Monday, December 21, 2015

Last Post of 2015--You're Welcome

There’s so much I want to say after another year slogging through HoseMaster of Wine™. The holidays are not only a time to celebrate, they’re also a time to reflect. If a psychic had told me last January what my 2015 would hold, I wouldn’t have believed her. If I had believed her, I might have put down my poison pen for the year.

I certainly managed to offend an unusually large number of people this past year. I know it seems hard to believe, but offending people isn’t my actual goal. In fact, I don’t even have an actual goal, not when it comes to this blog anyway. Well, maybe to meet hot chicks, but that hasn’t really played out like I’d hoped. It turns out that satire offends people. It certainly seemed to offend Georg Riedel. He had the grandest over-reaction of the year when he had his lawyers threaten to sue me for libel. But he wasn’t the only one who took offense at my shenanigans. The folks at Le Pan were a bit peeved, as were many sommeliers, Master and otherwise. More than a few wine bloggers had harsh words for me, in public or in private. And the truth is, I never insulted the people in the biz I’d really like to insult. There are many I studiously avoid lampooning simply because I don’t want to mention their names, for reasons of my own. I will one day, I’ll get to them, but I need the right vehicle, the right moment. I thought I went pretty easy on folks this past year. Yet I still managed to piss off more people than usual. It’s a gift.

In their own mind and heart, no one thinks they deserve to be satirized. Especially those who believe everything they do is a craft—which they believe simply because if they do it, it must be a craft. More than once, I’ve had emails from wine people asking me to lampoon them. There seems to be some sort of badge of honor associated with being the butt of a HoseMaster column—though a butt is just a butt, and rarely honorable. And there have been several occasions when I’ve skewered someone who asked me to, and nearly every time that particular person took great offense at what I wrote and stopped being a fan. We rarely see what’s genuinely funny or hypocritical or foolish about ourselves, even after it’s been pointed out to us. Satire aims to shine a light into all of our dark places (making us the butt, I guess), to spotlight inadequacies and frailties, faults and hypocrisies, using laughter as a weapon. And there is no more powerful weapon. Laughter is the Force. May the Force be with you, because when it’s against you, it can be painful. Combine laughter with truth, and amazing things happen.

And terrible things. This has been a banner year for massacres—an abundant vintage. But it began with Charlie Hebdo. All year when tiny wine people harangued me, I thought about those poor dorks (and satirists are universally dorks, myself included) being murdered. You see, I don’t mind the least bit being insulted on chat rooms or on blogs or even to my face. That comes with the territory. I have it coming. But bullying, or threatening, that’s a much different story. It doesn’t take courage to write what I write here. Not at all. Don’t kid yourself. Comedians are not brave people, even if they speak hard truths. We’re cowards for the most part, we’re afraid of physical confrontation. And we certainly don’t welcome intimidation or threats. But I welcome critics, and I don’t mind that people hate me. I care who the people are who hate me. I’m happy to say that I’m damned proud of my list of people who don’t like what I do here. A more distinguished list of idiots would be hard to compile.

There isn’t a week that goes by that I don’t want to quit. Yes, I know, I threaten to quit all the fucking time. But I mean it every single time, too. Yet it seems like every time I decide, for the last time, to stop publishing HoseMaster of Wine™, something happens to make me go on. So you have only yourselves to blame for this travesty of wine blogging. This year it was many things.

I won’t ever forget the response to Georg Riedel threatening me with a libel suit. The support of the wine writing community, as well as the wine community in general, was amazing, and personally overwhelming. After all of that, I simply couldn’t walk away from the blog. It would have seemed like a victory for Riedel, and I couldn’t let that happen, not after all the kindness and generosity and support that was thrown my way. I’m not used to feeling affection for the wine business. But those weeks, when wine people far more influential and important than I stood behind me, changed my life. I know that, for the most part, they were simply standing up for a cause, and not really for the HoseMaster. It wasn’t really about me. It was about freedom of expression, and standing up to bullies. I knew that almost from the start. Yet the support, its vehemence and rectitude, filled me with pride and purpose. Thank you.

During the course of the past year, I received a lot of kind letters. Many of them, especially those from people in the trade, expressed the same sentiment. That what I write here on HoseMaster of Wine™ expresses thoughts and truths about the wine business that the letter writer wishes he/she was able to express, but doesn’t, for fear of losing a job, or being somehow blackballed. I like to think that I’m expressing truths in a comic manner, but, honestly, it’s hard to know. When peers tell me I have it right, it makes me happy. Thank you.

