John On Wine – An early Thanksgiving

Susan Johnson and John Cesano at Passport to Dry Creek Valley

Originally published in the Ukiah Daily Journal newspaper on Thursday, May 14, 2015

I know I am supposed to save up all my gratefulness for the year and post it in a cliché Thanksgiving post toward the end of November, but Thanksgiving is coming early this year.

During the recently passed Hopland Passport event, one of our visiting tasters told me that she wished she could have my job. Everybody sees greener grass outside their lives; I would love to have Anthony Bourdain’s job, but I do recognize how blessed I am.

The Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley invited me to attend the Passport to Dry Creek Valley for the third consecutive year, and I am extraordinarily grateful. This year, I was accompanied by my good friend, Susan Johnson. Susan and I used to travel the country doing tradeshows, winemaker dinners, and corporate events for wineries, and then moved together to work for the Wine Appreciation Guild where we visited hundreds of wineries and tasting rooms throughout California.

Susan now works for a company that provides winemakers the tools to make great wine, and of course I pour great wine at one job and write about great wine in my other job. Although we came at each wine tasted from a different perspective, Susan looking at what could have made a wine better and me taking each wine as it is, we both were absolutely impressed front to back with the line ups at media check in host winery DaVero, Gustafson Family Winery, and Seghesio. Talty did the best job amplifying social media marketing, Selby had the best single bite of food, and Blanchard had the best ‘story’ wine.

DaVero produces organic or biodynamic wines from Italian varieties, and I shared the names of some Mendocino growers when asked by winemaker Evan, but if you grow grapes in the county, certified organic or biodynamic, and they are Italian varieties, then Evan wants to hear from you. Terrific wines that you will not taste anywhere else, plus they have farm goods for sale — and you know how much I love an organic farm stand & tasting room!

Gustafson is a long drive from any other winery, but absolutely worth the time to get there. Best winery views ever, fantastic wines, whimsically wonderful presented tasty food creations, and a dream property for vacation rental. Gustafson joins Preston and Truett-Hurst as one of my three favorite Dry Creek places to spend an afternoon with wine and food.

In spite of my desire to visit new wineries each Dry Creek Passport, Seghesio pulls me in year after year. Between wine, food, and music this is probably the most dependably solid stop for complete satisfaction.

Within seconds of a #DCVPassport post by me, about any participating winery, Talty was sharing or retweeting it. Visit them if you like Zin, Zin, or Zin. Selby’s duck and andouille sausage gumbo with crayfish cornbread was the best food I tasted all weekend. Blanchard had the best music with the Rosetown Ramblers covering Grateful Dead tunes, and each bottle sold of their “Helicopter” blend sees a donation to help the families of our military’s special operators.

Two days before our own Hopland Passport, I attended a general meeting of Mendocino Winegrowers Inc. at Barra of Mendocino. I would love to sit at a table with Charlie and Martha Barra, George Lee, Ed Berry, Leroy and Mary Louise Chase, and just shut up for a change. Listening to these, and other great growers, is so wonderful, and helps me in my education about Mendocino wine. I gratefully accepted an invite to visit the Chase Vineyard on a future date, and am thankful for the opportunity to tell a future story about wine from a great vineyard.

Hopland Passport. For me, it is a week of preparation, two days of intense energy output, and nearly a week of putting my tasting room back together afterward. Although people have reported that attendance may have been lighter than in the past, you couldn’t tell it by our numbers. I have everyone to thank, all of the team at the farm, the tasting room team, our chef team, and especially all of our visitors for more than doubling our numbers from last spring’s Passport event.


Passport is truly a team effort, and we all work hard to make it as fun as possible; I think we succeeded. Now, if you’ll all come and pick up all of your paid for wine, I’ll be even more thankful.

Thanks to Tom Liden, Mendocino winery photographer, for your kind words of encouragement about the words I write weekly. Thanks also to all of my other readers for your words of support; I confess that I am still a little freaked out when I’m recognized for my writing and the compliments about individual pieces I have written, but I am enormously grateful. Within the last two weeks, three different people have told me they enjoy the recaps of the Chef’s Winemaker Dinners at Crush; that makes the piece I’ll be writing about the May 20 Graziano dinner all the easier to write.

