Bob’s Winings
                                                                           former
                  
Tasting Notes from a ^ Beer Drinker


This page contains Winings from the 1st Quarter of the year 2004.

To contact WinoBob, click here


March 31, 2004

You snooze, you lose.  Yes, Winos and Winettes, the much ballyhooed wino journal drawing date has arrived.  So I spent my night tearing up little pieces of paper with my boney little fingers and scribing the names of all those that submitted an entry into the contest.  I don’t know what else to say, but this was an easy one, no stories, no signing up for a case of miracle elixir to get entered.  I sipped a glass or two of an Aussie blend of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon as I tore and wrote.  In a massive scoop, I tumbled the batch into my Phil Simms autographed Giants helmet and shook it like a Bond Martini.  It actually took me three times to get it mixed and keep scraps of paper from flying across the room as the bonded witness from Deloitte Touché sat on the well worn brown leather reading chair in the dingy room on the third floor.  With the official name drawn and certified by the now drunk bonded witness from Deloitte Touché, I placed the name next to the keyboard of my Sony Vaio as I sat down to tap this out. 

I must say, the wine was not worthy of the occasion, as I should have celebrated with a much richer example from down under.  But as this is only hump day, I didn’t want to open a good bottle and have it sleep on the kitchen counter for the next few nights, only to be offered to Drainoniese, the Greek Sewer God of Old Wine.  The wine that accompanied this exciting drawing was:

2001 Boonaroo Shiraz-Cabernet $ (8.99)     Not a great one, it was OK for a Weds. night with nothing else to do, but other than the interesting name, the product delivers little.

And a hearty Congratulations goes to:

WINETTE ALICE

Holy Crap Marie, we are happy that Winette Alice’s name came up; especially since the oft mentioned T-Rex cloned Wino Paul had recently told me he stapled a bunch of bar napkins together for Winette Alice to record her recent tastings.  One note to the Rex man, if I see the wino journal on eBay, I will be sending Uncle Vito over to visit, if you know what I mean.

Thank you to all who sent me emails and we will be doing more exciting things in the near future.

 

March 28, 2004

Milestones, cornerstones, river stones, anti-cyclone rolling stones, preachers from the East, dethrone the Dictaphone, hit it in the funny bone, that’s where they expect it least.  Well, the dull ache and thumping finally subsided enough for the small clicking sounds of my keyboard to be tolerable.  Last night’s gathering of twenty has my recycling bin over flowing with 11 wine, one Johnny Walker Black, an Absolut Vodka and a Magnum of Dom Perignon glass containers.  Every once in a great while, an alignment of friends from different aspects of our lives collide in a 9 hour continuous pour of wine and spirits.  One might have thought the neighborhood was celebrating the final days of the 1892 stone and iron jail in North Caldwell.  Yes, this weekend the long awaited transport of the 1400 incorrigible young men and woman were routed to their new, freshly painted home of cements and steel in the heart of Newark.  The Alcatraz of Wessex is closed and the intense process of moving the inmates had the weekend ripe with law enforcement from all over the county and the state’s most hi tech helicopter ensuring a happy and safe journey.

With a pissy attitude, I drive through the road barriers on Saturday to Home Liquors for selection of several wines to delight my guests.  The white choice was a Big Bob property, Giesen Sauvignon Blanc.  I found out, to my surprise, that New Zealand screwed me.  Yes, the 2003 release now comes with the much ballyhooed screw cap.  Remember winos, the screw cap is not a bad thing, it’s just a mental perception one must overcome, like my guests, thinking I was serving them Ripple.

As for reds, I looked for great value and the two I selected are finds in my book.  The Aussie Shiraz is a solid wine I have enjoyed before and knew that some of the crowd would appreciate.  They seemed pleased.  The fun one I tried was a Cab from the Colchagua Valley in Chile, the up and coming region that will soon replace Maipo as the Napa of South America.  I was bummed out when one of the four bottles was bad. Yes the dreaded cork taint.  At 2AM, the wine purchased for the evening was gone and the basement was raided twice to fuel the conversation till 4AM.  One of the couples is a staunch Democrat volunteer and has been on the Kerry bandwagon since last summer.  It is funny that a great many of my neighbors are self employed and lean towards the Republican side of issues.  As the morning birds chirped in the background, the wino ideology flew back and forth across the kitchen table, fueled by many-a-glass of red.  The beauty of wine is that by the end of the night (morning) we all hugged and parted as friends, agreeing to disagree about the future of the USA’s political environment, but in harmony about the future of Chilean Cabernet.

2003 Giesen Sauvignon Blanc $ (8.99)    This is a solid, fun white wine with snappy, crisp citrus and a good clean finish.  I will be drinking a large quantity of this over the summer.

1999 Santa Laura SA Laura Hartwig Colchagua Valley Cabernet Sauvignon $ (9.99)    This is my find of the month, a quality cab with generous amounts of blackberry, cassis and a hint of chocolate on the finish.  When you want a cab under ten to enjoy with friends, I recommend you try this one from Chile.

2002 Wyndam Estates Bin 555 Shiraz $ (9.99)    A solid candidate for an enjoyable dark cherry, spice and jammy flavors.  I suggest you take this to your next bar-b-q.

 

March 23, 2004

Sometimes things crack me up, that I know others are looking at me like I’m a major asshole, but once a year I drag out the same old joke and it makes me laugh just as much.  A tradition has developed, I guess, with the Pastor of our church.  Time has rolled around for his annual birthday dinner at Bacchus.  I have no problem with it this year as he has rearranged his schedule on a very busy Saturday afternoon to bestow a special service for the celebration of the folk’s 50th anniversary.  Walking into the restaurant last night I was greeted with many, what in the hell are you doing with a man of the clothe, looks. I quickly tell them, “It’s my Father’s Birthday.”  At which point the asshole looks flourish, but in the past it equated to a round of dessert on the house.  Pointing at him and saying it’s my Father’s birthday just makes me laugh, I know it is sophomoric at best and childish at worst, but its like one of those lines you wait for. 

As Father is a Pinot Grigio fan, I ordered a bottle that the Don Ho-looking Jimmy was pleased to present to us.  Though I only took enough to toast the occasion, I quickly ordered a Shiraz by the glass to rinse out my mouth.  I don’t know what it is about having a black shirt with contrasting collar (the priest, not me, my shirt and collar were black), but the service seemed a bit more attentive and the spattering of Monday evening diners seems a bit friendlier.  As Bacchus is close enough to the parish that my good Father usually bumps into other sheep in his flock; last night he was the King Pin as 2 of the 4 tables in the room were collection basket contributors.  I have to offer a sincere thank you to Ryan, Tony and Jimmy for the excellent service and evening they afford our party last night.  The Evans and Tate Shiraz, I had before as it is one of a few shiraz by the glass and the Pinot was Santa Margarita- interestingly enough, the number one Pinot Grigio in the 2003 Wine and Spirits mag survey. 

Ryan, you might as well set me up with a reservation for March 25, 2005, I think I’m busy on the 23rd.

 

March 22, 2004

On a rare occasion, Sunday is spent with a strong cup of black coffee and the four pound fireplace starter, the Star Ledger.  Yesterday, the situation arose that allowed me time to sit on a leather couch in Panera’s on the corner of Bloomfield Ave and Passaic Ave, with afore mentioned items.  Yes, the same place that Adriana La Cerva sat with her female FBI agent and had her first conversation about the guilt she is experiencing in the episode 2 rolled out of her internal struggle.  Honestly, I don’t read the entire paper; I grab the sections that most interest me and leave the rest for the Mag Pies.  A section one last article reading dovetailed interestingly enough with the first article in section 10.  Section 10 was an Opinion piece by Fran Wood, titled “Liberal Radio Network Takes a Gamble.”  Yes, the much ballyhooed inaugural show to combat successful conservative talk radio will begin March 31, 2004.  A group of wealthy (yes winos don’t let them fool you, there are tons of extremely wealthy Democrats, though they do not want you to know that- just look at who runs Hollywood and all the mega wealthy donors there) put up tens of millions of dollars to launch a network in hopes of dethroning the successes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and Matt Drudge.  Hey I thought they already had that network, it’s called NPR.  The radio network is called Air America and its executive director, Even Cohen, is the brain behind the line up.  Mr. Cohen’s business model was clearly defined in the news article as, “We expect our business plan and the tens of millions raised to give us a runway to lose money for a meaningful period of time- and we are talking years, not months.”  Wow, no wonder Winostuff hasn’t been able to make this site a success, our philosophy of trying to make money is the wrong formula.  Maybe Mr. Cohen should speak with Wine.com if this thing doesn’t work out, his business perspective lines up well with theirs.

So, if the claims of the mass audience pleading with Air America to be the counter to the right, and with scary talents like the once funny in 1978, ex-SNL writer Al Franken and the French loving Janeane Garofalo, why aren’t they preparing to make money?  I can’t wait for Ms. Garofalo’s uplifting opening monologue entitled, “America Sucks, we should all be French.”  Mr. Franken’s show will be many of his scripted comedy bits with interspersions of America bashing to lift our hearts and feel good about ourselves.  What, Mr. Franken’s hot air drivel cannot consume his three hour show, that’s interesting, not one of the Right Wing successful shows have to take time to fill the airwaves with comedy bits, no they structure their show with phone calls and audience participation.  Interestingly enough, the new Air America feels that audience interaction will be minimal at best as the clamoring left wing audience won’t really have much of a say, they just will have to listen to the intellect being told to them by Ms. Garofalo and Mr. Franken.  Who needs interaction with people, you never know but they might bring up a counterpoint to our purpose and we can’t have any dissenting opinions on our Air America.  We will not be like those damn conservatives and take heat from opposition, no, we will just spew vitriol and incendiary comments without challenge.

Long way around to it but the comments in section 1 relates to the Political climate in France.  Yes, Mr. Chirac is being seriously challenged by the Conservative wing of Parliament.  What, France is looking to get tougher in their Political leanings as the Spain terror attack has them all thinking differently.   So will the elections next week undercut Ms. Garofalo’s opening rant about Bad America, shame, shame, and have her scampering for another left leaning country to admire?  Ms. Garofalo, let me suggest you use Cuba as your model of a Utopian society, can’t lean more left then Fidel.  Oh yeah, most Cubans are risking their lives to float, swim or paddle their way to America.  Are we ready for 24/7 of how America is a bad place to live?  Interestingly enough, America allows the likes of Ms. Garofola and Mr. Franken to voice their opposing views without threat of death, no matter how irrational and vapid they are.

 

March 21, 2004

Where is Mr. Darwin?  Dead, yes I know that, but where is his theory that explains the natural order of selection for human stomach fat?  Wino Wally brought up a very interesting point to me, though I am not an Atkins devotee, the 36 glasses of wine per day is very intriguing.  So I decided to dust off the old college books about alcohol, I have explained that in detail in the past so you can search out Wino Bob college years for the background.  One book was helpful to me, so I thought I would pass this along.  When it comes to figuring out caloric intake, the simple fact is use more calories than you take in, you can calculate your caloric exposure right at the bar.  Here’s the formula:

 Take the percentage of alcohol, multiply times the # of ounces you drink, and multiply that times 1.6.  So for a 14% alcohol wine, in a 5 oz. glass, the math is 1.6 x 14 x 5. If my gazintas are correct, it’s something like 112.  Most people are on the 2000 calorie a day diet so for me by 7AM I have consumed my calories for the day.  Actually it would afford me 17 glasses of a nice Zinfandel or close to 30 glasses of some fluffy Liebfruamilch.

The problem is that the alcohol, though a very efficient fuel source to the human body, lacks the vitamins and minerals necessary to keep your teeth from falling out of your head and your organs playing the right tune.  The body looks for carbs first as an easy, effective fuel source, then it looks to acetate, the by product of the livers processing of my wine consumption.  As I get fueled up from crackers and wine, my body neglects to burn off the spare tire that seems to be inflating around my otherwise ripped abs, they’re there, just hidden several layers below the surface.  The acetate won't make you fat; your body is now choosing to burn that acetate instead of burning the fat you already have in your system.

This is because acetate is one of the four basic fuel groups the body uses to keep itself running. The four fuel groups are:

* carbohydrates
* alcohol/acetate
* fat
* protein

So back to Mr. Darwin, in his survival of the fittest, the bull elephant or the king lion doesn’t get paunchy around the middle as he grows older, in fact many of the discovery shows depict the old boss losing a battle with a young buck and heading off to wither and die.  There are no fat dead elephants, now that I think about it; there are no fat dead Botswanans either.  So maybe this McDonalds lawsuit thing really means something.  As I watched the once mighty male elephant succumb to the ravages of time and loss, the camera panned back from a helicopter shot of the African plains, tribesman were looking for their next meal, the new bull elephant was servicing his harem and there was not a golden arch to be found for hundreds of miles.  So as I grow old and a young bull pushes me from my home to service my pride, I will not grow fatter around the middle but simply cut back to 5 glasses of wine a day and seek out a shaded grassland by a stream and sit-down to wither and die as Darwin thought we should.

1998 Chimney Rock Cabernet Sauvignon $$ (34.00)   A very approachable, drinkable cab with dark fruits and a touch of tannins, though this one comes up light on the finish

 

March 19, 2004

I just wanted to remind you that the drawing for the Wino Journal will close at the end of the month.  The past three days saw a flurry of entries so please get your email to me as soon as you can so I can place everyone’s name in the proverbial hat.  I don’t know how I could make the contest more palpable. 

Today, I found myself in a part of NJ that I haven’t been in awhile and when this occurs, I like to stop into the old haunts just to see if they have changed.  It was early morning when I found myself headed down 202 South on my way to Doylestown, PA and I stopped into a coffee shop I frequented when I use to drive that road weekly.  While waiting at the counter to pay for my coffee, I scanned the magazine rack.  The issue of Wine & Spirits glared back at me as its headlines trumpeted this issue contained the restaurant survey.  Each year they look at what Americans are drinking and give a great overview on what the most popular wines in different categories turned out to be.  The last time I looked at this magazine was the free issue I received at the last class of the wine course I took with the guy whose name rhymes with handsraily, since I cannot actually mention him in print any longer.  That was the issue which looked at the results from 1998, so I thought I would do a little comparison chart to see if the wine drinking public has changed.

