My husband announced his intention of returning to a real fire station recently. He has had a varied career as a firefighter these past twenty years. Some of which was spent in fire fighting and some, thankfully for me, have been spent doing other fire department related jobs.
My husband started out as both a firefighter and paramedic, and as a rookie fought many a hi-rise (including rappelling from a helicopter to the top of burning downtown buildings.) as well as delivered many a baby (his most eventful being the breach in a sputtering helicopter over Catalina.) He has programmed LA city’s computers, moved up the ranks to captain and became a member of the swift water rescue team.
Albeit dangerous jobs, excluding computer programming only if you don’t have an impossible budget for approval, none so dangerous as riding a fire truck into anywhere.
My initial, and continuing, reaction to his move has not been good. You see if you’re a firefighter, know a firefighter, are related to a firefighter, or even just kept up with the news you know that their mortality rate, for at least this year, stinks.
It’s difficult not to share your worries with your loved ones but you force yourself not to because you don’t want to jinx or worry them in their day to day tasks. Because for firefighters day to day tasks usually, eventually, include a degree of danger.
In the early days my husband shared stories like war wounds. Now that we have a family his stories are edited for content. Kind of like bringing an R rated moved down to PG for all audiences. And it’s not my three-year-olds ears that he’s concerned with; it’s mine. He can almost feel, like a racing pulse, my sentimentalities as a new mother. My little family is so precious to me; just walking out the front door puts any one of us in jeopardy. He can understand, and sometimes even sympathize with how I feel but he handles it differently.
When visiting at the fire station there is a little thing they do to let everyone know there is a civilian in the station. They call out the words, “Soda Pop!” over the PA system. I used to think that was so they watched the profanity, cleaned up the bathroom and stopped the shoptalk. Through the years I’ve come to learn that firemen don’t need to use profanity; the rookies keep the bathroom floors clean enough to eat off of (don’t ask; they’re not getting hazed anymore) and all that’s left is shop talk.
That’s what is edited because most of the visiting lay people haven’t ever fought a war. We don’t have nightmares about bodies. We’ve never delivered a crack baby. Never burned our ears. Been swept down into a net during swift water rescue training. Had city cutbacks lessen our ranks at the same time we are facing brush season. Been woken up by alarms and bright lights in the night. And the unspoken grisly parts, that we are left only to imagine, are for their eyes only.
So why does my husband, your friend, son, daughter, husband, wife, etc. etc., have to push the edge of the envelope? Because that’s what they do. And can you imagine for a moment what kind of “spunk” it must require to do this?
For my husband the most I can get out of him is that the morale of the department is low right now. My husband is just one captain out of thousands across our city, county and states that may be feeling the same way. All members are irreplaceable. All members are never forgotten. All members are prayed for. Those that are lost and those that continue to carry on.
And fighting fires, alongside other members, is probably the best morale booster there can be. He would never suggest that that was his personal reason. He would never allow himself that credit. But if your husband wants to get back on that fire truck or helicopter you can only standby. And I think that’s what all the members are “Soda Pop” -ping about right now.
They are by nature, driven to do it. Daring rescue attempts don’t appeal to me any more than entering a burning building does. But then again I’ve never been a hero.
Consider an athlete being told that running is bad on his knees. Does he stop running? Probably not. Does he find another sport? To do as well, yes. Does he get another opinion? No, he doesn’t take the time. Does he just quit? Never.
He continues the competition. Because no matter what the feat, no matter what the price, the athlete, and fire-eater, is eager. Eager to live life to the fullest.
Eager to be our heroes at our price.
A Firefighter Funeral
The fire captain’s funeral procession was the most beautiful thing I’ve witnessed in my entire life. The wives were asked to walk behind the LA city members and the members from other cities fell in behind us. My friend Sheryl remarked that she would have liked to see more wives. Silently so did I.
It was a long procession. Within a few blocks our heads were suddenly pulled to the right. We continued to walk in this cockeyed manner until we could no longer see the end of fire trucks winding down Western Avenue from the 405 exit. It was a momentous contradiction to see them proceed slowly and silently to join alongside of us. The only reminder that they active actual fire trucks were the bright and constant flickering of red and white lights. As well as the grandeur of their united strength.
When we reached the fire station we got a glimpse of very young explorers finishing up on the last minute touches. Another glimpse and we saw the frozen looks of young members standing at attention over their lost father figure, their rescuer, their mentor, their captain. This man was leaving more than one family behind.
We couldn’t hear what was being said when we halted at his station. The only break to our silence was the sound of sniffling and then slowly, a constant rumbling that seemed to be approaching. Like a wave our heads began to turn again first to the right and then upwards to the sky. The helicopters were flying overhead in formation. One of which, including it’s crew and victim, we were going to be forced to bear the loss of in just a few more short days.
