Food for the Spirit and the Soul

Because the diverse parts of human nature need to be nourished in different ways.

American Muse: Theodore Roethke

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“Night Journey”
By Theodore Roethke

Now as the train bears west,
Its rhythm rocks the earth,
And from my Pullman berth
I stare into the night
While others take their rest.
Bridges of iron lace,
A suddenness of trees,
A lap of mountain mist
All cross my line of sight,
Then a bleak wasted place,
And a lake below my knees.
Full on my neck I feel
The straining at a curve;
My muscles move with steel,
I wake in every nerve.
I watch a beacon swing
From dark to blazing bright;
We thunder through ravines
And gullies washed with light.
Beyond the mountain pass
Mist deepens on the pane;
We rush into a rain
That rattles double glass.
Wheels shake the roadbed stone,
The pistons jerk and shove,
I stay up half the night
To see the land I love.

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September Offerings – Part II: Something to Delight both Head and Heart

American Art – Part I of V: Oliver Bulman, The Early Years

Here is one critic describing the early life and career of Oliver Bulman (1904-1978): “Orville Bulman, a self-taught mid-twentieth century modern artist, was born in 1904 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. A year later his father, Elvah O. Bulman, invented what was to become a long line of ingenious products, a twine holder and dispenser. Subsequently, Elvah (or E. O. as he was called) continued to create dispensers and cutters for virtually all goods that could be rolled up. Before long, the Bulman Paper Cutter became de rigueur for any self-respecting grocery or dry goods establishment in the early 1900s. Bulman was expected to carry on the hugely successful family business, which dutifully, he did. After graduating from Grand Rapids Central High School, however, he traveled to Chicago for one year to work as a newspaper cartoonist before entering the business world.
While helping his father run the company, Bulman’s true artistic calling was too loud for him to ignore. After devoting himself to the corporation in the twenties and thirties, he exhibited at New York’s Society of Independent Artists in 1937 and for a short time around 1948 exhibited with the Woodstock Art Colony. In the late 1940s he was painting New York City social realist paintings as well as dark, haunting pictures of old barns and churches.
Bulman’s life in Palm Beach, Florida, began around 1946 when he, after sustaining recurring injuries to his neck, began to spend the winters in that small affluent town. Although he was in traction intermittently for eight years, he was still able to paint, and he took advantage of being away from the company to devote himself to his art. He adopted Palm Beach as his second home, exhibited frequent one-man shows at the renowned Worth Avenue Gallery, and traveled extensively throughout Florida, Louisiana and Alabama to paint African-American inspired genre scenes. These poignant paintings of the segregated south (especially the Florida scenes) brought national attention to his art.”
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American Art – Part II of V: Orville Bulman, The Inspired Years

Here is one critic describing the event that transformed the career of self-taught artist Orville Bulman: “During the early 1950s, while painting regionalist scenes of American country and southern life, Bulman happened to see pictures of Haiti and admired the island’s style, verve and gracefully trimmed houses with lacy appliqué carved wood. Painting seven imaginative works inspired by photographs, he subsequently visited Haiti for the first time in March of 1952, and traveled to other Caribbean islands during the 1950s as well. Bulman loved Haiti and its people and felt that they were the best inspiration for further work. He lived with the islanders in the rustic hills for a time and felt like he was a part of their village, deeply experiencing their religion, humor and lifestyle and respecting their way of life far better than other Americans. They loved his art and encouraged him to continue creating his whimsical scenes of elegant women and men and playful children.”
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American Art – Part III of V: Mark Beard

In the words of one writer, “Mark Beard (born 1956) works in prints, paint, and as a sculptor, in addition to being a noted stage set designer. His portraits, nudes, bronzes, and handcrafted books are exhibited all over the world.”
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American Art – Part IV of V: Romare Bearden

“If you’re any kind of artist, you make a miraculous journey, and you come back and make some statements in shapes and colors of where you were.” – Romare Bearden, African-American artist and writer, who was born 2 September 1911.

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American Art – Part V of V: Frank Gardner

According to one critic, “Frank Gardner was born and raised in Poughkeepsie, New York. He graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1986 with a BFA in painting. A desire to find true inspiration for his paintings eventually led him to Mexico in 1990. His studio is in San Miguel de Allende, where he resides with his wife and daughter.”
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“Time goes, you say? Ah no!

Alas, Time stays, we go;

Or else, were this not so, 

What need to chain the hours,

For Youth were always ours?