 

1998

2003

Top 5 brands of 2003

 

 

 

Sonoma-Cutrer

Cakebread

 

Kendall-Jackson

Sonoma-Cutrer

 

Beringer

Kendall-Jackson

 

Ferrari-Carano

Jordan

 

Jordan

Duckhorn

 

 

 

Least expensive wine on list

Beringer White Zin

Beringer White Zin

 

 

 

No. 1 under $25

Beringer White Zin

KJ chard and Cab

 

 

 

No. 1 Wine by the Glass

Robert Mondavi Cab

KJ Vintners Reserve Chard

 

 

 

No. 1 Sauvignon Blanc

Duckhorn

Cakebread Cellars

 

 

 

No. 1 Chardonnay

Sonoma-Cutrer

Sonoma-Cutrer

 

 

 

No. 1 Cabernet Sauvignon

Silver Oak Alexander

Jordan

 

 

 

No. 1 Merlot

Markham

Duckhorn

 

 

 

No. 1 Pinot Noir

Saintsbury

La Crema Sonoma Coast

 

 

 

No. 1 Zin

Ridge Lytton Springs

Ravenswood Vintners Blend

 

 

 

No. 1 Sparkling Wine

Veuve Cliquot Brut Yellow

Veuve Cliquot Brut Yellow

 

 

 

No. 1 French wine

Maison Louis Jadot Pouilly-Fuisse

Maison Louis Lator Pouilly-Fuisse

 

 

 

No. 1 Italian wine

Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio

Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio

 

 

 

No. 1 Spanish wine

Vina Mayor Ribera del Duero Crianza

Marques de Caceres Rioja Crianza

 

 

 

No. 1 Chilean wine

Carmen Maipo Cabernet Sauvignon

Concha y Toro Merlot

 

 

 

No. 1 Aussie wine

Rosemount Estates Shiraz

Penfolds Bin 28 Shiraz

 

 

 

No. 1 Port

Fonseca Bin 27

Taylor Fladgate Tawny 20 yr.

The best news of the comparison is that Beringer White Zinfandel was replaced with a Cabernet Sauvignon are the favorite bottle under $25.00.  Unfortunately, the wine by the glass has moved from cab to chard, what’s that about?  The other things I found interesting were that the chardonnay, sparkling wine and Italian favorites have survived the test of time.  The California Cabs are great then and now, but Americans are in need of education when it comes to Chilean, Spanish and Aussie wine.  People, these are areas that have so much more to offer then what made the list.  The difficulty I have from the survey is that I cannot tell if the Sommelier is at fault as he or she is the one recommending these or if the restaurants just don’t have a strong enough list to really offer the public much better wines.  I am willing to drink my way through the lists at the hundreds of surveyed restaurant or consult to those that what to be more eclectic in their offerings. 

Note to Big Bob, see what you can do to get at least a Pinot Noir on the favorite French wine list.  This year Maison Joseph Drouhin came in second to Lator.  I’m sure we can work on drinking Drouhin to the top if we put our collective efforts to work.  Think Cote de Beaune.

 

March 15, 2004

2-18-42 blue, Louie, Louie, Mike go. The deep ball is in the air in what seems like a Hail Mary from Trenton.  The Governor of our great state now has a high powered Washington criminal defense attorney seated in his inner circle as the scandal firestorm burns around him.  I’m glad he ran on a platform of ethics and cleaning up the politics of the state.  What would we be in for if he never made that a campaign promise?  One would think he would have thought long and hard about being Governor while he spent the 4 years campaigning after his loss to Governor Whitman.  He basically ran unopposed as the Republicans offered little support to Bret Schundler.  It is funny to hear members of his own party talking about challenging him in the Primary, a rare move indeed as incumbency is the desired role of any politician.  

“When a sitting governor has to retain a criminal defense attorney it is both troubling and serious,” said Senator Kyrillos.  “There will be many questions that will require answers, but chief among them is why a sitting governor must retain a high-priced criminal defense attorney.”

Politics Patrol
By BOB INGLE
GANNETT STATE BUREAU

TRENTON -- Gov. McGreevey must wish that tough, enforceable ethics laws were in place from top to bottom in New Jersey before he took office. All these federal subpoenas and visits from the FBI to state agencies, the governor's office and the Democrats' headquarters don't look good. His is headed toward being the most scandal-ridden administration in memory.

Robert J. Garrity Jr., acting special agent in charge of the FBI in Newark, confirmed Thursday that after terrorism the FBI's biggest priority here is public corruption. "The citizens of New Jersey are entitled to better than this," he said. Amen, brother.

The feds are looking into several folks linked to McGreevey -- Charles Kushner, a top fund-raiser, and Roger Chugh, a blowhard self-promoter who served in the governor's 2001 campaign and then in the Secretary of State's office.

Gary Taffet and Paul Levinsohn also are being examined by the FBI. Taffet was McGreevey's chief of staff and Levinsohn was the governor's chief counsel. And ---- what a coincidence -- they wound up in the billboard business which they sold for $2.2 million just before McGreevey took office.

2003 Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc $ (11.99)   The nose is great but the wine drinks thin, I had hopes of a citrus bowl in a field but got watery lemon juice and mowed lawn. 

 

March 13, 2004

Well, I’m no longer a virgin, thanks to Deann and the Heritage Park Playground, Inc wine tasting fund raiser event.  Let me reword that for those of you with sick little wino brains.  Last night was the first of the many to come wine tasting events at which I have been asked to work.  Deann found our page one evening when she was cruising the net looking for contributors to help with their fund raising efforts.  Little did she know we would actually agree to help and we donated a gift basket with a selection of WinoStuff stuff.  Not knowing Deann, I left out the now famous WinoBob thong that WinoJohn seems to picture me in as he evilly creates with his Photo Shop 4.5 software.  The basket really turned out great consisting of a wino journal, professional hand painted wine glasses and a spray bottle of the world renowned WinoStuff Magical Red Wine Stain Removing Elixir©. 

As I arrived at the Mountain View Chalet, made famous by Jason Williams (that was where he and his friends ate just before returning to his home and a manslaughter charge), Deann greeted me, and introduced me with the confused statement of, “Cindy, this is..., what should I call you since I only know you as Wino Bob?”  Wino Bob is fine with me, at which point Cindy scribbled out a name tag Wino Bob from WinoStuff.com.  I was introduced to Gordon Stewart of Perryville Wine and Spirits and he set me up at table 6.  Yes, table 6, the one in the far back left hand side of the event room, behind a column.  More visible was Mr. Hunt S. Patterson III, the Northeast Regional Manager of Pine Ridge, at table 7.  Hunt was very friendly and looked third generation wine and money.  

I familiarized myself with the wines I would be pouring, and then broke out in a virginal, "I’ve never done this before" performance anxiety sweat.  Holy Crap Marie, I need to pour and talk about these wines like I’m some pedantic wine snob guru.  Sitting in my third floor Trappist Monk cloister, I took a vow of silence, only to write and pray to the wine Gods three times daily; however, I actually had to discuss the wines with some sort of intelligence and Wino Bob wit to make this event enjoyable for the guests that had paid good money to support this cause.  So, what the hell do I know about South American wine and the producers I’d be pouring?  This is what I had to offer at table 6.

Causino-Macul (Chile)

  • 2003 Chardonnay

  • 2002 Merlot

  • 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon

  • 2002 Antiguas Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Alamos (Argentina)

  • 2002 Chardonnay

  • 2002 Malbec

Catena (Argentina)

  • 2002 Chardonnay

  • 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon

So, I know the grapes, have experience with Malbec, Cabs and Chards and am aware that Chile and Argentina are in South America.  Great, I was good to go  I quickly swirled and sipped each to get my sea legs and made up stories about the South American people, how they all drink wine every night in a sacrificial ceremony while cutting the heads off  young male goats, you know, to make it like I really traveled there and knew the area.  Actually, the people there were terrific and we talked about wine and I poured and exchanged my thoughts and feeling with what they found in the glass and we had fun.  Many may be waking this morning saying what a pedantic wine snob I was, but I hope not.  I tried to make it enjoyable and share the little wine knowledge I have.  South American wines are in my wheel house as they are an up and coming region and carry great price value currently.  I don’t know if it was the fact that my two favorites caused me to offer them more or that the crowd agreed with my internal gut, but the two wines people enjoyed the most from table 6 were the Antiguas Reserve, a night and day difference from their Cabernet, and the Malbec.  Malbec went, I think, because people were unfamiliar and were there to try new things. I encouraged them to taste it so they would know if it was something they would buy in the future.

Well, I wish it were all fun and games, but there is one less than stellar moment for me in the evening.  Around about 9:30, they announced the winners of the silent auction baskets.  The baskets were at the opposite end of the room, so I could not see throughout the evening if anyone was signing up to bid on the WinoStuff offering.  As the crowd gathered, my vision was blocked and the PA system sounded like the muffled voice of the conductor on the A train.  Proudly, I looked and waited but could not see who the winner of the basket was, but I did find out later.  Yes folks, my pride was shattered when it turned out to actually be a distant cousin of the Wino Bob gene pool who came up to me at the end of the night and said, “What the hell are you doing here? And by the way, we saw you from across the room and when we saw your basket, we bid on it so the sheet would not be empty.”  Great.  That childhood feeling you get when your mom gives you a ribbon after you come in last at a race then she says, “you may have come in 9th out of the seven people in the race, but you will always be number one to me….” came flooding down my spine.

As we only see one another at the annual Brother James bash, I wasn’t exactly sure where they lived.  As it turns out, they live in the town that the Park is being built, he's the town engineer and she a teacher in the local school.  We had a great chat afterwards, though I feel like my crayon drawing will now be hanging on their refrigerator.  This is a picture from my “special” cousin, you know, the Wino….

Deann, thanks for the opportunity to work at the wine tasting and I hope it was a financial success.

March 9, 2004

Once football season is over, my Monday night routine shifts from sitting on the well-worn cordovan leather couch in front of the Panasonic Tau 32 inch HDTV with a glass of wine to watch the game, to sitting on the 80 year old slat-back oak chair in front of the 13 inch monitor of my Sony Vaio Z505 SuperSlim Pro notebook with a glass of wine to watch the game.  (I threw in that detail just in case any book agents are reading tonight).  The game shifts from pig skin, to the pig pen of NJ politics.  Everyday seems like a fun day in the rough and tumble world of NJ politics, but with major elections in the future, the stories seem a bit more intense.  So as I swirled and sipped and read the reaction to my comments about the beginning of the Soprano’s season, I hopped around a few of my bookmarked favorites.  One such site I am drawn to is www.politicsnj.com.  Though one would hope it was written by an ex-editor for the Harvard Lampoon, or better yet, an out of work writer from Saturday Night Live, it is actually a wonk page with elite contributors who have their finger on the pulse of the State’s political scene.  I find politics engaging, as one would observe the twisted metal of a highway crash.  No matter how much heat I get for pointing out what others say regarding the corruption and greed that has painted NJ with a less than shiny reputation, I take it kindly.  I do not have the intellect nor the creativity, nor the power to bring those thoughts to people's minds.  They have been formed ages ago from the actions and scandals that have blazed in the headlines of the news papers in this State.

This particular evening, on the heels of the numerous arguments I have heard and read on why the Sopranos are deleterious for the reputation of NJ, life has taken the lead to imitate art.  If written by David Chase, the backlash would have been deafening, but Winos and Winettes, the real story this weekend is not a work of fiction, it is not an over active creative mind.  No, the headlines I stumbled upon tonight are what have given NJ its seedy political outerwear.  Stacking one upon the next, like Lincoln Logs, the years of misdeeds continues to roll on and this day’s headlines leave me to laugh at the irony.  Words ring that NJ has a bad rap and things need to be cleaned up and turned around, then headlines like this greet your morning coffee.

New Jersey News

Governor's office dragged into federal investigation

Monday, March 08, 2004

By KATHERINE BLOK
The Express-Times

The offices of the Democratic State Committee in Trenton were raided Tuesday by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The feds were apparently looking for financial information including contribution records on Carteret businessman David D'Amiano. DSC officials said the state committee is not being investigated.

Subpoenas were served Thursday on the governor's office and the departments of the treasury and agriculture. According to published reports, the feds want to know if D'Amiano's political contributions led to preferential treatment on tax liens, permits and other issues. The Associated Press reported Friday that Gov. James E. McGreevey is complying with the subpoenas and ordered his staff to turn over the requested documents. 

 

Subpoena for governor unusual event

Saturday, March 06, 2004

By TERRENCE DOPP
The Express-Times

TRENTON -- It's rare for a governor to see the type of subpoena that landed on Gov. James E. McGreevey's desk Thursday.

In fact, several Statehouse veterans say it hasn't happened in at least 30 years.

"Unfortunately, I think a good number of average New Jersey citizens will rush to judgment," said Rider University political scientist David Rebovich. "And that's something this administration should be worried about."

On Thursday, the U.S. Attorney's Office requested documents from McGreevey's office and both the Treasury and Agriculture departments relating to allegations they gave a campaign donor and Carteret businessman a break on tax violations and other matters. 

The list is a 42 Long, but for some reason, our State has a reputation for corruption in Politics on both sides of the fence.  Its not me, I am but the stone wall in the canyon that the words echo off and roll down the chasm that divides the believers and non-believers.  I have been accused in the past of being biased about certain issues.  New Jersey is a great place to live, and currently NJ ranks 5th in the nation in wine production.  I want a positive image for my home and if it is wine that brings it first, all the better.  I am trying to drink it into the fourth place spot, but changing the image to the other 49 states starts from the people who actually live and breath and work here.  The Soprano’s didn’t start the firestorm of corruption in our Political vista, and soon they will be off the air, but stories like this will plague our State in the eyes of the Nation for years to come.

2002 Rock River Winery Sauvignon Blanc $ (10.99)   Other than the great nose on this wine, forget about it.  Sniff away and enjoy the citrus, grass and gooseberry nose, but it evaporates before it reaches your lips.

March 8, 2004

Our ranks of readers are growing by leaps and bounds, by the thousands everyday according to the web stats.  OK, maybe by the tens.  Well, actually, as of Saturday, I can confirm one new reader and that is fine with me.  Because if one person tells another and those two people tell two people and so on and so on, soon the entire adult population of internet users who are not cruising for porn will be hooked on WinoStuff.  This past weekend it was dinner at Sophia’s, a great BYOB restaurant in No. Caldwell.  It is nicely situated between the palatial estate of Wino Rocker and my dark third floor safehouse.  And the new reader is the legal-aged Winette Les who we toasted at dinner.  Now if she can just tell two people and those two people tell two people and so on and so on, it will be an epidemic.

Now onto more serious things.  The Sopranos are back and this first episode gives us hope for it to be a fast-paced, intense season.  Refer back to my predictions about Paulie’s exit.  It sure seems like Christopher is going to be in conflict with Mr. Walnuts all season, you never know where his temper might take him. 