We then continued our walk to the huge church in south Central that would serve to house so many mourners. I couldn’t help myself then to sweep my head back and forth as rapidly as possible to acknowledge all of the members that had now left their fire engines and lined our processional on either side. Luckily most were wearing sunglasses; I couldn’t have borne to see their eyes.
Once inside the church I could only imagine my husband hunting for me, silently with his eyes, as I did for him. Sheryl found her’s. I was ushered in with the other members and took my seat while holding one open. I never gave that seat up, and strangely, no one pressed me for it. I still thought that I would be fine but that was before the service began.
“Too many similarities” I was thinking as the women that were working the funeral silently strode up and down each aisle offering Kleenex. The music was too beautiful, the photographs too real and the chief’s eulogy much too painful.
When I left the church I felt like an alcoholic leaving my first AA meeting in search of fresh air, a cocktail, a smoke and someone that I recognized. I hurried back to the red department car we had driven in. Apparently I wasn’t the only one feeling this way. As firefighters strode past me faster than they had before, some were telling jokes while some were undressing; it was a clear attempt to lighten their loads.
Then I saw my husband, pulling off his captain’s coat and smiling at me. “Paul is schmoosing some chief. He says he knows a great place around here for Mexican food. And you can have a margarita.” Without words, and during a long hug, I whispered into his bad ear, “ I missed you in there, it was too hard.”
Graeser Semillion 2005
Herb Crusted Tuna and Heirloom Tomato Salsa Rosso
Harms’ Vineyard Sangiovese 2006
Grilled Pepper Rubbed Flank Steak, Yorkshire Pudding and Bearnaise Sauce
Graeser Estate Cabernet Franc 2004
Graeser Estate Cabernet Savignon 2004
Graeser Estate Coeur De Leon 2005
Piave, Italian Aged Cow’s Milk Cheese
Aztec Chocolate Tartlett, Cinnamon Gelato and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
Graeser Succulence 2007
If diamonds are a girl’s best friend, then wine HAS TO BE a close second! That’s why Wine 661 is combining the two in an evening of “Wine & Diamonds” where folks can come for a glass of their favorite vino while they shop for diamonds at WHOLESALE prices!
Each, one-of-a-kind, piece is from La Reina of Los Angeles, who commissions artists to design unique and stunning pieces! To preview their collection, go towww.LaReinaCollection.com
The diamonds will be displayed on models here at Wine 661 so if you’re looking for something for you, an amazing gift or simply want to come see for yourself, the event is Saturday evening, September 12th from 7pm to midnight.
Diamond prices will range from $250 to $250,000.
For those who want to make sure they get exactly what they want for their next birthday, we’ll be handing out “wish lists” so that your loved ones know exactly which piece you want and where to get it come gift-giving time.
We’re looking forward to a really fun event filled with great wine, good friends and gorgeous jewels!
Hope to see you here!
Wine 661 and La Reina
24268 Valencia Boulevard.
In large skilled, brown chicken breasts in 4 Tbsp. of butter. Turn occasionally. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of wine over chicken. Cover and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes.
In a small saucepan melt remaining butter – add onions and cook until soft (but not brown). Add remaining 1/4 cup of wine; slowly stir in sour cream. Season with salt and pepper. Heat only long enough to warm sour cream. Remove chicken and pour sour cream sauce over it to serve.
Serve with steamed rice or cooked egg noodles.
If I were to ask you if you would like a glass of Kisi, Saperavi, Kindzmarauli, Khvanchkara or Tvishi you would probably look at me a little strange. Last week I was asked, by Vic Herstein of All Corked Up (ACU), to sample some wines from the Republic of Georgia. Greg Alonzo and Doug Lexa of Terrel Wines were there to pour some of these very unique and different wines at the Wednesday night ACU wine tasting.
The Republic of Georgia lies between the Black and Caspian Seas and borders on Turkey, Russia and Armenia. Many archaeologists believe that this is the location where the first cultivated grapevines and neolithic wine production began over 7000 years ago.
Through various archaeological findings, it has been discovered that winemaking was at a very advanced state long before Christ was born. The majority of these wines were used during various religious ceremonies with the beginning of Christianity at the start of the 4th Century. In the 11th Century, further advancements in winemaking provided noted improvements in the wines from these regions. These advancements included stone and wooden wine presses and large double-walled clay jugs known as Kvevri. The Kvevri is buried in the ground providing better temperature control of the wine must (grape juice and skins) during the fermentation process. Some of these clay jugs are huge in dimensions holding up to 1,000 gallons.
When the grapes are crushed, the juice, skins and stems are all placed into the Kvevri. The “must” is then stirred frequently during the fermentation process. Once the fermentation process has been completed, the wine is transferred to oak barrels for aging.
