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Where wine is on the table everyday

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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.



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Day 290 – ‘X’ Marks the Spot

Red XWhen we were younger, watching the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson was a right of passage.  When you were old enough to stay up and watch Johnny, you had ‘arrived’!  As kids growing up in the Houston area, watching the Tonight Show meant staying awake through the boring late night news casts…KPRC to be exact.  Prior to Ron Stone’s arrival from Channel 11, KPRC was just another boring local station. . .it didn’t have the dynamic Dave Ward who called the news on KTRK, Channel 13.  BUT, when Ron Stone arrived at KPRC in the mid-1970’s, things really changed for that station; teamed with Doug Johnson on weather, they brought new life into a boring station.  We often wondered what ever became of those guys…

However, the main reason to watch them was that their newscast led into the Tonight Show.  Johnny Carson was to American television what Neil Armstrong was to the Space program. . .the LEADER!  When he retired in the early 1990’s, someone made a comment to him about how many generations of viewers were ‘raised’ on the Tonight Show.  It had to be an incredible number.  Brothers, sisters, cousins–we all wanted to see who was going to be on and especially, how good was his monologue going to be?  Was he going to play ‘Stump The Band’ or ‘Carnac The Magnificent’ or ‘Floyd R. Turbo’?  His writers–were superb.  His delivery–was almost always spot on.  He was the consummate professional, and to this day is remembered as such.

What caused us to think about the Tonight Show and more specifically, Johnny Carson was his entrance.  When Ed McMahon uttered the immortal words, “Heeeere’s Johnny!”, the audience went crazy, the music from Doc Severinsen was playing loudly, a curtain was pulled back by an invisible stagehand and out walked Johnny.  Ahhh, the anticipation of that night’s jokes—one could hardly wait for the band to finish playing. . .the audience to settle down. . .and Ed McMahon bowing to Mr. Carson.  But, in all of the excitement, one thing became a constant over the years. . .one thing made sure that ALL was right with the show and that the star knew EXACTLY where to go!  YEP, Johnny walked to the SAME ‘X’ on the floor of the studio every single night.  You could even see the spot before he walked to it during his introduction.  OH BABY, when Johnny walked to the ‘X’, all was good and we were in for some great comedy.

Tonight we opened a bottle of Red ‘X’ that we found at Central Market South in Austin this past weekend.  Normally a $16 bottle of wine, it was marked at $15 plus we secured a 10% discount so our final cost was $13.50; we were blown away by this wine.  A blend of 56% Syrah, 17% Petite Sirah, 16% Dolcetto and 11% Malbec, from X Winery in Napa, California.  The wine maker’s intent is to create unique wines without the ‘stuffiness’ of corporate or over-hyped wines.  “The most obvious question with respect to X Winery and proprietor Reed Renaudin is how can these wines be this good at these prices? Everyone is looking for good values today, and here are some exceptional bargains” – Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate.  

Yep, that is exactly how we felt about it.  An amazing nose upon opening offered up loads of dark fruit, soft tannins and a certain sweetness that we didn’t expect.  Was it maraschino cherries?  Or was it a sweet liqueur?  The longer the wine stayed open-the more subtle and complete the wine became.  We found ourselves looking at the bottle for clues as to why it was so delicious.  You have to appreciate a wine maker that throws the rules out and sets out to make wines that people actually enjoy drinking. . .well, that’s Red ‘X’ and we are now among their biggest fans.  In addition to Red ‘X’, the winery makes a White ‘X’ blend as well as wines under the “Amicus” label including their 2011 Syrah that is rated at 92 points.

It tells us that, yes, indeed, ‘X’ marks the spot, and in the case of wine maker, Reed Renaudin, he has created a terrific option for those of us who love blends but don’t like to spend a lot of cash.  We think you’ll be hooked on this one as well.  Just like when Johnny Carson used to find his ‘X’ on the studio floor before beginning his monologue, X Winery has found its’ ‘X’ with great wines sourced from amazing vineyards all over California.  We’re ready for more!

And, as Monday gives way to Tuesday, please remember to enjoy your favorite wine responsibly and recycle whenever possible.