From fiction to reality, we are in for a dramatic Political season since the primary is over for the Democrats and the strategies are unfolding.  I am waterlogged already and the conventions aren’t until the summer.  One thing, as an outside observer, I cannot understand is the mixed message that the Dems will have to deal with after their convention.  We are being beaten with the war hero image of Mr. Kerry and I personally respect anyone who has spent any time in defense of our freedom.  His decision, upon his return, to protest the war he fought in, is well within the boundaries of this great nation.  The problem I see arising is the strategy to berate President Bush’s Guard service, build up Mr. Kerry’s Vietnam War service and then have the name Hillary Clinton floated out as possible VP, or even a savior to the party if Kerry’s personal issues become too large for him to quell.  How will the leaders of the party promote Hillary as the best person to run this country while they are defining Homeland Security and Mr. Kerry’s war service as making him the best qualified?  So tell me, Terry McCauliff, will War Hero John Kerry be easily replaced by Mrs. Clinton, when President Bush’s National Guard position is inadequate?  What qualifications for Homeland Security does her background carry?  She sat quietly next to her husband to gather her power as he publicly embarrassed their family life, but now she will sprout a backbone?  I do know that at least five days a month, no foreign leaders will want to deal with her, but what will they be doing the other 25 days?  Hell hath no fury like a pissed off Hillary.  I would love to be a fly on the wall the week before the affair in Boston as the backroom deals come down hard and fast.  And what of all the work Rev. Sharpton has been doing?  Is their no place in the Rainbow, all accepting power positions for those who criticize the Republicans for not being open?  Hey, wait, it’s a Republican administration that has a black female in a cabinet position.  Who forgot to tell the Republicans that they should only have blue-suited white guys in the cabinet?  Well I am still waiting for there to be affirmative action at the Dem’s convention and let the Rev hold a prominent cabinet position, or is having two white, wealthy guys say they are true Black Presidents good enough?  Yes, Mr. Kerry fashions himself after Mr. Clinton in using the term that he too could be considered a Black President.  I don’t know.  Is the Heinz summer home located in Compton?

1997 BV Beauzeaux $ (8.99)   This fun blend has great blackberry, dark cherry and pepper flavors that deliver a solid wine offering for a casual night with a pizza or a simple supper out with friends.  Easy drinking and easy on the wallet.

 

March 6, 2004

OK, here it is the eve of the opening episode of the new season of the Sopranos and talk radio, cable TV and newsprint are on fire with the same topic that comes up each year at this point.  Sopranos - Good or Bad.  I listened for several hours today to WABC talk radio 770 as the hosts threw out the question to the listeners and callers from the tri-state area voiced their opinion.  I then went to the internet and searched the Star Ledger- northern NJ paper of record, and dug out past and present articles about both sides of the issue.  I found Steve Adubato’s position interesting as an Italian-American from the north ward of Newark.  Finally, I searched sites from fans and non-fans reading essays pro and con.  The arguments are strong on both sides and I am not here to draw a wine-soaked conclusion to end this five year battle.  For some, the good news is that after this season, there are 10 episodes that will conclude the series and the controversy will quell.  For others, that will bring serious disappointment.  The only thing I can personally say is that I know a great many people I speak with everyday watch the show and enjoy it.  To me, as one in the quasi-outermost ring of media, I think the show is well written and find the mob business stuff the least of what the series has to offer.  The family issues with mother, wife and kids, which Tony is faced with each week is compelling and the murders and stuff are just part of his job, like seeing Ray Barone typing an article for his sports column.  We don’t concentrate on Ray’s work, it needs to be included, but it is his interaction with his mother, wife and family we find funny.  Wow, maybe Ray Barone (Everybody Loves Raymond for those not familiar) and Tony are related.  At least their shows are essentially the same plot.  I actually think the writers on Raymond are far more vicious in the Mother/Daughter-in-Law and Mother/Son relationship than Jim Chase is.

As an outside observer, I found one glaring issue that never gets addressed when this topic is discussed.  That is the fact that the web sites and organizations that rail against the Sopranos are the same web sites and organizations that praise Frank Sinatra.  I see a great deal of hypocrisy in that as Tony is a fictional character on a TV show that you do not have to watch.  Simple, boycott HBO, the show gets no ratings, end of series.  Old Blue Eyes, on the other hand, lived in Northern NJ, has an FBI log which is posted on the internet and spent a great deal of time with persons identified as being involved in organized crime.  One hero, one goat, but two different presentations on the web, in print, on the radio and on TV.  The show is the show and starts tomorrow night. Look for Galante’s funeral home in the last episode.  Love it or hate it, they promise that this season will be intense, entertaining and filled with interesting twists.  Now go drink a bottle of Chianti and lets all love one another….

Italian-Americans voice pride in Sinatra

 
Frankie and the Boys 1976 - Left to right: Paul Castellano, Gregory DePalma, Sinatra, Tommy Marson, 
Carlo Gambino, Aladena Fratianno, Salvatore Spatola, Seated: Joseph Gambino, Richard Fuscohttp

  Sam Giancana, Willie Moretti, The Fischetti Brothers, James Tarantino, Charles "Lucky" Luciano The Sands Hotel,

  Italian-American Groups Rally Against HBO's Sopranos

  ITALIAN AMERICANS TO FILE SUIT AGAINST SOPRANOS

2000 Fattoria Carpineta Fontalpino Do Ut Des $$ (33.95 or 95.00 at Bacchus)   This is one wine that should sleep with the fishes.  Disappointing to the palate after such a promise on the pour.  Little fruit, and less anything else.  Save your money even at retail.

 

March 5, 2004

Look, I know I am supposed to be mending the fences, and compared to WJ, I have been open to drinking more French red wines.  But as I mentioned, too much of that fleshy, feminine grape from Burgundy makes bad things happen to you.  Oh, prove it Wino Bob, you skeptical readers say.  OK, consider this.  Wino John and I had the opportunity to meet one of the most influential members of the Burgundy wine community and they told me to keep everything off the record.  I’m sorry, the pressure and the late night visits and the crap the Big Bob’s company has subjected me to in order to keep this under wraps is more than I can handle.  I just want to go on record that if you do not see an entry from me in more than a week, send the police to the dingy room on the third floor where they might find me bound and gagged and clothed.  If you come in and I’m bound and gagged and nude, please leave immediately.  I’ll explain that later. 

So for all those wondering why I do not drink red burgundy, you know Pinot Noir, please look at the evidence I present.  This picture came right out of Big Bob's camera so I cannot be accused of doctoring or photo shop editing this one.  So here it is Winos and Winettes:

Look closely, Laurent Drouhin, who has grown up drinking Pinot, has a secret.  He has two right hands.  There in the lower right corner of the picture is proof positive.  Interestingly enough, he hid it from my camera, but in a casual moment, Big Bob snapped this picture and his hand flopped out.  I warn you, drink big bold cabs.  Otherwise you might end up with two right hands also.

 

2001 Canonbah Bridge Drought Reserve Shiraz $ (18.00)     The strain of hunting for water bares intense and concentrated fruit bringing great flavors and structure to the wine.  Find and taste this one.

2000 Norman Meritage $ (15.00)     This bottle boasts that this is a no nonsense wine from an up and coming region of California; I found it unimpressive and none stimulating to my senses.

 

March 4, 2004

Can we end the silliness, please just stop.  I read an article recently regarding the law suit by a man in NJ wanting to get a direct shipment from California.  The distributors are throwing up the processed cud that this practice will allow minors to obtain alcohol.  Let’s just think about that, so little John wants to catch a buzz with his boyz this Friday night behind the junior high school next to the dam at Clark’s Pond.  He’s sprouting pubs and wanted to act like a tough guy.  So he rifles through Dad’s work pants in a time when Dad’s pants are hanging on the door in his bedroom, which most likely means its night time while the depantsed Dad is puttering in the basement or locked in his office cruising the internet to see if his neighbor’s love life is on web cam.  Sneaking into his bedroom, he dials a long distance call to California, which will be showing up on mom’s phone bill in two weeks.  Junior orders a bottle of 1990 Caymus Special Selection, a cork screw and two crystal wine goblets.  One cannot swig and pass the Caymus like a bottle of Mad Dog.  He pays extra for the express delivery, he plays hooky the next day to meet the fed ex man at 10:30AM and then runs off to the woods and hides the bottle underneath a pile of leaves, next to the rocks by the dam so it will be their the next night.  As he and his posse meet Friday night, swatting mosquitoes and talking about seeing Donna through the hole in the girl’s shower after gym class, he unveils the bottle to cheers that he-da-man.  Junior cuts the foil, extracts the cork, pours, sniffs and swirls, sips and spits then proclaims the virtue of the fruit characteristics of the nectar from God.  At which time, Junior’s friends kick his ass and call him a wuss for not copping a beer from his Dad’s refridge. Dejected he goes home to have his ass kicked by his father as the credit card company called to confirm the 375.00 charge, and his mom kicks has ass from seeing the long distance charge on the phone bill. 

People, people, let’s be serious, the fight is over the tax money, call it like it is and leave the poor precocious youngsters out of your bullshit argument and to his quick Bud buzz.  Minors are not going to be calling California wineries from New Jersey and ordering a case of Silver Oak.  You want your vig, just like my friends in waste management.  Maybe an open dialog can bring about a resolution, go Ken Starr.

On a side note, Tony and the gang visit TV this Sunday, my guess, the ratings are through the roof and the set up of Big Paulie’s exit beings at 9:05PM.

 

March 3, 2003

I recently suffered Reality TV burn out and this season I have steered clear from the lot.  I don’t know if the Firestone Bachelor, or the Monica Lewinsky Mr. Personality, or the Steven Baldwin double Mole appearance did it, but the saturation has me watching tech TV, or Hannity and Colmes, or reading, anything but another reality show.  I almost got sucked in to the dwarf bachelor thing but I wasn’t home for the opening episode, not that there was a complex plot that would have me lost without the gripping roll out.  So last night, after puttering in the basement for a bit, I sat down, clicker in the left and red wine glass in the right, and started shooting my way through the 181 channels.  Damn, the final episode of Joe Average is on.  I missed the first series altogether.  Crap, I just want to see who she picks.  Gratefully they spent the first 15 minutes as a recap of the show, which is all you really need. The twist this year was mixing good looking guys with the nerds.  As all the TV execs wished for (oh really) she had it boiled down to one nerd and one good-looking guy.  The suspense was almost more than I could take and the editing of the show brilliantly had me rooting for the underdog, this slightly built, pasty-white Bostonian who I think was still a virgin.  The good looking guy showed little emotion for the babe and basically told her he was on the show in hopes of an acting career springboard. 

To all my new readers that have just joined us after we were named Web Site of the Month from BellaOnline.com, I apologize.  You may not want to read on.  As nature would have it, the hot, ex-model totally ripped out the heart of the virgin-nerd 31 year old, pasty-white Bostonian.  And her excuse was that she just couldn’t commit right now to the same emotional level he was giving to her.  No shit, you vapid, shallow, conniving bitch.  Women all over North America should be proud that TV is re-enforcing the common clichés about 'nice guys finishing last' and 'looks don’t matter' and 'a girl wants someone with a good personality' and blah, blah, blah…  As I sat there feeling for the guy, hell if a nerdy, pasty-white Bostonian who pulled out all the stops didn’t have a chance, there will never be room for my stick-figure brothers.  I even hoisted one to the poor guy who was crushed, and the cameras caught every minute of it.  The only thing that brought a smile to my face was in the end, the ex-model told her good looking piece of man meat that she used to date Fabio.  You know, the guy on the cover of the book Wino Paul was reading.  When the guy found this out, he freaked and walked out on her, leaving her crying on the couch as the show ended.  What a great lesson in human behavior.  Women are only in it for the looks and wash board abs and guys are either loser nerds that have no shot in hell of ever getting the babe, or they are good looking fragile creatures who emotionally cannot handle jealousy.  Don’t you know that dude, Fabio, is gay?  He never gave that woman anything except the appearance of being hot. (OK, the lawyers tell me I can’t really prove that Fabio is gay so I have to say it's just what we average stick figures say to build ourselves up in front of other people.  It gives us false hope, though I personally think he is gay.)  Just consider one fact; I think Queer Eye for the Straight Guy proved that gay guys spend all that time with hair care products.  Fabio..., enough said.   


Editor's note:  Bob's rage can be partially attributed 
to his 1995 thrashing at the hands of one "Fabio"...

Hey NBC, here’s an idea for your next show.  Why don’t you just have a good looking girl reach into a guys open chest cavity and rip his heart out?  Then we don’t have to deal with any Hollywood-conspired facade of a possibility that the goofy guy in glasses gets the hot model.  Where the hell did I put that romance novel Wino Paul let me borrow?

2000 Plaisir de Merle Cabernet Sauvignon $$ (27.00)   This South African Cab is a pearl  (Paarl) of a wine, rich full bodied and plenty of black cherry and plum fruit with nuances of toast and chocolate.  The tannins will keep you awake and allow this one to drink well for the next few years.

 

March 2, 2004

At this point in my cynicism about religion, I have but one thing to say regarding the Lenten season.  The Pastor of our church confirmed that it is "Christian Diet month".  I used to laugh as friends and family would express this as a time to give up sweets, kind of the prelude to swimsuit season.  But today, at the end of mass, the Pastor of our church made an announcement that the local Girl Scout council would be selling cookies after mass.  He then added that he would be giving special dispensation to anyone wanting to consume them today.  He also offered the tip that freezing them until after Easter would keep them fresh.  Has it come down to defining our commitments to the temptation of an éclair?  Far be it from me to preach religion, but do cookies and candy equate to Jesus’ 40 day fast in the desert being tempted by the devil?   Or is it that society has driven us to be weight conscious and, hell, what better way to remain on your diet than the wrath and fury of God Almighty coming upon us if we slip up and eat a Snickers during Lent.  

I, myself, have given up drinking a bottle of wine a day as a grave sacrifice for my 40 days.  Yes, a glass, maybe two, but no longer will I be sitting on the couch, munching cheetos and downing the entire bottle of red wine.  Hell, if Jesus could go 40 days without eating, I can go 40 days without drinking a bottle of wine a day.  My apologies to the wine industry as the blip in sales will only last until March 12th.  Then, as any good Christian, I will overindulge and drink two bottles of wine on Easter as a celebration for not drinking a bottle a day during Lent.  Now, the church as told me that as long as I don’t eat meat on Friday, I can indulge on Sunday so I only have to really keep my commitment from Monday through Saturday.  This religion thing really drives one to drink.  So as it is Sunday and I have been driven to drink by the fact that I can eat cookies today but not tomorrow, I not only opened a bottle of French wine, I consumed an entire bottle of French wine.  I went back to an old girlfriend, one that is a comfort zone, one that has class and body and loves me unconditionally.  Yes, I opened a Chateauneuf du Pape and was overcome with its beauty and grace.  Best of all, she was a cheap date.

2000 Domaine du Vieux Lazaret Chateauneuf du Pape $ (19.00)    Impressive for under twenty dollars, this wine is why I love southern Rhone.  There is a great cherry, cedar spice to the nose and dark fruits, a hint of chocolate and a smooth velvety finish.  If I have fallen, I will gracefully do penance for this one.

 

March 1, 2004 Addendum

Wino Paul finally came back from his luxury stay in Geek World (The executives get to mix business and pleasure).  I overheard him saying something about staying over to have dinner with Brad and Jen after our visit with the map of the stars.  He informed me that he would be sending along a posting about the day Wino Paul and Wino Bob invaded Beverly Hills.  I figured I would beat him to the punch.


Contrary to what he might say, I was not outside of Jennifer Aniston’s gate swooning like a teenager, I happened to have dropped a candy wrapper out the car window and was doing my civic duty by picking it up before the Beverly Hill’s Cop II squad rolled up on us.  


In this picture, the story goes that President Reagan once came out of his home and said, Mr. Neighbor, tear down that ugly mailbox, his neighbor happened to be Russian.  


