As a reward to myself for starting an encore career I decided to purchase a splurge wine.  The wine is Cakebread Cabernet Sauvignon 2013.

Why this wine?

I learned of this wine almost simultaneously from two separate sources. Source number one was Kevin Zraly.  I purchased his book Windows on the World Complete Wine Course.  My dad always said that if a person can read, they can educate themselves, and that is what I’m endeavoring to do with wine.   For every hour I spending drinking wine, I spend two to three hours reading about it.  I’d recommend Kevin’s book.  To learn about wine the best thing you can do is drink wine with a little instruction and that is what this book does. Unfortunately  Kevin has retired and Windows on the World was destroyed on 9/11.  I firmly believe that  if you faithfully follow the book,  purchase the wines and drink them you will learn a lot about wine.

The second source was a friend who on a trip to California, fulfilled and item on his bucket list of having lunch at the French Laundry.  The French Laundry is one of the world’s top 50 restaurants.  Lunch will set you back $310 per person and the wine list has several selections from $3,000 a bottle to $10,000 a bottle.  To give you an idea of how extensive this restaurant’s wine list  is the restaurant was closed for renovations in December 2014 when two men broke into the wine cellar and stole $500,000 in wine.  I have dreamed about having lunch in a place like this since I watched the movie the “French Connection” in 1971.  Well, at least one of my buddies is living the dream.  The bottle of wine he enjoyed was Cakebread Cellars.  And as he told me about his experience he strongly recommended it try the wine and write about it.

I love the story of Cakebread.  No drama, no ambassador, no politicians, no movie stars, no family feuds, no $250,000 stainless steel bunnies.  Just one family, making great wine, year after year.

The winery was started as a hobby 40 years ago by Jack Cakebread who was an auto mechanic and owned Cakebread Garage.  He bought the vineyard from long time family friends the Sturdivant’s.  Jack his wife  Dolores and their sons Steve, Dennis, and Bruce split their time between the garage weekdays and the vineyard on weekend.  Jack’s wife who was a chef and was awarded the Grande Dame award from Les Dames d’Escoffier would cook for the volunteers who came to help Jack and the kids work the vineyard.

In 1979 Bruce graduates from UC Davis and becomes the vineyards first full time winemaker. Two of Bruce’s instructors were  Louis M. Martini and Robert Mondavi.  Cakebread was one of the first technology based winery’s introducing the “neutron probe” a device used for water management in 1982. Dennis joins the family business in 1986 when the bank he was working for wanted to relocate him and he decided not to go.  Julianne Laks joints the company as an assistant winemaker, after 30 years she is still making the wine. The hobby was becoming a business.

In the 90’s Cakebread Cellars started growing, and it reputation as a world class wine producer was established.  Today Cakebread owns 11 estate vineyards and produces 75,000 case of wine per year.

To put Cakebreads history in perspective they are the39th Bonded winery in California, Mondavi was number 33, today there are 400.

Okay, let’s go to the wine.  This has to be one of the most well put together wine’s I’ve ever tasted.  Every nut and bolt tighten to perfection.  83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot,  5% cabernet franc, and 3% petit verdot.  Color opaque purple.  Nose, pure wine drinker ecstasy. Figs, and dark cherry and hints of oak.  Taste of all the dark fruits, figs and cherry.  Very dry.  If I was going to live longer and could afford to wait this wine could have benefited from a few years in the cellar to calm the tannins down.   Overall an exceptional wine.  Worth $70, yes and no.  This was an excellent wine, but I can’t say my palate is good enough to detect the difference between a $25 bottle of wine and a $70.  I believe the price difference is better recognised in the ability of this wine to  age, this bottle will still taste great, possible better in 2030 than it does today.  I can’t say the same for me.  I’m glad I  had the ability to taste this wine now.  And I’ll be a better wine drinker because of the investment.
Now here is the question that I was not able to answer.  What is Cakebread?


Wines Translation into the future

I love my recliner.  It’s my Captain Kirk’s chair. With my TV remote and trusty Iphone I can control the Griffith Empire with speed and compassion, if Josephine lets me.

