Friday, July 30, 2010

Dry Creek Love Affair: Passalacqua

I pull up, and can’t stop taking pictures.  My new iphone is literally heaping with scenic shots.  I walked inside and met Tony.  After sharing some of the 5,000 case winery’s history and philosophy, he started me off with the Sauvignon Blanc, which was one of my candidates to take home as soon as it hit lip.  I also tried the 2008 Chardonnay, and the ’07 Dry Creek Zin.  Again, I was Zin smitten.  Taking this bottled beauty home.
I was really impressed, inspired as well, with the history behind this delightful Dry Creek winery.  Heavy emphasis on family and tradition.  The tasting room is graced with old photos, which is complemented by a homey feel, making it even harder to leave.
Once done with my tasting with Tony, I went outside, loaded up on more pictures.  Again reminded why I’m in an artistic tryst with this region.  Intense shades, unparalleled terrain, and fantastic libation.  I remember wishing I had time to have a glass of that SB, or Chard, out on their pristine patio, in this forceful summer.  Maybe next time.  And there will be a next time.  Lots of them.
As I finish my edit of this blurb, I sip the Zin, dazzled by the swarm of engaging notes.  Dark berry/cherry, spice, tobacco, subtle caramel and herb.  Going to have to go back for another bottle.  A case?
At the home office, sipping my ’07 Zin, taking a look at the simple, enjoyable and informative piece of literature Tony sent home with me.  I notice they offer an ’06 Dry Creek Cab, an ’07 Primitivo, and a Sangiovese (also ’07).  Should have tasted those, but I was trying to be good.  Their website boasts “a commitment to quality.” As these sips speedily succeed in their sequence, I appreciate the fervor entailed in their commitment.  Appreciate it?  I’m sipping it, experiencing it, connecting with it. 
Visit the Passalacqua website,
There were actually quite a few more photographs, but I selected my favorites for this entry.  Enjoy!  

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Random Podcast

Gym to Journal

7/28/2010, Wednesday.  While at the gym, my thoughts were popping with bullet ferocity.  Everything from my upcoming Heidi Barrett interview next week, to my meeting at the ad agency tomorrow, to the vinoLit Show taping tonight, to what wine I should feature on the show, to the wine shop idea, to spoken word.  The hour and ten minutes fluttered around my world, then left, as if it were sick of my routine.
Technology has angered me on several levels in the past 24 hours.  This is my biggest gripe with social media.  But, just I exercise creative and other licenses with these entries, so will I with media and tech; I won’t let it control me.
Sipping a Red Rocket Ale, listening to Thievery.  As much as this rest is warranted, I need to prep for the show, and handle other matters.  Wine for tonight...oh, I already decided.  Forgot.  Have too many lures in the lake.  Need deceleration.
As my tempo goes low, to slow, the wine shop reappears.  I see the counter, the seats, art about the walls.  “Should I pursue this, or confine this notion to the page’s lines?” I asked myself while on the bike.  Still, no answer.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Interview with Wine Blogger and Journalist Arianna Armstrong: Formidable, Human, Real. Finally.

Writers, especially ones writing in wine’s immense existential corner, that withhold, shy, tiptoe, simply don’t move me. Don’t motivate me to turn the page, read on. Recently, this reader was refreshed by a bold, slightly venomous lady of the pen with an impressive acuity for sophisticated libation, and the industry universally. Interesting balance, I know. That’s what hooked me.

Arianna Armstrong, whose work I first read on Dan Dunn’s “The Imbiber” site, displayed her lines like a journalistic surgeon, arranging her moment’s opus in her fashion while concurrently demonstrating professional, and useful (for consumers, and industry), evaluative prowess. I chose her for my first interview, not just in the reality she’s a fellow scribe, but I thought I could learn something, and you could as well if I hurled a discrete blanket of inquiry her way.

1-What is your thought process when deconstructing, analyzing, or just sipping a wine for the first time?

