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This page contains Winings from the 4th Quarter of the year 2005.

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December 29, 2005

Hey, Moe!  Sorry, I hope that didn’t offend anyone, but I am speaking of Moe Howard, world renowned Stooge. 

 

The leader of the lovable Moe, Larry and Curly put the slap in slapstick and the ‘Why I oughta...” in..., ah..., why someone oughta do something like pull a guy’s hair or poke him in the eye.   Recently, I read a small blurb on his life.  He was a driven entertainer that loved life and his family.  His desire was to make sure his wife and children had all they could want.  Moe is considered the brains behind the vaudeville, movie and TV successes of the Stooges.  The three are immortalized on a multitude of merchandise from T-shirts to bottle openers.  One of Moe’s desires was to make his own wine.  However, the story highlights Moe’s over zealous nature by moving headlong into a project without planning and truly understanding the task.  On his first attempt, Moe failed to understand the process of fermentation and in what he thought would be the sampling of his maiden bottling, the bung removal released the entire three month’s pressure from the yeast’s activities and his red wine redecorated the white walled room, floor and himself.  The disaster dampened his spirit in pursuing his winemaking career.  Who knows how differently it could have been had this explosion of wine not occurred.  Today we might be enjoying the Stooge brand of Hey Moe Merlot, Larry Fine Red Wine, Curly Chardonnay, Shemp Syrah and the Joe Besser White Zinfandel.

December 27, 2005

In a final ado to the Year of the Malbec, I grabbed a bottle of the 2005 Grape of the Year to have with dinner last night.  Though their wasn’t much of a dinner, there was a bottle of wine for me to consume.  Of which I complied.  Nothing exciting, just me, a grilled tuna steak,  the marathon reruns of some reality show and a bottle of Argentinean red.  The show was something called Forever Eden, and to this point, after watching three back-to-back episodes, I still have no idea what’s the challenge of the game.

On a sad note, I had to watch the Jets on Monday Night Football.  The sad note was the end of the ABC long-running event.  Nothing better than the old clips of Howard Cosell, the voice that made that show.  I heard on the radio today that the first game from Monday night football was a 31-21 defeat of the Jets and the last game for the show was a 31-21 defeat of the Jets. I think I heard Kevin Arnold tearing up his Jets’ jacket.  By the way, why would a kid growing up in the LA suburbs in the late sixties wear a Jets’ jacket?  Seems to me like a trip to Ass Kick Avenue.  It’s like this, the Monday Night football goes to ESPN, but then there’s the Sunday Night thing next year and I’m goin there and Al’s goin to ESPN and the fans won’t know what channel to watch on what night and BOOM (circles of yellow and arrows appear on the telestrator as John Madden defines the upcoming changes… Good night funnyman, farewell Malbec.

2004 Jelu Malbec $ (9.99)   A nice way to end the year with a solid example of this Argentinean favorite.  Notes of blackberry and blueberry swirl in your mouth with a finish of chocolate.  A good everyday bottle of wine.

December 25, 2005

'Though my love for you is real, I didn’t go for this package deal, say hey, hey, what’d yah say, Sherry Darlin…'
B. Springsteen

It seems that the Christmas celebrating was mostly no existent except for brief spouts of love-making to the bottle of sherry I opened the other night.  I am acquiring a taste for Amontillado.  I guess I need some new family, ones that drink with me, though the hour and forty-five minute ride home on the state trooper patrolled Garden State Parkway dampens my ability to tie one on Christmas Eve.  I did partake in two glasses of a new Zealand Sauvignon Blanc to go with the traditional meatless dinner.  But the coffee and long ride left me too sober for a Saturday night, so I grabbed the Lustau from the fridge and settled in to watch the jackass movie after getting home from midnight mass.  Dinner today was limited to a selected 1981 Zinfandel from Puglia, Italy.  I was hoping for a rare and unique wine experience, but instead got a glass full of over-the-hill wine.  It was preserved nicely, but just not bold enough to withstand the aging process.  Served and consumed, it was the only bottle offered, again causing me to head up to the dark, dank, third floor room and make love to sherry. 

There were two gifts of interest this year.  One was a mini-Eurocave for the six bottles I own that have some value.  Now, I will ensure their proper storage until I sell them, consume them, or I die and they are swilled with ice by my crazy aunt.  The other gift was a big ass cab from Napa.  Actually, the wine is called Big Ass Cab and it is from Napa.  I can only consume this with the big ass cab lover himself, Wino John, at out next board meeting.  The other bottle in the gift was Fat Bastard syrah.  I guess there is a subliminal message there that my stick figure is getting more log like.  This coming year's resolution must be to start exercising or I am in  for a bottle of Lard Ass Merlot or Obese Blanc.   Looks like I will be needing a major wine consuming night this week.  I guess I will have to call old reliable Wino Rocker for a 'more bottles than bodies' night of drinking until dawn.

2004 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc $$ (29.99)     Ah go suck on a lemon, this wine is tart with crisp lemon-lime fruit, lemon grass and brilliant acidity.  This was very fish-friendly for our dinner.

December 24, 2005

Just think, in one more day the radio stations will be back to playing regular rotations.  I am sure you have that one station in your area that started the day before Thanksgiving playing nothing but Christmas songs.  How many times must I hear every version of I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas?  Obviously, this person never had to shovel the crap.  Simpler times, I guess, when your sled needed snow to go to Grandmother’s house for dinner.  And who at 40 years old is going to their Grandmother’s house?  Wouldn’t she be around 95 years old?  Do you think a 95-year-old woman can cook for a family of 15 people?  That is how she was run over by a reindeer.  She was old and had to walk home since her sled could not run without snow since it is 48 degrees today.  The new one this year was about some kid having to buy his dying mother some Christmas shoes.  Hey, she is dying!  She is not auditioning for Can You Dance. Let it be known right now, when I am on my death bed, I will be sending my grandkids out for a very expensive bottle of red wine, some pot and a hooker.  Let’s see David Bowie and Natalie Imbroglio make up a cheery Christmas duet about that! 

          In his one last dying breath, he had one last wish
          A big bottle of red and a hot young dish
          With tears in my eyes
          I watched him touch her thigh
          With his bony fingers…..

You get the point, and by the way, I am not Simply Having A Wonderful Christmas Time, traffic is a nightmare on every road that comes within 2 miles of a mall or shopping center.  Just for the cool people in the audience, every power hour, the obligatory play of Bruce Springsteen’s Claus Santa is Coming to Town rock version makes you not feel like a douche to listen to all the sappy Christmas music.  Fortunately the company that owns the rights to the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, has gone on restricted exposure.  Five years ago, that movie played once a day for a month leading up to Christmas Eve.  Unfortunately, it was a holiday story so George found out how he impacted all the neighbor’s lives.  If that story was done today, you know when there was a run on the bank, he would have come home and found his wife in bed with the carpenter that was fixing that old house, she would have walked out on him because he was bankrupt, the neighbors would have been giving him the finger every time they saw him and there would be no angels getting anything.  He would die a lonely broken man with one last wish for a bottle of big red wine, some pot and a hooker…

So enjoy your holiday, which means I am being all inclusive of those not celebrating the birth of baby Jesus tonight.  I am sending my warm Wino wishes to my Jewish friends celebrating the miracle of oil and I say to you, Happy Chanukah.  To my Brothers from another Mothers, Happy Kwanza.  Sorry, I cannot really explain this celebration, but, right on, and to any other religious, secular, druid, or hedonistic ritual, do the voodoo that you do do.  And to my friends and family, and WinoStuff readers, I offer a sincere wish for a special day enjoying one another’s company, eating delicious foods and celebrating with a special bottle of wine.  I have the long journey south, so my consumption tonight will be very limited, tomorrow is another story.

Merry Christmas

Lustau Solera Reserva Rare Amontillado Sherry "Escuadrilla" $ (18.99)   As this is my first sherry, I do not feel I can place a rating on it.  I will tell you that it starts hot and needs some time to blow off the alcohol and expose its softer side.  When the sherry mellows, it reveals a pleasantly dry nutty-flavored deep amber wine.  This would have been an interesting experiment with the Malaysian cuisine.  

December 23, 2005

Hang with me on this one, it may take me awhile to get to the point, but if you are in the northeast, the weather is cold and you have nothing else to do but read this stupid page.  Did the TWU strike in New York start a small ripple of anti-union sentiment?  I am not, nor have a been a part of a union, so I only speak from what they taught us in school and what I read in the newspapers and what I hear on the radio.  Back when working conditions were third-worldesque, I understand why unions were formed and the good they have done for working conditions and wages.  However, with the economic pressures that are making the USA uncompetitive on the manufacturing front and driven our trade deficit to record highs, one cannot wonder how a union could strike, and demand more economic security, unwilling to give.  The Transits Workers of NY picked the week before Christmas to stage a walkout and hold the city hostage.  They looked for solidarity with other unions in the city and sympathy from the average working stiff.  But as details of their current financial compensation and the additional benefits they were demanding were exposed, the average Joe found out that the TWU has their workers on a pay scale and benefits packages far greater than other union workers’ benefits.  Oops, they never figured that the population would find out where they stand.  The average New Yorker makes $45,000.00 a year, yet the average NYC bus driver makes $63,000.00.  Sympathy for the egregious inconveniences for millions trying to get to their 45K job lead the TWU’s web site to be taken down since average Joe's were telling the TWU exactly how wrong they were.  The news inundates us with how uncompetitive we are in the global marketplace, yet the unions feel it necessary to shutdown the city and ask for more, when they already have a sweeter deal than a majority of folks.  Could selfishness like this lead to a ground swell of anti-unionism?  Face it, there are so many lawyers today, a worker no longer needs the protection of a large group to secure his individual rights.  We do not make 11 year olds toil 12 hours in an unsafe factory with equipment that could maim or kill in downtown Newark, NJ.  By making hourly rates three or four times that of workers in other countries, we have sealed our fate as a non-manufacturing nation, ripe for losing our technological edge and our entrepreneurial spirit that built our country.  We look to be China’s bitches in the next generation. 

So Wino Bob, what the hell does this have to do with wine?  Nothing.  It is more about the inconveniences I suffered getting to Manhattan Wednesday evening to have an opulent dinner and drink in fine establishments.  Wino Paul, the burgeoning Wino Tim and I headed into NYC for a holiday dinner.  WP took the lead and with Google Earth map in hand, we braved the biting cold winds and bracing crowds via path train service as car restrictions needed one more body to clear the checkpoint at the tunnel crossing.  We desperately looked for a homeless person to fill the fourth seat so we could have the convenience of driving, to comply with transit strike restrictions.

It turned out not to be that bad, though the mile walk due to the faulty GPS chip in Wino Paul’s head could have been avoided had the subways been running.  We had a great dinner at Aqua Grill, but the bottle wine pricing was so out of line, I had a simple house wine by the glass to wash down the truffle encrusted Chatham Cod.  Nice place, good location, interesting scenery.

