Food for the Spirit and the Soul

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

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August Offerings – Part V: Something to Delight both Head and Heart

American Art – Part I of IV: Margaret Babbitt

In the words of one writer, “Margaret’s serigraphic style owes much to watercolor values, exhibiting a subtlety and transparency unusual in this medium. She works with water-base inks, blending them with transparent base to control opacity and create depth. Printed on fine watercolor papers, a typical serigraph incorporates as many as forty or more independently applied colors, some with multiple printings for textual density and visual delicacy. Working entirely with hand-cut stencils, Margaret creates all prints in her own studio to maintain absolute artistic and technical control over the final work.”

Below – “Shadow Play”; “Four O’Clock Patterns”; “Harbor Shops”; “Tea and Summer Colors”; “Green Rockers”; “The General Store”; “Island Classics.”
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Reflections in Summer: Kurt Vonnegut

“To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it.”
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American Muse – Part I of III: Edgar Guest

“The man who wants a garden fair,
or small or very big,
With flowers growing here and there,
Must bend his back and dig.
The things are mighty few on earth
That wishes can attain.
Whate’er we want of any worth
We’ve got to work to gain.
It matters not what goal you seek,
It’s secret here reposes:
You’ve got to dig from week to week
To get Results or Roses.” – Edgar Guest, English-born American poet who was popular in the first half of the 20th century and became known as the “People’s Poet,’ who died 5 August 1959.

“Hard Luck”

Ain’t no use as I can see
In sittin’ underneath a tree
An’ growlin’ that your luck is bad,
An’ that your life is extry sad;
Your life ain’t sadder than your neighbor’s
Nor any harder are your labors;
It rains on him the same as you,
An’ he has work he hates to do;
An’ he gits tired an’ he gits cross,
An’ he has trouble with the boss;
You take his whole life, through an’ through,
Why, he’s no better off than you.

If whinin’ brushed the clouds away
I wouldn’t have a word to say;
If it made good friends out o’ foes
I’d whine a bit, too, I suppose;
But when I look around an’ see
A lot o’ men resemblin’ me,
An’ see ’em sad, an’ see ’em gay
With work t’ do most every day,
Some full o’ fun, some bent with care,
Some havin’ troubles hard to bear,
I reckon, as I count my woes,
They’re ’bout what everybody knows.

The day I find a man who’ll say
He’s never known a rainy day,
Who’ll raise his right hand up an’ swear
In forty years he’s had no care,
Has never had a single blow,
An’ never known one touch o’ woe,
Has never seen a loved one die,
Has never wept or heaved a sigh,
Has never had a plan go wrong,
But allas laughed his way along;
Then I’ll sit down an’ start to whine
That all the hard luck here is mine.

Below – Walter Langley: “Never Morning Wore to Evening but Some Heart Did Break”
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Spanish painter Noguero Iglesias (born 1971) earned a degree in painting from the Department of Fine Arts of the University of Santa Isabel of Hungary in Seville.
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Reflections in Summer: Stendhal

“Nothing is so hideous as an obsolete fashion.”
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From the Music Archives: Bobbie Gentry

5 August 1967 – Roberta Lee Streeter, known professionally as Bobbie Gentry, releases “Ode to Billy Joe,” which was the #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for four weeks and earned her Grammy awards for Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance in 1968.

Bulgarian painter Kalina Toneva is a graduate of the National Academy of Arts in Sofia.
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Reflections in Summer: Edith Wharton

“If only we’d stop trying to be happy, we could have a pretty good time.”
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From the Movie Archives: John Huston

“The directing of a picture involves coming out of your individual loneliness and taking a controlling part in putting together a small world. A picture is made. You put a frame around it and move on. And one day you die. That is all there is to it.” – John Huston, American film director, screenwriter, and actor, who was born on 5 August 1906, sounding very much like Hemingway – and perhaps appropriately so, since film critic Ian Freer has called Huston “cinema’s Ernest Hemingway,” in part because he was “never afraid to tackle tough issues head on.”

