Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Bottling on Elvis' birthday?

I'm hoping to bottle the second vintage of my Clone 877 Arroyo Seco Syrah on January 8, as that would give me some new (and unbottleshocked) swill for The Day The Girth Took Pills three days later in Sedona. But with the criminal California legislature trying to pass a $3/cs tax hike on wine, everybody and their wino grandmother is making reservations for early bottling dates. Elvis, help me out!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Winemaker Photos

Cris Cherry of Villa Creek Cellars, at the right. The guy on the left makes beer.


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Happy High Holy Days from Graceland-By-The-Sea!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Our very close friend Phedre, seen here as the orange-clad uber-starlet of the Dancing Cage at the recent Monkey Ball, had a marvelous time as "The Vixen That Devastated Cayucos." Indeed, some of the most discerning of my male friends have been asking after her. This weekend she called Alexis from her home in Telluride with a relationship question, admitting that she and her husband Amanda often quarreled.
"Do you and Stillman have arguments?" she asked, "and what do you argue about?"
Alexis paused for half a second and replied, "You."

Winemaker Wedding

Another marvelous party, ho hum. Christian and Nicole Tietje (http://www.fourvines.com/) the former not pictured, as Nicole, far right, is next to Steve Kroener who I have previously pictured.
My label designer and my assistant mistress are on the left; and I'm not getting married unless I can have them both.

Road trip, in a thousand words or less.

The Snowflake of Death says it all. White knuckle driving in Oregon and California at its nastiest. Bald tires on ice are like a bald head in the sun.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Enological road trip

Blogging will be light this weekend; after bottling the Pink Zeppelin, I'll be off for Mendocino, Grants Pass, and Portland. I'm hoping to skid on some black ice and take out several dozen overrated Pinot Noir vines.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Elvis impersonators and wine

I know three Elvis impersonators pretty well.

What, only three?

One is the 'real' thing; though I met him twelve years ago when he was selling vineyard equipment, and he and his family own a Mexican restaurant in Gilroy. He derives a significant portion of his income from appearing as Donald 'Elvis' Prieto, and he offers an excellent Orthodox Presleyterian experience. He's also a Protestant minister and one of the nicest, best people I know, which is saying something. He has childhood diabetes, which he has only survived thanks to a pancreas/kidney transplant that turned him from the young into the middle-aged Elvis in the period of about a year, and though he can't drink much wine, he will certainly outlive the original King.

The second is my friend and webmaster, which means he does all my websites (except for this one, of course). I met him, also twelve years ago, when a wine critic friend of mine suggested that we find an enthusiastic amateur to taste with us as a 'control palate' and I suggested a rock star I'd been emailing and exchanging CDs for wine with, who lived a few miles away. He's Greg Tortell, better known as Tortelvis of the reggae/metal band Dread Zeppelin, and he too is a professional Elvis impersonator, though more Rastafarian than Orthodox. He can drink quite a bit of wine, or indeed, anything, and has already outlived E. A. Presley by several years.

The third is my best friend, Jeff Graham of Sedona, Arizona. A lifetime professional wine retail/wholesaler, he has a collection of official and extremely unofficial Elvis objects in his party hacienda, Graceland Southwest. There he writes original Kingly poetry, some of it rivaled only by the best songs sung by the original (Presley never wrote lyrics or music) but far funnier. He has several Elvis jumpsuits, and recites the poems in them. He can almost outdrink me, and is a few years older than I.

Is there a lesson here? Help me out.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

I had too much to dream last night -

Or just substitute the word, drink.

Pinot analysis with Steely Dan Tudor (he is afraid I'm going to cherry-pick his barrels, and he's right) was followed by shots of Del Maguey (http://www.mezcal.com/) and by dinner at Hoppe's. Then the Tavie for the great http://www.cadillacangels.com/ and powerful vodkas. Ouch.

The Cadillac Angels are wonderful; rock and roll as if the British Invasion never happened. Coming from a fairly serious Led Zeppelin and punk fan, that's an odd compliment, but they're terrific.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Winemaker Photos

Steely Dan Tudor, backlit at the Monkey Ball . . . the Jester King - Captain Comrade Confusion - the Man of Massive Pinot Noir?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Drinking and Driving

As someone who has posted a YouTube instructional video showing how to swirl fine wine in crystal stemware while driving a stick shift (see www.youtube.com/stillmanbrown for 15 seconds of fun) I clearly have too blithe of a dude attitude toward drinking and driving. I've had no moving violations in ten years, and have never been asked if I was drinking while in the drivers seat by anyone wearing a badge (a.k.a. sworn personnel) so I clearly have benefitted from a combination of good luck and an inboard autopilot. (It may be genetic, as all my sons have excellent computer game driving skills; though Grand Theft Auto III may be an imperfect tutor.) Monday night, at the culmination of a fairly dangerous afternoon and evening of Chardonnay and vodka, my favorite dive bar's tender and owner followed me out their door, concerned for my condition and their license; to which I replied that if I could locate my car and walk straight there, I would be fine. If I sway and can't walk a straight line, I take a nap in the car . . . taking care not to start driving first.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Links and blogs

On the right of this page you will see some links, most to my wine webpages, a few to the more interesting political blogs, none predictably partisan, and one to my Biographer's page, the subject of which appears to be maternal obsession. (Just kidding, Meghan.) Take note . . .