Thanks to Aubrey Rawlins, executive director of Mendocino Winegrowers Inc., for recommending me for a winery writing gig. The funny thing is I already loved the wines and winery involved, had planned a visit for a future spotlight winery piece here, and this might be the easiest gig ever, a two for one opportunity.

Thanks to Janis MacDonald and Kristy Charles of the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association for invitations to all of your events, and for treating the Ukiah Daily Journal wine guy the same as the folks from Wine Enthusiast, San Francisco Chronicle, and Wine Spectator; it is appreciated, if a little surreal and humbling.

I will next be attending the 18th annual Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival on May 14-17; with a welcome dinner on Thursday (tonight) at Balo Vineyards, the Technical Conference on Friday at the Fairgrounds in Boonville (seriously, it may sound boring, but the tech conferences that Anderson Valley puts on are a highlight of each event) and a Casual BBQ at Lula Cellars that evening, a Press Tasting at Scharffenberger Cellars on Saturday morning followed by the Grand Tasting at Goldeneye Winery.

On Sunday, May 17, I’ll be headed to The Barlow in Sebastopol to taste Mendocino County’s Gold Medal awarded wines from the recent 2015 Press Democrat North Coast Wine Challenge. Friday, June 19, I’ll be at the Coro Mendocino 2012 Vintage Release Party & Multi-Course Dinner at Dogpatch Wine Works in San Francisco (tickets available at Sip Mendocino in Hopland, ask to sit at the McFadden table), and the next day, June 20, I’ll be at the Metreon in San Francisco for the 11th annual Pinot Days.

In between all this, I’ll be visiting vineyards, wineries, and tasting rooms for future pieces, or simply my own further education and enjoyment.

None of my opportunities would be possible without invitations from others, and those invitations come because I write for you, my readers, here in the Ukiah Daily Journal and online at and you are the reason I have a life worthy of gratitude, of thanks, and of appreciation. I’m not waiting until Thursday, November 26, Thanksgiving day 2015; let me say it now (and possibly again then): Thank you!

Yesterday, I drove two hours south to San Francisco to taste some wines over lunch, and I will be writing about the visit, the restaurant, the food, the wines, all of it, very soon.

Taking things out of chronological order, I have to tell you about what I did in San Francisco following my lunchtime tasting. It helps if you know who Anthony Bourdain is, and how much I revere him.

Anthony Bourdain was the chef at Les Halles in New York City; but became famous after writing the classic, “Kitchen Confidential.” Bourdain is an amazing writer, an experienced cook, knowledgeable, opinionated, passionate, entertaining. With a past that includes being a Culinary Institute of America graduate and a junkie, Bourdain’s prose is infused with a dark undercurrent of cynicism, yet he remains open to the possibility of beauty, happiness, magic, love. After a short lived stint on the Food Network, Bourdain’s television show, “No Reservations,” has become the most watched show on the Travel Channel.

Recently an episode of Bourdain’s “No Reservations” featured his explorations of San Francisco food experiences, focusing on meaty options during what he described as a visit to the land of vegetarians, locavores, and the politically correct. The San Francisco episode featured a visit to the Pirate Cat Radio Cafe for a Bacon Maple Latte. I am not a believer in bucket lists, things to to before you kick the bucket, but after seeing Bourdain’s segment, I have anticipated visiting Pirate Cat Radio Cafe myself for a taste of the house special.

With my iPhone set to GPS direction mode, I was able to travel from North Beach to the Mission/Potrero bordering neighborhoods area in about 15 minutes. The area around the Pirate Cat Radio Cafe, located at 2781 21st Street, is eclectic, funky, energetic, hip. I was drawn to the expressive exterior paint jobs of some of the neighboring buildings.

