Trinkets And Tchotchkes And Geegaws And Swag…

..and still the young lady remains on the rag.

Whether between the heads of sovereign states, business associates, troglodyte tribes in the tropics or horny men expecting quid pro blowjob reciprocation, the tradition of gift-giving is firmly entrenched in human society as a means of ensuring communal cohesion, collective camaraderie, consistent commonality and cocksure copulation.

taylorValue is in the eye of the receiver, too.  I can’t imagine that Liz Taylor was any more moved by the $8 million diamond that Richard Burton gave her on her 40th birthday than I was with the signed, laminated ‘Happy Father’s Day’ plate my daughter Julia gave me in 2003 when she was four—backwards ‘J’ and all.

I still use it whenever I do homemade sliders.

That said, it is certainly the unwritten understanding by suitor and suited alike that within the arc of one’s increasing income, the gifts must become more extravagant, both as a means of ensuring open-ended loyalty from the gifted, and equally, to splash news of your astonishing net worth to friends and neighbors without passing out photocopies of your 2012 tax return.

And what to my Wondering eyes should appear...?

And what to my Wondering eyes should appear…?

For example, three years ago on the occasion of Stevie Wonder’s 60th birthday, his long-time friend and manager Keith Harris presented the Saginaw soul soloist with the ultimate in bling accessories:  A pair of platinum, sapphire-studded prosthetic eyeballs designed by Sheils Jewelers of Australia, under warranty for one million years and rumored to be worth $450,000 each—thus answering the age old quandary ‘What do you give to a guy who has everything except ghetto ocular reconstruction?’

Care To See a Copy of My 2012 Tax Return?

Well, I’d like to show it to you, too, especially since in May of last year Intoxicology Report was purchased by MediaNews Group (backed by the Hearst Corporation) for an obscene, almost prurient amount of cash—an amount that I would happily reveal to you if it wasn’t for the goddamned unilateral non-disclosure agreement they made me sign.

But, I checked with my legal team, and they assure me that whereas I can’t be all specific about the zillions of dollars in my personal portfolio, I would be within the statutes of the Hearst contract to describe in detail the date I had last Saturday night and let you put the puzzle pieces together yourself.

Ergo, Hence and Thusly:

Anyway, I always thought it was sort of pervie when a dude bought a woman a sexy dress, handed it to her and said, ‘Here, wear this tonight’, because it takes a lot of the coyness out of your ultimate end game, which is not a rousing game of Uno.  And yet, when I became independently, salaciously, almost lewdly wealthy, I realized that this is exactly the sort of pervie dude I am.

So what?  The rich don’t need to be coy—they just need to be rich.

A non-Kennedy models 'the dress'.

A non-Kennedy models ‘the dress’.

So, my date—who going forward I will refer to simply as Bonquawalaqweisha, because quite frankly, she’s a Kennedy and doesn’t want anyone to find out she’s dating a man whose grandfather was a Mexican national—agreed to wear the little black Chloe and Reese cocktail dress I bought her.  What makes it special is that the bodice of the dress is adorned with 190 gems from the firm’s ‘Three-Carat Round Diamond Collection’, while the sleeves and back are decorated with 24 precious stones each.

As for me—admittedly without a lot of natural ‘fashion sense’—nonetheless also opted to dress ‘to the nines’.  And literally, too:  I wore the Zvezda-manufactured Soyuz 9 space suit I purchased at The Stanislavovich Rozhdestvenskij Space History Sale for twenty million rubles—worth every kopek, too, since it was worn by cosmonaut Andrian Nikolayev during his record-breaking Soyuz 9 space walk.

Cedriquze Carmelontae

Cedriquze Carmelontae

My personal valet—who I will henceforth refer to as Cedriquze Carmelontae since he doesn’t want his peers to know that he works for someone who once, while on trial for felony possession, tried to sell drugs to the jury—thought the gold-plated welding shield on my space helmet was a little ‘affected’ looking.  Well, screw him: Rich people don’t have to listen to valets, and if we play our cards right, we don’t even have to pay them.

Joël and Lizzie

Joël and Lizzie

Rather than take Bonquawalaqweisha to your standard clip-joint like The French Laundry or Urasawa, I flew her to the billion dollar Taj Arabia in Dubai and hired Vegas Super-Chef Joël Robuchon—who has more Michelin stars than Elisabeth Jagger has armpit hairs—to whip us up some exclusive, upscale sliders.

In the Meantime, We Began with Cocktails…

Heffernan reaches the home stretch with 'The Winston'...

Heffernan reaches the home stretch with ‘The Winston’…

I had also lured Australian mixologist Joel Heffernan from his luxury lounge, Crown’s Club 23, for the two days required to prepare us a couple of ‘Winstons’.  Named for that fat cigar-insufflating drunk who won World War II, a ‘Winston’ is concocted from an ounce of 1858 Croizet cognac, Grand Mariner Quintessence, Chartreuse Vieillissement Exceptionnellement Prolonge, and a dash of ground bone from St. Augustine’s left femur.

Heffernan presented the drinks with chocolate nutmeg dust, essence of poppy seed and roses, hints of coconut, passion-flower and distilled, purified ox urine.  Just one drink each, mind you, because rich people don’t need to get their dates drunk, they just need to be hung like a Hebrew National.  And be rich.

Joël Robuchon’s Restaurant Is Not As Well Known As White Castle…

…But I do give  Gault Millau’s ‘Chef of the Century’ credit for figuring out how to screw up a perfectly serviceable, grandiosely greasy mighty-whitey one-bitey.

At least he served me on my Happy Father’s Day plate.