Full but still sober, I followed the tour guide to our next stop on the holiday night out tour.  It turned out to be a drinking and cultural experience, as it was my first time to the world famous McSorley’s Pub.  It's world famous for several reasons, the first being it’s Mecca like status during the St. Patrick’s Day parade.  Though small, this 1854 pub has not changed since, well, 1854.  The well-worn wood planking is sprinkled with sawdust each day to ease the night clean up.  The brogued staff greets you with a simple question, “Light ale or dark?”  At which point he directs you to a seat if available and comes up with a pint of McSorley’s light or dark ale.  A landmark in the ever-changing landscape of a heaving city, this establishment is worth a visit, though Wino Paul did find out on www.urinal.net, that the elegantly designed men’s room urinals were not the original.  The Victorian sculpted troughs were actually added in 1911. 

I happened to be the party pooper as the other two were officially clocked out for vacation.  I, on the other hand, had to get up at 4:30am on Thursday and do a round trip to Baltimore for a meeting.  As I drove in the morning darkness, with a foggy, pounding head, Wino Paul and burgeoning Wino Tim were fast asleep with visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads.  Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.   

December 20, 2005

Got together with the boyz, Wino John and Big Bob, for an evening out.  As a change up, we didn’t head to the usual Italian BYOB restaurant that make up seventy-five percent of the BYOB’s in this area.  Big Bob found a placed called Penang for a delight in Malaysian cuisine.  The great thing is that even if you park around back, there are no stray cats in the area jumping out of dumpsters and scaring the crap out of you.  Now what wine goes with cat?  Maybe Andrea Immer will do a show on matching wine with unusual meats.  Actually, I took note of her Riesling love affair especially with spicy foods.  Maybe Ms. Immer thinks the match is made in wine heaven, but the others at the table chuckled at the sight of Riesling.  No, might I say, 'chuckle' is too tame a term.  They actually asked me what color panties I was wearing when I went into the wine store to purchase that bottle.  I did try to balance the feminine side with a muscular Amontillado.  I have read Edgar Allen Poe and he speaks well of this sherry as a food friendly beverage.  Somehow, this held no appeal for the crowd and I walked home with the bottle for another day. 

Penang is an interesting place where groups around us had a large lazy susan on their table and they order six or seven different dishes and everyone spun and picked and tasted and laughed.  Unlike the family style that I am used to, where you spoon a portion from a bowl and pass it on, here the people at the other table all grabbed food with their chopsticks (is that a politically incorrect term at this point in history?) and ate with them, then picked more and ate more.  The germ factor must be unbelievable.  One day, 20/20 should bring in a black light (is it politically correct to still use the term 'black light'?) and scan for all those nasty little creatures they find on the hotel bedspreads and public toilet seats.  If you are looking for a culinary treat, might I suggest the poodle on a stick or the mystery meat in curry.  No, actually, the food was good and they do not, let me repeat, they do not have poodle on a stick.  That is the Vietnamese restaurant down the street.  I believe we set a record last night, we left the table without opening all the wine.  OK, one of the bottles was Amontillado and they were not interested in it, but we killed two reds and 1/3 of a white.  That, my fellow winos, is not like any wino dinner I have ever attended.  With drinking habits like that we may be down graded to 'social drinkers' from blown out winos.

2001 Manso de Velasco Cabernet Sauvignon $$   Rich deep color and a nose of toasted oak and rich blackberries.  The spice of the food stepped on the fruit and showed the tannic part of the wine, to be fair, I need to drink this with a hunk of red meat.

2004 Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Riesling $ (13.99)    The slight fizz and a sweet apricot and pear flavor tease the palate.  This wine plays well with spicy foods, but eventually gets plowed under.

December 18, 2005

Busy weekend, with the holidays and all.  Last night I was invited to a holiday celebration with one of my geek business associates’ company.  They did the dinner cruise around Manhattan thing.  That is a real fun time during the middle of the summer as the daylight offers a spectacular view of the Statue of Liberty and lower Manhattan.  Big Bob once ran a South African wine tasting on one of their boats.  Late December is not the premier time to be doing things like this.  First of all, Titanic, need I say more?  Though we never leave NY harbor, there still could be rogue icebergs lurking just below the surface of the water ready to rip a hole in the side of the Spirit of New Jersey.  Then, unselfishly, I would have to assist all the women into the life boats and stay with the vessel until it’s last breath.  Amidst the flames and screaming people, I would have to make a last minute Johnny Weissmuller-style dive (for you young winos, JW was the original movie Tarzan) off the stern railing to keep from being sucked to the bottom of the harbor by the vortex created by the sinking ship.  Then, the icy waters would induce hypothermia causing my body to shut down, my face to turn blue and I would either slip silently beneath the water to Davey Jones’s locker, or worse, be found the next morning, frozen to a piece of floating debris.  A Wino Bob-sicle for the news media to flash every ten minutes on Fox News (CNN already told me they would not cover my icy death because of my lack of support for John Kerry), for my family to view as the Christmas Holiday nears.  Second, with temperatures hovering around freezing, and the wind whipping up the Hudson at 20 mph, the entire upper deck of the cruise boat is wasted this time of year.  Third, the Giants played at home yesterday afternoon, as I had to drive right past the stadium to get to the dock.  Great, I have nothing better to do than to spend an extra hour in the car trying to drive to my watery coffin. 

The food was good for a tourist event venue and the red wine I consumed to keep my blood from freezing long enough to find a piece of floating debris to cling to, God forbid, was a wonderfully presented large jug of a cabernet-merlot blend from Chile.  I did not get to see the wine as it was better for them to load the jug onto a water cooler type dispenser and pump it into the glass like a slurpy. 

Today the festivities continued with a Sunday brunch and a dinner with the neighborhood winos.  The brunch was too early to fire up a big bottle so I started with a big ol' Bloody Mary.  Did you ever wonder why they named a drink made of tomato juice, "Bloody Mary"?  What part of Mary was actually bleeding when they decided to add vodka and a celery stalk?  If she was bleeding, don’t you think the lemon slice would have stung?  As brunch was served, the offering was a prosecco, of which I had a glass.

The highlight of the night was dinner at Wino Lou’s.  He had half a dead animal on the rotisserie of his Wolf grill.  The aroma was stunning and I brought over some of The Guilty Shiraz.  Both Wino Lou and Wino Bruce were impressed with the character of the wine as it saddled up with the rib roast.  I also brought along a dessert wine from down under to close out the meal.  With our schedules, it has been a long time since the neighborhood gathered and shared good food, good wine and good times.  A fitting way to begin the holiday season.  

Soligo Prosecco Brut Non-Vintage $ (11.99)  It was sparkling and it was a dry white wine, but other than that, not much else to hold my interest.

Yalumba Museum Reserve Muscat NV $ (18.99 half bottle)   A nice dessert wine, not too sweet, with notes of ginger and a mouthful of raisins.  The 18% alcohol is powerful, but not biting, a nice compliment to the end of a meal.

 

A Wine Miscellany
By
Graham Harding

Recently, I was contacted by Kate Byrne of Michael O’Mara Books asking if I would be interested in a copy of their latest wine book to review on our web site.  Free book?  I am your man.  Four days later my PO Box finally had a piece of mail, the book had arrived.  I first had to look up the word 'miscellany' to understand the meaning of the title.

miscellany - noun, Etymology: probably modification of French miscellanées, plural, from Latin miscellanea
1 a plural : separate writings collected in one volume b : a collection of writings on various subjects.

The book is a collection of facts, factoids, urban myths and conjecture about wine and wine people, places and things.  A quick read, figure two visits to the “library” after a Mexican dinner, and you will be primed with pithy comments you can throw out at your next dinner party.  Except for the Bellini recipe on page 139 which is incorrect, you can amaze and amuse guests with topics such as the oldest wine, most expensive wine at auction, most expensive wine ever consumed, wine and love, wine in movies, wine and James Bond.  Mr. Harding is a fan of Robert Parker, Jancis Robinson, and Michael Broadbent and compiles a reader’s digest version of items they have discussed along with interesting tidbits that have appeared on many wine web sites over the past 5 years.  I guess it is Mr. Harding’s credentials- chairman of the Oxford Wine Club, director of a specialty wine importer, and joint founder of Oxford Wine Forum that landed him in print.  You can click through WinoStuff.com to Amazon and pick this book up for a great stocking stuffer.

December 15, 2005

With temperatures in the single digits (that’s Fahrenheit, Justice, not Celsius) and the fourth winter storm rolling in, note to calendar, winter starts next Wednesday, I haven’t felt myself lately.  I mean that more in the figurative way.  I have felt myself in the literal way twice this week.  So last night I accepted an invitation from an old friend to have dinner with him at this swank supper club in northern New Jersey.  Surprisingly, the only thing you can do at this place is eat and drink.  I say that in an obvious way but the word "and" is relevant.  One can only get a drink when sitting at a table and ordering dinner.  No bar to hang out at while waiting to be seated, no smoking area to blaze up a stogie after a meal, no place to just hang out.  You go, get a table and order food and adult beverage.  I digress, I arrived a bit before my buddy and was seated at a table and I ordered up a wine by the glass.  The pricing was not outrageous for the place.  The dining room was half filled with couples and families and me sitting at a table waiting. 

Since I was not hosting the evening, I deferred the wine list to my pal.  He asked what I was going to eat, and I was having veal medallions, so he mumbled, something like, “veal, well then we will drink white.”  What the f&%#?  I felt like I was at the black jack tables in Atlantic City and a novice rolled up and pulled out the wallet sized how-to-win at black jack betting card.  Now when you have 14 and the dealer is showing a 7, ask for a hit, unless the guy next to you has a one-eyed jack showing and his thumb up his own ass.  Now if he has a one-eyed jack showing but his thumb is up your ass, then split the sevens and double down so you can lose twice your money and have a sore seat.  I inquired as to why he felt so strongly about ordering a white wine and he told me that he read in a magazine that veal is a white meat and therefore you should drink a white wine.  Interestingly enough, when the veal arrived, it was in a red wine reduction.  Wow, I wonder if the chef forgot to pull out his food and wine quick match card when one is making a white meat dish with a red wine reduction and lobster risotto.  Hey, here’s my philosophy.  Pick a nice wine and find some food to fill in between sips.  Food is there to slow down the consuming process, or slow the bottle emptying procedure.  The food was enjoyable, though the portion sizes were somewhat smaller than I expected.  The wine list was 95% American with the remainder split between French and Australian.  The most expensive bottle was Quintessa in at $140.00.

The California Chardonnay was nice, but not nice enough to draw me out of my funk.  I think I needed to tie one on with some big reds.  Where the hell are Big Bob and Wino John when I need them?

2003 Clos du Bois Chardonnay $$$ (42.00 rest.)   Toffee from toasted oak jumps all over the fruit of this wine.  You need to dig deeply to find a flavor from the grape.

December 12, 2005

Getting together with The Wino Rockers is always fun and yesterday was no exception.  Mrs. Wino Rocker is a shirazophile as she really only drinks Aussie reds.  I made the offer to cook up a leg of lamb and they would bring the juice.  With the weather still bitter and the addition of snow flurries, I bailed from firing up the Weber as I was hoping and opted for the oven-roasted leg of lamb.  The grill would have given me what I was in search of, a roast with a deeply browned, pepper-laden crust, with a medium rare center.  Unfortunately, the oven does not cook this as well.  I usually don’t cook lamb at home as it could be really good or really bad, so I mostly leave it in the hands of the experts.  The WR’s brought two distinctly different shiraz, one that hit the target and one that did not.  You can see from the review which is which.  A single vineyard-crafted wine was against a sourced wine from a retail group.  I was not familiar with the 'Australian Domaine Wines' structure, so I researched a bit and posted a blurb on them for my own education:

Australian Domaine Wines is a negociant label made up of an assorted group of retailers from South Australia.  This ‘alliance’ of four partners from Adelaide combines their vision and experience in the wine industry by sourcing only the finest winemakers and vineyards in Australia.