I pour the wine into my mouth and sort of let it speak to me. I have a natural tendency to overanalyze everything, so as much as I can get out of my own way and let the experience happen, the better the information is. And then I'll focus in: What flavors am I picking up and where do I feel them in my mouth? What's happening in terms of terroir? Does the wine seem typical to the varietal? Sometimes I run through this analysis in a moment, sometimes it takes me awhile to sit and sip. Other times I try to register only a few of these before turning off my brain to just enjoy the experience with friends.

2-Do you have a varietal to which you are obviously, and perhaps infamously, partial? Why?

I don't know if I've been writing about wine long enough to be infamous about anything! Although I always seem to love Grenache and Mourvedre, and lately I'm a really big fan of Alsatian Pinot Blanc. I've also been talking to anyone who will listen about Croatian Zlatina. And Menu-Pineau. Oh, and Champagne. Absolutely Champagne - any time, anywhere, for any occasion. So I guess I have a few...

3-Who are some of your favorite writers? How about your favorite wineries?

Writers? So many! And all so different! Wineries? I've never met a Ridge I didn't like. Tournesol, also in Napa. I'm kind of into Dierberg wines from Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara. Joesph Perrier. Haut-Brion (can I include that in this list without sounding like a douchebag?). Clos du Tue Boeuf in Loire - just about anything from Loire, actually. I'm a little obsessed these days... I also have a lot of respect for La Clarine Farms, and I don't think I've had a better Mourvedre than his 08.

4-How do you think wine and writing complement each other?

Ask me when I'm 2 glasses in... Actually, I like the relaxation and the sensory stimulation; the juice gets my creative juices...juiced.

5-Are you a “foodie?” What do you think of that term?

Everybody hates the term "foodie!" Jeez, relax, people! I think it's evocative and easy to say. Lately I've been saying "food person" or "food people" to be - I don't know - "food people PC" or "food apprecienado sensitive" or something. Some people prefer the term glutton, but that sounds a little harsh to me: I can be transported by an olive, but that doesn't mean I'm going to eat the entire tree. But am I one of those? Yes, absolutely. And no amount of intervention, support group or laying on of hands is going to change me. Don't want it to.

The stunning and bewitching Ms. Armstrong, as you may tell, can be a bit curt, sarcastic. One could say this, but I would praise and credit her with the tag of concise, and coherent. You can still say she’s curt, fine, but that’s what makes her so unparalleled in her magnificently constructed analytical reactions, or just reactions to wine, and/or cuisine. No pretentiousness. She is one of the writers that we should all thank for re-infusing the Humanness in wine’s world of wonderment. You can assume the stoic and pretentious posture with her, but I wouldn’t recommend it, ever. Actually, yeah, don’t do it. And the humor...again, thank you Ms. Armstrong! Yes, people, wine can entail humor. It’s okay, really. You should read some of her Tweets and Facebook postings, but not if you're easily offended. They would rile anyone, be they of the pen or otherwise. Again, refreshing.

6-Describe for us, if you would, your ideal wine-food pairing, setting too...

I had a bottle of 07 La Moynerie Pouilly-Fume, while eating fruit and cheese, sitting on the couch, watching TV with my best friend. To this day, that's one of the best pairings I can remember.

7-Do you believe in writer’s block?


8-Tell us about your new projects, [or] something else about you...

I just began blogging for MutineerMagazine ( and I have a few other projects in the works. I don't know if there is anything else to say, except I'm obsessed with food and wine and my little boy, who likes to announce to strangers, "My mom drinks a lot of wine!" Oy.

9-Tell us about GrapeSmart and Mutineer Magazine...

Check them out - they're awesome.

10-Anything you want to leave us with (pitches, thoughts, words...)?

Wine is better in the glass than in the bottle. And best when shared with friends.

