I am leaving home today, traveling to Miami for a weekend gig at an art festival in South Miami.

On my way, I’m picking up a six pack box of wonderful Ultima Burgundy wine glasses won in an internet giveaway promoting the Pinot Noir Summit in San Francisco this Saturday, Feb 26. I figure it is easier, and greener, for me to jump off the freeway and pick up my glasses than to see them packed and shipped.

When I return from Florida next week, I will be picking up two bottles at Hopland to replace two bottles that were broken in shipping from Louisville, Kentucky. Fetzer wines are made nearby, but Fetzer is owned, marketed, and distributed by Brown-Forman in Louisville. Again, rather than repackage and ship two bottles across most of the continent, I offered to stop in and pick up two bottles at the winery.

As a huge bonus, I will also be touring Fetzer in Hopland. I am pretty excited. A goal of my wine blog when I started writing was to illuminate good wines to pair with meals, that are affordable. Wines with a good QPR, or quality/price ratio. A New Year’s writing resolution for 2011, I decided to focus more of my attention on the wines of my home county, Mendocino County.

Fetzer is the biggest winery in Mendocino County, and their economy of scale allows them to keep their costs low, which makes for widely available, good tasting, affordable wines – exactly what I want to write about. Touring is great, because the winery has no tasting room, or organized tours, and I am pleased to receive this kind accommodation. I will also post, at a minimum, tasting notes on Fetzer’s Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay, Riesling and Gewurtztraminer.

I will also be able to visit, tour and taste wines from Bonterra, Fetzer’s sister winery under Brown-Forman, located off Hwy 101 near Hopland.

Home from Florida, when the weather is nice enough to take some outdoor blue sky, green grass pictures, I will also be visiting Kimmel Vineyards in Mendocino County’s Potter Valley. The Kimmel family offered to drop wine samples off at my home for taste and review, but once again I can save them a little gas and hassle by visiting with the intention of writing a winery visit feature piece in the future.

I have a 13 year old son, turning 14 next month, that played on three basketball teams this year. Charlie is just over six feet tall, and was the starting Center for his 8th grade school team, the Pomolita Panthers. Charlie also played as the tallest Center for St. Mary’s of Ukiah 8th grade boy’s CYO team, and a Ukiah City League team. Three teams has meant practices nearly every day, and three to five games most weeks for several months. Many days involved two practices, or a practice and a game. After months of happily being my son’s chauffeur to practices and games – these experiences only come around once – I will soon be free to visit more wineries more often.

Although I wish I could have been more wine busy the last few months, I have to say that watching my son practice, play, and grow has been terrific. His teams were good, but not great. They could have been great, but something got away from them. Charlie’s teammates are incredibly talented, each differently talented, and when they play together at their best they are amazing, unbeatable. Unfortunately, they got off track, not running plays crisply, losing focus, failing to execute in games what they mastered in practices.

I hope we find a good AAU, or other summer basketball program for Charlie, and next year he will try out for the Ukiah High School Freshman Wildcat team where rival middle school basketball team players will compete to make the squad. If Charlie plays for Ukiah High School next year, that will be the only team he plays on during the season.

Okay, I am out of here. I’ll write more when I’m back, early in March.

Every once in a while, I do an entry that covers more than one subject. These “potpourri” entries serve a couple of purposes; they allow me to tell you about things that don’t merit an entry of their own, they allow me to let you get a glimpse of what you might expect to see in the future, and they provide an entry where I can drop the mantle of wine blogger and just be John for a minute – perhaps getting off topic. In case you haven’t guessed yet, this is one of those entries.

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If you look up at the name of the blog in the vineyards scene header, you may notice the name of the blog has changed. So has the web address, or url, although the old one will continue to bring you here.

“John on wine, food, and living in the wine country” and http://johncesano.wordpress.com have become the much simpler “John On Wine” and JohnOnWine.com so let me welcome you to the newly christened wine, food, and wine country blog John On Wine.

When I attended ZAP on a press credential, I was asked for my business card many times over the three days I attended the ZAP Zinfandel tasting events. Knowing that business cards for the upcoming Dark & Delicious Petite Sirah tasting, and future events and visits, would be a good idea, I had to decide what information to put on the cards.

In the end my old site name was too long and cumbersome; I had to decide between JohnCesano.com  and JohnOnWine.com, and as no one has spelled my name correctly when hearing it for the first time, or pronounced it correctly when reading it for the first time, I decided to let go of ego and go with the simple site name.

Needless to say, I have new business cards.

The advantages to the new name are huge, if someone asks me about my blog, I can give them an address they can remember until they get home and log on. Readers can direct their friends to my site with much greater ease, I can hear it now, “It is John on wine dot com, John with an h, and John on wine all run together.”

I had to go to twitter and change from @JohnCesano to @JohnOnWine, and then update other social networks in a similar fashion, changing the name of my facebook group page and networked blogs account.

As on of my winery friends from twitter @PushbackWines said, “Nice, as they say, K.I.S.S.”

A downside is that I may have lost my Google PageRank, and several ranking lists will have the old url, or worse may lose track of my site altogether.

In the past, I used to point to the ranking pages when justifying requests for wines to sample, however my site is well established, the articles are solid, and I don’t feel the need to justify anymore. The site speaks for itself now.

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Speaking of wine samples, the mailman and UPS guy were at my house yesterday. I have four books to review, and about a dozen more wines to taste and review.

Thanks to the wineries and wine book publishers who see value in what I do.

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I can actually give a review of one of the books that arrived yesterday, because I didn’t have to read every word:

:WineSpeak:, A vinous thesaurus of (gasp) 36,975 bizarre, erotic, funny, outrageous, poetic, silly and ugly wine tasting descriptors. Who knew? by Bernard Klem

In :WineSpeak:, Klem has lifted and collated every descriptor for wine from hundreds of wine writers, from the well known and respected to the more niche and lesser known. Books, periodicals, web and blog sites from the pompously staid to the excitingly edgy were scoured by Klem to produce “WineSpeak:, a master wine tasting descriptor thesaurus.

