Saturday, April 17, 2010

Old World Spirits, New World business plans

This ain't your fathers gin. image

Close your eyes and picture a successful distillery and maker of fine spirits. If you see, in your minds eye, a huge distillery/factory that churns out gallons and gallons of well drinks, you missed the part where I said "Fine" spirits.   If you are picturing a large copper still, nestled in a stone and brick building, surrounded by fields of grain the for mash or rolling vineyards for the brandy, well, your still not picturing the new breed of distillery.

In the 80’s, the beer brewing industry started a mini-revolution.  And, I do mean “Mini”.  It seemed that there was a microbrewery popping up in warehouses and industrial parts all over California.  Then, in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, the wine industry saw that model working, and we started seeing little urban wineries appearing in metropolitan areas and small industrial rental complexes.  Places like the “Wine Ghetto” in Lompoc showed that you could, quietly, simply and on a small scale, without all of the traditional trappings of appearance, turn out world class wines.

Now, here we are in the bold new world of the micro urban distillery. A good idea can not be kept down. Hold on I have seen the future, and it is good.

While visiting a favorite urban brewery last nigh, I found a steel roll-up door open on one of the units.  A sign outside said there was a tasting going on, and once inside, there was a tasting counter next to a small, beautiful, copper and steel still.  Welcome to the future, it is here. iPods and Laptops aren’t the only thinks that are getting smaller and better.

Old World Spirits in Belmont, has an ambitious selection of brandies, gin, a couple of absinthes, and a delicious black walnut liquor.  The owner/master distiller Davorin Kuchan comes from a family of distillers and he is doing a great job in continuing the family trade and trade.

All of his spirits are made with local products.  The base ethanol for his brandies are all distilled from northern California Zinfandel.  His peaches are from central valley heirloom peaches.

His gin, only available at a local shop, is fine, botanical, herbal and citrusy with a little hint of cilantro.

His two absinthes are both superb, and both very different from each other.  One, is more traditional, anise and wormwood, citrus, and a natural sweetness of aroma.  The other, with similar flavors, just kicked up a couple clicks.  A 1:4 louche brings out the color and texture and makes and puts a bloom on a fantastic drink.

If you want to treat yourself to some of these fine spirits and see what expertise and passion can create, visit their website and find where you can try some for yourself.

I will be adding more to our home cabinet.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

My Day with the Tea Partiers

Today I stopped by a Tax Day Tea Party rally. That may surprise people who know me. But it won't surprise people who know me well.

The whole Tea Party movement has been interesting to me. I can see where they are coming from. The economy has been bad. People in position of economic power have have been taking advantage of their position and politicians have been complicit, probably to an ethically questionable degree, enabling it. But, probably most significantly, we hear constantly how the government is screwing the public. This isn't new, but it has gone from a rumble to a roar.

The public is being taken advantage of here, but it isn't the government who is perpetuating the con. The phrase "Follow the Money" was tossed around a lot at the rally. Ironic, since that was the phrase that led to the domino chain of events and ultimate downfall of a Republican president. But, who is benefiting financially from this current outrage? Who benefits from the bubbling discontent and conspiracy innuendo? When it seems to be waning, who comes in to rabble rouse it back up? Stir the Pot? Raise awareness? Well, here is a clue.

How did you hear about these rallies? These "Grass Roots" rallies. I heard about them on the radio, conservative radio that I listen to. In fact, last week I heard it discussed so much on a local conservative radio station that I had to check it out. It was easy to do, all the information about the rallies were on the radio station's website. With banner ads no less. Glad I was able to help their bottom line with my click throughs. We know how hard media is struggling for advertising dollars. I hope my mouse clicks and page loads brought in a bit more advertising dollars from those tax attorney and gold sale advertisers on those pages.

How involved was this radio station in this "Grass Roots" event? Well the master of ceremony for the event was one of their radio personalities. The station's booth, handing out Tea Party signs, banners and stickers (with the stations call letters conveniently printed on them), as well as hocking and raffling off another one of their personality's Global Warming denier book was practically part of the stage. The sound crew and equipment looked like it was coordinated by, if not provided by the station. It was obvious, the purpose of the crew here, was to take advantage of an energetic public to keep them as the station of choice.

The crowd was substantial in size, probably between 400 and 600 people. It is hard to say exactly how many people are die hard Tea Party minions, and how many were any number of people with other motivations, but I would estimate that 200 people there were truly committed to the cause. Although, listening to them, only half of those would be able to tell you what the cause was beyond what their signs said. Easily half the crowd was there to just see what this was all about. And, there was a vocal group of counter protesters there, purely to disrupt.
Let me talk about the counter protesters for a bit, because I think this is representative of many counter protests on both sides. Sure, I think it is great to get your opinions out there. God bless American and Freedom of Speech. But, you may be hurting your own cause more than helping it.

Some of the counter protesters were encouraged by anti-Tea Party websites, to make fake signs, pose as Tea Party caricatures, and try to get their pictures in the media to exaggerate the fringe elements that make up this or any group. Well guys, you attempts are backfiring. Eventually you are diluting the fringe that you are trying to expose. Now, when you see a sign with something as stupid as saying that Obama is a Muslim, or a Marxist, or that he is a brother of Osama Bin Laden, you have to wonder if it is a real idiot, or someone just posing as one. And, you can pretty much guarantee that the only people with misspelling on their signs are the ones making signs to pretend that they are real ones.

Sure, there was some unsettling or even disturbing things I saw today. Like the college student speaker who was wearing what looked like a 8mm riffle round on a chain around his neck like a rosary. I am not saying he was clinging to it, just wearing it like a religious symbol.

I think the most bizarre behavior I saw came whenever (and I do mean whenever) anyone on stage mentioned the name Reagan, which happened a lot. Whenever a speaker would invoke the name Reagan, the crowd would clap, some one stand up, I heard a couple of "Amen"s and one time, I swear, it seemed like the entire park was going to break into a baseball game crowd WAVE.

If you were to take away the counter protesters, take away the opportunistic publicity seekers and rabble rousers, the curious observers, the large number of police officers on foot, bike and horseback, the people running for office with their vote-for-me buttons and fliers, the people just hanging out, and the many many children dragged there en-tow by their parents as props, and the media (who I am sure we will hear ignored the whole event, even though there were satellite trucks and camera people). If we take away all those people, we would be left with the essence of the Tea Partiers.

This core group, seemed to me to best be described as scared. And maybe for good reason. They seemed to be scared for a number of reasons. One, they have been lied to. Lied to by politicization who they elected into office to do something for them, and instead, just did things for themselves. Two, they have seen the America they thought they understood, one with a dream for everyone, dissolve into a pile of unemployment, financial corruption and government assisted or complacent bubbles and collapse fiascoes. And, they have been lied to by media clowns, feeding them phrases which wind up on banners and signs, like Osama Bin Lying and Progressive = Socialism.

I can't completely discount their cause here. I feel it too. But, the show I saw today, other than the small group that really cares about what happens. The group that probably represents the core of what the Tea Parties originally stood for. I saw these people being used to get an audience for an agenda that I find disturbing and predatory.

Thanks Tea Partiers for the Rally today. I got a lot out of it. Keep up the pressure for a responsive government, but be sure to make sure you are furthering your cause, and not that of a group who just wants to keep their audience calling in to the talk shows.

h, and by the way. Just because someone in the crowd grabs a sign that has KSFO and Taxed Enough Already on it from the HUGE pile next to the stage, that doesn't mean you should let him just wander up on stage with the scheduled speakers.

Remember. The media will use you, and it isn't always the particular media you think is doing it.