Sunday, December 29, 2013

13There is a man who dreams in stars.

I have a friend who dreamed in stars.
Oh, I know Dom Perignon said he was drinking stars.
But my friend is Stars.  Stars, stars, stars.
He drank stars; he saw stars; he cooked with and for stars; he had stars at his feet, and he drove a starry car.  And in my friend's wake all who flocked to his doors too became stars. 
To enter his starry establishment was to become star-dusted. 
You may wonder, could there ever have been such a place as I dream, called Stars? 
Of course there was. 
I know this star-gazer, star-enchanter:  he is my friend, Jeremiah Tower. 

Jeremiah is made of stars:  composed of Co2, the gas of life, the gas that fuels stars. 
He is ever-ready for a new star-struck adventure.
Like his current love of finding stars at the bottom of the sea as he soars among those denisons, the largest of sharks called whale. 

For Jeremiah this adventure is necessary because, he explained, he once had a fear of the sea. 
Did, I wonder, he have a fear of stars?

If so he has mastered both by up-close and personal contact, breathing that gas of life. Stars.

As we celebrate the birth of the King of Stars, of Heaven and Earth, shall we not also all aspire to breathing, as Jeremiah does, the gas of life, Co2, the stuff of star-dust? 

And, in so doing, let us all praise our creator, and wish each and all of us on this planet a star-filled and glorious New Year:2014.

Madeleine, Madam Champagne

If you have read this blog before you must know that before it ends I will speak of another friend who in fact invented Champagne.  Julius Caesar. 
He is getting close to rebellious if his word is not heard soon.
So I quiet him and offer him some of what he too loves, Co2.
I see Caesar lift his kylix, and, with a smile, toast the world.

Can any of you guess how many bubbles there are in every 750ml bottle of Champagne?

Champagne Toujours,
The Night Julius Caesar Invented Champagne...soon.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

12 Tradition makes for billions of Hollywood's Stars

Blog 12:  Tradition makes for billions of Hollywood’s Stars.

Champagne is a sparkling drink made in the northerly French province called Champagne.  In the small villages sitting over miles of circuitous caves carved into the chalk by the Romans centuries ago throughout the region, perched among hectares of vines of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Munier grapes, tradition and the upholding of tradition is part and parcel of what makes great Champagnes; each different; most tasting of divinity.   While there are innovative wine-makers, tradition still reigns in their hearts and is reflected in the finished product.  And that tradition is upheld by Champagne’s “aeropagus”, its governing board made up of wine-makers and vineyardists and directors of Champagne Houses.  It is called the CIVC, “Comite Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne.”   Champagne is serious about upholding tradition.

Thinking of tradition, I realize how much tradition we are losing.   In Opelousas, little town in Louisiana existing since the 1600s, even in New Orleans, I discovered not long ago that small, family-owned pastry shops of my youth are no longer.   Some familiar names still exist but they have been purchased by corporations, and no longer are the breads and cakes made by the hands of master pastry chefs.   And family-owned and operated grocery stores where every child received a “lagniappe” as the purchases were packed and often put on a lorry to be dropped off at home before you got there, where are they?   Most children today think WalMart is a grocery store.     They’ve never breathed-in the aroma of bread baking.

In the early 1970s I came to Los Angeles to assist director Joe Hardy put Lerner and Loewe’s GiGi  on  stage at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.  Once it was en route to New York I was hired to produce the reopening of the John Anson Ford outdoor theatre for free public Shakespeare.   One of my duties was to create and tape the radio spot announcements promoting the theatre and asking for subscriptions and contributions.   As the theatre was modeled on Joe Papp’s Shakespeare in the Park in New York, we were a non-profit organization, existing at the will of the Mayor of Los Angeles.   My radio announcements asked for support in all forms, especially attendance at the fund-raiser to be held across the Hollywood freeway in Los Angeles’s Bowl.   