I also received a handful of personal letters after my piece about “Wine, Memories and Massacres.” People shared their own stories of tragedy, and of how wine has helped them through life, and of how they endured. I don’t usually get that kind of mail, as you might have surmised. Life turns out to be very much about loss, and about how gracefully and honestly we endure it. I endure through laughter, and by attempting to make others laugh. When I inadvertently touch them as well, I’m astonished. I’ve known from a very young age that words have power, that language matters, and that abusing language with sloppiness or ignorance or prejudice is a horrible wrong. My answer for all of those circumstances is satire, is laughter, is lampooning. That I offend the people I aim at never bothers me in the slightest.

I was also invited to speak at the Napa Valley Professional Wine Writers’ Symposium in February. If this doesn’t ruin its credibility, I don’t know what could. I’ll be sharing the spotlight with people far more talented than I am, many of whom don’t like me. So that should be fun. But Jim Gordon’s willingness to include a satirist in the mix is heartening. And that has kept me writing to an extent, too. Satire should always be present at the table. Maybe not as an honored guest, but, at the very least, as the drunk uncle. If anyone who writes about wine hears the HoseMaster’s footsteps as he writes pretentiously about wine, then my work here is worthwhile. I’m not vain enough to think that ever happens, but I can hope so.

Yes, 2015 was an interesting vintage for the HoseMaster. I’m not at all important, as wine writers go, I never appear on lists of Influential Wine Bloggers (inevitably published by industry nobodies), nor do I have much ambition to be. I just love to write, and wine is my muse. For every single individual who reads my work, I’m very grateful. I know that my work is hit and miss, with miss ahead by a wide margin. I know that it’s foulmouthed and scatalogical and crude. Nothing about its tone or approach is accidental. The HoseMaster, and Lo Hai Qu, are fictional extensions of me, voices in my head that scream to be heard. I don’t need an audience, not really, but there isn’t a day goes by that I’m not astonished by having one, and by your love and kindness.

May your 2016 be filled with a lot more Peace, and a lot more laughter.

Happy Holidays!
From Your Friends, 
The HoseMaster, Lo Hai Qu, Larry Anosmia, Avril Cadavril, Loqueesha, Shizzangela, Splooge Estate, the makers of Boner in a Can®, the members of the Go Fuck Yourself Club™, and, of course, me.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The HoseMaster's Letter to Santa 2015

Dear Santa,

I had a wonderful year in 2015. I was threatened with a lawsuit! Thank you for that, Santa. It was my most unexpected gift. Lucky for me, it lasted about as long as a Riedel wine glass before it breaks. So, truly, I don’t need anything for myself this Christmas. But, as I do every year, I’m writing on behalf of others, on behalf of the wine business itself. Truly, Santa, we’re a fucked-up business (pardon my Elvish, but those little pricks can swear) and we need your help.

I’ve been so worried about sommeliers, Santa, that I can’t sleep at night. There are so many of them. They’re the worst invasive species since starlings, kudzu and Adele. They have movies made about them, a whole franchise, worse than the “Saw” movies, with less charm and more victims screaming. They even named it SAWM. I had to turn my head away in horror at this nightmare of human depravity. Though I hear the sequel is cute. TV shows have been made about sommeliers. Sommeliers are the new Real Housewives of Atlanta, portrayed as blathering, egotistical train wrecks you wouldn’t fuck with Dr. Conti’s dick, which may or may not be real, ask Maureen Downey. There’s even a sommelier in the new “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”—Han Job Solo. Enough is enough! Honestly, we could use more teachers.

And, Santa, I had an idea; is there a way to make it so that wine scores are tied to free shipping? I think this would be the best gift of all for wine lovers everywhere. Make it so that wineries who don’t post scores from wine publications are allowed to ship their wines for free to anyone in the United States! Consumers would be all over that, and so happy. “Please, please, please, Favorite Winery,” they’d say, “don’t use any scores! Just ship me a case of wine for free. I don’t give a crap what scores you received. So if it means I don't have to pay for shipping, Don’t Tell Me!” Scores would slowly go away. Wineries would see that their best interest is in ignoring scores, not playing that silly game they cannot win. And when scores go away, consumers win, too. Well, Santa, I’m sure lots of people wish for things that are impossible, like an end to wars, or Gummy Bear dick pills, but do what you can. I don’t need scores to go completely away, Santa, maybe just make them appear as worthless as they are, like wine aerators and Silver Medals.