Before he became a director, John Huston led an interestingly varied life, having been an amateur boxer, a newspaper reporter, a short-story writer, a portrait painter in Paris, and a cavalryman in Mexico. When he turned to filmmaking, Huston brought an artist’s eye and a psychologist’s insight to his movies, and fifteen actors received Academy Award nominations under his directorial tutelage, including his father and his daughter. A list of Huston’s great films would be too long for this posting, but he was the director of “The Maltese Falcon,” “The Treasure of Sierra Madre,” “The African Queen,” “Prizzi’s Honor,” and “The Dead,” and he was also an actor in several movies, including Preminger’s “The Cardinal” and Polanski’s “Chinatown.”
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American Art – Part II of IV: Vincent Giarrano

Vincent Giarrano has a BFA from the State University of New York at Buffalo and an MFA from Syracuse University.
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Reflections in Summer: Amelia Earhart

“Some of us have great runways already built for us. If you have one, take off. But if you don’t have one, realize it is your responsibility to grab a shovel and build one for yourself and for those who will follow after you.”
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Good Company On The Road – Part I of II: The Traveling Wilburys

Reflections in Summer: Coffee

“I own you.”
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In the words of one critic, Polish painter Eugeniusz Stemplowski (born 1954) “is a self taught artist who has a unique talent to capture movement and atmosphere in his beautiful vibrant and colourful abstract creations.”
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Reflections in Summer: William Butler Yeats

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”
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American Muse – Part II of III: Ron Silliman

“A book is a gift you can open again and again.” – Ron Silliman, an American poet, who was born 5 August 1946.

from “You, part I”

Hard dreams. The moment at which you recognize that your own death lies
in wait somewhere within your body. A lone ship defines the horizon. The
rain is not safe to drink.
In Grozny, in Bihac, the idea of history shudders with each new explosion.
The rose lies unattended, wild thorns at the edge of a mass grave. Between
classes, over strong coffee, young men argue the value of a pronoun.
When this you see, remember. Note in a bottle bobs in a cartoon sea. The
radio operator’s name is Sparks.
Hand outlined in paint on a brick wall. Storm turns playground into a
swamp. Finally we spot the wood duck on the middle lake.
The dashboard of my car like the keyboard of a piano. Toy animals anywhere.
Sun swells in the morning sky.
Man with three pens clipped to the neck of his sweatshirt shuffles from one
table to the next, seeking distance from the cold January air out the coffee
house door, tall Styrofoam cup in one hand, ‘Of Grammatology’ in the other.
Outside, a dog is tied to any empty bench, bike chained to the No Parking sign.

Below – Jakub Schikaneder: “Symbolic Scene”
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Born 5 August 1877 – Thomas John “Tom” Thomson, an influential Canadian painter.

Below – “Hot Summer Moonlight”; “In the Northland”; “The Jack Pine”; “Autumn’s Garland”; “Northern Lights”; “The Pool”; “The West Wind”; “Burnt Land at Sunset”; “Flowers.”
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Good Company On The Road – Part II of II: The Traveling Wilburys

Reflections in Summer: Claude Monet

“Every day I discover more and more beautiful things. It’s enough to drive one mad. I have such a desire to do everything, my head is bursting with it.”

Below – Claude Monet: “Water Lily Pond with Irises”
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American Art – Part III of IV: Thom Ross

As a child, American painter Thom Ross (born 1952) became interested in the history of the American Old West by watching television shows such as “Bonanza,” “Rawhide,” and “Have Gun – Will Travel,” as well as John Wayne films. On June 25, 1976, at the hundredth anniversary commemoration of the Battle of Little Bighorn, Ross had what he describes as an “epiphany,” and he decided as an artist to portray iconic American people and events in new ways to bring out a more complex story than the traditional historical myths.

Below – “Texas Rangers”; “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral”; “Full Moon Billy”; “Wyatt Earp Eating Ice Cream”; “Sitting Bull Signing Autographs”; “Indians Playing Golf”; “Five Riders”; “Man’s Best Friend”; “The Northern Lights of Fredericksburg”; “Annie and Her Dog Dave”; “The Three Crow Scouts”; “Deadly Moonrise.”
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Reflections in Summer: Virginia Woolf

“When you consider things like the stars, our affairs don’t seem to matter very much, do they?”
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American Muse – Part III of III: Conrad Aiken

“All lovely things will have an ending, 

All lovely things will fade and die, 

And youth, that’s now so bravely spending, 

Will beg a penny by and by.



Fine ladies soon are all forgotten, 

And goldenrod is dust when dead, 

The sweetest flesh and flowers are rotten 

And cobwebs tent the brightest head.



