Chew Chew Charlie Was A Racketeer? Say It Isn’t So, Feds!

Of the many strange pearls of advice my father offered me, this one stuck:

 ‘Never trust anyone whose name can be translated as ‘Vietcong Pig’s Feet’.

puleI once—once—had dinner at Chuck E. Fromage—Charlie Trotter’s eponymous, over-priced, upscale pizzeria on W. Augusta Blvd. in Chicago, where I ordered a deep-dish Ukrainian pizza topped with pule (smoked donkey cheese from the Zasavica Reserve north of Belgrade; $616 per gram).

Alas, I was never able to secure reservations at his flagship restaurant Charlie Trotter’s, considered one of the world’s top and most modestly-named restaurants up until 2009, when it closed its doors forever under accusations that its signature dish—Pig Trotters with Smoked Coconut, Clotted Spring Onion, Venezuelan Chocolate, Cumin Scented Apple Chutney, Saskatchewan Chanterelle Mushroom, Curried and Clotted Sunchoke, New Zealand Spinach and Chambord Clotted Curd—was made with feet from pigs previously used in invasive surgical training exercises by the US military.

After his ignominious departure from Shytown, having landed on his pig’s feet,Trotter opened a joint called ‘C’ in Guantanamo, Cuba, which closed in 2010 after the Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular finally translated the restaurant’s signature dish: Waterboarded Terrorist Spleens with Gitmo Bay Mussels, Clotted Quinoa, Sweet and Sour English Cucumber, Marinated Hamachi in Green Tomato Juice, Kalamata Olives and Avocado Clotted Cream.

'I want YOU to buy my knock-off Burgundy'

‘I want YOU to buy my knock-off Burgundy’

At that point, Mr. Trotter sort of fell off the edge of the culinary map, and it was not until yesterday, June 13, 2013 that his name again made headlines.

It seems that in his effort to liquidate his liquid assets prior to border-hopping, Mr. Trotter sold a counterfeit magnum of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti 1945 to a pair of Manhattan wine collectors for $46,000—roughly the same price as a black-market kidney from a waterboarded Guantanamo Bay terrorist goes for.

Does the story have ‘legs’, as journalists say?  Or does it have ‘pig’s feet’, as we anti-journalists say?  That is, in part, an open-ended question to be debated by those above my pay grade in Frrokaj et al v. CHT Corp et al, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, No. 13-04376.

P.J. Huffstutter

P.J. Huffstutter

My initial cynicism about the whole story arises from an article in Reuters by anti-research journalist P.J. Huffstutter (is this a name or a character from Nicholas Nickelby?) who claims, ‘Trotter made plans to sell thousands of bottles from his restaurant’s wine collection, drawing interest from wine aficionados who admired the restaurant’s collection of Bordeaux and cabernets.’

Caveat Emptor

The offending bouteille

The offending chef  and the offending bouteille…

Now, you would think that a bonafide wine aficionado would know that DRC is neither a Bordeaux nor a cabernet, just as you would imagine that they would have recognized that the spelling on the bogus label—‘Domaine du la Romani-Contée—was a bit suspect.  Considering that 1945 was not the same volume-vintage in Burgundy as it was in Bordeaux, a pro might also realize that the chance of an estate like DRC, whose .750s from that year sell for considerably more than $100,000, having actually bottled any magnums is slim to none—roughly the same odds as getting a fair trial in a Cuban detention facility.

Maureen Downey

Maureen Downey

So, before I trotter out any personal accusations, I will consult my buddy Maureen Downey, whose political upchucks make me upchuck, but whose expertise in spotting counterfeit wine is unparalleled.

My question is basic, Mo baby:

Did the Michelin three-star chef, 2013 Culinary Hall of Fame®  inductee, author of 14 cookbooks and the TV host of the nationally aired PBS cooking series The Kitchen Sessions with Charlie Trotter recognize immediately that he was getting hoodwinked on his hootch?  Or, was this just a mistake that quite a few collectors and restaurant owners have made?

Suppertime at Gitmo

Suppertime at Gitmo

As a 2013 inductee to the Crunk-Crazed Critics of Craft-Free Creativity Hall of Fame®, I like to think that the last scenario makes more sense.  See, as you may have noticed, I am not the world’s biggest fan of Chef Chuck, who by all accounts is a slave-driving, loudmouthed, narcissistic hosebanger possessing far less talent than his drooling sycophants would have you believe.  Therefore, I would much rather think of him not as a supremely diabolical mastermind in the counterfeit underworld, but as a dumb shit.

And I do think precisely that:  Otherwise, why—when preparing then-President George W. Bush Bahía de Guantánamo Mohammed al-Qahtani Appendix with Waterboard Cress Curd, Gitmo Iguana Semen, Rapefruit, Better-Red-Than-Dead Curry, Detainee 063 Testicles and Toasted Tobacco Leaves in Detainee 635 Menstrual Blood-Orange Sorbet—he didn’t realize that, here in the States, Cuban tobacco is illegal?

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French To Take Some Canned Heat at Vinexpo 2013

I’m going, I’m going,

Where the water tastes like wine;

We can jump in the water,

Stay drunk all the time.

– ‘Going Up The Country’; Canned Heat, 1968

Next week at Vinexpo in Bordeaux, Winestar will introduce a line of canned wine from Le Château de l’Ille in the AOC Corbières.  Quoting directly from ‘L.A. Times: Daily Dish—The Inside Scoop on Food in Los Angeles’:

‘Will Winestar’s single-serving cans create a riot in the hallowed halls of the international wine and spirits fair?  Maybe not.

The Paris-based company isn’t dealing in the generic swill those adorable single-serving bottles typically hold.’