The ADW-labeled wines are sourced from the Barossa Valley, Mc Laren Vale, Wirrega (Limestone Coast), Langhorne Creek and the Riverland and are produced in conjunction with four makers.  Tony DeLisio (of Classic McLaren Wines) is the maker of our flagship wine the Hattrick. Ben Glaetzer (Glaetzer Wines & Barossa Vintners) makes our Sheeraz, whilst Tash Mooney (BVE Wines) constructs the Alliance Cab Merlot and Barossa Nova and from 2001 Matt Tydeman (Simeon Wines) is our Alliance Shiraz maker.

2002 Australian Domaine Wines Alliance Shiraz Langhorne Creek $ (16.99)   This is an OK wine but didn’t hold my interest for long. 

2003 Two Hands, ‘Bad Impersonator’ Single Vineyard Barossa Valley Shiraz $$ (26.99)   This wine offers a lot to the big red lovers.  Most notable is the lumberyard of oak on the nose and palate with deep dark fruit flavors and a spicy long finish.  The 15% alcohol chases you down and tackles you from behind.

December 9, 2005

With six inches of powdery white sunshine dumped onto the road early this morning, the urban cowboys were out with four wheel-drive SUVs spinning around corners and up hills as people tested their skills as bad weather drivers.  I, on the other hand, was hard at work removing the six inches of powdery white sunshine from the sidewalks and driveway.  With my heart stressed to the point of near explosion, I had to tap a glass of red wine with my morning coffee to ensure I did not have a heart attack.  When chasing red wine with Sumatra coffee, one must insist on a jammy, full-bodied beverage.  I know the Sumatra would have destroyed a pinot noir.  Actually, a jacked up drunk at 9:30 am is not too bad, especially since most of my customers took very little interest in working today.  Forget the aspirin, forget the lipitor, just a simple glass of big red with your morning coffee and your heart won’t explode.  At least it works for me. 

If I might take a moment and say one thing positive about our gay ex-Governor.  Remember, he is not an ex-Governor because he is gay.  No, he is our ex-Governor because he was corrupt, inept, ill prepared, and near to a federal investigation of cronyism and graft.  The Gayvenator, in addition to the superb new decor, has positively revamped the Division of Motor Vehicles.  If I might take this time to pat Jimbo on the ass for a fine job, I spent less than 25 minutes renewing my driver’s license today.  It is a kinder and gentler DMV with efficiencies built in so they are actually efficient.  Prior to JM J Bullock McGreevey selecting the mauve swatches of fabric and Martha Stewart 'Romance' paint, he split things up so upon arrival, you are directed to the right place instead of waiting in a long-ass line to find out that department had nobody waiting for the entire time you were in the big-ass line.  Other than the crappie photo (my fault, not theirs), the process was painless.  Maybe the history books can amend the postscript on Gayvenator’s truncated term.  They should praise him for his job well done with the DMV, décor and all.  

 2003  Bodegas Hijos de Juan Gil Juan Gil, Jumilla $ (8.99)  When you are tired of the same old cab or syrah, this 100% monastrell is a deep, rich offering of blackberries and blueberries dusted up with 12 months of oak aging. 

December 5, 2005

With the second snow fall in as many days, and temperatures running 5-7 degrees colder than normal, the adhesive on the back of my global warming bumper sticker has frozen and cracked.  The sticker now reads “obal rming- save our pla”.  When the nip of winter drafts through the leaky old windows in this house, my thoughts turn to big red wines.  The few bottles of summer white wine have been consumed weeks ago, and the hints of a long cold winter loom heavy in the New Jersey sky.  It's either the 'loom of winter' or the effluent of the cogeneration plant in Newark, sometimes it is hard to discern. 

I have been thinking, nay, dreaming of the day when the geek world no longer supports my wine habit and I am forced to make a living in the wine industry to scrape out discount pricing to feed the beast.  If I were at the point of owning a vineyard, or having the right partnership, I think I would become bi.  No, not that way, I mean bi-hemispherical.  As summer and winter flop across the equator, I would think the ultimate rush would be chasing the crush.  Besides, I am too impatient to wait all winter without something to drink.  And the way the winter appears to be coming in, it would be fun to head to Chile, South Africa or Australia right now and shed the bulky winter coat and sweaters for a permanent tan and a golf wind jacket.  My first choice for the northern hemisphere would be Priorat, Spain.  I would spend my time blending syrah, granacha and monastrell.  Now that I think of it, if I were in Australia, I would be perfecting the GSM blend there also.  As my philosophy has always been, I like the depth that a blend offers and, as a potential wine maker, the blend evens out consistency if one cepages is not up to its full potential.  I bi-hemispherical blend.  I wonder what Freud would think of that?  Good thing he was a cokehead and absinthe freak and not a wine connoisseur. 

Could you imagine Freud writing a book relating your wine drinking choices to your sexual being?  OK, I’m no Freud, but I bet the first entry would investigate the male white zinfandel drinker, his domineering mother and absentee father figure.   Well, I better get back to shoveling out the driveway, duct taping plastic over the windows to cut down on the drafts and head off for a nap.  God, I hope I don’t have a dream.  Then I’ll have to discuss it with my Freudian therapist and what if it involves a vat of blended red wine, an automating coking machine and me in my underwear at school!  No..., go to the safe place..., focus...   No sleep tonight...

December 3, 2005

Now that I am over obelisk envy, I have a bit of sad news to report...

Dateline Paris, France

Last night, at his apartment in Paris, Veillapan Surrendeux passed away at the age of 98.  Not since the likes of Napoleon Bonaparte himself, has there been a more influential military tactician that has forever changed the course of French warfare.  Veillapan, or as he is noted by close friends, Vei, was born the eldest son of a Parisian shirt maker Pierre Surrendeux and Wilma nee Cornwall, a British seamstress,  in 1906.  Young Vei spent most of his youth in the tailor shop his family ran and listened intently to his parent’s conversations of the past wars between the French and the English.  So inspired was he with the military that he tried to enlist at the age of 10, to fight for the Allies during WWI.  Not allowed in, his pride in the French army inspired him to design a cloth square that the soldiers could carry to shine their bayonets before engaging the enemy on the battlefield.  Vei spent three weeks toiling night and day to ready 10,000 white silk bayonet cloths.  On August 12th, he presented them to General Jacque Toutite for the first infantry battalion on the eve of their engagement into the war.  The next morning, a small ceremony was conducted in honor of Vei, that is carried out to this day prior to any French military engagement.  The soldiers polish their bayonets with a light oil and buff them out with the white silk squares designed by a proud young 10 year old Parisian whose lifelong dream was to fight with his countrymen for the pride and honor of France.  Upon the final buff and with bayonets glimmering in the morning sun, the soldiers knot the cloth square to the sight of their rifles, hold them at parade ready and in unison wave them back and forth four times chanting in homage, “Vei Surrendeux, Vei Surrendeux”. 

Mr. Surrendeux will be laid in state and then buried in the French war hero grave plot.  God speed Veillapan Surrendeux, your name rings from the mouths of French soldiers in every battle since WWI.

2002 Frog’s leap Zinfandel $ (24.99)   I was not overly impressed with this wine as it paled on the palate for a ballsy California Zinfandel.   

December 2, 2005

I would be remiss if I did not comment on National Aids Day, which I think was yesterday, or today.  Retailers noted large volumes of Sutter Home White Zinfandel flying off the shelves.  President Bush made a speech pledging more financial support to Africa to deal with the pandemic.  But it was our friends in the land of Malbec that most fittingly drew attention to the day.  It seems that the Latin Lovers in Argentina manufactured the mother of all condoms and wrapped it over the obelisk in downtown Buenos Aires.  As this has nothing to do with wine, except as a reminder that drunken one night stands have consequences, I will refrain from the usual grade school locker room jokes like, "wow, now I can finally have a condom that fits me comfortably," or, "is that condom for Al Franken cause he’s the biggest dick I know."  I will not impugn the obelisk’s size, as the picture clearly shows the condom was manufactured with a larger obelisk in mind since there is an unused portion at the bottom still rolled.

Now, when the Argentinean federal reserve collapses, they can screw the world financial market safely.  Sorry, I promise tomorrow will be wine related.


The Obelisk of Buenos Aires is covered with a giant condom
to commemorate World AIDS Day

November 28, 2005

Maybe some of you in other parts of the USA have been into a Costco store in the past, but this is the first time for me that I saw it in my local store.  Yes, the Kirkland brand of wines were highlighted.  It seems that there is a Bordeaux, a Rhone and a Piedmont style that carry the Kirkland brand, like the pants I am wearing and the five pound can of chipped beef in my pantry.  How, stupid was that?  I do not have a pantry, I keep the 5 pound can of chipped beef on top of the refrigerator.  I can see the Kirkland name on white paper plates, or generic string beans, and the caskets and urns.  Yes, not only can you bury your dead relatives in the Kirkland Signature casket, you can toast their life, and death, with the Kirkland Signature Bordeaux.

I don’t know...  All I want is a little Winostuff Big Ass Red and a Winostuff Non-Feminine White but no.  The warehouse-shelved budget club touts their own labels.  Hey, any of you chuckle heads drink any of this stuff?  Let me know….

November 24, 2005

The fire is reduced to glowing embers, the table has been reduced back to normal, the wine bottles are in the recycling bin and my pants have been unbuttoned for hours.  Thanksgiving is the official beginning of the holiday season when spending time with friends and family carries special meaning.  I truly enjoy this time and am glad to have friends like Drouhin, Torres, and Shinas at the dinner table.  Oh, and being with the family was good too.  Though I fell victim to the “I guess I should buy a few bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau”,  I did not indulge.  For starters, I warmed up with a nice, easy drinking Torres Sangre de Toro 50th Anniversary.  Nothing better than the blood of the bull to lock horns in dinnertime conversation.  The only time I became testy was over a small conversation on global warming.  Here is my basic position that I wanted to voice, but I'm not sure if my wine soaked ideology got the point across:  Can someone explain to me how the glacier that once sat atop the foundation of my home in Caldwell, NJ disappeared?  I do not think the combustion engine, or industrial smoke stacks or hair spray cans were around when the glaciers receded, dare I say melted from the earth becoming warmer than it was during the ice age.  Other than that, I kept my mouth and brain in check and only discussed frivolous bullshit.

The dinner table was colored with white burgundy, Australian Shiraz and homemade wine from my folk’s neighbor.  The Ponzini special was not up to par with others he has given us.  But I do compliment his industriousness and flare for the craft.  I opened one of two bottles, the one that had a label, and shared the blend.  The unlabeled bottle may hold the key to a better reflection of his art.  The white burgundy was a nice starter for the pumpkin/tomato soup and the mashed potatoes and turkey, but The Guilty helped with all the other flavors from the bourbon sweet potatoes, sausage stuffing, cranberry relish and string bean casserole.  As far as wine comments to the host, my father was first to express his concern with the homemade wine, as he drinks a bunch of it each time they go to dinner with the homemade wine maker.  Other than that, I was left to myself, to wallow in the bottom of the decanter for the white burgundy and the shiraz.  And I managed to get to the bottom of both without falling into the fireplace, or stumbling up the stairs to type on this stupid key board.