The first home of the stars we rolled up on was that of the once famous and now departed, Dean Martin.  For the next twenty minutes, Wino Paul kept doing this Jerry Lewis Nutty Professor voice yelling, “Oh Dean”.  Though Dean has not lived in the house for years, the plants still give off a Gin odor.  


I did actually get out of the car and try and ring the door bell at Ozzy’s house but, just as I approached, Wino Paul yelled out at the top of his lungs, “Sharon”, which prompted the security light to go on and a very large man come out to chase us away.  


What red-blooded American boy wouldn’t have done what I did, stand for several hours at the gate to the Playboy Mansion?  Hoping to see the bunnies frolicking on the front lawn, I waited, but all that came within eye sight were several Peacocks.

Save the ten bucks, snap pictures of any gate and make up a story.  Except for Heff and Ozzy, there is no real confirmation that stars live where the map says.

 

March 1, 2004

Today is clean up day for several reasons.  There are two posting which should have included pictures but logistics at the time prohibited me from sending them.  It also keeps me from having to write about and review the Franzia Box Red I consumed last night.  So I just wanted to add these several pictures.

Due to the amount of pictures, I will keep the verbiage to a minimum.


The Manor restricted the wine tasting to those 5 feet and taller.  Unfortunately Brian was not able 
to participate in the tasting of the latest Drouhin Burgundies.  


The sentry for the event, Mrs. Big Bob, a somewhat pedantic sort, is seen here asking the host if it is OK for me to have been let in.
If you look closely you can see the twenty dollar bill palmed in her hand
.

 

February 27, 2004

I said it before and I will say it again.  Most middle aged white man cannot dance, and that doubly applies to white geek techno dweebs.  Last night, the industry group that sponsors the trade show, hosted a Gala.  Basically for us poor starving salesman, it is a free two hours of food and drinks.  Each year the committee hires a wedding band on steroids that tries to liven up the Poindexter engineers and encourages fun with the traditional dances from a bad wedding.  Plied with enough free alcohol, the natural tendencies of being the unassuming wallflowers turn into what can only be described as uncontrollable body spasms.  If you have little understanding of the beat and rhythm of music, please remain on the sidelines.  You only make those of us smart enough not to move within 20 yards of that wood plank by the band laugh uncontrollably.  Picture an overweight, balding, cross between Lurch and your laptop with sweat pouring from every pore, spastically flailing arms above head and twisting unnaturally to a bad rendition of Splish Splash.  They do not serve enough wine to get me near a situation like that and last night’s Woodbridge Cabernet was not pleasant enough to make me not laugh and point.  Look at that guy, do you really think taking your plaid necktie and moving it onto your forehead like a headband makes you John Travolta?  I understand they mean well by throwing this party as a thank you for attending the technical presentations and trade show, but please, leave the dancing to those who can snap their fingers to the beat of the bass drum.  Other than the Woodbridge Cabernet being free, there is little else I will be mentioning about that wine.  It is what it is and for those looking to have an inexpensive wine at the ready under your kitchen sink, feel free to stock up.  

I suddenly feel responsible for those who read this entry page and work in the Geek world with me not having a good time.  I looked over at one point and Wino Paul was inching closer and closer to the dance floor like a moth to a flame.  Then he suddenly turned, walked back to our table and stated he did not feel like reading about himself tomorrow.  I have altered the natural process for some and I feel badly.  I think that if I were not so interested in writing about the people I know, they would act differently.  Wino Paul, whose white turtleneck appeared very reminiscent of Tony’s outfit in Disco Fever, I think, was looking to show the Geek World his moves.  I must ask Winette Alice if she has any video of Wino Paul cutting the rug during their courtship. 

How much bad wine can a wino drink when the bad wine is for free?  I did it for the numbing effect of keeping my rib cage from hurting so much.  Anaheim, till we meet again...

 

February 26, 2004

Fat Tuesday, the pinnacle of hedonistic pleasures that culminates in the 40 day Lenten Fast as we await the Easter Vigil.  One of the places I always wanted to be for Fat Tuesday is Bourbon Street, to be one of the tens of thousands to experience the sights, sounds and smells of Mardi Gras, Hurricane in hand, and stomach in mouth.  But the chains that bind me to the world of food and shelter have me on the left coast at Geek World central.  So the next best thing to being there is to let Mr. Disney’s construction crew hammer nail, stucco, and paint wood and cement into a replica of Hell’s capitol.  Yes, last evening I had the pleasure of a geekdom dinner meeting at Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen in downtown Disney.  Complete with beads, crawfish appetizer and jambalaya, my mouth is still ablaze.  The beauty of Mr. Disney’s vision is to F with your mind enough to make you think you are someplace else while charging you extortionist pricing with a smile and a warm welcome and placing cute fuzzy kid things at kid eye level to further guilt parents into an outrageous purchase to quell little Johnny’s tantrum.  He has redefined parenthood as one's love for their child must be worn or held or carried in a Disney bag, only to be lugged home on an overcrowded plane where it will find permanent residence in the back of the closet or under the bed within 72 hours of the first 'I never get anything good' tantrum.  Was it that Walt had bad parents that never gave him what he wanted so he decided to create a facade of fun that would have every kid exiting the park either crying from not getting all they wanted or crying from having to carry four overstuffed bags of trinkets?  The guilt even struck one of the guys I was with as he looked at the gift shop in the Rain Forest Café and felt the twist of heartstrings for his 22-month-old son at home.  He abruptly left the bar and returned 20 minutes later with a shopping bag and a smile and an over priced logo shirt that was made by some young child for 25 cents in a world that does not have running water.

What does this have to do with wine?  Only that the hosts of our dinner graciously overpaid for our food and wine and drinks.  I went with the house cabernet that came in at 8 dollars a glass and one of the glasses was off.  There was a wet wood, musty odor to the glass that sent my nose and stomach wincing.  I understand why we do it but at some point we need to toss the tea into the harbor…

2001 Grand Archer Cabernet Sauvignon    Too much wood and not enough fruit on this one.  The oak started and ended, leaving only small amounts of dark cherry and cassis.  OK, but not great.  (Editor's note:  An old girlfriend once told me, "You can never have too much wood...")

 

February 23, 2004

Holy crap Marie, if you have never been a true tourist in the LA area and stopped at the side of the road on Sunset Blvd to purchase a map of the stars homes, you have missed a highlight in life.   With some time to kill before the onslaught of the throngs of customers clamoring to invest in capital equipment this week, a bit of down time found Wino Paul and I racing around the Hollywood Hills, snapping digital pictures of the mailboxes and privacy gates of some of the greatest Hollywood stars, dead and alive.  I think we have a picture of the right sneaker of Jennifer Aniston as we parked outside her and Brad’s estate.  The wrought iron gate of Mr. Heffner is not as impressive as I thought it would be and the distance from Ozzy’s closed gate to his house looks much bigger on TV then it appeared today.  Actually, Ozzy’s house was the only one we could attest to since large stonewalls; privacy bushes and low hanging trees are the norm.  The other interesting footnotes are that the stars may move without notice to the map company and many of the homes are the ones that star lived in at some point in the past.  I was more amazed at the surrounding estates that were not identified by the map.  What in God’s green earth do those people do to own such major abodes?  And for the record, Aaron Spelling does not need all that room, give a brother a break.  

From the highs of the Hollywood Hills to the lows of the street people of Venice beach, we saw them all today.  My two favorites in Venice beach were the marionette man- a guy sitting on a park bench manipulating a small animal on strings.  He did not have a cup out nor did he hawk people for money.  On the other hand, there was a gentleman with Rasta-hair and a shopping bag sitting on the bench.  As people worked passed him, he would simply yell out, "put some money in the bag, just put some money in the bag!"  For the two hours we were around that area, he let out a call once every 15 seconds.  The walk along the ocean is filled with character and the people off Sunset are filled with cheddar.

Pictures to follow once WP downloads them from his camera.

While in California, one has to consume the obligatory Mexican.  As only fitting, a frozen rim-salted Margarita is appropriate.  However, the hotel bar serves up a glass of house wine and a hand full of drunken singers under the description of karaoke.  I passed on the off key singing but signed onto a glass of cabernet that they allowed me to bring to the room as I sit in front of the TV in my boxers and black socks awaiting the HBO original, Curb Your Enthusiasm.  I don’t know if it is just an east coast thing, but that is a funny show and the situations Larry finds himself in are a blast.  That and the Chappell Show crack me up. 

 2001 Stone Haven Cabernet Sauvignon $    Deep ruby color leads you to a nose full of dark cherry and anise with a great finish for an inexpensive wine.  This is a fun wine to enjoy with singing off key.

 

February 22, 2004

A belated Happy 50th Anniversary to my folks, a milestone in this day and age.  Unfortunately, the West Orange police have asked me to spend some time away from NJ so I find myself here in Southern California.  Actually, Geekdom has relocated me for the next several days and I am planning to drink as much of California’s sun converted to wine as humanly possible.  Wino Paul happened to be on my flight and to handle the five and a half hours more easily, we managed to rearrange our seating.  Even I can’t talk non stop for that length of time so we did what most people do on a plane, pulled out that book that had been on the night stand for weeks with the first chapter read and dust collecting on the cover.  For me, a flight that long should at least get me through chapter five.  As I snail my way through this business philosophy book called “True to our Roots” written by Paul Dolan, President of Fetzer Winery, my peripheral vision caught something that amazed me.  Wino Paul, not only went to Evelyn Wood speed-reading course, he’s the President.  This novel he had was one of those 500 page Harlequin Romance things with Fabio on the cover, or so it looked like from my seat.  At one point, he was turning pages so quickly that I saw traces of smoke coming from his fingers.  I just had to stop and ask him, do you understand anything that you read that fast?  I guess that’s the difference between smart people and... uh,...  me.  I remember one summer taking the time to lift Mitchner’s book, Poland - a micro type 1800 page history lesson.  It took me a night to read three pages and understand what was going on. 

Landing late, it was a quick trip to an Italian restaurant that had a small overpriced list.  I was tired and just wanted a glass of red to accompany my rigatoni alla Bella Marri.  The food was OK, and the house Chianti left a lot to be desired.  I just haven’t tuned into the Chianti scene and the less expensive ones run on the low end of my scale.

As for the book, when I return I will scan the cover and place it into the books for winos. But let me just preface it with this, did Mr. Dolan grow up in Haight-Ashbury?

 

February 20, 2004

Three word just killed my great entry.  Twelve letters, 8 unique letters - r,t,h,o,e,f,c,d.  These 8 simple unique letters, when placed in the correct combination, have ruined the rest of this entry.   The words - Off The Record.  I never really thought of myself as one who would ever be placed in this position.  I thought this was only for real journalists, real news people, and real top level insiders.  But it happened to me last night and now I have great stories and cannot share them with you.  I can share with you the events leading up to the great time Wino John and I had last night at the gracious hands of our industry insider, Big Bob. 

As I have written about in the past, Big Bob has invited us to several events, mostly those not attended by his boss.  Yesterday, he hosted a tasting at the lavishly decorated and professionally staffed Manor in northern New Jersey.  As most real industry people use the lull between lunch and dinner crowds, WJ and I had to complete our toil in Geekdom before zipping over to sample the shrimp and slurp the latest releases from the portfolio offerings of Dreyfus Ashby.   Having to slip Mrs. Big Bob a Jackson, she pretended to drop her pencil and look the other way as I did the 'pipe cleaner shuffle' to the tasting table.  I started with the Aussie, Chilean and South African offerings to lubricate my pipes and awaken the sleeping taste buds in the nether regions of my tongue.  Then, with the precision of a laser guided missile, I locked onto the Drouhin wines and moved slowly from left to right.  Some where between the whites and the reds, Wino John had been openly welcomed by Big Bob and his guest of honor, Laurent Drouhin.  As WJ spoke wine and terrior with the captains of industry, I glanced around and noticed that the herd had thinned to mostly Manor workers.  I darted and dodged my way about the empties hunting out the last drops of wine-soaked corks to imbibe the beverage of Beaunne and Bordeaux. 

WJ must have impressed the hosts enough with his wine knowledge that the next thing I knew he told me he had been invited to join them for dinner.  Dejected, I moped around the room and said exaggeratedly long farewells in hopes of a default invite.  OK, I resorted to an outright refusal to vacate the tasting room as the management stacked chairs and folded tables.  Unaware I was not invited, they thought I had gotten lost and graciously escorted me to the dining room to get me out of the shrimp cart.  So here I was, feeling a bit like Ringo Starr, the untalented Beatle, amongst the elite.  Hey, did you know the chairs in the Manor swivel and rock back?   Did you know they charge five dollars a glass for seltzer water?  Did you know there are a great deal of white haired men dining with their daughters by candle light?  Did you know the lime sherbet isn’t dessert, but something called sorbet and is used to clear the crap from your tongue before you eat your real food? 

The dinner time conversation was fantastic and Laurent has a great sense of humor.  He must as he agreed to break bread with WJ and me.  Everything was going great until someone at the table mentioned that we do a wine web site and the entire evening’s events will probably appear in my entry and then those three words came out….

The shame of it all is that I won’t be able to share the great stories Mr. Drouhin told of his love for fast cars and his passion for his wine.  It’s a shame I cannot tell of his interesting background growing up in a culture of vines and grape juice and terrior.  I really want to tell you about the great stories of travel and things, but I cannot break my ethical obligation to the journalistic oath.  The story of the night, though, had to be the one Mrs. Big Bob told about wine industry movers and shakers that were full of intrigue, power, mystery and yes, slaking…  But if I recall, she was the one who sounded the off with “OTR” first. 

It was a great experience to feel like a low member of a high power posse where we got behind the velvet rope to the "in" table with impeccably attentive service, fun conversation, delicious food, great wine and the company of, dare I say, a new friend and honorary Wino Laurent.  And yes, if I ever do hit the mega buck drawing, I will be taking you up on that visit to Cote de Beaunne.  As a matter of fact, I might just bring my bags and stay at the Chateau for a few nights and hit the cellar late at night to sample the best Burgundy has to offer.

 

February 17, 2004

I never knew Wino Rocker was such an audio/videophile, but given his personal pursuit of still being a rock star and his bottomless barrel of FU cheddar, I now understand.  Over the weekend I was pulling my short hairs out with technical problem after technical problem trying to complete what should have been a simple geek task.  A small project which should have taken two hours on the outside had me tied up for two days with no results.  So when in trouble, I resort to seeking out the friends I have that have the appropriate resources, then I start with calls to the person one house away, one block away, one mile away, etc.  Had it been a photography problem, I could have placed the item in a breeches buoy and shuttled it across the street to Wino Bruce, but this one needed something just this side of a recording studio.  Low and behold, Wino Rocker has what amounts to studio 7A in his house and within one bottle of wine, task accomplished. 