Reading her responses here, I’m urged to unchain the Self a bit, a lot. Start writing, crazily, haphazardly. Aside from being offensively gorgeous, she enlightens with her keen bravado and orchestrated connection to the wine world. She is herself, with a sound sense of Self, in the world of wine. She’s not changing, and she shouldn’t be expected to. None of us should. Wine is ours. The writing, too. I keep reading her responses, laughing, and reflecting. Enriched, unquantifiable benefits. I wonder if she’ll let me interview her again. Again. Again. Now I’m being selfish. I don’t care. I blame her.

Make it a point to look for Arianna’s pieces in both Mutineer Magazine ( and GrapeSmart (! Sip, sip...Peace!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Still in the Fantastic Fold

Maybe today could be the first step of the trek to the wine shop. Not calling it a shop-slash-bar anymore because it’s mainly, primarily, empirically, a shop where wine is sold. There will be a small bar, but it’s not the main attraction. The main attraction is the selection of small production, boutique wines. Time to start hunting for candidates. No, if I’m to take this seriously, I need to know how much cash I’m to scrounge for startup. Startled, pleasantly, that I’m considering this seriously. Posted on FB: “If I open a wine shop/bar, who’s coming?” I was flooded with affirmation and encouragement. Much more useful than all the how-to nonsense one finds on the net, or the books in the Business section of Borders. I’ve started a new journal, pen and paper only, for this very idea and overall accumulated industry knowledge (useful realities therein).
Going to the Swiss Hotel tonight. Can’t wait to view their wine list. Wait, I can do that now online. Rephrase: Can’t wait to taste some wine from their list. I’m charged, shook with stimulation, just like when I was first hired, and working for, the other winery. IF I follow through with this, it will be challenging. But I know it’s not too much for me. Need to look at designs of other wine clubs, specials, discounts, social media campaigns...more than excited. Obsessed. Giving my entire entity to the oenophile’s universe. Wine, Literature, Life.
Just solicited suggestions for wines to carry in the shop. Wonder what my social media connects will urge. Wine, endless enjoyment. Right now, investigating online wine media. Shows, blogs, vlogs, sites, the like. Yes, taking notes, but also just enjoying the learning process. Haven’t been this invigorated since grad school, since when I first started teaching. Mentally alive with curious and courageous notes. Becoming a new literary varietal...

(7/23/2010, Friday)

My Morning, Inked

Cab Franc, still with these thoughts. Wondering how much of a possibility, an immediate one, the wine shop/bar is. Is it really as hard as people say? Everything I read is discouraging, not realistic. The realism is, like anything else in life, there are hurdles, perhaps more than other endeavors. Persistent emphasis of negative and con don’t help, nor teach me a thing. But the binding and simplistic truth behind my wine shop/bar, is that I would sell wine, and pour some. That’s it. Okay, permits, licensing. But the essentiality, wine. Sales. Atmosphere. Experience. I’m certain I would succeed in such. And what a journal I would keep from day one and beyond, building the business, getting all in rows prior to open. Something by this figure of the ink seriously deliberated...

(7/23/2010, Friday)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Untitled, After Sip Sets

The wine, calling me. To lines abandoned, desolated. Today, while in the Room. Nothing not trapped. Not matter how frenzied the herd unfolds, I scribble. Finding a new connection with St. Francis’ magnetic Malbec. I reflect within the day prior’s tastes. Impossible for any Human not to relish in ravishing oenological revelations. It’s been 14 hours, about, since the last time the dark elixir connected with these ignoble lips. Knotted, dazed, with belated vigor. Still.

In one hour earlier this day. Impatient ink in this pen’s shell bubbles, for opportunity. Me, meager passenger. Awed, joyous, wishing I took notes to amply retain a savory yesterday. Anyway, cheers!


Sunday, July 18, 2010

2nd Edict

Indecisive, I’ve been divisive in these

vices. Twice and thrices. Bright writing entries.

Obsessing over prizes, stressing over time sizes.

Criminal conglomerate, I’m onto it, a song I

sip. No grape for a slow tape. No fate, wait...

Dizzy in my studies. Passion forces me to

abandon my buddies. Like an elder reading

the funnies. Convoluted like FOX news,

diluted, my pot stews. They polluted the

hot truth. Barriers, I shot through. Continue

to walk blue. Payments due. I’m sane, but unglued.