It was good to share the day with a large crowd and fun conversation decorated with good food and great wine.

2002 Joseph Drouhin Puligny-Montrachet  $$ (34.99)   Chardonnay like God intended it to be with a light creamy texture and a balance of acidity and fruit. 

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Every year at this time, the question comes up regarding what wine to serve for the Big Bird feast.  I have posted pedantically (see thanksgiving ’04,’03, ’02) describing why a white Burgundy or a zinfandel or a gewürztraminer pick up the flavors of cooked bird, sweet potato, mushroom stuffing and the like.  I have friends tell me Pinot Noir is the perfect match, as pinot is the most food friendly red so you cannot go wrong.  Never one to live and die by the wine gurus, I have declared this year to be "wines from wine producers I call my friends", though they might not reciprocally declare the same.  Yes, this year there will be a Torres, a Drouhin, a Shinas and a Ponzini at the table.  The crowd this year will number around fifteen and if history is any indication, some will compliment the wine I serve, regardless of what it is, and others will NOT, no matter what it is.  There are just those, whose palate is so specific, it is only tuned to wines not served by Wino Bob.  Therefore, I have started to do my own little experiment, serving well-respected wines to some and crappy wines to others just to see what is said, or not said.  My hosts at the meeting in England were so gracious, they profusely complimented a bottle of wine I then told them was off, as the second bottle of the same wine confirmed.  Conversely, I have been with people that drink plonk and distance themselves from a special wine appreciated by the industry and raved about by others. 

So I am selfishly serving my choices for my reasons and I fart in the general direction of food and wine pairing experts.  After all, it is all about me anyway.  I have bailed on tradition in hopes of starting a new one, enjoying wine from Wino-friendly wineries.  I just hope that the list will expand over the next few years otherwise I have defined my Thanksgiving dinner until I pass.

Keeping with one tradition I cannot change, I will be excited to watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Ever since I was a young Wino, I remember my folks having the TV tuned to the parade as we prepared for the housefull.  The real enjoyment I found was on extremely windy days, watching the handlers wrestle with the tethers on the big balloons.  The years when new characters like Garfield or The Cat in The Hat were introduced brought a tingle to my young loins.  This year, embarrassingly, I must admit, the loin tingle is back.  There is a new balloon being unveiled and a friend of mine was nice enough to send me a photo of the test runs.  Yes, this year, sandwiched between the lamppost-toppling Cat In the Hat and the every lovable Grinch is this.


Exclusive photo property of WinoStuff.com.  Please contact staff for permission to reprint.

It seems that the ex-Vice president and failed 2000 Presidential candidate, Al Gore, has spent the last five years on an eating binge so extensive that his actual head has swelled to the size of a Thanksgiving Day Parade float.  I hope the wind conditions are favorable to Mr. Gore, as it would be embarrassing to his upcoming primary run if they could not contain the blimpy-headed balloon.  Several Democrats have already backed out of the primary once Mr. Gore announced he was throwing his enormous hat into the ring for ’08.  Look for the Al Gore float to make appearances at the Rose Bowl Parade and the Pulaski Day Parade.  The new Hibernians have rejected his request for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and the Halloween Parade in the Village is deadlocked as of mid night yesterday.

To all the Winos and Winettes out there, I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and hope that the meal will be filling and the wine will be the dish that brings friendship and fun to the dinner table.

More on the flip side...

November 21, 2005

Australia is screwed.  Yes, Winos and Winettes, it seems that Australia has said 'Screw-Off' to the wine world and embraced the screw cap up and down the price range of their offerings.  Out numbering every other country’s wine offerings in my little part of the wine shop world, Australian wines dis’d the fake cork for the screw top.  The snappy closures will prohibit me from berating a sommelier that the wine I selected was corked, I mean screwed, I mean off.  No bad chemical reactions resulting in the sweaty gym socks and wet cardboard odors.  No pedantic pageantry of having wait staff abuzz as they taste and debate and huddle and try to tell me the wine is not corked.  It looks like the reprobates from English society have taken the lead and told the French to screw off if they want to enjoy a bottle of Barossa. 

Which brings me to my selection of last night, purchased for the name on the label and attitude on the back.  What is it with wine makers from down under thumbing their nose as the stoic, snobbery of wine?  Yes, my pick last night was the gutsy red, The Ball Buster.  Winemaker Bruno Tait felt strongly enough that homage to his wife was not descriptive to his wine.  Instead of calling it Michelle and having assholes like me laugh it off as a girlie wine, he named it The Ball Buster to connote the power and boldness of his offering.  The wine does pour out a deep rich burple (refer back to my definition of this color from ex-Giant Leonard Marshall).  The nose is black fruit from the Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with the support of wood from the barrel aging, but it did not actually bust my balls.  No, it was more like a pheeknuckle to the ball sac, leaving a slight sting, but all matter intact. 

Next time your heading to dinner at the in-laws, you might want to bring along a bottle of The Ball Buster.  It might not be the greatest wine offering, but it sure will get a rise out of the dinnertime conversation.  Next year look for their new white wine Snapping Vagina.

November 19, 2005

Oh how the mighty have fallen.  The Emmy and Peabody Award-winning Daily Show that takes a reality-based look at news, trends, pop culture, current events, politics, sports and entertainment with an alternative point of view, has recently taken a page from WinoStuff.  OK, there I said it.  Though I do not see eye-to-eye with the host, John Stewart, on many of his points-of view, I find his show refreshingly funny.  However, this past week, they did a feature on “wine”.  Yes, the fact that wine is the new beverage for the twenty-something crowd.  And they made fun of Merlot, wine coolers and the movie Sideways.  (Sounds hauntingly familiar)  If Mr. Stewart would like to do a wino-topic of the week, look no further.  You can just email me and I would be happy to write for the segment.

Is Congress filled with frustrated Hippies?  It seems that the true radical, anti-war protests, like those during the Vietnam War, have yet to catch on.  Cindy Sheehan’s Camp Casey was fueled by Michael Moore, Moveon.org and George Soros hoping to ignite the peace movement.  It did not happen, so now the children of the sixties who shed their love beads, long hair and tie-dyed clothing for the halls of Congress have taken to ignite the anti-war movement from within.  It once was the people against the Government, now it is the Government trying to eat itself.  Will the recent posturing by the few vocal Democrats find a voice to their brothers in arms from the Haight Ashbury days?  Will Joan Baez pen a new anti war song and will pot-smoking take to the Dem’s cloakroom?  One can only hope.

The enigmatic, yet treasonous actor, Johnny Depp, is thinking that France is irreparably damaged from the auto flambeau de jour.  Do not get me wrong, I like the quirky characters Mr. Depp has taken on and brought to life in strange films with craft in mind and not simply money.  But his moving from LA to Paris with a blunt statement that LA is too violent for raising a family, has him putting 'au jour' on those words and wrapping them in a baguette for a helping of humility.  So are we to forgive, forget, and open welcoming arms to the prodigal son?  WWWJD (What Would Wino Jesus Do)?

The only high standards not tumbling is Wine Spectator.  Yes, the Magazine of Marvin and the Bible for wannabe wine collectors has found it in their morale fiber to not reduce their standards as they rejected a recent article I submitted.  Yes, they were gentle and even told me if they do have the interest in publishing on the topic I submitted they would sure keep me in mind.  Somehow, I did not take that to heart.  My faith has been restored that not all iconic institutions have given in to bawdy humor.  Next stop, a submission to the New York Times.  Since Maureen Dowd and Jason Blair have been printed by the old gray lady and Mr. Blair never researched any of his articles, I might be in line for a weekly column.

Developing……

November 18, 2005

As you may might have noticed, I have been unduly silent on the unrest in France.  It seems every time I write something negative about France, Big Bob drives by and eggs my house.  Besides, the unrest is political and Bill Mahr and I have declared ourselves Swiss.  But this article caught my attention and seeing how it is wine related, I had to post a note. 

LYON, France (Reuters) -- Festivities marking the arrival of this year's Beaujolais Nouveau turned violent in the southeastern French city of Grenoble on Friday, when more than 30 people were injured in clashes between students and police.

The overnight disturbance was an isolated incident in a country that had largely returned to normal after almost three weeks of rioting by youths angry over unemployment and discrimination in the suburbs of Paris and other French cities.

Friday's violence broke out after between 2,000 and 3,000 people, mostly students, left bars where they had been celebrating the arrival of the popular French wine, which traditionally goes on sale on the third Thursday of November.

Youths attacked firemen called out to attend an injured person and began to throw missiles at police who arrived to back up the firemen. Wine bottles were thrown from apartment windows.

"Some of them were very politicized. Drunk on new wine, they wanted to make a revolution, a 'red Beaujolais' revolution," Commissioner Jean-Claude Borel Garin, the local police chief, told Reuters.

About 100 regular police and riot officers faced thousands of youths, using tear gas and other crowd control measures as they battled for several hours to restore order.

"We were confronted with a situation of rioting overnight. The roads were littered with broken glass, it was a real scene of desolation," said Borel Garin.

About 20 youths and 17 police were hurt in the incident and 21 people were taken in for questioning.

People, people, let’s just calm down and examine the facts.  The unrest that has haunted the French society for the past four weeks has nothing to do with this riot.  It clearly is just the reflection that French youth are fed up with all the profiteering from the Gamay crushers.  Every time I walk into a wine shop and see the bottled barrel samplings for profit, I want to start a red Beaujolais revolution myself.  Do we really need an early taste of a wine that is consumed early by nature?  It is not as if it’s a Bordeaux we need to see what it will offer thirty years down the road when most of us will not be alive to enjoy it.  We are talking about a young, fresh, fruity wine that is consumed within the first two years of release anyway.

The good news for France is that the French will actually prevail in this conflict.  I am not sure which side of the French, the rioters or non-rioters, seeing how they are both French, Viva la Victory…

November 15, 2005

Like a moth to a flame, or a spurned to an ex-flame, or a flamer to a locker room, I had this urge last night to divert my truck into the parking lot of Bacchus.  It was Monday night and few restaurants are open.  Not having been there since Big Bob and I ate a crappy steak, I headed into a sparse crowd, sat at the bar, took an adequate amount of abuse from Jimmy and Mike regarding my long absence and ordered a glass of red.  Mike wanted me to try a new Argentinean cab they had by the glass, but one sip and I hurt Mike’s feelings by telling him I didn’t much like it.  He quipped, “I thought you like cabs.”  I replied, “I do, but that doesn’t qualify.”  Jimmy poured me a glass of 2003 Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo Merlot.  Mer-F'n-lot.  That was the big red by the glass.  I have little to say regarding this, but it was more robust than the Argentinean cab.  I had the T-bone, not bad, and the few conversations that I could hear were interesting, especially the one where everybody at the table introduced themselves by their first name, then stated, “but you can call me” (nickname).  Funny how Frenchie didn’t look French and Tiny was a rather large no-necked gentleman.  That was one conversation I did not want to get caught eaves dropping on, if you know what I mean…

I honestly think, if I had Wino Mike’s black American Express card, I could have slapped it on the bar and bought the place for my own private place.  If the holiday work party crowd does not come through this season, it may revert to El Banditos just in time for the summer vacation crowd.  The pharmaceutical sales meeting business seems to be what keeps them around.  As NJ is a hot bed for those right wing profiteers, their sales people schedule opulent dinners plying doctors with mediocre steaks and overpriced glasses of wine in hopes they start pushing the latest patented medical elixir.