Klem’s :WineSpeak:  has separated the wine descriptors into 3 major categories Appearance, Smell & Taste, and Distinctiveness, and then further broken down into 27 sub-categories, from Clarity (“so dense you need x-ray vision to see through it”) and Color (“dark red with purple-blue tinge”) through Acid (“enamel ripping”) and Tannin (“undrinkable tough”) , from Fruit (“piercing scents of black currants and raspberries”) and Wood (“overburdened by oak”) to Balance (” like a Michelangelo…everything in perfect proportion”) and Finish (“long, pure and drawn out”) – plus 19 more.

Aditionally, Klem has 20 special categories of wine descriptors, such as Terroir or Terror (“when you drink this wine you drink the place”) and An Ecstasy of Erotica (“like performing a sexual act that involves silk sheets, melted dark chocolate and black cherries while the mingles scents of cinnamon, coffee and cola waft through the air”).

Randomly opening the book, I found 138 descriptors for tannin on one page – and there seven pages of descriptors for just for tannin.

:WineSpeak: is an entertaining resource work for the general drinker of wine, and has earned a permanent place of importance on my wine reference shelf.

Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0980064805/ref=cm_cr_mts_prod_img

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For next Friday’s big Petite Sirah and food tasting, Dark & Delicious, I contacted all of the participating wineries by email and asked that they provide me a little information: I asked which wines they would be pouring, and I asked the alcohol percentage of those wines. I wanted to create a list of the wines to be tasted, ordered by alcohol percentage, so I could fairly taste and report on the wines tasted. Any other order of tasting puts lower alcohol wines at risk of not showing well as their flavors might be overwhelmed by previously tasted high alcohol wines.

In addition to contacting each winery by email, I tagged each winery in my blog entry about the ordered tasting list I was creating for myself and any of my readers who wanted to use it as well.

The event organizer also contacted participating wineries to let them know I was compiling a list of wines to taste and review.

In some cases, I sent second and third emails, and finally I made a phone call to each winery that didn’t respond to electronic communication. I have been able to collect the requested information from fully 95.56% of the participating wineries.

I love wine, wineries, vineyards, and the wine country in general, and  I would like to see them look as capable at business as they are at winemaking. I do my best. I wholly appreciate that the handful of non responding wineries are likely small wineries, running on skeleton crews, short on staff, and lacking in communication infrastructure.

To that end, when I taste the Petite Sirah wines poured at Dark & Delicious, any that are flawed or not to my taste will not be written about by me. That’s how I recapped my recent experiences at the ZAP Zinfandel tasting. I prefer to write about the positive things I experience.

In that vein, I want to express my appreciation to the 95.56%, the wineries who helped me when asked, who provided a little information upon request. Thank you for your near uniform professionalism and good cheer.

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I have been around wine forever, when Jeopardy has “wine” as a category I always sweep the category at home, but this week I found out something I never knew – but should have.

The US Government allows a 1.5% leeway in the accuracy of the alcohol percentage indicated on a wine’s label. In other words, a wine label with “12% by volume” might actually be as low as 10.5% or as high as 13.5% alcohol – this 1.5% leeway is allowed on wines as long as the wine does not exceed 13.9% (the Federal government collects more tax on wines 14% alcohol by volume and above). The permissible leeway is reduced to 1.0 % on wines over 14% in alcohol (however, the wine may not be less than 14%).

To me, this is just weird. Why bother to state an alcohol percentage to a tenth of a percentage point if it can be off by 1-1.5%?

How about honesty on the label, either “12 percent, give or take” or “ACTUAL 12.0 percent”?

I am sure that there is a reason that a winemaker can give me, probably owing to wine’s ever changing, living, nature, for the allowed leeway for stated alcohol percentage by volume on a wine label.

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I just found out that Susan Johnson, who was going to accompany me to Dark and Delicious next Friday, has had a surprise family affair pop up in conflict for the same day.

I will be looking for someone else to join me next Friday evening for a terrific tasting of Petite Sirah and food.

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Recently, I traveled from Cotati to Lucas Wharf in Bodega Bay on the Pacific ocean in Sonoma County to buy a quart of the most amazingly versatile and delicious passionfruit and chili sauce from the Island Deli..

The day was one of the sunny, blue sky days, sandwiched in between our rainy days. I had my son Charlie with me.

Sadly, the fish stall at the Wharf was not open (it was a weekend), but the smell of the ocean, fishy, briny, rich with sea life and the lingering smell of past catches was intoxicatingly wonderful.

Driving back to Ukiah from Bodega Bay, Charlie and I traveled the gorgeous west county of Sonoma County, Coleman Valley Road, Joy Road, Graton Road, 116, Occidental. Green, green, green. Cows, Llamas, Horses. Oak trees, Redwood trees, grape vines. It was so lush and beautiful. We had a really nice time driving home.

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DISCLOSURE: I received :WineSpeak: by Bernard Klem as a sample book from the Wine Appreciation Guild.

I grew up with Zinfandel. When I was a kid, my dad Charlie and his friends would hunt almost every weekend; duck hunting, pig hunting, deer hunting. Our freezer was always full of meat. I grew up thinking that everyone was Italian, and that everyone hunted. My folks never took me to see Bambi.

My dad was part of a group of about 20 guys who went in together to lease large pieces of property to hunt. Their hunting clubs were scattered all over Mendocino and Sonoma Counties. For a long time, we hunted the 12,500 acre Rockpile Ranch straddling both Mendocino and Sonoma Counties, being the largest piece of property in either county. I remember my dad taking me for weekends to the club. I would ride in a jeep or truck during the day as the men looked for a large pig, or buck. Lunches would invariably be Salumi and Cheddar on hard French bread rolls. Any game taken would be field dressed, then cleaned and hung back in camp at the end of the day. After cleaning up after the day’s hunt, the men would cook a big dinner. Polenta, meats, Italian sauces, pasta, vegetables, salad, Zinfandel.

Growing up, all the Italian men I knew drank Zinfandel. It came in jugs, it wasn’t complex, it was good and it was cheap. It went into the food, and into coffee cups and high ball glasses, styrofoam cups and complimentary collector jelly glasses from the gas station – free with an 8 gallon purchase.

I crushed Zinfandel grapes when I was my son Charlie’s age, just 12 years old, and the juice was made into wine that I was allowed to taste with food.