L.: Irene Virbila R.: Marcus Gavius Apicius

L.: Irene Virbila
R.: Marcus Gavius Apicius

‘Bottles’?

The piece was written by columnist Irene Virbila, who is not only the most physically repulsive food writer since Marcus Gavius ‘The Hounds Chewed My Nose Off’ Apicius in 1 AD, but a complete and utter hosbian hagatha to boot—so mean-spirited that restrauteurs like Noah Ellis of the recently opened Red Medicine in Beverly Hills, refuse to serve her.

Wilfred Wong

Wilfred Wong

I would assume that Francis Ford and Sofia Coppola—who I wrote about earlier this week—agree with this overall assessment of assinity, and I’m sure that Barokes Wines of Australia does. The latter trademarked Vinsafe™, a system which allows premium wine to be canned with stability, although it is still Not Vinsafe™ For Work: Barokes’ canned Cabernet Shiraz Merlot (Bin 121) took a platinum medal at last year’s Consumer Wine Awards in Lodi, CA, while Coppola’s canned, sparkling Sofia Blanc de Blancs received 90 points from Wilfred Wong who is always right—despite being always wong.

TotoIf old butterface scuffin-muffin, brains-of-a-puffin believes these wines are ‘generic swill’, she’s stuck a fork in her already questionably credibootie once and for all.

Begone, Virbilious, and your little dog, too.  Oh, that’s Russ Parsons?

Winestar Creator Cédric Segal Insists that Canned Wine is ‘Classy’…

That may be the case, Céd, but you know which other creators think their creations are classy?

Frank Stallone and Carrot Top

Frank Stallone and Carrot Top

Jackie Stallone, Dina Lohan and Lynne Spears.

The difference?  A twenty-four-pack of Winestar cost $78, and you could probably book Frank Stallone for half that.

Segal’s professed goal is to target young people who have stopped taking wine on picnics, or when they travel or during marathon bath salts sessions, claiming that he wants a a product that ‘gets away from the bad reputation of boxed wine’—although, ironically, bag-in-the-boxes like R. Müller Riesling and Pepperwood Grove Old Vine Zinfandel are far further along the ‘classy’ trail than tinned, low-alcohol Aventura Strawberry MoscatoSpirit Airlines spiritless spirit specialty.

Another irony?  Cédric would like his Winestar cans to become the Nespresso of Wine, saying, “What Nespresso did for the coffee market with single servings of high-quality coffee, we want to achieve for the wine market.”

Clipboard pukeI say ‘ironic’ because Nespresso—pre-apportioned, single-use capsules containing ground coffee and flavorings and requiring a product-specific, two hundred dollar Nespresso machine—has been around since 1976; it languished for years and years on the ‘who gives a shite’ marketing back-burner: Not my first choice for a business model.   That said, Nespresso is a good—even great product—especially for the novice caffeine addict without a bourgeois background in baristology, because it is very hard to screw up a homemade espresso if you follow Nesdirections.  But to me, the name draws to mind (and alas, palate) that genuinely awful coffee powder Nescafé, precursor to nearly-as-awful freeze-dried coffee ‘crystals’.

And indeed, both Nespresso and Nescafé are sons of the same father, the Nestlé Group of Lausanne, Switzerland.

But, that’s neither here nor there nor Tiananmen Square; it will all come down on June 16 – 30 in Booth KL41 at Vinexpo, where Cédric will set up shop to extol the virtues of plastic-lined aluminium (as the Canucks say) wine cans:

“We worked with Ball Packaging—among the world’s leaders in the manufacture of sealed packaging—to develop a can liner designed specifically for wine, impervious to oxygen or light. It preserves its quality without altering the taste and without oxidation’.

bpaIt is not clear how conventional, sealed, un-linered cans are pervious to oxygen and/or light, nor does it suggest how Winestar liners differ from the standard coating that nearly all aluminum cans already require in order to prevent the acids in low pH products (like wine) from degrading the metal.  But, more to the point, he will likely not discuss Bisphenol A, a plastic can liner additive that doubles as an endocrine disruptor which numerous studies have found to have negative health effects on humans; particularly, pregnant female humans.

But, That’s Neither Here Nor There Nor Intensive Care… 

Of course, if you do manage to get a Winestar rep to discuss BPA, monsieur or madame will no doubt insist that the FDA has not established a significant health risk of Bisphenol A through exposure from aluminum cans.

To which you will reply:

monsantomilkman3Really!?  The same FDA who approved Monsanto’s genetically engineered cattle drug rBGH, which failed to gain approval in either Europe or Canada despite intense lobbying?

“The same FDA who an insider, in a White House ‘certified’ letter to President Obama, claims is riddled with politics, conflicts of interest and outright corruption, and is, as the letter says, ‘fundamentally broken’?

“The same FDA who now employs Michael R. Taylor as  Senior Advisor to the Commissioner who is the same Michael R. Taylor who was a Monsanto lawyer prior to becoming a Monsanto VP, and who wrote the FDA’s rBGH labeling guidelines?”

If that doesn’t doesn’t quell the quips and quotes, let me know—I’ll have the Vinexpo sound engineer cue the canned laughter.

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No Honor-Roll Among Thieves: Balmy & Clod Rob Château d’Yquem

Granted, when Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker began their cigar-chompin’ shitstorm in 1932, the dessert wine industry had not really taken hold in the Midwest.  So, they are to be forgiven for targeting banks and gas stations rather than hundred-point châteaux on the Garonne, which, in all fairness, would have been five thousand miles away from their comfort zone.

d'Yquem in d'Autumn

d’Yquem in d’Autumn

These days, however, our globe has shrunk.  Distance is less of a concern to such theatrical thieves and thick-headed thugs.  And so, when person or persons unknown broke into the warehouse of Château d’Yquem last Sunday and stole 380 bottles of prestigious, overpriced wine, it is quite possible that the crooks shared some DNA with the notorious Texas lovebirds.

