Poured with Pleasure

Bill Marsano’s blog on wine and spirits and cocktails: "If it’s good in a glass, I’m pouring it."

Month: April 2010

Green Guys: Whole Foods, Fetz-er and . . . Pend d’Oreille????


Tsunamic volumes of prattle about being close to the earth, moving to seasonal rhythms and ‘stewardship’ make it easy to forget that the wine business isn’t exactly green. Surely you’ve cocked an eyebrow at the latest release proclaiming that Château Rancho de la Castello has become—bang! like that—carbon-neutral overnight. Am I a cynic to feel that sustainable often means what we can get away with? If so, I’m not alone. In The Gray Market Report of 4/21/10 (which see*), W. Blake Gray, having plowed, tunneled and bored through the 227 points of the program of California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, calls the whole thing ‘Dr. Evil-designed greenwashing.’SustainableWingrowingLogo-1 

The CSWA’s official rectangular halo, awarded for virtue and greenishness in the face of not-very-long odds.


It is meant, he says, to be tedious and complicated enough to discourage anyone from actually reading it (kind of like the 2500-page health-care bill no one read) and focus attention instead on wineries that have been awarded the seal of virtue. ‘The idea,’ Gray says, ‘was that consumers would see this logo’—and explore no further, just buy the wine and consider the earth saved once again. You go, Gaia!

Gray did read the whole thing, and he says about two-thirds of the Program’s 227 desiderata (most subdivided into four ‘categories’ or levels of effort) are all-too-easily satisfied, being unnecessary, redundant, mere ‘touchy-feely happy talk’ or as Henry Ford used to say, irrevelant. The seal is apparently not so much earned as handed out. Like the Energy Star program, it appears to be about feeling good rather than doing good. And from the bureaucrats’ standpoint, why ever not? The more honors awarded, the more noise made, the greater the impression of progress and the excuse for self-regard.

Tanti anni fa, as Italians say, I was at Condé Nast Traveler when a Nast-wide earth-saving effort was announced. All sorts of trash was distributed to each and every employee: documents, stickers, hortatory brochures, even slogan-bearing ballpoints and coffee mugs. Then we resumed our wasteful ways. I snickered and was promptly shushed: ‘Don’t be so negative. At least we’re making an effort!’ Which neatly parallels Bono’s response when told that massive financial aid to Africa just doesn’t work, except for the dictators who steal all the money: We’ve got to do something whether it works or not!

Never mind. Some people are making serious efforts, and so, herein and henceforth, your correspondent will recognize those who have convinced him that they’re doing good, not just doing well.

clip_image002Leading off is Whole Foods, whether I like it or not—and I don’t. In midtown Manhattan, at least, Whole Foods always suggests to grumpy me some kind of weird NPR diorama full of same-aged people exuding a hipper, cooler, greener-than-thou affect. Maybe it’s because I seldom see black or brown people there except behind counters, registers or handcarts. Maybe it’s because the high prices. Anyway, WF, which already collects used batteries, adopted corks about a year ago in Napa. Now they’ll be collected in drop boxes (picture at right)  in all 292 WF stores. Way, to go WF. Cork recycles well–it’s chopped up and used in linoleum. Even better, WF says the corks will ship to recyclers with a minimum of additional shipping, mostly on trucks that are already making other deliveries. But why stop there?

Now I want WF to collect wine capsules. Most are made of tin or aluminum, which are environmental horrors because of their intensive processing and extensive shipping. Human horrors, too: their ores are mined in poor countries by poor people who are treated as badly as miners are in China. And Appalachia, come to think of it.

And now a round of belated applause, please, for Fetzer, which has won—for the 13th time—a California Waste Reduction Award. Fetzer says its landfill waste   FetzerRecycledBottls

When they have a crush at Fetzer, it’s not always grapes  that go into the crusher. Often enough it’s bottles—and cardboard is recycled by the trailertruck-load.

amounted to 1724 tons in 1900 but has since been cut to just under 59 tons through comprehensive recycling of glass, cardboard, paper, plastics, metal, pallets and barrels. And Fetzer annually produces some 2,500 tons of compost and mulch from grape seeds, skins and stems.

