May 2014

Kids, cellared wines, nine lives

By Art Goodtimes

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 we rarely hear about in this country.




I build a fire. Make food. Sneeze
Without notice, twice.

Did your heart stop?
No. Did the world stop?

Not a chance, but there
For two moments

I might have missed something.

-Jack Mueller
from Amor Fati
(Lithic Press, Fruita, 2013)

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 – back in 1959 both of us entered St. Joseph’s Seminary in Mountain View. And we’ve been life-long friends ever since. 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.

SCOTT MCINNIS … A surprise to see the former U.S. Congressperson ratchet down his statewide ambitions from governor to Mesa County commissioner. He recently got the Republican Party nod for the job … But maybe it’s a wise move. Just as former State Representative and current Mesa County commissioner Steve Aquafresca learned over his last two terms. In county government you balance budgets, are directly responsible to the people you live with, and get things done. That’s not how state or national government works these days. Maybe a step down in ambition, but a step up in effectiveness.

Art Goodtimes is a poet, author, and ounty commissioner for San Miguel County, Colo.