The focus is red wine and to get right to it without distraction, click The Wine Commonsewer Speaks. The rest of the enchilada is just enough of an
eclectic mix of commentary on culture, food, tax, and econ 101 to
distract from the focus on red wine.
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Years before TWC's vagrant yoot, when he was but a wee lad, we had family friends that were turkey ranchers. The Patriarch
spoke with a heavy Irish brogue that may as well have been a foreign language
as it was entirely unintelligible to me.
McCourt's book a few years ago, I was reminded that Old Man Porter once told me that, after the Big War, a prosperous Irish family owned two bicycles. That pearl was entirely lost on me at the time.
I loved his 1959 Cadillac with the
bullet taillights, the 1959 El Camino with the 348, and the turkey egg
that invariably found its way home with me after every visit. For the
uninitiated, turkey eggs are pretty much chicken eggs on a Barry Bonds diet. Nothing
exotic, they're just big. Fry them over-medium with a little butter, salt and pepper and serve with bacon, toast, and cold milk.
American St Patrick’s Day celebrations date back at least three hundred years and like so much else that makes this America, we have embraced this Irish festivity in a style that is uniquely ours. Shamrocks, leprechauns, green beer, green hair, a green river, and a lot of racket, which is old-country Irish slang for
an old fashioned welcome-to-the-neighborhood party.
But in Ireland today it’s a softer and more subdued festival that often begins with a morning church service. Despite Ireland’s hard drinking reputation, as recently as thirty years ago most pubs were closed on St Paddy's Day in honor of this religious holiday. Even today the pubs are open mainly to serve the tourist trade arriving to celebrate a real Irish St Patrick’s Day.
We’re all Irish today—or maybe just a secular Americanized version of
what we imagine being Irish to be.
The Wine O’Commonsewer
Full Disclosure: TWC has a fair amount of Irish blood but
it's the Dutch that makes him hard headed. My kids are from a mongrel heritage that includes Irish from all four sides as well as Dutch, Indian (feather not dot), Black German, English, Scottish, and Welsh.
Walter Wellman was the Smiling Irishman who offered the World's Greatest Car Bargains. Walter was The Workingman's Friend and he'll give you a Square Deal. Can't get much squarer than a fifty dollar car ($425.00 in 2012). Beats a fifty dollar Pepsi, hands down.
Taken from a 35mm Kodachrome transparency, the photo dates to 1952 and the Smiling Irishman's used car lot was located in the 2400 block of Pico Boulevard near South Vermont in Los Angeles.
The pre-war era mechanical Acme (yes, Acme) stop signal is intriguing. Hard to find it, but it
sits just to the right of the fire plug. Here's what it looked like and how it worked:
The 2004 Arns Cabernet is what I expect Napa cabs to taste like. This is a brilliant presentation of Cabernet Sauvignon and I'm really not clear as to why Parker and Spectator would offer up a stingy 87. It just shows to go that you can't always rely on the opinions of others. Yes I know that those guys consider an 87 rating to be a good wine. But, I don't think they mean it. Take a look at some of the other wines that have garnered an 87 and you'll see where I'm going with this.
For those who don't know, estate grown means that all the grapes that went into the bottle were grown on Arns 160 acre property, most of which is not cultivated. As an aside, the stone caves at the old Christian Brothers winery, now home to the Culinary Institute of America, were constructed from stone that was quarried on the Arns estate.
I've a soft spot in my heart for Brother Timothy's old time Christian Brothers cabernet because it was the first good red wine I'd enjoyed. For some, a taste for red wine is acquired. For moi, it was colpo di fulmine, described best by J.M. Darhower.....
Colpo di fulmine. The thunderbolt, as Italians call it. When
love strikes someone like lightning, so powerful and intense it can’t be
denied. It’s beautiful and messy, cracking a chest open and spilling their soul out for the
world to see. It turns a person inside out, and there’s no going back from it.
Once the thunderbolt hits, your life is irrevocably changed.
The Arns is a lovely Old World style wine. Bone dry. Very integrated. I did not taste the wine when it was young, but nine years into the process, it is mature, an earthy wine with hints of leather and smoke. No big fruit, but some black currants and plums left behind. Very nice on the palate with a smooth, long finish. One of those wines that leaves one a bit sorrowful when the bottle is empty.
This wine is outstanding with standing rib roast, or any grilled steak. The Boy and I were bachin' it a couple of weeks ago and I grilled us some tri-tips over mesquite with veggies & horseradish. Horseradish is as amazing with tri-tip as it is with prime rib. The veggies: grilled yellow squash, asparagus, and New Mexico Big Jim Peppers. Truth is, I couldn't interest Jacob in the veggies. OK, he tried the yella squish and didn't gag. Teen-age boys want meat. The palate is less developed than it one day will be, yet he's moving in the right direction.