One day I got a call from a man telling me he wanted to give me five million dollars.  He repeated: he just wanted to give me five million dollars.  And he set a meeting for me to meet his “shareholders” the next day at a bank in Hollywood.   My co-producer was ecstatic, and practically shoved me out the door.  When I arrived the shareholders were already deep into discussions around a board-room table.  They sat me at the head, opposite the prospective donor of all that money.   And for a couple of hours I had to listen to some gibberish about laundries.   All these men appeared to be owners of laundries.  Later when I reported to my co-producer my grave doubts that so much money could be given to us by a bunch of laundry owners, he grew visibly pale but insisted I had to continue going to these meetings because we sure could use that five million dollars.    

In the middle of my daily sorties to yet another bank to listen to more talk about laundries, I received a phone call.   This man said he liked my voice on the radio and he too wanted to help our theatre get launched.   He said his name was Gene.  Gene Gelson, he announced.   I was new in Los Angeles; so Gene’s name meant  nothing to me. 

I thanked Gene for wanting to help, and asked what he had in mind.   He turned the question back and asked me what kind of car I had.  Now, following on the heels of the laundry-man, this odd request made me feel that California deserved its reputation for nuttiness.  “What kind of car do you have,” my newest friend Gene repeated.   His voice sounded genuinely nice, so I told him, “a Datsun.” 

“How big is your Datsun?   You know, two doors or four?”

I was slipping back into the weird-feeling zone, “two doors.   It’s very little.”

“Okay,” he came back, “this is what I am going to do for you and your theatre.   Get in your little car and drive over here to my grocery store.   Some of my boys will be waiting for you.  They are going to load up your car with as much soda and candies and fruit and snacks they can fit in it.   Four times.  That’s what I am going to do for you.   So just come right on over.”

As said, I did not know the Gelson name, nor of the tradition of the grocers in the city, nor that the Gelson family was tops for fine and fresh and locally grown everything.  “There is only one thing I want you to do for me,”  he continued as I was registering this good fortune.  “I would like to take you out to dinner so you can earn more about Los Angeles.   Would that be okay?” 

By the time I drove back up into the Hollywood hills and to my overlooking  office in the John Anson Ford theatre with the fourth car-load of goodness we would be able to sell at the concession stand, I had been given quite a tour of Gelson’s market and had gleaned that in Southern California the Gelson family played a fine and traditional role in that economy.    And “his boys” were shelf-stockers; not in the laundry business.

I never discovered more about the LA tradition of laundries, nor accepted five million dollars from the laundry men.   But I enjoyed another Los Angeles tradition of the 1970s, dinner at The Windsor restaurant.  Owner Ben Dimsdale, a friend of Gene Gelson’s, came and personally flambĂ©ed out Steak Diane, and sat for a glass of wine, telling me of the neighborhood we were in, near downtown.  I began to understand that Los Angeles functioned as a conglomerate of many neighborhoods filled with and enlivened by local traditions. 

To me that Los Angeles was like Champagne; alive  with traditions; filled excitingly

with the gas of life, bubFile:Champagne bubbles mousse.jpgbles floating into the klieg-lit night air.    

So today, December 22, 2013, I call Los Angeles and her traditions to be like Champagne. 

Now you probably know that the Commanding  General next to me, Julius Caesar, wants to say something.  And this is what I hear coming from his lips:  "Nunc bibendum est.  

“Yes, Caesar,”I reply, “it is almost Christmas.  Almost time for Champagne, your beverage. “

Soon you will learn more about Caesar and his passion for Champagne in

The Night Julius Caesar Invented Champagne.

Madeleine de Jean,

‘Madam Champagne’;

Thursday, December 12, 2013

11 Wolfgang Puck is Champagne

“My darling,” exclaimed the wonderful British actress Coral Browne (at the time not long married to charming, funny, brilliant, kind Vincent Price), “darling, if they served breakfast at ‘Ma Maison’, I’d eat breakfast,” she concluded in her resonant rolling voice. 