The funnier part of the evening was looking at the Rock and Roll history of Wino Rocker's bands.  The change from circa 1971 to 1974 as facial hair and flowing locks defined the struggling band image of 5 musicians from the suburbs of Newark.  He managed to transfer years of old reel-to-reel to CD and enhanced the quality of the sounds.  Fortunately my older brother was cool enough to allow me to hangout with the band, as long as it was not past my bed time and I was on good “little brother” behavior.  Unfortunately, I had a hard time adhering to the 'sit in the corner quietly' mandate and wound up pissing the other band members off more times then not, which  led to me being locked in a closet once and lashed to a column in our basement (the studio) for several hours.  Unfortunately, the break up of the band was as nasty as Guns and Roses, but I’m thinking it is time for détente.  It might just be time for a band reunion, at a gig in the local K of C hall to the frantic dancing of hormonally-fueled teenagers as they bump and grind their way through a 20 minute rendition of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vino.   Long live Rock and Roll…

2002 Santa Isabel Estate $ (8.00)    This pleasant example of Chile’s growing acceptance into the wine world offers great values of classic grapes.

 

February 15, 2004

In the aftermath of the crappy Sauvignon Blanc from Chile, I decided to hedge my bets and buy a wine that WJ recommended I try.  No, he will not be refunding my money if I didn’t like it, but at least I could bitch at him and call into question his sense of wine if it turned out to be another dog.  I try his patience enough with this site, never mind me carping like an old lady about spending 11.00 on a bottle he recommended and it not delivering.  But he must have read something about the 2001 Cali Cabs during his bout with the Aztec God.  So here’s one that will bring back my faith in the value wines from California. Yes, find this one and give it a try for an easy drinking Saturday night wine with some friends or family.

2001 Estancia Cabernet Sauvignon $ (10.99)    A real bargain with the coat and hat of a higher priced wine.  Fruit?  We got your fruit right here, dark cherry, and blackberry with the nose of an old familiar boyhood hangout.  Buy this one while it's still on the shelves.  You will enjoy it for times to come.

 

February 14, 2004

Where do I go to get my money back?  No, seriously.  I want my $8.00 back.  Boy, did I get a crappy wine tonight.  In the spirit of getting back to basics in my entries and in my Grape of the Year, I bought a Sauvignon Blanc to report on.  To be fair and balanced, if I might say that without getting sued by Fox News, I will be drinking SB from around the world throughout the year.  As always, I am in search of that great little gem in the rough, that inexpensive wine that is not the fad yet, so I can keep buying it on my meager salary.  Contrary to popular belief, WinoStuff does not buy the wines we drink.  We personally buy these wines out of the love of the craft.  But when I buy one that I simply do not enjoy, there is no where to go, no one to return it to.  It’s not suffering cork taint, it just tastes like one. 

I had a nice exchange yesterday with Arthur at Renaissance Art, the company in Seattle that is making our WinoStuff Journal.  He is adding a new twist to the journal that will give ours a little something above and beyond those you would purchase from Barnes and Noble or the like.  I am so pleased with this journal that I will be sending one out to one lucky WinoStuff reader.  That’s right Winos and Winettes, it is time for you to simply email me with your name and a valid email address and I will draw one lucky winner from the lot.  Nothing to it, just email me by the end of March, yes the last day of March 2004, and I will randomly select one person to receive this lovely and beautiful wino journal compliments of your friends and gracious hosts at WinoStuff.com.  Now I just have to figure out how I can get WJ and WW to pony up their third of the cost for me to purchase a book from Art.  But don’t you worry, I will find a way.  So from now on you can think of me like herpes, the gift that keeps on giving.  Uh, well, you know what I mean.  And if you happen to include your favorite Sauvignon Blanc story in your email, I will send along the ointment that will help dry things up.

So there you have it winos, how much more simple can I make it?  Oh yeah, here’s how, Winobob@winostuff.com.  Mark your calendars for the last day of March 2004 and it could be your lucky day.

2000 Casa Lapostolle Sauvignon Blanc $ (8.00)   Stick with their Cab and Malbec.  They do those well but this was a big disappointment.

 

February 13, 2004

The best thing JR Tobacco did was put a big screen TV in the lounge.  While enjoying a glass or two of wine with my good old buddy Wino John, the cable station rolled snippets of the top stories.  As I soak up the wine, out flows my best impression of John McLaughlin.  "In the Democratic primary eye poking, was General Wesley Clark the one to leak the news of sexual impropriety by John Kerry?   Eleanor…"

As I mentioned eons ago, I grew up apolitical.  Politics was never a dinnertime topic of discussion.  We were registered Independent and Sunday mornings were for church and delivering the Newark Evening News.  The only politically oriented thing I can recall was an 8 x 10 print of John F. Kennedy hanging on the side of the closet next to the white enamel Kenmore washing machine in the basement of my parent’s old house.  Yes, the devastation of selling my childhood home still stings.

Somehow, someway, all that changed.  I now can appropriately be termed an "old fart" as I find myself driving around the Northeast listening to talk radio, or sitting on the couch on Sunday morning covered in sections of the newspaper like a homeless guy in Herald Square, frantically clicking between Meet the Press and the Chris Wallace Fox show.  As I swirl and swallow, wino-ideology flows from the minimal gray matter to my mouth and I become a pompous pundit on topics from foreign affairs to internal affairs.  I would love to guest host a political talk show but, unfortunately, it would be dragged into the salacious side of every issue.  "Pat Robertson, are you telling me that John Kerry was the one that caused Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction?"  "Eleanor, let us see your nipple jewelry."  

I would actually start off with serious topics like, "Now that Wesley Clark has pledged his two supporters to John Kerry, is that enough to carry Kerry to the head of the class?"  The questions would quickly degrade to things like, "How many more states could Edwards claim the he was born in or lived in so he can win another primary?"  "Should Howard Dean teach sixth grade geography after he goes down like a tunnel bunny at 2AM?"  How politically astute are Governor James E. McGreevey, Bill Bradley and Al Gore for jumping out quickly to support Dean, as Dean hoots and hollers his way out of the political scene?"   "Can Howard Dean be the future President of wine.com as he has demonstrated a talent for burning through 41 million dollars with nothing to show for it?"  "If John Kerry is married to the Ketchup Queen, why is he out squeezing young interns’ tomatoes?"  "Where is Rev. Al?"  "Why is it that the Democratic Party, the Party of equality, silenced Carol Mosley Braun and Al Sharpton- equal rights, but not in their leadership."  "Should the fashion industry stop using sweatshops in China to limit the potential of more apparel malfunctions, saving Mel Karmazin and Les Moonvese’s jobs and Viacom?"  "If President Bush’s National Guard experience is coming under question, and John Kerry is asked to step aside because his pants zipper malfunctions from time to time, will Hillary Clinton’s military background come into play?"  "Did Bill Clinton’s Lewinsky problems ruin the tolerance of the media and the masses for John Kerry?"  

God, I would need more than an hour for my segment!  I wonder if Tim Russert has an email address.  I bet he drinks wine.  This could be the start of a new career…

1999 Muga Reserva Rioja $ (18.00)    This one did not grab me as it offered a minimum of fruit and flavor and nose.  I might drink this one on taco night, but that is about it.

 

February 11, 2004

I’ve drifted to a place that has gotten me too far away from what I should be writing about.  The past several times I was in a social setting, I either had a beer or drank wine that I have already written about.  As a matter of fact, last Sunday evening we had an impromptu wine bash, and I do not say bash lightly.  For me the dead soldier count was one wine bottle and a bit per human consumer.  The tough part is that we finished the seven remaining bottles of Nederberg Pinotage Big Bob hooked me up with for the swank book party.  So the fun and consuming was done around something already posted, which has me caught between posting about the night or not.  Without a wine I could review, it would seem more like an entry at gawker, then and entry for winos.  Actually, it would seem more like a campfire spook-out then a wine night as the reading of people’s past, candles, wine and the stroke of mid-night all collided.  I will not bore you with detail, but when someone you know meets someone you know but have never met one another and someone tells the other someone about their past from just holding a hand and drinking a glass of wine, the hair on the back of my neck hasn’t settled down in two days.  Now had I opened a different wine, I would be regaling you with a story that I myself would be the most skeptical of, if not for knowing these two people never, ever met before.

Then there was the generosity of Wino Paul, inviting me to the Nets Game, last night.  OK, you’re right, it wasn’t center court at Madison Square Garden.  And after last night, I understand why the Nets are hoping a bus to Brooklyn as a very scrappy team fought back from a 15 point deficit to hand the well coached Detroit Pistons a loss.  Since our geek jobs had us coming from different directions, we decided to meet at the world famous Manny’s, home of the world famous cheese steak sandwich in Moonachie.  As you will see from the crappy camera-in-phone picture, Manny’s is your beer drinking and steak sandwich eating joint.  I believe Manny himself would have hauled me into the back alley and kicked my ass if I asked to se a 'wine by the glass' list.

Actually I took this poor quality picture in hopes it would be much better to see.  Manny’s is a hangout for the Giants players.  Last night, as we sat at the bar for a beer and cheese steak sandwich, Jim Fassel and his family walked in for a special backroom party.  I don’t know if it was a farewell or staff thing but the blurry guy standing in the middle of the picture is the ex coach of the Giants. 

Hey, phone people, until you can build a 2 mega pixel camera in the phone, stick to improving your technology so I can get reception in my house.  Yeah I’m talking to you, AT&T Wireless.  If it wasn’t for the other features on the phone, I would be porting my number to the Verizon network which seems to have far better coverage in my part of the world. 

I promise next entry, a new wine review, otherwise, I will just be a stalker blogging on the web…

 

February 7, 2004

Happy Birthday Babe Ruth.  I guess I just have sports on my mind since I spent last night loading the pictures from the Super Bowl into my computer.  This allows me to share the love with my family and friends.  Or better yet, I get to actually prove that I was there to the Doubting Thomas’ of the world.  Winos and Winettes, I know the media has over done the Janet Jackson nasty, floppy, rib balloon, but I must bring it up just one more time.  As it turns out, the shutter bug in me was fortunate enough to span a digital picture at the exact moment when Mr. Timberlake, if that’s his real name, created the technological apparel malfunction which has caused Ms. Jackson’s headlines to supercede her more feminine looking brother’s headlines.  So in a rare, sexually explicit moment at WinoStuff, I send out the fair warning to those of you reading this in your workplace or at home in front of the family.  Please do not scroll down until you have moved yourself into the appropriate locked bathroom and brace yourself for one final picture of this world altering incident that has news stations around the globe reporting on this like the Lindenburg disaster.

 

Warning: Sexually Explicit Material !!!

 

 

 

  Hey, wait a minute, that’s not the nasty boob of Ms. Jackson!  Now that I am looking at a larger picture, that’s the finger of the guy sitting in front of me.  God Damn It, Cartman….. Here I was ready to call Mike Walker at the National Enquirer to sell off this new picture.  Wow, do I feel stupid.

Since I have no one else to share these pictures with, I will only post two more which I feel are my favorites.

   

 

If only they had a big ass cabernet at the concession stand.

 

February 6, 2004

Did you ever wake up and not feel well?  No, not the usual hangover, headache, shaky, queasy feeling, but a real feeling of food poisoning?  As my fun in Houston moved to work in Atlanta, I woke up the day after dining at a very high end restaurant in Buckhead with that food poisoning feeling.  The crazy thing was that I only had three items during the night.  The first was a garden salad with blue cheese dressing, a 16 oz. NY Strip and a few glasses of red wine.  Now I do not want to cast any negative, unsubstantiated comments about this restaurant since my ailment may have been totally unrelated, but I’m guessing that the salad boy didn’t wash his hands after his visit to the facilities and I got the ecoli, tomato and hearts of lettuce special.

But wait, isn’t there a sign at every restaurant demanding that all employees must wash their hands after using the facilities?  If so, then the only thing it could have been is the wine the host selected.  Yes, the only thing I can figure is that my system had an adverse reaction to Merlot.  Could I have developed such an aversion to that wimpy red grape that my system violently rejects the ingestion of it?  Or is Atlanta importing water from Mexico to wash their salads?  What ever the true reason, the last impression I have is of a glass of Merlot that tilted my system like a jostled pin ball machine and has me frightened to ever drink a Merlot again.  Damn it, and Big Bob has just added a wide offering from Bordeaux.  I will only be able to drink the left-bankers that he pours.  

And to the passengers on the 4:45 flight from Atlanta to Newark, my apologies…

February 2, 2004

God Damn It, Cartman!!!! Why didn’t I just bite the bullet and order the friggin' Beringer White Zinfandel?  Here it is, the biggest game of the football season and I decide to drink over-priced beers out of souvenir cups.  A forty-one yarder with 9 seconds made my head pound harder this morning than I preferred.  A crappy field goal by a guy who missed early and was blocked on his second chance. The experience is indelible and I will be ever grateful for the opportunity. Equally amazing was the speed with which I was able to get in and out of the parking facilities.  Houston handled that with great care.  The one and a half hour line to go through the metal detector was a bit more than I bargained for, but it was extraordinary. 

I went as far as eating that Velveeta cheese nacho crap they heap at you so I could cover my Mexican good luck food requirement, but I just could not run the gauntlet back to my heaven-high seat with a white zin sloshing over the frenzied fans in row P section 749.  Yes, as they gave us the “in case of emergency evacuation route”, our section in Texans Stadium was not quite the clear path the others had to follow.  God forbid, I would have been better off going down with the ship than be lead on a wild ride to nowhere.  There was one positive about being that high up, I could not see the man baton of the gentleman who falsely dressed as a ref just before the third quarter kick off, stripped at the 35 in front of the tee’d up ball and did the pee-pee dance for a good four minutes before security realized it was time to react.  The hit by one of the Pat’s linebackers left him groggy and with a nasty chaffing from the slide he took across the field.  The other positive is that Steve Tyler’s face is not as cavernous from afar.

It was a good game and the Panthers gave it up more than a ton of times.  But they kept it close and almost had a perfect ending to a great season.  But to the victors go the spoils, and for the second super bowl in NE history, it came down to the closing seconds and a kick off the foot of a man called Adam. 

The cowboy band and the large quantity of beer kept me drinking Corona at the after game party at the hotel.  I had only one night of wine drinking and that was only several glasses of Rosemount Estate ShirazSo tonight, or tomorrow or the next, I will have to drown my disappointment in bottles and bottles of red wine. 

When does training camp start?

 

January 31, 2004

Well, I don’t know if it was the Mexican food or the underwear or the Mexican food in the underwear, but the Football Gods did smile upon me.  As Wino John spent his entire column informing you,  I am in the State of Texas, unlike the State of Inebriation in which I spend much of my time.  Wino John did seem to make most of his column speaking about me.  It took him two months to make a new entry under What’s New and it isn’t really new, it’s dumping on Wino Bob.  Speaking of dumping, that was his second message that qualifies as more than I need to know.  (Editor's note:  Dumping on WinoBob!  ha ha ha....jestera.gif (598 bytes))

So the luck of the FG allowed my name to be pulled from the very slim pool of ticket owners of one of the teams participating in the Big Dance.  The thing that bursts one's bubble is that by the time you know you have the chance to go, it is nearly impossible to get there.  The NFL takes all the good hotels and leaves those of us in the peanut gallery to stay in the outback of Texas.  I think it will cost me a tank of gas just to get to the stadium.  And may I send out a Huge FU to Expedia.com.  As they gladly charged my credit card for a room in another time zone from Houston, upon actually arriving at the room, it was not structured to hold the number of people in my party.  Hey, if you have a screen requiring me to tell you the number in my party, I don’t want to sleep 4 to a bed.