Why would I suggest such a far-fetched theory?  Because, like the cretinous couple who terrorized law enforcement during the Great Depression, whoever ganked Graves’ grapey goodies were, apparently, not the sharpest shivs in the rucksack.

Luckless Lucksters

Top: Toilet paper Bottom: Stuffed possum

Top: Toilet paper
Bottom: Stuffed possum

Let’s first take a respectful glance at the inbred, dyed-in-wool, redneck stupidity of Bonnie ‘There’s Page Numbers On Our Toilet Paper’ Parker and Clyde ‘We Own Five Stuffed Possums’ Barrow:

  • In 1933, police still relied on sketches to track down public enemies.  No need in this case, as B&C left a bunch of photographs of themselves in an abandoned Missouri hide-out—including the famous one of Bonnie smoking a stogie.
  • On January 6, 1933, the Barrow gang wandered into a trap that had been set for another criminal.  They only escaped after blowing away the deputy sheriff, turning a charge of car theft into one of capital murder.
  • bonnie with cigarOn April 15 of that same year, Barrow accidentally fired his Browning Automatic while cleaning it, alerting police, who sent a five-man team to apprehend them.  With more experience in shoot-outs than the cops, Clyde killed two of them, and the gang escaped—leaving behind a camera filled with updated photos.
  • Bonnie_Clyde_CarOn June 10, 1933, Barrow ignored a ‘bridge out’ sign and flipped the gang’s getaway car into a ravine where it burst into flames, causing such severe burns to old ‘Flake ‘n’ Bake’ Bonnie’s left leg that she hopped or was carried until the day she died.
  • Speaking of the day she died (May 23, 1934),  even knowing that they were the subject of a national manhunt, they drove around in broad daylight and directly to the location where the posse suspected they’d be heading: A family reunion in Bienville Parish, Louisiana.  Bonnie was shot twenty-six times; Clyde, seventeen.

Now, Compare and Contrast…

On June 10, 2013, thieves broke into the fabled Premier Cru Supérieur Château d’Yquem, having forgotten to disable the alarm system.  The Police Municipale were alerted immediately, and claim that the nectar noobs only escaped by seconds—and with a lot less loot than you assume they wanted considering that they only wound up with 32 cases of half-bottles: Pretty piss-poor pickings with 65,000 bottles (5417 cases) having been produced.

That’s right, they stole 380 half-bottles; .375 ml. per.

Not being a seasoned criminal, but yet possessed of a criminal mindset, I would imagine that were I to break into the only Superior First Growth white wine estate in Bordeaux, my ‘going-in’ plan would be to steal full bottles (right after I ripped the Groupe Spécial Mobile out of main alarm panel), just as, if I was robbing a bank, I would take the twenties, fifties and hundreds before I took the ones and fives.  Likewise, if I burglarized Home Depot I’d go for the Hilti SID 18-volt Impact Drivers before the drywall screws.  At Payless ShoesSalvatore Ferragamo python-skin loafers first, shoe horns second.

d'yquem labelAnd, thinking out loud, I would probably have gone for a better vintage too.  Figure that 2010 was an average-to-good harvest, but nothing to write home about. And whereas these bottles of wine may sell for around $170 (according to www.vinopedia.com), had the vino villains opted to yoink full .750s from 2009, they’d have had bottles worth in excess of $900 each.  Total take, therefore, was around $65 k when it could have been nearly half a million.

Well, there is book smart and street smart, but apparently there is also Sauternes smart, and Bon Nuit & Claude were, evidently, not the ripest grapes in the harvest basket.  The only way these French felons will not be popped is if the entire gendarmerie turns out to be cut from Inspector Clouseau cloth.

In which case, they are probably discussing the jack over a half-bottle of black market 2010 d’Yquem as we speak.  Potentially leading to the following hilarity:

113840284_Herbert_L_340401b“Chief Inspector Dreyfus, please hand me ze win key.”

“Winkey??  Clouseau, you just said winkey!!”

“Yes, to open ze bottle of win, s’il vous plaît?  Ze Le Creuset win key.”

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When Is A Snow Cone A ‘No’ Cone? Ask Francis Ford Coppola

As a phenomenal film forger, a wicked wine whiz and a fellow Detroiter (by birth, anyway), it is hard for me not to harbor a soft spot for Francis Ford Coppola.  A forgiving and patient soft spot, too—one that is able to overlook Godfather III and Finian’s Rainbow.

Early Rubicon red

Early Rubicon red

But, Job I ain’t.  F.F. has earned more money from his winery than he ever did in Hollywood, and under the winemaking skills of a horde of hired heavyweights, he has produced some really, really nice wines—especially his early Rubicon reds.

How do I know he makes more from his grapes than from his Godfathers?  Because he brags about it, that’s how.  And rightly so:  Winemaking is a tough, tough business in which to turn a nickel.

So, with all that success in the vineyard, forty-five years of praise and Oscars, even a personality cameo in Star Wars (George Lucas claims he based his character Han Solo on Coppola), why would he feel the need to delve into the high-tech world of snow cones?

Your guess is as good as mine.

