A nice glass of Gallo

According to author Willie Gluckstern in The Wine Avenger -- a good book by the way, especially for the novice -- brothers Ernest and Julio Gallo really got underway in the wine business by making and marketing inexpensive, sweet, high-alcohol wine to lower-income urban neighborhoods. One of their most popular products was Thunderbird, a wine that sold via the commercial jingle, "What's the word? ...more

Wine in the coming Ice Age

When I was growing up -- think the Nixon-Ford-Carter-Reagan years -- I seem to remember that the Russian newspaper Pravda was understood to be a laughing stock. Of course, it was a mouthpiece of the Soviet state, and so its articles were only quoted in the American press as examples of official Soviet whitewashing of domestic problems, or conversely of the trumpeting of faux Soviet triumphs in this international sphere or that. ...more

The noble grapes: chardonnay

It's fun to come across a wine book from thirty or forty years ago and find that it now contains just slightly outdated information. The grapes don't change -- much, although vitis vinifera in general is said to be quite prone to sudden sports and mutations (Karen MacNeil in The Wine Bible) -- and winemaking is still a matter of sun and rain, ripening, fermentation, and waiting. What changes, I suppose, is fashion and business trends, in wine as in anything else. ...more

Learning champagne: sweet and dry

It took a while for me to understand the difference in taste between "sweet" and "dry" wines. My first and I hope sensible question was, how can a liquid be dry? ...more

The joy of Agatha Christie

I came to The Murder of Roger Ackroyd with somewhat of a handicap, namely the vague memory of having read that Agatha Christie did something remarkable and startling with the set-up of this, her first (so I had thought) published mystery. So I was on the alert for a twist, for the orchestration of a twist, beginning perhaps rather early in the story. You might say I had read the spoiler. ...more

Best friends

Friendship, it strikes me, is a very odd thing. I suppose I had better take the hint, and leave Melissa alone. She has not responded to a list of dates I gave her for potential meetings (just like Lucia and Mr. Somerset Maugham) and now, I would imagine, she is suffering her famous and socially paralyzing "guilt." Far be it from me to add to it. How odd to think that this could be the end of contact between us. ...more

I understand where you are coming from. I have no clue what makes these unseperable female ...more

How do you eat out, gluten-free?

My husband was diagnosed with celiac disease two years ago. This means that he can't eat any food with gluten in it, which means any food containing wheat, oats, rye, malt, "spelt," or barley. We've lost count of the products that are off limits to him -- everything from bread and noodles (the obvious) to mixed drinks (no whiskey) to Chinese fried rice (no soy sauce). We've found through experience that even hospital dietary departments don't know what gluten is. ...more

Having wheat allergies myself, I stick to salads and baked potatoes when out.  I still love ...more

What's a "conservative" movie?

Did anybody go see An American Carol? If you listen to talk radio, chances are you were exhorted to go see it. I didn't. The ad for it looked stupid and I don't trust any reviewer's assurance that something is "funny." People thought -- or were told -- Charlie Chaplin was funny. ...more

The Annotated "Sideways"

Many people who liked Sideways remember it as the film where that guy hates that one wine. When I first saw it I was distracted by the frequent dropping of the F-bomb; recently I watched it again, and was pleasantly surprised at how funny it is. I also was pleasantly surprised to find that I could understand the wine references, which helped distract me from the F-bomb. Here are a few oenophilic notes: ...more

The wines of Muslim Europe?

I only visited Europe once, twenty-five years ago, and I was too young at the time to understand remotely where I was or what I was looking at. As a matter of fact I was near the German wine heartlands, but didn't know it. We all drank white wine with everything because Europeans didn't drink or serve water or milk, and because we could drink -- there was no drinking age and nobody "carded" us. I thought it all tasted terrible. ...more