Party, party, party is the mode and alcohol fuels every minute of the time.  The cool thing is that anyone wearing the same team apparel makes you feel like family.  I have spoken with some of the greatest people from Carolina this weekend and they take time to chat.  Until they find out I got picked in the lottery for tickets, then they say, “Oh, you are the one”.  As for the seats at the stadium, can I say this may be the closest to Heaven I will ever be.  The one thing, coming from the NY area I might suggest, is that the mayor of Houston hire Rudy Guilliani for several months.  I have seen a beggar on every corner of the road, with signs and cups and knocking on your window daring you not to give them money.

Wine is not the big thing flowing here, but I must give kudos to Willie G’s in Galveston with a great wine list and really top end service.  The lemon pepper catfish was outstanding, though the hour and a half drive had me drinking tea, not grape.  So tonight is the Big Game and the 2-hour ride will be sweetened if John Fox can keep Tom Brady in check.  The game and stadium should hold a memory of a lifetime.

 

January 28, 2004

The 'glass half full' attitude I committed to in my often dead-on-arrival new years resolution seems to be paying dividends and, as the Sauvignon Blanc predicts good things, so they have begun.  Late Saturday night, while I was singing Tom Wait songs and making love to my keyboard, I started searching other suicidal lyrists to assist me in buffing up for Karaoke night.  As I have written about in the past, like Q3 00, one of my life long influences for depression and vein slicing songs has and will be Janis Ian.  I was already seeing a shrink three days a week when Kurt Cobaine hit the scene. For me, the pains of youth seem to be more real now than when I was… youthful.  Anyway, I hunted down a web site that had this click-on link if you wanted to send a message to Ms. Ian.  OK, I’m in the web site email thing.  I’m sure sending out an email would get routed to an assistant, who would route it to a college intern who fires off the usual, "Thank you for professing your undying love to Janis, but she has so many of these come in she cannot read them all and respond to them.  But if you send in a SASE, she will send you an autographed picture that you can hang on your wall, you over-the-hill, stick figure wino.  Besides, your email address is on the national 'do not accept' list which was started after that incident with author, Flavia Alaya.  Don’t think you will ever get within a state and a half of Ms. Ian."

But to my surprise, Janis wrote back and yes, she is one who enjoys the fruit of the vine.  The greatest fact for me is that she is into first growth Bordeaux and California Cult Cabs.  A woman dripping profound lyrics, has a sense of humor and drinks big reds - I must be dreaming.  Now how do I set it up to share a diamond in the rough California red at an off beat Chelsea bar the next time she’s playing in NYC?  I wonder if I should take out a billboard in Tenn., or do you think that’s a bit over the top?  (Editor's note:  Can you say "Restraining Order"?)

Wino Bob, thanks so much -  cool site, btw!

Yes, indeed I love a good glass of wine.  Unfortunately, my  first experiences with the noble grape were courtesy of a sommelier at a ritzy London hotel.  My record company had put me up there, and picked up lunches and dinners for the week while I did press.  When said sommelier asked what wine I wanted with my first lunch, I cheerfully said “No idea, pal. I’ve never had any wine before.”  (Mind you, I was quite young at the time.)

Askance, he took pity on my ignorance.  When he discovered I’d  be staying the week and eating fourteen meals, he began bringing me other diner’s leftover wine at the end of each meal.  I would gravely taste it, he would ask what I thought; I’d comment, he’d correct my language (“Tastes kind of dank”.  “No, miss, the word you want is ‘dark’.  Wine tastes ‘dark’ or even ‘muddy’, but never ‘dank’.”)

Thus it was that, at the tender age of twenty, I began my wine-drinking days with Chateaux Margaux, Petrus Pomerol, St.  Estephe and the like.  Fabulous wines from fabulous years that I can not afford.

And of course, throughout the early 70’s the California wines were dirt cheap in Los Angeles, and my friend Holly Butterfield owned a great restaurant there. She was very much a California wine pusher, and she’d buy them from all over the state – some  from vineyards that only produced 20 or 30 cases a year.  Then she’d have us all over for gigantic food and wine tasting. In that way I got to taste most of the upcoming great vineyards while they were still affordable. And again, I can’t afford them now.

Most recent, my friend Mary Fisher gave me a bottle of Far Niente red (I forget which year) which was so stunning that I immediately went out to buy a case… alas, again my pocket did not meet my taste!

So Bob, I’d be hard-pressed to pick a favorite, because I really can’t afford to drink the ones I love.  We had a nice bottle of ’99 Jordan red with some friends the other day, but at $50 a pop it’s quite beyond us for regular drinking.

And unfortunately, I am living in Tennessee, where we have some of the worst liquor taxes in the country, and a very small cartel controlling what can – and can’t – be brought here for sale.

Alas,

Janis

So there it is my wine and music Utopia, Happy 2004.


Janis Ian shows her obvious disdain for WinoBob 
in this 1970's file photo.

2002 Gallo Twin Valley Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc $ (4.99)   It is wine and it has alcohol and gooseberry, but this will not fall into the "Find of the Year" category for me.  And I was really attracted to Gina Gallo; I was hoping to start up an email friendship.

 

January 27, 2004

Lots of changes for 2004, new attitude, new outlook and new organization skills.  Yes, the 'out-with-the-old, in-with-the-new' mantra has been ringing in my head, so I decided to take the steps necessary to accomplish new and exciting things.  OK, accomplish may be too lofty a goal, but I did manage to find a helpful tool that will keep me from the late night scramble of keeping track of the many bottles of wine I have consumed.  The drinking sometimes is so enjoyable, I do not remember where I jotted down the name and pricing stuff for me to use the next day or two, after the head stops thumping.  Up to this point, I have been using the Wino Bob method of organization.  I keep the corks in a bin and slips of paper in a box and hope that I can match the right cork with the right pricing information.

I searched high and low for some help and one day, while frenzy clicking around yahoo or google or something, I found this really neat, hand-crafted, leather-wrapped wine journal.  After several exchanges of emails, it turns out the owners of the company are winos through and through and have been gracious enough to design a special release WinoStuff wine journal.  I know they say a picture is worth a thousand words, but these pictures cannot capture to supple feel to this hand-tanned leather.  I think there is a series of small trolls in Seattle who dance in their bare feet for three days to soften the hide of the unmad cows.  I repeat, these hides are not from those other cows!  You know, the ones they use at that burger joint.  Enough said...

 

So there are three thousands words that describe this tastefully embossed, hand crafted wine journal that I have recently purchased and the good people at www.renaissance-art.com will personalize the title page of this book with the name of your favorite Wino or Winette.  You can get on their page and email Art, or I will figure out what Art’s email address is and post it up for you.  This will make a great gift for a birthday, anniversary or special occasion for that wino in your life.  Plus, it will keep all those crappy bar napkins from cluttering up your desk.

1988 Burgess Vintners Selection Cabernet Sauvignon $$   Once the dust and funk blew off this wine, it was a great example of time in a bottle and the pleasures brought out by letting the wine mellow.

2000 E. Guigal Chateauneuf du Pape $$ (28.00)    What can I say?  Rhone and Guigal are the reasons I love this region.  Plenty of high cherry and raspberry flavors with a spicy tone that captures my attention every time.

 

January 24, 2004

One more grain of sand just dropped to the bottom of the hour glass, never to be seen again.  Is it all but entropy?  The cold, drafty window rattles with the wind and I am up late this evening drinking a fine bottle of wine singing Tom Waits songs from the lyrics page of the Official Tom Waits web site, though Tom himself is not a part of the Official site.  The one I do best, in full gravelly throat is “Martha”.   The red wine blankets me from the chill of the night.  A blue Toyota rounds the street corner outside.  The surface of the snow has been polished by the sun and wind to a reflective mirror and the moon light dances across the front yards of the neighborhood.  “We were all so young and foolish, now we are mature”.

Earlier this evening, I intended to do a funny little entry about the discussion Wino John and I had at lunch yesterday.  But the heady fuel of my Beringer’s Knights Valley has me thinking it was too obvious, too easy, too common a thought to bother.  Wino John was telling me about the trial of a cannibal in Germany where this wealthy gentleman put an ad on the internet for a person to be eaten by him.  Some deranged individual answered the ad and allowed one of his organs to be removed.  The two men shared the organ with a nice Barolo (I figure it must have been his liver, anyone knows a Barolo goes well with liver and onions).  Then the cannibal consumed the remaining man and buried his bones in the backyard.  It was the second ad on the internet that alerted the police who ultimately captured the cannibal.

So the obvious question is, when one is dining on a human, do you serve the wine from the country you live in while enjoying the meal or the wine from the country of the guest of honor.  Was the deranged man Italian that the German cannibal decided on a Barolo?  Is it white wine with Scandinavians and red wine with South Africans?  Do wine rules apply to human cuisine or does it taste like chicken so apply the wine/chicken standard?  Why would a man eat another man?  Don’t you know the meat is tougher than a woman?  You see, these are all too obvious to warrant the discussion.  Does Webber have a special section in their German grill book for cannibals?  As long as he didn’t eat bread, would he be sticking to his Atkins diet?  What part or parts are the tastiest?  Was he influenced by Metallica, Howard Stern, or Dr. Lecter? 

“Will I see you tonight, on a downtown train?”

“I got no time for the corner boys”.  Jesus, I could sing all night.

2002 David Bruce Petite Sirah $ (14.00)    A Rhone Ranger from the left coast who consistently delivers.  This one offers a fine fare of fruits and a hint of mint, with a pleasing finish.

1995 Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon $ (22.00)    This one hit me with a sweet caramel nose right off the bat and then heaps of dark cherries and cassis in your face.  Big, bold and red, like like my women.

 

January 23, 2004

It is that time of year again, the ritualistic dinner out with my high school friend who is not a wine drinker.  As I mentioned, that “We are Family” theme from our high school prom has dwindled to me having an occasional drink or dinner with the only two buddies with whom I still keep in touch.  My buddy Rich was the high school QB and I was, brace yourself, the speedy deep threat receiver who made his passing per cent respectable.  Though broken bones in different seasons only amounted to us playing together our sophomore year, we were a team in and out side of school.  Now, we manage to have dinner together maybe twice a year and have little tolerance for idle chat on the phone.  Several nights ago we located a point somewhere between our respective homes.  This year it landed us in Ruth's Chris Steakhouse.  As we waited for our table, I eyeballed the impressive selection of bottles lining the wine cellar’s display.  At the table, I looked over the wine list and couldn’t believe my eyes.  The first thing I was drawn to was the Silver Oak for $22.00.  Could that be right?  Are they using this as a loss leader?  Most restaurants sell this for $150.00!  Oh, sorry, that’s the per glass price.  What the F&(%#.  I have become so cranky about this gouging thing that I refused to buy wine, by the bottle, by the glass, by the anything. 

The steaks are good at Ruth’s but a $29.00 bottle being marked up to $80.00 was more than I was ready for.  So I went through the night drinking Sam Adams since Jim Koche's unorthodox style is something I respect.  Dinner was fun, as we mixed old stories of our misspent youth with bitching about our jobs and current affairs of the world. Though I did not enjoy steak with beer as much as I did in my unsophisticated youth, I ran home and opened the nearest thing to the door.  There was a wine bottle I brought home from Thanksgiving dinner at my non-drinking sister’s house.  My brother-in-law gets wine as gifts from clients, so he saves these for me.

1999 Inniskillin Riesling Reserve $ (24.99)     A glass full of yellow-greenish hue liquid tumbled into my glass and I swirled and sniffed a bunch of citrus aromas of lemon drops, grapefruit, and lime.  A touch of flint and apricots spiked the finish of this tangy, tart, and youthful wine.

 

January 20, 2004

I don’t know if it was the underwear or the Mexican food or the Mexican food in the lucky underwear, but Big Ups to John Fox and the Carolina Panthers.  Not being one to say anything controversial, I must step out of character for a minute and ask this simple question, “Was Rush Limbaugh prophetic in his statements about McNabb earlier in the season”?  I watched McNabb through the blurred vision of a 2002 Rosemount Estate Shiraz, as he missed target several times and threw three strikes to a little known DB from UCLA who came up big.  Detmer’s first shovel pass to an interior lineman was the best pass of the night.  Well, I have to start charting the weather in Houston so I can acclimate my TV room for the big dance on Feb 1st.  One day, before my liver goes down like the Hindenburg, I would like to have the opportunity to experience the week of Super Bowl madness live.  As I have been, told the week is crazy with parties and events,  What better place for me to spread my Wino Bob cheer and take Tom Brady out for a few red wines and ply him with crack whores and keep him up all night.

The other exciting thing I accomplished this weekend was starting and finishing the book about the NY bartender as the follow up to that dreary story of the terminal alcoholic from NY.  I feel much better than before as I am in good company with the patrons of the bar in Chelsea.  Yes, it’s not just me that drinks every night.  It is also the regulars at Passersby, and the other 500,000 bars across the US.

The book is written by the bartending partner of the establishment and if it weren’t for the Oxford post-graduate vocabulary, I would have finished the book in one night.  This is the first time I have seen the word slake used twice in a book.  Other than the rerun of M*A*S*H when Radar O’Reilly was reading love poems about slaking and stuff with the cute visiting officer Hawkeye couldn’t get a turn from, I have never read nor used the work slake, slaking or slaked.  I did feel lost in the complexity of words that from time to time, bogged me down, I lost track of the destination. 

I will give this a must read recommendation for anyone thinking of making their kids college tuition by opening a bar.  This thorough, detailed glimpse into Toby Cecchini’s life bluntly presents the ungreen side of the grass.  I enjoyed this one called Cosmopolitan, named after the drink he fine tuned to the firestorm of the Sex in the City crowd.  He clearly states he didn’t invent the drink, just improved it to what it is today.  I am not a city rat, but this book moved me to the point of planning an excursion to rut out this hard to find, off the beaten path, slice of life, like a boar hunting truffles.  There was only one area in the entire book that I found differing with the author.  As a non-industry outsider-looking-in type, his rule of thumb on tipping seemed flawed.  He stated that tipping is a must in the business since they are preparing something for you.  Tipping is a must since they must work on tips but I did have a question.  I go to a deli and order the healthy living turkey wrap, but I do not tip the counter guy that just took five minutes to individually place each slice of Alpine Lace in between each cut of low sodium turkey, garnishing it with finely shaved lettuce, paper thin tomato slices, low cal Russian dressing and rolling, cutting and wrapping the segments.