Friday, December 5, 2008

Hoppe Hour report

Herr Hoppe has seen the light! According to sommelier Karen Bennett, Hoppe's Social Club, aka Hoppe Hour, will henceforth cost ten bucks for members and fifteen for non-members. We didn't care, as the announcement was made toward the end of the Hour after exposure to the wares of several beverage purveyors (the Swamp Siren refers to them as 'wine sluts' for their, er, salesmanship) pouring champagne and sundry sparklers. My Biographer (http://www.quietdowncobwebs.com/) and infant Phoebe attended, and we also hung out with our friends and future grape growers Chuck and Jennifer Lenet, who have a ranch five miles north of Cayucos with south-facing hillsides. Their avocados are among the best in the world, so I have high hopes for their Pinot Noir and Syrah. The first half acre of test vineyard will go in this spring, and spear hunting of wild boar will commence as soon as I can get a proper spear. I already have the leopard-print boxers, in lieu of a loincloth.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Steve Kroener of Silver Horse Winery in Paso Robles, friend and party animal. Photo taken at the Monkey Ball, of course. www.silverhorse.com

Hoppe Hour

At 6 p.m. on the first Thursday of every month, HoppesGardenBistro.com in Cayucos does something wonderful. The best restaurant on the Central Coast (says me, and it has the highest Zagat food rating between the Bay Area and L.A.) serves a buffet of excellent appetizers along with tastes of several fine wines for a total of ten dollars; five if you're a member of 'Hoppe's Social Club,' rather a funny name, as Chef Hoppe is not one of those front-of-the-house backslapping restaurant owners, to say the least. In fact he wouldn't be caught dead hanging out at his own event, preferring the inspiration and productivity of the kitchen. See you there!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Professional Wine Evaluation

This afternoon I'm going over to my friend Deborah's. She's chef/owner at www.BlackCatBistro.com which is a real, and superb, restaurant up the coast in Cambria. We're going to taste wines together, including some new releases by wineries I like, such as Eberle and Denner, both of which are over the hill in Paso Robles. That is to say, on the other side of the hill and not on the coast; I've no reason to assume the wineries themselves have seen better days, at least not until I try their new releases. But I'm sympathetically inclined as I like the owners.

I hate to describe a wine glowingly, only to discover at some point that the winery owner, or worse yet the winemaker, is an unpleasant person. (Rather how I feel about praising my own swill.) I also don't care to trash plonk made by a friend, preferring to slip it to a hardy plant unaware. But I rarely give a lengthy description of a wine for other reasons. First, to keep the allure of mystery for those who might want to try it themselves; second, because as a professional I tend to focus more on the wine's origin and structure, and less on effusive babble about the aromas, flavors and food matches (the province of amateurs, Bacchus bless them) and third, because I can't remember that many descriptors. Tell me twenty marvelous things about a wine, and I may recall two of them. I may even recall you, though you've given me your card twice before.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Flagship of the Fleet, ahem!

The most phallic wine label that, er, springs to mind. What it crashes into is beyond the horizon, though a certain westside Paso Robles winery structure, stunning in tastelessness, might become available soon.

Yes, I made the wine; it doesn't suck.

Winemaker Photos

Our pseudo-pal Ondine Chattan, who is Director of Winemaking at some titanic corporate winery that changes hands so often they don't know where their vineyards are. Makes the lovely http://www.atelierwinery.com/ wines as well: Zinfandel, Syrah, and a sparkling Norton.

Winemaker Parties

A practically limitless availability of wine, an exemplary social setting, and the passage of several hours brings out the best in some people; and the worst in others, so it helps to have friends with bouncer skills.

After a mere four hours of our Monkey Ball last week (the Swamp Siren's 50th) there were major wine spills in the dancing cage, on the twelve foot high ceiling of the rented hall, and on the pier outside; the latter deposit apparently having spent a short period of time inside an underage stomach.

In my role as Swilly Idle, Party Pest Host, I roved the scene with a bottle of Del Maguey Mezcal in hand, offering to nearly all. (Best firewater ever, say I: http://www.mezcal.com/ .) Only my friend Brad the Abalone Abuser was able to swizzle more than an ounce directly from the bottle. I could have kept pace, but I had a party to run. Slide show at: http://www.swillyidle.com/ .

That's my permanent site, with music and colors, but no scratch-n-sniff Shiraz. I'm saving that for my insert in the Wine Spectator . . . it comes in a plain brown wrapper.

On winemakers as drinking companions

The photo at the bottom of this page, taken during a party it would seem, is of Swilly Idle (me, after one glass) and "Steely Dan" Tudor, my friend the Pinot Noir producer. After twentysomething years amongst the yeast strains, I know a lot of winemakers, but as I live in a small beach town over the hill from the wineries and vineyards I deal with, I see more of my neighbor Steely Dan (yes, I had to tell him the origin of the band's name) than I do other winemakers. So, I drink quite a bit of his wine, and he of mine; fortunately, our swill is usually rather good. There are two other winemakers that live in town, charming fellows, but if I drank their wine twice a week??? Elvis forbid. My nail polish would be vapor, my liver, carborundum.

Post au lait, Nouveau

Ladies, gentlemen and fruit flies, after five years of winery newsletters (The Thief, at Jory Winery) a dozen years of hurling enological spam (emails from Swilly Idle, Red Zeppelin Winery, and other identities that assumed me) as unwell as irregularly updated content of such websites as www.RedZeppelinWinery.com and www.SwillyIdle.com, done with the loving assistance of The Rock Star Formerly Known As Gregelbert Torteldink, I am ready to blog in my own voice. Plug your orifices!

Band practice

Band practice