Kirk Douglas - You have no idea.
Kirk Douglas - You have no idea.
Kirk Douglas - You have no idea.
Kirk Douglas - You have no idea.

Or is that wines and hogs? Probably not. Over the weekend the pigs were definitely the thing in Napa. And — oh! — those little pelts tacked onto that chicken wire mesh that looked like it might’ve come from Home Depot?  Them there be rabbits. I’m not sure that this was their idea of fun. (and vegetarians: time to shut down this post already).

And as much as they grate my nerves when they nibble our hapless ground cover in the back yard, it’s an entirely different matter to see these little rabbits taking in the setting sun over Highway 29 boned, and hung (and stapled). Meanwhile the prestigious CIA of Greystone loomed over all, in the background.

Did I mention it was hot, hot, hot?

I was dancing among the flames, along Planet of the Apes row, where whole pig after whole pig stood in a row looking mighty dead, mighty delicious, as I filmed another foodie-ville segment for the SI.

On this Saturday afternoon, as I stood perspiring alongside a blaze of glory, and likely myself seasoned with pig fat and a hint of smoke, I realized it might’ve been the best place in the whole world to be hungry. I also wondered: would these vineyards, resting innocently next to the slaughter, be subject to smoke taint?

Count yourself lucky if you ever get to attend the Cochon Heritage Fire. Some might say it’s a little pricey, and the VIP tix are definitely up there ($200 a pop) as far as these types of events are concerned, however, you get access to a pretty darn good little shindig. Best of all it was (healthy for business) busy, but not crowded. You can get to the sausage el pronto, without having to Charles Barkley (Marty McSorley for the hockey inclined) your way. We attend a lot of these events around the Bay Area. And some are not so joyous; many are super-crowded, ad-driven, with every Harry and Sally in town stumbling their way from one bucket of Zin and tacos to the next. Fort Mason would be the “mayor” for these, although, to be fair, I’ve been to many well run tastings there also.

Hottie spotting #1
Hottie spotting #1

Oh, and yes, there was wine… after all this was Napa, and we were at Peter Mondavi’s Charles Krug winery. Also, once again, I bumped in to Mr NorCalwine, Fred Swan himself. We’ve been on a crash course for about three years now, meeting at seemingly every known wine event in, well… NorCal: in Livermore for Petite Sirah’s 50th at Concannon; Napa for the Rutherford “Day in the Dust” tasting at Coppola; the Precidio for a taste of Mendocino; and, on and on. If you spot Fred, you know you’re in good company — wine enthusiasts take note: his palate is widely respected, and his site is chock full of good reading. He, too, was working the Planet of the Apes with his DSLR — we were both a step or two in the wrong direction from being BBQ’d ourselves.

I drank the wine — a decent, but unremarkable 2009 Charles Krug Cab and a 2009 Larkin Sauvignon Blanc. No spitting. This wasn’t a sit-down, taste-with-gusto event. For my money, those are still the best times to get deep with your senses and the vino. But when you’re rocking with the hog, man, you chew the fat. Although, not too much. Another thing I’ve learned is the regrettable fact that I must only take a bite of any one morsel. It’s the hardest thing to do. When in foodieville — or, in this case hog heaven — you’ve got to do anything you can to avoid the Napa 15.

Hottie spotting #2
Hottie spotting #2

Did I mention the music as actually decent at Heritage Fire? It was anything but wine country mish-mash… you know, that vapid background elevator-ready, limpish affair? This was rockin’, dancin’, and movin’ — and I admit, the Canon EOS 60D captured more than one pretty fashionista — video shortly.

A gregarious, most pleasant Kale Anderson (Kale Wines) was pouring his first vintage, a 2009 Syrah. Kale, a UC Davis grad, only makes about 300 cases, so it’s unlikely you’ll find it anywhere. You could feel his excitement, as he decanted the wine and poured. It admit to getting a goose bump or two. Like the bright minds behind so many start-ups in Silicon Valley, here was a young winemaker chasing his dream.

On the way out of Charles Krug I chugged two bottles of water as if I’d just skated 60 minutes, then I chatted with Wine Dog.

Hottie #3 (so you know I haven't completely lost my mind)
Hottie spotting #3 (so you know I haven't completely lost my mind)

Planet of the Apes

Charlton Heston - This is planet Napa, stand back from the grapes.
Charlton Heston - This is planet Napa, stand back from the grapes.

A quick aside. The Planet of the Apes (and I’m talking about the Planet of the Apes) in 1968 is one of my all time favorite films. It features a Charlton “It’s a madhouse!” Heston in full-on camp (or is that full-on Lawrence of Olivier?), alternating between an actor for the ages, and a bullying lunatic two cigars away from the psycho ward.

Are you with me?!

The script has a killer ending. A wicked twist – later matched only by stellar fare such as The Sixth Sense (1999) and Primal Fear (1996) — Ed Norton, are you kidding me? Brilliant stuff. Okay, might as well throw Fight Club (1999) in there as well. These are films that have perfected the art of the twist, well before it became a tired, overworked device. Tim Burton seemed to have forgotten that in is “re-imaging” in 1995 that tries too hard. Okay, yes, watch it for Estella Warren if you must. If not for the lips-that-beget-Jolie, at least for the fact that she’s Canadian.

When I think of “space” electronica, I think of Planet of the Apes. What a wonky and memorable soundtrack! It seemed as if Woody Allen and some tin foil would make an appearance at any moment.

Bonus: Hottie #4 - Nooooo-va
Bonus: Hottie spotting #4 - Nooooo-va

It’s a classic that’s aged surprisingly well. The fact that the young ones prove their intolerant, short-sighted elders wrong with science and sound theories of evolution is icing on the cake.

Stuck in Traffic on HWY 29?

Here’s some things you can do when you hit traffic in wine country during tourist season:

Whistle Dixie

Sing Ring of Fire over and over again, until you wake up your fellow passenger (damn you Chris Isaak for putting that song in my head at Mondavi!)

Google Music: you complete me

— Of course you can gaze at the vineyards, just sitting there, taunting you, but instead you should play the tree game. Try to guess all the species; there are many beauties alongside highway 29. And it seems like I’m not alone in a non-wine pursuit or two. Jo Diaz (chair for the annual Petite Sirah symposium in Livermore) commented on FB “This is what I love about being here. After so many years of riding these roads, we actually begin to see what’s not wine related, and there’s plenty. It all balances out… (maybe).” Agreed!

And Finally: Wine Dog

This is the little guy that prompted Loni to come home and start Googling for dogs. I think we’re long overdue. But I don’t think I’ll be working with Wine Dog anytime soon… (smart dog)…

And that concludes this Monday, helter-skelter, rare Maxim edition of Stark Sips. Remember, keep your stick on the ice. Salut! Enjoy the week.

That's what I'm talking about...
That's what I'm talking about...
Clinton shoots videos for Stark Insider. San Francisco Bay Area arts, Ingmar Bergman and French New Wave, and chasing the perfect home espresso shot 25 seconds at a time (and failing). Peloton: ClintTheMint. Camera: Video Gear