Holy Wine Wars (Part Dieu)

Recently, we took a close look at some infamous Wine War rivals vying for your vinological investment. However, sometimes it takes a cool-headed mediator rather than a “stable genius” to bring opposing parties to the table for reconciliation in the time-honored spirit of rapprochement.*

Just for safety’s sake, though, we’re keeping these two on separate racks.

*rapprochement, comes from the French word rapprocher (“to bring together”) meaning a re-establishment of cordial relations, as between two countries…or two theological wine factions. Just thought I’d save you the trouble of looking it up.

It’s all about angle and light

My evil HOA decided to chop down a perfectly good 40-foot pine tree a week ago. They said it was a hazard, based on the fact that a similar tree that was situated on irrigated, stony ground was felled by a summer monsoon. I consulted my own certified arborist who advised that the tree was just fine–just needed a good trimming to make it less of a windblock during a storm.*

Now, in addition to killing a living tree that had been minding its own business for 20 to 25 years (based on the ring count), this lovely tree provided a nice shading effect for my south-facing pool window. The only plus I can think of is that the 10am sunlight pouring through the window gave me the following photo opportunity.

What a difference a simple change of angle and sun (and a healthy zoom lens) can make!

*One resident wrote an email to the HOA property manager in what can only be imagined as a sarcastic tone the manager apparently missed completely: “To be completely safe, how about just cutting down all the trees in the community?” (There are 31 good-sized trees in the HOA area).



Holy Wine Wars

Can’t we all just get along? Apparently the divisiveness that is plaguing America the last couple years has alarmingly spread to the world of wine like a wild fire.

(click on pix to enlarge)

Specifically, take a look at how these forces of good and evil are lining up against each other in an apocalyptic vinological smackdown.

Let’s look at the blessed side first.

Our Daily Red (far left): Matthewy notes with structured tones of manna, coriander seed and honey.

Pontificis: clerical palate with hints of incense and the herb-forward aroma of Brother Juniper and black pepper with a not-too-molest’y finish

St. Somewhere: Fruity, bright and approachable, with hospital notes but not too medicine’y…perhaps a bit too approachable?

Now, on the…shall we say, less-blessed team:

Il Brutto: Primativo based on practically raw under-fermented grapes that make you want to call out “Et tu!”

Handsome Devil (above): Malbec with more than a bit of attitude, rather fond of its plum notes and wine-about-town-finish.

Girl & Dragon (above): another malbec, fresh and fragrant owing to a pleasant underlying acidity which lends it vigor and persistence on the palate.

Alas for the blessed ones, the darksiders, like some WWE tag team have scrambled in a reinforcement to tip the scales:

Troublemaker (red blend): Complete absence of mango, lemon, buttery almond and Fuji apple.

But what’s this? Santa Maria red altar wine from the renowned Iowa grape-growing terroir—home of “valid” sacramental wines. Apparently the heavenly choirs (or choir boys) have their own ringer. Somehow this just doesn’t seem like they’re playing fair!








But now the apostates have their own ringer in the form of…

Lazy Bones: Cabernet Franc – blending a slothful cabernet sauvignon that simply can’t decide if it even wants to register on the palate with ne’er-do-well merlot that finishes haphazardly in the Bordeaux style.

And ruh roh: now The Velvet Devil appears in the garden to lure you into experiencing classic peach and apricot flavors along with the slate and chalk of the soil. What! No apple notes?Hold on though, Sacred Vine blasts back with its Ashwaubenon, Wisconsin-bred zinfandel. (Honing in on the communion wine market niche, the public can also buy unconsecrated bottles.)

And get ready for some hearty Old Testament fear and trembling with New Zealand’s Prophecy, offering a palate of earth, knotty leather and deep-woods tart cherry.With these contenders fighting it out like some ill-boding Patmos*-inspired doomsday scenario, what’s a peace-loving wine lover to do to?

Stop the fighting! JV Estates: Chateau La Feet to the rescue: the grapes were nurtured somewhere between the sands of Saudi Arabia and the dry washes of Arizona. Hints of cherry, asparagus, chocolate and la connerie— makes a wonderful pairing with Fried Bologna Surprise.**  

* For you bible-illiterates, John of Patmos (St. John the theologian) is said to have written his Book of Revelations on this island in the Aegean.
** The recipe can be found in Stories I Never Told My Family.
Note on the wine notes: Much of the delightful descriptive verbiage is taken directly from actual printed wine note blathering liberated from Ground Control (Litchfield Park, AZ); Direct Cellars; and Toasted Cork (Scottsdale)though not necessarily from any of their wines. And, of course, much of it is simple parody.

13 Best Holiday Songs

Don’t want no Bublé, no Bieber, no Burl. Don’t even think about the Elvis “Gospel Christmas” abomination. And  especially no lame crooners endlessly holding a note for a make-believe romantic moment.

I’ve probably missed your favorite, but these are what I happen to have in my personal collection (and I’ve done you a holiday solid by not including any from Mr. Hankey’s Christmas Classics.)