Come back, true love! Sweet youth, return!– 

But time goes on, and will, unheeding, 

Though hands will reach, and eyes will yearn,
And the wild days set true hearts bleeding.



Come back, true love! Sweet youth, remain!– 

But goldenrod and daisies wither, 

And over them blows autumn rain, 

They pass, they pass, and know not whither.” – “All Lovely Things,” by Conrad Aiken, American poet, novelist, short story writer, and recipient of the 1930 Pulitzer Prize (for “Selected Poems”) and the 1954 National Book Award (for “Collected Poems”), who was born 5 August 1889.

From “Evening Song of Senlin”

It is moonlight. Alone in the silence
I ascend my stairs once more,
While waves remote in pale blue starlight
Crash on a white sand shore.
It is moonlight. The garden is silent.
I stand in my room alone.
Across my wall, from the far-off moon,
A rain of fire is thrown.
There are houses hanging above the stars,
And stars hung under the sea,
And a wind from the long blue vault of time
Waves my curtains for me.
I wait in the dark once more,
swung between space and space:
Before the mirror I lift my hands
And face my remembered face.
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Reflections in Summer: Edith Wharton

“Set wide the window. Let me drink the day.”
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Back from the Territory – Art: Jim Robb – Part II

In the words of one writer, “Jim Robb has called the Yukon his home for over 50 years. He specializes in recording by camera, ink or watercolour and pastels the “Colourful Five Per Cent”, a phrase he coined to describe the colourful and unusual characters and historical buildings of the North. He defines his drawings as the “exaggerated truth” where shapes, angles, colours and features of his subjects are emphasized and embellished to express their inner strengths and character. Jim uses his keen eye and his familiarity and rapport with his subjects to produce sensitive paintings and photographs.”

Back from the Territory, I share this with you, before I light out again.

Below – “Northern Communications”; “Strait’s Auction House”; “Strait’s Auction House Blues”; “Strait’s Auction House: Day”; “The Kissing Buildings”; “Zaccarelli’s Store.”
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Reflections in Summer: Wendell Berry

“He loved the woods, where it seemed to him that every life was secret, including his own.”
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American Art – Part IV of IV: Anne Powers

In the words of one writer, “Anne Lyman Powers was born and raised in Boston. An early interest in the arts led her to study under a number of artists at various institutions, including the Winsor School, Vassar College, Columbia University and the Boston Museum School, where the notable Boston Expressionist Karl Zerbe was her painting instructor.”

Below – “Sailing” (etching); “Nest” (etching); “Hens” (etching); “Apple Harvest” (etching); “Mallards in Flight (etching); “Apple Trees” (etching); “Grazing Sheep” (etching); “Running” (lithograph).
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June Offerings – Part XXII: Something to Delight both Head and Heart

American Art – Part I of III: Scott Upton

Artist Statement: “i’ve always maintained that my work is about color and light and their effect on our emotions. my inspiration comes from nature, whose sublime forms and colors and chaotic power shape the ever-changing landscape. for me, light is the unifying force, transforming everything it touches by banishing darkness and encouraging renewal. In my work I’ve always sought to suggest, in addition to the beauty, the feelings of hope and peace that light imparts.”

Below – “reflecting light”; “sirens in the tide”; “water colors”; “along the street”; “strangers in the night”; “lost in daydreams.”
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Reflections in Summer: Deb Caletti

“Summer, after all, is a time when wonderful things can happen to quiet people. For those few months, you’re not required to be who everyone thinks you are, and that cut-grass smell in the air and the chance to dive into the deep end of a pool give you a courage you don’t have the rest of the year. You can be grateful and easy, with no eyes on you, and no past. Summer just opens the door and lets you out.”
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A Poem for Today

“Girl on a Horse”
By Halvard Johnson

Oh, the richness of it:
the dark horse scampering
through the sea-breaks,
gulls crying overhead,
the way she turned her head
toward us, smiling her dark smile.
A wave of her hand and she was off
again, down the beach, turning
and galloping back, smiling,
smiling. And the animal beneath her,
glistening and snorting,
snorting and glistening.
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Reflections in Summer: Wendell Berry

“No settled family or community has ever called its home place an ‘environment.’ None has ever called its feeling for its home place ‘biocentric’ or ‘anthropocentric.’ None has ever thought of its connection to its home place as ‘ecological,’ deep or shallow. The concepts and insights of the ecologists are of great usefulness in our predicament, and we can hardly escape the need to speak of ‘ecology’ and ‘ecosystems.’ But the terms themselves are culturally sterile. They come from the juiceless, abstract intellectuality of the universities which was invented to disconnect, displace, and disembody the mind. The real names of the environment are the names of rivers and river valleys; creeks, ridges, and mountains; towns and cities; lakes, woodlands, lanes roads, creatures, and people.