From my recliner I can sail the wine colored sea, backwards and forwards in time and space.  This is where I contemplate the big questions;  life, the universe and everything.  It is here where I sit thinking, “how the hell am I going to get a 1,000 word blog about wine out of TRANSLATION”?  The answer came from that  great philosopher of our time Homer Simpson, “it’s going to take a lot of wine”.

I am using the  formal technical meaning of translation; “the process of moving something from one place to another”.  Or the conversion of something from one form or medium into another.

We have arrive at a crossroads in time.  We have political upheaval around the world.  Economic uncertainty. Environmental changes depending on what day you listen to the news we have climate change, global warming, or environmental Armageddon. Take your pick.  I’ll agree the world is getting warmer but Armageddon, come on.

AI, artificial intelligence, no we are not talking about what passes as intelligence from our two political parties, news media, or college students, we are talking machine intelligence computers and robots.  Right now there is a huge debate by some of the keenest minds going if AI is good, or is it the end of humanity.  No Pressure!  For me all of this is just another day at the office so I don’t worry about it, but what effect will all this crap have on wine.  Now that’s the question.

If you read the Huffington Post the future of wine and humanity is doomed, due to climate change.  I think this assessment is wrong.  The world has been warmer and cooler over the history of wine and the product is still here exciting and enthralling us.  There will be winners and losers for sure.  Europe is going to have to learn to adapt and improvise and become more flexible in their regulations.  

Site Selection is going to change.  Sites are going to move to higher latitudes and altitudes.  This is already happening.  Vineyards are moving further north and south.   Gowers are moving higher up the mountains.  

We’ll be drinking different grape varieties.  Possibly clones of the originals.  Will we develop GMO wines.  That isn’t new, the French have been doing it for centuries.  Science will engineer drought, heat resistance vines.  They’ll design out  pests and diseases.  Some varietals may go extinct to be replaced by something new and better.

We’ll see an increase of technology  in vineyard management and the winemaking process.  Machine intelligence will change how we manage the growing and harvesting of the grapes.  Computers will help growers to manage the vine’s canopy to provide more shade, better water and pest management.  Machines will do more and better vineyard maintenance. Machines will harvest and replant vineyards.

The winemaker will have faster and more intelligent tools to work their magic.  From when to harvest, to fruit selection, fermentation methods and control.  Am I advocating turning the sensual act of making wine over to a heartless machine?  NO!  We’ll still need talented gifted winemakers, but they’ll have better tools to work with.

Machine Intelligence will affect another point in the wine world, consumers.  Today there is a smartphone app called Wine Ring that uses advanced algorithms to help you select wine based on your own taste preferences.  They say it only takes about 6 to 12 preference points for this program to start picking wines for you.  The more wines you rate, the better the device gets at calling the wines you will like.  Imagine being at the store with 100’s or possibly 1,000’s of choices and picking a bottle you will know you will absolutely love.  The downside of this is you could get stuck in a profound wine drinking rut.  I’d never get this device no matter how good it is, because I love the adventure of wine, even if I get a clunker now and then.

I can only imagine what advances in packaging and distribution technology will bring to the wine industry.  Drones delivering wines order over the internet, by a celler auto replenishment programs? Will Wine Ring scan Wine Spectator’s new releases, sort for wines under $20, match to your preferences, scan Wine Searcher’s list of vendors, automatically place orders with retails and have them at your home by friday night and pay for it using PayPal. That would be really cool.  What advances might we see in home storage and serving devices?

From my position in my recliner, wine translates well into the future.  I have no fear of climate change or of a robotic apocalypse.  What scares me are terrorist, people and governments.

French vintners should be more worried about ISIS terrorism and Sharia Law than global warming and cheap imports from Spain, but, they’re not.  The Islamification of Europe is a clear and present danger.  Sharia law will undo centuries of French wine culture.  As I write this another terrorist attack has occurred in Paris.

And it’s not just France that is at risk;  Italy, Germany, Spain, and Greece all are going to face a cultural crisis within the next 10 years.  Western civilization is being eclipsed by Islam.  In Turkey a recent vote has reversed 100 years of secular government and put the country on a path to radical Islam, this will not translate will for wine.