Before and after

Before and after

But, pointedly, rather than using traditional slider beef, which comes from Equatorial African cattle which are generally infected with hoof-and-mouth-disease, he prepared the amuse-bouche using a special breed of Nagano Snow Monkey fed exclusively on rice, maize and dried llama meat.  Nor could he leave the onions alone, either.  Only rare, Ecuadorian Azure Mist ‘Cebollas de Llullaillaco’ would do, and only those he commissioned Porto midfielder Cristian ‘The Onion’ Rodriguez to pick, the pompous twit.

most_expensive_champagne_lc9keAnyway, being a Kennedy, Bonquawalaqweisha was less interested in the food than the drink, and of course, we enjoyed her favorite: A gilded, 15 liter Nebuchadnezzar of Armand de Brignac Champagne, which, thanks to the  homage paid it by rapper Jay-Z, has become a real ace among spades.

After That?

Mince pie time!  But not just any mince pie, thank you very much. This one was first designed on a computer and made with 50-year-old Angostura Legacy Rum, bound with holy water from Lourdes and sweetened with ambergris sugar that comes from secretions of sperm whales.  Finally, the confectionary was entirely cloaked in edible gold leaf.

Taj Arabia

Taj Arabia

Since I had rented the Taj Arabia for the whole evening, there was no reason to rush off and risk a DUI in my supercharged 1936 Bugatti 57SC Atlantic; rather, I was able to enjoy a nightcap or three.  Being, at heart, a street kid from Detroit, I toned it down a couple of octaves and went with a fifth of 190° grain alcohol—albeit in a ‘bush-league’ flavor: Whiskey Mango Fox-Tit.

The evening concluded as it began, as this column will end where it began, alpha and omega:  With a gift from me to Bonquawalaqweisha, who—as I may have mentioned—is a Boston Brahmin from Clan Kennedy, and who therefore has a sexual appetite far beyond my trifling white boy libido to satisfy, and especially not after a punch bowl full of Whiskey Mango Fox-Tit.

This pocket rocket cost more than Apollo 7

This pocket rocket cost more than Apollo 7

No worries, though: I was able to present my randy little minx with a custom-designed Pearl Royal vibrator by jeweler Colin Burn cast in solid platinum and embellished with more than a thousand pink and white sapphires, diamonds and pearls.

Think of me when you deploy, my million dollar baby.

As for me, I will be in the back performing my obligatory (if rather bloody and grotesque) rich-guy ritual, sacrificing one of Constitutional Monarch Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s 23 children to my God—who I will simply call La’sharitiavuana since He really doesn’t like to admit that I worship Him.

One down, 22 to go

One down, 22 to go

But really, such a consecrated offering is much more than a groveling act of propitiation and appeasement intended to prevent the sun from exploding.  It can truly be viewed, now as in pre-Columbian Tenochtitlan, as a reciprocal endowment; a return gift to the Deity for all the light, grace, Kennedys and greenbacks he has bestowed upon me.


‘And Christian Kassel, he also brought of the firstlings of the heathen flock and of the flesh of the blood and fat thereof. And La’sharitiavuana had respect unto Christian and to his offering.’  – Genesis 4: 3-5

Posted in GENERAL | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Grape Seeds: Oil Make Something Of Ya Yet!

L. to R.: Matt Roloff, herd of pastrami, King Canute

L. to R.: Matt Roloff, herd of pastrami, King Canute

Nearly everyone on earth knows that there is no such thing as a Leprechaun that isn’t actually that wee oaf Matt Roloff mugging about in a green top hat on St. Paddy’s Day; likewise, most folks understand that there is no creature called a pastrami and that King Canute did not command the tide to reverse in a fit of delusional arrogance, but instead to prove to his privy council that we all must bend to forces beyond our control: Duh.

However, hardly anyone knows that canola oil is not made from a canola plant.

‘Canola’ is, in fact, Canadian reductionary politics; it is an abbreviation for ‘CANadian Oil, Low Acid’.



But why not call a spade a spade?  Because spades find it insulting, that’s why.  And because, in this case, on the day that they were naming stuff, the dude in charge of Brassica napus L. apparently snuck one too many snorts of Canadian rye and decided to call it ‘rape’.  Canola oil is a derivative of processed rapeseed, and it is generally understood that the term ‘Canola Oil’ was created as a way to avoid the obvious connotations of calling your product ‘Rape Oil’.

Now, if they can only come up with a replacement name for Peruvian Vehicular Homicide Oil and Monégasque Kiddie Porn Oil, we will have entered a brave, new world of political correctness.

What Does The Above Have To Do With Grapeseed Oil?

Nothing, except that rapeseed and grapeseed rhyme, and I have poetry inside my soul, my brothers and sisters.

Last week, the good folks at Napa’s Castello di Amorosa sent me a bottle of their latest waste-not-want-not innovation: Extra Virgin Cold Pressed Sangiovese Grapeseed Oil. 

Grapeseed oil

Grapeseed oil

Made for Castello di Amorosa by Salute Santé, a Napa-based division of Food & Vine, Inc., a pretty good case can be made that grapeseed oil is the healthiest oil on the market.  That pronouncement is made simply by stacking up stats against its nearest competitor, the imperious sexual-assault-seed oil from Western Canada.  Try it, and you’ll see that they are barely in the same league.

And in the same side-by-side comparison, olive oil is still playing pee-wee t-ball with Uncle Dad on the grade-school playground.

First, a word on what we are supposed to like and what we are supposed to avoid in choosing a cooking oil, followed by a mano y mano percentage comparison.

AMC's Saturated Fatty Acid = Bad fat: Primarily found in animal products, this fat is often solid at room temperature.  The white stuff that clots on the surface of your homemade stock when it cools down?  That’s saturated fat.  Chemists who haven’t yet discovered how to make blue methamphetamine and still work with food science will blather on about chains of carbon atoms saturated with hydrogen atoms until you realize that you actually do need to smoke a little meth to remain awake.  Suffice to say, this stuff—found in meat, butter and mostly in tropical oils from coconuts, palm kernels and cocoa beans—increases LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol and can kill you via heart disease.

Corn: 13%

Olive: 14%

Canola: 8%

Grapeseed: 9%

Say, Bill.  Why the long face?

Say, Bill. Why the long face?