That was 1980.  I’d just returned to Los Angeles and was in the wine business.  Soon thereafter I went in search of this mythic establishment where the crowds could not be contained, so wild they were for the ambrosial meals served by the wunderkind Chef, Wolfgang Puck.   It was mid-morning when I went to my appointment to taste with owner, Patrick Terrail, Burgundies from Bouchard Pere et Fils I was representing.  I drove by the address a few times.  Perhaps I had the wrong address?  But on my fourth try I saw the sign.  There was no restaurant du Luxe facing me.  Perhaps Coral was having one of her jokes?  This “Ma Maison” was a shack in the middle of a vast parking lot.  There were no valets in uniform.  Only a plastic duck stood guard, and the canvas flaps that were the walls were blowing in winter’s morning breeze.  But there, in the front, was a swanky vintage Rolls Royce, so I figured the duck had already received one guest.    

  Walking into the kitchen door, I looked to ask permission of the Chef.   And there he was:  the wunderkind.

Just seeing how cute he was I understood Coral’s infatuation.  I was yet to taste the cuisine of dreams, however.  Wolfgang put down a large spoon, introduced himself, and his sous-chef, and accompanied me into the restaurant-tent where I would conduct the tasting.  We chatted, and, when Patrick arrived he bowed out, back to his waiting pianos.  I could not help but notice that, sitting in a slight gloom, with a few plastic ducks around his feet, was Orson Welles.   That was somewhat startling, but it confirmed I was really in Oz-land, Hollywood; and that ‘Ma Maison’ was decidedly part and parcel of California glamour.    

Patrick Terrail himself was culinary royalty.  He was nephew to Claude Terrail, proprietor and host-extraordinaire at Paris’s Tour d’Argent.  Once I heard that I understood the plastic duck.  Ducks, I should say, because the presence of plastic ducks marching around the walls, the floors, guarding every spot inside this plastic sheeted, astro-turfed haven of gastronomy called ‘Ma Maison’, was impossible to miss.

 We were about to begin the tasting with Le Corton.   Wolfgang fortuitously arrived bearing proper stemware and joined in.   From his first remarks I knew he knew wine.  After several such morning tastings, we three became friends.   Ma Maison had many of my wines on the list, so frequently I took business clients, and certainly my company’s brass when in town, to Ma Maison.   I was prepared at my first lunch there to test Coral Browne’s assertion that if “they served breakfast” she would begin eating breakfast.   Coral was rarely wrong.  But I was not the one who would prove her right.  You see, over the bar there hung a sign which read:  Aimez vous le canard, ou aller vous faire voir;” “either you love duck, or get out of here.”   Every time I went to Ma Maison to dine, Patrick took the orders at my table.  And when he’d get to me, he’d pat me on the shoulder, saying:  “and, for you, the duck.” 

Fortunately for my gastronomic experiences, Wolfgang opened “Spago” soon thereafter, and, over all these years I have gotten to taste so many of the dishes he dreams up.  Wolfgang is ever innovative and bubbly of personality.    While he is a great chef, he also oversees a vast enterprise.  Like Champagne he could not bubble so constantly, dreaming of new worlds, if he did not have a very Champagne personality:  he allows all who work for him to blossom, doing their best.  And therefore his empire functions in harmony. 

Wolfgang remained throughout my wine and Champagne career a supportive friend.  He poured thousands of cases of the Champagnes I represented, and we did many bubbly events together.  He even invited me to bring Champagne Gosset on his TV program once, and served with it my favorite Wolfgang dish with Champagne, his Smoked Salmon pizza.  When he introduced his frozen foods at a luncheon hosted by his friend, and mine, Jeremiah Tower at Stars in San Francisco, I happily joined the celebration, bringing Champagne Henriot’s Cuvee du Soleil to add billions more bubbles to this roof-raisingly joyous occasion. 

Today I name Wolfgang a Champagne Chef.   Sante, Wolfgang.  


Near me, pacing the floor as I type, is a nervous General.  He wants to know when I will start saying more about him.    “Soon, Caesar, soon.”


The Night Julius Caesar Invented Champagne. 