When I got home, still sober and broke from the $11.00 glasses of Chilean merlot, I opened that bottle of 2003 Mad Fish Shiraz.  Mad Fish, oh no, Mad Wino.  This one offered the best of color and the worst of everything else.  OK, so the color wasn’t the best.  That’s why an ex should remain an ex.

2003 Mad Fish Shiraz $ (8.99)    It was wine, but lacked the fruit, the flavor, the character of any grapes I drank to this point.

November 12, 2005

Remember the movie, Breakfast Club, the 1985 hit comedy that launched the brat pack and captured the struggles each one faced in one way or another during our high school years?  The geek, Brian Ralph Johnson, played by the tall, thin, gangly Anthony Michael Hall, penned the assignment required of them during their Saturday morning detention that voiced their realizations of life and the world they lived in.  Though I saw the movie many times, I do not recall the exact words, it simply defined them in the terms they were judged by the teachers and their peers, the geek, the jock, the prom queen, the psycho, the tough guy…

My minds eye saw me as the rebellious Judd nelson character, John Bender.  The world views me more like the tall, thin, gangly Brian Ralph Johnson.  A recent dinner brought this categorical pigeonholing to mind as I left the restaurant.  During the drive home I thought about this entry and that analogy to describe the wines we drank.  There was a finessed pinot Noir from Oregon, a raw homemade Zinfandel from WJ’s friend in California, a barnyard-laden Bordeaux, a sensual  Merlot from Italy and a gutsy shiraz from down under.  As we toyed with a glass of each and expressed our interests for their style and distinct characteristics (wow, does that sound pedantic?  May I state that it was not formal or pretentious or wine-snobbish, it was do with the most guttural of definitions and jocular of terms), we each found our comfort zones and favored the pigeonholed wine styles we enjoy.  Big Bob and Mrs. Big Bob appreciated the heavy-duty stuff but retreated to the fleece throw of the pre-release 2002 DDO Laurene.  Wino John pounded the Alter Ego and homemade Zin reeking of muscle and jaw jarring fruit.  Wino Mike’s intrigue with a sexy Italian Merlot fit him like his man-tailored, expensive Italian suit and the newest of new members inducted into the wino family, Wino Andrew, shook hands with the exiled relatives from his native land when he wrestled the Aussie shiraz.  Which left me, alone, wanting to be part of the group.  I drank them all, yes even the feminine pinot and the womanly merlot, as I, like Brian Ralph Johnson tried to better myself in the eyes of my peers. 

OK, so it was a flare gun that went off in my locker, but I could get the light to go on when I pulled the elephant’s trunk and I failed shop class..

And in the end, I saw the people at the dinner table in the simplest of terms; Mrs. Big Bob- the prom queen, Big Bob- the fine wine aficionado, Wino Mike- the uber wealthy, black card Am Ex carrying business tycoon, Wino Andrew- a Brit learning that wine should be room temperature, not beer, Wino John- the techno-dweeb editor-in-chief of my entries that drinks reds as big and bold as his life, and me, the gangly geek inferring illusions of grandeur to bolster my life to get people to accept me, wino there to finish off any of the remains swirling at the bottom of the bottles.

Not being at the top of my game that night, I did not write down all the label info so I will not comment on all we enjoyed.  What I will say is that the Zinfandel was very impressive for a bottle that had magic marker identifying the year, varietal, lot and bottle number.  The fruit was intense and the wine was well crafted.

The 2002 Laurene is bold and bright for a pinot and delivers an elegant power to a sometimes-fickle grape.  Upon its official release, I will be buying a few bottles to do a review.

2002 d’Arenberg The Dead Arm Shiraz McLaren Vale $ (11.99)     Cedar, blackberry and blueberry waft from the glass as the wine sits waiting to be tasted.  A jammy mix of black fruit and cassis coat your mouth on this full-bodied wine and a velvet finish lingers until your next taste.

November 8, 2005

The silence is deafening, the silence of the Al Frankens and Michael Moores and their progressive side of the party, on the problems in France.  If Al and Michael go their way, or get there way in an upcoming election, the continuing riots and lack of response will be the way we in America will react to civil unrest.  It was Al and Michael that praised Jacque Chirac and the French style of life during the Kerry campaign.  The lack of control in the Muslim area of France that has been burning for twenty days, would be the policy styling’s of the Minnesota Senate hopeful, Al Franken.  Add to the list cabinet member Bill Mahr and the triumvirate is complete.  Why haven’t we heard anything about the video tape of buses being pelted with rocks, cars being overturned and burned and the reeking of havoc being committed daily? 

The answer is simple, if they admit there is a problem, it undermines years of them telling us we need to be more like the French.   But the French themselves have begun to look at the assimilation issues that started the problems.  So where does that leave the Anti-American Franken and Moore, who bask in Cannes and eat frog legs?  Franken has even been sighted in New York City wearing a beret.  So tell us, self proclaimed teller of the truth, why are you silent on the French debacle?  Maybe because your researchers and legal teams are tied up trying to see if you ever have employed a minority out of the 112  people you have hired to work for you.  No wonder Katharine bailed out on the Air America thing.  Way to go Frenchie.

President Jacques Chirac, in private comments more conciliatory than his warnings Sunday that rioters would be caught and punished, acknowledged that France has failed to integrate the French-born children of Arab and black African immigrants in poor suburbs who have been participating in the violence, according to Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, who met with the French leader on Monday.

She said Chirac "deplored the fact that in these neighborhoods there is a ghettoization of youths of African or North African origin" and recognized "the incapacity of French society to fully accept them."

Chirac said unemployment runs as high as 40 percent in some suburban neighborhoods, four times the national rate of just under 10 percent, Vike-Freiberga said.

November 7, 2005

Attention New jersey citizens, I say ATTENTION.  Tomorrow you can set the agenda for your property taxes over the next several years.  Read both platforms and then pull the lever with your purse strings.  It was a good, mud-slinging, personal dirt-flinging end to a rather humdrum campaign.  Nothing better than having a candidates ex-wife go public with her torn heart and raw emotions to make known the fact that Jon Corzine cheated on her and dumped her.  Then, just half a day after he said that is a personal issue and will not be part of the campaign, Doug Forrester uses her in his latest ad.  Woo hoo, NJ politics at its finest.  I actually have become so bitter about the f’ed up mess in the state that it really doesn’t seem to make much difference at this point on what lever I pull. 

It comes down to hair, since both guys seem to be pompously wealthy businessmen who wear hand-tailored suites and custom shirts and could feel the plight of the common Wino if it bit them on the ass.  It was funny to hear the Senator on Saturday night not knowing the drinking age in the state he has represented for the past five years and wants to lead for the next three.  Wino Bob, you drunken asshole, don’t you know the Governor is elected for four years?  Yes, yes I do, but let us call it straight up.  Mr. Corzine is not giving up the national job he purchased for 60 million dollars to stay complacent as the Governor of a small state.  Knowing that as a Senator, Mr. Corzine has voted for and against every issue at least once, he will not be electable, a lesson learned from Mr. Kerry.  Therefore, NJ is but a stone Mr. Corzine will  leap from to the race for President and I say his attention moves there just as soon as the ’06 dust settles.

Trust me, you will be rereading this several years down the rode saying to yourself, how is that Wino Bob is so F'n smart?

2003 Casa Silva, Carmenere, “Reserva,”  Colchagua, Chile $ (9.99)    Interesting bowl of black fruits meet your nose and the flavors of  black cherry and blackberry hit your palate with a finish of tobacco.  A nice wine to change things up.

November 4, 2005

It was about 5:45 PM and I just finished a report for work.  The encroaching darkness of fall blackened the world outside my small window.  I clicked my web browser over to Google to begin a bit of relaxing weekend web surfing.  Just as I reached for the buckle of my belt to relax things, the phone rang.

“G’Day Mate”, the voice on the other end of the line said.  My mind raced to figure out who was disturbing my hot, steamy web surfing session.  Holy Crap, Marie, it was an Aussie voice, it could only be that guy from the Outback Jack show I goofed on about this pussy crying and pouring his heart out to some broad on national TV.  Maybe he read my calling him a pussy and he was about to bitch me out.

In a typical New Jersey greeting, I answered, “Who the f&%$ is this?”

The voice continued, “It’s Justice George Shinas... The Guilty Judge from Shinas Estate.”  It was not the crying, sensitive pussy from the Outback Jack show; it was the owner of the winery I most recently wrote about.  Mother McCrea, this is worse, now I’m going to be read the riot act by a wine owner that took umbrage with something I wrote, and on top of it all, the guy’s a judge.  I’m screwed, I now have to tell Wino John we are going to be sued, and all my worldly possessions will be put into a shoebox and shipped to Australia.  God Damn it, Cartman!

“I was knocking around the internet and saw your review of The Guilty.”  Reality check, this really is a world wide web and it is not just my mom that reads my postings.  “I put my wine in the longest bottle we had.”  It was then I realized the voice from down under had a sense of humor.  After speaking with him for two minutes, I got the sense he really was just researching on the internet to see what people were saying about his wine.  I first thought he Googled the hot Savanna Samson and was erroneously directed to our site.

 I spent the next hour involved in a great conversation with the owner of Shinas Estate.  Turns out, he thought all US wine people were pedantic snobs and I thought all Aussies were exiled British criminals, neither of which pertained to the people on either end of the phone.  It seems the Barrister’s grandfather passed along the passion of wine making from the old country, Greece.  Remember; they were making wine before Jesus did that thing at the wedding with the clay pots of water. 

After success in the restaurant business and later in land development, the Honorable Judge set out to make a small fortune in the wine business by planting 8 acres of shiraz.  Good thing for him he had a large fortune to turn into that small fortune in the wine industry.  All of his grapes are hand picked and washed, unlike those other bulk wine producers from down under that machine harvest their grape and don’t wash the bird droppings off.  I’m not spreading any rumors or anything, but if you drink a wine that rhymes with “mellow snail” from Australia, it probably has shinglebacks ground into the juice.  I’m not saying it does or it doesn’t but those little gecko things love to play in the harvester, you know what I’m sayin'.

I look forward to tasting the ’04 and having dinner with the Justice when he makes his swing through the US on a promotional tour.  I figure we can have a nice grilled lamb chop dinner at Frankie and Johnnies in Hoboken and drink some gecko-free shiraz from down under.  I would call you Wino Judge, but I do not think that would be good for the reputation you have built over all those years on the bench, but check back in every once in awhile and let us know how the barrel tastings are shaping up. 