Mono-Unsaturated Fatty Acids = Pretty good fat: If he were here, Bill Nye would sit you down and explain that mono-unsaturated fats have a single double bond (not an oxymoron, actually) in the fatty acid chain, allowing for a higher melting point than sister poly; chilled, they are semi-solid.  Monos are said to reduce LDL cholesterol while increasing the high-density version—a consummation devoutly to be wished.  Downside is that it is believed that mono fats may be linked to breast cancer when certain of the body’s enzymes start misbehaving; also, it is possible that mono-unsaturated fats may promote resistance to insulin.  This fat family is found lurking inside nuts and seeds, and especially in high-fat fruits like olives and avocados.

Corn: 27%

Olive: 78%

Canola: 59%

Grapeseed: 9%

omega1Omega 6 Linoleac Acid = Somewhat bad fat: A charter member of the polyunsaturated fat family, Omega six—also written as ω−6 (ω is a baby  Ω)—has a lipid number of 18:2(n-6), which you didn’t know, and to be effective, Omega six relies upon conversion to n-6 eicosanoids, then binding to receptors found in every tissue of the body, which you really didn’t know, and is also released by cockroaches upon their deaths to warn other cockroaches not to enter the area, which you really, really didn’t know.  Anyway, in quantities balanced with ω−3, with an optimal level being 2:1, this double-bond-in-the-n-6 molecule proves beneficial for brain function and the prevention of cardiovascular disease.  Vital to understand is that when the ratio is out of whack—and in most unhealthy American diets it is—the effects are not only counteracted, they are reversed, so that Omega six becomes associated with arthritis, inflammation, and cancer.

Found in high amounts in poultry and eggs, four major food oils are responsible for the bulk of the Omega six in our diets: Palm, soybean, canola and sunflower.

Corn: 58%

Olive: 8%

Canola: 11%

Grapeseed: 76%

1027-GrumbacherPaintPolyunsaturated Fatty Acid = Good fat: Logic would tell you that if the monos have a single double-bond within their chemical backbone, the polys have more than one—and logic would tell you correctly.  Such oils tend to dry and harden upon exposure to air, which is why you squeeze, rather than pour oil paint from the Grumbacher tube.  In terms of health, this fat is fundamental in supplying energy for the muscles, heart and other organs; it is believed to reduce low-density cholesterol levels (a good thing) while raising the high-density levels (a better thing). It is a vital dietary component for pregnant women as it critical to fetal development; it is also positively associated with cognitive and behavioral performance, thus proving out the old axiom that fish is brain food: Polyunsaturated fats can be found in high concentrations in fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, trout and sardines.  In terms of food oil, grapeseed leads the fishing expedition, while much-heralded olive and canola oils are barely relegated to the status of also-rans.

Corn: 60%

Olive: 8%

Canola: 3%

Grapeseed: 76%

Smoke point!!

Smoke point!!

Smoke Point:  For cooks—even unhealthy ones—among grapeseed oil’s biggest advantages is the extremely high temperatures it can reach before it hits smoke point—the point at which a cooking oil begins to break down and produce smoke.  The moment that happens, flavor and nutritional value begin to degrade, so in deep-fry applications, smoke point dictates precisely what you can accomplish with a particular oil.

Here are some common smoke points:

Butter:  250 ° F

Corn: 410 ° F

Olive: 280 ° F

Canola: 400 ° F

Grapeseed: 485 ° F

Pass the grapeseed oil, STAT.

Pass the grapeseed oil, STAT.

No real need to mention trans fat among polite society, is there?  I mean, it’s created in the lab by adding hydrogen to vegetable oil, and we all pretty much agree than this is the kind of diabolical, artery-clogging, heart-disease inspiring, inflammation inciting, cholesterol-concocting provender that Satan devours when he stops by for tea ‘n’ crumpets—(using his left hand exclusively)—as narrated in the Hadiths on the authority of Jabir b. Abdullah.

In any case, I have no information about how much trans fat grapeseed oil contains, but I am betting that it ain’t much.

Then the Other Shoe Drops…

As the health and functional pluses mount in favor of grapeseed oil, you knew there just had to be some reason why you wouldn’t be using it going forward, didn’t you.  That’s life—and life sucks the whopping whale weenie.

Clipboard eggAnd here it is: The stuff is expensive. How expensive? Parmagiani Bugatti diamond-studded wristwatch expensive. 1929 supercharged Blower Bentley single-seater expensive.  Fill a Fabergé egg, c. 1897, with Terra Nera ‘Kopi Luwak’ coffee beans, see what you can get for it at Sotheby and you will get a vague idea of how much they charge for grapeseed oil.

Not That They Can’t Justify It…

Figure that a ton of pressed grapes is about ¼ pomace—pomace being everything about a grape that isn’t grape juice.  From this, you can harvest 68 lbs. of grape seeds that, when processed, yields three liters of oil.

The oil sent me by Castello di Amorosa was pressed from 100% sangiovese seed, and in 2011, if you wanted to purchase a ton of California sangiovese grapes, you had to shell out $800.

Granted, the seeds and pomace are by-catch, but still, that’s a $266 cash outlay for each liter of grapeseed oil in raw material alone; then you have to figure in the state-of-the-art equipment, which CdA stresses is ‘Engineered in Germany’—like if the Germans are so good, how did they manage to lose two wars in succession?—and the Food & Vine people indicate that the oil is pressed under a newly patented process especially designed for grapeseeds, allowing the oil to flow at temperatures less than 98.6ºF and into settle tanks without filtering out biologically active substances—and from there into special, light protective glass bottles.

So, assuming that I pay about thirty dollars for three liters of good (not great) quality cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, equating (obviously) to a penny per milliliter,  the 100 ml. bottle of Castello di Amorosa cold-pressed extra virgin grapeseed oil, which sells for $10, is ten times as expensive.

The leftover pomace, by the way, is dried into ‘press cakes’ and used to make grape flour.  Nothing wasted.  Good God, these Castello di Amorosans are like the Inuit with their caribou.

And speaking of the castle dwellers, I believe they greased my palm with the oil less to see a review about that, but as incentive to do an in-depth review of the wines they also shipped.  I’ll give it my best shot!:


Other than that, alas, I am out of column inches.