And the real name of our connection to this everywhere different and differently named earth is ‘work.’ We are connected by work even to the places where we don’t work, for all places are connected; it is clear by now that we cannot exempt one place from our ruin of another. The name of our proper connection to the earth is ‘good work,’ for good work involves much giving of honor. It honors the source of its materials; it honors the place where it is done; it honors the art by which it is done; it honors the thing that it makes and the user of the made thing. Good work is always modestly scaled, for it cannot ignore either the nature of individual places or the differences between places, and it always involves a sort of religious humility, for not everything is known. Good work can be defined only in particularity, for it must be defined a little differently for every one of the places and every one of the workers on the earth.

The name of our present society’s connection to the earth is ‘bad work’ – work that is only generally and crudely defined, that enacts a dependence that is ill understood, that enacts no affection and gives no honor. Every one of us is to some extent guilty of this bad work. This guilt does not mean that we must indulge in a lot of breast-beating and confession; it means only that there is much good work to be done by every one of us and that we must begin to do it.”

Below – Wendell Berry.
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Here is the Artist Statement of Korean painter Park Min-Joon: “The main subjects of my work are three: life, death, and eternity. These three subjects foam a foundation of all my work; each piece of artwork has specifically different stories. Those stories are based on Greek and Roman mythology, religious stories, Egyptian mythology and even the Eastern philosophy. However, I do not limit my thought in a particular philosophy. Actually, my work depicts stories of human beings: the current of time, nation and generation. On the one hand, my work looks more realistic when viewers see it through the lens of a traditional viewpoint. On the other hand, it looks enlightening when one sees it through the lens of a contemporary point of view. My work is located at the borderline between contemporary paintings and traditional paintings. That is I pursue the craftsmanship of great masters of the past while addressing contemporary issues at the same time.”
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Reflections in Summer: Abraham Lincoln

“Here in my heart, my happiness, my house.
Here inside the lighted window is my love, my hope, my life.
Peace is my companion on the pathway winding to the threshold.
Inside this portal dwells new strength in the security, serenity, and radiance of those I love above life itself.
Here two will build new dreams–dreams that tomorrow will come true.
The world over, these are the thoughts at eventide when footsteps turn ever homeward.
In the haven of the hearthside is rest and peace and comfort.”
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A Second Poem for Today

“Midwest Lullaby”
By Mary Fell

The moon is rocking
in its cradle of wheat.
There’s a star hung from the sky
to amuse that fat white baby.
Coyote’s tired, he forgets
to cry, and the corn grows quiet
wrapped in its husk of sleep.
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Reflections in Summer: Terri Guillemets

“Art is when you hear a knocking from your soul — and you answer.”

Below – John William Waterhouse: “Sweet Summer”
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American Art – Part II of III: Arlynn Bloom

According to one writer, “Bay Area award-winning watercolor artist Arlynn Bloom has studied at Beach City College, Long Beach, California, the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and the Philadelphia College of Art. Her work has won many awards.”
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Reflections in Summer: Kenneth Graham

“Today, to him gazing south with a new-born need stirring in his heart, the clear sky over their long low outline seemed to pulsate with promise; today, the unseen was everything. the unknown the only real fact of life.”
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A Third Poem for Today

“Surfer in Winter”
By Jascha Kessler

A half a glass of beer,
a plate of fish and chips,
a long cold foggy day:
out there on the water
slip slap slop like always
with a few gulls asleep.

They think it’s monotonous,
they think it’s just a fad
you will grow out of yet
like you quit hide and seek,
driving the car too fast,
or touching every blouse.

But it’s not that, not that;
there’s a basic rhythm
that goes on forever,
and you sit out there and wait
and watch the steady swell
and take the one that counts.

Sometimes nothing happens.
Mostly nothing happens.
They break, you break, or both.
The day passes, a day
like all the other days:
the tide drops and you quit.

But sometimes there’s a wave,
that certain lift you feel,
a shadow in the green,
and you know it’s the one
and you’re with it coming
you’re on, you’re up, you’re in.