  1. “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” — Ross Bagdasarian, Sr.
  2. “The Man With All the Toys” and “Little Saint Nick” –  The Beach Boys
  3. “Run Rudolph Run” – Chuck Berry (is there a more rockin Xmas tune? “Santa make him hurry, tell him he can take the freeway down”)
  4. “Same Old Lang Syne” – Dan Fogelberg (There aren’t too many really good New Year’s tunes but this is it).
  5. “Linus And Lucy” – Vince Guaraldi Trio (from A Charlie Brown Christmas)
  6. “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” – U2
  7. “Christmas All Over Again” – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
  8. “All I Want For Christmas Is You” – Mariah Carey
  9. “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” — Elmo & Patsy
  10. “Bring Me Back a Song” — Nightnoise (Windham Hill) (This is an amazing two-part song from 1982 by the American-Irish quartet with a strong Celtic accent that somehow manages to blend two melancholy melodies into an uplifting seasonal sound with bagpipe-like violin, guitar, keyboard and flute)
  11. “Happy Christmas (War Is Over)” – John Lennon
  12. The New Year — Death Cab for Cutie (one of the few actual New Year’s tunes that doesn’t sound like mawkish blubbering)

    I know the numbers don’t add to 13 since the Beach Boys actually have two items, but the Word Press numbering function doesn’t allow “2, 3” and frankly I’m too busy listening to Mr. Hankey to try to fix it manually.

On the road again?

My workplace requires everybody to fill out an annual trip reduction survey. While the survey is reasonable and only takes about 5 minutes, I find it’s far more interesting to browse through the dropdown menus it provides to locate your driving startpoint.

Here are some interesting results I discovered, mostly all in the Phoenix metro area. I supplied city or township names where I recognized them.

  1. Bethany Home Rd. – central Phoenix, named after an early 19th century tuberculosis health clinic
  2. Big Bug Wash — mining camp road near Bloody Basin
  3. Bloody Basin Rd. — north of Phoenix on I-17 near Black Canyon City, named after an 1873 bloodbath between U.S. Army soldiers and a band of Apaches
  4. Bong Lane — Glendale (named after WWII ace Richard Bong)
  5. Broken Arrow
  6. Broken Ear Rd — Chandler
  7. Broken Spear — Prescott
  8. Cholla St. (a sure way to see if someone is a newcomer: if they say “chawla” instead of “choy-yah” you know they’re a dang Easterner)
  9. Coachwhip
  10. Dancing Bears Court — Fountain Hills
  11. Dead Trespassers Trail — Cave Creek
  12. Dealer Dr. (I’d love for this to intersect Bong Lane, but unfortunately it’s simply a small road off the I-10 in Avondale that services several auto dealerships)
  13. Deep Grass
  14. Divot Dr. — Tempe (presumably near a golf course)
  15. Down Over There
  16. Dreamy Draw Dr. — Phoenix. The neighborhood street near Aunt Chiladas Squaw Peak (renamed Piestewa Peak) is named after the DD hills which surround the base of 2,608-foot Piestewa Peak, a few blocks east of my humble abode. The name was coined in the early 20th century to describe the area where miners spent long and arduous days hunting for copper. “It was said that the miners in this area would leave and be in a dreamy state so they were coming back from the Dreamy Draw.”






17. Druids Glen Rd. — Queen Creek (I guess the apostrophe is optional with street names in QC)

18. Dull Knife

19. Dusty Coyote

20. Easy St. — Carefree (where else?) It’s basically an ultra-luxury condo community

21. Eddie Albert Way — Goodyear (not to be confused with Eddie Albert Rd. in Twentynine Palms, CA)

22. Flaming Arrow

23. Gnat Catcher

24. Hash Knife Draw

25. Humbug Mine

26. Indian School Rd (named after a territorial-era school, and in my opinion, “the most interesting street in Phoenix”…a category I invented)

27. Lobster Trap Lane — Tempe (this is right next to my old homestead on Driftwood Dr. at The Lakes…the first artificial lakes development in the area)

28. Mummy Mountain Rd. — Paradise Valley (Az Republic columnist Clay Thompson says the landmark mountain should have been named ‘The Big Drab Lump of Rocks Mountain.’)

29. Nasty Basin

30. Normal

31. Old Beau

31. Przewalski St. (Queen Creek/San Tan Valley) — I just like hearing people try to pronounce it. It intersects Ocotillo (OcoTILLoh if you’re from Ohio, where they also pronounce Rio Grande as “RYO-grande,” Cairo as “KAY-ro,” and Dayton as “DIEt’n”)

32. Whalers Cove (not a lot of ‘em around here, I’ll wager)

33. Whistling Wind

34. Why Worry Lane — central Phoenix…just down the street from me

35. Wind Drift

36. Window Rock

37. Windy Walk (actually there are 27 “wind” names in the area)

Honorable Mentions

  • Bucket of Blood, Holbrook
  • Ho Road & Hum Road, Carefree
  • Manlove Street, Tucson (Samuel A. Manlove, a homesteader, miner, and editor of a Tucson newspaper.)
  • Toughnut Street, Tombstone
  • Apache Trail – AZ Route 88 — Be prepared for some white-knuckle driving as you wind around the Superstition Mountains on the 1¾-lane cliffside trail from Tortilla Flat (pop. 6) enroute to Roosevelt Lake and Globe.