Zinfandel has been my first wine love, my longest loved wine, my favorite wine for most of my life.

Big, bold, very red, often high in alcohol, with flavors of brambly raspberry and black pepper spice; Zinfandel is as big as Cabernet Sauvignon in body, structure, and flavor profile but more affordable. Although DNA tests have shown Zinfandel is really the grape varietal Crljenak Kaštelanski from Croatia, and also Identical to Italy’s Primitivo grape, it has been thought of as California’s grape by generations of California’s wine drinkers.

Years ago, I attended the ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and producers) tasting, a tasting of Zinfandels put on at Fort Mason in San Francisco in January. Hundreds of Zinfandels to taste. Thousands of people tasting. A perfect day spent tasting some iconic Zinfandels, like Carol Shelton’s Rockpile Zin, and discovering new stars.

ZAP is marking the 19th Zinfandel festival this year with the theme Zin in Paradise, and it isn’t just the incredible Saturday Grand Zinfandel Tasting, but three days of events. Tickets are still available for most of the events.

http://www.zinfandel.org/

The festival kicks off Thursday evening with the Good Eats & Zinfandel Pairing at Fort Mason’s Herbst Pavillion. Celebrity chef Beverly Gannon will be serving up Hawaiian Regional Cuisine with Zinfandels, along with 49 other chefs and wineries. As I read the list of wineries, restaurants, and dishes being served, my mouth goes into watering overdrive mode, and I am actually excited about attending this event. The list is too long to print here, but go to the event page and look at the amazing bounty of food, and the participating wineries, and get yourself to this event! If you are looking for me, I’ll be the very happy, short, round, bearded man in line in front of you for more yummy food and wine.

On Friday, I am going to sit down with a group of about 150 people at the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco for Flights, a showcase of Zinfandel.

The panelists will discuss blending, Zinfandel’s uniqueness, preferred blending varietals, and each panelist will bring a proprietary blended Zinfandel to pour and discuss.

The wineries, panelists and Zinfandels include:

  • Ridge Vineyards, winemaker Eric Baugher, 2007 Zinfandel Paso Robles and the 2007 Geyserville
  • Three Wine Company, winemaker and proprietor Matt Cline, 2007 Old Vine Zinfandel, California and 2007 Old Vines, California (Field Blend)
  • JC Cellars, founder and winemaker Jeff Cohn, 2007 Imposter Blend and 2007 Sweetwater Zinfandel
  • Robert Biale Vineyards, winemaker Steve Hall, 2007 Aldo’s Vineyard Zinfandel and 2007 Stagecoach Zinfandel
  • Bedrock Wine Company, winemaker and proprietor Morgan Twain Peterson, 2007 Heirloom Wine, Sonoma Valley and 2007 Ravenswood, Bedrock Vineyard Zinfandel, Sonoma Valley

Friday Evening, also at the Mark Hopkins, is an Evening with the Winemakers, Benefit Live Auction and Dinner, where Chef Beverly Gannon will prepare:

  • Asian Duck Tostada
  • Blackened Ahi with Sweet Thai Chili Sauce, Wasabi Micro Greens, Tobiko, Mashed Potato in Filo Cup
  • Smoked Salmon Pinwhhels with Chipotle-Chili Fresh Fruit Salsa
  • Kalua Pork and Goat Cheese Won Tons with Mango Chili Sauce
  • Terrine of Foie Gras, BBQ Eel, Potato Pineapple Compote, Vanilla Syrup and Spicy Micro Greens
  • Lamb Shank Canneloni with a Poached Fig Demi-Glaze Double Cut Lamb Chop, Lavendar Honey Glazed Baby Carrots
  • Chocolate Macadamia Nut Tart

I had the opportunity to take part in a high end food and wine dinner like this when I helped winemaker Carol Shelton, who had the Best in Class Zinfandel at the California State Fair – a Zinfandel with four gold medals – pour her Zinfandel and other favorite wines at the best Meet the Winemaker dinner I have ever attended. The dinner was at Susan and Drew Goss’ Zinfandel restaurant in Chicago’s River North area, near the Fonterra Grill and Spago. Without exception, the sold out (it sold out in under 3 hours, a record for the restaurant) 110 seat restaurant’s diners enjoyed one of the best dining experiences of their lives. Many hundreds of bottles were opened and consumed (I helped Carol taste them all earlier that day and found all 5 TCA tainted corked bottles – unlucky me) and Susan Goss prepared a multi course menu around Carol’s wines that amazed, delighted and thrilled everyone who attended the dinner.

This is going to be one of those kind of once in a lifetime dining experiences and Beverly’s menu looks even more fantastic than Susan’s menu. In addition to the incredible sit down mind blowing meal with Zinfandels poured to pair with each course, there will be 25 or so one of a kind Zinfandel themed live auction lots to bid on during the evening.

ZAP’s Zinfandel Festival culminates Saturday with the epically huge Grand Zinfandel Tasting in both the Herbst and Festival pavilions at Fort Mason in San Francisco from 2 p.m. – 5 p.m., ZAP members get an hour start on the general public and can taste from 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.

Over the years, ZAP’s Zinfandel festival has grown, more than doubling in size. The number of Zinfandels poured couldn’t be tasted by any one person, be they veteran wine reviewer or liver compromised bum.

Plastic lined garbage cans are provided throughout the festival and serve as giant wine spittoons. I hate spitting out perfectly good wine, but it is the only way to go as an attempt is made to taste as many Zinfandels as possible before my palate is completely blown out by the plethora of high alcohol hugely bodied monster Zinfandels.

I am thrilled to be attending this years Grand Zinfandel Tasting, and getting an early 10 a.m. start as part of the media tasting. I will have my red wine notebook and pen with me.

It almost goes without saying, but eat before, during and after the event, be safe, and consider public transportation.

DISCLOSURE: ZAP is covering my attendance to events with a press pass. I love this event and would have gushed about the event if I was paying out of pocket to attend. I will be writing a couple of articles after the event. One will focus on the events generally, the other will include tasting notes for Zinfandels tasted over the weekend. Full disclosure requires that I think Julie Ann Kodmur is an angel.

