Five Seasons Drop/Single Birth Date

(find or search nowhere else
but weigh to sing
in burdens' measured load of loss)

in desire fulfill
in reversal shared to feed
in harm, & swell the hidden wound
from earliest youth
through failed manhood comforts
pared down to solitude's bare unease
in time's fated settling

(here is each & every thing's mystery
since nothing's there, but gone)

Thresholds 2

while soiled linen soaks
in a pool of spreading sunlight
a blank itch burrows damp
nesting home under my skin

--now why would high-voltage hum
grow louder in the old house's shade?
why would it make me thirsty?

loose clouds roll back in
as a sharp colic cramps my bowels

one storm unspools north
while another winds tight south

my island is the recurrent trough
(--the unframed threshold...?)
where continental systems
collapse in sinking ocean fronts

(Ocean Again)

at the rivermouth's broad
widening flow
the current
brings us to our feet

life's horizon recedes
before each step
in a flooding tide of tears
while we learn
to walk on water

the earth is flat
to each & every nearsighted self
& the far shore
is a cradling cloud
of mirror mist
as we tumble over the edge
in endless, sourcing fall

Extended Swelter Delays

on rough plains of compound interest
our view builds out reasonous error
into nation-forts as far as no event horizon

classical perspective how cultured?

from a distance, the ruling strait-jacket
keeps a world standing at any cost
--the price of narrow life-channels drained

a table in the sun, a desk in the shade
rendering split judgements on casual opinion


Th airier deepening of aimless want
makes you more alien, more
of an object

The deeper wanting of airless aim
pushes you just beyond
grasping reach

Who are you?


Further notes on that Carmenère...

(Day 1: Winter Solstice, December 21st)
Weird scenes inside the gold mine: I get back from dinner at NoPa & the TV is on, the window wide open in my room at the Metro Hotel. WTF? I don't remember leaving everything like this. When I boot up, Firefox is primed to install an upgrade & I miss the opportunity to search around for traces of unauthorised use or tampering with my laptop. Am I getting paranoid? Maybe it's the after dinner absinthe effect.

When I check email, I find a heartfelt note from meine neffe, Jens-Holger David, so at nine this drizzly evening in San Francisco, I'm his wake-up call in Wolfenbuettel (birthplace of Jaegermeister!), 0600 Central Europe Time in Niedersachsen-- that's Lower Saxony for the sprache-impaired.
He's supposed to be the bad guy in his marriage's breakup, & of course he's too sleepy to give me his side of the story under the circumstances. We're both sorry I wasn't in Puerto Rico last month when he visited.

(Day 2...)
Restlessly reclusive in my city hotel room-- why can't I get into my rental & drive off? Tired. I guess.

Day 3: I blew it. City Rent-a-Car has their whole fleet booked over Christmas & I couldn't extend my current rental beyond tomorrow. Booked for Friday. Forget Big Sur, or San Juan Bautista: I'll be spending Christmas in my Metro hotel room, for better or worse.

In spite of everything going on these days that leads me to question the ultimate relevance of personal wine evaluations except as mercenary marketing tool, I feel compelled to add some further notes to my dismissively skimpy write-up on the Ventura Carmenère for Wine Blogging Wednesday #52:
'...deep ruby (-- is that 'garnet', though?) color with violet rim, fairly simple but pleasant cherry-cassis in nose & palate...'

First of all, I opened the bottle with dinner at the Metro Kathmandu, where the Indian-Nepalese food was a difficult pairing task...I will have to rummage about to figure what I actually ate that evening. In any case, there seemed to be a fleeting bittersweet, tannic edge developing in the aftertaste just before the wine seemed to 'flatten' about two hours after opening. After recent & varied experiences of 'rebound' in the sensorium of organic wines, however, I figured it might be worth saving the remaining half-bottle.

Sure enough, two days later, Kathmandu manager Roshan agreed with me the wine was surprisingly improved: the body was still medium-light at best, washing a little thinly in the midpalate & coming up short in aftertaste. But there was now soft, well-integrated spice in the nose, with some follow through on the tongue. A dusting of nutmeg on the cherries & blackcurrants, as it were, adding subtle complexity & charm to what had at first seemed a gratingly simple, workmanlike quaffer.

It's Christmas Eve. I don't know where I'm eating or what I'm drinking tonight, but at least I have a warm & cozy manger & some silver in my pocket to afford me alternatives. In this Holiday time, please remember those less fortunate, those who cannot, for whichever reason, participate in or exercise the gift, the awareness & freedom of choice. However possible, share your abundance.
Cheers, Peace, & to all a good night!


Rolling North again...to drink Tinto Chileno for Wine Blogging Wednesday #52

Late again-- as is my stubbornly vicious wont-- for Wine Blogging Wednesday #52, as the number of installments in the wine blogosphere's Premier Online Tasting Event approaches my chronological age...

I was hoping to round up my buddies Adriano & Mark in Los Angeles-- the San Fernando Valley, to be precise-- along with Art & Wine Predator G. Alley for a group tasting of value reds from Chile, but...people have prior obligations, priorities, schedules & agendas, & I could not clearly propose an amenable date for the gathering.
On top of that, I was shocked, shocked to find that there are more Chileno wine choices-- a couple of them made from organic grapes-- in the Health Haven food store on Divisadero street, in the Western Addition district (-- upscale, gentrified denomination 'NoPa') in San Francisco than there were in Whole Foods' Sherman Oaks store in the San Fernando Valley.

I passed up on a $14 'Nuevo Mundo' Cabernet-Merlot organic Meritage for a chance at a $9.99 value: a 2006 Ventura Carmenère, also from organic grapes. Carmenère has had quite the myesterious odyssey-- I'll let the Wiki entry do the honors & proceed to some quick tasting notes: deep ruby (-- is that 'garnet', though?) color with violet rim, fairly simple but pleasant cherry-cassis in nose & palate. The Valley of Lontué, within the Curicó 'appellation', may not be the best terroir for a natural expression of the grape with some depth. Then again, the variety itself may work best in blends, as is the common wisdom.

December 10th is also the anniversary of Alfred Nobel's death, & the date for the annual ceremony honoring the year's winners of the prize that bears his name.
Pablo Neruda won the prize for literature in 1971, the second Chilean writer to earn the award, after Gabriela Mistral, who was honored in 1945. Two poets in a land that has given so many more to the world: Vicente Huidobro, Nicanor Parra, Enrique Lihn, Humberto Díaz Casanueva, Roberto Bolaño...

Here is my own idiosyncratic translation of Neruda's Ode to Wine:

Wine color of day
Wine color of night
Wine with feet of purple
or topaz blood
starful-struck child
of earth
Wine, smooth
as a sword of gold
as disorderly velvet
snail-curled wine
never could fit in one glass
in one song, in one man
choral, gregarious, you are
at the very least mutual.
you feed on mortal memories
on your wave
we ride from grave to grave
quarryman of a frozen sepulchre
we cry
fleeting tears
your gorgeous
suit of spring
is different
the heart climbs the branches
the wind moves the day
nothing is left
inside your motionless soul
moves spring
like a plant, joy grows
walls crumble
& boulders, too--
ravines close up
& the song is born.
Thou jug of wine in the desert
by the scrumptious one I love,
said the old poet
may the claypot of wine
to love's kiss add its own kiss.

My love, suddenly
your hips
are the brimful curve
of the goblet
your breast is the bunch
glint of alcohol your mane
grapes your nipples
pure seal your navel
etched on the vessel of your womb
& your love the cascade
of unquenchable wine
the gleam that falls on my senses
the earthy splendor of life.

Yet not only love
burning kiss
or charred heart
are you, wine of life
friendship of all beings, trasparency
choir of discipline
surfeit of flowers.
I love on a table,
in the middle of speech,
the light of a bottle
of intelligent wine.
Let them drink
let them remember in each
drop of gold
or topaz glass
or spoon of purple
how Autumn labored
until wine filled the barrels
& may the dark man learn
in the ritual of his business
to remember the earth & its tasks
to spread the plainsong in fruit.