I believe if you took all of the world leaders, dressed them in white hospital gowns and released them into any asylum anywhere in the world, they would have a tough time talking their way out.  You tell me if Pak Pong Ju, Bashar al-Assad, Nicola’s Maduro or Maxine Waters seem like they have their senses about them?  Frankly, I remember the words of the late Bob Grant, a radio personality in New York City, “We are sick and getting sicker”!  I’m afraid of the average person on the street.  I want a robotic bodyguard.  I don’t shop in malls, I don’t go out to eat, I don’t go to concerts or to movies.  Why?  Because people out there are nuts!  And they are getting nuttier, and they should all have keepers, and robotic driven cars.

I’m with Elon Musk, all us normal people, let’s move to Mars. And that’s saying people who want to move to Mars are normal!   Someone will be able to figure out how to make wine there. I feel like we are living in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and I want to move to Galt’s Gulch as fast as possible.  I fear people more than robots and climate change.
So, I think I will return to my recliner, with my wine, and leave the iphone and TV remote on the other side of the room.  I fear I’ve unlocked a door, beyond which is another dimension.  A dimension of sound, sight and mind.  Like it or not we’re moving through that door into a land of shadow and substance, of things and ideas.  Hang onto your wine glasses, we’ve just crossed over into the Twilight Zone!



That should be read with the same sense and feeling as Lucy from the Peanuts cartoon series getting kissed by Snoopy.

I’ve got beer germs.  I’m not a beer drinker.  I got frighten by beer when I was in college and I’ve never recovered.  No, it wasn’t what you think.  My first beer was a Gablinger’s.  It was awful.  I couldn’t believe people actually liked drinking that $%!&.  Since then I’ve been  invited to partake of Miller Lite, Ultra Light, Coors, Budweiser, Corona, Heineken, Guinness (I liked that one), Peroni and a dozen or more that I can’t remember their names.  Bottom line.  I’m not  a beer drinker.

We’ll, yesterday was a crazy day for me.  My daughter came to visit for her annual, do my taxes dad day.  Except, she had already had someone else do them.  Ahh! The pain!  First she started buying her own clothing and now someone else is doing her taxes!  What’s next?  Nevermind. Talk about empty nest.

What to do?  Well, lunch of course.  Now I’ve been talking about grilled cheese since 8:00 in the morning, so what do we go looking for PIZZA!  Actually pizza and bourbon at a place I’ve wanted to try for years.  I may have an IQ on beer lower than yeast, but I know my way around bourbon pretty good.  Krust has a downtown location so street parking. Except, we were halfway across town before we found parking. No problem it’s only 5 to 10 blocks.  Did I mention it’s cool for an April day?

We walk, and walk, still walking and arrive, walk in, and guess what?  They don’t open until 4:00.  I know we should have checked the website.  In fact we did, for what pizza we were going to get, not what time they opened.  So we started walking back to the car, noticing that none of the fine food establishments on Main Street opened until 4:00.  It’s true, I don’t go out often.

We go by a Mexican restaurant La Boca.  Mexican food that’s like pizza and a grilled cheese right?  Plus, we really need to get warm. And they were open.  Like we were the only people there open.  I had a Duck fajita with a sriracha sauce, now that’s a combo you just don’t find everyday.  What wine, no wine, beer only, Oh!

So, the waiter, who was either great at table service, or board out of his mind, brought three samples of beer for us to try.  My college experience was clouding my mind.  My daughter picked Sam Adams Rebel IPA, oh no,  I remember not liking IPA’s. I said two!  BTW is the sriracha isn’t going to kill me is it?  Hold the refried beans.  Why am I drinking beer in a Mexican restaurant? Oh yeah, it’s freaking cold outside and the car is parked in another state.  And if all the restaurants don’t open until 4:00, why is there no parking?  I’m never leaving home again.

The meal was pretty good the waiter was very good, the beer, eh, it was wet.

What to do next?  Let’s go to a brewery!  What that hell happen to grilled cheese and taxes?  This is Connecticut we tax everything.

Off to the brewery, no big deal.  It’s just down the street.  What’s that yellow thing in the sky? Oh, the sun, hey, it’s like 34 degrees.  Well, the sun must have confused some people because as we approached the street to go to the brewery we encounter a sea of flashing lights, some one has decided to smash their car in the intersection, only thing to do is go across the bridge, circle through an industrial park, come back over the bridge and go to the brewery.  Mission accomplish.