This Christmas, Santa, my thoughts are also with all the poor and suffering people on Earth. It would be nice, I thought, to do something for each of them, something that would bring a little bit of joy to their wretched lives, by delivering gifts that might give them hope, bring them comfort. Gifts that express our concern for their welfare. Santa, please gift each and every one of the poorest and most down-trodden with a subscription to Le Pan, and a copy of Napa Valley: Now and Then! Gifts that truly say our priorities are in order, we care, and that will burn long into the cold, winter night.

Santa, for the Napa Valley Wine Train, what about a new conductor? Something that would electrocute the whole bunch. Or, at the least, how about giving them a new slogan, “The Napa Valley Wine Train: If you go black, you never go back!”

Like Georg Riedel, Santa, I am all for free speech. But there are a few choice words I’d like for you to get rid of, as a gift to the wine community. “Minerality,” Santa, what the hell is that? And why is it desirable in wine? If I want to be fucking Demosthenes and taste pebbles in my mouth, I’ll wear a toga and visit the Flintstones. And what makes a wine “authentic?” How do we know it’s authentic? Because it has the word “authentic” in front of it? Because a wine writer says it’s authentic? Is that idiot wine writer “authentic?” Does authentic Chablis have lots of minerality? Who cares? It makes more sense if you say it with pebbles in your mouth.

Though, frankly, Santa, I don’t think even you can rid the world of “natural.” Too many stupid people believe in it, like they believe in Wikipedia and read Wine Folly. The world is made up of but two categories of things, it seems to me, natural and manmade. And manmade things that are called natural are called natural out of desperation and marketing, not truth. Like Tang has “natural” orange flavoring. And it’s only “natural” to defend yourself with a gun. Nothing natural yearns to be manmade. Nothing natural is manmade. It’s a step down. Natural wine? OK, Santa, I give up. Let people fall for that tap dance. Wine’s about as natural as a hot fudge sundae. But, I guess I can only hope for a "natural" death.

Santa, would it kill you to keep an eye on Randall Grahm? I sure hope his plans to create 10,000 new grape varieties succeeds. The wine world needs Randall, he’s our Don Quixote, or, at the very least, Dapple. Please, Santa, make sure that when Grahm succeeds at creating a distinctive and new wine made from 10,000 different grapes that he’s created and cultivated that it doesn’t taste like Silver Oak. I think that just might kill him. Make sure it has minerality.

I hope all of this isn’t too much to ask. I tried to keep my list short this year, Santa. I wanted to include a lot of other gifts, like a Do Not Resuscitate Order for the regular contributors to World of Fine Wine—it would only be humane. And probably too late. And a few fresh ideas for Wine Spectator would have been nice, give Marvin the originality transplant he so desperately needs. Wine Spectator’s originality suffered rigor mortis years ago, and it’s been Restaurant Awards, Top 100, Best Wines under $20, and Matt Kramer ever since. It’s hard to tell the Wine Spectators from the 1990’s from today’s, except the scores are higher and the ads are slicker. Oh, wait, it’s the other way around. Wine Spectator is the missionary position of wine magazines--I don't mind being screwed, but can we change positions once in a while?

No matter, Santa. Most of all, I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Happy Kwanzaa (cheap party deals on the Napa Valley Wine Train!), and all the best in 2016.

I wonder if I’ll be here to write you next year, Santa? Like most everyone else, I hope not.

Merry Christmas!
HoseMaster of Wine

Thursday, December 10, 2015

EPHEMERA: "UnCorked"--the Heitz of Stupidity

I always hated winemaker dinners. They were more often catastrophes than not. And so were the dinners. Early in my sommelier career, Joe Heitz was the featured winemaker at one. It’s hard to write about the late Joe Heitz without using the word irascible. Late in the meal, as the guests were tasting the Heitz “Martha’s Vineyard” Cabernet and Joe was speaking about it, one of the restaurant’s best customers, a lovely woman whose husband probably spent twenty grand a year entertaining in the place, asked Joe, “Why does the Martha’s Vineyard always smell like eucalyptus?” Mr. Heitz took a short breath, seemed rather resigned, and then told her, “Shut the hell up! Eucalyptus smells like cat piss. My Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet smells like mint!” Joe always hated when people referred to his most famous wine as smelling like eucalyptus. Which, by the way, it doesn’t. Though it may have been more accurate to say eucalyptus smells like koala farts. Cat piss is way off.