Here is the original in Spanish, in print & as read by Marcella Leoneli.



Snapshots of the Fall

My Buddy Sam cradles a River...

Negrita, my late brother Alberto's stressed-out pussycat.

The Metro, home away from home in San Francisco.

Lenn Thompson of Long Island, 'El Jefe' Stai, of Twisted Oak.

The Twisted Oak, sentinel over the looting pirates' tunnel cave.

Hang in there, primo Sam!

Selfless Portrait


--call me detour mashup ronin
spiritual collage anarchist
demolition renewal dialectician

with no refuge, no road, no temple
where was I?
any way, any shore-- near or far--

active passivist bookworming
through labels & roles
in thoughtless scholarship

compression alienist
foreign homebody casualty
blinking social decomposition down

(to be continued...)


Zuni Café: unexpected splurge

(Last) Tuesday the 25th, after dropping off my bags at the Metro Hotel & returning my rental car, some prints I'd stopped to pick up at Wolf's Photo (by the Safeway on Market Street) needed to be redone, so I thought I'd take the couple of hours waiting time to grab some warm lunch & ward off the creeping, foggy chill in the grey San Francisco afternoon.

Bistro Clovis, my sentimental choice, was unexpectedly closed so I backtracked uphill & walked into Zuni Café for the first time since having their celebrated roast chicken & some breaded artichokes back in 1998 or so.
It seemed to me then that Zuni was great if you had deep pockets & didn't mind somewhat overpriced, European-styled comfort food, but the day's menu had some tempting choices that piqued my interest & overcame any lingering hesitation to bring me inside:
Following through on my initial impressions from the menu, I chose what turned out to be a delicious, seasonal root vegetable soup-- chiefly celery root & parsnip, I was told-- & a tasty salad of rabbit & bitter greens, near-perfect in its balance of acidic, bitter, & fatty elements.

I paired the first course with a surprising discovery: the 'Osteiner' grape is a cross between Riesling & Sylvaner, & Rippon Vineyards of New Zealand biodynamically grows & vinifies a delicious wine from it in Central Otago. The nose was initially poised between crisp Granny Smith, & softer, sweeter Golden Delicious apple, with some subtle citrus & apricot blossoming gradually in the glass & continuing on the palate. The lingering aftertaste had a distinct tart-sweet tangerine brightness...really lovely wine!
The impression was admittedly heightened by the serendipity of the pairing: the subtle fruit & pitch-perfect acidity were set off by the earthy creaminess of the soup. I made my wine selections, as usual, partly from economic considerations & mostly out of curiosity. I felt less secure about my second choice: another white might have been more appropiate, but having never tried any of Jean-Louis Chave's wines, I felt compelled to fill the serious gap in my Rhône curriculum. The 'Mon Coeur' bottling the Café offered by the glass is a Côtes-du-Rhône Grenache-Syrah blend sourced from outside domains. Forest floor & leather dominated the tart cherry in both aroma & taste, lending it a character more usually associated with Pinot Noir. Having had similarly 'bretty' expressions of Rhône variety-based wines before, I took note, & drank on...
The wine paired well enough with my light main dish, even if it by no means meshed in as tightly rich a weave as the earlier match. Only after splurging on some Port & going even further out on a limb, taking some Nocino* with my espresso, did I notice as took a deep breath & examined the check, that I was being billed for a $13 glass of Pinot Noir. Indeed, it seems I'd been misunderstood & served the Domaine Gros Frère & Soeur's 2006 Haute Côtes de Nuits. I ended up spending about $35 for the drink portion of my repast compared with $22 for the actual meal courses. It's these occasions that make me yearn for Spain or Argentina, even if the restaurant selections by the glass, especially in the country of Malbec & mate, are usually frustratingly limited to local product striving to ape the 'International Style' on low budget oak chips...

(à suivre...)


Black Friday Wine Scraps?

I've been doing woefully little to earn my wine blogger stripes lately, & Thanksgiving was no exception...eight different wines, & no tasting notes to show for it--!

An intensive, 10-day cycle of 5-6 oz. of Echinacea-Golden Seal extract a day seems to have helped in strengthening my immune system & finally loosening my chest congestion. I've never been as strangely happy as I was coughing up a gob of phlegm on Thanksgiving morning-- the sense of release to my lungs was immediate.

My friend Mark, author of the Danger Boy series, invited me to join him at a lovely dinner hosted by his friend & boss, Patrick Graham, publisher of Below the Line, 'providing an insider's reverence for the craft of filmmaking with all the humor and intelligence of the craftspeople it celebrates'...this was no Hollywood turkey! Patrick is a dedicated amateur chef, & Mark's elder son Eli performed admirably as sous-chef, delivering the moistest, tastiest bird I've had in many a holiday season.

Proceedings got started with some Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau in the kitchen, followed by a pink blend from Provence, then Château Clerc-Milon, 2005 vintage, I believe...I sipped some Cru Beaujo throughout the main, sit-down event-- my first Régnié since a glass at Brasserie Le Carrefour in Paris in 1995...didn't like it as much as some '02 Chénas I discovered a couple of years ago...opened some Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine & white Côtes du Rhône to pair with the Humbolt Fog & Fiscalini cheeses I contributed, then went on to my own wine contribution: a big Petit Sirah from Lake County, a Cougar's Leap 2001 still young & dense with discrete blueberry & clove wrapped up in coal-tar minerality & alum-chalk tannins that painted & puckered up your gums for minutes after swallowing...just before heading home we tasted 'Triple C', an unusual, Cab Franc-based blend from Santa Rita in Valle del Maipo, Chile. I was just reminded the upcoming Wine Blogging Wednesday is focused on Chile & this is a likely candidate for more studied sipping...

--à suivre...


Overwhelmed & Under the Weather

Yikes. I'm just a wee bit worried...after a week's rest & recovery at Sam & Karen's in Lakeport, (seemingly fruitful on the evidence of a 45-minute hill run in Glen Ellen almost a-- over two weeks ago by now, back on Thursday 6 November) it took me a whole day of feeling like I was coming down with a flu all over again to recover from a couple glasses of wine more than my usual couple this last (?) Thursday...
Monday the 17th I went for a same-day roundtrip drive to the Paso Robles area, to retrieve some wines from their climatised storage at El Camino Wine Lockers in Atascadero. Oof.

Been missing on all the activity throughout the wine blogosphere deriving from the energy & Internet eyeball boost from the Wine Bloggers Conference-- almost--er, over a month ago!

I'm at the Jack London Lodge in Glen Ellen, still recovering from a gloriously grueling hike instigated & led by Russ 'Winehiker' Beebe. Nine of us spent six very full hours, from nine in the morning until three o'clock in the afternoon last Saturday, to cover the ten miles up to Table Rock & around the Palisades rockface, on the slopes of Mount St. Helena, just North of Calistoga.

Meanwhile, the slow burn in my throat has subsided & I'm blowing a bit of snot out my nose-- would the heightened histamine level in my system from a big, itchy allergic rash reaction to some insect bites have anything to do with my immune defenses finally 'kicking in'??

But this is not at all what's foremost on my mind. My buddy Sam, mentioned above-- guitar-playing, bass-fishing, idiosyncratic self-made chef & host extraordinaire of the Arbor House Inn, is recovering from a stroke as of last Wednesday. He's well enough that he could send me an email himself with the news, but Karen details his right side is all somewhat affected & he will have to undergo physical therapy...I keep harping on my Dad's inspirational story of Georg-Friedrich Haendel's recovery, & how struggling to remaster organ-playing technique was his principal therapy...from the Wikipedia entry on the composer:

...On April 1737, at age 52, he suffered a stroke or some other malady which left his right arm temporarily paralysed and stopped him from performing. He also complained of difficulties in focusing his sight. Handel went to Aix-la-Chapelle, taking hot baths and playing organ for the audience.[11] Handel gave up operatic management entirely in 1740, after he had lost a fortune in the business. Following his recovery, Handel focused on composing oratorios instead of opera. Handel's Messiah was first performed in New Musick Hall in Fishamble Street, Dublin on 13 April 1742, with 26 boys and five men from the combined choirs of St Patrick's and Christ Church cathedrals participating...

