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Fred Macmurray's Wine Legacy - My Three Wines

by Darryl Beeson

"In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing," reads the opening of Norman Maclean's novello, "A River Runs Through It," painting an evocative portrait of the sons of a small-town Montana minister. Actor Fred MacMurray, grandson of a horseback traveling Presbyterian minister in Scotland could have written an equally to-the-heart story. In the late 1930's, MacMurray discovered approximately 900 acres of perfect Sonoma land, with the Russian River running through it, perfect for his love of fly fishing. He bought it. He ranched it. In the mid 1950's, he brought his new bride, June Haver, to his beloved retreat. Haver, groomed by Fox to be the next Betty Grable, left the film industry wanting, and later with their children embraced this more sim...

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Organic, Not Geeky, Wine

by Darryl Beeson

The word "organic" on a label of wine has tended to be the kiss of death towards sales. There has been a small, sometimes tie-died, always dedicated audience for all things certified organic. The remaining vastness of the marketplace views such efforts as being more expensive and less full-filling. Lets face it; The wines snobs make wine drinking geeky enough without compounding things with tofu inspired methodology. "If you don't get your flavors from the soil," asks Napa's Frogs Leap Winery founder John Williams, "where are you going to get them from?" Some winemakers opt for more oak involvement while others seek overripe grapes with higher alcohol levels. The insightful makers know that the soil and all aspects of the environment, what the French call "terroir," results in the best...

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A Wee Dram-amine

by Darryl Beeson

They don’t call the ocean “the drink” for nothing. My mates and I are motivated more by the peat of the malt than by the pelt of the waves. Our team of three boats, nestled in a hundred boat flotilla, proceeds to seek the finest of Scotland’s single malt Scotches. This is The Classic Malts Cruise of the western coasts and isles of Scotland. We are the loud, the bedewed, the marines. It is July. And it is ice-cube cold.. Wearing rain gear for obvious reasons and “Wellies” to keep feet warm and dry, our gang of six sail “The Chantilly” from the port of Oban, bound for the Tallisker distillery on the Isle of Skye. Mark Twain once observed that the coldest winter he had ever experienced was a summer in San Francisco. Twain obviously never embarked upon 200-mile mid-summer v...

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Matias Lecaros Winemaker

by Madelyn Miller

Carmen winemaker Mastias Lecaros is doing all kinds of exciting things. When I was in Chile, I of course tasted his wonderful wines. But it took a trip to Dallas by him for me to be lucky enough to discuss the man behind these exciting wines. I tasted his organic wines, and honestly, I could not believe it. I am sure they were organic, but they tasted robust and wonderful. Matías Lecaros belongs to a traditional Chilean family that has been involved in agriculture since the 17th century. It was then when the first Lecaros arrived in Chile to explore new territories in South America. His father's family is originally from Panquehue, where they pioneered the plantation of vineyards in the Aconcagua Valley. Matías' family is based close to Maipo Valley, where his childhood was ...

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Meet The Pinots

by Jennifer Rosen

Pinot. The word keeps popping up like Paris Hilton in your spam box. Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Grigio. What’s up with that? Welcome to this brilliant, dysfunctional family of grapes, whose ancestral vault was recently pillaged by DNA-crazed scientists, to reveal some shocking skeletons. Named for the pinecone that its clusters resemble, Pinot is one of the oldest cultivated wine grapes. 1st century Romans were crazy for it and carried around little papyrus vintage charts only they kept drinking too early because the years went backward. Not long after, a Pinot forefather went slumming, crossing paths with a deadbeat floozy named Gouais Blanc. This grape is so awful that the French won’t grow it and it was outlawed thrice in the Middle Ages. That didn’t ...

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Western Civ 101

by Jennifer Rosen

Jesus was not a party animal. The Last Supper was hardly the blowout of the season. So why would he waste his quota of miracles on something so frivolous as turning water into wine. We use wine to celebrate, relax, pontificate and get drunk. It’s hard to imagine that this frill on the apron of life was largely responsible for the rise of Western Civilization. I’m exaggerating, right? You decide. The first Neolithic spree was probably honey gone bad. It’s a short step from there to grapes. With their high sugar content and crushability, they practically vinify themselves. And you could always follow drunken bears into the woods to find where the grapes were fermenting. But vines you strip in the course of a bison hunt make a short and awkward vintage. There...

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When Corks Attack

by Jennifer Rosen

It was hardly an international incident, but embarrassing all the same. The highly-touted Zinfandel I ordered to impress Xavier Berger-Devieux, winemaker and proprietor of Burgundy’s Manoir de Mercey, wasn’t really terrible, just…blah. I meant to show that America had the chops, vinously speaking, to give France a run for her Euros. But I blew it. Or did I? Perhaps the wine was corked, or tainted by 2-4-6 Trichloroanisole (TCA), a bacteria you can detect in concentrations akin to one sugar cube dissolved in 100 Olympic swimming pools. Corked wines are musty, grassy, reminiscent of wet cardboard. So if my Zinfandel was corked, wouldn’t I know it? Not necessarily. TCA can also steal in, make off with all the fruit, aromas, and other goodies, and scamper out without leaving a...

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Premium Imported Vodka

by Ron Kapon

In the summer of 2002 forty members of the Greater New York Chapter of Tasters Guild International tasted and evaluated 13 premium vodkas. Our speaker for that tasting was educator and author Harriet Lembeck. Since that tasting the premium imported vodka category has exploded with growth. There are new brands appearing seemingly every week. To update this tasting I changed the rules slightly; I still had 13 vodkas but only plain, no flavors and all were imports. Eleven new ones plus two from the 2002 tasting (the winner and last place finisher). For the previous tasting the vodkas were served open so everyone knew what they were tasting. This time the tasting was done singly blind. That is, the vodkas were listed but none except me knew which was which. I did not participate in the tasting...

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Wines Of Sicily

by Ron Kapon

The largest of the Mediterranean Islands, Sicily is separated from the rest of Italy by the 2-½ mile Straits of Messina. Hot and dry on the coast, temperate and moist in the interior, 85% of Sicily is mountainous or hilly. The land’s archeological finds, slower pace (except the drivers); its vineyards, lemon, orange, almond and cherry trees and olive groves offer a proud heritage of sights and sensual experiences. The Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Arabs, Byzantines and Normans all left their archaeological wonders and influences on the Island’s early history. Sicily is one large open-air museum. The times, they are a-changing. Sicily is the second largest wine producer of Italy’s 20 regions, with almost half a million acres under vine. In the past, most of the Island’s p...

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Coffe And Wine - The Similarities

by Ron Kapon

Two of life’s most satisfying libations- a great glass of wine and a freshly brewed cup of coffee. One of my pet peeves is the poor quality, or improperly made, coffee I have endured over 45 years of eating in restaurants. I remember the quality and freshness of the food and the selection and pricing of the wine service. The last impression I have of the restaurant is the coffee service, good or bad. Coffee and wine tasting terminology are very similar. Estate coffee is sold in whole bean form as opposed to supermarket brands sold in cans or jars. Flavor, acidity and body are the three fundamental tasting terms. Flavor is the total impression of aroma (the odor or fragrance of the brewed coffee); acidity is the brisk, snappy quality that makes it refreshing; body is the weight of...

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