There’s never someone else.
There’s only you alone.
If it’s right and you’re right,
you’re walking on water,
coming in from the sea
as if you were just born
though you never reach shore.
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Reflections in Summer: Theodore Roosevelt

“Our duty to the whole, including the unborn generations, bids us to restrain an unprincipled present-day minority from wasting the heritage of these unborn generations. The movement for the conservation of wildlife and the larger movement for the conservation of all our natural resources are essentially democratic in spirit, purpose, and method.”

Below – Theodore Roosevelt with John Muir at Yosemite.
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Back from the Territory – Art: Richard Shorty (Part III)

In the words of one writer, “Living in Vancouver, BC, Richard Shorty has been an artist since 1965. Born in Whitehorse, Yukon, he started his career with portraits of rock stars, wild life and scenic realism.
In 1980 with his artistic abilities maturing, he began native design. His unique style combines elements of traditional and contemporary design. Richard is a versatile artist having worked on drums, paddles, masks and rattles. His pieces are collected nation wide.
Richard lives his life for his family, his art and his strong spiritual belief.”

Back from the Territory, I share this with you, before I light out again.

Below – “Spirit of the Mountain Lion”; “Timber Wolf”; “Red-Tailed Hawk”; “Salmon Eagle”; “Wolves United.”
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Reflections in Summer: Wendell Berry

“I have always loved a window, especially an open one.”

Henri Matisse: “The Open Window”
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American Art – Part III of III: Sherrie Wolf

Artist Statement: “I have always been a still-life painter. my images openly play with the fact that art is artifice. in recent years, i have arranged objects in front of excerpts from old master paintings. earlier in my career, while imitating 19th century american trompe l’oil and 17th century dutch still-life traditions in subject matter and formal elements of composition, i explored contrived or discovered relationships between seemingly unrelated objects. mirrors or other formal objects often reflected the contemporary clutter of my studio. light, shadow and three-dimensional spatial relationships played important roles, and i often used nontraditional perspectives, such as looking straight down on the still life arrangement. a mong the subject matter, there would be an open book or a card portraying an image from a historical painting. in time, these excerpts became more prominent, and eventually i filled the entire background with a quotation from an old master painting. this connected me to a history of reinterpretation and artistic borrowing prevalent among artists. my images have evolved from a love of art history and a desire to present multiple levels of expression to my viewer.”

Below – “venus”; “roses with portrait”; “tulip with patron of music”; “two pears, night”; “tulips with storm”; “purple tulips with lady of lochnaw”; “two cherries.”
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At Home on the Mountain: Three Wines from Smith-Madrone Winery

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“If you are faced with a mountain, you have several options.
You can climb it and cross to the other side.
You can go around it.
You can dig under it.
You can fly over it.
You can blow it up.
You can ignore it and pretend it’s not there.
You can turn around and go back the way you came.
Or you can stay on the mountain and make it your home.” – Vera Nazarian
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Not only did Stuart and Charles Smith make a mountain their home, they also established one of Napa Valley’s premier wineries on it. Located on Spring Mountain (1,800-foot elevation), the Smith-Madrone Winery produces several wonderful wines, three of which it is my pleasure to review in this post.

Above – Stuart Smith, vineyard manager, and Charles F. Smith, winemaker.

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Smith-Madrone Napa Valley Spring Hill District 2012 Chardonnay

Smith-Madrone 2012 Chardonnay ($32) has enticing aromas of spice, apple, and pear that lead to luscious lemon, papaya, green apple, and melon flavors accompanied by notes of mineral, honeysuckle, and toast. Its texture is opulent, and its finish is lingering and rich. This wine would make a good companion for most seafood and poultry dishes.
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Smith-Madrone 2011 Napa Valley Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon

Blended from 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, and 10% Cabernet Franc, this complex wine ($48) is both powerful and elegant. Its impressive flavor profile includes dark cherry, blackberry, blueberry, and plum, with notes of mocha, spice, raspberry, and vanilla lingering in the background. These perfectly integrated flavors are supported by firm but supple tannins and close in a long, resonant finish.
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Smith-Madrone Napa Valley Spring Mountain District Riesling

Some wines manage to be both serious and charming, and such is the case with Smith-Madrone 2013 Riesling ($27). Its seductive aromas of peach, nectarine, apricot, lime, and grapefruit precede bright apple, mango, pineapple, and lemon flavors that are balanced by lively acidity and complicated by nuances of honeysuckle, spice, and mineral. This dry Riesling could accompany a wide variety of savory fare, but it would also be the perfect wine to sip on a summer evening when the temperature does not go down with the sun.
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Since the Smith brothers are viticultural and vinicultural artists, I thought it appropriate to close this post with a quote from someone who shared both their love of wine and their passion for creating beautiful things.