Tasting Notes:

...Or three for $29.90.  Use that dime as a down payment on your Fabergé egg

…Or three for $29.90. Use that dime as a down payment on your Fabergé egg.

Castello di Amorosa Extra Virgin Cold Pressed Sangiovese Grapeseed Oil, around $10 (100ml.):   You could probably guzzle a growler of olive oil and not identify the taste of olives, but this oil is so unmistakably grape-based that you can smell the fruit from a yard away.  The taste is even more pronounced: I rolled around a quarter ounce in my mouth, and it was grappa made manifest.  Despite its pronounced and commendable loyalty to species, the oil is light and buttery with faint overtone of walnuts.  The oil makers and oil hawkers keep pushing the high smoke point, but frankly it wouldn’t occur to me to cook with this delicate ambrosia—not yet anyhow.  The most outrageous thing I have done up to now is dip in a crusty chunk of Ciabatta and drizzle some over baby spinach leaves.  Anything else is a bit heretical for my [substantial] money.


Posted in CALIFORNIA, GENERAL, Napa | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Celebrity Wine Is Truly The Pitts

Can make me look like this, José Eber?

Can make me look like this, José Eber?

Truth be told, my Intoxicology Report editors don’t like me—not one little bit.  They don’t like my literary style, my superiority complex or my cute Lucy Ball poodle do—in short, they don’t like the cut of my jib.  They are always telling me that their site is essentially a humor site, not a wine-education site, and that my columns are too scholarly, too filled with dull enological trivia and pedantic discussions of subjects like volatile sulfur compounds in wine—specifically, mercaptans (a.k.a., ‘thiol’).

They claim that whenever I try to ‘yuk it up’ with columns like Just Desserts (dessert wines, of course!) and Que Syrah, Syrah (you can figure that one out, silly!) my sense of hilarity comes across as sort of—in their words—‘forced’.

Hey!  Personally, I thought my jokes were pretty good.

Saccharomyces cerevisiae... like you didn't know.

Saccharomyces cerevisiae… like you didn’t know.

Anyway, even though Intox Report was founded in 1909 by my great grandfather,  in order to keep my lucrative writing gig, I had to sign a new contract with blog lawyers stating that, for three weeks, six days of each month I could write about the multidimensional scalings that are used to quantify sensory data at wine tastings, direct causal connections between brain cancer and specific varietals and the physiological and evolutionary response of saccharomyces cerevisiae to challenging environments.

But for my sins, one day every month, Article Four, Section One states that I have to write about the subject I despise above all others:

Celebrity wine.

Well, my brethren—today’s the day.

There is Nothing Cutesy, Nothing Clever, Nothing ‘Fun’ About the Term Brangelina



…Nor is there anything even vaguely endearing about this super-flaky ‘supercouple’, and certainly nothing amusing about them—not even the fact they they are peeps with Marc Perrin, fifth generation family winemaker at Château de Beaucastel in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

I suppose it is more kooky than comical that rugged-yet-debonair Brad and bicycle-tire-lipped, daddy-dissing Angelina own a thousand acres of prime vineyard in Provence and certainly more than ironic considering that former mental-patient Jolie likes to ‘French’ kiss her older brother on national television.

One Humdinger Over the Line, Sweet Jésu…

However, because they are twisted, idiotic people, the Intoxicology Report board of directors find it hilarious that Brad and Angie have begun to adopt Provençal orphans, who have promptly murdered all their African children, just like the French did to the Algerians in 1957.

kidsMy uppity-ups wanted to make certain I mentioned this scandal in my column.  But I’m not going there.

Instead, I will maintain a laser focus on the topic at hand: Miraval, the Jolie/Pitt and Perrin rosé set for release in a few weeks.

The story behind Miraval is a metaphor for ‘the problem’—not only with celebrity wine, but with celebrities themselves.  As it goes, after having lived in sin on the estate since 2008, Brad and Angelina bought Château Miraval from American Tom Bove in 2012 after their lease expired, at a reported sale price of $60 million USD.  This may seem extravagant, but for Jésu’s sake, the place is surrounded by a moat; it has thirty-five rooms, a chapel and an immense wine cellar built in 1850 by the inventor of reinforced concrete.

floyd the wallPrior to the purchase, the property was known not so much for the wine, but for the estate’s onsite Studio Miraval where Pink Floyd recorded ‘The Wall’ in 1979.  In fact, the Miraval rosé bearing the Jolie/Pitt rubric was previously called ‘Pink Floyd’, and since French wine cognoscenti tend not to make purchases based on painful puns, the decision to change the name was probably a wise one.

The issue is that, other than ego, there is no conceivable reason why Brad and Angelina should be stamping their names on Miraval.

Château Miraval

Château Miraval

First, it really can’t be a money-making venture, so the big-gun Fight Club/ Lara Croft endorsement is not a financial shot-in-the-arm.  Bear with me through the math: Figure that the old-vine cinsault from which Miraval is made probably yields less than two tons per acre.  With 128 acres of vine, if it all went into rosé  (it doesn’t—there is a white and a couple of reds to follow), that equates to about 35,000 gallons of wine, or, 175,000 bottles.  Currently, ‘Pink Floyd’ sells for $20 per bottle, so, at the same price, we have a gross return of $3.5 million if nobody is looking for a case discount and if Jowly Pitt and Lippy Jolie are willing to hand-sell the wine from a fruit stand in front of the estate—otherwise, of course, the entire distribution chain, down to the lowly retailer, gets their pound of flesh.  And that $3.5 million figure is obviously pre-overhead fixed ‘n’ variable operating costs, including packaging, field labor, management, winemakers, clerical, cellar/receiving/refrigeration equipment, taxes and fees…

Et cetera.  I’m no accountant, but I can’t see Miraval finishing a fiscal cycle in the black any time soon.

Second, putting your name on a product you really had no genuine hands-on input in the creation of is just a trifle jerk-offish, don’t you think?  Like if the dipshit duo bought the copyright for The Wizard of Oz, and the next time you watched it, the titles read ‘Starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’.