I tried to recreate a meal I used to cook often about 25 years ago; steamed chicken thighs, stuffed with ham, swiss cheese, and green onions – a healthy version of Chicken Cordon blue. I wasn’t able to extricate the thigh bone from the center of the thighs, so I rolled the deboned thighs and used cooking twine to tie them around the other ingredients completely.

Instead of steaming in water, I used an entire bottle of $1.99 2007 FoxBrook Sauvignon Blanc California. I tried to drink a glass of this wine, but poured it out, choosing to cook with it instead. Where another Sauvignon Blanc might have a note of cat pee in the nose, this wine tasted of piss. Not a wine I will ever buy again.

I served the Cordon Blue-esque Chicken up with a creamy chicken rice, to which I added a ton of butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

I paired dinner with a 2008 Fetzer Vineyards Valley Oaks Chardonney California. Clear pale gold  in color, this 13% alc wine has a ton of notes and flavors for an under $9 wine at Lucky supermarket. Crisp apple and citrus nose gives way to tropical fruit, grapefruit, and apple, balanced by oak and sweet cream, in the mouth. A nice medium bodied Chardonnay with a long light finish characterized by apple and acidity. I liked it lots, and saved the rest of the bottle with a Wine Preserva flavor saver disc.

Overall, a pretty tasty and moderately showy meal.

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Speaking of showy meals, I’ll be auditioning for Gordon Ramsey’s Masterchef on FOX in 11 days. If you live in Atlanta, Denver, Kansas City, Miami, New Orleans, Chicago, San Francisco, or Los Angeles, open casting calls are coming up; for more information, here’s a link: http://www.3ballproductions.com/masterchef.html

Jennifer Pitchke, a reader of my blog left this comment about the audition process:

Just wanted to let you know I went to the New York auditions and it was nothing like I expected so I wanted to give you heads up. I thought it would be like a one on one. Nope–you will be asked to stand with up to 8 others at one time to plate and they go down the line and you have maybe two minutes with them so back those two minutes good because I sure didn’t. My food rocked but felt I could have handled the Q&A better. Good Luck.

If you have read about the real audition process for American Idol auditioners, not the select few put through to see Simon Cowell and the gang, then Jennifer’s description is familiar. I don’t have cancer, a dead wife, or a very ill or disabled family member to exploit through the audition process, FOX loves the sob backstory in casting their reality shows, but I can cook and have personality; hopefully that will be enough. I will happily keep my healthy family and miss out on being cast if it really comes to that.

I had planned to serve involtini, polenta, and red sauce with a solid red wine. I’m adding a pesto sauce to the mix, so I can “paint” my white presentation plate with the red (homemade Italian red sauce), white (polenta), and green (pesto) of the Italian flag, and lay my sliced pinwheels of involtini across the flag in a line.

The presentation is better, the flavors still work great, and the food allows me to tell my story of growing up watching my Italian American father Charlie Cesano cooking, and how it has inspired my brother Thomas , myself, and my 12 year old son Charlie to be the primary cooks in our kitchens.

NOTE: Scroll to the bottom of this post for an update. Thanks.

My niece Jennifer is pregnant. In November she wrote on facebook, “I would really love to enjoy a glass of Asti Spumanti champagne.”

Within minutes, a friend posted, “LOL! NEVER!”.

Huh? I had to chime in, and wrote, “In a world where caffeine, chocolate, raw oysters, unpasteurized cheese, tropical fruits, drugs that alleviate cold symptoms, nail polish, suntan lotion and hair dye, all of which in some amount may harm the fetus; wine in small amounts, sipped slowly with food, has been shown to increase fetal motility and result in more intelligent infants. I’m kind of the wine guy in the family, and would point you to the 1994 Wine Spectator article by Thomas Matthews, The Myths of Motherhood, or the study of 33,000 California woman showing that the 47% who drank moderately during pregnancy had zero incidence of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS); and the 1993 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology by Little and Weinberg showing a higher successful birthrate among moderate consumers of alcohol than rates among abstainers. Find a doctor who reads, and enjoy the glass of Asti on Thanksgiving. The stress reduction and joy in the mother is healthy for the fetus. Just saying’.”

I do tend to go on.

Another friend of Jennifer, also pregnant wrote, “I don’t know you John, but as a fellow pregnant gal who can’t have anything she loves either, I L-O-V-E your post.”

Jennifer finished up the thread with, “Bwahaha, thanks uncle John,,,I’ve enjoyed a small glass of wine here and there…I’ve also enjoyed sushi, massages, pedicures, caffeine AND…of course…chocolate! Baby’s fine…he comes from good healthy stock”

In December, Jennifer posted, “I’m really craving a glass of good champagne…maybe spumanti” on her facebook wall.

I replied, “You know what Uncle John says…a glass is a healthy choice for you and the baby,”

Another friend wrote, “sorry, hopefully you can have one soon. When are you having that baby?”, written as though having a glass of wine, or bubbly, before the baby is born is unthinkable.

When Lisa, the mother of my only child Charlie, was pregnant, we attended a wonderful wine tasting in San Francisco. It was my birthday, and I did more than taste the many Zinfandels being poured at the event, I had a bit to drink that day. My wife, noticeably pregnant at 7 months, tasted; but after nosing and swirling the wine in her mouth, she spit it into large receptacles provided for that purpose. Although she drank no wine at all, she was subjected to many dirty looks, and one old woman actually hissed at her. There is an anti-alcohol sentiment ingrained in people who should know better.

A pregnant woman wants a small glass of wine to sip with a meal, and the instinctive response of her friends is shock and admonishment. The response is based on all of the information generally available. The next time you pick up a bottle of wine, look and you will find a warning mandated by the United States government, “According to the Surgeon General, women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects.”

While there is overwhelming evidence of health benefits associated with moderate consumption of wine in the general population, and specific health benefits to a pregnant woman and her fetus, the same United States government requiring that wineries put warning on their labels forbids including any information about healthful benefits associated with wine consumption; “a specific [health] claim on a label or in an advertisement, ” no matter how well documented, “is considered misleading.” and requires further detailed warnings of the risks of alcohol if included – said warnings being unable to fit on a wine label. Effectively, the government is engaged in censorship and prohibiting free speech. Worse, it requires warning, and disallows wineries from countering the warning with truthful statements.