I can only hope to visit & make myself a useful guest sometime between Thanksgiving & my Christmas return to La Isla del Encanto...continuará...



incertidumbre dura regla de juego
acatada en el umbral de la luz
y sombra indiferente con, bajo, ante
su absoluta contradicción

(o ciego amor anónimo)

imposible comoquiera olvidar
a los pececitos de colores
o restituir su reluciente tono
sin tapar y cubrir sus escamas
sin sellar sus agallas de vida

imposible negar la preñez
de pajaritos en sueños



carcelarias rayas de texto
pretenden alzar la voz y marcar
preguntas en el tierno susurro

la piel del pecado sella
la fuente urgente del mensaje
dejando escapar solamente
una gotera detergente
por el culo y un accidente
de lavado por los poros

alguna luna se escapa el suero
racionado del amor
por la pobre acequia de los ojos



Views across Clear Lake

Woke up Monday with a sticky-swollen throat-- again. Seems I'm not out of the woods with this lingering virus or whatever it may be, & the weekend activities took a toll on my immune system. Precisely yesterday, I ran out of some Echinacea-Golden Seal extract that seemed to be doing a nice job of keeping a full-blown flu at bay.

Hallowe'en I spent mostly on a barstool, quietly nursing some Hennessey in a mini-snifter at Carlos & Vinny's while friend & Arbor House owner-host Sam wailed on guitar with Blind Monkey. Struck up a conversation with a local firefighter who had broad work experience related to water resource management. I touched a nerve when the issue of vineyard irrigation practices came up: he'd crossed words with a famous Napa vinegrower whose Lake County holdings top the thousand acres. Seems the drip-irrigated, high-density plantings pioneered & favored by the Beckstoffer viticulture machine are a drain on said resources, impairing availability to smaller growers & possibly depleting the water table.
From the Beckstoffer Vineyards website:

'...As a result of his willingness to experiment with closer spacing, innovations in pruning and trellising, and his introduction of drip irrigation, the vineyards of Andy Beckstoffer are some of the most technologically advanced in Napa Valley, and he is in the process of integrating these innovations into Lake County...The conventional wisdom that reasonable quantity and super premium quality are incompatible has been challenged. Canopy management techniques that include new methods in pruning, trellising, and vine spacing have brought improved access to sunlight, resulting in increases in both quality and tonnage. Adding drip irrigation has opened up whole sections of the Carneros region to new plantings. Sustainable agriculture has brought new life to soils and vineyards...' (My emphasis) Arguably, drip irrigation in & of itself can only by a stretch be considered a sustainable practice. In Lake County's Red Hills, from a local perspective that stretch might be close to a breaking point.

On waking Saturday I was troubled by a persistent, foggy sluggishness I attributed to the previous night's alcohol intake. (I did pour a couple glasses worth of the River of Skulls with a possibly too-light dinner before heading out & sitting down to the cognac.) My response was to overcaffeinate in grand & luxurious manner, as Sam had just taken delivery of a pound of Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee from his longtime supplier, Freed, Teller & Freed. Long story short, I felt anxious, fueled & vigorous enough that the short, light jog I had planned, taking advantage of a break in the persistent drizzle, lengthened into a 45 minute course along the lake.

(One of the less positive impressions I took home from my discovery of this area was the overwhelming dominance of private property on the lakefront & the curtailment of public access. This acted as a prod to walking a more activistic walk concerning such issues in Puerto Rico...but that is 'flour from a different sack'-- & longterm grist for the blogmill.)

(à suivre...)

Story of my Life...with a musical interlude by Joaquín Sabina

(David's Chinese Zodiac Sign - The Wood Horse)

In love, even though destiny puts charming persons on your way, you may very well discourage them; indeed, you'll expect so much from others without making any effort yourself that they'll believe you to be indifferent. Try not to give in to carelessness, muddling, or discouragement if certain of your undertakings do not meet with success according to your desires. You'll feel misunderstood; this will be all the more painful to you as you'll have the clear impression that others don't in the least try to understand you.

One of my favorite songs of all time. Maybe only the arias 'Nessun Dorma' from Turandot & 'E Lucevan le Stelle' from Tosca-- operas composed by Giacomo Puccini, both of them-- are lodged deeper in my melancholy heart.


Regarding the Wine Bloggers Conference-- in a lingering daze

Am I fading into an early, fatigued senior fog? Scary. I am overdue for a medical checkup-- since I flew back to Puerto Rico from my informal learning stint around Crushpad in San Francisco, on February 15, 2007...!

I bring this up because I'm drawing an embarrassing blank on the Saturday Grand Tasting of Sonoma Wines. With the level of tiredness I was carrying, relaxing my guard & swallowing instead of spitting soon after joining the poolside anti-Conference was a grave mistake.
Seems I may have been masking most of the symptoms of a lingering, silent flu by doubling up on my usual caffeine intake. I don't have the greatest stamina for alcohol, but I was dimly aware I was feeling lighter headed than usual, even after spitting 99.9% of the time. D-oh.
Only when I woke up in the five AM predawn of Monday morning with suffocating chest congestion unyielding to the hacking cough my body was revving up did I get the message.
A couple of days of rest & reflection yielded some versified impressions--

...about my spiral fog
an abstract ferment breaks
down into spirit love manure
rising into manure love spirit

as if built & meant for lingering
flat in my convection current
lifting my convictions higher
than spirits downed

(Is redundant solitude given
or able to heal its own wounds?)

A life remade crawl by crawl into bed--
now lie in it!

For the last few days I've been slowly but nicely recovering in the care & company of Sam & Karen, owner-operators of the Arbor House Inn. Their cozy B&B is located in one of my favorite pieces of California redneck heaven: Lakeport, in the shade of Mount Konocti on the Western shores of Clear Lake. Jed Steele's winery is in nearby Kelseyville, & Jim Fetzer's handsome, dramatic Biodynamic project, Ceago Vinegarden, is across the water in Nice. More interestingly, people like Andy Beckstoffer & other names associated with Napa Valley have actually been sourcing & growing grapes in the volcanic soil prevalent here for some time now.
I have some catching up to do-- I discovered & started exploring the area nearly two years ago, & it seems some things may have changed a great deal up here, while others have not. Besides Lake County wineries, Mendocino's Redwood Valley is a short drive away. I'm champing at the bit, frustrated by the lingering malaise. Argh.


Wine Bloggers Conference, Day One

I'm walking a (metaphorical) tightrope I might be tempted to literalize at some point: high above the dizzying chasm in attitude between knowing my limits & testing my stamina.
Happy to be in the company of des vrai amateurs du vin: true lovers of wine, quite a few of whom are talented, tenacious, & astute enough to earn their living as some type of oenological industry professional or another. Of course, I'm also still nursing the familiar 'out-of-my-depth' feeling.

The proceedings got under way with an event fairly close to tradition: a lunchtime tasting at Kick Ranch Vineyard, under the gracious hosting of owner couple, Dick Keenan & Kathy McNamara.
Insufficiently caffeinated, my tendency to thoughtful, meditative & conversational tasting limited the number of wines I sampled. Fifteen different wineries source from this farm, where only 40 or so acres from the property's total 100 are cultivated. Out of the top-flight wineries presenting their work, I focused mostly on two small, intensely personal projects: Enkidu Wines, where Phillip Staehle is winemaker-owner, & Renard, Bayard Fox's Rhone-focused winery.

