Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Wine for Nurses

I do not have masks.
I do not have ventilators.
I do have wine - so this is what I give, in appreciation.

Dear Maria,

I feel your fear.
Do not be afraid, for the people are with you.
We pray for you.
We hold you in our hearts.
You are our savior, our comforter, our healer.
You fear the coming battle, yet you prepare, donning your mask, your armor, to confront the foe.
Fear not - the Lord is with you!

You saw Wine for Nurses - you said, "Here I am."
You asked, and you shall receive.
Blessed are the nurses, for they are God's healing hands on earth.

About that wine I sent you ....
Harvested in 2017, ten years after the vines were planted, all our trials and tribulations in the vineyard came together at the end of the drought to produce a wine to honor you and your colleagues. A wine worthy of your mission. Sunshine in a bottle, to warm you, fortify you, relax you, calm you. Grapes from heaven, to recharge your soul, recharge your spirit, to defend you from the unseen enemy. The Lord is with you. The people are with you. Even a humble, unshaven winemaker 3,000 miles away is with you. May the wine calm you, strengthen you, protect you, bless you, and fill you with love, inner peace, and the courage to do what needs to be done. Ava, Maria.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

And Now For a Something Completely Different: Author Reading at Happy Hour

At the end of the first full week of self-isolation, an author opens a bottle of Tempranillo and reads from the director's cut of his recently released novel.  Cheers!

Monday, March 2, 2020

A Taste of San Diego Wines After Opus One

     This is not a story about competition - it's about the coming of age of San Diego grapes and wines.
     RULE: I grew up with a rule that when serving red wine during a meal, the wines should become progressively better, if different ones are served. In other words, save the best for last.
     The first time I tasted Opus One was in 2002. I was hosting Japanese business partners at Mr. Stox restaurant in Anaheim, and one of the guests saw Opus One on the menu and ordered it. I had no idea what it was, nor how much it cost, and was pleasantly surprised by the wine's taste.
     The second time I tried Opus One was two years later, again at a business dinner, and this time I ordered it, and enjoyed it greatly. The bottle went fast between two of us, and I needed to order more. Alas, I didn't have the budget for another Opus One - and ordered a good wine instead. Coming right after the Mondavi-Rothschild masterpiece, the 2nd wine didn't stand a chance - and was clearly a violation of the rule to serve progressively better wines.
     To state my tasting preferences clearly: I like Opus One; I also love "big, juicy, cabs" from Napa - rarely drinking them, because of the cost, and thoroughly enjoying them when given the opportunity. I also like our good wines (many of them have not turned out so good over the years).
     In the intervening 16 years, I've been a winemaker and winegrower. Last night, I was invited to dinner, and as a hostess gift brought an assorted cheese plate and assorted wines made from our "estate" grapes - the wines not to be served, but as a gift.
     The first wine served was a 2016 Centered cab. It was enjoyable - well aged for being relatively young (although I thought the vanilla, carmel flavors a little strong). And then came the 2010 Opus One, living up to its reputation, reminding me of a 20-year-old Chateau Lafite Rothschild I drank two years before.  Both wines were decanted 90 minutes before serving. The meal featured tomahawk steaks cooked perfectly. With six drinkers, the Opus One was soon gone, and the host said, "Let's open one of Craig's wines." See RULE above - panic time.
2018 Merleatage Bottled Early January
    The next course was steamed bass, so I chose a lighter red - our 2017 Merleatage, a blend of estate Tempranillo, Grenache, and Petite Sirah. I decanted it quickly. The musky aroma - as I feared and expected - was totally different than the Opus One. As I took the first taste, however, I thought this isn't so bad, and on the second sip realized this will work. Indeed, the wine made from San Diego grapes was NOT a downgrade from the Mondavi-Rothschild Opus One, and held its own. This is a compliment to the quality of grapes growing in San Diego.
     For dessert, the host served fresh, sweet, blackberries paired with a splendid ice wine from Canada that disappeared quickly. I had brought the hostess a bottle of our 10 year old so-called tawny Port, aged for eight years in an old barrel on our back patio in full sun and two years in the bottle. Once again, the San Diego wine - although drastically different than the ice wine - held its own, the nutty flavors pleasing the hosts and guests.
     My neighbor Coyote Karen of Coyote Oaks Winery says she started making wine because Napa wines were getting expensive and she could save money making her own. I think we're on the way to doing that, without sacrificing taste or enjoyment. Cheeers, and congratulations, San Diego.
10 Year Old Tawney "Port"