I tell this story because it came to mind when I watched an episode of “Uncorked.” In that episode, one of the sommeliers participating in the Top Somm challenge was asked to describe the aroma of a “’68 Heitz Martha’s Vineyard” that he was supposedly opening and serving three Master Sommeliers. The sommelier guessed that it smelled of “spearmint.” The Master Sommeliers pushed him, belittled him, questioned him, until he finally said the magic word, “eucalyptus.” In a brief scene a moment later, after the sommelier had left the room, one Master Sommelier, Laura Maniec, says, “How could he not know that Martha’s Vineyard smells like eucalyptus?”

All I wanted was for the late Joe Heitz to appear and tell her, “Shut the hell up.”

“Uncorked” is the worst hour of television since Geraldo Rivera opened Al Capone’s vaults. Both are utterly and embarrassingly empty. I’m sure most of you haven’t seen “Uncorked.” It’s on EsquireTV. Why is there an EsquireTV? No one has read Esquire since the Kennedy administration. You may as well have LOOKMagazineTV, for Christ’s sake. I didn’t even know I had EsquireTV as part of my cable package until I went looking for “Uncorked.” Fuck me, I did.

I know, I know, “Uncorked” is already yesterday’s blog post. Truthfully, I was avoiding the show. A reality show produced by The Hair and the guy behind SOMM? The whole concept made me cringe. But then curiosity got the better of me. I watched an episode. Then I watched one more (I think there are six). And I fast-forwarded through a couple of others. So remember to take everything I write with that in mind. I’m not a professional reviewer. I didn’t take notes. I didn’t watch every frame. I just couldn’t. It made me want to gouge my own eyes out.

“Uncorked” follows six miserable humans who aspire to become Master Sommeliers. It also features about six miserable humans who are Master Sommeliers. Oh, they’re a lively bunch. The show is edited in the way of all reality shows—that is, in such a way as to make a stereotype of each miserable human competing. The editing is designed to try and construct a narrative out of this mess, giving you someone to cheer for, someone to laugh at, someone to identify with; but the show seems to have been edited by someone suffering from narcolepsy. Scenes drag on and on, and then suddenly the editor wakes up again, remembers to cut, and we move on. The only thing worse is the music. I began to find the music hilarious. In one dull scene after another, the music would try to convince you something dramatic was going on. Yes, trying to guess which of the three Chablis is the Grand Cru is harrowing, and needs three or four cuts to different faces, and an intense musical score to build that suspense. This is high drama, wine’s Sophie’s Choice. Why, it had me on the edge of my coma.

It’s no crime to produce a landmark in dull television viewing. I can’t say that I found “Uncorked” offensive in any way. Well, except for how often a Master Sommelier would say something like, “She did that just perfect.” Perfect? Sigh. There’s something about watching an hour of inarticulate people interacting that grates. I never heard a single person say anything insightful, wistful, original, or, God forbid, funny. Wine terminology they can handle—speaking as interesting, intelligent people, not so much. Well, maybe that was the damned narcoleptic editor.

I don’t want to belabor the subject. “Uncorked” is simply as bad as television gets. I was dozing off when Fred Dame appeared, and in my stupor I thought I was watching an episode of “Law and Order” with the late Fred Thompson. click here Geoff Kruth, for whom this is a vanity project, has the charisma of most game show hosts—he’s essentially Alex Trebek, only not quite as witty. I kept expecting him to ask the sommeliers to put their answers in the form of a question. “What is eucalyptus?” He seems constantly aware that he’s being filmed, always as carefully casual as his hair. It’s a show filled with unlikable people, now forever associated with wine. I was a bit mortified. For me, it was like stepping back and watching your family and realizing how essentially dull and witless and self-absorbed they all are.

But, most of all, the entire series is an insult to wine. Sommeliers, too, but they richly deserve it. In “Uncorked,” wine is nearly joyless. It’s like a cadaver that medical students are dissecting endlessly in order to become doctors. Like a cadaver, the wine is DOA. During the blind tasting segment, where each sommelier has twenty-five minutes to identify six wines blind, Kruth, as the game show host The Hair, explains that a candidate is awarded points for everything correct he says about a wine, its color and aroma and body and blah blah blah, and that if he correctly describes each wine in perfect detail, it can only lead him to one correct conclusion about which specific wine he is tasting. Only a loser unworthy of an MS after his name could fail to make it add up. I wanted to throw my cat at the television, but I don’t own a cat. There it is, wine pared down to its essence, wine made as simple as a box score, all the hundreds of thousands of wines produced in a single vintage easy as ABC to categorize—just check the appropriate boxes on the wine description chart and, bingo, you've pinned all the wines down like butterflies in a natural history museum. It's what death looks like.