“The birds have vanished into the sky and now the last cloud drains away. We sit together the mountain and me, until only the mountain remains.” ― Li Bai, the Chinese “Poet of Wine”

Below – A view of Napa Valley from the Spring Mountain vineyards of Smith-Madrone Winery. Photograph courtesy of Elliot Smith.

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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.”

Dario Sattui

Dario Sattui

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.

Peter Velleno and Brooks Painter

Peter Velleno and Brooks Painter

Sebastiano Rosa

Sebastiano Rosa

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 Bottle And A Book: Two Christmas Wines From Dry Creek Vineyard

After giving considerable thought to the matter, I have decided that one of the best Christmas presents that anyone could give this year would be a bottle of good wine accompanied by an equally good book, and I have two recommendations that I think make perfect pairings.

Dry Creek Vineyard has long been one of my favorite wineries, not least because its owners, the Stare family, continue to produce extraordinary wines at reasonable prices. In this review I am going to describe two of the winery’s excellent red wines, and since the Stare family is passionate about sailing – as evidenced by the labels on Dry Creek Vineyard wines – I thought it would be fitting to match them with two books possessing sea-faring themes.

Dry Creek Vineyard 2008 Sonoma County Meritage ($30) is blended Bordeaux-style from 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Franc, 14% Malbec, and 6% Petit Verdot. The result of this skillful crafting is an uncommonly elegant wine with enticing aromas of dark fruit, pepper, and spice which precede perfectly balanced currant, black cherry, and plum flavors accompanied by notes of spice and toasty oak that are supported by supple tannins and close in a long, polished finish.

The book that I have selected to complement Dry Creek Vineyard 2008 Meritage is appropriately exciting and stylishly written: “In the South Seas,” by Robert Louis Stevenson. This work chronicles Stevenson’s adventures during the course of his two-year sailing journey from the Marqueses Islands to Tahiti, and then on to Hawaii and Samoa.

Given the context of this review, it is decidedly apposite that I should call Dry Creek Vineyard 2008 Endeavor ($65) the winery’s flagship bottling. Made principally (91%) from Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from the finest blocks in the winery’s Endeavor Vineyard, located in the Lytton Springs district of Dry Creek Valley, this wine has an impressive array of dark plum, cedar, blackberry, mocha, and cherry aromas that lead to beautifully orchestrated black cherry, plum, and cranberry flavors complicated by hints of cocoa, mineral, spice, earth, and oak that are supported by firm but approachable tannins and which close in an extended, richly flavorful finish.

A wine with as much complexity, depth, and power as Dry Creek Vineyard 2008 Endeavor deserves to be matched with a book possessing an equal measure of the same rare qualities, and I know the perfect choice – “Moby Dick,” by Herman Melville. This novel is both an epic sea story and one of the great books in the history of world literature.

The Pequod

Here, then, is my wish for this holiday season: May we all enjoy good wine, good books, and a very Merry Christmas.

Some of the vineyards of Dry Creek Vineyard in Dry Creek Valley

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Rhymes and Reasons: Four Christmas Wines From Joseph Phelps Vineyards

The holiday season is upon us, and I am sure that many people share my regrettable habit of postponing Christmas shopping until the last possible moment. However, there is no need to panic, because with the help of a popular Christmas ditty, I am going to recommend four wines from Joseph Phelps Vineyards that would make splendid presents for the wine lovers on your holiday gift list.

“YOU BETTER WATCH OUT,” otherwise you might overlook the beautifully crafted Joseph Phelps Vineyards 2010 Freestone Vineyards Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($55), which is an uncommonly versatile dinner wine. I enjoyed it with my Thanksgiving turkey, and the French citizens of Burgundy have an expression, “Pinot Noir fattens beef,” and so I am confident that this bottling would also perfectly complement meals featuring grilled steak or pot roast. This wine has appealing cherry-berry and spice aromas that lead to red cherry, plum, and currant flavors accompanied by hints of tea, tangerine, cedar, and vanilla, a notably silky texture, and a smooth, lingering finish.