How Much Input Did P/J Have in the Creation of Miraval?

Marc Perrin

Marc Perrin

So glad you asked.  According to the wine’s genuine architect, Marc Perrin: ‘They were present at the blending sessions…’

Poor, dear, star-struck Marc: So, by that rationale, if Brad were to invite you to visit him on the set of Inglourious Basterds II, you would expect to see your name up on the marquee.

Perrin goes on to say that, ‘The Jolie/Pitts want to ensure they are making the best Provence wines they can. They are re-looking at everything, from the installations in the winery—where we have already switched to stainless steel tanks—to reworking the labels across the range of wines.’

Well, he does make some points here, not all of them stellar.

‘They’ are making the best Provence wines they can, Monsieur?  Yeah, by not making it at all and letting you make it.  As for ‘switching’ to stainless steel,  what did you use before?  I mean, who barrel-ferments rosé?

MiravalI will concede on the label thing; as seen in the photo to the left, the artwork and bottle-shape are sensational.  Not sure what that has to do with wine quality, but it is a pleasant place to start.

Rumor has it—and I’m a total sucker for celebrity rumors, aren’t you?—that Brad and Angelina plan to serve Miraval at their upcoming nuptials, although nobody knows when, precisely, that will happen.  An imminent wedding is also said to be the reason for the ‘hyphenated Jolie-Pitt’ name on the Miraval label.  Further, their lawyer has announced a prenup agreement, the province of most megastar lovebirds.

But as to why they are bothering to get married at all, Encino attorney Goldie Schon, APLC gives us some much-needed insight.

(You are advised to hold on to your digestive tract before reading further, and it couldn’t hurt to have some Emetrol handy, just in case):

“The reason they are getting married is because of their children. Their children are growing up and they are becoming more knowledgeable of what mommies and daddies are supposed to be.”

Angie's dorm room

Angie’s dorm room

Well, I am sure that the lesson will be of untold value to this poor, profitable, privileged progeny:  Mommies and daddies are supposed to be tabloid superheroes who want the world to believe that they are everything to everyone, and who have done so well amid the smoke-and-mirrors of Hollywood that they can sell photographs of you children for $14 million dollars then commission Madame Tussauds to do wax sculptures of you; mommies are supposed to list Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital as their alma mater, and are supposed to live with daddies in 35-room mansions with moats and chapels while making great gobs of wine in the cellar; and finally, mommies and daddies are supposed to wait until you kids start shaving or menstruating before they get married.

I know my folks are a lot like that.  At least, the wine in the cellar part.

Posted in GENERAL, Provence | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Few In Mendoza Are Mendozing

Mendoza, Argentina is a land of loveliness and lore, enoturismo and earthquakes, fiestas and Fernando Fader (1882-1935): The first post-impressionist painter in South America.

Meltwater irrigation

Meltwater irrigation

The area surrounding Mendoza is also the largest wine producing region in Latin America.  With an ambiance nearly ideal for wine grapes, there are few seasonal temperature swings and most vines are planted at sun-sodden elevations that are among the world’s highest.  The only natural drawback to these vineyards is a climate where it rains, on average, only two days a year with a total accumulation of around eight inches.  But that’s an engineering eye-roller, and Mendozan wine country has been irrigated with Andes meltwater since the 19th century.

In Maipú and Luján—the two main departments of Mendoza’s wine producing areas—the most widely planted grape is cereza, a varietal indigenous to Spain and brought to Argentina by Spanish settlers, possibly as early as the 1700’s.  Cereza is Spanish for ‘cherry’, and the pink-skinned grape produces a prodigious payoff, although often of questionable quality.

Criolla, a.k.a. ‘mission’ (because it was often grown at Spanish missions as a base for sacramental wine) is the second varietal that forms the backbone of the Mendozan wine industry.  And like cereza, the wine that results from criolla often lacks breeding and character, and is far more suited for a jug than a bottle.

Malbec vines, with Andes in background

Malbec vines, with Andes in background

Malbec, of course, would be the king of the jungle if Mendoza had jungles.  Sultan of the semi-arid desert, then.  A bit late to the banquet, malbec was introduced to Argentina in 1868 by Frenchman Miguel Pouget, hired by the Mendoza’s Governor Domingo Sarmiento (who later became president) to do something about all that flabby cereza. Pouget imported 120 varietals and planted them in what he called a ‘test farm’, the Quinta Normal.  Of them, malbec—an under-producer in the damp climate of Southern France where it is subject to a smorgasbord of sick, from frost to mildew to coulure (a metabolic condition that prevents grapes from setting)—was the most successful.  In fact, malbec was so grateful to put down new roots in hot, dry Argentina, where none of the French climatic conditions are an issue, that it proliferated with an ease that was almost embarrassing.

Gascón and Ón and Ón and…

The reason I brought up Señor Fedar in the first sentence is that despite never being directly involved in the wine trade, he was born in Bordeaux and likely had it running through his veins.

Bodegas Escorihuela Gascón: As it was in the beginning, is now...

Bodegas Escorihuela Gascón: As it was in the beginning, is now…

But more to the point, Fedar’s family emigrated to Mendoza in 1884—a significant date because it was the year that Bodegas Escorihuela Gascón was established.  Its founder, Don Miguel Gascón, a 23-year-old wanna-be entrepreneur from Aragon, Spain had hit the streets of Argentina four years earlier without a peso in his pocket.  Like many a self-made muchacho, Gascón’s ingenuity, hard work and single-minded goals led to the next phase of the story.

With the completion of the national railroad in 1883, the opportunity to open a winery in previously-inaccessible Mendoza presented itself, and  Gascón purchased 42 acres of arable, high-elevation land in an area where the peaks of the Andes held the rains from the Atlantic at bay but provided irrigation via melting snow.