G’Day mate…

November 3, 2005

An old geek business associate has relocated to the Garden State after a 5 year run for his company in Asia.  The other night, we had a chance to get together for dinner and I had the chance to try a place I have been wanting to go to for some time.  As the revitalized city of Hoboken is just north of Jersey City, we headed to an historic steakhouse on 14th whose 18th century longshoremen’s saloon atmosphere hangs heavy in the air.  Frankie and Johnnies Steakhouse has been serving their famous sirloin to the Hollywood crowd and locals for decades.  For it being as close to the city and as well known, the portion size to price ratio was very good.  I have paid far more for far less without the atmosphere.  Unfortunately, it was a Tuesday night, so I was the biggest name in the place, but on the weekends its tough to get a table unless you are Joey Pants or Danny Aiello or one of the beautiful people.  The recommendation for next time is the Porterhouse for three, a 72 ounce beast done to perfection.  That’s four and a half pounds of red meat.  I might need a Balthazar to wash that down along with and a side of sautéed spinach.  The bar is white subway floor tile and  dark, worn mahogany walls with a high tin ceiling and the charm of days gone by.  Definitely a place to enjoy a good steak at if you’re in the area.

2001 Farrari-Carano Sienna $$(48.00 rest.)   Nice but not the jockey for the steak I was riding that night.  Complex with cinnamon spice and dark fruits but nothing in the saddle.

November 1, 2005

I might have died and gone to Wino Heaven!  Check this out... there is a winery/spa-resort in Thailand (land of mail order brides and sex junkets) where you can enjoy drinking and bathing in their Shiraz.  I can drink and bathe in the red nectar of the Gods!  It must be heaven.  If this Thai resort is like the others, I’m sure you are sponged by a young, vestal virgin and hand towel dried by a bevy of Asian beauties.   The owners of Korat Winery Village Farm believe that hydrotherapy is the key to a rejuvenating spa treatment.  The shiraz and mineral water spray therapy is infused with other ingredients including lavender, rosemary, eucalyptus, chamomile and hayseed oils.  Now the best thing is that it only cost 500 baht which in real money is like $2.39.   Wines are made from Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chenin Blanc grapes that grow at Village Farm.  And the gourmet restaurant  features unique Thai dishes.  So next time you are looking for a special anniversary gift, or heading to Thailand to find a wife, take her to the Korat Winery Village Farm for a tub-o-shiraz and a meal and change back from your five dollar bill.

October 31, 2005

I don’t know if your Saturday night was as non-descript as mine, but I ended up in front of the TV watching the Outback Jack marathon on Fox Reality network.  It seems this is like the Bachelor Show, but based in Australia.  They took some Crocodile Dundee-type guy and 12 beauty queens and exposed these cute, pampered women to life in the wilds of the outback.  They ate ants and milked crocs and did a host of survival type challenges.  Then, painstakingly, they drew out the decision process in the eye- darting, bundle of nervous energy, non-speaking segments.  Enough of that, the reason I bring it up is on the last few episodes, as Outback Jack was narrowing down his tough decision on which of these broads he was going to spend the rest of his life with, he had a date on the beach and a catered lunch.  Each date had wine with it, but the final episode prominently displayed the neck of the bottle sticking up from the wine bucket.  What were these to Aussie lovebirds drinking as the waves crashed against the sugar white sand, and the rough-and-tumble Outback Jack bawled his eyes out professing his love for some chick he met ten episodes earlier.  I must say, they guy cried in every episode as he tossed one of the girls.  They should have been drinking white zinfandel; however, the wine for the romantic dates was non other than Big Bob’s Giesen Sauvignon Blanc.  Yes, Mr. Weepy Boy poured his heart out and showed the world his sensitive side.  I am sure his rugby buddies will replay that tape all during the divorce proceedings.  For all the big knife chopping of brush and horseback riding and camping under the stars, Outback is a very sensitive guy. 

Nevertheless, the show did a great service to Big Bob and tweaked the Aussie wine community by having them drink a New Zealand offering.  Way to go Dreyfus Ashby, your sales should be through the roof this week.    

2003 E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone Rose $ (8.99)   This crisp, bone dry rose is not, I repeat, NOT a White Zinfandel, but rather an attractive blend of 50% Grenache, 40% Cinsault, 5% Mourvèdre, 5% Syrah showing raspberry and red cherry flavors with a spicy finish.  A nice wine for sesame ginger salmon.

October 29, 2005

Did you turn your clock back?  Nothing better than having someone wind my clock.  Is that a statement that makes me sound old?  Clocks do not wind anymore; they are mostly battery powered or electric, or non-mechanical.  This brings me to another embarrassing situation that makes me feel old, the dreaded drugstore purp-walk.  Why is it that the once a year  I go into a drugstore  to purchase that three pack of baby barriers, there happens to be a sixteen-something young girl at the cash register?  For God sake, let me have my non-alone time without the shame and embarrassment of placing that special three pack on the counter, to have it scanned three, four, maybe five times before the little bar code is read, thus furthering the humiliation of holding up the line.  Is it just me or do others find the need to purchase things you don’t want just to bury that small packet of raingear beneath the newspaper, gum, a magazine, chewing tobacco, a giants plastic bobble-head doll, wax teeth, an ”I love you mom, happy birthday” card, tooth picks and a bottle of diet coke.  Twenty-seven dollars for a $3.99 purchase.  That is the only store that I have an issue.  I can go into a bakery and buy a loaf of bread, no need to hide it among 13 non-essential items.  Hell, I go to the wine store, like today, find the wine I want, walk right to the register, proudly display it to the twenty-something young woman, try and make Wino Bob small talk about the wine (usual get the annoyed nervous laugh and the 'get the “f” out' look).  I have even made the girl stop, held up the line just to grab another wine near the counter.  I have no fear that I see the same person every day or so and they think I have a drinking problem.  But to have some young women ring up a sample size offering of rain boots creeps them out and they look at me like; why in the hell would a stick figure need those things, you filling them with water for a balloon fight?  Then comes the smirk, the "yeah-right, those are for you, have a nice day", while she hands me my change. 

Fortunately, I take refuge in the wine shop next door and fall into the arms of the shiraz section, to lick my wounds and soothe my damaged ego.  The welcoming comfort of my wine dependency makes that once a year journey easier to cope with.

The shelves were awash with animal-labeled, shiraz-based wines, so I selected several with something other than geckos or iguanas this time.  Today’s theme is animals gone mad and though I have heard of a mad dog, I do not think I have heard of a mad fish, until today.  Can fish get mad, and if they do, how would one really know?  I believe they get awfully pissed when that barbed metal hook shows up in the middle of a snack and some drunken asshole on a boat is trying to make you swim in a direction opposite the way you want to go.  However, are fishes’ brains developed enough to be mad or just basic enough to feel pain and want to avoid it?  A dog on the other hand, has more intelligence, but I still do not know if we can say they get mad.  For if I can assign the feeling of mad to a dog, then maybe dog really is God spelled backwards and the connection of dogma and religion really exists in a level above stickmanity.  My dog never laughs at my jokes, just has that same dumbass look on his face whither I am yelling at him or feeding him, or throwing the ball to him.  Though I do see a change in his demeanor when he starts licking himself in areas I, as a stick figure, cannot even reach with my tongue (on me, not on him).  That would be even too far out for me to joke about, the dog and me thing. 

The label, Mad Dogs and Englishmen, actually comes from a saying, “only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.”  Meaning ill animals and for some reason, whacky Brits head out to do things in the heat of the day while non crazy animals and all other ethnicities choose to lazily lie around and accomplish nothing.  I cannot figure if they are making fun of the Englishmen or of all other people.  The irony is that in England, there are only four days per year that the sun is actually out so it would not really be crazy to be out on such a unique day.  It is not as if England is on the equator and the midday sun is scorching.  Winemaker William Long of Bodegas y Vinedos de Murcia is indeed an Englishman, as is his partner Guy Anderson, who perhaps not coincidentally are also the creators of "Fat Bastard."

Nevertheless, my dog is not mad.  In fact, he is so stupid, he greets me every time I see him in the kitchen, as he had not seen me in a week.   As for the young pimply faced teenager behind the counter at CVS, I do only see you once a year.  You don’t have to greet me like I am in there all the time buying those things.  And for the woman at the counter at the wine shop, you do see me every day; the least you can do is greet me like you recognize me.  Hey, I just thought of something, maybe I need to invent wine flavored condoms, like White Zinfandel or something.  Then maybe I could purchase more than three per year.  Maybe we can lubricate the latex with a wine based spermacide, thus protecting from pregnancy and getting your date drunk all that the same time.  Since red wine has so many positive health benefits, perhaps if could protect one from those nasty STDs.  I’ll take a gross of the ribbed shiraz Wino Condoms please.  No, nothing else, just my 144 pack of party balloons.  Now; where da white women at?

2003 Bodegas y Viñedos de Murcia Shiraz-Cabernet-Monastrell Jumilla  Mad Dogs and Englishmen $ (8.99)    Just to clarify this is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, shiraz and monastrell (mourvedre) and delivers a fruit bomb.  The nose is all blackberries and the taste is plum, and black fruits with an earthy, smooth finish.  A nice find for a great price.  So what if the Brit is out working in the scorching Spanish sun, he is making a nice wine for us Yanks.  These two Brits are also the brains behind Fat Bastard shiraz, which did not make my favorite list.

October 27, 2005

What is it with little lizards, or geckos, as a logo that has attracted me to Shiraz?  First, that damn Shingleback drew me to the Aussie offering.  And yesterday, the Kumala, a small lizard that runs among the gravelly soil of South African vineyards.  If Gieco Insurance wants to get into the wine business, they are already branded for a Shiraz from the new world.  There must be some strange relationship between this small reptile and the winemaker.  Obviously, vines grow in gravelly, rocky, stressed soil and these small creatures dart in and out of the cracks and crevasses of the trellised plants.  However, are the small creatures darting in and out of any other cracks and crevasses that make the winemakers so found of using them on the label?  Is there a strange relationship with the vineyard worker and the cold blooded, slimy animal that elevates its status to label recognition?

I do remember the labels of the Rainbow Winery in San Francisco having a gerbil on the label and it sent me researching the significance of gerbils to wineries.  As far as I can tell, gerbils do not live among the cracks and crevasses of the soil in wine growing regions.  In fact, most gerbils live in cages in children’s rooms in the suburbs of America, there and in pet stores in San Francisco.  So I am still searching for the connection between the love of the gerbil and the winemaker at Rainbow Winery.  If there is anyone out there that knows this answer, please do not hesitate to drop me an email and I will post the answer.

As far as my interest in Shiraz, I guess I will be left with labels decorated with komodo dragons, iguanas, trouser lizards and horny toads, except for those few marketing geniuses daring to highlight unique small furry creatures to separate them from the pack.

2004 Kumala Shiraz $ (8.99) Interesting, easy drinking dark cherry, raspberry and black cherry flavors.  The finish is short with a spice kicker.