Consequence of artistry. I want to mend the heart in

me. Profanity lacks precision; but my insanity cracks

division. More Malbec and I’m all set. Fall wrecked,

but still wager a tall bet; another journal not kept.

Eye’s open, sign chosen. Endless shades on the stage.

(May 2010)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Dry Creek Love Affair ... Amista

Couldn’t believe how hot it was in my lovely valley. Almost unbearable. When I pulled into the little lot, after the scenic exodus of a driveway, I was reminded of the escalated microclimate of Dry Creek. I rushed inside, with my trustee companion, Ms. Alice. Sheltered, relief. Almost immediately we are greeted with smiles and a hello from Kari. She welcomed us to the bar, walked with, chatted while en route, answering some basic questions I had like how long they’d been at the location (about 3 years), how many cases they did (less than 2000). She told me this was a family winery, no distribution. Instantly, Alice and I, hooked. Definitely my thing, I thought. We were ready for pours.

Kari kindly kindled the moment with the 2008 Rosé, made from Syrah. Darker than many Rosés that I’ve met, and with a more complex flavor profile. Alice was smitten, taking her time. I peered down at the tasting menu after Kari concluded her words, and noticed how well-organized, domesticated and informative it was, even with food pairing endorsements. Can’t wait to read this over, with more steadied pace, at home. Over Rosé, perhaps? Maybe I’ll try one of these suggested culinary concerts. Wait, I can’t cook. Nevermind.

For the remainder of the tasting session, we were hosted by a witty and astute fellow named Ross. He poured the Chardonnay, Zin (which was an explosion of perfected balance and taste grace), then we arrived at the ’05 Cab. He insisted that we do a vertical tasting, from ’03 to ’05, and I’m now beyond grateful for his gentle insistence. I’m always surprised and educated with the variation of vintages in an AVA. This is why wine deserves time, study. Why I’m in love with the Creek. One of the innumerable reasons. During our tasting--which was truly one of the most enjoyable and genuine sessions of my wine life thus far--I was introduced briefly to one of the owners, Vicki Farrow, wife of winemaker Mike Farrow. She was very welcoming and personable, sweet, and told me I could photograph the marvelous paintings adorning the walls. Looking at them again, on this miniature screen, I feel they pair perfectly with the sturdy flavor profile of the wines, beneficial bravado. Original, believable, and consistent. She said, “Just don’t duplicate them.” She and I laughed. I had to laugh, as I had trouble illustrating stick figures and colored rectangles as a child. Still do.

Beautiful Room, as I look at the photos on my camera, here in the home office. I remember how Ross continued to emphasize the guiding ideology of Amista of “Wine, Food, Friends, and Fun.” Not hard to imagine with a kind and hospitable crew like this. I wonder if Alice will let me open the Rosé tonight. No, it deserves an occasion special, definitely.

We walked outside to inspect the patio, which is where I shot the footage below. Aside from Alice and I being reminded, harshly, of the hellacious heat, the visual value was quite vivacious. Perfect for picnics, Alice said. Definitely, I thought. We’ll be back. Maybe we’ll bring the Rosé, if it hasn’t been sipped to death, by Alice and I, or just...I. Praise and thanks to Amista for having us, and becoming so integral in this affair.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Dry Creek Love Affair...