With wineries muzzled, unable to present any information regarding health and wine, or pregnancy and wine consumption, gross distortions and outright lies are posted in pregnancy forums and spread by ignorant, but well meaning, friends. A quick google search of “wine and pregnancy” will lead to link after link of falsehood spread as truth – and the wine industry is prohibited from countering these lies with the truth.

For a short time, 20 or more wineries were going to include, “To learn the health effects of wine consumption, send for the Federal Government Dietary Guidelines for Americans.” on their wine labels. The Dietary Guidelines, while almost wholly damning of alcohol consumption, bending to overwhelming scientific evidence included two new lines, “Alcoholic beverages have been used to enhance the enjoyment of meals by many societies throughout human history,” and, “Current evidence suggests that moderate drinking is associated with a lower risk for coronary heart disease in some individuals.”

Neo-prohibitionist and tramplers of the US constitution’s First Amendment, guaranteeing free speech, threw a fit. Rather than allow a winery to point at a government pamphlet in advertising or on a label, without mention of any health benefit; these forces for ignorance pushed through a new requirement: any winery mentioning the dietary guideline pamphlet must include a new warning on their label and promotional material, “this statement should not encourage you to drink or to increase your alcohol consumption for health reasons.”

Some of the information the government is preventing wineries from telling you about includes:

Men with high blood pressure who drink one or two drinks a day were 44 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease, according to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Light-to-moderate alcohol consumption is associated lower risks of coronary heart disease, ischemic stroke, and total mortality in elderly men and women…These findings suggest that light-to-moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a reduced risk of dementia in individuals aged 55 or older, according to a six year study by Dr. Ruitenberg in the Netherlands, published in The Lancet

Moderate drinkers had 50% fewer deaths from coronary disease than abstainers, according to the 60 year Framingham Heart Study

Preliminary evidence in a Harvard study suggest that longevity may be increased in red wine drinkers, while European studies point to a possibility that Alzheimer’s and other cognitive degeneration may be postponed for moderate drinkers.

Light drinking pregnant women, not abstainers, have the best chance of delivering a baby of optimal weight, according to Dr. Robert Sokol of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse in Detroit.

Mentioned above, there is the study of 33,300 California women, 47% of whom drank moderately during their pregnancies. Not one had a baby with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

There were fewer stillbirths and fewer losses of fetus due to early labor among women who consumed a moderate level of alcohol, according to a study by Little and Weinberg, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology

Children of moderate drinkers tend to score the highest on developmental tests at the age of 18 months, according to the book Alcohol and the Fetus, by Dr. Rosset and Dr. Wiener.

There is research that shows moderate drinking during pregnancy may actually help the development of the child after birth, according to a study by Dr. Whitten and Dr. Lipp of the University of California at San Francisco

But what about the government warning on the label warning about birth defects for pregnant women who choose to drink moderately? The government can’t lie, can they?

The campaign against drinking during pregnancy started in 1973 when several studies showed that heavy drinking during pregnancy can cause a condition known as ‘Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.’ These studies demonstrated that the children of many alcoholic mothers were born with a cluster of severe birth defects.“What the government conveniently chose to ignore” say Dr. Whitten and Dr. Lipp, is that “this syndrome is extremely rare, occurring only 3 times in 100,000 births, and only when the mother drinks abusively throughout her pregnancy”.

In the absence of valid, and useful information to the contrary, many people make grossly incorrect assumptions about wine and health, and wine and pregnancy. Our government forces wineries to print one sided, misleading, and possibly false information on their labels, and prohibits the dissemination of the many health benefits associated with moderate, responsible consumption of wine. This ridiculous censorship, combined with the efforts of anti-alcohol forces*, leads otherwise intelligent people to make a pregnant woman feel bad if she has a sip of wine.

If you don’t drink at all, don’t feel that you need to start if you become pregnant. If you abuse alcohol, stop; your life is at risk, as well as your baby’s if you become pregnant. If, however, you enjoy the responsible, moderate, consumption of wine with dinner, and you become pregnant, don’t feel compelled to abstain for the health of your unborn child.

Moderate consumption of wine during pregnancy is shown to lead to safer births and healthier, smarter children than those born to either abstainers or abusers of alcohol.

Sometimes, being between jobs is nice. Because I do not work for a winery or wine distributer, I am able to tell you the truth that those in the industry are prohibited from telling you. Just sayin’.

If you are reading this, and are pregnant, I toast you. The good news is that you can raise a glass in response. Cheers!


*see the ‘talking points’ memo created by these neo-prohibitionists to beat back mention of a possible health benefit in the official US Dietary Guidelines pamphlet at http://www.cspinet.org/booze/talkpoint2.htm .

sources:

http://www.beekmanwine.com/prevtopak.htm

http://www.framingham.com/heart/backgrnd.htm

http://www.winepros.org/wine101/wine-health.htm

http://www.rayjohnsononwine.com/health_benefits_wine.htm

http://www2.potsdam.edu/hansondj/healthissues/1084904085.htmlhttp://www.peele.net/lib/bottle.htmlhttp://www.thefreelibrary.com/Drink+up+anyway.+(Wine+Label+Censorship).-a0101174742

For those interested in the topic of alcohol and health, I recommend Gene Ford’s book , “The Science of Healthy Drinking”.

UPDATE:

I have caused a bit of an uproar with a wine column that ran Thursday, May 2, 2013. This column was recycled and used.

My wine and pregnancy piece was actually written 4 years ago and was an extension of an online conversation with my niece who was pregnant. Much of the basis for the article was a long article regarding the science of moderate consumption during pregnancy that appeared in Wine Spectator before my son was born.

My son’s mom had the very occasional half glass of wine with a meal, and my son was the tallest boy in his grade throughout elementary school each year, played as a center on CYO, city, and school basketball teams, and regularly crushed any standardized test he took.

I am pretty sure my mom had more than a single drink of alcohol, and probably smoked, when she was pregnant with me, as did the mothers of many of the people I know who are my age. The people I know, of my generation, seem to be doing well.

I posted this piece here in 2010 and it generated positive feedback. I was contacted by some pregnancy forums, and thanked for the post.

I was completely ignorant of the information accumulation regarding drinking while pregnant, or the move beyond Fetal Alcohol Syndrome to include lower birth weights and other symptoms to identify a larger collection of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorders, existing now.