Last but not least: Pend d’Oreille Winery, whose owners Julie and Steve Meyer noted that Sandpoint, Idaho has no market for waste glass, so it just goes straight into the landfill. The solution was simple: reusable bottles. Remember those, anyone? They have long since vanished—at least in the U.S. Brewers Retail (a.k.a. The Beer Store) is a highly regulated government-controlled monopoly in Ontario, Canada, (Canadians sometimes say ‘Americans have organized crime—we have the Liquor Control  Board’); for all its faults it’s a recycling/re-using heavyweight. Deposit beer bottles are refilled on average15 to 20 times (a re-use rate of 95%), and any and all alcohol packaging is accepted for recycling: cardboard, plastic, crown caps and screwcaps–and wine and whiskey bottles, too. The last time I was in Argentina I wandered through some working-class neighborhoods in Mendoza and found five-liter ‘semijohns’ heaped at the curbs, waiting to be picked up for re-use (the retail  price was so low the jugs were probably worth more than the wine). Here in Manhattan, almost the only people who redeem deposit bottles are the homeless, mostly because the deposit is so small (a nickel a bottle) that hardly anyone who isn’t desperate can’t be bothered.pprovisional9-1 Still, there are reasons beyond laziness for not

Your thrifty Mendozan puts his 5-liter empties at the curb to be picked up by the driver who delivers the next load of full ones. Folkloric note: Plastic netting has ended the reign of raffia wrapping, and many jugs go naked.

re-using bottles here.One is the hundreds, even thousands of bottle styles, colors, sizes and shapes in the market, each of which has to be collected, hauled, sorted, cleaned and stored as an individual SKU—an impossible burden for any re-use facility. Wine producers don’t love re-use either (just one odd bottle can bring a bottling line to a long, expensive standstill) and neither does anyone who’s spent a bundle developing a brand’s ‘trade dress’—its public identity. Most consumers reject the idea of re-use, if only because they did not, like kids in the 1950s, collect and redeem the two- and five-cent-deposit bottles used and re-used by the likes of Pabst and Rheingold, Moxie and Nehi. And the cleaning? Too risky today. Although the technology is better than it ever was, inevitably there will be a mistake somewhere and the system will fail. Inspector #53 will blink at the wrong moment and the result will be a visit from a customer bearing a bottle with a dead mouse inside and accompanied by a lawyer wearing a smile made of razor blades.

All that makes sense, but Julie Meyer was frustrated nevertheless. Finally she and the  staff dreamt up a two-part plan way to make make re-use work: 1]y provide a real financial incentive and b] let the customers clean the bottles themselves. Woman’s a genius.Refillable bottle Steve Meyer makes a blended table wine called Sixteen bucks a magnum?  That’s the equivalent of less than $11a standard bottle, a bargain many find hard to resist.  Bistro Rouge that he sells for $25 a mag-um. But for any thrifty, green-souled customer who cleans his jug and lugs it back to the winery, he offer top-discount refills.His customers gladly oblige: Each uses only his own jug (eliminating where-has-it-been anxiety, to say nothing of mice) and the saving is no piddly no-account cents-off coupon. It’s nine bucks. The program began early last year and so far has kept an estimated three and a half tons of bottles out of the landfill and on the sideboard.

OK, it’s a solution that’s applicable to small wineries only. OK, it sits pretty low on the planet-saving scale. But as my neighbor, the value-oriented winery architect Art Vindepays, puts it, ‘Even if you can’t do as much as you want, you should at least do as much as you can.’

*The Gray Market Report: http://wblakegray.blogspot.com/2010/04/sustainable-wines-and-whole-foods.html

Talk Derby to Me

May’s a month of multiple Saturdays, and whether they be four or they be five is no matter. Only the first one counts, as it is sacred to the Kentucky Derby.