Screen Abstract, Early Years

Carmine and Sonny

Carmine and Sonny

The son of a Detroit Symphony Orchestra flautist, the late Carmine Coppola, the ‘Ford’ in Francis’s name is an ode to Henry, who his old man counted as a friend and patron.  Francis began his cinematic career in his mid-teens, writing, producing and directing 8 mm films (which should be worth a ton if the nitrate hasn’t dissolved), then went on to Hofstra University as a theater major—one of his classmates was James ‘Sonny Corleone’ Caan.

dementia_13_poster_02He entered UCLA Film School for graduate studies, where he made some strange horror flicks and at least one soft-core porn movie.  With a cash infusion from Roger Corman, he wrote and produced  Dementia 13, a cult classic.  His 1966 UCLA ‘thesis’ film You’re A Big Boy Now was a minor critical success, and at the age of 28, he was offered the chance to direct Fred Astaire and Petula Clark in Finian’s Rainbow.  The film sucked, but it ignited the fuse beneath his ample ancestral Aragonese  ass and his cinematic career was off to the races.

Wine Abstract, All Years

Gustave and Francis never met.

Gustave and Francis never met.

In 1975, flush with Godfather fame and Godfather fortune, Francis Ford bought the Napa estate and adjoining vineyard of Gustave Niebaum, the Finnish sea captain who founded Inglenook Winery in 1879.

A side note on Inglenook:  Prior to the mid-1960s, when Inglenook was inhaled by corporate interests more concerned with bulk than breeding, the winery was responsible for some of Napa’s top sauvignon blanc and pinot noir.  Coppola recognized this, and after releasing a number of vintages under the label Niebaum-Coppola, he purchased the former Inglenook Winery chateau and renamed it Rubicon, from the Italian root word for red.  It also refers to Caesar’s crossing of the famous river of the same name.  It was the future emperor’s ‘point of no return’ in his conquest of most of civilization.

Coppola initiated a further name change in 2011, when he acquired the Inglenook trademark.  His wines are now released, alpha omega style, as ‘Inglenook’—a name for which he paid, he claims, more than he did for the entire winery.

Snow Cone Abstract

Like salt, ice is one of those historical commodities that we didn’t know we needed until we tried it—and then, we couldn’t live without it.  Hence, it’s hard to grasp that for the most part, ice remained a wintertime luxury up until about the time that Gustave Niebaum was going to sea captain school in Helsinki.

Where ice comes from

Where ice comes from

Commercial ice manufacture went through several stages, but the one that resulted in snow cones  was the brainchild of Boston entrepreneur Frederic Tudor.  He invented a method by which a horse and plow was used to cut lake ice, river ice (even Walden Pond ice, as Thoreau mentions in Walden; or, Life in the Woods) into blocks, which he insulated with sawdust and sent by wagon to iceless cities like Savannah and Charleston.  As the story goes, when these wagons passed through Baltimore, kids would swarm to them and beg for ice shavings.  Apparently, anticipating this, mothers would make sweet syrups to drizzle on top.  Egg custard was said to be a particular favorite.

In the 1880s, while Niebaum was planting his first vinifera vines,  theaters began serving  snow cones to movie-goers during the summer, giving the frozen confection a sort of upscale, sophisticated cache.

Which brings us back around full circle to sophisticated Frankie Ford and his upscale winery.

Winemaking is Like Movie-Making Because…(?)

“Both are a form of show business, of theater. Wine is so much more than a beverage. It’s a romance, a story, a drama—all of those things that are basically putting on a show…”

Smokin Leslie

Smokin Leslie

“Years ago, when you went out with a girl you used to talk about what movies you saw.  Now you talk about what wine you drink. We’ re at a heightened state of interest in wine in this country. Wine has even become a prop in a movie, like cigarettes were in the ’ 40s. A girl could flirt holding a cigarette. Now they don’t like cigarettes in movies but wine is a great prop…”

Smokin Sofia

Smokin Sofia

“To be great, a wine has to have its own personality, individuality.  It’s like greatness in a person. There are qualities that you find in a person that make them unique.  It their terroir; terroir isn’t a concept that is limited to wine; it can be found in people and even in film.  My daughter Sofia’s filmmaking has terroir.  When she makes a film, there is only one person who could have made it. A lot of people can make a movie. Ten other directors could have done a good job. And then every once in a while there’s a director whose work is something you can’t find anywhere else. That would be terroir: A uniqueness rooted in the origins of the thing.”

The above quotes are all from Francis Ford Coppola, Sonoma’s most famous vintner…

…So Now You Know

SkyliteGroup-215But, Mr. Coppola, it begs the question: Do snow cones possess terroir—even those made with Bordeaux snow topped with mud from Château Margaux?  Or did their association with grotty Baltimore and Depression-era America, where they were nicknamed ‘penny sundaes’ because of their price, sort of sap their stature?

I’m opting for the latter.

Nonetheless, 42 West, an entertainment-industry public relations firm that represents Coppola and Coppola concerns, has urged me to pass along to you, the consumer who has run out of fun things to do with wine other than drink it, this ‘adult-friendly twist on a childhood frozen treat’:

Pinot Grigio Meyer Lemon Shiso Snow Cone

5 teaspoons Emerald Label Diamond Pinot Grigio

 ½ ounce Skylite Meyer Lemon Shiso

8 ounces crushed or shaved ice

There are a few other recipes using various Diamond wines—Coppola’s middle-range pours made from purchased grapes, AVA uncertain, but you get the picture.  By using only 1/30 of a bottle of wine per snow cone, it probably won’t move a lot of wine out of Emerald Label Diamond cellar.

Baltimore's Johnston Square

Baltimore’s Johnston Square

Which is just as well, since the drinks sound like something your friends will laugh at you for serving them anyway, and torment you relentlessly in the Man Cave.  Five teaspoons of wine??  There’s more alcohol than that in a glass of O’Doul’s.