Making our way back to the Flamingo from this setting meant diving headfirst into Wine 2.0 ...tropes? --with winemakers making six minute presentations, table to table, while bloggers shared tasting impresions 'live to the Web'. I posted, somewhat disjointedly, on Twitter. Mike Wangbickler has published a succint & organized write-up on his blog, Caveman Wines.

There was a somewhat tongue-in-cheek blind tasting after this, & I missed my chance to rest & freshen up as soon as I was eliminated. Couldn't quite catch up with the massive selection of wines from New Zealand. Enjoyed dinner. Gary Vaynerchuk's keynote address was fun & awesomely inspiring. From now on, I want-- no, I demand!-- a couple of tablets of multi-Gary washed down with a glass of Vaynerchuk every day. Missed a ride out to 'Pinotblogger' Josh Hermsmeyer's, where an 'afterhours' event featuring wines from New York, both Long Island & the Finger Lakes, was taking place. Yes, I'm a wimp: a wimp, a wallflower, &, as we say in Puerto Rico, a Wally Schneider. Over'n'out.


A Twisted Post gets Detoured!

-- delayed, derailed, unbent, unhorsed...?

A pen, a pen-- my kingdom for a pen!

Run, sit zazen, write, loiter, browse, mull it over...now is the morning overcast in Murphys dispelled & warmed into glorious Indian summer '--by this sun of York'.

The misshapen, yet lovely, gibbous moon rose like a casual gob of cosmic mustard over the Oakland hills, flashing between the Bay Bridge girders in rotoscope animation. I was behind a steering wheel for the first time in a whole year, driving East towards the Calaveras County foothils of the Sierra Nevada after a decade of rail & roading rather strictly North & South along the coast in my visits to the Golden State, the former Bear Flag Republic. Kicking up the road ambience with a mix of cultural dislocation & time warp, a version in Portuguese of the old pop ditty 'Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini' played on the radio.
Deflating Selene's form brought the pretty young woman at the Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco to mind. She stood out among the layered-bagpants neo-hipppie chicks & the boho-patrician gypsy-skirted Boomers, wearing a close-fitting denim jacket buttoned up to the neck & short-short cutoff sweats that brought attention to her long, well-turned legs. What's her story, I wondered? Then she turned around: her left arm was missing. I stared-- it seemed a trick of the light, a problem with my glasses...

What is it about flawed or wounded beauty that will bring us to our knees in a welter of contradictory emotions?
Maybe it's the way it pointedly engages the (dominant, normatively male) gaze with the discomfort of self-consciousness without denying or shutting out the desire it excites-- but how much am I projecting my own issues with self-image & self-acceptance (--& desire, & aesthetics...) & how much am I also being invited to project, in such a situation? How aware or at all concerned might this woman be of the range of reactions her particularly striking appearance may trigger?
I haven't read deeply enough in Feminist Critical Theory to address any of these issues in a consistent & disciplined manner, yet I feel compelled to raise them & explore how they might have some bearing on writing that concerns the evaluation of sensuous (sensory?) pleasure-- i.e., in relation to wine; with attendant & pertinent debates on the possible desirability of strictly defining objective vs. subjective criteria for such evaluation.

These weightier concerns have hijacked what I had planned as a travel update in a much lighter vein, focusing on my visit to Murphys & Twisted Oak Winery. I am much indebted to both 'El Jefe' Jeff Stai & 'Fermento el Magnífico', Scott Klann, in ways I must absolutely find time & occasion to detail forthwith, at greater & more leisurely length. For not-quite-full disclosure of my personal relationship with this winery, this post & this one will provide some background.

The Wine Bloggers' Conference is scheduled for the upcoming weekend, & a sizable sampling of intensely dedicated wine professionals & amateurs who double as Internet-focused scribes (read: bloggers!) are looking to meet up & possibly test their sense of community as well as define their relationship to the broader worlds of the wine industry & wine journalism. Serious debate on the above topics & others of more practical import--on making some sort of a living from this sort of writing, & the tools to achieve this, for example-- is on the conference's agenda & I look forward to meeting some of the outsize personalities making their mark in this field, this context, this realm.

Still, the inner parent's voice in my head keeps nagging, 'A little knowledge is a dangerous thing'...welcome to the Hotel California!


Armas Ajenas (Maipú-- reposteao)


junten filas

el pasillo de olivares
endereza y yergue
su pelotón de jorobas

ramas rascan
hojas arañan
y el fruto perdido
ciega caricias al caer

no hay rastro de camaradas
en el murmullo incierto
que premia la carrera

danza de oscuro sacrificio
entre amargos funcionarios
rinde confuso servicio
a la memoria


The Wild Gone Missing: Wine Blogging Wednesday #50

Ah, yes-- the Big Five-Oh. A big thank you to Winehiker Russ Beebe for hosting this milestone installment of Wine Blogging Wednesday. I fully expect to get some 'winehiking' in during my upcoming couple of months among los Californios-- maybe a haunted Hallowe'en traipse by the River of Skulls? For now, unfortunately, this is probably ending up as a virtual ramble down a wild stretch of memory lane.

My younger brother Alberto did not live to see fifty. Just about five weeks after celebrating his 49th birthday (On May 21, 2005, to be exact: the incident made the front page of the Orlando Sentinel the following morning.) he confronted three Brevard County officers who couldn't handle a drunk-- with a knife in each hand, admittedly-- any other way than sending him to his grave with eight bullets in him. These days I'm angry mostly at my own lack of resolve in marshalling resources to question & investigate the official 'justifiable homicide' excuse. I am also, however, enduringly irritated at the dismissal voiced by members of our extended family who argue that Alberto, in his spiral of alcoholic depression, had set himself up into a 'suicide by cop' situation. To me this seems an obvious, likely variation on blaming the victim.

How is any of this pertinent to the topic at hand? One of the last good times we had together was when we bagged the three main peaks in El Yunque National Forest during the course of a sweltering afternoon hike, led with dogged focus & persistence by our German (half) brother, Peter. If memory serves me right, this must have been close to my own birthday, in March of 2001. There are wilderness trails in El Yunque, but I'm not certain the loop we improvised around the peaks, connecting as it did by a service road, could be considered such. The tallest summit in the area is actually 'El Toro' (Its height variously estimated at 3,524 feet here, 3,533 here) which now lends its name to what was formerly designated 'El Cacique' Wilderness Area-- as you can read in this succint summary of what makes the Forest unique.

I say three peaks-- Peter can actually claim four: before beginning our descent with a planned pitstop at Mt. Britton tower, he insisted on making his way past the electrical substation & broadcast antennas at the end of the main service road to the narrow outcropping fittingly dubbed 'La Roca'. Delays had made for a late start around midday & the afternoon heat rising in waves from the pavement seemed to aggravate the pain in my knees as well as make me dizzy. I had prepared only one seltzer bottle of my homemade peppermint-green tea 'soda', hardly enough to stay hydrated in the local climate-- it was finished by the time we took snapshots on Los Picachos, our first summit.

I can't remember how I convinced the family crew to trust me & chance the shortcut of a barely discernible path along what seemed an abandoned branch of the forest service road. It was fern-clogged, overgrown, & somewhat rough going; but there was shade overhead, softer ground underfoot, & we saved quite a few minutes of precious time which was starting to run scarce. I had something of a personal agenda taking shape at this time, given urgency by the heat: I wanted to cool off in my own special pool.
Back in '89 or '90, showing a visitor from New York around Puerto Rico, I had taken the opportunity to revisit El Yunque for the first time since childhood. I discovered there were a series of more or less secluded pools both up & downstream from the showcase 'La Mina Falls'-- La Mina 'trail' is actually a narrow concrete sidewalk, slippery with rainforest moss & fairly steep to boot. I'd only returned once to the special pool I'd identified, bringing friends David Sower, his then-fiancée, & Alex Schachtner from Germany for a cooling dip when they were all my guests in June 1999. Now I wanted desperately to soak my aches & pains in the cool, churning stream.