It is a libel that so much eating and drinking occurs in and around Louisville that the race is just a sideshow, but certainly attention must be paid to the Mint Julep. Print
The Mint Julep in its traditional silver—or at least silvery—cup, looking perhaps a little too dainty, though, no? Surely a snowball of ice is wanted , not to mention lusher greenery and a shorter straw so you can put
your nose in it? Two, bartender! The Julep means bourbon and Kentucky is the oom-phalos thereof, although it can be made anywhere on U.S. soil (I long for someone to give it a try at some far-distant U.S. embassy). Every Kentuckian knows how to make The Perfect Mint Julep and most eagerly press the recipe on parched visitors (a minority wince melodramatically, as if it has to peeled off their skin). All agree on the use of fine bourbon, mint, water, ice and sugar—and disagree: Things fall apart; the center cannot hold, so I have consulted with Kentucky’s masters on styles and recipes.

Some Julep mavens crave laboratory precision. Others, free-handed, recognize the concept of ‘to taste’. Still others seem to communicate with the Spirit World. Such an one was the late Booker Noe of Jim Beam, Knob Creek, Basil Hayden’s, Baker’s and, of course, Booker’s. He instructed me thus:

Booker Noe’s Mint Julep
1.5 ounces of Booker’s Bourbon
1/2 Tbsp mint syrup (make ahead)
Crushed ice
1 mint sprig

Fill julep glass with crushed ice. Add syrup and bourbon; garnish with mint. (Booker made mint syrup sufficient for 10 Juleps like this: boil 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar for five minutes; do not stir; let cool; pour into a quart jar filled with mint leaves; refrigerate "for hours." Discard mint.

Second nature to Booker, who once closed a particularly jolly dinner with ‘Let’s go to my house for a drink! Does anybody know where I live?’—but a bit shy of details. Cocktail maven Gary Regan (ardentspirits.com) helps some, recommending ice crushed fine enough to frost a traditional sterling Julep cup or Collins glass, and he likes a snow-cone top. Getting no help on the Mint Question (should it be tightly or loosely packed?) I boldly decided on a middle course: pack it pretty tight. As for bruising, you’re on your own. It’s a must for some, herbal abuse to others. For garnish Regan demands an abundance of six-leaved sprigs. Also, short sipping straws: He likes to bury his nose in fragrant greenery. He counsels a little more generosity with the bourbon, perhaps, and at last finds peace.

Chris Morris, Master Distiller of Woodford Reserve, is one who goes in for surgical precision. Here’s his

Chris Morris’ Mint Julep
4 mint leaves
1 tsp. powdered sugar
2 1/2 oz. Woodford Reserve Bourbon
Crushed ice
1 mint sprig

Of course you fling all this stuff together in a glass or a cup with some ice, but when Morris runs the show, the calipers, micrometers and gas chromatographs come out. Chris says to muddle the four mint leaves,IMG_0100 which should be mature and     Here’s Chris Morris now, preaching the gospel of ferociously muddled top-drawer mint and the civilizing effects of the No. 4 ‘alligator’ char.

 medium size (not too tiny and young, nor too old and beginning to dry out), with exactly three drops of Wood-ford Reserve and a teaspoon of powdered sugar in the bottom of a julep glass or sterling-silver cup. This will create a sugary mint paste. Spread the paste evenly over the bottom of the cup with the muddler. Add the straw and fill the cup 2/3rds full with crushed ice.  Pack the ice down gently with the muddler. Add the bourbon and top off with loose crushed ice. Garnish with a mint sprig next to the straw.