“Why Worry” road sign and both Dreamy Draw photos © 2017, 2018 Jim Veihdeffer

Public Radio Station Thinks We Drive on Highway Shoulders

Anyone who listens to the local public radio station in Phoenix, KJZZ, is undoubtedly familiar with a term they use incessantly in their traffic reports: “shoulder block.”

“There’s a shoulder block on the I-10,” or “Watch out for a shoulder block on the 101.”

Now, I’ve been a loyal K-Jazz listener since the days when traffic reports in Phoenix were a complete waste of time…because there was only one freeway and no practical alternatives. A typical report back then alerted listeners every single morning that there were backups on the “Dreamy Draw”* and that the I-10 is “slow and go.” That was a bit like saying “Expect traffic delays during rush hour and we know you have no other way of getting to work but people expect traffic reports, so there ya go!”

However, as freeways were constructed in the late 1990s, some alternatives arose.

Apparently, if KJZZ is to be believed, one of those is to drive on the shoulder. Hence the advisory that there are “shoulder blocks” in various places around the Valley of the Stunned.

Of course we all know that riding the shoulder — using the shoulder as a lane—is illegal unless you’re an emergency vehicle.

Just for fun (and to avoid embarrassment in the very possible case that I am once again wrong about something), I figured it would be a good idea to Google the term, to see if maybe it actually is in common use.

Result: 413 million items, all referencing some kind of medical ailment involving a person’s shoulder, such as suprascapular nerve block. (I have to admit that I stopped checking at the 2-millionth entry so maybe KJZZ’s use is hiding in there.)

I should say that I placed a courtesy call to KJZZ to see whether they were prepared to shoulder the burden of fixing this linguistic abomination—well, maybe not an abomination, but certainly an annoyance to this easily peeved listener. Amazingly, within 20 minutes they got back to me with the expected stock response.

No! Just kidding. It was actually a pretty reasonable response about how a “blocked shoulder of the road can back up traffic for miles.” (I hate it when they’re so reasonable.) Eerily, they cited my own highway exit as an example…almost like they’re watching me, know where I am, keeping an eye on my favorite shoulder. Yikes.

But then…but then...I started noticing that they now seemed not to be using “shoulder block” and were using actual informative terms like “There’s lane closed on the Route 60 causing a slowdown…” and “I-10 westbound we’ve got a crash blocking the exit ramp…”

Nice to know my suggestions are listened to in the highest places.**

(Don’t be shy about adding your comments or about sharing this article. Many thanks.)

* The Dreamy Draw is a scenic area in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve that runs up along State Route 51. Before the 51 came along, it was one of the main parkways from north Phoenix to downtown
** I know, it’s probably just selective attention at work, but I prefer to think someone’s actually listening to me. (Apparently, not my students or my HOA.)

From the Make-Believe 𝘖𝘧𝘧𝘪𝘤𝘦 of the First Lady

I won’t say I’ve actually been a fan of Melania Trump but (since 2016 anyway) I’ve thought of her as the, shall we say least offensive member of the Trump troupe. Even with the plagiarism gaffe* and then the “I don’t really care. Do U?” jacket fiasco, I figured it was her handlers who may have ill-advised her. From time to time she has even made some deft pushbacks from her  husband—not to mention handholding shakeoffs.

But with this latest staff firing — in a list that is becoming legion — I have to do a 360 on the woman. I was going to use the term “First Lady” but I’m officially retiring that term…

…because of this statement on Nov. 13, 2018 from her spokesperson about Deputy National Security Adviser Mira Ricardel:

“It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that she no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House.”

According to the AP report, “Ricardel is said to have clashed with East Wing staff over logistics for the first lady’s trip to Africa last month.”

First and foremost, “First Lady” is simply an honorary term, like calling your spouse your “better half.” Or in the cartoony days of yesteryear, when a husband might say “You’ll have to ask the boss” (referring, of course, to his “better half”)

To be plain: there is no “position of the Office of the First Lady.”  She may have her own administrative office but the “office” doesn’t get to have a “position” — that’s what government officials do. Her “office” is not an elected position, it’s not a cabinet position or other “appointment.”**

At first I thought the missive was simply an old-style term, like saying “From the desk of…” or “From the office of…” indicating that…well, indicating whatever those old-fashioned terms ever meant—I suppose that it was a business-oriented communication, not a personal note.

Sure, so-called first ladies have long held unique positions of influence in the White House, and we have come to expect the president’s wife to adopt a public cause, whether it’s highway beautification or bullying. But that’s all voluntary and non-official.

*I used the Turnitin citation above because it’s a well-respected “similarity check” service that colleges use and the report offers some excellent distinctions in the study of plagiarism. As the July 2016 USA Today story points out “It’s not entirely a verbatim match, but the two sections bear considerable similarity in wording, construction and themes. (“Was Melania Trump’s speech plagiarized from Michelle Obama?”)
**FLOTUS’ office consists of a chief of staff, social secretary, press secretary, chief floral designer, and executive chef.