Did I mention they sun had come out, raised the temperature above freezing.  Did it tell you we’ve had a lot of rain this week, and that the brewery didn’t have paved parking.  Donald, I have a swamp for you to drain.  Yes, we have MUD.  Deep, gooey mud.  Are we having fun or what!

First stop was stubborn beauty brewing company.  My daughter said they had her in mind when they named the place.  I agreed!  Hey, I’ve gotten use to just agreeing with her. Less stress.  Place was packed, I know, because I need a bathroom and couldn’t find it.  They even allowed dogs.  Again we got a great server, they were not doing flights today, but he poured another three samples, hell, I was feeling fine just on samples.  

Now the beer I had here was awesome a stout, whatever that is, poured through coffee.  Sounds awful I know but was the best beer ever, or is that the samples talking?   Oh, and a stout, as I now know is a dark beer, made with roasted malt or barley, hops, water and yeast.  Oh did I mention the 10% alcohol level?  This beer made a believe out of me.  I was thinking of getting a “growler” no, not the light strike vehicle use in the show “Rat Patrol”. No, it’s a 64 ounce beer container I think they used them as a beer glasses in Australia.  And I would have, but I was driving.

Beers finished what to do now, why visit another brewery of course, it’s just out the door hook a right pass the Wee Room, yes I found the bathroom, across the swamp which use to be the frozen tundra to Forest City Brewing.  Hell, getting there was nothing compared to the trek getting to the closed restaurant with no street parking.  I still can’t figure that one out.  More beer please!

Now here is the funniest thing of the whole day.  There’s a food truck.  Guess what they make?  GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICHES!  Folks you can’t make this up!

We make our way into Brewery.  They are doing flights, and I was way past caring where the bathroom is.  Their offering was way over to the IPA side. Only one stout!  WTH!  My daughter and I decide we’ll share one flight, four beers.  Three IPA and one stout.  I arm wrestled her for the stout.  Okay I cheated, I said look at the puppy and when she did I took the beer.  Okay, I’m not proud but I hate IPAs.  It was good but the coffee stout was outstanding.

Okay, my head is pounding, my taste buds are sueing me for abuse and who knows if we can get the SUV out of the mud without a tow.  And sadly my daughter has a two hour drive home.  Time to go.

I can’t get over how my life is like a country western song.  In fact  Darryl Worley’s song “Awful, Beautiful Life”.  I love my crazy, tragic, sometimes almost magic, awful, beautiful life”.
We got home, we talked, I watch her, twenty seven years of blood, sweat tears and laughs, had grown into a pretty amazing young woman.  Not perfect like her father, but pretty amazing.  I did make the grilled cheese sandwiches, and yes, they were awesome.  And with a melancholy feeling only a dad would know, she was on her way. I think, someday this is all going to end, will I remember, will she remember, then I think I should have bought the growler.

Short sipper #5

First, thanks to Brenda at Center Street Wine and Spirits for getting me a bottle of  Gigi Rono, Arneis 2015.  This is the wine I promised to find in the We Try Harder Blog.  


Arneis is the wine grape varietal grown in the Roero ACO that also produces the Nebbiolo red wine that I enjoyed so much.  To be honest the white might be even better.  This wine had unbelievable character.  And character is one thing that is always present in truly good wine.  Color was a pale yellow.  Nose was gripping, pears and honey.  Taste was dry, flavor of pears, honey, mineral and just a hint of Almond.  Josephine said she got butterscotch.  And this is the highest recommendation for any wine, Josephine enjoyed it, nuts to you Parker!  If you have a red wine drinker who says they don’t like white wine, this is the wine to bring them.  For years, every summer I go on the hunt for the “GREAT WHITE WINE”, this is it for 2017.

Oh and I was taught how to pronounce Roero, Roe-EH-roe and Arneis Ahr-NASE.

 It’s Friday, most of you are likely going to have fish tonight, do yourself a big favor, buy this wine, it is in stock at Center Street Wine and Spirits.  I enjoyed mine with shrimp and pasta and it was fantastic.

