The Beasts of The Southern Wild

Not the film – which was excellent, and probably my favorite, of the more popular films, of 2012.

Liquor laws in the State of Utah are arcane and archaic, which is to signify further: silly as all hell. This alone makes a trip to Las Vegas, or any other state for that matter, worth it. Small boutiques of wine and other strong drinks seem as if a fine jewel, something exotic and mythological despite what others that are used to them think. You walk in and see specials never before heard of, imports so foreign that you have to pinch yourself, labels so intricate or eloquently barren you would want to purchase them based on those merits alone. My naiveté may prove all of that to be quite untrue. This trip’s destination was not for the fanciest wine store that Nevada could offer, or even a quick pull through in a cheap market for beguiling thrills. Rather, NAB is a yearly trip for my father and I. It’s a broadcasting convention for a lot of old men lurking around miles of booths in one of the worlds largest convention halls, dedicated solely for television, film and broadcasting means for five days in April. It’s not only old men; Point in case: I’m there, but it should be noted that I’m only among the few men under forty not being paid to attend. It’s a pleasant, if not crowded, stroll with a lot of lights and cameras and resolution this and processing delineation that. The booth babes are also a fantastic spectacle. Not for what you’d think, they’re always just so damned uncomfortable, their smiles so prosaic, their minds so far away from their setting – on their paychecks to be gotten later, no doubt. My ulterior motive has always been to sneak out on the town for a few minutes to buy a wine I cannot obtain in Utah. It’s never worked other years, but this was probably among the last of my NAB conventions and it had to count. It had to.IMG_6044

I had no idea what he was doing, the two dogs in the back of the truck had no idea what he was doing, the shocks especially had no idea what hell he was doing. It was a load of crazy tossed together with insensibility. My father was barreling up the off-road trail in the Paiute controlled back-land of Kanaraville.

“We stumbled upon these petroglyphs two years ago,” he explained. “This one man, Morton, he wrote about how to decipher the petroglyphs down around this whole area. He said he got them all,” he held back an adventurous grin, “I told him about the glyphs up in here. He hadn’t heard of any of them.” Whether is was pure fascination or want to contribute to history, I can’t say, but here we were trodding around in the rusted Ford looking for a meadow with an outcrop of rocks. If only the truck would last that long. That’s the problem with modern, quite vehicles, you’re not sure exactly what your really dishing out to them. We we’re going about ten miles over the common sense speed limit for trails of this magnitude. I couldn’t say anything; I never could speak out against his actions or musings of the world. We’re essentially the same person, quite, to our selves, never wanting to make a big deal of this that or the other. We’d rather see the car burst into flames or somehow inexplicably see it slowly drown in the middle of a lake before eliciting the words “Maybe you should…?” Shocks wear out eventually, anyway.

There was a break in the weather, but that passed quickly enough. As he looked for the right turn off between shrubbery and fencing, a low cloud front swooped through the mountains like a grey gallop. The snow encroached around us after stepping out of the car for a quick trek of a hillside. I packed no heavy coat, it was cold and damp and the chills were settling in on my bones. I hardly took notice; when there is a discovery afoot, it’s akin to wearing an extra wool sweater if you keep your mind on what you seek. There was no rocky outcrops to be seen, So I kept my eyes on the mountains and the fog that draped over them quickly. The red and yellow of sulfur hue of the rocks broke through the mists. The area was rich, fertile and geologically protean. My father told me about the early pioneers finding a vein of coal in the mountains they mined for a time. The coal was found to be unyielding; it was more sulfur than coal and there was little money in it. “The red loam in this valley was highly regarded for awhile,” he remarked in a lost way, searching for the petroglyphs.

I immediately thought that it would be interesting to see a vineyard here, I thought, but soon disregarded the notion. There were no good east or west facing slopes, the vines would be scalded in the summer time. Iron makes a remarkable shade for soil, but could it possibly yield a a rich cabernet sauvingnon? A zinfindel? Lord, a gamay, a trebbiano?

Utah yields one true vineyard. It’s the Red Rock Winery located in Moab – the four-wheeling haven of all Jeep aficionados. There’s iron rich soil aplenty. The wines are grown directly from a very dry, sunny and mineral plentiful topsoil. It’s interesting to see what could be taken from this environment, worthy of exploring, too, because it’s almost foolhardy to even attempt it. The wine as a result is mediocre. To their credit, it could have been much worse. It’s a damned fine effort for such a monochromatic soil environment. I’m not expert of soil diversity and its effect of the vines and grapes, so I won’t speculate further.

