California dreaming on such a vintner’s day
I had a ticket to fly.
Inside an airplane. That’s the way I roll.
I sat at the airport waiting for my flight. I witnessed travelers stumbling by like zombies. Others hurried as if in a race. I watched as they, having escaped the clutches of the TSA, patted themselves down, searching for cellphone, wallet or boarding pass. I hoped they found what they were looking for.
My plane took off and landed in California, where the state motto is, “Why hide your goofiness when you can parade it?”
Work had taken me to Wine Country. I didn’t build a Boeing 737 from scratch or perform brain surgery on a Kardashian, but I called it work.
The baggage claim area at the Sacramento airport had two 23-foot tall pillars made from 1,400 pieces of luggage stacked on a couple of wheeled carts. Art to make a weary traveler smile.
I drove away in a rental car bearing a “Honk if anything falls off” bumper sticker. Apparently, I was the only driver who had no idea where he was going. Cars went by me like MLB fastballs.
The weather was the berries. That’s a superlative. My wife and I joined friends for a farm tour and wine tasting. Everything happens for a Riesling.
As we sat down in one of the more than 400 wineries in Wine Country, I recalled buying a splendid bottle of wine, on behalf of an organization, as a farewell gift for a friend. I pointed at a shelf of wine that looked nice and said I’d take one.
“What year?” asked the wine shop clerk.
“I’ll need it this year,” I replied, a ripened winesap.
The California wine guy gave me a list and told me to mark the kinds of wine I wanted to try.
I asked if it was OK to drink white wine after Labor Day, but he must not have heard me.
I wasn’t quite ignorant enough to be confident. I don’t dislike wine, but I hadn’t had a glass in a couple of years. All I knew about wine was that my Cousin Belfry had been a grape stomper until he was fired for sitting down on the job.
Back when Captain Kangaroo was a corporal, a high school coach made me climb that confounded rope reaching to the rafters of the big gym. It was called the big gym because we had a little gym, too. There was a paper thin, red, wrestling mat below the rope. The coach said it was red so it wouldn’t show the blood when I fell.
Decisions are difficult. It took years of thinking about changing breakfast cereals before I could switch. I ordered all red wines because I’d determined they wouldn’t show the blood. White wine pairs well with fish. It’s like tartar sauce. I was having a cracker. I reckoned red wine went better with crackers. I hoped that had Belfry been there, he’d have given me his stomp of approval.
The fellow seated next to me stuck his schnozzola deep into his glass. He had a nose for wine.
The wine guy tried to educate me about each glass. Raisin awareness, you might say. Every bottle had a story. It was a classy place because not one of the stories was, “Just twist off the cap and don’t mind the chunks.”
Nearly 90 percent of all U.S. wine is produced in California according to the Wine Institute, which is an institute of wine. There are 46,000 acres of vineyards planted in Napa Valley and a price of $400,000 per acre isn’t uncommon.
The wine seller in the wine cellar told me that California is the world’s 4th leading wine producer after France, Italy and Spain. He added that Chardonnay is the leading varietal wine from California, followed by Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, White Zinfandel and Pinot Grigio. I was surprised Dandelion hadn’t made the list.
I remembered a joke. “Waiter, there is a fly in my wine!”
“You did ask for something with a little body to it.”
I was restrained from telling it by the checks and balances of my marriage.
The wine glasses were small. They’d have been smaller, but the thimbles were in the dishwasher. The glasses were too small to get two toasts out of one. So, I’ll toast you with my cup of tea: First half of the glass to your good health, the second half to your happiness.
I flew home inside another plane.
It was an escape from the planet of the grapes.
© Al Batt 2019
A Pickup Truck in San Francisco
1. When was the last time before 2015-17 that the Chicago Cubs reached the postseason for three consecutive years?
2. In 2017, Arizona’s J.D. Martinez tied Ralph Kiner’s 1949 record for most home runs in September. How many home runs was it?
3. Name the last NFL team before the Cincinnati Bengals in 2017 to open a season with two home games and not score a touchdown in either game.
4. Who was the last Purdue men’s basketball player before Carsen Edwards in 2018 to score at least 40 points in a game?
5. Name the last coach before Barry Trotz of the Washington Capitals in 2018 to leave a team due to a contract dispute after winning the Stanley Cup.
6. In 2019, Fernando Alonso became just the third Formula One champion to win the 24 Hours of Daytona sports car race. Name either of the first two to do it.
7. How many times has Serena Williams been named The Associated Press’ Female Athlete of the Year?
1. It was 1906-08.
3. The 1939 Philadelphia Eagles.
4. Glenn Robinson, in 1994.
5. Mike Keenan of the New York Rangers in 1994.
6. Phil Hill in 1964 and Mario Andretti in 1972.
7. Five times (2002, ‘09, ‘13, ‘15 and ‘18).
© 2019 King Features Synd., Inc.
Certainly Iowa would prefer to be playing it’s best basketball of the season headed to the NCAA tourney. That’s not the case and not the end of the world. The Hawkeyes have very capable shooters and when a few fall, hopefully Friday against Cincinnati, the rough patches, like our recent winter weather will be almost forgotten. Jordan Bohannon, Tyler Cook, Luka Garza and Joe Weiskamp can create wonderful memories in a hurry. We know Isiah Moss and Nicholas Baer are streak shooters. Do their shooting eyes zero in at Nationwide Arena? Hope so.
It’ll take a team effort for the 10th seeded Hawkeyes against 28 win Bearcat team that is smaller but physical and athletic led by 6’5” swing guard Jarron Cumberland, the AAC player of the year, who hung 31 points on 11th rated Houston in the title game of the American Athletic Conference tournament.
Cumberland averages 18 points and 5 rebounds. Tre Scott, a 6’8”, 225 pound forward/center is putting up 10 points and 7 rebounds an outing and Keith Williams has 31 blocked shots. Cincinnati finished second to Houston in the regular season AAC and is a 7 seed.
I’ve covered roughly a dozen NCAA tourneys and watched a bunch more over 50 years. Playing on neutral sites and foreign courts, the shooting can be off. Therefore you better rebound and take care of the basketball. That’s where it starts with Iowa. Win the boards with fewer mistakes and advance to play the winner of Tennessee–Colgate. Iowa should be able to pound the ball inside Friday afternoon. It starts with Cook, Garza and Ryan Kreiner. If the defense packs it in the lane, reverse the ball to an open jump shooter.
The two had common opponents on the season. Iowa whipped Connecticut in November at Madison Square Garden. The Bearcats beat the Huskies 64-60 and 74-72. The Hawkeyes split regular season meetings with Ohio State. The Buckeyes beat Cincinnati by 8.
There isn’t an Oscar Robertson or Kenyon Martin on this Bearcat team, yet it’s a proud tradition-rich program that sits in the middle of Big Ten country and would love to put a notch in its belt with a power five opponent.
While the Hawks are playing in a Big Ten city (Columbus), they won’t be at the home of the Buckeyes. Rather slap shooting threes in the home of the NHL’s Blue Jackets!