Well, so the idea is not to get schnockered, but to ‘bring back cherished childhood summer memories’, unless of course your childhood was spent as a banger on E. Preston and Brentwood in Baltimore’s Johnston Square, in which case, you won’t require a snow cone to cool you down—the morgue should work just fine.

So either Francis Ford owns Skylite Snowballs, or he was really, really busy when the 42 West folks called with the snow cone concept and he just said, ‘Okay, sure, whatever,’ or the wisened wino somehow doesn’t grok that adding high-fructose corn syruped, neon-colored, artificially-flavored goop to a $20 bottle of wine is an abomination unto the Lord.

Worst... Coppola film... ever...

Worst… Coppola film… ever…

Or, God Forbid…

…what if it’s just a gimmick to sell, sell, sell, sell, sell, without regard for propriety  of product, a need for genuine substance or the preservation of the Francis Ford ‘I Don’t Need The Money But I’ll Take It Anyway’ Coppola family legacy??

Which, now that you mention it, sort of explains Twixt  too.

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He Who Laughs Last Laughs Longest… At The Longest Word

I expect to take grief for what I am about to say, but taking grief is table stakes for this column.  Besides, deep inside the dustiest nook of our most politically correct consciences, we all know it is true:

Once Germans stopped being scary, they started being funny.

L.: Good plan R.: Bad plan

L.: Good plan
R.: Bad plan

Not ‘clever’ funny either.  ‘Ha ha’ funny.  You see, if the Third Reich—which frightened the bejeezus out of the planet in the middle of the last century—had not had this peculiar little ‘thing’ about Jewish people, causing them to reject Einstein’s theoretics and exile Teller, Frisch and Bloch (all four, instrumental creators of the nuclear bomb) and if the Dominion of Dumkopfs had not tried to swallow Mother Russia like a feckin’ Knödel in the middle of winter, there is very little doubt that they would have won the war.  According to Polish journalist Igor Witkowski, ‘German wartime research made some of the greatest technological leaps in the history of our civilization…’

german flying saucerNot only that, but the weapons they were developing were far in advance of anything the allies had or were going to have, and at war’s end, many were dangerously near completion  These included a prototype flying saucer, devices that could emit sound at a fatal wavelength, rifles that could fire around corners and ‘see’ in the dark.  And don’t get me started on the Luftwaffe.  Considering that at the time that the Nazis invaded Poland, German aircraft were made of wood and canvas, it staggers one’s innate fear-factor that a mere six years later they launched the Messerschmitt-262—the first jet-propelled fighter plane.

In short, we all came insanely close to speaking German as our native tongue.

confusing german wine labelWhich is one of the myriad things about Germany that strikes me as so goddamn funny:  der Deutsche language.

I was once commissioned to write an article entitled, ‘How To Decipher A German Wine Label’, which is pretty hilarious in and of itself when you consider that most countries are not quite so anal about their wine labels and you can figure out what’s in the bottle prior to reading a two thousand word label primer.

Freddy Bill

Freddy Bill

Not the Germans.  Their need for Ordnungssinn, or ‘order’, derived in part from  virtues expounded by the ‘Soldier-King’, Friedrich Wilhelm I,  requires  all-encompassing efficiency and meticulous record-keeping, which is why a Rheingau wine label may included such minutiae as how ripe the grapes were when picked, whether sugar has been added to boost alcohol or the sequential order in which the wine was submitted for testing.

German people love this kind of OCD detail as part of their overall wine law called Prädikatswein.  Classification so consumes them that in certain parts of Hessische Bergstraße they actually keep track of winemakers via wrist tattoos and in the Rhineland-Palatinate, vintners who practice ‘chaptalization’—the addition of sugar to unfermented grape must to boost alcohol—are required by federal law to wear white fabric patches in the shape of a sugar cube.

eszett in various formsI can wax from now until the Milchkuh come home about Qualitätswein bestimmter Anbaugebiete, Trockenbeerenauslese and the Winzergenossenschaft co-operative, but that is not my mission here today.  Today, my Grund für Sein is simply  to make fun of the idiotically long noun-compounding words that show up with idiotic regularity in anything written in the eszett-extolling, umlaut-utilizing, consonant-shifting High German phonology.  And perhaps, the Aryan self-consciousness about the same.

Moronic Teutonic Phonics…

I write such polemical words not because I am a politically prejudiced peckerhead in particular, but because I recently read that Germany has capitulated to the tyrannical EU—The Thousand-Year Kaiserreich of the Twenty-First Century—and eliminated from its official orthography German’s longest word: Rindfleischetikettierungsueberwachungsaufgabenuebertragungsgesetz.

German beef

German beef

Wiki it and access the ‘sound’ option—it takes a full four seconds to pronounce.   For the morbidly curious, it means ‘the supervision of beef labeling’.

Again with the labeling, Marmeladingers?

Well, it turns out that the sixty-five letter atrocity isn’t (wasn’t) even the law’s full name; it was considered the official ‘short’ title.  In full, the beef label law is (was): Gesetz zur Übertragung der Aufgaben für die Überwachung der Rindfleischetikettier-ungsueberwachungsaufgabenuebertragungsgesetz.

See, Americans can’t wrap their somewhat limited imaginations around such tongue-twisting palate-pounders and will almost always use initials in place of the actual words, because in 2013, who’s got time to spend four seconds saying a single word??

Therefore, R.I.P. Rindfleischetikettierungsueberwachungsaufgabenuebertragungsgesetz.