12 12 2013

Sunday, December 8, 2013

10 Amazing things… “Wonderful things…

10 Amazing things… “Wonderful things…” reaching for and touching the sun god.

91 years ago, late November, 1922, Howard Carter, archaeologist hired by England’s Lord Carnarvon, poked a lighted candle into a small opening down near a stairwell dug out of the sands that literally fill Egypt’s Valley of the Kings.   (The candle was a precaution against the possibility that the humans standing almost breathless near Howard Carter would enter a chamber sealed for over Thirty-three hundred years only to  succumb to poisonous gases that could have built up over those long centuries.)  The candle stayed lit; a very good sign.

At that moment the host of the excavations, Lord Carnarvon, could wait no longer:  “Do you see anything?”

“Yes,” replied Carter his voice shaking with emotion, “wonderful things.”

Over the next ten years Howard Carter carefully documented, cleaned and removed all those wonderful things, including priceless funerary masks, indeed caskets of solid pure gold. 

Many of the objects were personal to the life of the boy Pharaoh, Tutankhamen and his half-sister wife, Ankhessenamun.  From many of the objects that depicted the lives of the royal couple, they seem as touchy-feely-in-love as do today’s royal couple, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.   In several Ankhessenamun is shown putting traditional wine-tasting cups to the lips of her husband, the young Pharaoh, for his assessment.  

Obviously, from the quantity and placement of dozens of amphorae of wines also discovered in the boy-king’s tomb, wine played an important part in his life as well as in his after-life.   Tutankhamen was buried with scores of amphorae of wines from his great-Grandfather’s reign, as well as dozens from his own favorite vineyards, those in the Western and Eastern Delta, made by his favorite vintners, Khaa, Sennufe and Rer.  These wines were carefully chosen by his young wife, knowing they would not only sustain Tutankhamen during his nightly voyage to the Sun god Amen-Ra, but would give him voice to speak wisdom he discovered on these voyages to his people.  These wines were deemed by his vineyardists to be erneheh, or “eternal”, living forever.       

Following the sun every night was one of the most dangerous and serious adventures the dead pharaoh undertook for himself and his people.  Just as the vine follows the sun, dying in the winter, like the god Osiris, and rejuvenated each Spring when the sun returns sap to the vine, so too the dead Pharaoh was believed to follow the sun for eternity.  The golden funerary mask showed his connection to the sun god, both as his son and as his equal in the pantheon.  And wine was the symbol of this renewed life, sustaining daily communion with the sun and with the people of Egypt.  

In the photo above, Tutankhamen is traveling through the dark of the night, voyaging to find the sun.  His guide and protector is the night-black panther. 

Most poignant of discoveries in the tomb of Tutankhamen was that of the remains of the funerary breakfast partaken of by his closest family and friends.  Though at least three of the “friends” involved were already conspiring to usurp power from the young survivor,  the Queen Ankhessenamen, it is obvious that she herself had chosen her husband’s favorite wines to serve, because none of his former “servants” could have been bothered.  Three tall blue glass amphorae of these wines were among the remains of the breakfast.

Sadly Ankhessenamen herself, though the daughter of Pharaoh Akhenaten and his beautiful Queen, Nefertiti, did not long survive her husband.   Forced to marry her husband’s former chief advisor, or Vizier, Ay, she soon disappeared into those desert sands and was heard of no more while politics warred over her former kingdom.

But when she and Tutankhamen came to the throne in 1332 B.C., Egypt’s Delta vineyards were long famous.  Begun by Pharaoh Narmer around 3000 B.C., from one pharaoh to the next, vineyardists developed the original clonal strains that had arrived from Asia.  The wines of Egypt were not just enjoyed by Pharaoh and his court and wealthy Egyptians, but shipping of them became big business.  And by the time of Tutankhamen, specific vineyards had cult followings and were consumed in Krete, the Peloponnesos, Attica, Makedonai, Thrace, and Hatti.