La Mazamorra by Fernando Fader

‘La Mazamorra’ by Fernando Fader

Here, many thousands of feet above sea level, there is less filtration from the atmosphere, and mechanisms are triggered that thicken grape skins and create more phenolics and esters.  Chilly nights fix acidity while warm days build sugars; wine color is clearly more intense and the wine itself more concentrated, due in part to a long, slow growing season.  Not only that, but the dry, sandy soil where Gascón planted is inhospitable to phylloxera.

Malbec, nearly banned in Bordeaux, had found its Shangri-La.

As had Don Miguel.  He built a winery in the center of town in the same spot it can be found today, and for the next hundred years, Familia Gascón forged a reputation for elegance, finesse, color and class—much like the paintings of Fernando Fader.

Nicolas Catena

Nicolas Catena

Today, Gascón is owned by the extended Familia Catena—a group of investors led by renowned Argentine winemaker Nicolas Catena (winner of Wine Spectator’s 2012 Distinguished Service Award) who purchased the holdings in 1993 with the intention of preserving, celebrating, and where required, improving the historical winery, the oldest in Mendoza.

So, no tears for Argentina, my friends.  They are at the top of their game.

Tasting Notes:

bottleDon Miguel Gascón Colosal Red Blend, Mendoza, 2011, around $15:  Although Gascón was the first winery in Argentina to produce a 100% malbec, this particular blend balances the somewhat fierce tannins that the varietal may kick out with bonarda (the most widely planted red wine grape in Mendoza), syrah and cabernet sauvignon.  Each varietal was cold-soaked for a few days to maximize flavor extraction and fermented separately for a week prior to blending.  The wine then saw 15 months on oak.

The result is a violet-colored wine of considerable depth, with blackberry jam and coffee on the nose.  The mouthfeel is strikingly textured—malolactic smooth and creamy, while flavors range from malbec’s quintessential Damson plum and sweet spice settling among bonarda’s leathery notes. There’s chocolate behind cherry along with touch of coconut, and soft, round, approachable tannins leading to a velvety wrap-up.

A compelling bevvie for the bucks.



Posted in ARGENTINA | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Spa Vs. Spa

Did you know that ‘spa’ is an acronym for  ‘self-indulgent pretentious ass-wipe’?

spy vs spyIf you didn’t, you should read this column more often, because that’s the kind of arcane crap you are always learning around here.

Anyway, if the word ‘spa’ makes me simultaneously chuckle and shudder, can you imagine what words like ‘exfoliation’, ‘masque’ and ‘full body polish’ do?

By the way, when you chuckle and shudder simultaneously, you ‘chudder’.  See, again you learn something.

cucumberWhen I think of the archetypal spa-goer, I imagine someone with a narcissistic complex so out of control that they see nothing bizarre about pampering themselves with therapeutics that are almost tribal in their oddness: For example, having all the skin cells scraped from one’s epidermis; having one’s entire body rubbed down with sea salt, sugar and coffee; allowing one’s face to be covered in mud while wearing cucumbers over the eyes.


And all this while little children are going to bed hungry in Gary, Indiana.

But then, when you think about it, me drinking nineteen bottles of wine in two days, then missing work is sort of self-pampering too, isn’t it?  And allowing one’s liver to disintegrate while murdering brain cells and courting stomach cancer?  How tribal is that?  And all the while, little children are going to bed sober in Gary, Indiana.

Yours truly in Hazelton formal wear

Yours truly in Hazelton formal wear

So, when I received a press release entitled Spas Have Alcohol-Related Treatments on Tap, I naturally assumed it was a sort of combination Château Élan Spa and Hazelton Rehab Center where they massage you through your detoxification treatment.

And I was intrigued, because usually those kind of places have you scrubbing out toilets in a strait jacket and going to idiotic group therapy sessions where you nod sympathetically at the horror stories of others while secretly chuddering, ‘Wow; a bigger loser than me.’

But Then I Read Further, and Brother, Could I Have Been Wronger…?

Turns out that the release was about a new tribalish trend in the spa-o-sphere wherein alcoholic beverages are included in the therapy itself—externally, not internally.

Poor Allie

Poor Allie

According to Allie Hembree, Public Relations Manager for the International SPA Association, “By incorporating different types of spirits into their treatments, spas around the world are allowing you to still indulge, but save the calories for another day…”

Poor Allie wrote me a very nice letter asking me if the subject might interest me, which it did, but not quite in the way she intended.  Poor Allie now thinks of me sort of like the town of Columbine thinks of Dylan Klibold.

Anyway, if the entire concept is still a little foggy to you, nineteen bottles of wine should clarify things.  Too over the top?  Bloody lightweight…

Alright, then: Here are a handful of cuts from various spas summarizing their new, therapeutic and creative approach to wasting perfectly good grog:

The Lodge at Woodloch, Hawley, PA: Partnering with Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, the Royal Revival includes a body exfoliation using hops, barley and honey followed by a beer bath.

Clipboard dogSomehow, I can’t look at ‘body exfoliation’ without thinking ‘body exhumation’.  And I can’t look at ‘Dogfish Head’ without thinking about, well, dogfish heads. And for that matter, I can’t think of having honey rubbed on my body without imagining that ancient Persian torture where they covered the victim in honey and allowed ants and flies to eat him alive.

But, that’s just me.

Nina Kaczorowski’s breasts

Nina Kaczorowski’s breasts

The Spa at Griffin Gate, Lexington, KY: The Bourbon Bubbler starts with a full body polish incorporating Kentucky Bourbon, ginger, and pecans and finishes with a rinse and an application of Shea butter.

Not only that but I can’t look at ‘body polish’ without thinking of Nina Kaczorowski’s breasts.  Or shea butter without thinking about black people hawking chunks of it on the bridge overpass in Downtown Detroit’s Eastern Market.  I bought some once and put it on toast.  Big mistake.

Rocco Forte Augustine Hotel, Praha, Czech Republic: The St. Thomas Beer Ritual utilizes a bit of history by incorporating a secret Augustinian monk beer exfoliation recipe that promotes detoxification and hydration, complete with a massage.

