Ahsan Ali you might remember was a geneticist friend of mine. He’s the guy that cloned the wooly mammoth.

    Well I just found out he was eaten by crocodiles in Southern Florida.

    Or at least that’s what I was told..

    This is exactly how I heard the story..

    After the Wooly Mammoth fiasco Ahsan was hired by some rogue communist party that specialized in the breeding of small animals of every variety. However, after rumors flew about Ahsan’s Mammoth, they decided to see if they could put his skills to work for them.

    They met covertly, after a few cryptic messages, in an old science lab on the CalTech campus.

    “We want a small animal created using genetic splicing.” The speaker of the group said to Ahsan.

    “This is my specialty. What did you have in mind?” Ahsan replied as he took a sip of his water.

    “We want a miniature giraffe-crocodile.”

    Ahsan projectile spit/sprayed his water all over the speaker. “A what!?!” He asked incredulously.


    “I was being facetious! That’s ridiculous!”

    “So you can’t do it?”

    “I didn’t say I couldn’t do it. It’s just gonna cost double.”

    “But we never talked price. You could just make up a number and then double it and we wouldn’t know the difference.”

    “Precisely” Ahsan said with a smile. “Let’s talk numbers.”


    This is where we will leave Ahsan until next week, because now I want to discuss wine…


    It was the third annual Pasadena Pinot Fest. The feel was middle to upper class shi shi, and to solidify the atmosphere it was at the Altadena Country Club just north of Pasadena. I went with an associate a short while ago, and was greeted at the entrance with a name badge and a smile.

    There was a delicious charcuterie and cheese spread as well as a buffet of entrée items. This was put together by Noir Food & Wine. Wine director and owner Mike Farwell was there with some members of his staff making sure that everything flowed smoothly.

    In any tasting there will be some winners and some losers. It’s just the nature of the beast.

    side note: There have been two exceptions in my twelve years of going to these kinds of tastings. One was at Coi on Broadway in San Francisco where I was able to taste a vertical of aged white wines (the oldest of which was 44 years old.) The second was an Italian portfolio in the Henry Wine Group’s book on the 32nd floor of a building in Union Square (also in San Francisco.) This particular tasting included a line of Barolos from one of my idols, Damilano, that was exquisite in every way.

    Back to the Pinot Fest… There were some amazing wines, diamonds in the rough as it were. One such wine was the Flying Goat Sparkling Blanc de Noirs which in French wine speak means a white Pinot Noir. It was produced in the Champagne method (méthode champenoise.) The wine was fairly dry with persistent bubbles, a touché of brioche, dried raspberry and roses on the nose with a lovely balance of fruit and acidity on the palate. It held true to the style of a Blanc de Noir from France and was so impressive I actually went back for a second taste (I rarely visit a wine twice in one tasting.)



    Their tasting notes:

    Think pink diamonds and tiny bubbles for this elegant sparkling wine. Hints of creamy
    vanilla on the nose complement nuances of dried raspberry and watermelon on the
    palate. Refreshing pink grapefruit flavors with tangy acidity are on the finish. This
    sparkler is delicious by itself and also pairs well with many foods, including lox and
    bagels, raw oysters on the half shell, balsamic figs with mascarpone cheese.

    Kate Griffith, their chief philosopher, poured us tastes. She was a delight to interact with, knowledgeable and agreeable.

    If you check out their website you will get a fun jazzy earful of music, and you can also order the wine online.

    Another mind blowing beauty was the Gypsy Canyon Ancient Vine Angelica (grape) Santa Rita Hills.

    I like what they have to say about it.

    A hillside covered in sage brush held the secret of a forgotten Mission vineyard.  Planted in the late 1800’s it lay hidden for nearly 100 years.  Our Ancient Vine Angelica is made from the grapes of this historic Mission vineyard.  The Mission grape is the Heritage grape of California, planted by the Franciscans as they established the California Missions in the eighteenth century.  Most recently cuttings have been donated to Missions throughout California to restore their original vineyards.  We named the vineyard “Dona Marcelina’s Vineyard” in honor of the first woman wine grower in California. Today it is the oldest vineyard in Santa Barbara County, Est. 1887.

    They have records of the vineyard plantings from the monastery.

    When a vine reaches an age of 100 years or more its production drops to almost nothing, but it quite often is incredibly complex. Both of these applied to this vine and its fruit. Deborah only got one barrel of wine out of these vines so it most likely won’t be available much longer. It was delicious and extraordinary.

    The Pinot Noir she made was quite good as well. I liked the hand blown bottle style of appearance with a deckled edged label and a white wax seal. An elegant package it was.

    The tasting was chock full of family owned wineries and Ampelos was no exception. The vineyard is organic, sustainable and biodynamic, the triumvirate of awesome.

    They make a Viognier that speaks to me..

    They describe it in a fun inventive way:

    ‘11 viognier ‘phi’ Santa Ynez Valley, California

    Her light golden hair blows gently around her face as the warm tropical air fills the nose with essence of star fruit, peach, apricot & d’anjou pear. She puts down her Emily Bronte and gives her admirers a brilliant smile filling their palate with fruit, crisp malic acidity and soft minerality.

    Called “phi” meaning the golden ratio. This viognier has golden silky fruit characteristics with clean bright acidity and no oak.


    I hope this encourages you to go out and get a bottle of something and treat yourself.


    -Jonathan Hood