Long story short, I got my wish-- & you may have already surmised this is the place where I'd like to open that bottle of wine-- but there was a price to pay: access to vehicular traffic is closed off at six in the afternoon, by locked gate. The hour was late & close enough to that cutoff point that we decided I should jog the two miles or so down to the gate to make sure it stayed open while Peter, his wife Astrid, & Alberto hiked the steep mile back uphill to the trailhead parking lot to get our car. I made it to the gatepost, gasping for breath, & waited anxiously by the deserted roadside. I seem to remember they were delayed somewhat, but still, no guard or caretaker turned up before we were gone-- & I haven't been back since then...

Oh, the wine-- ! Quirkily enough, the wine I'd want to drink-- to share, preferably-- in this place is one I have some mixed feelings about: Naia Verdejo is something of a 'tropical fruit bomb' (according to a reviewer who shares my opinion, in Spanish) crafted for the international palate & maximum ParkerPoints by Oenologist Eulogio Calleja under the sponsorship of importer Jorge Ordóñez. Sometime over a year ago I shared a couple of bottles with my friend Ricardo. It was a great match with his ceviche of Mahi-Mahi, the heady perfume of honeysuckle & passion fruit, (Parcha in Puerto Rico, Maracuyá in Spain & most of Latin America) carrying over with a touch of sweetness on the palate & playing nicely off the lemony marinade & the soft oiliness of the fish. While other tasting notes suggest there may be a fair amount of vintage variation, attributable as much to the subtle blending play of Viura (Macabeu in Catalunya) & Sauvignon Blanc allowed under DO Rueda regulations as to other technical factors, I dare say the slightly over-the-top character is what the lush rainforest setting calls for.

On a less idyllic note, I needed two days-- Thursday & Friday of last week-- of 40-minute pavement hikes each way to board the Tren Urbano into town at its Torrimar station & finish the paperwork for renewing my driver's license. It was then I decided I needed more time to tie a few loose ends before flying West, took a deep breath & paid the 150 smacker fee to postpone my departure. Otherwise, yesterday I might have been trying to find my jet-lagged way out of San Francisco to some trail with a wineshop nearby. In the meantime, & not to stray too far from my longstanding pursuit of Viognier knowledge (most extensively chronicled here) I've managed to get my hands on a few other different takes on Verdejo, most notably from Bodegas José Pariente & Solar de la Vega.

Having missed my deadline, & not to delay posting any longer, tasting notes will have to wait.
So I will sign off with with my all-too-often recurrent-- 'to be continued...'


TASTE the Wine, Write the Walk

Lurking invisibly down a-ways the list of posts there's a fragmentary draft waiting for a recovery & resurgence in my energy & writing motivation: my health & political issues collided & conspired against my participation in Wine Blogging Wednesday #49. The wine? Chapoutier's Hermitage bottling: (Monier de) La Sizeranne. On top of everything else, the meaning of the name became an issue. I do also have some emotional venting stuck in my throat regarding issues with my place & family of birth...later.
Meanwhile...I've postponed my flight into San Francisco until next Saturday the 11th, only secondarily to give me a slightly better chance at participating in WBW #50.

Well, maybe I will vent a bit: after seven months in Argentina, I was happy to be drinking wine from anywhere else, but variety & access to Old World juice comes with an increasingly steep price tag in Puerto Rico. The most recent experience with sticker shock concerns my bête noire grape, Viognier. Until recently, V.Suárez had Guigal's basic Condrieu pegged at 32 dollars & change (--plus tax these days, don't forget!) at El Hórreo, their retail outlet. They're still peddling the '97 vintage, by the way, & the wine has miraculously & consistently come through all those sweltering Summers in great shape. I had figured I could afford a bottle every other week or so, but on ringing up the purchase after my last outing two weeks ago I was told-- warned-- the labels were outdated, & from now on (after courteously honoring the sticker listing) I'd have to be shelling 50-something smackeroos for a bottle of the precious elixir-- a few pennies less than Guigal's famous vineyard selection Condrieu, 'La Dorée' --really, WTF???
I guess I can consider myself lucky to have had the chance at a few bottles at the earlier, more reasonable price-- & at a couple of the Hermitage mentioned above, the latter at something over 42 dólares.


Busco Pistas

primero donde molesta
en inepto repetido
en el charco del pañal

no es un muro, no es la verja
ni valla una hilera
es cortina interior la que no recuerdo ya
lo que persigo a la vez por mi propia fuga

el planeta se forra de gris hasta ecuadores
y buscamos inspiración expirando
que no respire la quizás externa recta

qué coño importa tu puto coño por parir

busco pistas porque no puedo más

ni sofocar bajo mantas y harapos
disfrazando en heroísmo el fracaso


Talk the Wine, Write the Walk (UPDATED- October 7)

'You know the preacher likes the cold'-- & I can identify.

I had the snarlingly insistent premonition that a mid-July return to Puerto Rico was not going to be very enjoyable, productive or even ultimately practical-- except in the narrowest possible sense:
the logistics of extending my nomadic condition seeemed overwhelming as I had an expired driver's license & not quite a couple of thousand dollars left in my checking account...

But after two months 'back home' of loitering with intent, I've yet to find my way to any government services' office to stand in line & pay the fees...my allergies & digestion grow worse & I only get out of the house to buy food staples & the occasional evening run. Nothing like depressive inertia for self-fulfilling righteousness?

Combined Zodiac
The Aries
Wood Horse

In your work, the road will be free for your beautiful initiatives. Learn the good habit to liquidate your obligations as soon as they arrive, without letting them heap up. Too great fatigue will considerably weaken your immune defenses and will render you more vulnerable to microbic and viral attacks; therefore take sufficient rest so as to recover your forces; some sensitiveness of your throat is probable. If you can go on vacation, profit by the occasion to go abroad; your journey will be pleasant and enriching in many respects.


Tasting on Twitter & WBW #48 follow-up

I'm on a steep learning curve, finding my way around 'Twitter' with my fingers all tangled up in Web 2.0, but I couldn't pass this one up: I love the bit of Alsatian wine I've had & none other than Étienne Hugel will play world-wide 'virtual' host in tasting a selection from his family's portfolio of wines, this coming Thursday, August 21st.
Robert McIntosh, wine blogger extraordinaire in the UK, makes a clearer intoduction to the event than I could ever hope to, here.

What have I had? Gewurztraminer from Hugel-- & Trimbach's too, I think. Easier to tick off what I haven't had: this will be my first taste of an Alsatian Riesling, & I'm looking forward to it-- even if it's not the '04 'Jubilee'. I'm also frustrated & sorry that V.Suárez has none of the Pinot Blanc-- after drinking a couple of interesting but fairly simple American efforts, I was wowed by a glass of Trimbach's sipped at Luna Park in San Francisco during the waning days of '06. Good to see it still seems to have a place on their wine list!

Meanwhile, I've been researching DeLoach Vineyards on the strength of their Zinfandel, which I had as part of my approach to Wine Blogging Wednesday's 'Dig Down Memory Roots' fourth anniversary assignment. There is a historical chronology here, which documents a veritable who's-who of winemakers associated with the operation.
Last Sunday, five days after pulling the cork, both the DeLoach as well as Montevina's Terra d'Oro Sierra Foothills Zinfandel evidenced an autumnal nutmeg & cherry-infused pipe tobacco spiciness. Smokier character with beginning oxidation in the DeLoach contrasted with brighter but simpler fruit in the Terra d'Oro. I thought I'd end up adding most of what was left of both bottles to my pasta sauce after a final taste today, a full week later. I was pleasantly surprised to find the tart-sweet berry notes I'd been missing come to the surface & ring out as tannins & acidity muted-- in the DeLoach.

