UP BEAR CREEK | Traveling Kids, Cellared Wines, 9 Lives, Report From the Andes

04/21/14 | By More

OFF-SEASON … It’s a bit lonely at Cloud Acre as my boy has taken advantage of a generous invitation to visit Hawaii during his spring break. He’ll only be back for a few days in April and then it’s off to Spain and Morocco for his Mountain School experiential – an amazing opportunity. He’s researched the Western Sahara for his class “immersion” project, and we’ve both learned about the unfortunate U.N. plebiscite that was never held when Spain abandoned its colony there, and the Kingdom of Morocco invaded and seized most of the resource-rich country … A portion of the former colony is held by the Polisario, a guerilla force made up of indigenous Sahrawi tribal members and supported by neighboring Algeria. It’s one of those unresolved international border disputes that we rarely hear about in this country.

TONY ALIOTO … I had to break out my oldest California vintage from my Cloud Acre wine cellar to celebrate a spring visit from my San Francisco compadre-in-surplice who back in 1959 entered St. Joseph’s Seminary in Mountain View with me and has been a life-long friend. We picked Inglenook’s estate bottled Napa Valley Charbono, 1978 – it was a bottle I can’t remember purchasing, and it may in fact have belonged to my dad when he passed away … It’s always dangerous drinking a 36-year-old wine that’s survived through several moves and various wine cellar situations. The cork crumbled when I tried to get it out, peppering the bottleneck with lumpy brown fragments. Not an auspicious start … Ah, but an incredibly auspicious wine. It had a lovely round bouquet that soothed as it warmed the throat, neither thin nor full but medium bodied — a dry smooth red that, in spite of having been cellared far beyond its normal keep, had aged well. The complexity of the tannins mellowed into a silky aftertaste. It was awesome … Charbono is the California name for an eastern French grape variety known as Doucie noir (“sweet black”). In Argentina, where it is widely grown, it’s called Bonarda (a mischaracterization of a similar grape from Italy), and in other parts of France Charbeau (“Crow”). In fact, Doucie noir has gone by dozens of names, including Cote Rouge, Dolutz, Korbo, Turca and Turino. But recent DNA analysis has clarified that in spite of its many appellations, it’s all Doucie noir … Its popularity has waned in France where it is hardly grown, while Argentina has almost 50,000 acres of the late-ripening Douce noir/Bonarda, which they use for blending as well as a varietal. Inglenook won many wine competitions using this grape when it was mistakenly called Barbera. By 1941 Inglenook started producing its own Charbono varietals … Today there are only 80 or so acres of Charbono in California and only a handful of wineries that specialize in it, having been described by Patricia Savoie in Wine Business Monthly (May 2003) as a “cult wine” for its scarcity and the devotion of its connoisseurs.

NINE LIVES … Guess I’ve always counted being a Leo as lucky, since I tend to live through near-misses almost regularly. This time it was on the Boulder-Denver expressway (Highway 36), doing 60 like everybody else in the slow lane. Suddenly this SUV cuts across from the fast lane into my lane limping towards the freeway shoulder. Slamming on the brakes is instinctive. I can smell the burning rubber (I drive a lot with my window open, even in the city) as the Civic shudders and lurches into a controlled skid. I can see kids and a mom in the back seat. Luckily the driver gets it off the roadway just as I whiz by, leaning on my horn … Barely the spit of a split second and I’m buzzing along again, another stressed motorist locked into the flow of Denver’s gasoline bloodstream.

RICK DE SELM … Here’s a recent excerpt from Telluride’s “cultural ambassador” on his journeys around South America … [W]onderful ride on the almost-first scheduled (one day a week) daytime bus ride from Cotahuasi to Arequipa. {D]etails of landscape seen for the first time after nearly five years of steady night riding, including four beautiful alpaca herds of a hundred or more grazing glorious14-16,000-foot mountain meadows with spreading streams on the rugged main foothill region crossed by the 3-hour bus ride below Peru’s
third-highest mountain — Coropuna (21,079’), this side green with something all the way to snow line around 18,000’, another side dry and rocky, only a stream coming through an enormous ridge that looks like a dam, but with a scrub forest of the rugged Kinwal tree (rare native Peru tree growing around 14,000’). Arequipa old hotel vibrating with a clatter somewhere and then swaying for a few minutes from vibes of the 8.2 Chile jolt a few hundred miles away…

POETRY … If this week’s Talking Gourd looks familiar, it’s because it’s the newest version of last week’s poem that I’ve been working on. Well, maybe “playing with” applies as well … If we’re talking poetry, word play is great work, when you can get it.

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Category: Commentary, Up Bear Creek

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