First day of this burgeoning project, I wake in an acidic mood. Big surprise, Mike in a mood, right? But then, I looked through some old pics I snapped of my favorite of valleys and decided I’m whipping the Self from this metaphysical sewage right now. As I drove north on a nearly desolate 101, I sipped the morning mocha. A little better. Only seconds after taking the much awaited Dry Creek exit, I see endless invitation for more to inject into my camera’s already overwhelmed memory, but all these scenes are on my left. I have to turn around at some point.
I take a left, turn around on a street whose name now evades. As I head back in 101’s direction, I find it cruel to concentrate, so I pull over.
Click, click. A couple cars honk at me. Why? My E lights are obvious, I think. Carefully sliding back in the coddling cabin of my Scion, I wonder if I should look for a winery to feature in the first installation of my episodic Dry Creek ode. Then I see Wilson. I’ll admit, I pull in some fast, the excitement, but I settle once stopped. Poised.
The parking lot has a view of vineyards that any valley’s winery would applaud.
This was a good idea, coming up here, stopping at Wilson. While inside I spoke with Jean behind the bar, on everything from the history of the winery, wine, to favorite wineries of us both to the weather. She kindly poured three Zins for me to taste, after I told her that I wanted to plug not just the winery, but one of their wines. Looking at the tasting menu, I see an ’09 Blushing Syrah, a Sauvignon Blanc, same vintage. Petite Sirah, Cab. What should I feature in my article? One of the Zinfandels in front of me? Why not a Dry Creek Zin, right? Since the valley’s Zins are what made shoved me into this idolatry. And why not a reserve from ’07, the year of the Zin...

Incredible. Fruit, chewiness, chalk and pepper, with a slight floral blanket stretching from nose to mid-palate’s end. Had to get a bottle. I did. Jean then told me that Wilson has a 6-8p event every Friday, dubbed “Finally Fridays.” Sounds like just what I need right now, what we all need at the end of a week, certainly a turbulent one.
I drove away from Wilson, and its hosting valley wondering where this love affair, this escapade in oenophilia was going. Is this a committed project, or an intermittent and scattered crossing? Why do I need to know now, at all? See where it me strings.
Now, here in my home office, I stare at the pictures and grin wildly. My internal knot, untangled. What should I pair this Wilson Zin with? Why do I have to pair it at all? Wine from my amorous valley doesn’t need the crutch of food. I’ll open it later. Like around 6p. New Zin time of mine, to put me in the refined kind of mind, to enjoy wondrous wine. Sip, sip...

Had to take a little video before I left. Salut'!

(Sunday, 7/11/10)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Another Session, Standing

Readers, you need to do a tasting here at Hawkes, really. This wine, defiantly delcious, consistent and versatile. Visit me here in the Room, listen to the amazing playlist I put together, admire these paintings. There, it's out of my system. Hope I didn't sound too desperate. Altogether detoxified. No sipping the night last. Today, ready for moments, interactions, eager to delight in what happens. Forgive the rudimentary prose, typos, but I'm hurried. Want to be at the ready for guests. Hope to see you soon, and please check out the 2nd episode of the vinoLit Show tonight. Peace...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Struggle, a Weakened Varietal

Today’s shift, a battle for me. Weakened, drained from the amazing wine from the night previous. Tonight, detoxification, impure elements away, far. Sipping some sparkling water, lemon. Not much traffic in the Room this day, woefully. How do I get the bodies to the counter. Quintessential question. Part of me says there’s no formula, the other angrily dismisses.
This session, me, my pen’s pulses, worthless. No coherence. Neither flavor nor spectacle. Wouldn’t pour this vile varietal into a foe’s goblet.
9:12p. No. No wine tonight. Writing about it, as with each of my sessions, but no sips. Saving my pours for other hours. Looking through my camera’s pictures. The massive green hills, many home to vineyards atop vineyards. Makes me want to sip something. But no. Not tonight. I’m strong. For this page, this sessions, you, dearest reader. Bona sera...


After Dinner

Up too late. Why do I do this to Self? Sipping that Enkidu SB, again, for the third night. Had a great dinner with Mom and Dad. They can be hilarious sometimes, seriously. Wine, as an occasion, tonight is the exemplary example. Back in the Hawkes Sonoma tasting Room, come morrow. Excited and prepared, eager. My words, flying from my sphere like a spear. These other bloggers, spite my sight. But me, in more than slight delight.
The Hawkes winemaking style, pushing my pages, in--I believe--a profitable direction. Looking at my notes, from the ’08 barrel samples. Need to throw such innovation into creative situation. Sipping...salute!