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Mount of Olives

     ..."Speaking of olive oil,” said Paul pointing to a grove of Picoline and Arbequina trees, “I call this our Mount of Olives. Bishop, you’ll appreciate we created a theological garden.”
     Paul pointed up to Golgotha and the Cross of Calvary at the summit, and beneath it, a cave symbolizing the Tomb of the Holy Sepulcher. The president pulled a ripe olive from a tree and popped it into his mouth before Paul could stop him. ​“Damn, that’s the bitterest thing I’ve ever tasted,” Obama said, spitting the remains to the ground.
     ​“I was about to warn you not to eat it,” said Paul. “It needs to be cured before eating. Don’t worry, we have estate grown and cured olives on today’s menu.”

Excerpt from "About That Wine I Gave You" during the presidential Wine Summit.

Monday, February 24, 2020

First Pop of Popcorn

      "Birth, childhood, adulthood, death – the annual circle of life commences as winter’s water, nutrients, and life-force surge from the earth through the trunk to the dead-ends of cordon arms, against the dead-ends of cul-de-sac buds, and probe for an escape; and like a volcano with rising lava, pressure builds, soft lava pressing, pushing, and after pruning, there are no long canes, no branches for that flow to go and buds start to swell, imitating a pussy willow’s furry catkins, the rising dome of a sleep-walking volcano – Marine helicopters from Camp Pendleton circle above reconnoitering the growing dome – will Mount St. Helens explode again? – until the inevitable happens: one pops – the first pop of popcorn – pop, pop-pop – second and third rounds of popping as corn warms over the fire – and soon there is machine-gun popping, chainsaw weed-whacker-sputtering-engine of popping – pop-pop-pop-pop-pop-pop-pop-pop-pop.
       Welcome to budbreak in the vineyard. The first shoot emerges – a lonely shoot – a pioneer – sparking a celebration among the vintners at the first sign of spring. (Beware the grasshoppers – they’re celebrating too.) The first shoots of spring– the first pops of popcorn– will give way to summer when small shoots grow into a forest.
       A new spring. A new year. A new vintage. Opening day. April Fools! This could become the best wine ever. All contained within a tiny bud of a dormant vine."

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Business Pruning

"On the either side of the hill, as Joe the Wino cut canes, he thought of pruning his company. Too much dead wood. Weed out the lower-performing 10% to make the company more vigorous. Off with their heads! If only cutting staff was as easy as vines – thank goodness I’ve got HR for that. Snip. Cut. Prune. Bend. Shape the vine. Strengthen the organization. Joe was a builder of businesses, a job creator. But the goddamned President has been a job killer bad for the country. Thank goodness his time is up next year."

Excerpt from About That Wine I Gave You

Monday, February 17, 2020

Of Oranges and Tangelos

"Each morning, Bluey walks with me up the hill where I pick an orange and peel it, his mouth salivating. He takes a slice from my hand. He loves oranges. He eats everything I hand him. Paul says you’re not supposed to have citrus trees in a vineyard, because sharpshooters roost there in winter and kill the vines. When I saw him walking up the hill with a chainsaw I shouted, “What are you doing?”  He was going to cut down our orange trees! I told him to leave the orange trees alone. They’re here for a reason. They’re tangelos, actually – a hybrid of grapefruit and tangerine – and the fruit is delicious. In winter, young tangelos taste tart, sour as lemons. But the fruit that hangs until summer is very sweet. I’ll squeeze fresh juice for breakfast and after a day in the vineyard, I’ll squeeze one into a glass then pour in a shot of our home-made tequila – it’s grape moonshine – and walk to the gazebo with Bluey and watch the sun set. The juice is so sweet, there’s no need to add triple sec and it’s a perfect home-grown Blueyrita."

- Excerpt from "Soliloquy of the Queen" in About That Wine I Gave You

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Strange Fruit

“... he speedily cut down an entire row with loppers, without pausing to pull down canes dangling from the wires, left blowing in the wind, swinging like chimes, sounding dull thuds when colliding. He looked down the row, reflecting on Billie Holiday’s melancholy:

California vines bear strange fruit
Sap on the wood and sap at the root
Gophers swinging in the ocean breeze

Strange fruit hanging from the vineyard trees.”

 — About That Wine I Gave You

Available at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B083QYNGZK