In addition to a counterpoint column from our county’s public health officer and other letters in the paper following my column, I have heard from members of the medical community who shared that we live in a county with serious drug addiction problems and, for these people, alcohol is a drug, and it is better to be absolutist and say that no amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy than give folks, who the piece wasn’t written for, a sense that they are not likely harming their child with their abuse.

I also was contacted by some mothers with adopted children that do suffer from FASD and/or FAS. The stories they shared were personal, tragic, and compelling. They, too, would urge that no alcohol be consumed during pregnancy, and each said that spending a week, or even a day, with their children would drive the point home more strongly than any words.
Obviously, I would never have allowed the piece to be recycled for my newspaper wine column if the response years ago to the same piece online wasn’t overwhelmingly positive.

I apologize for the outrage I caused with my recycled piece, but hope the conversations started through the controversy lead to more informed choices. I, for one, probably learned the most.

John

Last weekend, I worked in Pomona. When news of a Tatiana Nicole show at the Whisky a Go Go broke on an online forum I am a part of, and the date was just two days earlier than I needed to come to southern California anyway, a plan for another mini vacation began to take shape.

A month before the trip, I booked my flight into LAX for the morning of Tuesday, December 1, booked a mini van I would need for load out after my weekend’s work, booked two nights in Hollywood and three nights in Ontario, near Pomona, arranged for my co-worker to fly into LAX Thursday where I would pick him up and for him to fly home with me late Sunday night after our work. I booked a park and fly stall near SFO.

With travel logistics taken care of, I let my forum friends know that I was coming to Hollywood for the Tuesday night Tatiana Nicole show at the Whisky. Two of our L.A. area forum members, Scotty and Sean, were going to meet me and see the show with me.

With Wednesday being an off day for me, I contacted my good friend from high school, Ron Pipes. Ron does make up for television and movies. Ron works a lot, has a great reputation, an Emmy award, and is Hell to pin down for a get together. I have traveled as much or more than anyone I know and my work brings me to southern California fairly often. If we could get together, it would be after three years of trying.

On the day before my trip, I traveled to my business partner’s house to pull together the last few items for my last work weekend of the year. Half way to the airport, I didn’t want to return home, and stayed at my son Charlie’s grandparent’s home for the night. I have a good relationship with my ex-wife’s parents, and was grateful for the opportunity to spend the night.

Tuesday morning, up early, I drove to San Francisco, gave up my car, caught a shuttle to my terminal, checked one bag, breezed through security, and boarded my flight at the front of the queue.

After arriving in L.A. and collecting my bag, I walked out to the curb just as my rental car shuttle arrived. I was quickly whisked to the rental car corral where I was given a nice Toyota Siena. The great news was that both the front and rear bumpers showed signs of having been used often, so I wouldn’t have to worry about incidental contact.

My phone is an iPhone, and it quickly provided GPS directions to my hotel. I followed them and found my hotel with no difficulty.

Okay, I have to confess, when I booked the room in Hollywood, I got a great deal, but I thought the room would be horrible. I was willing to save a little money, I was by myself, this wasn’t for work, no one would judge me based on where I would stay. I was prepared to suffer a bit, I was expecting a terrible place.

Oh, was I happily surprised! My room at the Travelodge, Hollywood on Vermont was really nice, the entire property was clean, cheerful, and nice. I was so lucky, just thrilled.

I went for a little walk, and within a couple of blocks, I found myself standing at the corner of Vermont and Hollywood, the Hollywood sign visible on the hill, and the delicious aroma of food coming from a Fatburger franchise on the corner. I ate a delicious King with egg and cheese in the warm sun and read a book. I was pretty happy.

After posting messages of my happy arrival on facebook and twitter, I contacted Ron about our meet up the next day. We agreed to a late breakfast, planning to talk again at 10 AM Wednesday.

My forum mates, Scott and Sean, connected with me through facebook, twitter, and finally phone calls. We would meet at the Rainbow on Sunset, just up the block from the Whisky, at 7 PM for drinks and food.

I got a call from Scotty saying that he was running late, and asking if I could be sure to get to the Rainbow on time and look for Tatiana; she would be joining us and Scotty was running late because of a flat tire.

My iPhone told me I could cover the 6 1/2 miles from my hotel at Vermont and Sunset to the Rainbow on Sunset in just 12 minutes; maybe you can at 4 in the morning. I am thrilled I built in “idiot factor” to the trip and left at 6:15 PM. It took all 45 minutes to get to the Rainbow and park. I walked into the Rainbow at 7 PM exactly, did a quick tour, didn’t see Tatiana, Sean, or Scotty, so I went to the bar to order a drink.

I am old enough to know what I like, but I am terrible at bars. When it comes to mixed drinks, out of the millions of possible combinations, I don’t really like that many. I really would be quite happy with a tropical drink with an umbrella, but it isn’t very manly outside of an island resort bar. I like gin. Gin and tonic, or…Martini! “Excuse me, I’ve decided, may I please have a Tanqueray martini?”

Nice big up glass, two olives, lots of crisp, delicious gin. Yum.

I went outside, to the outside bar, and saw Sean as he was coming in. After a brief introduction, we got down to business. I got Sean a Martini – they cost an extra dollar at the outside bar, hmmpf – and Sean handed over his pack of cigarettes. This would be the third night I would smoke this year. The first long drag hit me like a train. More yum.

The Rainbow cooks a good steak for about $30, but puts the same steak on a piece of bread, calls it a sandwich, and sells that for about half. An order for two steak sandwiches, medium rare, both with salad, one Italian, one blue later, and Sean and I fell into easy conversation.

A mutual friend of ours from Australia has been trying to get Sean and I together since April this year, I don’t know how you can just know two people would get along great. Outside of our shared forum interest, we don’t really have much in common, but our friend was right. I like Sean tremendously, and am incredibly comfortable in his presence.

Scotty showed up next. Scotty has the feel of New York about him. Faster, tougher, maybe a little dangerous. Kind of like a mobbed up, wisely, goodfella. Now Scotty isn’t bent nose. Look at my last name, and you would be right to guess I was raised in an Italian home. I’ve seen Italian, and I’ve seen mob. Scotty is a good guy, but he has that flavor – maybe it is the east coast thing, I don’t know.