‘God is Faithful; He Will Not Let You Be Tempted Beyond What You Can Bear’.  – 1 Corinthians 10:13

long welsh wordNot that you are alone in multisyllabic monstrosities, dear Aryan Nation (not you, you foul, anti-everything-but-white-cracker chrome-domes: Real Aryans): The Welsh are just as bad.  In Wales, there is a train station called Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, and if you interrupt the railway’s tight schedule, your intercession is known as ‘cyfrwngddarostynedigaeth’.

Likewise, Turkish is an agglutinative language, carrying the theoretical potential for words of infinite length.  In which case, the 70-letter term ‘Muvaffakiyetsizleştiricileştiriveremeyebileceklerimizdenmişsinizcesine’ may be a Turkish morpheme.

marypoppinsThe Spanish call a 56645-side polygon an entakismyriahexakisquilioletracosiohexacontapentágon, and with their penchant for tacking an ‘o’ onto the end of words that don’t really need it (for example, ‘sexo’ and ‘tuna fisho’—also a pleonasm) decided to one-up Mary Poppins with ‘supercalifragilisticoespialidoso’.

The Vietnamese, who speak in single syllable, claim that that their longest word is the sad little seven-symbol nghiêng, but the Filipinos, a thousand miles to their East, are happy enough to call the art of lying nagsisipagsisinungasinungalingan.

So, Philippines, Where MacArthur Quipped, ‘I Shall Return…’

macarthur…when you do, General, can I tagalong?

To the subject of World War II, not the malarial, mosquito-smothered archipelago; duh.  We won, remember?

Luther nails longest word to Castle Church

Luther nails longest word to Castle Church

As such, why in the world would we let the losing side claim monopoly on long words?  Well, we wouldn’t—any more than we would let them claim monopoly on the Western Hemisphere.

Therefore, let it be nailed to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg like Luther’s 95 theses: The longest word ever coined is indeed, an English one.  It contains 189, 819 letters and is the chemical name for titin, the largest known protein.

Try to mess with that, European Union, and we will throw you back to the Wölfes.

Posted in GENERAL, GERMANY | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Bridlewood Revisited

What’s the difference between a fifteen dollar chardonnay and a twenty dollar chardonnay?

Five bucks.

Sometimes a 5¢ hooker is just a 5¢ hooker

Sometimes a 5¢ Lewinski is  just a 5¢ Lewinski

Thomas Riley Marshall (D), Indiana governor, 1908 -1913 and 28th Vice President of the United States under Woodrow Wilson, is not remembered for his controversial and progressive changes to the state Constitution, nor for his remarkable national leadership following Wilson’s debilitating stroke in 1919, nor (regrettably) for a sense of humor so acerbic that the President moved his office to a location far from the White House.  He’s known for a single one-liner delivered during a Senate debate in which soapbox Senator Joseph Bristow  was bloviating through a catalog of ‘our nation’s needs’.  When Bristow finally finished, Marshall rose and said:

‘What this country really needs is a decent five-cent cigar’.

Ratchet Forward to 2013…

But, does our country really need another decent  fifteen-dollar chardonnay?  That price point is such a ‘sweet spot’ for consumers that the sea of stuff flooding the market that is so tagged makes it very tough to isolate the good from the bad and the ugly.  So mostly, I don’t even try.  I’m not a major fan of Cali chardonnay (at any price) to begin with, and if I spent fifteen bucks on a bottle of chard, I tend to steer toward a rounded, optimally-oaked wine from Burgundy’s Mâconnais, preferably from a ‘ripe’ vintage like 2009.

Contains the writer / wine rep pact in its entirety.

Contains the writer / wine rep pact in its entirety.

So, I believe that the first time my pretty and pretty persistent pal Kristina Kelley tossed me a bottle of Bridlewood chardonnay, I failed to live up to my end of the wine writer/wine rep (as outlined in detail in the Malleus Maleficarum) covenant: I failed to write about the freebie.

Undaunted, she sent me another vintage—along with an eighteen-dollar Bridlewood pinot noir.  So, in order to avoid the sort of systematic persecution and unethical legal assaults that often follow stringers like me who shirk and shuffle, shimmy and shipwreck, I’ll give it another shot, shall I?

Bridlewood Chardonnay, Monterey County, 2011

Actually, northern Monterey County and Mâcon have somewhat similar climates, with warm, humid summers and reasonably mild winters, so it is no surprise that the predominate cultivar in both is chardonnay.  In the south, where the influence of Monterey Bay is not so pronounced and the AVA opens into the fertile Salinas Valley, Bordeaux varietals predominate.

Monterey vineyard, morning

Monterey vineyard, morning

Most Monterey growers agree that 2011 was a strange vintage and that Mother Nature threw a few curve balls at the vineyards.  The spring was wet, it rained heavily in June and again, inopportunely, in early October.  And yet, grape clusters remained loose and the berries, though small, were very concentrated.  With a mild autumn, hang time was sufficient that when the fruit was finally picked, it was of a surprisingly good quality.  Along with the best of Central Coast chardonnay, Bridlewood 2011 exhibits a full range of stone fruit, including peach, apricot and nectarine, sliding over to mango and pineapple and highlighted with lime, honey and butterscotch.

Bridlewood Pinot Noir, Monterey County, 2011

pinotThe odd growing season, the chilliest since 1998,  made for a late-setting of pinot noir on the vine, but temperatures remained steady and cool, and the grapes were harvested at night to keep them that way.  The grapes were not crushed; the whole berries that went into the fermenter remained in skin contact for a week.  The final wine, when racked, showed remarkable texture, leading with heirloom roses, rich black cherry and a bit of strawberry accented by toffee, spice and a soft, silky finish.

