• Auld Lang what?

    Last Thursday, Jan. 25, was Robert Burns Day. The Scottish poet’s birthday is an occasion for drinking, bagpipes, poetry and haggis. We indulged in all said diversions with the exception of the haggis and the bagpipes. Also, the poetry. Haggis is a delightful Scottish dish in which taste-tempting sheep’s offal is mixed with yummy suet

  • Crimes of passion

    Crimes of passion

    Martin Cruz Smith, in his breakout novel “Gorky Park,” profiles a beverage called chifir. His protagonist is chugging it to stay awake. “Chifir was tea concentrated not twice or 10 times but 20 times,” Smith wrote. A man without food, Smith continued, “could work three days straight on a few cups of chifir.” Chifir came

  • Tempranillo and “the river of human history”

    Tempranillo and “the river of human history”

    Like music, snowflakes or presidential tweets, wines are miracles of variety. Every country has its wines, every state in the union has its unique terroir out of which grow dinner wines, picnic wines, dessert wines, dry, sweet, austere, bold or tropical wines. Cheap burgundies and unaffordable Chassagne-Montrachets. No two alike! Clifton Fadiman, the literary critic

  • Live. Learn. Drink. Repeat

    Live. Learn. Drink. Repeat

    The old saw about learning something new every day reliably describes the experience of recreational wine drinkers. Example: A thoughtful New Year’s Eve guest sourced us a bottle of 2015 Scaia Corvina (Global Beverage, $13.99). We’d never heard of it — didn’t know if corvina was a growing region, a grape or a car. It’s

  • Label shaming

    Label shaming

    The cool guys at our middle school wore Levis. But Mom swore by JC Penney and the dorky denims sold therein. They put the dung back in dungarees. Same deal with footwear. The swingers had Converse Athletics. We never advanced beyond Keds. At eighth-grade graduation, a solemn occasion at our school, the girls wore long

  • Drink in the moment

    Drink in the moment

    1 Corinthians 13, like the movie “Casablanca,” has more memorable lines than you can shake a stick at. Today’s sermon draws on Verse 11: “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

  • Be it ever so humble

    Be it ever so humble

    This traveling salesman goes into a café. He orders runny eggs, burnt toast and weak coffee. The waitress asks why he requests such things. “I’ve been on the road for a few weeks,” he says, “and I am missing my wife’s cooking.” While the joke is not that good, the message is one of our

  • The end of the line for unlovable wine

    The end of the line for unlovable wine

    Up until now, a glass of bad wine had either of two ultimate destinies: down the hatch or down the sink. Today there is a third: down your gas tank. Forty miles east of Los Angeles, in scenic Rancho Cucamonga, Parallel Products is where bad wine goes to die. Parallel converts foul, grisly, unlovable malbecs

  • Fruit of the vine

    Fruit of the vine

    Greetings from Norman, Oklahoma, birthplace of the actor James Garner and, more significantly, of our first grandchild, Jane Darling. Our recent visit to the Sooner State was rich in firsts: First grandkid, first visit to a mega-church, first experience of Pop’s Route 66 Soda Ranch (identifiable by the 66-foot soda bottle out front), first Oklahoma

  • Cold comfort

    Cold comfort

    “The Cold,” as it became known in our newsroom, first struck a month ago. We transmitted our germs from desk to desk like party guests passing an hors d’oeuvres tray. Shortly, the newsroom looked like the rail yard scene in “Gone with the Wind” — strewn bodies, piteous moans. When illness strikes, we each have