Scotty ordered a pie. Pizza pie.

We talked and talked, we ate, we talked, we drank, one more round please, we talked. Interestingly, Sean and Scotty are both from the same part of New York, out on Long Island. While I would never question where Scotty came from, I was surprised to find that Sean wasn’t a native Californian.

Scotty said that Tatiana was running late, was heading directly to the Whisky, and we would meet her after the show.

I just came down to see her. Meeting her was unnecessary. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to meet her, but I really came to hear her rock the house.

Most of you, at this point, do not know who Tatiana Nicole is, unless you have googled her. Tatiana is better known by her full name, Tatiana Nicole del Toro, and rose to some level of fame when auditioning for American Idol last season.

Tatiana Nicole was the best singer on the show last season, and was used over and over, throughout the auditioning rounds of season’s beginning, through to the awarding of dubious distinction awards at the finale at season’s end. Tatiana was the girl with that laugh. She was the one that cried. She was the one seemingly self-possessed to the exclusion of anyone or anything else.

I saw her completely differently. I heard her sing. She had the best pipes of the season. Girl could sing. Big. Amazing pitch. Great control. Whitney? No problem.

The clothing? Chosen to stand out in a crowd and get her noticed by the producers. The seeming over-emotional personality? A combination of reality, giving the producers what they ask for, and editing.

Sean and Scotty and I are members of a forum that saw through American Idol’s manipulations, and saw Tatiana Nicole as the best, most entertaining, contestant of last season.

The week before the Whisky gig, I listened to a pod cast of an interview Tatiana did with another forum member, Aaron, for his internet radio show. Tatiana was lucid, articulate, funny, endearing, a competent self-promoter. Tatiana also revealed that her Whisky gig set list would include lots of AC/DC.

I thought she was kidding.

We walked down to the Whisky, passing Scotty’s vintage Cadillac, took care of the door, went in and got some beers. On stage was the opening band, Controlling All Dilemmas, a quartet of teens, technically competent but needing seasoning and lacking a captivating or engaging quality. Nice, even good, but not great. They’re young, there’s time for them.

After CAD finished, and during a short break, Tatiana Nicole’s band began to set up. During the break, we noticed that Kristen McNamara was in the house to support Tatiana.

Kristen McNamara is from my neck of the woods, in neighboring Napa county, and played Konocti in Lake County. Kristen is practically a hometown girl. I introduced myself, and shared where I was from. Kristen graciously came and met Sean and Scotty, and promised to talk with us more after the show.

Kristen McNamara was on both Nashville Star and American Idol, and is as cute as a bug.

Tatiana Nicole played with a bass player, guitar player, and drummer; and the AC/DC promise became a reality, as Tatiana ran through a set that relied heavily on classic AC/DC and a couple of songs from Led Zeppelin, Black Dog and Whole Lotta Love.

Dressed in painted on black sequined pants, a black and gold sequined sleeveless top, black and gold fingerless gloves, and black high heel boots; hair and face looking beautiful, a perfect combination of features, Tatiana Nicole was a gorgeous rock Goddess, a life size porcelain doll come to life, sexy as hell, strong.

Did I mention earlier that the girl has pipes? Tatiana went through a blistering set with plenty of high notes, some low sexy growling, and an endless array of perfectly delivered notes.

Fun and driving, Tatiana Nicole and her band delivered.

At one point, Kristen was at the front of the stage, and I snapped a pic. Cute black dress, gold pumps, glittery bracelet. Tons of blond hair, gorgeous legs. Nice backside. Hey, I’m a straight guy, and you would have to be blind to not see Kristen is a cutie.

After the show, Tatiana sweetly joined me out on Sunset in front of the Whisky for a picture, and then another picture in our booth along with Kristen.

Kristen, by the way, wants to be known as KMAC. KMAC sounds sort of like a gang member handle; amusingly, she is flashing her gang sign in her picture with Tatiana and me.

KMAC asked me to fly back down for a January 29 SIR showcase, and also said she is sharing a place with both Tatiana and Normund Gentle from American Idol 8. Reality show, Three’s Company style, anyone?

I had more fun than I could have imagined. Thanks to Scotty, Sean, Tatiana, her band, and KMAC. I hope to see you all again.

Wednesday morning at 10 AM. Uggh. I have not had a night with two large martinis and several beers in many years. Although awake, showered, and dressed on time, I was thrilled when Ron suggested we meet later, between 2:30 and 3 PM. I went in search of breakfast. I drove down Sunset to Echo Park, found the Bright Spot, went in and had a breakfast of bagel and lox, with cream cheese, capers, tomato, cucumber and onion slices, and sprouts, along with coffee.

I didn’t feel great when I walked in, but the perfect breakfast made with deliciously fresh ingredients fixed me right up. I felt great walking out.

Ron picked me up in the afternoon and we drove to the original Farmer’s Market in L.A. on Fairfax for a late lunch at Du-par’s. I ate an okay only Patty Melt, honestly nothing special, although the fries were good, and the coffee was alright. Mostly, Ron and I just caught up on classmates who either came, or didn’t come, to our 30 year high school reunion two months earlier.

Ron took me on a tour of the Farmer’s Market. Oh My God! So much incredible produce, and an incredible variety of proteins. Specialty items, foie gras, truffles, uni, caviar. Sur La Table, an incredible kitchen store. I want to live here. Dayum, I love the Farmer’s Market.

After out Farmer’s Market tour, Ron took me on a tour of an adjacent outdoor mall, and we visited some of Ron’s favorite shops including Crate and Barrel and Nordstrom.

Our visit together was only a few hours, but it was perfect. It was really nice seeing my good old friend.

Wednesday night, I was back at Fatburger for some dinner burgers. Some television, some reading. Second great day in Hollywood.

Thursday morning, upon waking, I showered, dressed, and packed to leave. After check out, I went back to the Bright Spot for a leisurely breakfast, eaten while reading.

In time, I drove to LAX to pic Art up. After collecting Art, we drove to the Fairplex in Pomona and set up my last booth of the year for the Pomona Harvest Festival Original Art and Craft Festival.