The “Swoosh” is either a comet, or this building is owned by a Minnesota Viking fan

The paint job for this cleaner is inspired by Disney’s The Little Mermaid

Cutest house on the block

A combination coffee house and radio station, Pirate Cat Radio Cafe sports an edgy, dangerous vibe, painted red and black like a bleeding wound and necrosis. Inside, I found Phia behind the counter, Shantai reclined on a couch, and Wilson in the radio booth.

Pirate Cat Radio Cafe, the open door, like a maw, waits to swallow you whole

Phia, probably short for Sophia but it took me a couple of hours to figure that out, is a young white girl with mad latte skills. She is interested in a possible future in media and that is what brought her to Pirate Cat two months ago.

Shantai is a young black girl who is enjoying some time spent with a hot coffee beverage while listening to cool music. She was surprised when I knew her name, but she had referred to herself in the third person in a conversation with Phia, and I’m a decent listener.

Wilson is the young Disc Jockey, On Air Personality, or whatever they are called these days.

I worked at a nighclub bar restaurant radio station over 20 years ago, and we talked about the changes. Wilson isn’t so young that he doesn’t remember vinyl and how digital music was considered cold while the pop and hiss of  LPs was once cherished. Wilson actually heard and remembered my radio show, Dead Air, from all those years ago, although he must have been quite young at the time.

I’ll see your sandwich board, and raise you a caffeinated bacon maple latte board

The Bacon Maple Latte is made by cooking down 10 pounds of bacon into 4 ounces of concentrated goodness, bacon essence, refined bacon fat. A heaping serving of bacon and a tablespoon of real maple syrup are melted into espresso and frothed Clover milk foam tops that. Like sprinkles on a Sundae, real bits of bacon are sprinkled on top of the foam.

Pork Maple Latte on a Vegan Menu Board

Straight up, it all works together and is quite good; which really shouldn’t be a surprise as bacon, syrup, and coffee might easily be part of any ordinary breakfast. The bacon makes the drink more round, more fatty, and the maple provides the bridging link between bacon and coffee flavors. Chewing a sipped bacon bit as the bacon and and maple flavored latte slides down your throat, releases more bacon flavor.

Bacon Maple Latte with Bacon Bits for Sprinkles

Wilson, using a mac instead of turntables, put a song on for me, which I named before the first note was finished, Bob Weir’s Looks Like Rain.

We compared some experiences, and I told old war stories; how Primus played our Cafe because we could simulcast their show and give them a taped copy of it at night’s end, how we had a blender in the booth for Margaritas on some shifts. Where I was paid, Pirate Cat Radio Cafe DJs are unpaid interns, and often actually pay for the experience.

The caffeine rush you feel from a Bacon Maple Latte is enhanced as your blood, pulse quickened, is forced though narrowing vessels, arteries hardened.

The experience has marked me; this morning, I visited Starbucks, and nothing looked quite the same.

I posted briefly on a forum last night about the magically porklicious latte that I had, which started a conversation about bacon and the trend toward using it in everything (thanks to Guy Fieri and every Top Chef contestant ever). With space on my non existent bucket list, with the Pirate Cat Radio Cafe beverage down, a forum friend introduced me to a new vehicle for bacon delivery: the meat baby!

Bacon is the meat baby’s diaper

I am so making a meat baby. Soon.

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.

I am busy this week. Lots of little things to do, to get done. None of it particularly interesting to you, but things that I have to do in order to feel comfortable in my own skin.

I am flying with my son to St. Louis, MO next week for the Pokemon TCG U.S. National Championships. My son will be playing at his 3rd Nationals, this will be his first year playing at Nationals in the Senior division. I will be helping as a Junior division judge. I am incredibly honored to be chosen to be invited by Pokemon to staff Nationals this year; I have a free flight and room, and am even getting a little folding green to cover food and incidentals, so by using some frequent flier miles for my son Charlie’s flight, we have a free trip when we would have been okay with bearing these costs to share another vacation together.

With help from a much better player in our region, Charlie has a solid and novel deck list of cards to build and play at this year’s Nationals. We had 53 out of the 60 cards needed for this deck. The remaining 7 cards needed cost less than $6.00 online. This is the cheapest deck build for a major tournament ever.