The wind was picking up and the snow darting in at an angle, stinging the cheeks. We called back the dogs from their wilderness pursuits and they clamored back in the truck, willingly enough despite their obvious disdain. We struck a large rock driving down to the freeway. Funny, because it jumped out of nowhere, giving the vehicle a stuttering clank and crack, and then my father did what any rational man who believes in the strength of our modern vehicles would do, he tried again to go over it with a brawny rev of the engine and his foot weighing down on the pedal. We didn’t make it. There was another loud crack, and the truck has a new battle scar. Some sects of warriors believed battle scars to be marks of courage and brawn. So it has that going for it.

Yet this doesn’t work with cars so much; in fact it’s usually quite ugly. But there’s an easy way around it – something I learned in the early college years: everything is understandable when taken under the pretext of drunkenness. Somehow this alleviates all preconceived judgements, e.g. I backed into a light post coming out of the parking lot, versus, there really shouldn’t have been a light post there. I was drunk, okay, I admit it, but I should sue the State’s ass, that pole was a menace to society. What? No. Even a leveled headed man would have hit that. I probably saved a life. What? No, my mo’s cool with it. She’s just glad I’m alive. I just needed to convince my father to tell everyone it was a drunken foley. It’s a small town, they’d understand.


Returning to his home the sky turned a shade darker, the clouds burdened Spring’s tenacious tidings of moisture. I never come here during the winter, and thus never see their small fire pit in the living room alive with flame. It’s very small-cottage-country and perfect for the mood of their simplified life. Or, simple when his wife has taken her “peace” pills. Not to mention that everything’s better with a fire. Camping, the Fourth of July, ping pong matches lighten by tiki torches, making love, singing Christmas carols, watching your best friends hair bloom with flame during wood shop in the tenth grade…everything. I of course immediately wanted to settle in with a wine, but being in a home that abstains from alcohol conspired against this want. Sad really, but I never make a fuss over it. It’s good taking a break from just about everything you do on a regular basis. That didn’t stop be from conjuring up a contingency plan in case I ever ended up living out here with my father and his wife for any length of time. There was the most perfect alcove they never really bothered checking that I could build the quaintest of wine rack’s in. It would only hold about twenty bottles or so, the temperature would be about right all year round and there was enough room for me to even surreptitiously drink a bottle.

What this plan says about me exactly, I don’t know, nor do I care to know.

A strong wind kicked up over the evening. All well and fine, except that it and the window air conditioner, plotted against my REM sleep. The wind would come over the western mountains and plow over the entire valley, hitting my window first before stretching its billow over the rest of the area. This had a profound effect, which is to say seventy mile-per-hour winds rasping at my chamber’s window. A quick note about the air cooler “installed” into the window pane: Ever see Toy Story? “It’s flying, with style!” Kind of like that, but replace style instead with “finagled together with two thin bits of wood.” That’s the air conditioner. The wind would hit, and the wood would creak, giving a shrill “REEEEAOOOOOO T T T TEEEK.” It was like sentencing Jancis Robinson to only drink Yellow Tail for the rest of her days, how she would scream. I gave in to its sick game and slept on a couch with only three hours left of darkness in the night air.

Before I could sleep, I heard a door open, that faint, familiar creak. It was my mother-in-law. She was nude. She did not see me. She got a gulp of water, gave a guttural clearing-of-the-throat and went back to bed. That’s when I threw my arms up high. To hell with sleep.

I needed that wine all the more.

The National Broadcasting Association’s convention is truly an odd experience for me, because A) I don’t really work in broadcasting, or film (officially) and B) I’m always the worst dressed, scuzzy-bearded man that also happens to be under thirty-five. Everyone else is all about the contacts. They aren’t afraid to turn you around to face them, chest fully puffed, and say “Hi, my name is David,” complete with a complementary white, ten thousand dollar worth of a wide-birthed grin. Terrifying.

To wit: they care for their company’s streamlined video compressor codecs broadcasting in 4:2:2 over 4:4:4 and are intrigued by selling the right content at the right time and welcome compelling arguments for combing a large IP bandwidth center in a central location rather than dealing with splitting host for their online content, video content and distribution content with their own respective, specialized, hosts that “we’ve been with for years, Tom. YEARS!” Listen in to any one of these peoples conversations and it is exactly that idle chatter you will hear. Not their tales of last night’s jaeger drinking competition, or even their newest sports vehicle or their dog’s cancer treatment; “It’s not good, Bill.” The only other conversation you hear frequently is how buxom one woman they’re traveling with is over their competitor’s women they happen to be traveling with this year. I must have heard a conversation of this ilk more than ten times. I wish this was another of my innocuous jests.

Men be getting laid at NAB. I dare say, I will not be partaking in the night life of the NABers. Ever taken acid and then stared at a younger photo of yourself whilst looking at your current self in the mirror? It has got to be much, much worse then that.