October 24, 2005

Blood was in the water and I was in a feeding frenzy or I was Shiraz struck and grabbed a bottle while at Kings.  This one was from the same region, McLaren Vale, but not as intriguingly complex.  A more approachable, mellow wine than my guilty pleasure from Saturday, but still a delightful wine to accompany a heaping helping of Eli Manning as he pulled out a win for Big Blue.  The weather was the correct temperature for a football game, a crisp fall afternoon.  Unlike the boyz of summer that play into November, or the winter hockey sport that holds its finals in the balmy June evenings, football is a fall sport extending just beyond the upper and lower limits of the season it originally was designed for.  Is baseball that important it needs to stretch from the beginning of April until the beginning of November, please spare us, cut the season by 40 games and let us get this thing wrapped by the middle of September?  If the series was not such a blow out, I might expect snow in Chicago for game seven.  Therefore, I guess the world is ending.  The violent storms, the mass destruction, two baseball curses being lifted back-to-back.  What is next, a Republican being elected in New Jersey?  If that does happen, I am drinking all my expensive wine, as I will be hearing the voices of the angels announcing the curtain call.  It is kind of like the things that keep me up at night.  How will the species of Homo Erectus become extinct and if the universe is constantly expanding, what is it expanding into?  I have a very hard time grasping the universe thing.  If there is a lot of nothing, will the nothing run out?  Worse yet, will the expanding universe hit some kind of barrier that will send the outermost stuff back towards the center.  Does there come a time that the expansion slows or just stops and thing then are stagnant.  What would that do and are there people or things out at the fringes right now watching their world move to the farthest reaches of nothingness?  My head hurts when I try to picture this ever-expanding vastness since I have to believe it is expanding in some spatial context.  The more wine I have, the more I can conceive of space’s vastness, but that solar system that is 15 billion light years away must have something beyond it.  This is too much to grasp, but one day, after I am dead, I guess I will get to see the edges of this universe, maybe only to see an infinite number of like-expanding other universes or universi, what ever the plural of vastness is.  Thus, there must be a plural for infinity.  Ponderous…..     

2003 Shingleback Shiraz $ (19.00)   A McLaren Vale Aussie shiraz with a mellow black berry, and dark cherry flavor with a smooth smoky finish.

October 22, 2005

WJ, I didn’t realize you were in China again.  I read up on the wine offerings, we know the Great Wall read sucked, but I understand that the Tiananmen Square Red is full of body, big, crushing finish with an aggressive amount of 'don’t speak out against the government'.  Why don’t you pick up a few bottles for our next dinner.  When you get back, you might want to come over and visit Wino Lou, he is making bird flu vaccine in his basement.  I’m sure something you ate over there was ripe with a disease.  Which reminds me, we need to complete that corporate agreement, so if in the off chance you do contract some incurable flesh eating virus while at your slave labor camp in China, the password for updating this web site will be made available to me.  That and your red wine collection, and the GPS coordinates of your super-secret palatial estate, and the code to the bat cave…   Good luck with that food thing in the underdeveloped world you are trying to replace New Jersey labor with.  Remember, poodle is in season. 

When one needs to get back in the wine saddle again, not that I need help, but the beer belly is three quarters of the way down now, I can count on Wino Jim to challenge me for a more bottles then bodies night of dinner and drink.  Since the cellar is boring and near empty, I had to stop and shop at the local wine provider.  I picked up a bottle of Aussie shiraz to coat my palate, and my arteries and my blood platelets and my internal organs.  I needed something I could ease back into the wine world with.

When we got to the restaurant, Wino Jim had opened a fun little chard produced by the same family that produces the wildly purchased restaurant wine, Kendall-Jackson.  This label is aimed at the animal loving wine drinkers and features dog oriented names on the label.  The wine is fruit forward and easy on the palate and wallet.

My Aussie was a pleasant surprise, to me.  It was everything I was looking for in a price less than twenty dollars.  Unfortunately, it was the last bottle at Shop Rite Discount in Caldwell, so I will have to stop back in and see if they will be getting anymore.  The wine is a single vineyard offering from the boutique wine crafter, George Shinas, owner of Shinas Estate Wines.   There was a lot for the money on the nose and the palate and I will be hunting this one down.  Not as polished as a northern Rhone, but generous complexity to keep you coming back to the glass, finding new treats.  Now I’m jonesin' for another bottle…

2004 Dog House Charlie’s Chard $ (8.99)   The nose offers toasted almond and vanilla hints with simple fruits and a clean finish, this one is a good porch wine for summer time as a warm up to dinner.

2003 Shinas Estates The Guilty Shiraz $ (19.99)   My find of the month, this Aussie shiraz is full of black fruit and spice on the nose with a bowl of dark fruit smothered in chocolate sauce on the palate.  The finish is short, otherwise this wine would have rocketed into a category unto itself.  Mark this as a Wino Bob highly recommended wine for the shiraz lover.

October 21, 2005

Wow, how time flies when you are drying out.  Actually, I was not drying out, more like letting my beer belly deflate.  The gene pool of the Wino Bob ancestors had an extra bone on the beer belly ankle.  My weight gain during uncontrollable beer binging is all in the stomach, making me look like a lower case letter b on two legs.  By Wednesday evening, I tapped a glass of red from the basement to slim down the waistline and get my vitamin and mineral supply. 

The depressing thing is that my in-house wine right now is nothing new and exciting.  Even my monthly wine delivery has not shown up yet. I am drinking the same wine I drank before I left.  Still it is not as bad as the limited offerings I encountered in Chelmsford.  Those poor people do not have a clue.  The big wine featured at the place I was staying was a Pinotage.  Now, I am a lover of this South African, but come on people, its kind of a transvestite.  The hybrid of pinot noir and cinsault makes it gender confused at times which will have the Brits begging for their pint of ale.  There was only one Bordeaux, two South African, and three Australian wines to pick from.  The one time I was asked to suggest a wine, I looked at the two-page offering and cried.  Not really, I would have been ridiculed all meeting if I wept over a wine list, but I could not believe the meager list of unexciting wine.  It made sense, based on this, that all the women at the pub in the place I stayed were drinking beer.  I might just have to start a Wino 101 class in Chelmsford.  There might be a huge market for the offerings from New Jersey, perhaps a tasty Concord or a refreshing Cayuga.  We owe our wine growing history to the Brit’s so why not reward them with exporting our finest.

Tomorrow, I will make sure to have something new to comment on, so cheers for now…  

(Editor's note:  I am updating this site from China.  I haven't had any wine in 5 days and I'm starting to get a little CRANKY...   Based on past experience, the next 5 days aren't looking too promising on the wine front either.  So I don't want to hear about beer-belly-boy and his limited choice of wine.  I'm here eating who-knows-what, washing it down with some kind of hot tea, and he's whining about Pinotage!!!  I would kill right now for some Pinotage!  I would even toss back some Pinot Noir if I could find some.  It's that bad, people.  It's real bad.  My head is about to explode and this country of 1.21 gigapeople doesn't even care!!!  AARRGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!)

October 12, 2005

With two hours of sleep in the last 18, I have retired to the third floor room in a 1631 pub house in Chelmsford, England.  The doorways are small and the steep, slanted roof leaves little to feel comfortable with.  Rain brushes in when the wind kicks up as the only window of the small dank room tries to cool this stifling attic room. 

The flight was delightful, arriving 30 minutes before schedule.  Gatwick was a breeze to clear customs and enter the transportation arena.  Though I had to figure out 3 different trains to land in this small rural town, the fact that the locals are understandable helped immensely.   Once settled in, I had a good portion of the day to get acclimated.  Unfortunately much of the time was getting situated with technology.  The Queen Mum leaves a lot to be desired for entrance ramps onto the world wine super highway.  The bright spot of the day was the tremendous help given to me by the salesman at the local cellular phone shop in town.  Through some dodgy (English term) characters, I finally got the tools necessary to get my phone working and connectivity to the real world.  As I was always told to stay up all day and crash early to get the body clock adjusted, I find myself with three pints of local Young’s Special ale in my system, and a shared dinner of bangers and mash, fish and chips and meat pie. 

The beer, though tepid is not as warm as I imagined.  The folks at this eight room hotel and pub have been gracious and helpful in anyway possible regarding my demanding American ways.  Sorry, if I want a toilet that flushes instead of being pumped like the macerator of a boat.  Call me American scum for wanting a bed that does not come with a 30 degree downward parabola in the mattress.  No matter how back woods America may be, we can all get on the internet.  As usual, I spent the last 45 minutes pretending to myself that I was tired.  The solution is a good dose of British TV, so I could either laugh myself to sleep with Monty Python type shows, or wank myself to sleep with some steamy movie.

Unfortunately, this small, eight room hotel only has 5 channels.  I am watching the Poland vs England soccer match, but how long could that go on?  The TV I dreamed of had naked chick action.  Excitedly, I flipped back and forth hoping for a racy commercial, but only got a frightening channel playing some Woopie Goldberg thing.  Great, Whoopie F'n Goldberg.  I hope she doesn’t get naked…

Christ, the Waggledancer made me pass out right in the middle of my typing.  I spent the last ten minutes laughing at the incoherent ramblings, funny, but it wouldn’t be understandable so I had to delete it.  The bed is as saggy and lumpy as my grandmother’s breasts.  No wonder everyone here has a grimace on their face.   I think this place gets their water from the original Roman aqueducts.  Besides the crappy toilet pressure, the shower is like a trickle.  That can explain the fragrance I encountered on the train.  So far, I have had little luck in locating a bottle, a glass, or a shop offering the beverage I seek, Absinthe.  Yes, it is legal and I will be hunting high and low for the green fair.  I don’t think Chelmsford is the type of hip town the libation would be sold.   

Absent of Absinthe in all local shops, I headed to London for a look around.  The place is clean and easy to get around,  but I had little luck in finding Absinthe.  I did get a chance to see the most important sight of London, the most recognized place, the power of power.  Yes, I stumbled upon the jewel of the city.

 

Yes, the Cutty Sark flag should give it away, but since this camera is only 2.1 megapixels, I wanted to let you know that this is Berry Brothers, the wine merchant to the Royal Family.  By time I found it, they were closed, but I did make them nervous by snapping away through the locked doors.

It is located across the street from some important palace, but quite frankly, there are so many Duke and Lord palaces, I couldn’t keep them straight.  I wanted to shop around and see how stoically pedantic they are being the wine supplier to the Queen herself.  But they had to close for 4pm tea.

Two doors away is Lock Hat shop, the only hat maker of Laurel and Hardy.  I was blessed, two important sights within the same block.

All in all, it was a nice trip with interesting sights.  I just need to get back there when Berry Brothers is open so I can find out if the Queen Mum drinks the white zinfandel.

October 11, 2005

The family is growing as the WinoStuff posse took to the streets.  Well, it was more like the rooms of an elegant landmark in the Jersey suburbs.  Big Bob and Wino John had a chance to meet Wino Stan, Wino Marty, the other John and their posse and, en mass, we started at table one of the Wine Library’s Super Tasting 2005 and rolled through table 71.  I believe there were only 2 of the 759 wines we didn’t taste and they were white zinfandel girlie wines.  So instead of writing a long story, I thought I would simply list the 757 wines I enjoyed.

