Sunday, June 17, 2012

In A Daze at Pinot Days

Pinot Days in San Francisco
San Francisco, CA – When it comes to drinking I have the heart of an alcoholic, but sadly not the stomach for it—after two drinks, I’m quickly done-in.  Luckily, wine is meant for sipping and Pinot, the delightful thin-skinned grape is one to savor, so my heart and stomach were in communion for Pinot Days, a wine festival held at Fort Mason on June 16.   
This event calls itself the largest gathering of Pinot Noir producers in the world and I believe it—the place was packed.  My college roommate from 30 years ago invited me to go with her and our goal was to find the best wine of the event, a huge challenge considering there were over 140 exhibitors there.  Still, we were up to the task and here’s our unscientific strategy.  First: we only tasted California wines; second: we isolated two geographic areas including the Central Coast and the Napa Valley; and third: we asked random people, mostly cute single guys, whom they recommended. 

Next, we conjured a strategy.  One of us would sit at a table and take notes, while the other would go to a booth and ask the winemaker to “pour me the best stuff you have—you’re in a contest to win winemaker of Pinot Days.”  We’d taste the wine at the table and use the Robert Parker 100 point rating system. 

Bob Wait, Grand Prize Winner
Luckily for our grand prize winner, I immediately violated our unscientific strategy and asked a big, burly, bearded guy who had a camera around his neck and a spiral notepad in his hand what his favorite wine was and he told me to try Wait Cellars and he was right. Owner and winemaker Bob Wait’s 2009 Green Valley Pinot Noir is made from 100 percent hand-picked and hand-sorted fruit from the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County.  Plus, he melted our heart by pouring his prize-winning wine from his grandmother’s decanter. At $36 a bottle, it’s a steal.  We gave him 99 points. 

Kevin Deschamp (l) and winemaker
Gary Brookman (r) First Place Winner
Our first place winner was Miner Family Winery, the very first wine that my roommate tried at the event, even before we devised our scheme to run the unofficial event contest.  I was busy eating French bread and Kerrygold white cheddar cheese at the time—starving as usual.  Winemaker Gary Brookman’s 2010 Rosella’s 777 is made from grapes grown along the southwest facing slopes of the Santa Lucia Mountain Range on the Central Coast.  At $75 a bottle, it’s an investment that will last until 2018—if you can wait that long!  We gave him 97 points.   

Honorable mention goes to Manzoni EstateVineyard, mostly because my roommate is good friends with the owner, Mark Manzoni.  But we do recommend their 2010 Manzoni Home Vineyard Pinot Noir.  

At the conclusion of the event, both of us had a good buzz going, but we were ready to pay the piper.  We went to the volunteer booth, put on our day-glo orange vests, and began our jobs as closing logistic technicians.  This was the price to pay for a free entrance to the event—picking up used wine glasses, breaking down tables and collecting garbage.  Still, we had a blast and look forward to doing it again next year. Cheers.

Friday, June 15, 2012

California Legend: David Brower

Berkeley, CA – One of the best parts about living in the East Bay is the access to the intellectual capitol of California—Berkeley. It’s always such a treat to be among the mature radicals of the 60s, men and women who once held the lantern lighting the way into our future.  One of these pioneers was the late David Brower, father of the environmental movement.  His son Ken Brower has penned a new book The Wildness Within:Remembering David Brower—written about his legendary father.  I was on-hand and at the edge of my seat listening to my favorite publisher Malcolm Margolin pepper Ken Brower with questions about the book.

            My favorite story was about the dam at Glen Canyon along the Colorado River, the one that broke the heart of David Brower, who on behalf of the Sierra Club fought a protracted battle against the Bureau of Reclamation and in the end lost.  Its reservoir is called Lake Powell or Lake “Foul” as Ken called it and is the second largest artificial lake in the country. The dam, finished in 1966 inundated a natural cathedral of gorges, sheer-cliff sculptured walls of Navajo sandstone that once radiated warm earth tones of tangerine reflecting a rosy golden light. 

            In 2005, five years after the death of his father, Ken finally had the courage to visit Glen Canyon bringing along his own beloved son.  As Ken tells it, he was dismayed at the destruction of the dam especially since the water level was so low and the tell-tale bathtub ring veiled the once exquisite integrity of the canyon walls.  I’m sure there was a lot of head-shaking going on as Ken reflected on the lost beauty of this once magnificent canyon.  His son piped up and told his dad, “It’s still beautiful to me,” affirming that while things get taken away from us, every generation still finds beauty.

Much to my surprise, Ken’s son was in the audience along with his own child who appeared less than a year old, a baby still.  What began as sweet cooing soon turned to fussing and then frustrating squawks.   The audience was patient.   Eventually the baby was escorted out of the venue by a considerate mother.  It dawned on me that this was the great grandchild of David Brower, who this year would have been 100-years-old.   That his generational legacy would continue to have a impact because in our midst was a future environmentalist who had his great-grandfather's gift of making a lot of noise and getting attention, just what the movement needs in an ever-changing world. 

On the cusp of Father's Day, I honor the late, great David Brower and the loving tribute of his son Ken.  Thanks to you both for making the world a better place.