If I were a wine novice, I think “Uncorked” would have made me hate wine, and sommeliers. Loving wine was never meant to be the point of the show, I know. The point, I suppose, was to illustrate how difficult it is to become a Master Sommelier, to become Geoff Kruth. But that never for a moment seems like an accomplishment because there’s so little palpable passion for wine shown by anyone on screen. Certainly not any more than medical students show their cadaver. “Uncorked” shows sommeliers as necrophiliacs, the wine just lying there as they fuck with it. It’s not just unsettling to watch, it’s creepy.

“Uncorked,” what I watched of it, left a bad taste in my mouth. I’d call it eucalyptus. The show was the Heitz of stupidity.

Monday, December 7, 2015

How to Create Your Own Great Wine Cellar!

You don’t need a lot of money to create a great wine cellar. Any more than you need teeth to recite Shakespeare. Or fingers to go bowling. They just help you to not look and sound stupid doing it. You can begin a wine cellar with very little money, just as you can be a toothless Portia and say, “Nuh qualinee ah mernee ih nah strainuh.” It’s ultimately your humiliation, what do I care if you have a boring, worthless wine cellar? I know a fingerless guy who goes bowling every Tuesday, and has the stubs to prove it.

Assembling a great wine cellar isn't easy. Unless you follow the HoseMaster's simple directions, and, essentially, not bother. But you will have to make the magic Intergnats leap over to Tim Atkin's award-winning wine site to read the rest. And Tim's site is free! Not like that site where you're sent by the likes of Vornography's Alderpated and Elaine ChewBakaWakaMileInMyShoes Brown. The HoseMaster cares!


Thursday, December 3, 2015

Wine, Memory and Massacres

Around noon today, Wednesday, a coworker told me that there was another mass shooting unfolding at that moment in San Bernadino, CA. It just barely registered. Your first response is to wonder how many people were murdered—it’s almost like you want to know the gunman’s score. He received a 20 from Twitter, a 14 from NPR, and all scores were done blind. Not bad, but not in the Exceptional range. Maybe in the Shooting range.

Aside from disgust and anger, I felt a little hopeless at the news. These sorts of massacres are not going to stop any time soon, any more than climate change is going to suddenly reverse. But I’m not here to discuss politics (who am I? STEVE!?), I’m here to write about wine. Trivial, ordinary, meaningless wine. It’s what we do on wine blogs.

Thinking about ordinary folks whose lives are suddenly destroyed by angry human garbage with a gun, I took comfort in wine, that I work, and have always worked, in the wine business. And I realized that all of my life I have turned to wine for comfort, reassurance, and solace. Solace not in the alcohol in wine, though that obviously matters, but in wine itself, and what wine represents. Maybe it’s that I see wine as being one of the things that is best about our Western culture. Literature, art, baseball, wine, jazz, those beautiful creations. Can they compensate for random death (that is, if all death isn’t random to those who haven’t died), or for all the evil that’s in our world? No, perhaps not. But it’s what I have.

Many years ago, I think I was 27 at the time, my girlfriend Josie and I arrived home after working  our shifts in the restaurant where we met to find my cockatiel Buster flying crazily around the living room. Buster was often out of his cage, but not after I had left for work. I was confused. I knew he couldn’t get out of his cage. None of us can. My confusion abruptly ended when I realized my television was gone. And my stereo, and my camera, and a lot of other valuable stuff. Our apartment had been burglarized. We called the police, and they dutifully came and filled out a report. I asked the cop why burglars would take my sleeping bag. “Oh, they use it to lug the heavy stuff out. They probably rifled through your panty drawer, too.” A little too quickly, I said, “Yeah.” But that’s another story.

