“No matter how much we might talk about the principles of matching food and wine, when the two are enjoyed within the company of good friends and loved ones, a far deeper, more spiritual connection takes place that makes most any food and wine combination work wonders.” -John Ash
This is a work of autobiographical fiction.
NV Michel Tribaut Sparkling Wine “Brut” (Hayward, CA): One interesting feature of Hayward is appreciated by air when one flies a northbound approach into San Francisco- an array of artificially-created shallow ponds used for treatment of waste and sewage. I highly commend this engineering marvel to tourists visiting the Bay Area.
’95 Oak Knoll Niagara (56% OR, 44% WA): A vivid memory of my childhood was the series of semi-animated commercials for a kids’ drink, featuring a sweaty anthropomorphic glass pitcher with a smiling face. I always wanted that happy pitcher to visit my house.
’74 Chateau Concannon Estate Sauvignon Blanc (sweet): The Oak Knoll with some age on it.
’96 Wooden Valley Chardonnay (Suisun, CA): Mormons are instructed to keep a two-year supply of food in their cellars, no doubt as a source of sustenance in the event that the Lamanites return. A great challenge is keeping an accurate inventory and making sure that food that’s too old is replaced. During my sojourn in Salt Lake City, I had occasion to assist my landlord in cleaning out some of the now-expired stuff from his stash. While sorting through the canned goods, we stumbled across some canned corn that didn’t appear on his inventory sheet. Two things were immediately apparent: the address of the company that made the corn had no zip code but, rather a zone (“Detroit, 4, MI”). This would date the can as pre-1964. And the ends of the can were bulging ominously. I handed it back to him, he accidently dropped it, and the explosion that followed was reminiscent of that infamous restaurant scene in “The Meaning of Life.”
’84 Charton et Trebuchet Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru “Morgeot”: Each day, I drive down American Canyon Road to get to work. The road winds through woods, pastures, and ranches. Naturally, there’s a great deal of wildlife in the area, much of which succumbs not to the predator, but to the automobile. One particular day, I saw a possum that had been hit and had ruptured spectacularly, spreading entrails across the roadway. The eyes were open, and the head was oriented in such a way as to appear to be staring accusingly at oncoming cars. American Canyon Road is outside of the county district for animal control, so that possum corpse just lay there, day after day, in the hot sun, staring and slowly decomposing. It must have taken weeks for it to finally disappear.
’77 Torres Vina Santa Digna Pinot Noir: It took hours of phone calls to every Catholic church in this county to finally determine that Santa Digna was the patron saint of embalmers.
’84 Heitz Cabernet Sauvignon Martha’s Vineyard (Napa): I’m endlessly fascinated with etymology and the origin of phrases and idioms. It’s the linguistic equivalent of DNA analysis. Where did that convention for gullibilty, “I’ve got some swampland in Florida to sell you,” come from? Was there really a time when this was a common scam? And what is Florida swampland really like, anyway? I have an image of it (not a pleasant one, I assure you), and I wonder how well it corresponds to the reality.
’89 Pagor Pinot Noir (Santa Barbara, mostly Bien Nacido): High school language instruction was a hoot. You really learned the most useless lessons, sentences no-one would ever say, just to illustrate some subtle conjugation that half the native speakers don’t bother with. The courses don’t seem to consider that most of the people taking them will never use that language again, and the only thing they’ll retain is those memorized sentences. In German, I can still buy an old male dog, and tell someone that the goat is on the lawn of the house of my mother. That ought to prove useful someday.
’71 Gruaud-Larose (St-Julien): There are so many human superstitions about death, and thus, so many idiomatic terms for it in nearly any language or culture. Consider English, for example (having just admitted my lousy foreign language skills) and its various euphemisms for death: is no more, ceased to be, expired and gone to meet its maker, late, a stiff, bereft of life, rests in peace, pushing up the daisies, metabolical processes of interest only to historians, hopped the twig, shuffled off this mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the choir invisible… quite an array, don’t you think?
’83 Fourcas-Hosten (Listrac): In the words of Max Bialystock, “No, too good.”
’75 Mouton-Rothschild (Pauillac,and stored horribly): It’s not popular these days to say nice things about the Arabs in their native setting, but I will do it anyway. My experience has been, one on one, that these are the most hospitable, friendly, warm, noble, and generous people on earth (read P.J. O’Rourke for the unfortunate flip side of this sentiment). During the summer I spent in 1970 traveling through Israel and the West Bank, I learned the obligatory ritual when having a conversation with the Arabic residents of those areas: as one must ALWAYS sit at a little table and down jittery amounts of the blackest coffee imaginable, filled with mud and blamed on the Turks. But in its context it all seemed just right, sitting at the table, sipping the coffee, talking about our families and the world. That didn’t change how dreadful that coffee was, though.
’98 Mariah Zin (Mendocino, never released): The name Enrico Fermi will be familiar to many of you, a prominent 20th century Nobel Prize-winning physicist who pioneered nuclear fission and helped lay the foundations of modern quantum theory. It was said that he was so smart that he never bothered reading papers that appeared in the major journals: he would read the introduction, close his eyes and calculate the correct result, then turn to the conclusions to see if the authors were right. But physics journals, like in all other fields, are clogged with papers from mediocre practitioners. In what was his greatest opprobrium, Fermi once dismissed a particularly pointless paper by giving it the worst insult he could imagine, “It’s not even wrong!”
’98 Delicato Syrah San Bernabe Vineyard (Monterey, CA): Spring and winter provide particular delights in California to the intrepid forager. Everyone worth his salt knows where the best morel patches are. Smart mycophobes also know that new patches can occur where there were fires the previous year. So, now that I’m no longer living in Southern California, I can tell you that I had rich hunting indeed the year after the Painted Cave fire in the Santa Barbara/ Santa Ynez area. Despite the burnt, ruined appearance of the landscape, one could see green life poking up its head everywhere. Nature recovers, morels are just one sign of that. The big hazard for the mushroom hunter is the junk that people had dumped in what was the woods a year before. During one memorable hike back there, I thought I found a nice patch near a pile of decaying green stuff. Unfortunately, someone had apparently deposited a set of worn-out truck-sized radials sometime before the fire, and the green stuff had its genesis in the rainwater, mud, and fermented formerly-green stuff pooled in the charred rubber carcasses. And that lovely combination was the growth medium for these morels. Needless to say, I resisted temptation and passed that particular patch by.