Not wanting to be less current than the Junior division players I will be helping to judge, I will be studying the rules compendium and any updates and recent rulings and decisions for the next week. With scholarships and invites to the World’s Championships on the line, I want to give a flawless, mistake free, judging experience to my players.

A couple of weeks later, I fly into Detroit, MI on July 7 for work. I booked flights for me and Art, my associate, a rental car, hotel. We are scheduled to do three shows, Wyandotte, Plymouth, and Ann Arbor. We are scheduled to fly back on July 19.

Ann Arbor hosts the nation’s largest Arts and Craft show, with over 500,000 attendees over 4 days. I have sold my wine bottle stoppers there for the last 4 years, in booth A3 of the courtyard off Liberty street roughly across from Seva restaurant. Art and I work the show together, and make a nice bit of money at the show.

This year, I hope to abandon Art to work the show alone, or possibly fly my brother up from New Orleans to join and help him. I hope to be interviewing for my dream job instead of working the Ann Arbor show.

Since submitting my video job application, #1015, to Murphy-Goode, 297 more video applications have been submitted. With help and support from lots of people, my video job application is the #25 most popular having received 487 votes so far. If you have 60 seconds, you can view the video application at the link provided; if you have an available email address, you can vote the video your favorite. I would appreciate it. Murphy-Goode’s really goode job is my dream job.

The application period will close this Friday, June 19. One week later, the Top 50 candidates will be chosen; I hope to find myself in the Top 50 from St. Louis. If I make the Top 50, and then the Top 10, I will have to scramble; I will fly home after working Wyandotte and Plymouth, on July 13, so I can interview in person July 14-18. On July 21, one of the Top 10 will find that they are the winning candidate for my dream job. August 15 is the first day of work for Murphy-Goode.

In addition to booking travel for upcoming trips, studying Pokemon rules, and asking for favorite video votes all over the interwebs, I have been enjoying a new (to me only) book, Anthony Bourdain’s A Cook’s Tour. Again, I am constantly impressed with Bourdain’s writing. Paying bills, housekeeping, and dealing with familial dramas round out my busy week.

Each week night, Mon-Thur, I have been enjoying a horrible vice. I have been joining others in an internet chat room and watching “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!” on streaming video three hours earlier than it is shown here in northern California. There is something less than noble about watching this trainwreck of a show, deriving delight and entertainment from the bad actions of first Speidi, then Janice Dickinson. Even less noble, I voted for Janice to be safe, so that the entertainment can continue.

I first started this East coast stream watching and chatting during American Idol, which I blogged about earlier this year. It is nice to watch these shows with others who find the funny in the unintended entertainment provided in badly sung karaoke and z-list celebrity Survivor-type shenanigans.

I have been rotating among four musical choices as I work at my computer. As always, the Grateful Dead is tops on the iTunes, but this week the Cardiff Reefers, Railroad Earth, and Yes We Can, Voices of a Grassroots Movement are also in heavy rotation. I am finding strength, sustenance in the positive messages and happy vibes of this week’s musical favorites.

Instead of focusing on the 80’s and 90’s Dead, during the time I toured and saw them live, I have been enjoying some older 60’s and 70’s Dead for the difference that PigPen, then Keith and Donna provide.

A friend, Bill, and I found recently that we share a fondness for the Cardiff Reefers, a band that played about 1,800 gigs before breaking up. San Diego marijuana loving ska/reggae/rock/jam brilliance. I don’t smoke, but I almost get a contact high listening to two CD’s Bill burned me of a concert from Santa Rosa’s old Magnolia’s. Bill and I both may have attended this concert, but not recognized each other then, caught up in our own lives between high school graduation and now.

Clare, an old girlfriend who turned me on to a lot of really cool stuff during the time we spent together, introduced me to Railroad Earth. An East coast folk rock jam band, Railroad Earth is just a nice tasty groove in this week’s menu.