OK, here’s one more, I order 4 Chimays, the guy next to me orders two Mojuitos- the curse of bartenders that make it right, time consuming, pampering the mint personally; my bill and his are the same, but the effort is different.  Do I tip less or does he tip more?  If our bills are the same should the tips be equal?  More simply put, I go to Bacchus, order a Parallel 45 which they mark up to $32.00 from $7.00.  I tip twenty per cent.  I order a bottle of Punter’s Corner Reserve Shiraz, it costs $60.00, and they mark it up to $85.00.  They have done nothing more in delivering and presenting the wine and for the house, the mark up is far better on the lesser bottle.  Is the waiter entitled to a bigger tip because the bottle is more expensive without any additional effort or time on their part?  I realize tips are what make that industry tick and I always provide a good one, because I never want to wind up with a drink being stirred out of my sight by the bartender’s pink swizzle stick.  Don’t think it doesn’t happen, just read the book.

 

January 19, 2004

Happy 60’s Radical Protest Day.  With no malice towards Dr. King, I am struck by the inequity of the celebrations this time of year.  We have boiled down the honoring of the two Presidents we once deemed to be vital to the shaping of the country we live in today, into a Monday shopping super sale called Presidents Day.  You know, we don’t want to offend anyone and remind them that President Lincoln had to deal with that s-l-a-v-e-r-y thing, so why don’t we just find a day somewhere between his birthday and the President whose military leadership now allows us to have good dental hygiene and skin color other than pasty white.  You know we all have to get along and why designate the birthday of just one President?  We should be recognizing Truman, FDR, Teddy and some might say JFK, but like a Chinese egg roll, we place the bokchu, water chestnuts, seaweed, pork and tiny ears of corn inside a pastry and fry it at 500 degrees.  It tastes better that way.

So for me, today is not the single recognition of the work Dr. King has done, but the day I recognize the efforts of all those counter-culturalists that might even have me swirling my glass to Rosa Parks, the woman whose feet hurt so much she couldn’t walk any farther and sat in the first seat she found open on the bus.  I also tip my glass to Abby Hoffman- the 60’s radical who felt strong enough that change was necessary that he nominated a pig at the ’68 Democratic Convention.  Let’s not forget the girl who stuck the flower in the barrel of the National Guardsman’s rifle with the cute little daisy painted on her cheek.  I will also honor Dr. Timothy Leary- if you don’t know who he is, simply look under California in 1960 in any book and you will understand.  Then there is the tsunami of musical artists who raised our social consciousness regarding the need to change.  Though the list is exhaustive, I can mention Dylan, Joan, CSNY,  Ms. Mitchell, Ritchie Havens, and the cast at Woodstock.  How about pot?  Look at the influence that had on moving our world out of the Richie Cunningham approach to life.  Don’t get me wrong, I understand Dr. King stood strong for equality for his race, but don’t you see there were kids, 18, 19 years old, getting billy-clubbed in the streets of San Francisco, Chicago and Newark for many of the same reasons.  Don’t the Chicago seven and the trial fit in hand with the same social change Dr. King was asking for? 

I remember in fourth grade, when I was in Mr. Ickman’s class, the school put on a program and I had to recite several lines from the famous “I have a Dream” speech.  I understand his eloquence elevated the cause from the person in the street hurling broken bottles at the National Guard, or the crowds in Selma that were flushed from the streets by fire hoses.  The results they sought were identical.  I think, in the spirit of political correctness, we broaden this day and not rewrite history, but teach our kids the true issues that were 1960’s.  Do you think the four students killed at Kent State were any less passionate in their ideals?

In all honesty, I think Matt Drudge owes his career to those people and this holiday.  His freedom to information and ability to shine the light of truth into the Governing Body of our Nation has roots in the long hair, peaceniks with blood dripping down their foreheads and hand cuffed to the paddy wagon while trying to speak out against the cloak and dagger secrecies of our leaders during that time.  I will honor Dr. King, but he does not stand alone today.  He stands with many famous and not so famous people from Abby Hoffman and Bobby Seals to John Smith and Sally Jones.  Dr. King was a catalyst for change, but so were Haight Ashbury and tie-dye shirts and music and flowers and free love…

This PSA brought to you by:

2000 Morganhof Sauvignon Blanc $ (7.99)     This wine poured out golden yellow and delivered a good representation of the mineral, flint, tart crisp SBs of South Africa.  Well chilled, this went very nicely with my rotisserie turkey loin baked at 325 for 65 minutes and oriental vegetable medley.

 

January 18, 2004

I don’t know if it was the seriousness of the book or the need for controlling my universe but I realized I needed change in my life.  The book depicted the pains of alcoholism and the ease with which one can fall off the wagon if constantly faced with the same situations that drove one to that point in the first place.  Unlike books and movies, where they never account for the financial impact these changes can dictate, I am in no position to check out for any length of time.  I always read or see the hardship, but you cannot feel it in a book or movie.  The past two years the economy has negatively impacted my life, but you cannot fast forward to the chapter titled One Year Later.  OK, God, I’m ready for the Cliff Notes version of geekdom.  No fast forward button here, no winning powerball ticket to jettison my life into chapter 20.  So I decided to alter the only universe I really control.  Yes, this reading thing actually revived an interest and I re-arranged the 9 x 12 world I live in so it is more conducive to spending quality time with the left-to-right height-oriented soldiers I stacked the other day.  I went one further and upped the light bulb to 60 watts and slid the cherry table I use for my desk under the front window so I can peer across the street in hopes of seeing Wino Lou making that magic herbal rub.  Wow, did that sound creepy?  It gave me a chill down my spine as I envisioned the window of the Bates Motel with me in the rocker looking down on Norman.  Remind me not to take a shower tonight.

Sticking with the theme, I have refilled my glass after finishing the book written by the recovering alcoholic and have picked up the prequel, a book by a bar owner in NY and the crazy effect alcohol has on ordinary people.  I know when I reach a point in my circle of life from sober to sober through a red wine bottle that I think about people from my past and get an overwhelming urge to call them and tell them something meaningful they did for me while they were part of my world.  It’s usually when I’m driving home from a glass or two of wine, or when I’m sitting in front of the TV, staring, but not watching it and an electrical current passes through a memory cell.  It may be a simple insignificant thing, but it was profound enough to be stored in the quickly lessening gray matter.  Just one of those things that I just want a person to know that they made a difference, but then I think, there must be a reason I haven’t spoken with that person in a long time.  Perhaps they don’t want to hear from me.  Perhaps they decided to move out of state, not leaving a forwarding address or phone number in hopes the late night calls would cease.  Perhaps they were tired of looking out their window at 2AM and seeing a car parked across the street with Norman Bates' mother rocking in the window…  Sorry, I just creeped myself out again.

Wino Lou, you really shouldn’t be walking around in your boxers on a cold night like this…  sorry.

So I will be reading more and hopefully understanding more about human nature and alcohol and wine goggles and life now that my well worn tan leather chair is conveniently located near my brass lamp situated across from the oak doctor’s examining table complete with white roll paper covering the brown leather pads.  In my new membership to Wino RIF (for those too young to remember, Reading Is Fundamental), I have placed the TV remote control on a small walnut-stained pine shelf next to the back door, where I place my keys as I enter my house.  With just two football days left, I decided reading about drinking while drinking is my new hobby for the winter of 2004.  I just hope that I can remember what I read. 

This really has little to do with wine education, but when I came home last night and looked in the mirror, I found an older version of what I ever thought I’d be.  I had a turtle neck under a v neck sweater.  Quick!  Call Queer Eye!  I’m having a fashion breakdown.  Since moving the furniture around, though minimally from how it was just two hours ago, I feel like a new person.  A simple change has me drinking some new crazy wine.

2002 Gatao Verde $ (6.99)      A fine example of this Northern Portugal Vinho Verde “green wine”, though not my style.  A light slightly sparkling, low alcohol blend of white grapes with subtle citrus and green apple notes.  Chill and drink on a summer day as a light refreshing complement to shellfish.

 

January 17, 2004

What the hell are the Italians thinking, inventing a pill that provides all the health benefits of a glass of wine, without the alcohol and hangover?  I thought Italians were lovers, lovers of life and art and wine, so why piss in my oatmeal?  Don’t you get it?  We love the dulling qualities of alcohol to let us forget the pathetic lives we lead.  We love the way we feel after recovering from the hangover.  If I felt good getting up in the morning, what would I have to look forward to?  But I do realize, especially from the book I am reading, that alcohol has some negative effects on people.  But think about this: I get a call from Wino Lou that he has just prepared a four course meal of exotic grilled meats seasoned with his special lovemaking herbal rub and he wants me to match the correct wine pill with the meal.  Hey Wino Lou, I will be bringing two pills, a Chianti-based and a Rhone blend-based, we just let the gel cap dissolve under our tongue as we enjoy the lightly grilled, well seasoned ground hog that used to live under your porch. 

In this world of political correctness, they are now taking away my right to go to bed with the room masquerading as the tilt-a-whirl on Seaside’s Boardwalk, or the right to wake up with bloodshot eyes and a fuzzy tongue.  Next, they will have to develop a 14% alcohol pill that you then buy and place on the other side, under your tongue so the two pills mix in your mouth and you get, duh, wine.  So let me cut to the chase, don’t f^#* with my wine and don’t freeze dry it and don’t capsulate it, and don’t take the toxins and free radicals out of it.  Simply let God’s gift to man stand as is and for those wanting the beneficial materials, go to the corner GNC and speak with the steroid sculpted guy in the wife beater t-shirt and ask him what mix of vitamins you should take to replicate the benefits of red wine.  Or better yet, drink a glass of Welch’s grape juice, Larry King says its just as good.

 

January 16, 2004

I never hide from what I write and one might get the impression that I am among the 75% of New Jerseyans not wanting Governor McGreevey to be in office one day longer than his one term requires.  But I must say, in one of the boldest and bravest moves a politician could undertake, Governor McGreevey has done what no other Governor in the History of New Jersey has been able to accomplish.  So forget about his inability to control his desires for personal gratification at tax payers’ expense.  Forget about the trips paid for by contributors for favors and his side stepping his promise to change Trenton for the better yet being silent on pay-to-play.  Dismiss the Governor breaking is femur, the strongest bone in the human body, by falling over a sand dune with his personal body guards miles away on a moonless evening walk and then he himself telephones in to 911 calmly for assistance.  And I will personally forget his constant, “Wow, I’m the Governor, what should I do to look important” look that seems to be plastered on his face.

No, winos, the Governor of my great state his placed executive pen to law-binding paper and officially named the Blueberry as the State Fruit. It's official... the Blueberry is now the New Jersey State Fruit.  Gov. James E. McGreevey signed the new law this morning at a school in Brick.   

When I saw the head line, it took me aback with the words State Fruit and Gov James E. McGreevey appearing so close together.  I think the first printing actually had a comma instead of a period.  Now that it's official, I guess the wineries of NJ will soon be trumpeting their releases of Official NJ Blueberry Wine made after the declaration.  Several wineries already produce fruit wines in NJ, with summer fruits of cranberry, apple, peach and blueberry, though most are reserved for the dessert wine category. 

Winos and Winettes, please join with me in congratulating our Governor for taking a position for the betterment of the State.  Now that the two year struggle with that decision is over, maybe he could look into education, crime, tort reform, you know, something less weighty than the Official Fruit Declaration.

 

January 15, 2004

Word up, Dawg- every time I see the embodiment of Barney Rubble on a TV commercial (Stephen Baldwin), I get the urge to be down with my black roots since he is so up with the urban speak.  Anyway, this has been one of the weeks in geekworld where the phrase "one step forward, two steps back" fits the bill.  So after arriving home at 9:15 PM, frying myself a bologna and cheese sandwich, I walked around the squeaking floor boards of my living room, not really wanting to do anything.  Usually I either flop in front of my Sony Vaio to see if there might be some real email, or I flop on the well worn leather couch which after twenty years has my form molded into the cushions, and turn on my Panasonic flat screen TV.  Does something seem, well, not right?  Yes, even I feel uncomfortable with this new writing style.  It’s just not me.  The reason I was giving it a try has to do with last night.  Needing a change, I walked up to the small room on the third floor, pushed in the oak railed chair in front of my cherry end table I use as a desk and scanned through the pile of books and magazines on the floor in front of the blond oak barrister book case under the small window facing the dimly glowing street light.  Over the holidays, friends and family no longer get me wine, so I have been blessed this year with magazines and books.  Throwing out some old stuff, standing the books by height- tallest to the left- I let my index finger xylophone down and stop over a book that was not too tall and not too thick.  I drew it from the stack and sat on my reading chair. 

Outside, a silent dry snow floated to the ground, I sipped on a glass of Chianti and immersed myself in a book that had a martini glass on the cover.  As I read, the crap that delayed my dinner was pushed out of my mind and I started focusing on the storyline.  An autobiographical book about a young Manhattan ad exec whose life spins out of control from the grips of Ketel One and deals with the realities of rehab and sobriety.  Now I am only about half way through, but as you can see, the writing style has caused me to refocus on what it takes to get a book published.  The difference is that this author wrote after he was sober, I write in the haze of wine-soaked late night frenzy.    As I read, the book seemed simple and filled with clichés but the detail of the furniture descriptions brought me into each room of the scene.  If you noticed, I wanted to talk about the wood my furniture is made of in hopes a publisher will finally see my writing talent and give me a big book advance which would allow me to drink and write and write and drink and publish. 

Then a very sobering thought kept me up the rest of the night, as I sat in my worn tan leather reading chair and ottoman, wrapped in a polyester spun Giants stadium blanket.  The question that careened around the bones in my head was this.  Did the person give me this particular book to help me advance in my writing style or was it a more introspective message?  Hey, look at what alcohol did to this guy and look at your life.  As with most issues, I will now ponder this thought for a month.  Do I write more like this author in hopes of the big book deal, or do I find out where the nearest AA meeting is?  Would writing sober be funnier, or would it dry the funny out of me?  This really sucks; I thought I was in for some light reading to help me forget about the crappy geek world I live in.

2000 Castillo de Varranzzano Chianti Classico $ (14.99)      The finding of the strait was more exciting then the fruit and finish of this wine.  Again I was tricked my some writer publishing a tag that called this a great find and the best value wine of the month.  It’s OK, but not one I would buy again.

 

January 11, 2004

Well, the unwashed underwear, hot wings and tortilla chips worked their magic one more time as a huge "congratulations" goes out to Carolina.  The only thing that bummed me out was the fact that my 8:30PM dinner reservation was not late enough to see the end off the game.  Yes, I left the confines of the soft warm couch in -5 wind chill to head to a local eatery, just after the football Gods blew new breath into Carolina as the Ram’s field goal fell several yards short.  To add insult to injury, the restaurant was running twenty minutes behind and was so small, we had no place to sit and watch the end of the game.  So, we sat in my buddies SUV like it was the thirties, listening to the announcers paint images of the game in my mind’s eye.  Since I made the reservation, I had to hoof it back from the warmth of the SUV and the sanctuary of the radio, to the maitre d’s stand to see how much longer.  As I walked in the door, my cell phone buzzed with all those who know my interest in the game, to let me know a miracle win befell Carolina after a near disastrous fourth quarter. 

