Monday, June 30, 2003

Cardinal Point Winery grand opening.

I went to the grand opening of Cardinal Point Winery, out near Afton, VA, this past weekend. They actually opened for business on May 1, but waited until we got through the miserable Seattle-like weather to have their opening celebration.

Very good wines for a brand-new winery. They've got 4 wines: a chardonnay-viognier blend, a riesling, a cabernet sauvignon, and a cabernet franc. The chardonnay-viognier (54%/46%) blend, called the A6, has good fruit from the viognier and enough body from the chardonnay to stand up to food but is good on its own. The riesling is slightly sweet - 2% residual sugar, as I recall - and would be good on its own or a really good choice with a chicken curry. The cabernet franc is deep red and intensely flavorful, and was my favorite. It'd be good with a thick, juicy, grilled steak. The cabernet sauvignon was light, a result of the drought we had last summer. Lighter in color than you'd expect from a Virginia cabernet sauvignon, lighter in body, lighter in tannins. It comes across as young, and drinkable now (and not something to sock away into your cellar to age for 3 or 5 years). Unlike most cabernet sauvignons, I would not drink this with a steak or roast beef; it would pair better with lighter fare: grilled chicken, pastas, and the like.

Not a real surprise the wines were good: the vineyards have been around for quite a while - the oldest vines date to 1985 - and through 2001, the fruit has been sold to other wineries. Some of those wineries even kept the Cardinal Point juice separate and made single-vineyard designated wines with it, and were those wineries' best wines.

At this point, Cardinal Point wines are available almost exclusively at the winery or at festivals (and they'll be at the Virginia Wine Festival at Great Meadow in August and the Boar's Head festival in Charlottesville in October). Definitely worth a visit and a try.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have to note that I've been friends with the winemaker and the general manager since the mid 80's, and have been a fan of their vineyard's wines from the beginning, around the late 80's. I wouldn't recommend their wines if they weren't good, though, and I'm happy to recommend them.

"Stoner Cellars"? What's that?

Okay, good question. The short answer is that it's the name of my dream winery, and it covers all of my wine- and beer-related activities. The longer answer may be more wide-ranging.

About 10 years ago, while daydreaming at the office about what I'd do second if I won the lottery (first would be to quit my job, of course), I thought about how much fun it would be to own a winery. (That was before I realized that running a vineyard and winery starts with being a full-time farmer, and then you add the winemaking part. I suppose that if the lottery win were big enough, I could own the winery and hire someone to be the vineyard manager, but that doesn't sound quite so romantic, although certainly less tiring.) My winery would need a name, and as "Wines 'R' Us" just didn't have the cachet I was looking for, I eventually settled on Stoner Cellars.

A couple of years later, I started making beer at a now-defunct Charlottesville brew-on-premises operation, and decided that I needed to put a label onto bottles that I gave to others. I thought of the one I have for the fantasy winery, and since "cellaring" is an appropriate activity for at least some beers, I figured the name would work well for my brewing adventures, too. (And the win-the-lottery dream changed from running a winery to running a brewpub, where I was the head brewer.)

I've now started a wine-related hobby business: doing winetastings in people's homes. It seemed appropriate to use the name of my fantasy winery for the name of the business. And if I finally get a wine consulting business going, I'll already have the name and business cards.

If you'd prefer to think more metaphorically, then you can look at the nuggets being revealed here as coming from the dark and dusty, and possibly empty, underground recesses of my mind. Truly, cellars not meant to be entered into blindly. On the other hand, perhaps these cellars are merely holes in the ground, from which I can barely distinguish my elbow. I dunno: I just write 'em.

Sunday, June 29, 2003

The National Do-Not-Call Registry.

Don't get me wrong; I do think the Registry is a good idea. Anything to cut down on those mindless parasites that call unbidden at all hours of the day or night. I just wish they'd implemented it a bit better, or considered beforehand that a lot of people might be interested in registering, and on the first day the service was available.

My experience with signing up for it was tedious at best. While I never got the "servers overloaded" message, I got its functional equivalent. It would take 10 or 15 minutes to go from one step of the process to the next. When I finally got to the end of the signing-up portion of the process, I eventually got the screen that said, "Okay! Just one more thing to do! We'll send you an email with a confirmation link that you have to click on to be fully signed up! You'll get it in about a minute." Well, I didn't receive that email in about a minute or two. I didn't receive it in an hour. I kept checking all day long, and it finally showed up seven and a half hours later.

I suppose they felt bad about taking so long to send me that automated email, so they decided to make up for it by sending more emails with the confirmation link. Eight additional emails, in fact, spaced out over the next 18 hours. And it wasn't that they were just sending me reminders because I hadn't yet confirmed and time was running out, because all of the extra emails arrived after I'd clicked the confirmation link.

But those extra emails seem to have stopped (*knock on wood*), and I'm willing to have had a one-day spike in email spam if it really has the effect of cutting down the amount of telephone spam I get.

Old Dominion beer festival.

Went to a beer festival yesterday, the annual beer festival at the Old Dominion Brewing Company in Ashburn, VA. Always a good festival, and this year's was no exception.