At fifty bucks, you may want to save the Arns for a special occasion. This one is also difficult to peg on the TWC price/value scale because it is an awesome wine. True enough, there are less expensive wines that are as good. But the Arns really is priced well with respect to the cost of premium Napa cabs. I've enjoyed a considerable number of high dollar Napa cabs that couldn't touch this wine, despite costing more than a full tank of petrol for the politically incorrect truck that's made in America.
It's got to be said that while wine folks are wonderful people, in general (and frequently in specific), they often seem to lack a sense of humor about themselves.
But way back in the day, a guy named Bob Johnson created some of the wackiest wine cartoons ever as covers for Mike Lynch's old San Francisco Pacific Wine Co.'s trade catalogs. These started in 1980 and continued through 1996. But they're just as funny as ever, and now many of them are available for enjoying on Behance.
We increasingly miss out on the important moments of our lives as we pass the hours with our noses buried in our iPhones and BlackBerry’s, chronicling our every move through Facebook and Twitter and shielding ourselves from the outside world with the bubble of “silence” that our earphones create.
If you recognize that in yourself – or your friends, families or colleagues— join us for the National Day of Unplugging, sign the Unplug pledge and start living a different life: connect with the people in your street, neighborhood and city, have an uninterrupted meal or read a book to your child.
The National Day of Unplugging is a 24 hour period – running from sunset to sunset – and starts on the first Friday in March. The project is an outgrowth of The Sabbath Manifesto, an adaption of our ancestors’ ritual of carving out one day per week to unwind, unplug, relax, reflect, get outdoors, and connect with loved ones.
Shutting down my grid? What about books, work, play, research, letters (email) to my aunt and my mother? How is unplugging beneficial to me? And, if it is the cat's pajamas to pull the plug at sunset and take the day off, why only one day? How is that the start of a different life?
Besides, I walked out in the hills with the dogs for an hour this morning, sat and read with my son last night, had breakfast with my kids this morning, and when the coals are hot, I'm throwing a steak on the grill while Mrs TWC whips up a salad.
As y'all know, TWC is an old fashioned guy. A traditionalist. If God wanted twist off screw caps and plastic closures, He would not have planted all those cork oak trees in Portugal.
This tree is called the Whistler Tree and is so named for the myriad songbirds that inhabit the upper reaches of the canopy. It is the world's largest and most productive cork oak tree and has been producing cork in the Alentejo region of Portugal since 1820.
The cork is harvested every nine years and each harvest, on average, produces enough cork to plug 100,000 wine bottles. By comparison, an ordinary cork oak will produce enough cork to stopper 4,000 wine bottles. To date, the tree has produced over one million corks.
Cork is the outer bark of the cork oak and is harvested by hand in the spring when rapid growth occurs. The cork layer is stripped away, easily separating from the cambium of the tree. After harvest, which promotes long term health and vigor, the cork quickly regenerates and is ready for the next harvest, nine years later.
I ain't much for buzz words, but that is what they call natural, sustainable, and renewable.
Once the Big War was over, they kicked my old buddy loose from Heart Mountain internment camp in Wyoming. His wallet was fat and once he reached Chicago, he bought hisself a brand new 1946 Ford with the cash he'd stockpiled from his pool table and cigarette concession.
Mike, you know how much Japanese love to smoke and cigarettes were hard to come by in camp.
Akira (I called him Ike or Aki) volunteered for several work details, the fruits of which were a pilfered pool table and a pickup loaded down with stolen cartons of smokes. Both came from a lodge near Jellystone that was shuttered for the duration of the war. No gas, no meat, no tires, no customers. Think about that the next time somebody tells you that the war ended the depression.
Ike was pretty good with a wrench and he found gainful employment at S-M-G Garage, 2122 Clark Street, where the back wall was still riddled with bullet holes on account of Moran's Boys being mowed down by gangsters in police uniforms back in 1929. He loved telling that story.
The building met up with the wrecking ball in 1967, but the brick wall was taken apart and stored for a number of years, eventually forming the wall of a men's restroom in George Patey's Roaring Twenties themed nighclub. The club wasn't profitable and when it closed, Mr Patey sold the salvaged bricks for a grand apiece. Legend has it that those pockmarked bricks have brought nothing but heartbreak, financial ruin, death, and all kinda misfortune to those who bought them.
Hope your St Valentine's Day is better than Moran's boys was.
During the course of research for this piece I found Ike's records in the National Archives database. It was a stunning find for me, bringing forth a flood of memories and a profound sense of loss.
It should give any wino pause that a wine pairs well with turkey chili.
Although the Motor City Madman never actually opined that turkey bacon, turkey beef, or turkey-fake-anything sucks, he's right. Chili is chili. Turkey chili is not. If I'm eating something that isn't good for me, it dam sure better be tasty. And, though there may be exceptions, the implication that turkey chili is somehow healthier than traditional chili as false. Your mileage may vary.
Bonus: Cost Plus World Market has a Super Bowl sale going on right now. Buy a case of wine (mix and match is OK) and they're knocking 25% off.