Jimmy Russell—of Wild Turkey, Rare Breed, Russell’s Reserve and Kentucky Spirit—has been proclaimed ‘the very greatest and wisest practicing distiller in Kentucky’ by the legendary     Jimmy Russell At right, the peerless Jimmy Russell in his glory, or rickhouse, entranced and bedazzled by the splendid amber liquid. A posed photo, of course, but one that captures the man’s contemplative devo- tion to his calling.                Jim Murray. Gentle and soft-spoken, he takes any aggression out on the mint. He pummels it to release its essential oils. In an aside, he spoke of what pretenders call ‘branch water’ or ‘branch,’ (in-dicating free-flowing water from the branch of a river or stream as distinct from well wat-er).’ ‘It’s an old-time term,’ Jimmy says, ‘but not used any more ex-cept by Hollywood scriptwriters and people who are trying to make an impression.’

As for what grade of bourbon should be used, people can argue for hours about whether top-shelf stuff wasted on a subarctic cocktail. A nice question, and with characteristic bravado, I’m going to duck it. Consult your purse and self-image, and choose a brand from among Regan’s four grades: Sipping Whiskey, On-the-Rocks Whiskey, Cocktail Whiskey and Kitchen Whiskey (which he says is ‘for cooking–or the cook. Not that it matters.’)

Fred Noe, Booker’s son, makes two perfect Juleps from family recipes. His Knob Creek version differs from his Jim Beam ver-sion in being weightier–1.5 ounces of bourbon compared to 1 ounce, sweeter (1 tsp. sugar in 2 tsp. water to just a pinch and a splash) and mintier (stemmed leaves are added before the ice). Otherwise they’re much the same: in a glass, dissolve sugar in water, fill with crushed ice, add bourbon; garnish. These are likely to be less sweet than those using simple syrup: Sugar dissolves but reluctantly in cold water. Experiment is advised.

Tom Bulleit leans to the view that most juleps are herbally challenged, a flaw he remedies aggressively in his Authentic Mint Julep. Great bourbon is required, he says, modestly recommending his own Bulleit brand, but after that he says ‘the key is creating a rich mixture of mint, sugar and water that will flavor the bourbon to your taste.’

For a make-ahead mix sufficient for eight juleps, Tom recommends that 30 to 40 tiny tender leaves be washed, patted dry and left to soak at their ease in a small bowl of bourbon. After 15 minutes roll them in thin cotton cloth and wring them out over the bowl. Repeat several times for maximum extraction. Set aside for at least an hour, returning the leaves to the bourbon if desired. Combine extract with simple syrup and refrigerate over-night. Comes the great day, pack a glass with crushed or shaved ice, add a mint sprig and follow it with 1.5 oz. of Bulleit. Or a little more, to taste.

Kevin Smith (pictured) of Maker’s Mark is one also precise, and generous, too. He starts with a liter of his bourbon, obviously with a party in mind. His way with mint is the same as Tom Bulleit’s, but he insists on only distilled water when making his simple syrup. Then Maker'sMarkMasterDistillerKevinSmith comes a serious departure from tradition. Julep recipes almost always call for pouring the bourbon in last, but Smith prefers to mix them all together up front. As follows: Pour a quart of Mak-er’s Mark bourbon into a bowl (store the remainder, or sip it restoratively), stir in a cup of the simple syrup, and then add the mint extract, one tablespoon at a time. Taste as you go, Smith says: It’s easy to overdo the mint—most people do—and once it’s in you can’t take it out. Generally, he says, three tablespoons will suffice. When you think the mix is right, pour it back into the liter bottle and refrigerate it for at least 24 hours, so the flavors will ‘marry.’ (Any less and they just get laid, I suppose.) To serve, fill glasses halfway with ice, add the mint sprig, then add more ice—to about a half-inch above the rim—insert the straw and dust with powdered sugar.

And so . . . success at last? Hardly. Despite my herculean effort and noble self-sacrifice it’s hard for me to avoid, Thirsty Reader, a slight feeling of let-down here, of having, as they say at the race track, faded in the stretch. As your guide, your mentor, your help in ages past, I went forth in fond and confident hope of spying out One True Recipe, the Julep in its Platonic form, and bringing peace for our time.