There’s that magic word, detoxification.  I knew it: The buggers are slipping in a little rehab with the massage.

Kelly’s Spa at the Mission Inn, Riverside, CA: The Kelly’s Fountain of Youth Signature Body Treatment refreshes your skin with an antioxidant Chardonnay wine bubble bath, and a Chardonnay wine grape seed body polish. The experience is complete with a massage and paraffin treatment.

Unoaked, okay.  Barrel fermented, cool.  But  what in the world is an antioxidant chardonnay?  And I don’t even want to go down the paraffin treatment thought association, because I am sure it involves pouring hot wax on the most sensitive areas of the body.  I’m paying how much for this again?

Château Élan

Château Élan

Château Élan, Braselton, GA: The Château Winery Ritual infuses the body with the anti-oxidant power of grape seeds during a wine bath, followed with a body scrub and mud wrap.

Mud wraps are meant to encourage weight loss, but keep in mind that the reason it works is because you perspire away great gobs of water, and—according to the FDA—rapid and excessive fluid loss is dangerous because it can bring on severe dehydration and upset the balance of important electrolytes in the body.

The Spa at Silverado Resort, Napa, CA: The Chardonnay Sugar Scrub blends in Chardonnay, Shea butter and six natural oils to exfoliate and nourish the skin, healing even the driest of skin.

Not sure which ‘natural oils’ are used in Silverado skin nourishing treatments, but here are six that occur to me: Hog sweat, decaying adipose tissue from corpses, crude petroleum, Popeye’s anorexic girlfriend, secretions from pre-orbital glands in musk oxen during mating season and WD-40.

Masque of the Red Death

Masque of the Red Death

I suppose I sort of rained on the spa parade, huh?  Well, nobody listens to me anyway.  I’m lucky if I can get people to chudder.


If the idea of a booze massage still interests you, here is who you can contact:


Allie Hembree         

Public Relations Manager

International SPA Association


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Michigan By The Bottle By The Glass

Shannon and Cortney Casey—a couple of local wine kids who are indeed technically young enough to be my kids—have come up with a bad-ass way of promoting Michigan wines.

Two ways, actually.

Shannon and Cortney

Shannon and Cortney, sittin in a tree…

The first time I encountered them was via their video/podcast website, Michigan By The Bottle.  Established in 2009, MBTB is dedicated entirely to wines from Michigan, which the Caseys rightly believe are both under-represented on the national scene and under-appreciated here at home.  Their videos feature winemaker interviews, travel diaries and visual tasting notes and are meant to target what Cortney and Shannon consider an untapped, state-wide wealth of potential fans of decent Michigan wines.

Naturally, they have their work cut out for them considering that Michigan is, for the most part, composed of farmers and homeboys and factory workers who have not yet really begun to smoke-out the pleasures of sophisticated wine.

If they never do, it won’t be for MBTB’s lack of a full-court press.

The Tasting Room

sneakpeekSo, in December, 2012, they opened a unique tasting room in Shelby Township, joining forces with six high-profile Michigan wineries: Chateau Aeronautique (Jackson); Chateau de Leelanau (Suttons Bay); Domaine Berrien Cellars (Berrien Springs); Gill’s Pier Vineyard & Winery (Northport); Peninsula Cellars (Traverse City); Sandhill Crane Vineyards (Jackson).

By the cities noted, folks who understand the various Michigan microclimates will recognize that all four major Michigan wine trails, Lake Michigan Shore Wine Trail, Leelanau Peninsula, Old Mission Peninsula and Southeast Michigan Pioneer Wine Trail, are represented.

Likewise, all six wineries are family-run, which, to the Caseys, was an important factor in forming the partnerships.

The Players

For background, Cortney is a lithe, athletic young woman—evidence of her obsession with distance running—and also a hell of a good writer.  In fact, prior to opening the tasting room, she was a reporter for C & G Newspapers, covering Sterling Heights and Macomb County.  The articles on the MBTB website are not only well written, but a tad more professional than those you might find on this one.

Shannon in typical work outfit

Shannon in typical work outfit

Her husband Shannon is a big, intense fellow; I’m not sure if he can act, but if he can, I’d cast him as Falstaff in Henry IV in a cocaine heartbeat.  By day he is sales director at BBC Title Agency in Royal Oak; by night, he can be found pouring wine at the tasting room.  It must be said, Shannon: Such a burning-the-candle-at-both-ends work ethic is most un-Falstaffian of you.

The room itself is slick, clean and personal, with a long, wooden, L-shaped bar, small tables for those who prefer not to belly up, and one wall lined with hundreds of wine bottles from the winery consorts, available for prices—like those attached to most Michigan wines, which are pretty close to phenomenal.

The only personal issue I have with the place is that it is on the opposite side of town from me; I’d love to hang out there more often.

The Tasting Menu

Michigan By The Bottles’ tasting menu options are somewhat unusual too, however delightful.  Full Flights come with five 2 oz. samples, plus Flight Bites (small plates of cheese and chocolate). Mini Flights are available as three 2 oz. samples; you can add Flight Bites for a nominal charge.

The night I showed up, I tucked into the following:

2008 Manigold Vineyard Gewurztraminer from Peninsula Cellars:  I figured that if they had the stones to list an ’08 gewurtz, I had the stones to give it a shot.  For most wineries outside of Alsace, of course, a five-year-old gewürztraminer would be seriously beyond its shelf life, but this one remained solid and complex with no real sign of fading.  Pretty floral perfumes on the nose and dry, full-bodied notes of peach and melon on the palate.

marsanne2011 Marsanne from Berrien Cellars:  I love this winery, which I actually tripped over for the first time when completely lost and wandering around Berrien Springs in a foul mood.  They love unusual (for Michigan) varietals like roussanne, lemberger and marsanne.  This one showed citrus, stone fruit, honey, green apple and a hint of almond.

2011 Pinot Noir from Chateau de Leelanau: This tough-to-grow, often fickle varietal has made remarkable strides in Michigan, especially as vines age and vinification technique improves.  Chateau de Leelanau’s version covers all the expected notes of pinot with integrity: Sweet currant and black cherry flavors nestling in a leathery backbone.