Yet to buy the Jean-Marc Brocard 'Les Clos'...à suivre...


Kevin Johansen - Campo Argentino

...trying again...OK, now, three weeks later, it turns up on my blog, as if by magic! (Tip for Kevin: you might rhyme-- 'Je ne sais pas/pas d'idée' ! ;))


Wine Blogging Wednesday #48: Back to Your (Vinous) Roots (UPDATE August 19)

Excuse me, I have to run out the door to buy some wine! First, however, I wanted to thank Lenn for hosting the event he instigated on its fourth anniversary & congratulate him on the inspiration to round up the blogosphere's widely ranging cabal of Oenological scribblers through the simple, effective ritual of tasting a shared yet individualized assignment. A ritual that has succeeded at forging something like a sense of community. Kudos, Lenn!

'The Scribe' seems to have beaten me to the punch in this instance, but I'd like to follow through on my own habitual pattern & use the topic of this Wine Blogging Wednesday as motivation for more than one posting. As a matter of fact, my third installment may take some time & some doing, since, as a nod to Mr. Thompson's particular turf, I'm looking for a chance to re-view my 'Aha!' moment regarding Long Island wines: during an extended return stay in New York City back in that fateful year of 2000, I discovered & repeatedly shared the impression made by a Merlot from Pellegrini Vineyards on the North Fork. The vintage was 1997-- I wonder, is any of that still to be found, & (gulp) at what price?
But before then, I have two divergent 'taproots' to trace: one for red wines & one for whites. They represent contrasting experiences that shook my take-it-or-leave-it complacency regarding wine, bred by the middling to cheap Rioja that was the vinous norm in my family as I was growing up, & later, by extension of habit, among friends.
The wine that gave me the fruit & spice I wasn't getting from the Riojas-- or from the occasional treasured Premier Cru that was usually, at the very least, 'diminished' by stewing unrefrigerated in the tropical heat-- was a Sutter Home Zinfandel. In all likelihood, a '92 or '93, the latter being an especially good year for California Zinfandel. (--or maybe it was 'Non-Vintage' at that point?) I went on a Zin binge that lasted-- oh, maybe seven or eight years. I weaned myself slowly, gradually, with much help from Rhone varietals.
While the experience with Zinfandel gave me an exhilarating sense of gaining access to the sensuous richness in wine-- which had seemed to elude me up to that point-- my visit to the Domaine of vigneron-négociant Jean-Marc Brocard in Chablis during the Summer of 1995 rubbed my unprepared nose in wine's subtle complexities, making the dramatic point that most of this richness was still beyond my 'sensory means'. The circumstances of my visit bear retelling at length, but first I have to locate some of the wine.
In relation to my task at hand: the Trinchero family continues to bottle Zinfandel under the Sutter Home label, but the local distributor, Vicente Suárez, did not have it in stock. They had the Sutter Home Merlot, their Cabernet, & their White Zinfandel, of course! But not their Zin.
(As I write this & review some of the contributions already posted, I see Tim Eliot over at Winecast located & tasted some of this juice. Salud, Tim!)
As an 'acceptable faccsimile', I bought a bottle of 2004 'Terra d'Oro' Amador County Zinfandel from Montevina, which is another of the Trinchero Family's labels. In an attempt to compensate somewhat for not locating my self-assigned vinous 'madeleine', I also bought some 1998 DeLoach Russian River Valley Zin-- & I'm glad I did. On first opening yesterday, cedar spice-box notes from the oak tended to dominate the Montevina, while the DeLoach seemed a little 'brett-y': mostly loam & leather. I missed the bramblebush & berry at the usual core of Zinfandel typicity, as the fruit character tended more to plum & some black cherry. The DeLoach seemed to lighten in body & 'died' in the glass with a clear, surprising cranberry tartness. Paired with some chorizo-spiked kidney bean 'chili' stew to bring out spice notes as well as buffer their 14.5% alcohol level, both wines evidenced some wonderful evolution this evening: the Montevina Terra d'Oro opened to a creamy milk chocolate nose that seems to be reflected in the midpalate texture. In the DeLoach, the earthiness was offset & balanced by some orange zest acidity. My nose seems to be half asleep-- there is a touch of herbaceousness in both of them, but I can't pinpoint it-- maybe sage? Let me just say that the DeLoach sells for $19.50 plus 7 1/2 % tax here, & they seem to me an unjustly underappreciated producer. Maybe I'll leave it at that, & promise some further tasting notes as a third-time-charm addendum. Tomorrow I'll have to begin to search in earnest for some Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis...à suivre...

UPDATE: Méndez & Co. have J-M Brocard's Grand Cru 'Les Clos'!
Some further notes on the Zinfandels are here.


At Long Last, Viognier--

Let's see if I can finally get this over with & make it fairly straightforward--
If memory serves me right, I tried a total of five different Viogniers in Argentina, & I don't believe any were from wineries or vineyards too far from the immediate Mendoza area. (Will check & report back.)
The backpedaling qualification above stems from a senior moment in buying my fifth example of the varietal at the Rosario Carrefour 'Hyper-Marché': I passed on Henry Lagarde's offering at thirtysomething pesos, & picked up what I eventually found out was Lagarde's second label, 'Altas Cumbres', for something over half the price. It was only as I was about to pull out the cork back at Luis Paz's house, dismayed at not having noticed the 15% alcohol level before then, that a dim memory came to me of having bought a bottle of the very same wine at the Carrefour in Mendoza, not long after settling into my apartment share, maybe right after New Year's. Yikes.
Anyway, this was tropical fruit salad in a bottle, with some stone fruit preserves adding typicity. Not too bad for the price, if you like that sort of thing, I guess. It faded to tart citrus over the course of a couple of days-- a little too quickly, considering it was an '07.

I had some mixed expectations for Mauricio Lorca's 'Lorca Poético' version, bought 'under the table', as it were, from friendly attendants at the Vines of Mendoza showcase tasting room. I was prepared for a fair degree of spoof in the juice, but the buzz on Señor Lorca is positively worshipful so I was figuratively holding my breath, trusting the winery labwork might translate into some enjoyable International style flash. What I got was frightfully voluptuous FrankenWine. Nose & palate were tight to the point of metallic impenetrability on pulling the cork-- 'maybe this bodes well', I reassured myself: slow to evolve, & all that-- maybe he's semi-natural in his winemaking...?
The next day, like tumblers turning in a lock, the wine opened up & I got gobs of fruit salad-- syrup fairly well-controlled for a touch of elegance, though, & a stronger peach & apricot character supporting the tropicalia throughout. Ah, my sense-memory kicks in-- some sweet apricot blossom in the nose!
The scary part came as I sipped half-glasses over the next five evenings, speculating whether the whole fruited scaffolding would tumble to sour citrus or somehow stabilise gracefully, but-- nothing happened. No evolution-- not one Brylcreemed, vinous curl came unstuck in the swirling Autumn gusts, not one fatty fold shifted in the broad carriage to spread & settle its comforts, not a twitch troubled the self-satisfied composure of this Iron-fruit Maggie. Never was an oxymoron more--imperative? --this was one compact monolith of overripe sensuality.

Early on after my arrival in Mendoza, I'd had some of Escorihuela Gascón's Viognier, by the glass with different meals at the winery's restaurant, Francis Mallman's '1884' (here's a review in Spanish of one memorable evening).
My original idea was to put the wine 'through its paces' for Wine Blogging Wednesday #46 along with Conalbi-Grinberg's Ugni Blanc, but the posting deadline loomed as I rushed around to wrap things up for my return, & I decided to file an early report. I only barely made it to the winery to make my purchase by closing time the afternoon before heading back to Posada Cavieres to pack. To complicate matters, curiosity got the best of me, & I bought the last bottle of 2004 sitting in the tasting room, instead of the current 2007 release. Bad call. The wine seems to have cooked in marginal storage, probably for more than one of those hot, Mendoza summers, so that the oak barrels where 10% of the juice fermented overwhelm the faded flower & fruit. Dommage. I'm still fairly angry at myself about this one, as in retrospect, it seems the most balanced & correct of all Argentino efforts with the grape.