Time goes, you say?-ah no!” – From “The Paradox of Time,” by Austin Dobson, English poet and essayist, who died 2 September 1921.

“To A Greek Girl”

With breath of thyme and bees that hum,
Across the years you seem to come,—
Across the years with nymph-like head,
And wind-blown brows unfilleted;
A girlish shape that slips the bud
In lines of unspoiled symmetry;
A girlish shape that stirs the blood
With pulse of Spring, Autonoe!

Where’er you pass,—where’er you go,
I hear the pebbly rillet flow;
Where’er you go,—where’er you pass,
There comes a gladness on the grass;
You bring blithe airs where’er you tread,—
Blithe airs that blow from down and sea;
You wake in me a Pan not dead,—
Not wholly dead!—Autonoe!

How sweet with you on some green sod
To wreathe the rustic garden-god;
How sweet beneath the chestnut’s shade
With you to weave a basket-braid;
To watch across the stricken chords
Your rosy-twinkling fingers flee;
To woo you in soft woodland words,
With woodland pipe, Autonoe!

In vain,—in vain! The years divide:
Where Thames rolls a murky tide,
I sit and fill my painful reams,
And see you only in my dreams;—
A vision, like Alcestis, brought
From under-lands of Memory,—
A dream of Form in days of Thought,—
A dream,—a dream, Autonoe!

Italian Art – Part I of II: Luca Alinari

Luca Alinari (born 1943) lives and works in Florence.

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Italian Art – Part II of II: Davide Puma

Davide Puma (born 1971) lives and works in Imperia.
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“The landscapist lives in silence.” – Henri Rousseau, French Post-Impressionist painter working in a Primitivist manner, who died 2 September 1910.
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“Joy to you, we’ve won. Joy to you.” – The last words of Pheidippides, hero of ancient Greece who ran from Marathon to Athens to deliver news of a military victory against the Persians, who died 2 September 490 B.C.E. (traditional date).

Below – Statue of Pheidippides along the Marathon Road.

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British Art – Part I of II: Jane Lewis

Artist Statement: “I do not dream, my paintings are waking dreams. The pictures are a personal narrative of visual, musical and physical obsessions.”
In the words of one writer, “Jane was born in London in 1953 and attended Hornsey College of Art and the Slade.”
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British Art – Part II of II: Helen Masacz

In the words of one critic, “Helen Masacz (born 1968) is a painter with a growing reputation, having been selected for exhibition in the BP Awards at the National Portrait Gallery in 2004 after completing a BA Honors in Fine Art, and she was selected again in 2010. She lives and works in London.”
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Hellen Masacz

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“Since Auschwitz we know what man is capable of. And since Hiroshima we know what is at stake.” – Viktor Frankl, Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, Holocaust survivor, founder of logotherapy (a form of existential analysis), and author of “Man’s Search for Meaning,” who died 2 September 1997.

Some quotes from the work of Viktor Frankl:

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run—in the long-run, I say!—success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it”
“Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”
“The attempt to develop a sense of humor and to see things in a humorous light is some kind of a trick learned while mastering the art of living.”
“Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.”
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Died 2 September 1996 – Emily Kame Kngwarreye, an Australian Aboriginal artist.

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Canadian Art – Part I of II: Juan Carlos Martinez

In the words of one writer, “Juan Carlos Martínez is an award-winning artist living in Toronto, Canada, whose work has been featured in various publications and exhibitions around the world. He was trained classical atelier and works in what is now considered the classical realist tradition. Juan studied in Toronto, Canada, and Florence, Italy, under the tutelage of master painter, M. John Angel. Prior to that period he had been, among other things, a lawyer, but gave up that life to pursue his vocation as a professional classical painter.”
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Canadian Art – Part II of II: Arthur Lismer

In the words of one writer, “Arthur Lismer was an English-Canadian painter, known for his involvement in the Group of Seven. Lismer was born in Sheffield, England. As a child, he worked at a photo engraving company, which peaked his interest in the arts. Lismer received a scholarship to take courses at the Sheffield School of Arts. In 1905 Lismer moved to Belgium to study art full-time at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp.
Before the Group of Seven became fully developed, Lismer spent some years moving around Canada. Lismer worked at the Victoria School of Art and Design in British Columbia and Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax. In 1918 Lismer returned to Toronto, where he became the vice-president of the Ontario College of Art and Design.”
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A Poem for Today