Rounding out this week’s choices are songs sung by Lionel Ritchie, Stevie Wonder, John Mayer, Dave Stewart, Shontelle, Los Lonely Boys, John Legend, Suai, Jill Scott, Ozomatli, Jackson Browne, Sheryl Crow, Nulik Yusef, Kanye West, Adam Levine, Yolanda Adams, Keb’ Mo’, Ken Stacey, and Buddy Miller.

This week, an incredibly sweet gal from my long distant past reached out, asking for help. I let her know that we are interconnected, all things part of a greater whole. When in need, ask for help, and watch out, because help is coming. The trick is to ask for help. Too many people stay quiet and suffer alone, never knowing there is a way out of the unhappiness they find themselves in. Ask for help when you need it. Be prepared to work when help is offered. Not everyone has all the answers, you may have to ask more than one person for help.

The internet has provided me constant access to over 50 of my former high school classmates, hundreds of forum acquaintances – some friends, and countless unknown readers of my writings. You have lifted me when I felt down, you led me to the news of Murphy-Goode’s job offer, you have stepped up and voted my application into a a noticeable position. I have asked for help, and you have responded. In real life, I receive similar support and bounty, and a measure of difficulty at turns as well; I am trying to be open and receptive to the needs of others in return.

I might not be the right person to ask for help in all cases, and you might have to speak up, I’m partly deaf – but we are not alone.

As always, thanks for reading.

I am finally back at home sitting in front of my computer, fingers stabbing away at the keys that will result in an overdue new blog entry. A week away from my computer, from writing, I missed it. I missed home, as I was away, down south, for work and pleasure.

I worked the three days of the Memorial Day weekend at Fiesta Hermosa in Hermosa Beach, California, about 20 minutes south of LAX. I spiel my product endlessly at shows with good attendance, and the resultant sales is how I make a living. During one of my spiels this weekend, I recognized the person I was talking to from either film or television but couldn’t place him. The person I brought with me to work the show with also recognized him, but couldn’t place him. Finally, my business associate whispered “big brother”.

I am a reality TV junkie. I have watched seasons of Survivor, Big Brother, Idol, Top Chef, Hell’s Kitchen, Project Runway, Charm School…you name it, I’ve watched it. If I could only choose one, it would have to be Big Brother; the fish bowl purity of the show appeals to me. The tall, smiling, man in front of our booth was Zach Swerdzewski from Big Brother season 8. Zach came in third, losing only to the father/daughter pair of Evil Dick and Danielle.

Season 8 of Big Brother was one of the better casts, starring the broken down old rocker, Evil Dick, who used profanity laced invective, tearing apart fellow houseguests, insulting others for their sexuality, religion, and any other button he could expose. Other houseguests included Jameka, a pious black woman; Amber, a meth using drink slinging single mom from Vegas; Eric, America’s player; Jessica, Eric’s showmance; Dustin and Joe, the hilariously bitter gay ex-couple; Danielle, Evil Dick’s emaciated daughter; and Zach, a guy too nice by far to play in the same game as Evil Dick.

When we were able to place the person from our Fiesta Hermosa booth inside the Big Brother house, he let us know that yes, we remembered correctly, his name was Zach and he was from season 8. I was surprised that other reality TV addicts in the crowd didn’t recognize him, but Zach seemed to operate in a cloak of anonymity; we were the only people who seemed to recognize him. Zach was gracious in spite of our fantarding, posed for pictures with us and even gave us hats from his clothing line, Dolphin Crash. Oh, and Zach now has one of our Corkers. It was really nice to meet someone so genuinely nice.

We also saw Jason “Wee-Man” Acuña of Jackass fame. We did not fantard over Wee-Man, although my 12 year old son was excited that we had seen him.

With the show done, I stayed an extra day in Southern California and visited Metropolis Books at 440 Main in the core of downtown Los Angeles. A high school friend, Julie Swayze, owns the store and we got to spend an hour in conversation. The store is a jewel, an independent book store, and you should visit the store if in Los Angeles. Eat at the Nickel Diner when in the area, the entire area is on the verge of a revitalization, and both the book store and the diner are the future of downtown Los Angeles.