Above is a tomb painting from Tutankhamen’s chief vineyardist.  You will soon be able to read about him, and Pharaoh Narmer’s wine-making practices in my wine-novel, The Night Julius Caesar Invented Champagne.

Be still, Caesar, your time is nigh. 

Madeleine de Jean,

The Night Julius Caesar Invented Champagne.


Often people ask me, "why is Champagne called BRUT?"

“Words, words, words,” replies Hamlet when Polonius asks what he is reading.

And Hamlet is right.  Words only signify what we say they signify, and that often changes with the times and like the times. 

A case in point are the names, the labels, given to styles of Champagne.  Champagne names do not always mean what you might think, and there are reasons for this.  

In the 1790s when Champagne was beginning to achieve consistency in atmospheres of pressure because bottles were stronger and corks tied down more firmly, when clarity from lees was still a dream that was being experimented with in all the chalk caves filled with bottles under Reims and Epernay, in this time refrigeration was only as good as your climate, and was, as we know it today, almost a century in the future.  For preservation, meats were salted or hung, which gave a pungent or a sweet and rotting smell to larders.  And the resulting dishes were powerful in taste.  In order to hide over-saltiness or gaminess, sauces were devised that were stronger and over-the-top flavorful and rich.  And since Champagne, like all other wines, was meant to accompany meals, though the dosage of sugars added in the liqueur d’expedition as the final cork was put into the bottle was high, the Champagne tasted dry to taste-buds primed by powerful- tasting foods, and was therefore called Sec, which means “Dry.”  It tasted dry therefore it was Dry, though it was sweet.  “Words, words, words.”

About twenty years later, around 1810, the time when remuage was being perfected, allowing bottles of clear Champagnes to be shipped around the world, an Englishman approached a favorite Champagne house and asked for a Champagne less Sec.  In fact, though the man asked for a Champagne less “dry”, he was really asking for a Champagne less sweet.  Obligingly the Champagne house created for England a Champagne they called Demi-Sec, or “half-dry”, meaning what it was, a Champagne “less-sweet”.   The weather in England may have had something to do with this strange request.  Since 1800 the winters had gotten steadily colder; in 1810 the Thames froze over, which had not happened since Samuel Pepys wrote about it in 1667.   Likely most English took advantage of this climate change to store foods, unsalted, in ice-rooms, allowing truly fresh meals.  And with such came the desire to drink a “less-sweet” Champagne, Demi-Sec.    

Things went along like this for about another fifty years, and the 1860s saw the beginnings of kitchens that had “ice-boxes” in which to “refrigerate” and keep foods fresh, practically eliminating the need to salt for preservation.   And once more the fresher tasting foods brought palates in line for tastes in wine.  Again the Champenois attribute the odd request for a Champagne less “sec” to an Englishman, and so they replied by once again cutting the dosage and creating a wine they labeled this time in English to make certain the British understood:  “Extra Dry”.   That must have done the trick because for the next almost forty years labeling and drinking of Champagnes stayed pretty much on an even keel.   

Then once again, it happened.  To celebrate the change in Centuries, in 1900, Edward Albert, The Prince of Wales, future King Edward VII, sent his cellar-master to Reims, to Champagne GH Mumm, with, yet again, an astonishing request”:  The Prince desired to celebrate the coming new Century with a Champagne with less dossage.  Sacre Bleu!   While such a request came as a shock to the Champenois, no one dared say so to the Prince, or to his emissary.  What they expressed in private, “C’est brutal de boir un vin si sec,” they expressed only on the label:  BRUT.  And, once again the Champagne maker cut the dosage to a level considered brutally dry.

Of course the taste the British express in Champagne has proved to be excellent, and today when we drink Champagne most normally it is a “brutally dry” bottle labeled BRUT.    
“Words, words, words.”  Yes words often are all upside-down, as in Champagne labels.

Today the term “Extra Dry” still proves to confuse consumers and wine-shops and sommeliers.  It should be dryer than Brut, but in fact it has a dosage half again sweeter.    This is hard to explain without going through all the above explanation.