The Vineyard

David Hopkins

David Hopkins

‘Winemaking is less about the latest technology and more about taking your time,’ says winemaker David Hopkins. ‘It’s about guiding the wine, and letting it carve out its own path to express the terroir of the region.’

Makes sense to me, and having vinified in the Central Coast through twenty consecutive vintages, Hopkins knows the location of some out-of-the-way vineyards producing some of the region’s top, untouched grapes.  To a winemaker, these are like the clandestine fishing holes that only experienced fisherman know—the unchartered lakes, the difficult-to-reach waterfall pools, the productive creeks flowing into the over-fished streams.

BRIDESHEADNot much else to report, however.  Bridlewood’s web site does not offer a whole lot about their history, owners, favorite rock band, police record or college transcripts.  The real Bridlewood may be like that lost, nameless, alpine tarncan that the anglers are always looking for.

Nonetheless, I am glad that I revisited, as is Lord Sebastian Flyte and Evelyn Waugh and the act of Grace; the unmerited and unilateral love by which God continually calls souls to Himself.  Whatever that means.

Ask Kristina Kelley, why don’t you?—I guarantee you she’s already looked it up.

 

Posted in CALIFORNIA, Central Coast, Monterey | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Drinking And Driving And Why We Can’t Swig Directly From The Marathon Spigot

Drunk driving is no laughing matter, as well the good folks at Archer Daniels Midland know.  As a world leader in renewable fuels, the Decatur, Illinois corporation is committed to (I quote) ‘increasing awareness among all colleagues of the importance of being vigilant and keeping safety top-of-mind…’

parking lotAs such, the all-altruism-all-the-time alliance between ADM and MADDMothers Against Drunk Driving—results in huge tax-free grants being given to the formerly-grass roots, currently out of control MADD bureaucracy.

Now, this generosity may be part of Archer Daniels Midland’s sincere effort to protect drivers from the very substance of which they produce 2 billion gallons of annually: Ethanol.  Or it may be a blustery public relations gesture intended to whitewash the fact that, despite its wholesome façade and philanthropic Mission Statement: ‘Connecting the harvest to the home and transforming crops into products that serve vital needs for food and energy’—a horn which they further blow by claiming (again I quote):  ‘We know that our purpose is noble, our work is essential, and we find meaning and satisfaction in serving vital global needs’, Archer Daniels Midland is among the most corrupt corporations to have ever darkened our national door.

Brazilian soy fields surround tiny remaining patch of rainforest.

Brazilian soy fields surround tiny remaining patch of rainforest.

Videlicet:  In 1999, three of ADM’s top officials, including vice chairman Michael Andreas, were sentenced to federal prison for a global price-fixing scam involving lysine, an animal feed additive.  Two years earlier, the company had been fined $100 million in the largest antitrust lawsuit in U.S. history. Since 2001, ADM has paid more than $4.5 million in fines for violating federal clean air regulations, and has very publically anted up another $6 million to support environmental projects, even though the juggernaut jerk-offs are among the world’s largest major purchasers of, and traders in, agricultural commodities grown in places that used to be unprofitable rain forest but are now cash-cow soybean fields.

Not only that but, in 1996 alone, OSHA fined Archer Daniels Midland nearly $700,000 for labor and human rights violations in their various workplaces.

rats graibnNeed more?  According to a report by the Cato Institute, ‘ADM has cost the American economy billions of dollars since 1980 and has indirectly cost Americans tens of billions of dollars in higher prices and higher taxes over that same period. At least 43 percent of ADM’s annual profits are from products heavily subsidized or protected by the American government. Moreover, every $1 of profits earned by ADM’s corn sweetener operation costs consumers $10, and every $1 of profits earned by its bioethanol operation costs taxpayers $30.’

Oh, and my favorite:  Mark Edward Whitacre, president of ADM’s biotech division, was arrested for embezzlement while he was an informant for the FBI.  He lost his immunity and spent the next eight years in prison.

I could go on, but why?  Like yours, my patience is finite and I have miles to go before I sleep.  If you, like me, are a consummate dirt-digger, check out James B. Lieber’s excellent ‘Rats In The Grain’.

Besides, I have not yet begun to lambaste MADD.

DAMM: Drunks Against Mad Mothers

Lucifer in the sky with diamonds

Lucifer in the sky with diamonds

Recalling that Lucifer began his career as ‘The Son of the Morning; The Shining Star’, a heralded angel and one of God’s top niggas, MADD’s first decade was pretty commendable.   The non-profit organization, formed in 1980 by Candice Lightner after her 13-year-old daughter Cari was killed by a drunk driver, was almost single-handedly responsible for turning American attitudes on ‘one for the road’ on its collective heels.

Then, as now, the stated goal of the organization is ‘…to stop drunk driving, support the victims of this violent crime and prevent underage drinking.’

So, What Happened?

I’ll tell you, shall I?  Ever been to a Passover Seder where at the end, some kid opens the front door, ostensibly to admit the Prophet Elijah?

L.: Elijah R.: Mammon

L.: Elijah
R.: Mammon

Well, MADD did the same thing, only instead of Elijah the Prophet coming for a glass of wine, Mammon the Profit came into the sober Seder for a mocktail… and that was the game-changer.

Now, I have five daughters and the idea of losing any one of them for any reason whatever is a nightmare beyond comprehension, so I would not dare question the original motives of Candice Lightner.  My heart bleeds for her.  So rather than interject emotion into the following paragraph, I will stick with facts.  Beginning with the fact that Candice Lightner dropped out the group in 1985, unhappy with the direction they were taking.