Through Julie, I picked up two more books by Anthony Bourdain, and a book that a friend, Marie Poirer Martinsson, recommended to me, “No One Sees God” by Michael Novak. The last book inspired conversation between Julie and me about spirituality, religion, and the non preachiest preacher man I know, Dean Anderson, another class mate of ours.

Finally, I drove through the Alexander Valley of Sonoma County on the way home today, stopping to get out of my car and walk in some vineyards. I am Frasier like, I know most people are Daphne like; I want to share what I know and love about wine in a way that makes it understandable, maybe even inspiring someone to try a wine instead of a beer with a meal or when out with friends. I know my wine writings will never be #1 on any most read list, but I will continue to write about wine on a regular basis. Perhaps I’ll get better at writing about it, or perhaps more people will find it a palatable topic as my readership grows.

I just finished re-reading a few chapters of Anthony Bourdain’s book, Kitchen Confidential, while sitting outside of my nearby Starbucks, sipping a large coffee with cream and three raw sugars, enjoying the feeling of the warm sun, dressed in shorts, a loose buttoned tropical shirt, and flip flops. I am happy.


For the last half dozen years, I have golfed in an annual tournament called the Wine Country Golf Invitational. The charity that is supported by the tournament is a ridiculously wasteful exercise in vanity on the part of the charity’s creators, the money could be used to achieve the same purpose more effectively; but any good is better than no good, and hey, I’m really just about the golf anyway.

Yesterday, feeling tightness in my back, as I ventured from my warm house into cold and drizzle, I thought about the tournament. When my back seized, I dismissed thoughts of golfing.

Today, feeling great, I received a call from my business partner, asking, pleading, cajoling, and finally convincing me to golf in the tournament next week.

I am among the world’s worst golfers; I don’t have a golf swing so much as a baseball swing tilted to a more vertical plane. I have seen my swing on video once, something I vow never to see again. Stephen King’s clown Pennywise from the book IT is less disturbing than my swing.

In spite of my swing, the little team we field each year for the tournament has taken second place three of the years we’ve competed.

We could come in last, and I would still love the day. We are treated to a terrific lunch, there are kegs of Sonoma County’s best micro brewed ales conveniently situated on the course, different holes have different snacks waiting from fresh baked cookies to BBQ oysters, and after the golf there is both a wine tasting and buffet put on by local restaurants and wineries AND a sit down multi-course meal. Oh, and we golf. And the kids win, it’s all about the charity.


I was looking at a Qantas sale on flights to Australia. I really wanted to go, but I passed on the opportunity.

Today, I found that United is running the same sale; the big difference: I fly United and can use the frequent flyer miles, and United is offering an additional 10,000 flight miles for this special.

After my last booked holiday art and craft show of the year, in December, I am looking to fly from San Francisco to Melbourne and return just before Christmas.

Melbourne is Australia’s destination for “foodies”, I have friends in Melbourne, and I have extended family in Melbourne.

In a year when I have decided that I deserve to gift myself without justification, this may be among my best gifts I give myself.


My son’s mom asked me today to help her create a resume. I am thrilled to do anything I can that will help her find gainful employment. It may seem small, but this is a good thing.

My son and his mom will get to spend some time together this weekend as they will visit with her parents, my son’s grandparents, in Sonoma County for the mother’s day weekend.

I will be taking a solo holiday, not leaving my home, but enjoying some alone time to read and nap.


I called Charlie’s mom at her boyfriend’s house to tell her how to score some “mom of the year” points with her son. She is buying movie tickets for the premiere screening of the new Star Trek movie here in Ukiah.

Charlie will get to stay up super late on a school night, then spoil the plot for his schoolmates at school tomorrow. 12 year old boy Heaven.


I am bemused that my blog has readers. I write because I have to write. I am doing it for me.