As usual, well organized. Something like 65 beers from 34 breweries, plus a handful of cask-conditioned beers. And they have the sense to provide you with an actual glass tasting glass instead of one of those hideous opaque plastic mugs provided at festivals organized by marketing groups instead of beer lovers.

They were fortunate to have good weather. The festival is outdoors, held in the field behind the brewery, so they're always at the mercy of the weather. This spring's bizarre monsoons let up early in the week, so the field had a chance to dry out, and the day's high temperature was in the low 80's, instead of the high 90's we had on Thursday.

Best beer of the day, hands down, was the High Desert Imperial Stout made by Sweetwater Tavern of Northern Virginia. Gold medal winner in the "American-style Stout" category at the 2003 Real Ale Festival, and bronze medal in the overall "American Style Ale" category. An absolutely wonderful, thick, rich, gooey imperial stout. The precisely wrong style of beer to be drinking in mid-summer, of course, but that didn't stop me from enjoying every drop of it.

Friday, June 27, 2003


Mia - the cat - has come up with yet another odd facet to her nighttime behavior. I've been having trouble sleeping lately - almost every night for the past week, I've been awake for a two-hour block sometime between 2 and 5:30. Doesn't matter what I did the day before, doesn't matter what time I go to bed. Wide awake. I've learned that trying to get back to sleep doesn't work, so I've taken to going downstairs to get on the computer. Night before last I did that, and about a half hour later, the cat showed up at the top of the stairs, meowing loudly at me. She didn't want company (she wasn't willing to come down the steps and sleep next to the computer), she didn't want to be fed -- she was yelling at me to turn off the damn computer and come back to bed. She was nagging me like a fishwife. (And, henpecked as I am, I went to bed about 15 minutes later.)

JFK's 1962 speech at Rice.

George Bush is *not* the first President to have uttered the words "weapons of mass destruction".

There I was a week ago, watching the baseball game on TV. The first Rice - U Texas game, to be precise, in the College World Series. In the ninth inning, with Rice up by ten and threatening to score again, the commentator started talking about another Rice upset win over UT shown on ESPN, the football game in (about) 1994 where Rice broke a 28-season streak of losing to Texas. (A Sunday night game, he said, as the NFL was having a strike and ESPN was able to convince some number of colleges to move games to Sundays.) This commentator apparently covered that football game for ESPN, so he started telling - badly - about the clip they showed from JFK's speech at Rice where JFK asked "Why does Rice play Texas in football?" Naturally, the idiot commentator couldn't remember either the context (this was JFK's first public speech after he announced the goal of sending a man to the moon before the end of the decade, and why did we choose this goal?) or the answer ("We choose to do these things ... not because they are easy, but because they are hard ...").

I decided to send the commentator an email setting forth the context and the answer, so he'd have a better shot at the story if he told it again. This is more difficult than you might think, as ESPN doesn't have a way for civilians to send email to their on-air personalities. The ESPN website even states that the on-air talent "don't have email addresses." (Seems unlikely to me.) However, you can send an email to their customer service people who may or may not forward the email to the appropriate department.

I wanted to get correct quotes for my email, so I went to Google to find the speech. I suppose I shouldn't be shocked, but it's cached out on the web on a number of sites, including one at Rice's library's website. Interesting speech, well worth reading. And imagine hearing it instead of reading it, as I find it to be exceptionally well-crafted for being spoken aloud, with wonderfully resounding parallel phrases. This one comes early: "We meet at a college noted for knowledge, in a city noted for progress, in a State noted for strength, and we stand in need of all three, for we meet in an hour of change and challenge, in a decade of hope and fear, in an age of both knowledge and ignorance." It makes me think we've lost the talent for oration. I cannot see any of the Presidents since Kennedy giving this speech well. (The Bushes are a lost cause; Reagan could do it, but only as an actor, and only if he had a good enough director; Clinton could give it but would over-emote; Ford and Carter would be too home-spun; Nixon's clipped tones would have taken too much away from the majesty of the text and he wouldn't have been sincere in any event; and LBJ couldn't have done it justice, either.)

At any rate, three paragraphs before the "Why does Rice play Texas?" question (and not, I'd point out, "in football"), JFK talks about the US leading the peaceful exploration of space: "We have vowed that we shall not see space filled with weapons of mass destruction, but with instruments of knowledge and understanding."

So, yes, it turns out that Bush wasn't the first president to use the phrase "weapons of mass destruction". (Of course, JFK was referring to real weapons of mass destruction, and not Bush's imagined weapons of mass-destruction-only-when-compared-with-rifles.) Sad to see, though, that our national policy has gone from not wanting to fill space with weapons of mass destruction to being the ones to put them there.

A few final asides:

You can listen to the speech. About a 17-minute speech, extremely worth that investment of time.

On eBay that evening, there were two separate auctions of copies of the official photo of JFK speaking at Rice. He's in the foreground, behind a podium with the Presidential seal; LBJ is behind him, and in the background is the press box at Rice Stadium.

The Rice-UT football game was on TV on that Sunday night not because of a football strike, but because of the baseball strike. That evening would have been the fourth game of the World Series - but that was the year without a World Series.

And finally, made clear from reading the speech, we are farther removed in time from this speech than this speech was from the mentioned Lindbergh's solo flight across the Atlantic. (sigh)