Carime Anne 'Cari' Lightner

Carime Anne ‘Cari’ Lightner

Nor am I.  Since, by MADD’s own admission, thanks largely to them, by 1997 juiced jalopy-jockeying had become socially and legally untenable in the United States, and President Katherine Prescott released a statement suggesting that the domain of drunk drivers had been reduced to ‘a hard core of alcoholics’ who do not respond to ‘red ribbon campaigns and slogans’.

And so, MADD changed tack and began targeting social drinkers—people (probably like you, reading this piece) who may have a glass of wine with dinner, but who are miles away from being drunk.  The group rhetoric shifted from ‘Don’t Drive Drunk’ to ‘Don’t Drink and Drive’.

And it gets worse.  In March, 2004, MADD went full-court-press on legally sober, conscientious drinkers, calling for ‘a mandatory provision in every divorce decree that prohibits either parent from drinking and driving with minor children in the vehicle.  Violation of this provision  should result in license suspension, jail, or even the termination of parental rights.’

And so Lightner’s righteous campaign, which began as an attempt to prevent parents from losing their children to drunks, devolved into a neo-prohibitionist lynch mob demanding provisions which could cause non-drunk parents to lose their children.

Go Figure…

Nothing to figure at all, unfortunately, especially if you have access to a calculator.  Right after the Seder, Mammon took over the MADD reins and made fundraising the primary mission of the group.  In the course of a single year (according to Money magazine), a telemarketing firm hired by MADD raised over $38 million dollars, in part by spouting inflated numbers, flawed reports and junk science that even pro-MADD Wall Street Journal reporter Robert Reynolds calls ‘…sloppy, inadequate and embarrassing.’

Potential donors, lissen up: Forewarned is forearmed.  Of the $38 million raised, the telemarketers kept half (as their fee), and of the $16 million that MADD stashed, $12 million went toward salaries, pensions and expensive fringe benefits, $2 million for members to travel, and the rest—all but a meager $150,000 lobbying budget—was funneled back into more fundraising.

MADD canadaInterestingly, although MADD Canada claims that 83.6% of donated funds are used to finance their programs, the Canada Revenue Agency’s Charities Directorate puts the actual figure at under 19%—a discrepancy which arises because MADD Canada counts the cash they pay professional fundraisers as ‘charitable work’, because the telemarketers have to ‘educate potential donors’ before they can suck them dry.

But why listen to me?  Listen to the American Institute of Philanthropy, who recently downgraded its MADD evaluation to a ‘D’, stating, Mothers Against Drunk Driving spends most of its time in self-perpetuating fund-raising efforts. We’d like to see MADD spend a lot more money on things other than asking for a lot more money…’

Now, if I am Candice Lightner, the only horror that this vale of tears and sin can offer that could come close to losing a child to a shit-faced shit-heel is a scenario where a bunch of my former friends and colleagues are using my daughter’s murder to get rich.

And Now, Gentle Reader, I Will Tie Up All Loose Plot Ends…

Patricia A. Woertz

Patricia A. Woertz

What do Mel Gibson, Mickey Mantle, Betty Ford, Philips Seymour Hoffman, Nick Nolte, Edgar Allen Poe and Patricia Woertz have in common?

You guessed it.  Ethanol.

All but the last may be household names, and all but the last at least made an effort to atone for their countless lapses in judgment.

The last one, however, whose name you likely don’t recognize, is the third most powerful woman in the country according to Fortune magazine, with an annual salary, including bonuses, stock options and base salary, of a little more than $20 million.

She is the hyper-ambitious CEO of Archer Daniels Midland, and if she drinks too much, it is in the privacy of her own home, not while partying at the gas station pump.

That is because automotive-grade ethanol, chemically identical to the stuff that makes you beat up your Chevy and drive your girlfriend into a bridge overpass, has been denatured—a process by which grain alcohol is systematically poisoned so that if you try to use it for recreational purposes, you die.

E85 logoWhich is sort of nuts when you think about it.  If any corporation ever has displayed a total disregard for federal regulations and subsequent lawsuits, for human rights violations and subsequent fines, for voracious expansion and subsequent destroyed planet, it is ADM.   Figure that at the liquor store, the nearest thing to E85 (abbreviation for a flex-fuel blend that’s 85% ethanol) Everclear, which also averages 85% ethanol.  Difference is, Everclear runs $20 a gallon, while E85 is selling at my local Marathon for $3.17 per gallon. I cannot believe that Ms. Woertz has not heard this proposal bandied behind closed doors at the shareholder’s meeting.  There are more than 12 million alcoholics in the United States, and the idea that they could bring Dixie Cups, intravenous-solution bags, work thermoses, half-gallon milk containers, orange Home Depot buckets—hell, even fifty-gallon limousin casks—to the Marathon and ‘fill ‘er up at the pump’?   An untapped, massive, marketing multitude.

drunkardOn the other hand, it may already be happening.  Three bucks to a wasted piss-head on the street is about twenty seconds worth of panhandling, which leaves  twenty-three hours, fifty-nine minutes and forty seconds of quality inebriation time before the date changes.  So what if the methanol added to the stuff is poisonous?—these guys have been known to drink Sterno through a cheesecloth.  Health concerns are not a major day-to-day priority.

Low-hanging fruit

Low-hanging fruit

And as for minors?  I see kids with lawn-mowing gigs filling up gas cans pretty regularly, and never once has some pimple-faced counter coxswain asked to see I.D.

I really, truly believe—from the bottom of my boogity-boogity shoot heart—that the whole MADD grant thing was just a smokescreen to disguise the fact that the ADM is hell-bent on destroying us as a nation, as a people, as the third rock from the sun.

And seriously, where better to start than with our drunks—or, as they say in the agribusiness boardroom, the ‘low-hanging fruit’.

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