I shared half the bottle over late lunch at Domaine Du Mont with Hans & Alina of Posada Cavieres, (after they fetched me in town while running errands) then finished it off with the Domaine crowd the next evening. I guess that's what got Jasmine up from her sickbed: I brought three bottles to taste, the others being the Ugni Blanc & the Viognier from Cavas de Chacras. I've already gone on at some length about the Ugni Blanc, here. The Viognier, in retrospect, seems to have had more stone in it than stone fruit. People chimed in with 'wet stones' & 'snowmelt grass?', & Meg Montgomery felt compelled to write, 'Meg said grapefruit & everyone agreed!!!' in my 'Moleskin' notebook.
As a quaffer with great 'Quality-Price ratio' (besides the surprising minerality & shortness of varietal typicity) it's a cut above the Santa Julia Viognier by Familia Zuccardi, reviewed by Alex for WBW #46 at 'Eating Leeds'. I had this last iteration of what seems to have become my te noire in lovely company, too: Sylvie & Pierre Hébert from Montréal brought me memories of my days as a wannabe performance artist, with news of Marie Chouinard, Le Théatre de La Veillée & the current avant-garde scene in Québec. (Pierre does amazing, painstaking work in direct-on-cel animation, here's his website.)
Our own bottle started varietally correct with promising subtlety, showing white flowers in the nose, with contained stone fruit & lemon pith on the palate, but it thinned to tart limeade all too quickly during the course of out meal at Casa de Campo. Dommage, redux.

In closing, I hope I may be forgiven some speculative conclusions about Cuyano terroir & its possible adequacy for the varietal: Lagarde & Escorihuela both claim the earliest South American plantings of Viognier, dated 1992-93. The vineyards are not far from each other, in the Perdriel & Agrelo districts of Luján de Cuyo, respectively. It's possible there is soil variation I am not knowledgeable about here, but the great difference in their product would seem to be more a matter of vinification style.
Meanwhile, Cavas de Chacras & Zuccardi both have their vineyards East of Mendoza, the first in Santa Rosa & the latter in San Martín: this is a hotter, drier, lower elevation area with sandy soil lacking the alluvial-clay mix I think is dominant in Luján's climbing slopes. My guess would be these circumstances force early ripening & early picking, with phenolic maturity lagging, therefore limiting full expression of Viognier's particularly lovely character. Finally, Lorca has his Viognier plantings higher up in Valle de Uco, in Tunuyán to be precise. I don't know much about soil conditions there, I would hazard his grapes easily get a lot more hang time. It's a shame he's not interested in a more natural style, as the typicity beating like a smothered heart in his wine evidences he may be located in the most propitious environment for a world-class Viognier.
Apologies for the paucity of practical information on price & availability. Reviewing other posters' take on wines from Argentina, I started questioning the value of quoting winery prices at an unrealistic distance from stateside rates. Winery websites tend to have well-featured links to importers & distributors since they are the better part of their business. Myself, I have my own agenda as to figuring import channels & duties that I must & will, as publicly as possible, follow through on.


Further Notes on White Rhone Varietals in Mendoza, part 2

(--wherein, two months later, we finally pick up the thread
of '...our story, thus far--')

In the twenty-five or so minutes it took us to drive from Mendoza to Sr. Festa's winery in Chacras de Coria, an unspecified & never to be explained emergency came up in his Santa Rosa vineyard, about two hours away to the East. Consequently, & contrary to expectations, we were received by Luis, the winery manager, & the accountant; both quite bemused, as they had not been informed by their patrón of our planned visit.
A quick ring on the celphone led to a somewhat surrealistic round of introductions tinnily broadcast by cellular speakerphone, & after a cursory review of the winery's facts & figures we were led on to taste wines still waiting to be bottled-- stored both in stainless steel, & in traditional concrete 'piletas'.
While all the fruit is organically grown, Luis was quite candid about the winery's dual approach to vinification: white grapes are cold-soaked & innoculated with commercial yeast strains to 'cold-ferment' in refrigerated stainless steel tanks, while red grapes are, on principle at least, taken along a less interventionist & more traditional path.
I must apologize for leaving the implied caveat in the above sentence hanging as I focus on the winery's white wines. Visiting their website (linked to above) to compare my usual spare tasting notes with whatever published data I might profit by reviewing, I found, among other omissions, no entry for the Viognier I sampled & subsequently bought! I must also beg to differ on the characteristics they emphasize for their Ugni Blanc, harping as they do on tropical fruit, & listing pineapple, banana & melon as main descriptors. The discrepancy may be due to year & bottle variation (The bottle I bought was vintage '06. I was a little let down I wasn't offered a taste of anything 'in progress'.) --or it may be all a matter of my own quirky, idiosyncratically semi-educated palate-- in any case, & be that as it may:
The stand-out wine from the visit, lingering most clearly in memory nearly two months later, was a light, herbaceous Chardonnay from the current harvest, still just finishing alcoholic fermentation. It had just enough of a mineral thread-- subtle but undeniable-- to make me regret not having bought whatever bottling of the varietal they had on hand at that point & putting it through some formal tasting paces. I wonder if it's their best product.

Now, here is the preview of coming attractions I posted at the tail end of my 'Wine Blogging Wednesday #46' participation:
On first taste, the Ugni Blanc was peculiarly reminiscent of Sauv Blanc, with grassy gooseberry character, while the Viognier was rather tight & unyielding to the senses. Will taste again this evening, in good company, & will post a link here to a separate post for tasting notes & the story of how I discovered the winery.

'Good company', indeed!-- meaning Jasmine Montgomery & her folks, who have opened Domaine Du Mont, an upscale bistro & private event facility in the Coquimbito district of Maipú. Their lovingly rehabilitated hacienda is twenty minutes or so on foot from Hans & Alina's Posada Cavieres, not a bad walk but for the hardship of no real pedestrian-friendly 'shoulder' for the better part of the route along Carril Urquiza. One must run the gauntlet by the occasional rush of hard-bearing trucks on a narrow corridor of packed alluvial scree along an olive grove fenced in barbed wire. One can only hope the work being done on the Northern end of this road, featuring lovely, secure & comfortable bike & walking lanes, reaches this far before too long. I have the best hopes for the success of this new 'Domaine' & trust we will celebrate when I find my way back to Mendoza next year.
Jasmine is trained both as a Chef de Cuisine & Sommelier, but was unfortunately struggling with a bad cold the evening of our gathering. Maybe I could blame our different evaluation of the wines tasted on her stuffy nose & diminished sensorium.
Rather predictably, the Ugni Blanc generated the most debate. The variety's 'notable acidity' (notorious might be the better term) was very much in evidence, pushing the dominant character from citrus to aspirin, with the latter's saltiness & texture at least adding some supporting density to the light midpalate.
I found telling continuities with Conalbi-Greenberg's boutique bottling reviewed for WBW #46: a faraway whiff of white flowers, & some assertive, lingering herbaceousness which struck Jasmine as unpleasantly bitter.
Although green ginger & rosemary are probably easier for most to identify, I have a new, possibly more correct & accurate descriptor for that bitter, herbaceous character: sometime after that evening, (my farewell to Maipú) during my unexpectedly lengthy 'stopover' visit in Rosario, I let some herbal lemon verbena tea steep a bit overlong, & the resulting brew had an aftertaste of astoundingly similar character-- spicy-tart but with a touch of bitter herbaceousness. I can understand how this characteristic in a wine may make it something of an acquired taste, but I personally don't find it unpleasant & believe the right food pairing will go a long way to winning fans for this type of complexity. 'Umami', anyone?
The Viognier (younger that the Ugni Blanc, an '07 vintage) was more generally enjoyed & I have tasting notes that speak of 'wet stone', 'snowmelt grass', & grapefruit. I do believe the 'Quality/Price Ratio' on this wine is exceptional, even as I find Viogniers from Argentina lacking a certain something. I will immediately start work on a post comparing notes on the five (or so) different bottlings I tried, but will post this 'as is'. As usual,
'to be continued...'