Work is work, nothing super exciting, or dramatically different than previous weeks, although this is a very good show, and was less affected by the economic downturn. We drew big crowds, and they bought big multiples for year end holiday gifting.

On Saturday, Art had some show food, a Philly Cheesesteak. Saturday night, Art spent the entire night hurling his cheesesteak and another stomach contents into our Ontario hotel room toilet. Art poisoned himself with show food, got no sleep, and was looking really bad Sunday morning.

Sunday, our plan was to work through to show’s end, pack up for shipping, borrow a hand truck to load out to our mini van, drive to a 24 hour Fed Ex Kinko’s on the way to the airport, ship everything home, drop off the van, get a shuttle to the airport, check two bags, and catch an earlier than last flight out standby flight back to San Francisco. Once back in San Francisco, we would collect our bags, collect my van, drive north to Santa Rosa, drop Art off at home, then I would drive to our business partner’s home, spend the night, take care of accounting, write myself a check, and drive home to Ukiah, and spend some well earned time off with my son, Charlie.

We were able to execute the plan flawlessly, Sunday went perfectly, except for Art feeling sick, weak, and hurt, and it was nice to see Art smile as I dropped him at home.

I had another great week.

Thanks for reading.

John


Okay, last night I watched Showtime’s Dexter say he was thankful for yams when sharing Thanksgiving dinner with the Trinity killer’s family; then I watched Lauren say she was thankful for canned yams when sharing Thanksgiving dinner with the Bennet family on NBC’s Heroes.

I am a foodie, but I don’t like yams. I am thankful that I do the cooking most every year at Thanksgiving so that I don’t have to eat around the yam dish on my plate.

As a foodie, I am thankful I am not Andrew Zimmern who has eaten bull’s rectum and testicles soup in the Philippines; bull testicles in Spain;  chicken uterus, black-bone chicken testicles in Taiwan; goose intestine in New York City; civet feces coffee, bull penis in Vietnam; snake penis, fried deer penis, yak penis in China; boar’s testicles in Minnesota; bull penis soup in Bolivia; and braided intestines, cow’s butt sandwich, fresh bull testicle and scrotum stew in Chile.

At least Anthony Bourdain can wash down the occasional freakish menu offering with a drink or twelve, but Zimmern is a recovering addict/alcoholic and is making the choice to swallow so much shaft, balls and ass sober.

I am not really one of those, “let’s all say what we are thankful for,” kind of Thanksgiving dinner Dads. I love to cook. I love that there is a holiday all about cooking and family. I love that people eat my food. I love trying new recipes. I am not a traditionalist. I love the insanity of 5-7 dishes all coming up at the same time for 12-16 people, the high-wire risk of having no repeat dishes year to year.

This year I am cooking for just my son and myself. We will have more than enough food for his mom, my ex-wife. Most importantly, we will have plenty of left over turkey for sandwiches on Friday. Note to self: buy sandwich fixings tomorrow for the long holiday weekend.

I am using an Alton Brown brine on our turkey, then cooking it in my Popeil Showtime rotisserie (set-it-and-forget-it) grill. I am doing a Rachael Ray gratin potato dish and Paula Deen cornbread stuffing. Instead of my own delicious pies, I am doing a Nancy Iannios pumpkin creme brulee.

I worked for Tom Klein years ago when he owned both Rodney Strong and Windsor Vineyards. I will be enjoying a 2007 Russian River Valley Rodney Strong Pinot Noir with Thanksgiving dinner. Wine Spectator gave the Russian River Valley appellation, 2007 Pinot Noir vintage a 98/100 rating. I am thankful that Tom and Rick Sayre make consistently delicious and affordable wines, and that having worked with them, I have the confidence to choose their wines in any, not just this classic best ever, vintage.

All around me is change. I have a good friend up north who has left her job rather than complain about it, and is in search of a better job. I have an old girlfriend out east who has left her job and will be starting a new one. I am looking at changing my job. I am good at what I do, I make money for my business, for myself, but I would like to travel less often and spend more time with my son. I will be trying to find a job where I can use my wealth of real world experience, the education behind my marketing degree, and my newfound web 2.0 skills to help a winery in the north coast (Sonoma, Napa, Lake or Mendocino county) of California. I would love a hybrid position involving social media marketing, traditional marketing, tasting room and/or wine club work, trade show marketing, and more.

I write without thinking about someone reading what I write, and I usually disable comment leaving for my blog, so I am always surprised when I read a comment left on facebook, twitter, a forum or e-mail about my writing. I know people read what I write, usually 100 people, but sometimes as many as 300 and more. Knowing you are out there, having you write back to me, does influence my writing a touch. I am thankful anyone finds my writing at all; more thankful some of you like my writing.

__________

My son is 12 years old. He is 5′ 9 1/2″ tall and 170 pounds on a lanky muscular frame. I knew dating sasquatch would produce a tall child. Charlie has been at basketball tryouts the last two days, trying to make his school’s 7th grade team. As the tallest boy at the tryouts, and with a year of league play, we are reasonably confident he will make the team. I am thankful that my son has such an affinity for a game I never played, or was interested in playing; it is good for him to be good at something that is his own.

__________

I had an Apple iMac screen damaged by careless family while I was away at work about a year ago. I found a used flat screen monitor and have used it to mirror what would have been viewable on my iMac screen. This last weekend, I bought a used iMac with more guts, a perfect screen, and the newest Apple OS. I was able to move all of the info in my old computer to my new one effortlessly using migration assistant, and now I have both screens viewable to spread my work over. An extra 750 GB hard drive, for a 1 TB total, speakers, and high speed internet access completes the coolest computer system I’ve ever had. Better than I could have imagined, I am thankful for my totally cool and powerful home work and play space.

__________

I will be writing more, perhaps much more with a business slant, but certainly more on a personal basis as I travel less. I will probably move my personal writing to a dedicated website, and I’ll certainly let you know if I do make that change. I plan to write more about wine and food from the perspective of an industry professional with real world experience and as a born and raised resident of California’s premier wine growing area. I also want to give reviews of wine accessories and wine books. I want to make more use of video entries as well. Look for a more wow experience sometime early in 2010. I’ll be thankful if you follow me with my writing. Thanks.

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