Archives for category: Pinot Noir

Thomas George Estates Pinot Noir

Thomas George Estates Pinot Noir

Thomas George Estates’
Russian River Valley
Pinot Noir
Allen Vineyard

Instead of striking the pallet, this milky-claret pinot brushes through the tongue. Its tartness is slightly abrasive and somehow not whole. Then, however, it turns. The flavors become darker, broader, richer, older, fuller and more complex—like aged velvet. This pinot lingers in the back of the throat for a long time, and you’re left with splinters of licorice and ink.

Marc Bojanowski, the author of The Dog Fighter and Cellar Master at Thomas George Estates, introduced me to this wine. When asked which one he would pair with his novel, he decided upon this Pinot.

Bojanowski has carefully crafted a story which embodies splintering mirrors. Set in 1940’s Mexico, The Dog Fighter chronicles the youth of the unnamed protagonist. As a child he starts to crack and splinter as he’s pulled in opposing directions by his brutish and fiery maternal grandfather and his civilized Spanish-born father. The boy lives for bedtime, when his grandfather tells brutal stories of his ancestors: fierce warriors who battle jaguars and kill with no remorse. Through these stories, his grandfather convinces the boy that to become whole and flawless, he must live his life as a warrior. Despite his father’s attempts to inspire a love for literature, language, and humanitarianism, the boy is guided by his grandfather’s nighttime whispers and hisses.

During the next four years, he travels through northern Mexico, to northern California and Texas, fighting, drinking, intimidating, and finding work where he can. In time he finds himself on a boat, gliding through the Sea of Cortez toward the hidden town of Cancion in the Baja Peninsula, where he is to start construction work on a tourist hotel.

The protagonist builds a reputation as a mute giant who is not to be trifled with. His size and strength catch the eyes of the business men, supervising the construction, and soon he is introduced to the world of dog fighting, led by the corrupt head-businessman Cantana. The dog fights, which take place under full moons, are underground events in which men fight trained dogs to the death. The protagonist’s first fight, in which he annihilates the dog, rockets him to fame, and he is now known as “Dog Fighter.” During this first fight, however, the Dog Fighter becomes irrevocably cracked: he sets eyes on an exceptionally beautiful woman, who has accompanied the merciless Cantana to the fights. Although, the brutality of the dog fights enables him to experience the flesh and blood of his grandfather’s hisses and whispers, all the Dog Fighter wants is this woman. He will only return to fight the dogs to see her.

After his first fight, he stops work on the hotel and meets an old, cantankerous poet who works in the marcado as a translator and a transcriber of letters. As the poet begins to teach the dogfighter how to speak English, he also awakens in him the literary influence of his father. But unlike his father who thought of Jesus as a daydreamer, the poet states, “God is a beautiful thing. The best poem we have.” The poet will not, however, enter the town’s church, stating: “This is a small game I play with God. I am always wanting him to walk out and he is always wanting me to walk in.”

As the Dog Fighter becomes more familiar with Cancion and its inhabitants, he realizes that war between the townies and the businessmen is brewing. The town’s people don’t want the hotel to block their sunsets and beaches; they don’t want their precious, hidden town to become overrun by tourists. Cantana, however, says he believes that the hotel will bring money, progress, and education to the children of Cancion.

Each opposing force desperately wants the Dog Fighter to fight as a soldier for their cause. The Dog Fighter is once again caught between opposing forces. His decision to remain centered in this conflict is driven by his consuming love.

The Dog Fighter is as intricate and striking as its partnered Pinot. The syntax (and lack of commas) is initially challenging, but as the story progresses, this style becomes vital to the voice’s authenticity. The narrator learned English from a poet whose native language is Spanish. More importantly, though, a poet’s job is to challenge syntax, so naturally a poet will teach the language in his own unique cadence.

Interestingly enough, Bojanowski’s character development follows the development of the Thomas George Estates’ Pinot. Characters who first appear abrasive and simple become richly complex and endearing (although not in a conventional way). And, Bojanowski’s splintered characters linger in the back of one’s throat for a long time.

The Dog Fighter contains rich and powerful metaphors, motifs, and parallels, but there is nothing structural or predictable in the way Bojanowski employed these literary tools. Instead of following the tired, old literary paradigm, Bojanowski masterfully composed his novel, and the characters within, “from thousands of tiny pieces of cracked tile and glass and mirror.”

Written with Tim Counihan and Palmi Möller

Marc (center) surrounded by my family and myself

Marc (center) surrounded by my family and myself

Pinot Noir
Chili, Lontue Valley


Normally I avoid organic wines because when it comes to wine, it’s not just the thought that matters. This organic pinot noir, however, is one to savor. It’s fruit forward, with hints of wild raspberry that quickly melt into dark chocolate. The aftertaste is long but gentle: a little chewy and earthy. You can purchase this wine for $11.99 (on sale) at The Nature Stop on Grant Street in SF. This wine pairs extremely well with a movie, such as The Wrestler, or a historical fiction novel that reinterprets the mass confusion at the Battle of Gettysburg.

The Wrestler directed by Darren Aronofsky (2008)

The casting directors of this soul-stirring drama deserve many accolades, indeed; Suzanne Smith and Mary Vernieu’s casting decisions added even more depth to the movie’s effective and focal parallel between the wrestler and the stripper. Mickey Rourke, a steamy heart-throb of the 80’s and early 90’s, has returned to the scene radically altered from reconstructive surgery resulting from his boxing career in the 90’s. Twenty-five years ago, I’m sure he had his pick between many lovely ladies-in-waiting, but now he seems to find solace from his chihuahuas, one of whom is named Jaws (an examplary name for that particulary fiesty breed). So, it is no surprise that Rourke’s portrayal as former headlining professional wrestler, Randy the Ram, whose body and therefore life is breaking down, is stunningly accurate and heartbreakingly realistic. Additionally, Marisa Tomei’s depiction of the aging stripper is flawless. Tomei, still gorgeous, is an older actress who can steam-up the screen or sober her audience with a raw and candid performance such as this one. Her versatility as an actress compliments her role as Cassidy: the empathetic, single mother who strips for a living. Unlike Randy the Ram, she’s completely able to separate her stripper persona from her real life outside of the club. This is why the friendship and parallel between Randy and Cassidy is so integral to movie’s purpose: the relationship amplifies Randy’s tragic inability to divorce his wrestling career with his life. And, without giving too much away, that is where the ultimate tragedy lies.

Amazon: The Wrestler

 The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara (1974)

*won the Pulitzer!

To be completely honest, I’m not into war novels. Battle strategies and other such war tactics don’t intrigue me. For years my father has been telling me to read The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, and I finally did and loved it. This novel follows in the footsteps of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood; Capote, the inventor of the literary genre called literary non-fiction, expertly captured the heinous 1950 murder of the Clutter Family by writing not only of the factual events, but the inner thoughts of the main characters. Likewise, Shaara creates and showcases the inner dialogues of the main guys (i.e., Lee, Longstreet, Chamberlain, Armistead) at the Battle of Gettysburg. Not only does this humanize these historical figures, it illuminates the actual confusion at the battlefield and uncertainty about what the Civil War was about. These men were fighting against former friends and allies; some of the Rebels weren’t fighting for slavery but for their states and intangible “rights.”

I think that at times, we tend to think of these men as ideas or merely as two-dimensional figures. This novel, however, fleshes out all these wonderfully brilliant and loyal men and offers their morals, perplexities, and souls for the audience to savor, examine, and respect.

 Overall this book is paced perfectly, and it is accessible for someone who doesn’t know much about the Civil War.

Amazon: The Killer Angels

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