“Words, words, words.”

Once again the unthinkable has happened.  There is today a Champagne even more brutally dry, called Brut Nature.  It is a specialty of some Champagne Houses, and is in fact the way all Champagnes are when they have finished their second fermentation in the bottle, have spent years on their lees, and are about to be riddled and disgorged for clarification,  just before being dressed and shipped to you and me.   At this stage the Champagne is brutally dry, or Brut Nature, or Brut Zero.   It is a Champagne for special foods, like oesetra caviar. 

In the last twenty years this words confusion has been slightly rectified in Champagne.  Some terms have been switched in the line-up, trying to make the dossages and words more understandable.  

1810 -1900                                                                                                 1990:

Sec:  between 50g of sugar and 32g per litre                     Demi-Sec: 50g-32g/l

Demi-Sec: between 32g and 17g                                             Sec: 32g-17g

“Extra Dry”: between 17g -12g                                               “Extra Sec”: 17g-12g

Brut:  less than 12g/l                                                                  Brut: less than 12 g/l         

                                                                                                          Extra Brut: 6g/0g

                                                                                                          Brut Nature: 0g

Personally I like it better the way it was.  “Words, words, words.”

Sec, and Demi-Sec, and “Rich” or Doux Champagnes are great dessert wines; Extra- Dry is marvelous with savouries like pates and spicy soups and Asian foods.  Whatever Champagne types you consume they become far more than words.  They become dreams.

A votre santé!

Now, beside me is an antsy Commanding General.  He wants me to get along with all these words, words, words, and start wording off about him.

Caesar, I promise your time is nigh.  Soon, soon, soon.

Madeleine de Jean.
The Night Julius Caesar Invented Champagne ©
December 8, 2013

Thursday, November 28, 2013

8 Amazing Memories .... Dare to touch the sun!

This morning I went to Jensen’s Market, Palm Springs's finest foods market.

I went to see my friend Kevin, the wine guru at Jensen’s.

And I went to see Jensen’s “Mr. Chicken”, Pete.

Today Pete was “Mr. Turkey” too.

He was not wearing his turkey hat, not his chicken hat, but I recognized him.

Pete’s smile is unmistakable; and he likes to be called “Pierre”.  I am happy to oblige, especially when he does such a fine job boning a turkey breast. 

As I waited for Pete, aka Pierre, to do his work, I realized I was listening to John Denver singing his Rocky Mountain High.  

And that segued into an Amazing memory.

In 1977 I was sommelier at Moran’s Riverside Restaurant.  The restaurant was a Renaissance room, overlooking the Mississippi in New Orleans’s French Quarter.  My job was simple.  The owner, Jimmy Moran, said he wanted me to create for him “the finest wine cellar possible. “  He never asked what I paid; he trusted me to do what he asked me to do.  And so we had a great time together building this wine cellar. 

Moran’s restaurant was on the second floor in a newly remodeled eighteenth-century building.  It was only accessible by elevator from the courtyard on the ground floor.   The kitchen, just to the east of the dining room, was situated above the pasta-making facility, also on the ground floor.  Between that ground-floor pasta facility and the kitchen above was the wine cellar.  It floated between floors, and had great ventilation as well as security. 

I had plenty of room to house current-drinking wines from the great regions of France and Italy and some from Spain, as well as that newly discovered territory, Napa, California.  And some from The Finger Lakes’s iconic Dr. Konstantin Frank.    I also had adequate space to house, in unopened cases, those wines that were too young to serve.  Each was marked with my suggested date of serving.  

In my search for the “best” I had thought of Mr. Moran’s customers and what would please the majority.  Thanks to Michael Broadbent and Michel Roux as well as many of my vineyard-owning friends, I had found fine vintages of the best Second and Third growth Bordeaux as well as those I loved from the Cru Bourgeois, and the estates of Julius Caesar’s Burgundy.  Of course for the minority who could afford the ultimate, the greatest vineyards of Burgundy and Bordeaux, Italy and Napa, had their bins.  Every bin was clearly named and marked “do not disturb” so the waiters would not go in frantically moving bottles that were sleeping into perfection. 