Chateau Aeronautique

Chateau Aeronautique

2011 Pinot Gris from Chateau Aeronautique:  I was surprised to learn that they could grow anything in Jackson besides felons and Republicans, let alone pinot gris.  This one proved impressive; slightly sweet with complex aromas of honeysuckle and pear and a palate which includes pear, apple, nectarine and a bit of caramel on the finish.  The wine was a revelation—now I wish they’d reveal the origin of their odd moniker.

Kris and Ryan of Gill's Pier

Kris and Ryan of Gill’s Pier

2011 Riesling from Gills’ Pier:  Had to go with this one since riesling is among Gill’s Pier’s main raisons d’être.  I like theirs especially because, for some strange viticultural reason, they always seem to show several nuance notes unusual for riesling.  2011 is no exception, leading with honey, pineapple and creamed peach on the nose followed by somewhat more predictable flavors of evergreen, apple and the elusive, but desirable petrol that a lot of Michigan rieslings can’t seem to locate.

In all, a cool east side destination joint run by a rockin couple who are obviously very much in love—that’s why I figured that Valentine’s Day would be a good one to give them and Michigan By The Bottle Tasting Room a well-earned plug.


Twitter: @michbythebottle

Facebook: michbythebottle

Supporting the state with every sip!
Michigan By The Bottle Tasting Room

45645 Hayes, Shelby Township

Posted in Michigan, MIDWEST | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Man To Man, The Best Sparkling Wine For Valentine’s Day?

Biagio Cru & Estate Wines, a vegan-friendly wine distributor based in  Roslyn Heights, NY, has announced the release of Égalité—the first wine ever created to support equal rights for words whose first and last letters both contain an accent aigu.

Donald Watson's mummy

Donald Watson’s mummy

Now, here please note that the French have taken a perfectly good word like ‘ague’—meaning malaria—and made it all Frenchy-sounding and italicky.

Just as, in 1935, Donald Watson—a mummified Englishman who looks like he should be in a sarcophagus in the Ancient Egypt wing of the British Museum—decided he could start making up words like ‘vegan’ to replace the perfectly serviceable and easy to understand term ‘non-dairy vegetarian’.

The Biagio Cru & Estate Wines Slogan is:  ‘No animal derivatives are used in the wines that we produce for Biagio Cru’

How funny is that?  A Mission Statement bragging that your wine contains no shrew entrails, cat sphincters or antelope gonads?

Well, it gets funnier—part of the inevitable stumble into bullshit  hypocrisy that trips up your garden-variety vegan every time.

Biago’s web site contains detailed descriptions of each wine in its vast vegan portfolio, and yet,  here are verbatim excerpts from a few, hand before God:

Ribeye Red

Ribeye Red

Biagio Chianti Riserva:  ‘…Pairs well with grilled meats… Also great with tuna steaks.’

Biagio Prosecco:  ‘…perfect as an aperitif and also paired with fish…’

Biagio Moscato Torrontés: ‘…It’s great poured over vanilla ice cream…’

And perhaps—nay doubtless—this is the classic:

Biagio Ribeye Red:  ‘…compliments your favorite cuts of steak…’

Not sure whether to be more amused or confused.

Anyway, About That Égalité:

In fact, having just re-read my first sentence, I realized that I made a horrible syntactic error in my transcription of the opening lines of the Égalité press release.  It should have read:

‘Please see below news release about the launch of Égalité sparkling wine—the first wine created in support of equality for gay Americans.’

Darren Restivo

Darren Restivo

Darren Restivo, a Biagio principal, maintains:

“With same-sex marriage now legal in states from Maine to New York and Iowa to Washington, this is a time to recognize the hard-earned progress that has been made in pursuit of equality. There is no better way to celebrate love, marriage and now equality than with this spectacular sparkling wine.”

Death poor, anyone?

Death Pool, anyone?

Here is the point where I lay off the jokes and raise a glass of Égalité for their support of gay marriage, which gratefully, is finally getting the attention and respect it deserves.  And when a couple of the conservative old fucks on the Supreme Court like Justice Anthony Kennedy decide to die off, there may be a real chance of overturning that antiquated, homophobic, insane DOMA—the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

And obviously, for couples, straight or gay, who support that cause, there could be no better wine to drink with your lover on Valentine’s Day.

Now, It Suddenly Gets Funny Again

Of course, precisely why—other than the name—Égalité should be a particularly gay-friendly wine is hard to understand, but Biagio goes to great lengths to try to make me understand it.

Typical focus group

Typical focus group

The claim is made that the wine was only produced after ‘exhaustive research by a focus group that brought together gay and straight participants with diverse backgrounds, including leaders in the fight for same-sex marriage…’

Don’t know about you, but a single focus group does not sound too exhaustive to me, though more to the point, it sounds like Biagio got together a bunch of people based on their sexual orientation—who may or may not know the first thing about wine—and asked them to define their wine.


Who Knows? 

labelWhat I do know that I really appreciated Biago’s claim that ‘Égalité is the perfect touch for galas…’ 

Way to drop in the double-éntendré, Biagio.

In any case, Égalité is a dry, single accent aigu Crémant from Burgundy; nicely aromatic with overtones of peach blossoms;  lively bubbles explode and toasty hazel nuts and crisp citrus flavors show considerable complexity, in part due to the Burgundian requirement that a Crémant remain on the lees for nine months.

It retails for around $23.

ali forney centerAs further incentive to travel down this humanitarian road on Valentine’s Day, Biagio will make a contribution of $1000 each to The Trevor Project, The Ali Forney Center, Equality Maine, Center on Halsted and the GLSEN. Additionally, for every bottle of Égalité sold, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to organizations dedicated to helping LGBTQ youth conquer life’s challenges.

So, again, jokes aside:  Three cheers for the végans, the Frénch and the légalité of same-sex marriage.

Posted in Burgundy, FRANCE | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment