11159462_10207100321052809_4283819005168288653_nI remember sliding onto the operating table and the anesthesiologist bitching about something to a nurse, but then the world faded out to black softly, just like it does on the big screen. Probably one of the few things Hollywood manages to portray with any kind of reality. After it was over, I was in and out for an hour or so before finally coming around and realizing that I was so hungry, I was anxious to eat hospital food, fucking masochist that I am. Tasteless strawberry Jell-o and cranberry juice? Bring it on sister, just top it with a shot of bourbon so I know I’m alive. The plan was to be home by nightfall to celebrate the kid’s 17th birthday (and his brand-spanking-new driver’s license) and nobody was going to piddle on my plans—there was a Carvel ice-cream cake to be cut for the love of Pete.

1st on the checklist was keeping food down…a term loosely defined inside these walls. I laughed off the Jell-o and asked for substance. So I got chicken noodle soup from the café because the kitchen had finished lunch service already. Thank the fucking institution of health for small favors. Keep food down—check. Now pass the percocet please, because I think Ridley Scott has just unwittingly cast me in Aliens in Jersey and something’s about to come busting out of my chest. Pain begins to pass, humanity begins to find its way back into my body, and I’m ready for #2.

2nd on the checklist was walking with assistance. Seriously? Watch me salsa up and down the hallway, bitch. Even a hospital gown designed by a blind monkey and an IV unit being wheeled in front of me can’t hold me back. ONE, TWO, THREE, four. ONE, TWO, THREE, four. Tito Puente was looking down with pride. By the time I made it back to my bed I had a few singles tucked into the hospital gown and the hunger had returned. The nurse had been so happy with my rate of recovery that she ordered a “regular” meal for my dinner. Something solid? Really? Something on a bone perhaps? Something I can gnaw on and suck the marrow out of? In came food service. With a tray of…wait, what the fuck? Beef broth? They had screwed up my meal ticket. Two sips in I pushed it away, just to make sure I didn’t throw it against the faded white walls. Come on sweetcheeks, bring on #3.

Last on the checklist was peeing 100 mL all on my own. 100 mL keeping me from freedom, fresh air and my kid’s face. The nurse didn’t share my enthusiasm, though, and was reluctant to pull the catheter. “No way bubba, my doctor said I could go home if I met all your criteria, so clear it and pull it.” 5 minutes later she returned, phone in hand. “The doctor’s on the phone for you.” Yes, I’m fine. Yes, I ate food…if you can call it that. Yes I wanna go the hell home. “Here, he wants you back.” She hangs up. “OK let’s pull that catheter out. Doctor said if I didn’t, I’d probably come back in an hour to find an open window with bed sheets hanging out it.” Damn skippy. Bring the pitchers of water and keep them coming until I raise my hand or my eyeballs float back into my head.

It’s not water, I kept telling myself. It’s a deftly crafted, perfectly tempered pint of whiskey-barrel-aged stout. And I drank. And I drank. And I drank. You’ve probably had enough, Katie. No, screw that. I was not going to get up and go through the effort of walking to the bathroom only to be disappointed by the inability to meet that mark. If there’s a line in the sand, damned if I won’t cross it. So I drank. And I drank. And then I raised my hand. I, Katie, was ready to pee.

By the time I hit that call button and the nurse arrived to measure my throw, I had (of course) exceeded all expectation. 200 mL bee-atch! Give me my walking papers please, because there is a slice of chocolate ice cream cake and a devilishly handsome kid waiting at home for me. “Are you sure you want to go through the trouble of signing out now? Why not just stay the night,” she asked as my neighbor proceeded to shit herself and the stench of Hell’s fifth circle began to overtake the room like a thick fog. I stared her down. “I’ll get that paperwork, ma’am.” And ten minutes later the “transportation department” was wheeling me down a maze of corridors, to the revolving doors. A spring night’s air never smelled so fresh. A slice of mass-produced ice cream never tasted so delicious. Freedom never tasted so sweet.


“I’m not dead yet…”

by Katie Pizzuto on April 6, 2015

in California Wine,pinot noir,Wine

web-Oregon-Wine-Grape-Harvest-04Things that are often described as difficult, high risk, and overly sensitive are nearly always worth both the wait and the trouble–yeah, damn right that includes me. So, I tend to have a weak spot for a really well-made pinot noir because I know that both the grower and the winemaker didn’t take the easy way out…by planting some cabernet instead, or by making shitty pinot because they just didn’t get the grape. The famous CA winemaker André Tchelistcheff once said that, “God made cabernet sauvignon whereas the devil made pinot noir.” A friend of the devil is always a friend of mine.