Fat chance! There isn’t just one Perfect Julep but hundreds, even thousands, for each devotee carries in his heart his own idea of perfection. That, Thirsty Reader, is what makes horse races.

Pored Over With Pleasure: Elliott Essman’s ‘Use Wine to Make Sense of the World’

By Bill Marsano. Elliot Essman and I are alike in that we both love wine and write about wine, have James Beard medals for distinguished service in the non-combat beverage zone, take wine seriously but never to the point of being wine bullies, wine snobs or wine bores. Equally we love and admire women and song, indulge in witty (we hope) wordplay. In general we advance the view that wine is the highest expression of the liquid state. But for all that, the idea of using wine to ‘make sense of the world’ seems a bit of a stretch, although wine moderately taken is certainly a morale-builder in most instances. Nevertheless, while entry-level wine-lovers will get a lot from this book, accomplished ones will too. Actually, Essman is using wine as a vehicle to explore his many wine-related interests: philosophy, the senses, desire and lust, the meaning of ‘terroir,’ Samuel Pepys, poetry, tasting notes and just about anything else that imageengages his inquiring and restless mind. We disagree on a thing or two such as wine poetry and tasting notes (which I generally have no truck with), but his analysis gives a good idea of what tasting notes should be. The highlight here is the several chapters tracing the course of his dating marathon in search of the special woman to go with his wine, the woman who would, so to speak, become the wine of his life and the song of his heart. It IS a marathon—there are 26 meetings—and each is deftly thumbnailed. No rants or bitterness or blame here–the globe is granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints, and Essman knows enough not to linger over losses, knows that each of us inevitably receives his portion of what Martin Amis calls “the shrapnel of life.” Hmmm—we disagree on other things too, come to think on’t: ‘terroir’ and long-aged wines: the former having an excess of dubious supporters and the latter suggesting a romantic fiction. No matter. What’s duller that two people endlessly agreeing? Essman is good company because strong as his opinions are he doesn’t bluster or bludgeon. He explores, discusses and (in both senses of the word) entertains. He is good company because, as he explains in his introduction, “My aim is to open up some thought patterns on how wine opens up thought patterns. My goal is to end this book with questions rather than statements.” It’s enough to make anyone feel welcome.

I’ll Take Manhattans

As the Manhattan is the Cary Grant of cocktails, so is the martini (the real thing–ginful, sinful and vodka-free) is the Fred Astaire. One is more suave than elegant, the other more elegant than suave, the twain indispensable to civilized life. Eric Felten, James Beard Award-winner and columnist for the Wall Street Journal, says in How’s Your Drink? (a Napoleonic book: short but powerful) the Manhattan is father to the Martini; merely ‘substituting gin for the whiskey’ did the trick. In time dry gin replaced the sweet Old Tom gin of the 1880s, there was no going back. Carpano_Bottle Not so with the Manhattan, Thirsty Reader. Carpano Antica Formula red vermouth provides a good excuse to go back–to the 1780s, when Antonio Benedetto Carpano formulated it in Turin. Spicier, livelier, more muscular than modern vermouths, Antica is a rewarding Italian immigrant. At $30 a liter, it doesn’t travel steerage. (In fact it travels in a decorative tin that’s great for pasta stowage.) Tasting was in order.

I lugged my flagon down to the bat cave of Bruce Ramsay, miscelatore di tutti miscelatore. A mixologist sometimes found at Huckleberry Bar, one of Brooklyn’s finest, and I do not mean cops, he is a classicist. My huckleberry friend is not much given to concoctions that require 16 ingredients, most of which have to be bought by night from djinns in desert lairs. (‘They put the anal in artisanal,’ he says.) And so he excavated some stalwart rye (Rittenhouse 100 and Old Overholt 80) and fine bourbon (Woodford Reserve 90.4), his home-macerated black cherries and the tools of his mystery.