“YOU BETTER NOT CRY,” because there is no reason to when the delectable Joseph Phelps Vineyards 2010 Freestone Vineyards Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ($55) is available to amplify the pleasures of your holiday banquets, especially those that involve poultry or seafood. The seductive honeysuckle and peach aromas of this Chardonnay precede abundant, perfectly balanced citrus, peach, and lemongrass flavors enriched by notes of toast and vanilla that are made even more delicious by virtue of the wine’s creamy texture and which close in a long, vibrant finish.

“BETTER NOT POUT,” because you can be certain to delight any wine lover on your gift list with a wonder of New World winemaking – Joseph Phelps Vineyards Napa Valley 2009 Insignia ($200). This red wine has been a marvel of excellence and consistency at stratospheric levels for more than three decades, and the 2009 bottling is yet another extraordinary effort from the Joseph Phelps winemaking team. Blended from 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Petit Verdot, and 4% Malbec sourced from 100% estate-grown Napa Valley vineyards, 2009 Insignia offers generous dark fruit and spice aromas that lead to deep, impressively concentrated blackberry, blueberry, black cherry, and currant flavors complicated by notes of plum, cocoa, spice, and vanilla-oak that are supported by supple tannins and which close in a resonant, extended finish.

“I’M TELLING YOU WHY”: There are, in fact, two reasons why. First, there is one of my favorite dessert wines – Joseph Phelps Vineyards 2011 Napa Valley Eisrebe ($50). Made in the traditional style of an “ice wine,” or “Eiswein,” as it is called in Germany, Eisrebe has aromas of jasmine, rose, honeysuckle, and apricot that lead to delicately honeyed peach, pear, and pineapple flavors. I can think of few ways to bring a holiday feast to better closure than with a glass of this incredibly luscious dessert wine.

And the second reason why: “SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN.”

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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With the Help of Good Words: Three Thanksgiving Wines from Dry Creek Vineyard

Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching, and so, with the assistance of some distinguished writers, I want to recommend three wines that would perfectly complement turkey, as well as other savory holiday fare.

“Wine makes every meal an occasion, every table more elegant, every day more civilized.” ― Andre Simon

“White wine is like electricity.” – James Joyce

Dry Creek Vineyard Dry Creek Valley 2011 Sauvignon Blanc ($16) has zesty citrus, floral, and tropical fruit aromas that lead to vibrant lemon, pineapple, and peach flavors that close in a crisp, palate-cleansing finish. This delectable wine would be an ideal partner for turkey, but it would also be wonderful with shellfish, trout, sea bass, or catfish.

“I like on the table,
when we’re speaking,
the light of a bottle
of intelligent wine.” – Pablo Neruda

Dry Creek Vineyard Russian River Valley 2009 Foggy Oaks Chardonnay ($20) has been cunningly crafted in a way that steers a middle course between austerity and opulence, thus making it a remarkably food-friendly wine that will please most palates. Its enticing aromas of melon, honeysuckle, pear and vanilla precede luscious apricot, apple, pear, and pineapple flavors that are complicated by hints of allspice and that close in a long, lemon-tinged finish. Simply put, this Chardonnay would be great with turkey.

“Wine is bottled poetry.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

Perhaps you are having something other than turkey for your Thanksgiving meal – roast beef, say, or duck – or maybe your turkey is going to be cooked in a manner that renders it spicy, in which case you might consider matching your repast with a red wine, and I have a recommendation: Dry Creek Vineyard Dry Creek Valley 2009 Old Vine Zinfandel ($30). Made from the grapes of vines that average ninety years of age and blended with 14% Petite Sirah, this is a classic Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel, with abundant, pleasantly jammy blackberry and raspberry fruit accompanied by notes of cherry, blueberry, earth, cocoa, and pepper that are jointed by hints of mocha and spice on its lingering finish.

Should you choose one of these Dry Creek Valley wines to accompany your holiday meal, I am certain of one thing: You will be delighted by the experience of drinking it in the company of family and friends.

“Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing.” ― Ernest Hemingway

Happy Thanksgiving!

Dry Creek Valley

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A Great Moment Frozen In Time

19 June 1987 – Ben & Jerry Ice Cream and the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia announce their collaboration in producing a new flavor – Cherry Garcia, and the history of the Confectionary Arts in America reaches its zenith.

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