then ram it into the bottle. Swish. Don't let glass hit the steel or that ping will set her off again. Pull. Swish.

"You have to be a little bit "crazy" to be a genius," she said in Japanese, referring to Woody Allen.

"That's why I'm kawate-iru" I say and the dog's ears prick up at the sound of her blood pressure dropping and she explodes into laughter and I've come out the other side of the minefield, this time. I lift up my cross and restart the bottling. She goes to the vineyard to talk with the vines. Bluey stays by my side under the table, waiting for drops of spilled wine.

Ten hours later after the bottling is finished and I'm blending the new wines I have a vision - winemaking is an art - a thought I've never had but I'm feeling it now and the expression of growing, crushing, pressing, blending this wine (and the little touches, tweaks, experience and skill required) is not unlike an artist.  Making wine is just painting without paint. Sculpting without clay. Poetry without rhymes. Then the image of Penelope Cruz painting a canvas with broad, fluent strokes in "Vickie Christina Barcelona"  comes into my head and since I'm creating a work of art from Tempranillo, the famous grape of Spain, why should I not dream of making it for the Spanish actress and the thought of making this wine for her lightens the burden and I smile. I will bear this cross joyfully. Don Quixote and his Dulcinea.

You're not jealous at the thought of Penelope Cruz as my winemaking inspiration are you?  It was just a fleeting daydream during a long day and evening of repetitive, manual labor. Now that the bottling is done and I survived and the wine is safely in the bottles and tastes good it's back to reality and as I'm out thinning, watering, weeding the vines and preparing to rack the blush wine, the simple fact is that I'm writing this for you, making this wine for you. Yes you. No, you're not being vain. This is for you and it's giving new purpose and pleasure to the toil of winemaking. I aspire to make wine that will change your life as you have changed mine. Although the art you inspire will not last as long as a painting or a classic novel, at least you can smell, taste and drink it. Thank you for amusing me, you Muse.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Good News, Bad News and So It Goes

The good news is it's Saturday morning and it's Spring and the vines have sprung and we just sold $240 worth of wine which is all packed up and ready to ship. Before leaving I open a notice from the IRS and although we paid our corporate tax before January 31st they say the payment was late and they they request us to please pay $267.21 Thank goodness this is the kinder, gentler IRS and they just sent a notice instead of G-Men to confiscate all the inventory.

It reminds me of the time the other month when we sold $240 worth of wine and then went to our supply shop to buy more bottles and more corks which ended up costing $300.

You don't want to do the math because it's not pretty. We're making the most expensive wine in the world and it's costing a lot of money.