On Monday I am launching my Encore career in the electronics industry.  Griffy on Wine might get a little shorter and slightly more erratic, but I’m going to try to keep it going.  This is a great personal victory for me and there will be a suitable celebratory bottle of wine purchased for the occasion.  Please stick with me and tell others to check out Griffy on Wine.

Wish me luck!

At AVIS we try harder!

How many remember these great old ads?  “Where’s the Beef”?  “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing”.  “Plop, Plop, fizz, fizz oh what a relief it is”.  Maybe it’s me but I don’t understand the new ads.  I don’t understand the drop the mic ad for Verizon. That ad wouldn’t move me to purchase anything.  Maybe it’s because I’ve moved into a non-targeted demographic group and I’m no longer hip so the ads are targeted to people who understand them.

You don’t need to be a millennial to understand when you not number one, you need to work harder to get notice and close the sale.  Often, that worked out for the consumer, they got more value.  Something we don’t seem to talk to much about any more.  Warren Buffett always said, “price is what you pay, value is what you get.”

So I’d like to talk about two wine regions that are not well known, are trying harder, and are making great wines that I think are fantastic values.

You say Barolo, I say Roero.  I don’t know how many of you drink wines made from nebbiolo grape, but if you enjoy a good, strong, full body, highly tannic, dry wine, you should look into this wine. “Tastes great, less filling”, sorry couldn’t help myself!  Really these wine are wonderful.

Nebbiolo home is Piedmont in northwestern Italy.  As the “Pour Man” man,  wow, I wish I had thought of that one, Michael Austin says Roero is that place around the place where great nebbiolos are from.  He’s talking about Barolo and Barbaresco. These wines are legendary and expensive.  So, Roero is the DOCG that’s trying harder and offering great value.

Now I’m not going to tell you the wines of Roero are better than the Barolo or Barbaresco, they’re not.  But it’s like paying $200 a seat to see your favorite performer, or paying $20 to see a really good tribute act.  They do offer the person who loves to drink nebbiolo the experience for a lot less money.

IMG_2830Our wine was Matteo Correggia 2011 under $20.  Color was on the mark, a nebbiolo should  be brick red, this on was perfect. Inviting and satisfying aromas. Tannins were much softer than the Bartolo’s I have been fortunate to taste, this is another advantage to the underdog, this wine is far more approachable young vs. the better known neighbors.  Flavor of cherries and tobacco.  Wine Spectator rated this wine a 89.

The region also produces a white wine from the arneis varietal.  I haven’t found one yet, but you know I’m looking.

Matteo Correggia is the guy  that helped get Roero international recognition.  He died in a tractor accident in 2001, he was only 39 years old.  The other Roero winemakers helped his wife take over, and she’s done a great job ever since.

For our next appellation that’s trying harder, we head west to Spain.  On a high plain, sitting at an altitude of 2300 to 2800 feet about 100 miles north of Madrid welcome to Ribera del Duero.   Ribera del Duero mans “bank of the Duero” and yes we are talking about the famous Duero river that runs through Portugal.  

The grape is tempranillo.  I love this grape because of it dry fruity taste.  Local names use in Ribera del Duero are tinta fino and tinta del pais.  The 800 pound gorilla for this wine in Spain would be Rioja.

The wine comes in three model levels; crianzas, base model, reserva, sport model, and Gran Reserva, luxury model.  Crianzas spend 12 months in oak barrels and a year in the bottle.  Reservas spend 12 months on oak and two more years in the bottle before release. Gran Reservas spend two years in the barrel and three years in bottles and can be unnervingly expensive.

IMG_2833Our wine is Montecastrillo an outstanding bargain at $11.00 from Center Wine and Spirits in Glastonbury CT.  Color intense Cardinal red.  Aroma licorice and flowers.  I’d almost say, jelly bean.  Flavor of red and black berry fruit with a hint of minerality.  Nice long finish.  Dry.  I paired with lentil soup and with dark chocolate tollhouse cookies for dessert, AWESOME!

So, “try it, you’ll like it”.  These wines can “take a licken and keep on ticking”.  “Just do it”.  “They’ll melt in your mouth, not your hand”.

You can read Michael Austin “The Pour Man” in the Hartford Courant’s Living Section every Thursday, it’s the only thing I like about the Hartford Courant.