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Day 299 — Everyone Is Equal…But Some Are MORE Equal Than Others…

Reds-Wine for the peopleDid you ever read the book, ‘Animal Farm’ by George Orwell?  “The novel addresses not only the corruption of the revolution by its leaders, but also the ways wickedness, indifference, ignorance, greed, and myopia corrupt the revolution. It portrays corrupt leadership as the flaw in revolution, rather than the act of revolution itself. It also shows how potential ignorance and indifference to problems within a revolution could allow horrors to happen if a smooth transition to a people’s government is not achieved,” according to Wikipedia.  Perhaps the most telling line in the book was, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”.  As a historical nod to post World War II Europe and Russia, Orwell was disgusted by the alliance between Britain, the US and the new Soviet Union.  Even worse, was his dislike for Stalin, whose power only grew stronger as a result of the successes in the War.  A commentary on socialism/communism, Orwell’s allegorical novel clearly paints a picture of mistrust, misuse of power and lack of leadership in a post-Lenin world.

If you’ve never read the book, it’s a true classic in American literature.  Orwell actually wrote the book during World War II–from November 1943 through February 1944.  It’s not a particularly long book, but it’s packed with innuendos, suggestions, thought provoking idealisms and down right attacks on a post World War II society.  NOW, why on the face of a beautiful earth, would we bring up such an ‘ancient’ piece of literature?  It seems that regardless of what side of the aisle you prefer, there are leaders who are trumpeting that everyone is equal but some are more equal than others.  Take for example health care. . .Congress passed the mammoth bill–over 1200 pages–but opts out for itself and governmental employees.  How convenient–but we are all equal.  Of course, the other key component in any society based on equality is that laws are passed for the people but not for government.  Agencies in government run unchecked, uninhibited and completely funded to do what ever they wish to whomever they wish…but government is immune to such ‘oversight’.

So it seems that art imitates life or was it life imitating art?  Hmmm, well, at least we found a nice wine to discuss matters of literature this evening.  Among our finds recently at Central Market South in Austin is this 2011 Reds a blended red wine that promotes itself as being “For The People”! With a name like ‘Reds’ and a tag line like you’ve just read, there must be some substance to this wine. . .Zinfandel, Carignane, and Petite Sirah from pioneer vineyards in the heartland of California.  We noticed a lot of dark fruit on the nose and front palate.  There were hints of pepper, coriander and spice that came through on the finish after it had been opened for about 45 minutes.  This is a young wine but full of flavor and well worth the $11 a bottle price.  Here, once again, is a great example of wine with a great body, taste and structure for a price that leaves you speechless.  Good wines at prices that won’t break the bank are becoming the rage–threatening higher priced lower quality wines–but only a few have jumped on the bandwagon.

Depending on where you live, Animal Farm may be happening before your very eyes. . .state, county, local. . .all jurisdictions that tax and collect to fund their operations but without much oversight.  Over time, they may come to be viewed as Snowball and Napoleon–who felt the need to prepare for the revolution–but ultimately use their power to secure more power for themselves and less for the people. (pigs.)  We hope you’ll try Reds. . .the 2011 version is ready to enjoy today.  Thanks for reading and remember to enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and recycle whenever possible.

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Day 291 – Crazy Gouguenheim (sp)

gouguenheim malbecLet’s go way back. . .not quite Back To The Future. . .but close!  No, let’s go back to the infancy of television; a time when radio was still king–newspapers still reported news and not entertainment and actors were insulted by the thought of being in the ‘new medium’.  Hard to believe but WAY back when Jack Benny was still doing radio, there was a guy from Cambridge, Massachusetts that happened to play a bum–his real name was Frank Fontaine–forever known in entertainment circles as, “Crazy Guggenheim”!

There were stints on Benny’s radio and television show, The Jackie Gleason Show and The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson (see last night for Johnny Carson reference).   Frank Fontaine played a bum (named “John L. C. Silvoney”) who asked Benny for a dime for a cup of coffee. The smallest coin Benny had to offer was a fifty-cent piece, so he gave it to him. The story Benny told about this event became a running gag during later shows. Fontaine’s goofy laugh and other voice mannerisms made a hit with the audience, and Benny brought him back for several more radio shows between 1950 and 1952. He also later appeared in several of Benny’s television shows.  On The Jackie Gleason Show, he played the character Crazy Guggenheim during Gleason’s “Joe The Bartender” skits. His trademark was a bug-eyed grin and the same silly laugh he had done on Jack Benny’s radio show. At the end of his Guggenheim sketch, he would usually sing a song, demonstrating a surprisingly good singing voice.  In 1963, he released the album Songs I Sing on the Jackie Gleason Show, which collected some of these songs and reached number one on Billboard magazine’s Top LP’s chart in 1963.  Stan Freberg’s voice characterization for Pete Puma in a 1952 cartoon was based on Fontaine’s character voice. Fontaine received mention in satirist Tom Lehrer’s 1965 song “National Brotherhood Week”, from the album That Was the Year That Was.  He also was the voice of Rocky the Rhino in Walt Disney’s The Jungle Book until Disney cut the creature from the picture.

Tonight we opened a 2010 Gouguenheim Malbec Reserve. . .and we couldn’t have been more surprised.  For a $14 bottle of wine, there was a LOT of wine in this bottle!  Deep purple color with aromas of red fruits, chocolate and coffee beans. Red and black cherry flavors with scents of flower. Very nice fresh oak on the finish, very complex and yet balanced.  And, while the finish smoothed out over the life of the bottle, initially it was tart and dry.  We suggest that when you buy this wine–we picked it up at Central Market South in Austin–now that Andy the Wine Guy is there–you decanter the wine or open it for 30-45 minutes before serving; a synthetic cork tells us that it needs some time to ‘catch its’ breath’.  All this being said, Gouguenheim Malbec is a really, really nice wine–one that was meant for the deck on a slightly cool and windy night–just windy enough to keep the mosquitoes from doing any damage!

Frankie Fontaine passed away in August of 1978 at the very young age of 58.  He had just completed a benefit show and accepted a check for $25,000, which he planned to donate for heart research, when he collapsed.  He was interred at Oak Grove Cemetery in Medford, Massachusetts, (close to Tufts University) near to his last residence in Winchester, Massachusetts, a substantial house on Highland Avenue that is now the home of Winchester Community Music School.  You know, the mark we make in our life is never really known until after we’re gone.  Frankie Fontaine made people laugh, but he also made people stop and enjoy the moment.  Gouguenheim Malbec Reserve is a wine that Frankie would have been proud to call his own—(our opinion)—and, if you’re looking for a value-priced Malbec with a little bit of age to it, go for this wine.  At the price and the vintage, you won’t be disappointed.

Until tomorrow, please remember to enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and remember to recycle whenever possible.