So a measure of Antica Formula was followed by twice as much whiskey, three dashes of Angostura and much stirring over much ice. No shaking! Unless the cocktail is clouded with fruit juice, egg or dairy in the mix, shaking could bruise the booze. Such is the wisdom Bruce has absorbed at the elbow (or knee or   other joint) of King Cocktail himself, Dale DeGroff. Our stemware included two rarities from the Ramsay Archive: Bruce’s Top Hat (by Morgantown Glass), rescued from Manhattan’s long-gone Hotel Knickerbocker, and a prissy little saucer-type etched with the official seal of Saskatchewan, one of many sold when the provincial government suffered an attack of abstinence. manhattan

The Antica made excellent Manhattans, brisk and spicy. We liked the Rittenhouse model best, and the extra alcohol didn’t take over; the Old Overholt was  persuasive, too. The Woodford, we thought, tended to mask the Antica with bourbon’s sweetness. It made a gentler, rounder drink perhaps more to current taste. (Indeed, bourbon is very common in today’s Manhattans, and some bartenders’ guides say merely ‘whiskey’ or ‘blended whiskey.’)

Red vermouth won many of its fans in the 1950s and 1960s–the Sunny Italy era of tourism, when Americans learned the delights of sipping on balconies under the Roman sun instead of being busy all the time. The big brands were Martini & Rossi (‘No Martini—No Party’), Campari and, perhaps biggest of all, Cinzano, which so dominated Italy’s outdoor-cafés that many people thought Cinzano manufactured ashtrays and patio umbrellas. (Cinzano is the destination of the wine the peasants hide from the Nazis in The Secret of Santa Vittoria, a pretty story but, as Italians say, ben trovato or well-invented.)

Find your own sunny balcony and try these Sunny Italy favorites:


Named for its popularity among Americans visiting Italy at the turn of the last century, says Felten, who adds that it was James Bond’s first recorded drink (in Casino Royale).

1 1/2 oz. Campari
1 1/2 oz. Sweet vermouth
Club soda
Combine the Campari and vermouth in a chilled, ice-filled highball glass filled, add club soda, stir*, garnish with lemon or orange peel.

Often credited as the creation, in 1920, of Camillo Negroni, a Florentine Count who ordered his customary Americano stiffened with a whack of gin. The making of it is a mere bagatelle, says Mère Bagatelle, the frivolous French floozie who lives and loves across the hall, in her fashion. Practice a couple a times and you win the merit badge for sure.All you have to do is put together equal measures (ounces, cups, buckets) of gin, Campari and sweet vermouth. Stir and serve up or on the rocks, garnished with orange—slice or peel. Felten, by the way, says shake. Other historians say the inventor was American, and that a real Florentine Negroni requires a sugar-rimmed glass and olives on the side. Your call.

Either might benefit from Antica instead standard vermouth, and the Negroni from some of the top-shelf gins: Plymouth, Magellan (which really is blue), Bombay Sapphire (which isn’t), would be better with a bourbon Manhattan? Scientific inquiry, after all, knows no end, so do experiment amongst yourselves while Bruce and I recover from our labors.

Top Hat photo by Bruce Ramsay

Golden State Tax Crackpots


Amazing, is it not? Our republic enshrines separation of church and state yet is equally devoted to sin taxes. The latter originate with the Puritans, a group of crackpots who fled religious persecution in England so they could practice it here. Their mean, joyless ethos lives on. H.L. Mencken deftly described it as ‘The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.’

Enter Josephine and Kent M. Whitney of San Diego, whose fevered wish it is to send California taxes on alcohol to the moon. Currently those taxes are 65 cents a bottle for liquor, 11 cents a six-pack for beer and 4 cents a bottle for wine. Claiming that alcohol use and alcohol-related problems cost California $46.7 billion a year, the Whitneys want to impose increases that the word astronomical is helpless to describe. If by August 23 they can collect the signatures of 433,971 registered voters who also happen to be loons, they’ll put on November’s ballot an initiative calling for taxes, respectively, of $17.57 (a 2700% increase), $6.08 (5500%) and $5.11 (12,775%).