“Whose Mouth Do I Speak With”
By Suzanne Rancourt

I can remember my father bringing home spruce gum.
He worked in the woods and filled his pockets
with golden chunks of pitch.
For his children
he provided this special sacrament
and we’d gather at this feet, around his legs,
bumping his lunchbox, and his empty thermos rattled inside.
Our skin would stick to Daddy’s gluey clothing
and we’d smell like Mumma’s Pine Sol.
We had no money for store bought gum
but that’s all right.
The spruce gum
was so close to chewing amber
as though in our mouths we held the eyes of Coyote
and how many other children had fathers
that placed on their innocent, anxious tongue
the blood of tree?
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Welcoming September 2014

WELCOMING SEPTEMBER – PART I of II

“Happily we bask in this warm September sun,
Which illuminates all creatures…” – Henry David Thoreau

Below – “September Sunshine,” by George Dunlop Leslie

(c) Lady Lever Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Welcoming September with Song – Part I of VII: “September Morn,” by Neil Diamond

Welcoming September with Art – Part I of VII: “September Morn”

“September Morn,” painted by French artist Paul Emile Chabas (1869-1937), is easily the most famous – and notorious – September-themed painting in the history of art, thanks to a pair of American buffoons. In the words of one historian, “Chabas first exhibited the painting in the Paris Salon of 1912, where it won a medal but did not create any sensation. The next year, when it was displayed in a window of an art gallery in Chicago, Illinois, it came to the attention of the mayor of the city, Carter Harrison, Jr., who charged the owner of the gallery with indecency. The resulting court case, which the art dealer won, made the painting famous.
Two months after the conclusion of the Chicago trial, Anthony Comstock (1844–1915), a self-appointed crusader against ‘vice,’ threatened a New York City art dealer who was displaying the painting in his window. However, Comstock never followed up this threat with legal action.”

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Welcoming September with Poetry – Part I of VII: John Updike

“September”

The breezes taste
Of apple peel.
The air is full
Of smells to feel-
Ripe fruit, old footballs,
Burning brush,
New books, erasers,
Chalk, and such.
The bee, his hive,
Well-honeyed hum,
And Mother cuts
Chrysanthemums.
Like plates washed clean
With suds, the days
Are polished with
A morning haze.

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Welcoming September with Song – Part II of VII: “Try to Remember,” by Jerry Orbach

Welcoming September with Art – Part II of VII: “September: River’s Edge,” by Nicola Wiehahn

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Welcoming September with Poetry – Part II of VII: Emily Dickinson

“The Last of Summer is Delight”

The last of Summer is Delight –
Deterred by Retrospect.
‘Tis Ecstasy’s revealed Review –
Enchantment’s Syndicate.

To meet it — nameless as it is –
Without celestial Mail –
Audacious as without a Knock
To walk within the Veil.

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Welcoming September with Song – Part III of VII: “The Late September Dogs,” by Melissa Etheridge

Welcoming September with Art – Part III of VII: “Colorado in September,” by Debbie Lewis

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Welcoming September with Poetry – Part III of VII: Edward Dowden

“In September”

SPRING scarce had greener fields to show than these
Of mid September; through the still warm noon
The rivulets ripple forth a gladder tune
Than ever in the summer; from the trees
Dusk-green, and murmuring inward melodies,
No leaf drops yet; only our evenings swoon
In pallid skies more suddenly, and the moon
Finds motionless white mists out on the leas.
Dear chance it were in some rough wood-god’s lair
A month hence, gazing on the last bright field,
To sink o’er-drowsed, and dream that wild-flowers blew Around my head and feet silently there,
Till Spring’s glad choir adown the valley pealed,
And violets trembled in the morning dew.

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Welcoming September with Song – Part IV of VII: “September Gurls,” by Big Star

Welcoming September with Art – Part IV of VII: “Golden September,” by Du Yuxi

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Welcoming September with Poetry – Part IV of VII: Amy Lowell

“September, 1918”

This afternoon was the colour of water falling through sunlight;
The trees glittered with the tumbling of leaves;
The sidewalks shone like alleys of dropped maple leaves,
And the houses ran along them laughing out of square, open windows.
Under a tree in the park,
Two little boys, lying flat on their faces,
Were carefully gathering red berries
To put in a pasteboard box.
Some day there will be no war,
Then I shall take out this afternoon
And turn it in my fingers,
And remark the sweet taste of it upon my palate,
And note the crisp variety of its flights of leaves.
To-day I can only gather it
And put it into my lunch-box,
For I have time for nothing
But the endeavour to balance myself
Upon a broken world.

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Welcoming September with Song – Part V of VII: “September Song,” by Willie Nelson

Welcoming September with Art – Part V of VII: “Greenwood Lake in September,” by Jasper Francis Cropsey

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Welcoming September with Poetry – Part V of VII: Charlotte Ballard

“The Maple Dances”

Tangled branches of
Shadowy hair
Wrinkle crisp lines
In the September air.

Black robins bobbing,
Dig out
From summer coarsen throats
A solitary song.

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Welcoming September with Song – Part VI of VII: “September,” by Chris Daughtry

Welcoming September with Art – Part VI of VII: “September,” by John Elwyn.

(c) Gillian Elwyn Davies; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Welcoming September with Poetry – Part VI of VII: Emily Dickinson

“September’s Baccalaureate”

September’s Baccalaureate
A combination is Of Crickets — Crows — and Retrospects
And a dissembling Breeze
That hints without assuming —
An Innuendo sear
That makes the Heart put up its Fun
And turn Philosopher.”

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Welcoming September with Song – Part VII of VII: “September Grass,” by James Taylor

Welcoming September with Art – Part VII of VII: “A Late September Gale, Georgian Bay,” by Arthur Lismer.

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Welcoming September with Poetry – Part VII of VII: Theodore Roethke

“The Far Field”

I

I dream of journeys repeatedly:
Of flying like a bat deep into a narrowing tunnel
Of driving alone, without luggage, out a long peninsula,
The road lined with snow-laden second growth,
A fine dry snow ticking the windshield,
Alternate snow and sleet, no on-coming traffic,
And no lights behind, in the blurred side-mirror,
The road changing from glazed tarface to a rubble of stone,
Ending at last in a hopeless sand-rut,
Where the car stalls,
Churning in a snowdrift
Until the headlights darken.

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At the field’s end, in the corner missed by the mower,
Where the turf drops off into a grass-hidden culvert,
Haunt of the cat-bird, nesting-place of the field-mouse,
Not too far away from the ever-changing flower-dump,
Among the tin cans, tires, rusted pipes, broken machinery, –
One learned of the eternal;
And in the shrunken face of a dead rat, eaten by rain and ground-beetles
(I found in lying among the rubble of an old coal bin)
And the tom-cat, caught near the pheasant-run,
Its entrails strewn over the half-grown flowers,
Blasted to death by the night watchman.

I suffered for young birds, for young rabbits caught in the mower,
My grief was not excessive.
For to come upon warblers in early May
Was to forget time and death:
How they filled the oriole’s elm, a twittering restless cloud, all one morning,
And I watched and watched till my eyes blurred from the bird shapes, —
Cape May, Blackburnian, Cerulean, —
Moving, elusive as fish, fearless,
Hanging, bunched like young fruit, bending the end branches,
Still for a moment,
Then pitching away in half-flight,
Lighter than finches,
While the wrens bickered and sang in the half-green hedgerows,
And the flicker drummed from his dead tree in the chicken-yard.

– Or to lie naked in sand,
In the silted shallows of a slow river,
Fingering a shell,
Thinking:
Once I was something like this, mindless,
Or perhaps with another mind, less peculiar;
Or to sink down to the hips in a mossy quagmire;
Or, with skinny knees, to sit astride a wet log,
Believing:
I’ll return again,
As a snake or a raucous bird,
Or, with luck, as a lion.

I learned not to fear infinity,
The far field, the windy cliffs of forever,
The dying of time in the white light of tomorrow,
The wheel turning away from itself,
The sprawl of the wave,
The on-coming water.

III

The river turns on itself,
The tree retreats into its own shadow.
I feel a weightless change, a moving forward
As of water quickening before a narrowing channel
When banks converge, and the wide river whitens;
Or when two rivers combine, the blue glacial torrent
And the yellowish-green from the mountainy upland, —
At first a swift rippling between rocks,
Then a long running over flat stones
Before descending to the alluvial plane,
To the clay banks, and the wild grapes hanging from the elmtrees.
The slightly trembling water
Dropping a fine yellow silt where the sun stays;
And the crabs bask near the edge,
The weedy edge, alive with small snakes and bloodsuckers, —
I have come to a still, but not a deep center,
A point outside the glittering current;
My eyes stare at the bottom of a river,
At the irregular stones, iridescent sandgrains,
My mind moves in more than one place,
In a country half-land, half-water.