I have written in the past about my annoyance with needing reservations, yet never being seated on time.  Last night was cold and Marra’s does not have a bar nor seat to wait.  To set me further into a tail spin, they ran out of my first two dinner choices.  Hey, how the f&$@ does an Italian restaurant run out of two different types of ravioli on a Saturday night?  Now the lobster ravs were a special so I can somewhat understand they might have had a run on this tasty treat, but the run of the mill menu spinach ravioli too?  I thought pasta was where you made your money! 

Thank God it was a BYOB and not being sure what my mood would be when I clicked off the TV, I brought with me 2 different wines.  Since my friends rang my phone prior to our seating, I opted for the better of the two bottles.  OK, I’m telling you up front it was a 1993 California red, but still, a lesser year from a really good producer beats out a better year from a lesser winery.  The conversation, company and outrageously unusual laugh-style of my buddy’s girlfriend made the evening great even without my first two dinner choices.  They tried to make up to us with free coffee and dessert, but I’m not a dessert guy. 

Not to gloss over the girl friend laugh-style, I must say, she was a good laugher and not inhibited by the volume or style.  It actually was so infectious, I laughed just at listening to her laugh.  My, my, she is a good laugher.

1993 Ferrari-Carano Tresor Reserve $$$ (65.00)    This wine has a generous amount of luscious black fruits with well balanced acidity and a hint of wild mushroom and earthy tones.  A smooth finish with a diminished amount of tannins allows this one to be a fine wine.

 

January 9, 2004

I was bumming out for a while when I passed on my 25th high school reunion because of a timing issue thing.  But the other night, one of the two high school friends I still make time to get together with, and I headed over to JR’s for a bottle of wine and a cigar.  Yes, I blazed one up for the first time in about a year and a half.  The crazy thing is that no matter what I do, that friggin' cigar taste takes two days to work its way out of my mouth.  

Wino Stan and I caught up our lives from July forward and he did go to the reunion.  After listening to the description, I don’t think I missed much.  My twentieth was a blast and I think that is what prompted the push for a 25th.  My class seems to be strange in planning as we had a 5th, 10th, 20th and 25th.  I guess the only thing I missed out on is commanding the dance floor as a drunken Wino Bob cuts loose to the evening’s closer of “We are Family”.  When played at our senior prom, group hugs and schoolhood bonds made large groups of friends declare “We are Family” as the theme that would flow through our veins until we died.  By our fifth year reunion, the family went dysfunctional and half of the family seemed more like in-laws.  Twenty years forward, it is less than a nuclear family and I imagine by the 30th, we will be back to a group of individuals walking through our different lives and occasionally pausing to share a glass of wine and a laugh as we find less and less common ground in our lives.  Wasn’t it Great in ’78. 

2000 Ravenswood Icon $ (20.00)    Rhone blends are king in my book and this SGM from California is a marvelous wine to compliment a fruit and cheese platter or a nicely grilled NY strip.

 

January 4, 2004

When it comes to football, I am a sports nut job.  Though since birth I had been a tried-and-true Giant fan and suffered the humiliation of those 3-11 years, each season I start off with a heart of hope and end up with heartburn.  To take the edge off my living and dying by the Giants Sunday performance, I became a charter member of the Carolina Panthers.  My humble means and unpalatial estate in NJ has not allowed me to purchase more than two tickets, but periodically I head down to Ericsson Stadium to see my name on the Panther base at the North entrance.  With finances being tight, I counted on cashing in Continental points to head to the playoff game yesterday and see John Fox battle Bill Parcells in the Wildcard game.  Hey Continental, F*#@ You!!!  (Editor's note: Continental sucks!)  This weekend is a blackout date for miles plans and I was left home watching the game from the comfort of my couch. 

Yesterday, in NJ the weather was warm enough to be Carolina, so I opened the windows in the room, placed a chair on a ladder (my seats are on the third tier of the stadium) and dressed myself in my lucky Carolina fan clothes.  Oh yes, you must understand, no matter how well the coaches prepare the professional football players, the fate of the outcome for the game solely rests in the lucky pair of unwashed Panther boxers, black V-neck pullover and paw print tattoo I must put on three hours prior to kick off.  Then I must consume 11 hot wings with blue cheese dressing, tortilla chips and salsa and a bottle of red wine.  Hey, there is no sharing when it comes to game day.  That bottle of wine is mine, bring your own. 

Yesterday, I didn’t want to savor a bottle of expensive wine since the hot wings are a tough match.  Also, while watching football, I drink more barbarically, you know, out of a plastic cup while tailgating in my driveway.  I did hit on a wine that fit the bill and what better region to enjoy a game wine from, then Maipo Valley Chile.  Yes, that’s right, Maipo (pronounced "my pooh").  Truth be told, this one only lasted until the third quarter and I had to break my rule and drink more.  Seeing how the Panthers were up by 20 at that point I figured the football Gods had turned off the game and were watching reruns of the Chappelle Show at that point.  And speaking of the football Gods, if miracles can come true, could there be a chance of a Super Bowl Ticket with the name Wino Bob across it?  If not, I can settle for the Panthers beating the Rams next week, Philly losing and the NFC Championship Game being played during a non-blackout date in Charlotte.  Football Gods, I vow not to change my lucky underwear until Feb 1st if the Panthers can get to the Big Dance.

2000 Veramonte Cabernet Sauvignon $ (9.99)   Approach this now and drink it once a day.  I love the aromas coming off this wine. A dark rich red/purple color with flavors of blueberry and blackberry run post patterns in your glass.  This is not a long finishing sexy wine, just a well priced, good quality wine that you can afford to drink with friends.

2002 Rosemount Estate Shiraz $ (8.99)   A solid performer with good spice, dark fruit and hints of chocolate make this a fun wine.  Nothing too heady, just a good value for the keeping.

 

January 2, 2004

My wish is that you had as much fun on New Year’s Eve as I.  Fighting off the urge to sequester myself on the third floor of the slightly brighter room and celebrate with Wino Wilson, I accepted an invite to the ever-gracious culinary king of the neighborhood, Wino Lou’s house.  As always, he challenged me to bring the wine to match his fare.  So Wino Lou, what might we be having to ring in the New Year, I asked?  It just so happened that he had a freshly butchered leg of deer.  Let me think about this, Wino Lou is not a hunter, nor are any of the neighbors.  My town does have a large population of deer darting across Mountain Ave, Bloomfield Ave and Ryerson Street.  Wino Lou has a new SUV and we never saw him “trade” the old car in.  Well, I guess he has a friend from out of town that is a hunter and gave him this hoofed hind quarter, but hey, who am I to ask.  I did see a motherless fawn the other day peaking into their garage, but I’m not asking if you know what I mean. Wino Lou has people, enough said…

As I thought about the wine, I have seen venison referred to as game and as venison.  Each described a different style wine to consider, but both suggested reds.  To be quite honest, I think there are a host of reds that could have complimented the venison as it was soft and tender and crusted with an herb medley that gave hints of rosemary and sage.  And as this is a new year, I walked down into the center of town and popped in on Mr. Kim’s Wine Shop and Laundry.  Being somewhat of a rebel, I went straight over to the, dare I say, French section of Mr. Kim’s and paced back and forth between Bordeaux and Rhone.  Not wanting to make a bad decision, I selected one from column A and one from column B.  If Wino Lou’s herb rub, which I understand he uses on his wife also, flavored the meat, then the Chateauneuf would blend well with the spices.  If the meat were less gamey then the Bordeaux would delivery a tasty treat to handle the fallen deer most likely downed by the bumper of a 1994 Ford Matador, but I ain’t saying much on that. 

So we filled the glass on the left with the Pope’s wine and the glass on the right with the Left Banker.  I personally found the Chateauneuf more approachable and the spiciness of the wine matching well with Wino Lou’s rub.  But the Bordeaux opened nicely late in the game, in time for us to sample some chocolates and big red wine as a fitting ending to the meal.  I think the bottom line to the evening was the fun of eating and drinking with friends and enjoying conversation that ran from serious to silly and back again.  I will never possess the skill set to make a living at food and wine pairings, but I have dedicated my liver to spend the remaining unswollen days trying.  (Editor's note:  Your liver hasn't seen "unswollen" since the early 90's!)

1997 Chateau Pauillac $$ (27.99)   Allow this one to breathe for a time as it's tannins greet you and hang out for the first course.  But rich dark cherry, cassis, and earthen tones give rise with a hint of chocolate on the back palate.

1999 Clos de L’Oratoire des Papes Chateauneuf du Pape $$ (26.99) Ripe fruit leads to rich flavors in this attractive, full-bodied Chateauneuf.  Long and complex, with roasted game, plum, spice, smoked wood and grilled meat character. Long aftertaste needs cellaring.

 

January 1, 2004

Happy New Year

As Kyle was calling Cartman a fat ass, I took the remaining water from the glass and splashed it on my face.  This, The Grape of the Future, was the scariest sight yet.  And as the past two episodes began, so did this one, with a review of the crap in my life, the walking through the closed door thing, the soaring through the air to many locations in a short amount of time and the sight of me alone, walking home without my coat in the cold dark dead of night and heading up to the sparsely decorated room on the third floor to sit in front of my laptop and connect to the internet.  Only this time, when I clicked the send and receive button, there were only three emails that downloaded.  Wow, 2004 must be a world where the government outlawed spam and the three or four emails a day I get are the only thing in my inbox.  What a better world without someone always telling me my wife or girlfriend is not happy with my junk.  What’s that?  Listen.  Can you hear it?  It’s the sound of silence.  No, Art Garfunkel didn’t move into my house.  They fixed the street lamp and holy crap, it’s a bit brighter in here too. 

I must have rolled over and hit the remote control as I phased through this dream state.  As Ebenezer was delighted when he awoke from his tough night, I too was delighted, as the rolling of credits from the crappy movie indicated that Madonna was in the past and whatever was to come on next would be much better.  I got off the couch and pulled a half empty coffee cup out of the sink, popped in into the microwave and sat at the kitchen table thinking about the journey my subconscious had just treated me to.  That last episode gave me some hint about 2004 and the things I have to look forward to.  Yes, with the accuracy of Miss Cleo, I have the following predictions for the upcoming year that came to me in that dream.

  • WinoStuff.com will be recognized as the most bookmarked homepage in the country of France.  OK, even I have a problem with that, but one can dream...

  • The Bay City Rollers will reunite for a world wide tour.

  • Ex-President Clinton and Michael Jackson find themselves in a sex addiction clinic, sharing the same room.  Clinton is photographed by the National Enquirer wearing Michael’s glove, a sequined jacket and briefs that say Home of the Whopper.  In a related story, Burger King is sued by Paula Jones for false advertising.

  • A National "do not spam" committee is found to be the first government agency that is somewhat effective in Washington.  But, as always, be prepared.  The computer geek world designs a new way to haunt your computer called CLAM.

  • Wino John drinks French wine.

  • Wino Wally’s top secret work finally comes to light as he finds Osama and is awarded a palatial estate in Afghanistan as the new Minister of Middle Eastern Wine Affairs.  Gas prices still climb, but the price of Middle Eastern Wine is stabilized. 

  • Wino John admits he drinks a French Wine.

  • Wino John passes on an offer from an unnamed wine-related dotcom to buy WinoStuff since the ten million dollars would not be enough to pay for his son’s college tuition to the Ivy League school to which he has been accepted.

  • WinoStuff adds an exciting new dimension to its offerings that propels it into the hearts and minds of millions of new winos!  Details to follow...

  • The economy grows at a steady rate of 3.8 per cent, still out pacing inflation, which allows America’s middle class to retire one quarter of their current debt thus fueling a slow and steady market growth which lasts for 12 years.   I had to think so hard on this one that I soiled my underpants.

  • Wino Bob awards the coveted Grape of the Year to……

OK, I know I dragged this one out long enough.  Just think, next year's announcement will only be one paragraph since I bored you to tears on this one.  But I did want to say that I take this seriously and all the indicators I have, which are nothing as you can tell by the BS I spent time making up for this entry, tell me that 2004 will have the positive climate for economic growth and a much better outlook from the consumer indicators.  Therefore, in honor of a strong economic front in 2004, which means we all as a nation benefit financially with our 101K (which in 2000 were 401Ks) will see movement to 2.501Ks and that means good things.  Yes, my parents will be able to enjoy pedigree dog food for their retirement meals instead of the dried store brand kibbles they currently eat.  And what better way to signify this then naming a grape that carries of green skin.  Yes Winos and Winettes, I am naming SAUVIGNON BLANC as the 2004 Grape of the Year.

 
SAUVIGNON BLANC

Often referred to as the 'anti-chardonnay', this grape is the brash upstart we need for 2004 in a year where going against the easy, popular routine is what leads to successes.  This is not a grape for everyone and a 'stick-to-it' attitude must be applied.  However, good things are not easy things to come by and there may be some disappointments along the way.  SAUVIGNON BLANC brings a host of flavors that run from gooseberry, kiwi, lime and granny smith apples to passion fruit and melons.  Many are described as having a grassy vegetation character as asparagus, green peas, hay, grass, or green and red peppers.  Two descriptors of note for those not wanting a surprise are the hints of gun flint and cat pee as aromas in the mix.

Winos, we here at WinoStuff make a living by walking the path less traveled and this is a wine that fits the bill.  Unbridled brashness can slap you in the face from a good SAUVIGNON BLANC.  We like the wines currently coming out of New Zealand from Marlborough and Hawks Bay, but there are interesting wines being produced in Australia, South Africa, Romania, Moldova, Slovenia, Spain, Austria, Italy, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, and the United States.  As most things in wine, it needs to be mentioned that one can also look to France for quality examples of this wine.  Bordeaux - Graves and Pessac-Lẻognan, have used SAUVIGNON BLANC as a blending grape with Sẻmillion for its strength of acidity and aromas.  It participates in the dessert wines of Sauternes and Barsac.  SAUVIGNON BLANC shines in the Loire region as the main varietal for Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumẻ.  Early wines in California using this grape were produced as a semi-sweet dessert style wine and gave up ground to its alter ego, Chardonnay.  Thanks to Robert Mondavi, after a visit to the Loire, he changed the thinking for California’s outlook on this grape by producing a dry, crisp wine.  To break the view of the wine to that point, Mondavi renamed his wine Fumẻ Blanc, hoping to evoke an image and style more reminiscent of the Loire presentation of this grape.  You will not find this grape dressed much in the top coat and tails of oak like Chardonnay, but rather it stands naked to the world, with its berries hanging out and saying, "accept me as I am in all my bony stick figure form and hairy ass".  

So winos, be different in 2004.  Consume, both to help the economic recovery and to bring more attention to the anti-Chardonnay.  Show the wine world, you don’t always follow the crowd, but have an upstart irreverence that will please and delight many who have been reluctant to drink anything white other than the popular Chards.  We salute you SAUVIGNON BLANC and look to you in 2004 as a companion to foods that we might otherwise have just paired with a chardonnay.   So next time you are joining friends at the local seafood restaurant grab a Mulderbosch SAUVIGNON BLANC and order the tilapia with lemon zest and asparagus.  You will be the most talked about person at the table.


 
 

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