It’s hard to summarize the NAB convention unless you had a clear goal from the onset to pay attention to any one section, hall, or category of fancy. There were many suits, camera’s, camera gear, bowls of candy with wrappers that represented every color from the RGB spectrum and a lot of shoving. The convention lasts only four days for the exhibitioners, so making your way from booth to booth, making connections (doing your supposed job) is a full time gig from about nine to six. Every last one of them was desperate, looking frail and battle worn. Luckily, the lingering smell from the food vendors that filled the halls cloaked the sweaty redolence, a linger of the business trip fever.

Being in and around the film world, there was many exciting bits of technology, but I shall leave them aside for this article. What is important to note is that all these new technologies can be accommodate my wine world. For instance, I can now film myself pouring wine into a glass and 1200 frames a second in 4k resolution, which is roughly four times the resolution of standard high definition. Once edited, I can have a video of a single glass of wine being poured for the duration of about ten minutes. I smell a new market in wine porn. Further, I can now shoot footage of my wine’s color in 6k RED RAW format, to forever preserve that color gradation as it creeps near the edge of my glass. No more relying on faulty, alcohol diluted memory cells to recall much other than taste and smell. Which is important? Perhaps those unrecordable mediums will be at next year’s NAB. Any entrepreneurs out there, take heed.

Thank god I have no budget, otherwise this blog would be nothing but video of red, orange, gold-hued liquid running pruriently down the side of a glass with bum-chic-a-wam-ram music thumping in the background.

You think I’m kidding. How cute.

The Little Penguin 2011 Shiraz – $5Overall, it’s not too bad of a wine considering the price. A jammy, sugared redolance, but a controlled taste with only a hint of a bitter-y, banal quaff. After two days of being open, it held its own by opening up and exuding a round nature with a faint wisp of plum still present.

Stumbling back to the lot after nine hours of walking, we tracked down the car and drove away before the NAB debauchery of the evening could begin. And then I found the true colors of my father, as he is today. More on that in a bit. First, I implored that we needed to stop by a liquor store for wine. He refused; which was actually shocking to me. His wife has really done a wonderful job with him. He’s a great Mormon now. “But, it’s a gift!” I pleaded further. He rubbed his eyes tiredly and drove on past the discount liquor mart. Damn it all. There was always Mesquite, Nevada however.

Mesquite, much like it’s landscape and people, proved to be infertile. The casino’s buffet’s line we dine at after every NAB disturbed my father. He was fidgeting while waiting, looking around as if open and vulnerable for some malicious attack. I was distracted, looking for some sort of gift shop that happened to have wine to buy. I snuck of to investigate further. There was no luck; only shot glasses and cigarettes. When I returned my father was frightened, consternated and pale. We had to leave. The only other place left to eat was McDonalds or a gas station. The gas station had a large selection of chips and what I assumed to be crisp, dehydrated burritos. Luckily I had found an apple. It was shrunken, a few months old and had a bug on it, but an apple nonetheless. Inside this gas station there was wine. Buy my spirits fell when it turned out to be nothing more than splonk. It wasn’t worth the four dollars to even investigate it further; you can spot splonk a mile away when your as far into the wine game as I’ve managed to play. Defeated and chewing on the world’s saddest excuse for an apple, we soldiered on up I-15.

If there’s a single piece of wisdom I gleamed from this trip at all came to me during a walk by the creek at my father’s home. If you follow horse trails long enough, you’re eventually going to tread over shit. A lot of shit. A very large portioned pile of shit. I’m not sure how this pertains to my life at the moment. All I can say is that it does, and you should come back to me in a few years to see just how apt it is.
2008 Red Truck Wines  –  $10
The nose is airy, but hints at some tighter structure and reminiscent of farmland. Nothing is knock-you-skirt-over-your-head here, but there’s a serious note to the wine in general. It has some fruit, but it’s more about being relaxed.

During the last full day of life-away-from-civilization we couldn’t take a good hike. We couldn’t even drive down the free way without pulling a “Star Fox 64,” Do a barrel roll! The wind was flurrious; which is flurry mixed with furious. For three days now this cock of a wind has been troubling us, bringing with it an unseasonable chill up the whole strait of Utah. Thirty degrees. Merely typing it makes my hands turn to a numb, useless lump of uncontrollable flesh.

And then the sun went down and the wind followed it down. It’s pretty bizarre when coincidences happen like that, if they are at all. I’m sure it has something to do with meteorology, but I’ll hardly speculate on the matter. I study and write films while occasionally feign through studious readings of a Wine Spectator articles and pretentious Oz Clarke books. Which I actually kind of endearingly embrace. The cold air stayed, however, but this was acceptable considering that it only signified another fire to be hunched next to all evening.

And then my failed task burdened me again. It called, the wine. This may or may not have something to do with the aforementioned horse trail parable.