After the police left, Josie and I were not the least bit sleepy. After a burglary, your apartment feels creepy, and your bedroom feels dirty, and sleep is not an option. So I went to the wine rack and opened a bottle of wine. I’ll never forget that wine. I’ve never consumed another bottle of that wine, I refused to buy it for my wine list when I was later a sommelier, and I wouldn’t carry it in my wine shop. It was a Grgich Hills Zinfandel. I cannot even see a bottle of Grgich Zin without recalling the feeling of fear and disgust and anger and violation that I felt when I realized our apartment had been burgled. I thought drinking a nice bottle of wine would help, and it did, it helped, but I wish I had been wise enough to choose a wine that was cheap, or lousy, or Pinot Grigio. The lesson, friends, is that when something miserable happens to you, drink something shitty, not something you like. Maybe keep a bottle of Pinot Grigio in your fridge, just in case.

That burglary was my first lesson in wine’s power over memory. And, therefore, us. For what are we but memories? And bodily fluids. And a side of meat. The Grgich Hills brought me some solace in that moment; it was something civilized to counteract something sad about the human race. But that’s not the kind of example I’m trying to get to. It was my first lesson about wine, and its hold over me, about its connection to memory. More lessons, many more, were to come.

Nine years later, Josie died. Just typing that was hard. I was working as a sommelier, and, eventually, after some weeks away from the job trying to find a way back to my life, back to any sort of goddam life, I returned to the restaurant. I had stopped drinking. Hell, I’d stopped eating and sleeping, what did I need wine for? I discovered death is a great weight loss plan. But I had to continue to buy wine for the restaurant, to do my job. Several nights a week, I would sit with salespeople and have to smell and taste wines, as I always had. And those were the only moments in my miserable life when I was OK. Putting a wine up to my nose and sensing its energy, thinking about its components, about where it was from, just making sense of it, brought me comfort and security. But it was much more than that. Wine smells of the earth, smells of human endeavor, smells of community. Great wine awakens in us a powerful gladness to be alive. Even during the darkest hours of my life, the aroma of a first-rate Châteauneuf-du-Pape made me happy when nothing, and I mean nothing, else could.

The wines I smelled and tasted during my grief reminded me that I had once known how to be happy. I didn’t think I’d ever be happy again, but at least I knew happiness lived in me. The wines triggered memories of happier times, of all the joy my love of wine had brought me, of the people I loved with whom I’d shared great wine. And, as all great wines do, the wines I tasted promised a future. Earth, love, memory, community…wine began to heal my broken life by forcing me to remember them. I was slowly, and this may sound melodramatic and maudlin, but it’s also true, healed by wine, and by its connection to memory, which brought me back into the world, into the possibility of love, into the community of, first, wine, and then the living. Wine’s pull was, for me, irresistible.

The older I get, the more I notice that when I taste wine, I think more about my feelings about wine, my accumulated memories, than I think about aromatics and alcohol level and descriptors. I smell a California Cabernet, and I’m home. I put a glass of Hermitage to my nose and I’m that kid who “discovered” Hermitage 35 years ago and was astonished that anything could be that wonderful. I open a Chablis and I remember all the Raveneau I used to drink and how now I can’t fucking afford it. Wine is memory. And maybe memory is wine. Put the most dramatic ones away for a couple of decades, and when you finally examine them again they’ve transformed into something completely different. Something that makes you deeply grateful, as I am grateful for Josie; or something that makes you buy an automatic weapon and kill people. Like wine, how you store memory is what matters in the long run.

When terrible things happen, from the mundane to the horrifying, from burglaries to death, from 9/11 to civilians killed by drones, from domestic massacres to suicide bombers, there isn’t any real solace, no “closure.” But life beckons us, in all its Sisyphean glory. We open a bottle after a miserable experience, perhaps catastrophic experience, and we begin, again, to try and make sense of it all.

Tonight, I’ll open a bottle of something interesting, not a fucking Grgich Hills Zin, and it won’t take long before the wine will stir memories, will fill my head with all sorts of unpredictable and unforeseeable thoughts. I’ll be struggling with the memories of what it’s like to lose a loved one in the blink of an eye, as many people in San Bernadino are doing today. One day they’re here, next day they’re gone. And I’ll remember Josie, and so many others I’ve lost. And, after that, as the wine embraces and commandeers my memories, I’ll remember this great community I’m a part of, and I’ll remember all that I’ve been given, all the people who have touched me, and loved me and helped me. I’ll remember that it’s the simplest things in life that can bring the most joy. Rather than surrender to anger and grief, I'll try to make some sense of it all.

I turn to wine in tough times to bring me solace, but it doesn’t. It brings me Grace.