I am renewed by death, thought of my death,
The dry scent of a dying garden in September,
The wind fanning the ash of a low fire.
What I love is near at hand,
Always, in earth and air.

IV

The lost self changes,
Turning toward the sea,
A sea-shape turning around, —
An old man with his feet before the fire,
In robes of green, in garments of adieu.
A man faced with his own immensity
Wakes all the waves, all their loose wandering fire.
The murmur of the absolute, the why
Of being born falls on his naked ears.
His spirit moves like monumental wind
That gentles on a sunny blue plateau.
He is the end of things, the final man.

All finite things reveal infinitude:
The mountain with its singular bright shade
Like the blue shine on freshly frozen snow,
The after-light upon ice-burdened pines;
Odor of basswood on a mountain-slope,
A scent beloved of bees;
Silence of water above a sunken tree :
The pure serene of memory in one man, –
A ripple widening from a single stone
Winding around the waters of the world.

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WELCOMING SEPTEMBER – PART II of II

“September: it was the most beautiful of words, he’d always felt, evoking orange-flowers, swallows, and regret.”
- Alexander Theroux

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It’s in the Name: Three Wines from Smith-Madrone

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Here is how Stuart Smith, vineyard manager and general partner, explains how the Napa Valley winery he and his winemaker brother Charles operate got its name: “We had so much physically and emotionally invested in the development of the vineyard and the winery that we selfishly wanted our name on it. Smith is not exactly a grand Mediterranean wine name, and certainly we couldn’t call it just ‘Smith Winery.’” The predominant tree on the property is the madrone, an evergreen native to the coastal region of the west coast of North American – hence the Smith-Madrone Winery. I will have something more to say about this name at the end of my review, but first I will describe three Smith-Madrone wines that I tasted recently.

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Madrone3Smith-Madrone 2012 Napa Valley Spring Mountain District Riesling ($27) is easily one of the most interesting white wines that I have tasted this year. Its enticing peach, apple, citrus, and melon aromas lead to luscious tart apple, lime, melon, apricot, and peach flavors that close in an impressively vibrant finish. The exuberant fruit of this wine is perfectly balanced by ample acidity, making it completely delicious for casual sipping, though it would also nicely complement most seafood and poultry dishes. In fact, if you are planning to reprise a turkey-based Thanksgiving feast on Christmas or New Year’s Day and wish to pour something sure to delight your dinner guests, I wholeheartedly recommend this remarkable Riesling.

Madrone4Consequent to having been aged in 100% new French oak barrels, Smith-Madrone 2010 Napa Valley Spring Mountain District Chardonnay ($30) has notes of vanilla and toast among its lively apple aromas, and these vanilla and toast notes complicate the wine’s generous pear, apple, tropical fruit, and spice flavors. Equal parts power and finesse, this richly-textured Chardonnay would be an ideal companion for meals featuring salmon, sea bass, or poultry.

Madrone5Smith-Madrone 2009 Napa Valley Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon ($45) is an intense but nonetheless elegant wine with plum, dark berry, and cherry aromas that lead to beautifully orchestrated currant, blackberry, dark plum, and black cherry flavors accompanied by hints of mocha, herbs, and toasty oak. The tannins of this wine are supple, and its finish is polished and lingering. This complex but accessible Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon would be the perfect match for beefsteak or game.

Perhaps Smith is not “a grand Mediterranean wine name,” but a smith, after all, is a craftsman, as in the case of a goldsmith, for example. Perhaps the word is not in the dictionary, but I think that the three Smith-Madrone wines that I have reviewed in this posting provide ample evidence for the existence of “winesmiths,” and I an confident that anyone tasting them will agree.

Below – Stuart and Charles, WineSmiths

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For more information about Smith-Madrone wines, here is a link to winery’s website: http://smithmadrone.com

A final note: The wines I have reviewed in this posting would make excellent Christmas presents.

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California Dreaming: Three Wines from Castello di Amorosa

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” – Henry David Thoreau

Rarely has anyone proven the truth of Thoreau’s words as decisively as Dario Sattui, a fourth-generation California vintner, who owns and operates both the V. Sattui Winery and Castello di Amorosa. After extensive travels in Italy and considerable pondering, Sattui decided that he would build a castle and winery in Napa Valley. Here is how he describes the evolution of his dream: “At first, I had no intention of starting another winery- I already had V.Sattui. My plan was only to replant historic vineyards there. However, throughout my adult life, I had been fascinated with Italian medieval architecture; and, because of my passion- some would say obsession- I had already bought a handful of ancient properties in Italy, including a small castle near Florence (now sold), a medieval monastery near Siena (now being refurbished) and a Medici palace in southern Tuscany, which we are remodeling into a period hotel. You get the picture- it’s an incurable malady.”

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Happily for wine lovers, the three wines from Castello di Amorosa that I tasted recently were as lovingly crafted as the structure in which they were made, thanks to the skills of the winemaking team of Chief Winemaker Brooks Painter, Associate Winemaker Peter Velleno, and Consulting Winemaker Sebastiano Rosa.

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Peter Velleno and Brooks Painter

Sebastiano Rosa

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Amorosa42012 Castello di Amorosa Anderson Valley Gewurztraminer ($25): This dry Gewurtraminer showcases the varietal’s exotic spiciness, with lively clove and cinnamon aromas that lead to generous lychee, pear, mixed spice, and apricot flavors which are complicated by hints of mineral, peach, orange, rose petal, and honey in its crisp finish. While perfect for sipping on a warm afternoon, this wine would make a great match for a wide variety of foods, including Thai dishes, smoked salmon, grilled poultry, blackened red snapper, and sausages.

Amorosa52011 Castello di Amorosa Napa Valley Chardonnay ($28): The enticing lemon, pear, and vanilla aromas of this wine lead to apple, pear, and citrus flavors that are balanced by a pleasant acidity, supported by a creamy texture, and brought to closure in a delicately spiced finish containing notes of toast and vanilla-oak. This Chardonnay would complement most poultry and, especially, seafood dishes, including lobster, crab cakes, oysters, and shrimp-based pastas.

Amorosa62011 Castello di Amorosa Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Barbara County Reserve Chardonnay ($38): Fans of bold, rich, perfectly balanced Chardonnays will find much that pleases them in this wine. Its aromas of tropical fruit, pear, melon, fig, orange, toasty oak, and almond precede luscious, beautifully orchestrated honeydew melon, pear, tangerine, pineapple, and ripe apple flavors, with notes of lemon, hazelnut, vanilla, and spice emerging on its delectably lingering finish. This wine would be the perfect companion for seafood, though it would also be splendid with appetizers.
(Note: 2011 Castello di Amorosa Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Barbara County Reserve Chardonnay won the Best in Class Award at this year’s San Francisco Chronicle Competition.)

No great dream comes to fruition without trials and sacrifice:

Dario Sattui: “As the years of building continued on, I divorced, lost my hair, became more wrinkled, was struck by a car crossing a San Francisco street and endured a major flood and a slowdown of my energy. But I always kept building. The 5-6 year project expanded from the original 8,500 to 121,000 square feet and 107 rooms, all different. I went through my money- all of it. Then I sold all my stock to raise cash, often when the market indicated to do the contrary. When that money didn’t suffice, I sold my castle in Tuscany. I fired my housekeeper, then the gardener in an effort to save money to use in construction. I skimped everywhere I could to keep building. And the years of construction kept slowly rolling by. Instead of semi-retiring to Italy in 1994 as I had envisioned doing, I was working harder than ever at both V. Sattui, my original winery, and on building Castello di Amorosa. But I loved it. I couldn’t wait to get out of bed in the morning and hurry to the construction site.”

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After fourteen years of hard work and tribulation, Dario Sattui opened Castello di Amorosa on April 9, 2007, thereby demonstrating the wisdom of another Thoreauvian admonition: “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours.”

Castello di Amorosa

Castello di Amorosa

Note: Castello di Amorosa wines are available only at the castle or through shipping. For information, visit the winery’s website: http://www.castellodiamorosa.com

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Four for the Fourth: Wines for Independence Day from Dry Creek Vineyard

I’m sure that most Americans have happy memories of meals taken in the company of family and friends on Independence Day, and in this review I will describe four wines from Dry Creek Vineyard that would bring an added measure of joy to Fourth of July feasts and picnics, and I will supplement my wine-related comments with some quotes and photographs appropriate to the holiday. (Note: All the lovely photographs of vineyards and winery buildings were taken on the properties of Dry Creek Vineyard.)

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“You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.” – Erma Bombeck

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DCVWINE1In my view, Zinfandel is one of the most food-friendly red wines, and Dry Creek Vineyard 2010 Sonoma County Heritage Zinfandel ($19) has everything one could want in a companion for barbecue or burgers. Blended with 12% Petite Sirah, this wine has aromas of dark berry, spice, and earth that lead to generous raspberry, blackberry, currant, and cherry flavors complicated by notes of blueberry, cocoa, black pepper, cinnamon, and vanilla-oak. This charming, medium-bodied Zinfandel has modest tannins, great balance, and a long, pleasant finish. I can think of no better way to celebrate our nation’s birthday than with a glass of Zinfandel, the most American of wines.