  1. Massolino Barolo
  2. Massolino Barolo Margheria
  3. Kellar Estate La Cruz
  4. Kellar Estate Oro de Plata
  5. ...

OK, this will really be monotonous, so let me give you some high points and low points.  The biggest high was hanging with Big Bob and having the pleasure of meeting the VIW (Very Important Wino) Gary from Wine Library, and his associates.  Note to Justin, we will be in touch.  As for the wines, there are too many to fully define, but several stick out.  The first two I have to mention are my "ass pimples" for the night.  I know it loses something when I have to explain, but put it this way:  Take Savannah, our WBotM, and say she and I were in her hot tub enjoying a glass of Savannah wine, and she slips out of her bathing suite and says, "Wino Bob, I need you right now..."  And as she turns around, I notice that she has an ass pimple.  I got this crazy brain thing that, although she has the body of an angel, I would be thinking about the turn off of the ass pimple. All my excited anticipation would be deflated by the ass pimple. My two ass pimple wines, those which I expected to be heavenly, but I could only concentrate on their flaws were the Gran Clos Priorat, one I was watering to try, and the 2002 Banfi Summus.  I have enjoyed both in the past, but not tonight.  They have scared me as the ass pimple wines of the tasting.

Some I really enjoyed in no order or enjoyment or price value...

Torbreck Steading - nice Aussie blend

The shiraz from Lengs & Cooter - I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Cooter, as I was making a sophomoric joke about the name on the label since cooter is a nickname for female private parts for fourth graders in Bloomfield.  The Lengs & Cooter- The Victor shiraz was a chocolate delight, but I was not much for their reserve.  Rachael was very patient with WJ and I as we drank our way up and down her table.  The other wine Rachael offered that I really enjoyed was the Oliver’s Taranga Shiraz.

Wino John pitched a tent both literally and physically at the Lauber California Cab table as he tasted every red from the:

  • Diamond Creek Volcanic Hill

  • Origin-Napa Paramount

  • Ravenswood Rancho Salina

  • Raymond Reserve

  • Rudd Cab

  • Revana Cab

  • Et al

I think at one time he poked someone by mistake as he joyously reached his glass for another sample.  The boy was in heaven.  (Editor's note:  Yeah, baby...  Table 21...)

Several more I enjoyed

  • 1919 Malbec

  • Chimney Rock Cab

  • BV George de Latour

  • Cask 23

  • Rubicom

  • Hitching Post “Generations Red”- us from the Sideways fame

  • Trenadue Black Label Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon

  • Pio Cesare Barolo

  • Gaja Magari

  • Bertani Amarone

  • Geyser Reserve Meritage

  • Mondavi Oakville  Cab

  • Mondavi Cab Reserve

  • Barossa Valley Estates Ebenezer Shiraz

  • Barossa Valley Estates E & E Black Pepper

  • Hardys Eileen Shiraz

And twenty other wines I cannot recall.  That is a great event and the food offered by the Manor was exceptional for a tasting.  From the look of the crowd, I think the charity, The Arc of Essex County, had a successful evening.  It was a fun night and I highly recommend you get there next year.

Wino Marty was talking to every one of the pourers, setting up a private tasting at the wineries for his next visit to Napa and Wino Stan found a few he will be stocking his cellar with.  I think the 1919 Malbec ranked among his top 5.  I believe I tanked up enough to handle the warm beer dilution I will suffer over the next few days.  It was a good way to keep my blood wine level at peak.

October 10, 2005

I know there are delays in my postings when WJ is traveling the globe and out of touch, so I wanted to let you know that I will be the one out of touch over the next week.  My Geek job has me heading to a meeting in some small, remote town in England.  I am not sure if I will have internet access, or time to use my laptop, or be anywhere near wine.  To head off the potential disaster, I will be visiting the mega-tasting at The Manor tonight hosted by the Wine Library.  This will be a first time for Big Bob, WJ, Wino Stan and Wino Marty to converge on the open bottles of Peju, Screaming Eagle, Caymus, Silver Oak, or any of the other 600 wines that will be thrust upon our glasses. 

I imagine the next few days after the tasting will be filled with warm beer from local pubs that are not available in the US and hold little interest to write about, save the headache, hangover or general buzz.  If time permits, and my mind is clear enough, I will fire off one more entry about the event before I head to the land of bad teeth, British humor and Queen Mum.  The only sight I will be attempting to visit is Berry and Son’s, the centuries-old wine shop in London that houses some of the most prized wines in the country.  I will be flashing the Wino Bob business card and demanding to be taken to the Queen’s private stock to sample what the Old Woman hides in her hip flask.  With the passing of Princess Di, there ain’t a whole lot to get excited about across the pond, though I will be looking for someone to translate the snogging and dogging terms I read about on the internet. 

2002 Kaiken Malbec, Mendoza $ (8.99)    There is promise, but it just is not there yet.  A nose of bitter blueberries and a harsh finish turned me off a bit on this one.

October 9, 2005

No, please, that’s enough.  Please, my email box is full.  I just thought I would head off the volume of thank you emails for what you are about to read.  Yes, Winos and Winettes, while you spend time reading mundane wine articles about the weather in Southern New Zealand and its effects on this years sauvignon blanc, or how this new cabernet has aromas of horse saddle well-ridden on a late august afternoon, I toil away in my dark dank third floor room researching fitting information for the WinoStuff crowd.  About 2:45 am, I found an interesting bit of information that I did not know.  And if I did not know it, how could I expect you would know it?  Of all the magazine, lame web sites and TV shows, not one of them has discussed the following topic.  I offer my services to the writers of Andrea Immer’s TV show for an episode that will boost those molehill ratings.

So what am I excited about you ask?  OK, so you didn’t ask, but this blank page needs to be filled so I wanted to share my newfound knowledge.  I am excited about Coca Cola, not the new Classic Coke, but the original.  We all know that the original Coca Cola was so named because it contained cocaine as the thing that got people hooked.  That really has nothing to do with a wine web site.  No, it is the person Mr. Pemberton imitated that I am excited about today.  I even submit to the judging committee, a posthumous Winery of the Month, or Wino Hunk of the Month, or Wino God of the early days.

With much fan fare and a royal blaze of trumpets ( we do not actually have the ability to add wave files so in your head right now make that doot-doot-da-doo sound we all have done at one time or another)

Hail Angelo Mariani

Angelo Mariani?  Wino Bob, what the f&$# are you talking about?  Well folks, in my hours of research on something other than the Savanna Samson homepage, I located a bit of wine history I was not aware of until hours ago.  Way back in the mid-1860’s an entrepreneurial young Corsican chemist found the right blend of wine to gather the attention of the professional, religious, and general derelicts alike.  The good sir infused a bit of cocaine into his Vin Mariani and launched a million dollar product line. It could be said he was the first coke dealer in the world.  Yes, each bottle of Angelo’s magic elixir contained about 0.12 grains per ounce of pure white lightening.  The wine was first offered as a medical tonic and the doctor community started writing scribs faster than Elvis.  This new wine was advertised as having the ability to nourish, refresh and strengthen your system while also aiding digestion.  Woo Hoo, sign me up, Doc!  I think I have tiredness and a weak system, got any magical wine tonic elixir stuff you can prescribe?

Pope Leo XIII was so hooked, he endorsed the product.  Nothing better than the holiest of holy, number one on earth and number 4 in the universe saying, "Dudes, I think you should drink this, I do and I like it."  Kind of the Michael Jordan of his time.

Then, as always, when things get fun, that ugly, unpopular bitch, Molly Hatchet, had this country give up the alcoholic enjoyment, or in her case, the liquid that kept her husband from leaving her.  Fortunately, for America, a drugstore owner siezed the moment and developed a refreshing non-alcoholic beverage containing the same coke base that Vin Mariani used. Things really do go better with Coke.  Eventually, the federal government clamped down on all medical elixirs containing opium, heroine, cocaine, amphetamines, and ruined the party, but for several decades a certain imported wine was a very popular item in the USA.

  

October 3, 2005

Well, the Grand Harvest Festival yesterday was truly grand, what little I saw of it.  Unlike the Waterloo Village event, I was expected and they did assign me a job.  The weather was spectacular for an early October day, with a blue sky in every direction one could see and temperatures in the summer-like 80’s.  I heard the band warming up as I arrived at 11am, and saw the tent tops from my limited vantage point at the registration tent.  Then, in a gesture of graciousness on my part, I volunteered to do the wine pick up tent.  The best place to meet people is the pick up tent, on their way out, as they spent most of the day enjoying the wine and music and are in a great mood.

This year, to serve the public, they placed the pick up tent in the far parking lot, across the road from the winery.  Spending 5 hours there left me very little opportunity to walk the festival.  In truth, it left me no time to grab a glass and sample the fruit of the loins of the Garden State.  Like a kid with his nosed pressed against the glass of the candy counter, I was just on the other side of all the action.   There seemed to be an excitement from the people I spoke with as they picked up their cases of wine.  The amount of volume purchasing seemed higher than last year and comments from several of my fellow volunteers indicated the event held on Saturday and Sunday was well attended.  I guess the weather Gods smiling down with a cloudless sky and summer-like temperatures is ideal for enjoying a bold bottle of Norton or sipping a chilled Vidal Blanc.

Hope to see you there next year…

October 1, 2005

We do live in a great time where science, whether Darwin’s version or Intelligent Design, has human’s at the top of the food chain and finding all sorts of neat crap.  Since we are at the top of the food chain, and always looking for that next great meal, the BYOB Italian restaurants on Bloomfield Ave. in Caldwell, let out a collective hoo-ray as Japanese scientist finally discovered the elusive Giant Squid.  Antonio Mengia was overheard saying, “this giant squid is the answer to my desire of making the largest bowl of squid ink linguini to finally get my name in the Guinness Book of World Records, and the amount of calamari I can get from just one squid will feed Essex County.” 

Seen below is Antonio getting ready to taste the tentacle, a prized part for fried calamari fans in Caldwell.  piacere questa munificenza di calamari fritto finché i suoi stomaci si sono gonfiati

In a much more important research finding, scientists have located the alcohol-tolerance gene in fruit flies.  Finally, they can stop blaming me for lost profits at Bacchus, as it is the alcoholic fruit flies that hover on the pour spouts of their liqueurs and red wines, not me.  The bad news is that now I have to spend more money getting my fruit fly date drunk before she will go to bed with me.  Actually, there might be a bright side to this, once this gene is discovered, I can get one and save tons of money on my wine purchases per year.  It will no longer take a bottle or two, or three to get me that happy high I seek to drown out this pain called life.  With no tolerance gene, I can turn into a sloppy, falling down obnoxious drunk in just one glass.  There is a bright side to scientific discovery.  Now, did we evolve that gene from the drunken apes of the African plains or did a higher power design that in to sell more red wine?  Damn you, Robert Mondavi….

A gene that helps fruit flies develop alcohol tolerance has been found – and named “hangover”. The gene also controls the flies’ response to stress, and the researchers say that a similar pathway linking alcohol tolerance and stress probably functions in humans.

The findings may explain why people who have been in a stressful situation often have a blunted response to alcohol and may need to drink more to feel inebriated, experts say, putting them at greater risk of becoming addicted.

Ulrike Heberlein at the University of California at San Francisco, US, and Henrike Scholz from the University of Würzburg in Germany, exposed fruit flies to ethanol vapor. Intoxicated fruit flies show similar behavior to tipsy humans: they lack coordination and postural control and then fall asleep. It took the flies an average of 20 minutes to recover following their exposure

1995 Altos de Corral Single Estate Rioja $$ (30.00)   This wine had some nice potential, but there was just an off-finish that affected my appreciation for this one.  Nice red fruit and dark cherry with a simple hint of spice, but lost it at the end.


 

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