I said my goodbyes and left the next morning, precisely at ten so I could reach the Iron Gate winery in St. George, Utah after eleven. I knew what was coming the moment I pulled in. It looked as if nothing was open, the tasting room looking totally shuttered. I looked around the medival-like brick layered premises and found a call button. I tapped it once, twice, three times for luck. A woman greeted me warmly, genuinely enthused I came for their wine. As I said, I knew this whole deal was bad news when I pulled in. She was not able to conduct a testing, nor sell me a bottle. A mixture of slow business during this time of year and the horrible Utah liquor law stipulations I still can not seem to formulate an understanding for.

The portion of my trip dedicated to wine failed miserably. I’d have to immediately stop by a liquor store once in Salt Lake and pick up the de rigeur.


To Get Through The Night

Duke Elington. A lot of his band’s music pipes through my head after a few glasses. This is effect is amplified when I’m walking out on the town after said two (or more) glasses. These walks coincidentally seem to fall on evenings where the orange in on the horizon, slowly trailing away from the encroaching deep blue that never fails to escape description once one tries to formulate one. That blue is a gallop of gradation, a hint of an abyss that stands as a reminder of what so many writers write of and for and to. Emerson wrote that, at the end of the day, “there are two absorbing facts – I and the abyss.” And that’s a twilight’s blue. But perhaps its song and dance that come closer to describing the night, a stroll on the town. It is precisely these other modes of evocation that bring to mind what a stroll under the twilight’s blanket truly is, and that is a mood. Emotion is at the heart of of human Being.

Everyone has a certain flair that is drawn from them, like air from the fire, with wine. Mine just happens to recall the precise feeling Duke Elington draws from, which is from something deeper than my ontological processes can explicate. If I sound like Martin Heidegger, it’s only because I’m reading the rather rudimentary philosopher at the moment (which should not be taken pejoratively, I love the wacky fellow). His prose hosts a mood all his own, which is actually quite close to how I experience absinthe; but that is a story all unto itself.

The woman sitting studying a wine next to me last evening told me that a very distinct Vivaldi tune ran the course of her mind when drinking wine. Any wine. And she had no reason to take a stroll to evoke it. It simply played out, her own personal orchestra trumpeting, sweating it out, playing their bloody hearts out just for her – as long as the vino was surging throughout her. I have to admit I fell in love with her all over again. How envious I was. If I put my ear to her, what would I hear? The sweet serenade of “Winter” from the Four Seasons? Or the candle-flick desire of his “Violin Concerto in G Minor” from Summer? Or would it be an off day and catch a bar or two from Strauss’ “Wine, Woman and Song?”

Three new bottles. This is all we have for you. All relative bargains, and all worthy of the price points they carry upon their retailed backs.  Salú.

Marqués de Riscal Rioja Proximó 2009 – $9
Get your nose deep in there and you’ll find a pixi stix redoence intertwined with what can only be explicated as a forrest wood mixed with a lingerie shop – the cheap kind. Don’t take this as pejorative declaration. Do you not find the most interesting people in such places, like a kink store in Vail Colorado?
In the mouth, it’s a kicking scream without an echo. Tight, tart deep without a drumbeat to its tannic structure. Open it to some air for a night or so. This is akin to sacrificing a virgin (your patience) for it, thus pleasing the great wine to gives its divine blessings to you during the next crop (tomorrows dinner).
Worthy. Solid value.

The Amplus

Santa Ema 2007 Amplus Cabernet Sauvingnon – $23
A textured nose you could feel yourself traveling down to, only to find a cavern of schist and garnet hued feldspar. Mineral is forthcoming, leading with dried leaves.
The linger goes for miles, like Stephen King’s The Long Walk. Supple and luscious without being distractingly sweet. It’s a wine that had long winded thesis, but stayed cool and eloquent throughout the tasting. You will not soon tire of such a classy presentation. Frankly, this delicate approach to Cabernet is my kind of dig, although my partner was quite explicit about preferring a Cabernet with more of a going power, like a dose of XXX whiskey in an old Ford’s gas tank.
Worthy. I can not say I miss the the money I had spent on this. Which is to say is the equivalent of a few self prepared meals to last me the good of many days.

2008 Greg Norman Estates Shiraz – $11
You get a flair of fire and brimstone with an undertone of that candy from your youth, the Fruit By The Foot.
On the palate is a Whloe Lotta fruit. It’s not the sweet that is tantamount to cheaper wines, but it’s lacking a semblance, and intrigue. It’s raspberry with little more. The back end of the wine is interesting, with its brawny girth and inky, fiery tannins. Again, this isn’t worth much conversation. This is easy sipping despite that. Pleasing to the end. Worthy.