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“That which distinguishes this day from all others is that then both orators and artillerymen shoot blank cartridges.” – John Burroughs

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DCVWINE2If you are serving your guests grilled chicken this Independence Day, you can be sure that they will be pleased were you to match it with the impeccably crafted, immensely appealing Dry Creek Vineyard 2010 Russian River Valley Foggy Oaks Chardonnay ($20). This wine offers seductive aromas of melon, ripe pear, apple, and honeysuckle that lead to luscious tropical fruit, apricot, peach, and citrus flavors that close in a lingering finish containing hints of mineral, vanilla, and toast. Here is an added benefit to choosing this Dry Creek Vineyard Chardonnay to complement your Fourth of July repast: Pouring it might provide an excuse to postpone dining until late afternoon, so that you and your guests could sip a pre-meal glass of this delectable wine while waiting for the temperature to go down with the sun.

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“America is a vast conspiracy to make you happy.” – John Updike

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DCVWINE3Made from 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 3% Malbec, and 3% Petit Verdot, Dry Creek Vineyard 2009 Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($25) can easily hold its own against far pricier Cabernets – both foreign and domestic. This wine’s enticing aromas of cherry, raspberry, blackberry and spice precede perfectly balanced black cherry, plum, and dark currant flavors accompanied by well-integrated notes of mocha on its persistent finish. This deeply satisfying Cabernet Sauvignon would be the ideal companion for most grilled meats, especially beefsteak, though it would also be excellent with most poultry dishes.

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“Wang Chi: Here’s to the Army and Navy and the battles they have won; here’s to America’s colors, the colors that never run.
Jack Burton: May the wings of liberty never lose a feather.” – “Big Trouble in Little China”

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DCVWINE4If you are planning to grill rib eye steaks or beef tenderloin this Independence Day, I suggest you consider matching such fare with Dry Creek Vineyard 2009 The Mariner Dry Creek Valley Meritage ($45), since this remarkable wine manages to be equal parts power and elegance. Blended from all five classic Bordeaux varietals – 43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, 10% Malbec, 5% Petit Verdot, 5% Cabernet Franc – the aromas of this stylish wine include raspberry, cherry, mocha, and spice, and they lead to beautifully orchestrated flavors of dark currant, plum, blackberry, and black cherry that close in a long, uncommonly flavorful finish. There are few red wines that are at once as complex and accessible as this captivating Meritage.

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I hope that everyone enjoys a fun-filled Independence Day and that the festivities include an abundance of good food, good wine, and good company.

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A Fateful Encounter

25 June 1876 – The Battle of the Little Bighorn: The 7th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer, is wiped out by Sioux and Cheyenne warriors, who were inspired by the visions of Sitting Bull.

Below: A drawing of Sitting Bull and Custer, by Gary Saderup.

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Below: “Call of the Bugle,” a painting of the battle by J.K. Ralston.

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Below: A photograph of the remains of horses that littered the prairie after the battle. They were eventually interred with the fallen soldiers.

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Below: A photograph of Last Stand Hill, 1894.

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Below: A photograph (circa 1890) of four Native Americans (Crow) who served as Scouts for George Armstrong Custer. They are standing among some of the grave markers that memorialize the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

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Below: Markers on the battlefield indicate where soldiers fell, including a special one (with black facing) for George Armstrong Custer.

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Below: An individual Native American marker on the battleground.

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Below: A Native American memorial at Little Bighorn battleground.

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Below: Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument today.

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“I am the grass.
Let me work.” – Carl Sandberg

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Bringing Home The Bacon: It’s Time To Invade Canada

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6 June 1813 – With the help of treasonous American Loyalists, Canadian forces defeat the invading army of the United States at Stoney Creek, Ontario during the War of 1812, thereby frustrating our nation’s selfless attempt to bring civilization to the hockey-loving, offensively well-mannered, perpetually snow-covered, free-health-care socialists to our north. This blotch on the escutcheon of American military honor needs to be expunged, and with the help of the seven pictures, I will explain how our soldiers lost the battle, what patriotic Americans can and must do to avenge them, and why Canada will continue to be our Northern Nemesis until such time as we act in a decisive and righteous manner to assure ourselves a better and more secure future.