I read someone else’s blog entries. I look forward to each new entry. She lives a very different life than the one I live. She lives in a foreign, but not too foreign, country. She is fantastically talented, but questions her self worth; I wish I could express how much I care about her and her life. Her writing is the only connection we will ever have. She is young, I am old. She eats veggies, I love meat. She lives there, I live here. We will never meet; but her writing is so good, so revealing, so honest, so brave – it is as if I know her. I definitely look forward to each new posted entry she writes.

It is because her writing is so good that I try to be a more thoughtful writer, to be a better craftsman.

Re-reading Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, I am again confronted with superior word-smithery. Another goad, I have to strive to be better at this writing thing.

The last four words of Bourdain’s that I read: “Shut the fuck up.”

With that, I will for today.



Edited to Add:

I just returned from the new Star Trek movie and logged on to say I thought it was really enjoyable.

It was also great to see my high school friend Ron Pipes’ name in the credits at the end of the movie. Hurray for Ron!


Golfing, we came in second again, good for 36 teams.

I love Anthony Bourdain. I am envious of him. Bourdain earned his privileges, he was the executive chef at Les Halles in New York for ten years, he wrote Kitchen Confidential (which I will be rereading today), and a number of other books, he writes shorter pieces for magazines and his own blog, and he is now best known as the host of the Travel Channel’s show No Reservations.

You will never hear Bourdain describe food as “Yum-O”, scream “Bam!”, try to “Kick It Up A Notch” with some “Eee-Vee-Oh-Oh”. He’s not a fan of the concept of celebrity chef, and isn’t ironic about having become one. He loves cooking, cooks, and chefs, be they unknown or celebrity; he mocks and derides celebrities who play chef.

Bourdain is too easily hurt, he has a million self defense mechanisms in place, cynicism most chiefly evident. What makes his No Reservations show appointment television in my house is being able to see the cynicism slip, then fall away, as beauty, pure and powerful, undoes Bourdain and transforms him before our eyes.

I have worked restaurants, mostly front of house, waiting tables from Dennys to tuxedo service, and managing a restaurant/nightclub where I made sure I knew how to do everyone’s job in case I needed to in an emergency. I can tend bar, I can wash dishes, I can make soups and salads and prep food, and I can cook. I loved cooking.

In my personal life, I still love to cook. I would like a little more room to do it in, and my 12 year old son wishes that our dishwasher was automatic and not named Charlie, but I love to cook. I have the ability to see a recipe, imagine it, re-imagine it better with mental adjustments of ingredients and cooking techniques, mentally select a perfect pairing wine, then go shopping and come home to execute a wonderful meal…or not. A few of my best dishes took 3 or 4 improvements before they taste as good or better than I originally imagined.

I have been hurt in my past, who hasn’t? Like Bourdain, I spent many years being cynical. Cynicism protects the cynic from hurt, but it also drives away the people you don’t need to protect yourself from. Self inflicted unnecessary and tiring armor.

I have dropped the armor. Well, I may still have a shield handy, but I’m not wearing a full suit anymore. I can get hurt, but I can also join with happier, sweeter, better, and more interesting people. My life is much improved, and continues to improve. Perfect? No, but I think the process of striving for the rarely and transitorily attainable is worth the effort.

Anyway, I am going to be applying for a new job. A winery is looking for someone to get the message of what they do out in a non-traditional way, using social network sites and blog/vblog entries.

I am a native of the area they want described. I worked for a winery for eight years. I know wine, and food, and share what I know with anyone who will listen out of love now. I love Sonoma County, my home, where I grew up. I sold, drank and cooked with wine made from grapes grown by this winery in their own vineyard ranch. I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing. Exhibitor Magazine awarded me the Expert Exhibitor Award three consecutive years for tradeshow marketing of Sonoma County wine. As you are reading this, you know I blog, and am on myspace. I also have facebook and twitter accounts. I post on a number of forums.

I may actually be as qualified, as perfect for the job I will be seeking, as Bourdain is for his. I really can’t imagine anyone else being as good at what I am uniquely able to do, and get the job or not, this is exciting.