It isn’t as simple as old world vs. new world, because Burgundy manages to churn out plenty of subpar pinot nowadays, too. Just because it’s where the heartbreak grape has historically made some of the most seductive wines this world has known, doesn’t mean it’s without greed, stupidity and laziness. Plenty of pinots coming from France are either too fat, too thin, too ripe, too green or too high octane. And the wineries making them blame either a bad year, a finicky grape or a foreign market (that would be us) that wants a pinot that tastes like a fucking zinfandel. And to that end they either throw their hands up, not knowing how to properly coax the best of a grape that is, no doubt, a pain in the ass to grow, or they make wines that no longer resemble anything close a classic red Burgundy, in hopes to boost sales in the US market. You are far more likely to find a wide audience in those who suck at the teat of Coca-Cola and enjoy overly fruity, full-bodied wines than you are in those who appreciate the lithe earthiness of pinot at its best. Pinot never wanted to placate the masses. Pinot is the grape that flips the bird at the masses. But there are always plenty of idiots who won’t let it do what it wants to do.

The pendulum is thankfully swinging the other way in California winemaking now, and many winemakers are returning to a more natural approach to the juice they stick in their bottles. And no, this ain’t about organic winemaking. This is about making a merlot that has the classic (natural) characteristics of a merlot…not of a shiraz. The last couple of decades, California spent a lot of time whoring itself to the public’s cry for homogenized wines. And though I’ve seen plenty of CA finally putting its foot down, making wines that are distinctive, true to their nature and individual in style, pinot noirs are not, overall, being nurtured back to a world of normalcy. Pinots are still the black sheep in most of California. The ones that are forced into becoming something they aren’t…something that tastes like everything else. The ones that should be the embodiment of sexuality, and instead become the embodiment of that size 18 woman at the beach walking around in a size 8 bikini.

corksBut this is how I know that California pinot is not dead yet. La Pitchoune. Somewhere in Sonoma there are some pinot grapes that are being painstakingly grown, patiently cared for and allowed to do their thing in what can only be described as a sort of subservience to the magic of the grape. Andrew Berge isn’t making wine as much as he is growing grapes. And more importantly, he is allowing them to become some of the best pinot noir being made on the west coast. Not because it closely resembles a classic red Burgundy (although it does), but because it DOESN’T resemble anything else but a pinot noir. There is no jam. There is no oak tree. There is no nose-hair-singeing ABV. There is only sexy, earthy, softly curved but beautifully edged pinot. Charles Bukowski wrote, “She may be mad but she’s magic. There’s no lie in her fire.” That woman that comes along once in your lifetime, if you’re lucky, and drives you absolutely batshit crazy at times but also exudes more intoxicating character and beauty than you’ve ever experienced before in one person before? That’s pinot. More specifically, that’s the pinot being made at La Pitchoune.


“But glittering prizes and endless compromises shatter the illusion of integrity…”

by Katie Pizzuto November 5, 2014
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Those that have been watching the growth of the craft beer/microbrewery movement this last decade with a diligent eye know that Big Brewing has done its best to steal back at least a portion of what it’s lost to the little guys—mostly by screwing with the less-than-diligent consumer. The A-B family of brands now includes […]

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“No! Don’t sign it! Give me time to think. I mean hold on a second boy, ’cause that’s magic ink…”

by Katie Pizzuto July 23, 2014

I’ve just had the pleasure of spending the last couple of weeks with Randall Grahm. Nobody knew. In fact, Randall didn’t even know. Hell, if I’m being honest, I didn’t know until I had drained the last bottle. Though this could quite possibly be the post that finally lands me a one-way cab ride to […]

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WORDLESS WEDNESDAY: “Every picture tells a story, don’t it…”

by Katie Pizzuto May 7, 2014
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“I don’t give a damn ’bout my reputation, I’ve never been afraid of any deviation…”

by Katie Pizzuto April 24, 2014
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Making a wine with native yeast (instead of commercial yeast) fermentation takes a brass set of balls. Well, either that or a little madness. But I’ve always felt that a little madness keeps the big madness away…and it also keeps you on your toes. It’s one part speculation, one part faith, and two parts beer […]

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“Owww we want the funk, give up the funk…”

by Katie Pizzuto February 27, 2014
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Brooklyn Brewery makes me wish I lived in Brooklyn, and other than my friend Joe Carroll’s trio of gastro-bliss joints (Spuyten Duyvil, Fette Sau and St. Anselm) I didn’t really think anything could make me want to live in Brooklyn—I heard a tree grows there, but it continues to elude me. Every beer they’ve ever […]

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“That lady’s stacked, and that’s a fact, ain’t holding nothing back…”

by Katie Pizzuto February 1, 2014
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You have to admire a man in his 30s who shows up to his winemaker’s dinner in suspenders and wool slacks. Don’t ask my why— I don’t make the rules—but it’s really damned cool. Add to that a mop of untamable wavy hair and an attitude towards the American cork-dork blogosphere that clearly has yet […]

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WORDLESS WEDNESDAY: “Cause I’m just a girl, little ol’ me, don’t let me out of your sight…”

by Katie Pizzuto January 22, 2014
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“Christmas Eve will find me where the lovelight gleams…”

by Katie Pizzuto December 25, 2013
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Roasting a pig, for many, is much more than cooking–it is ceremony as sacred as any religious rite divined by man. I mean, sure, I guess the overwhelming majority of religious rites don’t include copious amounts of rum, domino matches and tall tales of the old country, but you know what they say…one man’s swine […]

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