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This is the only known photograph of the Canadian Field Marshall in charge of the strategic disposition of forces during the battle. What chance did our brave lads have against such an obvious military genius?

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This drawing depicts the two generals who were responsible for Canadian combat operations at Stoney Creek. I’m sure that they employed unfair tactics against our troops, including inappropriate humor.

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This is the monument in Stoney Creek that both celebrates Canada’s victory and mocks America’s defeat. What an insult to the collective dignity of the United States! (Nonetheless, it would be pretty cool to have a castle like this one in the parks of every American town and city.)

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Here’s an intelligent response to the question of what is causing most of America’s current fiscal distress: Blame Canada! Need evidence? Have you checked the artificially inflated price of Canadian bacon lately? Do you know how many Americans go to bed hungry each night because they cannot afford to include Canadian bacon among their pizza toppings? How long will we allow ourselves to be held hostage to this sort of economic extortion?

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This is Canadian model Maria Werbowy, who is present in this diatribe for no other reason than to provide a gratuitous display of sexuality.

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Here’s my proposal for both exacting a measure of long-overdue revenge on perfidious Canadians and solving most of our country’s financial problems: Re-Invade Canada! I foresee just one potentially serious obstacle to realizing this worthy ambition: Given the state of education in the United States, there might not be a sufficient number of Americans of military age who can find Canada on a map. (Skeptics should know that a Gallup/Harris poll taken in 2008 revealed that 37% of Americans could not locate the United States on a map. It’s a damn good thing we don’t have to invade our own country.) But let’s not allow geographical ignorance to temper our bellicose passion; we will find Canada without the help of a road atlas. (Our warriors can borrow my iPhone 4, on which I have downloaded Apple Maps. Nothing “Apple” will ever fail us.) I mean, how hard can it be to locate the place? It’s somewhere “up there” just past Wisconsin, right? Or maybe it’s Montana. Yes, that’s it – Montana. Our army will march west until it reaches Wyoming, then it will turn right and march forward until it transits Montana and crosses the Canadian border. Our troops will know that they’ve arrived in enemy territory when one of them asks a local how far it is to Stoney Creek, and he replies “Aboot 2,700 kilometers” – the vowel-slurring commie.

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It’s time.

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The Poet in March: Antonio Machado

“The afternoon is bright,

with spring in the air,

a mild March afternoon,

with the breath of April stirring,

I am alone in the quiet patio

looking for some old untried illusion -

some shadow on the whiteness of the wall
some memory asleep

on the stone rim of the fountain,

perhaps in the air

the light swish of some trailing gown.” –Antonio Machado

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Valentine’s Day: The Foolishness Must Cease, Part III of III

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“When a man and a woman see each other and like each other they ought to come together—wham—like a couple of taxis on Broadway, not sit around analyzing each other like two specimens in a bottle.” – Thelma Ritter, American actress nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in “The Mating Season,” who was born on Valentine’s Day, 1902.

Frank Harris

“Casanova! My dear man, Casanova is not worthy to untie my bootstrings” – Frank Harris, Irish-American writer, author of “My Life and Loves,” and sexual adventurer, who was born on Valentine’s Day, 1856.

SOME QUOTES APPROPRIATE FOR VALENTINE’S DAY

“Personally I know nothing about sex because I have always been married.” – Zsa Zsa Gabor.

“Love is the wisdom of the fool and the folly of the wise.” – Samuel Johnson

“Marriage – a living arrangement in which a woman learns to fake orgasms and a man learns to fake interest.” – Dr. Coyote

“Sometimes I wonder if men and women really suit each other. Perhaps they should live next door and just visit now and then.” – Katherine Hepburn

“The hottest love has the coldest end.” – Socrates

“A woman is faithful to her first lover for a long time – unless she happens to take a second.” – La Rochefoucauld

“Strange to say what delight we married people have to see poor fools decoyed into our condition.” – Samuel Pepys

“The most happy marriage I can picture or imagine to myself would be the union of a deaf man to a blind woman.” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge

VALENTINE’S DAY FACT ONE:

According to the Society of American Florists, roughly 110 million roses are produced for Valentine’s Day. Men purchase 75 percent of these roses. That’s a lot of guilt – I mean love.

VALENTINE’S DAY FACT TWO:

According to Hallmark, 151 million cards are exchanged on Valentine’s Day.

A VALENTINE’S DAY BALLAD

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