Tasting the wines from the Republic of Georgia was very interesting. Most were dry to the palate much like one would find in French style wines. I wanted to say old world style except my perspective has changed on what is old world due to the fact the wines from the Republic of Georgia date back to a time before Christ was born. This is something to think about when you are opening a French Bordeaux or Italian Barolo and ask yourself, “Are they really old world?”
What I liked (for my palate) was that they were not overly extracted fruit bombs like the wines from the Paso Robles region of California. The flavors did not linger for an extended amount of time on the palate, but presented a very nice approach for a wine. Just like French and Italian wines, they are not high in alcohol content. Greg mentioned that a good goat cheese would really highlight some of these wines. I look forward to trying these wines again with a selection of cheeses.
Below is the list and descriptions of the ones that the fine folks from Terrell Wines shared with us.
Teliani Valley (Estate grown)
· 2007 Tsolikouri (Dry White) – 100% Tsolikouri grape
· 2007 Saperavi (Dry Red) – 100% Saperavi grape
Mildiani (Estate grown)
· 2006 Katsiteli (Dry White) – 80% Rkatsiteli and 20% Mtsvane grapes
· 2005 Saperavi (Dry Red) – 100% Saperavi grape
Vinoterra (Estate grown)
· 2007 Tsinandali (Dry White) – 80% Rkatsiteli and 20% Mtsvane grapes
· 2003 Saperavi (Dry Red) – 100% Saperavi grape
· Classic Brut & Classic Extra Dry (Sparkling) – 40% Chinuri, 40% Tsitska and 20% Mtsvane
· Reserve (Sparkling) – 50% Chinuri, 30% Tsitska and 20% Mtsvane
· Royal Cuvee (Sparkling) – 100% Chinuri
The opportunity and experience of trying such unique wines has inspired me to look for other wines from this region. Think of how much fun it would be to have some of your wine friends over for a steak dinner and pour them a glass of Saperavi. It would be the highlight of the night. As I always tell my Grape of the Night folks, expand your horizons. There are many different and fantastic wines to try. Be bold, give them a try, they may surprise you.
Sure, I enjoy drinking wine. That’s pretty obvious.
But the best experiences always involve more than just wine.
Best of all are romantic dinners with my wife.
But next are those times when wine serves as a great accompaniment to the people you’re with, the food you are eating, and the conversations and camaraderie that result. Plus, as an added bonus, when there are more people in attendance, it is an opportunity to try more than just one wine.
Last Saturday night we were at All Corked Up. Not a big surprise as you’ll usually find us there on either Friday or Saturday evening. But, when wine buyer Vic Herstein has his band Vic Rocks playing, you can almost guarantee that we will be there, usually with a group of friends.
This time there were nine of us, and over the next five-plus hours we enjoyed the band, the food, the conversation and, of course, the wine. Some of the wine highlights:
2005 Turley Hayne Zinfandel
2005 Haywood Los Chamizal Vineyard Zinfandel
2005 Carlisle Pietro’s Ranch Zinfandel
2005 Marquis Philips Grail of Lisa Shiraz
2005 Schubert Goose Yard Shiraz
For the white-wine drinkers, we had a Spatlase [sorry, I did not get the name] and a bottle of Four Vines Naked Chardonnay.
Later in the week, we met some dear friends of ours at Malbec, an Argentinean restaurant in Pasadena. We had not gotten together in several months and we had a lot to talk about — 4 hours worth actually! The food was great, and after empanadas, some grilled seafood, and possibly the best skirt steak I had ever had, we wondered where the time went. To accompany the meal we had two Carlisle Zinfandels, both from the 2006 vintage — one from the Carlo’s Ranch vineyard and the other from Rossi Ranch, as well as a Trapiche Malbec.
Finally, Thursday night was the barbecue at All Corked Up. Sponsored by Barbecues Galore, there were enough propane-burning machines there to make Hank Hill swoon. This time, we went by ourselves. The response had been so great that seats had to be assigned, so we entrusted our evening to Jennifer Russell, who, as always, did a fabulous job putting this event together. And, Jennifer could not have done a better job in selecting our table-mates and, now, new friends. Another long evening with wonderful conversation, terrific food, and the great music of the band Acoustic Soul. [Unfortunately, we didn’t stay for the final set, when Vic sat in for “White Room” and “Mustang Sally”.] Before we got to know our dining companions, we had started with a bottle of 2006 Outpost Zinfandel, which we gladly offered a pour of to our new friends. We also tried their Nickel & Nickel Zinfandel. Then, I pulled a bottle of 2006 Shane Syrah out of the locker. More wine was being shared as well. At some point during the evening, my new friend Chuck commented to me that wine always tastes better when you are drinking it with the right people, which is what I’ve been trying to say in this article.