One morning Mr. Moran told me that John Denver had heard about the wine cellar and was bringing his entourage for dinner that night.  By the time I entered the dining room for the dinner service I had sort of forgotten what he had said.  I had been receiving some 600 cases of our house wine that day, and that is a long and important job.  About half an hour after the night’s service began I looked up. Someone was waving me over.  It was John Denver.  Really.  He was holding the wine list and smiling.  Really.  We, his wife Annie and he and I, discussed what the group was eating, and then he chose the wines he thought would be best.  His father agreed. 

Their dinner was about to enter the desert course when John waved me over again.  He wanted to see the wine cellar.   So we walked through the dining room into the kitchen to reach the stairs down to the wines.  One bus-boy, just finishing polishing the silverware, looked up.  Stunned by recognizing John Denver he dropped all the silver at John’s feet.  Joining John in an uproar of laughter, the whole kitchen erupted in relief.   

John followed me down the staircase and into the wine cellar.  He really was curious as to how and why it was arranged as it was. 

Like a troubadour he carried his guitar.  Entering the cellar, seeing how it might swing and dislodge a precious inhabitant, he removed it, laying it carefully over a newly arrived case.  When we’d made the circuit, he picked up his faithful pal.  “I’d like to sing a song for the wines,” he announced.  
“Do you mind singing in the stairwell,” I asked?  I took a deep breath.  How do I tell John Denver ‘no’?  “This is a nursery.  They will dream your song, inventing themselves anew.  But perhaps inside this room the reverberations will be too upsetting?” 

The troubadour understood.  Strumming the first bars as he strutted out, John Denver began to sing for and to Mr. Moran’s wines, “Rocky Mountain High.”   A movement made me look above John’s head.   There was the whole kitchen staff, bus-boy in the foreground.  And in back the whole of the dining room too.  It was an Amazing Moment. 

Waiting for “Mr. Chicken” this morning,  John Denver’s refrain, “Rocky Mountain High,”  followed by his soaring note that would fall into “Colorado,”  I was amazed by the immediacy of those long-ago surroundings crowding in memory.  I can see the faces of Annie, his wife, and that of his father as John waxed lyrical in choosing the wines.  They understood they were in the presence of a fleeting dream, of a troubadour.

John Denver’s song tells of the majesty of America’s natural heritage.  As on the first Thanksgiving let us again celebrate our human similarities and our native differences.   He also tells us of his voyage, like Pharoahs of antiquity, to touch the sun.  All together now:  “He left yesterday behind him; you might say he was born again.  You might say he found a key for every door.   He climbed cathedral mountains; he saw silver clouds below.  He saw everything as far as you can see. And they say that he got crazy once; and he tried to touch the sun.  And he lost a friend but he kept his memory.  Now he walks in quiet solitude the forests and the streams, Seeking grace in every step he takes.  His sight has turned inside himself to try and understand The serenity of a clear blue mountain lake; And the Colorado mountain high.  I’ve seen it rainin’ fire in the sky.  You can talk to God and listen to the causal reply.  Rocky mountain high.  …..Colorado.”

I’d be a poorer person if I had not this amazing memory of such a troubadour touched by the sun.   Wine, god Dionysos, caused us to meet; caused John to sing on that stairway long ago, inspiring bus-boys and chefs and diners to do greater things, like reaching for the sun. 

John eventually did reach for and touch the sun.

Now I have an Emperor next to me who is getting antsy to tell his story.

But, Julius, your time is not yet nigh.  Shussh.  Soon.

Madeleine de Jean.

Dream Amazing dreams.  Dare to touch the sun.  Dionysos is there to uplift you.

The Night Julius Caesar Invented Champagne.

Thanksgiving day, 28 November, 2013.

Comet ISOS is nigh.  Today it is touching the sun.   Will it survive?