Yes, I know it’s awfully close to April 1, but the Whitneys launched their application last December.

The money raised would, according to the Whitneys’ pious hopes, go to the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs for the doing of good. How much money would that be? An extra $7-$9 billion, the state estimates. But I suspect the state is smoking fairy dust and basing its guess on such gorgeous unlikelihoods as a] full compliance and b] consumption remaining at 2010 levels. Gros chance! as they say in France.

Prohibition via taxation is not going to work—not as the Whitneys think, anyway. For confirmation I turned to my legal prognosticator, Silo Vance, the ruminative ace detective of California’s Cattle Feed Marketing Board. ‘If Californians live up to their reputation for lunacy and pass the measure, what you’ll get is not more revenue but less, so the state will have to tax trail mix, organic fruit juice and Miley Cyrus instead. ‘Californians are a creative lot, so there’ll be tax avoidance (which is legal) and tax evasion (not) on a scale unparalleled since the 1920s. Lawyers will get rich inventing ways for people to get wine without actually buying it. Like forming winery investment clubs that people can buy shares of and then take their dividends in product. Or they’ll sell raffle tickets that pay off in bottles and cases; whatever. They’re lawyers, remember. They will figure it out.

Puncheon Judy, the producer of a ‘California reddish table wine’ called Motley Cru for the benefit of the BATF but known to its constituents as One-Buck Chuck, expects ‘no decline in consumption—just in taxable consumption. If people will drink my stuff [whose label boasts “made from any grapes from anywhere”] they’ll drink anything—Old Spice, Aqua Velva, vanilla extract. Wine they make in the kitchen sink and gin they make in the bathtub.’

It wouldn’t be the first time, Thirsty Reader. During Prohibition, many California wineries shut down and wine  production plummeted, but the grape harvest actually increased. The smart money cleaned up by not making wine. Instead they grew grapes by the long ton—getting millions in federal loans for new vineyards–and sold DIY wine kits. Ukiah Grape Products Co. sold fermentable juice and got clean away with it until a federal judge thought it a bit much that Ukiah agents, in outstanding displays of on-site service, made house calls to bottle their clients’ wine. Fruit Industries Ltd. also sold juices and concentrates, and is even now fondly remembered for Vine-Glo—‘bricks’ of dried grapes sold complete with pacWine Brick (Vine-GloAd) smkets of yeast and stern warnings to keep the two away from water lest the unthinkable occur. (Actually, what occurred was the undrinkable.)

There was a varietal aspect. Zinfandel was a favorite for such foolery because, given its head, it will crop like mad–12 tons an acre will shoot out of the ground with such vigor as to constitute a menace to migrating game birds and local poultry. (Indeed schismatic philologists insist that the word zinfandel derives from the Croatian for birdshot). The resulting wine, or ‘wine-like beverage product,’ did much damage to the grape’s reputation.

But I digress; taxation is our screed. Suppose the Whitneys’ taxes to come to pass and California does reap $7-$9 billion from them. How much do you suppose will go to ending alcoholism and its related problems? I’d guess about as much as goes to ending smoking.

Every year every state in the union gets a handsome bunch of bucks from Big Tobacco as part of the agreement with the states’ attorneys general to take an annual settlement rather than sue tobacco companies day in and day out. The money was needed for and would be directed to fighting tobacco addiction and keeps kids from smoking.

A few years later the New York Times took a look-see, hoping to find a sea of butt-less, clean-lunged teenagers, only to discover that 46 of the states had found higher and better uses for all the money. There are many things to be said against politicians, but few of them are so stupid as to kill a golden goose.


Credits. Upper: photo by Joe Gibson of Cracked Pots, made by his wife, Karen Gibson, the Quilt Queen of Hendersonville, Tenn., to a design from Rosie’s Quilts. A Vine-Glo advertisement.