Prodigal Themes (UPDATE 1- &2: paging Kevin Johansen!)

'...I would love to live in fear/but I'm so lazy'

Marcela, Paulina's friend, introduced me to the music of Kevin Johansen in Rosario.
A couple of quotes from his oficial website should help explain why I've fallen in love with his music:
'...Kevin was born in Fairbanks, Alaska, of Northamerican father and Argentinean mother. He has lived for various reasons in San Francisco, Buenos Aires, Montevideo and New York. Therefore it is not surprising that he presents a ‘diagnosis’ of acute musical uprooting in which the main symptoms are a conscientious bilingualism and a stylistic nomadism of prolonged cosmopolitan effect. ...on October 12th of 1990, after years of ‘Porteño’ wandering between Montevideo and Buenos Aires, our friend moves to New York. There, he truly develops as a songwriter and performer, playing downtown venues such as the Knitting Factory, Mercury Lounge and the legendary CBGB’s. At CBGB’s, he is ‘discovered’ by its owner, Hilly Krystal who became his mentor and records four albums, last of which is precisely, “The Nada”. As he himself says, he does ‘cumbia tanguera’, habaneras in English, reggae porteño, little ballads a la Leonard Cohen...Or like the Argentine press describes: “he’s a New Yorker in Buenos Aires and a cosmopolitan Argentinean in New York, out of place in Montevideo as much as in Alaska”...'

I'm playing a couple of his songs in constant loops as emotional support buoys to keep me afloat through the reentry blues. No performance videos of these particular tunes, let's see if I can upload the tracks from my HD without much trouble...

Nope. Need to find a host...somewhere...fuck it: later...

(...Ok, I'm a little calmer, tho I still haven't figured a host for those tunes. LastFM don't seem to work for that...meanwhile, 'en lo que el hacha va y viene', I'll add some appropiate visuals...)

UPDATE: found a YouTube video for my second current favorite KJ tune, 'Campo Argentino', but I can't seem to get here from there...so you might link to it on your own--


(I Left My Hard) On Barbary Coast

(...older news, newsome foursome--)

here is your gifted surrogate
stolen away from steerage
kidnap victim all aglow
in borrowed gold & finery

--seasick horizon all but purged
in th arduous climb up the dizzy steps
on the stairset of sheltering class
to face the nightmare of an endless fall
down a bottomless drop--

doctor, my heart
beats on the verge of giving out
rough edges blunt & careworn

doctor, my skin
flakes itchy scales off yon underflesh...
my yearnings all pressed thin



tu servilleta también
es un árbol caído
y un barril de petróleo
cada funda plástica

esa canción de amor
seduce fuga de capitales
y el margen ganancial variable
sujeto a retenciones

desde otro silencio, apenas cómodo
somos cómplices anónimos
de incontables abusos secretos
y el peor atropello

porque no es inocente el inconsciente
nuestra ración de olvido recetado
paga un desmesurado precio
en proporción de sufrimiento

(--que no es ajeno y se nos regresa
devuelto de rebote
para descargar su agobio sin aviso
alguna noche de frío desconsuelo...)


Up in the air & On The Road Again...

Greetings from Ezeiza Int'l Airport outside (?) Buenos Aires. Had to pay a total 104.70 pesos to leave the country-- didn't realize there was an additional airport tax besides the 50 peso fine for missing my three-month tourist visa limit-- again.
Very sorry to be missing Wine Blogging Wednesday #47, 'Brought To You By The Letter 'S'', tee-hee...
I'll have to grit my teeth & go to Starbucks as soon as I'm halfway functional & semi-coherent to try a couple of catch-up posts...again...
I wish there was a mid-point between 'Twitter' & my drive to prove myself as something like a conventional journalist investigating the Political Economy of the Wine Industry...but then again, nobody's forcing me, are they? ...Or are they, now?
Over n out-- for now...we'll talk after US Customs at six in the morning in Miami tomorrow-- maybe. OK, Over'n OUT.


My Most Consistently Supportive Friend-- my Chinese Horoscope!

Don't be concerned about the briefness of your existence; just enjoy yourself, profit by all the legitimate pleasures available, and then you'll have the impression of having reached eternity. Don't let yourself be dragged into ill-prepared or too risky financial operations, otherwise you could end up in a catastrophic situation for some stars will be very adverse in this domain. On the contrary, you'll have excellent chances to succeed in your career if your work does not involve the manipulation of money.

East-West Combined Zodiac
Aries Wood Horse

Base station in downtown Mendoza for nearly six months-- Wi-Fi enabled Café Havanna, also providing a taste of home in little coconut cones called 'Havannitas'!


Sleeping Silos: Verso-diario Rosario

the Neera Naree is in port from Bangkok
loading grain & freights
have the tracks humming overtime in Rosario

(Freitag, 27. Juni 2008)

decaying infrastructure & all, rails
rule this riverport city
que contempla el Paraná while shipments pile in

lovely losses, memory foremost
-- friends drag friendship down in flames next—

struck dumb, failing at a meager room of my own

wounds of anger find paradoxical
healing in acceptance, assumption & full
ownership of this anger...

sing along with Jackson!
‘you shake, I’ll rattle/we can roll on down th line’

(samedi 28 juin-- strange...really--)

--what’s the point of talking to meself in B&W
on th electron-fed page?
what’s th omnisemantic point of existence as abstracted
from th idiot-savant, solipsistic ‘fact’ of existence, anyway???

I seem to be good at pushing
up to th edge & shrinking back, rather than...
self-possesedly contemplating th yawning
abyss I’ve skirted oh-so-coolly?

--to paraphrase one of my favorite Jimmy Cagney
movie death scenes
‘I ain’t so cool’
(needless to say, ‘I ain’t so tough’ by a mile-long shot, either)
...gotta watch those again:
Public Enemy, Roaring Twenties & White Heat
seem th obligatory trilogy for ruthlessly ambitious
entrepreneurial-existential dead-end macho
gangster death-scripts

going nuts, again...
how long can I keep *this* up, haha?
54 years & counting...!

--overwhelmed by unfulfilled dream home possibilities:
a cottage in Calistoga...or the wild Sonoma Coast...a room in an adobe casita between the Andes & the precordillera, in Uspallata or Villavicencio—since I can’t afford the prime boutique jetset vineyard Valle de Uco towns—San Carlos at the southern end, Tunuyán in the North...
what about Falmouth & the Upper Cape?
--& have I really let go of the rías of Galicia, the estuary of the Río Minho with Portugal across the floodplain & the lazy meanders around the sandbanks & beaches by the river's broad mouth?

All the lovely landscapes of this world, whether familiar or alien, well-trod or glimpsed from a high-speed train, rub my face deep into a sense of dislocation & an overwhelming yearning for a home which is swayingly poised on an ever-distant horizon.

never know when I'll have time
to myself or how long it'll last
plus I never heard from da goils
about supp or any other get-together)

always on a short leash, home or elsewhere?
holding the fort, minding the store, waiting
for a callback, a message, a word
that never comes...

knight errant Browne throwback kind of night--
oh Jackson, can you see? any color-code horizon
clear past an isle in the river?

everyman waits as long & deep
just as well as you & I do

there must be a new through-line to find & hold
--to cast & troll, pull & win-- or surrender & release
for tuneful direction blowing in through our worn-out soles...

damn th outlines flattened out, never damn my eyes!